Cicero’s Consolatio

Consolatio cover
Welcome! If you found your way here, you’re interested in the forged Ciceronian Consolatio (Venice, 1583), which I’ve just edited and translated for Princeton University Press under the title How to Grieve: An Ancient Guide to the Lost Art of Consolation.
This page might not be pretty, but it contains a huge wealth of everything I learned in the process of dissecting and contextualizing the text. There was no room in the book for these notes, so I’ve put them here on the web — and generously seeded everything with links for the curious or indulgent to follow.
The main feature is the secret decoder ring just below. It reveals just where our author got his or her or their ideas and expressions. After that comes my summary and analysis of the sources, some historical notes, and finally some literary lagniappe just for fun.
I don’t plan to update this page much, but if you do find new or better sources to fill in the gaps or correct any of my notes, please email me!

The Secret Decoder Ring

Who imitated who? Check this chart and ask yourself!

In theory, these imitations could all go in either direction. In reality, those in sections 3, 56, 88, and 119-121 prove they can’t.
Doric Frieze
This chart lists parallels in the 1583 forged Ciceronian Consolatio and the sources it relied on. To use it, grab your copy of How to Grieve and then click the source links (to Perseus) to discover the similarities. Some are almost verbatim, others are loose, and a few are changed or combined with breathtaking cunning. Then scroll down for my analysis.
Paragraph Number of the 1583 Consolatio
Source Text
Title (“Consolatio”)
Subtitle
(“De Luctu Minuendo”)
1
recentibus morbis medicinam adhibere vetant sapientes = Tusculan Disputations 4.63, echoed in Plutarch Consolation to Apollonius 1 (i.e. the start). This implies an ultimate common source in (also at the start?) Crantor‘s lost book Grief. A similar sentiment is found in Pliny the Younger Letters 5.16.11.

[Bonus, if you want to get into the weeds…]
However, since the passage in Cicero’s TD 4.63 reads vetat Chrysippus ad recentis quasi tumores animi remedium adhibere, the proximate source may be extant. Origen Contra Celsum 8.51 quotes the start of Chrysippus’ treatise Therapies (book 4 of his book On Negative Emotions): …καὶ οὕτω θεραπευτέον τὰ πάθη· οὐ περιεργαζόμενον ἐν τῷ καιρῷ τῆς φλεγμονῆς τῶν παθῶν τὸ προκαταλαβὸν δόγμα τὸν ὑπὸ τοῦ πάθους ἐνοχλούμενον· (“Here’s how to provide psychotherapy: at the moment the emotions are inflamed, don’t worry about the doctrine which has previously won the patient over.”) This seems to be the Greek sentiment that Cicero translated there.
nihilque adversi hominibus accidere solet in vita, quod aut improvisum aut inexspectatum videatur = Tusculan Disputations 4.37

conemur tamen, si quā ratione possumus, mederi nobismet ipsis = Tusculan Disputations 3.6

Si enim, quotiens usu venit, consuluimus ceteris, ¿cur non aliquando nobis ipsis? = Cassius Dio, Roman History 38.18.12 (“acted as advocate/Consul/Counselor”).

humanam condicionem…efficere miseriorem = Tusculan Disputations 1.83
2
si quidem corpus animi gubernaculo, animus autem ministerio corporis indiget = Sallust, Catiline 1.2?

Animus aeger = Tusculan Disputations 3.5. Similar is Cassius Dio, Roman History 38.19.3
3
Xenocrates didn’t write a book On Grief but he did write a treatise On Death. In the Renaissance, Marsilio Ficino claimed the pseudo-Platonic Axiochus was that treatise. Since Axiochus is a consolation, it seems likely that our author followed Ficino’s lead and committed a blunder that hints at the Renaissance origin of the text; see section 56 below, which proves it. For traces of Axiochus in this treatise, see sections 8-17, 29, 63, and 127 below.
4
 
5
consolationem a nobis petentes nosmet ipsos in dolore vincemus = Tusculan Disputations 1.83

naturae quamdam quasi vim adferemus (cf. 87 below) = Tusculan Disputations 4.63
6
The views and quote attributed to Theophrastus or Xenocrates seem to be fabricated.

repugnet, cum dis Gigantum more bellare = De Senectute 5
7
Crantorem sequor = Consolatio fragment V4 (i.e. fragment 4 in Vitelli’s edition)

cuius lēgi—brevem illum quidem, sed vere aureum et (ut Panaetio placuit) ad verbum ediscendum—“De Luctu” librum = Lucullus 135

luendorum scelerum causā nasci homines = Consolatio fragment V1 (i.e. fragment 1 in Vitelli’s edition)
8-17
Inspired by Pseudo-Plato Axiochus 7-
9; a similar idea in De Senectute 33
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
huic invidia et aemulatio a bonis imminent = Aristotle Rhetoric 2.11
14
trementem, incurvum = Terence Eunuchus 336

Nonnullis…prudentia = Tusculan Disputations 1.94
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
 
24
fatali necessitate = De Natura Deorum 1.55
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
hominem luendorum scelerum causā natum = Consolatio fragment V1 again (which the reporting source says Cicero said twice). The same thought is found in a fragment of the Hortensius reported by Augustine Contra Pelagium book 4: “Qui nos ob aliqua scelera suscepta in vita superiore poenarum luendarum causa natos esse dixerunt.”

Nostra enim quae dicitur “vita” … potiatur. = Fragment V5 and Tusculan Disputations 1.75
compage solutus = Possibly Pseudo-Plato Axiochus 5 in Marsilio Ficino’s Latin translation (it has soluta hac compage in the singular).
29
(Trophius and Agamedes) = Tusculan Disputations 1.114. Same story in Axiochus 10, pointing to a common source in Crantor’s Grief.
30
Tusculan Disputations 1.114 (continued from previous)

malam esse mortem = Tusculan Disputations 1.9

quandoquidem vel deorum iudicio non modo mala non est = Tusculan Disputations 1.113
31
miseriarum … finis est in morte = Tusculan Disputations 1.9

a propagatione … calamitates = Tusculan Disputations 1.86
32
 
33
 
34
 
35
naturā, quae nihil inane solet efferre = Aristotle Politics 1.2, 1253a
36
Consolatio fragment V9

Sileni…comprobatur: Tusculan Disputations 1.114-115. The tale of Silenus is also found in Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 27, implying it was found in Crantor’s Grief.
37
Psychomantio: Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 14, a story cited from Crantor’s Grief.
38-9
Necesse est…ad eos proficisci = Tusculan Disputations 1.97-8. These words are Cicero’s free translation of Plato’s Apology of Socrates 40c. Since the passage also appears in Plutarch’s Consolation to Apollonius 12, it was probably also found in Crantor’s Grief.
39
See previous. The Ennius quote is found in De Amicitia 22.
40
 
41
42
obduruisse…occaluisse = These rare words come from Petrarch Letters of Old Age 10.4. (Petrarch never saw the Consolatio; I quote him on this point in the introduction to How to Grieve.)
43
Natura…accusatur = Tusculan Disputations 1.93. A similar idea (“life is a loan”) appears in Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 28, implying it was found in Crantor’s Grief. Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 17 might also be relevant.
44
 
45
Itaque, neminem … iuvent ac delectent = De Senectute 84.
Sed vincat dolorem consolatio…exquirere medicinam is loosely adapted from Tusculan Disputations 1.49.
46
 
47-8
Ipse enim discessus…fiunt =Tusculan Disputations 1.82
. Similar idea in De Senectute 74.
48
A similar statement in De Divinatione 1.63
49
 
50
51
 
52
53
 
54
 
55
Consolatio fragment V2
56
The block quote comes not from Plato but from Marsilio Ficino’s Renaissance Life of Plato, often reprinted (e.g. here), in the section “Quantum Plato neglexit humana, quantum divina dilexit.” The words are Ficino’s summary inference, not his translation of anything identically expressed in Plato (possibly, however, based on Republic 5.476c-d and 7.534c; possibly also Republic 586 and 520c.). This bogus quote is the “trap street” that proves the text is a forgery.
57
 
58
59
 
60
 
61
Menander quote: Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 34
62
 
63
Cassius Dio 38.26.3 mentions Scipio, Aristides, and Themistocles. Pseudo-Plato Axiochus 12 mentions Miltiades, Themistocles, and Ephialtes.
64
 
65
 
66
67
Cleomenes: Plutarch’s Life of Cleomenes? Theagenes (called “Rhoetogenes” in modern editions, but by that name in early modern editions): Valerius Maximus 3.2.ext.7
Hasdrubal’s Wife: Valerius Maximus 3.2.ext.6
68
Dicaearchus: On Duties 2.16
69
 
70
Quamvis enim…igniculos: De Republica 3.1 = Augustine Contra Iulianum 4.12
71
 
72
73
74
 
75
 
76
 
77-82
The next three anecdotes (Anaxagoras, Xenophon, and Pericles) were apparently discussed in Crantor’s book Grief. Plutarch quotes all three in Consolatio ad Apollonium 118d-119a (= 33), and so does Valerius Maximus 5.10, which is clearly a relatively close translation.
77
Anaxagoras: This fragment is translated from Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 33, but – cleverly – the words of Anaxagoras are quoted in Cicero’s translation in Tusculan Disputations 3.58. Since he gives a shorter version of the same story, the implication is that the anecdote appeared in Crantor’s Grief. The anecdote is echoed in Valerius Maximus 5.10extr. 3Aelian Varia Historia 3.2, and Jerome Letter 60.5. All these sources go back to Crantor; cf. section 88.
78
 
79
80
Xenophon: Valerius Maximus 5.10extr. 2, echoed in Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 33 and Aelian Varia Historia 3.3. Jerome Letter 60.5 quotes a more abbreviated form in different vocabulary, which suggests he’s translating Crantor rather than quoting Cicero.
 
81
negligere humana = On Duties 1.13
82
Pericles: Valerius Maximus 5.10extr. 1, echoed in Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 33 and (more abbreviated) Jerome Letter 60.5
83
ratio…doctrinae = Pro Archia 15
tantumque … superiores = Tusculan Disputations 2.54
84
The proverb is fabricated, but the rest is modeled on Tusculan Disputations 2.54.
85
consuetudo…armat = Tusculan Disputations 2.35
Harpagus: though attributed to Herodotus [Histories 1.119-129], that’s possibly a bit of a decoy, because a few words echo Seneca’s version in De Ira 3.15 (and cf. 89 below)
86
sera deorum vindicta sit evokes the 1510 (or earlier) Latin title of Plutarch’s treatise On the Delays of Divine Vengeance (De sera numinis vindicta) (Περὶ τῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ θείου βραδέως τιμωρουμένων)
non angore…vexentur = Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino 67
87
naturae vim adferre: Tusculan Disputations 4.19.63
Cuius auxilio … meditemur igitur: Tusculan Disputations 2.66
Pleni sunt libri philosophorum = Pro Archia 14
88
Dion: A dispositive case of forgery, since Plutarch Life of Dion 55.4-56.1 says the death was a suicide and that it afflicted Dion gravely. The forger’s source here is Aelian Varia Historia 3.4 — not in Greek, however, but in the 1548 Latin mistranslation of Justus Vulteius (1529-1575), here. Vulteius misunderstands the middle participle κατενεχθείς (“he threw himself,” i.e. suicide, as in Plutarch and in Cornelius Nepos, Dion 4) as passive (“fell”). Some words, like atrium for αὐλά, are verbatim.
(For Aelian, cf. 77, 80; the implication is that these four anecdotes in Aelian — including Antigonus in 3.5 — come from Crantor’s Grief)
89
Primarily Seneca De Ira 3.14, secondarily Herodotus Histories 3.35; in both places he is called Praexaspes.
Moreover, the argument – that aside from the morality of Prexaspes’ reaction, it’s a perfect illustration that fortitude/anger suppression is possible – comes from Seneca’s De Ira 3.14.4.
90-91
quum nostro vulneri medeamur…adferre possimus = De Divinatione 2.3
91
copia…obrui = Tusculan Disputations 2.3 (parallel idea)
92
Echoes thought (not words) of Aristotle Rhetoric 1370b.12
93
 
94
 
95
96
 
97
Fabius = Epistulae ad familiares 4.6.1 (first sentence)
Neque solum non doluit… in Foro dixit is fabricated from hints in De Senectute 12 and Plutarch Life of Fabius 24.4.
98
Horatius Pulvillus: Valerius Maximus 5.10.1; mentioned in much shorter form in Jerome Letter 60.5, (Crantor’s Grief is the likely source)
99
Paullus: Valerius Maximus 5.10.2; mentioned in much shorter form in Jerome Letter 60.5; Crantor’s Grief is the likely source
100
 
101
101-2
Crassuses: Jerome Letter 60.5
102
103
Pisones, Scaevolas, Brutos, Marcellos, Metellos,Lepidos, Aufidios: Jerome Letter 60.5
104
Pure fabrication, shrewdly set up by the remark in section 94 that he’d read inattentively. Where could the glorious image come from? Apparently it was inspired (as nearly suggested by Marialuisa Baldi 1991, p. 58) by the finale of Girolamo Cardano’s Venice-1542 De Consolatione libri tres. (See Book 3, p. 131 here):

gladiators: Attributed to Cicero in Seneca De Tranquillitate Animi 11.4 – hence the forger cleverly implies that Seneca’s source was the Consolatio. Originally, however, it may come from Pro Milone 92.
105
 
 
106
Spartan Mothers: Aelian Varia Historia 12.21, loosely rendered. Some possible echoes of the Latin translation (p. 390). Also, Tusculan Disputations 1.102.
107
First quotation = Plutarch, Sayings of Spartan Women 242a. Second quotation = Tusculan Disputations 1.102
108
quotation = Seneca Consolatio ad Marciam 16.3
109
Rutilia = Seneca Consolatio ad Helviam 16.7; cf. Cicero’s questions in Ad Atticum 12.20.2 and 12.22.2

Clodia = Ad Atticum 12.22.2
110
Pisos, Bruti, Marcelli = Jerome Letter 60.5
111-2
Theramenes = Tusculan Disputations 1.96-97; also found in Plutarch Consolation to Apollonius 6Valerius Maximus 3.2.ext.7; implying Crantor’s Grief is the source
112
113
 
114
 
115
Metelli fortunam = Tusculan Disputations 1.86

(Metellus, Priam) = Tusculan Disputations 1.85.
115-116
Tusculan Disputations 1.85 (loosely rephrased)
116
117
 
118
 
119-121
Flagravit enim bello … fuit = De Oratore 3.8

Another dispositive case of (recent) forgery. This section is cribbed from M. Antonii Mureti Quartae Orationis in Catilinam Explicatio (Paris, 1581, p. 92r, reprinted here p. 349) (“Quid iam…reperiebatur”) is itself allegedly drawn from Cicero De Finibus 2.
120
 
121
 
122
 
123-125
Tusculan Disputations 1.86 (loosely rephrased)
124
The phrase fortunae iniuria is found in the Pseudo-Ovidian Consolatio ad Liviam, 51, though it’s also found elsewhere.
125
Itaque, imbelles…clarissimus incidit = Epist Ad Fam. 6
126
hōc stabilito et fixo = Tusculan Disputations 1.88. An non optimam …Marcellus, Albinus = Tusculan Disputations 1.89
127
Sleep, symmetry arguments: Tusculan Disputations 1.91-92 (check also 1.90). Presumably it was found in Crantor’s treatise Grief, because it appears in Axiochus 365d, Plutarch Consolatio ad Uxorem 610d, and Plutarch Consolation to Apollonius 109e-f
128
 
129
130
131
 
The proverb (“somnus imago mortis”) is found in Tusculan Disputations 1.92 (paralleled in Ovid, Amores 2.9.41)
131-132
Itaque, in fabulis…dubitari ullo pacto potest = Tusculan Disputations 1.92 (Endymion)
132
Quales…simus = Tusculan Disputations 1.13

Mors…pertinebit = Tusculan Disputations 1.91; cf. Plutarch Consolation to Apollonius 15, Anaxagoras in Stobaeus, Florilegium 120 19G.
133
Morientes aiunt cruciari, angi = Tusculan Disputations 1.83
134
 
135
 
136
non modo cum exiguo dolore …ex hāc vitā egressos = Tusculan Disputations 1.82

Similar to the idea of death as a safe haven or port is De Senectute 71.
137
Fabius, Pompeius, Thalna = Pliny the Elder 7.53.181-2 (examples of sudden death) (though no obvious verbal echoes). Thalna is mentioned by Valerius 9.12.3, but no obvious echoes
138
 
139
praefinitum esse vitae terminum a deo quem praeterire = The Book of Job 14:5 (as translated by St. Jerome)
.
In De Senectute 72, Cicero says that old age has no certus terminus (fixed term).
Pointlessness of virtue: De Senectute 82
140
 
141
Quid autem verius sit, deus ipse viderit; hominem quidem scire arbitror neminem. = Tusculan Disputations 1.41
142
mortem imploramus = De Re Publica (Somnium) 15

iis praecipue dolendum …clauserunt = Tusculan Disputations 1.109.
143
ad recte agendum natus homo = De Officiis 3.35; Marcus Aurelius Meditations 9.42 ὁ ἄνϑρωπος εὐεργετιϰòς πεϕυϰώς.
144
corporis admixtione solutus = De Senectute 80

in caelestes ignes …revertit = Somnium Scipionis 15 (De Re Publica 6.15). There’s also a vague similarity in Cicero’s translation of Plato’s Timaeus: Atque ille qui recte atque honeste curriculum vivendi a natura datum confecerit ad illud astrum quocum aptus fuerit revertetur;

ex divinā mente delibatos habemus animos = De Senectute 78 (This view is attributed to Pythagoras). Cf. section 153 below.

tum vere vivunt = Tusculan Disputations 1.75

The argument next about the soul and its desires seems to correspond to some statements in Plato’s Phaedo: Compare: qui hac mole inclusi…imperant with while we are in the body, and while the soul is mingled [cf. admixtio above] with this mass of evil, our desire will not be satisfied
145
quote: Ennius Epicharmus fragments 7 and 8
146
non fortuitò … exanclatis = Tusculan Disputations 1.118
147
Ficta et adumbrata: De Amicitia 97

solida et expressa virtutis elucebat effigies = Tusculan Disputations 3.3
148
 
149
 
150
graviores ac … corporis = Tusculan Disputations 3.5
151
 
152
quando…oratio = De Natura Deorum 3.43 (a quotation of the phrase).

The general argument about temples = gods is indebted to De Natura Deorum 3.43-47.

The argument about the quaedam vis veneratione digna = Tusculan Disputations 1.27
153
eum quem … pronuntiavit = De Senectute 78 (Socrates)

quos quondam “Italicos” nominavit … propriam = De Senectute 78 (Pythagoreans). Cf. 144 above.
154
Tusculan Disputations 1.53-4, which quotes from De Re Publica 6.27-28, which quotes in turn from Plato’s Phaedrus (but echoes not obvious)

principium motus, see also De Divinatione 2.139

perpetuitas motus, see also Somnium Scipionis 8 19 (Sage)
155
“imago dei” not echoed but sort of similar arguments in Tusculan Disputations 1.52
156
Consolatio fragment V21
157
Consolatio fragment V21
158
159
contemplatorem esse ipsum caeli = Tusculan Disputations 1.69

rerumque caelestium, frui magnarum obscurissimarumque rerum scientiā = De Finibus 5.58

integritatem atque innocentiam = Divinatio in Quintum Caecilium 27
160
aut sapientissimos … fatuos = De Senectute 83

Socrates: Tusculan Disputations 1.71 (and for the detail about “the pious,” Plato Phaedo 114b-c)
 
161
Exclamation: De Officiis 3.100
161-2
ex ipsis etiam sacris …solere exsistere = Tusculan Disputations 1.27
162
llam secuti … confirmat omnia = De Legibus 1.33
163
Itaque…notitiam dei = De Legibus 1.24, cited in turn by Lactantius De Ira Dei 7.6

firmissimum…non possit = De Legibus 1.24 + Tusculan Disputations 1.30
164
¡O rem dignam … oporteat = De Legibus 1.41

Argument about cadavers: Tusculan Disputations 1.27 [cf. also section 152 above]; possibly De Amicitia IV?
165
 
166
in tantā opinionum…solemus = De Legibus 1.47

veri inquisitione = De Officiis 1.13

Quo nihil beatius homini posse contingere = Tusculan Disputations 1.97-8

innata est homini cupiditas scientiae = Tusculan Disputations 1.44
167
Various echoes, none exact, in De Finibus 2

dolor … perpetuus = Tusculan Disputations 3.167 [check reference]
168
Nihil enim nimio dolore deformius, nihil a viro alienius = Tusculan Disputations 2.31 and 2.46? (Similar ideas throughout the book)

corporis pravitatibus … infamiae = De Legibus 1.51 + De Officiis 3.105
169
ne laude quidem ullā dignus censeatur = Tusculan Disputations 3.12 (citing Crantor’s Grief)

maxime veritati consentanea = De Officiis 3.20

ut sententiarum…nectitur aliud ex alio = De Legibus 1.52
170
Nec, verò, credi … existimare = Tusculan Disputations 3.13

Est enim quatenus …maximum indicet = Tusculan Disputations 3.12. Several parallels in Plutarch Consolation to Apollonius 3 (citing Crantor’s Grief); in particular note quem ad modum feritatem corporis = τεθηριῶσθαι γὰρ εἰκὸς ἐκεῖ μὲν σῶμα.
171
 
172
 
173
Certe enim … moveatur = Academica 2.101 (Lucullus) (“a quote from Homer”)
174
humana illa esse = Tusculan Disputations 3.57
175
quote = Terence, Andria 77, cited by De Officiis 1.30

hanc ex animis … extraxerimus = Academica 2.108 (Lucullus)

mala omnia non esse humana = Tusculan Disputations 3.57?
176
Ac mihi videor …exsultare possit oratio = Academica 2.112 (Lucullus)

[Incidentally, in this passage it looks to me like the forger was having a bit of fun, trying to see how far he or she could take it. It reads like parody, as do a few other passages that follow shortly after this.]
177
 
178
179
 
180
ne divinum quidem numen horrere = De Finibus 1.41; phrase also appears in Academica (Lucullus) 121.
181
exercitationem virtutis = Pro Milone 34
182
 
183
184
cum dis immortalibus aevum agere = Tusculan Disputations 1.28

eorum corpora … maneat = De Republica 3.40 (= Augustine De civite Dei 22.4)
185
186
Tusculan Disputations 1.28-9. Part is cited & contextualized by Augustine City of God 8.5
187
 
188
 
189
 
190
The argument about metaphorical vs. literal immortality of renown appears in Plato Symposium 209d (Diotima’s speech) – but not apparently a direct source.

Itaque, tam egregiis …quaesita sunt = De Republica 6 fr. 8 (= Macrobius 1.4.2)
191
Nam si quid in hominum … iudicabunt = Lactantius Divine Institutes 3.19
192
Consolatio fragment V22
193
Similar idea in De Natura Deorum 3.54
194
195
196
virtutis splendor = De Officiis 1.20 and 2.37
197
omnis plane doctrinae…Athenae = Muret here, p. 76.

Codrus = De Natura Deorum 3.49. Codrus is also mentioned in Tusculan Disputations 1.28 in a context implying the example might be found in Crantor’s Grief. Augustine City of God 18.19 mentions Codrus, too.
198
viros claros … tenebantur = Lactantius Divine Institutes 1.15.16

Graecia…deos = De Natura Deorum 3.50
199

200
Templa, verò, publice vota et dedicata = De Natura Deorum 3.43
201
auguste sancteque = De Natura Deorum 3.53
202
 
203
 
204
 
205
206
207
208

Ima summis commutare = Horace, Odes 1.34.16-7

caepas, allia = Pliny Natural History 19.101
209

sine nefario scelere non possunt = Epist. ad Familiares 1.9.1
210
211
212
Consolatio fragment V23.

213
 
214
Vigebis…debemus is contradicted by Cicero Letter to Atticus 12.18.
Tibi…religionem = ad Atticum 12.38a.2 and ad Atticum 12.36
215
 
216
Consolatio fragment V23. cf. Post Reditum in Quirites chp. 8?

nosti…potuerit = a rewrite of Lactantius Divine Institutes 3.28 (the context of the fragment)
217
Consolatio fragment V3

Fortuna…gravi accepto vulnere plane dolore perculsus = Academica 1.11 Fortunae gravissimo percussus vulnere [= a veiled reference to Tullia’s death]

insuavis et acerbus = Horace Satires 1.3.85
A note on the sources of the sources: I’m the first to note the majority of the similarities in the Secret Decoder Ring above (thank you, Google!). That said, the chart also integrates all the sources previously detected by (in chronological order):
  1. Riccoboni Iudicium (notes many borrowings);
  2. Sigonius Orationes Duae;
  3. Riccoboni Iudicum secundum;
  4. Gulielimius here;
  5. Sigonius Accusator (adds nothing);
  6. Riccoboni Defensor (which gets a great many of them);
  7. Sigonius Postrema Oratio (nothing new);
  8. Lipsius here (scorched earth; short; contributes nothing new  = “Referee #2”);
  9. Evan T. Sage’s dissertation.
Of some interest, I’m the first to detect the pervasive use of De Legibus 1, De Natura Deorum, Lucullus, and the possible influence of Cassius Dio’s fictitious exile consolation in 38.18-29.

Captain America shield BS

The Sources in Summary

An analysis of the Secret Decoder Ring reveals the following major sources of the 1583 Consolatio listed below:

  • Cicero Tusculan Disputations (for an overview of this important text, see here. For the groundbreaking new translation, see here.)
  • Plutarch Consolation to Apollonius
  • Valerius Maximus
  • Jerome Epistle 60 (as a source of fragments)
  • Aelian Varia Historia in both Greek and the 1548 Renaissance Latin translation by Justus Vulteius
  • Lactantius Divine Institutes (an important source of both (1) direct fragments and (2) rich context.)
  • Pseudo-Plato Axiochus — which was attributed to Xenocrates in the Renaissance by Marsilio Ficino (section 3 above)
  • Cicero De Senectute
  • Cicero De Legibus
  • Cicero De Amicitia
  • Cicero Lucullus (Academica 2)
  • Cicero De Officiis
  • Cicero Paradoxa Stoicorum
  • Cicero De Divinatione
  • Cicero Pro Milone
  • Cicero De Oratore
  • Cicero De Finibus
  • Cicero Pro Archia
  • Cicero Somnium Scipionis
  • Herodotus Histories
  • Plato Apology (as translated and embedded in Cicero Tusculan Disputations 1.97-8)
  • Cicero Letters to Atticus from the time (as a source of fragments)
  • Seneca De Ira
  • Seneca Consolatio ad Marciam
  • Seneca Consolatio ad Helviam
  • Petrarch Letters on Old Age
  • Aristotle Rhetoric
  • Seneca De Tranquillitate Animi
  • Sallust Bellum Catilinae
  • Muret’s intro to Sallust Bellum Catilinae
  • Marsilio Ficino Life of Plato
  • The vulgate Book of Job
  • Horace Odes and Satires

It’s also obvious that the author used a lexicon of Ciceronian Latin, probably the 1535 Thesaurus Ciceronianus of Marius Nizolius (1498-1566). Here it is in a 1576 edition. (For background, see this excellent 2022 essay by Josey Parker.)

Strange absence: I see no evidence of either Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy or Seneca’s Consolation to Polybius, though Seneca’s Consolation to Marcia and Consolation to Helvia are used (sections 108-109). Plutarch’s Consolation to his Wife is used only one (section 127).

Analysis of the Sources

If the Consolatio were authentic, all the similarities noted above would imply a few bold and interesting ideas, namely that:
  • Because Cicero wrote both the Consolatio and the Tusculan Disputations in very short order (which is true), he’d exhausted all the relevant material for the former and hence reused it in the latter. (This is what Sigonius argued in his two Orations.)
  • The many echoes of Plutarch’s Consolation to Apollonius and Valerius Maximus are meant to imply they’d both, like Cicero, found similar ideas in Crantor’s book Grief (which is probably true).
  • Jerome (in Epistle 60) also has passages that evidently appeared in Crantor’s Grief, and he’d read it (Legimus Crantorem, cuius volumen ad confovendum dolorem suum secutus est Cicero (“I’ve read Crantor, whose treatise Cicero imitated to cope with his own grief .”). But Jerome loved Cicero and may have also found them in Cicero’s Consolation. So, the idea of echoing Jerome’s translation of The Book of Job in section 139 implies Jerome himself was influenced there by Cicero’s Consolation as the most obvious inspiration for the right language.
  • The same goes for the similarities in later authors–SallustHoraceSeneca, and Petrarch. The idea is that, like Lactantius, who really did consult Cicero’s Consolatio, these other authors also turned to the Consolatio when they needed or wanted similar ideas.
Finally, I’ll note for posterity two similarities between Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations and Plutarch’s Consolation to Apollonius that do not appear in the Consolatio, even though their similarity implies a common source in Crantor’s Grief :
  1. Tusculan Disputations 3.71-74 Consolation to Apollonius 32 (“It is a good thing also to call to mind the arguments which most likely we have sometimes employed with relatives or friends…”) and
  2. Tusculan Disputations 3.63 = Consolation to Apollonius 33 (Story of Demosthenes & his daughter).
 
My final analysis
  • In 1496, Michelangelo forged the Cupid to see if he could fool the experts. In 1573 or thereabouts, Marc-Antoine Muret forged some verses of Trabea for the same reason. (Morabin noticed this parallel, too.) It seems to me our forger aimed to do the same before eventually revealing the truth. That would explain the obvious and elementary mistakes even a beginning Latin student would not have made, such as using homo instead of vir to mean man. It might also explain why the forger includes quotes from Muret, rather than Muret’s source (in 119-121 and possibly 197): our forger quotes the contemporary master-forger of Latin.
  • Unfortunately, the fact that the Consolatio was immediately received and characterized not as a fun experiment (which it probably was), but as a bonafide forgery calculated to deceive, must have spooked whoever put it together. Real forgery was a capital crime in Italy at the time, as the case of Annius of Viterbo shows and as McCuaig 1983 nicely explains. Our forger was no idiot: “There be dragons.” So he or she or they sealed their lips forever.
  • That said, the “trap street” bogus quotation attributed to Plato in section 56 was apparently designed as the “tell” to protect against the forgery ever getting seriously taken seriously all along. I guess somebody should’ve checked. Oh well.

Note: While nursing a broken ankle, I spent many bored hours during the coronavirus lockdown of 2020-2021 finding and compiling the sources above. I’ve clearly hit the point of diminishing returns and don’t plan to continue the work. If you, dear reader, find any corrections or supplements, by all means send them to me!  — Calixtus

Lagniappe: Translations and links

Here are all the translations into any language of the Consolatio that I have discovered:
French
  • 1584 (attributed to “Gabriel Pot. Parisien, though Sage & Mangeart attribute it to “Benoist du Troncy”). No notes, just the translation.
  • 1596 Nicholas de Malfilastre, Rouen (not online)
  • 1644 Camusat and Le Petit. No notes, just the translation.
  • 1654 anonymous, probably a reprint of the 1644 edition.
  • 1753 Morabin. Interesting introduction, good summary, a few uninteresting and inaccurate footnotes.
  • 1811 Mangeart. Superb translation, good notes. Mercilessly critical of Morabin’s translation.
English
  • 1767 Blacklock. Flowery and quite expansive.
  • 2022 Fontaine. (i.e., my own translation under the title How to Grieve).
Italian
  • 1585/1593: Fortuniano Sanvitali. A copy held at UT library, but I couldn’t get it.
  • 1785: Gazzotti, reprinted here. The reprint includes exceptionally stupid and irrelevant notes by one Marcello Tommasini (1811-1896). A total waste of time.
Russian (or notes in Latin by Russian scholars?)
  • I couldn’t get hold of this 1822 edition with Russian notes: M. Tullii Ciceronis Si deo placet, consolatio: Cum rossicis notis aliisque annotationibus. Mosquae: Typographiae S. Selivanovsky. Shoot me an email if you have it. (A teaser here.)
A little history…

Lagniappe: Some cool liminary poems

1. Epigram of Jean Daurat (1508 – 1588). My text comes from this edition by Sigonio here, p. 836, but I correct docet for decet as is found in this reprint in this edition here, p. 584, which, however, misprints qui usque instead of quisque in the first line. I have changed punctuation and capitalization.

                       Ad lectorem

Sit, quem quisque volet, magni Ciceronis imago:
     nec Cicero, vivo nес Cicerone fuit.
Quisquis at ille fuit, belle declamat et apte
     de miseris hominum casibus atque malis.
Qualis et est Senecae quae Controversia fertur,
     nomine quamque pari Quintilianus habet.
Tu tamen hinc gratos, lector bone, collige fructus,
     quid sit homo, speculo dum docet ille suo.
Quid réfert vetus an nova sit medicina salubris,
     aeger ab hac medica dum relevetur ope?
                    To the Reader

Let great Cicero’s phantom be who we’d each like:
     he wasn’t Cicero, or when Cicero lived.
But whoever he was, he discourses [holds forth] beautifully and aptly
     on mankind’s miserable troubles and misfortunes,
same as it is with the Mock Trials ascribed to Seneca
     and those of the same name attributed to Quintilian.
All the same, good reader, gather pleasing fruits from this Consolation
     as he uses his mirror to teach what a human is.
What difference does it make whether an effective medicine is ancient or modern,
     as long as the treatment helps relieve the patient?

2. Epigram of Julius Signius (bishop of Rieti, died 1621) to Carolus Sigonius de Marci Tullii Ciceronis Consolatione, vel De Luctu Minuendo (printed in Argelatus 1737, 1239, here) on the authorship:

Multiplici ratione probas hunc, magne Sigoni,
     magnum Arpinatem composuisse librum.
Res et verba docent, gravitas permixta lepori;
     asserit hoc procerum docta frequensque cohors.
At longe illorum melior sententia cultum,
     qui manasse tua mente fatentur opus.
Cur modo certandum? Victores vincis, et affert
     certamen pacem, nobile parque decus.
Nec mirere; adeo Tulli sectator haberis,
     alter ut ille Plato, tu vocitere Philo.

3. A closing remark by John Adams (1735-1836): “I am reading a Work of Cicero that I remember not to have read before. It is intituled M. Tullii Ciceronis Si Deo placet Consolatio. Remarkable for an ardent hope and confident belief of a future State.” – August 7. 1796. (By “future State” Adams means life after death.)