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The Republic and The Law by Cicero

The Republic and The Law

by Cicero

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The works included here are rather fragmentary -especially The Republic, so it's hard to give the works a fair appraisal. That being said, I did gain some insight into ancient Roman politics. I also think some of the ideas in here speak to us all these centuries later. There is one quote that had to do with the anarchic tendency of democracy that particularly caught my attention:

"In a state of that kind total freedom must prevail. Every private household is devoid of authority…Father fears son, son ignores father, respect is completely absent. In the interests of universal freedom there is no distinction between citizen and foreigner… Youngsters assume the authority of older men… As this unlimited license comes to a head… citizens become so tender and hypersensitive that at the slightest hint of authority they are enraged and cannot bear it. In consequence they begin to ignore laws too; and the final outcome is total anarchy."

The above struck me because of how relevant it is to our current state of democracy in this country, where a certain contingent of voters really see no difference between criminal illegal immigrants, extremist foreign dissidents and legal citizens. They insist on conflating all of the above to the point that they will cause riots if people vote against them and all the while they will insist that they are tolerant, peaceful, freedom-loving, egalitarians. This country embodies to a great extent that puerile and idiotic freedom that Cicero decried.

Like Plato, Cicero recognized the shifting tides of political systems. Absolute democracy becomes the rule of an ignorant mob, who lack the knowledge and wisdom to even govern themselves responsibly, let alone govern others. Left to it's own devices, absolute democracy degrades into chaos; a chaos where everything is a constant leveling to the lowest common denominator until there is no longer any respect for authority, nor law. When society degrades to this point, it opens the way to tyranny in order to put a stop to that increasing tide of societal chaos. And that tyranny will hold sway until, once again, some control is yet again given to the masses after some kind of revolution or government upheaval; and the cycle starts again.

As was in Plato's day and in Cicero's day, so in our day. There are still tyrants waiting to seize the reigns of power and there are still ignorant and unruly masses of people that will give them the impetus they need to seize control. An ever watchful vigilance must always be on guard against both extremes. Cicero seems to advocate a mixed system of government. That is what our founding fathers attempted to create here. Even in an optimal system of government that embodies the best aspects of a republic and a democracy, personal accountability and responsibility are needed to make it work. That's what was lacking in the past and that is still what is lacking today. ( )
  Erick_M | Aug 27, 2018 |
A lawyer by trade, statesman by calling and philosopher by hobby, Cicero was the ideal candidate to draw from the political philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, combine it with an examination of the constitution and civic laws of his own country Rome, the most powerful state of his time, and propose a political theory both philosophically grounded and legitimately sound.

Like the ancient Greek and Roman statues and architecture, only fragments of Cicero's two works (De Republica and De Legibus) have been preserved, and, as a result, this translation is incomplete and disjointed in many places. However, I discovered that even fragmented works of a great mind are worth more than complete volumes of mediocrity.

A Call to Public Service

Cicero is his eloquent, oratorical self when he delivers a passionate speech exhorting the virtues and advantages of the life and career of a statesman, who dedicates himself to public service, not for self-interest or personal gain, but for the just cause and demand of his country.

The Nature and Origin of the Law

As a foundation of his entire discourse, Cicero lays down a definition of the Law derived from his view of the universe, which is in accord with those of Plato and the Stoics, and argues that law and justice are inherent in nature, not drawn up by custom or convention.

The universe is governed by God, who has implanted the immortal soul in man from His own divine nature. The Mind of God (i.e., the highest reason and intelligence) is the unchanging and universal Law governing the whole universe, both the natural world and human society. "Law is the highest reason, inherent in nature, which enjoins what ought to be done and forbids the opposite. When that reason is fully formed and completed in the human mind, it too is law." Man comprehends the Law because he partakes of the faculty of reason and intelligence from God. The laws of human societies are based on their understanding of the universal Law, and may vary from people to people, depending on the integrity of their vision and their political acumen. Nevertheless, the essence of the Law is the same. "It received its Greek name from giving each his own. I think its Latin name comes from choosing. As they stress the element of fairness in law, and we stress that of choice; but in fact each of these is an essential property of law."

The Best Form of Government

Of the three forms of government, monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, Cicero, as Aristotle did in Politics, proposes a moderate mixture of the three as the best form of government, because the pure forms easily degenerate into their corrupted counterpart (i.e. monarchy into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy), although he agrees with Plato that monarchy in its uncorrupted form is the best government.
( )
  booksontrial | Jan 4, 2013 |
Edition: // Descr: 533 p. 17 cm. // Series: The Loeb Classical Library Call No. { 875 C48-L 4 } Series Edited by T.E. Page With an English Translation by Clinton Walker Keyes Contains Latin and English Versions and Index . // //
  ColgateClassics | Oct 26, 2012 |
Good book, The Republic is very fragmented and therefore a little bit hard to read. We have more of Laws but it, too, is missing a bit. ( )
  jrgoetziii | Jan 11, 2012 |
I was surprised by how fragmentary the Republic is. You can hardly get through two or three pages before there's another break due to missing leaves. So it's hard to make much sense of what Cicero is trying to say in that work. The Laws, on the other hand, is much more readable and an influential classic in the history of legal theory.
1 vote thcson | Dec 16, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ciceroprimary authorall editionscalculated
Keyes, Clinton WalkerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keyes, Clinton WalkerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192832360, Paperback)

Cicero's The Republic is an impassioned plea for responsible government written just before the civil war that ended the Roman Republic in a dialogue following Plato. This is the first complete English translation of both works for over sixty years and features a lucid introduction, a table of dates, notes on the Roman constitution, and an index of names.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:02 -0400)

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H?owever one defines Man, the same definition applies to us all. This is sufficient proof that there is no essential difference within mankind.' (Laws l.29-30) Cicero's The Republic is an impassioned plea for responsible governement written just before the civil war that ended the Roman Republic in a dialogue following Plato. Drawing on Greek political theory, the work embodies the mature reflections of a Roman ex-consul on the nature of political organization, on justice in society, and on the qualities needed in a statesman. Its sequel, The Laws, expounds the influential doctrine of Natural.… (more)

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