Saturday, July 4, 2009

Faux Cicero

"A bureaucrat is the most despicable of men, though he is needed as vultures are needed, but one hardly admires vultures whom bureaucrats so strangely resemble. I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who was not petty, dull, almost witless, crafty or stupid, an oppressor or a thief, a holder of little authority in which he delights, as a boy delights in possessing a vicious dog. Who can trust such creatures?"

We all nod our heads, remembering the last time we encountered some office zombie with ink-stained fingers ...

This pithy quote appeared in a letter to the editor of my local paper recently and I cut it out and was going to file it, as its authorship was attributed to the ancient luminary Marcus Tullius Cicero. (106-43 B.C.)

Alas, credit for the paragraph goes not to the old philosopher but to one Taylor Caldwell, who in 1965 wrote a novel,A Pillar of Iron,based on the life of Cicero, and put those words into his mouth.

Unfortunately, like so many hoaxes that began innocently enough, this faux quote will probably make the rounds forever and a day, incessantly being applied to a man who lived centuries before the Roman bureaucrat was even invented.

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