[Artwork by Laura Wilder, https://laurawilder.com/proddetail.php?prod=301270″]
I’ve been enjoying the spring garden: the early bloomers are out and we’ve started to plant our vegetables. It’s hard work keeping on top of it all–especially the weeds. But I like the physicality of it–getting my hands dirty and not thinking too much.
Nothing like Cicero’s garden.
The Roman statesman, orator and writer had slaves to maintain his beloved library and garden–where the only plotting going on was political.
Cicero’s infamous quote, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”, was adapted from a letter he wrote requesting a meeting with friend Varro in 46 B.C. Here’s the literal translation:
“If you have a garden in your library”, he wrote to Varro, “everything will be complete.” (Cic. Fam. 9.4).
“Everything will be complete” for a productive meeting, he says, because the Roman garden was designed for thinking, philosophizing and discourse. It was, as Damon Young (author of Philosophy in the Garden) puts it, a “garden library“–rather than a library with a garden.
Cicero eventually lost his property, his library, and his life, at the hands of Mark Antony. He was executed in 43 B.C., just a three years after this famous quote was written.
I suppose I should be thankful that the only battle I have to wage is against a few million dandelions.
Poor Cicero! He was so right, a garden and a library , well and a nice meal, some knitting too please. oh and let’s invite the family and friends as well…I am happy you ar enjoying spring! Xo Johanna
True, it is all a matter of putting things into perspective. And for all intents and purposes, those are some bright and pretty dandelions – all probably part of their devilish disguise: to appeal to our sense of color and misplaced beauty. Because beauty can be found anywhere.
Thank you for your message, and so glad to have discovered your beautiful blog as a result! Yes, beauty is all in the eye of the beholder–my daughter adores dandelions!
Oh, dear. Not a good end for a man who was clearly a dreamer. But the garden library was a darned good idea.
It is only fair to Cicero to point out that he recommended treating your slaves as if they were employees – fair returns for a fair days work De Officiis I.41. And no dreamer, but an active honest statesman and provincial governor. Also just the man to talk with in a garden with books to hand.
Hi! I am the artist who created the “Garden and Library” painting at the top of this page. Your website is lovely, and I’m happy that you’re including my artwork in your discussion of Cicero, but please give me credit: “Artwork by Laura Wilder, https://laurawilder.com/proddetail.php?prod=301270“
Dear Laura, my deepest apologies for this oversight. I will immediately revise this post to credit you. Your work is beautiful.