Classics Cicero's Pro Archia
Andrew Sillett
  • LAST REVIEWED: 16 March 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0340


In 62 BCE, the aging poet Aulus Licinius Archias was arraigned before the Praetor on a charge of having spent almost a quarter of a century fraudulently claiming to be a Roman citizen, thus breaking the Lex Papia de Peregrinis. Archias, who first arrived in Rome in 102 BCE, had, since the conclusion of the Social War in 89 BCE, been living as a Roman citizen and enjoying all of its attendant privileges. Archias’s defense was undertaken by a former pupil of his, the previous year’s Consul, Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero’s defense of Archias follows a two-pronged argument. After providing the jury with the legal foundations of Archias’s citizenship, he proceeds to argue that even if reasonable doubt were to surround Archias’s claim to be a Roman citizen, he should nevertheless be considered worthy of inclusion in the citizen body as a result of the contribution his poetry has made to the Republic. Although there is no direct evidence that this speech was a success, a later letter to Atticus suggests that Archias was indeed acquitted and remained a part of life at Rome. The text which Cicero later published as his Pro Archia attracts most scholarly attention for the so-called “Encomium of Literature” that Cicero delivers to convince the jury that Archias has contributed more than enough to the Republic to earn his citizenship. However, it also provides an invaluable insight into the early stages of Cicero’s senior statesman persona. Beyond this, the speech also offers readers a glimpse at the complicated procedures involved in spreading Roman citizenship throughout the Italian peninsula.

The Text

For a short speech defending a man of relatively little importance on a charge of no great gravity, the reader of Cicero’s Pro Archia is well-served with a broad range of Latin texts, English translations, and commentaries approaching the speech from a variety of angles (literary, historical, legal, and philological).

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