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Popular sovereignty in the late Roman Republic: Cicero and the will of the people

Arena, V; (2016) Popular sovereignty in the late Roman Republic: Cicero and the will of the people. In: Popular Sovereignty in Historical Perspective. (pp. 73-95). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

This chapter is concerned with the development of Cicero's conception of the relationship between popular sovereignty and aristocratic government from the De re publica to the De legibus. When placed in its political and intellectual contexts, this development represents a significant strengthening of its aristocratic bias – specifically when considering Cicero's proposed reforms to the institutions of the senate and censorship as well as to the right to vote and the tribunate. The most striking conceptual outcome of this development is a transformation, to use Cicero's own terms, of real liberty into an empty ‘species libertatis’. While some modern commentators have interpreted these two theoretical works as complementing one another, others have described the form of government resulting from Book 3 of the De legibus as a ‘strengthened control from the top’, to use Dyck's expression, often denouncing Cicero's blind conservatism and the resulting political system as almost an anecdotal curiosity. Intervening in the contemporary political and intellectual debate on the censorship and in dialogue with his Platonic model, Cicero re-elaborates the notion of popular sovereignty as formulated in the De re publica. In the De legibus he advances not only an institutional reordering of the commonwealth, but rather a different conception of the commonwealth, characterised by a ‘quasi-alienation’ of the people's sovereignty.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Popular sovereignty in the late Roman Republic: Cicero and the will of the people
ISBN-13: 9781107130401
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781316418024.004
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316418024
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10137806
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