Access this past course AU $180/$265

Marcus Tullius Cicero: Philosopher, Statesman, Orator

Lecturer: Matthew Sharpe

Originally Taught: Evening Sem 1 2015

6.30-8.30pm Every 2nd Wed - Starts 25 March - Room 109
(Note: first class only runs 6-8pm)
Classes: 25 March, 8 April, 22 April, 6 May, 20 May, 3 June

The works of Marcus Tullius Cicero exerted an extraordinary, continuous influence on Western thought and philosophy until the 19th century, and ‘Tully’ (as he was affectionately known even in the 18th century) was revered during the renaissance and the enlightenment.  An extraordinarily complex figure—philosopher, lawyer, orator, statesman, and historian; in parts Sceptic, Platonician, patriot and Stoic—Cicero was a fierce republican opponent to Cataline, Clodius, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, as well as (in his 'politically enforced leisure') the author of works on rhetoric, law, politics, religion, ethics, and epistemology.  It is to these works, mostly still extant, that we owe a good deal of our knowledge of the Hellenistic and Roman thought (in comparison to which, ironically, his work has been devalued as unoriginal or derivative).  In this course, we will take a leisurely look at Cicero's works on rhetoric, politics, epistemology (theory of knowledge), religion, ethics, the emotions and the good life.  Classes will mix lectures aiming to elucidate Cicero’s contexts, influences, interlocutors and concerns, with reading and commentary on specific passages.  In doing the course, students will be gaining insight into one of the most influential thinkers in Western history, living and writing in a moment in history oddly reminiscent of our own, and aiming everywhere to reconcile the life of the mind with ethical and political concerns.

Course Schedule

  • Why Brutus cried ‘Cicero!’ on the Ides: how Cicero brought philosophy to Romulus’ sewers
  • Cicero the Orator: and an introduction to the ancient rhetorical tradition
  • Cicero the Statesman: the Republic and the Laws
  • Cicero and ‘political theology’: and an introduction to ancient religions
  • Cicero the philosopher: on the end of life, and how to get there from Tusculum
  • The final three works: offices, friendship, and old age

Recommended Reading

  • Cicero, De Inventione 1.1-5
  • Everitt, Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
  • Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
  • Neal Wood, "Cicero's Significance" and chapter 1 in Cicero's Social and Political Thought