Evan Leach's Reviews > The Nature of the Gods

The Nature of the Gods by Marcus Tullius Cicero
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Feb 11, 2012

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bookshelves: roman-literature, philosophy, ancient-literature, essays-and-treatises
Read in September, 2011

On the Nature of the Gods is a philosophical dialogue by the Roman orator Cicero written in 45 BC. It is laid out in three "books", each of which discusses the theology of different Roman and Greek philosophers. The dialogue uses Stoic, Epicurean, and skeptical theories to examine fundamental questions of theology.

The dialogue is on the whole narrated by Cicero himself, though he doesn't play an active part in the discussion. Gaius Velleius represents the Epicurean school, Quintius Lucilius Balbus argues for the Stoics, and Gaius Cotta speaks for Cicero's own Academic skepticism. The first book of the dialogue contains Cicero's introduction, Velleius' case for the Epicurean theology and Cotta's criticism of Epicureanism. Book II focuses on Balbus' explanation and defense of Stoic theology. Book III lays out Cotta's criticism of Balbus' claims. This work, alongside Cicero's De Officiis and De Divinatione was highly influential on the philosophers of the 18th century: Voltaire called it "(...) perhaps the best book of all antiquity".

I didn't think there was anything mind blowing in here, but it's a nice introduction to three of the most important philosophical schools of antiquity (stoicism, epicureanism, and skepticism). 3 stars.
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