The subject of the 2018 program is a writer who is absolutely essential to the West: Marcus Tullius Cicero. He was a great republican statesman who grappled with empire, but he was also one of our greatest political and moral thinkers. Among his greatest achievements was the recreation of Greek philosophical vocabulary and its incorporation into the Latin tradition. As orator and rhetorical theorist, he is incomparable. If for no other reason, Cicero’s treatment of natural law is reason enough to devote years of study to his work.
Cicero’s significance goes well beyond his own time. His influence on later Roman writers on law, politics, and rhetoric is unmatched. Some of his works were read throughout the Middle Ages, and his influence reached new heights as the literary and intellectual mentor of Petrarch and the Renaissance humanists. Along with Vergil, Cicero is perhaps the most indispensable writer in our tradition.
But Cicero did not lose his grip on Europe either during the Reformation, when Melanchthon championed him, or during the 18th century when Edmund Burke essentially modeled his own career on that of Cicero. What Russell Kirk entitled the Burkean tradition might be more accurately termed the Ciceronian tradition.
Because of his achievements in his own time and his subsequent influence, Cicero deserves our attention. For that reason, we are titling our program: Cicero: The Man, His Age, His Enduring Influence.