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The manuscript begins in the middle of a sentence; for other possible supplements cf. J.
Zetzel (ed.), Cicero: De re publica (Cambridge, ±µ), ad loc. The opening paragraph is part
of a polemic against the rejection of public life.
·
C. lists in chronological order three wars (against Pyrrhus and the First and Second Punic
Wars) of the third and second centuries  and their heroes.
Tusculum (in the hills  of Rome) was Cato™s home; C. and other wealthy Romans had


villas there.

Epicureans; the language of storm and calm is typically Epicurean.



Book ±

[] Furthermore, virtue is not some kind of knowledge to be possessed
without using it: even if the intellectual possession of knowledge can be
maintained without use, virtue consists entirely in its employment;±°
moreover, its most important employment is the governance of states and
the accomplishment in deeds rather than words of the things that
philosophers talk about in their corners.±± Philosophers, in fact, say
nothing (at least nothing that may be said decently and honorably)± that
does not derive from the men who established laws for states. What is the
source of piety and religion? of international or civil law? of justice, good
faith, and equity? of modesty and moderation, the avoidance of shame,
and the desire for praise and honor? of courage in toil and danger? Surely
they derive from the men who established such things through education
and strengthened some by custom and ordained others by law. [] They
say that Xenocrates, a very distinguished philosopher, was once asked
what his pupils achieved; he answered that they learned to do of their
own free will what the laws would compel them to do. And therefore that
citizen, who through his formal authority and the punishments estab-
lished by law compels everyone to do what philosophers through their
teaching can persuade only a few people to do, is to be preferred even to
the teachers who make those arguments. What is so remarkable about
their teaching that it should outrank a state that is well established
through public law and customs? For my own part, just as I think ˜˜great
and powerful cities™™ (as Ennius calls them)± better than villages and
forts, so too I think that the men who lead these cities by their counsel
and authority should be considered far wiser than philosophers who have
no experience at all of public life. We are strongly drawn to try to increase
the resources of the human race, and we are eager to make human life
safer and better by our plans and e¬orts; it is the spur of nature herself
that goads us on to this pleasure.± Therefore, let us keep to the course
that has always been that of every responsible citizen;±µ let us not listen to

Cf. also On Duties ±.±, .±; the idea of virtue as active is Aristotelian.
±°

For the image see Plato, Gorgias µd; C. used it previously at On the Orator ±.µ·, a
±±

passage closely parallel to this one.
±
Again, an attack on Epicureanism.
Varia ± Warmington.
±

±
C. uses Epicurean terminology to rebut Epicurean views.
±µ
Optimus quisque: ˜˜men of good standing,™™ i.e. supporters of the traditional (plutocratic)
structure of Roman government. On the meaning of optimus (best) and optimate cf. the
excursus on optimates in On Behalf of Sestius “±±; see also ˜˜Text and Translation™™
above.



On the Commonwealth

the trumpet that sounds the retreat, to summon back even those who
have already gone forward.
[] These arguments, certain and lucid though they are, are rejected by
those who take the contrary position. They cite ¬rst the labors which
must be undergone in defending the commonwealth “ a minor burden
for an alert and vigorous man, and one to be scorned not only in major
matters but even in lesser desires or duties, or even in business. They add
the dangers to one™s life, confronting brave men with a disgraceful fear of
death, men who generally think it far more miserable to be worn away by
nature and old age than to be given an occasion to lay down for their
country a life that would in any case have to be surrendered to nature. On
this score, they think that they are particularly eloquent when they
collect the disasters of great men, the injuries in¬‚icted on them by
ungrateful fellow citizens.± [µ] They list the familiar examples of this
among the Greeks: Miltiades, the conqueror of the Persians, before the
honorable wounds that he received in his great victory had healed, gave
up in the chains placed on him by his fellow citizens the life that had
survived the enemy™s weapons; Themistocles was driven in fear from the
country he had freed and took refuge not in the harbors of Greece that he
had saved but in the barbarian lands which he had defeated. There is no
shortage of examples of the ¬ckleness of the Athenians and their cruelty
towards their greatest citizens. They say that this practice, which began
and became common among the Greeks, has spread from them even to
our more responsible state: [] they mention the exile of Camillus and the
attack on Ahala; the hatred of Nasica, the expulsion of Laenas, and the
condemnation of Opimius; the exile of Metellus or the most bitter
disaster of Gaius Marius : . . .9±· the slaughter of leading citizens, or
the deaths of many people which soon ensued. They even include my
own name; I suppose that because they think that they were preserved in
a life of peace by my counsel and danger they make even stronger and
more a¬ectionate complaints about what happened to me. But I would be
hard put to say why, when they themselves go overseas for study or
tourism *

[one leaf missing]

±
A standard criticism of the Athenian democracy; cf. particularly Plato, Gorgias
µ±µb“µ±·a.
There is a gap in the text. C. refers (as also at On the Orator .) to Marius™ ¬‚ight from
±·

Sulla and his violent return and revenge after Sulla™s departure to the Mithdradatic War.



Book ±

[·] * I had taken an oath (and so did the Roman people) in a public
meeting on the day that I completed my term as consul that :the
commonwealth9 was safe, I would easily have been recompensed for the
worry and burden of all the injuries to me.± And yet my misfortunes had
more honor than hardship and incurred less di¬culty than glory; and I
reaped greater joy from the sympathy of respectable citizens than pain
from the happiness of the wicked. But as I said, if things had worked out
di¬erently, how could I complain? Nothing unforeseen happened to me,
nothing worse than I expected considering how much I had done. I had
always been the sort of person who could achieve greater rewards from
my leisure than other people because of the varied delights of the studies
in which I had immersed myself from childhood; and if something
painful happened to everyone, then my misfortune would be no greater
than that of others. Even so, I did not hesitate to subject myself to the
greatest tempests, even thunderbolts, of fate for the sake of saving my
fellow citizens and for creating through my own individual dangers a
peace shared by all. [] Our country did not give us birth or rearing
without expecting some return from us± or thinking that while herself
serving our convenience she should provide a safe refuge for our relax-
ation and a quiet place for rest; but she did so with the understanding that
she has a claim on the largest and best part of our minds, talents, and
judgment for her own use, and leaves for our private use only so much as
is beyond her requirements.
[] Furthermore, we should pay no attention at all to the excuses
people advance in order more easily to enjoy their ease. They say that for
the most part those who are active in public life are completely worthless
men: to be paired with them is low, and to ¬ght against them, especially
when the mob is stirred up, is wretched and dangerous. Therefore, they
say, a wise man should not take the reins when he cannot curb the insane
and uncontrollable impulses of the crowd, nor should a free man endure
blows or await injuries unendurable to a wise man in struggling with foul
and disgusting opponents “ as if for good and brave men of great spirit
there could be any more suitable reason for taking part in public life than
not to be subject to wicked men or allow them to ravage the common-
wealth while they themselves are incapable of bringing aid, even if they
should wish to.
±
When prohibited from speaking to the assembly on the last day of his consulate by the
tribune Metellus Nepos, C. instead swore an oath that he had saved the commonwealth
and the city; cf. Against Piso . See above, Book ± fr. .
±




µ
On the Commonwealth

[±°] Who, moreover, can be convinced by this proviso, that they say
that the wise man will take no part in public a¬airs unless the necessity of
a crisis compels him? As if there could be any greater necessity than
happened to me; but how could I have done anything if I had not been
consul at the time? And how could I have been consul if I had not from
my childhood held to a course of life which took me from my origins in
the equestrian order to the highest rank in the state? There is, then, no
possibility of bringing aid to the state, however great the dangers that
oppress it, at a moment™s notice or when you want to, unless you are in a
position that permits such action. [±±] And I am particularly amazed by
this feature of the philosophers™ argument, that people who admit their
incapacity for steering in calm weather “ because they have never learned
how or wanted to know “ these same people o¬er to take the helm in the
greatest storms. They make a habit of saying openly, and even boasting,
that they have neither studied nor taught anything about the methods of
organizing and preserving commonwealths, and they think that such
knowledge belongs not to wise and learned men but to men of practical
experience in these areas. But then what is the sense of promising their
aid to the commonwealth under the pressure of necessity when they have
no idea of how to guide a commonwealth when there is no such necessity,
something that is much easier to do? For my own part, even if it were true
that a philosopher should not willingly lower himself to take part in civic
a¬airs, but should not refuse to do so under the compulsion of a crisis,
still I would think that the knowledge of public administration is some-
thing that philosophers should by no means neglect, because they ought
to prepare in advance whatever they might need, even if they do not
know whether they actually will.
[±] I have said all this at length because my goal in this work is a
discussion of public a¬airs; and in order to avoid its being pointless, I was
obliged to eliminate doubts about taking part in public life.° But anyone
who is moved by the authority of philosophers should pay attention for a
short time and listen to the ones who have the greatest authority and fame
among learned men; I believe that even if they did not hold o¬ce, they
performed a public function because they did much research and writing
about government. Those seven men whom the Greeks named ˜˜wise,™™ I
°
Both ˜˜public a¬airs™™ and ˜˜public life™™ translate res publica; for its meanings see ˜˜Text and
Translation.™™





Book ±

observe, were almost all deeply involved in public a¬airs.± And there is
nothing in which human virtue approaches the divine more closely than
in the founding of new states or the preservation of existing ones.
[±] In such matters, since I have had the occasion both to achieve
something memorable in my public career and to have a certain capacity
for explaining the principles of civic life not only from my experience but
from my desire to learn and to teach : . . .9 I should be an authority,
since some earlier ¬gures were skilled in argument but performed no
public actions, while others were admirable in their deeds but poor at
exposition. In fact, the argument that I will expound is neither new nor
discovered by me; instead, I will recall the memory of a discussion of the
greatest and wisest men in our state of a single generation, which was
described to you and me in our youth by Publius Rutilius Rufus when we
were with him for several days at Smyrna; I think that nothing of any
signi¬cance for these matters has been omitted.
[±] For when Publius Africanus the younger, the son of Paullus, had
determined to spend the Latin holidays in the consulate of Tuditanus
and Aquilius on his estate, and his closest friends had said that they
would visit him frequently during those days, on the ¬rst morning of the
holiday the ¬rst to arrive was his sister™s son Quintus Tubero. After
Scipio had greeted him warmly and said that he was glad to see him, he
asked, ˜˜What are you up to so early, Tubero? The holiday gave you a
welcome opportunity for study.™™
µ  : I have all the time in the world free for my books “ they are
never busy. But to ¬nd you at leisure is truly remarkable, especially
during the present public disturbances.
 ©°©: Well, you have found me, but at leisure more in body than
mind.
µ  : You should relax your mind as well; as agreed, there are
many of us ready, if you ¬nd it convenient, to make full use of this leisure
with you.
±
The importance of the Seven Sages as practical politicians was emphasized by the
Peripatetic Dicaearchus, one of C.™s sources in the ¬rst two books; the only one not active
in public life was Thales of Miletus. The list of the seven varies; Plato (Protagoras a)
includes Thales, Pittacus, Bias, Solon, Cleobulus, Myson, and Chilon.

There is a gap in the sense, and a verb is missing.
The Latin holidays (Feriae Latinae) took place early in the calendar year (± );


Scipio™s estate was in the Campus Martius, just outside the formal boundary of the city of
Rome.




·
On the Commonwealth

 © °© : That™s ¬ne with me, so long as at some point we learn
something of substance.
[±µ] µ  : Then since you seem to invite it and give me hope of
your attention, shall we ¬rst consider (before the others arrive) what the
meaning is of the second sun which has been reported in the senate?
The witnesses are neither few nor frivolous, so that it isn™t so much a
question of believing them as of explaining it.
 © °© : How I wish our friend Panaetius were here! He conducts the
most scholarly research into the heavens as well as everything else. But,
Tubero, to give you my honest opinion, I don™t completely agree with
our friend in this sort of thing: he makes such de¬nite statements about
things the nature of which we can scarcely guess, that he seems to see
them with his eyes or even touch them with his hands. I am inclined to
think Socrates all the wiser for having given up all concerns of this sort
and for saying that research into natural philosophy seeks either things
greater than human understanding can follow or things that have nothing
at all to do with human existence.
[±]  µ  : I don™t know, Africanus, why people say that Socrates
rejected all discussions of this kind and was concerned only with human
life and morality. Plato is the fullest source we have about him, and in his
books Socrates frequently speaks in such a manner that when he dis-
cusses morals, virtues, and even public life he seeks to link them in the
manner of Pythagoras with numbers and geometry and harmony.
 © °© : True enough; but I™m sure that you have heard, Tubero, that
after Socrates™ death Plato traveled ¬rst to Egypt for the sake of study,
then to Italy and Sicily to learn the discoveries of Pythagoras; and that he
spent a great deal of time with Archytas of Tarentum and Timaeus of
Locri, and purchased the papers of Philolaus; and that since at that time
Pythagoras had a great reputation in that region, he devoted himself to
the Pythagoreans and their studies. And so, since he loved Socrates above
all others and wanted to attribute everything to him, he wove together
the wit and subtlety of Socratic conversation with the obscurity of
Pythagoras and the weight of his varied erudition.µ
[±·] When Scipio had said this, he saw Lucius Furius approaching

Parhelion (˜˜sun-dogs™™) is an atmospheric phenomenon caused by the refraction of light
through ice crystals; its occurrence in ± was seen (in hindsight) as an omen of Scipio™s
death, which took place shortly after the dramatic date of the dialogue (cf. On the Nature of
the Gods .±).
µ
This is the earliest reference to Plato™s Egyptian travels; C.™s interpretation of Plato as a
synthesis of Socrates and Pythagoras may have been drawn from Dicaearchus.



Book ±

unannounced; and after greeting him, he grasped him a¬ectionately and
placed him on his own couch. And since Publius Rutilius (our informant
about this conversation) arrived with him, he greeted him too and told
him to sit next to Tubero.
° ©¬ µ : What are you up to? Has our arrival interrupted your
conversation?
 ©°©: Not at all. You regularly give careful attention to the kind of
question that Tubero had just raised; and in fact our friend Rutilius even
under the walls of Numantia itself used to discuss this kind of thing with
me.
° ©¬ µ : What is the subject?
 ©°©: About those two suns; and I would like to know, Philus, what
you think about it.
[±] He had just ¬nished speaking, when a slave announced that
Laelius was coming to visit and had already left his house. Then Scipio
put on his shoes and outdoor clothes and left the bedroom, and when he
had walked in the portico for a little while he greeted Laelius on his
arrival and the men who came with him: Spurius Mummius, of whom he
was particularly fond, and Gaius Fannius and Quintus Scaevola, Laelius™
sons-in-law, young men of learning and already of an age to become
quaestors.· When he had greeted them all, he took a turn in the portico
and placed Laelius in the middle. There was something like a law
between them in their friendship, that Laelius would treat Africanus
almost as a god when they were on campaign, because of his extraordi-
nary military glory, and that in Rome Scipio treated Laelius as a parent
because he was the elder. When they had talked together a little during a
few turns up and down the portico, and Scipio had expressed his pleasure
and delight at their arrival, it was agreed that they should sit in the
sunniest spot of the meadow, as it was still winter. As they were about to
do so, Manius Manilius arrived, a man of wisdom whom they all knew
and loved. When he had been greeted warmly by Scipio and the rest, he
sat down next to Laelius.
[±] ° © ¬µ : I don™t think that we need to ¬nd a new subject because
these people have arrived, but we should discuss it more carefully and say
something worthy of their ears.
¬ ¬ © µ: What was the subject? what conversation did we interrupt?

Rutilius was a military tribune at the siege of Numantia in Spain in ±“±.


The minimum legal age for the quaestorship was °.
·





On the Commonwealth

° ©¬ µ: Scipio had asked me what I thought about the two suns that
have been seen.
¬ ¬ © µ: Is that so, Philus? Are we so well informed about the things
that concern our homes and the commonwealth that we are asking
questions about what is going on in the sky?
° ©¬ µ: Don™t you think it is relevant to our homes to know what is
going on at home? Our home is not the one bounded by our walls, but
this whole universe, which the gods have given us as a home and a
country to be shared with them. And if we are ignorant of this, then
there are many important things of which we must also be ignorant. And
indeed, Laelius, the investigation of such things itself brings pleasure to
me, and as it does to you too and to all those eager for wisdom.
[°] ¬  ¬©µ : I make no objection, especially since it is a holiday; but
is there something left to hear, or have we come too late?
° ©¬ µ: We have discussed nothing yet, and since it is not yet begun,
I would happily yield so that you can speak about it.
¬ ¬ © µ: No, we would rather hear you, unless Manilius perhaps
thinks that he should compose an interdict between the two suns, that
each should possess the sky as it did before.
® ©¬© µ : Must you continue, Laelius, to make fun of that branch of
learning in which you are yourself an expert and without which no one
can know what is his own and what is someone else™s? But we can come
back to that; now let us listen to Philus, whose opinion, I see, is sought on
greater topics than mine or that of Publius Mucius.
[±] ° © ¬µ : I have nothing new to o¬er you, and nothing that I have
thought up or discovered myself. I remember that when this same sight
was reported before, Gaius Sulpicius Galus (a great scholar, as you
know) happened to be at the house of Marcus Marcellus, who had been
his colleague as consul.° He had the celestial globe brought out, the one
that Marcellus™ grandfather had taken home as his only booty from the
capture of Syracuse, a very rich city ¬lled with beautiful things.± I had


The Stoic idea of the universe as the shared home of gods and men is central to the moral
argument of On the Commonwealth; it also underlies the argument about natural law in On
the Laws.

A joke based on Manilius™ eminence as a legal scholar. The interdict in question was an
injunction against disturbing possession of disputed property pending adjudication; for
the text cf. Gaius, Institutes .±°.

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