THE NATURE OF THE GODS.
M. Tullius Cicero
I. WHEN Cotta had thus concluded, Velleius replied: I certainly was inconsiderate to engage in argument with an Academician who is likewise a rhetorician. I should not have feared an Academician without eloquence, nor a rhetorician without that philosophy, however eloquent he might be; for I am never puzzled by an empty flow of words, nor by the most subtle reasonings delivered without any grace of oratory. But you, Cotta, have excelled in both. You only wanted the assembly and the judges. However, enough of this at present. Now, let us hear what Lucilius has to say, if it is agreeable to him.
I had much rather, says Balbus, hear Cotta resume his discourse, and demonstrate the true Gods with the same eloquence which he made use of to explode the false; for, on such a subject, the loose, unsettled doctrine of the Academy does not become a philosopher, a priest, a Cotta, whose opinions should be, like those we hold, firm and certain. Epicurus has been more than sufficiently refuted; but I would willingly hear your own sentiments, Cotta.
Do you forget, replies Cotta, what I at first said - that it is easier for me, especially on this point, to explain what opinions those are which I do not hold, rather than what those are which I do? Nay, even if I did feel some certainty on any particular point, yet, after having been so diffuse myself already, I would prefer now hearing you speak in your turn. I submit, says Balbus, and will be as brief as I possibly can; for as you have confuted the errors of Epicurus, my part in the dispute will be the shorter. Our sect divide the whole question concerning the immortal Gods into four parts. First, they prove that there are Gods; secondly, of what character and nature they are; thirdly, that the universe is governed by them; and, lastly, that they exercise a superintendence over human affairs. But in this present discussion let us confine ourselves to the first two articles, and defer the third and fourth till another opportunity, as they require more time to discuss. By no means, says Cotta, for we have time enough on our hands; besides that, we are now discussing a subject which should be preferred even to serious business.
II. The first point, then, says Lucilius, I think needs no discourse to prove it; for what can be so plain and evident, when we behold the heavens and contemplate the celestial bodies, as the existence of some supreme, divine intelligence, by which all these things are governed? Were it otherwise, Ennius would not, with a universal approbation, have said,
Look up to the refulgent heaven above,
This is Jupiter, the governor of the world, who rules all things with his nod, and is, as the same Ennius adds,
- of Gods and men the sire,
an omnipresent and omnipotent God. And if any one doubts this, I really do not understand why the same man may not also doubt whether there is a sun or not. For what can possibly be more evident than this? And if it were not a truth universally impressed on the minds of men, the belief in it would never have been so firm; nor would it have been, as it is, increased by length of years, nor would it have gathered strength and stability through every age. And, in truth, we see that other opinions, being false and groundless, have already fallen into oblivion by lapse of time. Who now believes in Hippocentaurs and Chimaeras? Or what old woman is now to be found so weak and ignorant as to stand in fear of those infernal monsters which once so terrified mankind? For time destroys the fictions of error and opinion, while it confirms the determinations of nature and of truth. And therefore it is that, both among us and among other nations, sacred institutions and the divine worship of the Gods have been strengthened and improved from time to time. And this is not to be imputed to chance or folly, but to the frequent appearance of the Gods themselves. In the war with the Latins, when A. Posthumius, the dictator, attacked Octavius Mamilius, the Tusculan, at Regillus, Castor and Pollux were seen fighting in our army on horseback; and since that the same offspring of Tyndarus gave notice of the defeat of Perses; for as P. Vatienus, the grandfather of the present young man of that name, was coming in the night to Rome from his government of Reate, two young men on white horses appeared to him, and told him that King Perses was that day taken prisoner. This news he carried to the senate, who immediately threw him into prison for speaking inconsiderately on a state affair; but when it was confirmed by letters from Paullus, he was recompensed by the senate with land and immunities. Nor do we forget when the Locrians defeated the people of Crotone, in a great battle on the banks of the river Sagra, that it was known the same day at the Olympic Games. The voices of the Fauns have been often heard, and Deities have appeared in forms so visible that they have compelled every one who is not senseless, or hardened in impiety, to confess the presence of the Gods.
III. What do predictions and foreknowledge of future events indicate, but that such future events are shown, pointed out, portended, and foretold to men? From whence they are called omens, signs, portents, prodigies. But though we should esteem fabulous what is said of Mopsus, Tiresias, Amphiaraus, Calchas, and Helenus (who would not have been delivered down to us as augurs even in fable if their art had been despised), may we not be sufficiently apprised of the power of the Gods by domestic examples? Will not the temerity of P. Claudius, in the first Punic war, affect us? who, when the poultry were let out of the coop and would not feed, ordered them to be thrown into the water, and, joking even upon the Gods, said, with a sneer, “Let them drink, since they will not eat;” which piece of ridicule, being followed by a victory over his fleet, cost him many tears, and brought great calamity on the Roman people. Did not his colleague Junius, in the same war, lose his fleet in a tempest by disregarding the auspices? Claudius, therefore, was condemned by the people, and Junius killed himself. Coelius says that P. Flaminius, from his neglect of religion, fell at Thrasimenus; a loss which the public severely felt. By these instances of calamity we may be assured that Rome owes her grandeur and success to the conduct of those who were tenacious of their religious duties; and if we compare ourselves to our neighbors, we shall find that we are infinitely distinguished above foreign nations by our zeal for religious ceremonies, though in other things we may be only equal to them, and in other respects even inferior to them.
Ought we to contemn Attius Navius’s staff, with which he divided the regions of the vine to find his sow? I should despise it, if I were not aware that King Hostilius had carried on most important wars in deference to his auguries; but by the negligence of our nobility the discipline of the augury is now omitted, the truth of the auspices despised, and only a mere form observed; so that the most important affairs of the commonwealth, even the wars, on which the public safety depends, are conducted without any auspices; the Peremnia are discussed; no part of the Acumina performed; no select men are called to witness to the military testaments; our generals now begin their wars as soon as they have arranged the Auspicia. The force of religion was so great among our ancestors that some of their commanders have, with their faces veiled, and with the solemn, formal expressions of religion, sacrificed themselves to the immortal Gods to save their country. I could mention many of the Sibylline prophecies, and many answers of the haruspices, to confirm those things, which ought not to be doubted.
IV. For example: our augurs and the Etrurian haruspices saw the truth of their art established when P. Scipio and C. Figulus were consuls; for as Tiberius Gracchus, who was a second time consul, wished to proceed to a fresh election, the first Rogator, as he was collecting the suffrages, fell down dead on the spot. Gracchus nevertheless went on with the assembly, but perceiving that this accident had a religious influence on the people, he brought the affair before the senate. The senate thought fit to refer it to those who usually took cognizance of such things. The haruspices were called, and declared that the man who had acted as Rogator of the assembly had no right to do so; to which, as I have heard my father say, he replied with great warmth, Have I no right, who am consul, and augur, and favored by the Auspicia? And shall you, who are Tuscans and Barbarians, pretend that you have authority over the Roman Auspicia, and a right to give judgment in matters respecting the formality of our assemblies? Therefore, he then commanded them to withdraw; but not long afterward he wrote from his province to the college of augurs, acknowledging that in reading the books he remembered that he had illegally chosen a place for his tent in the gardens of Scipio, and had afterward entered the Pomoerium, in order to hold a senate, but that in repassing the same Pomoerium he had forgotten to take the auspices; and that, therefore, the consuls had been created informally. The augurs laid the case before the senate. The senate decreed that they should resign their charge, and so they accordingly abdicated. What greater example need we seek for? The wisest, perhaps the most excellent of men, chose to confess his fault, which he might have concealed, rather than leave the public the least atom of religious guilt; and the consuls chose to quit the highest office in the State, rather than fill it for a moment in defiance of religion. How great is the reputation of the augurs!
And is not the art of the soothsayers divine? And must not every one who sees what innumerable instances of the same kind there are confess the existence of the Gods? For they who have interpreters must certainly exist themselves; now, there are interpreters of the Gods; therefore we must allow there are Gods. But it may be said, perhaps, that all predictions are not accomplished. We may as well conclude there is no art of physic, because all sick persons do not recover. The Gods show us signs of future events; if we are occasionally deceived in the results, it is not to be imputed to the nature of the Gods, but to the conjectures of men. All nations agree that there are Gods; the opinion is innate, and, as it were, engraved in the minds of all men. The only point in dispute among us is, what they are.
V. Their existence no one denies. Cleanthes, one of our sect, imputes the way in which the idea of the Gods is implanted in the minds of men to four causes. The first is that which I just now mentioned - the foreknowledge of future things. The second is the great advantages which we enjoy from the temperature of the air, the fertility of the earth, and the abundance of various benefits of other kinds. The third cause is deduced from the terror with which the mind is affected by thunder, tempests, storms, snow, hail, devastation, pestilence, earthquakes often attended with hideous noises, showers of stones, and rain like drops of blood; by rocks and sudden openings of the earth; by monstrous births of men and beasts; by meteors in the air, and blazing stars, by the Greeks called 'cometae,' by us crinitoe, the appearance of which, in the late Octavian war, were foreboders of great calamities; by two suns, which, as I have heard my father say, happened in the consulate of Tuditanus and Aquillius, and in which year also another sun (P. Africanus) was extinguished. These things terrified mankind, and raised in them a firm belief of the existence of some celestial and divine power.
His fourth cause, and that the strongest, is drawn from the regularity of the motion and revolution of the heavens, the distinctness, variety, beauty, and order of the sun, moon, and all the stars, the appearance only of which is sufficient to convince us they are not the effects of chance; as when we enter into a house, or school, or court, and observe the exact order, discipline, and method of it, we cannot suppose that it is so regulated without a cause, but must conclude that there is some one who commands, and to whom obedience is paid. It is quite impossible for us to avoid thinking that the wonderful motions, revolutions, and order of those many and great bodies, no part of which is impaired by the countless and infinite succession of ages, must be governed and directed by some supreme intelligent being.
VI. Chrysippus, indeed, had a very penetrating genius; yet such is the doctrine which he delivers, that he seems rather to have been instructed by nature than to owe it to any discovery of his own. “If,” says he, “there is anything in the universe which no human reason, ability, or power can make, the being who produced it must certainly be preferable to man. Now, celestial bodies, and all those things which proceed in any eternal order, cannot be made by man; the being who made them is therefore preferable to man. What, then, is that being but a God? If there be no such thing as a Deity, what is there better than man, since he only is possessed of reason, the most excellent of all things? But it is a foolish piece of vanity in man to think there is nothing preferable to him. There is, therefore, something preferable; consequently, there is certainly a God.”
When you behold a large and beautiful house, surely no one can persuade you it was built for mice and weasels, though you do not see the master; and would it not, therefore, be most manifest folly to imagine that a world so magnificently adorned, with such an immense variety of celestial bodies of such exquisite beauty, and that the vast sizes and magnitude of the sea and land were intended as the abode of man, and not as the mansion of the immortal Gods? Do we not also plainly see this, that all the most elevated regions are the best, and that the earth is the lowest region, and is surrounded with the grossest air? so that as we perceive that in some cities and countries the capacities of men are naturally duller, from the thickness of the climate, so mankind in general are affected by the heaviness of the air which surrounds the earth, the grossest region of the world.
Yet even from this inferior intelligence of man we may discover the existence of some intelligent agent that is divine, and wiser than ourselves; for, as Socrates says in Xenophon, from whence had man his portion of understanding? And, indeed, if any one were to push his inquiries about the moisture and heat which is diffused through the human body, and the earthy kind of solidity existing in our entrails, and that soul by which we breathe, and to ask whence we derived them, it would be plain that we have received one thing from the earth, another from liquid, another from fire, and another from that air which we inhale every time that we breathe.
Vll. But where did we find that which excels all these things — I mean reason, or (if you please, in other terms) the mind, understanding, thought, prudence; and from whence did we receive it? Shall the world be possessed of every other perfection, and be destitute of this one, which is the most important and valuable of all? But certainly there is nothing better, or more excellent, or more beautiful than the world; and not only there is nothing better, but we cannot even conceive anything superior to it; and if reason and wisdom are the greatest of all perfections, they must necessarily be a part of what we all allow to be the most excellent.
Who is not compelled to admit the truth of what I assert by that agreeable, uniform, and continued agreement of things in the universe? Could the earth at one season be adorned with flowers, at another be covered with snow? Or, if such a number of things regulated their own changes, could the approach and retreat of the sun in the summer and winter solstices be so regularly known and calculated? Could the flux and reflux of the sea and the height of the tides be affected by the increase or wane of the moon? Could the different courses of the stars be preserved by the uniform movement of the whole heaven? Could these things subsist, I say, in such a harmony of all the parts of the universe without the continued influence of a divine spirit?
If these points are handled in a free and copious manner, as I purpose to do, they will be less liable to the cavils of the Academics; but the narrow, confined way in which Zeno reasoned upon them laid them more open to objection; for as running streams are seldom or never tainted, while standing waters easily grow corrupt, so a fluency of expression washes away the censures of the caviller, while the narrow limits of a discourse which is too concise is almost defenseless; for the arguments which I am enlarging upon are thus briefly laid down by Zeno:
VIII. “That which reasons is superior to that which does not; nothing is superior to the world; the world, therefore, reasons.” By the same rule the world may be proved to be wise, happy, and eternal; for the possession of all these qualities is superior to the want of them; and nothing is superior to the world; the inevitable consequence of which argument is, that the world, therefore, is a Deity. He goes on: “No part of anything void of sense is capable of perception; some parts of the world have perception; the world, therefore, has sense.” He proceeds, and pursues the argument closely. “Nothing,” says he, “that is destitute itself of life and reason can generate a being possessed of life and reason; but the world does generate beings possessed of life and reason; the world, therefore, is not itself destitute of life and reason.”
He concludes his argument in his usual manner with a simile: “If well-tuned pipes should spring out of the olive, would you have the slightest doubt that there was in the olive-tree itself some kind of skill and knowledge? Or if the plane-tree could produce harmonious lutes, surely you would infer, on the same principle, that music was contained in the plane-tree. Why, then, should we not believe the world is a living and wise being, since it produces living and wise beings out of itself?”
IX. But as I have been insensibly led into a length of discourse beyond my first design (for I said that, as the existence of the Gods was evident to all, there was no need of any long oration to prove it), I will demonstrate it by reasons deduced from the nature of things. For it is a fact that all beings which take nourishment and increase contain in themselves a power of natural heat, without which they could neither be nourished nor increase. For everything which is of a warm and fiery character is agitated and stirred up by its own motion. But that which is nourished and grows is influenced by a certain regular and equable motion. And as long as this motion remains in us, so long does sense and life remain; but the moment that it abates and is extinguished, we ourselves decay and perish.
By arguments like these, Cleanthes shows how great is the power of heat in all bodies. He observes that there is no food so gross as not to be digested in a night and a day; and that even in the excrementitious parts, which nature rejects, there remains a heat. The veins and arteries seem, by their continual quivering, to resemble the agitation of fire; and it has often been observed when the heart of an animal is just plucked from the body that it palpitates with such visible motion as to resemble the rapidity of fire. Everything, therefore, that has life, whether it be animal or vegetable, owes that life to the heat inherent in it; it is this nature of heat which contains in itself the vital power which extends throughout the whole world. This will appear more clearly on a more close explanation of this fiery quality, which pervades all things.
Every division, then, of the world (and I shall touch upon the most considerable) is sustained by heat; and first it may be observed in earthly substances that fire is produced from stones by striking or rubbing one against another; that “the warm earth smokes” when just turned up, and that water is drawn warm from well-springs; and this is most especially the case in the winter season, because there is a great quantity of heat contained in the caverns of the earth; and this becomes more dense in the winter, and on that account confines more closely the innate heat which is discoverable in the earth.
X. It would require a long dissertation, and many reasons would require to be adduced, to show that all the seeds which the earth conceives, and all those which it contains having been generated from itself, and fixed in roots and trunks, derive all their origin and increase from the temperature and regulation of heat. And that even every liquor has a mixture of heat in it is plainly demonstrated by the effusion of water; for it would not congeal by cold, nor become solid, as ice or snow, and return again to its natural state, if it were not that, when heat is applied to it, it again becomes liquefied and dissolved, and so diffuses itself. Therefore, by northern and other cold winds it is frozen and hardened, and in turn it dissolves and melts again by heat. The seas likewise, we find, when agitated by winds, grow warm, so that from this fact we may understand that there is heat included in that vast body of water; for we cannot imagine it to be external and adventitious heat, but such as is stirred up by agitation from the deep recesses of the seas; and the same thing takes place with respect to our bodies, which grow warm with motion and exercise.
And the very air itself, which indeed is the coldest element, is by no means void of heat; for there is a great quantity, arising from the exhalations of water, which appears to be a sort of steam occasioned by its internal heat, like that of boiling liquors. The fourth part of the universe is entirely fire, and is the source of the salutary and vital heat which is found in the rest. From hence we may conclude that, as all parts of the world are sustained by heat, the world itself also has such a great length of time subsisted from the same cause; and so much the more, because we ought to understand that that hot and fiery principle is so diffused over universal nature that there is contained in it a power and cause of generation and procreation, from which all animate beings, and all those creatures of the vegetable world, the roots of which are contained in the earth, must inevitably derive their origin and their increase.
XI. It is nature, consequently, that continues and preserves the world, and that, too, a nature which is not destitute of sense and reason; for in every essence that is not simple, but composed of several parts, there must be some predominant quality — as, for instance, the mind in man, and in beasts something resembling it, from which arise all the appetites and desires for anything. As for trees, and all the vegetable produce of the earth, it is thought to be in their roots. I call that the predominant quality, which the Greeks call 'hegemonikon'; which must and ought to be the most excellent quality, wherever it is found. That, therefore, in which the prevailing quality of all nature resides must be the most excellent of all things, and most worthy of the power and pre-eminence over all things.
Now, we see that there is nothing in being that is not a part of the universe; and as there are sense and reason in the parts of it, there must therefore be these qualities, and these, too, in a more energetic and powerful degree, in that part in which the predominant quality of the world is found. The world, therefore, must necessarily be possessed of wisdom; and that element, which embraces all things, must excel in perfection of reason. The world, therefore, is a God, and the whole power of the world is contained in that divine element.
The heat also of the world is more pure, clear, and lively, and, consequently, better adapted to move the senses than the heat allotted to us; and it vivifies and preserves all things within the compass of our knowledge.
It is absurd, therefore, to say that the world, which is endued with a perfect, free, pure, spirituous, and active heat, is not sensitive, since by this heat men and beasts are preserved, and move, and think; more especially since this heat of the world is itself the sole principle of agitation, and has no external impulse, but is moved spontaneously; for what can be more powerful than the world, which moves and raises that heat by which it subsists?
XII. For let us listen to Plato, who is regarded as a God among philosophers. He says that there are two sorts of motion, one innate and the other external; and that that which is moved spontaneously is more divine than that which is moved by another power. This self-motion he places in the mind alone, and concludes that the first principle of motion is derived from the mind. Therefore, since all motion arises from the heat of the world, and that heat is not moved by the effect of any external impulse, but of its own accord, it must necessarily be a mind; from whence it follows that the world is animated.
On such reasoning is founded this opinion, that the world is possessed of understanding, because it certainly has more perfections in itself than any other nature; for as there is no part of our bodies so considerable as the whole of us, so it is clear that there is no particular portion of the universe equal in magnitude to the whole of it; from whence it follows that wisdom must be an attribute of the world; otherwise man, who is a part of it, and possessed of reason, would be superior to the entire world.
And thus, if we proceed from the first rude, unfinished natures to the most superior and perfect ones, we shall inevitably come at last to the nature of the Gods. For, in the first place, we observe that those vegetables which are produced out of the earth are supported by nature, and she gives them no further supply than is sufficient to preserve them by nourishing them and making them grow. To beasts she has given sense and motion, and a faculty which directs them to what is wholesome, and prompts them to shun what is noxious to them. On man she has conferred a greater portion of her favor; inasmuch as she has added reason, by which he is enabled to command his passions, to moderate some, and to subdue others.
XIII. In the fourth and highest degree are those beings which are naturally wise and good, who from the first moment of their existence are possessed of right and consistent reason, which we must consider superior to man and deserving to be attributed to a God; that is to say, to the world, in which it is inevitable that that perfect and complete reason should be inherent. Nor is it possible that it should be said with justice that there is any arrangement of things in which there cannot be something entire and perfect. For as in a vine or in beasts we see that nature, if not prevented by some superior violence, proceeds by her own appropriate path to her destined end; and as in painting, architecture, and the other arts there is a point of perfection which is attainable, and occasionally attained, so it is even much more necessary that in universal nature there must be some complete and perfect result arrived at. Many external accidents may happen to all other natures which may impede their progress to perfection, but nothing can hinder universal nature, because she is herself the ruler and governor of all other natures. That, therefore, must be the fourth and most elevated degree to which no other power can approach.
But this degree is that on which the nature of all things is placed; and since she is possessed of this, and she presides over all things, and is subject to no possible impediment, the world must necessarily be an intelligent and even a wise being. But how marvellously great is the ignorance of those men who dispute the perfection of that nature which encircles all things; or who, allowing it to be infinitely perfect, yet deny it to be, in the first place, animated, then reasonable, and, lastly, prudent and wise! For how without these qualities could it be infinitely perfect? If it were like vegetables, or even like beasts, there would be no more reason for thinking it extremely good than extremely bad; and if it were possessed of reason, and had not wisdom from the beginning, the world would be in a worse condition than man; for man may grow wise, but the world, if it were destitute of wisdom through an infinite space of time past, could never acquire it. Thus it would be worse than man. But as that is absurd to imagine, the world must be esteemed wise from all eternity, and consequently a Deity: since there is nothing existing that is not defective, except the universe, which is well provided, and fully complete and perfect in all its numbers and parts.
XIV. For Chrysippus says, very acutely, that as the case is made for the buckler, and the scabbard for the sword, so all things, except the universe, were made for the sake of something else. As, for instance, all those crops and fruits which the earth produces were made for the sake of animals, and animals for man; as, the horse for carrying, the ox for the plough, the dog for hunting and for a guard. But man himself was born to contemplate and imitate the world, being in no wise perfect, but, if I may so express myself, a particle of perfection; but the world, as it comprehends all, and as nothing exists that is not contained in it, is entirely perfect. In what, therefore, can it be defective, since it is perfect? It cannot want understanding and reason, for they are the most desirable of all qualities. The same Chrysippus observes also, by the use of similitudes, that everything in its kind, when arrived at maturity and perfection, is superior to that which is not — as, a horse to a colt, a dog to a puppy, and a man to a boy — so whatever is best in the whole universe must exist in some complete and perfect being. But nothing is more perfect than the world, and nothing better than virtue. Virtue, therefore, is an attribute of the world. But human nature is not perfect, and nevertheless virtue is produced in it: with how much greater reason, then, do we conceive it to be inherent in the world! Therefore the world has virtue, and it is also wise, and consequently a Deity.
XV. The divinity of the world being now clearly perceived, we must acknowledge the same divinity to be likewise in the stars, which are formed from the lightest and purest part of the ether, without a mixture of any other matter; and, being altogether hot and transparent, we may justly say they have life, sense, and understanding. And Cleanthes thinks that it may be established by the evidence of two of our senses — feeling and seeing — that they are entirely fiery bodies; for the heat and brightness of the sun far exceed any other fire, inasmuch as it enlightens the whole universe, covering such a vast extent of space, and its power is such that we perceive that it not only warms, but often even burns: neither of which it could do if it were not of a fiery quality. Since, then, says he, the sun is a fiery body, and is nourished by the vapors of the ocean (for no fire can continue without some sustenance), it must be either like that fire which we use to warm us and dress our food, or like that which is contained in the bodies of animals.
And this fire, which the convenience of life requires, is the devourer and consumer of everything, and throws into confusion and destroys whatever it reaches. On the contrary, the corporeal heat is full of life, and salutary; and vivifies, preserves, cherishes, increases, and sustains all things, and is productive of sense; therefore, says he, there can be no doubt which of these fires the sun is like, since it causes all things in their respective kinds to flourish and arrive to maturity; and as the fire of the sun is like that which is contained in the bodies of animated beings, the sun itself must likewise be animated, and so must the other stars also, which arise out of the celestial ardor that we call the sky, or firmament.
As, then, some animals are generated in the earth, some in the water, and some in the air, Aristotle thinks it ridiculous to imagine that no animal is formed in that part of the universe which is the most capable to produce them. But the stars are situated in the ethereal space; and as this is an element the most subtle, whose motion is continual, and whose force does not decay, it follows, of necessity, that every animated being which is produced in it must be endowed with the quickest sense and the swiftest motion. The stars, therefore, being there generated, it is a natural inference to suppose them endued with such a degree of sense and understanding as places them in the rank of Gods.
XVI. For it may be observed that they who inhabit countries of a pure, clear air have a quicker apprehension and a readier genius than those who live in a thick, foggy climate. It is thought likewise that the nature of a man’s diet has an effect on the mind; therefore it is probable that the stars are possessed of an excellent understanding, inasmuch as they are situated in the ethereal part of the universe, and are nourished by the vapors of the earth and sea, which are purified by their long passage to the heavens. But the invariable order and regular motion of the stars plainly manifest their sense and understanding; for all motion which seems to be conducted with reason and harmony supposes an intelligent principle, that does not act blindly, or inconsistently, or at random. And this regularity and consistent course of the stars from all eternity indicates not any natural order, for it is pregnant with sound reason, not fortune (for fortune, being a friend to change, despises consistency). It follows, therefore, that they move spontaneously by their own sense and divinity.
Aristotle also deserves high commendation for his observation that everything that moves is either put in motion by natural impulse, or by some external force, or of its own accord; and that the sun, and moon, and all the stars move; but that those things which are moved by natural impulse are either borne downward by their weight, or upward by their lightness; neither of which things could be the case with the stars, because they move in a regular circle and orbit. Nor can it be said that there is some superior force which causes the stars to be moved in a manner contrary to nature. For what superior force can there be? It follows, therefore, that their motion must be voluntary. And whoever is convinced of this must discover not only great ignorance, but great impiety likewise, if he denies the existence of the Gods; nor is the difference great whether a man denies their existence, or deprives them of all design and action; for whatever is wholly inactive seems to me not to exist at all. Their existence, therefore, appears so plain that I can scarcely think that man in his senses who denies it.
XVII. It now remains that we consider what is the character of the Gods. Nothing is more difficult than to divert our thoughts and judgment from the information of our corporeal sight, and the view of objects which our eyes are accustomed to; and it is this difficulty which has had such an influence on the unlearned, and on philosophers also who resembled the unlearned multitude, that they have been unable to form any idea of the immortal Gods except under the clothing of the human figure; the weakness of which opinion Cotta has so well confuted that I need not add my thoughts upon it. But as the previous idea which we have of the Deity comprehends two things — first of all, that he is an animated being; secondly, that there is nothing in all nature superior to him — I do not see what can be more consistent with this idea and preconception than to attribute a mind and divinity to the world, the most excellent of all beings.
Epicurus may be as merry with this notion as he pleases; a man not the best qualified for a joker, as not having the wit and sense of his country. Let him say that a voluble round Deity is to him incomprehensible; yet he shall never dissuade me from a principle which he himself approves, for he is of opinion there are Gods when he allows that there must be a nature excellently perfect. But it is certain that the world is most excellently perfect: nor is it to be doubted that whatever has life, sense, reason, and understanding must excel that which is destitute of these things. It follows, then, that the world has life, sense, reason, and understanding, and is consequently a Deity. But this shall soon be made more manifest by the operation of these very things which the world causes.
XVIII. In the mean while, Velleius, let me entreat you not to be always saying that we are utterly destitute of every sort of learning. The cone, you say, the cylinder, and the pyramid, are more beautiful to you than the sphere. This is to have different eyes from other men. But suppose they are more beautiful to the sight only, which does not appear to me, for I can see nothing more beautiful than that figure which contains all others, and which has nothing rough in it, nothing offensive, nothing cut into angles, nothing broken, nothing swelling, and nothing hollow; yet as there are two forms most esteemed, the globe in solids (for so the Greek word 'sphaira', I think, should be construed), and the circle, or orb, in planes (in Greek, 'kuklos'); and as they only have an exact similitude of parts in which every extreme is equally distant from the centre, what can we imagine in nature to be more just and proper? But if you have never raked into this learned dust to find out these things, surely, at all events, you natural philosophers must know that equality of motion and invariable order could not be preserved in any other figure. Nothing, therefore, can be more illiterate than to assert, as you are in the habit of doing, that it is doubtful whether the world is round or not, because it may possibly be of another shape, and that there are innumerable worlds of different forms; which Epicurus, if he ever had learned that two and two are equal to four, would not have said. But while he judges of what is best by his palate, he does not look up to the “palace of heaven,” as Ennius calls it.
XIX. For as there are two sorts of stars, one kind of which measure their journey from east to west by immutable stages, never in the least varying from their usual course, while the other completes a double revolution with an equally constant regularity; from each of these facts we demonstrate the volubility of the world (which could not possibly take place in any but a globular form) and the circular orbits of the stars. And first of all the sun, which has the chief rank among all the stars, is moved in such a manner that it fills the whole earth with its light, and illuminates alternately one part of the earth, while it leaves the other in darkness. The shadow of the earth interposing causes night; and the intervals of night are equal to those of day. And it is the regular approaches and retreats of the sun from which arise the regulated degrees of cold and heat. His annual circuit is in three hundred and sixty-five days, and nearly six hours more. At one time he bends his course to the north, at another to the south, and thus produces summer and winter, with the other two seasons, one of which succeeds the decline of winter, and the other that of summer. And so to these four changes of the seasons we attribute the origin and cause of all the productions both of sea and land.
The moon completes the same course every month which the sun does in a year. The nearer she approaches to the sun, the dimmer light does she yield, and when most remote from it she shines with the fullest brilliancy; nor are her figure and form only changed in her wane, but her situation likewise, which is sometimes in the north and sometimes in the south. By this course she has a sort of summer and winter solstices; and by her influence she contributes to the nourishment and increase of animated beings, and to the ripeness and maturity of all vegetables.
XX. But most worthy our admiration is the motion of those five stars which are falsely called wandering stars; for they cannot be said to wander which keep from all eternity their approaches and retreats, and have all the rest of their motions, in one regular constant and established order. What is yet more wonderful in these stars which we are speaking of is that sometimes they appear, and sometimes they disappear; sometimes they advance towards the sun, and sometimes they retreat; sometimes they precede him, and sometimes follow him; sometimes they move faster, sometimes slower, and sometimes they do not stir in the least, but for a while stand still. From these unequal motions of the planets, mathematicians have called that the “great year “ in which the sun, moon, and five wandering stars, having finished their revolutions, are found in their original situation. In how long a time this is effected is much disputed, but it must be a certain and definite period. For the planet Saturn (called by the Greeks 'Phainon'), which is farthest from the earth, finishes his course in about thirty years; and in his course there is something very singular, for sometimes he moves before the sun, sometimes he keeps behind it; at one time lying hidden in the night, at another again appearing in the morning; and ever performing the same motions in the same space of time without any alteration, so as to be for infinite ages regular in these courses. Beneath this planet, and nearer the earth, is Jupiter, called 'Phaethon', which passes the same orbit of the twelve signs in twelve years, and goes through exactly the same variety in its course that the star of Saturn does. Next to Jupiter is the planet Mars (in Greek, 'Puroeis'), which finishes its revolution through the same orbit as the two previously mentioned, in twenty-four months, wanting six days, as I imagine. Below this is Mercury (called by the Greeks 'Stilbon'), which performs the same course in little less than a year, and is never farther distant from the sun than the space of one sign, whether it precedes or follows it. The lowest of the five planets, and nearest the earth, is that of Venus (called in Greek 'Phosphoros'). Before the rising of the sun, it is called the morning-star, and after the setting, the evening-star. It has the same revolution through the zodiac, both as to latitude and longitude, with the other planets, in a year, and never is more than two signs from the sun, whether it precedes or follows it.
XXI. I cannot, therefore, conceive that this constant course of the planets, this just agreement in such various motions through all eternity, can be preserved without a mind, reason, and consideration; and since we may perceive these qualities in the stars, we cannot but place them in the rank of Gods. Those which are called the fixed stars have the same indications of reason and prudence. Their motion is daily, regular, and constant. They do not move with the sky, nor have they an adhesion to the firmament, as they who are ignorant of natural philosophy affirm. For the sky, which is thin, transparent, and suffused with an equal heat, does not seem by its nature to have power to whirl about the stars, or to be proper to contain them. The fixed stars, therefore, have their own sphere, separate and free from any conjunction with the sky. Their perpetual courses, with that admirable and incredible regularity of theirs, so plainly declare a divine power and mind to be in them, that he who cannot perceive that they are also endowed with divine power must be incapable of all perception whatever.
In the heavens, therefore, there is nothing fortuitous, unadvised, inconstant, or variable: all there is order, truth, reason, and, constancy; and all the things which are destitute of these qualities are counterfeit, deceitful, and erroneous, and have their residence about the earth beneath the moon, the lowest of all the planets. He, therefore, who believes that this admirable order and almost incredible regularity of the heavenly bodies, by which the preservation and entire safety of all things is secured, is destitute of intelligence, must be considered to be himself wholly destitute of all intellect whatever.
I think, then, I shall not deceive myself in maintaining this dispute upon the principle of Zeno, who went the farthest in his search after truth.
XXII. Zeno, then, defines nature to be “an artificial fire, proceeding in a regular way to generation;” for he thinks that to create and beget are especial properties of art, and that whatever may be wrought by the hands of our artificers is much more skillfully performed by nature, that is, by this artificial fire, which is the master of all other arts.
According to this manner of reasoning, every particular nature is artificial, as it operates agreeably to a certain method peculiar to itself; but that universal nature which embraces all things is said by Zeno to be not only artificial, but absolutely the artificer, ever thinking and providing all things useful and proper; and as every particular nature owes its rise and increase to its own proper seed, so universal nature has all her motions voluntary, has affections and desires (by the Greeks called 'hormas') productive of actions agreeable to them, like us, who have sense and understanding to direct us. Such, then, is the intelligence of the universe; for which reason it may be properly termed prudence or providence (in Greek, 'pronoia'), since her chiefest care and employment is to provide all things fit for its duration, that it may want nothing, and, above all, that it may be adorned with all perfection of beauty and ornament.
XXIII. Thus far have I spoken concerning the universe, and also of the stars; from whence it is apparent that there is almost an infinite number of Gods, always in action, but without labor or fatigue; for they are not composed of veins, nerves, and bones; their food and drink are not such as cause humors too gross or too subtle; nor are their bodies such as to be subject to the fear of falls or blows, or in danger of diseases from a weariness of limbs. Epicurus, to secure his Gods from such accidents, has made them only outlines of Deities, void of action; but our Gods being of the most beautiful form, and situated in the purest region of the heavens, dispose and rule their course in such a manner that they seem to contribute to the support and preservation of all things.
Besides these, there are many other natures which have with reason been deified by the wisest Grecians, and by our ancestors, in consideration of the benefits derived from them; for they were persuaded that whatever was of great utility to human kind must proceed from divine goodness, and the name of the Deity was applied to that which the Deity produced, as when we call corn Ceres, and wine Bacchus; whence that saying of Terence,
Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus starves.
And any quality, also, in which there was any singular virtue was nominated a Deity, such as Faith and Wisdom, which are placed among the divinities in the Capitol; the last by Aemilius Scaurus, but Faith was consecrated before by Atilius Calatinus. You see the temple of Virtue and that of Honor repaired by M. Marcellus, erected formerly, in the Ligurian war, by Q. Maximus. Need I mention those dedicated to Help, Safety, Concord, Liberty, and Victory, which have been called Deities, because their efficacy has been so great that it could not have proceeded from any but from some divine power? In like manner are the names of Cupid, Voluptas, and of Lubentine Venus consecrated, though they were things vicious and not natural, whatever Velleius may think to the contrary, for they frequently stimulate nature in too violent a manner. Everything, then, from which any great utility proceeded was deified; and, indeed, the names I have just now mentioned are declaratory of the particular virtue of each Deity.
XXIV. It has been a general custom likewise, that men who have done important service to the public should be exalted to heaven by fame and universal consent. Thus Hercules, Castor and Pollux, AescuIapius, and Liber became Gods (I mean Liber the son of Semele, and not him whom our ancestors consecrated in such state and solemnity with Ceres and Libera; the difference in which may be seen in our Mysteries. But because the offsprings of our bodies are called “Liberi” (children), therefore the offsprings of Ceres are called Liber and Libera (Libera is the feminine, and Liber the masculine); thus likewise Romulus, or Quirinus — for they are thought to be the same — became a God.
They are justly esteemed as Deities, since their souls subsist and enjoy eternity, from whence they are perfect and immortal beings.
There is another reason, too, and that founded on natural philosophy, which has greatly contributed to the number of Deities; namely, the custom of representing in human form a crowd of Gods who have supplied the poets with fables, and filled mankind with all sorts of superstition. Zeno has treated of this subject, but it has been discussed more at length by Cleanthes and Chrysippus. All Greece was of opinion that Coelum was castrated by his son Saturn, and that Saturn was chained by his son Jupiter. In these impious fables, a physical and not inelegant meaning is contained; for they would denote that the celestial, most exalted, and ethereal nature — that is, the fiery nature, which produces all things by itself — is destitute of that part of the body which is necessary for the act of generation by conjunction with another.
XXV. By Saturn they mean that which comprehends the course and revolution of times and seasons; the Greek name for which Deity implies as much, for he is called 'Kronos,' which is the same with 'Chronos,' that is, a “space of time.” But he is called Saturn, because he is filled (saturatur) with years; and he is usually feigned to have devoured his children, because time, ever insatiable, consumes the rolling years; but to restrain him from immoderate haste, Jupiter has confined him to the course of the stars, which are as chains to him. Jupiter (that is, juvans pater) signifies a “helping father,” whom, by changing the cases, we call Jove, a juvando. The poets call him “father of Gods and men;” and our ancestors “the most good, the most great;” and as there is something more glorious in itself, and more agreeable to others, to be good (that is, beneficent) than to be great, the title of “most good” precedes that of “most great.” This, then, is he whom Ennius means in the following passage, before quoted—
Look up to the refulgent heaven above,
which is more plainly expressed than in this other passage of the same poet—
On whose account I’ll curse that flood of light,
Our augurs also mean the same, when, for the “thundering and lightning heaven,” they say the “thundering and lightning Jove.” Euripides, among many excellent things, has this:
The vast, expanded, boundless sky behold,
XXVI. The air, according to the Stoics, which is between the sea and the heaven, is consecrated by the name of Juno, and is called the sister and wife of Jove, because it resembles the sky, and is in close conjunction with it. They have made it feminine, because there is nothing softer. But I believe it is called Juno, a juvando (from helping).
To make three separate kingdoms, by fable, there remained yet the water and the earth. The dominion of the sea is given, therefore, to Neptune, a brother, as he is called, of Jove; whose name, Neptunus — as Portunus, a portu, from a port — is derived a nando (from swimming), the first letters being a little changed. The sovereignty and power over the earth is the portion of a God, to whom we, as well as the Greeks, have given a name that denotes riches (in Latin, Dis; in Greek, 'Plouton'), because all things arise from the earth and return to it. He forced away Proserpine (in Greek called 'Persephone') , by which the poets mean the “seed of corn,” from whence comes their fiction of Ceres, the mother of Proserpine, seeking for her daughter, who was hidden from her. She is called Ceres, which is the same as Geres — a gerendis frugibus — “from bearing fruit,” the first letter of the word being altered after the manner of the Greeks, for by them she is called 'Demeter,' the same as 'Gemeter.' Again, he (qui magna vorteret) “who brings about rnighty changes” is called Mavors; and Minerva is so called because (minueret, or minaretur) she diminishes or menaces.
XXVII. And as the beginnings and endings of all things are of the greatest importance, therefore they would have their sacrifices to begin with Janus. His name is derived ab eundo, from passing; from whence thorough passages are called jani, and the outward doors of common houses are called januae. The name of Vesta is, from the Greeks, the same with their 'Hestia.' Her province is over altars and hearths; and in the name of this Goddess, who is the keeper of all things within, prayers and sacrifices are concluded. The Dii Penates, “household Gods,” have some affinity with this power, and are so called either from penus, “all kind of human provisions,” or because penitus insident (they reside within), from which, by the poets, they are called penetrales also. Apollo, a Greek name, is called Sol, the sun; and Diana, Luna, the moon. The sun (sol) is so named either because he is solus (alone), so eminent above all the stars; or because he obscures all the stars, and appears alone as soon as he rises. Luna, the moon, is so called a lucendo (from shining); she bears the name also of Lucina: and as in Greece the women in labor invoke Diana Lucifera, so here they invoke Juno Lucina. She is likewise called Diana omnivaga, not a venando (from hunting), but because she is reckoned one of the seven stars that seem to wander. She is called Diana because she makes a kind of day of the night; and presides over births, because the delivery is effected sometimes in seven, or at most in nine, courses of the moon; which, because they make mensa spatia (measured spaces), are called menses (months). This occasioned a pleasant observation of Timaeus (as he has many). Having said in his history that “the same night in which Alexander was born, the temple of Diana at Ephesus was burned down,” he adds, “It is not in the least to be wondered at, because Diana, being willing to assist at the labor of Olympias, was absent from home.” But to this Goddess, because ad res omnes veniret — “she has an influence upon all things” — we have given the appellation of Venus, from whom the word venustas (beauty) is rather derived than Venus from venustas.
XXVIII. Do you not see, therefore, how, from the productions of nature and the useful inventions of men, have arisen fictitious and imaginary Deities, which have been the foundation of false opinions, pernicious errors, and wretched superstitions? For we know how the different forms of the Gods — their ages, apparel, ornaments; their pedigrees, marriages, relations, and everything belonging to them — are adapted to human weakness and represented with our passions; with lust, sorrow, and anger, according to fabulous history: they have had wars and combats, not only, as Homer relates, when they have interested themselves in two different armies, but when they have fought battles in their own defense against the Titans and giants. These stories, of the greatest weakness and levity, are related and believed with the most implicit folly.
But, rejecting these fables with contempt, a Deity is diffused in every part of nature; in earth under the name of Ceres, in the sea under the name of Neptune, in other parts under other names. Yet whatever they are, and whatever characters and dispositions they have, and whatever name custom has given them, we are bound to worship and adore them. The best, the chastest, the most sacred and pious worship of the Gods is to reverence them always with a pure, perfect, and unpolluted mind and voice; for our ancestors, as well as the philosophers, have separated superstition from religion. They who prayed whole days and sacrificed, that their children might survive them (ut superstites essent), were called superstitious, which word became afterward more general; but they who diligently perused, and, as we may say, read or practised over again, all the duties relating to the worship of the Gods, were called religiosi — religious, from relegendo — “reading over again, or practising;” as elegantes, elegant, ex eligendo, “from choosing, making a good choice;” diligentes, diligent, ex diligendo, “from attending on what we love;” intelligentes, intelligent, from understanding — for the signification is derived in the same manner. Thus are the words superstitious and religious understood; the one being a term of reproach, the other of commendation. I think I have now sufficiently demonstrated that there are Gods, and what they are.
XXIX. I am now to show that the world is governed by the providence of the Gods. This is an important point, which you Academics endeavor to confound; and, indeed, the whole contest is with you, Cotta; for your sect, Velleius, know very little of what is said on different subjects by other schools. You read and have a taste only for your own books, and condemn all others without examination. For instance, when you mentioned yesterday that prophetic old dame 'Pronoia,' Providence, invented by the Stoics, you were led into that error by imagining that Providence was made by them to be a particular Deity that governs the whole universe, whereas it is only spoken in a short manner; as when it is said “The commonwealth of Athens is governed by the council,” it is meant “of the Areopagus;” so when we say “The world is governed by providence,” we mean “by the providence of the Gods.” To express ourselves, therefore, more fully and clearly, we say, “The world is governed by the providence of the Gods.” Be not, therefore, lavish of your railleries, of which your sect has little to spare: if I may advise you, do not attempt it. It does not become you, it is not your talent, nor is it in your power. This is not applied to you in particular who have the education and politeness of a Roman, but to all your sect in general, and especially to your leader — a man unpolished, illiterate, insulting, without wit, without reputation, without elegance.
XXX. I assert, then, that the universe, with all its parts, was originally constituted, and has, without any cessation, been ever governed by the providence of the Gods. This argument we Stoics commonly divide into three parts; the first of which is, that the existence of the Gods being once known, it must follow that the world is governed by their wisdom; the second, that as everything is under the direction of an intelligent nature, which has produced that beautiful order in the world, it is evident that it is formed from animating principles; the third is deduced from those glorious works which we behold in the heavens and the earth.
First, then, we must either deny the existence of the Gods (as Democritus and Epicurus by their doctrine of images in some sort do), or, if we acknowledge that there are Gods, we must believe they are employed, and that, too, in something excellent. Now, nothing is so excellent as the administration of the universe. The universe, therefore, is governed by the wisdom of the Gods. Otherwise, we must imagine that there is some cause superior to the Deity, whether it be a nature inanimate, or a necessity agitated by a mighty force, that produces those beautiful works which we behold. The nature of the Gods would then be neither supreme nor excellent, if you subject it to that necessity or to that nature, by which you would make the heaven, the earth, and the seas to be governed. But there is nothing superior to the Deity; the world, therefore, must be governed by him: consequently, the Deity is under no obedience or subjection to nature, but does himself rule over all nature. In effect, if we allow the Gods have understanding, we allow also their providence, which regards the most important things; for, can they be ignorant of those important things, and how they are to be conducted and preserved, or do they want power to sustain and direct them? Ignorance is inconsistent with the nature of the Gods, and imbecility is repugnant to their majesty. From whence it follows, as we assert, that the world is governed by the providence of the Gods.
XXXI. But supposing, which is incontestable, that there are Gods, they must be animated, and not only animated, but endowed with reason — united, as we may say, in a civil agreement and society, and governing together one universe, as a republic or city. Thus the same reason, the same verity, the same law, which ordains good and prohibits evil, exists in the Gods as it does in men. From them, consequently, we have prudence and understanding, for which reason our ancestors erected temples to the Mind, Faith, Virtue, and Concord. Shall we not then allow the Gods to have these perfections, since we worship the sacred and august images of them? But if understanding, faith, virtue, and concord reside in human kind, how could they come on earth, unless from heaven? And if we are possessed of wisdom, reason, and prudence, the Gods must have the same qualities in a greater degree; and not only have them, but employ them in the best and greatest works. The universe is the best and greatest work; therefore it must be governed by the wisdom and providence of the Gods.
Lastly, as we have sufficiently shown that those glorious and luminous bodies which we behold are Deities — I mean the sun, the moon, the fixed and wandering stars, the firmament, and the world itself, and those other things also which have any singular virtue, and are of any great utility to human kind — it follows that all things are governed by providence and a divine mind. But enough has been said on the first part.
XXXII. It is now incumbent on me to prove that all things are subjected to nature, and most beautifully directed by her. But, first of all, it is proper to explain precisely what that nature is, in order to come to the more easy understanding of what I would demonstrate. Some think that nature is a certain irrational power exciting in bodies the necessary motions. Others, that it is an intelligent power, acting by order and method, designing some end in every cause, and always aiming at that end, whose works express such skill as no art, no hand, can imitate; for, they say, such is the virtue of its seed, that, however small it is, if it falls into a place proper for its reception, and meets with matter conducive to its nourishment and increase, it forms and produces everything in its respective kind; either vegetables, which receive their nourishment from their roots; or animals, endowed with motion, sense, appetite, and abilities to beget their likeness.
Some apply the word nature to everything; as Epicurus does, who acknowledges no cause, but atoms, a vacuum, and their accidents. But when we say that nature forms and governs the world, we do not apply it to a clod of earth, or piece of stone, or anything of that sort, whose parts have not the necessary cohesion, but to a tree, in which there is not the appearance of chance, but of order and a resemblance of art.
XXXIII. But if the art of nature gives life and increase to vegetables, without doubt it supports the earth itself; for, being impregnated with seeds, she produces every kind of vegetable, and embracing their roots, she nourishes and increases them; while, in her turn, she receives her nourishment from the other elements, and by her exhalations gives proper sustenance to the air, the sky, and all the superior bodies. If nature gives vigor and support to the earth, by the same reason she has an influence over the rest of the world; for as the earth gives nourishment to vegetables, so the air is the preservation of animals. The air sees with us, hears with us, and utters sounds with us; without it, there would be no seeing, hearing, or sounding. It even moves with us; for wherever we go, whatever motion we make, it seems to retire and give place to us.
That which inclines to the center, that which rises from it to the surface, and that which rolls about the center, constitute the universal world, and make one entire nature; and as there are four sorts of bodies, the continuance of nature is caused by their reciprocal changes; for the water arises from the earth, the air from the water, and the fire from the air; and, reversing this order, the air arises from fire, the water from the air, and from the water the earth, the lowest of the four elements, of which all beings are formed. Thus by their continual motions backward and forward, upward and downward, the conjunction of the several parts of the universe is preserved; a union which, in the beauty we now behold it, must be eternal, or at least of a very long duration, and almost for an infinite space of time; and, whichever it is, the universe must of consequence be governed by nature. For what art of navigating fleets, or of marshalling an army, and — to instance the produce of nature — what vine, what tree, what animated form and conformation of their members, give us so great an indication of skill as appears in the universe? Therefore we must either deny that there is the least trace of an intelligent nature, or acknowledge that the world is governed by it. But since the universe contains all particular beings, as well as their seeds, can we say that it is not itself governed by nature? That would be the same as saying that the teeth and the beard of man are the work of nature, but that the man himself is not. Thus the effect would be understood to be greater than the cause.
XXXIV. Now, the universe sows, as I may say, plants, produces, raises, nourishes, and preserves what nature administers, as members and parts of itself. If nature, therefore, governs them, she must also govern the universe. And, lastly, in nature’s administration there is nothing faulty. She produced the best possible effect out of those elements which existed. Let any one show how it could have been better. But that can never be; and whoever attempts to mend it will either make it worse, or aim at impossibilities.
But if all the parts of the universe are so constituted that nothing could be better for use or beauty, let us consider whether this is the effect of chance, or whether, in such a state they could possibly cohere, but by the direction of wisdom and divine providence. Nature, therefore, cannot be void of reason, if art can bring nothing to perfection without it, and if the works of nature exceed those of art. How is it consistent with common-sense that when you view an image or a picture, you imagine it is wrought by art; when you behold afar off a ship under sail, you judge it is steered by reason and art; when you see a dial or water-clock, you believe the hours are shown by art, and not by chance; and yet that you should imagine that the universe, which contains all arts and the artificers, can be void of reason and understanding?
But if that sphere which was lately made by our friend Posidonius, the regular revolutions of which show the course of the sun, moon, and five wandering stars, as it is every day and night performed, were carried into Scythia or Britain, who, in those barbarous countries, would doubt that that sphere had been made so perfect by the exertion of reason?
XXXV. Yet these people doubt whether the universe, from whence all things arise and are made, is not the effect of chance, or some necessity, rather than the work of reason and a divine mind. According to them, Archimedes shows more knowledge in representing the motions of the celestial globe than nature does in causing them, though the copy is so infinitely beneath the original. The shepherd in Attius, who had never seen a ship, when he perceived from a mountain afar off the divine vessel of the Argonauts, surprised and frighted at this new object, expressed himself in this manner:
What horrid bulk is that before my eyes,
At first he is in suspense at the sight of this unknown object; but on seeing the young mariners, and hearing their singing, he says,
Like sportive dolphins, with their snouts they roar;
and afterward goes on,
Loud in my ears methinks their voices ring,
As at first view the shepherd thinks he sees something inanimate and insensible, but afterward, judging by more trustworthy indications, he begins to figure to himself what it is; so philosophers, if they are surprised at first at the sight of the universe, ought, when they have considered the regular, uniform, and immutable motions of it, to conceive that there is some Being that is not only an inhabitant of this celestial and divine mansion, but a ruler and a governor, as architect of this mighty fabric.
XXXVI. Now, in my opinion, they do not seem to have even the least suspicion that the heavens and earth afford anything marvellous. For, in the first place, the earth is situated in the middle part of the universe, and is surrounded on all sides by the air, which we breathe, and which is called “aer,” which, indeed, is a Greek word; but by constant use it is well understood by our countrymen, for, indeed, it is employed as a Latin word. The air is encompassed by the boundless ether (sky), which consists of the fires above. This word we borrow also, for we use aether in Latin as well as aer; though Pacuvius thus expresses it,
—This, of which I speak,
As though he were not a Greek into whose mouth he puts this sentence; but he is speaking in Latin, though we listen as if he were speaking Greek; for, as he says elsewhere,
His speech discovers him a Grecian born.
But to return to more important matters. In the sky innumerable fiery stars exist, of which the sun is the chief, enlightening all with his refulgent splendor, and being by many degrees larger than the whole earth; and this multitude of vast fires are so far from hurting the earth, and things terrestrial, that they are of benefit to them; whereas, if they were moved from their stations, we should inevitably be burned through the want of a proper moderation and temperature of heat.
XXXVII. Is it possible for any man to behold these things, and yet imagine that certain solid and individual bodies move by their natural force and gravitation, and that a world so beautifully adorned was made by their fortuitous concourse? He who believes this may as well believe that if a great quantity of the one-and-twenty letters, composed either of gold or any other matter, were thrown upon the ground, they would fall into such order as legibly to form the Annals of Ennius. I doubt whether fortune could make a single verse of them. How, therefore, can these people assert that the world was made by the fortuitous concourse of atoms, which have no color, no quality — which the Greeks call 'poiotes', no sense? or that there are innumerable worlds, some rising and some perishing, in every moment of time? But if a concourse of atoms can make a world, why not a porch, a temple, a house, a city, which are works of less labor and difficulty?
Certainly those men talk so idly and inconsiderately concerning this lower world that they appear to me never to have contemplated the wonderful magnificence of the heavens; which is the next topic for our consideration.
Well, then, did Aristotle observe: “If there were men whose habitations had been always underground, in great and commodious houses, adorned with statues and pictures, furnished with everything which they who are reputed happy abound with; and if, without stirring from thence, they should be informed of a certain divine power and majesty, and, after some time, the earth should open, and they should quit their dark abode to come to us, where they should immediately behold the earth, the seas, the heavens; should consider the vast extent of the clouds and force of the winds; should see the sun, and observe his grandeur and beauty, and also his generative power, inasmuch as day is occasioned by the diffusion of his light through the sky; and when night has obscured the earth, they should contemplate the heavens bespangled and adorned with stars, the surprising variety of the moon in her increase and wane, the rising and setting of all the stars, and the inviolable regularity of their courses; when,” says he, “they should see these things, they would undoubtedly conclude that there are Gods, and that these are their mighty works.”
XXXVIII. Thus far Aristotle. Let us imagine, also, as great darkness as was formerly occasioned by the irruption of the fires of Mount Aetna, which are said to have obscured the adjacent countries for two days to such a degree that no man could recognize his fellow; but on the third, when the sun appeared, they seemed to be risen from the dead. Now, if we should be suddenly brought from a state of eternal darkness to see the light, how beautiful would the heavens seem! But our minds have become used to it from the daily practice and habituation of our eyes, nor do we take the trouble to search into the principles of what is always in view; as if the novelty, rather than the importance, of things ought to excite us to investigate their causes.
Is he worthy to be called a man who attributes to chance, not to an intelligent cause, the constant motion of the heavens, the regular courses of the stars, the agreeable proportion and connection of all things, conducted with so much reason that our intellect itself is unable to estimate it rightly? When we see machines move artificially, as a sphere, a clock, or the like, do we doubt whether they are the productions of reason? And when we behold the heavens moving with a prodigious celerity, and causing an annual succession of the different seasons of the year, which vivify and preserve all things, can we doubt that this world is directed, I will not say only by reason, but by reason most excellent and divine? For without troubling ourselves with too refined a subtlety of discussion, we may use our eyes to contemplate the beauty of those things which we assert have been arranged by divine providence.
XXXIX. First, let us examine the earth, whose situation is in the middle of the universe, solid, round, and conglobular by its natural tendency; clothed with flowers, herbs, trees, and fruits; the whole in multitudes incredible, and with a variety suitable to every taste: let us consider the ever-cool and running springs, the clear waters of the rivers, the verdure of their banks, the hollow depths of caves, the cragginess of rocks, the heights of impending mountains, and the boundless extent of plains, the hidden veins of gold and silver, and the infinite quarries of marble.
What and how various are the kinds of animals, tame or wild? The flights and notes of birds? How do the beasts live in the fields and in the forests? What shall I say of men, who, being appointed, as we may say, to cultivate the earth, do not suffer its fertility to be choked with weeds, nor the ferocity of beasts to make it desolate; who, by the houses and cities which they build, adorn the fields, the isles, and the shores? If we could view these objects with the naked eye, as we can by the contemplation of the mind, nobody, at such a sight, would doubt there was a divine intelligence.
But how beautiful is the sea! How pleasant to see the extent of it! What a multitude and variety of islands! How delightful are the coasts! What numbers and what diversity of inhabitants does it contain; some within the bosom of it, some floating on the surface, and others by their shells cleaving to the rocks! While the sea itself, approaching to the land, sports so closely to its shores that those two elements appear to be but one.
Next above the sea is the air, diversified by day and night: when rarefied, it possesses the higher region; when condensed, it turns into clouds, and with the waters which it gathers enriches the earth by the rain. Its agitation produces the winds. It causes heat and cold according to the different seasons. It sustains birds in their flight; and, being inhaled, nourishes and preserves all animated beings.
XL. Add to these, which alone remaineth to be mentioned, the firmament of heaven, a region the farthest from our abodes, which surrounds and contains all things. It is likewise called ether, or sky, the extreme bounds and limits of the universe, in which the stars perform their appointed courses in a most wonderful manner; among which, the sun, whose magnitude far surpasses the earth, makes his revolution round it, and by his rising and setting causes day and night; sometimes coming near towards the earth, and sometimes going from it, he every year makes two contrary reversions from the extreme point of its course. In his retreat the earth seems locked up in sadness; in his return it appears exhilarated with the heavens. The moon, which, as mathematicians demonstrate, is bigger than half the earth, makes her revolutions through the same spaces as the sun; but at one time approaching, and at another receding from, the sun, she diffuses the light which she has borrowed from him over the whole earth, and has herself also many various changes in her appearance. When she is found under the sun, and opposite to it, the brightness of her rays is lost; but when the earth directly interposes between the moon and sun, the moon is totally eclipsed. The other wandering stars have their courses round the earth in the same spaces, and rise and set in the same manner; their motions are sometimes quick, sometimes slow, and often they stand still. There is nothing more wonderful, nothing more beautiful. There is a vast number of fixed stars, distinguished by the names of certain figures, to which we find they have some resemblance.
XLI. I will here, says Balbus, looking at me, make use of the verses which, when you were young, you translated from Aratus, and which, because they are in Latin, gave me so much delight that I have many of them still in my memory. As then, we daily see, without any change or variation,
the contemplation of which, to a mind desirous of observing the constancy of nature, is inexhaustible.
The extreme top of either point is call’d
About this the two 'Arktoi' are turned, which never set;
Of these, the Greeks one Cynosura call,
The brightest stars, indeed, of Helice are discernible all night,
Which are by us Septentriones call’d.
Cynosura moves about the same pole, with a like number of stars, and ranged in the same order:
This the Phoenicians choose to make their guide
XLII. The aspect of those stars is the more admirable, because,
The Dragon grim between them bends his way,
His whole form is excellent; but the shape of his head and the ardor of his eyes are most remarkable.
Various the stars which deck his glittering head;
The rest of the Dragon’s body we see at every hour in the night.
Here suddenly the head a little hides
Near to this head
Is placed the figure of a man that moves
which the Greeks
Engonasis do call, because he’s borne
This indeed is at his back; but Anguitenens (the Snake-holder) is near his head:
The Greeks him Ophiuchus call, renown’d
The Septentriones are followed by—
Arctophylax, that’s said to be the same
Besides, in Boötes,
A star of glittering rays about his waist,
Beneath which is
The Virgin of illustrious form, whose hand
XLIII. And truly these signs are so regularly disposed that a divine wisdom evidently appears in them:
Beneath the Bear’s head have the Twins their seat,
On the left side of Gemini we see,
But to proceed—
This is indeed a great and glorious star,
Under his feet
The horned bull, with sturdy limbs, is placed:
his head is spangled with a number of stars;
These by the Greeks are called the Hyades,
from raining; for 'huein' is to rain: therefore they are injudiciously called Suculae by our people, as if they had their name from 'hus', a sow, and not from 'huo'.
Behind the Lesser Bear, Cepheus follows with extended hands,
For close behind the Lesser Bear he comes.
Before him goes
Cassiopea with a faintish light;
by whom -
The Fishes are; of which one seems to haste
XLIV. Perseus is described as placed at the feet of Andromeda:
And him the sharp blasts of the north wind beat.
Near the head of the Horse lies the right hand of Aquarius, then all Aquarius himself.
Then Capricorn, with half the form of beast,
Not far from hence is seen
The Scorpion rising lofty from below;
Next comes the Dolphin;
Then bright Orion, who obliquely moves;
he is followed by
The fervent Dog, bright with refulgent stars:
next the Hare follows
Unwearied in his course. At the Dog’s tail
which you may see winding and extending itself to a great length.
The Fetters at the Fishes’ tails are hung.
near which the Centaur
Hastens his mingled parts to join beneath
whose bulk is very far extended.
Amid the winding of her body’s placed
Can any one in his senses imagine that this disposition of the stars, and this heaven so beautifully adorned, could ever have been formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms? Or what other nature, being destitute of intellect and reason, could possibly have produced these effects, which not only required reason to bring them about, but the very character of which could not be understood and appreciated without the most strenuous exertions of well-directed reason?
XLV. But our admiration is not limited to the objects here described. What is most wonderful is that the world is so durable, and so perfectly made for lasting that it is not to be impaired by time; for all its parts tend equally to the center, and are bound together by a sort of chain, which surrounds the elements. This chain is nature, which being diffused through the universe, and performing all things with judgment and reason, attracts the extremities to the center.
If, then, the world is round, and if on that account all its parts, being of equal dimensions and relative proportions, mutually support and are supported by one another, it must follow that as all the parts incline to the center (for that is the lowest place of a globe) there is nothing whatever which can put a stop to that propensity in the case of such great weights. For the same reason, though the sea is higher than the earth, yet because it has the like tendency, it is collected everywhere, equally concentres, and never overflows, and is never wasted.
The air, which is contiguous, ascends by its lightness, but diffuses itself through the whole; therefore it is by nature joined and united to the sea, and at the same time borne by the same power towards the heaven, by the thinness and heat of which it is so tempered as to be made proper to supply life and wholesome air for the support of animated beings. This is encompassed by the highest region of the heavens, which is called the sky, which is joined to the extremity of the air, but retains its own heat pure and unmixed.
XLVI. The stars have their revolutions in the sky, and are continued by the tendency of all parts towards the center. Their duration is perpetuated by their form and figure, for they are round; which form, as I think has been before observed, is the least liable to injury; and as they are composed of fire, they are fed by the vapors which are exhaled by the sun from the earth, the sea, and other waters; but when these vapors have nourished and refreshed the stars, and the whole sky, they are sent back to be exhaled again; so that very little is lost or consumed by the fire of the stars and the flame of the sky. Hence we Stoics conclude - which Panaetius is said to have doubted of - that the whole world at last would be consumed by a general conflagration, when, all moisture being exhausted, neither the earth could have any nourishment, nor the air return again, since water, of which it is formed, would then be all consumed; so that only fire would subsist; and from this fire, which is an animating power and a Deity, a new world would arise and be re-established in the same beauty.
I should be sorry to appear to you to dwell too long upon this subject of the stars, and more especially upon that of the planets, whose motions, though different, make a very just agreement. Saturn, the highest, chills; Mars, placed in the middle, burns; while Jupiter, interposing, moderates their excess, both of light and heat. The two planets beneath Mars obey the sun. The sun himself fills the whole universe with his own genial light; and the moon, illuminated by him, influences conception, birth, and maturity. And who is there who is not moved by this union of things, and by this concurrence of nature agreeing together, as it were, for the safety of the world? And yet I feel sure that none of these reflections have ever been made by these men.
XLVII. Let us proceed from celestial to terrestrial things. What is there in them which does not prove the principle of an intelligent nature? First, as to vegetables; they have roots to sustain their stems, and to draw from the earth a nourishing moisture to support the vital principle which those roots contain. They are clothed with a rind or bark, to secure them more thoroughly from heat and cold. The vines we see take hold on props with their tendrils, as if with hands, and raise themselves as if they were animated; it is even said that they shun cabbages and coleworts, as noxious and pestilential to them, and, if planted by them, will not touch any part.
But what a vast variety is there of animals! and how wonderfully is every kind adapted to preserve itself! Some are covered with hides, some clothed with fleeces, and some guarded with bristles; some are sheltered with feathers, some with scales; some are armed with horns, and some are furnished with wings to escape from danger. Nature hath also liberally and plentifully provided for all animals their proper food. I could expatiate on the judicious and curious formation and disposition of their bodies for the reception and digestion of it, for all their interior parts are so framed and disposed that there is nothing superfluous, nothing that is not necessary for the preservation of life. Besides, nature has also given these beasts appetite and sense; in order that by the one they may be excited to procure sufficient sustenance, and by the other they may distinguish what is noxious from what is salutary. Some animals seek their food walking, some creeping, some flying, and some swimming; some take it with their mouth and teeth; some seize it with their claws, and some with their beaks; some suck, some graze, some bolt it whole, and some chew it. Some are so low that they can with ease take such food as is to be found on the ground; but the taller, as geese, swans, cranes, and camels, are assisted by a length of neck. To the elephant is given a hand, without which, from his unwieldiness of body, he would scarce have any means of attaining food.
XLVIII. But to those beasts which live by preying on others, nature has given either strength or swiftness. On some animals she has even bestowed artifice and cunning; as on spiders, some of which weave a sort of net to entrap and destroy whatever falls into it, others sit on the watch unobserved to fall on their prey and devour it. The naker - by the Greeks called Pinna - has a kind of confederacy with the prawn for procuring food. It has two large shells open, into which when the little fishes swim, the naker, having notice given by the bite of the prawn, closes them immediately. Thus, these little animals, though of different kinds, seek their food in common; in which it is matter of wonder whether they associate by any agreement, or are naturally joined together from their beginning.
There is some cause to admire also the provision of nature in the case of those aquatic animals which are generated on land, such as crocodiles, river-tortoises, and a certain kind of serpents, which seek the water as soon as they are able to drag themselves along. We frequently put duck-eggs under hens, by which, as by their true mothers, the ducklings are at first hatched and nourished; but when they see the water, they forsake them and run to it, as to their natural abode: so strong is the impression of nature in animals for their own preservation.
XLIX. I have read that there is a bird called Platalea (the shoveller), that lives by watching those fowls which dive into the sea for their prey, and when they return with it, he squeezes their heads with his beak till they drop it, and then seizes on it himself. It is said likewise that he is in the habit of filling his stomach with shell-fish, and when they are digested by the heat which exists in the stomach, they cast them up, and then pick out what is proper nourishment. The sea-frogs, they say, are wont to cover themselves with sand, and moving near the water, the fishes strike at them, as at a bait, and are themselves taken and devoured by the frogs. Between the kite and the crow there is a kind of natural war, and wherever the one finds the eggs of the other, he breaks them.
But who is there who can avoid being struck with wonder at that which has been noticed by Aristotle, who has enriched us with so many valuable remarks? When the cranes pass the sea in search of warmer climes, they fly in the form of a triangle. By the first angle they repel the resisting air; on each side, their wings serve as oars to facilitate their flight; and the basis of their triangle is assisted by the wind in their stern. Those which are behind rest their necks and heads on those which precede; and as the leader has not the same relief, because he has none to lean upon, he at length flies behind that he may also rest, while one of those which have been eased succeeds him, and through the whole flight each regularly takes his turn.
I could produce many instances of this kind; but these may suffice. Let us now proceed to things more familiar to us. The care of beasts for their own preservation, their circumspection while feeding, and their manner of taking rest in their lairs, are generally known, but still they are greatly to be admired.
L. Dogs cure themselves by a vomit, the Egyptian ibis by a purge; from whence physicians have lately - I mean but few ages since - greatly improved their art. It is reported that panthers, which in barbarous countries are taken with poisoned flesh, have a certain remedy that preserves them from dying; and that in Crete, the wild goats, when they are wounded with poisoned arrows, seek for an herb called dittany, which, when they have tasted, the arrows (they say) drop from their bodies. It is said also that deer, before they fawn, purge themselves with a little herb called hartswort. Beasts, when they receive any hurt, or fear it, have recourse to their natural arms: the bull to his horns, the boar to his tusks, and the lion to his teeth. Some take to flight, others hide themselves; the cattle-fish vomits blood; the cramp-fish benumbs; and there are many animals that, by their intolerable stink, oblige their pursuers to retire.
LI. But that the beauty of the world might be eternal, great care has been taken by the providence of the Gods to perpetuate the different kinds of animals, and vegetables, and trees, and all those things which sink deep into the earth, and are contained in it by their roots and trunks; in order to which every individual has within itself such fertile seed that many are generated from one; and in vegetables this seed is enclosed in the heart of their fruit, but in such abundance that men may plentifully feed on it, and the earth be always replanted.
With regard to animals, do we not see how aptly they are formed for the propagation of their species? Nature for this end created some males and some females. Their parts are perfectly framed for generation, and they have a wonderful propensity to copulation. When the seed has fallen on the matrix, it draws almost all the nourishment to itself, by which the fetus is formed; but as soon as it is discharged from thence, if it is an animal that is nourished by milk, almost all the food of the mother turns into milk, and the animal, without any direction but by the pure instinct of nature, immediately hunts for the teat, and is there fed with plenty. What makes it evidently appear that there is nothing in this fortuitous, but the work of a wise and foreseeing nature, is, that those females which bring forth many young, as sows and bitches, have many teats, and those which bear a small number have but few. What tenderness do beasts show in preserving and raising up their young till they are able to defend themselves! They say, indeed, that fish, when they have spawned, leave their eggs; but the water easily supports them, and produces the young fry in abundance.
LII. It is said, likewise, that tortoises and crocodiles, when they have laid their eggs on the land, only cover them with earth, and then leave them, so that their young are hatched and brought up without assistance; but fowls and other birds seek for quiet places to lay in, where they build their nests in the softest manner, for the surest preservation of their eggs; which, when they have hatched, they defend from the cold by the warmth of their wings, or screen them from the sultry heat of the sun. When their young begin to be able to use their wings, they attend and instruct them; and then their cares are at an end.
Human art and industry are indeed necessary towards the preservation and improvement of certain animals and vegetables; for there are several of both kinds which would perish without that assistance. There are likewise innumerable facilities (being different in different places) supplied to man to aid him in his civilization, and in procuring abundantly what he requires. The Nile waters Egypt, and after having overflowed and covered it the whole summer, it retires, and leaves the fields softened and manured for the reception of seed. The Euphrates fertilizes Mesopotamia, into which, as we may say, it carries yearly new fields. The Indus, which is the largest of all rivers, not only improves and cultivates the ground, but sows it also; for it is said to carry with it a great quantity of grain. I could mention many other countries remarkable for something singular, and many fields, which are, in their own natures, exceedingly fertile.
LIII. But how bountiful is nature that has provided for us such an abundance of various and delicious food; and this varying with the different seasons, so that we may be constantly pleased with change, and satisfied with abundance! How seasonable and useful to man, to beasts, and even to vegetables, are the Etesian winds she has bestowed, which moderate intemperate heat, and render navigation more sure and speedy! Many things must be omitted on a subject so copious - and still a great deal must be said - for it is impossible to relate the great utility of rivers, the flux and reflux of the sea, the mountains clothed with grass and trees, the salt-pits remote from the seacoasts, the earth replete with salutary medicines, or, in short, the innumerable designs of nature necessary for sustenance and the enjoyment of life. We must not forget the vicissitudes of day and night, ordained for the health of animated beings, giving them a time to labor and a time to rest. Thus, if we every way examine the universe, it is apparent, from the greatest reason, that the whole is admirably governed by a divine providence for the safety and preservation of all beings.
If it should be asked for whose sake this mighty fabric was raised, shall we say for trees and other vegetables, which, though destitute of sense, are supported by nature? That would be absurd. Is it for beasts? Nothing can be less probable than that the Gods should have taken such pains for beings void of speech and understanding. For whom, then, will any one presume to say that the world was made? Undoubtedly for reasonable beings; these are the Gods and men, who are certainly the most perfect of all beings, as nothing is equal to reason. It is therefore credible that the universe, and all things in it, were made for the Gods and for men.
But we may yet more easily comprehend that the Gods have taken great care of the interests and welfare of men, if we examine thoroughly into the structure of the body, and the form and perfection of human nature. There are three things absolutely necessary for the support of life - to eat, to drink, and to breathe. For these operations the mouth is most aptly framed, which, by the assistance of the nostrils, draws in the more air.
LIV. The teeth are there placed to divide and grind the food. The fore-teeth, being sharp and opposite to each other, cut it asunder, and the hind-teeth (called the grinders) chew it, in which office the tongue seems to assist. At the root of the tongue is the gullet, which receives whatever is swallowed: it touches the tonsils on each side, and terminates at the interior extremity of the palate. When, by the motions of the tongue, the food is forced into this passage, it descends, and those parts of the gullet which are below it are dilated, and those above are contracted. There is another passage, called by physicians the rough artery, which reaches to the lungs, for the entrance and return of the air we breathe; and as its orifice is joined to the roots of the tongue a little above the part to which the gullet is annexed, it is furnished with a sort of coverlid, lest, by the accidental falling of any food into it, the respiration should be stopped.
As the stomach, which is beneath the gullet, receives the meat and drink, so the lungs and the heart draw in the air from without. The stomach is wonderfully composed, consisting almost wholly of nerves; it abounds with membranes and fibres, and detains what it receives, whether solid or liquid, till it is altered and digested. It sometimes contracts, sometimes dilates. It blends and mixes the food together, so that it is easily concocted and digested by its force of heat, and by the animal spirits is distributed into the other parts of the body.
LV. As to the lungs, they are of a soft and spongy substance, which renders them the most commodious for respiration; they alternately dilate and contract to receive and return the air, that what is the chief animal sustenance may be always fresh. The juice, by which we are nourished, being separated from the rest of the food, passes the stomach and intestines to the liver, through open and direct passages, which lead from the mesentery to the gates of the liver (for so they call those vessels at the entrance of it). There are other passages from thence, through which the food has its course when it has passed the liver. When the bile, and those humors which proceed from the kidneys, are separated from the food, the remaining part turns to blood, and flows to those vessels at the entrance of the liver to which all the passages adjoin. The chyle, being conveyed from this place through them into the vessel called the hollow vein, is mixed together, and, being already digested and distilled, passes into the heart; and from the heart it is communicated through a great number of veins to every part of the body.
It is not difficult to describe how the gross remains are detruded by the motion of the intestines, which contract and dilate; but that must be declined, as too indelicate for discourse. Let us rather explain that other wonder of nature, the air, which is drawn into the lungs, receives heat both by that already in and by the coagitation of the lungs; one part is turned back by respiration, and the other is received into a place called the ventricle of the heart. There is another ventricle like it annexed to the heart, into which the blood flows from the liver through the hollow vein. Thus by one ventricle the blood is diffused to the extremities through the veins, and by the other the breath is communicated through the arteries; and there are such numbers of both dispersed through the whole body that they manifest a divine art.
Why need I speak of the bones, those supports of the body, whose joints are so wonderfully contrived for stability, and to render the limbs complete with regard to motion and to every action of the body? Or need I mention the nerves, by which the limbs are governed - their many interweavings, and their proceeding from the heart, from whence, like the veins and arteries, they have their origin, and are distributed through the whole corporeal frame?
LVI. To this skill of nature, and this care of providence, so diligent and so ingenious, many reflections may be added, which show what valuable things the Deity has bestowed on man. He has made us of a stature tall and upright, in order that we might behold the heavens, and so arrive at the knowledge of the Gods; for men are not simply to dwell here as inhabitants of the earth, but to be, as it were, spectators of the heavens and the stars, which is a privilege not granted to any other kind of animated beings. The senses, which are the interpreters and messengers of things, are placed in the head, as in a tower, and wonderfully situated for their proper uses; for the eyes, being in the highest part, have the office of sentinels, in discovering to us objects; and the ears are conveniently placed in a high part of the person, being appointed to receive sound, which naturally ascends. The nostrils have the like situation, because all scent likewise ascends; and they have, with great reason, a near vicinity to the mouth, because they assist us in judging of meat and drink. The taste, which is to distinguish the quality of what we take; is in that part of the mouth where nature has laid open a passage for what we eat and drink. But the touch is equally diffused through the whole body, that we may not receive any blows, or the too rigid attacks of cold and heat, without feeling them. And as in building the architect averts from the eyes and nose of the master those things which must necessarily be offensive, so has nature removed far from our senses what is of the same kind in the human body.
LVII. What artificer but nature, whose direction is incomparable, could have exhibited so much ingenuity in the formation of the senses? In the first place, she has covered and invested the eyes with the finest membranes, which she hath made transparent, that we may see through them, and firm in their texture, to preserve the eyes. She has made them slippery and movable, that they might avoid what would offend them, and easily direct the sight wherever they will. The actual organ of sight, which is called the pupil, is so small that it can easily shun whatever might be hurtful to it. The eyelids, which are their coverings, are soft and smooth, that they may not injure the eyes; and are made to shut at the apprehension of any accident, or to open at pleasure; and these movements nature has ordained to be made in an instant: they are fortified with a sort of palisade of hairs, to keep off what may be noxious to them when open, and to be a fence to their repose when sleep closes them, and allows them to rest as if they were wrapped up in a case. Besides, they are commodiously hidden and defended by eminences on every side; for on the upper part the eyebrows turn aside the perspiration which falls from the head and forehead; the cheeks beneath rise a little, so as to protect them on the lower side; and the nose is placed between them as a wall of separation.
The hearing is always open, for that is a sense of which we are in need even while we are sleeping; and the moment that any sound is admitted by it we are awakened even from sleep. It has a winding passage, lest anything should slip into it, as it might if it were straight and simple. Nature also hath taken the same precaution in making there a viscous humor, that if any little creatures should endeavor to creep in, they might stick in it as in birdlime. The ears (by which we mean the outward part) are made prominent, to cover and preserve the hearing, lest the sound should be dissipated and escape before the sense is affected. Their entrances are hard and horny, and their form winding, because bodies of this kind better return and increase the sound. This appears in the harp, lute, or horn; and from all tortuous and enclosed places sounds are returned stronger.
The nostrils, in like manner, are ever open, because we have a continual use for them; and their entrances also are rather narrow, lest anything noxious should enter them; and they have always a humidity necessary for the repelling dust and many other extraneous bodies. The taste, having the mouth for an enclosure, is admirably situated, both in regard to the use we make of it and to its security.
LVIII. Besides, every human sense is much more exquisite than those of brutes; for our eyes, in those arts which come under their judgment, distinguish with great nicety; as in painting, sculpture, engraving, and in the gesture and motion of bodies. They understand the beauty, proportion, and, as I may so term it, the becomingness of colors and figures; they distinguish things of greater importance, even virtues and vices; they know whether a man is angry or calm, cheerful or sad, courageous or cowardly, bold or timorous.
The judgment of the ears is not less admirably and scientifically contrived with regard to vocal and instrumental music. They distinguish the variety of sounds, the measure, the stops, the different sorts of voices, the treble and the base, the soft and the harsh, the sharp and the flat, of which human ears only are capable to judge. There is likewise great judgment in the smell, the taste, and the touch; to indulge and gratify which senses more arts have been invented than I could wish: it is apparent to what excess we have arrived in the composition of our perfumes, the preparation of our food, and the enjoyment of corporeal pleasures.
LIX. Again, he who does not perceive the soul and mind of man, his reason, prudence, and discernment, to be the work of a divine providence, seems himself to be destitute of those faculties. While I am on this subject, Cotta, I wish I had your eloquence: how would you illustrate so fine a subject! You would show the great extent of the understanding; how we collect our ideas, and join those which follow to those which precede; establish principles, draw consequences, define things separately, and comprehend them with accuracy; from whence you demonstrate how great is the power of intelligence and knowledge, which is such that even God himself has no qualities more admirable. How valuable (though you Academics despise and even deny that we have it) is our knowledge of exterior objects, from the perception of the senses joined to the application of the mind; by which we see in what relation one thing stands to another, and by the aid of which we have invented those arts which are necessary for the support and pleasure of life. How charming is eloquence! How divine that mistress of the universe, as you call it! It teaches us what we were ignorant of, and makes us capable of teaching what we have learned. By this we exhort others; by this we persuade them; by this we comfort the afflicted; by this we deliver the affrighted from their fear; by this we moderate excessive joy; by this we assuage the passions of lust and anger. This it is which bound men by the chains of right and law, formed the bonds of civil society, and made us quit a wild and savage life.
And it will appear incredible, unless you carefully observe the facts, how complete the work of nature is in giving us the use of speech; for, first of all, there is an artery from the lungs to the bottom of the mouth, through which the voice, having its original principle in the mind, is transmitted. Then the tongue is placed in the mouth, bounded by the teeth. It softens and modulates the voice, which would otherwise be confusedly uttered; and, by pushing it to the teeth and other parts of the mouth, makes the sound distinct and articulate. We Stoics, therefore, compare the tongue to the bow of an instrument, the teeth to the strings, and the nostrils to the sounding-board.
LX. But how commodious are the hands which nature has given to man, and how beautifully do they minister to many arts! For, such is the flexibility of the joints, that our fingers are closed and opened without any difficulty. With their help, the hand is formed for painting, carving, and engraving; for playing on stringed instruments, and on the pipe. These are matters of pleasure. There are also works of necessity, such as tilling the ground, building houses, making cloth and habits, and working in brass and iron. It is the business of the mind to invent, the senses to perceive, and the hands to execute; so that if we have buildings, if we are clothed, if we live in safety, if we have cities, walls, habitations, and temples, it is to the hands we owe them.
By our labor, that is, by our hands, variety and plenty of food are provided; for, without culture, many fruits, which serve either for present or future consumption, would not be produced; besides, we feed on flesh, fish, and fowl, catching some, and bringing up others. We subdue four-footed beasts for our carriage, whose speed and strength supply our slowness and inability. On some we put burdens, on others yokes. We convert the sagacity of the elephant and the quick scent of the dog to our own advantage. Out of the caverns of the earth we dig iron, a thing entirely necessary for the cultivation of the ground. We discover the hidden veins of copper, silver, and gold, advantageous for our use and beautiful as ornaments. We cut down trees, and use every kind of wild and cultivated timber, not only to make fire to warm us and dress our meat, but also for building, that we may have houses to defend us from the heat and cold. With timber likewise we build ships, which bring us from all parts every commodity of life. We are the only animals who, from our knowledge of navigation, can manage what nature has made the most violent - the sea and the winds. Thus we obtain from the ocean great numbers of profitable things. We are the absolute masters of what the earth produces. We enjoy the mountains and the plains. The rivers and the lakes are ours. We sow the seed, and plant the trees. We fertilize the earth by overflowing it. We stop, direct, and turn the rivers: in short, by our hands we endeavor, by our various operations in this world, to make, as it were, another nature.
LXI. But what shall I say of human reason? Has it not even entered the heavens? Man alone of all animals has observed the courses of the stars, their risings and settings. By man the day, the month, the year, is determined. He foresees the eclipses of the sun and moon, and foretells them to futurity, marking their greatness, duration, and precise time. From the contemplation of these things the mind extracts the knowledge of the Gods - a knowledge which produces piety, with which is connected justice, and all the other virtues; from which arises a life of felicity, inferior to that of the Gods in no single particular, except in immortality, which is not absolutely necessary to happy living. In explaining these things, I think that I have sufficiently demonstrated the superiority of man to other animated beings; from whence we should infer that neither the form and position of his limbs nor that strength of mind and understanding could possibly be the effect of chance.
LXII. I am now to prove, by way of conclusion, that every thing in this world of use to us was made designedly for us.
First of all, the universe was made for the Gods and men, and all things therein were prepared and provided for our service. For the world is the common habitation or city of the Gods and men; for they are the only reasonable beings: they alone live by justice and law. As, therefore, it must be presumed the cities of Athens and Lacedaemon were built for the Athenians and Lacedaemonians, and as everything there is said to belong to those people, so everything in the universe may with propriety be said to belong to the Gods and men, and to them alone.
In the next place, though the revolutions of the sun, moon, and all the stars are necessary for the cohesion of the universe, yet may they be considered also as objects designed for the view and contemplation of man. There is no sight less apt to satiate the eye, none more beautiful, or more worthy to employ our reason and penetration. By measuring their courses we find the different seasons, their durations and vicissitudes, which, if they are known to men alone, we must believe were made only for their sake.
Does the earth bring forth fruit and grain in such excessive abundance and variety for men or for brutes? The plentiful and exhilarating fruit of the vine and the olive-tree are entirely useless to beasts. They know not the time for sowing, tilling, or for reaping in season and gathering in the fruits of the earth; or for laying up and preserving their stores. Man alone has the care and advantage of these things.
LXIII. Thus, as the lute and the pipe were made for those, and those only, who are capable of playing on them, so it must be allowed that the produce of the earth was designed for those only who make use of them; and though some beasts may rob us of a small part, it does not follow that the earth produced it also for them. Men do not store up corn for mice and ants, but for their wives, their children, and their families. Beasts, therefore, as I said before, possess it by stealth, but their masters openly and freely. It is for us, therefore, that nature hath provided this abundance. Can there be any doubt that this plenty and variety of fruit, which delight not only the taste, but the smell and sight, was by nature intended for men only? Beasts are so far from being partakers of this design, that we see that even they themselves were made for man; for of what utility would sheep be, unless for their wool, which, when dressed and woven, serves us for clothing? For they are not capable of anything, not even of procuring their own food, without the care and assistance of man. The fidelity of the dog, his affectionate fawning on his master, his aversion to strangers, his sagacity in finding game, and his vivacity in pursuit of it, what do these qualities denote but that he was created for our use? Why need I mention oxen? We perceive that their backs were not formed for carrying burdens, but their necks were naturally made for the yoke, and their strong broad shoulders to draw the plough. In the Golden Age, which poets speak of, they were so greatly beneficial to the husbandman in tilling the fallow ground that no violence was ever offered them, and it was even thought a crime to eat them:
The Iron Age began the fatal trade
LXIV. It would take a long time to relate the advantages which we receive from mules and asses, which undoubtedly were designed for our use. What is the swine good for but to eat? whose life, Chrysippus says, was given it but as salt to keep it from putrefying; and as it is proper food for man, nature hath made no animal more fruitful. What a multitude of birds and fishes are taken by the art and contrivance of man only, and which are so delicious to our taste that one would be tempted sometimes to believe that this Providence which watches over us was an Epicurean! Though we think there are some birds - the alites and oscines, as our augurs call them - which were made merely to foretell events.
The large savage beasts we take by hunting, partly for food, partly to exercise ourselves in imitation of martial discipline, and to use those we can tame and instruct, as elephants, or to extract remedies for our diseases and wounds, as we do from certain roots and herbs, the virtues of which are known by long use and experience. Represent to yourself the whole earth and seas as if before your eyes. You will see the vast and fertile plains, the thick, shady mountains, the immense pasturage for cattle, and ships sailing over the deep with incredible celerity; nor are our discoveries only on the face of the earth, but in its secret recesses there are many useful things, which being made for man, by man alone are discovered.
LXV. Another, and in my opinion the strongest, proof that the providence of the Gods takes care of us is divination, which both of you, perhaps, will attack; you, Cotta, because Carneades took pleasure in inveighing against the Stoics; and you, Velleius, because there is nothing Epicurus ridicules so much as the prediction of events. Yet the truth of divination appears in many places, on many occasions, often in private, but particularly in public concerns. We receive many intimations from the foresight and presages of augurs and auspices; from oracles, prophecies, dreams, and prodigies; and it often happens that by these means events have proved happy to men, and imminent dangers have been avoided. This knowledge, therefore - call it either a kind of transport, or an art, or a natural faculty - is certainly found only in men, and is a gift from the immortal Gods. If these proofs, when taken separately, should make no impression upon your mind, yet, when collected together, they must certainly affect you.
Besides, the Gods not only provide for mankind universally, but for particular men. You may bring this universality to gradually a smaller number, and again you may reduce that smaller number to individuals.
LXVI. For if the reasons which I have given prove to all of us that the Gods take care of all men, in every country, in every part of the world separate from our continent, they take care of those who dwell on the same land with us, from east to west; and if they regard those who inhabit this kind of great island, which we call the globe of the earth, they have the like regard for those who possess the parts of this island - Europe, Asia, and Africa; and therefore they favor the parts of these parts, as Rome, Athens, Sparta, and Rhodes; and particular men of these cities, separate from the whole; as Curius, Fabricius, Coruncanius, in the war with Pyrrhus; in the first Punic war, Calatinus, Duillius, Metellus, Lutatius; in the second, Maximus, Marcellus, Africanus; after these, Paullus, Gracchus, Cato; and in our fathers’ times, Scipio, Laelius. Rome also and Greece have produced many illustrious men, who we cannot believe were so without the assistance of the Deity; which is the reason that the poets, Homer in particular, joined their chief heroes - Ulysses, Agamemnon, Diomedes, Achilles - to certain Deities, as companions in their adventures and dangers. Besides, the frequent appearances of the Gods, as I have before mentioned, demonstrate their regard for cities and particular men. This is also apparent indeed from the foreknowledge of events, which we receive either sleeping or waking. We are likewise forewarned of many things by the entrails of victims, by presages, and many other means, which have been long observed with such exactness as to produce an art of divination.
There never, therefore, was a great man without divine inspiration. If a storm should damage the corn or vineyard of a person, or any accident should deprive him of some conveniences of life, we should not judge from thence that the Deity hates or neglects him. The Gods take care of great things, and disregard the small. But to truly great men all things ever happen prosperously; as has been sufficiently asserted and proved by us Stoics, as well as by Socrates, the prince of philosophers, in his discourses on the infinite advantages arising from virtue.
LXVII. This is almost the whole that hath occurred to my mind on the nature of the Gods, and what I thought proper to advance. Do you, Cotta, if I may advise, defend the same cause. Remember that in Rome you keep the first rank; remember that you are Pontifex; and as your school is at liberty to argue on which side you please, do you rather take mine, and reason on it with that eloquence which you acquired by your rhetorical exercises, and which the Academy improved; for it is a pernicious and impious custom to argue against the Gods, whether it be done seriously, or only in pretence and out of sport.