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Cicero and Why We Read Him: Translators, Translation and the Reception of Antiquity

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posted on 2022-11-10, 23:40 authored by Sabrina Kirby

Why does Cicero continue to be translated? He is one of the most prolific authors of the ancient world, and one of the most widely translated, and yet those translations have received none of the critique they deserve, or need. In this thesis, translation will be studied as a key aspect of the reception of Cicero through a study of both the translations made of his work and the cultural context of the translators themselves. The comparative analysis of translations provides a basis for a better understanding of the reception of classical texts and will demonstrate that translation is far from an objective art or mathematical substitution game. Instead, this thesis demonstrates that translations provide a unique corpus for the study of classical reception and, at the same time, a means to comprehend how contemporary values affect not just translation, but also the reading of a text in translation. This study will develop classical reception theory, and the post-colonial perspective that lives at its heart, through the analysis of three translations of Cicero’s Catilinarians, four of his most famous speeches studied in translation today. These will be authored by: Thomas Gordon (1769); Charles Yonge (1856); and Michael Grant (1969). The last continues to be the most widely used translation for the study of Cicero and the Roman Republic in Australia, both in the Higher Schools Certificate (HSC) in Ancient History, and in the study of the subject by undergraduates at University. The analysis of these three translations locate the language used in the translation of Latin into English as containing and representing and, even, introducing cultural values for its readers. To understand why Cicero remains the voice of Rome, it must be understood how he is speaking, and how he is translated. As the field of Classics changes rapidly, the way we approach every aspect of the ancient world must be seen through new, critical eyes. And that includes our translations.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Biography and Context -- Chapter 3: Translation History -- Chapter 4: Translation Analysis -- Conclusion -- Bibliography


Submitted in Fulfilment of the Master of Research (MRes)

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, 2021

Department, Centre or School

Department of History and Archaeology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ray Laurence


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




61 pages

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