Licinius Archias was born in Antioch around 120 BCE and arrived in Rome in 102 BCE. It was here that he earned a living as a poet and gained the patronage of the Roman general and politician L. Lucullus. Archias wrote poems of the general's military exploits, and in 93 BCE, Lucullus helped him gain citizenship of the municipium of Heraclea. Thereafter, Archias was set up with a permanent residence in Rome in preparation for achieving full Roman citizenship. It was in Rome where Archias became a mentor and teacher of Cicero in his early education in rhetoric.
Archias had become eligible for Roman citizenship under the Lex Iulia de Civitate Latinis, passed in 90 BCE., and the Lex Plautia Papiria de Civitate Sociis Danda, passed in 89 BCE. The Lex Iulia granted Roman citizenship to all citizens of municipia on the Italic peninsula, provided they had not fought against Rome in the Social War.
In 65 BCE, the Roman Senate passed the Lex Papia de Peregrinis, which challenged false claims of citizenship and expelled foreigners from Rome. It is most likely under this law that Archias was prosecuted. Cicero came to his former teacher's defense at his trial in 62 BCE, only months after delivering the famous Catiline Orations.
The prosecution laid out four accusations in its case against Archias:
Cicero argued in defense:
Because of Archias' close association with Lucullus, the case was probably a political attack directed at the politician by one of his many enemies. Chief among his enemies, and one who would stand to gain much by disgracing Lucullus was Cn. Pompeius Maximus.
Cicero divided the speech by following the formal structure of the dispositio:
Cicero begins his speech by gaining the goodwill or benevolentia of the judges. He starts with his trademark periodic sentence by depicting his strengths of natural talent, experience, and strategy while appearing humble and inferior to the qualities of his client. He asks the court to indulge him with a novum genus dicendi "new manner of speaking", similar to the style of a poet. The greater part of the speech contains finely crafted rhetoric and an increased frequency of such poetical devices as hendiadys, chiasmus, and the golden line. His aim is to draw attention to Archias' profession and appeal to his value in Roman culture. He reveals this thesis in lines 20-22
He continues with this approach in the final lines of this section where he proposes that even if Archias were not enrolled as a citizen, his virtuous qualities should compel us to enroll him.
Cicero begins his account of Archias' life and travels through Asia and Greece during the poet's early career before his first arrival in Rome. He says that he was yet only sixteen or seventeen years old, wearing the purple toga or praetextatus, when he began his studies in the arts and gained the attention of some of Rome's most influential citizens. Cicero emphasizes the stature of those who gave patronage to Archias by altering the usual word order.
While naming the law under which Archias was granted citizenship at Heraclea, Cicero begins with the verb to emphasize that citizenship was indeed granted (Data est).
In this section, Cicero discredits the four points raised against his client. He uses dramatic rhetoric to discredit the case of his opponent, Gratius, who he here names. He starts with two chiastic structures identifying his witnesses, Lucius Lucullus and the embassy, and then ridicules the prosecution with a tricolon crescendo.