Cicero, On the Laws II.3-5

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On the two patriae
Name of the author: 
Cicero
Date: 
52 CE to 51 CE
Place: 
Rome
Language: 
Latin
Category: 
Roman
Literary genre: 
Philosophical treatise
Title of work: 
On the Laws
Reference: 
II.3-5
Circumstances: 

© Plinval, George de, Cicéron, Traité des lois (edition and translation by George de Plinval; Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1959), p. 38-40.
We thank Les Belles Lettres for granting us the right to quote this text which is under copyright. 

II.3 Marcus: 1 Quia, si verum dicimus, haec est mea et huius fratris mei germana patria. Hinc enim orti stirpe antiquissima sumus, hic sacra, hic genus, hic maiorum multa vestigia. 2 Quid plura? Hanc vides villam, ut nunc quidem est lautius aedificatam patris nostri studio, qui cum esset infirma valetudine, hic fere aetatem egit in litteris. 3 Sed hoc ipso in loco, cum avos viveret et antiquo more parva esset villa, ut illa Curiana in Sabinis, me scito esse natum. 4 Quare inest nescio quid et latet in animo ac sensu meo, quo me plus aequo hic locus fortasse delectet, nec sine causa si quidem etiam ille sapientissimus vir, Ithacam ut videret, inmortalitatem scribitur repudiasse.

II.4 Atticus: 1 Ego vero tibi istam iustam causam puto, cur huc libentius venias atque hunc locum diligas. 2 Quin ipse, vere dicam, sum illi villae amicior modo factus atque huic omni solo, in quo tu ortus et procreatus es. 3 Movemur enim nescio quo pacto locis ipsis, in quibus eorum quos diligimus aut admiramur, adsunt vestigia. 4 Me quidem ipsae illae nostrae Athenae non tam operibus magnificis exquisitisque antiquorum artibus delectant quam recordatione summorum virorum, ubi quisque habitare, ubi sedere, ubi disputare sit solitus, studioseque eorum etiam sepulchra contemplor. 5 Quare istum, ubi tu es natus, plus amabo posthac locum.

Marcus: 6 Gaudeo igitur me incunabula paene mea tibi ostendisse.

II.5 Atticus: 1 Equidem me cognosse admodum gaudeo. 2 Sed illud tamen quale est quod paulo ante dixisti, hunc locum – id est, utego te accipio dicere Arpinum – germanam patriam esse vestram? 3 Numquid duas habetis patrias, an est una illa patria communis? 4 Nisi forte sapienti illi Catoni fuit patria non Roma, sed Tusculum.

Marcus: 5 Ego mehercule et illi et omnibus municipibus duas esse censeo patrias, unam naturae, alteram civitatis:6 ut ille Cato, quom esset Tusculi natus, in populi Romani civitatem susceptus est, ita, quom ortu Tusculanus esset, civitate Romanus, habuit alteram loci patriam, alteram iuris; 7 ut vestri Attici, priusquam Theseus eos demigrare ex agris et in astu quod appellatur omnes conferre se iussit, et sui erant demi et Attici, sic nos et eam patriam dicimus, ubi nati, et illam, a qua exceptisumus. 8 Sed necesse est caritate eam praestare e qua rei publicae nomen universae civitatis est, pro qua mori et cui nos totos dedere et in qua nostra omnia ponere et quasi consecrare debemus. 9 Dulcis autem non multo secus est ea quae genuit quam illa quae excepit. 10 Itaque ego hanc meam esse patriam prorsus numquam negabo, dum illa sit maior, haec in ea contineatur *** habet civitatis set unam illam civitatem putat.


Note: The lacuna in the last sentence, II.5.10, makes it difficult to understand the end of the text. habet civitatis set unam illam civitatem putat appears in various manuscripts (BAεHL) and is retained by Plinval, however in his recent edition of the De Legibus Jonathan G. F. Powell ends the text with haec in ea contineatur, see De re publica, De legibus, Cato maior de senectute, Laelius de amicitia. Tulli Ciceronis (ed. by Jonathan G. F. Powell; Oxford Classical Texts; New York – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 195.

Commentary: 

This famous text is an excerpt from Marcus Tullius Cicero’s treatise, On the laws (De legibus), which was written at the end of the 50’s BCE, probably after his treatise On the Republic (De re publica). For Andrew Dyck, Cicero might have continued the writing of the De legibus a short time after his departure in May 51 BCE from fulfilling his proconsulate in Cilicia (on the dating, see Dyck, A commentary, p. 5-7). Admitting that the De legibus was written at the end of the 50’s, Cicero wrote this work while he had previously been attending to the progressive disruption of the triumvirate that was concluded at Lucca in 56 BCE. Actually, Crassus had been killed in 53 BCE during the terrible battle of Carrhae, a situation leaving the field clear for a direct confrontation between Pompey and Caesar. In such a context and probably also with the aim of “supplementing” the De re publica (see Dyck, A commentary, p. 12), Cicero reacted and spoke in favour of a kind of moral and political restoration. Having imagined the best form of political regime – the object of the treatise De re publica –, he thus deals in this work with the best-suited laws for this ideal regime.

Nowadays, this workis composed of three books, but it may have originally contained no fewer than five. In addition, it is highly plausible that the work was largely unfinished (Dyck, A commentary, p. 28-30). In this specific treatise, Cicero broaches the subject through a fictive dialogue between himself, his brother Quintus and his friend Atticus. Having dealt in the first book with the grounding of ius (law) in nature, Cicero deals in the second book with the question of the laws related to religion and cults. The passage under study here is an extract from the very beginning of this second book, before the characters get to the heart of the matter. Cicero speaks to Atticus about all the pleasure that he has to go back to his native patria, namely his homeland at Arpinum. Atticus reacts and asks Cicero how he could have both a “patria of nature” and a “patria of right”. The explanations given by Cicero will be analysed here to understand the relationship between local status and Roman citizenship.

First, it is important to recall that Cicero wrote this treatise around 52 BCE, that is, nearly thirty seven years after the Social War, and eighteen years after the censorship of 70-69 BCE which really initiated and sped up the process of the integration of the Italians within the community of the Roman citizens. The object of the discussion here and the fact that Cicero repeats twice that Rome is the patria in which his family “has been received (excepti sumus)” (II.5.7) refers explicitly to this process. However, the integration of his family in the Roman citizenship was not a recent process, it occurred five or six generations before; as a matter of fact, his local patria, Arpinum, had obtained the full Roman citizenship in 188 BCE. Moreover, it is also important to remember that the whole debate between Cicero and Atticus about the patria according to nature or law is envisaged from the sole point of view of the “Roman” cities (that is colonies or municipalities) and not from that of the peregrine cities, which continued to keep their own constitutions (Demougin, “Citoyennetés multiples,” p. 100).

The conversation between Cicero and Atticus stresses the importance of the local patria (loci patriam, II.5.6), which is also mentioned in the text as “my actual patria” (mea germania patria, II.3.1; II.5.2), “my cradle” (incunabula mea, II.4.6), the “patria of nature” (unam naturae, II.5.5).
The way Cicero depicts his own patria helps us to understand which criterion determined the belonging to a local patria. First, it is important to remember that, for a Roman citizen, his patria of origin defined his identity as it could appear in his civic nomenclature (see Demougin, “Citoyennetés multiples,” p. 101). Second, the “patria of nature” mentioned in this speech has to be identified with the legal notion of origo which appeared slightly later, under the Julio-Claudians (on the emergence of the origo see Thomas, Origine, p. 127-132). Following Cicero’s and Atticus’s discussion about the “patria of nature,” they repeatedly stress the fact that it is the place of birth (II.3.1 Hinc enim orti... sumus, “we were born here”; II.3.3 me... esse natum, “I myself was born”; II.4.2 tu ortus et procreatus es, “you were born and bred up here”; II.4.5 ubi tu es natus, “you were born here”; II.4.6 incunabula mea, “my cradle”; II.5.6 quom esset Turculi natus, “[Cato] though born at Tusculum”; II.5.6 quom ortu Tusculanus esset, “as he was a Tusculan by birth”). Nevertheless, Yan Thomas has shown that the origo, to which the two protagonists refer here, and the place of birth were two different things. The origo, as the “patria of nature,” referred to the local city to which every man was legally bound, and it is was determined not by birth – for the Romans, the place of birth had no legal meaning – but by parentage. Thus, a young Roman citizen inherited his origo from his father. The origo was thus a transgenerational, permanent link with a city which, from a legal point of view, was totally independent from the place of birth or the place of residence (domicilium) (see Thomas, Origine, p. 61-68). Coming back to our text in which the “patria of nature” plays the role of the origo, it is obvious that Cicero insists a lot on the fact that his local patria was also his birthplace. He may have added this point to give more credit to his attachment to his local patria. At the beginning of the discussion, he deals more explicitly with what determined his origo: “We were born here from a very ancient local family (stirpe antiquissima); here are our sacred rites (sacra), here is our family (genus), and here still remain many vestiges of our ancestors (maiorum)” (II.3.1). We can find the same idea of filiation in the passage in which Cicero explains that his villa of Arpinum was also the place wherein his father and his grandfather lived (II.3.2-3). Through these sentences, Cicero explicitly connected his origo to the fact that it was also that of his parentage. His belonging to his natural patria of Arpinum has thus been allotted to him by inheritance only (see Thomas, Origine, p. 65-66).

Speaking about their local patria, both Cicero and Atticus use the language of emotion, as for instance when Cicero says: “For there is something indescribable that pervades my soul and sense and that causes me, perhaps, to feel a greater pleasure in this place” (II.3.4, Quare inest nescio quid et latet in animo ac sensu meo, quo me plus aequo hic locus fortasse delectet...); or the lexical field of love and sensibility which pervaded Atticus’s replica in II.4. This emotional attachment to the local city clearly echoes the Greek civic model. A parallel is explicitly made by Cicero who compares his link with Arpinum with the attachment of Ulysses to Ithaca (II.3.4). In addition, Atticus mentions the fact that he was from Athens and that his love for his local patria expresses itself through his admiration for the civic community, especially for past great men (II.4.4). Once again, such a connection with the local patria can give the impression that the Roman civic model was quite similar to the Greek civic model – namely a community living in a territory whose centre was an urban core and/or a political centre, a community having institutions, laws and duties in common.

However, in the second part of this text, from the second mention of Atticus onwards (II.5), Cicero complicates the issue by affirming, through the voice of the characters, that this “patria of nature” was a secondary element compared to the other patria that unified most of the Italians after the Social War. Thus, even if Cicero insists on the charm of local particularism, the second part of the text asserts that the legal patria, defined by Roman citizenship, clearly transcends all the local patriae, and this even if the local patria acted as some kind of usual springboard for the Roman citizenship (in this perspective, Yan Thomas writes: “On a affaire à une organisation à deux degrés, où la patrie locale est le tremplin de la commune patrie; où l’appartenance à un municipe, à une colonie, voire à une communauté de citoyens romains officiellement reconnue dans une cité pérégrine (...) est la voie normale d’accès à la civitas Romana, laquelle culmine sur cet ensemble”; Thomas, Origine, p. 83).

To present this second patria as one that transcends the local one, Cicero uses the example of Cato, for whom Tusculum was his geographic patria and Rome his legal one (II.5.5-6). This second patria is mentioned through various expressions: an est una illa patria communis?, “is our common patria the only one?” (II.5.3); Roma (II.5.4), alteram [patriam] civitatis, “the other, the patria of citizenship” (II.5.5); alteram [patriam] iuris, “the other, the patria of right” (II.5.6). It is important to note that, during the imperial period, jurists called this legal patria, the communis patria (Thomas, « Origine », p. 10).
After insisting on the duality of the patria (II.5.5-6), Cicero highlights the fact that this legal patria is superior to the local one, and that it has to be exalted because it is a central element for the good functioning of the Republic: “But must stand first in our affection that fatherland (i.e. the legal patria) through which the name of respublica is the one of a universal city (civitas universa). This is the fatherland for which we should die, it is to her that we ought to devote ourselves entirely, and it is for her that we ought to dedicate and consecrate all that is ours” (II.5.8). In this passage, Cicero gets into the politico-philosophical dimension of his treatise. He thus associates the legal patria with the Res publica and presents them as the common good that everybody has to serve and towards which everybody has to show some pietas, or in other terms, towards which one must fulfil one’s duties. As Claude Nicolet rightly writes, this legal patria refers directly to the unified legal community of the Roman citizens who, at the end of the Republican period, could pretend to exercise freely their political rights, at least when the power was not confiscated by a single man or faction (Nicolet, Le métier, p. 64-65). Moreover, in II.5.8, Cicero implicitly justifies the superiority of the legal patria by the fact that it is a guarantee of unity within the Roman State. The strength of this supra-civic community is actually the encompassing nature of the citizenship, which enables all new Roman citizens, wherever they live, to be linked to one city – Rome - and to share common rights. Following Claude Nicolet’s words, these suggestions of the superiority and universal character of Roman citizenship fits in perfectly with the idea that this legal patria refers to “the government of the world” (Nicolet, Le métier, p. 64). Commenting also this passage of the De legibus, Claudia Moatti rightly concludes that here Cicero distorts the traditional definition of the respublica as he implies that the respublica is not the organic community that the polis was for Aristotle – that is a concrete space made of real, juxtaposed and hierarchized groups – but a community whose unique and main bond is a legal one, a particularity that made that this community had a universal vocation (Moatti, “Respublica et droit,” p. 833).

Besides, the fact that this communis patria includes all the local patriae and that Roman citizenship is seen as transcending local status, shows that the Roman civic model was clearly different from the Greek one. Contrary to the situation in Greek-speaking cities, wherein multiple citizenships were a usual component of the civic life, in the Latin-speaking part of the Roman Empire, Roman citizens had only one citizenship. This fact is confirmed by the last words of Cicero in this text. Even if the lacuna prevents us from understanding precisely the last sentence, the words “but considers this city as unique” (set unam illam civitatem putat) clearly steps in that direction (see Demougin, “Citoyennetés multiples,” p. 109). To sum up, a Roman citizen had only one citizenship, but he could belong to one (the case exposed here by Cicero) or to various Roman civic communities which, however, were not equal as only one city could be that of his origo (see Demougin, “Citoyennetés multiples,” p. 99-106).

Through this fictive speech on the two patriae, Cicero clearly shows how the Roman conception of citizenship was original. Having recalled how important his local patria, or patria of nature, was, Cicero insists on the fact that it is transcended by a legal patria, the civitas romana. Belonging to these two patriae does not mean that a Roman citizen had a double citizenship. He had only one citizenship, the Roman one, but one or various local status(es) fitted into this Roman citizenship (David, “Rome,” p. 40; Demougin, “Citoyennetés multiples,” p. 99-106). However, this superiority of the civitas romana does not mean that the spread of Roman citizenship led to the annihilation of the local civic statuses. On the contrary, this text shows that in spite of the spread of Roman citizenship and of the municipalisation of the civic communities in Italy, at the end of the Republican period, civic status and local identity remained a source of pride and were used as a complementary criterion of self-definition by the Roman citizens.

Bibliographical references: 
Demougin, Ségolène, “Citoyennetés multiples en Occident?”, in Patrie d'origine et patries électives: les citoyennetés multiples dans le monde grec d'époque romaine. Actes du colloque international de Tours, 6-7 novembre 2009 (ed. Anna Heller , Anne-Valérie Pont; Bordeaux: Ausonius, 2012), 99-109
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Cicero, On the Laws II.3-5
Author(s) of this publication: Marie Roux
Publishing date: Wed, 06/27/2018 - 10:54
URL: http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/cicero-laws-ii3-5
Visited: Wed, 05/22/2019 - 17:39

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