The Republic - Cicero - darmowy ebook

The Republic is a dialogue on Roman politics by Cicero, written in six books between 54 and 51 BC. The work does not survive in a complete state, and large parts are missing. The surviving sections derive from excerpts preserved in later works and from an incomplete palimpsest uncovered in 1819. Cicero uses the work to explain Roman constitutional theory. Written in imitation of Plato’s Republic, it takes the form of a Socratic dialoguein which Scipio Aemilianus takes the role of a wise old man. The work examines the type of government that had been established in Rome since the kings, and that was challenged by amongst others Julius Caesar. The development of the constitution is explained, and Cicero explores the different types of constitutions and the roles played by citizens in government. The work is also known for the Dream of Scipio, a fictional dream vision from the sixth book.

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by Cicero

Published 2018 by Blackmore Dennett

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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I. For without the strong feeling of patriotism, neither had G. Duelius, Aulus Atilius or L. Metellus freed us from the terror of Carthage; or the two Scipios extinguished with their blood the rising flame of the second punic war. Quintus Maximus would not have weakened, nor M. Marcellus have crushed the one which was springing up with still greater strength: or P. Africanus turning it from the gates of this city, have borne it amid the walls of our enemies. Yet it was not thought unbecoming in M. Cato, an unknown and a new man, by whom all of us who emulate his course are led as a bright example of industry and virtue, to enjoy the repose of Tusculum, that healthy and convenient situation. That insane man, however, as some have considered him, preferred when urged by no necessity, to contend amid those waves and tempests to extreme old age; rather than pass his days in the most agreeable manner, amid so much ease and tranquillity. Men without number I omit, each of whom were benefactors to the State, and who are not far removed from the remembrance of this generation. I forbear to commemorate them, lest any one should reproach me with neglecting to speak of himself or his immediate friends. This one truth I would mark, that nature has so strongly implanted in man the necessity of virtue, and so powerful an inclination to defend the common welfare, that this principle overcomes all the blandishments of voluptuousness and ease.

II. Yet to possess virtue, like some art, without exercising it, is insufficient. Art indeed, when not effective, is still comprehended in science. The efficacy of all virtue consists in its use. Its greatest end is the government of states, and the perfection not in words but in deeds, of those very things which are taught in the halls. For nothing is propounded by philosophers, concerning what is esteemed to be just and proper, that is not confirmed and assured by those who have legislated for states. For from whence springs piety, or from whom religion? Whence the law, either of nations, or that which is called civil? Whence justice, faith, equity? Whence modesty, continence, the dread of turpitude, the love of praise and esteem? Whence fortitude in trouble and dangers? From those who having laid a foundation for these things in early education, have strengthened some of them by the influence of manners, and sanctioned others by the influence of laws. Of Xenocrates, one of the noblest of philosophers, it is said, that when he was asked what his disciples learnt of him, he replied “to do that of their own choice, which the laws enjoined them to do,” therefore the citizen who obliges every one by the authority and fear of the law to do that, which philosophers by reasoning, with difficulty persuade a few to do, is to be preferred to those learned men who only dispute about these things. For which of their orations, however exquisite, can be compared in value to a well constituted state, to public right and to morals. Truly as great and powerful cities, as Ennius says, are as I think, to be preferred to villages and castles; so those who stand pre-eminent in those cities, in authority and counsel, are to be esteemed far before those in wisdom, who are altogether ignorant of the conduct of public affairs. And since we are chiefly urged by a desire to increase the possessions of the human race, and seek by our counsels and labours, to surround the life of man with gratification and security, and are incited by the instincts of nature to these enjoyments; let us hold the course which was always that of the best men: nor attend to those signals which speculative philosophers make from their retirement, to allure back those who are already far advanced.

III. Against these reasons so certain and so clear, it is urged by those who are opposed to us: first, the labour to be undergone in preserving the public welfare; a slight impediment to the zealous and industrious, not alone in matters of such high import, but in inferior things: whether in studies or in official stations; and to be despised even in affairs of business. To this they add the dangers to which life is exposed, and the dread of death, which brave men scorn; being wont to view it as more wretched to waste away by infirmity and old age, than to seize an occasion to devote that life to the advantage of their country, which one day must be rendered to nature. It is here however they deem themselves most successful and eloquent, when they bring forward the calamities of eminent men, and the injuries heaped upon them by their ungrateful countrymen. Here come the instances in Grecian history. Miltiades, the conqueror and subduer of the Persians, with those wounds yet streaming, which he received in front, in the height of victory: preserved from the weapons of the enemy, to waste away his life in the chains of his countrymen. And Themistocles proscribed and driven from the country he had freed, flying, not to the harbours of that Greece he had preserved, but to the barbarous shores he had harrassed. Nor indeed are instances wanting among the Athenians of levity and cruelty towards great numbers of their citizens; instances which springing up repeatedly among them, are said also to have abounded too conspicuously in our city. For either the exile of Camillus, the misfortune of Ahala, the ill will towards Nasica, or the expulsion of Lenas, or the condemnation of Opimus is remembered: or the flight of Metellus, the sad overthrow of C. Marius, the cutting off of the most eminent citizens, or the destruction of many of them, which soon after followed. Nor indeed is my name forgotten. And I judge that deeming themselves to owe both life and ease to my peril and counsel, they have a more deep and tender remembrance of me. But it is not easy to explain how they who cross the seas for the sake of observing or describing * * *

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IV. * * * * At the expiration of my consulship, when in the assembly of the Roman people, I swore that the republic had been saved by my exertions, which they confirmed by universal acclamation, I was requited for the cares and vexations of every injury. Albeit my reverses had more honour than pain attached to them, and less disquietude than glory. Greater was my pleasure at receiving the approbation of good men, than my regret at observing the satisfaction of the bad. But had it happened otherwise, as I said, what complaint could I make? Nothing unforeseen could have occurred, nor more grievous than I might have expected for so many of my deeds. For I was one who could well have gathered greater fruits from ease than others, on account of the agreeable variety of the studies I had pursued from my childhood; and if any disaster had overtaken the republic, I need not have sustained a greater share of it, but have divided it equally with the rest. I hesitated not to oppose myself to those stormy tempests, and almost raging waves, for the sake of preserving my fellow citizens, and of accomplishing at my own risk the common safety of all. For our country has not produced us, or educated us under a law, that she is entitled to no support on our part, lending herself as it were to our convenience only; furnishing a secure refuge, and a tranquil and peaceful asylum to our indolence: but rather holds as pledges to her, to be employed for her benefit, the many and great faculties of our mind, genius, and reason; and only permits us to appropriate to our private purposes, that portion of them, of which she stands in no need.

V. The pretences which are urged for the enjoyment of indolence are not to be listened to. As when it is stated that the public affairs are meddled with by men worthy of no confidence, with whom it is disgraceful to associate: yet to contend against whom is a miserable and dangerous effort, especially when the multitude is excited. For which reason a prudent man ought not to take the reins, when he is not able to restrain the mad and untameable violence of the vulgar: or a generous man expose himself to the lashes of contumely in a strife with low and outrageous adversaries: or a wise man hope to withdraw from such a contest without injury. As if there could well be a more just cause for good and firm men, endowed with noble minds, to stand forth in aid of their country, than that they may not be subject to bad men; nor suffer the republic to be lacerated by them, before the desire of saving it may come too late.

VI. But who can approve of their exception, that a wise man ought not to take upon him any part of the public affairs, unless an occasion of extraordinary need should drive him to it? as if indeed a greater necessity could ever have happened to any one, than occurred to myself. How could I have been useful then, had I not been consul? and how could I have been consul, had I not pursued that course of life from my youth, which belonging to the equestrian rank, in which I was born, enabled me to attain the first honours of the state? No man therefore can assume at pleasure the ability of aiding in the public service, however urgent the danger may be, unless he stands in that relation to his country, which fits him for the occasion. And it appears to me most marvellous, that in the discourse of learned men, they who declare themselves unable to steer in a calm sea, because they have never been taught, nor have ever studied the subject, talk of taking the helm in the midst of the greatest storms. For these very men openly declare, and pride themselves greatly upon it, that they have never studied or taught the mode of establishing or protecting the public interest; which they think the exclusive province, not of learned and erudite men, but of those who are practised in these matters. What consistency is there then in promising to aid the republic in times of peril, when they are incapable of the easier task of directing it in the calmest moments? And although, in truth, the philosopher is not wont of his own accord, to consider the details of state affairs, unless called upon by the times to do it, when indeed he will not decline what duty imposes on him; nevertheless, I judge the knowledge of state affairs is least to be neglected by a wise man; that every thing may be familiar to him, for he cannot tell the moment, when it may be necessary for him to avail himself of his knowledge.

VII. These things I have somewhat enlarged upon, because the discussion proposed and undertaken by me in this work, was on government: and in order to prevent its being without effect, it was necessary in the first instance, to remove every doubt as to the duty of engaging in the public service. Nevertheless if there are any who are governed by the opinions of philosophers, let them turn their attention for a while, and listen to those who enjoy a proud pre-eminence among learned men, even when they have not borne any charge in the republic; still whom I deem from the extent of their studies, and their writings on government, to have been invested with functions appertaining to the public interest. But those seven, whom the Greeks call wise, I perceive have almost all been greatly engaged in public affairs. For there is no one thing in which human worth is more nearly allied to the power of the gods, than to found new states, or to preserve those already founded.

VIII. Concerning which matters, since it hath happened to me, to be deemed something worthy of memory in my administration of public affairs, and to possess some talent for unfolding them; not only in practice, but being versed too in the art of speaking and teaching: while of those before me, some were perfect in debate, yet unknown by their deeds; others of respectable parts for business, without the talent of oratory. Still it is not my intention here to bring forward any new system invented by myself, but to repeat a discussion, that took place at a certain period of our history, among our most illustrious and wise men, which was related to me a long time ago in my youth, by P. Rutilius Rufus, when we were at Smyrna together: in the which I think scarce any point was omitted that belongs to the consideration of these great matters.

IX. When P. Africanus, the son of Paulus, established Latin holidays in his gardens, during the consulate of Tuditanus, and Aquilius; and his most intimate friends had promised to visit him frequently at that season. On the morning of the first day, Q. Tubero, the eldest son of his sister, came. Pleased with his visit, and kindly addressing him “What! Tubero,” said he, “is it you so early? I should have thought these holidays would have given you a favourable opportunity of pursuing your literary inquiries.” “Why in truth,” replied he, “I can apply all my leisure to my books, for they are always disengaged. But to find you at leisure, is very remarkable; especially at this time so critical for the republic.” “So help me Hercules,” said Scipio, “however you find me, it is more idle in appearance than in truth.” “You must now,” said Tubero, “relax your mind a little also, for several of us have determined if it is not inconvenient to you, to spend some of our leisure with you.” “With all my heart,” replied Scipio, “provided we may acquire some information thereby on philosophical subjects.”