Some questions about Cicero

Vulcan

Member
I'd like to ask some - mostly historical - questions about Cicero's "Letters to his friends".
(I've been reading these: https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator:"Williams,+William+Glynn" )

1. I was surprised that he uses parenthesis a lot for comments, because I thought that this was a modern (16th century and later) invention. Were those in the original text as well? Who used them first?

2. It's a bit frustrating that with a few exceptions one can read only the letters written by Cicero. Are the responses available somewhere? Or Marcus Tullius Tiro published only Cicero's responses? I would mostly be interested in the letters of the younger Scribonius Curio, and of Caelius Rufus.

3. How did the texts survive until Francesco Petrarca collected them? They must have been copied in every 100 years or so. Isn't it possible that some of them are fakes?

4. If the letters had been copied in every 100 years, then they were copied around 13 times until they reached Petrarca. Shouldn't they be full of changes/typos?

5. Which is the oldest text (artifact) containing a copy of one of his writings?

Thanks for the answers!
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
1. I was surprised that he uses parenthesis a lot for comments, because I thought that this was a modern (16th century and later) invention. Were those in the original text as well? Who used them first?
No, they weren't in the original text, and neither were all the periods, commas, capitalization of the first letter of a sentence or of proper names and the like. The Romans knew none of those things.
 

Imber Ranae

Ranunculus Iracundus
The punctuation marks sometimes called 'parentheses' or 'brackets' are of course modern, as is most punctuation, but all examples of parenthesis are Cicero's own.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Yes - but why would one think those are not Cicero's own? I mean, I think they are most of the time obviously an integral part of what's being said.
 

Imber Ranae

Ranunculus Iracundus
I don't seriously think that's what he meant, but I thought it worthwhile to alert him to his mistake in confusing parenthesis with brackets/parentheses. It's a relatively common mistake.
 

Christian Alexander

Active Member
From what I know (and in this I could be wrong), nobody really had any idea about Cicero's letters before Petrarch, and they were simply chilling in a monastery for centuries.... I don't believe they were being recopied so frequently. Why do you think that?
 

Vulcan

Member
No, they weren't in the original text, and neither were all the periods, commas, capitalization of the first letter of a sentence or of proper names and the like. The Romans knew none of those things.
Thanks for you answer! Wow, but maybe the written style differed from the spoken in order to be able to express thoughts clearly without punctuation marks and smileys? Or the language itself is special in a way, which makes it possible to be exact without these marks? They didn't even show the end of the sentence? (like: with a larger space)

The punctuation marks sometimes called 'parentheses' or 'brackets' are of course modern, as is most punctuation, but all examples of parenthesis are Cicero's own.
Ah yes sorry, I used "i" instead of "e" in "parentheses".

From what I know (and in this I could be wrong), nobody really had any idea about Cicero's letters before Petrarch, and they were simply chilling in a monastery for centuries.... I don't believe they were being recopied so frequently. Why do you think that?
I supposed that the copies were in use, but yes, if they were stored somewhere then a fewer amount of copies are necessary.

nobody really had any idea about Cicero's letters before Petrarch
Hmm, but then it isn't possible that he just made up the whole thing? :) I mean: that he composed all the letters himself. That would explain the modern punctuation marks.
 

Aurifex

Aedilis
Staff member
Thanks for you answer! Wow, but maybe the written style differed from the spoken in order to be able to express thoughts clearly without punctuation
You'd need to expand on that; I've no clear idea what you're trying to say.
5. Which is the oldest text (artifact) containing a copy of one of his writings?
The modern text of Letters to his Friends (I'm assuming that's what you're talking about) depends on basically 5 manuscripts, the oldest being the 9th/10th century Mediceus 48.7, which is almost the sole source for books 1-8. Bear in mind that with MSS. older does not necessarily mean better, though of course it often does.
Hmm, but then it isn't possible that he just made up the whole thing? :) I mean: that he composed all the letters himself. That would explain the modern punctuation marks.
It's possible the earth's flat. The only problem is there's a wealth of evidence suggesting it's not.
 

Vulcan

Member
You'd need to expand on that; I've no clear idea what you're trying to say.
All languages I know (including English) in many cases are not capable to express thoughts clearly without proper punctuation. There are a lot of jokes like this: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/wp-content/uploads/Punctuation-Women_men.png
Is Latin different? (My knowledge about it is still very basic.)

It's possible the earth's flat. The only problem is there's a wealth of evidence suggesting it's not.
Yes, I just wanted to ask about these pieces on evidences in my provocative way, to know a bit more about the origin of these texts.

The modern text of Letters to his Friends (I'm assuming that's what you're talking about) depends on basically 5 manuscripts, the oldest being the 9th/10th century Mediceus 48.7, which is almost the sole source for books 1-8. Bear in mind that with MSS. older does not necessarily mean better, though of course it often does.
Thanks! Hmm Google has not much about "Mediceus 48.7". Could you recommend a book regarding the manuscripts? Or there are only scholarly studies published about it?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Hmm, but then it isn't possible that he just made up the whole thing? :)
I think it's unlikely, now who knows. Some people believe things of the kind. See here.
That would explain the modern punctuation marks.
Modern punctuation marks have simply been added by modern editors, of course. And medieval scribes probably already added some punctuation back then (which was not the same as ours, but some punctuation did exist in the Middle Ages).
All languages I know (including English) in many cases are not capable to express thoughts clearly without proper punctuation. There are a lot of jokes like this: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/wp-content/uploads/Punctuation-Women_men.png
Is Latin different? (My knowledge about it is still very basic.)
I don't think there's something different in the nature of Latin that would make so that it didn't need punctuation (try reading Latin without punctuation and it will not be easier than reading English without punctuation); it's just that they hadn't invented it yet. They didn't have that commodity and had to manage without! Basically, theyeitherraneverythingtogetherlikethiswithoutspacesoranythingor·they·separated·words·with·interpuncts·like·this·which·was·already·a·bit·easier·to·read; and they occasionally used interpuncts like kind of commas (some examples were found in the Vindolanda tablets) but I'm not sure how common it was. I don't know if they (or Cicero himself) could happen to use them as parentheses. In any case they had no well-established regular punctuation system as we do.
 

Aurifex

Aedilis
Staff member
Thanks! Hmm Google has not much about "Mediceus 48.7". Could you recommend a book regarding the manuscripts? Or there are only scholarly studies published about it?
Have a look at Shackleton-Bailey's introduction to his Cambridge edition of Ad Fam. The 48.7 numbering I quoted for the MS known as M is given in Shackleton-Bailey's Loeb edition.
 

Theopyrus

Member
From what I know (and in this I could be wrong), nobody really had any idea about Cicero's letters before Petrarch, and they were simply chilling in a monastery for centuries.... I don't believe they were being recopied so frequently. Why do you think that?
Actually, Servatus Lupus, a monk from the 9th Century, mentioned those letters:

"Tullianas epistolas, quas misisti, cum nostris conferri faciam, ut ex utrisque, si possit fieri, veritas exculpatur" (Ep. 69).

I worked a little bit on Lupus text, so I recall that. He mentions other works from Cicero; however, I do not know if his copy of the Tullianas epistolas exists nowadays. I do know that Lupus' partial copy of De oratore is somewhere in Europe. But it appeared that the circulation of the Ciceronian epistoles was limited, although I remember that other writer quoted them (need to check the reference). Also, keep in mind that the Middle Ages created the ars dictaminis, the craft of writing letters and there were plenty of litterary model for epistolography, like Seneca, St. Augustine, St. Jerome and others, as well as the Pauline letters.

3. How did the texts survive until Francesco Petrarca collected them? They must have been copied in every 100 years or so. Isn't it possible that some of them are fakes?
What do you mean by fake? If you mean that a deceitful monk created them, then I don't think any evidence supports you. One thing is to make mistakes, change letters, word order or even adding a gloss to the text, and another thing is to create a group of letters and sign them under the name of Cicero. One thing is an understandable mistake, considering even the difficulty of reading handwriting (check, for example, some of Pacis Puella's posts), and other thing is to forge a text on purpose, thus, you need to inquire about the motives of the forgery (for example, Constantine's Donation).

As I told in the previous post, there is evidence that at least two monk had those epistles in his hands by the 9th Century.

Ah yes sorry, I used "i" instead of "e" in "parentheses".
What Imber Rana said is that one thing is the parenthesis/brackets, this symbol: (), and another thing is parenthesis in rhetoric, this means, a clause that explains or adds something to the text. Brackets are added by editors, paranthesis by authors and can be inferred by the context. Parenthesis may or may not be edited with brackets.
 

Vulcan

Member
Have a look at Shackleton-Bailey's introduction to his Cambridge edition of Ad Fam. The 48.7 numbering I quoted for the MS known as M is given in Shackleton-Bailey's Loeb edition.
Thanks! I'll check it on the holidays.

I think it's unlikely, now who knows. Some people believe things of the kind. See here.
Even a single radiocarbon check on a book can ruin theories like that. One of the reasons for the existence of this theory can be that it's a quite romantic idea, but there's also responsibility on the historians/librarians, since there are no scanned copies available on the internet for most of these manuscripts.

Basically, theyeitherraneverythingtogetherlikethiswithoutspacesoranythingor·they·separated·words·with·interpuncts·like·this·which·was·already·a·bit·easier·to·read; and they occasionally used interpuncts like kind of commas (some examples were found in the Vindolanda tablets) but I'm not sure how common it was. I don't know if they (or Cicero himself) could happen to use them as parentheses. In any case they had no well-established regular punctuation system as we do.
I read it pretty slowly, but if one reads texts like that whole day then it's possible that their brain can adapt to it and then it's much faster. The other problem with this continuous writing is that they must have had to carefully re-read the text to make sure that it cannot be misinterpreted, and change it if yes. Although I could imagine that Cicero was able to do stuff like that in his head.

Actually, Servatus Lupus, a monk from the 9th Century, mentioned those letters: "Tullianas epistolas, quas misisti, cum nostris conferri faciam, ut ex utrisque, si possit fieri, veritas exculpatur" (Ep. 69). I worked a little bit on Lupus text, so I recall that. He mentions other works from Cicero;
cool, thanks!

however, I do not know if his copy of the Tullianas epistolas exists nowadays. I do know that Lupus' partial copy of De oratore is somewhere in Europe.
Okay this will be funny: I made a query on "Servatus Lupus Tullianas epistolas", and Google gave this thread on the first place.

What do you mean by fake? If you mean that a deceitful monk created them, then I don't think any evidence supports you. One thing is to make mistakes, change letters, word order or even adding a gloss to the text, and another thing is to create a group of letters and sign them under the name of Cicero. One thing is an understandable mistake, considering even the difficulty of reading handwriting (check, for example, some of Pacis Puella's posts), and other thing is to forge a text on purpose, thus, you need to inquire about the motives of the forgery (for example, Constantine's Donation).
I think I should make even harsher accusations, since this method seems to be efficient in getting information on specific subjects :)
 

Theopyrus

Member
Okay this will be funny: I made a query on "Servatus Lupus Tullianas epistolas", and Google gave this thread on the first place.
That's nice. Hopefully more people would join the forum.
 
What do you mean by fake? If you mean that a deceitful monk created them, then I don't think any evidence supports you. One thing is to make mistakes, change letters, word order or even adding a gloss to the text, and another thing is to create a group of letters and sign them under the name of Cicero. One thing is an understandable mistake, considering even the difficulty of reading handwriting (check, for example, some of Pacis Puella's posts), and other thing is to forge a text on purpose, thus, you need to inquire about the motives of the forgery (for example,Constantine's Donation).
The popularity of pſeudepigraphic theories about any collection of writings is generally dependent on the prevailing faſhion among whatever mix of ſcholars and pſeudoſcholars are currently employ'd in picking over it. If the Ciceronian corpus ever manages to attract the attention of ſuch knaves as thoſe whoſe ſpeculations on the New Teſtament dominated Theology at the time I was reading it at Univerſity, Marcus Tullius Cicero will ſoon end up as the author of virtually none of it.
 
Top