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which he most approves of, and it could not be brought to pass without
such a distribution of o¬ces. You must know that the commonwealth is
bound up with the magistrates and those in charge, and from their or-
ganization can be understood what sort of commonwealth each is. And

On the ability of magistrates of equal or greater authority to countermand the decrees of
their colleagues or of lesser magistrates see above, n. µ.
The text is corrupt and the translation conjectural.
The centuriate assembly; for its organization see On the Commonwealth .“°.

On the Laws

since this was established with great wisdom and moderation by our an-
cestors, I had little or nothing which I thought needed to be reformed
in the laws.
[±]   ©µ : As you did in the case of the religious laws at my urg-
ing and request, now you should give us an account of the magistrates,
to explain why you approve of this organization in particular.
  µ: I will do as you wish, Atticus, and I will explain this whole
topic as it has been investigated and explained by the most learned men
of Greece; and, as I undertook, I will touch on our own laws.
 ©  µ: Just the kind of exposition I look for.
  µ: In fact, I said a great deal in my previous book, as was
necessary in investigating the best form of commonwealth. But in con-
nection with the subject of magistrates, there are particular issues dis-
cussed ¬rst by Theophrastus, then in fairly narrow terms by Diogenes
the Stoic.
[±]   © µ : Is that so? Have even the Stoics dealt with this sub-
  µ: Only by the one I just named, and then later by Panaetius,
who was a great man and singularly learned. The earlier Stoics dis-
cussed the commonwealth, but while they were very sharp in their lin-
guistic analysis, it had little to do with the practice of real peoples and
states.± This subject primarily derives from the group descending from
Plato;±· and later Aristotle illuminated the whole subject of civic a¬airs,
and Heraclides of Pontus, who likewise took his start from Plato. As
you know, Theophrastus (who was educated by Aristotle) virtually
lived in this region of studies, and Dicaearchus, who was also instruc-
ted by Aristotle, did his part in this area of research. Later Demetrius
of Phalerum, whom I have already mentioned, a pupil of Theophrastus,
did a wonderful job of bringing the subject out from the shaded retreats
of scholars not only into sunlight and the dust of the real world but
On Stoic political theory see the passages collected in Long and Sedley ·; for recent

discussion see particularly M. Scho¬eld, The Stoic Idea of the City (Cambridge, ±±).
The criticism of impracticality is the same that C. regularly levels at Plato.
The obvious meaning of this clause (that Plato and Aristotle employed early Stoic
writings) is impossible, and any translation (including this one) involves some contortion
of the Latin and the word order. Haupt™s emendation of ab hac familia to ab Academia is
probably not right but at least makes sense: ˜˜This subject spread from the Academy under
the leadership of Plato . . .™™ C. here mentions the principal writers on politics whose work
he studied; compare also his statement about On the Commonwealth at On Divination .,
˜˜an important subject that belongs to philosophy, examined extensively by Plato, Aris-
totle, Theophrastus, and the whole group of Peripatetics.™™

Book 

right into the front lines of battle. It™s possible to think of many men of
only moderate learning who were important in public life, and great
scholars who were not active in public life; but aside from this one man,
who is there who excelled in both areas, to be a leader both in scholar-
ship and in government?±
 © µ : I can think of someone, and in fact it™s one of us three. But
go on.
[±µ]   µ: The subject of their inquiry was whether or not there
should be one magistrate in the state whom the rest should obey. I
know that that was the view of our ancestors, once the kings were
driven out; but since the monarchic form of state, although it once met
with approval, was rejected not so much because of the faults of mon-
archy as because of the faults of the monarch, the title alone of king will
seem to have been rejected, but the substance will remain if there is a
single person who commands all the other magistrates. [±] That is
why there was good reason for Theopompus to set up ephors at Sparta
to oppose the kings, and for us to have tribunes against the consuls.±
For the consul has this legal authority, that all the other magistrates
should obey him except for the tribune, who was brought into being
later to avoid the state of a¬airs that had existed. This was the ¬rst
thing that reduced the power of the consul, in that someone was cre-
ated who was not subordinate to him, and also because he brought as-
sistance not only to the other magistrates but even to private citizens
who disobeyed the consul.
[±·] ±µ©® µ : You are speaking of a great evil. Once that power was
created, the importance of the optimates was reduced and the force of
the mob was strengthened.
  µ : You™re wrong, Quintus. It was unnecessary for that single
power to seem too haughty and violent to the people. And after a mod-
erate and wise blending was added to it *°
How will he be able to look out for the allies, if he cannot choose be-
tween useful and useless things? ( + Macrobius, On Di¬erences and Simi-
larities of Greek and Latin Verbs ±·.)
* apply; the law governs everyone.
As in On the Commonwealth, C. views Demetrius as similar to himself (and to the earlier
Seven Sages) in blending practical knowledge and theoretical analysis.
On the similarity of the ephorate and the tribunate see On the Commonwealth .µ.

The large gap included C.™s commentary on chaps. “; the ¬rst word after the gap is

corrupt, and the meaning is uncertain. The quotation in Macrobius clearly comes from
the commentary on the phrase ˜˜be sparing to the allies™™ in sect. .

On the Laws

[±] ˜˜Let them return home with glory™™: good and innocent men
should not bring back anything but praise either from enemies or from
Now it is also fairly obvious that there is nothing more disgraceful
than for someone to be made an ambassador except on public business.
I will say nothing about how the people who use ambassadorial appoint-
ments to pursue inheritances or contracts conduct themselves and have
conducted themselves; that may simply be a fault of human nature. But
I do ask what can in fact be more disgraceful than for a senator to be an
ambassador without a function, without instructions, without any pub-
lic duty? When I was consul, I would have eliminated that kind of em-
bassy, with the approval of the full senate even though these appoint-
ments are useful for senators, if a frivolous tribune had not interposed
his veto. But I did reduce the length of these appointments and put the
limit of a year on what had been inde¬nite. The disgrace remains, but
at least it™s not long-term.
But with your approval we should leave the provinces and come back
to the city.
 ©  µ: We approve, but the Romans in the provinces don™t at all.
[±]   µ : But if they obey these laws, Titus, they will ¬nd no-
thing sweeter than the city and their homes, and nothing more full of
toil and trouble than a province.
The law that follows is the one that ordains the tribunician power
which exists in our own commonwealth. There is no need for me to say
anything about that.
±µ ©® µ : But, brother, I must ask your opinion of that power. It
seems to me truly pestilent, as you might expect from something born
in sedition and for sedition. If we want to look back to its ¬rst origin,
we see that it was created during civil strife when parts of the city were
seized and besieged. Then, although it was put to death quickly (like a
very deformed child, in accordance with the Twelve Tables), in a short
time it somehow came to life again, and its second birth was even more
disgraceful and disgusting.± What has it not produced? First, as is
worthy of something with no sense of duty, it took every o¬ce away
from senators; it made the basest things equal to the best “ it stirred

The ˜˜second birth™™ is the restoration of the tribunate (along with the regular magistracies)
after the fall of the decemvirate in µ°“. For the law on infanticide cf. Twelve Tables,
fr. ©, ± Crawford.
˜˜With no sense of duty™™ translates inpio: Quintus argues that tribunes are like sons who

Book 

them up and mixed them. And once it had ravaged the dignity of the
leaders, it has never come to rest. [°] Even setting aside as ancient his-
tory the case of Flaminius and other things that now seem long ago,
what rights did the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus leave to respectable
men? And ¬ve years earlier, Gaius Curiatius the tribune “ the lowest
and vilest of men “ threw into chains the consuls Decimus Brutus and
Publius Scipio “ and what great men they were! “ something that had
never happened before. And the tribunate of Gaius Gracchus: didn™t it
overturn the entire structure of the commonwealth with disasters and
with the daggers which he himself said that he had thrown into the fo-
rum for citizens to butcher one another with? What is there to say
about Saturninus and Sulpicius and the rest? The commonwealth could
not even defend itself from them without violence. [±] And why
should I talk about the past and other people rather than the recent
things that happened to us? Who would ever have been so bold or so
hostile to us as to think of undermining our position if he hadn™t sharp-
ened the sword of some tribune against us? And when these degenerate
criminals couldn™t ¬nd such a man in any house or family, they thought
they had to confound the system of families in that dark night of the
commonwealth. It is truly extraordinary and glorious for the immortal-
ity of our fame that no tribune could be found to attack us at any price,
except for one who had no right to be tribune at all. [] But what a
carnage he created! the kind that the madness of a ¬lthy animal could
create with no reason and with no honorable expectations, in¬‚amed by
the madness of the mob. And therefore I strongly approve of Sulla in
this at any rate, that he took away by his law the power of the tribunes
to do harm and left them the right of bearing aid; and while in every-
thing else I have always praised our friend Pompeius in the highest
terms, I keep silent concerning the tribunate. I don™t want to criticize
him, but I can™t praise him.µ
[]   µ: You have a brilliant understanding of the faults of the
violate the obligations of children to fathers, playing on the two meanings of patres. What
he means is that tribunician action compelled the opening of o¬ces that had been limited
to patricians (then the only senators) to plebeians.
Cf. Gracchus, fr. µ Malcovati.

Clodius. As a patrician he was ineligible to be tribune of the plebs and had himself adopted
(in a transaction that C. found fraudulent and farcical) by the plebeian Fonteius in order to
stand for the tribunate.
Sulla in his dictatorship had removed the legislative capacities of the tribunes and made
them ineligible to stand for higher o¬ce; Pompey in his consulate in ·° restored the
traditional powers and status of the tribunes.

On the Laws

tribunate, Quintus, but in making any accusations it isn™t fair to pass
over the good things and select and enumerate only the bad and the
faulty. You could use that technique to criticize the consulate if you col-
lected the faults of consuls whom I am unwilling to list. I admit that
there is something bad in the tribunician power, but without the bad
we would not have the good that was sought in creating it. ˜˜The power
of the tribunes of the people is excessive.™™ Everyone agrees. But the vi-
olence of the people is much more savage and uncontrolled, and having
a leader sometimes makes it more calm than if there were none. The
leader realizes that he acts at his own risk, while when the people attack
they don™t reckon with their own danger. [] ˜˜But at times they are in-
¬‚amed.™™ And they are often calmed. What college of tribunes is so des-
perate as not to have one out of the ten be sane? In fact, Tiberius Grac-
chus himself was overturned by not only neglecting but removing the
one who vetoed his actions. What else was there that brought him
down, if not the abrogation of the power of a colleague who
intervened? But you should recognize in this the wisdom of our ances-
tors: when the senate yielded this power to the plebeians, the weapons
were put down, the sedition was calmed, moderation was discovered,
which allowed the lesser people to think that they were made equal to
the leaders; and that was the single source of salvation for the state.
˜˜But there were the two Gracchi.™™ And beyond them you can list as
many as you like: since they are elected ten at a time, you will ¬nd in
any period a number of dangerous tribunes, some frivolous ones, not re-
sponsible citizens. Perhaps there are quite a few. But the ruling order of
society is not subject to hatred, and the plebeians on their own account
create no dangerous struggles. [µ] For that reason, either the kings
should not have been expelled or the plebeians should have been given
real, not nominal, freedom. It was in fact given in such a way that they
were induced by many excellent customs to yield to the authority of the
¬rst citizens. In my own case, my beloved and admirable brother, I had
troubles with the power of the tribunes but no quarrel with the tribu-
nate itself. The plebeians were not stirred up to hatred of my actions:
the slaves were unchained and stirred up, and fear of the army was ad-
ded as well. My struggle at that time was not with that blight· but with
the overwhelming crisis of the commonwealth; and if I had not given
Tiberius Gracchus had Octavius, the tribune who vetoed his law, removed from o¬ce, a
procedure of very questionable legality.
Pestis, one of C.™s regular epithets for Clodius.

Book 

way, then the country would not have received a long-term bene¬t
from my good deeds. The outcome demonstrated this: who was there,
not only of the free population but even of the slaves worthy of free-
dom, to whom my safety was not dear? [] If the outcome of my ac-
tions on behalf of the safety of the commonwealth had not been gratify-
ing to all, and if the in¬‚amed hatred of the raging mob had driven me
out, and if the force of the tribunate had stirred the people against me,
as was the case with Gracchus against Laenas and Saturninus against
Metellus, then, Quintus, I would have endured it, and it is not so much
the philosophers at Athens (who ought to have done so) who would
have consoled me as the great men who were driven from that city and
preferred to do without an ungrateful country than to remain in a
wicked one. As to your disapproval in this matter alone of Pompey™s
conduct, you seem to me not to recognize adequately that he had to pay
attention not only to what was best, but to what was necessary. He rec-
ognized that that power could not be withheld from this state: how
could a people that had so strenuously sought it before they had known
what it was do without it once they knew it? A wise citizen should not
dangerously have left some demagogue a cause that was in itself not dan-
gerous and was so popular as to be irresistible. “ You know, brother,
that in a discussion of this sort, in order to be able to move to another
topic, it is usual to say, ˜˜Quite so™™ or ˜˜True enough.™™
± µ© ® µ : Well, I for one do not agree; but I would like you to go on
to the rest.
  µ : You at least are ¬rm and stick to your old opinion.
 © µ : And I certainly don™t disagree with Quintus. But we
should hear the remainder.
[·]   µ : Next then: all the magistrates are given the right to
take the auspices and give judgment. Judgments are given with the pro-
viso that there is the right of appeal to the people; the auspices, so that
delay can obstruct many useless but appealing initiatives. It is frequent-
ly the case that the immortal gods have, through the auspices, sup-
pressed unjust impulses of the people.
As to the composition of the senate from those who have held o¬ce,
it is certainly a popular measure to have no one reach the highest posi-
tion without the approval of the people, eliminating cooptation by the
censors. But this ¬‚aw is moderated by the fact that in our law the auth-

Compare On the Commonwealth ±.“.

On the Laws

ority of the senate is strengthened: [] what follows is ˜˜let its decrees
be duly rati¬ed.™™ For it works out that if the senate is in charge of
public deliberation, and if the remaining orders are willing to have the
commonwealth guided by the deliberation of the leading order, then it
is possible through the blending of rights, since the people have power
and the senate has authority, that that moderate and harmonious order
of the state be maintained, especially if the following law is obeyed; for
what follows is: ˜˜Let the senatorial order be free from fault; let it be a
model to others.™™
±µ ©® µ : That is a ¬ne law, brother, but to say that the order
should be free from fault has very wide application and requires a cen-
sor to interpret it.
[]   ©  µ: And although the senate is completely with you and
retains the most grateful memory of your consulate, I must say (with
apologies to you) that it could wear out not only the censors but all the
judges as well.
  µ: Enough of that, Atticus! What I say does not refer to this
senate or to men of the present, but to those of the future who may
wish to obey these laws.° Since the law orders them to lack all faults,
no one with faults will even enter the order. That is hard to accomplish
without the proper education and training, and perhaps we will say
something about that if time and occasion permit.
[°]   ©µ : There will certainly be occasion, since you control the
order of the laws; and the length of the day is generous with time. And
for my part, if you should skip it I will ask you about the topic of educa-
tion and training.
  µ: Please do, Atticus, about that or anything else that I skip.
˜˜Let it be a model to others.™™ If we can hold to that, we hold on to
everything. Just as the entire state is likely to be infected by the desires
and the faults of the leaders, so it is improved and corrected by their dis-
cipline. Lucius Lucullus was a great man and a friend to all of us.
There is a story that when he was criticized for the grandeur of his villa
at Tusculum, he replied with great amiability that he had two neigh-
bors: on one side a Roman knight, on the other a freedman; and that

In law, the senate had auctoritas (˜˜authority, in¬‚uence™™; see ˜˜Text and Translation™™)
rather than real power: its decisions were senatus consulta, ˜˜opinions of the senate,™™ rather
than laws. C.™s ideal laws give the senate more legal standing than in fact it had in Rome.
Compare the use of the future tense in Laelius™ description of natural law at On the
Commonwealth ..

Book 

since they had grand villas, he ought to be allowed what was permitted
to men of lower standing. But Lucullus, don™t you see that you are your-
self the source of their desire, that if you did not behave this way they
would not be permitted to either? [±] Who would endure such men
when he saw their villas stu¬ed with statues and paintings, some of
them public, some of them even sacred works of religion; who would
not restrain their desires “ if those who have the obligation to do so
were not themselves in the thrall of the same desire? That the leaders
have faults is not so bad “ although it is of course a bad thing in itself “
as the fact that a great many imitators of those leaders arise. If you re-
view the course of past history, you can see that the state has been of
the same character as its greatest men; and whatever moral alteration
takes place in the leaders soon follows among the people. [] That is
quite a lot closer to the truth than Plato™s opinion. He says that when
musicians change their tunes the condition of states also changes; but I
think that the character of states changes when there are changes in the
life and habits of the nobles. Immoral leaders are all the more damaging
to the commonwealth because they not only harbor their own vices but
they instill them into the state; the fact that they are corrupted is not
the only damage they cause, but the fact that they corrupt others: they
are more harmful as examples than for their failings. This law is ap-
plied to the whole order, but it can be narrowed: there are relatively
few men, bolstered by honor and glory, who can corrupt or correct the
morals of the state. But that is enough on this subject for now, which I
have dealt with more thoroughly in my previous book.± So we should
turn to the rest.
[] The next law concerns ballots, which I order to be known to the
optimates but free to the people.
 © µ : I paid very close attention indeed, but I did not really
understand what the law or those words meant.
  µ : I will tell you, Titus, and will consider a di¬cult and
much-studied subject, whether the ballots in the election of magis-
trates, judicial verdicts, and approval of laws or other issues are better
kept secret or should be open.
± µ© ® µ : Is even that open to question? I fear that I will disagree
with you again.
  µ : No you won™t, Quintus. I hold to the opinion that I know

In particular, compare the fragments of On the Commonwealth Books  and µ.


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