Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero

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Marcus Tullius Cicero


"We are in bondage to the law in order that we may be set free"
Marcus Tullius Cicero came into philosophical fame during the Roman Republic era. At a very young age, Cicero, who came from a modest home, made it his ambition to hold a high political position in Rome. Unfortunately, his middle class ancestry restricted his ability in achieving his goals. As a result he sought a military position to gain authority. Cicero proved to be an ineffective soldier, which gradually lead him to select a career in law. In 63 B.C. he moved up in the Roman oligarchy by acquainting himself with many politicians who aided him in obtaining the title of "consul", the highest Roman office. In three years an effective rebel occurred against the Republic from the First Triumvirate of Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. They seized control of the Senate and enforced the ideals of the Roman Empire. Cicero was meant to be included because of his influence, but he clung to the old Republic ideals, which lead to his exile, and he was forbidden to take part in politics. During his exile, Cicero furthered his studies in philosophy for a year. Cicero still dreamed of the reincarnation of the old Republic, and wrote about the republic and on laws. During this time, it is most likely that the above quote was uttered.

Philosophy and jurisprudence were directly related in Cicero's studies. His studies included his despise of the Roman lifestyle, which consisted of low morals and disrespect for life. This lifestyle built the foundation for the laws that were set to keep Rome in order. Cicero's quote that in order to be truly content and limitless to the world, citizens must abide by the laws made by the Senate. "We are in bondage to the law..." suggests that as a group, the citizens of Rome were slaves to a greater influence, the laws that made Rome an exceptional kingdom. The laws made by the Senate were made to respect and protect the foundation of Rome and the interests of its people, "...in order that we may be set free." Cicero implies that, if the citizens of Rome follow the laws, they will be able to live their lives without being looked down upon by the rest of the citizens who follow the laws. In Cicero's political career, he held an important position in the Senate and was greatly respected.

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By instilling the importance of law and the imperativeness that it was obeyed, Cicero modeled the ideal Roman citizen which was one with respect for the state, and pride for it's heritage.

Through the latter part of Cicero's political career, he alleged that politicians were corrupt and had lost their sense of Rome's worth. Politicians produced laws that were lacking in morals, but were convenient for the aristocracy of Rome to follow. Many became carried away with obtaining prestige and wealth, and Cicero's endeavor at communicating his political goals became exceedingly trying. The laws at the time were not made in the interests of all citizens of Rome; rather they were made for the convenience of the upper class, the demoralization of the serfs and for defense. Absolute power was held over the lower classes by the upper classes of Roman law. The dignitaries dictated all the actions of the serfs, directly through laws or indirectly through accepted traditions. The quote applied mainly to the upper and middle classes because the lower classes were already in bondage. Even if the lower classes obeyed the law, they were not set free, instead, they were kept in repression by those who owned them. Cicero, in this case made reference to an irony, that is, by subjecting to the law one will be set free. The above quote is therefore a contradiction of the meaning of freedom because the law defines freedom. Freedom is the ability to be free and to make ones own choices. The lower classes that had to follow these laws had no hand in creating them, in fact, following the law further imprisoned them. The Senate and consul were typically made up of prosperous aristocratic families that held control over Rome for many years. Roman politics were therefore highly biased because it only considered the rights of the upper class. By adhering to a set of ideals, in which not all of society has a say in constructing, the people who are the decision makers establish laws that satisfy their own comfort. The lower classes of Rome were forced to abide by the law, and normally were dejected and treated as though they were not people but mere slaves. Most citizens of Rome who were in bondage to the laws were in fact kept in bondage by the laws.

Works Cited

Edward Clayton, "Marcus Tullius Cicero." [http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/c/cicero.htm#Cicero's%20life], Septemeber 2001. Johnston, David. Roman Law in Context. London: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Julian Tam, "A History of Ancient Rome." [http://www.cgocable.net/~jstam/History_of_Rome.html], September 2001.
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