Cicero’s incalculable gifts

November 27, 2014

So Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones “would willingly obliterate every word of Cicero” for just one book of Ctesias’ lost work Persian Things (“Listen, and let us take you back”, Books, 13 November). Farewell, then, to the following words, all of which, it appears, have come down to us via Cicero’s neologistic translations from the Greek: definition, difference, image, individual, induction, infinity, notion, quality, quantity, species and vacuum. Farewell, too, to humanities, liberal arts, morality and science.

As Gian Bagio Conte puts it in Latin Literature: A History, Cicero “laid the foundation for the abstract vocabulary that was to become the inheritance of the European cultural tradition”. Not for nothing did Michael Grant write that “the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language”.

Neil Foxlee
Visiting lecturer in rhetoric
Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts

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