After finishing the work, I was left with a number of questions I wanted to ask Quintus directly, mostly going beyond the scope of the text. This lead to Masculine Books’ first ever Author Interview, which is hopefully the first of many.
Your last two translations have been of Cicero’s work (The other being Stoic Paradoxes). What has particularly attracted you to his writings, especially for translations?
I wanted to find classical works that were useful and applicable to the modern era, and something that at the same time was eloquent and entertaining. I have a fondness for the Latin language and I had always admired Cicero. For me it seemed a natural progression to take a closer look at his works. Stoic Paradoxes had never been translated as an independent book. I wanted to be the first to do this, and I also thought it would be good to include the “Dream of Scipio” in the same book as a good balance.
On Duties was a special project for me. I’ve long felt that there is a dire need for ethical and moral guidance in today’s society. It’s just not taught in the schools or the homes any more. Someone has to do it, and maybe Fate chose me to play some small role in that.
The book was also in dire need of updating. I’ve discussed the detailed reasons in the foreword and introduction to the book itself. In the end, I think I’ve produced something that is going to stand the test of time.
Cicero was a critic of Caesar and viewed him as a demagogue, warning the Romans about trusting him. Today, it seems demagoguery has taken a foothold in the American political system as well.
What do you think Cicero’s observations and thoughts on the 2016 election would be?
There are definitely some parallels between now and the period of Roman history where the republic became the empire. Not exactly the same, but in outline. I think Cicero was too critical of Caesar, and said so in my essays in On Duties. But there are compelling arguments that can be made for the other side, too.
Democracy in America has been under severe attack by the excessive concentrations of wealth in the hands of a few, and the resulting control of the political process in a few hands. We need a reformer with the stature of a Caesar or Napoleon to implement the needed reforms. Time will tell if this ever happens.
On Duties contains a great deal of wisdom. How can men get the most out of this book and really implement the advice Cicero has to offer?
The book needs to be read and referred to multiple times. You won’t get it all the first time, or even half of it. That’s why organization of the material for convenience was so important to me. In the Kindle edition, you can easily navigate around. Same for the paperback edition. You can use the index to find whatever you need.
People should read it in small bites, and then think about what they read, or discuss it with someone else.
Tell us a little about your timeframe for translating and compiling this work.
It took me about a year and a half of daily effort. I work a full time job as an attorney, so I had to do my work at night, while keeping up with all my other responsibilities. But for me it was a pleasure and a joy, even though very brutal work. Translating can be very tedious and often frustrating. But I learned to be patient and just go with it.
Editing and revising is absolutely critical, also. You have to go back and re-tool certain sections so that they sound right. That’s true of all writing, but with translating even more so. You are basically creating a new work, and it needs to be able to stand on its own.
Seeing as this was a daunting challenge, what inspired you to take on this task?
Why does a painter paint? Why does a musician play? Why do lovers swoon over each other?
It’s an impulse born of instinct and love. That’s the best I can describe it.
I truly felt that I was helping others. I truly felt that it needed to be done. It is absolutely essential that our civilizational heritage be passed down to the generations after us. I felt it was a responsibility that needed a dedicated effort.
This quote really stood out to me:
For what, by God, is more worth learning than wisdom? What is most outstanding, or better for a man, or more worthy?… And if someone should criticize the study of philosophy as something pointless, I would like to know what he believes to be worth praising.”
Yes, I like that quote too. So many people today have this “instant gratification” mentality. They think that if something’s value can’t be seen in 2 seconds, then it’s “not worth” learning. But the best things in life are not always strictly utilitarian. You won’t truly appreciate the value of philosophy for years. You have to live life. You have to experience, joy, pain, victory, defeat, and turmoil.
That’s why it’s important for me to plant the seeds of philosophy when they’re young. They may not immediately appreciate it, but they will remember it. And years later, they will go back to it. It just takes time. I was the same way, believe me.
I think this brings up an interesting dilemma in today’s society. Many people view ‘Philosophy’ along with the other liberal arts as useless majors, and don’t want to spend money studying the subject. Yet we all accept that the pursuit of wisdom is so essential for a healthy society.
How can we reconcile this and get young people to study philosophy, but also pursue lucrative career paths?
As I said, they need to broaden their perspective. Of course people should learn a practical trade. I firmly believe that, and always have. But that doesn’t mean that they should forget the value and the joys that philosophy provides. Plato called it a “dear delight” and I think that phrase holds true today.
It’s a lot like law, in fact. Studying it teaches you how to discipline your thoughts, organize your arguments, and see things from different perspectives. It has many branches: logic, ethics, epistemology, and politics, to name a few.
Do you have any future plans for more translation? Or books in general?
Absolutely. I am never idle. I’ve got a couple projects that I’m working on now…and when the time is right, I’ll provide more details.
A big thank you goes out to Quintus. He’s a prolific writer, always putting out new content, and I sincerely appreciate him for graciously taking the time to answer these questions.
Further Reading and Resources
Below is some content from Quintus that will give you more insight into the book. Additionally, attached are my 3 previous reviews of Quintus’ works.
- Conduct, Obligations, And Decision-Making: Details Of My New Book “On Duties” (Podcast) via QCurtius.com
- The Details on My Upcoming Book “On Duties” via QCurtius.com
- Pantheon by Quintus Curtius (Review)
- Pathways by Quintus Curtius (Review)
- Stoic Paradoxes by Cicero (Translation from Quintus Curtius) (Review)