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On The Commonwealth & On The Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,433 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Cicero's On the Commonwealth and On the Laws are his most important works of political philosophy. The present volume offers a scholarly reconstruction of the fragments of On the Commonwealth and a masterly translation of both dialogues. The texts are supported by a helpful, concise introduction, notes and other aids. Students in politics, philosophy, ancient history, law ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published March 4th 2004 by Cambridge University Press (first published -51)
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Dr. George H. Elder
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
Aug 13, 2015 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 31, 2014 Zelda 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.
Scott Zuke
Jan 21, 2010 Scott Zuke 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
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
Sep 14, 2010 Tortla 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
Jun 17, 2011 Diego 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
Nov 26, 2014 Tunc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Missing fragments of the work cause annoyance since some parts end so sudden, that you can not help but feel sad, because there is no other way of learning what Cicero might have said other than guesses. But this shouldn't stop any Classicists from enjoying this opus. "Somnium Scipionis" alone is enough reason to forget the missing parts. Cicero's attempt at Platonic dialogue and his philosophical and political thoughts may seem unoriginal but in no way they are pure copies of the past thinkers ...more
Jul 26, 2015 Michael 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
Jan 25, 2014 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful. Be warned, though, that the entirety of the text has not survived. The depth of the rest makes that fact even sadder.
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
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 23, 2011 Nemo 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 Natch Greyes 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
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
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.

Mar 29, 2010 K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I liked this because it was half as long as Aristotle's books, mostly because a lot of Cicero's writing was lost to the ages. Way to go, ages!

Cicero's more down with wealth than Aristotle & Plato, but basically takes a lot of their ideas and condenses them very sweetly into small paragraphs. He's influenced by the Stoics, so he adds a belief about the world and everything being connected to the divine and humanity being bound together or whatever by natural law, but then in the Laws he sugg
Много липсващи парчета :( Все пак си струва
Reid Luzzader
Apr 09, 2015 Reid Luzzader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this because Cicero was often cited by Revolutionary-era Americans. Both books are in the form of dialogues, and discuss what would be an ideal republic.

Cicero was admirable both in thought and in life. He was a pagan Stoic, which emphasizes virtue for its own sake, rationality, self-control, and duty to the public. Cicero became a martyr in the defense of the Roman Republic. After Rome became tyrannical, he was executed, and his head and hands cut off and nailed to a wall in the Forum.
Jan 23, 2014 Maximiliano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un texto excelente, combina magistralmente una hermosa lección de historia y un genial ejemplo de alocución...
Sergio Muñoz
Aug 30, 2014 Sergio Muñoz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book stroke me as considerably idealistic. Cicero's political philosophy, when not interrumpted by the loss of fragments due to this book's excepcional antiquity, is perceived honorable and focused on human virtues applied to public service. Hence, it does not surprise me that he was exiled and eventually killed by political enemies. After reading Maquiavelo's The Prince, one can only see Cicero's legacy as a pretty, shiny fantasy that will never be.
Andrew S.
Although it feels as if all the best parts of original writing were lost to history, the Republic is brilliant. This edition presents a very sophisticated rendition of original texts which is a joy to read. The book even influenced my speaking making it more articulate (maybe just temporarily).
The other part, The Laws was an interesting read but leaving highest laws to the gods won't get you anywhere nice these days.
Aug 15, 2008 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
Read as part of a summer institute on political and constitutional theory. I've been wanting to read Cicero for a while as the Founders drew inspiration from his writings. He is interesting, and like Aristotle he makes some interesting comments on politics and society, but doesn't always seem to point in one direction. For something really different, trying reading his "Scipio's Dream". Now that is far out!
May 27, 2013 Susana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like and respect Cicero, I think he's one of the greatest orators in history, however I find some inconsistencies in his arguments. His ideas of justice seem to be very naturalistic, I also think he doesn't address the real issues or questions about the nature of the laws and the necessity for justice in a society. It is a great book for law students.
James Violand
Dec 10, 2014 James Violand rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I admit, I like Cicero. But this book attempts to rebuild these two works from pieces and parts of extant manuscripts with the resulting gaps becoming serious headaches for the reader. Other than referring to Roman semi-historical figures, these are regurgitations of Plato's Republic salted with some of Aristotle. Not worth the frustration.
This one is a bit frustrating, because so much of the text is missing (especially from the Republic). There are significant gaps in which the editor and translator have to guess about what was said. This is nobody's fault, obviously— it's two thousand years old, and stuff gets lost. But it does make it hard to follow the arguments.
Feb 17, 2011 Carolyne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still haven't found a good bio about cicero and I will NEVER read anything Anthony Everett writes again...but you can't get any better than what the person wrote themselves. A great read for anyone who loves Ancient Rome as much as I do. It wasn't easy but who doesn't love a challenge?
Jan 18, 2008 Jared rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very important to understanding how our country was set up and some of the logic behind the ideas. It is also very helpful to understanding the method Cicero took in fighting for the Roman Republic
Garrett Cash
What's here is pretty good (not anywhere near Plato good though), but it's so fragmentary that it makes it really difficult to enjoy or follow the arguments. A mostly frustrating couple of works overall.
May 18, 2008 La-Shanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cicero inspired me to never loose "SELF!" Even though we conform to identifies that aligns with cultural, religious, and educvational beliefs, as an individual, preserve individual uniqueness...
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January 3, 106 BCE – December 7, 43 BCE

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.
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“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.” 15 likes
“In a republic this rule ought to be observed: that the majority should not have the predominant power.” 14 likes
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