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Marcus Tullius Cicero, the last great defender of republicanism in Rome, was forced into exile when Julius Caesar effectively ended the Republic. Divorced from a wife of decades and then a young wife of months, and mourning the loss of his daughter, Cicero could certainly have indulged in self-pity. Instead, drawing on his personal Stoicism and the model of great Greek authors, he devoted himself to writing. In 45 BC, just before the assassination of Caesar, he wrote De Senectute, which Philip Freeman here translates as How to Grow Old.

If you've ever found yourself lost in the thickets when trying to read a classic text of the ancient world, you'll rejoice in the spare prose of Cicero and the lucid rendering by Mr. Freeman. The book is easily read in a sitting, but invites repeated reference.

Mr. Freeman's Introduction distills the author's wisdom even further and can be read here. There's much practical advice in the form of admonitions like accepting that you will simply be able to do less physically as you grow old than you could when old. But the nub of the matter lies in advice that the young would do well to heed (as the Introduction states it):
A good old age begins in youth

The qualities that make the later years of our lives productive and happy should be cultivated from the beginning. Moderation, wisdom, clear thinking, enjoying all that life has to offer—these are habits we should learn while we are young since they will sustain us as we grow older. Miserable young people do not become happier as they grow older.

Cicero would himself be assassinated within a couple years, dying far from the scene where he had yielded world historical political power and made an undying reputation, but his writings made that old age just as productive as his earlier years. In the end, he did not get to die merely from old age, as his essay prepares us for:
If we are not immortal, nonetheless it is desirable that we should die at the proper time. For as nature has set boundaries for everything else, so too has she set the limits of life. Old age is the final act in the play of life. When we have had enough and are weary, it is time to go.
Instead, even if apocryphal, how fitting his famed death scene, wherein he extends his neck for the sword and declaims, "There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly." the author of De Senectute would certainly have been ready when his time came to go.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Marcus Cicero Links:

    -Cicero (Wikipedia)
    -The Cicero Homepage: Marcus Tullius Cicero (University of Texas)
    -ENTRY: Republicanism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
    -Classical Republicanism (Wikipedia)
    -E TEXTS: Cicero (Online Library of Liberty)
    -ENTRY: Cicero (106—43 B.C.E.) (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
    -ETEXT: De Amicitia, Scipio’s Dream By Cicero, Translated, with an Introduction and Notes by Andrew P. Peabody (Armstrong economics)
    -ENTRY: Marcus Tullius Cicero: ROMAN STATESMAN, SCHOLAR, AND WRITER (WRITTEN BY: John P.V. Dacre BalsdonJohn Ferguson, Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -VIDEO LECTURES: Law and Justice - Cicero and Roman Republicanism (Janux)
    -AUDIO BOOK: On Old Age by Cicero (Librivox)
    -ESSAY: ON AGING, ON FRIENDSHIP: CICERO’S DE SENECTUTE (Martha C. Nussbaum, January 2023, Antigone)
    -REVIEW: of Natural Law Republicanism by Michael C. Hawley: Cicero's Fragile Trinity: The Roman philosopher’s fragile trinity of natural law, popular sovereignty, and liberty represents a pinnacle of classical republican thought.(scott b. nelson, Law & Liberty)
    -ESSAY: Rethinking America's Cicero Connection: James Wilson’s jurisprudence suffered multiple defeats, complicating the idea of an American natural law tradition. (arthur e. wilmarth, jr., 10/17/22, Law & Liberty))
    -ESSAY: Plutarch on Cicero (CJ Wolfe, postmodern Conservative)
    -ESSAY: Cicero and Original Day of Infamy (Barry Strauss, Death of Caesar December 8, 2021)
    -ESSAY: Cicero: A Republic — If You Can Keep It (Joseph Loconte, Sep. 5th, 2021, National Review)
    -ESSAY: Cicero knew that we should study the past, not cancel it: The ancients saw no immorality in empire or slavery, the first admirable, the second entirely normal (Peter Jones, March 4, 2021, Spectator)
-ESSAY: When It Comes to Retirement, I’m With Cicero : The great Roman orator thought aging and retiring free us from destructive ambition and competition. (Jim Michaels, Jan. 11, 2019, WSJ)
    -ESSAY: Cicero: Enemy of the State, Friend of Liberty (Lawrence W. Reed, 3/17/14, FEE)
    -ESSAY: The Fall of the Republic (Lawrence W. Reed, , January 8, 2014, FEE)
    -ESSAY: Marcus Tullius Cicero, Who Gave Natural Law to the Modern World: Cicero Urged Reason, Decency, Peace, and Liberty (Jim Powell, 1/01/97, FEE)
    -ESSAY: Why the Founders' Favorite Philosopher Was Cicero (Paul Meany, 3/31/18, FEE)
    -ESSAY: Cicero, Roman Republicanism and the Contested Meaning of Libertas (Geoff Kennedy, 15 May 2013, Political Studies)
    -ESSAY: The classics and the Constitution: The smokescreen of republicanism and the creation of the Republic,/a> (BENJAMIN STRAUMANN, JUNE 8TH 2016, OUP)
-ESSAY: The brutal beheading of Cicero, last defender of the Roman Republic: In 43 B.C., Mark Antony murdered Cicero, famous for his unparalleled powers of speech, and ushered in the beginnings of the Roman Empire (JOSÉ MIGUEL BAÑOS, FEBRUARY 25, 2019, History Magazine)
    -ESSAY: On Rereading “De Senectute” : Cicero’s hot investment tips for the declining years. (HERBERT STEIN, NOV 27, 1998, Slate)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Summary of Cicero, “On Old Age” (Reason and Meaning)
    -REVIEW: of On Life and Death by Cicero, Translated by John Davie (Frank freeman, University Bookman)
    -REVIEW: of SAVING THE REPUBLIC A Novel Based on the Life of Marcus Cicero by Eric D. Martin (Kirkus)
    -ESSAY: Resigned to his fate: The death of Cicero: Marcus Tullius Cicero was a famous politician and lawyer, whose life was cut short when he was killed at the order of Mark Antony (Josho Brouwers on 7 December 2018, ancient World Magazine)
    -ETEXT: Life of Cicero by Anthony Trollope
    -REVIEW: of CICERO: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt (T. Corey Brennan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Lawrence Osborne, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Mary beard, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Keith Phipps, AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Gerald T. Burke, Historical Novel Society)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (UNRV Roman Empire)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Melinda Nash, Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Ben Witherington, BeliefNet)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Nicholas Von Hoffman, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (John Maxwell Hamilton, Chicago Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of cicero (Michael Lind, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Massimo Pigliucci, Medium)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Mark Miller, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Israel Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (The Economist)
    -REVIEW: of Cicero (Robert Louis Wilken, Weekly Standard)
   -REVIEW ESSAY: ‘How to Tell a Joke’ Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: The Roman politician and orator Cicero used humor to charm audiences—and humiliate opponents. (Joseph Epstein, June 4, 2021, WSJ)
    -ARCHIVES: "cicero" (Lapham's Quarterly)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: "cicero" (Kirkus)
    -ARCHIVES: cicero (Ancient World Magazine)
    -ESSAY: COMPLACENCY—NOT HUBRIS—IS WHAT KILLED THE ROMAN REPUBLIC: Over the Years, Democratic Norms Quietly Eroded, Not Unlike in Today's America (EDWARD J. WATTS, FEBRUARY 26, 2019, Zocalo Public Square)
    -ESSAY: WHAT WOULD CICERO SEE IN AMERICAN GOVERNANCE TODAY?: Before the Rise of Caesar, the Roman Statesman Predicted How the Spread of Lawlessness Could Destroy a Republic (EDWARD WATTS, SEPTEMBER 23, 2020, Zocalo Public Square)

Philip Freeman Links:

    -AUTHOR PAGE: Philip Freeman (Simon & Schuster)
    -BOOK SITE: How to Grow Old (Google Books)
    -BOOK SITE: How to Grow Old: Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life by Marcus Tullius Cicero, Translated by Philip Freeman (Princeton University Press)
    -ESSAY: How to Be a Good Friend, According to an Ancient Philosopher (PHILIP FREEMAN, OCTOBER 9, 2018, TIME)
    -ESSAY: 10 lessons on aging and retirement that have lasted 2,050 years (Philip Freeman, June 30, 2016, Market Watch)
    -EXCERPT: Plowing the Field    -EXCERPT: from How to Grow Old (Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY: Actual Social Justice Warriors: The Women of Celtic Mythology: War Leaders, Druid Priests, Poets, Lovers, and Mothers of their People (Philip Freeman, April 10, 2017, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: The life of Saint Patrick (PHILIP FREEMAN, MARCH 15TH 2017, OUP)
    -ESSAY: Meet the Trump of Ancient Rome, a Populist Demagogue Who Helped Bring Down the Republic (Philip Freeman, 4/12/16, Huffington Post)
    -ESSAY: The Attack Ad, Pompeii-Style (PHILIP FREEMAN AUGUST 30, 2012 , NY Times)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Cicero on growing old: with Philip Freeman & Simon Duffy (David Rutledge, 3 July 2016, ABC: Philosopher's Zone)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: How To Grow Old: Ancient Wisdom for The Second Half of Life by Cicero (Philip Freeman interviewed by C.S. Soong, 7/24/18, KPFA)
    -VIDEO LECTURE: Julius Caesar (Philip Freeman, Great Lives at UMW)
    -EXCERPT: Excerpt: Chapter One: How To Win An Election
    -BOOK SITE: How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians by Quintus Tullius Cicero, Translated by Philip Freeman (Princeton University Press)
    -ESSAY: Friends, Romans, voters (Philip Freeman, JAN. 26, 2012, LA Times)
    -INTERVIEW: Campaigning Across the Ages: An Interview with Professor Philip Freeman (James Wiener, 6/30/12, Ancient History)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Ancient Roman Text Offers Tips On Winning Elections (Robert Siegel, February 7, 2012, NPR: All Things Considered)
    -PROFILE: 'How to Grow Old: Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life' (, April 4, 2016)
    -BOOK SITE: How to Be a Friend: An Ancient Guide to True Friendship by Marcus Tullius Cicero, Translated by Philip Freeman (Princeton University Press)
    -ARCHIVES: "philip freeman" (Muck Rack)
    -ARCHIVES: "philip freeman" (
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old by Marcus Tullius Cicero (Alistair Forrest, UNRV History)
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old (Cornelius Plantinga, Comment)
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old (Tribune News Services)
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old (Jim Higgins, the Journal Sentinel)
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old (Oswald Soborino,
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old (Epicurus Of Albion, 21st August 2019, Stand Up Philosopher)
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old (Mercury News)
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old (Bradley weber, Rabble)
    -REVIEW: of How to Grow Old (Dan Bernett & Dan Book, Chico E-R)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Philip Freeman, Marcus Tullius Cicero. How to Run a Country: An Ancient Guide for Modern Leaders,/a> (Joanna Kenty, Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
-REVIEW: of How to Run a Country (Jonathan Gornall, The National)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Mary Beard, NY Review of Books)
    -VIDEO REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (reading for Wisdom)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (The Week)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Brian Bethune, Macleans)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Steven Levington, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Peter Stothard,, Wall Street Journal)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Carol Herman, Washington Times)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Ashish Mehta, Governance Now)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (James Carville, Foreign Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (John McDonald)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Dr Gwynaeth McIntyre, Newsroom)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Scott Mclemee, Inside Higher Ed)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election by Cicero, translated by Philip Freeman (Dave Weigel, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election by Cicero, translated by Philip Freeman (Peter Monaghan, The Chronicle Review)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Alexander Adams)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Garry Wills, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (The Week)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Brett Evasns, Inside Story)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Eamonn Fitzgerald)
    -REVIEW: of How to win an Election (John Von Heyking, C2C Journal)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (I Chadwick, The Municipal Machiavelli)
    -REVIEW: of Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman (Kirkus)

Book-related and General Links: