Life of Cicero, 2

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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2It is said that Cicero was born, without travail or pain on the part of his mother, on the third day of the new Calends,[2] the day on which at the present time the magistrates offer sacrifices and prayers for the health of the emperor. It would seem also that a phantom appeared to his nurse and foretold that her charge would be a great blessing to all the Romans. 2And although these presages were thought to be mere dreams and idle fancies, he soon showed them to be true prophecy; for when he was of an age for taking lessons, his natural talent shone out clear and he won name and fame among the boys, so that their fathers used to visit the schools in order to see Cicero with their own eyes and observe the quickness and intelligence in his studies for which he was extolled, though the ruder ones among them were angry at their sons when they saw them walking with Cicero placed in their midst as a mark of honour. 3And although he showed himself, as Plato[3] thought a nature should do which was fond of learning and fond of wisdom, capable of welcoming all knowledge and incapable of slighting any kind of literature or training, he lent himself with somewhat greater ardour to the art of poetry. And a little poem which he wrote when a boy is still extant, called Pontius Glaucus, and composed in tetrameter verse. Moreover, as he grew older and applied himself with greater versatility to such accomplishments, he got the name of being not only the best orator, but also the best poet among the Romans. 4His fame for oratory abides to this day, although there have been great innovations in style; but his poetry, since many gifted poets have followed him, has altogether fallen into neglect and disrepute.

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  • [2] January 3, 106 B.C. Plutarch follows the Greek method of reckoning from a fixed point in the month. Cicero says (ante diem) III. Nonas Januarias (ad Att. xiii. 42, 2), the Nones being the fifth of January. Strictly speaking, only the first day of the month was called the Calends, but Plutarch seems to call the opening days of the new official year "the new Calends."

  • [3] Republic, p. 475 b.

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