Cicero’s Inadequacy

“The private virtues of Cicero, his rank in the literature of Rome, and his place in the history of civilization tempt and excuse the apologist, when he passes from the character of the orator to defend his policy. It is presumptuous to hold judgment over the dead at all, improper to adduce any standards other than those of a man’s time, class and station. Yet it was precisely in the eyes of contemporaries that Cicero was wanting, incompetent to emulate the contrasted virtues of Caesar and Cato, whom Sallustius, an honest man and no detractor of Cicero, reckoned as the greatest Romans of his time. Eager to maintain his dignitas as a consular, to pursue gloria as an orator and statesman, Cicero did not exhibit the measure of loyalty and constancy, of Roman virtus and aristocratic magnitudo animi that would have justified the exorbitant claims of his personal ambition.”

-Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (Clarendon Press 1960) p.146

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