Fall 2016

Cicero: Law and Crisis in the Roman Republic

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-258

Moodle site: Course


Sarah Johnson (Section 01)


This course examines the legal and moral writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero in their historical context: the Roman Republic’s tumultuous final century. Through his roles as a public official, lawyer, and philosopher, Cicero became one of the most important figures in the history of Roman law. We will explore how he understood the nature of law, obligation, and justice through close readings of his treatises and speeches, and we will pay especially close attention to his claims about how we should navigate conflicts between doing what is right and doing what is expedient. We will also examine how he dealt with these same conflicts in practice, namely as a public official who was intent on defending the Republic from the civil and moral crises that threatened it. Throughout the course we will use the writings of Roman and Greek historians to study the wars, conspiracies, and class conflicts that shaped Cicero’s experiences in, and reflections upon, Roman public life. Readings will include Cicero’s Catilinarian Orations, On the Republic, On the Laws, and On Duties, as well as works by Sallust, Livy, Plutarch, and Appian.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Johnson.

If Overenrolled: Priority given to LJST majors


Attention to Writing


2019-20: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016