The Offices

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Author: Marcus Tullius Cicero  | Date: 44 BC

BOOK I

I.- Cicero exhorts his son, a young student at Athens, not to forget his Latin, though he was in a Greek university; but to mix the studies of both those languages, and also learn to write both as a philosopher and an orator.

DEAR SON MARCUS,- Though after a year’s study under Cratippus, and that at such a place as Athens, you ought to have abundantly furnished yourself with knowledge in the doctrines and rules of philosophy; having had the advantage of so eminent a master to supply you with learning, and a city that affords you such excellent examples; yet I should think it convenient for you (which is a method I took for my own improvement) always to mingle some Latin with your Greek in the studies of eloquence, as well as philosophy, that you may be equally perfect in both those ways of writing, and make yourself master of either language: for the furtherance of which, I am apt to imagine, I have done no inconsiderable service to our countrymen; so that not only those who do not understand Greek, but even the learned themselves will confess, that by reading my works, they have mended their styles, and somewhat improved their reason and judgements.- Wherefore I am willing that you should learn indeed of Cratippus, the greatest philosopher of the present age, and learn of him too as long as you desire it; and so long I think it is your duty to desire it, as you find yourself sufficiently benefited by it: but withal, I would have you to read my writings, which very little differ from those of the Peripatetics; for both we and they profess ourselves followers, not of Socrates only, but of Plato likewise. As for the matters contained in them, use your own judgement with freedom and impartiality, for I lay no manner of restraint on you: your improvement in the Latin is what I chiefly desire, which I am confident must follow from a careful perusal of them. Nor let any one think that I am vain and pretending when I speak thus: for, allowing to some others the precedence in philosophy, should I assume to myself what is the part of an orator, viz. to speak suitably, methodically, and handsomely on any subject, seeing I have spent my whole life in that study, I think it is no more than what I might reasonably and fairly lay claim to. I cannot but very earnestly desire you, therefore, my dear Cicero, to read my books with care and diligence; not my orations only, but these pieces also that concern philosophy, which are now of a bulk almost equal to them; for though in the former there is more of the force and power of eloquence, yet is the smooth and even style of the latter by no means to be neglected: and of all the Grecians, I find not one that has employed his pen in both these kinds, and been at once successful in the language of the bar, and this other more gentle and easy style of philosophical discourses; unless Demetrius Phalereus may be reckoned for one, who is subtle enough in his disputes of philosophy, but, methinks, in his oratory, wants that spirit and vehemence that is requisite: however, has so much of sweetness in him, that one might know he had been Theophrastus’ scholar. Whether I have had any better success in both these ways, must be left to the judgement of others to determine: I can only say that I have attempted them both. And it is my opinion, that if ever Plato had undertaken to plead, he would have been a most copious and powerful orator; and if Demosthenes had studied and discoursed of those things, which he learned of Plato, he would have done it with a great deal of ornament and majesty. The same I think true of Isocrates and Aristotle; each of whom, pleased with his own way of writing, neglected to cultivate and improve the other.

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Chicago: Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Book I," The Offices, trans. Thomas Cockman Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CT397NUMEZJY94B.

MLA: Cicero, Marcus Tullius. "Book I." The Offices, translted by Thomas Cockman, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CT397NUMEZJY94B.

Harvard: Cicero, MT, 'Book I' in The Offices, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CT397NUMEZJY94B.