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The Republic and the Laws

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,674 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Cicero's The Republic is an impassioned plea for responsible government written just before the civil war that ended the Roman Republic in a dialogue following Plato. Drawing on Greek political theory, the work embodies the mature reflections of a Roman ex-consul on the nature of political organization, on justice in society, and on the qualities needed in a statesman. Its ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published July 15th 2009 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published -51)
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Aug 13, 2015 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
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Sep 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
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
Oct 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Required reading for anyone interested in the history of ethics, jurisprudence, or political theory. Absolutely necessary for understanding St. Thomas.
Ian Caveny
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, humanism
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Nov 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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)
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Reid Luzzader
Apr 09, 2015 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.
Sergio Muñoz
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.
Aug 15, 2008 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!
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.
The original histories of Polybius are preferable to me vs. Cicero's commentary here. His discussions of the laws are sometimes abstruse to our modern understanding, and of course some of the text is fragmented. Worth picking up, but he does not impress me with his arguments or ideas as much as many other classical political thinkers.
May 27, 2013 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.
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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.
More about Marcus Tullius Cicero...
“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.” 17 likes
“In a republic this rule ought to be observed: that the majority should not have the predominant power.” 16 likes
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