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The Republic and The Laws (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Cicero , Jonathan Powell , Niall Rudd
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 Aug 2008 Oxford World's Classics
is an impassioned plea for responsible government, based on Greek political theory, and written just before the civil war that ended the Roman Republic. Its sequel,

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (14 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019954011X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199540112
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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, expounds the influential doctrine of Natural Law, setting out an ideal code for a reformed Roman Republic that is half in the realm of Utopia. This is the first complete English translation of both works since 1928.

About the Author

`However one defines Man, the same definition applies to us all. This is sufficient proof that there is no essential difference within mankind.' (Laws l.29-30)

Cicero's The Republic is an impassioned plea for responsible governement written just before the civil war that ended the Roman Republic in a dialogue following Plato. Drawing on Greek political theory, the work embodies the mature reflections of a Roman ex-consul on the nature of political organization, on justice in society, and on the qualities needed in a statesman. Its sequel, The Laws, expounds the influential doctrine of Natural Law, which applies to all mankind, and sets out an ideal code for a reformed Roman Republic, already half in the realm of utopia.

This is the first complete English translation of both works for over sixty years and features a lucid Introduction, a Table of Dates, notes on the Roman constitution, and an Index of Names.
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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Institutionalist Bible 27 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In my mind Cicero is one of the world's greatest political thinkers. His views on mixed constitution and the importance of maintaining a high moral standard among the citizens and rulers of a state have moved me more than any other.
Where most other philosophers are either more concerned with pure idealism or attempt to be overly realistic, Cicero walks the fine line between. He was a moral philosopher, and so he is concerned more with educating the minds of his readers than to persuade them of any one way of thinking. KNOWING what is best isn't enough, if you don't know WHY.

In The Republic, the three possible constitutions (rule of the one, rule of the few, and rule of the many) are discussed in the same style as Plato's dialogues. The good of all three is weighed against the evil, and the entire nature of politics is touched upon in this, sadly fragmented, discussion. In true Socratic dialectic style the ideal becomes the converged ideal, the mixed constitution which ensures the fairness of democracy, the righteousness of aristocracy, and the efficiency of the monarchy, while restraining the subverted forms of either through the sound structure of the states institutions.

The Laws are not a draft of actual laws but a philosophical letter meant for his son, which addresses the nature of laws and law making. It even touches upon the subject of equality which he saw as a state of being between individuals rather than something which could ever hope to be imposed by any institution

Cicero's view were radical in his own time and although they never dominated either philosophy or politics, they have influenced Western civilization for more than 2000 years. This book should be read by anyone wanting to enter into politics or even just discuss politics on a leisurely level.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book of enlightened statecraft 27 May 2012
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This book is highly recommended to everyone that has intellectually evolved past the marxist, socialist, capitalist or classical liberal theories and has a deep understanding of not just political theory, but more importantly empirical facts regarding the consequenes of these theories when they are institutionalized.

This is not a beginners book, but is recommended to anyone having read Schumpeter, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Rousseau, Karl Marx, Milton Friedman, John Stuart Mill, Platon, Aristotle, Gadamer, Kant and Machiavelli. The reason for this is because this book does not embrace radical ideas suited for young minds, but reflecting ideas suited for a sophisticated mature mind.

I will not give any examples to the arguments and philosophy of Cicero as I want other readers to experience them for themselves, as they are revelations.

The book is highly entertaining to read as it is enlightening, it is written as a screenplay of a group of friends spending the summer holiday at the great Scipio Africanus summer estate in the suburbs of Rome discussing the best form of society, and deals with themes from Justice, Traditions, Religion, Power, distribution of Capital, wellfare, trade and war. This book is for the mature mind as it is built on empirical facts of history rather than political wishfull thinking of utopias.

This book provides a blueprint for the most stable society, where imperfect human beings can coexist in prosperity and justice without the need for revolutions or depressions.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Technical issues 12 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I need this work for personal reading as well as for academic study, so as you can imagine, I was dismayed to find so many technical issues reading this book on my HP Pavilion, when every other book I have on the Kindle app on here functions perfectly.

Other than that, you can't really fault this ancient work, unless you question it (which I do), which has provided the basis of so many philosophers' works.
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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the Republic and the Laws - Cicero 27 May 2013
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Not read it in depth yet. It clearly is not an easy read unless this subject interests the reader. Am still reading two other books about Rome - but I intend to read this next.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Statesman's Handbook" 2 Feb 2004
By Johannes Platonicus - Published on
Niall Rudd's edition of Cicero's two works The Republic and The Laws is the ideal handbook for the aspiring statesman; the accomplished politician should also be referred to use these two dialogues as a sort of political guide to draw from. In these two texts, the reader will find Cicero in all his eloquence artfully dicating the principles of what it means to be a good man and what it takes to create and consolidate states. This book will leave a lasting impression upon anyone who pans through the pages of these two very important works of the great Marcus Tullius Cicero. Also found here are the always insightful explanatory notes contained in the excellent series of Oxford World Classics; and the concise, scholarly introductions will without a doubt throw significant light upon the principles addressed throughout these timeless texts.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good translation of important works 27 Oct 2009
By Christopher R. Travers - Published on
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I enjoyed this translation and found it to be quite accessible. The two works go together to discuss the ideal state through a reasonably sophisticated approach though one which is quite trapped by views of Roman superiority. After all, Cicero begins by extolling the virtues of patriotism so we shouldn't be surprised if his ideal state looks exactly like his own state.

However, the approach taken by Cicero is rather interesting. Rather than emphasizing a specific structure, he seems to emphasize ongoing synthesis of elements of different structures, emphasizing the importance of what might later be thought to be a "social contract theory of government." Often I think in many areas of political discourse returning to this basic level would be helpful even in our modern age.

The second work builds upon this by offering a system of laws for the ideal republic. This helps to clarify Cicero's thinking a great deal by offering more concrete examples of how the Republic should be formed.

The introduction and end notes add a great deal to this edition. Anyone interested in theory of government, Roman studies, or Cicero in general, should read this book. Highly recommended.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cicero is great, but too much of these two books are lost 8 Nov 2011
By Michael E. Newton - Published on
I really enjoyed Cicero's writing and insight into politics and government, but too much of Cicero's Republic is missing to make it a compelling read. What parts do exist are reminiscent of Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics, and Polybius's Histories and Cicero certainly built upon those sources. It is interesting to read what this great man who fought against Cataline, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Octavian/Octavius/Augustus has to say on the topic. I certainly recommend Cicero's Republic to anybody interested in Roman history or the history of political thought. However, to the more casual reader or those more generally interested in political thought, there is little benefit to reading this book if you already read or plan to read Plato, Aristotle, and Polybius. If we had all of Cicero's Republic, I'd likely be giving it four or five stars, but it deserves only two or three stars as it exists to us today.

Turning to the second half of the book, The Laws, which appears to be more complete and thus easier to read and review, Cicero argues that laws come from nature, not men. Cicero explains, "Law was not thought up by the intelligence of human beings, not is it some kind of resolution passed by communities, but rather an eternal force which rules the world by the wisdom of its commands and prohibitions... That original and final law is the intelligence of God, who ordains or forbids everything by reason." In this respect, I found sections of Cicero's The Laws to be quite similar to Frederic Bastiat's The Law.

Cicero explains that the Latin word for law, lex, comes from the word for choosing, lego. [Pages 103 and 125. But there is much uncertainty whether this is the actual etymology of the word law.] Thus, the book is primarily designed "to provide a code of living and a system of training for nations and individuals alike."

Cicero then makes the case that "the highest good is either to live according to nature or to follow nature and live, so to speak, by her law."

Cicero then describes Rome's legal code and proposes some changes. This section is sometimes interesting from a historical perspective, but less so in terms of political philosophy. However, it becomes extremely tedious and dull at times when Cicero describes certain aspects of Rome's laws in depth.

All in all, very insightful, though a bit tedious at times. But the worst aspect is the incongruous nature of the work because of all the missing text. I also wish the notes were put on the bottom of each page rather than in the back. I for one enjoy reading every note and found it difficult to flip back and forth four or five times per page.

In total, I am giving Cicero's The Republic and The Laws just three stars. I am sure this would disappoint Cicero greatly, but I place little blame on him. If his writing existed in full, I'm sure he would easily earn four stars and possibly five, though Cicero himself admitted in The Laws that he could not compete with Plato's writings on the same subject, which is why it would likely earn just four starts while Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics deserve five stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent translation 1 Nov 2012
By Amelia Lloyd-Jones - Published on
Cicero's dialogue The Republic was written just before the civil war that ended the Roman Republic. Drawing on Greek political theory, it embodied the mature reflections of a Roman ex-consul on the nature of political organization, on justice in society, and on the qualities needed in a statesman. Its sequel, The Laws, expounded the influential doctrine of Natural Law, which applies to all mankind, setting out an ideal code for a reformed Roman Republic. Throughout both of these works Cicero shared his concern for the failing political and philosophical systems of the Roman Republic.

Niall Rudd's introduction and overview of Cicero's The Republic and The Laws was extremely helpful. Rudd gave necessary background information for these two works, along with Cicero's main themes. I enjoyed reading The Republic more than The Laws simply because Cicero discussed his reasons for fall of the Republic. I agreed with Cicero's arguments concerning Rome's faulty political system, but I was still surprised to find so many of his predictions came true when the Roman Empire itself fell.
17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different view of the ideal state 4 Feb 2006
By wiredweird - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
From Plato's Republic or before, people have written their ideas of what the ideal state would look like, and especially how it would be governed. Cicero, a citizen of classical Rome adds his thoughts in the first half of this volume. To him, the philosophically ideal state would be very much like Rome itself.

Cicero establishes early on (p.16) that, regarding the marvels of the physical world, "that kind of knowledge will not make us better or happier people." Only statecraft is worthy of serious study. That ideal state would be populated by "We Romans, paragons of justice as we are" (p.63-64), who forbid many industries in their outlying states "in order to enhance the value of our own products." He reinforces this idea of the predatory state by saying "No state is so stupid as not to prefer wicked domination to virtuous subjection" (p.67), as if domination and subjection are the only two roles that states may hold with respect to each other.

Cicero presents his thoughts in the form of Platonic dialogs, but without the clear direction of Plato's works. Instead, these little plays express Cicero's unfailingly high opinion of himself and of Rome, dismissing all others (both people and states) as unworthy of interest. His "Lasw" follow the same pattern, exploring the ideal by reciting the rules that Rome had in place, with only minor revisions.

Mixed in with his smug sense of superiority regarding self and state, Cicero makes a few points of interest. He compares monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy as forms of government. He notes that each has flaws, and each holds the seeds of its own collapse. Instead of any one, Cicero proposes an ideal government - i.e., Rome's own - that combines all three. I found it interesting that the US constitution creates much the same structure. We have the mono-archic presidency, oligarchic supreme court, and democratic Senate and Congress. Unfortunatley, I found Cicero's discussion too diffuse and too broken by losses through the centuries to get any clear idea of how he would have divided responsibility between the three, so I can not contrast his ideal to our current situation.

The translation is lively and modern. Profuse end notes fill in cultural background and ambiguities in translation, adding nicely to the main text. I could only ask for uniform numbering in the references - end notes are numbered by the page to which they refer, but cross reference by section numbers in the text. That, combined with numbers that apparently identify leaves of the original, creating an indexing scheme that fell short in clarity. Those minor problems seem not to interfere with Cicero's presentation, or with Cicero's sense of his own importance and Rome's.

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