In the 40s BCE, during his forced retirement from politics under Caesar's dictatorship, Cicero turned to philosophy, producing a massive and important body of work. As he was acutely aware, this was an unusual undertaking for a Roman statesman because Romans were often hostile to philosophy, perceiving it as foreign and incompatible with fulfilling one's duty as a citizen. How, then, are we to understand Cicero's decision to pursue philosophy in the context of the political, intellectual, and cultural life of the late Roman republic? In A Written Republic, Yelena Baraz takes up this question and makes the case that philosophy for Cicero was not a retreat from politics but a continuation of politics by other means, an alternative way of living a political life and serving the state under newly restricted conditions.
Baraz examines the rhetorical battle that Cicero stages in his philosophical prefaces--a battle between the forces that would oppose or support his project. He presents his philosophy as intimately connected to the new political circumstances and his exclusion from politics. His goal--to benefit the state by providing new moral resources for the Roman elite--was traditional, even if his method of translating Greek philosophical knowledge into Latin and combining Greek sources with Roman heritage was unorthodox.
A Written Republic provides a new perspective on Cicero's conception of his philosophical project while also adding to the broader picture of late-Roman political, intellectual, and cultural life.
Yelena Baraz is assistant professor of classics at Princeton University.
"[T]his is an excellent study, and will be valuable reading for anyone interested in Cicero's philosophical works and the cultural and political environments from which they emerged."--Walter Englert, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"A Written Republic offers a new way of viewing Cicero's philosophical work. Yelena Baraz presents a unified perspective that embraces not merely a selection but all of Cicero's philosophical writings of the 40s BCE. There is nothing comparable within such an efficient compass. The focus on Cicero's prefaces is a new approach that allows his own voice to emerge. The scholarship is excellent, the organization is exemplary, and the writing is clear and often elegant."--Barbara Saylor Rodgers, University of Vermont
"This is an innovative study of Cicero's claims about the role philosophy could play in restoring stability to the post-civil war Roman Republic. Yelena Baraz argues that, for Cicero, philosophical translation was a patriotic act, a new form of political engagement necessitated in the mid-40s BCE by the demise of its traditional outlets. The book's focus is refreshing and its insights are excellent."--Cynthia Damon, University of Pennsylvania
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