This page contains a list of the eight best books on or by Cicero. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books by Cicero” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview, a third person may be looking for classic works by Cicero. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on or by Cicero. Here are the best books on Cicero in no particular order:
Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician – Anthony Everitt
He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his opponents’ sexual peccadilloes. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius of political manipulation but also a true patriot and idealist, Cicero was Rome’s most feared politician, one of the greatest lawyers and statesmen of all times. Machiavelli, Queen Elizabeth, John Adams and Winston Churchill all studied his example. No man has loomed larger in the political history of mankind.
In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life in these pages as a witty and cunning political operator.
Selected Works – Cicero
Lawyer, philosopher, statesman and defender of Rome’s Republic, Cicero was a master of eloquence, and his pure literary and oratorical style and strict sense of morality have been a powerful influence on European literature and thought for over two thousand years in matters of politics, philosophy, and faith. This selection demonstrates the diversity of his writings, and includes letters to friends and statesmen on Roman life and politics; the vitriolic Second Philippic Against Antony; and his two most famous philosophical treatises, On Duties and On Old Age – a celebration of his own declining years. Written at a time of brutal political and social change, Cicero’s lucid ethical writings formed the foundation of the Western liberal tradition in political and moral thought that continues to this day.
Orations – Cicero
The greatest orator of the late Roman Republic, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.), influenced the course of European letters for centuries after his death. Through his writings, Renaissance and Enlightenment scholars encountered the riches of Classical rhetoric and philosophy. The elegance of his style, his skill and erudition, his worldly wisdom, and his profound humanity made Cicero a model for latter-day thinkers and keep his works ever relevant.
This collection presents examples of rhetoric from throughout the ancient Roman’s illustrious career. Selections include a series of famous speeches delivered during Cicero’s term as consul which thwarted the Catiline conspiracy to overthrow the Republic — but led to his own prosecution and exile. The compilation concludes with the bold orations delivered in defiance of Marc Anthony, which sealed Cicero’s doom.
Tusculan Disputations – Cicero
Cicero (Marcus Tullius, 10643 BCE), Roman lawyer, orator, politician and philosopher, of whom we know more than of any other Roman, lived through the stirring era which saw the rise, dictatorship, and death of Julius Caesar in a tottering republic. In his political speeches especially and in his correspondence we see the excitement, tension and intrigue of politics and the part he played in the turmoil of the time. Of about 106 speeches, delivered before the Roman people or the Senate if they were political, before jurors if judicial, 58 survive (a few of them incompletely). In the fourteenth century Petrarch and other Italian humanists discovered manuscripts containing more than 900 letters of which more than 800 were written by Cicero and nearly 100 by others to him. These afford a revelation of the man all the more striking because most were not written for publication. Six rhetorical works survive and another in fragments. Philosophical works include seven extant major compositions and a number of others; and some lost. There is also poetry, some original, some as translations from the Greek.
On the Commonwealth and On the Laws – Cicero
Cicero’s On the Commonwealth and On the Laws are his most important works of political philosophy. The present volume offers a scholarly reconstruction of the fragments of On the Commonwealth and a masterly translation of both dialogues. The texts are supported by a helpful, concise introduction, notes and other aids. Students in politics, philosophy, ancient history, law and classics will gain a new understanding of this seminal thinker thanks to Professor Zetzel’s volume.
De Officiis – Cicero
Cicero wrote On Obligations (De Officiis) in late 44 BC after the assassination of Julius Caesar to provide principles of behavior for aspiring politicians. It has subsequently played a seminal role in the formation of ethical values in western Christendom. Adopted by the fourth-century Christian humanists, it became transmuted into the moral code of the high Middle Ages. Thereafter, in the Renaissance from the time of Petrarch, and in the Age of Enlightenment that followed, it was given central prominence in discussion of the government of states. Today, when corruption and conflict in political life are the focus of so much public attention, On Obligations is still the foremost guide to good conduct. This new edition is based on a more systematic examination of the vast manuscript tradition than has previously been attempted, and shows with new clarity the major contribution to the improvement of the text made by scribes and readers of the later manuscripts, both in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance.
On Moral Ends – Cicero
This new translation makes one of the most important texts in ancient philosophy freshly available to modern readers. Cicero was an intelligent and well-educated amateur philosopher, and in this work he presents the major ethical theories of his time in a way designed to get the reader philosophically engaged in the important debates. Raphael Woolf’s translation does justice to Cicero’s argumentative vigor as well as to the philosophical ideas involved, while Julia Annas’ introduction and notes provide a clear and accessible explanation of the philosophical context of the work.
The Nature of the Gods – Cicero
Cicero’s philosophical works are now exciting renewed interest and more generous appreciation, in part because they provide vital evidence of the views of the (largely lost) Greek philosophers of the Hellenistic age, and partly because of the light they cast on the intellectual life of first-century Rome. The Nature of the Gods is a central document in this area, for it presents a detailed account of the theologies of the Epicureans and of the Stoics, together with the critical objections to these doctrines raised by the Academic school.
This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:
- browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
- searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
- browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- searching for recommendations on philosophy forums
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
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