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Ancient Roman Quotes: Cicero & Catullus

Continuing the exploration of ancient Roman quotes, you will encounter the words of Catullus and Cicero, who is considered one of the greatest orators in Roman history.

Cicero

Cicero (106 – 43 BC) was born Marcus Tullius Cicero, who became a Roman statesman, lawyer, philosopher, and political theorist. In history, Cicero is known as one of the greatest orators in Rome and was highly regarded as a great prose stylist. In Roman culture, Cicero’s mind was a thing of beauty, as he played an important role in Classical Latin.

It was Cicero that introduced the Romans to the primary school of Greek philosophy and established a Latin philosophical way of speaking. Over the years, it is thought that Cicero valued his political career above all else, as he was also a great orator and successful lawyer. Despite his achievements in these areas, it was his writings associated with humanism, philosophical, and politics that many people believed were his greatest achievements. To experience some of Cicero’s words, consider the following quotes:

1) ” There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it.”

2) “O tempora. O mores! ” (Oh, the times! Oh, the manners!)

3) “Civis Romanus sum” (I am a Roman citizen)

4) “Quod di omen avertant” (May the gods avert this omen)

5) “Nervos belli, pecuniam infinitam” (The sinews of war, unlimited money)

6) “Cui bono?” (To whose profit?)

7) “Cum dignitate otium” (Leisure with honor)

8) “Summum bonum” (The highest good)

9) “Laws are silent in time of war.”

10) “I would rather be wrong, by god, with Plato … Than be correct with those men.”

11) “Salus populi suprema est lex” (The good of the people is the chief law)

12) “Never less idle than when wholly idle, nor less alone than when wholly alone.”

13) “Abiit, excessit, evasit, erupit.” (He departed, he withdrew, he strode off, he broke forth.)

Catullus

Catullus (c.84 – 54 BC) was born Gaius Valerius Catullus and would grow up to become a Roman poet of the 1st century BC, whose work is still studied to this very day. Over time, his words still influence the poetry and art of others. However, not much is known about the life of Catullus. There are a few ancient sources (like Suetonius and Ovid) that believe he was born in Verona, yet he was born into a leading equestrian family of Verona, and would live most of his life in Rome. Also, Catullus’ family owned a villa at Sirmio on Lake Garda. His father entertained the likes of Caesar and the governor of Gaul.

When it comes to the poetry of Catullus , his words are usually categorized by poems written to and about his friends; erotic poems; solemn poems referred to as condolences; and invectives (which are seen as rude and sometimes full of obscenities). A few words of Catullus includes:

1) “Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.”  (And so, my brother, hail, and farewell evermore!)

2) “Odi et amo: auare id faciam, fortasse requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior,” which translates into (I hate and I love: why I do so you may well ask. I do not know, but I feel it happen and am in agony.)