Coming In December 2018: A New Annotated And Illustrated Translation Of Cicero’s “On Moral Ends”

In December, Fortress of the Mind Publications will be releasing my new annotated and illustrated translation of Cicero’s work On Moral Ends (De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum).  This announcement will provide some details about the book and what it contains.

What is this book about?  In the first chapter, Cicero says the following:

Still, someone who has carefully examined my philosophical writings will judge none of them more worth reading than this one.  For what should be sought in life more diligently than all the important questions of philosophy, especially the major issue examined in this book:  what is the end (i.e., the final objective or the ultimate goal) that provides us with a rational plan for living well and doing good works?” [I.11]

As the above quote shows, Cicero considered On Moral Ends to be a work of critical importance.  In a series of stimulating dialogues, Cicero examines three crucial philosophical systems (Epicureanism, Stoicism, and the eclectic Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon) and attempts to arrive at a theory of ethics to govern human life.  In so doing, he eloquently voices his surpassing belief in the power of wisdom, nature, and the human soul.

There has long been a need for an entirely new approach to this rich and complex philosophical classic.  It is a challenging and detailed work, but one that is essential for a nuanced understanding of these three schools of thought.

Until now this essential work has not been as accessible to the modern reader as it should be.  This new, original translation contains special features that present Cicero’s masterwork in an entirely new way:

  • A completely modern, precise translation produced by intensive study of the original Latin text
  • Original photographs (taken by the translator) of the country locations in Italy (Cumae and Tusculum) where the dialogues took place, along with other illustrations
  • Improved formatting of the dialogues for ease of reading
  • Hundreds of footnotes that explain critical names, words, and concepts
  • Topical organization tables and a complete index for fast location of subjects and terms
  • A comprehensive introduction and series of commentaries to assist in appreciation of the text

This is a translation of On Moral Ends for the new millennium, and is ideal for the serious student.  It seeks to make this profound work available to a new generation of readers.  The book contains a number of innovations, including the following:

The Latin Text.  I have literally examined every word of the Latin text in order to provide a clear, lucid, modern English translation that also does justice to Cicero’s stylistic elegance.  Gone is the ponderous, archaic language of older translations.  Readers will discover just how good Cicero is with a modern voice.

The Formatting And Presentation Of The Dialogues.  The book consists of a number of dialogues between opposing speakers.  Unfortunately, some editions of classical texts ineptly format such dialogues, cramming them together in run-on paragraphs side-by-side, so that the reader sometimes has trouble understanding who is talking to whom.  Worse still, some of these books are printed in small font with minimal line spacing, which makes the reading experience much like torture.

In this book, I have arranged the dialogues according to modern dialogue format, with statements and responses arranged below each other–not side by side.  The font and line spacing is designed for maximum ease of reading.  There will be no confusion about who is saying what to whom.

The cover to the upcoming “On Moral Ends,” with cover art wonderfully designed by artist James Seehafer.

Original Illustrations.  There has never been an illustrated translation of On Moral Ends, as far as I can tell.  This is the first.  Yet it is in keeping with the spirit of the book.  In book V, chapter 2, one of the speakers says to another:

The intangible spirit that resides in the former haunts of great men evokes their memories with more clarity and resonance.  You remember how I once went with you to Metapontum, and refused to go to our lodgings until I had made a detour to see the seat that Pythagoras had actually sat on, and where he had finally left this mortal life. [V.2]

The dialogues take place at villas in Tusculum and Cumae (there is also a dialogue in Athens).  I knew that if I could actually walk the ground of these places (which to me is hallowed ground), I would be able to get a feel for mood of the dialogues.  It would add something special to the work.  Actual photographs of these places would give readers an entirely new dimension to the learning experience.

With these goals in mind, I set out for Italy in May 2018 to see the actual places where the dialogues were supposed to have taken place.  I wanted to feel the air, walk the ground, and absorb the atmosphere.

A scene in the Alban Hills on the road to Tusculum

I also believe that having illustrations in this type of serious work helps to relieve and refresh the readers’s mind.  Even the most stimulating philosophy can tax the reader’s endurance, and seeing photographs helps to restore the reader’s attention.  If nothing else, illustrations can be a welcome break from the flow of verbiage.

Besides photographs, a number of old engravings from the golden age of printing have also been added.

Additional Features.  As in previous translations, there is a topical organization chart for easy location of subject matter (a feature that has proven very popular for readers of my translation of On Duties), hundreds of explanatory footnotes, additional commentaries, and a detailed index of terms and names.

This is a translation of On Moral Ends for the new millennium.  It is ideal for the motivated reader, the serious student, or anyone wanting to hear wonderful explanations of Stoicism and Epicureanism.  It seeks to make this profound work available and understandable to a new generation of readers.

More announcements will follow when the publication date approaches.  Additional questions can be addressed to qcurtius@gmail.com.

 

I composed a title page and dedication page in Latin, to pay homage to the golden era of the printer’s art.

 

Dedication page written in homage to the beautiful printed books of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. 

 

10 thoughts on “Coming In December 2018: A New Annotated And Illustrated Translation Of Cicero’s “On Moral Ends”

  1. Aw yeah, Christmas present to myself organised. This book looks exciting.

    Quintus, when you have approached translating the last few works that you have worked on, have you ever come across a part in one of the texts that when you first read it, either in a translated version or the original Latin, that you understood to be one way, but now that you are diligently studying the text in order to best translate it, that you have found to mean something completely different?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. It is rare, but you do occasionally find places where earlier translators have omitted things, mistranslated words or phrases, or garbled a sentence. Every translator brings his own perspective to the table, and that is to be expected, but in some cases actual errors can be found.

      Like

  2. Excellent, I’ve been selfishly thinking about when you would publish another translation. On Duties and Stoic Paradoxes have become particularly dog-eared.

    More so, it’s been a while since I visited the site. Hope life’s been good to you Q.

    Liked by 1 person

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