Cicero was of the generation that saw the Roman Republic slip, almost imperceptibly to many, into a full blown empire. The following is an interesting view about his experience.
August Glen-James, editor
What remains of those ancient customs on which he said the state of Rome stood firm?
"On ancient customs and old-fashioned men the state of Rome stands firm."
The compactness and truth of that line are such that the poet who uttered it must, I think, have been prompted by an oracle . . . . Long before living memory our ancestral way of life produced outstanding men, and those excellent men preserved the old way of life and the institutions of their forefathers. Our generation, however, after inheriting our political organization like a magnificent picture now fading with age, not only neglected to restore its original colors but did not even bother to ensure that it retained its basic form and, as it were, its faintest outlines. What remains of those ancient customs on which he said the state of Rome stood firm? We see them so ruined by neglect that not only do they go unobserved, they are no longer known. And what shall I say of the men? It is the lack of such men that has led to the disappearance of those customs. Of this great tragedy we are not only bound to give a description; we must somehow defend ourselves as if we were arraigned on a capital charge. For it is not by some accident--no, it is because of our own moral failings--that we are left with the name of the Republic, having long since lost its substance . . . .
Cicero, The Republic, Book 5