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For discussions about Marcus Tullius Cicero, his life and his philosophy.

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The Height of the Republic 10 Replies

Started by ZLR Stavis. Last reply by Matthew Moore Oct 27, 2008.

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Comment by Matthew Moore on April 1, 2008 at 2:17pm
One thing I tell my students is, if they choose to go into politics (God help them), I hope that they will bring a little Cicero with them. It would be nice to see our political discourse that has some erudition to it.

But I wonder -- would Cicero survive as a poltician today?
Comment by Steve Perkins on April 24, 2008 at 1:48pm
First of all, I love Cicero's writing, both its style and its content. I will never forget the time when, as a college freshman, I first encountered sentence of his well over 300 words long in the Pro Milone, beginning in XXVII.72 with "Occidi, occidi Sp. Maelium" and ending in XXVII.75 with "omni aditu et limine." I was and remain amazed at the incredible complexity of subordination. And I am a huge fan of the rhetorical pyrotechnics in the Catilinarians. The lines are just so much fun to say!

As for content, I have cited endlessly the concluding lines of the Pro Roscio Amerino for their painful, contemporary relevance: "Hanc tollite ex civitate, iudices, hanc pati nolite diutius in hac re publica versari; quae non modo id habet in se mali quod tot civis atrocissime sustulit verum etiam hominibus lenissimis ademit misericordiam consuetudine incommodorum. Nam cum omnibus horis aliquid atrociter fieri videmus aut audimus, etiam qui natura mitissimi sumus adsiduitate molestiarum sensum omnem humanitatis ex animis amittimus."

I also find these words from the Pro Archia to be foundational for why we pursue Classics with students: "ceteros pudeat, si qui se ita litteris abdiderunt ut nihil possint ex eis neque ad communem adferre fructum, neque in aspectum lucemque proferre."

And as for wicked wit, I find this from the Pro Caelio to rank among the most deliciously acid barbs from my favorite of English poets, Alexander Pope: "Quod quidem facerem vehementius, nisi intercederent mihi inimicitiae cum istius mulieris viro—fratre volui dicere."
Comment by Lisa Nicholas on June 30, 2009 at 3:27pm
Cicero was my kind of guy: a patriot in the best sense, he didn't much care if important people found him an obnoxious blowhard, and if he couldn't get his point through one way he tried another. I think the Rome of his day didn't deserve him, athough (as he himself tirelessly told them) they badly needed him, or someone just like him (he reminds me of Socrates in this, as in many another, way).

Would he survive as a politician today? Well, you might say he didn't survive as a politician even in his own day; he kept writing and talking until someone had to shut him up, once for all -- much as the Athenians did Socrates, albeit Socrates took his medicine with better grace than Cicero did (the image of him running away from Marc Antony's posses in a litte is rather sad); yet both, at the end, were martyrs at the hands of, and for the sake of, their fellow citizens. Of course, in both cases, the joke was on those who sought to silence them, as their posterity amply testifies. Ars longa vita brevis, you know.
Cicero had one up on Socrates, in that his own (beautifully crafted) words have survived -- lots of them, and almost all still of great relevance today. I particularly admire Cicero's attempts, after he realized politics would not solve Rome's problems, to repackage the ideas of those Cloud Cuckoo Land Greeks for hard-headed, practical Romans; and I'm grateful to Macrobius for preserving Cicero's somnium Scipionis, which I teach regularly in my Humanities classes -- SOO much better a parable than Plato's "myth of Er" and with a much more significant posterity.
Comment by nuda pedem on March 17, 2010 at 4:13pm
Hi, I'm new here, I joined this group because I want to learn more about Cicero. I read In Catilinam in high school and Topica in college, and really enjoyed the speeches... but Topica is too difficult to translate! It was interesting, anyway.


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