Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

Sir Trevor Nunn is directing a play called 'Dessert'. It seems to be a virtue-signalling riff on the evil of possessions. Doubtless Cicero and Aratus will not feature.

On the face of it, the Roman statesman Cicero (1st c bc) was a passionate upholder of property rights. He said 'it is the proper function of the state and its citizens to ensure for everyone the free and undisturbed guardianship of their possessions'. But that did not mean ownership of property overrode the state's central purpose and therefore duty -- the maintenance of social cohesion and so social harmony, that concordia to which Cicero returned again and again. His whole point was that property rights, arising from men's natural desire to safeguard their own, were one of many features that actively contributed to that harmony.

So Cicero thoroughly approved of Aratus. He was a Greek statesman from Sicyon, who led a league of Greek states during the 3rd c bc. Some 50 years before Aratus came to power, many citizens were sent into exile and had their property seized by the ruling tyrant, who redistributed it among his friends. …

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