Six Mistakes

Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman orator who died in 43 B.C., recorded what he considered to be the six most drastic mistakes made by humans.

Some things never change:

1. The delusion that individual advancement is made by crushing others.

2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed.

3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot do it ourselves.

4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.

5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not aquiring the habits of reading and study.

6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.

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#6 is particularly

#6 is particularly interesting, coming from the man who said "the citizen who compels all men, by the authority of magistrates and the penalties imposed by law, to follow rules whose validity philosophers find it hard to convince even a few by their admonitions, must be considered superior even to the teachers who enunciate these principles."

Well, yes. He was a

Well, yes. He was a prolific writer in a time when there was an atrociously low literacy rate. He also was a politician either of which might explain the quote you mention. We know quite a bit about Marcus Tullius Cicero see:

But before jumping to conclusions about him, you should remember that he was a friend of Cato and his philosophical writings concerning the moral imperative of "Divine Law" laid the foundations for our current ideas concerning Natural Law. If that isn't enough to rectify his image in your mind, you can rest assured that for this terrible hypocrisy (and for leading the republican party in the senate) he was duly murdered and "[h]is head and hands were sent to Rome and nailed to the rostra, after Fulvia, wife of Antony and widow of Clodius, had thrust a hairpin through the tongue."

Perhaps this might please you as much as it did Fulvia. If this proves inadequate to forgive these two contradictory statements over the course of ancient man's life, then I doubt that you would find any ancient worthy of your forgiveness. I suppose you must be a better man than both Cicero and myself. As such, I am duly humbled that you chose to grace my post with the knowledge of the true horror that was this man's lack of inconsistency during the simple time that was Caesar's ascendancy to Emperor.

(I apologize for the vitriol in my reply, but I am a bit partial to this fellow who tried what I firmly believe to his best to promote peace in one of the times in history when it seemed impossible.)

An unjust peace is better than a just war.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE)
Roman orator, poet, statesman

I may disagree with him regarding the possibility of having both injustice and peace at the same time, but especially now I respect the sentiment he was attempting to convey.

He was not party to Caesar's assassination and it would not have been possible to persuade him to be. (New forensic style historical analysis conducted by the Discovery Channel indicate that Caesar had precise knowledge ahead of time regarding the assassination but did not stop it in order to ensure that there would be a pretext for his imperial power to pass to an heir. Caesar was old for his time and his health was failing him.)

Thanks for the comment. I'm always pleased to get feedback.

Before y'all get too upset

Before y'all get too upset keep in mind that classic works were not written in English and thus are subject to translation. Also keep in mind that Cicero was a stateman not an anarchist and would not have opposed rule by a democratic republic. Here is the same quote as I have come across it with the context added:

"They say that Xenocrates, a very distinguished philosopher was once asked what his pupils achieved; he answered that they learned to do of their own free will what the laws would compel them to do. And therefore that citizen, who through his formal authority and the punishments established by law compels everyone to do what philosophers through their teaching can persuade only a few people to do, is to be preferred even to the teachers who make those arguments.
...For my own part just as I consider ?great and powerful cities? (as Ennius calls them) better than villages and forts, so too I think men who lead these cities by their counsel and authority should be considered far wiser than philosophers who have no experience at all of public life."

-from On The Commonwealth (pdf file)

Does that contradict "Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do." Perhaps from our perspective it seems that way, but from Cicero's perspective it would not be. The point of the statement was that greater wisdom comes from actions and experience, than through mere knowledge and study. The magistrate in the above quote was not compelling others to live as he "lived and believed" but rather was literally executing the law according to his own judgement, wisdom, and understanding of those laws and customs. From the perspective of an anarchist, that might not make it right. But Cicero was a senator, he must have considered the state to be both necessary and good. Therefore the form and manner in which the force of government is used must be what determines whether it is tyranical or just.