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I hate quotes out of context, even great lines like "No sane man will dance." -- which was allegedly uttered by Cicero. But every time the quote is used, context is omitted. Was Cicero really talking about dance in general, or was he remarking on one of the events of his day?

Did Cicero really say this? It's looking more like an urban legend.

If he did say this, when/where/why -- what was the context?

Thanks for your time.

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I'm just amazed at the shear number of gay bashing Yahoo Answers questions that contain this quote. It's insane. –  Russell Sep 16 '12 at 8:47
    
Sorry, I am not sure 100% how to leave comments to comments, but Brock said: "Excellent; thank you, Choster. Interestingly, the translation of that phrase seems to ignore the fere, and the forte. So perhaps a more accurate translation would be, No one savagely dances sober, unless he is (very or ¿luckily?) insane. ... ... Bottom line is that the modern use is a misquote of a, possibly slightly off, translation. – Brock Adams Sep 17 '12 at 0:47" <br><br> <b>Fere</b> = almost, and is included in the given translation by "one may almost say".<br> <b>Forte</b> = by chance, and is included with –  Basicpract Jan 16 '13 at 13:51
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Wikiquote renders it

No one dances sober, unless he is insane.

The quotation is

Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit.

from Pro Murena vi.13, 63 BC. Cato has accused L. Murena of dancing, and Cicero replies that Murena is accused of dancing but not of activities that would be precursors to dancing. Cicero says no sane man would dance unless he is drunk, and there are no tales of Murena drinking and carousing, so therefore the accusation is scurrilous in origin.

The Yonge translation of the entire section is as follows:

Cato calls Lucius Murena a dancer. If this be imputed to him truly, it is the reproach of a violent accuser; but if falsely, it is the abuse of a scurrilous railer. Wherefore, as you are a person of such influence, you ought not, O Marcus Cato, to pick up abusive expressions out of the streets, or out of some quarrel of buffoons; you ought not rashly to call a consul of the Roman people a dancer; but to consider with what other vices besides that man must be tainted to whom that can with truth be imputed. For no man, one may almost say, ever dances when sober, unless perhaps he be a madman, nor in solitude, nor in a moderate and sober party; dancing is the last companion of prolonged feasting, of luxurious situation, and of many refinements. You charge me with that which must necessarily be the last of all vices, you say nothing of those things without which this vice absolutely cannot exist: no shameless feasting, no improper love, no carousing, no lust no extravagance is alleged; and when those things which have the name of pleasure, and which are vicious, are not found, do you think that you will find the shadow of luxury in that man in whom you cannot find the luxury itself?

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Excellent; thank you, Choster. Interestingly, the translation of that phrase seems to ignore the fere, and the forte. So perhaps a more accurate translation would be, No one *savagely* dances sober, unless he is *(very or ¿luckily?)* insane. ... ... Bottom line is that the modern use is a misquote of a, possibly slightly off, translation. –  Brock Adams Sep 17 '12 at 0:47
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Thanks for the pointer to Wikiquote. I just double-checked, and Wikiquote does not appear in the first 100 results of the original Google searches I tried. –  Brock Adams Sep 17 '12 at 0:52
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Interesting what low esteem the Romans held dancing. This discussion sounds like it could have come right out of Footloose. –  T.E.D. Sep 17 '12 at 12:20
    
Just curious, why the downvote? –  choster Jan 24 '13 at 23:44
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