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Introduction

Re Publica. He appears to have overlooked the fact that Plato’s Laws was in no sense a sequel to his Republic; at any rate his own plan made such a relation between his two treatises necessary. He has imitated Plato1 in placing the assumed date of the Laws in a later age than that of his previous work, in making himself the chief character, throwing off the mask of Scipio, as Plato did that of Socrates, in the number present, in the peripatetic character of the dialogue and the harmony of scene with subject, and in the fact that the conversation occupies a long (perhaps the longest) summer day. Cicero’s departure from his custom of introducing his dialogues with a preface in his own person2 may also be due to Plato’s example.3

The source for the contents of Book I is much disputed. One view is that this book contains practically the same material as De Re Publica III, and that its source is therefore the same—Panaetius.4 Other scholars favour the Academic philosopher Antiochus of Ascalon as the main source.5 Our slight knowledge of the distinguishing characteristics

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of these philosophers makes a decision impossible; in fact we can by no means be certain that Cicero used a single Greek source for the whole argument.1

In the second and third books there is, of course, less question of Greek sources for any large part of the contents;2 Roman law and the works of the Roman jurists3 are the sources for the greater part of what is not original.

The work’s greatest claim to our interest is the fact that it contains so much concrete information about Cicero’s political ideals. While the De Re Publica and the first book of the De Legibus are general and philosophical, the second and third books of the latter treatise provide us with what would at present be called an actual constitution for an ideal State, with a detailed commentary on many of its provisions; this constitution, though based in general upon the actual law and custom of Rome, contains a considerable amount of original material.4

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-de_legibus.1928