In Cicero In Verrem, II, iv, 4,

unum Cupidinis marmoreum Praxiteli; nimirum didici etiam, dum in istum inquiro, artificum nomina. idem, opinor, artifex eiusdem modi Cupidinem fecit illum qui est Thespiis...

“Had to learn even the names of these artisans,” “I believe, the same chap who carved the Thespian Cupid.” Forsooth, nimirum didici Praxiteli et al. nomina. Aw, c'mon, Marc!

Seriously, why does Greek-educated Cicero pretend to have learned of Praxiteles' name only during his inquest? It couldn't possibly be a true statement! He admires the beauty of the art in the house of C. Heius, and at the same sneers at the artists (but then, still mentions Praxiteles by name).

I think I am seriously missing certain subtleties of this (extended) passage.

1 Answer 1


I think the meaning of the passage is a shade different from your translation. At this point, he is speaking of the sacrarium (private shrine) of Heius, in which four beautiful statues are located.

In my reading, Cicero is not claiming that he learned the names of the artisans themselves for the first time while researching his case: he is claiming that he learned which artists made the four statues in Heius's sacrarium. Consider an analogous statement in English:

He has four books in his room, including Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. See, I even learned the names of the books in his room!

Three points:

  • The fact that "books" (like Cicero's artificum) is in the plural implies that he is not only talking about the artist he just mentioned.
  • The fact that he is willing to attribute another statue to the same artist implies that he already knew this particular artist's name. (If he had researched it afterwards, he wouldn't say opinor.)
  • Your reading is certainly permitted, but even so, consider that certain oratorical techniques often border on disingenuousness: Cicero may be assuming the ignorance of his supposed audience, or saying opinor just because this is tangential to his actual point.

So yes, he could be "lying," but in my opinion it is more likely that he is just asking his audience to admire his thoroughness, even going so far as to track down the the names of the artists who sculpted the four statues in this chapel.

  • Thanks, interesting, you've got me thinking. My theory was Cicero did in fact assume the ignorance of the provincial nobility, and dumbed himself down somewhat not to look a young (was he only 24?) smart ass before the conservative parochial gentry. This is close indeed to your bullet point 3. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 4:20
  • Again, though, this is not a necessary reading: if he said artificis instead of artificum you could make a stronger case, but with the plural it's a very plausible reading that he "found out which artists made the statues in the sacrarium."
    – brianpck
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 13:18
  • True, and I have read your thoughtful answer thoroughly. I am just noting where my original theory parallels your analysis. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 20:34

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