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

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 on the Good Life, beata, vita, and his influence on major figures of the 16th and 18th centuries: Thomas Moore, Martin Luther David Hume, Edmund Burke, and John Adam.s