Consolatio (partially found philosophical work by ancient Roman philosopher; 45 B.C.)

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A statue of Cicero, the writer of Consolatio.

Status: Partially Found

Consolatio (Latin for Consolation) was a philosophical work written by Marcus Tullius Cicero around 45 B.C. It was intended to help Cicero with his depression over the death of his daughter, Tulia. It is known to have been inspired by both the Greek philosopher Crantor's De Luctu (meaning On Grief) and a large series of letters he and Servius Sulpicius Rufus exchanged with each other.

Over time, the work began to fade more and more into obscurity, and as of now, only fragments are known to survive.



The story of the creation of Consolatio is the same as that of Cicero's other lost work, Hortensius. Many hardships, the worst one being the death of Cicero's daughter in February,[1] devastated Cicero. He chose to stay at the home of his friend, Titus Pomponious Atticus. During this period, he scoured through all of Atticus' books in his library, looking for ones that discussed grief and how to overcome it.[2] However, he did not find what he was looking for, so he traveled back to his Astura villa, isolating himself in order to create Consolatio, while also creating Hortensius alongside it.[3]


Many historians have deduced that the Consolatio was heavily inspired by Crantor's De Luctu; Pliny the Elder reported Cicero as saying "I follow Crantor in my Consolatio".[4] Jerome, a Christian theologian writing a letter to Heliodorus of Altino to console him about the death of St. Nepotian, also cited the fact that Cicero's piece was largely similar to Crantor's.[5] Some people have even assumed that Cicero's work was possibly duplicated from Crantor's; David Scourfield, however, suggested that Cicero had only agreed with Crantor's opinions and had not copied his work.[4] Paul MacKendrick instead concluded that the overall structure of Consolatio is based on the structure of the consolation letters Servius Sulpicius Rufus sent to Cicero following the death of Tullia.[2] Judging by the small amounts of fragments surviving from the work, Cicero seemed to have written the work as a message to himself.[6]

A large part of the work appears to be Cicero talking about how he wanted Tullia to be deified (also known as apotheosis). He details how he plans for this to happen; for Tullia to be deified, he would need to get the consent of the gods and the approval of the public. Cicero would create a large statue of Tullia in order to win over the Roman people. Additionally, Cicero gives a list of well-known people who were previously deified to justify his idea.[7]


Similarly to the status of Hortensius, only small fragments of Consolatio can be found today. The remaining snippets have been preserved by many different people; Cicero himself included one in another work of his, Tusculan Disputations;[2] seven of them have been preserved by Lactantius, who used them to criticize Paganism and claim that some Pagans can end up practicing some aspects of Christianity without realizing it. Lactantius, while criticizing Cicero's work, also praised it for it (unknowingly) being similar in some parts to the Bible. Lactantius' fragments have gotten negative reception due to there not being much context to them. Paul MacKendrick accused Lactantius of using "partial quotations" to make it more easy for him to criticize Cicero's piece.[2]

False Discovery

Around 1582 or 1583, Carlos Sigonio, an Italian scholar, claimed to have found a complete version of Consolatio. However, when eager scholars actually read the work, they began to accuse Sigonio and his findings of being a fraud. Even with these accusations, Sigonio still defended the legitimacy of his discovery, up until his death. Though, one scholar claimed that Sigonio admitted that what he found was fake when on his deathbed; the truth of this claim has been disputed.[8] A large majority of people have coined this forgery as the Pseudo-Ciceronian Consolatio.[9]

Even with the growing opinion of Sigonio's Consolatio being a fraud, there are still people who believe the work may still have a small amount of legitimacy to it. Robinson Ellis claimed that, even though Sigonio's piece is very likely not the genuine thing, it is not a fraud. He claimed that since St. Ambrose Traversari had claimed to have found the work only a century before Sigonio, Sigonio must have found a Perugian version of the work. Ellis additionally claimed that since Sigonio's work contained all of the fragments that had been discovered in Lactantius' book, the actual original version of Cicero's work had been lost and was replaced by a different version. Ellis then theorized that those who quoted Cicero could have read this different version and that this different version was discovered by an unknowing Sigonio. To conclude his argument, Ellis claimed that, since Sigonio spent most of his career editing Cicero's work, forging Consolatio would be uncharacteristic of him.[8]

David Holmes, Richard Forsyth, and Emily Tse attempted to put the legitimacy of Sigonio's work to the test in 1999. Using linguistics, the three compared two types of writing: Ciceroianism (a type of New Latin made to recreate Cicero's style in the 15th and 16th centuries) and Cicero's own style of writing. If the Pseudo-Ciceronian Consolatio were to contain no examples of Ciceronianism, then it would be regarded as legitimate. Forsyth, Holmes, and Tse gathered the works of Classical Latin writers (like Julius Caesar and Cicero himself) and the works of New Latin writers (like Sigonio and Antonio Riccoboni) and compared them using stylometrics. After their comparison, they claimed that the content of Sigonio's work is "extremely uncharacteristic" of Cicero, and that the probability of it being written during the Renaissance is much higher. To conclude the scholars' study, it was also discovered that the writing style of Sigonio's Consolatio is the most similar to his other works, further pushing the idea that the piece is very much the work of Sigonio.[10]