I came across this tidbit of wisdom on a bumper sticker the other day:
Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit.
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
– Ad Familiares IX, 4, to Varro.
This great and succinct quote by Marcus Tullius Cicero captures the need to nurture both body and mind, reflecting the age old values of knowledge, wisdom, truth and history, among other virtues.
Modern society has lost touch with its roots in many literal ways, having handed over the power of its foods and cultivation to less than 2% of the population (in turn farming for the 98%), who primarily work under the thumb of massive corporations and vast government bureaucracies. Further, it has, on the whole, let go of history, which not only places contemporary life in grand context and feeds the mind important and useful knowledge, but provides warnings of past mistakes that people are “doomed to repeat” until they learn their lesson.
This famous Roman figure wore many hats during his life span that ranged from 106 B.C. to 43 B.C., giving lasting impact to the Latin language, to philosophy, to political thinking, to literature and to oration. Cicero’s writings are credited with spawning the Renaissance and heavily influencing Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, David Hume and Montesquieu, in turn influencing many of America’s founders like Thomas Jefferson.
Wikipedia summarizes his important role as an advocate of the Republic form of government, having witnessed its unraveling under Julius Caesar, who assumed dictatorial powers. Cicero was later murdered after being declared an enemy of the state.
During the chaotic latter half of the 1st century BC marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government. Following Julius Caesar’s death Cicero became an enemy of Mark Antony in the ensuing power struggle, attacking him in a series of speeches. He was proscribed as an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate and subsequently murdered in 43 BC.
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” (Disputed, but appropriate)
“Even if you have nothing to write, write and say so.”
“Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?”
“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”
“History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.”
“What then is freedom? The power to live as one wishes.”
“Liberty consists in the power of doing that which is permitted by the law.”
“The sinews of war are infinite money.”
“Laws are silent in time of war.”
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”
“The enemy is within the gates; it is with our own luxury, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.”
“The more laws, the less justice.”
“Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system.”
“In a republic this rule ought to be observed: that the majority should not have the predominant power.”
“For a tear is quickly dried, especially when shed for the misfortunes of others.”
“True nobility is exempt from fear.”