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Neglected Cicero

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I’ve been reading a ton of classic books the last few years to prepare for my retreat to Italy this summer, where I’ll be studying classical Rhetoric in Rome for a week alongside a selected group of other men from all over the world.  It’s difficult to pick but some of my favorite works have been Plutarch’s Lives, The Ethics of Rhetoric by Richard Weaver, On Duties by Cicero, The Iliad by Homer, and 12 Greeks and Romans Who Changed the World by Carl J. Richard.  I didn’t fully appreciate until diving so deep into the classics how influential the classical Greco-Roman world had been to the Founding Fathers of America, especially Cicero, the great orator, philosopher, writer, and statesman of the late Roman Republic. 

Cicero’s book, “On Duties” is one of the best I’ve ever read on moral philosophy, ethics, and leadership.  I would recommend buying it as a graduation gift for any young man or woman.  What’s fascinating is how similar and influential Cicero’s stoic philosophy and adherence to “natural law” was to later Christianity, which was to rise immediately in the centuries after Cicero’s death. (Cicero died in 43 BC.)  Cicero left a legacy of books, essays, and speeches unrivaled in scope, eloquence, and significance in the ancient world.  Though he didn’t invent any new philosophical doctrines, his assimilation of difficult Greek philosophical terms into Latin and his mastery of Latin itself, as well as his rhetorical mastery and his eventual martyrdom to republican principles make him a model of leadership to anyone interested in the topic.  Everyone from St. Jerome to Erasmus to Martin Luther to John Adams has claimed him as an inspiration. 

For someone you hardly see referenced in modern times, Cicero is a man for all seasons.  Highly recommended!

Read next: Avoidance

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