Accidit permirum mihi in nunnullis operis Ciceronibus legendis numeros capitulorum et intervallorum alteros ab alteris dissentire. Exspectem unum capitulum ex pluribus intervallis consistere, et unumquodque totum et integrum continere. Sed ita non est. Exemplum ut proferam, illam clarissimam primam in Catalinam orationem legens animadverti, ut intervallum – si hoc est aptum verbum; Anglice credo id genus partium «paragraph» vocari; Germanice «Absatz» dicimus – ut intervallum, inquam, sextum in capitulo secundo inchoetur, sed in capitulo tertio finiat. Pari modo intervallum octavum quarto in capitulo finit, etc.

Neque res ad orationes solum pertinet, verum etiam in operis philosophicis invenitur; ut exemplum habeatis, videte librum primum «De Oratore», ubi reperietis capitulum secundum incipere in medio intervallo quarto. Nexus dedi ad «Bibliotheca Latina», idem vero systema divisionum in editionibus vetustioribus invenitur, sicut in hac editione in saeculo XIX vulgata.

Quis, miror, opera divisit in capitula et intervalla, illos numeros creans? M. Tullium ipsum vix id credo fecisse. Videntur vero numeri capitulorum intervallorumque variis auctoribus oriundi esse. Quis eos fecit?

English version:

It seems quite strange to me, reading a number of Cicero's works, that the numbering of chapters and paragraphs is out of sync. I would expect a chapter to consist of several paragraphs and contain each one in whole. That is not the case. For example, I noticed in the famous first oration against Catiline that paragraph six begins in chapter two but ends in chapter three. Likewise paragraph eight ends in chapter four, and so on.

Nor is this phenomenon restricted to the orations – it is also found in Cicero's philosophical writings; to give an example, look at the first book of “De Oratione,” where you will find that the second chapter begins in the middle of paragraph four. I linked “The Latin Library” here, but the identical system of divisions is found in older editions, such as this edition from the 19th century.

Who, I wonder, divided Cicero's works in chapters and paragraphs, creating those numbers? Hardly M. Tullius himself, I believe. In fact, the numbers of chapters and paragraphs appear to originate with different persons. So, who came up with them?

1 Answer 1


First of all, to address the question as to whether Cicero himself divided his works into chapters and paragraphs, Lynn S. Fotheringham says the following:

In the first century BC, although paragraphing and other ways of marking breaks in a text existed, Cicero expresses disapproval for such crutches to literacy (De or. 3.173; Or. 228); and most literary texts were written in scriptio continua, that is without paragraphing, punctuation or even spaces between words, forcing each reader to decide where and for how long to pause. The identification of 'new sections' was open to interpretation.

Furthermore, she adds:

Such reference-numbers were added to the texts of most classical prose authors during the Renaissance.

Although some editors have chosen to divide Cicero's works according to their own standards, a study by John Glucker finds that the traditional division of chapters and paragraphs is to be attributed to Jan Gruter (for chapters) and Alexander Scot (for paragraphs, i.e, not including Cicero's letters). These were mentioned by Johann Caspar Orelli in a 19th century edition containing Cicero's works:

Editio nitida et, ubi bene conservata sunt [sic], a βιβλιφίλοις cupide quaesita Gruteri recensionem sequitur, capitibus, (in quae Gruterus primus divisit Ciceronis opera, ut Scotus in §§.) non notatis.

Glucker writes:

If Schütz' 1814-20 edition was a retrograde step, Orelli's great edition of 1826-38, with which every nineteenth century editor had to reckon, and which has both Gruter's and Scot's divisions, determined the norm once for all.

Janus Gruter published Cicero's works in 1618. Fotheringham notes:

Gruter [...] inserted numbers into the texts of Livy as well as that of Cicero.

Concerning Scot, Glucker writes:

The most popular division of the text of Cicero has thus been revealed to be, not the work of a Stephanus, a Bekker, a Wyttenbach or even a Gruter, but an obscure Scottish exile and lawyer in the south of France, whose name is only once mentioned in Sandys' History of Classical Scholarship, and whose contributions to Classical learning have been — to my knowledge — discussed for the first time in the present article.

Cicero's letters:

There is no indication in Orelli's work concerning the division os Cicero's letters. However, Glucker finds that most editions after Orelli's follow the divisions that he published, so Glucker believes that Orelli himself probably divided Cicero's letters into paragraphs, thus establishing the standard commonly followed today.


Fotheringham, Lynn S. “The Numbers in the Margins and the Structure of Cicero's ‘Pro Murena.’” Greece & Rome, vol. 54, no. 1, 2007, pp. 40–60. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20204178. Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.

Glucker, John, "Chapter and Verse in Cicero", Classics and Classicists: Selected Essays, 1964-2000, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2000, pp 160-169.


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