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On Obligations: De Officiis (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Cicero , P. G. Walsh
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

8 May 2008 Oxford World's Classics
On Obligations (De officiis) was written by Cicero in late 44 BC after the assassination of Julius Caesar to provide principles of behaviour for aspiring politicians. It explores the apparent tensions between honourable conduct and expediency in public life, and the right and wrong ways of attaining political leadership. The principles of honourable behaviour are based on the Stoic virtues of wisdom, justice, magnanimity, and propriety; in Cicero's view the intrinsically useful is always identical with the honourable.

Cicero's famous treatise has played a seminal role in the formation of ethical values in western Christendom. Adopted by the fourth-century Christian humanists, it beame transmuted into the moral code of the high Middle Ages. Thereafter, in the Renaissance from the time of Petrarch, and in the Age of Enlightenment that followed, it was given central prominence in discussion of the government of states. Today, when corruption and conflict in political life are the focus of so much public attention, On Obligations is still the foremost guide to good conduct.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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On Obligations: De Officiis (Oxford World's Classics) + The Republic and The Laws (Oxford World's Classics) + The Politics (Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (8 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199540713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199540716
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The present translation of Cicero's De Officiis or On Obligations maintains the high standards set by this series as a whole and by Walsh's translations in particular. (LATOMUS)

... attention to the nuances of Cicero's language is evident throughout Walsh's translation, making it both very readable and trustworthy. Walsh's book manages to satisfy a number of tastes and interests and at a variety of levels. It is well-suited for classroom use, but those with scholarly interests in the De Officiis will find this version to be a rich resource that should remain the standard English translation for some time to come. (LATOMUS)

Walsh's translation is excellent; and there is much to praise in the accompanying material as well (Greece & Rome) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

P. G. Walsh has translated four previous classical works for OWC: Apuleius, The Golden Ass; Petronius, Satyricon; Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy; and Cicero, The Nature of the Gods

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
For a whole year now, Marcus my son, you have been a pupil of Cratippus,* and you have been resident at Athens. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
An excellent edition of one of Cicero's most important philosophical works, and, through its influence on the Christian humanists, one of the most influential works of practical moral philosophy ever composed. 'On Obligations' (De officiis) was written by Cicero in 44BC in the form of advice to his son, then studying at Athens, on the nature of honourable conduct.

A fluent modern translation (2000) by P. G. Walsh, based on Winterbottom's edition (1996): substantial contextual introduction, discussing not just the composition of the book but its subsequent influence; chronology and select bibliography; extensive and genuinely useful notes; and index. Highly recommended.

Introduction 37 pages; text 126 pages; notes 80 pages; plus index, bibliography etc.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic practical wisdom 8 Aug 2004
By grouper52 - Published on Amazon.com
Once again I'm amazed to be the first to be writing the review of a book over two thousand years old, and such an influential book at that, and once again I'm amazed that Cicero's works have become the hinterlands of the literate public, as reflected here at Amazon.com anyway. Perhaps I'm wrong and there is some other hugely popular translation of Cicero's De Officiis that I'm unaware of; let's hope so.

This work takes its place in my mind among a very small handful of special books dealing directly with moral philosophy in the Western tradition: Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Epictetus' Discourses, Marcus Aurelius'
Meditations, and Kant's Lectures on Ethics. Unlike some of those others, it is a practical work by a practical and worldly man, who hoped to instill in his son and countrymen some practical wisdom on appropriate ethical behavior in public and private life.

This work was written toward the end of Cicero's Life in 44 B.C. as a set of three treatises dedicated to his son, who was off studying philosophy in Athens. Basically, the first treatise deals with honorable conduct, the second with what is useful (utile), and the third with the potential conflict between the two. Cicero considered himself an adherent of the Academic school, but the book mainly espouses Stoic philosophy: His son voiced allegiance to the Peripatetics, but worried Cicero by leading the life (at best) of an Epicurean. So all four of the main philosophical approaches of that time are brought into play. But a wider theme is nicely mentioned in the introduction as well: that the De Officiis, compared to Cicero's other works, was "more directly a political manifesto, addressed much more closely to the concerns of a Rome still reeling from the effects of the Roman revolution engineered by Julius Caesar". Indeed, it was written, as were all his philosophical works, late in life after his political career was marginalized by Caesar's overthrow of the republic.

This edition itself is another wonderful book put out by the folks at the Oxford University Press in their Oxford World's Classics series. I have several in my personal library and each is wonderfully thought out and rendered. Preceding the actual text there is a series of very helpful preliminary sections, such as a list of abbreviations of works by Cicero and others, an introduction, a summary of the text, notes on the text, notes on the translation, a select bibliography, and a "Chronology of Cicero the Philosopher".

Among these early sections, all of which are really quite thoughtful and helpful, the introduction stands out as exceptionally good. It is divided into six sections which cover, 1) The political background of the text, 2) Cicero as philosopher, 3) "De Officiis: Title, Content, Audience", 4) Sources, 5) Hellenistic schools and ethical theory, and finally 6) The subsequent influence of the treatise [from later Roman and early Christian thinkers through such giants as Augustine, Boethius, Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Petrarch, Erasmus, Milton, Locke, Voltaire, Hume, Adam Smith, and Kant].

The text is wonderful. I have not yet read the Latin original, though it is available in the Loeb Classical Library and I'd like to some day, so I don't know how accurate the translation is, but the language here is clear and pleasant to read. Following the text there are copious and highly useful explanatory notes and an index and glossary of names to round out this outstanding book.

To sum up, from the introduction: "It will be clear that Cicero is no professional academic. `These works do not attempt, and therefore should not be expected, to make the same kind of appeal as, for instance, the epistemological and metaphysical speculations that were fashionable in the last century . . . These writings deal with the kind of philosophy which concerns man as a political and social being'. Though his approach to problems is less sophisticated than that of modern philosophers, he dealt with issues of perennial concern, in ways comprehensible to those unschooled in, or impatient with, the abstruse discussion characteristic of the discipline today". No complaints here! It's a great book, with a lasting influence on the best in Western thought and civilization. Read it, and incorporate its wisdom into your own life.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best editions 22 Oct 2010
By John Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best translations of Cicero: easy to read, translated idiomatically and not word by word. Cicero's ideas are conveyed vividly and concisely. Lively translation and fun to read.

Cicero MUST be read and learnt - it is a MUST! - if you want to comprehend patriotism, freedom and love of your fellow citizens in general. Studying Cicero makes you understand what foolishness Communism, Socialism and even Capitalism advocate. The only true path to salvation is love of thy neighbor - I know sounds anachronistic, but it is true - Cicero's views are in perfect concord with Christianity. We all have our God-given obligation to care not for the capital, not for the chosen few, not even for the majority (as in the perverted forms of democracy), but for the true common and honorable good.

The print: low quality paper, formatting is average, the book's physical integrity still holds once you are through it, so overall a C+ print of an A+ translation of an A+ book.

John Brown
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not hypertexted!!!!! 9 April 2013
By Warren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The kindle version is not hypertexted and the footnotes are designated by asterisks rather than numbers. It is very difficult to match up the footnotes, a real pain. This is, of course, a public domain work easily obtainable for free. I paid the money expecting to get a quality edition from Oxford World Classics. I am disappointed. Next time when choosing between Oxford and Penguin (the usual choice) I will have to go with Penguin. My advice: don't buy this.

The work itself is excellent, if you like Cicero (I do).
3 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the Point of View of a Student 19 July 2005
By Unknown - Published on Amazon.com
This book was part of my required reading list, so, of course, I had negative first impressions about it. However, as I began to read the novel, I enjoyed the stylistic elements as well as the theme of the novel. Overall, it was a good read.
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