In the following thesis, I will discuss the concept of law, as laid down by the renowned roman lawyer, orator and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero in his legal and philosophical treatise On Laws. The dialogue of the essay takes place in a single day, following the discussion between the author – the principle speaker –, his brother Quintus and his closest friend Atticus. During the course of three books, Cicero tries to form a set of laws that corresponds to the ideal (mixed) form of government, advocated for in his previous work On the Commonwealth.
All three remaining parts of the text are permeated by Cicero´s eclectical approach to the doctrinal asertments of the helenistic philosophical schools, particularly the stoic school of taught and its theory on natural law. With regard to the latter, the first book serves as a preamble to the laws, setting forth the fundamental principles, which are, although objectively not binding, crucial for achieving the purpose of human existence. In the second book, Cicero emphasizes the importance of being aware of the omnipresence of God as judge, thus consolidating the message of the preamble. He also stresses the need of forming religious laws with regard to the already enacted laws and traditions of Roman ancestors. Tradition further plays an important role in the provisions on magistrates in the third book. In this part, Cicero appeals directly to the most influential persons of roman society – the aristocrats, claiming that their intimate and subsequent outwardly expressed obedience to the imposed laws is key to correct implementation of the provisions among all people, and as result, for the preservation of the republic, which is to be governed by such laws.
The reader is constantly summoned to evaluate these general provisions from the perspective of one, seeking to achieve virtue or perfected reason, implanted in nature. However, as the extant text shows, the “goal of life” is not yet attained by becoming virtuous, but only when virtue is used for purposive action. And in the same way as Cicero asserts that all people have law, justice and reason in common, he calls on all, to publically engage in preserving the ideal community.