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Romans, though you’re guiltless, you’ll still expiate
your fathers’ sins, till you’ve restored the temples,
and the tumbling shrines of all the gods,
and their images, soiled with black smoke.
~Horace, Odes, III, 6; A. S. Kline trans.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cicero—The Duties of Government Officials (Harper's Magazine)

Harper's Magazine recently carried a book notice which demonstrates the relevance of Cicero's "De Officiis" ("On Duties") to the 21st century. The pressures facing those in office, and the temptations, were well known to Cicero. In the third part of his book, Cicero challenges us to think outside the box. If we seem to be faced with a choice between doing what is "right" or doing what gives us "advantage", the basic problem is that we misunderstand the situation, says Cicero. He forces us to look more carefully, because, he says, doing the right thing is always the more advantageous choice, and he explains why.
"Cambridge University Press has just published Steve Sheppard’s new book I Do Solemnly Swear, an inquiry into the moral obligations of legal officials. Like Sir Edward Coke before him, Sheppard has taken a series of quotations from De Officiis as the epigram for each chapter, which in a sense is an extended meditation on Cicero’s text and an ample demonstration of its modernity. The work is a wonderful discussion of material that is, to our lasting harm, long underappreciated." Cicero—The Duties of Government Officials (Harper's Magazine)

Bill Thayer's site, Lacus Curtius, has the entire 1913 Loeb text of "De Officiis" (in English) online.

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