Cicero, Tusculan Disputations

LCL 141: xii-xiii

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is to say, the work of some Greek authority: he did not just translate but borrowed as much as he thought fit according to his own judgment and choice.1 For the setting of the composition with its elaborate introduction, as well as for the episodes and illustrations taken from Roman history and literature he was himself responsible. The style in which he wrote was his own and he had to find Latin equivalents for the Greek philosophical terminology. Often, especially in the second book of the Tusculans, he brings in quotations from the Latin and Greek poets, which do not always fit in very aptly, but which serve to show his knowledge of his native literature as well as his skill in translation, of which he was evidently proud. Plutarch indeed tells us that at this time Cicero’s ready turn for poetry afforded him amusement, and he was capable of composing 500 verses in a night.

The chief passages translated by Cicero in this work from Greek authors have been given in an Appendix, and readers can judge for themselves how far he is successful in giving the meaning of the original and how far in his metrical versions he has any claim to be considered a poet.

His letters to friends, as well as the introductions to the different books, explain his motives in writing. The study of philosophy was, he found, his only comfort in distress. He had suffered cruelly in his family life. He had quarrelled with and divorced his wife Terentia, his second marriage was a failure, and in Feb. 45 b.c. his beloved daughter Tullia had died. The public life in which he still longed to play his part was no longer open to a man of


his convictions. The days were evil. There was nothing, he felt, for him to do in the Senate or the courts of law. Since the glories of his consulship in 63 b.c. his political life had been one long disappointment. He had refused to join, as he might have done, the first triumvirate, and was punished by being left to the mercies of his bitter enemy Clodius and banished. After his return from exile he was forced to observe a muzzled tranquillity to which he could not be reconciled. When the civil war came, after much hesitation he decided to join Pompey, and about a year after the battle of Pharsalia he made his peace with Caesar. His personal relations with Caesar had constantly been friendly. In 54 b.c. he wrote to his brother Quintus,1 “I have taken Caesar to my bosom and will never let him slip,” and Caesar had always been untiring in his efforts to win Cicero to his side. But Cicero’s loyalty to the Republic prevented him from attaching himself to Caesar. There came, it is true, a moment in 46 b.c., on the occasion of the pardon of Marcus Marcellus at the wish of the Senate, when Cicero conceived the hope that Caesar meant to be the leader in a free State, and in his delight he pronounced a splendid eulogy of the Dictator’s career. But the hope died away, as Caesar made it more and more plain that his rule was to be despotic.

Apart from the motives which kept him out of public life, Cicero was anxious to redeem Roman literature from the reproach of having neglected philosophy. He wished to do his countrymen a service and hoped that, as the glory of free oratory