from many other sources, but following him more or less closely in Books I and II; Book III is more independent and much inferior. He is usually superficial and not always clear. He translates and paraphrases Greek philosophy, weaving in illustrations from Roman history and suggestions of Roman mould in a form intended to make it, if not popular, at least comprehensible, to the Roman mind. How well he succeeded is evidenced by the comparative receptivity of Roman soil prepared by Stoic doctrine for the teachings of Christianity. Indeed, Anthony Trollope labels our author the “Pagan Christian.” “You would fancy sometimes,” says Petrarch, “it is not a Pagan philosopher but a Christian apostle who is speaking.” No less an authority than Frederick the Great has called our book “the best work on morals that has been or can be written.” Cicero himself looked upon it as his masterpiece.

It has its strength and its weakness—its sane common sense and noble patriotism, its self-conceit and partisan politics; it has the master’s brilliant style, but it is full of repetitions and rhetorical flourishes, and it fails often in logical order and power; it rings true in its moral tone, but it shows in what haste and distraction it was composed; for it was not written as a contribution to close scientific thinking; it was written as a means of occupation and diversion.


The following works are quoted in the critical notes:—

MSS. A = codex Ambrosianus. Milan. 10th century.

B = codex Bambergensis. Hamburg. 10th century.

H = codex Herbipolitanus. Würzburg. 10th century.

L = codex Harleianus. London. 9th century.

a b = codices Bernenses. Bern. 10th century.

c = codex Bernensis. Bern. 13th century.

p = codex Palatinus. Rome. 12th century.

Editio Princeps: The first edition of the de Officiis was from the press of Sweynheim and Pannartz at the Monastery of Subiaco; possibly the edition published by Fust and Schöffer at Mainz is a little older. Both appeared in 1465. The latter was the first to print the Greek words in Greek type. The de Officiis is, therefore, the first classical book to be issued from a printing press, with the possible exception of Lactantius and Cicero’s de Oratore which bear the more exact date of October 30, 1465, and were likewise issued from the Monastery press at Subiaco.

  • Baiter & Kayser: M. Tullii Ciceronis opera quae supersunt omnia. Lipsiae, 1860–69.