Cicero's Laelius - Graduate Seminar (MT 2022)

Further information from the seminar convenor, Prof. Tobias Reinhardt:

Dear graduate students,

My seminar in Michaelmas Term will be on Cicero’s Laelius. I am writing to invite volunteers to present – please do get in touch. This is the type of seminar of which LL DPhil students are asked to attend two before transfer (but open to all graduates including visitors needless to say). The time will be 10.00 to 11.30 on Mondays in Corpus Christi College (Seminar Room).

In the seminar we will cover the whole work. Each week one or two presenters are asked to speak to a particular section, in a manner which requires us to attend to the detail of the Latin text (in some weeks, this may mean that you focus on a few paragraphs of particular interest in a larger passage). Beyond that presenters are encouraged to offer analysis from a wide variety of viewpoints. Presentations in half-sessions should be 15 to 20 minutes; there will normally be two presentations a week, but participants are equally welcome to take over an entire session. A table of contents of the work and plan for the term is given below.

Philosophers in antiquity had considerable interest in how friendship would be situated within their moral thinking. Romans, of course, had nuanced conceptions of friendship within a larger network of social relationships. The Laelius is not a work of technical philosophy, and it raises many issues which rhyme with modern ways of thinking about friendship.

Introductory reading includes:

  • J.G.F. Powell, Cicero: On Friendship & The Dream of Scipio, Warminster 1990 [commentary and translation; Powell’s 2006 OCT is the standard text]
  • M. Griffin, ‘From Aristotle to Atticus: Cicero and Matius on Friendship’, in: M. Griffin & J. Barnes (eds.) Philosophia Togata 2: Plato and Aristotle at Rome, Oxford, 86-109.
  • T.C. Lockwood, ‘Defining Friendship in Cicero’s De amicitia’, Ancient Philosophy 39 (2019), 409-26.
  • M. Nussbaum, ‘Cicero and Twenty-First Century Political Philosophy’, in: J. Atkins & T. Bénatouïl (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Cicero’s Philosophy, Cambridge 2021, 284-300, at 295-99.


Laelius (suggestions for presentations in bold):


§§1-5 proem

§§6-17 introductory exchange

wk 2 §§18-24 Part I, 1st speech of Laelius: The essence of friendship (see esp. §20 for a definition of sorts)



wk 3 §§25-32 Part II, 2nd speech of Laelius: The quale and ortus of friendship



§§33-100 Part III, 3rd speech of Laelius: miscellaneous praecepta on friendship

wk 4 33-43 How far can the obligations of friendship extend if the friendship is to continue?



wk 5 44-55 Philosophical views which seek to remove the issue raised in 33-43 are dismissed



wk 6 56-61 The boundaries of friendship must be defined with precision

[this section lends itself to a joint presentation rather than two separate ones]

wk 7 61-85 We must select friends carefully, work to level differences in status, and dissolve friendships with tact when necessary

Possible focal points in this section include:



wk 8 88-100 How to deal with a friend

Possible focal points in this section include: