Marcus Tullius Ciceroes thre bokes of duties

About this text

Introductory notes

Nicholas Grimald's translation of Cicero's Of Duties (De Officiis) appeared in 1553, and went through eight editions by the end of the century. Grimald (1519/20-1562) was scholar, poet and dramatist; some 40 poems of his appear in Tottel's Miscellany, and at least two of his Latin plays on Christian themes are known to have been published. A Protestant sympathizer in his early career, he seems to have recanted under Mary's rule to escape imprisonment. His translation of Cicero seems to have achieved the greatest public notice, and popularized in English what has been been regarded as the most influential classical text for the development of humanistic studies in Europe. The current selection is from the second edition of 1556.

Tullius Ciceroes thre
bokes of duties, to
Marcus his sonne,
turned oute of la-
tine into eng-
lish, by Nico-
las Grim-

Cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum.
Anno domini. 1556.

PUBLISHED BY Richard Tottel



Large giftes, with measure and for honest causes.Wherfore the thing is to be done, bothe if it be called for of the people: & good men, though they do not require it, do yet allow it: so it be according to ones abilitie, as we ourself have done: and also, if anie greater, and more profitable thing is wonne at anie time, by people-pleasing largesse: as of late, a greate honour to Orestes feasted the people.Orestes wer the dynings in open waies, in name of his tenthes.M. Seius, liberall to the people. No nor it was not counted a reproche to Marcus Seius: that in a derth of corne, he gave to the people for foure pence a busshell. For from a greate, & a longefestred envie he deliverd himself, neither by a dishonest losse, seeig he was Edile, nor yet verie greate. Milo suppressed Clodius attemptesBut alate, it was pausing hie honour to our Milo: because for the common-weales sake, which in our safetie consisted, with hired fensmen he suppressed all Publius Clodius attemptes, and rages. Necessitie. Profit.Ther is therfore cause of largesse, if either it be necessarie, or profitable. And yet in these same, the rule of mean-keeping is best. Certesse Lucius Philippus, Quintus sonne, [Page] L. Philippus who without any large giftes came to great dignity a manne of great witte, and moste famous, was wonte to glorie: that he, withoute anie gift giving, had atteined al maner dignities, which were counted moste honorable.

Ciceroes Edileship.The like said Cotta Curio. We also in this may glorie, after a certein sorte. For doutlesse small was the cost of our Edileship: in respect of such large honours, as by allmennes voices we atteined, even in our yere: which hathe befallne to none of them, whome I named [...]while. In what thinges such cost is better bestowed.And also these expenses be better: which are bestowed upon citie-walles, shippe-dockes, havens, condvites, and all, that appertein to the use of the common-weale. Although [...] is more pleasaunt, which presentlie is given (as it were) in hande: yet for time to comme these be more acceptable. Sightcourts, galerey-walkes, and new churches, the more reverentlie I fynde faulte with, for Pompeius sake: but the best lerned men do not alow them: as bothe this same Panetius, Panetius whome I have folowed much in these bokes, & yet not translated him:



Themistocles, after yet victorie of y [...]battail, which was holden with the Persians, said in the open assemble: that he had wealfull counsell for the state: but it was not expedient, it should be openly knowne: he required, that the people should assigne somme man, to whome he should tell it. a notable harbrow for shippes, with the LacedemoniansAristides was appointed. He tolde him, the navie of the Lacedemonias, which was conveyd to Gytheum, might privilie be set a fire: by which acte, the Lacedemonians strength should of necessitie be abated. Which thing when Aristides had herd: he camme to the open assemble, with their great expectation: and sayd, it was verie profitable counsell, which Themistocles did give, but nothing honest.The Athenians refused Themistocles counsell, in a generall summe rehersed by Aristides. Therfore the Athenians, the thing, that was not honest, did not counte profitable at all: and, beyng advertised by Aristides, they rejected the holle matter, which they had not once herd. Better did they, than we do: who have pirates unponnished, and leagfrendes tributarie. A conclusion that no unhonest thing is profitable.Let this therfore stand for a conclusion: [Page] that y [...]thing, which is not honest, is never profitable: no not even then, when ye attein y [...]thing, which you recken to be profitable. For thesame to think profitable, which is dishonest, a miserable case it is.

In bargains what is honest, or profitable.But oftentimes (as I said before) ther so befall cases, when profit seemeth to strive against honestie: that it is to be considered: whether altogither it dothe gainstand it, or may be made agree with honestie. A question, of a cornmerchaunt.Of that kinde be these questions: If, for examples sake, a good man departing from Alexandria, shall bring to Khodes a greate quantitie of corne, in the time of scarcitie, and famine, and extreeme derth of corne among the Khodians: in case the same man knowe, that many merchauntes be all redie set for the from Alexandria: and saw their shippes, freighted with corne, in their course making toward Khodes: whether he ought to declare it to the Khodians,Byeng.Selling. or with silence should sell his owne for as much as he might. We put the case here, of a wise, and good man: touching his deliberation, [Page] and taking of advisentent, we question: who wolde not hide it from the Rhodians, if he thought it dishonest: but he douteth, whether it be dishonest, or no.

A pleasaunt disputation bit wene Diogenes, and Antipater. In such maner cases, one thing Diogenes the Fabyloniaan, a great, & grave Stoik, is wont to think: an other thing, Antipater, his scholar, a verie sharpwitted man.Antipaters opinion. Antipater holdeth, yt all must be opened: that the byer be ignorant of no maner thing, which the seller knoweth: Diogenes saith, the seller ought to tell the faultes, as farre as is appointed by the civil lawe: Civil lawe. & the rest to do withoute deceites: and seeing he selleth, to desire with the best advauntage to sell. [...]ither have I brought it, I have set it forthe to sale: I sell mine for no more, than other do: perchaunce also for lesse, seeing I have greater store: to whome is the wronge done? Lawe of nature.Ther groweth a disputation by Antipater, of [...]contrarie side: What go ye aboute? Sithens ye ar dounde to profit men, & to serve the felowship of man: Common profit. & year born under such a law, [Page] y [...]ye should keepe those principles of nature, which ye ought to obey, and alwaies to folowe: that your profit should bee common profit: again, and as well, common profit should be youres: will you hyde from men bothe what commoditie, & what store also is at hand for them? Diogenes peradventure will answer thus:To holde ones peas. It is not all one thing to hide from men, and to holde ones peas: neither do I now hyde it from ye: though I tell ye not, what is y [...]nature of goddes, what is the end of good: which thinges well knowne wolde profit you more, than the cheapnesse of wheate. But it is not necessarie for me to tell, whatsoever is profitable for you to heare. Yes verilie, saith he, it is necessarie: if so be, you remember the felowship knit among men by nature. I remember it, sayeth y [...]other: but is this felowship such,Private that echeman may have nothing of his owne? In case it be so, nothing doutlesse is to be solde, but to be given.



Curioes calling on profitCurio also did evill, in that hee sayde, the Transpadanes mater was just: but yet evermore he cryed, Let profit prevail. He should rather have said their mater was not just, bicause it was not profitable for the commonwelth: than when he sayd, it was just, he should graunt, it was unprofitable.

Questions out of HecatoHecatoes sixt boke of duties is full of such questions: In a greate derth, to give over houskeeping.Whether it be fit for a good man, in a verie great derth of corne, to give over housekeping? He disputes the mater on bothe [Page] [...]ides: but yet at last hee thinketh, [...]vite is directed rather after profit, than after humanitie.

To loze a good horsseHe putts y [...]case, if one must needs take losse by sea: whether should he rather beare y [...]losse of a horsse much worth, than of a slave litle worth.

Shall a wise man drowne a foole to save himself?In this case, privat profit leades a man one way, & humanitie, an other.

what the owner of the ship may do.If a foole in a shipwrack catch hold of a bourde: shall a wiseman take it from him, if he can? He sayeth, no, bicause it wer injurious. What may the owner of the shipp do? shall he take his owne? wisemen shifting for their lives.No, no more than he may cast a passenger oute of the shippe into the sea, bicause it is his. For until they arrive at the place, whether the ship was hired: y [...] shipp is not the owners, but theyrs, that sayle in it. What if two in a shipwracke light upon one bourde: and they bothe be wisemen: should either of them pull it to himself? or one give over his holde to the other? Yea, he should give over: but to him, whom it wer more expedient to live, either for his own, or y [...]commonweales sake.Men alike in wisdome What if these be alike in bothe?

This is a selection from the original text


corn, cost, dearth, famine, feast, profit, scarcity

Source text

Title: MARCUS Tullius Ciceroes thre bokes of duties, to Marcus his sonne, turned oute of la tine into eng lish, by Nico las Grim alde. Cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum. Anno domini. 1556.

Author: Marcus Tullius Cicero

Publisher: Richard Tottel

Publication date: 1556

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 5281 Physical description: [16], 64, 64-89, 100-158, [11] leaves Copy from: Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery Reel position: STC / 315:09

Digital edition

Original author(s): Marcus Tullius Cicero

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) title page
  • 2 ) image number: 104
  • 3 ) image numbers: 137-8
  • 4 ) image number: 154


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