Cicero' s Tusculan Disputations; Also, Treatises On The Nature Of The Gods, And On The Commonwealth (1877)


The greater portion of the Republic was previously translated by Francis Barham, Esq., and published in 1841. Although ably performed, it was not sufficiently close for the purpose of the “Classical Library,” and was therefore placed in the hands of the present editor for revision, as well as for collation with recent texts. This has occasioned material alterations and additions.

The treatise “On the Nature of the Gods” is a revision of that usually ascribed to the celebrated Benjamin Franklin.

The Tusculan Disputations Introduction

In the year a.u.c. 708, and the sixty-second year of Cicero’s age, his daughter, Tullia, died in childbed; and her loss afflicted Cicero to such a degree that he abandoned all public business, and, leaving the city, retired to Asterra, which was a country house that he had near Antium; where, after a while, he devoted himself to philosophical studies, and, besides other works, he published his Treatise de Finibus, and also this treatise called the Tusculan Disputations, of which Middleton gives this concise description:

“The first book teaches us how to contemn the terrors of death, and to look upon it as a blessing rather than an evil;
The second, to support pain and affliction with a manly fortitude;
The third, to appease all our complaints and uneasinesses under the accidents of life;
The fourth, to moderate all our other passions;
And the fifth explains the sufficiency of virtue to make men happy.”

It was his custom in the opportunities of his leisure to take some friends with him into the country, where, instead of amusing themselves with idle sports or feasts, their diversions were wholly speculative, tending to improve the mind and enlarge the understanding. In this manner he now spent five days at his Tusculan villa in discussing with his friends the several questions just mentioned. For, after employing the mornings in declaiming and rhetorical exercises, they used to retire in the afternoon 8into a gallery, called the Academy, which he had built for the purpose of philosophical conferences, where, after the manner of the Greeks, he held a school, as they called it, and invited the company to call for any subject that they desired to hear explained, which being proposed accordingly by some of the audience became immediately the argument of that day’s debate. These five conferences, or dialogues, he collected afterward into writing in the very words and manner in which they really passed; and published them under the title of his Tusculan Disputations, from the name of the villa in which they were held.

On The Commonwealth Preface

This work was one of Cicero’s earlier treatises, though one of those which was most admired by his contemporaries, and one of which he himself was most proud. It was composed 54 b.c. It was originally in two books: then it was altered and enlarged into nine, and finally reduced to six. With the exception of the dream of Scipio, in the last book, the whole treatise was lost till the year 1822, when the librarian of the Vatican discovered a portion of them among the palimpsests in that library. What he discovered is translated here; but it is in a most imperfect and mutilated state.

The form selected was that of a dialogue, in imitation of those of Plato; and the several conferences were supposed to have taken place during the Latin holidays, 129 b.c., in the consulship of Caius Sempronius, Tuditanus, and Marcus Aquilius. The speakers are Scipio Africanus the younger, in whose garden the scene is laid; Caius Lælius; Lucius Furius Philus; Marcus Manilius; Spurius Mummius, the brother of the taker of Corinth, a Stoic; Quintus Ælius Tubero, a nephew of Africanus; Publius Rutilius Rufus; Quintus Mucius Scævola, the tutor of Cicero; and Caius Fannius, who was absent, however, on the second day of the conference.

In the first book, the first thirty-three pages are wanting, and there are chasms amounting to thirty-eight pages more. In this book Scipio asserts the superiority of an active over a speculative career; and after analyzing and comparing the monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic forms of government, gives a preference to the first; although his idea of a perfect constitution would be one compounded of three kinds in due proportion.

There are a few chasms in the earlier part of the second book, and the latter part of it is wholly lost. In it Scipio was led on to give an account of the rise and progress of the Roman Constitution, from which he passed on to the examination of the great moral obligations which are the foundations of all political union.

Of the remaining books we have only a few disjointed fragments, with the exception, as has been before mentioned, of the dream of Scipio in the sixth.

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