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The first duty of a man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (January 3, 106 BCDecember 7, 43 BC) was an orator and statesman of Ancient Rome. The standard English pronunciation of his name is [ˈsɪsərəʊ], though in classical Latin it was [ˈkikero])


De Officiis - On Duties (44 B.C.)

  • Non nobis solum nati sumus.
    • We are not born for ourselves alone
    • De Officiis (Book I, sec. 22).
  • In anger nothing right nor judicious can be done.
    • De Officiis (Book I, sec. 37).
  • Cedant arma togae, concedat laurea laudi.
    • Yield, ye arms, to the toga; to civic praise, ye laurels.
    • De Officiis (Book I, sec. 77).
  • Ludo autem et ioco uti illo quidem licet, sed sicut somno et quietibus ceteris tum, cum gravibus seriisque rebus satis fecerimus.
    • We may, indeed, indulge in sport and jest, but in the same way as we enjoy sleep or other relaxations, and only when we have satisfied the claims of our earnest, serious task.
    • De Officiis (Book I, sec. 103).
  • He is never less at leisure than when at leisure.
    • De Officiis (Book III, sec. 1), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Then never less alone than when alone", Samuel Rogers, Human Life.
  • Genius is fostered by energy.
    • Pro Coelio (Ch. xix, sec. 45).
  • Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
    • Pro Plancio (54 B.C.).
  • While there's life, there's hope.
    • Epistolarum ad Atticum (Epistle To Atticus), Book ix, 10, 4. - Alternately reported as "While the sick man has life there is hope". Compare: "While there is life there's hope, he cried", John Gay, Fables, Part i, "The Sick Man and the Angel".
  • Nec vero [...] superstitione tollenda religio tollitur.
    • We do not destroy religion by destroying superstition.
    • De divinatione (Book I, chapter LXXII, sec. 148)
  • There is nothing so ridiculous but some philosopher has said it.
    • De Divinatione.
  • Thus in the beginning the world was so made that certain signs come before certain events.
    • De Divinatione, i, 118, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Often do the spirits / Of great events stride on before the events, / And in to-day already walks to-morrow", Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Death of Wallenstein, Act v, scene 1.
  • Let the punishment match the offense.
    • De Legibus
  • Salus Populi Est Suprema Lex.
    • The welfare of the people is the ultimate law.
    • De Legibus
  • Endless money forms the sinews of war.
    • Philippics
  • Inter arma enim silent leges
    • Law stands mute in the midst of arms.
    • Pro Milone
      Variant translation: In a time of war, the law falls silent.
  • History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.
    • Pro Publio Sestio
  • The freedom of poetic license.
    • Pro Publio Sestio
  • Quam cum suavissima et maxima voce legisset, admirantibus omnibus "quanto" inquit "magis miraremini, si audissetis ipsum!"
    • He spoke with a charming full voice, and when everyone was applauding, "how much", he asked, "would you have applauded if you had heard the original?"
    • De Oratorio, book 3, chapter 56.
    • Cicero was telling the story of Æschines' return to Rhodes, at which he was requested to deliver Demosthenes' defence of Ctesiphon.
  • For as lack of adornment is said to become some women, so this subtle oration, though without embellishment, gives delight.
    • De Oratore, 78, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Loveliness / Needs not the foreign aid of ornament, / But is when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most", James Thomson, The Seasons, "Autumn", Line 204.
  • 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.
    • The Extremes of Good and Evil as translated by H. Rackham (1914)
    • Is commonly used in its original classical Latin form as "Lorem ipsum", or placeholder text for tests and demonstrations in publishing.
  • True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions.
    • De Re Publica, Book 3, Chapter 22
  • A war is never undertaken by the ideal State, except in defense of its honor or its safety.
    • De Re Publica, Book 3, Chapter 23
  • Though silence is not necessarily an admission, it is not a denial, either.
    • Paulus, L, 17

In Catilinam I - Against Catilina, Speech One (63 B.C)

  • Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?
    • To what length will you abuse our patience, Catilina?
      Variant translation: How long, Catalina, will you abuse our patience?
  • O tempora, o mores!.
    • O, the times, O, the morals!

De Amicitia - On Friendship (44 B.C.)

  • A friend is, as it were, a second self.
  • The shifts of Fortune test the reliability of friends.
  • Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.

M. Tulli Ciceronis Orator Ad M. Brutum (46 B.C.)

  • Prima enim sequentem honestum est in secundis tertiisque consistere. (3)
    • If a man aspires to the highest place, it is no dishonor to him to halt at the second, or even at the third.
    • Variant translation: If you aspire to the highest place, it is no disgrace to stop at the second, or even the third, place.
  • Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur? (120)
    • Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?
    • Variant translation: To be ignorant of the past is to forever be a child.

Philippic (44 B.C.)

  • Hannibal ad portas
    • Hannibal at the gates: a cynical expression made when Cicero was forced by Antony to attend a Senate meeting which Cicero thought was of no major importance.
  • That, Senators, is what a favour from gangsters amounts to. They refrain from murdering someone; then they boast that they have spared him!
    • From the Second Philippic Against Antony


With original Latin

  • Respublica est consensus iuris et communio utilitatis
    • The Republic is a common law and the common good
  • Appetitus Rationi Pareat
    • Let your desires be ruled by reason.
  • Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit.
    • No one dances sober, unless he is insane
  • Quidem concessum est rhetoribus ementiri in historiis ut aliquid dicere possint argutius.
    • Indeed rhetoricians are permitted to lie about historical matters so they can speak more subtly.
  • Omnium rerum principia parva sunt.
    • The beginnings of all things are small.
  • Suum Cuique.
    • To each his own.
  • Vi Et Armis.
    • By force and arms.
  • Vi Victa Vis.
    • Force overcome by force.


  • A bad peace is always better than a good war.
  • A happy life consists in tranquillity of mind.
  • A life of peace, purity, and refinement leads to a calm and untroubled old age.
  • A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation.
  • All action is of the mind and the mirror of the mind is the face, its index the eyes.
  • Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature.
  • As the old proverb says "Like readily consorts with like."
  • Be sure that it is not you that is mortal, but only your body. For that man whom your outward form reveals is not yourself; the spirit is the true self, not that physical figure which and be pointed out by your finger.
  • Everyone has the obligation to ponder well his own specific traits of character. He must also regulate them adequately and not wonder whether someone else's traits might suit him better. The more definitely his own a man's character is, the better it fits him.
  • Freedom is a possession of inestimable value.
  • Freedom is participation in power.
  • Friends, though absent, are still present.
    • Friends, though absent, are present still.
  • He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.
  • He removes the greatest ornament of friendship, who takes away from it respect.
  • I will go further, and assert that nature without culture can often do more to deserve praise than culture without nature.
  • If we are forced, at every hour, to watch or listen to horrible events, this constant stream of ghastly impressions will deprive even the most delicate among us of all respect for humanity.
    • Watzlawick, Paul (1988). Ultra-Solutions, W.W.Norton & Company.
  • In men of the highest character and noblest genius there is to be found an insatiable desire for honour, command, power, and glory.
  • In so far as the mind is stronger than the body, so are the ills contracted by the mind more severe than those contracted by the body.
  • It is a great thing to know our vices.
  • It is a true saying that "One falsehood leads easily to another".
  • Let arms give place to the robe, and the laurel of the warriors yield to the tongue of the orator.
  • Liberty is rendered even more precious by the recollection of servitude.
  • Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts.
  • Men decide far more problems by hate, love, lust, rage, sorrow, joy, hope, fear, illusion, or some other inward emotion, than by reality, authority, any legal standard, judicial precedent, or statute.
  • Natural ability without education has more often attained to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.
  • Nature herself has imprinted on the minds of all the idea of God.
  • Nature herself makes the wise man rich.
  • Neither can embellishments of language be found without arrangement and expression of thoughts, nor can thoughts be made to shine without the light of language.
  • Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.
  • No one can speak well, unless he thoroughly understands his subject.
  • Nothing quite new is perfect.
  • Our span of life is brief, but is long enough for us to live well and honestly.
  • Our thoughts are free.
  • Politicians are not born; they are excreted.
  • Reason should direct and appetite obey.
  • Strain every nerve to gain your point.
  • Such praise coming from so degraded a source, was degrading to me, its recipient.
  • The absolute good is not a matter of opinion but of nature.
  • The evil implanted in man by nature spreads so imperceptibly, when the habit of wrong-doing is unchecked, that he himself can set no limit to his shamelessness.
  • The first duty of a man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth.
  • The man who backbites an absent friend, nay, who does not stand up for him when another blames him, the man who angles for bursts of laughter and for the repute of a wit, who can invent what he never saw, who cannot keep a secret — that man is black at heart: mark and avoid him.
  • 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 tranquillity, servitude is the worst of all evils, to be resisted not only by war, but even by death.
  • The strictest law often causes the most serious wrong.
  • The wise are instructed by reason; ordinary minds by experience; the stupid, by necessity; and brutes by instinct.
  • There are some duties we owe even to those who have wronged us. There is, after all, a limit to retribution and punishment.
  • There is no duty more obligatory than the repayment of kindness.
  • Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.
  • To be content with what one has is the greatest and truest of riches.
  • We are obliged to respect, defend and maintain the common bonds of union and fellowship that exist among all members of the human race.
  • We must not say every mistake is a foolish one.
  • What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.
  • What we call pleasure, and rightly so is the absence of all pain.
  • When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind.
  • Where is there dignity unless there is honesty?
  • The Six Mistakes of Man
  1. The illusion that personal gain is made up of crushing others.
  2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
  3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.
  4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.
  5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study.
  6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.
  • You're trying to refute me by quoting things I've said or written myself. That's confronting me with documents that have already been sealed! You can reserve that method for people who only argue according to fixed rules. But I live from one day to the next! If something strikes me as probable, I say it; and that is how, unlike everyone else, I remain a free agent.


  • A bureaucrat is the most despicable of men, though he is needed as vultures are needed, but one hardly admires vultures whom bureaucrats so strangely resemble. I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who was not petty, dull, almost witless, crafty or stupid, an oppressor or a thief, a holder of little authority in which he delights, as a boy delights in possessing a vicious dog. Who can trust such creatures?
    • Taylor Caldwell in her novel based on the life of Cicero A Pillar of Iron (1965), p. 451

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