Cicero Called for Balancing the Budget … 2000 years ago

Cicero, the Roman statesman (106BC-43BC) is said to have said the following:

“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” — Cicero , 55 BC

When I googled, I found that this exact sentence has been referenced in over 100 sites/blogs. Clearly, it has hit a chord. While the first lines of Cicero’s quote are very a propos, it is the last line to which I fully subscribe and takes on importance in much of the mature Western World.

I wondered this morning what the original text was, but came up empty on the ‘net. Not much way I am going to remember my O’Level Latin how to cobble together a genuine translation. A friendly online translation service (intertran — the only one I could find for Latin) comes up with the following translation of the English back into Latin:

“budget should exsisto pondera. Publicus debitum should redeo. superbia of persona should exsisto tempero, quod suffragium ut extrarius terra should exsisto velum lest Rome decoctum.”

Don’t you love it. Not too fond of the conditional? I am inclined to use “Fiscus” for the noun budget (my Langenscheidt pocket dictionary didn’t have it). Fiscus postulo exsistere ponderum? Surely, some Latin scholar will jump in and set me right?

Meanwhile, of all the other Cicero quotes I have read, I retained this one: “As an old proverb says ‘Like readily consorts with like.'” I enjoyed this quote, particularly, because I do believe it is true and also because it reminds us of the oral tradition and the importance of proverbs in our culture(s).

And if you feel like swotting up on some more Latin, try this page of useful Latin phrases (except the last section which is a little fantasy).

*Full disclosure: I got this quote via my friend Nicole this morning. Thanks.

AMENDED June 25, 2009

Courtesy of my son’s Latin teacher (thank you Mr S.), I received the following information:

“The only work of Cicero’s which I know to have been published in 55 BC is the De Oratore (usually known as ‘The Ideal Orator’ in English).  But the content sounds more like something from the De Re Publica (‘On The State’), but that was published in 51 BC and is thought to have been begun in 54 BC.  Here is a Latin translation of it, but I’m sure Cicero would have put it a lot more elegantly (I didn’t know what to put for ‘budget’ either, and my dictionary gave ‘fiscus’ for ‘treasury’).”

Libranda est pecunia, replendus fiscus, deminuendum aes alienum, continenda et temporanda praefectorum superbia;  necnon auxilium quod aliis patriis detur coartandum est ne Roma perdita fiat.  Necesse est cives ipsos iterum laborare;  e publico subsidio non pendendum est.

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