The Republic and The Laws

By Cicero; Niall Rudd | Go to book overview
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MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO ( 106-43 BC) was the son of a Roman knight from Arpinum, some 70 miles (112 km.) south-east of Rome. He rose to prominence through his eloquence at the bar and in the Senate; but, without hereditary connections or military achievements, he lacked a solid power-base; and so, in spite of strenuous manœuvres, he failed to reconcile Pompey and later Octavian (Augustus) to the Senate. He could have joined Caesar, but he refused and was eventually murdered at the insistence of Antony, whom he had castigated in his Philippics. But although Cicero was ultimately a political failure, he became for long periods of Europe's history a symbol not only of constitutional government but also of literary style. More important still, he is recognized as the main vehicle for the transmission of Hellenistic philosophy to the West. As a historian of thought, his lack of personal commitment in the main served him well. But in his political theory, where he purported to be describing a constitution or framing laws, his conservatism tended to outweigh his intellectual open-mindedness. Hence, in his vision of political life, he remained above all an old-fashioned Roman.

JONATHAN POWELL is Professor of Latin at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He has published commentaries on Cicero De Senectute ( 1988) and De Amicitia and Somnium Scipionis ( 1990) and has edited a volume of papers on Cicero philosophy ( Cicero the Philosopher, Oxford University Press, 1995). He is preparing a new text of De Republica and De Legibus for the Oxford Classical Texts series.

NIALL RUDD is Emeritus Professor of Latin, Bristol University. His books include an edition of Horace, Epistles 2 and Ars Poetica ( Cambridge 1989), a verse translation of Juvenal Satires ( Oxford, World's Classics 1992), and a study of certain English poems and their Latin forerunners, entitled The Classical Tradition in Operation ( Toronto and London, 1994).


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The Republic and The Laws


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