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On the Commonwealth

outset: if there is not an equitable balance in the state of rights and duties
and responsibilities, so that there is enough power in the hands of the
magistrates and enough authority in the judgment of the aristocrats and
enough freedom in the people, then the condition of the commonwealth
cannot be preserved unchanged. [µ] Now when the state was disturbed
as a result of the problem of debt, the plebs seized ¬rst the Sacred Mount
and then the Aventine.·° Not even the discipline of Lycurgus was able to
keep ¬rm hold of the reins in dealing with Greeks: even at Sparta, in the
reign of Theopompus, the ¬ve ephors (as they are called at Sparta; in
Crete they are the ten cosmoi) were established as a check on the kings™
strength, just as the tribunes of the plebs were established against
consular power.·±
[µ] Our ancestors could perhaps have had some method for healing
the problem of debt; Solon the Athenian had found one not long before,
and somewhat later our senate did too, when because of the passion of
one individual all citizens then in debt bondage were freed and the use of
debt bondage was discontinued.· At all times when the plebs was being
crushed by the burden of debt because of a public calamity, some relief
and cure has been sought for the sake of the common safety. At that time,
however, no such plan was employed, and that gave the people a reason
to revolt and create two tribunes of the plebs, in order to diminish the
power and authority of the senate. This remained, however, very great:
the wisest and bravest men, both in warfare and in directing the govern-
ment, were protecting the state; their in¬‚uence remained very strong,
because they greatly surpassed their fellow citizens in distinction but
were less in¬‚uenced by their pleasures and were not much wealthier. The
virtue of each of them in public a¬airs was all the more appreciated
because in private they took great pains to protect individual citizens by
their e¬orts, advice, and wealth.
[°] While this system of government prevailed, a quaestor accused

The Sacred Mount is some µ km from Rome, across the river Anio. Which of the two

places was occupied in the various secessions of the plebs was disputed in antiquity.
C. considers the Spartan ephorate to be a popular element in the constitution, although
others thought it tyrannical. Theopompus was king in the eighth century.
Solon™s remission of debts (the seisachtheia, ˜˜shaking o¬ of burdens™™) is traditionally
dated to µ/, although C. and some other Roman sources seem to make it a generation
later. The Poetelian law of   (± in some sources) ended debt bondage (nexum) at
Rome; for the wickedness of the usurer Papirius that occasioned the law cf. Livy .. C.™s
point here (and elsewhere) is that intelligent individual action by the statesman should
modify strict legalism.

Book 

Spurius Cassius, a man of great popularity among the people, of seeking
to establish a monarchy; as you have heard, when his father said that he
knew that Spurius was in fact guilty, with the permission of the people he
put him to death. Some ¬fty-four years after the establishment of the
republic, the consuls Spurius Tarpeius and Aulus Aternius carried in the
centuriate assembly a popular law concerning penalties and trial bonds;
twenty years later, because Lucius Papirius and Publius Pinarius as
censors had, through the imposition of ¬nes, transferred a great many
cattle from private to public ownership, a law of the consuls Gaius Iulius
and Publius Papirius established a low cash equivalent for cattle in
[±] But some years earlier, while the senate still had the highest
in¬‚uence and the people endured and obeyed, a plan was initiated
according to which the consuls and the tribunes of the plebs would
resign from o¬ce and a board of ten would be elected with supreme
authority and without the right of appeal from their decisions.· These
men were to have the chief power and were to write the laws. When they
had written ten tables of laws of great equity and prudence, they had a
second board of ten elected in their place for the following year, who
have not been praised for comparable honor or justice. Among this
board,·µ Gaius Iulius deserved particular praise. He said that he had
been present when a corpse was dug up in the bedroom of a nobleman,
Lucius Sestius; and although as a decemvir from whom there was no
appeal he had the supreme power, he still allowed Sestius to post bail
because he said that he would not violate the excellent law that forbade
any capital verdict on a Roman citizen to be rendered by other than the
centuriate assembly.
[] The third year of decemviral rule followed; the decemvirs stayed
the same and refused to have others elected in their place. In this
condition of the commonwealth (which as I have said frequently could
not last for long, as it was not equitable towards all orders of the state) the

Spurius Cassius was consul in ; what he did and the legal problems surrounding his

trial and execution in µ are very unclear. The same is true of the two laws mentioned
here (of µ and ° respectively): they clearly mitigated the harsh Roman law of debt, but
exactly how is a matter for speculation.
The ¬rst (˜˜good™™) Decemvirate was in µ±; the second (˜˜bad™™) Decemvirate, in µ°“.

For C., this represents the change from aristocracy to oligarchy, while the overthrow of
the second Decemvirate and the restoration of the Republic under the consuls Valerius
and Horatius in  marks the transition to the mixed constitution.
The ¬rst Decemvirate, not the second.

On the Commonwealth

entire commonwealth was in the control of the aristocrats, led by the ten
noble decemvirs; there were no tribunes of the plebs to oppose them, and
no other magistrates at all; there was no right of appeal to the people left
against execution or whipping. [] And so from the injustice of these
men suddenly arose a great disturbance and an alteration of the entire
commonwealth. They added two tables of unjust laws to the previous
tables; they ordained by a most inhumane law that there should be no
right of marriage between plebeians and patricians, something that is
often enough granted to unrelated peoples; that law was later reversed by
the Canuleian plebiscite.· In all their public actions they ruled the
people greedily and violently and with an eye to their own passions. The
story is well known and famous through many works of literature:·· how
a certain Decimus Verginius, because of the intemperateness of one of
those decemvirs, killed his own daughter in the forum by his own hand;
how in grief he ¬‚ed to the army that was then on Mount Algidus; how the
soldiers abandoned the war in which they were engaged and ¬rst occu-
pied the Sacred Mount (as they had done before in similar circumstan-
ces) and then the Aventine *·
[four leaves missing]
* I judge that our ancestors both approved of most highly and
preserved most wisely.
[] After Scipio had said this, and the others were waiting in silence
for the rest of his speech, µ    said: Since my elders here are not
asking anything of you, Africanus, I will tell you what I ¬nd lacking in
your speech.
 © °© : Please do.
µ  : You seem to me to have praised our commonwealth, al-
though Laelius had asked you not about our commonwealth but about
commonwealths in general. Nor did I learn from your speech by what
training or customs or laws we can establish or preserve that very
commonwealth which you praise.
Of µ ; Livy gives a full account of Canuleius™ speech and law at .±“.

C.™s is the earliest extant account; for a later one (drawing on earlier sources) cf. Livy
The missing passage included C.™s account of the end of the secession and the restoration
of the Republic. Like Polybius, he ended his account of constitutional development with
the passage of the Valerio-Horatian laws (including the restoration of the right of appeal)
in ; C. appears to have thought that the constitution remained stable almost until the
tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus in ±.

Book 

[µ]   © °© : I think that we will shortly have a more suitable occasion,
Tubero, for discussing the establishment and preservation of states;· but
I believed that I answered Laelius™ question about the best condition of
the state adequately. First, I de¬ned the three admirable types of states
and the equal number of corresponding vicious ones; I showed that no
one of these is best, but that a state that is properly blended from the ¬rst
three types is better than any of them. [] As to my use of our state, that
was not in order to de¬ne the best condition “ I could do that without any
illustration “ but so that we might see concretely in the greatest state just
what sort of thing I was describing in my argument. But if you are
looking for the type of the ideal state without the example of any speci¬c
people, then we must make use of an image given by nature, since you
[think] this image of the city and people is too *°
[probably two leaves missing]
[±.b] . . . there is no example to which we should prefer to compare
the commonwealth (Diomedes ±.µ.°«).
[·]  ©° © : * :whom9 I have long been looking for and whom I am
eager to reach.
¬ ¬ © µ: Are you by any chance seeking the man of foresight?±
 ©°©: The very one.
¬ ¬ © µ: There is a ¬ne supply of them among those present; you
might even begin from yourself.
 ©°©: If only the proportion in the whole senate were the same!
But in fact the man of foresight is one who, as we often saw in Africa, sits
on a huge and destructive creature, keeps it in order, directs it wherever
he wants, and by a gentle instruction or touch turns the animal in any
¬ ¬ © µ: I understand; when I was your legate I often saw it.
 ©°©: So that Indian or Carthaginian keeps this one creature in
order, one that is docile and used to human customs; but what hides in
human spirits, the part of the spirit that is called the mind, has to rein in
Laws and institutions are the subject of Book  in particular.

The manuscript becomes too fragmentary at this point to follow the argument with any
certainty. The ˜˜image given by nature™™ is almost certainly the cosmos itself.
Prudentem, a term almost impossible to translate, as it incorporates both Aristotelian
phronesis, ˜˜practical wisdom,™™ and its Latin etymological sense of foresight, from prouideo.
See also .µ± and ˜˜Text and Translation™™ above.
For the failings of the actual senate see also On the Laws .·“.

In Africa during the Third Punic War (±·“± ).

On the Commonwealth

and control not just one creature or one easy to control, and it is not often
that it accomplishes that task. For he must control that ¬erce *
[two leaves missing]
[a] . . . which is fed on blood, and which rejoices so greatly in savage
cruelty that it can scarcely be satis¬ed by men™s merciless deaths
( + Nonius °°.)
[b] . . . for a greedy and grasping man, who is ¬lled with lusts and
wallows in pleasures ( + Nonius ±.±)
[c] . . . and the fourth is worry, which is inclined to grief; it is
mournful and always troubling itself ( + Nonius ·.)
[d] . . . are pains, if a¬„icted with misery or cast down by fear or
cowardice ( + Nonius .±)µ
[ fr. inc. ±] . . . there is something unruly in every individual which
either rejoices in pleasure or is broken by di¬culties (Nonius °±.µ)
[e] . . . just as an untrained charioteer is dragged from the chariot,
¬‚attened, mangled, and crushed ( + Nonius .)
[.±] . . . the best-organized commonwealth, moderately blended
from the three primary types (monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic),
which does not provoke by punishment the wild and savage mind . . .
( + Nonius .)·
[a]  © °© : * can be said.
¬ ¬ © µ: Now I see what kind of responsibilities you are placing in
the charge of that man I have been waiting for.
 © °© : There is really only one, because practically all the rest are
contained in this one alone: that he never cease educating and observing
himself, that he summon others to imitate him, that through the bril-
liance of his mind and life he o¬er himself as a mirror to his fellow
citizens. In playing the lyre or the ¬‚ute, and of course in choral singing, a
degree of harmony must be maintained among the di¬erent sounds, and
if it is altered or discordant a trained ear cannot endure it; and this
harmony, through the regulation of very di¬erent voices, is made pleas-

This and the following three fragments are the remains of a catalogue of passions that
a¬ect the mind; the ¬rst one is probably anger, although it has been suggested that this is a
description of the tyrant and belongs in the gap after ..
The text of this fragment is corrupt.
The location of this fragment is uncertain (the book number is missing), but it seems to
belong in the catalogue of passions.
This fragment is generally placed at .±; Buchner suggested placing it after ., but in
fact the combination of constitutional and psychological theory that it contains makes it ¬t
better as part of the conclusion of ..

Book 

ing and concordant. So too the state, through the reasoned balance of the
highest and the lowest and the intervening orders, is harmonious in the
concord of very di¬erent people. What musicians call harmony with
regard to song is concord in the state, the tightest and the best bond of
safety in every republic; and that concord can never exist without
[probably eleven leaves missing]
[c] Augustine, City of God .±: And when Scipio had spoken more
broadly and fully on this topic, the value of justice for the state and the damage
caused by its absence, Philus (one of the participants in the discussion) took up
the subject and demanded that it be treated more thoroughly and that more
should be said about justice because of the common belief that a republic cannot
be ruled without injustice.
[.±±b] . . . justice looks outward; it is entirely directed abroad and
stands out ( + Nonius ·.°)°
[.±±c] . . . the virtue which beyond all others is completely devoted to
and concerned with the interests of others ( + Nonius .°)
[.a] . . . to give an answer to Carneades, who often mocks the
noblest causes through his vicious cleverness ( + Nonius .)±
[·°] ° © ¬ µ: * ¬lled with justice.
 ©°©: I agree completely, and I state to you that we should consider
all that has been said so far about the commonwealth to be as nothing,
and that we can go no further without establishing not only the falseness
of the statement that the commonwealth cannot function without injus-
tice but also the profound truth of the idea that the commonwealth
cannot possibly function without justice. But if you agree, we have said
enough for one day, and we should postpone what is left (and there is
quite a lot) until tomorrow.
When everyone agreed, they brought the day™s discussion to a close.

The last part of this paragraph is preserved only by Augustine, City of God .±. The

fragment placed here by Ziegler is of doubtful authenticity and will be found at the end of
Book .
The remainder of Augustine™s summary of the end of Book  corresponds to .·° below.

This and the following two fragments have frequently been placed in Book  despite

explicit attribution to Book ; they make sense as part of the preparation for the debate on
justice that is to follow.
Carneades™ speeches in ±µµ  for and against justice are the model for the debate in Book

; for a description see .b below.

On the Commonwealth

Doubtful fragment
[b] . . . the lyre should be struck gently and calmly, not with violence
and force. (Ossolinski  µ)
This fragment and another (found in this translation at the end of Book ) are attested only

in nineteenth-century quotations by A. Bielowski from lost manuscripts in Poland; they
are of very dubious authenticity.

Book 

Augustine, City of God .±:± The discussion of this topic was put o¬ to the
next day, when it was the subject of a heated debate in Book . Philus him-
self undertook to give the argument of those who believe that the conduct of
public a¬airs is impossible without injustice, while making a strong plea not
to be taken to believe this himself. He gave a careful presentation of the case
of injustice against justice: he tried to show by plausible arguments and
examples that the former is useful to the state, while the latter is useless.
Then Laelius at the request of everyone took up the defense of justice and as-
serted as strongly as possible that there is nothing so dangerous to a state as
injustice, and that in fact a state cannot exist or be maintained without a
high degree of justice.
When this subject had been discussed to everyone™s satisfaction, Scipio re-
turned to the previous topic; he recalled and commended his brief de¬nition
of the commonwealth, in which he had said that it was the concern of the
people and that the people was not any large assemblage, but an assemblage
associated with one another by agreement on law and community of interest.
He then showed how useful de¬nitions are in argument, and from these de¬-
nitions of his he drew the conclusion that a commonwealth (that is the con-
cern of the people) then truly exists when its a¬airs are conducted well and
justly, whether by a single king, or by a few aristocrats, or by the people as a
whole. But when there is an unjust king (whom in the manner of the Greeks
he called a tyrant) or unjust aristocrats (whose conspiracy he called a fac-
tion), or when the people itself is unjust “ and here he was not able to ¬nd

This summary of Book  (unnumbered in Ziegler) does not include the preface and is

sometimes placed after .·. Cf. ±..

On the Commonwealth

any familiar name other than to call the people itself a tyrant “ then there is
not a ¬‚awed commonwealth, as had been argued on the previous day, but
(the logical conclusion from his de¬nitions) no commonwealth at all: there is
no ˜˜concern of the people™™ when a tyrant or a faction has seized hold of it,
nor is the people itself still a people if it is unjust, because it is no longer a
multitude associated with one another by agreement on law and community
of interest, as the people had been de¬ned.
[four leaves missing]
[±a] Augustine, Against Julianus .±.°: In the third book of his Com-
monwealth Cicero likewise says that man is sent out into life by nature not
as if by a mother but as if by a stepmother: his body is naked, frail, and
weak; his spirit is troubled by distress, groveling in times of fear, weak in
the face of toil, prone to lust; but there is still within him a sort of
smothered divine spark of genius and of mental capacity.
[] * :Human reason overcame9 slowness through the use of
vehicles, and after encountering the crude and confused sounds with
disorganized noises made by humans, it divided and organized them; and
by attaching words, like some kind of signs, to things, it bound together
through the pleasing mutual bond of language men who had previously
been isolated. A similar act of reason invented a few marks by which the
apparently in¬nite sounds of the voice were expressed by signs through
which conversations could be held with absent people and indications of
desires and memorials of past events be preserved. To this was added
number, something not only necessary for life but also the one unchang-
ing and eternal thing; number was ¬rst to direct our gaze up to the sky, to
make us observe the motions of the stars purposefully, and through the
calculation of nights and days *
[four leaves missing]
[] * whose minds raised themselves higher, and were able to create or

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