The basics

“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.”

— Cicero, 55 BC

4 thoughts on “The basics

  1. I’m afraid that the quote from Cicero is a fake. There is no specific reference to it in any of Cicero’s known works (see http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/). Snopes.com has a bit of debunking on this, too (see below).

    Joel

    “In a letter to The Chicago Tribune (20 April 1971), John H. Collins, Professor of History at Northern Illinois University, reported that the following attribution to Cicero,

    Quote:
    The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. The mobs should be forced to work and not depend on government for subsistence.
    actually originated in A Pillar of Iron (1965), Taylor Caldwell’s fictionalized account of the life of the senator. (In fact, Collins noted that it was on page 483 of the edition he had in hand.)

    Collins held that the alleged quotation “is totally without documentation,” and that “the great bulk of [Caldwell’s] quotations are false.” He further observed that “[a] historical novelist has a perfect right to put invented conversations and anecdotes into a novel, but should not represent these inventions as authentic history.””

  2. Even if this quote were real, it is important to remember that Cicero was first and foremost a politician, and a very good one at that. He crafted his speeches carefully to persuade people to take viewpoints useful to him. With every word he worked assiduously to shape details and colour the situation to his favour.

    For example, this (made up) quote attributes Rome’s (alleged) social problems to human ineptitude and greed. From what we know now, and almost certainly from what Cicero, an extremely clever man, knew, Roman society of the time had many structural problems that were not the result of human error.

  3. Indeed!! I have struck the Cicero! Thanks for pointing out. This is the second misattributed quote I’ve come across this month. They have a way of perpetuating themselves.

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