Saturday, February 18, 2017

Some Notes and Three Timely Quotes from a Roman Republican

by Nomad

It's time to take a breather from the hectic pace of present politics. I wanted to share some reflections on a noble Roman who also lived in troubled times.

For much of my life, I have been fascinated by Roman history, especially the transition from Republic to Empire. The first century after Christ was full of drama and plot twists all driven by larger-than-life characters, some very ambitious and evil-minded and some very noble and admirable.

A Man at the Center

One such character was Marcus Tullius Cicero, better known as simply. Cicero. As a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist, Cicero was at the very center of politics during the Fall of the Republic, even as that center was spinning wildly out of control.

Interesting times to say the least. Interesting but lethal. He would eventually become one of its notable early victims, murdered by a power-hungry man's squad of hit men, on the road outside his villa.
In defiant fashion, he bared his neck for the killing blow and told his killers:
"There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly."
There's a lot more to Cicero than meets the historian's eye. His writings, (which include his essays, speeches, and letters) were somehow salvaged throughout the Dark Ages. That has become Cicero's legacy to countless generations.

His life philosophy, written during his exile from Rome, are a pleasure and comfort to read. His surviving essays on old age and on friendship, in particular, are both treasures of antiquity as well as common sense guidelines. 
Here's one of Cicero's witty observations about friendship
Even if anyone were of a nature so savage and fierce as to shun and loathe the society of men ... yet even such a man could not refrain from seeking some person before whom he might pour out the venom of his embittered soul.
And another:
Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.


His influence went far beyond his time. His thoughts, penned a thousand years before, were to form an influential basis for the Renaissance and the Humanist movement.

On the political side, Cicero's ideas about the Republic were to inspire both the Founding Fathers of the United States as well as the revolutionaries of the French Revolution
John Adams said, 
"As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have great weight."
Thomas Jefferson considered Cicero to have been one of a handful of major figures who contributed to a tradition “of public right.” Those ideas, in turn, would shape Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence and shaped American understandings of "the common sense" basis for the right of revolution.
A government based on reasoning and the practical needs of all its citizens is very much a political idea that Cicero would have advocated.
He hear the echoes of Cicero, for instance, in this remark Jefferson made in 1786 to James Madison:
"It is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages, during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles; and it is honorable for us to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions."
Here are three quotes from Cicero which seem to be a modern-day observation about our own time.

The corruption of the Roman Republic went beyond the treason of individuals. Cicero sought to trace the root of the problem.

When it came to order-destroying Caesar, Cicero pulled no punches in his detestation for this very dangerous, very ambitious destroyer of the Roman Republic.
However, the blame for the gangster's rise fell on the people who supported him.