How to Run a Country

How to Run a Country: An Ancient Guide for Modern Leaders

Marcus Tullius Cicero
Selected, translated, and with an introduction by Philip Freeman
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    How to Run a Country
    Book Description:

    Marcus Cicero, Rome's greatest statesman and orator, was elected to the Roman Republic's highest office at a time when his beloved country was threatened by power-hungry politicians, dire economic troubles, foreign turmoil, and political parties that refused to work together. Sound familiar? Cicero's letters, speeches, and other writings are filled with timeless wisdom and practical insight about how to solve these and other problems of leadership and politics. How to Run a Country collects the best of these writings to provide an entertaining, common sense guide for modern leaders and citizens. This brief book, a sequel toHow to Win an Election, gathers Cicero's most perceptive thoughts on topics such as leadership, corruption, the balance of power, taxes, war, immigration, and the importance of compromise. These writings have influenced great leaders--including America's Founding Fathers--for two thousand years, and they are just as instructive today as when they were first written.

    Organized by topic and featuring lively new translations, the book also includes an introduction, headnotes, a glossary, suggestions for further reading, and an appendix containing the original Latin texts. The result is an enlightening introduction to some of the most enduring political wisdom of all time.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4620-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xx)

    Marcus Tullius Cicero was born in 106 BC, four hundred years after Rome had expelled her last king and established the Republic. Cicero was from the small country town of Arpinum in the hills southeast of Rome. It was also the home of Gaius Marius, who had scandalized the aristocracy of the Roman senate with his populist politics and reorganization of the army into a volunteer force with no property qualifications for service. when Cicero was still a toddler, Marius saved Rome from an invasion by Germanic tribes from across the Alps and cemented his hold on political power.


  4. How to Run a Country
    • Natural Law
      (pp. 1-4)

      In the surviving passages of his bookon the State, Cicero provides a systematic discussion of political theory, including a famous passage on the idea that divine law underlies the universe and is the foundation on which government should be built. Cicero follows the Greek philosopher Aristotle and earlier Stoic teachers in upholding the idea of natural law—an idea fundamental to the founders of the American Republic regardless of their religious beliefs.

      True law is a harmony of right reasoning and nature. It applies to everyone in all places and times, for it is unchanging and everlasting. It commands...

    • Balance of Power
      (pp. 4-6)

      To Cicero, the ideal government was one that combined the best qualities of a monarchy, an aristocracy, and a democracy—as was the case in the Roman Republic. The influence of his writings on the subject features prominently in the mixed constitution created by the American Founding Fathers.

      Of the three main types of government, monarchy is in my opinion by far the most preferable. But a moderate and balanced form of government combining all three is even better than kingship. This sort of state would have an executive with preeminent and royal qualities, but also grant certain powers both...

    • Leadership
      (pp. 6-16)

      Marcus Cicero loved to give advice, especially to his relatives and particularly to his younger brother Quintus. When Quintus was appointed governor of the important Roman province of Asia (on the western coast of modern Turkey) in 61 BC, Marcus couldn’t resist sending him not one but two lengthy letters telling him how to do his job. Quintus was a perfectly capable administrator who would later serve bravely in Gaul under Julius Caesar, but he did have something of a temper and was prone to fits of melancholy. Although Quintus may nothave welcomed the unsolicited advice from his brother,...

    • Friends and Enemies
      (pp. 16-24)

      Cicero made many friends and even more enemies as he climbed the political ladder. He worked tirelessly throughout his career to strengthen the state, especially in his exposure of a plot by the ruined nobleman Catiline to overthrow the elected government. One of his allies in this struggle was Metellus Celer, who raised an army in northern Italy to fight against Catiline and his band of disgruntled veterans. But the brother of Metellus was notably hostile to Cicero, putting him in the difficult position in the family-centered world of ancient Rome of working against a close relative of a friend....

    • Persuasion
      (pp. 24-30)

      It’s difficult for us today to imagine the importance of oratory in the ancient world. In an age before printing or electronic media, the ability of a leader to speak persuasively to crowds large and small was essential. But when Cicero talks about an orator, he means much more than someone who gives speeches. To him an orator was above all a statesman who was able to express the power of an idea to the public based on knowledge and wisdom. True Roman orators could persuade their audience to agree with them not because of verbal techniques, important as they...

    • Compromise
      (pp. 30-36)

      For Cicero, politics was the art of the possible, not a battleground of absolutes. He firmly believed in traditional values and the supremacy of law, but he also knew that in order to get things done the different factions in a country must be willing to work together.

      when a small group of people control a nation because of their wealth or birth or some other advantage, they are simply a faction, even if they are called an aristocracy. On the other hand, if the multitude gains power and moment, it is called freedom, though it is in fact chaos....

    • Money and Power
      (pp. 36-43)

      Ancient Rome was a empire of haves and have-nots, with little in the way of a social safety net. Taxes could be onerous, but were needed to fund the large army. Since the second century BC, there had been proposals to reduce the tax burden and redistribute land and goods among veterans and the urban poor. Cicero did not object to easing the burden on the needy, but warns in his essayOn Dutiesagainst the dangers of politicians taking such sentiments too far. He also roundly condemns the greedy nature of those who serve in government only to serve...

    • Immigration
      (pp. 43-46)

      In 56 BC, the conservatives in the senate realized they could not attack Julius Caesar directly while he was leading a successful war in Gaul, so they staged a proxy fight against one of his closest aides, a wealthy foreigner named Balbus from the city of Gades on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian peninsula. Balbus had received Roman citizenship over fifteen years earlier from Pompey for his service to Rome. Cicero felt compelled by his alliance at the time with Caesar and Pompey to defend Balbus, but his arguments go beyond the particular occasion of the trial to illustrate...

    • War
      (pp. 46-49)

      The Greeks and Romans had no illusions about war. From Homer’sIliadto Caesar’sGallic war, the horrors and terrible human cost are plain to see. But neither did they shrink from war when they felt is was necessary. Waging war to protect one’s country, support allies, or maintain honor was considered perfectly acceptable by all. Cicero agrees with this philosophy and argues in one of his earliest political speeches that protecting the honor of a country can be the most compelling reason to go to war. The occasion was the proposal to allow his patron Pompey to take up...

    • Corruption
      (pp. 49-56)

      The abuse of power was rampant in the late Roman Republic, especially among those members of the nobility who were sent abroad to govern provinces. The privilege of these Roman wolves to feast on the provincial sheep was often protected by members of the senate, who had behaved similarly themselves or hoped to in the future. But honest men such as Cicero believed that corruption was a cancer that ate at the heart of a state. In the following passages, taken from one of Cicero’s earliest speeches, Gaius Verres, a former governor of the island of Sicily now on trial,...

    • Tyranny
      (pp. 56-65)

      Cicero lived at a time when the ancient freedoms of the Roman Republic were disappearing. The rights of the people and their elected representatives were being replaced by men who used military force to gain power and enrich themselves. To Cicero, rule by a single leader, even one as capable as Julius Caesar, was an invitation to disaster, as absolute power inevitably corrupts even the best of men.

      People submit themselves to the authority and power of another person for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they do it because of goodwill or gratitude for favor shown to them. Sometimes they...

    • Cicero’s Epilogue: The Fallen State
      (pp. 66-67)

      The poet who wrote these words so brief and true seems to me to have heard them from a divine oracle. For neither men by themselves without a state based on strong customs nor traditions without men to defend them could have established and maintained a republic such as ours whose power stretches so far and wide. Before our time, the cherished customs of our forefathers produced exceptional and admirable men who preserved the ways and institutions of our ancestors.

      But now our republic looks like a beautiful painting faded with age. our generation has not only failed to restore...

    (pp. 68-114)

    On the State3.33: Est quidem vera lex recta ratio naturae congruens, diffusa in omnes, constans, sempiterna, quae vocet ad officium iubendo, vetando a fraude deterreat; quae tamen neque probos frustra iubet aut vetat nec improbos iubendo aut vetando movet. Huic legi nec obrogari fas est neque derogari ex hac aliquid licet neque tota abrogari potest. Nec vero aut per senatum aut per populum solvi hac lege possumus, neque est quaerendus explanator aut interpres eius alius; nec erit alia lex Romae, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac, sed et omnes gentes et omni tempore una lex et sempiterna et immutabilis...

    (pp. 115-120)
    (pp. 121-130)
    (pp. 131-132)