Cicero's Quips

Cicero gives us tonight's shot of humour. He was a very witty man, and furnished us with a quotation in a previous week. Two from Cicero for tonight, both recorded by Plutarch in his account of Cicero's life (chapters 7 and 26 respectively):


When prosecuting corrupt governor of Sicily, Verres, Cicero was speaking against Hortensius, at that time, Rome's greatest orator, a crown soon to be taken by Cicero. Verres had given Hortensius an ivory sphinx (probably stolen from some of his provincial victims) for agreeing to appear for him. When Cicero made an allusive reference to this. Hortensius retorted that he was not skilled at solving riddles. Cicero replied with mock surprise: 'But yet you have your own sphinx at home!' (The sphinx was a famous riddler in mythology, defeated by Oedpius).


Once, Cicero had called Publius Cotta as a witness. Publius Cotta fancied himself a skilled and highly knowledgeable lawyer, likely a somewhat inflated self-image, which Cicero was keen to point out. When Cotta responded to one of Cicero's questions that he knew nothing of the matter, Cicero replied: 'oh, did you think I was asking you about a point of law?' OUCH!

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