Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) was one of ancient Rome’s greatest orators, lawyers, statesmen, and philosophers.

Born in Arpinum, Italy, Cicero came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order. He moved to Rome for his education, where he studied law, rhetoric, and philosophy, laying the groundwork for a career that would leave a lasting impact on Roman history and the development of Western literature and thought.

Cicero is best known for his skill in rhetoric and oratory, which he utilized in both the courts and the Roman Senate.

He achieved significant political success, rising through the Roman cursus honorum (the sequence of public offices held by aspiring politicians), culminating in his election as Consul in 63 BC.

His consulship was marked by the exposure and suppression of the Catiline Conspiracy, an attempt led by Lucius Sergius Catilina to overthrow the Roman Republic.

Cicero’s handling of the conspiracy, including his series of speeches known as the Catilinarian Orations, solidified his reputation as a defender of the republic.

Aside from his political career, Cicero’s contributions to philosophy are profound, especially in the context of bringing Greek philosophical concepts to Rome and adapting them to the Roman context, thereby influencing the development of Latin philosophical literature.

He wrote extensively on ethics, politics, and rhetoric, with works such as “De Republica” (On the Republic), “De Legibus” (On the Laws), and “De Officiis” (On Duties) offering insights into Roman public life, moral philosophy, and the importance of moral integrity.

Cicero’s literary legacy is vast, including speeches, letters, and philosophical treatises that have been instrumental in informing our understanding of Roman society, politics, and philosophy.

His letters, in particular, provide a detailed view of the political machinations of his time and his personal views on various contemporaries.

His later life was marked by political turmoil, as Rome was engulfed in civil wars and the rise of autocratic rule.

Cicero was an ardent supporter of the Republic, and his opposition to Julius Caesar and later Mark Antony led to his downfall. In 43 BC, Cicero was declared an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate (Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus) and was executed. Despite this ignominious end, Cicero’s works continued to be highly influential throughout Roman times and into the Renaissance, shaping European literature, philosophy, and legal theory for centuries to come.

Marcus Tullius Cicero Quotes

Time obliterates the fictions of opinion and confirms the decisions of nature.

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

For there is but one essential justice which cements society, and one law which establishes this justice. This law is right reason, which is the true rule of all commandments and prohibitions. Whoever neglects this law, whether written or unwritten, is necessarily unjust and wicked.

God’s law is ‘right reason.’ When perfectly understood it is called ‘wisdom.’ When applied by government in regulating human relations it is called ‘justice.

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

A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation.

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.

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

Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the ‘new, wonderful good society’ which shall now be Rome, interpreted to mean ‘more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.’

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.

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

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.

Knowledge which is divorced from justice may be called cunning rather than wisdom.

It is a great thing to know your vices.

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.

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

The enemy is within the gates; it is with our own luxury, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?

The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.

There exists a law, not written down anywhere but inborn in our hearts; a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading but by derivation and absorption and adoption from nature itself; a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.

There is, I assure you, a medical art for the soul. It is philosophy, whose aid need not be sought, as in bodily diseases, from outside ourselves. We must endeavor with all our resources and all our strength to become capable of doctoring ourselves.

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.

Hours and days and months and years go by; the past returns no more, and what is to be we cannot know; but whatever the time gives us in which we live, we should therefore be content.

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.

If we are not ashamed to think it, we should not be ashamed to say it.

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.

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.

Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error

Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief

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.

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

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.

“As for myself, I can only exhort you to look on Friendship as the most valuable of all human possessions, no other being equally suited to the moral nature of man, or so applicable to every state and circumstance, whether of prosperity or adversity, in which he can possibly be placed. But at the same time I lay it down as a fundamental axiom that “true Friendship can only subsist between those who are animated by the strictest principles of honour and virtue.” When I say this, I would not be thought to adopt the sentiments of those speculative moralists who pretend that no man can justly be deemed virtuous who is not arrived at that state of absolute perfection which constitutes, according to their ideas, the character of genuine wisdom. This opinion may appear true, perhaps, in theory, but is altogether inapplicable to any useful purpose of society, as it supposes a degree of virtue to which no mortal was ever capable of rising.

A mental stain can neither be blotted out by the passage of time nor washed away by any waters.

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