Advice Is Judged By Results Not By Cicero

The title: advise is judged by results not by Cicero is not a quote by Seneca or Marcus Aurelius or Boethius.

It’s about a misquote.

Do you know the popular quote, “Advice is judged by results, not by intentions” is NOT ONLY wrongly attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero.

The quote itself has been paraphrased.

advice is judged by results not Cicero

Firstly, the actual quote in English translation is:

“Advice – even the advice of distinguished persons,…let alone nobodies like ourselves – is generally judged by results and not by intentions.”

“Nedum hominum humilium, ut nos sumus, sed etiam amplissimorum virorum consilia ex eventu, non ex voluntate a plerisque probari solent.” (Latin)

You can see both the English and Latin version in this book:

(Cicero Letters To Atticus, With An English Translation By E.O. Winstedt, In Three Volumes, II, London: William Heinemann, Letters To Atticus Book IX, VIIa, Balbus And Oppius To M. Cecero, Greeting, Formiae, Mach 10 or 11, B.C. 49, P. 206 & P. 207)

Another English translation of the quote is:

“To say nothing of humble people like ourselves, even in the case of the most important persons designs are generally judged by the majority of mankind by their result, and not their intention.”

(Cicero. The Letters Of Cicero; The Whole Extant Correspondence In Chronological Order, In Four Volumes, Translated By Evelyn S. Shuckburgh, London: George Bell And Sons, 1908-1909, Vol 2, 9.7A, CCCL(A IX, 7a))

As you can see from these two different translations, the quote is from the letter addressed to M. Cicero by two person by the name of Balbus and Oppius in B.C. 49.

The salutation in English found in both books are:

Balbus And Oppius To M. Cicero, Greeting.

L. Cornelius Balbus And Gaius Oppius To Cicero

It was written in Latin as:

Balbvs Et Oppius S. D. M. Ciceroni

Balbus was Lucius Cornelius Balbus. He was Julia Caesar’s agent and advisor, and an intimate friend of Marcus Tullius Cicero.

He helped Cicero in his political and economic difficulties

Oppius was Gaius Oppius. A closed friend of Julia Caesar.

Advice Is Judged By Results Not By Cicero

So the correct quotation should be:

“Advice – even the advice of distinguished persons,…let alone nobodies like ourselves – is generally judged by results and not by intentions.” – Balbus & Oppius

And NOT this quotation:

“Advice is judged by results, not by intentions.” – Cicero

You can find this wrongly attributed parapharsed quote in many quotation websites and published books.

On March 13, B.C. 49, Cicero wrote to Atticus, and enclosed the above mentioned letter that was written by Balbus and Oppius.

The details of the said letter is found here.

I think the key reason why this quote was wrongly attributed to this great orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, is because the book titled “Cicero Letters To Atticus” (Epistulae ad Atticum).

Those who first abstracted this line from this book, did not bother to check or even read it through.

They just assumed all the letters in the book are written by Cicero to Titus Pomponius Atticus.