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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2009

Andre Laks
Affiliation:
Princeton University, New Jersey
Malcolm Schofield
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

‘Live unknown’, said the Epicureans, enjoining abstinence from politics. The Stoics, by contrast, believed that the wise man should go into public life if the circumstances were right, but held notoriously utopian and in the end depoliticized conceptions of the good community. Neither school debated the merits of oligarchy and democracy or tried to work out detailed prescriptions for the best constitution. These intellectual postures have sometimes been seen as appropriate and indeed inevitable responses to the decline of the polis in the age of the Hellenistic kingdoms: no polis, no political philosophy.

There is of course a grain of truth in this conventional picture of political thought — or its absence — in the Hellenistic period. But the present volume tells a more nuanced and complex story. One reason is that it reflects theorizing undertaken from a Roman perspective. Rome was the greatest of the Mediterranean cities of the time, and Rome was not a monarchy but an independent republic governed according to a distinctive constitutional structure which invited analysis along broadly Aristotelian lines. The principal surviving analyses, albeit fragmentarily preserved, come from the pens of Polybius, writing in the mid-second century BC, and Cicero, a hundred years later. Chapters 1 and 2 discuss the way in which these two authors draw on a wide range of Greek intellectual models to devise accounts of constitutional development (ch. 1) and of the moral and intellectual requirements the statesman — conceived as the magistrate of a republic — must satisfy (ch. 2), which are then applied to the case of Rome.

Type
Chapter
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Justice and Generosity
Studies in Hellenistic Social and Political Philosophy - Proceedings of the Sixth Symposium Hellenisticum
, pp. 1 - 4
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1995

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  • Introduction
  • Edited by Andre Laks, Princeton University, New Jersey, Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Justice and Generosity
  • Online publication: 15 October 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511518485.002
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  • Introduction
  • Edited by Andre Laks, Princeton University, New Jersey, Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Justice and Generosity
  • Online publication: 15 October 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511518485.002
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Edited by Andre Laks, Princeton University, New Jersey, Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Justice and Generosity
  • Online publication: 15 October 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511518485.002
Available formats
×