Lending Books, Equal Rights and Bad Poets: Some Cicero on His Birthday

Equal Rights for All Citizens

Cicero, de re publica I.49

“Since law constitutes the bond of civil society, and the authority of the law is equal, how can the society of citizens be maintained when their condition is not equal? If it be not pleasing to place their wealth on equal footing, and if everyone is endowed with unequal abilities, certainly all of those who are citizens of the same republic ought to have equal rights. For, what is the state but the shared rights of its citizens?”

quare cum lex sit civilis societatis vinculum, ius autem legis aequale, quo iure societas civium teneri potest, cum par non sit condicio civium? si enim pecunias aequari non placet, si ingenia omnium paria esse non possunt, iura certe paria debent esse eorum inter se qui sunt cives in eadem re publica. quid est enim civitas nisi iuris societas civium?

Turning thought into speech

Tusculan Disputations 1.3.

“But it can happen that someone may have a good thought which he cannot express well.”

fieri autem potest, ut recte quis sentiat et id quod sentit polite eloqui non possit

The Human condition

Tusculan Disputations 1.7.1

“Are we not wretched, we who live though we must die? What joy can there be in life, when we must think day and night that we must at some time die?”

qui vivimus, cum moriendum sit, nonne miseri sumus? quae enim potest in vita esse iucunditas, cum dies et noctes cogitandum sit iam iamque esse moriendum?

Tusc. Disp. 1.1.

“I thought it better to illustrate this in Latin, not because philosophy cannot be understood from Greek writers and Greek teachers, but it was always my opinion that the Romans have either discovered all things with more wisdom by themselves, or have improved those things which they received from the Greeks and deemed worthy of their labor.”

hoc mihi Latinis litteris inlustrandum putavi, non quia philosophia Graecis et litteris et doctoribus percipi non posset, sed meum semper iudicium fuit omnia nostros aut invenisse per se sapientius quam Graecos aut accepta ab illis fecisse meliora, quae quidem digna statuissent, in quibus elaborarent.

On lending books

Letters to Atticus, 8

“Beware of lending your books to anyone; save them for me, as you write that you will. The greatest excitement for them has gripped me, along with a contempt for everything else.”

libros vero tuos cave cuiquam tradas; nobis eos, quem ad modum scribis, conserva. summum me eorum studium tenet, sicut odium iam ceterarum rerum.

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On Plato, the murderer

Tusc. Disp. 1.33-4

“But death takes us away from the evils of life, not its joys, if we are truthful. This position, indeed, was so thoroughly explored by Hegesias of Cyrene that he was banned by king Ptolemy from speaking in the schools, because so many went to seek their deaths after hearing him. There is, in fact, an epigram of Callimachus written against Theombrotus of Abracia, who, although nothing bad had happened to him, hurled himself from a wall into the sea, after reading Plato. This Hegesias, whom I just mentioned, wrote a book calld the Apokarteron, in which a man dying of hunger, after being called back to life by his friends, responds to them by enumerating the many ills of human life.”

a malis igitur mors abducit, non a bonis, verum si quaerimus. et quidem hoc a Cyrenaico Hegesia sic copiose disputatur, ut is a rege Ptolomaeo prohibitus esse dicatur illa in scholis dicere, quod multi is auditis mortem sibi ipsi consciscerent.

Callimachi quidem epigramma in Ambraciotam Theombrotum est, quem ait, cum ei nihil accidisset adversi, e muro se in mare abiecisse, lecto Platonis libro. eius autem, quem dixi, Hegesiae liber est apokarteron, quo a vita quidem per inediam discedens revocatur ab amicis; quibus respondens vitae humanae enumerat incommoda.

On a bad poet

Letters to Atticus, 2.20

“I received some books from Vibius. He really is a terrible poet, and knows nothing: but he is not entirely useless. I am copying them down, and will send them back.”

a Vibio libros accepi. Poeta ineptus et tamen scit nihil, sed non est inutilis. Describo et remitto.

On a threat to the state

Against Catiline, 2.20

“They have even driven some of our rural men, who are poor and needy, into the very same hope of renewing the old mode of land seizure. I place both of them in the same class of predators and thieves, but I warn them to stop raving and thinking about proscriptions and dictatorships. The painful memory of those former times is so sewn into the fabric of our state that the people – nay, not even cows are likely to tolerate it!”

… qui etiam non nullos agrestis homines tenuis atque egentis in eandem illam spem rapinarum veterum impulerunt. Quos ego utrosque in eodem genere praedatorum direptorumque pono, sed eos hoc moneo, desinant furere ac proscriptiones et dictaturas cogitare. Tantus enim illorum temporum dolor inustus est civitati ut iam ista non modo homines sed ne pecudes quidem mihi passurae esse videantur.

Some shorter bits

Epist. ad Fam. 6.6.6

“I would prefer the most unfair peace to the justest war”

iniquissimam pacem iustissimo bello anteferrem

Philippics 12.5

“All men make mistakes; but it is fools who persist in them”

cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis perseverare in errore

On Old Age, 24

“No one is so old that he thinks he could not live another year”

nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere

In Verrem, 1.1.4

“There is nothing so sacred that it cannot be sullied, nor anything so protected that it cannot be overcome by money”.

nihil esse tam sanctum quod non violari, nihil tam munitum quod non expugnari pecunia possit.

Tusculan Disputations, 2.47

“Reason is the mistress and queen of all things”

domina omnium et regina ratio

De Oratore, 3.7

“O, how misleading is the hope of men”

O fallacem hominum spem

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