Cicero on Scipio Africanus and Lonesomeness

“Publius Cornelius Scipio, the first of that family to be called Africanus, used to remark that he was never less idle than when he had nothing to do, and never less lonely than when he was by himself. We have this on the authority of Marcus Porcius Cato the Censor, who was almost his contemporary. It is a fine sentiment, as you would expect from so great and wise a man.”

Cicero, “On Duties”

In his treatise, “On Duties,” Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero bestows upon his readers this sentiment from the renowned general Scipio Africanus. Scipio believes that one ought never to feel lonesome or unproductive for, while one’s external world might be free of any responsibility or interlocutor, our conscience awaits conversation and wills that we better ourselves through reflection.

Henry David Thoreau shares a poem most evocative of this idea in Walden; or Life in the Woods. While I leave from this excerpt with a newfound dedication to aggressively rout boredom from my life, I feel touched by the miracle of connection in literature. Scipio’s simple sentiment survives Thoreau and, hopefully, this post.

The Battle of Zama which marked the defeat of Hannibal and Carthage…and for which Scipio is most famous for

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