This article examines a simile preserved in the fragmentary book 5 of Cicero's De Re Publica, which figures the ideal statesman (rector rei publicae) in terms of a farm bailiff (vilicus) and a household steward (dispensator). Through a philological, philosophical, and socio-cultural explication of these similes and their context within De Re Publica, this article argues that Cicero draws upon Greek philosophical treatments of household and political relations and reworks traditional Roman political ideology so as to refigure the conceptual relationship between the statesman and the state: from the farmer of res publica to its subservient, yet still overseeing, bailiff. By casting the ideal statesman in the decidedly servile role of a public bailiff, Cicero subordinates his statesman to res publica, yet also empowers him to act as its jurisprudential overseer, and this change marks a significant and perhaps strikingly original contribution to Roman political thought.
Research Article| April 01 2014
Overseeing res publica: The Rector as Vilicus in De Re Publica 5
Classical Antiquity (2014) 33 (1): 130–173.
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Grant A. Nelsestuen; Overseeing res publica: The Rector as Vilicus in De Re Publica 5. Classical Antiquity 1 April 2014; 33 (1): 130–173. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/CA.2014.33.1.130
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