Cicero and the Education of the Republic's Last Generation
Posted: 13 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
Amid the dysfunction of the late Roman Republic, the orator and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero composed On the Ideal Orator (de Oratore). In this dialogue, he sets forth an educational program whose purpose is the formation of a governing class marked by technical proficiency, wisdom, and collegiality. To this end, Cicero calls for orator-statesmen to be skilled in rhetoric as well as learned in the subjects of history, philosophy, and law. His subsequent dialogues On the Republic (de Republica) and On the Laws (de Legibus) serve as means to this end. In addition, Cicero criticizes the technical emphasis of fee-paying schools and instead advocates traditional methods of elite education that involve emulation, socialization, and the fostering of relationships between aspiring senators and leading members of the governing class. This paper unfolds in three parts: after outlining the process and development of elite education in the second and first centuries B.C., it moves on to consider the political crisis that prompted Cicero to set forth his program; the final part considers the form and content of Cicero’s early dialogues as they relate to the formation of the ideal statesman.
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