Cicero and the Stability of States
History of Political Thought, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 397-423, 2011
42 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 24 Feb 2012
Date Written: 2010
I argue for the originality and interest of Cicero’s views on the stability of political communities. After a survey of ancient ideas on the mixed constitution (the framework for thinking about the stability of political communities in the ancient world), I show how Cicero adapted these ideas to analyze the Roman situation of his time. Cicero’s version of the theory of the mixed constitution is notable for two innovations: an argument that stability is possible even under conditions of high inequality, and an account of constitutional mixture that emphasizes the role of the “monarchic” element in promoting concord and stability and meeting unexpected challenges. I show, however, that this account unfortunately made it clear that the Roman crisis of Cicero’s time was more or less insoluble in ways that would preserve the republic.
Keywords: Cicero, History of Political Thought, States, Stability, Plato, Aristotle
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