On the Commonwealth: and, On the Laws

On the Commonwealth: and, On the Laws

On the Commonwealth: and, On the Laws

On the Commonwealth: and, On the Laws

Synopsis

Cicero's On the Commonwealth and On the Laws are his most important works of political philosophy. The present volume offers a scholarly reconstruction of the fragments of On the Commonwealth and a masterly translation of both dialogues. The texts are supported by a helpful, concise introduction, notes and other aids. Students in politics, philosophy, ancient history, law and classics will gain a new understanding of this seminal thinker thanks to Professor Zetzel's volume.

Excerpt

Early in December 63 BCE, the consul Marcus Tullius Cicero, having unmasked the conspiracy of Catiline and supervised the execution of several of the leading conspirators, was hailed as Father of his Country and escorted home by a crowd of grateful Romans from all ranks of society; a public thanksgiving was decreed in his honor, the first such award ever made for nonmilitary service to the state. That moment was the summit of a remarkable career: not only had Cicero's consulate been distinguished by signal success and acclaim, but the very fact that he had achieved that office – the chief magistracy in republican Rome – and had done so at the earliest legal age of 42 was itself unusual. Cicero was born in 106 BCE to one of the leading families of the town of Arpinum, some 115 kilometers southeast of Rome; and although the town had had Roman citizenship since 188, no one in Cicero's family had ever held public office at Rome. Ties of friendship between Cicero's family and some of the leading aristocrats of Rome had permitted him to learn the ways of Roman politics and law under the tutelage of the leading orator (Lucius Licinius Crassus) and jurists (Quintus Mucius Scaevola the Augur and his cousin Quintus Mucius Scaevola the Pontifex) of the 90s and 80s; but in the first half of the first century BCE it was rare for a “new man” – the first in his family to achieve high office – to become consul. Recruitment to the ranks of the Roman aristocracy in Cicero's day was real, but it usually took several generations to reach the highest offices; more rapid elevation was generally the result of military rather than oratorical talent. Cicero rose to eminence as a public speaker and as a . . .

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