Cicero's philosophical works are now exciting renewed interest and more generous appreciation, in part because he provides vital evidence of the views of the (largely lost) Greek philosophers of the Hellenistic age, and partly because of the light he casts on the intellectual life of first-century Rome. Hellenistic philosophy has in recent years attracted growing interest from academic philosophers in Europe and in North America. The Nature of the Gods is a document of central significance in this area, for it presents a detailed account of the theologies of the Epicureans and of the Stoics, together with the critical objections to these doctrines raised by the Academic school. When these Greek theories of deity are translated into the Roman context, a fascinating clash of ideologies results.
Towards the end of his life, Cicero turned away from his oratorical and political career and looked instead to matters of philosophy and religion. The dialogue The Nature of the Gods both explores his own views on these subjects, as a monotheist and member of the Academic School, and considers the opinion of other philosophical schools of the Hellenistic age through the figures of Velleius the Epicurean and Balbus the Stoic. Eloquent, clearly argued and surprisingly modern, it focuses upon a series of fundamental religious questions including: is there a God? If so, does he answer prayers, or intervene in human affairs? Does he know the future? Does morality need the support of religion? Profoundly influential on later thinkers, such as Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, this is a fascinating consideration of fundamental issues of faith and philosophical thought.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), Roman orator and statesman, was born at Arpinum of a wealthy local family. By 70 BC he had established himself as the leading barrister in Rome, and was elected praetor in the year 66. Obtaining honours usually reserved for members of the aristocracy, Cicero was an uncompromising politician, and the greatest Roman orator. Horace C. P. McGregor graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford, in classics and philosophy. He entered the Home Office where he served until his retirement in 1967. He died in 1993. John M. Ross was a colleague of McGregor's, also with a degree in classics and philosophy.
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