For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

On Duties

by Cicero (1991)

Key Passage

as for crafts and other means of livelihood, the following is roughly what we have already told as to which should be thought fit for a free man, and which demeaning. First, those means of livelihood that incur the dislike of other men are not approved, for example collecting harbour dues, or usury. Again, all those workers who are paid for their labour and not for their skill have servile and demeaning employment; for in their case the very wage is a contract of servitude. Those who buy from merchants and sell again immediately should also be thought of as demeaning themselves. For they would make no profit unless they told sufficient lies, and nothing more dishonourable then falsehood. All handcraftsmen are engaged in a demeaning trade; for there can be nothing well bred about the workshop. The crafts that are least worthy of approval are those that minister to the pleasures, 'fishmongers, butchers, cooks, poulterers, fishermen', as Terence put it; add to this, if you like, perfumers, dancers, and the whole variety show. (p.57)


Cicero, Ancient Rome, Ancient World, History, Skepticism, Stoicism, Craft, Liberty, Duties, Demeaning Work


Cicero Citations


E. T. Griffin, E. M.



How to contribute.