Marcus Tullius Cicero a name not known to many. However, to historians, politicians, poets, lawyers, and any student of the classics will have undoubtedly heard this name uttered as a cornerstone to the foundations of rhetoric and literary prose for the last two millennia. Born on January 3, 106 B.C.E. to a Roman Equestrian family, he discovered his passions for learning and developed a career in advocacy (similar to the practice of law) where he would get to develop his talents as a public orator and would one day become Co-Consul to Julius Caesar. Where later his life would be taken by the Caesarian party for his part in support of the conspirators in the Roman Civil Wars and the denouncement of Marcus Antonius on December 7, 43 B.C.E. His influence over the spoken and written word was so tremendous that his orations and dialogues have altered the way we write and speak even to this day. John Adams first Vice President of the United States and second President of the United States said of him, “All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.”
Overall, Cicero has contributed 6 surviving works on rhetoric, 8 surviving works on philosophy, 32 surviving books of letters to public and private citizens, and 52 recorded speeches which too have survived to this day. All works have lead the way for statesmen, orators, and subsequent philosophers to tread in his wake.The words and works of this man are vast and numerous and it was not easy to narrow down a selection of quotes that inform, inspire, and engrain themselves on the very nature of our souls. We chose a selection which would do those things and hope you can develop a similar appreciation for someone who has contributed much but has also remained an obscure name to most.
1. The beginnings of all things are small.
We must remember that all things from ideas, inventions, philosophies, companies, works of art, self development, and written works all begin small. They often begin as thoughts and notions, and begin to take shape and form. From there we lay down the plans and piece by piece we begin to construct our works. Don’t be afraid of the task ahead and what little you have to work with. Know that all things begin small, and that it is up to us to make them big.
2. Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and divides our grief.
We are social creatures and the nature of man is a social one. We have been able to accomplish great things together as a community. Our friendships are our life’s greatest treasures. They multiply our happiness, and they help us when we are burdened with troubles. Don’t take for granted the friendships that you develop over your life. Take care of them like flowers and plants in a garden. The more you care for them and water them, the brighter they bloom.
3. Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
Gratitude for life leads us to the other virtues. By being grateful we are indebted to return the kindness of life. We return this kindness by living well, by doing good, by living a life we can be proud of. It is in itself a call to be virtuous. Gratitude to others, gratitude to nature, the earth, and the universe which has given us this precious time to do as we see fit and to live life as we are able. Gratitude for these things allows us to live happily and humbly. To return good for good, and even good from harm is the way a philosophical life is lived.
4. Not for ourselves alone are we born.
Selfishness in this life will not do, and this quote by cicero written 2000 years ago holds as much truth then as it does today. We are here to do service for others, for our parents, our friends, our family, our children, and neighbors. By living a life for others we build true value in ourselves. The true wealth in life is how we affect other people, and how we better their lives.
5. While I breathe I hope.
As long as we live their is hope to better our situation, to better ourselves, and to keep fighting for the things we believe in. We must never give up hope. The sun rises through the darkness of night, and we must never give up on the hope of the sun rising in the morning. With each new day, with each new second, and with every breath we must continue to hope to better our circumstances and the world around us.