Cicero Says Something Nice to His Son

From the Fragments of Cicero’s Letters (=Augustin. c. Iul. op. imperf. 6.22)

9. “What? Didn’t Cicero send the words from the guts of every father with this line to his son, writing to him: I wish you alone of all people in the world would do better than me in all things’

9. Quid? illam vocem nonne de visceribus cunctorum patrum Cicero emisit ad filium, ad quem scribens ait: solus es omnium a quo me in omnibus vinci velim?

Of course, since this is Cicero, this is partly about himself, but it is still rather sweet, especially when compared to fathers like Odysseus

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Roman Sarcophagus with father and child

 

A Pirate Orator! A Late-Arriving Orphan! Slandering Cicero…

I had coffee with a wonderful Cicero scholar today. I went home to find something cool by Cicero to post but then I read this:

Pseudo-Sallust, Against Cicero

“I would have a hard time enduring your attacks with a level mind, Marcus Tullius, if I believed that this petulance of yours came from good judgment rather than a sick mind. But, since I discover in you neither balance nor modesty, I will answer you just so you may lose the pleasure you get from slandering someone when you are slandered yourself.

Where shall I complain, whom shall I address, Senators, to tell that the Republic is being divided up as booty for any kind of daring pirate? Can I call to the Roman people, the people who are so corrupted by expenditures that they offer themselves and their fortunes for sale? Can I call to you, Senators, whose authority is a joke to any of the foulest and most criminal—especially when Marcus Tullius defends the laws, the courts, and the Republic and lords over this order as if he were the last scion of a famous family of Scipio Africanus and not some orphan citizen, just recently rooted in this city?

Come on, Marcus—aren’t your words and deeds perfectly clear? Haven’t you lived in such a way from boyhood that you believed that there was nothing sinful which anyone could do to your body? Or, I guess you did not develop this excessive elegance of yours with Marcus Piso by offering up your shame? It is thus hardly a wonder that you sell it so criminally since you won it so disgustingly.”

[The text goes on to insult Cicero’s wife, daughter, his relationship with Crassus and more…Many apologies to anyone who cares for Cicero, I have a weakness for excessive Latin invective…and Cicero did too…]

Graviter et iniquo animo maledicta tua paterer,M. Tulli, si te scirem iudicio magis quam morbo animi petulantia ista uti. Sed cum in te neque modum neque modestiam ullam animadverto, respondebo tibi ut si quam male dicendo voluptatem cepisti, eam male audiendo amittas.

Ubi querar, quos implorem, patres conscripti, diripi rem publicam atque audacissimo cuique esse praedae? apud populum Romanum? qui ita largitionibus corruptus est, ut se ipse ac fortunas suas venales habeat. an apud vos, patres conscripti? quorum auctoritas turpissimo cuique et sceleratissimo ludibrio est; ubi M. Tullius leges, iudicia, rem publicam defendit atque in hoc ordine ita moderatur quasi unus reliquus e familia viri clarissimi, Scipionis Africani, ac non reperticius, accitus, ac paulo ante insitus huic urbi civis.

An vero, M. Tulli, facta tua ac dicta obscura sunt? an non ita a pueritia vixisti ut nihil flagitiosum corpori tuo putares quod alicui collibuisset? aut scilicet istam immoderatam eloquentiam apud M. Pisonem non pudicitiae iactura perdidicisti! itaque minime mirandum est quod eam flagitiose venditas quam turpissime parasti.

 

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Fronto on Cicero: A Font of Eloquence with Predictable words

M. Cornelius Fronto to Marcus Aurelius (c. 139 CE) 1.3

“Up to now, you have perhaps been wondering in what number I might place Marcus Cicero who is the peak and the origin of Roman eloquence. I think that he used the most beautiful words all the time and that he was ahead of all other orators in making magnificent whatever topic he wished to illustrate. But, he seems to be to have been less than scrupulous in selecting his words—either because of the hugeness of his mind, in avoidance of extra work, or because of a trust that without even seeking it he would find present what barely appears when others search for it.

And so, as someone who has repeatedly read all of his writings most carefully, I believe that I have sensed that he managed every kind of word most effectively—direct words, metaphors, simple and compound words—and what shines through everywhere in his writings, noble words and often quite charming ones. But still, in all of his speeches you will discover very few works which are uncommon or unexpected, the types of words which cannot be hunted down without study, and concern, and work, and a great memory of old poems.

I am calling an uncommon and unexpected word one which is offered beyond the hope or expectation of those reading or listening so that, if you take it away and ask the reader to finish the meaning, he would discover no other word or at least none so well matched to what the phrase means.”

3. Hic tu fortasse iamdudum requiras quo in numero locem M. Tullium, qui caput atque fons Romanae eloquentiae cluet. Eum ego arbitror usquequaque verbis pulcherrimis elocutum et ante omnes alios oratores ad ea, quae ostentare vellet, ornanda magnificum fuisse. Verum is mihi videtur a quaerendis scrupulosius verbis procul afuisse vel magnitudine animi vel fuga laboris vel fiducia, non quaerenti etiam sibi, quae vix aliis quaerentibus subvenirent, praesto adfutura. Itaque comperisse videor, ut qui eius scripta omnia studiosissime lectitarim, cetera eum genera verborum copiosissime uberrimeque tractasse, verba propria translata simplicia composita et, quae in eius scriptis ubique dilucent, verba honesta, saepenumero etiam amoena: quom tamen in omnibus eius orationibus paucissima admodum reperias insperata atque inopinata verba, quae non nisi cum studio atque cura atque vigilia atque Vat.145multa veterum carminum memoria indagantur. | Insperatum autem atque inopinatum verbum appello, quod praeter spem atque opinionem audientium aut legentium promitur, ita ut, si subtrahas atque eum qui legat quaerere ipsum iubeas, nullum aut non ita significando adcommodatum verbum aliud reperiat.

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Saving Your Country: Vengeance and History in the Fragments of Cornelius Nepos

Cornelius Nepos, Fragments

Fragment 1.1 The following is allegedly from a letter by Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi to her remaining son

“You may say that it is a fine thing to take vengeance from your enemies. Indeed, that seems neither greater nor finer to anyone than to me, if it can be achieved while the republic is kept safe. But since this cannot happen, may our enemies not perish for a long time—may they stay as they are now—rather than our country meet ruin and destruction”

Dices pulchrum esse inimicos ulcisci. Id neque maius neque pulchrius cuiquam atque mihi esse videtur, sed si liceat re publica salva ea persequi. Sed quatenus id fieri non potest, multo tempore multisque partibus inimici nostri non peribunt, atque uti nunc sunt erunt potius quam res publica profligetur atque pereat.

 

Fragment 2.1 Eulogy for Cicero

“You should not be ignorant of the fact that this genre of Latin literature is not only the only one that did not match Greece but was left altogether simplistic and incomplete with the death of Cicero. For he was  the only one who was able and likely to endow history with a worthy voice—since, he certainly polished the rough eloquence bequeathed by our forebears. He gave Latin philosophy, which was improper before, with his own style. From this I am unsure whether or not the republic or history was aggrieved more greatly by his passing.”

Non ignorare debes unum hoc genus Latinarum litterarum adhuc non modo non respondere Graeciae, sed omnino rude atque inchoatum morte Ciceronis relictum. Ille enim fuit unus qui potuerit et etiam debuerit historiam digna voce pronuntiare, quippe qui oratoriam eloquentiam rudem a maioribus acceptam perpoliverit, philosophiam ante eum incomptam Latinam sua confirmarit oratione. Ex quo dubito, interitu eius utrum res publica an historia magis doleat.

 

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The Effect of Contact with Greek Literature

Cicero, Oratore II 14 (Cicero is not the speaker here…)

“What, then? There is something else still, I will admit, that, as when I walk in the sun—even if I am doing so for some other reason—I still grow darker by nature. Something similar happens when I eagerly read those books at Misenum—for Rome scarcely allows it. I sense that my own speaking takes own a new appearance from this contact. But, so that this does not seem too general to you, I understand only those things contained within Greek works which their very authors conceded the common people to understand.

When by chance I come upon your philosophers, led astray by the titles of their books which are titled with common and famous names—on virtue, justice, goodness, pleasure—I do not understand any word: they are so bound up in precise and abbreviated argumentation. I don’t even try to manage the Greek poets at all since they are communicated in an entirely different language. No, I lose myself, as I have said, with those who write histories or present speeches which they wrote, or who speak in a what that they don’t seem to wish that we be the most well educated men, but merely conversant.”

Quid ergo? Est, fatebor, aliquid tamen: ut, cum in sole ambulem, etiamsi aliam ob causam ambulem, fieri natura tamen, ut colorer: sic, cum istos libros ad Misenum (nam Romae vix licet) studiosius legerim, sentio illorum tactu orationem meam quasi colorari. Sed ne latius hoc vobis patere videatur, haec duntaxat in Graecis intellego, quae ipsi, qui scripserunt, voluerunt vulgo intellegi. In philosophos vestros si quando incidi, deceptus indicibus librorum, quod sunt fere inscripti de rebus notis et illustribus, de virtute, de iustitia, de honestate, de voluptate, verbum prorsus nullum intellego: ita sunt angustis et concisis disputationibus illigati. Poetas omnino, quasi alia quadam lingua locutos, non conor attingere: cum his me (ut dixi) oblecto, qui res gestas, aut qui orationes scripserunt suas, aut qui ita loquuntur, ut videantur voluisse nobis, qui non sumus eruditissimi, esse familiars…

 

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The Scandalous Emergence of Latin Professors of Rhetoric

Cicero, De oratore III 24 (Cicero is not the speaker here)

“The logic—or rather, the practice itself without logic—of which words to choose, how to order them and how to end sentences is easy—there is a great forest of subjects which, when they were no longer hoarded by the Greeks for this reason, our own youth nearly forgot them by learning them, and, if you can believe it, there are have emerged in the last two years Latin professors of speech. I applied my power as censor to abolish these teachers—not for the reason that some people are always claiming, that I did not want the youth to have a sharp intelligence—but because I did not wish for their wits to be stunted and for their arrogance to be supported.

For among the Greeks, whatever quality they are, I still uses to see a certain practice of language, a theory and knowledge worthy of humanity; these new teachers, well, I could not see that they could teach anything other than how to be daring—a quality which, even when joined with other virtues ought to be especially avoided itself. And since this is the single thing they offer and their school is one of arrogance, I believed that it was a censor’s duty to ensure it did not expand any farther.”

Verborum eligendorum et collocandorum et concludendorum facilis est vel ratio vel sine ratione ipsa exercitatio; rerum est silva magna, quam cum Graeci iam non tenerent ob eamque causam iuventus nostra dedisceret paene discendo, etiam Latini, si dis placet, hoc biennio magistri dicendi exstiterunt; quos ego censor edicto meo sustuleram, non quo, ut nescio quos dicere aiebant, acui ingenia adolescentium nollem, sed contra ingenia obtundi nolui,  corroborari impudentiam. Nam apud Graecos, cuicuimodi essent, videbam tamen esse praeter hanc exercitationem linguae doctrinam aliquam et humanitate dignam scientiam, hos vero novos magistros nihil intellegebam posse docere nisi ut auderent; quod etiam cum bonis rebus coniunctum per se ipsum est magnopere fugiendum: hoc cum unum traderetur et cum impudentiae ludus esset, putavi esse censoris ne longius id serperet providere.

 

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Changing Tack: Cicero on Ends and Means in Politics

Ep. 20 (I.9) Cicero to Lentulus Spinther

“For I do not think it is necessary to fight against such powers nor to get rid of the precedence taken by our highest citizens, even if it were possible; nor do I think it necessary to affix myself to a single opinion when situations change and the desires of good men change with them—no, one must change with the times. Remaining in an permanent opinion has never been praised among exceptional men for the governing of the state. But, as in sailing it is good to get ahead of a storm even if you will not find the harbor; yet if you can make it to safe ground by changing your approach, only a fool would risk danger to hold to the course he began rather than make his destination by changing something. Thus, while all of us running the state should seek the proposition which I have often sought—peace with dignity—we should ensure not to speak the same but always to seek the same thing.”

  1. nam neque pugnandum arbitrarer contra tantas opes neque delendum, etiam si id fieri posset, summorum civium principatum <neque> permanendum in una sententia conversis rebus ac bonorum voluntatibus mutatis, sed temporibus adsentiendum. numquam enim <in>praestantibus in re publica gubernanda viris laudata est in una sententia perpetua permansio; sed ut in navigando tempestati obsequi artis est etiam si portum tenere non queas, cum vero id possis mutata velificatione adsequi stultum est eum tenere cum periculo cursum quem coeperis potius quam eo commutato quo velis tamen pervenire, sic, cum omnibus nobis in administranda re publica propositum esse debeat, id quod a me saepissime dictum est, cum dignitate otium, non idem semper dicere sed idem semper spectare debemus.
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Burney 275