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Cicero,   On the Republic

-   Book 5


Translated by C.W.Keyes (1928). The Latin text has survived mostly in a palimpsest, discovered in 1819, and because there is no complete manuscript, there are frequent gaps in the text. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.


Book 4  

{ The Vatican manuscript contains only three short passages from this book : sections 3, 5, and 6-7. The order of the other fragments given is uncertain. St Augustine (De Civ. Dei II, 21) states that section 1 is quoted from Cicero's preface to the book, and not from the dialogue.     The qualifications and functions of the ideal statesman are evidently the main subject of the book. }  
 

{1.} [1] L   "The commonwealth of Rome is founded firm   |   On ancient customs and on men of might." **  

Our poet seems to have obtained these words, so brief and true, from an oracle. For neither men alone, unless a State is supplied with customs too, nor customs alone, unless there have also been men to defend them, could ever have been sufficient to found or to preserve so long a commonwealth whose dominion extends so far and wide. Thus, before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers. [2] L   But though the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colours, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines. For what is now left of the "ancient customs" on which he said "the commonwealth of Rome" was "founded firm" ? They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practised, but are already unknown. And what shall I say of the men ? For the loss of our customs is due to our lack of men, and for, this great evil we must not only give an account, but must even defend ourselves in every way possible, as if we were accused of capital crime. For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the form of the commonwealth, but have long since lost its substance.     

{2.} [3] L  . . . [that nothing was so] kingly as the administration of justice, which included the interpretation of the law, for subjects used to seek legal decisions from their kings. And for these reasons, broad and rich lands and fields, suitable both for cultivation and pasturage, were set aside as the property of the king, and were cultivated for him without any labour or attention on his part, so that he might not be distracted from the people's business by any need of attention to his own private affairs. Nor did any private citizen act as judge or arbitrator in any suit, but every suit was decided by the king himself. And in my opinion our own king Numa followed most closely this ancient custom of the Greek kings. For our other kings, though they performed this duty also, spent a great deal of their time in waging war, and therefore paid attention to the laws of war, while the long period of peace under Numa was the mother of justice and religion in our city. This king even composed laws which are still in force, as you know. Such indeed are the proper concerns of this citizen of whom we are speaking. . . .    

{3.} [4] L   . . . but nevertheless, as in the case of an efficient head of a family, some experience in the cultivation of the land, the construction of buildings, and the keeping of accounts is necessary . . .  

[5] L   Scipio. . . . it would not displease you to know . . . of roots and seeds, would it ?    

Mummius. Not at all, if any necessity for it should arise.   

Scipio. Then you do not think that such knowledge is suitable only for the superintendent of a farm ?   

Mummius. By no means ; since lack of careful attention is the most frequent fault in farming.    

Scipio. The field-superintendent, then, knows the nature of the land, the household-superintendent knows how to read and write, and both are interested in the practical utility of their knowledge rather than in the pleasure they take in its possession. In the same way, then, this governing statesman of ours should surely have taken the pains to become familiar with justice and law, and should have examined their origins. But he should not allow his time constantly to be taken up with consultations or by reading and writing on these subjects, for he must be able, as we may say, to act as both field-superintendent and household-superintendent of the commonwealth ; he must be fully conversant with justice in its highest aspects, for without that no one can be just ; and he must not be ignorant of the civil law, but his knowledge of it should be like the pilot's knowledge of the stars, or a physician's knowledge of physics , for each uses his knowledge in his own art, but does not allow it to keep him from his own special duties. But this man will see to it . . .   

{4.} [6] L   . . . states in which the best men seek praise and glory, and avoid disgrace and dishonour. Nor indeed are they deterred from crime so much by the fear of the penalties ordained by law as by the sense of shame which Nature has given to man in the form of a certain fear of justified censure. The governing statesman strengthens this feeling in commonwealths by the force of public opinion and perfects it by the inculcation of principles and by systematic training, so that shame deters the citizens from crime no less effectively than fear. And these remarks have to do with praise, and might have been stated more broadly and developed more fully.    

{5.} [7] L   But, as regards the practical conduct of life, this system provides for legal marriage, legitimate children, and the consecration of homes to the Lares and Penates of families, so that all may make use of the common property and of their own personal possessions. It is impossible to live well except in a good commonwealth, and nothing can produce greater happiness than a well-constituted State. Therefore it always seems very remarkable to me, [that] what is so important . . .    

{6.} [8] L   Scipio. . . . For just as the aim of the pilot is a successful voyage, of the physician, health, and of the general, victory, so this director of the commonwealth has as his aim for his fellow-citizens a happy life, fortified by wealth, rich in material resources, great in glory and honoured for virtue. I want him to bring to perfection this achievement, which is the greatest and best possible among men. . . .    

. . . And where does your literature as well praise that ruler of his native land who considers the good of his people rather than their desires? . . .   

{7.} [9] L   . . . [our] ancestors were inspired to many wonderful and admirable deeds by their eagerness for glory . . .  

. . the leading man of a State must be fed on glory, and the State can stand firm only so long as honour is given by all to their leader. . . .    

. . . then by virtue, labour, and industry . . . should preserve the native talents of the most eminent man, unless a fierce spirit in a too headstrong manner . . . him . . . in some [way] . . .    

. . . this virtue is called bravery, which is made up of nobility of spirit and an entire contempt for pain and death . . .  

{8.} [10] L   . . . As Marcellus was spirited and pugnacious, and Maximus thoughtful and cautious . . . 

. . . included in the world . . .    

. . . because he could make your families share some of the annoyances of his old age . . .    

{9.} [11] L   . . . as Menelaus of Sparta possessed a certain pleasing and charming eloquence ** . . . let him cultivate brevity in speech . . .   

. . and since nothing ought to be so free from corruption in a State as the vote and the expression of opinion, I cannot understand why the man who corrupts them by the use of money deserves punishment, if the one who does so by eloquence is praised for it. In fact, it seems to me that the man who corrupts a judge by a speech commits a worse crime than the one who does so by a bribe, for even a virtuous man can be corrupted by oratory, though not by a bribe . . .  

. . . After Scipio had spoken thus, Mummius gave his full approval, for he was filled with a kind of hatred for the rhetoricians . . .    

. . . then excellent seeds would have been sown in a most fertile field . . . 

Book 6 → 



FOOTNOTES

  

(1)   A verse from Ennius' Annales. 

(2)   See Iliad III, 212 ff.



Book 6



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