Cicero on The Good Life and His Influence on the Modern World

E. Christian Kopff explores both Cicero’s views of the Good Life, beata vita, and his influence on major figures of the 16th and 18th centuries
Plato statue

The first entrance requirement to Harvard College in 1642 was to be “able to read Tully or such like classical Latin Author ex tempore.” Tully is Cicero. Why did Harvard and other Colonial colleges want students to read Cicero’s writings before admission? I believe the decisive factor was Cicero’s character as found in his writings. He was an influential politician, a canny defense attorney, and the author of dialogues of philosophy, rhetoric, and politics. Cicero’s range of accomplishments inspired the ideal of the Renaissance Man, the man for all seasons, who balanced a thoughtful ethical life with participation in politics. We shall explore both Cicero’s views of the Good Life, beata vita, and his influence on major figures of the 16th and 18th centuries: Thomas More, Martin Luther, David Hume, Edmund Burke, and John Adams.

Christian Kopff

E. Christian Kopff was educated at St. Paul’s School (Garden City NY), Haverford College and UNC, Chapel Hill (Ph. D., Classics). He has taught at the University of Colorado, Boulder, since 1973, and most currently as Associate Director of the Honors Program. He has edited a critical edition of the Greek text of Euripides’ Bacchae (Teubner, 1982) and published over 100 articles and reviews on scholarly, pedagogical and popular topics. A Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, he has received research grants from the NEH and CU’s Committee on Research. The Devil Knows Latin: Why America Needs the Classical Tradition (ISIBooks, 1999) is widely cited by Classical Christian educators. He translated Josef Pieper, Tradition: Concept and Claim (ISIBooks, 2008; St. Augustine’s, 2010) and contributed the Introduction to Herbert Jordan’s translation of Homer’s Iliad (Oklahoma UP, 2008).

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