The law of nature in the history of political philosophy the death of Aristotle in 322 marks the close of an era, as the life of his great pupil, who died the year before him, marks the beginning of a new era in politics and the history of European civilization. The failure of the city-state is drawn like a sharp line across the history of political thought, whereas from this date forward its continuity is unbroken down to our own day.
As Professor A. J. Carlyle has said, if there is any point where the continuity of political philosophy is broken, it is at the death of Aristotle. The rise of Christianity produced, by comparison, only superficial changes in its course, and however great the later changes in political thought, they were at all events continuous, from the appearance of the theory of natural law in the Stoic School down to the Revolutionary doctrine of the rights of man. No other contrast is so dramatic as the magnificent statement of the ideals of the city-state by Plato and Aristotle, seen against the decline of the city and the total in-applicability of this philosophy a generation later.
Man as a political animal, a traction of the polis or self-governing city state, had ended with Aristotle; with Alexander begins man as an individual. This individual needed to consider both the regulation of his own life and also his relations with other individuals who with him composed the inhabited world ; to meet the former need there arose the philosophies of conduct, to meet the latter certain new ideas of human brotherhood. These originated on the day-one of the critical moments of history when, at a banquet at opis, Alexander prayed for a union of hearts (homonoia) and a joint commonwealth of Macedonians and Persians.
The individual and Humanity:-
In short, men had to learn to live alone as they had never done, they had to learn to live together in a new form of social union h larger and much more impersonal than the city-state. How difficult first task was may perhaps best be seen by the steady growth throughout the ancient world of forms of religion that held out the of personal immortality and provided rites of initiation into some union with a god, often a suffering and dying god, that provided the means of salvation both in this life and in a life after death and, in their more vulgar forms, a magic to coerce fate and secure the aid of spirits.
All the philosophies after Aristotle became agencies of ethical instruction and consolation, and, as time passed, took on more and more the characteristics of religion; often philosophy was the only religion that an educated man had, in any sense that implied conviction or feeling. No social tendency is more clearly marked in this period than the increasing part that religion played in men’s interests, or the in creasing importance of religious institutions, a tendency which culminated in the appearance of Christianity and the formation of the Christian Church.
It is impossible not to see in this religious growth an emotional aid for men who, without it, felt that they faced the world alone and found their native powers too feeble for the ordeal. Out of this process there grew a self-consciousness, a sense of personal privacy and internality, such as the Greek of the classical age had never possessed. Men were slowly making souls for themselves.
How difficult was the task of learning to live together in a new form of human brotherhood may perhaps best be seen in the effort of political and ethical philosophy to reinterpret social relations in terms other than those provided by the city-state.
The sense of individual privacy and isolation had its reverse side, which was the consciousness of man as a human being, a member of the race, possessing a human nature more or less identical everywhere. For the breaking down of the intimate tie that had held citizens together left him simply a man.
There was not in the ancient world any such consciousness of nationality as keeps the modern Frenchman or German a distinct kind of man, in his own estimation at least, even when he lives in a foreign country. With Attic Greek for a language a man in the Hellenistic age could get on comfortably, at least in the cities, from Marseilles to Persia.
As time went on even citizenship, once a matter of birth alone, might be held in several cities at once, and indeed cities might grant their citizenship to the whole citizen-body of another city. There was little to create a distinct consciousness of kind, setting men off from one another in groups.
In so far as a man was not an individual and merely himself, he was a man like other men and a member of the species. At least this came to be more and more the case as the older ties grew progressively weaker and as even the distinction of Greek and barbarian receded before the intermingling in Egypt and Syria.
Political thought had, therefore, two ideas to make clear and to interweave into a common scheme of values the idea of the individual, a distinct item of humanity with his purely personal and private life, and the idea of universality, a world-wide humanity in which all are endowed with a common human nature.
The first could be given ethical meaning on the supposition that the individual person as such had a worth which other individuals were bound to respect. This was an assumption which had played small part in the ethics of the city-state, where the individual appeared as a citizen and where his significance depended upon his status or his function.
In the great world an individual could hardly be said to have a function-unless in some religious sense-but he might, so to speak, make a virtue of his very insignificance. He might claim his own unsharable inner life as the origin from which all other values grow.
In other words, he could set, up the claim of an inherent right, the right to have his personality respected. But this in itself would require a corresponding addition of ethical meaning to the idea of universality. To mere likeness of kind it adds likeness of mind, homonoia or concordia, a union of hearts which makes the human species a common family or brotherhood.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit, said St. Paul, adapting to the purposes of Christianity what was by that time a commonplace, and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
Great as is the gap between this conception of a world-wide society of autonomous individuals and the moral intimacy of the city-state, the two are not wholly discrepant. It would be truer to say that the philosophy of the Hellenistic age tried to project upon a cosmic field ideals which, in their first appearance, were confined within the limits of the city.
Aristotle had held that the two essentials of citizenship were that it should be a relation between equals, rendering a voluntary loyalty to a government having lawful rather than despotic authority. But he had inferred that equality could be asserted only of small and very select body of citizens.
The new conception postie equality for all men, even for the slave, the foreigner, and the barbarian. It had therefore to dilute the content of individual personal it either to a somewhat mystical equality of every soul in the eyes of God or to the equality of every man in the eyes of the law, neglecting it qualities of intelligence, character, and property.
But though mo abstract it could still argue, like Aristotle, that free citizenship implies some sphere of like treatment within which the state should be n respecter of persons. It had also, like Aristotle, to hold that the claim t authority is a claim of right and not of force, a claim to which a man of good will can assent without the loss of his proper moral dignity. This too, involved a dilution of content. In place of a law embodied in the Closely unified tradition of a single city, it had to conceive a law for the whole civilized world, an inclusive law of which the civil law of each city is only a particular instance.
This readjustment of ideas and re-adaptation of ideals is the tremendous task confronting political philosophy at the breakdown of the city-state. There is perhaps no better evidence of the intellectual Vitality of Greek philosophy than the fact that the task was accomplished. What threatened to be a disaster to civilization became a fresh starting-point. The twin conceptions of the rights of man and of a universally binding rule of justice and humanity were built solidly into the moral consciousness of the European peoples.
However much they might be disregarded or violated in the letter, they were too deeply rooted to be destroyed, even by the rise of a force so powerful as modern nationalism. The ideal of free citizenship was transformed to meet a situation in which the holding of public office and the performance of political function played a negligible part, and yet the ideal did not wholly vanish, for it persisted as the conception of a legal status and a body of rights in which the individual could claim the protection of the state.
Finally, the conception was preserved that use and went, prescriptive right and privilege, and overmastering power ought to justify themselves at the bar of a higher law, that they were at least subject to rational criticism and inquiry.
Concord and Monarchy:-
This work of reinterpretation and re adaptation required a long time and received contributions from many sources. Its beginnings especially are obscure but, so far as philosophy was concerned, it came in the long run to be mainly identified with the philosophy of the Stoic School.
This was the fourth and last of the great Athenian Schools, founded a little before 300 s.c. by Zeno of Citium. But it was less closely bound to Athens, and indeed to Greece, than any of the other Schools. Its founder was a “Phoenician,” which must mean that at least one of his parents was Semitic. After him the heads of the School came usually from outlying parts of the Greek world, especially from Asia Minor, where the mingling of Greeks and Orientals proceeded most rapidly, and it was not until the first century s.c., when the School at Athens had ceased to be the center of Stoicism, that it was headed by an Athenian.
Thus Chrysippus, its second founder, came from Cilicia, and Panaetius, who carried Stoicism to Rome, came from Rhodes. Stoicism was, then, from the start a Hellenistic 4nd not a Greek School, and the ancients themselves believed in the relation of its teaching to Hellenistic politics, witness the remark of Plutarch that Alexander had founded the kind of state proposed by Zeno, though this speaks rather for later Stoicism than for Zeno himself. Of special importance was the fact that Stoicism made a strong appeal to educated Romans of the second century and thus became the medium by which Greek philosophy exerted an influence in the formative stage of Roman jurisprudence.
In its beginnings Stoicism was a branch of Cynicism. According to the tradition, which is probably false, Zeno’s book on the state was written while he was still a pupil of Crates, and its fragments show that it must have been a utopia much upon the lines of that written by Diogenes. In the ideal state, he said, men would live as a single herd, without family and presumably without property, with no distinction of race or rank, and without the need of money or courts of law.
Zeno broke with the Cynics because of the crudeness and lack of decorum to which their naturalism led, but his early dependence on them remained to plague the new School. An element of doctrinaire utopianism was embedded in Stoicism which it never got rid of, though this was more and more disregarded, especially when the Middle Stripteased its teaching to Roman use.
So long as its political theory held up an impossible ideal for a hypothetical world of philosophers, it could not really adopt the new idea of concord. To give up the distinction of Greek and barbarian was a gain, but to substitute for it an equally sharp distinction of wise men and fools did not greatly improve matters.
The idea of concord was intimately connected with the Hellenistic theory of kingship. The personal relation of Zeno to Antigonus II, king of Macedon, who was his pupil, and the fact that a member of the School was chosen to educate Antigonus’s son, suggest a leaning toward enlightened despotism, but this was not a general characteristic of Stoicism. Mr. Tarn has argued that the plan to produce concord between Greeks and barbarians was Alexander’s. own, and that the philosophers took it up later.
However this may be, the theory of kingship may well have had sources that were not Stoic. It was in the nature of the situation that monarchy should receive the attention of political theorists as it had not in the classical age. Aristotle had treated monarchy as an academic question, but Alexander’s empire and the parts into which it divided made a large part of the ancient world subject to kings-the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Selucids in Persia, and the Antigonids in Macedonia-and even the confederations were subject to their influence or control. The new monarchies (other than Macedonia) were predestined to be absolute, since there was no other form of government that could combine Greeks and Orientals.
The king was not only the head of the state; he was practically identical with it, for there was no other cohesive force to hold It together. Composed as they were of very diverse elements, these kingdoms necessarily left standing a large amount of local custom and local law, subject to such regulations as the unity of the kingdom required. Thus there grew up the distinction of king’s law, or common law, and local law. The king became in a peculiar sense the symbol of unity and good government.
At the same time Hellenistic absolutism never wholly lost the Greek sense that government ought to be something more than military despotism. In Asia and Egypt the sanction was found in religion, the divinity of the king, who was worshiped in an official cult after his death or even in his life-time. Beginning with Alexander, Hellenistic kings were enrolled also among the gods of the Greek cities. The deified king became a universal institution in the East and in the end it had to be adopted by the Roman emperors. Thus a belief in the divinity that doth hedge a king came into European thought and persisted, in one form or another, down to modern times.
The conception argued no special abjectness in subjects. So far as educated Greeks were concerned, the practice certainly involved nothing that was genuinely religious, and in any case there was nothing inherently shocking about a man being elevated to the rank of a god.
Many Greek cities had heroes or lawgivers who had enjoyed that honor. Its purpose and its consequences in the cities were political; it gave Alexander and his successors who enjoyed it the authority needed to make their alliance with the cities effective.
Even in the monarchies the official cult of the king had a constitutional significance, not altogether unlike that which the theory of divine right had in the monarchy of the sixteenth century. it was the best available means of giving unity and homogeneity to the state and it was a way of saying that the king’s authority had some claim of right behind it.
Moreover, it gave to the king’s law a continuance beyond his life-time which it could not have claimed if it were only the expression of his will. Finally, religious titles, such as Savior and Benefactor, might be real descriptions of what a good king could do; the gratitude of subjects for peace and good government was often genuine.
Consequently there grew up in Hellenistic times a theory of the deified king which in effect ascribed to his essential nature the beneficial effects which he ought to have. A true king was divine because he brought harmony to his kingdom as God brings harmony into the world. In a phrase widely current, he was an Animate Law, a personalized form of the principles of law and right that govern the whole universe. For this reason he possessed a divinity which the common
man did not share and which brought to disaster the unworthy usurper who claimed the high office without the blessing of Heaven. Consequently his authority had a sanction, moral and religious, which his subjects could recognize without loss of their own moral freedom and dignity. For the conviction persisted that kingship and despotism are essentially different.
Oh, that it were possible to put from human nature all need for obedience! For the fact that as mortal animals we are not exempt from it is the basest trace of our earthiness, inasmuch as a deed of obedience is very close to being one of necessity.
The City of the World:-
This idealization of divinely sanctioned monarchy, however, does not appear in the classic form of Stoicism, perhaps because it was given its systematic statement at Athens at a date when the city had regained at least a qualified independence of Macedonia. In the hands of Chrysippus the Stoic in the last quarter of the third century became the greatest and most honored of the Athenian Schools, and Stoicism assumed the systematic shape which it retained throughout its history.
Though he wrote a forbidding style that made him a by-word for dryness and verbalism, he succeeded in giving to the Stoic philosophy a form which made it in antiquity the intellectual support of men of political, moral, and religious convictions. It gave a positive moral meaning to the idea of a world-wide state and a universal law, which the Cynics had left merely as a negation of the city-state.
The ethical purpose of Stoicism was like that of the other post Aristotelian philosophies, namely, to produce self-sufficiency and individual well-being. In tact, the School was always a little uncertain whether its ideal was the saint, who stands above worldly interests, or the man of action. A Stoic as well as an Epicurean might teach that the part of wisdom was to withdraw from the world.
For two reasons, however, this was not the prevailing bent of the School. First, it sought to teach self-sufficiency by a rigorous training of the will; its virtues were resolution, fortitude, devotion to duty, and indifference to the solicitations of pleasure. And second, the: sense of duty was re-enforced by a religious teaching which was not unlike Calvinism.
The Stoic had a strong belief in the overruling power of Divine Providence; he felt his own life as a calling, a duty, assigned to him by God, as a soldier is assigned to duty by has commander. Another figure of speech often used was the stage, upon which men are only players.
The duty of every man is to play well the part for which he is cast, whether it be conspicuous or trifling, happy or miserable. The fundamental teaching of the Stoics was a religious conviction of the oneness and perfection of nature or a true moral order. A life according to nature meant for them resignation to the will of God, co-operation with all the forces of good, a sense of dependence upon a power above man that makes for righteousness, and the composure of mind that comes from faith | in the goodness and reasonableness of the world.
There is, then, a fundamental moral fitness between human nature and nature at large. This the Stoic expressed by saying that man is rational and that God is rational. The same divine fire that animates the world has cast a spark into the souls of men. And this gives to humanity a special position among the creations of the world-soul.
The animals are given instinct and the impulses and powers needed for life according to their several kinds, but men have reason; they have speech and the sense of right and wrong; hence they alone of all beings are fitted for a social life and for them such a life is necessary.
Men are the sons of God and therefore brothers to one anther. The belief in Providence is, for the Stoics, essentially a belief in the value of social purposes and in the duty of good men to bear a share of them. It was this conviction that made Stoicism a moral and social force. There was nothing intrinsically utopian about it, though it is true that the earlier Stoics were likely to put their philosophic heroes on a pedestal.
Hence there s a world-state. Both gods and men are citizens of it and it has a constitution, which is right reason, teaching men what must be done and what avoided. Right reason is the law of nature, the standard everywhere of what is just and right, unchangeable in its principles, binding on all men whether ruler or subjects, the law of God. Chrysippus expressed it as follows in the opening words of his book On Law:
Law is the ruler over all the acts both of gods and men. It must be the director, the governor and the guide in respect to what is honorable and base and hence the standard of what is just and unjust. For all beings that are social by nature the law directs what must be done and forbids what must not be done.
The conventional social distinctions that prevail in particular localities have no meaning for the world-state. The earlier Stoics continued to deny, after the fashion of the Cynics, that a city of wise men would need any institutions at all. Greek and barbarian, well-born and common, slave and free, rich and poor are all declared to be equal the only intrinsic difference between men is that between the wise man and the fool, between the man whom God can lead and the one whom he must drag.
There can be no doubt that the Stoics used this theory of equality from the start as a ground for moral improvement, though social reform was always with them a secondary consideration. Chrysippus says that no man is a slave by nature and that a slave should be treated as a laborer hired for life, which has a very different tone from Aristotle’s description of him as a living implement. Potentially at least citizenship in the world-city was open to all, for it depends on reason, which is a common human trait; in practice the Stoics, like most rigorous moralists, were impressed by the number of fools. Strait is the way and narrow is the gate and few there be that find it, but at all events a man stands here on his merits; externals cannot help him.
If Stoicism diminished the importance of social distinctions between individuals, it tended also to promote harmony between states. There are for every man two laws, the law of his city and the law of the world-city, the law of custom and the law of reason.
Of the two the second must have the greater authority and must provide a norm to which the statutes and customs of cities should conform. Customs are various but reason is one, and behind variety of custom there ought to be some unity of purpose. Stoicism tended to conceive of a worldwide system of law having endless local branches.
Localities might differ according to circumstances without being unreasonable, while the reasonableness of the whole system tended to keep the variation from becoming opposition. Substantially this is not unlike the harmony or “union of hearts” for which Alexander prayed.
Everywhere in the Hellenistic world there were great numbers of cities and other local authorities with more or less autonomy. The kingdoms held these together with a common or king’s law. Between the cities arbitration became a recognized and widely practiced way of settling disputes. In internal government the adjudication of private disputes by judicial commissions called in from other cities largely displaced the old popular juries.
Both procedures implied a comparison of customs, an appeal to equity, and ultimately the growth of a common law-the circumstances in which natural Jaw has always exerted its greatest influence. For later history the incidence of the Stoic idea of a higher law on Roman law had a greater importance, but the nature of its influence seems to have been the same from the start. It held up an ideal of reasonableness and equity as a means of criticizing law at a time when positive law was likely to be narrowly customary.
The point is not merely the assertion that positive law should be equitable; the Greeks had always believed that the law provides a moral code and a general rule of right. What the Stoics added to this was the doctrine of two laws, the customary law of the city and the mare perfect law of nature. The use of equity as a principle of criticism requires a clear perception that justice cannot be identified with law as it is. The world-city of the Stoics was already on the way to becoming the City of God of later Christian thought.
The Revision of Stoicism:-
The general principles of the Stoic philosophy remained always what Chrysippus left them at the close of the third century. But these principles underwent important changes which had the effect of adapting them to popular understanding and acceptance and especially to acceptance at Rome.
The difficulty with earlier Stoicism arose largely from the elements of Cynicism that remained implicit in it-a tendency to think of the wise man as a being quite unlike ordinary mortals and so aloof from ordinary concerns and a corresponding tendency not to bring the law of nature into relation with the actual variety of custom and usage. The cause of the readjustment was largely the incisive negative criticism of the Skeptic Carneades.
By the second century Stoicism had attained a place among the Schools which warranted a life-time devoted to its criticism; Carneades is said to have inquired jocularly, if it were not for Chrysippus, where should be? Carneades’s criticism attacked Stoicism all along the line, in its theology, its psychology, and of course with respect to the theory of natural justice.
So far as it concerned political theory the gist of the criticism appears to have been, first, that the Stoic wise man is a monstrosity, like nothing in nature, and utterly inhuman in his effort to extirpate all feeling and emotion. This criticism was quite justified so far as the theory was concerned, though the Stoics were in general better than their theory.
Second, Carneades pointed out the difficulty of believing that there is a universal law of justice in the face of the discrepancies that actually exist in moral belief and practice. Carneades himself asserted that men are in fact governed wholly by self-interest and prudence, for which justice is merely an honorific title.
The answer to these criticisms was not precisely a reconstruction of Stoicism but rather its modification by the inclusion in it of ideas drawn especially from Plato and Aristotle. By the end of the second century a world-wide culture needed, and perhaps tried consciously to create, a world-wide philosophy, which could hardly be made fit for popular adoption except by the inclusion of elements synchronized from many sources.
By this time also it was possible to go back to the great philosophers of the fourth century without being repelled by their absorption in the city-state, which had been a dead issue longer than men could remember. This is the first of the many occasions on which a return to the classical tradition in philosophy was the means to a more humane view of life and social relations. So far as Stoicism was concerned, this work was done by Panaetius of Rhodes, who headed the School shortly before the close of the second century.
Stoicism lost certainly in logical rigor but it gained enormously in its urbanity and in the appeal which it was able to make to educated men who cared nothing for the technicalities of the Schools. And this was a matter of first-rate importance in respect to the social and political influence that it could exert.
The great work of Panaetius was to restate Stoicism in a form such that it could be assimilated by Romans of the aristocratic class, who knew nothing of philosophy and who yet were fired by enthusiasm for the learning of Greece, so different from anything that Rome could produce for herself.
No other Greek system was so well qualified as Stoicism to appeal to the native virtues of self control, devotion to duty, and public spirit in which the Roman took especial pride, and no political conception was so well qualified as the Stoic world-state to introduce some measure of idealism into the too sordid business of Roman conquest.
The point of contact at the critical stage-the third quarter of the second century-was in the relation of two Greeks, Panaetius and Polybius, persona! friends, to the group of aristocratic Romans tnat formed the circle about Scipio Aemilianus.
In effect what Panaetius did was to turn Stoicism into a kind of philosophy of humanitarianism, his concessions being of the sort required to meet the objections advanced by Carneades. He admitted the moral justification of the nobler and more public-spirited ambitions and passions and denied that the wise men should strive for complete cessation of feeling.
In place of self-sufficiency he set up an ideal of public service, humanity, sympathy, and kindness. What is of even greater importance, he abandoned the opposition between an ideal community of wise men and the everyday social relationships. Reason is a law for all men, not merely for the wise.
There is a sense in which all men are equal, even after allowance has been made for the inevitable differences of rank, native endowment, and wealth. They ought all to have at least that minimum of rights without which human dignity is impossible, and justice requires that the law should recognize such rights and protect men in the enjoyment of them.
Justice is, therefore, a Jaw for states, the bond that holds them together, not of course in the sense that a state cannot be unjust, but in the sense that, i so far as it becomes,so, it loses that ground of harmony which makes it a state. This theory of the state, probably the work of Panaetius, is preserved in Cicero. The humanitarianism of Panaetius’s philosophy left its impression strongly upon all the Roman Stoics.
The unity of the human race, the equality of man and therefore justice in the state, the equal worth of men and women, respect for the rights of wives and children, benevolence, love, purity in the family, tolerance and charity toward our fellows; humanity in all cases, even in the terrible necessity of punishing criminals with death-these are the fundamental ideas which fill the books of the later Stoics.
To Polybius is due the earliest extant history of Rome and the first study of Roman political institutions. His history accepts the world State under Roman domination as a fact. He tries to follow the course of events from Spain to Asia Minor, and to show by what means, and thanks to what sort of constitution, the Romans subdued the world in less than fifty-three years. In his sixth book he offers a theory of the Roman constitution, which probably reflects the ideas of Panaetius also, and which certainly commended itself to the Scipionic Circle.
There is in history, Polybius believes, an inevitable law of growth and decay. This he explains by the tendency of all the unmixed forms of government to degenerate in characteristic ways: of monarchy to become tyrannous, of aristocracy to become oligarchical, and so on.
He uses here the old sixfold classification of constitutions in Plato’s Statesman and Aristotle’s Politics, merely supplementing it by a more definite theory of the cycle that causes one form to run into another. The reason which he assigns for the strength of Rome is that it has unconsciously adopted a mixed constitution in which the elements are accurately adjusted and in exact equilibrium.
The consuls form a monarchical factor, the Senate an aristocratic factor, and the popular assemblies a democratic factor; but the true secret of Roman government lies in the fact that the three powers check each other and thus prevent the natural tendency to decay which would result if any one of them became too powerful.
Polybius modified the old theory of mixed government, long a commonplace, in two respects. First, he made the tendency of the unmixed governments to degenerate an historical law, but his cycle is formed on Greek experience and does not fit the development of the Roman constitution at all.
Second, his mixed government is not, like Aristotle’s, a balance of social classes but of political powers. Here he probably drew upon the Roman legal principle of collegiality by which any magistrate could impose a veto barring action by any other magistrate having an equal or a less imperium. Polybius thus gave to mixed government the form of a system of checks and balances, the form in which it passed to Montesquieu and the founders of the American constitution.
So far as historical accuracy is concerned, Polybius analysis of the Roman constitution was not more penetrating than Montesquieu’s analysis of the English constitution. The tribunes of the people-the most important of all the magistracies in later constitutional development-do not fit into his scheme at all.
Like Montesquieu he grasped only a passing phase of the constitution he was examining. Indeed, the theory of the mixed government had only temporary importance in the transference of Stoic ideas to Rome. Doubtless Roman aristocrats, during the later as of the Republic were flattered to hear that their ancestral constitution had copied by instinct the greatest discovery of Greek political science.
Doubtless also the Stoic world-state lent itself easily to a kind of sentimental imperialism which enabled the conquerors to imagine that they were assuming the white man’s burden and were bringing the blessings of peace and order to a politically incompetent world.
Finally, there was a special historical circumstance at the end of the second century s.c. the attempted reforms of Tiberius Gracchus in 133 by a frank appeal to the opposed interests of economic classes–which made an appeal to a concordia ordinum the appropriate reaction of aristocratic republicans. The theory of the mixed state bulked large in the thought of Cicero, but it was only the forlorn hope of the Republic.
The direct line of development under the empire was toward world-wide Roman citizenship, achieved by the Edict of Caracalla in 212 a.v., and the abolition of class-distinctions. The implied egalitarianism of this movement was much more in the spirit of Roman Stoicism than the form which Stoicism temporarily assumed under the influence of Panaetius and Polybius.
The Scipionic Circle:-
The permanently significant result of the incidence of Stoicism upon the Scipionic Circle lay in the fact that it affected the men who undertook the earliest studies in Roman jurisprudence. Paraetius’s statement of Stoicism appeared to these Romans of the ruling class offer the means for preserving the best of the old Roman ideals, enlightened by the cultivation of art and letters and harmonized by a broader sympathy, good will, and gentleness. This the Romans named humanities a corrective for the crudeness of a society drunk with dower and unenlightened by taste or ideas and a means of idealizing conquest. Through the Scipionic Circle, or men intimately associated
with its members, this ideal was brought to bear at a critical period upon the study of Roman law. There can be no question that these earliest attempts at systematic jurisprudence were made by men strongly influenced by Staicism.
The way had been prepared by the history of the law itself before Stoicism came to Rome. The law of Rome, like roost systems of ancient law, had been at the start the law of a city, or more precisely, of a very limited body of citizens who were born to it as part of their civic heritage. It combined religious ceremonial and ancestral formulates which made it inapplicable to anyone not by birth a Romain.
As Roman political power and wealth grew, there came to be a large and larger body of alien residents in Rome who had to transact business both among themselves and with Romans. Thus it became practically necessary to take legal cognizance of their doings in some way or other, About the middle of the third century s.c. the Romans met this problem by creating a special judge (the praetor peregrinus) to handle this class of business.
Since no ceremonial law was applicable, all sorts of in formalities in procedure had to be permitted, and, for the same reason, formal law had continually to be pieced out by considerations of equity, fair dealing, and common sense, in short, by taking into consideration what good business practice regarded as honest and fair.
In this way an effective body of law grew up, largely stripped of formality and conforming in general to prevailing ideas of honorable dealing and public utility, to which the lawyers had already given the name ius gentiuni, the law that is common to all peoples.
The process of it formation was in substance not different from that which brought about English Mercantile Law. And just as the latter was finally incorporated into the main body of English Law, so the ius gentium affected the development of Roman Law. In fact, because it was more equitable and reasonable and altogether better suited to the times than the old Strict law, it co-operated with other factors to enlighten the practice of the whole body of Roman Law.
The ius gentium was a legal concept with no particular philosophical meaning, while ius naturale was a philosophical term made by translating Stoic Greek into Latin. In effect the two very nearly coalesced. The two concepts were able to interact fruitfully, for general acceptance and practice were properly felt to give some guarantee of substantial justice, at least as compared with local custom, while they in turn gave the rule of reason a point of contact with practice. Thus the ideal law of the Stoics and the positive law of states:were brought into co-operation. The effect upon jurisprudence in the end proved to be exceedingly beneficial.
The conception of natural law brought enlightened criticism to bear on custom; it helped to destroy the religious and ceremonial character cf law; it tended to promote equality before the law; it emphasized the factor of intent; and it mitigated unreasoning harshness. In short, it set before the Roman lawyers the ideal of making their profession an an boni et aequi.
In order to appreciate the full accomplishment of the Stoic political philosophy it is necessary to reflect upon the long road that political society had traveled in the two centuries that elapsed after the death of Aristotle. Compared with Athens in 322 the Mediterranean world of two centuries later was almost modern. It was at all events a society that included the effectively known world, in which wide communication was habitual, and in which local differences had a small and a diminishing importance.
Accepting as accomplished fact the wreckage of the city-state and the impossibility of its self-centered provincialism, of its rigid distinction between citizens and foreigners, and of a citizenship limited to those who can actually have a share in governing, Stoicism had boldly undertaken to reinterpret political ideals to fit the Great State. It had outlined the conception of a worldwide human brotherhood united in the bonds of a justice broad enough to include them all.
It had proposed the conception that men are by nature equal, despite differences of race, rank, and wealth. It had insisted that even the Great State, no less than the city, is an ethical union which ought to lay a moral claim upon its subjects loyalty and not merely exact their obedience by overmastering force. However much honored, in the breach by political practice, these conceptions of what human relations ought to be could never thereafter be altogether omitted from the political ideals of the European peoples.