|Publication Date||July 8, 2017|
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De Officiis (On Duties or On Obligations) is a treatise by Marcus Tullius Cicero divided into three books, in which Cicero expounds his conception of the best way to live, behave, and observe moral obligations. De Officiis was written in October–November 44 BC, in under four weeks. This was Cicero's last year alive, and he was 62 years of age. Cicero was at this time still active in politics, trying to stop revolutionary forces from taking control of the Roman Republic. Despite his efforts, the republican system failed to revive even upon the assassination of Caesar, and Cicero was himself assassinated shortly thereafter. The essay was written in the form of a letter to his son with the same name, who studied philosophy in Athens. Judging from its form, it is nonetheless likely that Cicero wrote with a broader audience in mind. The essay was published posthumously. De Officiis has been characterized as an attempt to define ideals of public behavior. It criticizes the recently overthrown dictator Julius Caesar in several places, and his dictatorship as a whole. Although Cicero was influenced by the Academic, Peripatetic, and Stoic schools of Greek philosophy, this work shows the influence of the Stoic philosopher Panaetius. The essay discusses what is honorable (Book I), what is expedient or to one's advantage (Book II), and what to do when the honorable and expedient conflict (Book III). Cicero says they are the same and that they only appear to be in conflict. In Book III, Cicero expresses his own ideas. Michael Grant tells us that "Cicero himself seems to have regarded this treatise as his spiritual testament and masterpiece." Cicero claims that the absence of political rights corrupts moral virtues. Cicero also speaks of a natural law that is said to govern both humans and gods alike. Cicero urged his son Marcus to follow nature and wisdom, as well as politics, and warned against pleasure and indolence. Cicero's essay relies heavily on anecdotes, much more than his other works, and is written in a more leisurely and less formal style than his other writings, perhaps because he wrote it hastily. Like the satires of Juvenal, Cicero's De Officiis refers frequently to current events of his time.
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