Human Rights in Ancient Rome

By Richard A. Bauman | Go to book overview

5

HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE LATE REPUBLIC: CICERO

Preamble

We are now at our second defining point in the history of Roman human rights. The dominant force is Cicero. He takes almost complete possession of the words humanitas and humanus and also supplies a wealth of material in the unlabelled form. 1 There is no serious challenger to Cicero. The closest is Caesar, not so much numerically as conceptually. He is the prime Republican exponent of humanitas' most important offshoot, clementia, but that can more conveniently be considered in a later chapter. 2 Sallust is disappointing. He is alone among the major Republican sources in not using the word humanitas at all, 3 nor are his uses of humanus of much value. 4 He does provide some unlabelled material of which notice will be taken in due course.

A theory that crops up periodically sees Cicero's concept of humanitas as a distinct advance on the Panaetius-Aemilianus model. Cicero, it is said, moves from an elitist, ethical-political ideal of the nobility to universalism which is the true humanity that embraced all members of the human race. But, so the theory goes on to say, that position was shortlived, because with Cicero's death the word lost its vitality and its survival in later writers is only a shadow. 5 The theory does not stand up under scrutiny. Cicero, and Seneca after him, should simply be seen as continuators, albeit with substantial revisions and amplifications, of humanitas Romana. Even the new image of humanitas in the Principate kept in touch with its origins.

It is not proposed to make much use of the many Ciceronian uses of humanitas falling under the 'kindly, courteous' stereotype. 6 Such uses certainly reinforce the basic importance of humanitas as a paideia-induced mindset. They also emphasise the liberal climate

-36-

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Human Rights in Ancient Rome
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface x
  • Abbreviations xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Human Rights: the Greek Experience 10
  • 3 - Humanitas Romana 20
  • 4 - Human Rights Prior to Humanitas Romana 28
  • 5 - Human Rights in the Late Republic: Cicero 36
  • 6 - Human Rights in the Late Republic: Curbs on Ill-Treatment 51
  • 7 - The New Image of Humanitas: Part One 67
  • 8 - The New Image of Humanitas: Part Two 87
  • 9 - Man's Inhumanity to Man 112
  • 10 - Conclusion 126
  • Notes 130
  • Select Bibliography 168
  • Index to Sources 179
  • General Index 187
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