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Remembering the Roman PeopleEssays on Late-Republican Politics and Literature$
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T. P. Wiseman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199239764

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239764.001.0001

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The Ethics of Murder

The Ethics of Murder

Chapter:
(p.177) 9 The Ethics of Murder
Source:
Remembering the Roman People
Author(s):

T. P. Wiseman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239764.003.0010

Before 133 BC, the Roman republic had solved political crises by compromise and without violence; after that year, murder was acceptable in Roman politics, and the civil wars followed. Was it what Tiberius Gracchus did that made the difference, or what was done to him? The former, according to the optimate tradition, was followed by Cicero — as if legislation in the People's interest were enough to justify killing the legislator. This chapter investigates the history of that idea, and its application by Cicero and Brutus to the murders of Clodius and Caesar. It is clear from the Pro Milone and from Cicero's correspondence that the optimates automatically equated successful popularis politicians as Greek tyrants, and applied Plato's analysis of the ‘tyrannical man’ as a self-evident justification for murder.

Keywords:   Brutus, Caesar, Cicero, Clodius, Gracchus, optimates, political murder, tyrannicide

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