« PreviousContinue »
the same year Cicero completed several oratorical works, all extant, the Partitiones oratoriae, the Brutus or De claris oratoribus, and the Orator.
In the beginning of 45 Cicero lost his beloved daughter Tullia. He passed the whole year in retirement, trying to soothe his grief by incessant writing. In quick succession came the De consolatione, an attempt to apply philosophy to the mitigation of his own sorrow and that of others; the Academica, an exposition of the New Academic philosophy, advocating probability as the foundation of philosophy rather than certainty; the De finibus bonorum et malorum, a work criticising the chief views entertained concerning ethics; the Disputationes Tusculanae, treating of certain conditions necessary to happiness and morality; the De natura deorum, a work whose contents are sufficiently indicated by its title; the De divinatione, a discussion of the question whether the gods communicate with mankind by augury and the like; the Cato maior or De senectute; the Laelius or De amicitia; the De fato, discussing Fate and Free Will; the Paradoxa, in which certain paradoxical opinions of the Stoics were set forth; the De officiis, a work on the practical application of moral principles to ordinary life. All these works are still extant, and were written almost entirely in the years 45 and 44. To the list must be added other works, of a rhetorical nature, such as the Topica and the De optimo genere dicendi, and some lost philosophical books, such as that De gloria.
The mental vigour and literary power exhibited by this series of works appears prodigious, when we consider their immense compass and variety and the generally high finish of their style, even though allowance be made for the fact that Cicero was giving in Latin the substance of Greek books with which he had been familiar from boyhood. In Cicero's Latin has lived a large portion of the post-Aristotelian philosophy, which was doomed to oblivion in the original Greek.
It is necessary, before we leave the general subject of Cicero's philosophical works, to state very briefly his philosophical views. Cicero called himself an adherent of the New Academy. It
must be clearly understood, however, that the New Academy taught no complete philosophical system. It simply proclaimed the view that in the field of knowledge certainty is unattainable, and that all the inquirer has to do is to balance probabilities against each other. The New Academic therefore was free to accept any opinions which seemed to him to have probabilities on their side, but he was bound to be ready to abandon them when anything came before him which would alter his view of the probabilities. The New Academic, then, not only might be, but could not help being eclectic, that is he chose such views propounded by other schools as seemed to him to be most reasonable or probable at the moment. The three principal systems in Cicero's time were the Stoic, the Peripatetic and the Epicurean. With the last of these, whose supporters advocated in ethics the pursuit of pleasure, in science the doctrine of the atoms, in religion the complete inactivity of the gods, Cicero had absolutely no sympathy. In his time the other two schools, the Stoic and Peripatetic, were divided by comparatively unimportant differences. As regards ethics (in the eye
of the ancients almost the whole of philosophy, which itself was defined as 'the art of living') the main question between the two schools was the amount of importance to be attributed to Virtue, the Stoics declaring that in comparison with Virtue, all other things sank into absolute insignificance, while the Peripatetics declared that they had a certain though infinitesimally small significance. Cicero generally takes the Peripatetic view, though with many leanings towards some of the details of the Stoic ethical system. The Stoic opinion that it was the duty of the wise man to abstain from public life, which the Peripatetics contested, Cicero decisively rejected.
§ 2. The scope of the Laelius. Our dialogue belongs to the ethical works of Cicero. The De finibus contains Cicero's view of the principles of morality, while the other ethical writings are concerned with the practical applications of those principles. The consideration of Friendship, to which the Laelius is devoted, occupied a large space in ancient moral systems, though the topic is very little elaborated by modern philosophers. Particularly in post-Platonic times, when the freedom of Greek political life was extinguished, and men of culture had to find private outlets for their energy, was Friendship brought into prominence. Numerous treatises were specially devoted to it?. A separate dialogue was given to it by Plato, viz. the Lysis, and two whole books of the Nicomachean Ethics (VIII. and ix.) by Aristotle. In the Laelius, however, the range of questions discussed is far narrower than was commonly the case with the Greek philosophers who wrote on the subject. The Greek pilía included every form of association, even the relations of man to man, of citizen to citizen, of purchaser to buyer, and the like. Cicero, however, uses amicitia in a sense which is almost exactly that of the English friendship.' Nor does our author attempt that exhaustive discussion of all questions which had been raised or might be raised, touching Friendship in this narrower sense, which we find in the two above-mentioned books of the Nicomachean Ethics. The practice of friendship is discussed almost to the exclusion of its theory. Cicero's treatise is indeed a kind of popular essay dealing with those aspects of the subject which could best be made interesting to readers in general. He again and again during the course of the dialogue emphasizes the practical character of the treatise. Indeed to have made it highly specuiative would have ill suited the characters of the interlocutors.
§ 3. The structure, personages, and other circumstances of the
dialogue. Greek sources of the treatise. We have a statement by A. Gellius (lived about 115–165 A.D.) in his Noctes Atticae (1, 3, 10) that Cicero imitated in the Laelius a book of Theophrastus, entitled tepi pilías, which seems to have been the most famous of the many treatises on the subject. The imitation was, on the showing of Gellius, exceedingly free. Theophrastus gave his own views and wrote for philosophers; Cicero wrote for general readers and put his statements into the mouth of
1 Merely taking the catalogues Speusippus, Xenocrates, Aristotle, in Diogenes Laertius we find sepa
Cleanthes. rate works on the subject by Crito,
Laelius, who as a distinguished Roman general and statesman, could not be allowed to go too deeply into philosophical questions. Besides this imitation of Theophrastus, one or two direct imitations occur of a discourse of Socrates on friendship recorded by Xenophon in his Memorabilia (2,4-10)' Further, there is a slight reference in the prooemium to the Theaetetus of Plato? Beyond this no distinct adaptation of Greek originals can be traced. It is extremely doubtful, or perhaps more than doubtful, whether Cicero used in this treatise the Nicomachean Ethics, though he knew of its existence, and had perhaps, at some time, read it. Several resemblances between that work and portions of the Laelius can be accounted for by the fact that many of Aristotle's ethical utterances had passed into commonplaces. It is exceedingly likely that Cicero knew Plato's Lysis, but I am unable to point out any distinct imitation of it?. No doubt Cicero read and used here and there other Greek treatises on Friendship, which we do not now possess. § 45 Cicero adapts some lines of Euripides which Plutarch says were commented on by Chrysippus in his work περί φιλίας, but the verses were so notorious that there is no reason to suspect imitation.
Ò. The title. The main title is put beyond doubt by Cicero's own words in the De officiis 2, 31 sed de amicitia alio libro dictum est qui inscribitur Laeliusá. There are reasons, however, for supposing that the author intended it also to bear the secondary title De amicitia; see the passage in Laelius 5 ut tum ad senem senex de senectute, sic hoc libro ad amicum amicissimus scripsi de amicitia. So the book described in De divinatione 2,3 as liber quem ad Atticum de senectute misimus
1 See my n. on § 62.
2 See my n. on § 3, p. 28, 1. 1. It is commonly but erroneously said that Cicero knew nothing of the Theaetetus (e. g. by Orelli, Onomasticon Tullianum, s.v. Tullius). The same is said of the Philebus, to which I find a plain allusion in De finibus I, 5.
3 See De finibus 5, 12.
4 It would be worth while for some young University scholar to work out thoroughly the question whether the resemblances between the Laelius, Lysis and Nicomachean Ethics prove direct imitation.
5 I do not allow that the last three words are spurious, though Halm and others assert them to
is called in De officiis 1, 151 and in Ad Atticum 14, 21, 3 Cato maior. So the mss give to the Brutus (thus called by Cicero in De divinatione 2, 3) the second title De claris oratoribus. Such double titles were not uncommon. They are frequently found in ancient citations of Plato's works and in MSS; e.g. Φίληβος, περί ταγαθού. Varro also wrote a great number of books (called libri logistorici) which took their first titles from the names of persons, their second titles from their subjectmatter? We may fairly conclude then that the proper complete title of our dialogue is Laelius de amicitia.
Time of writing. This has been implicitly given above in the general account of Cicero's philosophical works. It is clear from De divinatione 2, 3 that when that work appeared, the Laelius had not yet been written, while the Cato maior had already been published. In the De officiis (which had not been mentioned in the passage of De divinatione above referred to) there is a reference to the Laelius. The Cato maior was written in the spring of 44 B.C. soon after Caesar's death, and the De officiis was completed in November of the same year. As Cicero was travelling during July and August, while Septernber and October were occupied by the De officiis, and probably April and May by the De divinatione, we shall not greatly err if we suppose the Laelius to have been composed in June of the year 44 B.C. It was a gloomy time for Cicero for many reasons, but particularly because the high hopes concerning politics which he entertained on Caesar's death were already shattered. The circumstances of the time are to a great extent reflected in the tone of the dialogue.
d. The form of the dialogue. In general, Cicero followed in his philosophical works the plan of Aristotle's dialogues, now lost, rather than that of the dialogues of Plato. In the former there was more of exposition and less of discussion than in the latter; one person stated his views on some question, and the company in attendance only made occasional remarks, without attempting to debate the question. In nearly all Plato's dia.
1 See Ritschl, die Schriftstellerei 501 sq. des M. Terentius Varro, in the 2 Ad Att. 15, 13 b, 2 and 16, 11, Rheinisches Museum for 1848, p.