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Roman ReflectionsStudies in Latin Philosophy$
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Gareth D. Williams and Katharina Volk

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199999767

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199999767.001.0001

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Philosophy Is in the Streets

Philosophy Is in the Streets

(p.50) 3 Philosophy Is in the Streets
Roman Reflections

James E. G. Zetzel

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that Cicero is simultaneously our major source for Roman intellectual life (including philosophy) in Republican Rome and the major obstacle to gaining an accurate picture of it. Not only does Cicero exaggerate his own importance, giving little significance to other writers of philosophy, but according to this chapter he also represents only one way—historical and doxographical—of writing about philosophy. In reality, the chapter argues, there was a much wider range of philosophical thought at Rome, and conversation about ideas was hardly restricted to the villas of the elite. The alternative “street”-discourse that the text here discerns finds its closest literary reflection in Roman satire, and particularly in Varro’s Menippean satires, written in the 70s and 60s bce. The chapter concludes with a discussion of their underestimated significance for the history of Roman philosophy.

Keywords:   M. Terentius Varro, Menippean satire, Cicero, Horace, street philosophy

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