Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 September 2020
Cicero is often perceived as someone who lived intensely in the present moment, as he did during the Catilinarian conspiracy, for example, or the outbreak of the civil war. He is also said to have had a knack for nostalgia. While in exile and during the civil war, he spent a great deal of time deploring his former glory. He is less known for his contemplation on Rome’s future. Yet, as Girardet brilliantly demonstrates,1De legibus is one of the most powerful prefigurations of the Roman Empire. The texts we present and analyze here are for the most part less well known than his treatise on laws, which is of Platonic inspiration. Nonetheless they reveal the complexity of Cicero’s concerns about the future of Rome. We need not insist here on Cicero’s importance as both a major witness and actor in a century in which Rome became the foremost power in the Mediterranean world. This also happened to be the moment of a terrible crisis that led to a civil war that most Romans perceived as absolute nefas, that is to say, the abomination of desolation.