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On the Good Life (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 30, 1971

ISBN-13: 978-0140442441 ISBN-10: 0140442448

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 30, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442441
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)

About the Author

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), Roman orator and statesman, was born at Arpinum of a wealthy local family. He was taken to Rome for his education with the idea of a public career and by the year 70 he had established himself as the leading barrister in Rome. In the meantime his political career was well under way and he was elected praetor for the year 66. One of the most permanent features of his political life was his attachment to Pompeii. As a politician, his greatest failing was his consistent refusal to compromise; as a statesman his ideals were more honorable and unselfish than those of his contemporaries. Cicero was the greatest of the roman orators, posessing a wide range of technique and an excpetional command of the Latin tongue. He followed the common practice of publishing his speeches, but he also produced a large number of works on the theory and practice of rhetoric, on religion, and on moral and political philosophy. He played a leading part in the development of the Latin hexameter. Perhaps the most interesting of all his works is the collection fo 900 remarkably informative letters, published posthumously. These not only contain a first-hand account of social and political life in the upper classes at Rome, but also reflect the changing personal feelings of an emotional and sensitive man.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 23 customer reviews
Anyone who has any passing interest in the world of antiquity would be highly urged to read this book.
D. Roberts
This book is filled with useful tips on life in general. the only problem I have with it is it leaves out large chunks of work.
The general conclusion is that one should live a moral and balanced life, and that in so doing, one will find happiness.
Christopher R. Travers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Cesar Cruz on July 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although "On the Good Life" is a hodgepodge of Cicero's essays, there are a few reasons why this book is a must buy. First, these are Cicero's words, some of the best writing to come from ancient Rome. Second, the essays are a great introduction to Cicero's immense collection of essays, speeches, and letters. His literary productive output was vast. Finally, Michael Grant's translation and introduction is of the highest quality.
A lot can be said about the selection of the essays - why would Michael Grant pick a Book Five (Discussions at Tusculum) and a Book Two (On Duties) instead of a complete collection of each? Where's the rest of these works? Frankly, it didn't matter to me. Once I began reading "On the Good Life" I was hooked. This book converted me into a lifelong Cicero fan and Grant's translations (through Penguin Classics) are my primary sources for his works. I have five Cicero books from Penguin Classics so far.
My favorite essay was "On Friendship." I would recommend it to anyone. It is wise, philosophical, and applicable to everyone even today. The rest of the essays were also fantastic with the exception - my opinion only - of "On the Orator." That I could have done without. It was a little too long and way too dry. I wish Michael Grant had squeezed in some other essay of Cicero's.
There are more comprehensive translations of Cicero but "On the Good Life" is a wise choice as a Cicero starter. If you enjoy classic literature and you haven't read Cicero, start here.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on July 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is not one of those tomes I return to frequently, but when I do I am usually rewarded with a precept or an insight I overlooked the first time or which I have subsequently forgotten. Tully never let his mind drift off into the clouds. He is the arbiter of common sense and reason, above all, reason. He is a lawyer through and through. He will argue his case and expects no rebuttal. If in a given epistle, friend or foe should pose an objection to his line of reasoning, rather than engage in protracted debate, as Socrates might, Cicero delivers a few pithy rejoinders and the matter is settled:
"Cicero: ' Ah, you're trying to refute me by quoting things I've said or written myself. That's confronting me with documents that have already been sealed! You can reserve that method for people who only argue according to fixed rules. But I live from one day to the next! If something strikes me as probable, I say it; and that is how, unlike everyone else, I remain a free agent.'" Easy for him to say, and adroitly skating around any further discussion of the subject. Case closed! And if you come at me tomorrow, I may employ an entirely different line of reasoning. This is one reason Cicero used to be required reading for debate students.
Actually that is Tully at his least didactic, as his entire raison-d'etre was to teach. And his texts, coming down to us primarly in epistolatory form, do instruct us how to behave, how to interact, how to be civilized and live according to the Aristotelean Golden Mean. Luckily, they weren't sealed up as his law documents were. Virgil's ideal of "pietas" was derived in large part from Roman fathers of Cicero's ilk.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Cicero's brilliance shines like a beacon though two thousand years. This book gives his thoughts on what qualities make up a good statesman,citizen, and friend. His simple yet profound thoughts are outstanding. Your time is never wasted reading Cicero.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Johannes Platonicus on May 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
The works that comprise Michael Grant's rendition of Cicero's "On the Good Life" are: "The Tusculum Disputations (V)", "On Duties (II)," "On Friendship," On the Orator," and "The Dream of Scipio." These works expound upon the very essence of the highest good--namely the highest morality--and lay down a clear system of practical, applied ethics for the aspiring youth, statesman, orator, or sage. Cicero, furthermore, attempts to use these virtues to the direct benefit of the individual citizen and ultimately to the dignity of the Commonwealth. The sheer stateliness of these treatises will be enough to attract and excite scholars and, in a word, enlighten students seeking to grasp a general view of the works of one of the greatest philosophical popularizers in history, the immortal Marcus Tullius Cicero.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on July 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
It's always a joy to return to the works of one Marcus Tullius Cicero. He was Rome's greatest orator, and anyone who has ever read his works can certainly see why. In the present work he discusses the concepts of friendship, moral virtue, one's duty to the state, one's duty to one's friends (and what to do when these come into conflict), oratory and the famous "Dream of Scipio." I have little doubt that Dante used the latter as inspiration for the 3rd canticle of his DIVINE COMEDY (Paradise).

In reading of Cicero's thoughts on morality, it's easy to discern the influence that Cicero had on Immanual Kant. Kant extrapolated and expounded on a lot of Cicero's basic ideas. The dialogue on friendship is a good complement to the writings of what Plato & Aristotle had to say on the subject.

The works are translated and edited by the venerable Michael Grant of Cambridge university. I consider myself pretty well read when it comes to the personages of antiquity. Still, Cicero loves to name-drop and frequently his allusions are beyond my grasp. That's where our good buddy Michael Grant comes in. Grant's footnotes do a terrific job of clarifying who Cicero is referring to, and makes Cicero's writings far more cohesive & easier to understand. I would gather that Grant's elucidations would even be apt to assist people with doctorates in history who wish to engage the Roman writer.

There is one mannerism of Cicero's that is bound to rub a lot of readers the wrong way, and that is his being convinced that the world revolves around Rome. In this way, he reminds me of how modern day New Yorkers believe that the world revolves around NYC. It is helpful, however, to remember that in his day the world basically DID revolve around Rome.
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