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Sunt autem privata nulla natura:  

Cicero

on communio and dominium

Prof. Phillip Mitsis, New York University

in Dialogue with 

Prof. Andrew Monson, New York University

November 10, 2022
Starts in New York 12.00 p.m. / Oxford 5.00 p.m. / Budapest 6.00 p.m. / Athens 7.00 p.m.

Cicero is often credited with the idea that the special function of the state is to protect private property.

He himself, of course, strictly speaking has no equivalent locution for "private property", although this has not stopped translators from generously supplying the term in contexts where such a concept is arguably not operative, or at least so I argue.  Here I will be following the lead of early modern translations of Cicero and of early modern thinkers such as Grotius, Barbeyrac, etc., whose understanding of what was called the "suum," raises questions about whether, in fact, notions of "private property" and "the state" are operative in Cicero's account in ways that have been taken for granted in recent scholarship.   In addition to raising some doubts about whether Cicero ever thought or could think that the special function of the Roman state was to protect private property, I will suggest that Cicero's account of the emergence of the res publica may need to be recalibrated in the light of Andrew Monson's arguments about the crucial role played by fiscal structures in the establishment of the res publica.