Cicero, Roman Republicanism and the Contested Meaning of Libertas

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Abstract

Despite growing interest in neo-Roman republicanism, few republicans examine the character of Roman republicanism, either in its constitutional practice, its social relations or in the works of its primary defenders. This article examines Cicero's two systematic dialogues of political philosophy – De Re Publica and De Legibus – in order to assess the status of liberty as ‘non-domination’ in these texts. It argues that, far from liberty as non-domination being the operative conceptual ideal in Cicero's republicanism, concordia along with equity as a form of proportionate equality that depends upon the recognition of substantive differences of status and power serves as the foundation of his republican political thought. This form of ordered liberty is offered as an alternative to the conception of liberty as a form of ‘non-domination’ that Cicero attributes to the democracies of ancient Greece and the populist project of popular reformers such as Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus.

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