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Quotations of Marcus Tullius Cicero

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 wrong-doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly considered punishment.

 

For of all gainful professions, nothing is better, nothing more pleasing, nothing more delightful, nothing better becomes a well-bred man than agriculture.

 

As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age; first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death.

 

Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.

 

We should not be so taken up in the search for truth, as to neglect the needful duties of active life; for it is only action that gives a true value and commendation to virtue. 

 

The foolishness of old age does not characterize all who are old, but only the foolish.

 

There is no one so old as to not think they may live a day longer.

 

Old age, especially an honored old age, has so great authority, that this is of more value than all the pleasures of youth.

 

When you are aspiring to the highest place, it is honorable to reach the second or even the third rank.

 

No one can be brave who considers pain to be the greatest evil in life, or can they be temperate who considers pleasure to be the highest good.

 

It shows a brave and resolute spirit not to be agitated in exciting circumstances.

 

A man of courage is also full of faith.

 

Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator.

 

As fire when thrown into water is cooled down and put out, so also a false accusation when brought against a man of the purest and holiest character, boils over and is at once dissipated, and vanishes and threats of heaven and sea, himself standing unmoved.

 

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.

 

What one has, one ought to use: and whatever he does he should do with all his might.

 

Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honorable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself.

 

Nothing so cements and holds together all the parts of a society as faith or credit, which can never be kept up unless men are under some force or necessity of honestly paying what they owe to one another.

 

It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent. 

 

That last day does not bring extinction to us, but change of place.

 

So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge.

 

People do not understand what a great revenue economy is.

 

I never admire another's fortune so much that I became dissatisfied with my own.

 

There is wickedness in the intention of wickedness, even though it be not perpetrated in the act.

 

Fear is not a lasting teacher of duty.

 

Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat.

 

Every man can tell how many goats or sheep he possesses, but not how many friends.

 

What sweetness is left in life, if you take away friendship? Robbing life of friendship is like robbing the world of the sun. A true friend is more to be esteemed than kinsfolk.

 

Friends are proved by adversity.

 

Friendship makes prosperity brighter, while it lightens adversity by sharing its grieves and anxieties.

 

Nothing is so strongly fortified that it cannot be taken by money.

 

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.

 

The harvest of old age is the recollection and abundance of blessing previously secured.

 

Care should be taken that the punishment does not exceed the guilt; and also that some men do not suffer for offenses for which others are not even indicted.

 

The causes of events are ever more interesting than the events themselves.

 

Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child. If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge.

 

There is no place more delightful than one's own fireplace.

 

Honor is the reward of virtue.

 

Since an intelligence common to us all makes things known to us and formulates them in our minds, honorable actions are ascribed by us to virtue, and dishonorable actions to vice; and only a madman would conclude that these judgments are matters of opinion, and not fixed by nature.

 

I am not ashamed to confess I am ignorant of what I do not know.

 

Justice consists of doing no one injury, decency in giving no one offense.

 

The good of the people is the greatest law.

 

The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct.

 

Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.

 

There are more men ennobled by study than by nature.

 

Peace is liberty in tranquillity.

 

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

 

While there's life, there's hope.

 

A man's own manner and character is what most becomes him.

 

Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable than fidelity. Faithfulness and truth are the most sacred excellences and endowments of the human mind.

 

The multitude of fools is a protection to the wise.

 

Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.

 

Sweet is the memory of past troubles.

 

...for until that God who rules all the region of the sky...has freed you from the fetters of your body, you cannot gain admission here. Men were created with the understanding that they were to look after that sphere called Earth, which you see in the middle of the temple. Minds have been given to them out of the eternal fires you call fixed stars and planets, those spherical solids which, quickened with divine minds, journey through their circuits and orbits with amazing speed...

 

Whatever that be which thinks, understands, wills, and acts. it is something celestial and divine.

 

All things tend to corrupt perverted minds.

 

It is the nature of every person to error, but only the fool perseveres in error.

 

Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:

Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil.

He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason. I prefer the most unfair peace to the most righteous war.

 

Rightly defined philosophy is simply the love of wisdom.

 

Before beginning, plan carefully.

 

In everything, satiety closely follows the greatest pleasures.

 

Rashness belongs to youth; prudence to old age.

 

A room without books is like a body without a soul.

 

Reason should direct and appetite obey.

 

Let reason govern desire.

 

It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.

 

Like associates with like.

 

He does not seem to me to be a free man who does not sometimes do nothing.

 

As you have sown so shall you reap.

 

It is better to receive than to do injury.

 

Study carefully the character of the one you recommend, lest their misconduct bring you shame.

 

Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.

 

The countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions.

 

Nothing in oratory is more important than to win for the orator the favour of his hearer, and to have the latter so affected as to be swayed by something resembling an impulse of the spirit impetu quodam animi or emotion perturbatione, rather than by judgment or deliberation. For men decide far more problems by hate, or love, or lust, or rage, or sorrow, or joy, or hope, or fear, or illusion, or some other inward emotion aliqua permotione mentis, than by reality or authority, or any legal standard, or judicial precedent or statute.

 

Orators are most vehement when their cause is weak.

 

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.

 

Virtue is its own reward.

 

The sinews of war, a limitless supply of money.

 

The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

 

A person who is wise does nothing against their will, nothing with sighing or under coercion.

 

A sensual and intemperate youth translates into an old worn-out body.

 

Read at every wait; read at all hours; read within leisure; read in times of labor; read as one goes in; read as one goest out. The task of the educated mind is simply put: read to lead.

 

Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.

 

If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.

 

The more laws, the less justice.

 

Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system.

 

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.

 

The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.

 

Not for ourselves alone are we born.

 

The life given us, by nature is short; but the memory of a well-spent life is eternal.

 

For books are more than books, they are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.

 

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.

 

Freedom is a possession of inestimable value.

 

To be content with what we possess is the greatest and most secure of riches.

 

Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.

 

Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so.

 

Let us assume that entertainment is the sole end of reading; even so I think you would hold that no mental employment is so broadening to the sympathies or so enlightening to the understanding. Other pursuits belong not to all times, all ages, all conditions; but this gives stimulus to our youth and diversion to our old age; this adds a charm to success, and offers a haven of consolation to failure. Through the night-watches, on all our journeyings, and in our hours of ease, it is our unfailing companion.

 

In a republic this rule ought to be observed: that the majority should not have the predominant power.

 

In this statement, my Scipio, I build on your own admirable definition, that there can be no community, properly so called, unless it be regulated by a combination of rights. And by this definition it appears that a multitude of men may be just as tyrannical as a single despot and indeed this is the most odious of all tyrannies, since no monster can be more barbarous than the mob, which assumes the name and mask of the people.

 

Trust no one unless you have eaten much salt with him.

 

It is our own evil thoughts which madden us.

 

For while we are enclosed in these confinements of the body, we perform as a kind of duty the heavy task of necessity; for the soul from heaven has been cast down from its dwelling on high and sunk, as it were, into the earth, a place just the opposite to godlike nature and eternity. But I believe that the immortal gods have sown souls in human bodies so there might exist beings to guard the world and after contemplating the order of heaven, might imitate it by their moderation and steadfastness in life.

 

Liberty is rendered even more precious by the recollection of servitude.

 

If you would abolish covetousness, you must abolish its mother, profusion.

 

Nature herself has imprinted on the minds of all the idea of God.

 

It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own.

 

Thus nature has no love for solitude, and always leans, as it were, on some support; and the sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship.

 

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 antiquities.

 

The best Armour of Old Age is a well spent life preceding it; a Life employed in the Pursuit of useful Knowledge, in honourable Actions and the Practice of Virtue; in which he who labours to improve himself from his Youth, will in Age reap the happiest Fruits of them; not only because these never leave a Man, not even in the extremest Old Age; but because a Conscience bearing Witness that our Life was well-spent, together with the Remembrance of past good Actions, yields an unspeakable Comfort to the Soul.

 

The mind becomes accustomed to things by the habitual sight of them, and neither wonders nor inquires about the reasons for things it sees all the time.

 

Two distinctive traits especially identify beyond a doubt a strong and dominant character. One trait is contempt for external circumstances, when one is convinced that men ought to respect, to desire, and to pursue only what is moral and right, that men should be subject to nothing, not to another man, not to some disturbing passion, not to Fortune. The second trait, when your character has the disposition I outlined just now, is to perform the kind of services that are significant and most beneficial; but they should also be services that are a severe challenge, that are filled with ordeals, and that endanger not only your life but also the many comforts that make life attractive. Of these two traits, all the glory, magnificence, and the advantage, too, let us not forget, are in the second, while the drive and the discipline that make men great are in the former.”

 

O philosophy, life's guide! O searcher-out of virtue and expeller of vices! What could we and every age of men have been without thee? Thou hast produced cities; thou hast called men scattered about into the social enjoyment of life.

 

They who say that we should love our fellow-citizens but not foreigners, destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind, with which benevolence and justice would perish forever.

 

My dear Scipio and Laelius. Men, of course, who have no resources in themselves for securing a good and happy life find every age burdensome. But those who look for all happiness from within can never think anything bad which Nature makes inevitable.

To be rather than to seem.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Nature herself makes the wise man rich.

 

Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.

 

No one can speak well, unless he thoroughly understands his subject.

 

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.



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