How to Grieve

2022(Inspired by) Marcus Tullius Cicero. How to Grieve: An Ancient Guide to the Lost Art of Consolation. Princeton University Press. Secret decoder-ring of all the sources online here. Translations: Vietnamese

A survival guide to life. “Remarkable for an ardent hope and confident belief of a future State.” — John Adams

I even did something no one’s ever done before: I talked myself out of depression.” (Cicero, March 45 BCE)

In 45 BCE, the Roman statesman Cicero fell to pieces when his beloved daughter died from complications of childbirth. But from the depths of despair, Cicero fought his way back. In an effort to cope with his loss, he wrote a consolation speech—not for others, as had always been done, but for himself. And it worked. Cicero’s Consolation to Himself was something new in literature, equal parts philosophy and motivational speech. Drawing on the full range of Greek philosophy and Roman history, Cicero convinced himself that death and loss are part of life, and that if others have survived them, we can, too; resilience, endurance, and fortitude are the way forward.

Lost in antiquity, Cicero’s Consolation was recreated in the Renaissance from hints in Cicero’s other writings and the Greek and Latin consolatory tradition. The resulting masterpiece—translated here for the first time in 250 years—is infused throughout with Cicero’s thought and spirit.

Complete with the original Latin on facing pages and an inviting introduction, Michael Fontaine’s engaging translation makes this searching exploration of grief available to readers once again.