Western Imagination: The Ciceronian Tradition

September 12, 2014 The Ciceronian Tradition

Classical Pairing: Cicero

Reading Assignment:

  • Cicero, On Duties (Murry, Making, 93-99)

Questions to think about:

  • What does Cicero mean by “fortune”?
  • What is the role of fortune?
  • How would Cicero answer the question, “Is it better for a ruler to be loved or feared?”? Why?
  • According to Cicero, how can a ruler achieve a good reputation?
  • What does he say about justice?

Quotes from the reading:

  • “Whenever one man benefits another or bestows some dignity on him, he does it for one of five reasons: love and good will’ admiration; trust; fear; or hope of gain.” 93
  • “Men submit themselves to the power of another for a variety of reasons: good will, favors, the greatness of the other’s dignity, hope of future gains, fear that they will be compelled to obey by force, and hope of rewards or gifts, which as we see in our own republic, often take the form of bribes.” 93-94
  • “Men who oppress and enslave others by force must use cruelty to hold on to heir power, but it is crazy to try to make oneself feared in a free city.” 94
  • “Although a tyranny might overturn the laws and stifle the people’s freedom, some men will find a way to express their liberty in the choice of whom to bestow honor on, for liberty that has been lost is more acutely felt than liberty that is simply maintained.” 94
  • “Some people need a lot of influence, and other need only a little, yet all men need the love and trust of friends; this is something that is equally necessary for great men and small men alike and can be accomplished by both in the same way.” 96
  • “The multitude will never trust in the honesty of a man who seems to be craft and cunning; rather, these qualities will cause him to be suspected and hated. For this reason, intelligence must be joined to justice in order to inspire trust, for justice without prudence is able to do much, but prudence without justice is useless.” 97
  • “Thus, of those three things that lead to glory, all of them are accomplished by justice: the good will, trust, admiration of the multitude can be won by justice because justice seeks the good of the many and spurns and neglects those things that usually excite greed.” 98
  • “The multitude especially admires a man who is not moved by greed, for such a man appears to be tried by fire.” 98
  • “When man alone was able to provide justice, the people were content; when this could no longer be done, the people were content; when this could no longer be don’t, the people invented laws, which were equal for all men and stable throughout time. Thus, it is clear that men were usually chosen to rule due to their reputation for justness.” 99
  • “Socrates has pointed out the way to this glory in a wonderful, little saying: “if you want glory, be what you want others to think you are.” 99
  • “If anyone thinks he can win eternal glory with deceit, empty boasting, and the dishonest fashioning of his words and appearance, he is seriously mistaken.” 99



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