A Written Republic

A Written Republic: Cicero's Philosophical Politics

Yelena Baraz
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7s4n7
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  • Book Info
    A Written Republic
    Book Description:

    In the 40s BCE, during his forced retirement from politics under Caesar's dictatorship, Cicero turned to philosophy, producing a massive and important body of work. As he was acutely aware, this was an unusual undertaking for a Roman statesman because Romans were often hostile to philosophy, perceiving it as foreign and incompatible with fulfilling one's duty as a citizen. How, then, are we to understand Cicero's decision to pursue philosophy in the context of the political, intellectual, and cultural life of the late Roman republic? InA Written Republic, Yelena Baraz takes up this question and makes the case that philosophy for Cicero was not a retreat from politics but a continuation of politics by other means, an alternative way of living a political life and serving the state under newly restricted conditions.

    Baraz examines the rhetorical battle that Cicero stages in his philosophical prefaces--a battle between the forces that would oppose or support his project. He presents his philosophy as intimately connected to the new political circumstances and his exclusion from politics. His goal--to benefit the state by providing new moral resources for the Roman elite--was traditional, even if his method of translating Greek philosophical knowledge into Latin and combining Greek sources with Roman heritage was unorthodox.

    A Written Republicprovides a new perspective on Cicero's conception of his philosophical project while also adding to the broader picture of late-Roman political, intellectual, and cultural life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4216-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Y. B.
  4. Abbreviations and Translations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    “So this, then, is my life. Everyday I read or write something.”¹ This notice, almost absurd in its vagueness, begins the last section of Cicero’s letter to his friend Papirius Paetus, composed towards the end of year 46. There are no letters to Atticus between November of 46 and March of 45, when Cicero, still in deep mourning for his daughter, left Atticus’ house for Astura. This reference to writing, then, may be the only surviving mention in the correspondence of the composition of the protreptic dialogueHortensius.² We lack circumstantial information about the composition, the kind of detail that...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Otiose Otium: THE STATUS OF INTELLECTUAL ACTIVITY IN LATE REPUBLICAN PREFACES
    (pp. 13-43)

    Cicero begins his preface to book one ofDe Finibusby saying that the work will inevitably be subject to much criticism. As he proceeds to set out the individual features of the work that he expects will provoke criticism from different quarters, he in effect identifies for us those aspects of writing philosophy that the Roman public could find objectionable. The list of potential critics and their particular preoccupations can, therefore, be read as a list of the various anxieties that Cicero feels he must allay in his readers in order for his project to be successful. The first...

  7. CHAPTER TWO On a More Personal Note: PHILOSOPHY IN THE LETTERS
    (pp. 44-95)

    An examination of Cicero’s own reasons for writing the philosophical treatises is an essential part of any attempt to understand this body of work. In trying to consider his motivation, however, we are faced with an often confounding multiplicity of goals that he presents in the treatises themselves. He alternately assigns the impulse behind these compositions variously to his desire to benefit his fatherland and fellow-citizens, his need for activity in the absence of a public career that had previously occupied his days, and his desire to find consolation after the devastating loss of his daughter. The differences between these...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Gift of Philosophy: THE TREATISES AS TRANSLATIONS
    (pp. 96-127)

    The previous chapter discussed the role that philosophy played in Cicero’s correspondence with a focus on the period in which the philosophical corpus was produced. We saw how Cicero tried to integrate philosophy into his politically charged deliberations and relationships. With this chapter, I shift my investigation to the corpus itself. Here it is the introduction of politics into the realm of philosophy, and the cultural and social issues in which such integration is necessarily implicated that will be of primary importance. In the prefaces to most of his philosophical treatises, Cicero is explicit on the subject of the treatises’...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR With the Same Voice: ORATORY AS A TRANSITIONAL SPACE
    (pp. 128-149)

    The discussion of how Sallust positions himself and his works in the prefaces toBellum CatilinaeandBellum Iugurthinumin chapter 1 has highlighted one of the strategies available to an elite writer attempting to justify his choice of subject matter. Like Sallust, who compared the function of historiography to that of ancestor masks, he can connect his undertaking to a traditional area of Roman public life with which it shares some elements, especially if these elements are, or can be made to appear, significant. This practice is reminiscent of what Catharine Edwards has described as the procedure of the...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Reading a Ciceronian Preface: STRATEGIES OF READER MANAGEMENT
    (pp. 150-186)

    In chapters 3 and 4, I analyzed aspects of Cicero’s negotiations with his audience that were conducted in fairly explicit terms and addressed head-on his readers’ potential discomforts with his philosophical undertaking. This chapter will focus on the rhetorical work that takes place, as it were, behind the scenes, in the literary forms, quotations, and allusions that are also integral to the prefaces.¹ All these features have their sources in the Roman tradition, understood most broadly, be they traditional modes of elite interaction or texts that had already by Cicero’s day achieved the status of classics. Far from being simply...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Philosophy after Caesar: THE NEW DIRECTION
    (pp. 187-224)

    In this final chapter I will look at the consequences of the changed political situation in the wake of Caesar’s assassination to Cicero’s philosophical project. We are lucky to have a snapshot of Cicero’s presentation of his thoughts on the new circumstances as they affect his composition of philosophical works. The preface to the second book ofDe Divinationecaptures him at the very moment of transition. His retrospective account of what he has produced under Caesar, itself colored by his attempt to come to terms with the changes, and his tentative thoughts on how the project might evolve will...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-242)
  13. Index Locorum
    (pp. 243-248)
  14. General Index
    (pp. 249-252)