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Cicero and his thought

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Bust of Cicero from the 19th century. It is in the collection of the Myślewicki Palace in Warsaw
Bust of Cicero from the 19th century. It is in the collection of the Myślewicki Palace in Warsaw

The works of the eminent Roman speaker, politician and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (January 3, 106 – December 7, 43 BCE) are undoubtedly an icon of an ancient culture that laid the foundations our civilization in terms of legal, moral and social.

The Roman thinker exerted a profound influence on later eras, which appreciated his rhetorical artistry and political sense. Cicero was not only famous for his famous dispute with Catilina and his speeches to the Senate. His works touch upon problems related to the idea of ​​statehood and civic duties but also do not shy away from intricate existential problems. Cicero’s most famous works are his dialogues On the Commonwealth, On the Laws and Tusculanae Quaestiones. By getting to know Cicero’s recipes for the fundamental problems of mankind, we will surely become more realistic about this outstanding Roman thinker.

In his work About the State Cicero considers the advantages and disadvantages of individual regimes. Various possibilities are presented to us, power can be given to one man, chosen people or people. The politician takes into account that the most important thing in power is its social function. And so the disadvantage of the kingdom is too great autonomy of the king, who does not have to take into account anyone’s opinion when it comes to the rule of the elite, the masses are most disadvantaged and they have no greater rights, in the case of the rule of the people there is no division into dignity and such equality is unfair. In the course of the dispute about political systems, a rather idealistic conclusion arises that it would be best to create a fourth type of system that would combine the features of these three systems. Today this observation seems trivial, but over two thousand years ago such a postulate was certainly a breakthrough.

In On the Laws dispute, Cicero used a form of dialogue in which the nature of law and its sources are discussed. The thinker saw reason as a tool that allows man to discover wisdom and connects us with the gods. It is the reason that makes up the law. Since reason was given to man by nature, the law is ultimately to derive from it. Apart from politics and law, Cicero was interested in philosophy which did not provide a single solution and prompted the search for truth from many perspectives. Cicero himself, tired of political disputes, eagerly escaped reflecting on the nature of virtue. In his famous Tuskulan Treatises Cicero confesses to Brutus that he loves to devote himself to philosophical deliberations after everyday activities.

Cicero is undoubtedly one of the most colourful intellectual figures of Ancient Rome. By getting to know his thought and biography, we can feel the spirit of the era and feel the connection with the ancient tradition, from which we unconsciously draw and use it throughout our lives. We rightly associate the Roman Empire with the developed legislation, but it had a great influence, also on preserving the descendant thoughts of the ancient Greeks and writers such as Cicero recorded them in the Roman version.

Author: Paweł Krzemiński (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • Wybór pism naukowych Cyceron, przekład z oryginału łacińskiego Krystyna Wisłocka-Remerowa, Warszawa 2002

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