Suggested reading: Cicero’s Six Mistakes of Man

by Mike Fontaine

There’s an amazing list all over the internet, and it’s been around a long time. Called “Cicero’s Six Mistakes of Man,” it’s huge with bodybuilders and business types, it’s in books and videos, and it’s incredible. It’s not authentic – more on that in a minute – but when I came across it in a martial-arts book (!) the other day, my jaw dropped.

My jaw dropped because Cicero doesn’t give a list like this anywhere in his works – that I knew – but it seems authentic. Cicero does say these things, if not in these exact words. 

The six points look like a perfect summation of his practical wisdom.

And it’s not a crazy idea. Ancient philosophers did issue lists like this. The one I know best is the “fourfold remedy” by Epicurus: memorize the four tenets and you’ll never freak out. 

So I bought it – hook, line, and sinker.

Who on earth (I wondered) had put it together? It had to be someone with a deep knowledge of Cicero’s philosophical writings. And I mean really deep – much deeper than the average Classics or Latin professor has. The list looked like the product of many years spent reading and reflecting on his various works. 

No, I decided, it had to be someone “out there.” An independent. A mystery man or woman.

I know such people are out there because I’ve met a few.

I was wrong.

In reality, the list was compiled in 1914 by an American businessman named Bernard Meador. I’ll come back to him below, but first, let me explain here why the list seems so Ciceronian. … (continue at Classical Wisdom)

Published by Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

6 thoughts on “Suggested reading: Cicero’s Six Mistakes of Man

  1. This is yet another example of Cicero’s enduring influence. Ciceronian thought can be found in so many places. The article touches on Tullia’s death and Cicero’s deep grief. Last year I had my own encounter with devastating grief. I turned to the writers of that time for help(thanks Massimo)) and they moulded my response.
    Here is a narrative of my journey through grief –

    I hope it has some relevance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tolerance was typical in ancient Rome.

    Hmm, this is really quite questionable. First it depends very much on which age of Rome you are talking about, Empire or Republic. The spirit was decidedly different in these two eras. And then it depends on the subject area for tolerance. Yes, religions were tolerated but tolerance in other areas was sharply delineated by the sharp edge of the sword. Cicero sorely tested their tolerance and it cost him his head when he was proscribed.


    1. True, but Cicero’s death wasn’t an issue of intolerance, I think. It happened during a violent time marked by turmoil, and was more a reflection of Anthony’s vengefulness than of the Roman ethos in general.


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