Cicero, Pro Caelio

Guidelines for Students using this Medium

Set out below are: an introduction to the subject (very important), a link to information on Cicero and his life and works, a list of references, and a links to subject material on the web.

After reading the material below and the information on Cicero, you should work through the linked textual material in accordance with your tutor's instructions and timetable. There will be a one-hour class session with your tutor each week for text discussion and presentation of material. If you need to contact your tutor urgently (eg. for a point of clarification without which you cannot proceed), you may email him at

This web-based material is divided into 80 sections. Each section has its own commentary, and an English translation of the text in the section will be posted after that section has been discussed in class.

You will see that the original Latin text appears in the top half of your screen, and commentary and explanations in the lower half. By clicking on a coloured (and, depending upon your browser configuration, underlined) word or phrase, the appropriate commentary will appear in the botom half of the screen. Please note that, where a comment appears in red, that comment may be particularly significant in relation to possible examination questions.

Ideally, your browser should be used 'full screen', with screen definition set to 800x600 and colours set to greater than 256 (ie. 'hi-colour').

If you find that the size of the print on the screen is too large, ie. that only a very few lines of text appear in each of the frames on the screen, check the screen font size setting for your browser, and if necessary decrease the point size. (This appears only to be necessary - and only sometimes - with the later versions of Netscape Navigator; the default settings for Internet Explorer seem to be OK.)

Should students feel that a dedicated email discussion group (mailing list) would be of use for exchanging ideas between classes, etc., please ask your tutor; that facility will then be set up immediately.
To bring up the relevant work material, click on the appropriate link below:

[Cicero] [Sections 1-10] [Sections 11-20] [Sections 21-30] [Sections 31-40]
[Sections 41-50] [Sections 51-60] [Sections 61-70] [Sections 71-80]


This unit has four main aims:

  1. To extend your ability to read, understand and translate accurately and fluently into idiomatic English significant works of Latin literature;
  2. To extend your ability to understand and apply key elements of orthodox Latin grammar and syntax through a study of a major speech of Cicero;
  3. To foster an appreciation of the literary and forensic techniques of a pre-eminent Roman barrister whose influence endures to the present day;
  4. To promote an empathetic insight into the history and politics of the late Roman Republic, a turning point in ancient history.

We assume for the purposes of this unit that you have access to R.G. Austin's annotated edition of the Pro Caelio (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1960).

It is very important that you do everything you can through your own efforts with a particular portion of the text before reading the relevant notes and translation: try it as a piece of unseen translation, write up unknown vocabulary, study the editor's commentary. These notes are not intended to provide a solution to problems of which you are as yet unaware and which you yourself have not yet tackled. They are intended rather to guide, confirm, correct and supplement your own enterprise. You may ignore all references by Austin to clausulae, i.e. prose rhythms.

We shall read the whole of the set text in the original Latin except for the following sections:

46-47, 59-60 (to audiente senatu dixerit?), 71.
The gist of these sections will be supplied in summary form.
You will find it helpful to begin by reading:
  1. the Introduction to Austin's edition of Pro Caelio;
  2. the article on Cicero in the Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (Oxford, 2nd revised edition, 1997, henceforth referred to as OCCL), pp. 128-134;
  3. the article on Caelius Rufus, Marcus, OCCL pp. 105-106;
  4. the article on Oratory, OCCL pp. 396-397.

Most students seem to find Cicero more difficult than Vergil to turn into satisfactory English. This may be partly due to the length of his sentences, but there are other difficulties.

In order to illustrate some of the points that I wish to discuss, let me quote a short passage of Cicero, together with two very different translations that have appeared in print:

at in illa querella .... quid est dictum a me
cum contumelia? quid non moderate? quid non

(Philippic II, Section 6)
  1. "But in that complaint what did I say that was insulting? that was otherwise than moderate? that was otherwise than friendly?" (Brodie's Interleaved Classical Translations)

  2. "In my complaints, my words were restrained and friendly, never insulting." (Michael Grant)
In the second version, the rhetoric of the original Latin has been dropped. Which version do you prefer? In order to answer that question you must first decide what the requirements of a good translation are. I suggest that a good translation has the following qualities: Let us examine these requirements more closely. How are they to be achieved?

Clear, idiomatic English:

Leave behind the stilted, over-literal type of English that you use in construing.

Proper names: If there is a recognised English equivalent, use it:

Horace rather than Horatius
Vergil rather than Vergilius
Pompey rather than Pompeius, and so on.

All other names should be kept in the Latin form.

Place names: If you are absolutely sure of the modern equivalent, you are at liberty to use it, though sometimes you may lose some of the effect by doing so:

Neapolis - Naples
Cades - Cadiz
Patauium - Padua
(But Capua rather than its modern name Santa Maria del Grazie!)
For other names keep the original Latin form.

Dates: Use the modern calendar style (except perhaps for such a well-known date as the Ides of March):

31st March, rather than "the day before the Kalends of April".
No addition or omission of ideas:

In practice this can be difficult. There are some Latin words which do not permit a simple translation into English:

humanitas (NOT "humanity")
pietas, grauitas, ciuiliter (NOT "civilly")
res publica (rarely "republic")
The English derivative is usually inadequate.

Sometimes the author is vague and that presents a problem too. Should we strip away Cicero's rhetoric as Michael Grant has done in the translation given above? If we throw rhetoric overboard, are we justified in inserting a word or phrase here and there to help out the sequence of ideas? - e.g. "Now to another matter", "Let me make this clear". Some translators think this quite justifiable.

L.P. Wilkinson, who has published a translation of some of Cicero's letters, says in his Introduction: "Where I have been free, I hope I have not been unfaithful." This is a sensible outlook.

Keep the form and tone of the original:

Can you then justify what Michael Grant has done in the translation quoted? Is rhetoric really not acceptable to modern readers?

Grant states in his Introduction that he considers a series of rhetorical questions is scarcely acceptable nowadays to the English reader. His view is that the translator of Cicero is faced with a dilemma which he cannot possibly solve. Since the translation must be readable, he must not use rhetorical language. Cicero's rhetoric is part and parcel of his style, yet it prevents the use of readable English. Thus translation is a task which cannot succeed; there is no solution to the dilemma. So Grant says.

Alexander Pope writes of "that easy Ciceronian style, so Latin yet so English all the while". But perhaps his words do not apply to contemporary English prose.

My own view is that it is better to retain the rhetorical questions in the passage under discussion. Something vital is lost if you cut out the rhetoric. A good translation should give the reader the same impression that the original speech would have given a contemporary Roman. Drop Cicero's style and you reveal less than you should of his highly complex mind and give only a general idea of the speech. Without the rhetoric there is no difference between his speeches and his philosophical works or his letters. The translator has a definite responsibility to his author.

I suggest that rhetoric is acceptable nowadays and is found in surprising places. We all use "rhetoric". It is simply the means by which a speaker or a writer presents his thoughts as effectively and persuasively as possible.

Winston Churchill produced some highly effective rhetorical prose. Here is part of a speech he delivered in the House of Commons in 1940:

We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender.
Ernest Hemingway, a writer of clear, simple prose, uses rhetoric again and again. Consider, for example, the following passage from The Old Man and the Sea:
I'm clear enough in the head, he thought. Too clear. I am as clear as the stars that are my brothers. Still I must sleep. They sleep and the moon and the sun sleep and even the ocean sleeps sometimes on certain days when there is no current and a flat calm.

But remember to sleep, he thought. Make yourself do it and devise some simple and sure way about the lines. Now go back and prepare the dolphin. It is too dangerous to rig the oars as a drag if you must sleep.

I could go without sleeping, he told himself. But it would be dangerous.

The language is simple, but it is stylised simplicity. The author chooses certain words and phrases and uses them again and again.

For essential background to the subject, click here.


In the notes for this subject, reference will be made to the following by the abbreviations:

Barrow: Barrow, R.H., The Romans (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1949)
Geffcken: Geffcken, Katherine A., Comedy in the Pro Caelio (Brill, Leiden, 1973)
GL: Gildersleeve, B.L. & Lodge, G., Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar (Macmillan, London, 3rd edn, 1943)
KMP: Kennedy, B.H., rev. Mountford, J., The Revised Latin Primer (Longmans Green, London, 1958)
MBA: Mountford, J.F., ed., 'Bradley's Arnold' Latin Prose Composition (Longmans Green, London, 1938)
MEU: Fowler, H.W., A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (Oxford University Press, London, 1937)
OCD3: Hornblower, Simon & Spawforth, Anthony, eds, The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford University Press, London, 3rd edn, 1996).
Notes on variant readings in Austin's commentary may be read for interest only. They are not required for examination purposes.




You can call up a Latin text translation and morphological help for this text and many more Latin and Greek texts on the Internet from the Perseus Project, at Click on 'Latin texts' then 'Cicero', then 'Pro Caelio'.

Copyright: Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Queensland
Subject Development: Mr D S Barrett, MA
Web Development: Mr Gayle Paltridge, BA

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Last revised: December 11, 2000