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quotation from Nonius is placed after it, rather than before as in Ziegler™s text. ˜˜These
ideas™™ are Epicurean, and Ziegler prints as the ¬rst part of this fragment a long selection
from Lactantius™ summary of Lucretius Book µ. ˜˜Others™™ presumably refers to C.
Presumably ˜˜seeds of justice™™; the Stoic implication that virtues are naturally implanted
in us is taken up more fully in Books  and .
Consilium; see ˜˜Text and Translation.™™

Book ±

taken up by the entire population. And so, when the control of every-
thing is in the hands of one person, we call that one person a king and that
type of commonwealth a monarchy. When it is in the control of chosen
men, then a state is said to be ruled by the will of the aristocracy. And that
in which everything is in the hands of the people is a ˜˜popular™™ state “
that is what they call it. And of these three types any one, even though it
may not be perfect or in my opinion the best possible, still is tolerable as
long as it holds to the bond which ¬rst bound men together in the
association of a commonwealth; and any one might be better than
another. A fair and wise king, or selected leading citizens, or the people
itself “ although that is the least desirable “ if injustice and greed do not
get in the way, may exist in a stable condition.
[] But in monarchies, no one else has su¬cient access to shared
justice or to deliberative responsibility; and in the rule of an aristocracy
the people have hardly any share in liberty, since they lack any role in
common deliberation and power; and when everything is done by the
people itself, no matter how just and moderate it may be, that very
equality is itself inequitable, in that it recognizes no degrees of status.
And so, even if Cyrus the Great of Persia was the most just and most wise
of kings, that still does not seem to be a very desirable ˜˜concern of the
people™™ (for that is what I called the commonwealth earlier), since it was
ruled by the decisions of a single man. Even though our clients the people
of Marseillesµ· are ruled with the greatest justice by chosen leading
citizens, that condition of the people still involves a form of slavery. And
when the Athenians at certain times, after the Areopagus had been
deprived of its authority, did nothing except by the decisions and decrees
of the people, the state did not maintain its splendor, since there were no
recognized degrees of status.µ
[] And I say this about these three types of commonwealth when
they are not disturbed or mixed but maintain their proper condition.
Each of these types is marked by the particular faults which I just
mentioned, and they have other dangerous faults in addition: each of
these types of commonwealth has a path “ a sheer and slippery one “ to a
kindred evil.µ Beneath that tolerable and even lovable king Cyrus (to

Massilia (Marseilles) was technically independent but was a client state of Rome.
The conservative council of the Areopagus was deprived of most of its authority by the
radical democracy of the ¬fth century.
For the concept of the ˜˜kindred evil™™ cf. Plato, Republic ±°.°a; as applied to constitu-

tions, Polybius .±°.“.

On the Commonwealth

pick the best example) there lurks, at the whim of a change of his mind, a
Phalaris, the cruelest of all; and it is an easy downward path to that kind
of domination. The governance of Marseilles by a few leading citizens is
very close to the oligarchic conspiracy of the Thirty who once ruled in
Athens.° And the Athenian people™s control of all things, to look no
further, when it turned into the madness and license of a mob was
disastrous :to the people itself9 *
[one leaf missing]
± and from that arises a government either of an
[µ] * most foul,
aristocracy or of a faction, or tyrannical or monarchic or, quite frequent-
ly, popular, and similarly from that usually arises another of those which
I have previously mentioned. There are remarkable revolutions and
almost cycles of changes and alterations in commonwealths; to recog-
nize them is the part of a wise man, and to anticipate them when they are
about to occur, holding a course and keeping it under his control while
governing, is the part of a truly great citizen and nearly divine man. My
own opinion, therefore, is that there is a fourth type of commonwealth
that is most to be desired, one that is blended and mixed from these ¬rst
three types that I have mentioned.
[] ¬  ¬ ©µ : I know that is your view, Africanus, and I have heard it
from you often; but still, if it isn™t too much trouble, I would like to know
which of these three types of commonwealth you think best. It will be of
some use to know *
[one leaf missing]
[·]  ©°©: * and the character of any commonwealth corresponds to
the nature or the desire of its ruling power. And so in no other state
than that in which the people has the highest power does liberty have any
home “ liberty, than which nothing can be sweeter, and which, if it is not
equal, is not even liberty. And how can it be equal (I won™t speak about
monarchy, in which slavery is not even hidden or ambiguous) in those
states in which everyone is free in name only? They vote, they entrust
commands and o¬ces, they are canvassed and asked for their support,

The so-called Thirty Tyrants were the oligarchs installed in Athens by Sparta at the end
of the Peloponnesian War.
The form of government referred to is probably mob rule rather than tyranny. In what
follows, ˜˜of a faction™™ is an emendation; for discussion cf. Zetzel (ed.), Cicero: De re
publica, ad loc.
The ˜˜cycle of constitutions™™ in C. di¬ers from that in Polybius and elsewhere by having
no ¬xed order.
In sects. ·“µ° Scipio represents the views of an advocate of democracy.

Book ±

but they give what must be given even if they are unwilling, and they are
asked to give what they do not have themselves. They have no share in
power, in public deliberation, or in the panels of select judges, all of
which are apportioned on the basis of pedigree or wealth. In a free
people, as at Rhodes or Athens, there is no citizen who *
[one leaf missing]
[] * if one or several wealthy men arise from the people, then they
say that :these faults9 come from their scorn and haughtiness, as the
cowardly and weak give way to the arrogance of the wealthy.µ But if the
people holds to its own rights, they deny that there is anything more
outstanding, more free, more blessed: they are masters of the laws and
the courts, of war and peace, of treaties, of the status and wealth of every
individual. They think that this commonwealth (that is, the ˜˜concern of
the people™™) is the only one properly so named; and so it is usual for the
˜˜concern of the people™™ to be liberated from the domination of kings and
aristocrats, and not for kings or the power and wealth of an aristocracy to
be sought by a free people. [] Furthermore, they say that this type of
free people should not be condemned because of the failings of an
undisciplined populace: when the people is harmonious and judges
everything in terms of its safety and liberty there is nothing more
unchanging or more stable. It is easiest, they say, for harmony to obtain
in a commonwealth in which everyone has the same interest: from a
variety of interests, when di¬erent things are advantageous for di¬erent
people, discord arises. And so, when the senate gains control of a¬airs,
the condition of the state is never stable, and that is all the more true of
monarchies: as Ennius said, ˜˜there is no holy bond or trust™™ in a
monarchy.· And therefore, since law is the bond of civil society, and
rights under law are equal, then by what right can a society of citizens
be held together when the status of citizens is not the same? Even if
equality of property is not appealing, and if the mental abilities of all

The democratic description of aristocratic government here corresponds closely to the
workings of the Roman constitution.
I.e. the democrats blame oligarchs for the collapse of truly democratic government.
The democrats assume that ˜˜the people™™ incorporates all citizens; the representatives of
aristocracy (and Scipio himself) assume that ˜˜the people™™ does not include the aristoc-
Ennius, Plays °“ Warmington, also quoted by C. at On Duties ±..

Translated as ˜˜right is equivalent to law™™ in Zetzel (ed.), Cicero: De re publica. The phrase
is very compressed and open to more than one interpretation. There is an extended play
on the word ius, ˜˜right,™™ in this passage.

On the Commonwealth

cannot be equal, certainly the rights of all who are citizens of the same
commonwealth ought to be equal. What is a state if not the association of
citizens under law? *
[one leaf missing]
[µ°] * they believe that other commonwealths should not even be given
the names that they themselves prefer. Why should I call ˜˜king,™™ using
the title of Jupiter the Best, a man who yearns for power and sole rule,
lording over an oppressed populace, rather than ˜˜tyrant™™? It is possible
for a tyrant to be as merciful as a king can be harsh, so that there is this
di¬erence only for their subjects, whether they are slaves to a mild master
or a harsh one: it is in any case impossible for them not be to slaves. How
could Sparta, at the time when it was thought to have the best-ordered
commonwealth, make sure that it had good and just kings, when they had
to accept as king whoever was born in the royal family? And who could
endure aristocrats, ˜˜the best people,™™·° who have taken that name for
themselves not by the concession of the people but by their own self-
election? How is one of them judged ˜˜best™™? by learning, skill, educa-
tion? So you say: but when :has that ever been the criterion for being an
aristocrat?9 *·±
[two leaves missing]
[µ±] * if it :chooses its leaders9 by chance, it will be overturned as
quickly as a ship that has one of its passengers chosen by lot as helms-
man.· But if a free people chooses the men to whom to entrust itself (and
it will chose the best people if it wants to be safe), then surely the safety of
the citizens· is found in the deliberations of the best men. That is
particularly true because nature has made sure not only that men out-
standing for virtue and courage rule over weaker people, but that the
weaker people willingly obey the best. But they say that this ideal
condition is overturned by men™s bad judgments: through their ignor-
ance of virtue (which not only appears in few men but is judged and
recognized by few) they think that men of wealth and property, or men of
noble birth, are ˜˜best.™™ By this common error, when the wealth of a few
replaces virtue in control of the commonwealth, those leaders cling
Some scholars believe that this paragraph is the remnant of a speech on behalf of
monarchy, but that is very improbable.
˜˜Optimate™™ (derived from optimus, ˜˜best™™) is one of the standard (self-)descriptions of the
Roman aristocracy; see ˜˜Text and Translation.™™
The supplement is uncertain, and the text of the last words is probably corrupt.
Sects. µ±“µ are spoken by an advocate of aristocracy.

˜˜Citizens™™ is Kenney™s emendation; the manuscript reads ˜˜states.™™

Book ±

doggedly to the name of ˜˜best citizens,™™ but in fact they lack the
substance for that very reason. For wealth, or reputation, or resources, if
they are empty of prudence and of a method of living and of ruling over
others, are ¬lled with disgrace and insolent pride; and there is no uglier
form of state than that in which the richest are thought to be the best. [µ]
But when virtue rules over the commonwealth, what could be more
glorious? Then the man who commands others is himself enslaved to no
desires when he himself embraces all the things to which he educates and
exhorts his citizens, and he imposes no laws on the populace which he
does not himself obey but o¬ers his own life as a law to his citizens. If one
such person could adequately accomplish everything, then there would
be no need of more; if everyone could see what is best and could agree on
it, then no one would seek selected leaders. The di¬culty of making
policy transferred control from a king to a group of people, and the rash
folly of popular governments has transferred it from the multitude to the
few. In this way, the aristocrats hold the middle ground between the
weakness of a single person and the rashness of many. Nothing can be
more moderate than this, and when the aristocrats look after the com-
monwealth then the populace is of necessity most blessed: they are free of
every care and thought, having handed over their tranquillity to others
who must guard it and must make sure that the people do not believe that
their interests are being neglected by their leaders. [µ] For legal equality
“ the object of free peoples “ cannot be preserved: the people themselves,
no matter how uncontrolled they may be, give great rewards to many
individuals, and they pay great attention to the selection of men and
honors. And what people call equality is in fact very unfair.· When the
same degree of honor is given to the best and the worst (and such must
exist in any population), then equity itself is highly inequitable. But that
is something that cannot happen in states that are ruled by the best
citizens. These, Laelius, and others like them, are the arguments ad-
duced by those who particularly favor this kind of commonwealth.
[µ] ¬  ¬©µ : What do you think, Scipio? Which one of these three
forms do you most approve?
 ©°©: You are right to ask which one of the three I most approve,
since I approve of none of them by itself, separately. I prefer to the

The aristocrats deliberately confuse juridical equality and social equality (and thus slide
from ˜˜equality™™ to ˜˜equity™™ “ compare also Scipio™s almost identical statement at ±.
above), just as the democrats blur the distinction between equal rights and equal power.

On the Commonwealth

individual forms the type that is an alloy of all three.·µ But if I had to
express approval of one of the simple forms, then I would choose
monarchy . . . is named at this point, the name of king appears almost
fatherly, someone looking after his citizens as if they were his children,
and preserving them more eagerly than . . . to be supported by the
diligence of one man, the best and greatest. [µµ] Here are the aristocrats,
who claim that they can do this same job better and say that there is more
judgment in the deliberations of several people than of one, but the same
equity and honor. And here is the populace shouting loudly that they will
not obey one person or a few; that even for wild animals there is nothing
sweeter than liberty, and that everyone is deprived of it, whether it is a
king or aristocrats to whom they are enslaved. And so kings captivate us
by their a¬ection, aristocrats by their judgment, and the people by its
liberty, so that in comparing them it is hard to pick the most desirable.
¬ ¬ © µ: That makes sense; but the rest of the subject can hardly be
explained if you leave this question unanswered.
[µ]  ©° ©: Then we should imitate Aratus: in undertaking to speak
about great matters he believes that one must begin from Jupiter.·
¬ ¬ © µ: Why Jupiter? How is this subject anything like that poem?
 © °© : Only that we should duly take our starting point from him,
whom all men, learned and unlearned, agree is the one king of all gods
and men.
¬ ¬ © µ: Why?
 © °© : Why do you think? The reason is in front of your eyes. The
leaders of commonwealths may have thought that it would be useful for
civic life that people should believe that there is one king in the sky who
turns all Olympus with his nod, as Homer says, and that he is both king
and father of all;·· there is much authority and many witnesses (everyone,
in fact) to show that all nations have acquiesced in the decision of their
leaders that nothing is better than a king, because they believe that all the
gods are ruled by the will of one. On the other hand, it may be that, as we
have been taught, this belief is one of the errors of the uneducated and a
kind of myth. In any case, we should listen to the common instructors of
educated men, who have seen as if with their eyes things that we scarcely
know from hearing about them.

The leaf containing the following sentence has lost one corner, and several lines have lost
their opening or concluding letters.
Alluding to the opening words of Aratus™ Phaenomena, which C. had translated into Latin:
Iliad ±.µ“°.
˜˜Let us begin from Jupiter.™™

Book ±

¬ ¬ © µ: And who are those instructors?
 ©°©: Men who, through their investigation of the universe, have
recognized that this entire world :is ruled9 by :a single9 mind *·
[two leaves missing]
[µ·b] ¬ ¬ ©µ : And so please bring your speech down from there to
things closer at hand ( + Nonius µ.± = .)
[µ]  ©° ©: * But if you like, Laelius, I will give you witnesses who
are neither very antiquated nor in any respect barbarians.
¬ ¬ © µ: That™s the kind I want.
 ©°©: Do you know that this city has been without kings for fewer
than four hundred years?
¬ ¬ © µ: Yes, it is less than that.
 ©°©: Well then: is four hundred years particularly long for a city or
a state?
¬ ¬ © µ: In fact it™s scarcely grown up.
 ©°©: So within the past four hundred years there has been a king at
¬ ¬ © µ: And a haughty one, too.·
 ©°©: And before that?
¬ ¬ © µ: A very just one, and going back all the way to Romulus, who
was king six hundred years ago.
 ©°©: So even he isn™t very ancient?
¬ ¬ © µ: Hardly, and at a time when Greece was already getting old.
 ©°©: Tell me: did Romulus rule over barbarians?
¬ ¬ © µ: If what the Greeks say is true, that everyone is either a
Greek or a barbarian, then I™m afraid that he must have ruled barbarians.
But if we use that term of manners rather than languages, then I don™t
think the Greeks were any less barbarian than the Romans.°
 ©°©: Yet for our present concern we are looking at brains, not
nationality. If men who were both intelligent and fairly recent wanted to
have kings, then my witnesses are neither very ancient nor inhuman
[µ] ¬  ¬© µ: I see, Scipio, that you are well equipped with testi-
mony; but for me, as for any good judge, arguments matter more than

Philosophers. A passage of Lactantius placed here by Ziegler does not belong. In the
missing passage there was presumably some reference to Asiatic monarchies.
Tarquinius Superbus (˜˜the Haughty™™), the last king of Rome. His predecessor was
Servius Tullius. ˜˜Barbarian™™ in Greek refers primarily to non-Greek-speakers.

On the Commonwealth

 © °© : Then, Laelius, you should use the argument of your own
¬ ¬ © µ: What feelings?
 © °© : If you ever by some chance felt that you were angry at
¬ ¬ © µ: More often than I would like.
 © °© : Well then: at the moment that you are angry, do you let your
anger rule your mind?
¬ ¬ © µ: No indeed, but I imitate the famous Archytas of Tarentum:
when he came to his farm and found nothing done as he had instructed,
he said to his overseer, ˜˜You wretched man: if I weren™t so angry, I would
have whipped you to death.™™
[°]  © °© : Excellent. So Archytas rightly believed that the rejection
of reason by anger was a kind of revolt in the mind, and he wanted it to be
settled by sound judgment.± To anger add greed, add the desire for
power and glory, add lust, and you will see this: if there is a kind of royal
power in men™s minds, there will be the rule of one element, namely
judgment (that is, of course, the best part of the mind); and when
judgment rules, there is no place for lust, none for anger, none for
¬ ¬ © µ: True enough.
 © °© : Then you approve of a mind so constituted?
¬ ¬ © µ: Absolutely.
 © °© : So you would not approve if judgment were expelled and
desires (which are countless) or angry passions were in complete control?
¬ ¬ © µ: I could imagine nothing more wretched than such a mind,
or than a man with such a mind.
 © °© : So you approve of having all the parts of the mind under the
monarchy of judgment?
¬ ¬ © µ: I approve.
 © °© : Then why are you not sure what to think about a common-
wealth? In it, if authority is exercised by several people, then you can
understand that there will be no controlling power; and unless power is
undivided it is nothing at all.
[±] ¬  ¬© µ : I would like to know what the di¬erence is between one
and several, if the several are just.
The struggle in the mind between passion and reason is ultimately Platonic, but C.™s

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