Magistra vitae

Magistra Vitae is a Latin expression, used by Cicero in his De Oratore as a personification of history, means "life's teacher". Often paraphrased as Historia est Magistra Vitae, it conveys the idea that the study of the past should serve as a lesson to the future, and was an important pillar of classical, medieval and Renaissance historiography.

The complete phrase, with English translation, is:

Cicero, De Oratore, II, 36.[1][2]


  • Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1860). On oratory and orators. Translated by Watson, J. S. New York: Harper & Brothers.
  • Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1862). De oratore. Leipzig: B.G. Teubner.


  1. ^ (in Latin) Cicero (1862), p. 110
  2. ^ (in English) Cicero (1860), p. 92