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Logic and Rhetoric in the Philosophical Works of Cicero


This page use the free font New Athena Unicode for Greek characters.

This page is dedicated to the following aspects of the philosophy of Marcus Tullius Cicero:

The creation of the Latin philosophical vocabulary;

His testimony on Stoic logic;

His book Topica, who in the Middle Ages become one of the texts of the Logica Vetus.

Attention will also be given to the De Inventione and De Oratore, who exerted a great influence on medieval thinkers.


"Philosophy meant Greek. Rome had nothing to offer except a stern traditional moralism exemplified by Cato, which found the rigid Semitic ethic of the Stoics congenial, and a reaction away from this, which expressed itself in a loose Epicureanism, such as Epicurus himself and his sincere exponents would have utterly disowned. 'And so it is not Epicurus who has driven them to debauchery. They have already given themselves over to immorality, and now try to hide their debauchery in the lap of philosophy; they congregate in the place where they hope to hear the praise of pleasure' (1). The words date from the next century, but they are applicable to the age of Cicero. Cicero is at some pains to explain away the apparent Roman incapacity for philosophy. He suggests that there is no real inability : rather their energies have been diverted into other channels.

Be that as it may, philosophy meant Greek, and Greek philosophy of the age of Cicero was represented predominantly by four schools.

a) The oldest of these was the Academy. Under Plato this had been a training-ground for politicians, with a course designed to lift the mind from the relativities of our normal life to the eternal verities, and a pioneering interest in logical analysis. For seventy years after his death the heads of the Academy were dogmatists whose interests were predominantly ethical. Then in the mid-third century Arcesilas transformed the whole direction of Academic thought, by retaining the dialectic but abandoning the dogmatic, so that every question was treated as an open question, certainty was abjured and probability left as a guide. This was a polemic against Stoic claims of infallibility; it was affected by the scepticism of Pyrrho and the logical acumen of Diodorus, so that the satirist Timon described Arcesilas as a kind of Homeric chimaera 'Plato the head of him, Pyrrho the tail, in between Diodorus' Arcesilas' work was taken up in the next century by Carneades, unquestionably the greatest thinker between Aristotle and Plotinus, and suspension of judgment remained a tenet of the school, though there may have been some esoteric dogmatism. According to Cicero the Academics of his day were few in number (2).

b) The Peripatetics originated with Plato's pupil Aristotle. Of all the ancient schools the Peripatetics were the most insistent that theory should be grounded in fact, and they specialized in amassing large quantities of fact on which a critical judgment could be based. Their judgments were generally free from extremism and marked by a sturdy common sense. Their special contribution lay in scientific research.

c) Stoicism emerged at the beginning of the third century to meet the demand for education occasioned by limiting the period of military training and transferring it to Athens. The philosophy was designed to meet a mood of despair in an age of 'the failure of nerve'. Its religion was a pantheistic determinism; its chief virtue resignation. Its early exponents preached a rigid moralism in which virtue was the only good, vice the only evil, and all else matters of indifference, and which divided mankind into saints and stoners without any No Man's Land between. Later this rigidity was modified, though the quest for perfect virtue was never abandoned.

d) Epicureanism met the same needs, opportunities and mood as Stoicism. Epicurus regarded the end of life as 'pleasure', not crudely interpreted but understood as freedom from disturbance. To this end we must be rid of fear and control desire. Fear is dispelled by understanding; hence the Epicureans adopted Democritus' atomic theory as the most reasonable account of the world, and this enabled them to dismiss the fear of death, death being the painless dissolution of our atomic structure. The greatest external adjunct to the tranquil life is friendship, and the emphasis upon friendship is one of the most attractive features of the school. Finally, gods exist, but they are remote and not to be feared, spending their time in philosophic conversation.

This picture must be modified by a general tendency to eclecticism. Among the Peripatetics this is open and unashamed, and the De mundo contains much that is Stoic, andDe virtutibus et vitiis is an attempt to reconcile the Academy and the Peripatos. The Platonists had, at least publicly, given up their distinctive insight in the interests of scepticism, and turned increasingly towards the Stoics, and in the age of Cicero Antiochus of Ascalon, who had at first opposed the Stoics, later capitulated and, in R.D. Hicks' words, 'taught Stoic logic, Stoic physics and an ethical theory which was only not orthodox Stoicism because it was fatally wanting in the unity, coherence and consistency which even opponents admired in the Stoics'. But the Stoics also, as we have seen, shifted -- the attacks of Carneades could not be ignored -- and in the first century Posidonius abandoned the orthodox psychology and went back to Plato. Only the Epicureans never changed an atom, and the agreement of Lucretius and even Diogenes of Oenoanda with Epicurus is a tribute to the conservatism of the school.

It is not always realized how thoroughly Cicero was grounded in philosophy. He was born in the country near Arpinum, but from the age of ten Rome was his centre. His philosophical training began before he was sixteen when in conjunction with his friend Titus Pomponius Atticus he attended the lectures of the Epicurean Phaedrus, who was teaching in Rome at the time (3). Both students were impressed. With Atticus it lasted a life-time; with Cicero the enthusiasm for the tenets of Epicurus soon wore off, but he continued to speak of Phaedrus with respect and to enjoy his friendship. Thereafter he had little official contact with the Epicureans, and publicly disavows acquaintance with their formless writings, but it is clear that he had read more than he makes out (4). Later legend associated him with Lucretius' poem; Jerome says that he amended it and Borgius quotes some alleged corrections. The indefatigable Merrill assures us that there is no phrase in Cicero which is assuredly borrowed from Lucretius. But we know from the letters that Cicero was familiar with the poem (5), and Lucretius may have read extracts to the distinguished littérateur.

After leaving Phaedrus, Cicero went to study dialectic with Diodotus the Stoic. This art, which Cicero calls 'abbreviated eloquence', was at the time the monopoly of the Stoics. Cicero absorbed, but was not attracted by, the general philosophy. But Diodotus became an inmate of Cicero's house until his death some thirty years later (6).

Then, in 88 Philo of Larissa, the head of the Academy came as a refugee to Rome. He was a versatile genius, attractive to Cicero not least for his mastery of the theory and practice of oratory. But these were troubled times politically. It seemed that a public career was closed, though he took further training from Molo, the Rhodian ambassador, who linked for him rhetoric and ethics. Meantime he threw himself whole-heartedly into the study of philosophy, and his commitment to the Academy lasted a lifetime (7). Later he likes to recollect his early enthusiasm for philosophy (8), but, even allowing for exaggeration, it is clear that he worked very hard. Throughout the years 88-1 the training continued, and his translations from Greek into Latin included Xenophon's Oeconomicus and Plato's Protagoras.

Even now he was not done. In 81 he made his first public speech; in the following year he made a public attack upon one of the minions of the dictator Sulla, and shortly afterwards we find him leaving Rome 'for the good of his health'. He spent six months in Athens. There were, it seems, no eminent Stoics or Peripatetics in the city at the time. The Epicureans were under the leadership of Zeno of Sidon, a man of mordant sarcasm but an unrivalled expositor, endowed with more clarity than charity. Cicero's old friend Phaedrus was however there also, and Cicero accompanied Atticus to some of his lectures (9). He also made the acquaintance of the Stoicizing Academic Antiochus of Ascalon, for whom he conceived a great admiration, 'pre-eminent among contemporary philosophers in ability and scholarship' (10), 'a writer of extraordinary shrewdness' (11), 'the shrewdest and most cultured of the philosophers of my time' (12). In theory, however, he sided with the more orthodox Philo (13).

From the mainland of Greece Cicero went on to Rhodes to continue his study of rhetoric with Molo. Here he met Posidonius; they struck up a friendship, and through this contact Stoicism entered his thinking for the first time as a vital influence. Cicero calls him the greatest of the Stoics, a thorough investigator and the most celebrated of all contemporary philosophers, and says that he read his works more than those of any other philosophical writer. He certainly quotes them more often (14).

From his return to Rome in 77 Cicero was fully engaged in his public career, though he never forgot that he was a scholar and was proud, for example, that as an administrative officer in Sicily he had rescued the tomb of Archimedes from oblivion. But his formative period was over. It had been long and thorough; he had been trained in three of the principal schools, and had emerged with an Academic theory of knowledge, an immense admiration for Plato, and some inclination to the Stoics without their dogmatism. (pp. 99-103).


It is important to realize what Cicero was trying to do. He never claims originality, except in the last book De officiis. He admits that his works are derivative -- 'I merely provide words, and I've plenty of those'. He is however no slavish translator (15); he always brings a critical and interpretative faculty to bear, as he himself claims (16). His aim is the introduction of philosophy to Rome. War and dictatorship alike limited the scope of public oratory. Philosophy was to Cicero only a second-best, but it was that, and with the decline of oratory he was prepared to give an impulse to Roman philosophy. They needed to be able to philosophize without resort to the Greeks, and to this end he sought to provide them with a kind of philosophic encyclopaedia. He hoped to make every department of philosophy accessible in Latin; 'what greater or better service, could I offer my country than teaching and instructing the young' (17).

He chose as his form the dialogue, and his models Aristotle, and, occasionally, Heraclides Ponticus (18). This is especially marked in the Tusculans where the dialogue is a dialogue with a tendency to monologue, though we cannot help feeling that Cicero, who never suffered from an excess of modesty, is consciously or unconsciously casting himself for the role of Socrates. He is himself aware of this tendency (19). In general, as in De finibus or De natura deorum, he likes first to present and then criticize the tenets of each of the leading schools in the field under discussion. His presentation is generally fair, though an unconscious bias asserts itself in that he puts the Stoic case at much greater length than the Epicurean. His criticisms are sometimes self-contradictory, but never merely silly. The whole is a fascinating and, we must believe, generally reliable introduction to the climate of Greek thought in the time of Cicero.

It is not needful here to essay any summary of these expositions, since, it is Cicero whom we are considering rather than his sources.


But we may properly ask whether we can see what Cicero regarded as the function of philosophy. Unfortunately the work in which he must have presented this systematically, Hortensius, is lost. However, we can recover something of its theme. We know, for example, that it was based on Aristotle's Protrepticus. This also is lost, but the work of Jaeger and others has enabled us to see something of its content. The book was addressed to a prince of Cyprus named Themison. It was written in Aristotle's Platonic period, and there is no doubt that its ultimate aim was practical. Themison says Jaeger 'is to help to realize the political philosophy of the Academy. He is to be a philosopher-king. But although the aim was practical it was not utilitarian, and Aristotle argued against the proposition that philosophy is to be judged by its immediate expediency; this, as Jaeger has shown, is a defence of the Academic training against Isocrates. On the contrary, we should not be too engrossed in mortal affairs; the life of pure contemplation offers something they can never offer; it accords with man's peculiar gifts and function; in the isles of the blest there will be no place for the ethical virtues; our aim must be to devote ourselves to truth as the fulfilment of our true personalities.

Cicero followed this, but not slavishly. He used the dialogue form, as Aristotle probably did not. Our knowledge of Cicero's text is principally from Augustine, for whom it was a seminal work. A long and famous extract contains the passage which shows that in the legendary islands after death there will be no place for virtue where there is no room for vice nor even for eloquence where there are no law-courts, but contemplation alone belongs to the highest happiness. Similarly the final conclusion of Hortensius directed the reader away from frail mortality to eternity.

Cicero was however by no means always so divorced from practicality. The last book of the Tusculans begins with an eloquent panegyric of philosophy, including a summary of the course of Greek thought which omits all mention of the natural philosophers and praises Socrates for having first brought philosophy down from the sky (that is from astronomy and cosmology) and planted her in the town and in the home; to compel men to give thought to ethical principles and their general way of life (20). 'O philosophy' he cries 'life's supreme commander, tracking virtue to its lair and banishing vice, what would have happened to us, what could have happened to man's life at all without you? You brought towns into being. When men were separate from one another you summoned them to community, drew them together first in families, then in marriage, then in the use of a common language. You devised the rule of law; you were our schoolmistress in learning and behaviour. You are our refuge, our source of help. In the past we have given ourselves to you only with reservations; now we give ourselves utterly and completely' (21). Again in the second book we read 'Philosophy has to her credit the cure of souls, the removal of idle worries, redemption from lust and the banishment of fear' (22). So in a letter to Varro he speaks of his return to his books as to old friends whose advice he has neglected in his dubious political alliances. They have forgiven him, and with their help he hopes to face more steadfastly present and future distress (23). Cicero in these passages is writing without a model open before him; he is writing from the heart, and there is adequate indication that he is really preoccupied with ethical and practical issues.

In fact when we examine the theme and contents of his surviving work this assertion is amply borne out. They all deal with problems of politics (as in the rather earlier De Republica and De legibus), religion or ethics. The Tusculans, a collection of five miscellaneous discourses, deals successively with the propositions 'I think death is an evil' 'I reckon pain the worst of all evils' 'I think the wise man is liable to present distress' 'I think the wise man cannot get rid of all mental disturbances'. 'I think that virtue is not sufficient to produce ultimate happiness'. These themes (all the propositions are confuted) show well enough the general tenour of his thought. In some moods he was doubtful whether philosophy had all the answers, and Lactantius quotes a letter he wrote to his son 'We ought to know what philosophy teaches, but we ought to live by our national traditions' (24).

He is not interested in the physical sciences, though in De natura deorum he followed with keen interest the beauties of the Stoic natural theology against the Academic Carneades. He recognized the Peripatetic virtues in the field of science, and corrected some of the extravagances of the Stoics by reference to Aristotle. His theory of knowledge is Academic. As an orator he was trained to see both sides of a case, as a historian of philosophy he saw the conflicts of philosophers, as a person he was inclined to charity and saw something unworthy in arrogant dogmatism. Opinion, he insists, is free, and each man is free to defend his own position.(25) Disagreement is legitimate and understandable, but not bitterness (26). After all, quot homines, tot sententiae (27) Not for him the pernicious autocracy of Pythagoras with hipse dixit (28) or the apron-strings of Chrysippus shackling the Stoic. The Academic, abjuring certainty, guided by probability roams free. Cicero anticipated Mill in his belief that freedom of discussion leads to intellectual progress. Sometimes, it must be admitted, he uses the doctrine as an excuse for mental laziness. He has the inconsistency which is the besetting sin of those who borrow eclectically from their predecessors. The view of divination in De legibus is radically different from the scepticism of De divinatione, and the attempted explanations of this are not really satisfactory. The last book of the Tusculans and the fourth of De finibus are in flat contradiction with one another. Cicero is quite cheerful about such contradictions. 'At different times different views seem more probable' he comments (29); like Dr. Johnson, he refuses to be bound by his previous utterances. He lives, from day to day (30). He is not, however, always free from dogmatism. Indeed there is an amusing passage in the Tusculans. Cicero has in the very previous paragraph been commending suspension of judgment. His interlocutor puts the proposition, 'I think that virtue is not sufficient to produce ultimate happiness', and Cicero's demur is almost violent in its emphasis. This is generally true of his ethics which incline to the absolute and dogmatic position of the Stoics. One of Cicero's aims was to undermine Epicurean influence by a combination of Academci scepticism and Stoic ethics.

So far he might seem another of the hack-writers of philosophical text-books who diligently and meticulously perpetuate the errors of past generations. When we turn to his methodology however he appears much more modern.

In the first place he insists on definitions. So he writes to his son in De officiis 'Every systematic philosophical development of a subject must begin with a definition to provide a clear explanation of the subject under discussion' (7). Throughout this work his treatment is carefully analytical, as we may note in the discussion of the cardinal virtues. In De finibus the first substantial point which Cicero makes against Epicurus arises out of the latter's failure to define: he does not make clear what he means by 'pleasure' (32). Again in the fourth book of the Tusculans, where the theme is mental disturbance in general, Cicero points out that the Stoics have spent some time in classification and definition, a thorny subject which the Peripatetics by-pass. He will therefore start with the Stoics, and gives Zeno's definition of mental disturbance as an 'unnatural spiritual upheaval uncontrolled by philosophy'. It is easy to pick holes in the definition; the point is that a definition has been given; he himself suggests an alternative 'an excessively violent appetition' (33). He then takes up an analysis from the previous book (34) according to which the irrational emotions are four in number -- pleasure, which is reaction to a present good, desire, which is an outreaching to a future good, fear, which is an outreaching to a future evil, and distress, which is reaction to a present evil. Finally he subdivides these four sections, differentiating in each between apparent synonyms in a passage which should be compulsory reading for developing the precise use of words in Latin Prose Composition. Nowell-Smith's Ethics (*) is described in its blurb as 'A study of the words and concepts that we use for answering practical questions, making decisions, advising, warning, and appraising conduct '. No doubt Nowell-Smith starts with very different presuppositions and with a superior logical equipment, but in essence he is doing no more than Cicero, and Cicero's insistence on definition and analysis ought to commend him to contemporary thought.

Secondly, Cicero insists on the method of dialectic. So in the Tusculans, 'I have always approved the Academic and Peripatetic practice of presenting every subject in the form of a debate, partly because it is the only way of reaching the most probable conclusion on any particular topic, partly because it is good rhetorical practice' (35). 'The sole object of our discussions' he says in the Academica 'is by arguing on both sides to draw out and give shape to some conclusion which may be either true or the nearest possible approximation to the truth' (36). It is significant that in adopting Aristotle's Protrepticus, which seems not to have been in dialogue form, for his Horensius he recast it as a dialogue. De finibus is here typical of his methods. The theme is the summum bonum. Book I presents the Epicurean view. Book II subjects this to a criticism which is overtly Academic, though its content include, a large admixture of Stoicism. Book III presents the Stoic case, and to Book IV this in turn is attacked, though more sympathetically, from an Academic standpoint. Book V presents a synthetic Academic-Peripatetic view. In De divinatione the Epicurean view is omitted as it was a flat negation. Book I presents the Stoic position, Book II the Academic assault upon it. The treatment in De natura deorum is closely similar. The Epicurean view is stated and criticized; then the Stoic view is stated and criticized. There is some disparity of space between these treatments. To some extent this reflects the greater importance that theology held for the Stoics; it also reflects a bias in Cicero. Wilamowitz once made a curiously wrong-headed remark that there were no real debates in Cicero. Cicero is not always objective in his presentation, but the principles underlying it are remarkably Hegelian.

Thirdly, his concept of his function as a philosopher (though not of the function of philosophy itself) was plainly the examination and criticism of what philosophers have actually said. This, so far as it goes, is a modern approach. Some of the detailed criticisms have a modern ring about them also. The Epicureans argued for the existence of gods on the grounds of universality of belief. Cotta's question 'How do you know what all the nations of mankind believe?' (37) might almost have been asked by Ayer or Findlay, and the assertion is brought to the empirical test of actual atheism. In fact, Cicero is always quoting actual Roman experience to illustrate or to test his theme.

Fourthly, and most important, Cicero gave to Rome, and hence to modern Europe, her philosophical vocabulary, and so inescapably moulded our patterns of thought. This was his greatest achievement; Pease called it an 'incomparable service'. Plutarch says of him (38): 'He made it his business further to compose and translate dialogues on philosophy, and to express in Latin the vocabulary of science and logic. It is said that he was the original or principal person to supply the Romans with words for phantasia, synkatathesos, epoche, catalepsis, as well as atomon, ameres, and kenon he produced familiar and acceptable terms by the use of transference of language and other devices'. We must remember that Lucretius, who was ten years younger than Cicero, but writing before him, spoke bitterly and repeatedly of the poverty of his native language (39). He found himself continually forced to use Greek formations, of which homoeomereiae is merely the most notorious. Some significant Epicurean concepts, such as that which Cicero terms the intermundia, the spaces between the universes, Lucretius does not express at all. Cicero refuses to allow that Greek is a richer tongue than Latin; in a long passage at the beginning of De finibus he asserts the contrary (40), a claim repeated in the Tusculans (41). His age is to see the birth of philosophy in Latin literature and he is to be the midwife (42). He tells Atticus not to be alarmed about the Latin language (43). In the Academica, one of the works in which he is forming his style, he examines some of the difficulties of translating technical terms and admits that he has to 'manufacture' words (44). This he does with marked success. We in fact owe to Cicero the words quality, individual, vacuum, moral, property, induction, element, definition, difference, notion, comprehension, infinity, appetite, instance, science, image and species. It is interesting that in two instances we have adopted the original Greek as well, as a doublet with a different shade of meaning; we use 'atom' as well as 'individual', and 'ethical' as well as 'moral'. Some of these words were coined by Cicero. Poiotes was a curious invention of Plato (45). Cicero puts qualitas in the mouth of the encyclopedist Varro, who was working at the time on his treatise De lingua Latina. The whole passage is worth quoting (46).

'They called the product of force and matter body and what I may call quality. You will allow me, I am sure, to use unexampled words in dealing with unfamiliar topics. The Greeks do it, and they 've been handling these subjects for a good while now'. 'Of course we will' said Atticus, 'but if you want you can use Greek too if Latin lets you down'. 'Thank you, but I 'll do my best to talk Latin except with words like philosophy, rhetoric, physics and dialectic which are habitually used as Latin together with many others. I 've given the name qualities to the things the Greeks call poiotetes. That's a technical term of Greek philosophy like many others, and not in general use. As a matter of fact the logical analysts have their own vocabulary, quite different from that of the man in the street. In fact almost all the sciences do it; they either have to invent new words for new things or extend the usage of old ones. The Greeks have been engaged in these studies for centuries, and they still do it; we 're now trying to handle them for the first time, and may perhaps be excused'. 'Varro', I said, 'you 've already added to our factual knowledge; if in addition you add to our vocabulary you 'll certainly have done well by our country'.

Cicero there speaks of inventing some words and adapting others. Examples of such adaptation are his application of definire to words, the logical use of differre, which has previously meant to 'put off' or 'delay' the extension of elementa from Lucretius' atoms to Aristotle's stoicheia, the use of imago (a statue) for the mental images of Stoic psychology, and above all the extension of species from outward shape (in late Latin virgo speciosa means 'a pretty girl') to the Platonic form or universal (47).

There is no need to press the point further. But Cicero's linguistic preoccupations make one wish for a reassessment of his work and influence by one of our contemporary linguistic analysts." (pp. 104-111).

(1) Seneca, Dial. 7, 12, 4.

(2) Nat. deor. 1, 6; 1,11.

(3) Fam. 13,1.

(4) ib. 15, 16; 15, 19.

(5) Ad Q. fr. 2, 9, 4.

(6) Brut. 90, 309; Att. 2, 20, 6.

(7) Brut. 89, 306.

(8) rep. I, 4, 7; Tusc. 5, 2, 5; Off. 2, 1, 4; Fat. 1, 2.

(9) Fin. 1, 5, 16.

(10) Ac. 2, 2, 4.

(11) 2, 22, 69.

(12) 2, 35, 113.

(13) Brut. 91, 314 ff.

(14) Hort. fr. 18, Div. 1, 57, 130; Tusc. 2, 25, 61.

(15) Off. 2, 17, 60.

(16) Fin. 1, 2, 6.

(17) Div. 2, 2, 4.

(18) Att. 13, 19, 4; Fam. 1, 9, 23.

(19) Att. 13, 19, 4. Fat. 1.

(20) 5, 4, 11.

(21) 5, 2, 5.

(22) 2, 4, 11.

(23) Fam. 9, 1, 2.

(24) Inst. 3, 14, 17.

(25) Tusc. 4, 4, 7.

(26) Fin. 1, 8. 27.

(27) Ib. 1, 5, 15.

(28) Nat. deor. 1, 5, 10.

(29) Ac. 2, 38, 121.

(30) tusc. 3, 11, 33; cfr. 2, 2, 5.

(31) 1, 2, 7.

(32) 2, 5, 15.

(33) 4, 6, 11.

(34) 3, 11, 24.

(35) 2, 3, 9.

(36) 2, 3, 7.

(37) Nat. deor. 1, 23, 62.

(38) Cic. 881.

(39) I, 139; 1, 832; 3, 260.

(40) 1, 3, 10.

(41) 3, 5, 10.

(42) 2, 2, 5.

(43) Att. 12, 52, 3.

(44) 2, 6, 17.

(45) Theatet. 182 A.

(46) Ac. 1, 6, 24.

(47) Ac. 1, 8, 30.

(*) [Patrick-Horace Nowell-Smith, Ethics, London, Penguin Books, 1954]

From: John Ferguson, Cicero's Contribution to Philosophy, in: J. Ferguson (ed.), Studies in Cicero, Roma, Centro di Studi Ciceroniani Editore, 192, pp. 99-111.


"Philosophy, the genre in which Greek, in Rome as elsewhere, must be granted the position of the dominant language, poses a special problem for a study of the language choice in that literary expression in Antiquity was not necessarily resorted to by the philosophers. Many famous philosophers never wrote anything themselves, although their pupils may have spread their doctrines in written form using their names to do so. It is not always possible to discern the original language use behind this written form, and, in general, it may be difficult to compare the phenomenon of philosophy with such genres as, for instance, history, with which literary expression was indissolubly connected.

This problem already affects the very beginning of the philosophical tradition in Rome. We find eastern philosophers in second century Rome teaching and also writing philosophical treatises in Greek: Panaetius and Hecaton from Rhodes, Philon from Larissa and Boethus from Sidon. Many Romans were in contact with them, and listened to and spread their doctrines, probably in a Greek form and in the Greek language, although they did not use literature to do this. (p. 239)


Cicero considered himself a pioneer of Latin philosophy, and together with M. Terentius Varro and M. Junius Brutus he represents the only significant period of philosophical literature in Latin before late Antiquity. But these writers, too, had to defend their use of Latin, and their influence on contemporary society remained small.(1) As the works of Varro and Brutus are lost, we know only the apologies of Cicero, but interestingly, one of these occurs in a conversation with Varro (ac. post. 1.4-8), while another is addressed to Brutus (de fin. 1.1-5).

The editio posterior of Cicero's Academica, written in 45 B.C., opens with a conversation between Cicero and Varro, in which the former begs Varro to write on philosophy in Latin. Varro's attitude is negative, and he uses two main arguments to support this:

nam cum philosophiam viderem diligentissime Graecis litteris explicatam, existimavi si qui de nostris eius studiis tenerentur, si essent Graecis studiis eruditi, Graeca potius quam nostra lecturos; sin a Graecorum artibus et disciplinis abhorrerent, ne haec quidem curaturos, quae sine eruditione Graeca intellegi non possunt; itaque ea nolui scribere, quae nec indocti intellegere possent nec docti legere curarent (ac. post. 1.4).

[As I have seen that philosophy has been very carefully expounded in Greek, I have come to the following view about people from our country who are seriously interested in it. If they have had the benefit of an education in Greek learning, they will read works in Greek rather than in our own language. But if they have taken against Greek arts or disciplines, they won't care for Latin works, either, since the latter can't be understood without knowledge from the Greeks. As a result I have been unwilling to write works that would neither be intelligible to the unlearned nor something the learned cared to read. (On Academic Scepticism, translated, with introduction and notes, by Charles Brittain, Indianapolis, Hackett, 2006, p. 88)]

Varro goes on to tell us that there are philosophical works in Latin by Amafinius and Rabirius, but both their style (vulgari sermone disputant) and the way in which the doctrines are presented are below his own standard. (pp. 240-241)


This brings us to the best known and documented Roman translator, M. Tullius Cicero. We shall first look at what he translated -- in addition to the Aratea discussed above -- and then examine his opinions on the reasons for translating from Greek. The prose translations of Cicero can be divided into philosophical treatises and the speeches of Greek orators. Earliest in the former group in Xenophon's Oeconomicus, translated when Cicero was little more than twenty (de off. 2.87). (p. 286)


Cicero himself promises in de fin. 1.7, to translate -- sometime in the future -- passages from Plato and Aristotle.(2) We have four fragments by Roman grammarians from a work of Cicero's called Protagoras, which seems to be a rather accurate translation of Plato's Protagoras.(3) In addition, we have in the manuscript tradition a large fragment from a translation of Plato's Timaeus, which is also mentioned and identified by Hieronymus as a translation (in Esaiam XII prol., in Amos lib. II, V, 3). But the MSS have preserved part of a preface, which seems to indicate that the translation was part of a dialogue; how Cicero himself indicated the translation, how it was incorporated into the dialogue and whether the treatise of Plato was translated completely, cannot be known. If we disregard the gaps in the manuscript tradition, the translation seems to be rather faithful.

Of Aristotle, nothing is known except Topica. This represents a very curious case: Cicero has promised to translate or at least explain(4) the Topics of Aristotle to Trebatius; he finds no time to do this before embarking on a voyage, in which, however, he has no books to refer to. But nevertheless he completes the task and sends the work, which he calls Topica Aristotelea, from Rhegium on July 28th, 44 B.C. to Trebatius (ad fam. 7.19). The problem is that the work has almost nothing to do with the Topics of Aristotle; evidently Cicero never read the work in question.(5) Thus, we can be certain that this work of Cicero had nothing to do with translation.

I have elsewhere discussed the discrepancy between the indication in the preface and the contents, and suggested that Cicero's doctrine as regards the topics was based on an otherwise unknown Pseudo-Aristotelian treatise, and that in this sense the indication of the preface was true; but clearly, Cicero was very free in his treatment of his theme and source.(6) (pp. 286-287)

If we can discern the reason why Cicero translated the speeches of Demosthenes and Aeschines, sufficient evidence for his philosophical translations can also be adduced, although this is mainly connected with the treatises, whose dependence on Greek original is less clear (see also above, pp. 240-243). In addition to the above-mentioned educational aspect, the nationalistic idea seems to supply the principal motivation for translating into Latin.(7) An extreme case is Tusc. 2.6, where Cicero anticipates a time when all Greek philosophical literature will be translated or transferred into Latin and Greek libraries can close down.(8) This passage belongs to a powerful exhortation to transfer the achievements of Greek philosophy to Rome.(9) One could maintain that the pioneer work of Cicero in the field of Latin philosophy consisted entirely of the adapting or translating of Greek philosophical works into Latin. He compares in de fin. 1.4-5 his work to that of Roman dramatists, and considers that a good Roman ought to prefer Latinized philosophy in the same way as he prefers to read the dramas of Terence and Ennius.

The fact that Cicero considers the Greek libraries worthless when the bulk of Greek literature is adapted or translated into Latin, shows that, not unlike many other Romans, he emphasized the independence of the translation or adaptation from the original. Cicero also wished to make translations very free. He had not translated Demosthenes or Aeschines as an interpreter, but as an orator (opt. gen. 14; 23).(10) In de fin. 1.6, he emphasizes that only the contents of his philosophical works are derived from the Greeks, the form is his own; he does not want to be a mere translator.(11) Cicero distinguishes sharply between interpretatio and imitatio, an independent transferring, with an artistic purpose, of the ideas of the original.(12)

Consequently, it is clear that Cicero's translations are, or intend to be, creative and ambitious with definite artistic aims and a clear nationalistic coloring. One further question remains to be answered: does Cicero have in mind those Roman readers who are incapable of reading the Greek originals due to a defective knowledge of Greek, i.e. does the modern reason for translating apply in any way? The question is discussed in ac. post. 1.3-4, where Varro gives as one reason why he does not deal with philosophy in Latin, his opinion that those readers with a Greek education would prefer reading in Greek and those without such an education -- we can take this to mean, unable to read Greek -- would not be interested in philosophy anyway (see also above, p. 240). Cicero duly protests, but everything points to the fact that in the sphere of which Cicero's literary activity formed a part the reader was generally considered bilingual and that translations were therefore not necessary. (pp. 288-289)

It is time to return to Cicero, whose views on Latinity and purism have already been discussed. We have seen in the previous section that as with Livius Andronicus and his successors, the general language choice of Cicero, i.e. the choice of Latin for philosophical and rhetorical literature, rested to a large extent on a nationalistic basis. Cicero's general attitude to the Latinizing of Greek words also closely resembled that of the early poets. Again, I would not see in this a negative attitude towards the Greek language so much as a perception of the necessity of creating an indigenous vocabulary for these branches of learning.

The nationalism of Cicero's attitude shows up clearly in that his discussion of the use of Greek words is mostly connected with passages comparing the lexical resources of Latin with those of Greek, or emphasizing the needs of Latin philosophical literature: quare bonitate potius nostrorum verborum utamur quam splendore Graecorum (or. 164). This is also the starting point in de fin. 3.5: because the Latin vocabulary is richer than the Greek, elaborandum est, ut hoc non in nostril solis artibus, red etiam in illorum ipsorum adsequamur. When in this context Cicero accepts words like philosophia and rhetorica, because as usu recepta they have become Roman, he states that even these could easily be replaced by purely Latin terms. Central to the whole passage is the fact that all special languages use verba inusitata, either Greek or Latin, and as a branch of learning philosophy cannot take its vocabulary from the streets (3.4). The same idea is continued in de fin. 3.15: preferably one should translate Greek terms by Latin ones; if one Latin word is not enough, several may be used. But: tamen puto concedi nobis oportere, ut Graeco verbo utamur, si quando minus occurret Latinum.

The theory of establishing new Latin terms for hitherto unknown concepts is discussed by Cicero several times, and almost always in a defensive tone,(67) thus anticipating criticism. The alternatives at Cicero's disposal for the expressing of Greek terms in Latin are classified, mainly on the basis of Cicero's own theories, by Hartung as follows:(13) (a) to use the Greek term as such; (b) to use a Greek loan word in a Latinized form and with Latin characters; (c) to use Latin words which were exact counterparts of the Greek terms and well-known in this sense (verba propria et usitata); (d) to use Latin words which are transferred from another area of meaning (verba similitudine translata); (e) to form new Latin words. As has been noted, Cicero does not entirely ignore methods (a) and (b), either in theory or, especially, in practice; but he clearly prefers even (e) to (a) and (b). This reveals the mentality of the pioneer of Latin literature; Cicero regards himself as the founder of the terminological tradition in Roman philosophy and rhetoric, and his view is that in so far as solutions have not already been made by adopting Greek terms into Latin, the preferable solution is contained in (c), (d) or (e).

None of this can by judged against a background of purism, since from the purist point of view, the use of verba inusitata is to be condemned independently of the Latin or Greek origin. Neither does Cicero's view reveal a negative attitude towards the Greek language. In addition to the nationalistic aspect discussed above, I think that a certain language theoretical view of Cicero is also applicable here, a view which emphasizes the significance of the origin of the persons, both ethnic and social, for the language which he uses. The clearest expression of this view, together with a special reference to Greek loan words, can be found in de off. 1.111:

ut enim sermone eo debemus uti, qui innatus est nobis, ne, ut quidam, Graeca verba inculcantes iure optimo rideamur, sic in actiones omnemque vitam nullam discrepantiam conferre debemus.

[For as we ought to employ our mother-tongue, lest, like certain people who are continually dragging in Greek words, we draw well-deserved ridicule upon ourselves, so we ought not to introduce anything foreign into our actions or our life in general. (English translation by Walter Miller, Cambridge:Harvard University Press, 1913)]

The above-mentioned passages, in which Cicero distinguishes several special languages within the Latin language, represent another expression of this view. And in a sense, we can relate to this the famous passage Tusc. 1.15, in which Cicero claims that he does not use more Greek in Latin than Latin in Greek: scis enim me Graece loqui in Latino sermone non plus solere quam in Graeca Latine. This occurs in a passage which is concerned with the quotation of a verse of Epicharmus, a quotation which Cicero makes, as his normal practice is, in Latin translation.

In the comparison of Cicero's theoretical attitude with his practice of writing, his letters must be discussed as a special group. The Greek loan words in these occur approximately as often as in Cicero's other work, if only frequency and occurrence is taken into account; but the words are more often such which only rarely appear elsewhere and can hardly be considered verba usitata. The main difference, however, lies in the fact that in his letters Cicero is fond of inserting Greek phrases and words with Greek spellings,(14) a licence Cicero has allowed himself in his other work only in special cases.(15) This phenomenon certainly reflects the style used in the normal communication of the two correspondents in question; the number of Greek phrases depends not only on the theme of the letter, but also on the person to whom the letter is written; they are commonest by far in the letters to Atticus.(16) The interpretation of the phenomenon for our purposes is clear and agrees with other sources: on the one hand, the insertion of Greek phrases and words was obviously a favourite practice in civilized conversation and communication between Romans -- it even lent some kind of intimacy to the letters; (17) Greek had retained its position as the cultural language, and the attitude towards it, in this social class at least, was favourable. Sometimes Cicero and his correspondents even boast of their knowledge of Greek -- certain words are not found in the extant Greek literature -- , but at other times it is only deficiencies in the Latin which are rectified.(73) On the other hand, the rare occurrence of Greek quotations and words in Cicero's treatises and speeches was based on a deliberate avoidance of them. One could think that this avoidance or rather the stylistic ideal to which it belongs was due either to a negative attitude to the Greek language or to a nationalistic emphasis on Latinized literature; the first alternative being excluded on grounds given above, we might perhaps state a preference for the second one.

In the speeches very rare, slightly more common in the rhetorical and philosophical treatises, in which terms with Greek spellings also occur: this is the general picture of Greek loan words in Cicero.(74) Greek sources are cited outside the letters in Latin translation.(75) Cicero's theoretical principles on the avoidance and inclusion of Greek loan words accord rather well with his practice; perhaps there are a few more Greek words than one would expect, but this is probably due to the fact that our conception of what a Greek loan word is and Cicero's conception may differ greatly." (pp. 309-310)

[Notes are renumbered for clarity]

(1) See E. Norden, Die römische literatur, (6 ed.) Leipzig 1961, 55.

(2) locos quidem quondam, si videbitur, transferam, et maxime ab its quos modo nominavi (sc. Plato et Aristoteles), cum inciderit ut id apte fieri possit. [If I think fit, I will translate certain passages, particularly from those authors (Plato and Aristotle) I just mentioned, when it happens to be appropriate].

(3) K. Büchner, RE VII A, 1150.

(4) ut tibi illa traderem are the words used by Cicero in top. 1.2; in the following Trebatius is urged to acquire the contents from a teacher of oratory, and this rather refers to explaining, but then Cicero again speaks of the charmful and rich style which ought to have attracted philosophers to the work. Cassiodorus (de art. ac discipl. lib. art. 583 Garet) says: Topica Aristotelis ... Cicero transtulit in Latinum.

(5) However, B. Riposati has in his long monograph Studi sui 'Topica' di Cicerone, Ed. dell'Univ. Catt. del S. Cuore, Ser. Pubbl. 22, Milano 1947, attempted again to show that the principal themes and ideas of Cicero can be traced back to Aristotle.

(6) J. Kaimio, Cicero's Topica: the Preface and Sources, Ann. Univ. Turkuensis Ser. B Tom. 141, Turku 1976.

(7) See also A. Reiff, Interpretatio, imitatio, aemulatio, Diss. Köln, 1959, 25.

(8) quodsi haec studia traducta erunt ad nostros, ne bibliothecis quidem Graecis egebimus, in quibus multitudo infinita librorum propter eorum est multitudinem, qui scripserunt. [Besides, if these studies are ever brought home to us, we shall not want even Greek libraries, in which there is an infinite number of books, by reason of the multitude of authors among them.]

(9) Tusc. 2.5: quam ob rem hortor omnis, qui facere id possunt, ut humus quoque generic laudem iam languenti Graeciae eripiant et transferant in hanc urbem . . . philosophia nascatur Latinis quidem litteris ex his temporibus. [and therefore I recommend all men who have abilities to follow my advice to snatch this art also from declining Greece, and to transport it to this city . . . Let philosophy, then, derive its birth in Latin language from this time.]

(10) Cf. de fin. 3.15: nec tamen exprimi verbum e verbo necesse exit, at interpretes indiserti solent. See Reiff, 40. Cf. Hor. ars p. 133-134:nec verbo verbum curabis reddere fidus / interpres, and Cicero de off. 1.6, 2.60.

(11) quid, si nos non interpretum fungimur munere, sed tuemur ea, quae dicta tent ab iis, quos probamus, eisque nostrum indicium at nostrum scribendi ordinem adiungimus, quid habent, cur Graeca anteponant iis, quae et splendide dicta tint neque tint conversa de Graecis? [What of it, if I do not perform the task of a translator, but preserve the views of those whom I consider sound while contributing my own judgement and order of composition? What reason does anyone have for preferring Greek to that which is written with brilliance and is not a translation from Greek? (Translation by Raphael Woolf, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001] See also the analysis of the passage by Reiff, 26-28.

(12) See Reiff, 22-51. For Cicero's technique in his philosophical translations, see R. Poncelet, Cicéron, traducteur de Platon. L'expression de la pensée complexe en latin classique, Diss. Paris 1953; Jones, 'Cicero as a Translator', Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 6, 1959, 26-28; H. Müller, Ciceros Prosaübersetzungen. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der ciceronischen Sprache,Diss. Marburg 1964.

(13) H.-J. Hartung, Ciceros Methode bei der Übersetzung griechischer philosophischer Termini, Diss. Hamburg 1970, 20-23; cf. also Poncelet's thesis; D. M. Jones, 'Cicero as a Translator', 26.

(14) See P. Oksala, Die griechischen Lehnwörther in den Prosaschriften Ciceros, Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae, ser. B, 80.1, Helsinki 1953, 91-109, 153, especially the statistics in 104 and 153; R. B. Steele, 'The Greek in Cicero's Epistles', American Journal of Philology, 21/1900, 387-410.

(15) See Hartung, 20-21.

(16) Cf., however, also ad fam. 13.15, redolent with Greek quotations, and see R. B. Steele, 'The Greek in Cicero's Epistles', 309.

(17) J. M. Pabón, 'El Griego, lengua de la intimidad entre los romanos', Emerita 7/1939, 126-131, 127.

From: Jorma Kaimio, The Romans and the Greek Language, Helsinki, Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1979.


The main texts of Cicero on Stoic logic can be found in:

Lucullus 91-98;

De fato 11-21

Topica 26-34, 47-49, 53-59.

(under construction)


Rhetoric was intensely practised in ancient Greece by a series of orators whose names are still well-known. It seems to have appeared in Sicily as a special science with its own laws, whence it was taken over to Greece by Gorgias. Later, rhetoric was greatly improved by the Sophists, both from the point of view of the art of adorned speech and of the art of persuading by argument.

The first great orator is Isocrates (born about 436 B.C.) who studied under Prodicus and Gorgias. Aristotle (...) established rhetoric as a branch of dialectics and codified its rules, and Demosthenes brought that art to perfection.

The disciples of Isocrates and those of Aristotle, respectively, formed two rhetorical schools: the first was concerned rather with polishing and improving the oratorical form and style, the second, as one should expect, was concerned with constructing the arsenal of the art of persuasion.

What is significant and testifies to the closer link between logic and rhetoric, and generally, between the latter and philosophy, is the fact that those who studied rhetoric most were the philosophers of the Peripatetic and Stoic schools.

Starting with the second century B.C. systematized treatises on rhetoric began to be written, such as that of Hermagoras of Temnos (about 120 B.C.).

As the general preoccupations acquired an ever growing practical character, especially under Roman rule (the Roman spirit being pre-eminently practical and formalistic), studies of rhetoric flourished in Greece, which explains why later, when logic reached Rome through the Greek rhetors, it was only a discipline to be learned in connection with rhetoric.

The conservative section of the Roman society was at first rather opposed to the Greek rhetoricians who, by their pro and contra arguments of the same thesis, shocked the Romans' commonsense. Thus, in 161 B.C. by a senatus-consultus, all the Greek rhetors were banished from the Eternal City. Afterwards, however, Latin rhetors appeared, who had studied in Greece, but neither were they favourably regarded by the authorities, and therefore were officially blamed by the Roman censors about the year 92 B. C. In Caesar's epoch, however, rhetoric became a free art, both in respect to learning and practising it. It came to be so highly valued, that emperor Vespasianus (7-79 A.D.) ordered public schools of rhetoric to be set up, with Greek and Latin masters, who were to be state stipendiaries.

On the other hand, we see logic, which for centuries had ranked first among the concerns of the Greek philosophers, come to Rome and be overshadowed by rhetoric, groping to acclimatize its terminology and devoid of any creative force.

We shall further examine these Latin orators and philosophers whose works bear witness to the way logic was introduced to Rome, to the way in which the logical terminology was established (no easy problem), and to the general conceptions of the Roman philosophers about logic. We shall briefly survey the most remarkable among them.


Dialectics was introduced by M. Terentius Varro (116-28 B.C.) through his encyclopedic work De novem disciplinis ("On the nine sciences").

Varro was a pupil of Antiochus of Ascalon. He wrote prolifically (he himself declared he would have written up to the age of 84 years, 490 books). Contemporary inquiries ascribe to him altogether 620 books (74 independent works). His writing which interests us especially is the above mentioned, De novem disciplinis, a synthesis of the whole science of his time. It is undoubtedly the origin of the seven liberal arts, which will be the basis of the Scholastic learning, and of which we will speak further. In this work, Varro, treated the following disciplines, divided into two groups:

(1) grammar, dialectics and rhetoric;

(2) geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music, medecine and architecture.

Varro enjoyed a great prestige in his time, and a long time afterwards he was considered as an unquestionable authority in the "disciplines" he wrote about. For instance, Augustine named him doctissimus Romanorum ("the most learned Roman") in his work De civitate Dei (XIX, 22).

The fragments remaining from Varro were gathered, translated and published by F. Brunetti (Venice, 1874)(*). An interesting study on the logic aspects of the work of Varro was published by Lucien Gerschel: Varron logicien I. Etude sur une séquence du De lingua latina

("Latomus", 1958, pp. 65-72).

The first one interested, however, in translating the Greek logical terminology into Latin is Marcus Tullius Cicero, the greatest Roman orator and one of the greatest in the world. His work is considerable. We shall only mention his writings dealing with logic or with the manner in which the Romans conceived it.

-- De Inventione ("On invention") is a treatise imitating Rhetorica, ad M. Herennium, a work ascribed to Q. Cornificius (tribune of the plebs in 69 B.C.).

-- De Oratore ("On the Orator") is a work in which Cicero displays the Ancients' concept of the value and means of the oratorical art; written in the form of a dialogue, the main roles are granted to two of the greatest orators of the previous generation, L. Crassus and M. Antonius.

-- Brutus, also written as a dialogue between Atticus and Brutus, represents a real history of Roman eloquence. He quotes over two hundred older orators but among his contemporaries, Cicero only mentions Caesar, Sulp. Rufus, and M. Marcellus.

-- Orator is a short writing, in which the author depicts the type of the ideal orator.

-- Partitiones Oratoriae ("The Oratorical divisions") is a manual written as questions and answers for his son's instruction.

-- Topica comprises a kind of commentary addressed to C. Trebatius, where Cicero reveals how the oratorical art can make use of the means offered by logic.

-- De optime genere oratorum ("On the best style of Orators") is an opusculum in which Cicero pleads for the Attic oratorical style (this booklet was written as a preface to the translation of the speeches made by Aeschines and Demosthenes in connection with the famous "Affair of the Crown").

Cicero's works, were published under the title Opera Omni by C. F. Miller and G. Friedrich in 15 vols. (Leipzig, beginning from 1878). A critical Latin edition, with Italian translation, published "Centro di Studi Ciceroniani" (Rome, beginning from 1964).

For the philosophical terminology of Cicero we have the writings of H. Merguet: Lexikon zu den philosophischen Schriften Ciceros (2 vols., 1905-1906), and Lexikon zu den Reden des Ciceros (4 vols., 1877-1884). Both were printed at Jena, and reproduced, after the original, at Hildesheim (1960-1962).

More information, concerning Cicero's philosophical terminology, can be found in A. Michel's Rhétorique et philosophie chez Cicéron (Paris, 1961).

Two things in Cicero's works are relevant to the history of logic, namely: the invention of a Latin terminology corresponding to the Greek one, and information on Stoic logic whence we become aware that the Romans practised those forms of logic. Cicero, like the other Roman rhetors and thinkers, made no original contribution.

Cicero's logical terminology is rather hesitating. Even the name of that discipline he rendered λογική, and sometimes by διαλεκτική, which he was unable to translate into Latin and he therefore kept generally the Greek terms in the Latin text. However, he sometimes translated those two Greek words by ars disserendi -- "the art of discussing" (De Oratore, II, 38) or ars disceptatrix -- "The art of deciding".

Here is an example of his use of the Greek term λογική -- logic, in a Latin text, namely in a fragment from De finibus bonorum et malorum ("On the Purpose of the Good and Bad Things", I, 7): Jam in altera philosophiae parte, quae est quaerendi ac disserendi quae λογική dicitur, iste vester plane. . . inermis ac nudus est. ("Also in the second part of philosophy, which deals with research and discourse, and is called λογική, that [master] of yours is unarmed and defenceless").

In De Inventione (XXVIII, 42) Cicero began to employ such Latin terms as: adversum, contrarium, negans, for ἄποφατικόν (negative), oppositum for ἔναντίον (opposite) and repugnans for άντπατικόν (repelling). For the idea of sentence, Varro and Aelius mentioned in their texts the Greek term ἄξίομα, which they would sometimes render by proloquium. Cicero's translation of "sentence" varies: effatum, pronuntiatum, enunciatum or enuntiato. (De Inventione, 1, 37). In the texts dealing with the classification of judgements according to their quality, Cicero started from the verb aio -- I affirm, and nego -- I deny, and translated καταφατικόν (affirmative) by aientia, and ἄποφατικόν (negative) by negantia.

In Topica, meant to be a rendering of the treatise bearing the same title by Aristotle, Cicero introduced terms which definitely remained in logic such as: definitio, genus, species (forma) etc.

He hesitated in the translation of the word τόπσς for which he used in turn the terms, locus, sedes and nota: locum esse argumenti sedem -- locus is sedes (the seat) of the argument.

As regards the Stoic dialectics, it dissatisfied Cicero "because it only gives the art of argumentation, not that of inventing -- invenire, too". However, he translated and explained at the same time, the terms of the hypothetical reasoning (De Divinatione, II, 53). Lemma -- λεμμα -- is translated by sumptio, πρόσληψις by assumptio, and έπιφορά by complexio. Concerning the reasoning, Cicero introduced the term inductio for ἔπαγογή and divided all arguments into two groups: induction; and deductive reasoning "as most of the Greeks do [who divide them] into παραδείγματα and ἔπιχειρήματα, interpreting παραδείγμα as oratorical induction ( Quintilianus, De Institutione Oratoria, 11).

Although he was not too interested in the Stoics' modes of argumentation, Cicero enumerated the five undemonstrable Stoic arguments, from, which, he said "numerous others" can be derived (Topica, 54-57). He gives the following examples to this effect, which may represent the sixth and seventh arguments:

(6) Non et hoc et illud; hoc autem; non igitur illud.

Not both this and that; but this; therefore not that.

(7) Non et hoc et illud; non autem hoc; illud igitur.

Not both this and that; but not this; therefore that.

Related to Cicero's rhetorical logic, mention should be made of the Greek Epicurean Philodemus of Gadara (first century B.C.). He came to Rome, became acquainted with and then highly appreciated by Cicero, and Lucretius himself seems to have been among his disciples.

Several epigrams by him were known, but after the diggings at Herculanum no less than 36 philosophical books by the same writer were found. Unfortunately, they were in rather bad state and could be only partially deciphered.

M.E. Gros published the fragments referring the oratorical art separately, under the title Philodemi rhetorica (Paris, 1840).

In one of these newly found treatises, significantly entitled On Signs and Significances (**), Philodemus opposed the Stoic conception (called "dogmatic" at the time), set up an empirical theory of knowledge and examined the inductive methods of natural sciences."

(*) [Libri di M. Terenzio Varrone intorno alla lingua latina, edited and translated in Italian by Pietro Canal (first edition 1846-1854), reprinted Venice: Giuseppe Antonelli, 1874, with the addition of the fragments with notes by Federico Brunetti. The De novem disciplinis is lost, but Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl collected the extant fragments in: De M. Terentii Varronis disciplinarum libris commentarius (Bonn, 1845), reprinted in: F. Ritschl, Opuscula philologica, Vol. III, Leipzig 1877, 353-402 - Note added by R. Corazzon]

(**) Philodemus, On Methods of Inference. A Study in Ancient Empiricism, edited, with translation and commentary, by Phillip Howard De Lacy and Estelle Allen De Lacy, Philadelphia, Pa., The American philological association, 1941; new revised edition: Napoli : Bibliopolis, 1978 - Note added by R. Corazzon]

From: Anton Dumitriu - History of logic - Tunbridge Wells, Abacus Press, 1977 - Vol. I, pp.

"For some centuries after Stoic logic had been formulated by Chrysippus we find discussion of the merits of his system and that of Aristotle, then a gradual fusion, or perhaps we should say confusion, which was completed at the end of classical antiquity in the work of Boethius. When the study of logic was resumed after the Dark Ages, the writings of Boethius were better known than those of Aristotle and his reputation as high. Some part of the Stoic contribution remained, therefore, in what we now call traditional logic, though weakened later by a revival of interest in Aristotle, which led sometimes to a kind of Aristotelian purism. In this section we shall try to trace the transmission from Greek antiquity to the Middle Ages giving names and dates where these are likely to be useful. But we shall not attempt to treat even the famous philosophers of this long period in detail, since our purpose is only to give perspective to our view of antiquity and the Middle Ages.

During the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. the philosophical schools in Athens existed side by side, competing for pupils with doctrines which followed more or less closely those of their founders; but the Stoics and the Epicureans were the most influential. Plato's Academy became presently a home of scepticism with Carneades as its most famous member, and Aristotle's influence was not very strong. If we may judge from the writings of Cicero, the Stoic school was the dominant one in his day. No doubt there were developments in that school after the time of Chrysippus, but we cannot now separate them from his work, because the ancient tradition is not full enough. Later writers such as Galen, Alexander, and Boethius speak constantly of the Stoics or 'the moderns' (οἱ νεώτεροι) without troubling to distinguish individuals.

Cicero made no original contribution to the development of logic, but his writings preserve some scraps of information about the teaching of the Stoics, and in this, as in other fields of philosophy, he did a useful service by inventing Latin equivalents for Greek technical terms. Propositio, for example, was introduced by him, but not with exactly the same sense as that it commonly has in later Latin. In his terminology it means the leading premiss of an argument (τὸ ἡγεμονικὸν λη + ̑μμα), and is used to make a contrast with assumptio, which means the additional premiss (ἡ πρόσληψις). (1) This special sense is to be found later in the logical writings attributed to Apuleius and Martianus Capella, but already before the end of the first century A.D. the word was used by Quintilian, the rhetorician, in the more general sense of 'statement' or 'indicative sentence' which it retained throughout the Middle Ages.

Cicero's word for a conclusion in the passage we have just noticed is complexio, which means literally 'a knitting together', but it is interesting to notice that the same word occurs elsewhere in the book with the sense of 'dilemma': 'Complexio est in qua, utrum concesseris, reprehenditur ad hunc modum: Si improbus est, cur uteris? Si probus, cur accusas?' (2) No doubt such reasoning was popular with the Hellenistic rhetoricians fro whom Cicero took his material, and it may have been cultivated by them rather than by the Stoic logicians, who first studied conditional and disjunctive arguments. The 'theorem with two complex premisses' which we noticed in our section on the system of Chrysippus is, of course, a special case of the kind of argument called by later logicians a simple constructive dilemma (i.e. in Stoic terminology 'If the first, then the third; if the second, then the third; but either the first or the second; therefore in any case the third'), and the paradox of the crocodile and the baby, which Lucian attributes to Chrysippus, (3) involves an argument of similar pattern. So there can be no doubt that the Stoics were familiar with this development of their logic. On the other hand, according to Chrysippus all good arguments are διλήμματα in the original sense of 'arguments with two premisses'; and there is no evidence of the use of the word διλήμματον in the modern sense of 'dilemma' before the second century A.D., when it occurs in the work of the rhetorician Hermogenes with an explanation like that given by Cicero for complexio, namely by reference to two questions, both equally awkward to answer. (4)

Among Cicero's philosophical works there is a small treatise called Topica which has had considerable influence on the teaching of logic because it was highly regarded in late antiquity, when logic was associated with rhetoric in the way he thought proper. This book professes to be an adaptation of Aristotle Topics for the use of a friend called Trebatius, but it shows little trace of direct borrowing from Aristotle's work. It is conceived as a manual for the training of Roman orators and is therefore furnished with illustrations from Roman jurisprudence. Probably the plan, such as it is, was derived from some Hellenistic manual; for the topics discussed here are mentioned in the same order in the De Oratore, (5) as though they were in fact commonplaces of that age. Some topics, it is said, are connected intrinsically with the subject to be discussed (in eo ipso de quo agitur haerent), e.g. those concerned with definition, genus, species (or in Cicero's terminology forma generis), while others are brought in from without (assumuntur extrinsecus), e.g. that which involves appeal to authority. With some elaborations this simple classification was retained as long as men thought there was anything to be learnt from the study of topics."

(1) De Inventione, I.57 ff.

(2) Ibid. 45

(3) Vitarum Auctio, 22.

(4) Hermogenes, De Inventione, IV.6.

(5) De Oratore, II.162-73.

From: William and Martha Kneale, The Development of Logic, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1962, pp. 177-179.


"It is a commonplace to talk, in general terms, of the dependence of all European thought and learning on Greek philosophy, and more particularly on Greek logic. It is a commonplace, also, to analyse the structure of individual works of Latin literature in terms of the divisions and subdivisions in the treatment of the subject involved, with their frequent prefatory definitions. This is a method that may in many cases be taken from recent Greek models of various kinds, in particular works on rhetoric or grammar, but which for Cicero goes back to the dialectic of the philosophers, and which Fuhrmann has traced even beyond Socrates to the sophists.(1) It is perhaps less of a commonplace, though doubtless rash, to try to take a comprehensive view of the Romans' attempt, over a wide spectrum of subjects, to apply this method, to try to see how important they felt it to be, and how far they were successful in it. The extent to which they regarded it as the transformation of the subjects in question into τἔκναι or artes must also be considered. I want to stress that we are not merely dealing with an expository method used in introductory handbooks of little intellectual originality, as Fuhrmann's useful Das Systematische Lehrbuch might suggest, but that it came to seem to the Romans simply the best way to think and write about a serious subject, to be applied both on a large scale, i.e. to works in a number of books, and on a small one, i.e. inside a single book. The Roman attempt to organize almost the whole body of their knowledge into a series of systematic and comprehensible wholes along these lines can be seen as a development in intellectual history of great importance for later times. This attempt probably began before the first century BC opened, and continued to make more measured progress after it closed. But the earlier and middle first century is that of its most enthusiastic, indeed sometimes over-enthusiastic, adoption. If we see this, it should help us also to understand certain aspects of two of the most important figures of the time, Cicero himself and Varro, better than is always done, and to put into some sort of context the present lively argument as to what exactly was happening in Roman jurisprudence at this period.

In his Topica, which are aimed at persuading the lawyer Trebatius that rhetorico-philosophical ways of finding arguments may be useful to him, Cicero, possibly in the wake of Stoic dialectic, carefully distinguishes between partitio, μερισμὄς, listing the parts, or some of the parts, that go to make up a whole, and divisio, διαἴρεσις, that operates with the concepts of genus and subordinate species, though because he does not like the forms specierum and speciebus he declares that he will use forma instead of species (the Greek terms are of course γἔνος and εἴδοσς). He also states that both partitio and divisio are forms of definition.(2) But in practice both he and other Romans are often far from precise: genus, pars, species and forma are used pretty indiscriminately,(3) and as we shall see definitions are actually often thought to be better if they are unphilosophically loose. But this does not make the adoption of the system less important, or alter the fact that it was felt to be derived from philosophy. Cicero at least was of course aware that there was much more to dialectic than the two procedures we have mentioned; but it is these that were most widely grasped and applied." (pp. 324-325 of the reprint)

(1) Manfred Fuhrmann: Das systematische Lehrbuch. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Wissenschaften in der Antike Gottingen: Vandehoeck & Ruprecht, 1960, chap. 1.

(2) Cicero, Topica 28 f.; cf. Dieter Nörr, Divisio und Partitio. Bemerkungen zur römischen Rechtsquellenlehre und zur antiken Wissenschaftstheorie, Berlin:Schweitzer, 1972. M. Talamanca, Lo schema ''genus-species' nelle sistematiche dei giuristi romani' (Problemi attuali di scienza e cultura: colloquio italo-francese: La filosofia greca e il diritto romano.), Roma 14-17 aprile 1973, Tomo II Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, (1977) 103, 145, 156 argues that this is peculiar to Cicero.

(3) As their Greek equivalents are by Plato, probably Speusippus, and often Aristotle (in the biological as opposed to the logical works; also Theophrastus): D. M. Balme, 'Τἔςος and εἴδος in Aristotle's Biology', Classical Quarterly XII (1962) 81. Diog. Laert. VII 39 reveals that some philosophers described as εἴδη of philosophical λὄγος what others called γἔνη; Strabo I 2 6 seems distinctly confused about the εἴδη of discourse, λὄγος, which is γενιχὄς.

From: Elizabeth Rawson, "The Introduction of Logical Organisation in Roman Prose Literature," Papers of the British School at Rome 46: 12-34 (1978). Reprinted in: E. Rawson, Roman Culture and Society: Collected Papers, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 324-351