FACT CHECK: Did Cicero Write These 9 Observations About Roman Society?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Facebook attributes to ancient Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero a list of nine observations about Roman society that he allegedly wrote in 43 B.C.


Verdict: False

The nine observations do not appear in any of Cicero’s surviving works. Experts told Check Your Fact that the statements do not resemble Cicero’s writings or philosophies.

Fact Check: 

The viral image lists nine statements, supposedly written in 43 B.C. by “Cicero of the Roman empire.” Some of the statements include: “The poor – work & work,” “The rich – exploit the poor,” “The soldier – protects both” “The goons – scare all seven” and “The Politician -, lives happily on account of all eight.” One post’s caption further remarks, “Still valid even today…”

While Cicero did write prolifically about politics, there is no evidence that the ancient Roman statesman wrote these observations. Check Your Fact didn’t find any of the nine statements in Cicero’s surviving works. Experts also told Check Your Fact the attribution is inaccurate.

Dr. Clifford Ando, a professor of classics and history at the University of Chicago, noted in an email to Check Your Fact that it does not resemble “anything in Cicero’s philosophy.”

“That is true at the level of content, but also at the level of style,” Ando said. “By this I mean that Cicero was a very conservative political thinker, and did not voice cynicism of this flavor about rich and poor, or about lawyers (not because he was a famous courtroom lawyer); ‘doctor’ was not a notable profession in late republican Rome; ditto, bankers.”

Rutgers University classics professor Dr. T. Corey Brennan told Check Your Fact via email that the quote is “simply made up.” (RELATED: Did Cicero Say This Quote About Ancient Rome?)

“Most of these bullet points (#1, #2, #5, #6, #7) strike me as the opposite of Cicero’s views, and #4 and #9 strictly speaking are anachronistic (the idea that Cicero mentioned ‘the taxpayer’ as a class is a giveaway that the quote is fake … also political offices technically were unpaid, though folks obviously profited from them),” Brennan said.

Boston University classics professor Dr. Ann Carol Vasaly told Check Your Fact via email: “To my knowledge, Cicero never said or wrote anything similar to what you sent me.”

“Further, no one who has any knowledge of Cicero would refer to him as ‘Cicero of the Roman Empire,'” Vasaly said. “The Empire, as a designation of time period, refers to the period of Augustus and later. Cicero lived during the period of the Roman Republic.”

Cicero, who died in 43 B.C., lived during the Roman Republic, which according to Encyclopedia Britannica, lasted from about 509 to 27 B.C. The Roman Empire period came after the end of the Roman Republic, according to Oxford Reference.

The misattributed quote has been shared online in various forms since at least 2012, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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