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On the Republic/On the Laws

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,799 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
Cicero (Marcus Tullius, 106-43 BCE), Roman lawyer, orator, politician and philosopher, of whom we know more than of any other Roman, lived through the stirring era which saw the rise, dictatorship, and death of Julius Caesar in a tottering republic. In his political speeches especially and in his correspondence we see the excitement, tension and intrigue of politics and th ...more
Hardcover, Loeb Classical Library #213, 533 pages
Published January 1st 1928 by Harvard University Press (first published -51)
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Aug 13, 2015 rated it liked it
In high school I read Cicero in third year Latin. My teacher, like most classics teachers, found him indispensable. The proposition he put was twofold:Cicero was a master of Latin prose (very difficult to translate because of his long, complex sentences) and Cicero was a defender of a republic that was more than worth saving--for after Cicero, the republic became an empty, corrupt dictatorship that only went through the motions of giving all citizens a voice and protecting their rights.

My impres
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,
Dr. George H. Elder
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It is terribly difficult to judge fragments, and especially to compare them with complete works such as Plato's Republic. That being said, Cicero clearly takes a much different approach than does Plato. He proposes that philosophy must be intermixed with pragmatism and experience to produce the optimal leaders and laws. In this sense, Cicero's Republic and Laws pays attention to more practical concerns than does Plato, who lacked any degree of actual involvement with real-world affairs when comp ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Darn those ravages of time and the texts we have lost because of them.

I had a hard time feeling like I really understood Cicero from just these two fragmentary writings. But I'm intrigued enough to read more.
Oct 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Required reading for anyone interested in the history of ethics, jurisprudence, or political theory. Absolutely necessary for understanding St. Thomas.
Sep 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I must admit to quite a bit of skimming. I wanted to see the basis for Cicero's arguments more than I cared about the arguments or examples themselves. And skimming felt somewhat justified given the (frustrating!) fragmentation of the available text.

The whole using-dialogues-to-address-the-reader thing became kind of annoying when the speakers started blending together. They weren't really offering (counter-)arguments, so it became kind of self-promoting. Or something.

Cicero's good ol'-fashioned
Jul 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History teachers, History students, politicians
Recommended to Michael by: Terry McIntosh
This is another book I taught for World Civilization courses in the middle of the previous decade. Judging by the notes I made, we focused mainly on “The Republic,” although I have also read “The Laws” separately. It was a useful text for transitioning from discussion of Ancient Greece to Ancient Rome, since Cicero was familiar with the Greeks and frequently uses them as points of departure for his own arguments. He is especially interested in Plato, and to some degree his “Republic” is an answe ...more
Scott Zuke
Dec 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fairly serious Classics students and hardcore hobbyists.
I felt a little sorry for Cicero in these books. He was really trying to imitate the style of the Platonic dialogue, but...Romans just didn't have the personality to pull off such a feat--it just wasn't in their blood. As a result, rather than getting a timeless discussion of philosophy and the nature of the world and humanity, we get two self-serving, overly-long discourses on the wisdom of the *soon-to-be-overthrown* Roman republic.

The "overly-long" part would refer to the dialogues had they s
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una obra clásica en la filosofía política de su tiempo y uno de los trabajos de Marco Tulio Cicerón que aun sobreviven; se pueden observar en el una clara y profunda influencia de la filosofia griega no solo de Platon con quien se le asocia con regularidad, si no también con otros como Aristoteles, Anaximandro, Pitagoras etc.. Para los interesados en conocer sobre el sistema político y el derecho romano es un libro clave pues retrata con gran elocuencia la composición de las magistraturas y dife ...more
Ian Caveny
Cicero's writing is, as always, a mastery of rhetoric and Roman political thought. For me, he has been a much-needed interlocutor and antagonist to the various oppositional political factions (namely: libertarianism and progressivism) of modern political thought.

In the Republic, one finds such a wide diversity of discourse taking after Plato's work of the same name while importing Roman legal and civil practice into Platonic thought. The famous discussion of the monarchy as "the best" (with its
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 3.5

The Republic was better than The Laws. Its a shame that so little of these works survive. What other wisdom could they contain? The Republic's many missing pieces break it up the read and made it hard to get into the flow.
I was surprised by the science of eclipses. I knew the ancients were aware the earth went around the sun, but the discussion of the various historical figures talking knowingly about what causes eclipses is eye-opening.

The paragraph that spans sections 51-52 in The Repub
Zachary Rudolph
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Here now are the aristocrats claiming...that there is more good sense in a group than in an individual, and yet also the same degree of fairness and reliability. But here come the people, shouting at the top of their voices that they will obey neither an autocrat nor an oligarchy; that nothing is sweeter than liberty, even to wild animals; and that this blessing is denied to anyone who serves a king or an aristocracy. Accordingly, kings attract us by affection, aristocracies by good sense, and ...more
Joshua Jacobs
A little disappointing to be honest. I loved the Laws, and I completely admire Cicero. However, I don't hold the Republic in particularly high esteem, especially because the most interesting parts seem to be missing. The Oxford edition is good though, as it tries to make the gaps as dispensable as possible.
It's Cicero, so it's good. But it's pretty dull on the whole. Still, there's nothing like reading an old book. On the Commonwealth is very fragmented.
Julia M
May 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Too much is missing from the original manuscript for this to be a classic, because it is just conjecture whether the book is good. Nothing that is the fault of this edition though.
John Smith
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cicero's republic is an interesting Roman alternation of Plato's Republic. The revived text is incomplete. Part of it, the dream of Scipio, is a famous fragment.
Andrew Fairweather
With his sympathy (though not favor) for kingships, Cicero's passages can easily been torn from their context to give the lazy reader or quote-seeker a reason for dismissal of his 'Re Publica' and De Legibus' and perhaps Cicero's entire body of work. This is no less true today as it was then--the editor points out that the allergic Roman popular opinion towards kingships was similar to that of the current American sentiment. Ultimately, however, what is contained is a far more moderate point of ...more
Michael Newton
I really enjoyed Cicero's writing and insight into politics and government, but too much of Cicero's Republic is missing to make it a compelling read. What parts do exist are reminiscent of Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics, and Polybius's Histories and Cicero certainly built upon those sources. It is interesting to read what this great man who fought against Cataline, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Octavian/Octavius/Augustus has to say on the topic. I certainly recommend Cicero's Republic ...more
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greco-roman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Natch Greyes
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cicero takes much from Plato in these two works. The major difference, aside from Cicero's wonderful wording, is that Cicero argues that philosophy alone will not suffice, one must also have experience. This is a rather consistent theme in his works, undoubtedly due to his own lifestyle. Unfortunately, both of these works are incomplete, The Laws more so than The Republic, and, at times, this makes reading them difficult. While both of these works are seminal in expressing the best of Western Th ...more
Maximilian Nightingale
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: latin, canon-law
An excellent read! In this work, one sees much of what is to come in later writers. I was especially struck by aspects in Saint Thomas' thought that appear hear quite clearly: the treatment of eternal law and natural law, the superiority of a mixed constitution to a simple form of government, and yet the superiority of monarchy over the other two simple forms. It is also remarkable how Cicero differs from his predecessors, Plato and Aristotle, in considering these matters. When considering the i ...more
Jae Ahn
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is a life well-lived? What is the value of liberal education versus vocational training? Which of the two has greater value: academic pursuit or practical engagement with the world?

The book helps structure thoughts around questions like the one above.

CommonWealth Book 1, last paragraph:
"[By such studies] their minds were uplifted, and they could accomplish or design something worthy of that which I have called the gift of the gods. For this reason let us count those who treat philosophy
Steven Rhodes
I wish I could rate this work higher, but due to the extremely fragmentary nature of the text I can only give it 3/5. Hell, 3/5 of the work is missing! It seemed like every time Cicero was about to expound on a point of contention, I would find in place of his writings an editorial note along the lines of "[six leaves have been lost; the gist of what Cicero is trying to say here, according to (insert other source here), blablablabla]". It's difficult to rate a book when so much is missing, thoug ...more
J. Robert Larmer
Overall these two dialogues don't have a whole lot of new ideas. Between Plato and Aristotle most of the material is rehashed (although there are some interesting discussions on natural law which go on to play a big role in Aquinas' thinking years later). The Republic is fragmented. While the discussion of the best regime receives interesting updates from Aristotle's discussion (based on Roman examples), it reads very similarly. The Laws is much less disjointed as there is less missing in the ma ...more
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think being a political science student has helped me achieve my dreams in the way that it has let me read the books I always wanted to read.

Next to Marcus Aurelius, Cicero was my dream writer to read. Man, in today's jargon, this book is shade to Plato. Yet unlike Plato, Cicero was not an idealist. He was a statesman who understood Rome, and how politics worked. He saw Caesar's murder!

I'd like to believe that Cicero began the whole notion that the rule of law was powerful. This book opened my
Tressa (Wishful Endings)
It is amazing how much influence Cicero had in the development of the US constitution and government. There were so many things that reminded me of The Declaration of Independence and the three branches of government that we have. I agreed with a lot of what Cicero presents and some of it just made me think. He was a very honest man in his views and how he felt about things. It, unfortunately cost him his life as he was killed by Mark Antony and Octavian (later Augustus Caesar) for his words.

May 07, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an interesting work for anyone interested in the history of the Roman Republic, but should only be recommended to those with at least a cursory understanding of Republican Rome.

While the book provides interesting commentary on the nature of law, justice and the best form of government, the fact that the text is quite incomplete which makes it challenging to interpret and digest. I often found myself getting really interested in where a point was going to then find out that the next 3 le
Alan Johnson
Although I do not know Latin, it is my understanding that the best English translation of Cicero's Republic and Laws is this edition: Marcus Tullius Cicero, "On the Republic" and "On the Laws", trans. and ed. David Fott (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014). This translation is part of Cornell's Agora Editions, which has for several decades produced extremely accurate translations of texts, adhering to the Straussian translation principles described here in the last four paragraphs of post 1 ...more
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Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. Cicero is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.
“True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions.” 18 likes
“In a republic this rule ought to be observed: that the majority should not have the predominant power.” 18 likes
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