Cicero, Academica

LCL 268: 400-401

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Introduction to Academica

as ‘Illam’ Ακαδημικὴν σύνταξιν᾽ (Att. xiii. 6. 1), but the two volumes were actually named Catulus and Lucullus, after the leading interlocutors in each. Hortensius also figured in Catulus, and Cicero in both.

But Cicero was not satisfied with his work as it stood, and began at once to revise it, improving the style and making the treatment more concise; he also divided the two volumes into four. He writes of these alterations with great satisfaction (Att. xiii. 13.1, June 26): ‘ex duobus libris contuli in quattuor: grandiores sunt omnino quam erant illi, sed tamen multa detracta.’ Also (Att. xiii. 12. 3) Atticus seems to have suggested that a literary compliment was due to Varro, who had promised to dedicate an important work to Cicero (this was his De Lingua Latina); and Cicero writes that although two years had passed without Varro’s having got on a yard with the work (‘adsiduo cursu cubitum nullum processerit’), he has decided to transfer to him the dedication of Academica, and to postpone paying a compliment to Catulus, Lucullus and Hortensius, ‘homines nobiles illi quidem sed nullo modo philologi’ (ibid.), in fact, well known, not indeed for ἀπαιδευσία (want of education), but for ἀτριψία (lack of special training) in these subjects (Att. xiii. 13. 1).

Contents.—In Cicero’s encyclopaedia of philosophy Academica is the article on Epistemology, the theory of knowledge. In his earlier draft of the work, in Book I., Catulus, the scepticism of Carneades (Middle Academy) and his doctrine of ‘probability’ were


Introduction to Academica

expounded by Catulus; Hortensius countered with the dogmatism of Antiochus (Old Academy), and Cicero put the case of Philo (Middle Academy), that ‘probability’ is consistent with Platonism. In Book II., Lucullus, Lucullus defended the cause of Antiochus by attacking Scepticism, and then Scepticism was defended by Cicero. In the second edition Cicero and Varro were the sole interlocutors; Cicero championed the Middle Academy as well as the New, and the Old Academy was assigned to Varro.

It is to this second edition that Cicero refers in his letters in all allusions to the work after the alteration was made; its title was now Academica, though he also describes it as ‘Academici libri.’ But he seems not to have succeeded in entirely suppressing the first edition; and by a curious accident the second half of the first edition has come down to us, while of the second edition only the first quarter and a few fragments of the remainder have survived. We therefore have only three quarters of the whole work, and only one quarter of it in the form finally authorized by the writer. Some modern editors have designated the extant part of Edition I. ‘Academica Priora’ and that of Edition II. ‘Academica Posteriora,’ but so far as I know the significance intended to be conveyed by the adjectives in those titles has no classical authority.

The position can be most clearly exhibited in tabular form; the parts of the editions that are not now extant and the names of the speakers in those parts are printed in italics:

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-academica.1933