The two works of Cicero translated in this volume have suffered much damage in transit to the modern world, and on this account have usually been regarded as the preserve of specialists, largely inaccessible to the public or even to classics students. Yet they offer considerable rewards to the modern reader, and especially to the student of the history of political thought. Despite the gaps and problems in the text, it is still possible to appreciate something of their literary qualities, and the ideas discussed in them are in many ways as relevant to the modern world as they were to their original historical context. The lasting merit of these works is that they concentrate on first principles. The concepts of legitimacy, justice, and responsibility in government; the nature of liberty and equality, and the conflict of these ideals with the need for directed policy; the evils of tyranny and unjust government in general; the question of the character and qualifications of those who are to be politicians; the nature of law and its relationship to morality--all these are matters which cannot be ignored as long as the human race continues to have any kind of political organization.
Both the Republic (De Republica) and the Laws (De Legibus) have had considerable and varied influence over the centuries. There is little evidence for the latter's circulation in antiquity, but there are indications that the former enjoyed great popularity both immediately on publication (as a letter to Cicero from one of his friends testified1) and later during the first century AD.2 Tacitus shows signs of engagement with the ideas of the Republic, but takes a cynical and pessimistic line far removed from Cicero's, and directly rebuts Cicero's view that the mixed constitution is especially durable.3 For the Christian writers of late antiquity, to whom we owe such knowledge as we have of some parts of the lost text,____________________