DUNNETT: WHAT LYMOND READ: De Officiis (On Duties or On Obligations) a treatise by Marcus Tullius Cicero

NigheanDubh
Clan Fraser
NigheanDubh
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Joined: September 17th, 2009, 3:16 am

May 6th, 2018, 6:58 pm #1

Another book found on Francis Crawford's books shelf at Midculter is Cicero's De Officiis.  It was written in 44 AD when Cicero himself was 62 years of age, and the last year of his life, as he would be assassinated shortly after Ceasar's own death.  

The treatise is composed of three books.  As our previous and ongoing read, Seneca's Letters from a Stoic, this too is written in the form of a letter.  The treatise is written to his son.  

The work's legacy is profound. Although not a Christian work, St. Ambrose in 390 declared it legitimate for the Church to use (along with everything else Cicero, and the equally popular Roman philosopher Seneca, had written). It became a moral authority during the Middle Ages. Of the Church Fathers, St. Augustine, St. Jerome and even more so St. Thomas Aquinas, are known to have been familiar with it.[9] Illustrating its importance, some 700 handwritten copies remain extant in libraries around the world dating back to before the invention of the printing press.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Officiis
Throughout the series we have taken note of Lymond's discussion or observation of these men of the Church.  
It is also interesting to read that Cicero had been influenced by the stoics, and so, it becomes evident as to why Lymond has this philosophic view of the world he inhabits.  

Our discussion will open on Wednesday, June 6th, 2018.  All are welcome.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
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Joined: February 4th, 2016, 7:09 am

May 13th, 2018, 2:45 am #2

My PG Walsh translation for the Oxford University Press is on the way.  It's described as 'lively' - I have high hopes.  I scoured all the university and second hand bookstores and came up with two copies in the original Latin, which was no use to me whatsover!   It took me a tad longer as I kept searching for De Officiis which I didn't realise was the same as either On Duties or On Obligations, which confused me even more.  There are times when I think my education has left me woefully underprepared for the world in which I prefer to live!
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NigheanDubh
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May 14th, 2018, 2:31 am #3

"There are times when I think my education has left me woefully underprepared for the world in which I prefer to live!" 
I'm very happy that we are reading these classics and I look forward to your insights, kiwijo.  

I just got a kindle version with a foreword by a Wes Callihan.  It had five stars on Amazon--so I went with that.  
.  
I've been so busy with end of term activities that I have fallen behind in my reading.  This evening I worked on a test that I wanted to revise, tweak--I was in that mood, even though the exam will be given in June.  I ended up getting a weird message trying to save it.  Sometimes I hate my mac --I lost about two hours of work.  Well, I do have time yet, and I know where I want to go with it.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
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Joined: February 4th, 2016, 7:09 am

May 14th, 2018, 7:08 am #4

Bad cyber-monsters .. they're feeding at your desk tonight.
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DLT
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May 14th, 2018, 11:28 am #5

NigheanDubh, there are times when I worry about losing a document, so I email the draft to myself at regular intervals
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NigheanDubh
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May 14th, 2018, 10:29 pm #6

Kiwijo, you said it.  They were after the documents.  LOL.  😅

Thanks, Dorothy.  I was having trouble saving it.  I was using old material from a New York State Regents' exam, and it was not compatible with the mac for some reason.  So I copied and pasted to google docs but this generated the font monster and I just didn't trust downloading it.  My husband had gone to bed so he couldn't help--he's stronger than I at computer stuff.   The images (they are cartoon like black and whites for the students to write stories about)  They had disappeared too when I pasted to google docs.  I will figure it out.  Maybe I'll work on it tonight.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
Quote

NigheanDubh
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June 12th, 2018, 1:19 am #7

Please feel free to begin the discussion, folks.  I'm tying up the end of school term and am terribly swamped at the moment and a work like Cicero's deserves more attention than I can give at the time.  I shall return.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
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NigheanDubh
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June 14th, 2018, 1:17 am #8

I am back after having read my notes on some of Cicero's letters.  I had commented on #20 "Courageous Soul"

This particular letter speaks to 1.  moral rectitude as the only good; and 2,  being free from passion.

"We must keep ourselves free from every disturbing emotion, not only from desire and fear, but also from excessive pain and pleasure." Cicero is advocating that a man not dwell on bad memories.  Lymond tosses the letter from Philippa away and does not finish reading it.  He has escaped to Russia to be free of his bad memories.  

By the same token, Lymond is hesisant to bed Guzel and only becomes a willing partner when he feels that he is acting for the better good by protecting Venceslas.

Certainly, one can argue that Lymond maintains a form of moral rectitude by preventing the young Venceslas from being corrupted.  His means may not always be the best, but the end, in this case protecting another, achieves a greater good.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
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Joined: January 31st, 2017, 5:26 am

June 16th, 2018, 10:58 pm #9

This Is my first go at Cicero and am in Book 1.  It is heavy going at times, so I read a few pages and then go back to pull out the main issues!  Not quite ready to start a discussion but appreciate your perspective above re Guzel and Venscelas.  Along those lines, it struck me that Lymond had great concern for Phillipa's reputation and honor as part of his sense of right and wrong/moral rectitude.  Back to Book 1!
Deirdre

"And deep within him, missing its accustomed tread,his heart paused, and gave one single stroke...
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Joined: February 4th, 2016, 7:09 am

June 17th, 2018, 3:56 am #10

I'm finding Cicero a little less user-friendly than Seneca, but it's been interesting to read these so close together as I'm getting a much better understanding of the various philosphical theories.  My PG Walsh translation is making it reasonably easy to read and bless him, there's a little summary of the text at the start so the main conclusions are summarised which I'm finding hugely useful.  Having said that, I've only completed Book One, so have a ways to go.

Contains Spoilers
My first note was Book 1, Para 20 which leapt out at me.  'But as so Plato so nobly put it, we are not born for ourselves alone, for our country claims a share in our origin, and our friends likewise'.  We're going to encounter that sentence almost word for word in Checkmate, spoken by Sybilla. 

My second note was at Book 1, Para 23: "So far as injustice goes, there are two kinds: the injustice of those who inflict it, and that done by those who do not protect victims for injury when they have the power to do so."  It's directly relevant to NigheanDubh's example above for Venceslas which I completely agree with, and it reminded me a lot of DK, when the women and children are returned to Gozo.  I think Lymond eventually quotes that action an indication of GRM's true nature, and it seems to be a key Stoic philosophy.  If we'd read our Cicero before DK, we might have got another tip with "People who bestow favours which harm the individuals whom they are apparently eager to help are to be assessed as ruinous flatterers rather than men of kindness and generosity." Alcohol to Adam, gifts to the St Mary's men by GRM, even gifting Joleta to Lymond - Cicero might have been quite handy to our hero!  

At Book 1, Para 30, Cicero writes; 'we judge other people's problems differently from our own.' This made me think of Danny, referenced from the first as the 'Bishop's bastard' and a key member of St Mary's while Lymond struggles with his parentage.  I know that most of this sits around his faith in Sybilla, but the 'hunchback in the gutter' line could be an example of óther people's problems being treated differently.     

I'll try and remember to come back to Book 1, Para 31 when we finish Checkmate in the context of the importance of keeping a vow or as I interpret it, some obligations can legitimately be renounced.  Cicero says Ít can happen that some promise or agreement turns out to be prejudicial to the recipient of the promise, or to the person who offered it."  Sybilla keeps her vow at considerable cost to herself and others, while Lymond vows to save his child in St Giles and doesn't keep it.  I know it's a hot topic amongst LC readers!

I'm sure Cicero's position that nation is more important than parents, children and friends has been debated for centuries.  "Our parents are dear to us, and so are our children and relatives and friends, but our native land alone subsumes all the affections we entertain.  What good man would hesitate to face death on her behalf if it would be of service to her?"  I'm trying to figure out what Lymond's thinking is on this. 
When he faces Lauder at the end of GOK Pt 4.2, Lymond says:  "Patriotism is a fine hothouse for maggots.  It breeds intolerance; it forces a spindle-legged, spurious riot of colour ..EDIT .. But the man living one inch beyond the boundary is an inveterate foe. ..EDIT.. Patriotism; A celestial competition for the best breed of man: a vehicle for shedding boredom and exercising surplus power or surplus talents or surplus money; an immature and bigoted intolerance which homes the coin of barter in the markets of power."
Yet we eventually learn that Lymond has been furthering Scotland's interest, certainly ahead of his own.  It also feels relevant to Lymond's recent state in Russia.  Of course, this rating of priority - country, family, children, friends - might not be Stoic thinking, but rather Cicero's own view given that some of this book is highly critical of Caeser. 

Anyway, I've found much to ponder so far. 
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NigheanDubh
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June 17th, 2018, 10:40 pm #11

Thank you for the responses, ladies.

And kiwijo, wow!  Great post.  You've given us quite a bit to ponder.  Great examples offered.  

What good man would hesitate to face death on her behalf if it would be of service to her?"  I'm trying to figure out what Lymond's thinking is on this. 
Hmmm.  Really good question.  

I'll take a shot:
Cicero also says that one should not go to war unless it prevents further harm and creates peace:  The only reason for war:  "that we may live in peace unharmed." (Duty #3, Book 1, I believe)  Consequently, I should think that dying for one's country would be done to serve in creating peace.  For Lymond, and for many of our fallen (may they rest in peace), dying would be service to those children, parents remaining.  To die for his country is to die for them.  We don't die for the boundaries of a designated country but for for our common identity, our history, which would include our loved ones. Anyway, that's what I get out of that line.  Perhaps Lymond feels the same, except that often he extends it to people beyond his country.  Lymond is a citizen of the known world, imo.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
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Joined: January 31st, 2017, 5:26 am

July 11th, 2018, 9:07 pm #12

So, I haven't posted much on Cicero but have been plugging away. I also have the P.G. Walsh translation and notes, which are helpful.  However, I have found it difficult to just read without understanding much of the context of the political times.  As a result, I find I am spending more time just learning about Roman politics (and we think it is bad today) and the various personages that Cicero references.  That has been quite interesting--some of which I knew but had forgotten and much that was glossed over at best in history courses.  I haven't made much progress on the reading, but I am benefiting greatly from this endeavor!
Deirdre

"And deep within him, missing its accustomed tread,his heart paused, and gave one single stroke...
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NigheanDubh
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July 13th, 2018, 1:18 am #13

D2MAC wrote: So, I haven't posted much on Cicero but have been plugging away. I also have the P.G. Walsh translation and notes, which are helpful.  However, I have found it difficult to just read without understanding much of the context of the political times.  As a result, I find I am spending more time just learning about Roman politics (and we think it is bad today) and the various personages that Cicero references.  That has been quite interesting--some of which I knew but had forgotten and much that was glossed over at best in history courses.  I haven't made much progress on the reading, but I am benefiting greatly from this endeavor!
So glad that you are finding this read (edited this sentence) led you to other material on the topic. 
I must admit that I found Seneca much more relevant.  Seneca's Letters from a Stoic is  a book that I will re-read because it truly connects to Dorothy's character.  

Spoiler:  Reference to character in Pawn in Frankincense:

However, I should continue where I left off with Cicero if only to learn more about the Roman politics.  I think power hungry people have always been the same--same behaviors (minus computer technology.)  They have had the same passions and avaricious tendencies throughout history. What we see today is a sense of legalities and better order.  The Graham Maletts are still around, only more covert about what they do.  Then, there was less importance given to human life.  The checks and balances are certainly helpful in preventing that today.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
Quote

Joined: February 4th, 2016, 7:09 am

August 11th, 2018, 1:50 am #14

I fell out of 'On Obligations' due to a great European holiday, but I finally finished Section III this morning and like Seneca, found I had quite enjoyed it.  Like you NigheanDubh with Seneca, I can see myself picking this and St Augustine up again.  I found - or imagined - plenty of Dunnett connections, but one of the strongest for me is the following:

Spoilers for DK

Book 1, (marked at 117 in my Oxford World Classics edition)
"But what above all we must establish who and what kind of person we wish to be, and what pattern of life we wish to adopt.  This is the most difficult decision of all to reach, for it is when we are on the threshold of manhood, at a time when our powers of judgement are at their weakest, that we each opt for the kind of lifestyle which appeals to us most."
Cicero continues with some observations on nature, fortune and nurture - so very Dunnett, so very LC.  One class of people is particularly rare - those endowed with exceptional brain-power, or with outstanding learning and scholarship, or with both, and who in addition have had space to ponder the course in life which they would particularly love to follow.   And it took me back to The Disorderly Knights, Pt 2 Ch IX The Invalid Cross.  Lymond has failed to free Oonagh, has been mandhandled and deposited in Dragut's tent for their oblique exchange about Sigad id Din.
For him (Lymond), the worst battle of Tripoli was fought then, alone on that last morning, when the decision that was to change the course of his life had to be taken, in fatigure and distress and with the echo of his own voice, then and always, bright and cold in his mind. 'Dear me .. dear me .. dear me .. And who is going to tell the Governor of Gozo?'
Spoiler for Checkmate
While I remember I'll post on Book III, Sections 96-115 dealing with the taking and breaking of oaths, because it's going to become very relevant in our Checkmate read. Cicero outlines in some detail in what circumstances the obligation is to keep or break an oath, which made me ponder Lymond's oath in St Giles which he (disputed, I know) breaks, and the oath made by Sybilla, which she keeps at enormous cost to herself and to Lymond.  I hope I remember to come back to this in about a year's time!
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NigheanDubh
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August 11th, 2018, 5:04 pm #15

Great post, Kiwijo.  You make some great connections with the oaths and whether they should be broken.  

I'll have to review the sections you speak of.  


Spoilers for Checkmate: 
kiwijo:  While I remember I'll post on Book III, Sections 96-115 dealing with the taking and breaking of oaths, because it's going to become very relevant in our Checkmate read. Cicero outlines in some detail in what circumstances the obligation is to keep or break an oath, which made me ponder Lymond's oath in St Giles which he (disputed, I know) breaks, and the oath made by Sybilla, which she keeps at enormous cost to herself and to Lymond.  I hope I remember to come back to this in about a year's time!
This would indeed be interesting and I hope you will bring this/Cicero to the discussion when the time comes.  There are few of us who come in and out of this thread to at least read new posts, so I trust we will remind you.  I sense that when you get there, you'll remember, though.  
Sybilla's oath may have been fine at the time, as was Lymond's in TDK.  But circumstances change, different situations present themselves.  People have to think about how they word their oaths, so that it includes the present circumstances.  One can only go by circumstances at the time, but greater needs may present themselves and one needs to re-evaluate.  
Lymond may have made a different oath if he had received all the information about there being two children.  But he had no clue of the other babe.  I don't hold Lymond to that oath and he had to most painfully break it for the greater good.  Sybilla could have done differently, based on the torment of her son.  In the end she too had to tell Lymond after seeing what it had led to.  (My memory is quite foggy on CM so I write my thoughts on Sybilla from memory not having re-read it yet.)

Off to read what Cicero wrote.  I can't recall if I'd gotten that far.  I'm guilty of reading other OBC related material over this summer.  
Thanks for keeping up with this thread Kiwijo.  

Edited to Add:  I searched Cicero on oaths and found an interesting website: https://lonang.com/library/reference/gr ... e/gro-213/
I found something St. Ambrose said in that website, which I thought might be helpful. 
Ambrose says: ‘It is in fact sometimes contrary to duty to fulfill a promise, to keep an oath.’ Says Augustine: ‘If good faith is shown in committing a sin, marvelous it is that it is called good faith.’ In his second letter To Amphilochius, Basil has the same teaching.

VII.     That an oath is not binding which hinders a greater moral good.
I'm glad to see that a greater good has to take precedence.  I don't know how else Lymond could have decided that would have prevented more deaths at the hands of Gabriel, not to mention that horrid Roxelana.  

I'll be back...
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
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