The politics of virtue: three puzzles in Cicero’s De Officiis

Miriam Griffin

in Episteme, etc.

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199696482
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738036 | DOI:
The politics of virtue: three puzzles in Cicero’s De Officiis

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In this chapter, Cicero’s purpose in writing De Officiis is examined in the light of two puzzling features of the work: the restrictions he places on his subject, given that ‘duties’ are introduced in the broadest terms, and his choice of Panaetius' work as his guiding authority, given that the discussion of a topic of particular interest to Cicero—the apparent conflict between the honourable and the expedient—was missing. The political character of De Officiis is clear, as is its didactic spirit and its concern for the young ambitious to enter public life. In codifying the code of conduct of the Roman governing class, under pressure of fear for the survival of the res publica, Cicero may have thought particularly of the numerous new senators admitted by Caesar and Antony. He might have decided to teach them how to conduct themselves at the top level of Roman society.

Keywords: Cicero; De Officiis; Panaetius; Roman governing class; Caesar

Chapter.  9929 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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