blame, late speeches, oratory

The point of no return. Cicero’s ‘Philippics.’

1. Copy of J. R. King (1878), The Philippic Orations of M. Tullius Cicero from BU Mugar Library. Annotated readers from May 1893 to April 1979.

2a. Modern depictions of Mark Antony:


2b. Silver denarius of Mark Antony, 32 BCE (RRC 543/1). Left: Antony; Armenian tiara behind portrait as an allusion to his conquests in the East. Right: Cleopatra with diadem, in front of the bust, a ship’s bow as an allusion to her war fleet. Image: CRRO. Sources on Cleopatra from CL 206.

3. Cicero, Philippics (1.14-15). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

I feel great anguish that men who have enjoyed the greatest benefits the Roman people can grant did not support the leadership of Lucius Piso in his noble proposal. Did the Roman people elect us to the consulship so that, having been granted so high a position, we should consider the Republic as nothing? Not only did no ex-consul verbally support Piso, no one supported him even by a look. [15] For pity’s sake, what is this voluntary slavery? I admit you had to do something; I do not require that those who speak from the ex-consuls’ bench do as I am doing. Those whose silence I forgive are a different case from those I ask to speak out; I feel sorrow that the Roman people are beginning to think those men suspect, not because they were afraid to live up to their position (which itself would be shameful) but because they all did so for different and individual reasons. This is why I am expressing the immense gratitude I feel to Piso, a man who thought not about what he could do for the Republic, but what he personally ought to do.

4. Cicero, Philippics (1.38). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

Members of the Senate, since I have reaped the rewards of my return, whatever misfortune I may encounter, I have said words which stand as testimony of my steadfastness and you have heard them with attentive kindness. And if the power to speak out frequently falls to my lot, without danger to you or me, I shall use it. If not, to the best of my ability, I shall hold myself in reserve for the Republic rather than for myself. It is enough for me that I have lived long enough for a decent lifespan and to achieve my own fame; if any extra time is granted, it will not have been granted so much to me as to you and the Republic.

5. Cicero, Philippics (2.7). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

Why, the man even read out a letter, which he said that I sent to him, being completely unaware of civilized behaviour and ignorant of how people deal with each other. What man who was even marginally familiar with the way decent men behave ever made public and openly read out letters sent to him by a friend because there was now some quarrel between them?

6. Cicero, Philippics (2.10). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

And even if he is in no sense a consul, either inhis life-style, his governing of the Republic or the way he was elected, I am without debate an ex-consul.

7. Cicero, Philippics (2.20). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011). See See Cicero’s poetry.

And, dear gods, you even wished to be witty at one point, something which does not suit you. In this you should accept a certain amount of blame, for you could have acquired some wit from your mime-actress wife. ‘Let weapons yield to the toga.’ And? Surely they yielded then! But later the toga yielded to your weapons. Let us ask, therefore, whether it was better if weapons of criminals yielded to the freedom of the Roman people or our freedom to your weapons? But I shall not respond more to you about my poetry; I shall only say briefly that you do not understand it, or any literature at all. I have never failed the Republic or my friends, but in every genre of the writings I completed in odd scraps of time, I have worked so that what I wrote in hours while others slept would bring some praise to Rome and be something of use to our youth. But this is not the moment for that subject; let us look at more important subjects.

8. Cicero, Philippics (2.28-29). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

Recall how that sharp man proved me guilty. ‘Right after Caesar was killed,’ he said, ‘Brutus, as he held high his bloody dagger cried out the name of Cicero and congratulated him that freedom had been restored.’ Why me in particular? Because I was in on it? Perhaps he named me because, having achieved something very like my past achievements, he wanted me in particular to witness that he had rivalled my fame. But you, since you are the stupidest man alive, do not understand that if (as you allege) it is an offence to have wished for Caesar’s killing, it is also an offence to have rejoiced at Caesar’s death. For what is the difference between someone who suggests something and someone who applauds it? What does it matter whether I wanted it done or am delighted that it was done? Is there anyone, with the exception of those who were happy that he was our king, who did not want it done or disapproved that it was done? Everyone is at fault then. Indeed, all decent men, as far as they could, killed Caesar; some may have lacked a plan, other courage, and still others the opportunity, but no one lacked the desire.

9a. Cicero, Philippics (2.63), cf. 2.50, 2.75, 84, 104; Fam. 12.2.1, 12.25.4. Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

But let me say no more about the activities of his more mature depravity; let me speak, rather, about the most excessive example of his lack of respect. That throat of yours, those lungs of yours, the whole body of yours with its gladiators’ strength, sucked down so much wine at Stud’s [Hippias’] wedding that you had to vomit it up in the sight of the Roman people the next day. What a revolting thing not just to see, but to hear about! If this had happened to you at a feast right in the middle of those famous giant drinks of yours, who would not have thought it disgusting? In a gathering of the Roman people, as he was dealing with public business, the master of the horse – for whom it would be disgusting even to belch – he filled his lap and the whole platform, vomiting wine mixed with chunks of putrid food! But he admits this himself, along with his other sins – so let us come to his more splendid activities.

9b. Plutarch, Life of Mark Antony (9.3-4). Translated by Thomas Browne (1920).

This course naturally made him odious to the multitude, and to men of worth and uprightness he was not acceptable because of his life in general, as Cicero says, nay, he was hated by them. They loathed his ill-timed drunkenness, his heavy expenditures, his debauches with women, his spending the days in sleep or in wandering about with crazed and aching head, the nights in revelry or at shows, or in attendance at the nuptial feasts of mimes and jesters. We are told, at any rate, that he once feasted at the nuptials of Hippias the mime, drank all night, and then, early in the morning, when the people summoned him to the forum, came before them still surfeited with food and vomited into his toga, which one of his friends held at his service.

10. Cicero, Philippics (2.116-117). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

What sort of life is it fearing your own followers day and night, unless you have men bound to you by greater favors than the men Caesar had bound to him—and some of them killed him? Or is it that you are to be compared to him somehow? That man had brilliance, calculation, memory, literary ability, carefulness, thoughtfulness, precision. He was successful in a war, which, although it was disastrous to the Republic, was still great; for many years he aimed to rule and he achieved what he had planned with great effort and great risks. He softened up the ignorant masses with games, buildings, gifts and feasts. He bound his followers to himself with rewards, his opponents with the appearance of clemency. Why go on? He brought to a free state acceptance of slavery, partly through fear, partly through familiarity. Although I can compare you to him in your lust for power, you cannot be compared to him in anything else.

11. Cicero, Philippics (2.119). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

I would also freely offer up my person if my death would immediately bring back freedom to our state, so that the anguish of the Roman people would give birth to what it has been carrying within for along time. For, if almost twenty years ago I denied, in this very temple, that death could be premature for a man who had held the consulship, how much more truly will I deny it is premature for an old man. embers of the Senate, I should desire death after the political offices I have attained and the deeds I have done. I long for these two things only: one, that as I die i shall leave behind a free Roman people (there is nothing greater that the immortal gods can give to me); second that everyone will get his just rewards for his treatment of the Republic.

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Fathers and sons. Cicero’s ‘De Officiis.’

1. 15th c. manuscript containing Cicero’s De Officiis. Vaticanus Palatinus lat. 1534, fol. 1r. Image: wikimedia.

2. Cicero, De Officiis 1.1. Translated by Thomas Habinek 2012:

To my dear son Marcus: Now that you’ve spent a year listening to Cratippus (in Athens at that!), you must be well stocked with philosophical precepts and guidelines, thanks to the great authority of a teacher and a city that can supply you with theoretical knowledge and practical examples respectively. Still, I’ve always found it helpful to use both Latin and Greek, in philosophy as well as rhetorical exercise, and I’d advise you to do the same to develop equal competence in both languages. To that end, I believe I’ve done our countrymen a real service: those who read Greek in the original — as well as those who don’t — believe that they’ve gained something useful for both public speaking and personal moral deliberation.

3. Cicero, De Officiis 1.3. Translated by Thomas Habinek 2012:

And so, Marcus, I strongly encourage you to study both my speeches and my philosophical treatises, which are almost as numerous. The speeches are more forceful, but a mild and restrained style is worth developing as well.

4. Cicero, De Officiis 1.14. Translated by Thomas Habinek 2012:

It’s no small expression of the power of nature and reason that we alone among animate beings sense order, grace and measure in words and deeds. In the case of visual perception, no other animal recognizes beauty, charm and the interrelationship of parts. Carrying the analogy from eyes to soul, nature and reason consider it all the more important to preserve beauty, consistency and order in thought and deed. They are on their guard against ugly and effeminate behaviour, and against any and every lustful thought or action. From these qualities, honourable conduct, which is our goal, is forged and fashioned. Even if it doesn’t characterize the aristocracy, it’s still honourable, just as our truthful discussion, even if no one praises it, earns the praise of nature.

5. Cicero, De Officiis 1.56-57. Translated by Thomas Habinek 2012:

But of all human associations none is more remarkable or more secure than the friendship formed by good men who have similar modes of life. The goodness or integrity I often describe, if we actually observe it in others, inspires us and makes us friendly towards those who seem to possess it. And although every virtue is attractive and leads us to cherish its possessors, justice and generosity especially prompt this reaction Moreover, nothing is more lovable, more binding, than shared good morals. People who have the same pursuits and preferences come to derive as much joy from each other as from themselves. As Pythagoras says of friendship, one person is formed from several. The sense of community generated by free exchange of kindnesses is indeed great. As long as they are welcome and mutual, such benefits create a steadfast bond between those who share them.

When you make a complete mental inventory of all associations, none is more important or more precious than the bond joining each of us to the state. Parents are dear, children are dear, so are relatives and friends; but all affectionate relationships are encompassed by our country, and no good man would hesitate to face death for its benefit. Is there anything more outrageous than the monstrous behaviour of those who have ravaged their ancestral homeland with every kind of crime, and are and have been obsessed with its utter destruction?

6. Cicero, De Officiis 1.68. Translated by Thomas Habinek 2012:

For it isn’t consistent for a soul unbroken by fear to be broken by desire, or for a person who survives an ordeal undefeated by pleasure. So desire and pleasure should be avoided, and longing for money should be rejected. Nothing so marks a mean and narrow soul as love of riches; and nothing is more honourable and grand than to despise money, if you don’t have it — and if you do have it, to use it for acts of kindness and generosity. We should be wary even of desire for glory, as I have indicated. It destroys liberty, which ought to be the goal of any struggle on the part of great-souled men. There must be no pursuing military commands; on occasion they should even be turned down or laid aside.

7. Cicero, De Officiis 1.77. Translated by Thomas Habinek 2012. See Cicero’s poetry.

And so I affirm the saying, ‘Let weapons yield to the toga, let the military laurel give way to panegyric (cedant arma togae concedat laurea laudi),’ even though jealous scoundrels attack me for doing so.

8. Cicero, De Officiis 1.113-114. Translated by Thomas Habinek 2012:

Consider how much Ulysses endured in his years of wandering: his enslavement to women-if you can call Circe and Calypso women! -his eagerness to please in every conversation. Even at home he put up with abuse from slaves and serving-girls, in order to get, someday, what he was after. But the temperament of Ajax, was such, we are told, that he would have preferred to face death a thousand times rather than suffer as Odysseus did. Each of us who looks to their example will feel obliged to take account of our own sense of self, refusing to alter it or to test whether others’ practices suit us. What best suits each person is whatever is most his own.

As a result, everyone should get to know his own disposition and become a stern judge of his own good and bad behavior. Otherwise theatre people will seem to have more insight than we do. They select not the best dramas but those best suited to their talents… Will a wise man fail to recognize in life what an actor can see onstage (ergo histrio hoc uidebit in scena, non uidebit sapiens uir in uita)?

9. Henriette van der Blom, “A family exemplum.” Cicero’s Role Models (2010), p319:

‘Even so, it is striking that Cicero recommends a path other than that taken by himself. Might it be a recognition of Marcus’ talents as being weightier in military than in oratorical fields? Or is this recommendation a surrender to the general notion of military gloria as worth more than oratorical brilliance, in spite of Cicero’s own defence of oratory as equally important? Or is it simply a reflection of the context of civil war and political unrest in which Cicero wrote.’

10. Henriette van der Blom, Henriette van der Blom, “A family exemplum.” Cicero’s Role Models (2010), p319:

‘This is another hint to Marcus’ inherited paternal glory and to the fact that Marcus will always be known as the son of his father, whether taken positively or negatively. Cicero continues his discussion not by encouraging Marcus to pursue a civil career, but instead suggesting the military way. This suggestion comes in connection with Cicero’s discussion of the way in which homines novi usually climbed up in society, namely through military service. Cicero’s mention of Pompey’s praise of Marcus indicates, however, that Marcus wanted to follow the military way, even if civil war was making such a step problematic. This passage touches on the problems faced by homines novi, and young ambitious men in general, in their attempts to reach political offices and military glory during the civil war. Despite these difficult circumstances, Cicero manages to present Marcus as exemplary, which was a good way of gaining his son’s attention, but perhaps also an attempt to accord praise to the Tullii Cicerones among the broader audience of this work. Even so, it is striking that Cicero recommends a path other than that taken by himself. Might it be a recognition of Marcus’ talents as being weightier in military than in oratorical fields? Or is this recommendation a surrender to the general notion of military gloria as worth more than oratorical brilliance, in spite of Cicero’s own defence of oratory as equally important? Or is it simply a reflection of the context of civil war and political unrest in which Cicero wrote?’

11. Michele Kennerly, “Sermo and Stoic Sociality in Cicero’s De Officiis,” Rhetorica (2010), pp128-129:

As Catulus senior and junior both recognized, there were some Roman rhetorical situations in which it was unquestionably to the orator’s advantage to assume a conversational tone and regular Gaius stance. When an orator approached his audience in such a way and succeeded in identifying with them, he had aptly demonstrated an element of Stoic social oikeiosis. Social oikeiosis extends from a more basic sort of oikeiosis through which creatures adjust themselves to conditions and contingencies in ways optimal to (that is, in accordance with) their respective natures. Animals (human included) perceive themselves and “are conscious of their own constitution” from womb exit to tomb entrance. In his Letters, Seneca explains oikeiosis with reference to toddlers and tortoises. A tot, teetering in her first efforts to walk, might tumble repeatedly, but she will fight through tears and imbalance to stand on her two legs as nature intends. A tortoise rolled over onto its shell does not suffer in that position (though the tortoise might say otherwise, if it could), but nevertheless it strains itself to flip back onto its tummy, its natural stance. Each creature, by instinct or imitation, knows which positions or actions are appropriate to itself and which are alien. Social oikeiosis pertains to the nature of a creature’s interactions with others to whom it is related (by species, language, government, city, family, etc.). The Stoic Hierocles describes our other-orientation as resulting from our needs and nature as social animals. “For this reason,” he explains, “we inhabit cities; for there is no human being who is not part of a city. Secondly, we make friendships easily.By eating together or sitting together in the theatre . . .”;’



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Cicero’s Poetry.

1. Harley 647 containing Cicero’s Aratea. Illustrated with the constellations. Hyginus’ commentary to the poem contained within the body of the constellations. Images: British Library. Aries (fol. 2v), Sagittarius (fol. 6r), Eridanus (fol. 10v).

2a. Tacitus, Dialogus (21.6-7). Translated by M. Hutton, W. Peterson (1914):

As to Julius Caesar we must no doubt make allowance. It was owing to his vast designs and all-absorbing activities that he accomplished less as an orator than his superhuman genius called for; just as in the case of Brutus we must leave him to his well-loved philosophy, for even his admirers admit that as an orator he did not rise to his reputation. You won’t tell me that anybody reads Caesar’s oration in defence of Decius the Samnite, or Brutus’s in defence of King Deiotarus, or any of the other speeches, all equally slow and equally flat—unless, indeed, it be someone who is an admirer also of their poetry. For they not only wrote poetry, but what is more they sent copies to the libraries. Their verse is no better than Cicero’s, but they have had more luck: it is not so notorious (quia illos fecisse pauciores sciunt).

2b. Juvenal, Satires (10.114-126). Translated by Susanna Braund (2010):

The eloquence and reputation of Demosthenes or Cicero is what boys keep on praying for throughout the spring holidays, every boy who goes to school accompanied by a house slave to guard his narrow satchel and who still worships thrifty Minerva with a single tiny coin. But it was because of their eloquence that both orators died. It was the abundant, overflowing gush of talent that sent both to their deaths. It was talent that had its hands and neck severed. The rostrum was never drenched in the blood of a feeble advocate. “O Rome, you are fortunate, born in my consulate” (o fortunatam natam me consule Romam). He could have laughed at Antony’s swords if everything he said had been like this. I rank his ridiculous verses above you, immortal Philippic, next to the first on the roll, with your distinguished reputation.

2c. Plutarch, Life of Cicero (2.3-5). Translated by Bernadotte Perrin (1919):

And although he showed himself, as Plato thought a nature should do which was fond of learning and fond of wisdom, capable of welcoming all knowledge and incapable of slighting any kind of literature or training, he lent himself with somewhat greater ardour to the art of poetry. And a little poem which he wrote when a boy is still extant, called Pontius Glaucus,  and composed in tetrameter verse. Moreover, as he grew older and applied himself with greater versatility to such accomplishments, he got the name of being not only the best orator, but also the best poet among the Romans. His fame for oratory abides to this day, although there have been great innovations in style; but his poetry, since many gifted poets have followed him, has altogether fallen into neglect and disrepute.

2d. Catullus, poem 49. Translated by Peter Green (2005), cf. Pro Caelio wk 5:

Sweetest-spoken of Romulus’ descendants,
past or present, Marcus Tullius, and all who
may yet follow in the distant future — 
warmest thanks to you herewith from Catullus,
who’s the worst of all poets, by as much the 
worst of all living poets, as yourself are
best of all courtroom lawyers for your clients.

2e. Caroline Bishop, “pessimus omnium poeta: Canonization and the Ancient Reception of Cicero’s Poetry,” ICS (2018), pp145-146:

‘After this, there is a marked decline in allusions to Cicero’s poetry, and Seneca mentions contemporary mockery of it alongside mockery of other antiquated figures like Ennius and Hortensius, a sign that it was now considered thoroughly out of date (De Ira 3.37.5). From this point on, most references to the poetry cluster around its two most infamous and mockable lines, “oh fortunate Rome, reborn in my consulship” (o fortunatam natam me consule Romam) and “let arms yield to the toga” (cedant arma togae). It is significant that these are both lines whose critical reception Cicero discusses in his prose works, suggesting that imperial authors may not have read the poetry at all—and that they were, in a sense, taking Cicero’s word for the badness of his poetry.’

3. Chronological table of Cicero’s poetry:

Ciceronian poem date  what remains evidence
Translation of Aratus’ Phaenomena (Aratea) 80s BCE (Prognostica added c. 60 BCE?) 480 lines in mss.; c. 90 lines quoted by Cicero quoted by Cicero in De Nat. Deor. 2.104-114 (45 BCE); smaller self-quotations in other Ciceronian works.
Pontius Glaucus, Nilus, Uxorius, Alcyones, Limon, Thalia Maesta 80s BCE trace quotations and titles in later sources (see Courtney 2003: 149ff.)
An epic on his consulship (De Consulatu) 60 BCE  78 lines quoted by Cicero in De Div. 1.17-22 (44 BCE).
An epic on his own exile (De temporibus suis) 56-54 BCE lost references in Q.fr. 2.7.1 (Feb. 55 BCE), Q. fr. 3.1.24 (Sept. 54 BCE), Fam. 1.9.23 (Dec. 54 BCE). See Harrison 1990.
An epic on Caesar’s expedition to Britain 54 BCE lost Q. fr. 3.7.6.
An epic poem on Gaius Marius (Marius) uncertain date 13 lines  quoted by Cicero in De Leg. 1.2 (after 52 BCE), Div. 1.106 (44 BCE).
Latin translations of Greek poetry in philosophical works (various)


4. Cicero, De Officiis (1.77-78). Translated by Walter Miller (1913):

The whole truth, however, is in this verse, against which, I am told, the malicious and envious are wont to rail. Yield, ye arms, to the toga; to civic praises, ye laurels. (cedant arma togae, concedat laurea laudi). Not to mention other instances, did not arms yield to the toga, when I was at the helm of state? For never was the republic in more serious peril, never was peace more profound. Thus, as the result of my counsels and my vigilance, their weapons slipped suddenly from the hands of the most desperate traitors—dropped to the ground of their own accord! What achievement in war, then, was ever so great? [78] What triumph can be compared with that? For I may boast to you, my son Marcus; for to you belong the inheritance of that glory of mine and the duty of imitating my deeds. And it was to me, too, that Gnaeus Pompey, a hero crowned with the honours of war, paid this tribute in the hearing of many, when he said that his third triumph would have been gained in vain, if he were not to have through my services to the state a place in which to celebrate it.

5. Cicero, De Legibus (1.1-2). Translated by Clinton W. Keyes (1928):

Quintus. That oak lives indeed, my dear Atticus, and will live for ever; for it was planted by the imagination. No tree nourished by a farmer’s care can be so long–lived as one planted by a poet’s verses.
Atticus. How is that, Quintus? What sort of planting is it that poets do? It seems to me that while praising your brother you are putting in a word for yourself as well.
Quintus. You may be right; but for all that, as long as Latin literature shall live, there will not fail to be an oak tree on this spot, called the “Marian Oak,” and this tree, as Scaevola says of my brother’s “Marius,” will Through countless ages come to hoary end. For I suppose you do not really believe that your beloved Athens has been able to preserve in her citadel an undying olive tree, or that the tall and graceful palm which Homer’s Ulysses said that he saw at Delos is the one shown there to–day. And in the same way many other objects in many different places live in men’s thoughts for a longer time than Nature could have kept them in existence. Therefore let us assume that this tree is that “acorn–laden” oak, from which once flewJove’s golden messenger of wondrous form. But when time or age shall have destroyed this tree, still there will be an oak tree on this spot, which men will call the “Marian Oak.”

6a. Cicero, De Natura Deorum (2.104-105). Translated by P. G. Walsh (1998):

At this moment Balbus looked over at me, and said: ‘I shall now cite some lines of Aratus. Your translation of them, which you made when you were still a stripling, gives me so much pleasure because they are in Latin that I can recall many of them from memory. So here goes, as illustration of what we continually observe with no change or variation:

The other stars of heaven glide swiftly on;
By day and night they circle with the sky.

A person desirous of contemplating the regularity of nature can never have his fill of the contemplation of those heavenly bodies:

The furthest point of the axis at either end
Is called the pole.

Around the pole the two constellations of the Bears course and never set.

The Greeks call one of them the Cynosure;
The other bears the name of Helice.

The stars in the second of these are visible all night long, and they are very bright:

The name we give to them’s ‘The Seven Oxen.’

6b. Astronomical chart of ‘Cynosure’, modern Ursa Minor:

7. Caroline Bishop, “pessimus omnium poeta: Canonization and the Ancient Reception of Cicero’s Poetry,” ICS (2018), pp153-154:

‘Cicero’s claim to eternal fame for the products of his innate eloquence was so strong that Seneca says that he is unaware of a single declaimer who argued the opposite side of this suasoria (i.e., that Cicero should burn his works and continue to live). Instead, Seneca says, “everyone was worried about Cicero’s books, no one about the man himself” (omnes pro libris Ciceronis solliciti fuerunt, nemo pro ipso, Suas. 7.10). In other words, the declaimers found it attractive to argue that Cicero was more valuable dead than alive because for them this was indeed the case: as a symbol of Republican eloquence, his death at the hands of tyranny only amplified his ability, through the process of canonization, to serve as a critic of such tyranny for later ages.’

8. Caroline Bishop, “pessimus omnium poeta: Canonization and the Ancient Reception of Cicero’s Poetry,” ICS (2018), pp141:

‘Alongside and in concert with canonization, a biographical tradition grew up around canonized Greek authors that reinforced their well-suitedness to the genres in which they composed. It has long been recognized that ancient biographers largely relied on an author’s own words for their portraits, whether or not those words were meant to be self-representational. But as Joseph Farrell has noted, ancient biographers were selective about the passages they considered illustrative of their subject’s character. Archilochus, for example, is unanimously represented in ancient biographies as “a mean-spirited, foul-mouthed, oversexed coward, drunkard, and brawler,” a feat that requires ignoring poems that do not support this characterization, such as his moving consolation of his friend Pericles (fr. 13 West). This is because Archilochus had become the canonical poet of blame, and by focusing solely on the iambic features of his poetry, his biographers could transform him into essentially an allegory for iambic poetry itself: someone whose character was so “iambic” that he could not help but be talented in the genre. In this way, biographers provided powerful confirmation of the idea that authors wrote in the genres to which their character was inherently suited.’

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Cicero’s ‘De Natura Deorum.’

1. Harley 4662. 15th c. manuscript containing Cicero’s De Natura Deorum. White vine initial ‘C’. Image: British Library.

2. P. A. Brunt, ‘Philosophy and Religion in the Late Republic.’ Philosophia Togata I (1989), pp175:

‘Romans were certainly conscious that philosophic teaching was at variance with inherited religious practices and beliefs. For example, Varro (as we know through St. Augustine) followed an unidentified Greek thinker in distinguishing three types of theology, three ways of giving an account of the divine: mythical, natural, and political. Mythical theology was purveyed by the poets, natural by the philosophers, and political in the laws an civil customs of the state. Of course the poets told and interpreted the myths in various ways, the theories of the philosophers were diverse, and each people had its own gods and cults, though often ready enough, and none readier than the Romans to equate their own with foreign deities or to borrow from other peoples; still in Cicero’s epigram ‘sua cuique religio, nostra nobis’ (Flac. 69).’

3a. Cicero, De Natura Deorum (1.1). Translated by P. G. Walsh (1998):

There are many issues in philosophy which to this day have by no means been adequately resolved. But there is one enquiry, Brutus, which is particularly difficult and obscure, as you are well aware. This concerns the nature of the gods, the noblest of studies for the human mind to grasp, and one vital for the regulation of religious observance. On this question, the pronouncements of highly learned men are so varied and so much at odds with each other that inevitably they strongly suggest that the explanation is human ignorance, and that the Academics have been wise to withhold assent on matters of such uncertainty; for what can be more degrading than rash judgement, and what can be so rash and unworthy of the serious and sustained attention of a philosopher, as either to hold a false opinion or to defend without hesitation propositions inadequately examined or grasped?

3b. Cicero, De Natura Deorum (1.9). Translated by P. G. Walsh (1998):

A further incentive to embark on these studies was provided by the mental depression induced by the savage and crippling blow inflicted by fortune. Had I been able to devise some more effective alleviation, I should not have taken refuge in this. But I could find no better means of exploiting this plan of action than by devoting myself not merely to a course of reading, but also to grappling with the whole philosophy. The easiest way to gain acquaintance with all its constituent parts and branches is to deal with the topics fully in writing, for the arguments follow an ordered sequence in a remarkable way, each being clearly linked to its predecessor and all of them fitting closely in association with each other.

4. Cicero, De Natura Deorum (2.93). Translated by  P. G. Walsh (1998):

I cannot but express astonishment at this, that anyone could convince himself that certain solid, indivisible bodies are borne along by their thrust and weight, and that from the chance collision of these bodies is created a universe supremely embellished and beautiful. In my view, anyone who imagines that this could have happened, must logically have believe that if countless numbers of the twenty-one letters of the alphabet, fashioned in gold or in some other substance, were thrown into the same receptacle and then shaken out upon the ground, they could form the Annals of Ennius made immediately readable before our eyes. Yet I doubt if as much as a single line could be so assembled by chance.

5a. Cicero, De Natura Deorum (2.12). Translated by  P. G. Walsh (1998):

Augurs wield great authority, and we must surely grant that the soothsayers’ skill is divinely inspired. Any person observing these examples, and countless others of the same kind, would surely be compelled to admit that gods exist. People who employ spokesmen must themselves assuredly exist, and since the gods have spokesmen, we must conceded that gods exist. Perhaps it may be objected that all does not turn out as predicted. But we do not argue that there is no art of medicine, simply because all sick persons do not get better! The gods reveal signs of future events, and if individuals go astray in interpreting these, the fault lies not with the nature of the gods, but with the inferences made by humans. So there is a general agreement amongst all persons of every nation. All have an innate conviction that gods exist, for it is, so to say, engraved on their hearts.

5b. Cicero, De Divinatione (1.15). Translated by W. A. Falconer (1923):

Who could suppose that frogs had this foresight? And yet they do have by nature some faculty of premonition, clear enough of itself, but too dark for human comprehension [Cic., Prognostica]:

Slow, clumsy oxen, their glances upturned to the light of the heavens,
Sniff at the air with their nostrils and know it is freighted with moisture.

I do not ask why, since I know what happens.

Now ’tis a fact that the evergreen mastic, e’er burdened with leafage,
Thrice is expanding and budding and thrice producing its berries;
Triple its signs for the purpose of showing three seasons for ploughing.

Now do I ever enquire why this tree alone blooms three times, or why it makes the appearance of its blossoms accord with my knowledge that it does, although I may not know why.

6. Cicero, De Natura Deorum (2.70). Translated by  P. G. Walsh (1998):

So do you now realize how the admirable and useful discoveries about the natural world have resulted in the creation of false and fictitious deities? This process has given rise to false beliefs, confused misapprehension, and superstitions which are virtually old wives’ tales. We are informed what the gods look like, how old they are, what clothes they wear and what arms they bear, as well as about their family backgrounds, marriages, and kinships; all these details about them are reduced to the level of human frailties. They are even presented as being emotionally disturbed, for we are told of their lusts, anxieties, and outbursts of anger; those tales have it that they also participate in wars and battles, not merely as in the Homeric accounts where they separate and take sides on behalf of opposing armies, but also waging their private wars, for example with the Titans, and with the Giants. These idiotic narratives induce idiotic beliefs; they are utterly unprofitable and frivolous.

7. Cicero, De Natura Deorum (2.60-62). Translated by P. G. Walsh (1998):

With some justification, however, both the wisest men of Greece and our own ancestors have set up and lent names to many other divine natures because of the great benefits which they have conferred. They did this because they believed that anything which bestows some great service on the human race did not originate without divine beneficence. So they then applied the name of the deity itself to what that deity had brought forth. This is why we call corn Ceres, and wine Liber, as in that tag of Terence [Eunuchus 732]:

Ceres and Liber, if not there,
The heat of Venus do impair.

A further instance is when some concepts embodies a greater significance; its title then acknowledges that significance as divine. Examples are Faith and Mind, both of which we observe have been recently enshrined on the capitol by M. Aemilius Scaurus, Faith having earlier been lent divine status by Aulus Atilius Caiatinus. Before your eyes stands a temple of Virtue and Honor, which was restored by Marcus Marcellus, and which was dedicated many years earlier by Quintus Maximus during the war with Liguria. Need I mention the temples of Wealth, Safety, Concord, Freedom, Victory? In each case the impact of these concepts was so great that it could be controlled only by a god, and thus the concepts themselves gained the titles of gods. Desire, Pleasure, and Sexual Joy have similarly been deified; these are vicious and unnatural forces, even if Velleius thinks otherwise, for these very vices rage too fiercely, and banish our natural instincts. So these gods which spawned these several blessings have owed their divine status to the great benefits which they bestowed, and the power residing in each deity is indicated by the names which I cited a moment ago.”

8. Cicero, De Natura Deorum (2.167). Translated by P. G. Walsh (1998):

Our conclusion is that no great man ever existed without a measure of divine inspiration. We are not to reject this thesis just because a storm has damaged someone’s cornfields or vineyards, or because misfortune has deprived a person of one of life’s benefits, inducing us to consider the recipient of such misfortune as the victim of divine hatred or neglect. The gods attend to important issues, and disregard minor things.

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philosophy

Cicero’s ‘Tusculan Disputations’

1. Illuminated manuscript of Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations. Naples, late 1450s or early 1460s. Image: Christie’s.

2. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.3). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

In literature and culture, Greece used to surpass us: an easy conquest when we didn’t fight back! Among the Greeks the earliest kind of learned men were poets. If it’s true that Homer and Hesiod date to before the foundation of Rome, and Archilochus to the reign of Romulus, then it was much later that we Romans adopted the poetic art. Livius staged a play roughly 510 years after the founding of Rome, during the consulship of Gaius Claudius (the son of Caecus) and Marcus Tuditanus, in the year prior to the birth of Ennius. It took a long time for our people to acknowledge, much less welcome, poets.

3. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.6). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

My project has become more urgent now that a number of hastily composed ‘Latin treatises’ have made their appearance. The authors of these works are respectable fellows, but badly educated. Even when they have their arguments in order, they don’t express them with any flair. They waste their free time– and do a discredit to literature– when they commit thoughts to writing without knowing how to arrange or enliven them or give an pleasure to the reader. And so they just end up reading each other’s books!

4. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.12). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

‘You are talking in circles again! People must exist to be unhappy. But you just now stated that the dead don’t exist. And if they don’t exist, they can’t be a thing — not even unhappy.’
‘Maybe I am not saying what I really mean. What you just described — not existing when once you did exist — that, I think, is the worst kind of misery.’

5. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.17). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

But I’m no Pythian Apollo, making pronouncements that are fixed and unchanging. I’ll speak as a mere mortal, one of many, developing likely arguments through the use of reasonable inference. I don’t have the capacity to go beyond my perception of what seems to be true. We can leave certainty to people who claim it’s possible and who boast of their own wisdom.

6. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.30). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

Who is there who does not mourn the death of those near to him primarily because he thinks they have been deprived of the benefits of life? Take away that belief and you take away mourning. People might feel hurt and distressed at their own loss, but that’s not the reason they go into mourning. Sorrowful weeping and lamentation communicate sadness that is based on our judgement that someone we cherished has been deprived of the good things of life — and senses that very loss.

7. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.62). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

Finally, consider the power of the mind to pursue the unknown, its capacity to create or invent. Do you think this ability is a compound of earthly matter, subject to death and decay? What about the person who exercised the highest type of wisdom, as Pythagoras would have it, and gave names to everything? or herded scattered men together and called them to lives of companionship, or divided the infinity of possible sounds into a small set of letters, or observed the paths of the stars, their forward motions and their standstills? All such men were great. Even greater were those who discovered food, clothing, shelter, ordered behavior, and defenses against wild animals. They tamed and civilized our species; thanks to them we passed from mere crafting of necessities to more elegant forms of life.

8. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.64). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

In my view, none of the more noteworthy human achievements has come about without divine influence. I don’t think a poet can proclaim his deep and ample song without heavenly inspiration. Eloquence needs a higher power to release its flood of resonant language and persuasive sayings. As for philosophy, the mother of all the arts, what else is it but the gift of the gods (to use Plato’s expression) or their discovery (to use mine).

9. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.75). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

For what else are we doing when we call the soul away from pleasure, that is to say, from the body; or from family property, which is the aid and attendant of the body; or from public affairs and every occupation? What – except calling it to itself, urging it to be with itself and drawing it away entirely from the body? To separate the soul from the body is the same thing as learning how to die. Let us practice this separation, let us us bind ourselves from our bodies and grow accustomed to dying.

10. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations (1.86). Translated by Tom Habinek (2012):

As for my friend Pompey, although he was gravely ill at Naples, he recovered. The Neapolitans responded by wearing wreaths; of course the residents at Puteoli did too. Folks came from the neighboring towns to offer congratulations. Frankly, it was a silly business, typically Greek, but a mark of good fortune nonetheless. If he had died on that occasion, would he have departed from good things or from bad? Surely from terrible things. For he wouldn’t have waged war with his father-in-law, he wouldn’t have taken up arms unprepared, he wouldn’t have abandoned his home, fled from Italy, and, after losing an army, fallen naked onto the sword and hands of his slaves. His children wouldn’t have worn themselves out weeping, his property wouldn’t belong to his conquerors. Had he passed away on that occasion, he would have died in the fullness of fortune; but thanks to the extension of his life, how many huge and unbelievable calamities he had to endure! These are the sorts of things death allows us to escape—because if they haven’t yet happened, they still can. But people don’t think they’ll encounter such misfortune. Everybody expects to have the good luck of Metellus, as if more of us are lucky than unlucky or any certainty exists in human affairs! As if it’s wiser to hope than to fear!

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history, oratory

Cicero’s ‘Brutus.’ The history of oratory.

1a. M. Junius Brutus (85-42 BCE). In 54 BCE Brutus minted a coin depicting two of his ancestors: L. Junius Brutus, who expelled the kings from Rome, and Servilius Ahala, who killed Spurius Maelius in 439 BCE with dagger hidden under an armpit. RRC 433/2. Images: http://numismatics.org/collection/1944.100.3244

+ Kathryn Tempest’s (@KathrynTempest) Brutus: The Noble Conspirator (2017) = highly recommended! for a stimulating reevaluation of Caesar’s assassin.

1b. On the idea that Cicero’s Brutus (46 BCE) provoked Brutus to kill Caesar (44 BCE)…:

2a. Cicero, Brutus (16). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

I am prepared to make payment of goodwill in full measure, but the debt itself I do not now seem able to pay and for this I ask your forbearance. I cannot undertake to repay you out of the new crop, as farmers do, for all new growth has been checked within me, and drought has burned and withered all that flowering which once promised abundance. Nor can I repay you from the garnered grain of my storehouse; it lies there in darkness and I who alone have the key find every approach to it cut off. I must therefore sow something in soil uncultivated and abandoned, and by careful cultivation make it possible to increase with interest the generosity of your gift; that is if my mind can respond as well as a field, which after lying fallow for many years generally yields a richer harvest.

2b. Sarah Culpepper Stroup, “Brutus: the dialogic personification of the Republican voice,” Catullus, Cicero, and a Society of Patrons (2010), p255:

‘In his stylization of Rome’s oratorical masters as the “ancestors” of Republican Eloquentia, Cicero transforms the abstracted silence of the Republican voice into a personal family tragedy — a tragedy for which he, as the eldest surviving son of the oratorical family, will deliver the eulogy.’

3. Cicero, Brutus (57-59). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

But the first Roman concerning whom there is extant record of his eloquence, and evidence of his recognition for it, is Marcus Cornelius Cethegus [cos. 204 BCE]. The authority for this statement, and an adequate one I fancy, is Quintus Ennius, especially since he had heard him speak and writes of him after his death, so that no suspicion of distortion because of friendship can arise. The passage of Ennius, if I recall aright, is found in the ninth book of the Annals and runs as follows:

To his colleague Tuditanus was added the orator
Marcus Cornelius Cethegus, of the sweet-speaking tongue, son of Marcus.

He calls him orator and adds the attribute of sweetness of speech, a thing you do not find nowadays in most of them—more barking in some than speaking; but what follows is certainly the greatest title to praise in eloquence:

He used to be called by his fellows of that time,
The men who then lived and passed their restless days,
The choice flower of the people—

and well said indeed; for as reason is the glory of man, so the lamp of reason is eloquence, for preeminence in which the men of that time did well to call such a man the flower of the people,

the marrow of Persuasion.

Πειθώ the Greek term, which it is the business of the orator to effect, Ennius calls Persuasion [Suada], the very marrow of which Cethegus was, he claims; so that of that goddess, which according to Eupolis [5th c. BCE playwright, Old Comedy] ever sat on the lips of Pericles, our orator was, he said, the very marrow.

4a. Cicero, Brutus (81-82). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

As for Quintus Metellus [cos. 143 BCE], whose four sons attained to consular rank, you are of course aware that he was esteemed one of the most eloquent men of his time. He spoke in behalf of Lucius Cotta against the indictment of him brought by Africanus. This and other of his orations are extant besides the one against Tiberius Gracchus, which is set forth in the Annals of Gaius Fannius. Lucius Cotta himself was esteemed a practised speaker, but of routine type. Gaius Laelius and Publius Africanus [cos. 147 BCE] however were in the first rank of orators; their speeches are extant, from which one may judge of their oratorical genius. But among all of these, preceding them a little in point of time, Servius Galba [cos. 144 BCE] stood out beyond question as pre-eminent in eloquence. And in fact of Latin orators he was the first to employ those resources which are the proper and legitimate functions of the orator—to digress from the business in hand for embellishment, to delight his listeners, to move them, to amplify his theme, to use pathos and general topics. But for whatever cause, though his pre-eminence in eloquence is well attested, his orations are more meagre and savour more of antiquity than those of Laelius or Scipio, or even of Cato himself. Their colours have become so much faded that they are scarcely still visible.

4b. Cicero, Brutus (93-94). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

They are satisfied with the renown they have, and judge that it will appear greater if their writings do not come into the hands of critics. Still others do not write because they are aware that they speak better than they write—the case frequently with men of unusual talent but insufficient training, like Galba. In his case it would seem that when he spoke, in addition to vigorous intellectual grasp, he was fired by a kind of innate emotion, which produced a style of speaking earnest, passionate, and vehement; then when he took up his pen at leisure and all that storm of emotion had subsided, his language lost its vigour. That would not happen naturally to those who follow a more concise style of speaking, because reason and judgement need not desert the orator at any time, and relying upon them he may write in the same manner as he speaks; but powerful emotion is not always present, and when it has subsided, all that force and fire of oratory goes out. This then is the reason why the mind of Laelius still breathes in his writings, the force of Galba has vanished.

5. Cicero, Brutus (62). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

Of these some are, to be sure, extant, which the families of the deceased have preserved as trophies of honour and for use on the death of a member of the same family, whether to recall the memory of past glories of their house, or to support their own claims to noble origins. Yet by these laudatory speeches our history has become quite distorted; for much is set down in them which never occurred, false triumphs, too large a number of consulships, false relationships and transitions of patricians to plebeian status, in that men of humbler birth professed that their blood blended with a noble family of the same name, though in fact quite alien to them; as if I, for example, should say that I was descended from Manius Tullius the patrician, who was consul with Servius Sulpicius ten years after the expulsion of the kings.

6. Catherine Steel, “Cicero’s Brutus: the end of oratory and the beginning of history?” BICS (2002), p203:

‘In general, then, Cicero seeks to eliminate content from his discussion, or at least the content of deliberative speeches, and to explain success in terms of technical skill. A similar avoidance of content can be seen in the discussion of specific popularis orators. Of the Gracchi, Tiberius is dealt with in 103-4, and Gaius in 125-126, and Cicero makes no secret of his admiration for the talent of both: his praise is strikingly warm. Tiberius had the potential to outstrip, along with his ally Carbo, all others in gloria, and Gaius is ‘a man who combined an outstanding intellect with passionate enthusiasm and a learned education which began in his childhood’ [Brut. 125]. But, at the same time, the uses to which they put their oratorical talents are condemned. In Tiberius, there is a negative link between talent and activity, implied through a wish for better things: ‘Would that the dispositions of Gaius Carbo and Tiberius Gracchus had been as inclined to do the state good as their intellects were inclined to good speaking . . .’ [Brut. 103]And in Gaius’ case too Cicero indicates his actual unsatisfactoriness through a wish: ‘Would that he had wanted to demonstrate his piety towards his country instead of to his brother!’ [Brut. 126] Yet there is no real discussion of the actions which Tiberius and Gaius took.’

7. Cicero, Brutus (8-9). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

Thus, amidst other things far more deplorable, it was to me a peculiar sorrow, that after a career of conspicuous achievements, at an age when it was my right to take refuge in a harbour, not of indolence and sloth, but of honourable and well-ordered ease, when my oratory too had attained a certain ripeness and maturity of age,—it was, I say, a peculiar sorrow that at that moment resort was had to arms, which those who had learned to use them gloriously did not find a way to use them beneficently. Those men therefore appear to me to have lived fortunate and happy lives, in other states and especially in our own, whom fate permitted to enjoy to the end the authority acquired by the renown of their deeds, and the esteem earned by their wisdom.

8. Cicero, Brutus (45-46). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

This age therefore first produced at Athens an orator all but perfect. For the ambition to speak well does not arise when men are engaged in establishing government, nor occupied with the conduct of war, nor shackled and chained by the authority of kings. Upon peace and tranquillity eloquence attends as their ally, it is, one may say, the offspring of well-established civic order.a Thus Aristotle says that in Sicily, after the expulsion of tyrants, when after a long interval restitution of private property was sought by legal means, Corax and Tisias the Sicilians, with the acuteness and controversial habit of their people, first put together some theoretical precepts; that before them, while many had taken pains to speak with care and with orderly arrangement, no one had followed a definite method or art.

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slavery

Cicero and Tiro.

1a. Slave collar with tag, origin unknown (4th-5th c. CE). National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian. Image: Lisl Walsh on twitter, who notes a problem with the English didactic at the museum.

1b. Sandra Joshel, Slavery in the Roman World (2010), p119-120:

‘Troublesome slaves were marked on their faces with brands or, more likely, tattoos to identify them and the “crimes” for which they had been marked. When caught, some slaves had metal collars riveted around their necks: the collar had an engraving that identified the slave as a fugitive, and often requested his return to his owner. The tag on the [p120] collar from Rome reads: “I have run away: hold on to me. When you return me to my master Zoninus, you will get a gold solidus” (Selected Latin Inscriptions 8731). The use of these collars was common enough that the message could be abbreviated “TMQF” (tene me quia fugio) — Hold on to me since I flee (Selected Latin Inscriptions 9454).’

1c. Jerry Toner, The Roman Guide to Slave Management (2014), p76:

‘There is plenty of evidence for the sexual abuse of slaves. A combination of the powerful position that the master had over his slaves and their lack of basic rights means that this should not come as a surprise. The fact that the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius was proud of himself for resisting the temptations posed by two beautiful slaves suggests that this was not a course that most masters would have taken. There was little stigma attached in masters having sex with boys and adolescent males: all slaves were there for the master to take advantage of if he so wished, whatever their sex or age. Many masters would have been classified as paedophiles in the modern world. Unwanted slave pregnancies were sufficiently common to joke about. There is a hint of the resentment sexual abuse could cause in Petronius’ Satyricon (ch. 57), when a freedman notes that, “I bought freedom for the slave woman who had shared my bed, so that no one could wipe his filthy hands on her breast.” In the same work (ch. 75), Trimalchio says that he had as a boy become his master’s favourite for fourteen years, but defends it by saying, “I mean, what’s wrong with doing what your master wants?”‘

1d. Thomas Habinek, ‘Slavery and Class,’ in S. Harrison (ed.) A Companion to Latin Literature (2005), p385:

‘Slaves made Latin literature possible. In a broad sense, the productive energies of slaves and other dependent labourers generated the surplus that sustained the leisure, or otium, necessary (in the Roman view) for the production and consumption of literary texts. In a narrower sense, slaves and ex-slaves, functioning as readers, researchers, amanuenses, tutors, librarians, copyists, referees and critics were integral to the creation and circulation of texts and to the transmission of the various kinds of knowledge that informed them. Indeed, for all we know, a Roman author was no more responsible for the literary works attributed to him than a modern fashion designer can be said to have ‘made’ the clothing sold under his or her label. The Roman ego was expandable, not limited by the boundaries of a single body. Just as the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’ could signify ‘my slaves and I’ or ‘you and your slaves’, so in practice a slave performed as a prosthesis of his master, even when that master was an esteemed writer.’

2. Cicero, Letter to Quintus (3.1.19), 54 BCE. Translated by Shackleton Bailey.

After I had written these last lines which are in my own hand, your son came over to us for dinner, as Pomponia was dining out. He gave me your letter to read, which he had received shortly before — a charming, serious letter upon my word, in the manner of Aristophanes. I was quite delighted with it. He also gave me the other letter, in which you tell him to stick close to me and regard me as his teacher. How pleased these letters made him, and me likewise! He is the most charming boy, and no one could be fonder of me. I dictated the above to Tiro at dinner, in case the different handwriting may surprise you.

3. Quintus Cicero, Letter to Marcus (Fam. 16.16.1), 53 BCE. Translated by Shackleton Bailey.

My dear Marcus, as I hope to see you again and my boy and my Tulliola and your son, I am truly delighted with what you have done about Tiro, in judging his former condition to be below his deserts and preferring us to have him as a friend rather than a slave. Believe me, I jumped for joy when I read your letter and his. Thank you, and congratulations! If Statius’ loyalty gives me so much pleasure, how highly you must value the same qualities in Tiro, with the addition of literary accomplishments and conversation and culture, gifts worth even more than they! I have all manner of great reasons to love you, but this is a reason — the very fact that you so properly announced the event to me is a reason. I saw all that is you in your letter.

4a. Cicero, Letter to Tiro (Fam. 16.4.1, 4), 50 BCE. Translated by Shackleton Bailey.

You say the doctor has a good reputation, and so I hear myself; but frankly, I don’t think much of his treatments. You ought not to have been given soup with a weak stomach… [4] Take my word for it, dear Tiro, that nobody cares for me who does not care for you. Your recovery is most important to you and me, but many others are concerned about it. In the past you have never been able to recruit yourself properly, because you wanted to give me of your best at every turn. Now there is nothing to stand in your way. Put everything else aside, think only of your bodily well-being (corpori serui). 

cf. Seneca Ep. 92.33: nemo liber est qui corpori seruit. ‘No man is free who is a slave to his body.’

4b. Quintus Cicero, Letter to Tiro (Fam. 16.26). Uncertain place and date, although often dated to 44 BCE. Translated by Shackleton Bailey.

A second packet has reached me with no letter from you, and my thoughts have drubbed you (uerberaui te) with reproaches, though I say nothing. You cannot hope to escape punishment for this offence if you conduct your own case. You must call Marcus in and see whether he can prove you innocent with a speech long pondered in the watches of many a night. I really do beg of you — I remember how our mother in the old days used to seal up empty bottles, so that bottles drained on the sly could not be included with the empties—so you likewise write, even though you have nothing to write about, so that you are not suspected of having scraped an excuse to cover your idleness. Your letters always tell me things most true and agreeable. Love us and good-bye.

4c. Sandra Joshel, Slavery in the Roman World (2010), p11-12:

‘Letters to Tiro from Cicero, his brother Quintus, and his son Marcus testify to the family’s concern, care, and affection for Tiro. Congratulating his brother when he freed Tiro, [p12] Quintus remarks that Cicero preferred that Tiro be the family’s friend, not its slave (Fam. 16.16.1). Yet as the classicist Mary Beard points out, the brothers continue to play on the language of service and slavery in their letters to the free Tiro (2002). Encouraging Tiro to recover from an illness, Cicero orders him “to be a slave to his body,” meaning that he should put his body before everything else and take care of his health (16.4.4). In 44 BCE, Quintus makes a joke about flogging: he has, he tells the former slave, flogged Tiro in his mind for not writing him (16.26.1). Twenty-first-century readers may find it difficult to see the humor in a joke about whipping addressed to a former slave. About Tiro’s point of view, nothing is known.’

5. Pliny the Younger, Ep. 7.4.3-6. On Cicero and Tiro. Translated by Betty Radice.

While I was staying in my house at Laurentum I had Asinius Gallus’s works read aloud to me, in which he draws a comparison between his father and Cicero and quotes an epigram of Cicero’s on his favourite Tiro (in Tironem suum). Then, when I had retired for my siesta (it was summer) and was unable to sleep, I began to reflect upon the fact that all the greatest orators had amused themselves with this kind of writing and had seen merit in doing so. I set my mind to it, and, to my surprise, in spite of being long out of practice, I had soon expressed the very thought which had inspired me to write. This was the result:

Reading the works of Gallus, where he ventures
To hand the palm of glory to his father,
I found that Cicero could unbend his talent
To play with polished wit on lighter theme.
He showed how well the minds of mighty men
Enjoyed the pleasure of much varied charms:
Tiro, he says, defrauds and cheats his lover;
Kisses—not many—promised for a dinner
Are afterwards denied when night-time comes.
Why then conceal my blushes, fear to publish
My Tiro’s wiles and coy endearing favours
Whereby he heaps the fuel on my passion?

6. Beware the ‘happy slave’ narrative!! William C. McDermott, “M. Cicero and M. Tiro,” Historia (1972), p262-263:

‘In summary, we see in the evidence of the letters unique tribute to an admirable relationship between M. Cicero and M. Tiro. The essential nobility of Cicero’s character is well illustrated, and a picture of Tiro emerges – a very model of industry, learning, and devotion.’

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