Cicero’s Father of History

Cicero has traditionally been credited with being the first to dub Herodotus as the Father of History. Cicero does this in Book 1.5 of his De Legibus (Laws).[1] It was not long ago that the spotlight finally shined upon Cicero’s Laws after a long era of disregard.[2] The Online Library of Liberty reported that Cicero’s Laws gained major influence during medieval times but that’s all they reported and so I’m not sure what the basis for their claim is yet or if that claim is correct.[3]

The Passage

Qvintvs: Intellego te, frater, alias in historia leges obseruandas putare, alias in poemate.

Marcvs: Quippe cum in illa ad ueritatem, Quinte, <quaeque> referantur, in hoc ad delectationem pleraque; quamquam et apud Herodotum patrem historiae et apud Theopompum sunt innumerabiles fabulae.

Atticvs: Teneo quam optabam occasionem neque omittam.

Marcvs: Quam tandem, Tite?

Atticvs: Postulatur a te iam diu uel flagitatur potius historia. Sic enim putant, te illam tractante effici posse, ut in hoc etiam genere Graeciae nihil cedamus. Atque ut audias quid ego ipse sentiam, non solum mihi uideris eorum studiis qui [tuis] litteris delectantur, sed etiam patriae debere hoc munus, ut ea quae salua per te est, per te eundem sit ornata. Abest enim historia litteris nostris, ut et ipse intellego et ex te persaepe audio. Potes autem tu profecto satis facere in ea, quippe cum sit opus, ut tibi quidem uideri solet, unum hoc oratorium maxime.

Laws MSS

The Laws MSS are all incredibly obscure. They have been analyzed for their textual content somewhat extensively in recent years but I’m not aware of any attempt to establish their provenance. Important names to note are Peter Lebrecht Schmidt, Jonathan G. F. Powell, and Tobias Reinhardt.

I emailed Professor Tobias Reinhardt on 6 Dec. 2020 to ask if he knew about any studies into the provenance of these MSS. He responded back with lightning speed (I think it was less than a minute after I hit send on my email to him) and referred me to the fundamental work by Schmidt, namely Die Uberlieferung von Ciceros Schrift De Legibus in Mittelalter und Renaissance (Munich, 1974). Although I was hopeful there would be a different work, I’m not any less thankful for his help with my studies.

The title for Schmidt’s 1974 publication can be roughly translated to, “The Tradition of Cicero’s De Legibus in the Middle Ages and Renaissance”. I’m not currently aware of any English translations for this book.

I think potentially HathiTrust Digital Library has Schmidt’s 1974 publication available online but I have not been able to access it yet. I think it’s only accessible through student log ins from some of the following colleges. I also have not found it available anywhere else. The closest library that has it (according to WorldCat[14]) is the Theodore M. Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame. Unfortunately only “current members of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross College communities” are permitted to enter the library.[15] The University of Michigan Library has a copy and I think they might allow me to access it.[16] Northwestern University has a copy.[17] Loyola University Chicago’s Cudahy Library has a copy.[18] The University of Chicago Library has a copy.[19]

There is a single archetype for the surviving medieval codices. It has been dated to the 9th century. Schmidt called it “x” and Powell called it “ω”.[7, p.40]

Two more MSS are “Voss. F.84 (A) and 86 (B)” and both have been dated to the 9th century. Three more MSS are “E (Leid. Periz. F 25), R (Rouen, Bibl. Mun. 1041), and S (Paris, BN Lat. 15084) and all of these date to the 15th century. One more from the 9th century is “F (= Laur. Marc. 257…)”.[7, p.41]

Possibly M contains it? (M = Monacensis Univ. 528.4). What is P? Poggio discovered F and created Vat. Lat. 3245.[7, p.42]

ω, B, y, a, ε, w, t, A, E, R, S, H, L, F, p, M, +F2, P
^mainly established by Peter Lebrecht Schmidt’s Die Uberlieferung von Ciceros Schrift ‘De Legibus’ in Mittelalter und Renaissance (Munich, 1974).[7, p.43]

Vahlen 1871. A, B, H.

J. G. F. Powell. 2005 – “Aspects of the Language of Latin Prose”.[9, p.117]

F (Laur. S. Marco 257). Library of S. Marco at Florence.[11]

MS. Auct. F. 1. 12 at the Bodleian library. It has been dated to 1459.[4] I currently don’t know if this MS is listed above by a sigil.


“The manuscripts ABH are housed in the Rijksuniversiteit at Leiden; the works contained in them are familiarly known as the Leiden corpus.”[11] I think this is Leiden University, founded in 1575.[12]

Two more MSS are “Voss. F.84 (A) and 86 (B)” and both have been dated to the 9th century.[7, p.41]

“…two ninth-century manuscripts belonging to Leiden University Library (Codd. Voss. Lat. F84 and F86, dubbed A and B).”[8, p.320]

Cicero: Operum philosophicorum. Codex Leidensis Vossianus Lat. fol. 84, ed. O. Plasberg (1915)”
Leiden, BRU, MS. Voss. lat. F. 84. Caroline. France, 10th century. 124 folios. CF.”[10, pp.33-34]

H. (Leiden BPL 118).[11] I think I found this MS digitized online. It has been dated to the 11th century, specifically “1058-1087”. No provenance information was provided.[13]

Laws Printed Editions

I think it was first published in 1471.[7, p.34] “Rome: Sweynheym and Pannartz”[7, p.42]

There is an 1496 edition dated to 1496 by its imprint. The imprint says “Venice : Simon Bevilaqua [and Petrus de Quarengiis, Bergomensis], 18 Sept. 1496”.[5] This edition does appear to contain the Father of History bit.[6]

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[1] – Cicero’s De Legibus (Laws). Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[2] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[3] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[4] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[5] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[6] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[7] – Andrew Roy Dyck. “A Commentary on Cicero, De Legibus” (2004). Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[8] – Reinhardt, T. “A Note on the Text of Cicero’s ‘Topica’ in Cod. Voss. Lat. f86.” Mnemosyne, vol. 55, no. 3, 2002, pp. 320–328. JSTOR, Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[9] – Tobias Reinhardt, et al. “Aspects of the Language of Latin Prose” (2005). Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[10] – Leonard E. Boyle. “Medieval Latin Palaeography: A Bibliographical Introduction” (1984). Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[11] – P. G. Walsh. “The Nature of the Gods” (2008). Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[12] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[13] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[14] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[15] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[16] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[17] –,contains,966990&sortby=rank. Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[18] –,contains,00966990. Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

[19] – Accessed 6 Dec. 2020.

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