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We must learn how to imitate Cicero from Cicero himself. Let us imitate him as he imitated others. ~ Erasmus
There is only one way of honoring [our classics], and that is to continue seeking with the same spirit and with the same courage, and not to weary of the search. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Imitation is behavior that follows a model or pattern.


  • All imitation is exaggeration.
    • Alfred Austin, Haunts of Ancient Peace (London: Macmillan and Co., 1902), p. 4.
  • “To imitate Socrates” meant, in other words, to staunchly refuse imitation; refuse imitation of the person “Socrates”—or any other person, however worthy. The model of life Socrates selected, painstakingly composed and laboriously cultivated for himself might have perfectly suited his kind of person, but it would not necessarily suit all those who made a point of living as Socrates did. A slavish imitation of the specific mode of life that Socrates constructed on his own, and to which he remained unhesitatingly, steadfastly loyal throughout, would amount to a betrayal of his legacy, to the rejection of his message—a message calling people first and foremost to listen to their own reason, and calling thereby for individual autonomy and responsibility. Such an imitation could suit a copier or a scanner, but it will never result in an original artistic creation, which (as Socrates suggested) human life should strive to become.
  • ... they copycat. That's a great danger in any business. If anybody comes to me and says we want to do this because the other guy is doing it then I say go back to square one and come up with a better reason. Human nature is such that you do want to do what others are doing.
  • Imitation is suicide.
  • You can only live for yourself: Your action is good only whilst it is alive—whilst it is in you. The awkward imitation of it by your child or your disciple, is not a repetition of it, is not the same thing but another thing. The new individual must work out the whole problem of science, letters, and theology for himself, can owe his fathers nothing.
  • We must learn how to imitate Cicero from Cicero himself. Let us imitate him as he imitated others.
  • L'imitazione del male supera sempre l'esempio; come per il contrario, l'imitazione del bene è sempre inferiore.
    • He who imitates what is evil always goes beyond the example that is set; on the contrary, he who imitates what is good always falls short.
    • Francesco Guicciardini, Storia d' Italia (1537-1540).
  • Imitation can acquire pretty much everything but the power which created the thing imitated.
  • To do the opposite of something is also a form of imitation.
  • He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties.
    • J.S. Mill, On Liberty (Henry Holt, New York: 1895), Chapter 3, p. 106.
  • Um aber unsere Klassiker so falsch beurteilen und so beschimpfend ehren zu können, muß man sie gar nicht mehr kennen: und dies ist die allgemeine Tatsache. Denn sonst müßte man wissen, daß es nur eine Art gibt, sie zu ehren, nämlich dadurch, daß man fortfährt, in ihrem Geiste und mit ihrem Mute zu suchen, und dabei nicht müde wird.
    • In order to be able thus to misjudge, and thus to grant left-handed veneration to our classics, people must have ceased to know them. This, generally speaking, is precisely what has happened. For, otherwise, one ought to know that there is only one way of honoring them, and that is to continue seeking with the same spirit and with the same courage, and not to weary of the search.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations (1876), as translated by A. Ludovici, § 1.2.
  • A world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to guess the thought of his neighbor.
  • What was his aim in life? Greatness—in other people’s eyes. Fame, admiration, envy—all that which comes from others. Others dictated his convictions, which he did not hold, but he was satisfied that others believed he held them. Others were his motive power and his prime concern. He didn’t want to be great, but to be thought great. He didn’t want to build, but to be admired as a builder. He borrowed from others in order to make an impression on others.
  • They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask: “Is this true?” They ask: “Is this what others think is true?” Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show.
  • If any man stopped and asked himself whether he’s ever held a truly personal desire, he’d find the answer. He’d see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He’s not even struggling for material wealth, but for the second-hander’s delusion—prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can’t say about a single thing: this is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me. Then he wonders why he’s unhappy.
  • Der Mensch ist ein nachahmendes Geschöpf.
    Und wer der Vorderste ist, führt die Heerde.
    • An imitative creature is man; whoever is foremost, leads the herd.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Wallenstein's Tod (1798), III, 4, 9.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 387-88.
  • Respicere exemplar vitæ morumque jubebo
    Doctum imitatorem, et veras hinc ducere voces.
    • I would advise him who wishes to imitate well, to look closely into life and manners, and thereby to learn to express them with truth.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, CCCXVII.
  • Pindarum quisquis studet æmulari,
    Iule ceratis ope Dædalea
    Nititur pennis, vitreo daturus
    Nomina ponto.
    • He who studies to imitate the poet Pindar, O Julius, relies on artificial wings fastened on with wax, and is sure to give his name to a glassy sea.
    • Horace, Carmina, IV, 2, 1.
  • Dociles imitandis
    Turpibus ac pravis omnes sumus.
    • We are all easily taught to imitate what is base and depraved.
    • Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), XIV. 40.
  • C'est un bétail servile et sot à mon avis
    Que les imitateurs.

See also

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