FACT CHECK: Did Cicero Say This Quote About Ancient Rome?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

A Facebook post claims that ancient Roman politician Marcus Tullius Cicero once said, “The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced.”

“The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt,” the alleged quote continues. “People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.”

Verdict: False

The quote does not appear in any of Cicero’s surviving works. It actually comes from best-selling author Taylor Caldwell’s novel about ancient Rome.

Fact Check:

Social media users will often share historical quotes to make points about politics, though some of the quotes they use are not, in fact, genuine. This quote is attributed to Cicero, an orator and politician from the later years of the Roman republic. (RELATED: Did Cicero Issue A ‘Two Thousand Year Old Warning About Trump’?)

Though Cicero spoke and wrote prolifically about politics, there is no evidence that he made this statement in 55 B.C. It does not appear in any of his surviving works from that year or any other.

“The quote is not by Cicero but from a novel,” Boston University classics professor Dr. Ann Carol Vasaly told the Daily Caller via email.

Indeed, the website Quote Investigator traced the origin of the quote to Caldwell’s “A Pillar of Iron,” a historical novel based on Cicero’s life. It appears in a passage summarizing the views of her fictional Cicero character, though the actual Cicero may have agreed with the sentiment.

Although Caldwell can be credited with penning the quote, it was only a year later that others erroneously attributed the quote to Cicero. In 1966, Louisiana Rep. Otto Passman cited Cicero as the author of the statement during an address of Congress.

Several institutions, including the Congressional Research Service and University of Texas at Austin, have since called the quote “spurious.”

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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