LINEBURG


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separation of reason (ratio) from judgment (consilium) is not. The language here is
political, and C. views consilium as the necessary attribute of good government (cf. ±.±).



Book ±

 ©°©: Since I see that you are not greatly impressed by my wit-
nesses, Laelius, I will continue to use you as my witness to prove what I
say.
¬ ¬ © µ: Me? How?
 ©°©: Because I noticed recently, when we were at your villa at
Formiae, that you gave ¬rm instructions to your slaves to obey one man.
¬ ¬ © µ: My overseer, you mean.
 ©°©: And what about in Rome? Is there more than one person in
charge of your a¬airs?
¬ ¬ © µ: No, only one.
 ©°©: Well then: is there anyone besides you in charge of your whole
household?
¬ ¬ © µ: Certainly not.
 ©°©: Then why don™t you admit that the situation in common-
wealths is similar, that the rule of a single person, so long as he is just, is
best?
¬ ¬ © µ: You persuade me, and I am almost willing to agree.
[]  © °© : You will agree even more, Laelius, if I leave out the
familiar comparisons, that it is better to entrust a ship to one helmsman
and a sick man to one doctor (assuming that they are competent in their
professions) than to many people, and instead use more important
examples.
¬ ¬ © µ: What are your examples?
 ©°©: Well, don™t you see that because of the relentless arrogance of
a single man, Tarquinius, the name of king became hated by our people?
¬ ¬ © µ: I see it.
 ©°©: So you see this too (something I expect to say more about as
our discussion goes on), that when Tarquinius was expelled, the nov-
elty of freedom made the people amazingly unrestrained in their pleas-
ure: that was when innocent people were driven into exile and many
people™s property was plundered; annual consuls were established, the
fasces were lowered before the people, there was a right of appeal for
every kind of crime, there were secessions of the plebs: in short, that was
when most things were arranged so that the people had total control.
¬ ¬ © µ: All that is true.
[]  © ° ©: Peace and tranquillity are like a ship or a minor illness:
you can be undisciplined when there is no danger. But when the sea gets

See below, .µ“µµ.





·
On the Commonwealth

rough or the disease gets worse, the sailor or the sick man calls for one
person™s help. So too, at home and in peace, our people give orders to the
magistrates themselves “ they threaten, refuse to obey, ask for one
magistrate™s help against another, and appeal to the people; but in war
they obey their leaders as they would a king: safety matters more than
one™s own desires. And in major wars, our people wanted all the power to
be in the hands of one individual without a colleague, whose very title
indicates the extent of his power: he is called a dictator because he is
appointed, but in our augural books, Laelius, you see that he is called
˜˜master of the people.™™
¬ ¬ © µ: Yes, I do see that.
 © °© : Wisely therefore did the people of old *
[one leaf missing]
[] * but when the people is deprived of a just king, for a long time
˜˜desire holds their hearts,™™ as Ennius said after the death of a great
king:

and at the same time
they speak this way to one another: ˜˜Romulus, divine Romulus,
what a guardian of the country the gods brought forth in you!
Oh father, oh life-giver, oh blood sprung from the gods.™™

They did not call those whom they justly obeyed ˜˜lords™™ or ˜˜masters,™™
and not even ˜˜kings,™™ but ˜˜guardians of the country,™™ ˜˜fathers,™™ ˜˜gods™™
“ and not without reason. What do they add?

˜˜you brought us into the shores of light.™™

They thought that life, honor, and glory were given to them by the
justice of the king. The same goodwill would have lasted among their
descendants, if the kings had retained the same character; but you see
that because of the injustice of one of them that entire form of the
commonwealth was destroyed.
¬ ¬ © µ: I see it and want to learn the patterns of changes not just in
our own commonwealth but in all commonwealths.


Both Scipio and Laelius were members of the college of augurs, to which C. himself had
recently been coopted, a distinction of which he was very proud; see also On the Laws
.±“ on the importance of the augurate. On the dictatorship see below, .µ, and On
the Laws ..
Ennius, Annals ±±·“° Warmington.






Book ±

[µ]  ©° ©: When I have said what I think about the type of com-
monwealth I most admire, I must speak with greater precision about the
transformations of commonwealths, even though I think that they will
not take place easily in the best type. But the alteration of the monarchic
form is the ¬rst and the most certain: when a king begins to be unjust,
the form is immediately destroyed, and that same person is a tyrant, the
worst form, but closest to the best. If the aristocracy gets rid of him
(which generally happens), the commonwealth has the second of the
three forms; it is almost monarchic, that is, a senatorial council of leaders
taking good care of the people. If the people themselves kill or expel the
tyrant, the government is reasonably restrained, so long as it is intelli-
gent and perceptive: they rejoice in their accomplishment, and want to
protect the commonwealth that they have set up. But when either the
people bring force to bear on a just king and deprive him of his throne or
even (as happens more frequently) have tasted the blood of the aristoc-
racy and subordinated the entire commonwealth to their own desires, do
not make the mistake of thinking that any huge ocean or ¬re is harder to
calm than the violence of a mob out of control. Plato has eloquently
described this condition; it is hard to put it into Latin, but I will try to do
it anyway.µ
[] ˜˜When,™™ he says, ˜˜the insatiable throats of the people are parched
with thirst for liberty, and through the aid of evil ministers have drained
in their thirst a pure draught of liberty instead of a moderate mixture,
then unless the magistrates and the leaders are very mild and lenient and
serve up liberty to them generously, the people persecute, attack, and
accuse them, calling them overpowerful kings or tyrants.™™ I think that all
this is familiar to you.
¬ ¬ © µ: Very familiar.
[·]  ©°©: What follows is this: ˜˜Those who obey the leaders are
attacked by the people and called willing slaves; but they shower with
praise and give exorbitant honors to magistrates who act like private
citizens and private citizens who act as if there were no di¬erence
between private citizens and magistrates. In such a commonwealth
everything is inevitably ¬lled with liberty: private homes have no master,
and this evil extends even to animals; ultimately fathers fear their sons,


What follows is a translation (at times free) of Plato, Republic .µc“µe. At the end of
µ

sect.  translation is replaced by loose paraphrase.

˜˜All this™™ refers both to Plato™s description and to the situation described.



On the Commonwealth

sons neglect their fathers, all sense of shame is lost, and they are utterly
free. There is no di¬erence between citizen and foreigner, the teacher
fears his pupils and fawns on them, pupils scorn their teachers, the young
take on the gravity of old men, while old men are reduced to children™s
games, so as not to be hateful or tiresome. Slaves behave with too much
freedom, women have the same rights as their husbands, and even dogs
and horses and asses go about so freely in this atmosphere of liberty that
people have to get out of their way in the streets. The ¬nal outcome of
this extreme license,™™ he says, ˜˜is that the minds of citizens become so
delicate and sensitive that if the least authority is brought to bear on them
they are angered and unable to endure it; the result is that they begin to
ignore the laws as well, so that they are utterly without any master.™™
[] ¬ ¬ © µ: Your translation of what Plato said is completely
accurate.
 © °© : To return to my source: he says that this excessive license,
which they think the only true liberty, is the stock from which tyrants
grow, so to speak. For just as the excessive power of the aristocracy
causes their fall, so too liberty itself makes slaves out of this excessively
free populace. Anything that is too successful “ in weather, or harvests,
or human bodies “ generally turns into its opposite, and that is particu-
larly true of commonwealths: extreme liberty, both of the people at large
and of particular individuals, results in extreme slavery. From this pure
liberty arises a tyrant, the most unjust and harshest form of slavery. For
from this unruly, or rather monstrous, populace some leader is usually
chosen against those aristocrats who have already been beaten down and
driven from their place: someone bold, corrupt, vigorous in attacking
people who have often served the commonwealth well; someone who
buys the people™s good will using others™ property as well as his own. As a
private citizen, he fears for his safety, and so he is given power which is
renewed; he is protected by bodyguards, like Pisistratus in Athens; and
¬nally he emerges as tyrant over those very people who promoted him. If,
as often happens, a tyrant is overthrown by respectable people, the state
is restored; if by men of daring, it becomes an oligarchy, which is just
another form of tyranny. The same type of regime can often emerge from
a good aristocratic government, when corruption turns the leaders them-
selves from the right path. In this way, they snatch the government from
one another as if it were a ball: tyrants from kings, aristocrats or the
people from them, and from them oligarchies or tyrants. No form of
commonwealth is ever maintained for very long.

°
Book ±

[] Since that is the case, of the three primary forms my own
preference is for monarchy; but monarchy itself is surpassed by a govern-
ment which is balanced and compounded from the three primary forms
of commonwealth. I approve of having something outstanding and
monarchic in a commonwealth; of there being something else assigned to
the authority of aristocrats; of some things being set aside for the
judgment and wishes of the people. This structure has, in the ¬rst place,
a certain degree of equality, which free people cannot do without for very
long; it also has solidity, in that those primary forms are easily turned into
the opposite vices, so that a master arises in place of a king, a faction in
place of aristocracy, a confused mob in place of the people; and these
types themselves are often replaced by new ones. That does not occur in
this combined and moderately blended form of commonwealth unless
there are great ¬‚aws in its leaders. There is no reason for revolution when
each person is ¬rmly set in his own rank, without the possibility of
sudden collapse.
[·°] But I am afraid, Laelius and all you other good and wise friends,
that if I continue too long in this vein, I will seem to speak like some
instructor or lecturer instead of a fellow inquirer into this subject.· So I
will turn to something everyone knows, and which we started looking for
some time ago. I will state my own opinion and belief and judgment that
no commonwealth, in either its organization or its structure or its
conduct and training, can be compared to the one our fathers received
from their ancestors and have passed on to us. And if you agree, since you
want to hear from me what you know yourselves, I will explain both the
character and the superiority of our commonwealth. My description of
our commonwealth will serve as the pattern to which I will tailor what I
have to say concerning the best form of state. If I can carry this out
completely, then I will, in my opinion, have thoroughly ful¬lled the task
which Laelius gave me.
[·±] ¬  ¬©µ : The task is yours, Scipio, and yours alone. Who could
speak about the institutions of our ancestors better than you, who are
descended from the most distinguished ancestors? Who could speak
better about the best form of the state? And if we ever get such a state,
who could be more distinguished in it than you? Who could speak better




See above, ±., .
·




±
On the Commonwealth

about planning for the future, since you, by defeating two terrors that
threatened this city, have provided for its future?


Unplaced fragment from Book ±
Together with me, you should certainly recognize this custom, the
enthusiasm and manner of speech ( + Nonius ·.)
Scipio had destroyed in war both Carthage in ± and Numantia in ±.






Book 

[±] :When he saw that everyone was9± eager to hear him,   ©° ©  be-
gan to speak as follows: I will tell you something that Cato said in his
old age. As you know, I was deeply attached to him and admired him
very greatly; following the judgment of both my fathers and my own
desire, I devoted myself to him completely from an early age, and I
could never get enough of what he said: he had so much experience of
public a¬airs, in which he had taken part with great distinction for a
very long time, both in civil and military matters; he was so measured
in speaking, mixing wit with seriousness; and he was passionately fond
of both learning and teaching. His life was in complete harmony with
his speaking style. [] Cato used to say that the organization of our state
surpassed all others for this reason: in others there were generally single
individuals who had set up the laws and institutions of their
commonwealths “ Minos in Crete, Lycurgus in Sparta, and in Athens,
which frequently changed its government, ¬rst Theseus, then Draco,
then Solon, then Clisthenes, then many others; ¬nally, when Athens
was drained of blood and prostrate, it was revived by the philosopher
Demetrius of Phalerum. Our commonwealth, in contrast, was not
shaped by one man™s talent but by that of many; and not in one
person™s lifetime, but over many generations. He said that there never
was a genius so great that he could miss nothing, nor could all the gen-
iuses in the world brought together in one place at one time foresee all
contingencies without the practical experience a¬orded by the passage
of time. [] I will therefore follow his model and take my start from the

± 
The opening words (written in red ink) are illegible. Natural and adoptive.



On the Commonwealth

origin of the Roman people; I am happy to make use of Cato™s own
word. I will have an easier time in completing my task if I show you
our commonwealth as it is born, grows up, and comes of age, and as a
strong and well-established state, than if I make up some state as Soc-
rates does in Plato.
[] When everyone had agreed,   ©° © said: What beginning of any
established commonwealth is so famous and universally known as the
foundation of this city by Romulus? His father was Mars (we should
allow this much to tradition, because it is not only ancient but wisely
passed down by our ancestors that men who have deserved well of the
community should be thought to be divine by birth as well as by
talent); when he was born, they say that Amulius, the king of Alba, was
afraid of the threat to his kingdom and ordered him to be exposed on
the bank of the Tiber along with his brother Remus. There, after he
was nursed by a woodland beast,µ shepherds brought him up in the life
of a country laborer. When he grew up, they say that his physical
strength and ¬erce spirit were so outstanding that everyone living in
the territory where Rome now is readily and freely obeyed him. He be-
came the leader of their forces and (turning from fable to fact) is said to
have defeated Alba Longa, a strong city and powerful for those times,
and killed King Amulius.· [µ] On the basis of the glory he achieved,
they say, he ¬rst thought of founding a city (after taking the auspices)
and of establishing a commonwealth.
The location of a city is something that requires the greatest fore-
sight in the establishment of a long-lasting commonwealth, and
Romulus picked an amazingly advantageous site. He did not move to
the coast, which would have been easy for him with the forces at hand,
to invade the territory of the Rutulians or Aborigines or to found a city
at the Tiber mouth, where many years later king Ancus founded a col-
ony; with exceptional foresight he realized that coastal positions are
not the most advantageous for cities founded in the expectation of long
The title of Cato™s historical work (which Cicero knew and presumably used in Book ) was


Origines. Cato and Plato here represent contrasting explanatory models; a similar contrast
(between Plato and the Peripatetics) is made at .±“.

The biological model is Aristotelian and is also used by Polybius.
µ
The she-wolf is decorously veiled in C.™s account.

The reference to Romulus™ ferocity alludes to the primitive kingship described by Polybius
.µ.·.
·
C. omits all legendary material prior to the foundation of the city: Alba Longa was said to
On the auspices see below, .±.

have been founded by Aeneas™ son Ascanius.
Ostia; see below, ..






Book 

life and power. In the ¬rst place, maritime cities are exposed to dangers
that are both multiple and unexpected. [] If a city is surrounded by
land, there are many advance indications of enemies™ arrival “ almost
audible sounds of crashing “ not only when they are anticipated but
even when they are unexpected: no enemy can suddenly appear by land
without our knowing not only that he is there but who he is and where
he is from. But an enemy that comes by ship across the sea can arrive
before anyone can suspect that he is coming; and when he does come he
does not display who he is or where he is from or even what he wants;
there is no sign to indicate whether he is friend or foe.
[·] Maritime cities are also subject to corruption and alteration of
character.±° They are exposed to new languages and customs; not only
foreign goods are imported, but foreign customs as well, so that no-
thing of ancestral institutions can remain unaltered. People who live in
those cities do not stick to their own homes; they are drawn far from
home by eager hopes and expectations, and even when they remain
physically, in their minds they are wandering in exile. Nothing did
more to weaken gradually, and ultimately to destroy, Carthage and Co-
rinth than this wandering and dissipation of their citizens: through the
desire for trade and travel they abandoned the cultivation of ¬elds and
of military skill. [] Piracy and sea trade supply many allurements to
luxury that damage states; the very charm of the place itself supplies
many enticements to pleasure that are both expensive and debilitating.
What I said about Corinth is probably just as true for Greece as a
whole: the Peloponnesus is almost entirely on the coast, and only the
territory of Phlius does not abut the sea. Outside the Peloponnesus,
only Aeniania, Doris, and Dolopia are away from the coast.±± And of
course the islands are surrounded by water and are virtually ¬‚oating “
along with the institutions and customs of their states. [] And this is
only the original territory of Greece; of all the colonies established by
Greeks in Asia, Thrace, Italy, Sicily, and Africa, is there one, other
than Magnesia, which is not on the water?± The coast seems to consist

±°
The excursus on the dangers of maritime locations was drawn, according to a letter of
Cicero, from the writings of Dicaearchus. See also Plato, Laws .·°a“·°µb for a similar
discussion of the moral implications of coastal sites.
±±
Phlius lies between Argos and Sicyon in the northeastern Peloponnesus; the other states
are all in northern Greece.
±
Usually identi¬ed as Magnesia on the Maeander in Caria in Asia Minor; but it is not
impossible that Cicero (or Dicaearchus) was alluding to the name of the imaginary city of
Plato™s Laws: see above, n.±°.


µ
On the Commonwealth

of patches of Greece sewn onto the land of the barbarians; while of the
barbarians themselves, none were previously nautical except the Etrus-
cans and Phoenicians, the latter for trade, the former for piracy. The ob-

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