Quotations by Cicero, Marcus Tullius


What the object of senile avarice may be I cannot conceive. For can there be anything more absurd than to seek more journey money, the less there remains of the journey?

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“On Old Age” [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]

Alt. trans.: "Advice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey's end."
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No man can be brave who thinks pain the greatest evil; nor temperate, who considers pleasure the highest good.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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By doubting we come at truth.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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The first law is that the historian shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Also, there must be no suspicion of partiality … or of malice.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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Each man must use his own judgement.

[Suo cuique iudicio est utendum.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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A room without books is like a body without a soul.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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To yield to occasion is the mark of a wise man.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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If you pursue evil with pleasure, the pleasure passes away and the evil remains; If you pursue good with labor, the labor passes away but the good remains.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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What is so beneficial to the people as liberty, which we see not only to be greedily sought after by men, but also by beasts, and to be preferred to all things.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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The way to avoid the imputation of impudence is not to be ashamed of what we do, but never to do what we ought to be ashamed of.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)

Attributed in The Spectator (28 May 1712).
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There is no better way to convince others than first to convince oneself.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
    (Source)

In Martin Luther, Table Talk (1566) [tr. Smith & Gallinger (1915)].
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Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
    (Source)

In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1891).
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The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn’t want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Spurious)
    (Source)

One of several related paraphrases of this "quote" from Taylor Caldwell's novel about Cicero, A Pillar of Iron, ch. 51 (1965):

Antonius 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.


See here and here for more discussion.
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A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. For the traitor appears not a traitor — he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and 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.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Spurious)

This text, widely passed around on social media, was made up for Cicero in Taylor Caldwell, A Pillar of Iron (1965).
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Where is there dignity unless there is also honesty?

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Ad Atticum
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Wise men are instructed by reason; men of understanding, by experience; the most ignorant, by necessity; and beasts by nature.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Ad Atticum
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Indeed rhetoricians are permitted to lie about historical matters so they can speak more subtly.

[Quidem concessum est rhetoribus ementiri in historiis ut aliquid dicere possint argutius.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Brutus, sec. 42 (46 BC)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Orators are indeed permitted to lie about historical matters so they can speak more subtly."
  • "For it is the privilege of rhetoricians to exceed the truth of history, that they may have an opportunity of embellishing the fate of their heroes." [tr. Jones (1776)]
  • "Fabrication's certainly allowed when practitioners of rhetoric write history, to frame a point more cleverly." [tr. Kaster (2020)]
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What one has, one ought to use; and whatever he does he should do with all his might.

[Quod est, eo decet uti: et quicquid agas, agere pro viribus.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Cato Maior de Senectute, 2.9.27
    (Source)
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Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.

[Nam et secundas res splendidiores facit amicitia et adversas partiens communicansque leviores.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Amicitia, para. 22
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There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Divinatione [On Divination], Book 2, sec. 58 (45 BC)

Alt. trans.:
  • "There is nothing so absurd as but some philosopher has said it." Also cited as sec. 119.
  • "In short, somehow or other, I know nothing is so absurd as not to have found an advocate in one of the philosophers." [tr. Yonge (1902)]
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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.

[At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus, qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti, quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint, obcaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa, qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga. et harum quidem rerum facilis est et expedita distinctio. nam libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est eligendi optio, cumque nihil impedit, quo minus id, quod maxime placeat, facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellendus. temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet, ut et voluptates repudiandae sint et molestiae non recusandae. itaque earum rerum hic tenetur a sapiente delectus, ut aut reiciendis voluptatibus maiores alias consequatur aut perferendis doloribus asperiores repellat.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum [On the Ends of Good and Evil], Book 1, sec. 33 (ch. 10) (44 BC) [tr. Rackham (1914)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Then again we criticize and consider wholly deserving of our odium those who are so seduced and corrupted by the blandishments of immediate pleasure that they fail to foresee in their blind passion the pain and harm to come. Equally blameworthy are those who abandon their duties through mental weakness -- that is, through the avoidance of effort and pain. It is quite simple and straightforward to distinguish such cases. In our free time, when our choice is unconstrained and there is nothing to prevent us doing what most pleases us, every pleasure is to be tasted, every pain shunned. But in certain circumstances it will often happen that either the call of duty or some sort of crisis dictates that pleasures are to be repudiated and inconveniences accepted. And so the wise person will uphold the following method of selecting pleasures and pains: pleasures are rejected when this results in other greater pleasures; pains are selected when this avoids worse pains." [On Moral Ends, tr. Woolf (2001)]
  • "But in truth we do blame and deem most deserving of righteous hatred the men who, enervated and depraved by the fascination of momentary pleasures, do not foresee the pains and troubles which are sure to befall them, because they are blinded by desire, and in the same error are involved those who prove traitors to their duties through effeminacy of spirit, I mean because they shun exertions and trouble. Now it is easy and and simple to mark the difference between these cases. For at our seasons of ease, when we have untrammelled freedom of choice, and when nothing debars us from the power of following the course that pleases us best, then pleasure is wholly a matter for our selection and pain for our rejection. On certain occasions however either through the inevitable call of duty or through stress of circumstances, it will often come to pass that we must put pleasures from us and must make no protest against annoyance. So in such cases the principle of selection adopted by the wise man is that he should either by refusing cerftain pleasures attain to other and greater pleasures or by enduring pains should ward off pains still more severe." [tr. Reid (1883)]
  • "But we do accuse those men, and think them entirely worthy of the greatest hatred, who, being made effeminate and corrupted by the allurements of present pleasure, are so blinded by passion that they do not foresee what pains and annoyances they will hereafter be subject to; and who are equally guilty with those who, through weakness of mind, that is to say, from eagerness to avoid labour and pain, desert their duty. And the distinction between these things is quick and easy. For at a time when we are free, when the option of choice is in our own power, and when there is nothing to prevent our being able to do whatsoever we choose, then every pleasure may be enjoyed, and every pain repelled. But on particular occasions it will often happen, owing whether to the obligations of duty or the necessities of business, that pleasures must be declined and annoyances must not be shirked. Therefore the wise man holds to this principle of choice in those matters, that he rejects some pleasures, so as, by the rejection to obtain others which are greater, and encounters some pains, so as by that means to escape others which are more formidable." [On the Chief Good and Evil, tr. Yongue (1853)]
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The beginnings of all things are small.

[Omnium rerum principia parva sunt.]

Cicero - beginnings of all things - wist_info quote

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, Book 5, ch. 58

Alt. trans.: "Everything has a small beginning."
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The good of the people is the chief law.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Legibus, bk. 3, ch. 3, sct. 8 (52-45 BC)
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I do not … find fault with the accumulation of property, privided it hurts nobody, but unjust acquisition of it is always to be avoided.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis, 1.08 [tr. Miller (1913)]
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A great many people do many things that seem to be inspired more by a spirit of ostentation than by heartfelt kindness. … Such a pose is nearer akin to hypocrisy than to generosity or moral goodness.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis, 1.14 [tr. Miller (1913)]
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There is nothing so characteristic of narrowness and littleness of soul as the love of riches.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis, 1.20 [tr. Miller (1913)]
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The more laws, the less justice.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis, 1.33
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The chief way to gain good will is by good deeds.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis, 2.9 [tr. Edinger (1974)]
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For nothing stands out so conspicuously, or remains so firmly fixed in the memory, as something in which you have blundered.

[Nihil est enim tam insigne, nec tam ad diuturnitatem memoriae stabile, quam id, in quo aliquid offenderis.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Oratore [On the Orator], Book 1, ch. 28, sec. 129 (55 BC)

Alt trans.:
  • "For nothing makes so remarkable, so deep an impression upon the memory as a miscarriage." [tr. Guthrie (1742)]
  • "Nothing, indeed, is so much noticed, or makes an impression of such lasting continuance on the memory, as that in which you give any sort of offense." [tr. Watson (1855)]
  • "For nothing so immediately attracts attention, or clings so tenaciously to the memory, as any defect." [tr. Calvert (1870)]
  • "Nothing attracts so much attention, or retains such a hold upon men's memories, as the occasion when you have made a mistake." [Source]
  • Original Latin
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Who knows only his own generation remains always a child.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Oratore (46 BC)
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The greatest pleasures are only narrowly separated from disgust.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Oratore, III, 200
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There is said to be hope for a sick man, as long as there is life.

[Aegroto dum anima est, spes esse dicitur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Epistulae ad Atticum [Letters to Atticus], Book 9, Letter 10, sec. 3, l. 19 (18 Mar BC 49) [tr. Shackleton Bailey (1968)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "A sick man is said to have hope, so long as he has breath." [tr. Winstedt (1913)]

Often paraphrased as: "While there is life there is hope" [Dum anima est, spes est.] See also Theocritus, "While there's life there’s hope, and only the dead have none" (Idyll #4, l. 42 [tr. Gow]).
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No well-informed person has declared a change of opinion to be inconstancy.

[Nemo doctus unquam mutationem consilii inconstantiam dixit esse.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Epistulae ad Atticum, Book 16, Letter 7 (59-54 BC)

Alt. trans.: No philosopher ever yet -- and there has been a great deal written upon the subject -- defined a mere change of plan as vacillation. [Nemo doctus umquam (multa autem de hoc genere scripta sunt) mutationem consili inconstantiam dixit esse.]

Often mis-cited as Letter 8.
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Persistence in a single view has never been regarded as a merit in political leaders.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Epistulae ad Familiares, 1.9.21
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Men think they may justly do that for which they have a precedent.

[Quod exemplo fit, id etiam jure fieri putant.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Epistulae ad Familiares, 4.3
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Even if you have nothing to write, write and say so.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Epistulae ad Familiares, IV, 8, 4

http://www.bartleby.com/66/58/12458.html
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Every evil in the bud is easily crushed: as it grows older, it becomes stronger.

[Omne malum nascens facile opprimitur; inveteratum fit pleurumque robustius.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Philippicae, V, 11
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The name of peace is sweet, and the thing itself is beneficial, but there is a great difference between peace and servitude. Peace is freedom in tranquility, servitude is the worst of all evils, to be resisted not only by war, but even by death.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Phillippica, II, 113
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Any man is liable to err, only a fool persists in error.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Phillippica, XII, ii, 5
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The philosophers themselves, even in those books in which they tell us to despise fame, inscribe their names.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Pro archia poeta, ch. 11
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Almost no one dances sober, unless he is insane.

[Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit, neque in solitudine neque in convivio moderato atque honesto.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Pro Murena, ch. 6, sec. 13 (63 BC)
    (Source)

More completely, "For no man, one may almost say, ever dances when sober, unless perhaps he be a madman, nor in solitude, nor in a moderate and sober party." [tr. Yonge].

Often shortened to "Nemo saltat sobrius" ("Nobody dances sober"). Also attributed to H. P. Lovecraft.

In context, Cicero is disputing accusations that L. Murena was dancing because there are no reports that Murena was drinking and carousing beforehand.
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It is a trait of fools to perceive the faults of others but not their own.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculanae disputationes, Book 3, ch. 30

Alt. trans.:
  • "It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own."
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We have no small hope in our elections, but it is still uncertain. There is some suspicion of a dictatorship. We have peace in public but it is the calm of an old and tired state, not one giving consent.

[Erat non nulla spes comitiorum sed incerta, erat aliqua suspicio dictaturae, ne ea quidem certa, summum otium forense sed senescentis magis civitatis quam acquiescentis]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Letters to Quintus #19 (2.15) (Jun, AD 54) [tr. Bailey (1999)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "There was some expectation of the comitia, but a doubtful one: there was some suspicion of a dictatorship, but not even that was certain. There is a perfect cessation of all business in the courts of law, but more as if the state was growing indolent from age than from real tranquility." [Letter 14, tr. Watson (1855)]
  • "There is some hope of elections, but doubtful; some suspicion of a Dictatorship, but that too not definite; peace reigns in the Forum, but it's the peace of a senile community rather than a contented one." [Letter 19 (II.15), tr. @sentantiq (2020)]
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