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In this introductory lecture, Dr. Fleming recommends Cicero as a moral guide and example of character in a time of tumult. Although Cicero was ultimately a victim of the political violence during the dissolution of the Republic he labored to save, his abiding influence in the Roman Empire makes him among the most enduring noble losers in history. His contemporaries and later admirers, such as Sallust and Plutarch, sketch a picture of the steadfast defender of Roman traditions who opposed the populist corruption of the late Roman Republic. Cicero defended Roman institutions from the revolutionary and reforming conspiracies of Catiline and Caesar, and then produced the valuable work On Duties during the uncertain times immediately after Caesar’s assassination and the war between Octavian and Brutus. The ambitious politicians of that day, increasingly resorting to radical, direct appeals to the mob, illustrated a moral decline that Cicero combated by transmitting the ethical traditions that had established the Roman Republic. Although the agrarian lifestyle continued to decline with the advent of Imperial Rome, Cicero’s contributions were treasured by the new Imperial administrators.
Dr. Fleming here outlines the career, works, and principal sources on Cicero and his age. He sketches the challenges of the age and Cicero’s valuable conservative labors. He makes comparisons between Cicero’s principled explanations of property rights and the duties of citizens with modern liberal notions and laws, and explains that seeing our modern world through Cicero’s eyes liberates us from the ideological blindness characteristic of our age.5 Minute Free Preview