Cicero the Philosopher, Twelve Papers

Author: Powell, J. G. F.
Title: Cicero the Philosopher, Twelve Papers
Place edition: Oxford
Editor: Oxford University Press
Year edition: 1999
Pages: 384
Keywords: Philosophie - Filosofia - Philosophy

Andrew R. Dyck, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.04.34

Description: [Abstract] Scholars of Cicero have perennially puzzled over the relation between his works On the Republic and On the Laws. Many readers have thought that the former work presents an “ideal state” (the mixed constitution of the Roman republic), and they have considered Cicero in error for apparently claiming that the latter work attempts to give the laws appropriate to that ideal republic (Laws 2.14). As I attempt to demonstrate in this paper, however, both of those beliefs are false. Republic does not point to the Roman republic as the best conceivable state, but rather as the best practicable form of government, especially when contrasted with the simple forms of government. Laws does not merely give the actual laws of the Roman republic, but rather laws that diverge in places from the actual laws. By studying the deviations of Cicero’s proposed laws from Rome’s actual laws, I help to clarify the relation between Republic and Laws. It turns out that the relation between Cicero’s works is the opposite of the relation between the homonymous works of Plato: Cicero’s Republic presents an actual political community, whereas the Laws describes more of a hope. Examining the differences between Cicero’s proposed laws, which he seems to claim have their source in nature, and Rome’s actual laws also helps to clarify the meaning of natural law in Cicero’s two works, since that term figures significantly in Republic as well.
Author initials: Powell 1999