Cicero

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The first duty of a man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth.
While there's life, there's hope.
A happy life consists in tranquility of mind.
True law is right reason in agreement with nature.
The beginnings of all things are small.
Let the welfare of the people be the ultimate law.
When the young die I am reminded of a strong flame extinguished by a torrent; but when old men die it is as if a fire had gone out without the use of force and of its own accord, after the fuel had been consumed.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (3 January 106 BC7 December 43 BC), also known by the anglicized name Tully, in and after the Middle Ages, was an orator and statesman of Ancient Rome. The standard English pronunciation of his name is [ˈsɪsərəʊ], though in classical Latin it was [ˈkikero]).

Quotes[edit]

  • True glory strikes root, and even extends itself; all false pretensions fall as do flowers, nor can anything feigned be lasting.
    • As quoted in Great Catches; or, Grand Matches (1861) by Eleanor Frances Blakiston, p. 82

In Catilinam I - Against Catilina, Speech One (63 B.C)[edit]

  • Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?
    • To what length will you abuse our patience, Catiline?
      Variant translation: How long, Catiline, will you abuse our patience?
  • O tempora, o mores!
    • O, the times, O, the customs!
    • Variant translation: "What times! What morals!"

M. Tulli Ciceronis Orator Ad M. Brutum (46 B.C.)[edit]

  • Prima enim sequentem honestum est in secundis tertiisque consistere. (3)
    • If a man aspires to the highest place, it is no dishonor to him to halt at the second, or even at the third.
    • Variant translation: If you aspire to the highest place, it is no disgrace to stop at the second, or even the third, place.
  • Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur? (120)
    • Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?
    • Variant translation: To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child.

On Old Age (44 B.C.)[edit]

English translation by William Armistead Falconer.
  • Nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere.
    • No one is so old as to think that he cannot live one more year.
    • Cic. Sen. 24
  • Omnia autem quae secundum naturam fiunt sunt habenda in bonis.
    • Whatever befalls in accordance with Nature should be accounted good.
    • Cic. Sen. 71
  • Itaque adulescentes mihi mori sic videntur, ut cum aquae multitudine flammae vis opprimitur, senes autem sic, ut cum sua sponte nulla adhibita vi consumptus ignis exstinguitur; et quasi poma ex arboribus, cruda si sunt, vix evelluntur, si matura et cocta, decidunt, sic vitam adulescentibus vis aufert, senibus maturitas; quae quidem mihi tam iucunda est, ut, quo propius ad mortem accedam, quasi terram videre videar aliquandoque in portum ex longa navigatione esse venturus.
    • When the young die I am reminded of a strong flame extinguished by a torrent; but when old men die it is as if a fire had gone out without the use of force and of its own accord, after the fuel had been consumed; and, just as apples when they are green are with difficulty plucked from the tree, but when ripe and mellow fall of themselves, so, with the young, death comes as a result of force, while with the old it is the result of ripeness. To me, indeed, the thought of this "ripeness" for death is so pleasant, that the nearer I approach death the more I feel like one who is in sight of land at last and is about to anchor in his home port after a long voyage.
    • Cic. Sen. 71

De Officiis - On Duties (44 B.C.)[edit]

Time heals all wounds.
We are not born, we do not live for ourselves alone; our country, our friends, have a share in us.
  • Summum ius, summa iniuria
    • Law applied to its extreme is the greatest injustice
    • Book I, section 10, 33.
  • Non nobis solum nati sumus.
    • We are not born for ourselves alone
    • Book I, section 22.
  • Non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici.
    • We are not born, we do not live for ourselves alone; our country, our friends, have a share in us.
    • Book I, section 22.
  • Nam cum sint duo genera decertandi, unum per disceptationem, alterum per vim, cumque illud proprium sit hominis, hoc beluarum, confugiendum est ad posterius, si uti non licet superiore.
    • While there are two ways of contending, one by discussion, the other by force, the former belonging properly to man, the latter to beasts, recourse must be had to the latter if there be no opportunity for employing the former.
    • Book I, section 34. Translation by Andrew P. Peabody.
  • In anger nothing right nor judicious can be done.
    • Book I, section 37.
  • For of all gainful professions, nothing is better, nothing more pleasing, nothing more delightful, nothing better becomes a well-bred man than agriculture.
    • Book 1, section 42. Translation by Cyrus R. Edmonds (1873), p. 73.
  • Cedant arma togae, concedat laurea laudi.
    • Yield, ye arms, to the toga; to civic praise, ye laurels.
    • Book I, section 77.
  • Ludo autem et ioco uti illo quidem licet, sed sicut somno et quietibus ceteris tum, cum gravibus seriisque rebus satis fecerimus.
    • We may, indeed, indulge in sport and jest, but in the same way as we enjoy sleep or other relaxations, and only when we have satisfied the claims of our earnest, serious task.
    • Book I, section 103.
  • Diem adimere aegritudinem hominibus.
    • Time heals all wounds.
    • Book I, section 30
  • He is never less at leisure than when at leisure.
    • Book III, section 1, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Then never less alone than when alone", Samuel Rogers, Human Life.

De Amicitia - On Friendship (44 B.C.)[edit]

  • Amicus est tamquam alter idem.
    • A friend is, as it were, a second self.
  • The shifts of Fortune test the reliability of friends.
  • Secundas res splendidiores facit amicitia et adversas partiens communicansque leviores.
    • Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.

Philippic (44 B.C.)[edit]

  • Hannibal ad portas
    • Hannibal at the gates: a cynical expression made when Cicero was forced by Antony to attend a Senate meeting which Cicero thought was of no major importance.
  • That, Senators, is what a favour from gangs amounts to. They refrain from murdering someone; then they boast that they have spared him!
    • From the Second Philippic Against Antony.

Various orations and works[edit]

  • Quidem concessum est rhetoribus ementiri in historiis ut aliquid dicere possint argutius.
    • Indeed rhetoricians are permitted to lie about historical matters so they can speak more subtly.
    • Brutus, 42.
  • Genius is fostered by energy.
    • Pro Coelio (Ch. xix, sec. 45).
  • Being and appearing grateful is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
    • Pro Plancio (54 B.C).
  • Aegroto dum anima est, spes est.
    • While the sick man has life, there is hope.
    • Epistolarum ad Atticum (Epistle To Atticus), Book ix, 10, 4
    • Also reported as: "While there's life, there's hope." or "Where there's life, there's hope."
    • Possibly based on Theocritus (3rd century BC): "While there's life there’s hope, and only the dead have none."
      • Idyll 4, line 42; tr. A. S. F. Gow, Theocritus ([1950] 1952) vol. 1, p. 37.
      • Variant translation: "For the living there is hope, but for the dead there is none".
  • Nec vero [...] superstitione tollenda religio tollitur.
    • We do not destroy religion by destroying superstition.
    • De divinatione (Book I, chapter LXXII, sec. 148).
  • Nihil tam absurde dici potest, quod non dicatur ab aliquo philosophorum.
    • There is nothing so absurd that it has not been said by some philosopher.
    • De Divinatione (Book II, chapter LVIII, sec. 119).
    • Variant translation: There is nothing so ridiculous that some philosopher has not said it.
    • Variant translation: One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another.
    • Cf. René Descartes' "On ne sauroit rien imaginer de si étranger et si peu croyable, qu’il n’ait été dit par quelqu’un des philosophes [One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another]" (Le Discours de la Méthode, Pt. 2).
  • Non enim omnis error stultitia est dicenda.
    • We must not say that every mistake is a foolish one.
    • De divinatione ii, 43, as cited in Cicero: a sketch of his life and works, by Hannis Taylor, Mary Lillie Taylor Hunt, second edition (1916), p. 481
  • Thus in the beginning the world was so made that certain signs come before certain events.
    • De Divinatione, i, 118, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Often do the spirits / Of great events stride on before the events, / And in to-day already walks to-morrow", Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Death of Wallenstein, Act v, scene 1.
  • Let the punishment match the offense.
    • De Legibus.
  • Salus populi suprema lex esto.
    • Let the welfare of the people be the ultimate law.
    • De Legibus.
  • Suum cuique.
    • To each his own.
    • De Legibus I / De Natura Deorum III, 38.
  • Nervos belli, pecuniam.
    • Endless money forms the sinews of war.
    • Philippics.
  • Silent enim leges inter arma.
    • Laws are silent in time of war.
    • Pro Milone. Often paraphrased as Inter arma enim silent leges.
    • Variant translations:
      • In a time of war, the law falls silent.
      • Law stands mute in the midst of arms.
  • History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.
    • De Oratore II, 36.
  • The freedom of poetic license.
    • Pro Publio Sestio.
  • Quam cum suavissima et maxima voce legisset, admirantibus omnibus "quanto" inquit "magis miraremini, si audissetis ipsum!"
    • He spoke with a charming full voice, and when everyone was applauding, "how much", he asked, "would you have applauded if you had heard the original?"
    • De Oratorio, book 3, chapter 56.
    • Cicero was telling the story of Æschines' return to Rhodes, at which he was requested to deliver Demosthenes' defence of Ctesiphon.
  • For as lack of adornment is said to become some women, so this subtle oration, though without embellishment, gives delight.
    • De Oratore, 78, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Loveliness / Needs not the foreign aid of ornament, / But is when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most", James Thomson, The Seasons, "Autumn", Line 204.
  • On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.
    • The Extremes of Good and Evil as translated by H. Rackham (1914)
    • Is commonly used in its original classical Latin form as "Lorem ipsum", or placeholder text for tests and demonstrations in publishing.
  • Est quidem vera Lex recta Ratio, naturae congruens, diffusa in omnes, constans, sempiterna, quae vocet ad officium jubendo, vetando a fraude deterreat.
    • True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions.
    • De Re Publica, Book 3, Chapter 22.
  • Illa iniusta bella sunt, quae sunt sine causa suscepta. nam extra ulciscendi aut propulsandorum hostium causam bellum geri iustum nullum potest.
    • A war is never undertaken by the ideal State, except in defense of its honor or its safety.
    • De Re Publica, Book 3, Chapter 23.
  • Qui tacet non utique fatetur, sed tamen verum est eum non negare.
    • Though silence is not necessarily an admission, it is not a denial, either.
    • Paulus, L, 17.
  • Can you also, Lucullus, affirm that there is any power united with wisdom and prudence which has made, or, to use your own expression, manufactured man? What sort of a manufacture is that? Where is it exercised? when? why? how?
    • Academica II (Lucullus) XXVII, 87.
  • For with what eyes of the mind was your Plato able to see that workhouse of such stupendous toil, in which he makes the world to be modelled and built by God? What materials, what bars, what machines, what servants, were employed in so vast a work? How could the air, fire, water, and earth, pay obedience and submit to the will of the architect? From whence arose those five forms, of which the rest were composed, so aptly contributing to frame the mind and produce the senses? It is tedious to go through all, as they are of such a sort that they look more like things to be desired than to be discovered.
    • De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods) I, 18.9.
  • Nos autem beatam vitam in animi securitate et in omnium vacatione munerum ponimus.
    • We, on the contrary, make blessedness of life depend upon an untroubled mind, and exemption from all duties.
    • Shortened Version: We think a happy life consists in tranquility of mind.
    • De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), Book I, Chapter 50.
  • Come now: Do we really think that the gods are everywhere called by the same names by which they are addressed by us? But the gods have as many names as there are languages among humans. For it is not with the gods as with you: you are Velleius wherever you go, but Vulcan is not Vulcan in Italy and in Africa and in Spain.
  • Omnium Rerum Principia Parva Sunt."
    • The beginnings of all things are small.
    • Variant translation: Everything has a small beginning.
    • "De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum" Book V, Chapter 58
  • Laudandum adulescentem, ornandum, tollendum.
    • The young man should be praised, honored, and made immortal.
    • Ad Familiares 11.20.1. The reference is to Octavian, with tollendum carrying the implication of the youth's being slain and thus "made immortal".
  • Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit.
    • If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
    • Ad Familiares IX, 4, to Varro.
  • Una navis est iam bonorum omnium.
    • All loyalists are now in the same boat.
    • Ad Familiares, XII, 25.
  • Civis Romanus sum.
    • I am a Roman citizen.
    • Against Verres (In Verrem), part 2, book 5, section 57; reported in Cicero, The Verrine Orations, trans. L. H. G. Greenwood (1935), vol. 2, p. 629.
  • As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age; first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death.
    • De Senectute (Of Old Age), book 5, section 15; reported in Herbert N. Couch, Cicero on the Art of Growing Old (1959), p. 21.
  • Equidem ad pacem hortari non desino; quae vel iniusta utilior est quam iustissimum bellum cum civibus.
    • As for me, I cease not to advocate peace. It may be on unjust terms, but even so it is more expedient than the justest of civil wars. (Translation by E.O. Winstedt)
    • Epistulae ad Atticum (Letters to Atticus) VII 14 (Latin and English) in the Loeb Classical Library, translated by E.O. Winstedt.
    • Popular but oversimplifying translations:
      • I never cease urging peace, which, however unfair, is better than the justest war in the world.
      • An unjust peace is better than a just war.


Disputed[edit]


Misattributed[edit]

  • The following two quotes are sometimes wrongly attributed to Cicero. In fact, they come from a novel about Cicero by Taylor Caldwell, and are not found in any of Cicero's actual writings.
    • A bureaucrat is the most despicable of men, though he is needed as vultures are needed, but one hardly admires vultures whom bureaucrats so strangely resemble. I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who was not petty, dull, almost witless, crafty or stupid, an oppressor or a thief, a holder of little authority in which he delights, as a boy delights in possessing a vicious dog. Who can trust such creatures?
      • Taylor Caldwell in her novel based on the life of Cicero, A Pillar of Iron (1965), p. 451
    • Antonius [i. e., C. Antonius Hybrida] heartily agreed with him [sc. Cicero] that the budget should be balanced, that the Treasury should be refilled, that public debt should be reduced, that the arrogance of the generals should be tempered and controlled, that assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt, that the mobs should be forced to work and not depend on government for subsistence, and that prudence and frugality should be put into practice as soon as possible.
      • Taylor Caldwell in her novel based on the life of Cicero, A Pillar of Iron (1965), p. 483 of the 1965 edition published by Doubleday (Garden City, NY). In the 1966 British edition from Collins (London), the passage occurs at the bottom of p. 371, in chapter 51. The origin and history of the quotation have been discussed at Quote Investigator and Snopes.
  • Study carefully, the character of the one you recommend, lest their misconduct bring you shame.
    • from Horace, Epistles I.xviii.76.
  • "A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the carrier of the plague. You have unbarred the gates of Rome to him."
    • A paraphrase from a 1965 essay by Justice Millard Caldwell. The paraphrase appears to be from the Second Catiline Oration but drastically changes the rhetoric.
    • Actual example from Second Catiline Oration: "But why are we speaking so long about one enemy; and about that enemy who now avows that he is one; and whom I now do not fear, because, as I have always wished, a wall is between us; and are saying nothing about those who dissemble, who remain at Rome, who are among us? "
  • "Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the 'new, wonderful good society' which shall now be Rome, interpreted to mean 'more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.'"

Quotes about Cicero[edit]

  • If I could have known Cicero, and been his friend, and talked with him in his retirement at Tusculum (beau-ti-ful Tusculum l), I could have died contented.
  • But to confess the truth boldly (for once you have crossed over the barriers of impudence there is no more curb), his way of writing, and every other similar way, seems to me boring. For his prefaces, definitions, partitions, etymologies, consume the greater part of his work; what life and marrow there is, is smothered by his long-winded preparations. If I have spent an hour in reading him, which is a lot for me, and I remember what juice and substance I have derived, most of the time I find nothing but wind; for he has not yet come to the arguments that serve his purpose and the reasons that properly touch on the crux, which I am looking for.
    • Michel de Montaigne, 'Of Books', 1580, in The Complete Essays of Montaigne, ed. D. Frame (1958)

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