While searching for a canonical translation to my language of the phrase Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears I was surprised to find reference to it only in the Shakespeare play. As the play is based on historical events, was this a true historical quote or were the words concocted in the 16th century?

My intuition tells me that since the Wikipedia entry for the play does not have the words in Latin, that it is in fact not an historical quote. Is it?

Addendum: Since I'm not sure if this is a historical quote, it is off topic to ask about it here? If so, is there a better SE site to have asked on?

  • 2
    Appian recorded Mark Anthony's funeral oration in his Civil Wars books. No idea how accurate Shakespeare's version is (or even if it's based on Appian's).
    – yannis
    Jul 8 '14 at 12:48
  • @YannisRizos: Thank you, I'm off to research that.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 8 '14 at 13:14
  • I'm having a little bit of a hard time with the question. It is asking if someone who wrote works of fiction, in a iambic pentameter, in Elizabethan English, copied a speech from a long time before, in a completely different language, by people who had no reason to force their words into any rhyming scheme. How could that be possible? It's kind of like saying "Did the Pokemon's use John F Kennedy's inaugural address as the basis of their story"
    – Dan S
    Jul 9 '14 at 0:38
  • One exception to your statement - fine oratory has always been about developing a rhythm with the words that strikes a resonance with the audience. While Mark Antony certainly did not deliver his funeral oration in English iambic pentameter, he almost certainly did deliver it in a poetic fashion. Jul 9 '14 at 3:01
  • Thank you for the insight, Dan, I actually do appreciate your criticism. Considering the the historical event was the basis of the fictional work, and considering the popularity of the quote and it's association with the historical figure, I found it prudent to know if the quote was attributed to the right place.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 9 '14 at 6:29

@YannisRizos answered the question.

It is not known what he said, but the result was that the Roman masses became very angry with Caesar's murderers, burnt down their houses and made them flee from he city. Livius

Appian's transcript of Mark Anthony's funeral oration, suggests that Shakespeare wrote for the stage, not for historical accuracy (although this is a record of what was said, not a transcript).

  • Hey, unique opportunity to upvote myself! Thanks for taking the time to convert my comment to a proper answer.
    – yannis
    Jul 8 '14 at 15:02
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    I dunno, I feel guilty, like I'm a parasite on your rep. I owe you.
    – MCW
    Jul 8 '14 at 15:04
  • @YannisRizos: I had actually waited a bit to see if you would answer. When the question became a popular question I figured that I better select Mark's answer (and he provided a great link). Go ahead and answer and I'll accept it!
    – dotancohen
    Jul 8 '14 at 17:19
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    @MarkC.Wallace Don't worry about it. I was hoping someone would find the time to find some proper sources for my comment, good thing you did. I'm here for the answers, couldn't care less for the rep.
    – yannis
    Jul 8 '14 at 19:40

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