In 1531, Julius Caesar Scaliger published his Oratio pro M. Tullio Cicerone contra Des. Erasmum, a scathing attack on Erasmus occasioned by the publication three years earlier of Erasmus's Dialogus Ciceronianus sive de optimo dicendi genere, which, in turn, had attacked the proponents of the view that Cicero was the best and only model for good Latin rhetorical style. Erasmus never responded in print to Scaliger's vituperative “oration” (in reality, a pamphlet meant to be circulated among the literati). This paper argues that Erasmus did not respond because Scaliger's insults were so vile and beside the point that they did not deserve serious attention. A rhetorical re-reading of the Oratio provides some insight into the “proper” conduct of insults more generally, especially as they are meant as vehicles for “upward mobility” in a Res publica litteraria.

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