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of the republican period.
The phrase ius civile is used here to mean Roman law as opposed to the broader ideas of
equity referred to in Latin as ius gentium, ˜˜the law of nations,™™ or as opposed to justice
itself; it is also commonly used to mean praetorian law (also called ius honorarium,
˜˜magistrates™ law™™), as opposed to statute law. It is not used in Latin (as it is in English) as
the complementary term to ˜˜criminal law.™™
The de¬nition of law as command and prohibition is drawn from the opening of the
treatise On Law of the Stoic Chrysippus (Long and Sedley, ·). C.™s account of natural
law is Stoic and develops the brief description given by Laelius at On the Commonwealth

On the Laws

rived from choosing. They put the essence of law in equity, and we
place it in choice; both are attributes of law. I think that these ideas are
generally right; and if so, then the beginning of justice is to be sought in
law: law is a power of nature, it is the mind and reason of the prudent
man, it distinguishes justice and injustice. But since all our speech is
based on popular conceptions, we must sometimes speak in popular
terms and call that a law (in the language of the common people) which
prescribes in writing what it wants by ordering or forbidding. But in es-
tablishing the nature of justice, let us begin from that highest law, which
was born aeons before any law was written or indeed before any state was
[°] ±µ©® µ : That is certainly more convenient and appropriate to
the manner of the conversation we have begun.
  µ: Then shall we go back to the beginning, to the source of
justice itself? Once we have found it, there will be no doubt about how to
judge what we are seeking.
±µ ©® µ : In my opinion that is what we should do.
 ©  µ: I subscribe to your brother™s opinion.
  µ: Then since we want to preserve and protect that form of
commonwealth which Scipio showed was the best in the six books of On
the Commonwealth, and since all the laws must be ¬tted to that type of
state, and since morals must be planted and we should not rely on the
sanctions of written laws, I will seek the roots of justice in nature, under
whose leadership our entire discussion must unfold.
 ©  µ: Absolutely, and with nature™s leadership there will be no
possibility of getting lost.
[±]    µ : Then, Atticus, will you grant me this (I know Quintus™
opinion), that all nature is ruled by the force or nature or reason or power
or mind or will “ or whatever other word there is that will indicate more
plainly what I mean “ of the immortal gods? If you don™t accept this, then
I will have to make it the starting point of my case.
 ©  µ: Of course I will grant it, if you wish; the singing of the birds
and the noise of the river give me reason not to fear that any of my fellow
students will hear me.µ
The Greek word for law (nomos) was derived from nemo, to divide; Latin lex from lego, to
select. The explanation of the Greek word is basically Stoic.
As an Epicurean, Atticus believed that the gods did not intervene in human a¬airs and
that the world was not guided by any supernatural intelligence.

Book ±

  µ : But you need to be careful: they can become very angry, as
good men do, and they will not take it lightly if they hear that you have
betrayed the opening sentence of the best of men, in which he wrote that
god is not troubled by his own a¬airs or those of others.
[]  ©  µ: Go on, please. I am waiting to hear the relevance of
what I have conceded to you.
  µ : You don™t have long to wait. This is its relevance: this ani-
mal “ provident, perceptive, versatile, sharp, capable of memory, and
¬lled with reason and judgment “ which we call a human being, was en-
dowed by the supreme god with a grand status at the time of its creation.
It alone of all types and varieties of animate creatures has a share in rea-
son and thought, which all the others lack.· What is there, not just in hu-
mans, but in all heaven and earth, more divine than reason? When it has
matured and come to perfection, it is properly named wisdom. [] And
therefore, since there is nothing better than reason, and it is found both
in humans and in god, reason forms the ¬rst bond between human and
god. And those who share reason also share right reason; and since that is
law, we humans must be considered to be closely allied to gods by law.
Furthermore, those who share law also share the procedures of justice;
and those who have these things in common must be considered mem-
bers of the same state, all the more so if they obey the same commands
and authorities. Moreover, they do obey this celestial order, the divine
mind and the all-powerful god, so that this whole cosmos must be con-
sidered to be the common state of gods and humans.° And as in states
distinctions in the legal condition of individuals are made in accordance
with family relationships (according to a kind of system with which I will

Epicurus, Principal Sayings ± (tr. Inwood and Gerson): ˜˜What is blessed and indestruct-

ible has no troubles itself, nor does it give trouble to anyone else, so that it is not a¬ected
by feelings of anger or gratitude. For all such things are signs of weakness.™™ C. is perhaps
being ironic about the inability of the Epicureans to live up to their principles: Epicurus
himself was renowned for his vitriolic attacks on other philosophers.
The emphasis on reason as the guiding principle of the universe is Stoic, as is the sharing
of reason between humans and gods. See On the Commonwealth .“, ; .±; also On the
Nature of the Gods .± = Long and Sedley µ.
A Stoic maxim (Chrysippus); cf. On the Nature of the Gods .±.

Ius, here translated as ˜˜procedures of justice,™™ can mean either the workings of a legal
system (as opposed to the law itself) or the broader principles of justice (in the modern
sense) that extend beyond positive law, including e.g. the ponti¬cal law, which is ius rather
than lex, as it is not a matter of statute. See ˜˜Text and Translation™™ above.
The connection between right reason, law, and the cosmic city is Stoic; cf. On the
Commonwealth ±.±; also On the Nature of the Gods .±µ and Long and Sedley ·¬.

On the Laws

deal at the proper time), it is all the more grand and glorious in nature at
large that men should be a part of the family and race of gods.±
[] For when people consider the nature of human beings, it is usual
to argue (and I think that the argument is right) that in the constant
motions and revolutions of the heavens a proper season came for planting
the seeds of the human race; when it was scattered and sown over the
earth, it was enhanced by the divine gift of souls. And although all the
other things of which humans are composed came from mortal stock and
were fragile and bound to perish, the soul was implanted in us by god.
Hence there is in truth a family relationship between us and the gods,
what can be called a common stock or origin. And thus out of so many
species there is no animal besides the human being that has any knowl-
edge of god, and among humans themselves there is no tribe, either civi-
lized or savage, which does not know that it must recognize a god, even
though it may not know what kind of god it should recognize. [µ] The
result is that they acknowledge god as a sort of recollection and acknowl-
edgment of their origin. Furthermore, virtue is the same in human and
god, and it is found in no other species besides; and virtue is nothing else
than nature perfected and taken to its highest level. There is, therefore, a
similarity between human and god. And since that is so, what closer or
more certain relationship can there possibly be? That is why nature has
bestowed such an abundance of things for human convenience and use,
such that those things which exist seem to have been deliberately given to
us, not randomly created “ and this applies not only to the earth™s profu-
sion in bringing forth crops and fruits, but even to animals, some of
which were created for human use, some for enjoyment, and some for
food. [] Countless branches of knowledge have been discovered un-
der the tutelage of nature, which reason imitated in order skillfully to
achieve things necessary for life.
Nature also not only adorned the human being with swiftness of mind,
but also gave him the senses as servants and messengers; she supplied the
C. makes an analogy between the Roman agnatic family (shared descent through males
from a common ancestor), with its emphasis on the power of the father over his
descendants (patria potestas), and the structure of the cosmic family under divine author-
ity. The later passage to which C. alludes here is lost.
For universal acknowledgment of the existence of gods cf. On the Nature of the Gods
.± = Long and Sedley µ.
C. here combines Stoic belief with the Platonic concept of ˜˜recollection™™ of prior lives
The teleological argument is again Stoic; cf. On the Nature of the Gods .· = Long and

Sedley µ.

Book ±

latent and not completely formed conceptions of many things as the basis
of knowledge, and she gave a bodily shape that is both adaptable and
suited to the nature of man. For although she made all other animate
creatures face the earth for grazing, she made the human alone upright
and roused him to look on the sky, as if on his family and former home;
and she shaped the appearance of his face so as to mold in it the character
hidden within.µ [·] For the eyes most expressively say how we feel in
our minds, and what is called the expression, which cannot exist in any
other creature besides the human, indicates character (the Greeks know
the idea, but they have no equivalent word). I leave out the capacities
and abilities of the rest of the body, the modulation of the voice and the
power of speech, which is the greatest force in promoting bonds among
humans. Not everything is appropriate to this discussion and this mo-
ment, and it seems to me that Scipio dealt su¬ciently with this subject in
the book that you have read.· Now, since god produced and equipped
the human being in this way, desiring humans to have the ¬rst place
among all other things, it is clear (to be selective in my discussion) that
human nature itself has gone further: with no instruction, and taking as a
starting point the knowledge of those things whose characteristics she
knew from the ¬rst inchoate conceptions, she herself has strengthened
reason and perfected it.
[]  © µ : Good lord! What a distant starting point you take for
the origins of justice! But you do it in such a way that I am not only not in
a hurry to hear what I was waiting for from you on the civil law, but I
could happily spend the whole day in this conversation. What you are
discussing now, perhaps for the sake of other subjects, is more important
than the things to which it serves as a preface.
  µ : Important they are, however brie¬‚y I am mentioning them
now. But of all the things which are a subject of philosophical debate
there is nothing more worthwhile than clearly to understand that we are
born for justice and that justice is established not by opinion but by na-
ture. That will be clear if you examine the common bonds among human
beings. [] There is no similarity, no likeness of one thing to another, so
The upright stature of the human is a commonplace of popular philosophy; cf. e.g.
Xenophon, Memorabilia ±..±±; Sallust, Conspiracy of Catiline ±.±. For the senses as
servants cf. On the Nature of the Gods .±°. For ˜˜conception™™ (intellegentia = Gk. ennoia,
cf. On the Supreme Good and Evil .±), ˜˜preconception,™™ and ˜˜impression™™ as technical
terms of Stoic epistemology cf. e.g. Long and Sedley “¦ with their commentary.
Greek uses prosopon to mean both ˜˜face™™ and ˜˜expression.™™
See above, On the Commonwealth .±.

On the Laws

great as the likeness we all share. If distorted habits and false opinions did
not twist weak minds and bend them in any direction, no one would be
so like himself as all people would be like all others. Thus, whatever de¬-
nition of a human being one adopts is equally valid for all humans. [°]
That, in turn, is a su¬cient proof that there is no dissimilarity within the
species; if there were, then no one de¬nition would apply to all. In par-
ticular, reason, the one thing by which we stand above the beasts,
through which we are capable of drawing inferences, making arguments,
refuting others, conducting discussions and demonstrations “ reason is
shared by all, and though it di¬ers in the particulars of knowledge, it is
the same in the capacity to learn. All the same things are grasped by the
senses; and the things that are impressed upon the mind, the rudiments
of understanding which I mentioned before, are impressed similarly on
all humans, and language, the interpreter of the mind, may di¬er in
words but is identical in ideas. There is no person of any nation who can-
not reach virtue with the aid of a guide.
[±] The similarity of the human race is as remarkable in perversities
as it is in proper behavior. All people are ensnared by pleasure; and even
if it is an enticement to bad conduct it still has some similarity to natural
goodness: it gives delight through its ¬ckle sweetness. Thus through a
mental error it is adopted as something salutary; by a similar sort of ig-
norance death is avoided as a dissolution of nature, life is sought because
it keeps us in the state in which we were born, and pain is considered one
of the greatest evils both because of its own harshness and because the de-
struction of our nature seems to follow from it. [] Because of the simi-
larity between honor and glory, people who have been honored seem
blessed, and those who have no glory seem wretched. Trouble, happi-
ness, desires, and fears pass equally through the minds of all, and if dif-
ferent peoples have di¬erent beliefs, that does not mean that the supersti-
tion that a¬ects people who worship dogs and cats is not the same as that
which besets other races. What nation is there that does not cherish a¬a-
bility, generosity, a grateful mind and one that remembers good deeds?
What nation does not scorn and hate people who are proud, or evildoers,
or cruel, or ungrateful? From all these things it may be understood that
the whole human race is bound together; and the ¬nal result is that the
understanding of the right way of life makes all people better. If you

The text here is uncertain, but the sense is clear.

Book ±

agree with all this, then we can go on to the rest; if you think anything is
left out, then we should discuss that ¬rst.
 © µ : We are quite satis¬ed, if I may answer for both of us.
[]   µ: It follows, then, that we have been made by nature to re-
ceive the knowledge of justice one from another and share it among all
people. And I want it to be understood in this whole discussion that the
justice of which I speak is natural,° but that such is the corruption of bad
habits that it extinguishes what I may call the sparks given by nature, and
that contrary vices arise and become established. But if human judgment
corresponded to what is true by nature and men thought nothing human
alien to them (to use the poet™s phrase),± then justice would be cultivated
equally by all. Those who have been given reason by nature have also
been given right reason, and therefore law too, which is right reason in
commands and prohibitions; and if they have been given law, then they
have been given justice too. All people have reason, and therefore justice
has been given to all; so that Socrates rightly used to curse the person
who was ¬rst to separate utility from justice, and to complain that that
was the source of all ills. Where did Pythagoras get his famous state-
ment about friendship? A place . . .
[] From this it is clear that, when a wise man o¬ers this goodwill,
which is spread so far and wide, towards another who is endowed with
equal virtue, then what some people think is unbelievable (but which is
actually necessary) comes to pass, that he loves himself no more than the
other: what di¬erence can there be when everything is equal? If the
slightest distinction could be made in friendship, moreover, the name of
Goerler™s interpretation of the text is followed here.
The text here is uncertain, and Goerler is followed here. Keyes translates ˜˜what I call
nature is [that which is implanted in us by Nature],™™ following Vahlen.
Terence, Hautontimoroumenos ··.

So also On Duties .±±; the report comes from a Stoic source.

There is a lacuna in the text, and the meaning of the last few words is unclear; they may
contain a heading (˜˜commonplace on friendship™™) indicating the contents of a passage
omitted at some point in the transmission. The gap clearly contained an argument on the
natural basis of friendship in goodwill (benevolentia); cf. On Friendship µ°. Ziegler includes
here the following passage from Lactantius, Inst. µ..±°, which Schmidt assigns to Book :
Now, however, men are evil through ignorance of what is right and good. Cicero saw
that, and in his discourse on laws he says:
Just as by one and the same nature the universe holds and presses together with all
its parts similar to one another, so all men are held together by nature, but they
disagree, confused by evil, and they do not understand that they are blood
relatives and all subject to one and the same guardian. If this were maintained,
then men would really live the life of the gods.

On the Laws

friendship would cease to be: its signi¬cance is such that as soon as some-
one wants something for himself more than for the other, it no longer
All this is preparatory to the rest of our discussion, so that the natural
basis of justice can more easily be recognized. And after I have said a little
about this, I will come to the civil law, which was the starting point of this
whole discourse.
±µ ©® µ : You need to say very little indeed. From what you have
said, Atticus believes, and I certainly do too, that justice arises from na-
[µ]  © µ: Could I think otherwise, since this has already been
proven: ¬rst, that we have been equipped and adorned as if by gifts of the
gods; secondly, that there is one equal manner of life, shared by all
people; and ¬nally, that all people are bound by a sort of natural goodwill
and benevolence as well as by the bond of justice? Since we have agreed
(rightly, I think) that these things are true, how could we separate laws
and justice from nature?
[]   µ: You are right, and that is how things are. But in the
manner of philosophers “ not the old styleµ but that of those who have
set up philosophical workshops of a sort “ what used to be discussed on a
broad scale is now analyzed bit by bit. They don™t think that this topic
that is now in hand is dealt with adequately unless they argue separately
that justice exists by nature.
 ©  µ: I suppose that you have lost your own freedom of speech, or
that you are the sort of person to follow someone else™s authority rather
than your own judgment in speaking!
[·]   µ : Not always, Titus, but you see the direction of this dis-
cussion. My whole discourse aims at making commonwealths sound, es-
tablishing justice, and making all peoples healthy. For that reason I am
afraid of making the mistake of starting from ¬rst principles that are not
well considered and carefully examined; not that everyone should agree
with them “ that is impossible “ but so that they will have the approval of
those who believe that all right and honorable things are desirable on
their own account, and that either nothing at all should be considered
good unless it is praiseworthy in itself or at least that nothing should be

The text here is probably corrupt; Buchner and Kenter read ˜˜even if Atticus is not
convinced that justice arises from nature, I certainly am.™™
I.e. philosophers up to Plato™s time.

Book ±

considered a great good except what can truly be praised on its own ac-
count. [] All these people, whether they have stayed in the Old Acad-
emy with Speusippus, Xenocrates, and Polemo, or have followed Aris-
totle and Theophrastus, who agree with them in substance but use a
slightly di¬erent type of argument, or those who, like Zeno, have
changed the terminology without changing the substance, or even have
followed the di¬cult and demanding system of Aristo, which has now
been overcome and refuted, namely that with the exception of virtues
and vices all things should be considered entirely equal· “ all these
people agree with what I have said. [] Those, however, who indulge
themselves and are enslaved to their bodies, who judge everything that is
to be sought or avoided in life by pleasures and pains “ even if what they
say is true (and there is no need for arguments about it here), we tell them
to talk in their gardens, and we ask them to stand away for a little while
from all bonds of civic society, of which they know nothing and have
never wanted to know anything. As for the Academy, the new one of
Arcesilaus and Carneades that confuses all these questions, we request it
to remain silent. For if it attacks these things that seem to us neatly ar-
ranged and composed, it will cause excessive damage. I would like to con-
ciliate it, and I don™t dare push it aside.µ°
[°] . . . for even in these things we have been puri¬ed without his fu-
migations.µ± But there is no puri¬cation for crimes against humans and
for acts of impiety,µ and so they pay the penalty, not so much in courts “
which used not to exist anywhere and now do not exist in many places,
and where they do, they are often corrupt “ as through being chased and
hounded by the Furies, not with burning torches as in the myths, but
with the pains of conscience and the tortures of deceit.µ If it were the
penalty rather than nature that was supposed to keep men from doing in-
The ¬rst de¬nition belongs to the Stoics and Aristo, the second to the Old Academy and

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