The rector rei publicae of Cicero’s De Republics

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J.G.F. Powell


The phrase rector rei publicae in Cicero’s fragmentary De Republica has given rise to extensive debate. It is often held that the rector rei publicae is, inevitably, one man. The present article seeks to demonstrate that this is a mistaken interpretation. It offers arguments to show that the rector is no more than the Latin for ‘statesman’, an expert in the art of government. Before Cicero’s work, Latin did not have this precise item of terminology, and I suggest that the Greek term politikos (as in Plato’s Politicus) is in the back of Cicero’s mind. Further, the constitution as such is less important than the existence of a plurality of well-trained citizens who are prepared to put aside any private gain for the good of the state.

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