Chapter 63: Background Information
Grammar: Gerund and Gerundive
Back in Ch. 58 you read Cicero's orations against Verres. Now you will read from a different genre by this versatile author. The passages for this chapter come from Cicero's philosophical treatise Laelius de Amicitia, "Laelius, on Friendship," sometimes shortened to De Amicitia.
This treatise takes the form of an imaginary dialogue among three people: Gaius Laelius and his sons-in-law Gaius Fannius Strabo and Quintus Mucius Scaevola. The work begins after the death of Laelius' friend Scipio Africanus Minor. The interlocutors discuss Laelius' relationship with Scipio and the concept of friendship in general. Read p. 125 for more about what friendship meant to the Romans.
As you read ask yourself:
- What does friendship mean to you?
- Whom do you consider your friends?
- Why do you consider them friends?
- How does your picture of friendship compare to that of Laelius?
- How does the Roman idea of friendship compare to the Roman idea of love you encountered in the last chapter as you read Catullus?
Keep a list of Cicero's various observations about friendship. These might include citations of relevant words or phrases made directly from the Latin text to illustrate each point.
- amicitia (1): The Roman concept of amicitia applied to both personal relationships and to those between states. It is the former that Cicero discusses in the De Amicitia. Note how amicitia and the predicate nominative consensio (2) frame the first main clause.
- consensio (2): For friendship as a sort of harmony, consider Aristotle's observation about friendship that is based on goodness as "a single soul dwelling in two bodies." See also the second saying at the bottom of p. 126 and the one on p. 131. Note the alliteration and cadence of caritate consensio.
- excepta sapientia (2): This ablative absolute is embedded within an indirect question an...sit...datum (2-3).
- sapientia (2): Beginning with the ancient Greeks, wisdome was associated with virtue or moral excellence. In Platonistic philosophy, the Good involved the perfect ideas of good government, love, friendship, community, and a proper relation to the Divine.
- praeponunt (3): Be sure that you carry along this verb throughout Cicero's list of the things that some people prefer in life. Also, note the parallel phrases in this sentence.
- honores (4): For the cursus honorum, see p. 4.
- tam...quam (5): Note these correlatives, for which, see the Reading Note on p. 57.
- Cicero is saying here that material things and other "possessions" are ephemeral and subject to the whims of chance. Such was the view of Stoic philosophy, which was a way of looking at life that was preferred among the educated elite in Roman society during the time of the Republic.
- qui potest esse vita "vitalis"...? (1) Take note of the series of rhetorical questions that begin this passage. For this type of question, see the Reading Note on p. 69.
- Ennius (1): Quintus Ennius compose the Annales, the first Latin epic poem written in dactylic hexameter, which covered Roman history from the fall of Troy to the censorship of Cato the Elder in 184 B.C. This poem became a standard text for Roman schoolchildren until Vergil's Aeneid appeared. Ennius' most oft-quoted line appearing in the De Amicitia is Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur, paraphrased as "A friend in need is a friend indeed."
- benevolentia (1): Cicero continues his point from Passage A line 2.
- Note the use of archaic forms in lines 1-3 (qui for quo, 1 and 3, and quicum for quocum, 2) to reflect the forms of Latin that Laelius (who was born 188 B.C.) would have used. Remember, Cicero wrote this dialogue; Laelius never actually spoke these words; but Laelius was a real person who lived a generation or two before Cicero.
- quicum...audeas (2): Note the appearance of this relative clause of characteristic and qui...gauderet (3-4) and qui...ferret (4-5), which follow. Compare the sentiment in the first clause with that expressed in the second saying on p. 126. Also, note Cicero's use of parallel structure and contrast in these relative clauses. (For parallelism, see p the Reading Note on p. 153. For contrast, note prosperis and adversas [res] and aeque ac tu ipse gauderet and gravius etiam quam tu ferret.)
- rebus...singulis (6) and res plurimas (8): Note the contrast in comparing the single uses of the things that most people desire with the manifold advantages of friendship.
- divitiae, ut utare (6-7), etc.: Compare this long list of examples with the one in Passage A, lines 2-4.
- utare...colare...laudere (7), etc.: Be careful! These forms are NOT present active infinitives! Rather, they are shortened forms of the 2nd person singular present subjunctive, i.e. utaris, colaris, lauderis.
- numquam intempestiva, numquam molesta (9-10): Note the asyndeton, which accelerates the pace. The use of asyndeton continues with non aqua, non igni in line 10. (For a review of asyndeton, see the Reading Note on p. 26.)
- Nam...leviores (11-12): Compare the wording of the benefits of friendship here with that of lines 1-5. Note the effect of the interlocking and balance of secundas res splendidiores and adversas (res)...leviores, all centering on amicitia.
- omnis est e vita sublata iucunditas (2-3): For this idea, see the first saying on p. 126.
- est subito ereptus (3): The circumstances and manner of Scipio Minor's death are a mystery; he may have been assassinated by a supporter of the Gracchi in 129 B.C.
- virtutem (4): Here this word perhaps means moral excellence.
- In hac...in hac... (6-7): Balanced phrases, anaphora, and asyndeton express comparison between the conversations Laelius and Scipio had about public affairs and those they had on more personal matters.
- requies (7): Cicero employs a similar word in Passage B, line 2, conquiescat. Both relate to the idea of relaxation, which is a byproduct of friendship.
- Note the parallel structure of the sentence in lines 7-8: Numquam...offendi followed by a relative clause of characteristic, then nihil audivi, followed by another relative clause.
- Another example of parallel structure appears in the following sentence (9-10), but this is more difficult to see. The pronoun nobis is understood in a series of parallel datives of possession with gapping of the verb erat, e.g. (Nobis) una domus erat, (nobis) idem victus (erat)... neque solum (nobis) militia (erat), sed etiam (nobis) peregrinationes... communes (erat).