“Thus before our time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their fore-fathers. But though the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colours, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines. For what is now left of the ‘ancient customs’ on which ’the commonwealth of Rome’ was ‘founded firm’? They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practised, but are already unknown. And what shall I say of the men? For the loss of our customs is due to our lack of men, and for this great evil we must not only give an account, but must even defend ourselves in every way possible, as if we were accused of capital crime. For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the form of the commonwealth, but have long since lost its substance.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Greek philosophy and rhetoric moved fully into Latin for the first time in the speeches, letters and dialogues of Cicero (106-43 B.C.), the greatest orator of the late Roman Republic. A brilliant lawyer and the first of his family to achieve Roman office, Cicero was one of the leading political figures of the era of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Marc Antony and Octavian. A string of misjudged alliances saw him exiled and eventually murdered, but Cicero’s writings barely waned in influence over the centuries.