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  • The Gildersleeve Prize for the Best Article Published in the American Journal of Philology in 2013 Has Been Presented to James E. G. Zetzel Columbia University
  • William M. Breichner, Journals Publisher

for his contribution to scholarship in “A Contract on Ameria: Law and Legality in Cicero’s Pro Roscio Amerino,” AJP 134.3:425–44.

The judges decided unanimously to award the Prize to James E. G. Zetzel for his article, which shows a young Cicero championing the rule of law in the aftermath of Marius, Cinna, and Sulla, and reveals the significance of this trial for Roman society. By arguing, as Cicero does, that the legal principle of bona fides underpins civic life, the defense counsel turns a murder trial into an opportunity for reviving the mores embedded in Roman law and opposing the perpetuation of the preceding regimes’ wide-ranging lawlessness.

In a clear and magisterial exposition, Zetzel blends rhetorical and legal analysis of the Pro Roscio Amerino to set this well known text in new perspectives, not only bringing out the young orator’s strategic brilliance but also showing him exploiting and developing the concepts and terminology of Roman legal philosophy to declare a new understanding of the social contract in response to the political turmoil of the Republic. Zetzel’s close attention to the use of such legal terms as societas and mandatum, along with an ethical vocabulary having to do with fides and perfidia, amicitia and officium, shows how Cicero links public and private morality by extending the standard of bona fides applicable to private contracts to the conduct of government. This reading shows the advantages for Cicero in stretching technical arguments involving contract law and partnership to the conspiracy of his opponents: characterizing their conspiracy as a civil partnership allows him to paint them as violating the concept of bona fides.

At the same time, we see that Q. Mucius Scaevola figures in the oration not only as a memorable victim of perfidy but also as the jurist whose conceptions of contract, of societas, and of bona fides as an essential element in contract were crucial for Cicero’s advocacy of a renewed contractual society in the wake of Marius and Sulla.

Cicero’s conception of bona fides, extended from the sphere of the law of contracts, names the fundamental honor and decency necessary to maintain human society. And a contrast with one of Cicero’s avid readers, Edmund Burke, highlights the modern importance of thinking of social order in terms of contract law and points a way to connect Ciceronian philosophy with contemporary concerns.

Judges for Johns Hopkins University Press

Ellen Greene, Chair     Andrew Ford     Mary Jaeger

The Twenty-sixth Annual Gildersleeve Prize of $1,000 will be awarded for the best article to appear in the Journal in 2014. The Press would like to thank the members of the committee for their time and effort. [End Page i]

William M. Breichner, Journals Publisher
Johns Hopkins University Press


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