Saturday, May 23, 2009

Political Writings, by Cicero

Recently I read Jenny Hocking’s biography of Gough Whitlam and she started it off with this terrific quote from Cicero. It went something along the lines of, those who do not study history are condemned to always remain children. Hence I quickly borrowed whatever I could find from my local library on Cicero.

This Penguin edition of Cicero’s political speeches contains ten of the famous lawyer, writer and politician’s orations. It was the custom in those days (106-43 B.C) to publish written versions of speeches after they were given. The published speeches as a result could be a bit different here and there to the ones actually given.

These ten speeches are probably most interesting for the information they give us about Roman culture, money and politics in that day and age. Cicero is famed for his elegant writing, and on that count this volume doesn’t disappoint.

What does disappoint though is the fact that a lot of these speeches were given to push a particular political point or advantage. As a result you don’t get much of Cicero’s personal and philosophical views. This is more of an historian’s book (which I guess contradicts my intro to this post!).

I have read another book by Cicero, which dealt with his philosophical writings. This book I found very satisfactory. The political speeches included here I found interesting ( translator Michael Grant also provides an excellent introduction and notes), although not as compelling as Cicero’s other writings.

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