THE TUSCULAN DISPUTATIONS.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
ON THE CONTEMPT OF DEATH.
I. At a time when I had entirely, or to a great degree, released myself from my labors as an advocate, and from my duties as a senator, I had recourse again, Brutus, principally by your advice, to those studies which never had been out of my mind, although neglected at times, and which after a long interval I resumed; and now, since the principles and rules of all arts which relate to living well depend on the study of wisdom, which is called philosophy, I have thought it an employment worthy of me to illustrate them in the Latin tongue, not because philosophy could not be understood in the Greek language, or by the teaching of Greek masters; but it has always been my opinion that our countrymen have, in some instances, made wiser discoveries than the Greeks, with reference to those subjects which they have considered worthy of devoting their attention to, and in others have improved upon their discoveries, so that in one way or other we surpass them on every point; for, with regard to the manners and habits of private life, and family and domestic affairs, we certainly manage them with more elegance, and better than they did; and as to our republic, that our ancestors have, beyond all dispute, formed on better customs and laws.
What shall I say of our military affairs; in which our ancestors have been most eminent in valor, and still more so in discipline? As to those things which are attained not by study, but nature, neither Greece, nor any nation, is comparable to us; for what people has displayed such gravity, such steadiness, such greatness of soul, probity, faith — such distinguished virtue of every kind, as to be equal to our ancestors. In learning, indeed, and all kinds of literature, Greece did excel us, and it was easy to do so where there was no competition; for while among the Greeks the poets were the most ancient species of learned men — since Homer and Hesiod lived before the foundation of Rome, and Archilochus [Archilochus of Paros, c. 714-676 B.C.] was a contemporary of Romulus — we received poetry much later. For it was about five hundred and ten years after the building of Rome before Livius [Livius Andronicus] published a play in the consulship of C. Claudius, the son of Caecus, and M. Tuditanus, a year before the birth of Ennius, who was older than Plautus and Naevius.
II. It was, therefore, late before poets were either known or received among us; though we find in Cato de Originibus that the guests used, at their entertainments, to sing the praises of famous men to the sound of the flute; but a speech of Cato’s shows this kind of poetry to have been in no great esteem, as he censures Marcus Nobilior for carrying poets with him into his province; for that consul, as we know, carried Ennius with him into Aetolia. Therefore the less esteem poets were in, the less were those studies pursued; though even then those who did display the greatest abilities that way were not very inferior to the Greeks. Do we imagine that if it had been considered commendable in Fabius [C. Fabius surnamed Pictor], a man of the highest rank, to paint, we should not have had many Polycleti and Parrhasii? Honor nourishes art, and glory is the spur with all to studies; while those studies are always neglected in every nation which are looked upon disparagingly.
The Greeks held skill in vocal and instrumental music as a very important accomplishment, and therefore it is recorded of Epaminondas, who, in my opinion, was the greatest man among the Greeks, that he played excellently on the flute; and Themistocles, some years before, was deemed ignorant because at an entertainment he declined the lyre when it was offered to him. For this reason musicians flourished in Greece; music was a general study; and whoever was unacquainted with it was not considered as fully instructed in learning. Geometry was in high esteem with them, therefore none were more honorable than mathematicians. But we have confined this art to bare measuring and calculating.
III. But, on the contrary, we early entertained an esteem for the orator; though he was not at first a man of learning, but only quick at speaking: in subsequent times he became learned; for it is reported that Galba, Africanus, and Laelius were men of learning; and that even Cato, who preceded them in point of time, was a studious man: then succeeded the Lepidi, Carbo, and Gracchi, and so many great orators after them, down to our own times, that we were very little, if at all, inferior to the Greeks.
Philosophy has been at a low ebb even to this present time, and has had no assistance from our own language, and so now I have undertaken to raise and illustrate it, in order that, as I have been of service to my countrymen, when employed on public affairs, I may, if possible, be so likewise in my retirement; and in this I must take the more pains, because there are already many books in the Latin language which are said to be written inaccurately, having been composed by excellent men, only not of sufficient learning; for, indeed, it is possible that a man may think well, and yet not be able to express his thoughts elegantly; but for any one to publish thoughts which he can neither arrange skillfully nor illustrate so as to entertain his reader, is an unpardonable abuse of letters and retirement: they, therefore, read their books to one another, and no one ever takes them up but those who wish to have the same license for careless writing allowed to themselves. Wherefore, if oratory has acquired any reputation from my industry, I shall take the more pains to open the fountains of philosophy, from which all my eloquence has taken its rise.
IV. But, as Aristotle, a man of the greatest genius, and of the most various knowledge, being excited by the glory of the rhetorician Isocrates [born at Athens 436 B.C.], commenced teaching young men to speak, and joined philosophy with eloquence: so it is my design not to lay aside my former study of oratory, and yet to employ myself at the same time in this greater and more fruitful art; for I have always thought that to be able to speak copiously and elegantly on the most important questions was the most perfect philosophy. And I have so diligently applied myself to this pursuit, that I have already ventured to have a school like the Greeks. And lately when you left us, having many of my friends about me, I attempted at my Tusculan villa what I could do in that way; for as I formerly used to practice declaiming, which nobody continued longer than myself, so this is now to be the declamation of my old age. I desired any one to propose a question which he wished to have discussed, and then I argued that point either sitting or walking; and so I have compiled the scholae, as the Greeks call them, of five days, in as many books. We proceeded in this manner: when he who had proposed the subject for discussion had said what he thought proper, I spoke against him; for this is, you know, the old and Socratic method of arguing against another’s opinion; for Socrates thought that thus the truth would more easily be arrived at. But to give you a better notion of our disputations, I will not barely send you an account of them, but represent them to you as they were carried on; therefore let the introduction be thus:
V. A. To me death seems to be an evil.
M. What, to those who are already dead? or to those who must die?
A. To both.
M. It is a misery, then, because an evil?
M. Then those who have already died, and those who have still got to die, are both miserable?
A. So it appears to me.
M. Then all are miserable?
A. Every one.
M. And, indeed, if you wish to be consistent, all that are already born, or ever shall be, are not only miserable, but always will be so; for should you maintain those only to be miserable, you would not except any one living, for all must die; but there should be an end of misery in death. But seeing that the dead are miserable, we are born to eternal misery, for they must of consequence be miserable who died a hundred thousand years ago; or rather, all that have ever been born.
A. So, indeed, I think.
M. Tell me, I beseech you, are you afraid of the three-headed Cerberus in the shades below, and the roaring waves of Cocytus, and the passage over Acheron, and Tantalus expiring with thirst, while the water touches his chin; and Sisyphus,
Who sweats with arduous toil in vain
Perhaps, too, you dread the inexorable judges, Minos and Rhadamanthus; before whom neither L. Crassus nor M. Antonius can defend you; and where, since the cause lies before Grecian judges, you will not even be able to employ Demosthenes; but you must plead for yourself before a very great assembly. These things perhaps you dread, and therefore look on death as an eternal evil.
VI. A. Do you take me to be so imbecile as to give credit to such things?
M. What, do you not believe them?
A. Not in the least.
M. I am sorry to hear that.
A. Why, I beg?
M. Because I could have been very eloquent in speaking against them.
A. And who could not on such a subject? or what trouble is it to refute these monstrous inventions of the poets and painters?
M. And yet you have books of philosophers full of arguments against these.
A. A great waste of time, truly! for who is so weak as to be concerned about them?
M. If, then, there is no one miserable in the infernal regions, there can be no one there at all.
A. I am altogether of that opinion.
M. Where, then, are those you call miserable? or what place do they inhabit? For, if they exist at all, they must be somewhere.
A. I, indeed, am of opinion that they are nowhere.
M. Then they have no existence at all.
A. Even so, and yet they are miserable for this very reason, that they have no existence.
M. I had rather now have you afraid of Cerberus than speak thus inaccurately.
A. In what respect?
M. Because you admit him to exist whose existence you deny with the same breath. Where now is your sagacity? When you say any one is miserable, you say that he who does not exist, does exist.
A. I am not so absurd as to say that.
M. What is it that you do say, then?
A. I say, for instance, that Marcus Crassus is miserable in being deprived of such great riches as his by death; that Cn. Pompey is miserable in being taken from such glory and honor; and, in short, that all are miserable who are deprived of this light of life.
M. You have returned to the same point, for to be miserable implies an existence; but you just now denied that the dead had any existence: if, then, they have not, they can be nothing; and if so, they are not even miserable.
A. Perhaps I do not express what I mean, for I look upon this very circumstance, not to exist after having existed, to be very miserable.
M. What, more so than not to have existed at all? Therefore, those who are not yet born are miserable because they are not; and we ourselves, if we are to be miserable after death, were miserable before we were born: but I do not remember that I was miserable before I was born; and I should be glad to know, if your memory is better, what you recollect of yourself before you were born.
VII. A. You are pleasant: as if I had said that those men are miserable who are not born, and not that they are so who are dead.
M. You say, then, that they are so?
A. Yes; I say that because they no longer exist after having existed they are miserable.
M. You do not perceive that you are asserting contradictions; for what is a greater contradiction, than that that should be not only miserable, but should have any existence at all, which does not exist? When you go out at the Capene gate and see the tombs of the Calatini, the Scipios, Servilii, and Metelli, do you look on them as miserable?
A. Because you press me with a word, henceforward I will not say they are miserable absolutely, but miserable on this account, because they have no existence.
M. You do not say, then, “M. Crassus is miserable,” but only “Miserable M. Crassus.”
A. Exactly so.
M. As if it did not follow that whatever you speak of in that manner either is or is not. Are you not acquainted with the first principles of logic? For this is the first thing they lay down, Whatever is asserted (for that is the best way that occurs to me, at the moment, of rendering the Greek term αξιωμα; if I can think of a more accurate expression hereafter, I will use it), is asserted as being either true or false. When, therefore, you say, “Miserable M. Crassus,” you either say this, “M. Crassus is miserable,” so that some judgment may be made whether it is true or false, or you say nothing at all.
A. Well, then, I now own that the dead are not miserable, since you have drawn from me a concession that they who do not exist at all can not be miserable. What then? We that are alive, are we not wretched, seeing we must die? for what is there agreeable in life, when we must night and day reflect that, at some time or other, we must die?
VIII. M. Do you not, then, perceive how great is the evil from which you have delivered human nature?
A. By what means?
M. Because, if to die were miserable to the dead, to live would be a kind of infinite and eternal misery. Now, however, I see a goal, and when I have reached it, there is nothing more to be feared; but you seem to me to follow the opinion of Epicharmus, a man of some discernment, and sharp enough for a Sicilian.
A. What opinion? for I do not recollect it.
M. I will tell you if I can in Latin; for you know I am no more used to bring in Latin sentences in a Greek discourse than Greek in a Latin one.
A. And that is right enough. But what is that opinion of Epicharmus?
I would not die, but yet
A. I now recollect the Greek; but since you have obliged me to grant that the dead are not miserable, proceed to convince me that it is not miserable to be under a necessity of dying.
M. That is easy enough; but I have greater things in hand.
A. How comes that to be so easy? And what are those things of more consequence?
M. Thus: because, if there is no evil after death, then even death itself can be none; for that which immediately succeeds that is a state where you grant that there is no evil: so that even to be obliged to die can be no evil, for that is only the being obliged to arrive at a place where we allow that no evil is.
A. I beg you will be more explicit on this point, for these subtle arguments force me sooner to admissions than to conviction. But what are those more important things about which you say that you are occupied?
M. To teach you, if I can, that death is not only no evil, but a good.
A. I do not insist on that, but should be glad to hear you argue it, for even though you should not prove your point, yet you will prove that death is no evil. But I will not interrupt you; I would rather hear a continued discourse.
M. What, if I should ask you a question, would you not answer?
A. That would look like pride; but I would rather you should not ask but where necessity requires.
IX. M. I will comply with your wishes, and explain as well as I can what you require; but not with any idea that, like the Pythian Apollo, what I say must needs be certain and indisputable, but as a mere man, endeavoring to arrive at probabilities by conjecture, for I have no ground to proceed further on than probability. Those men may call their statements indisputable who assert that what they say can be perceived by the senses, and who proclaim themselves philosophers by profession.
A. Do as you please: we are ready to hear you.
M. The first thing, then, is to inquire what death, which seems to be so well understood, really is; for some imagine death to be the departure of the soul from the body; others think that there is no such departure, but that soul and body perish together, and that the soul is extinguished with the body. Of those who think that the soul does depart from the body, some believe in its immediate dissolution; others fancy that it continues to exist for a time; and others believe that it lasts forever. There is great dispute even what the soul is, where it is, and whence it is derived: with some, the heart itself (cor) seems to be the soul, hence the expressions, excordes, vecordes, concordes; and that prudent Nasica, who was twice consul, was called Corculus, i. e., wise-heart; and Aelius Sextus is described as Egregie cordatus homo, catus Aeliu’ Sextus — that great wise-hearted man, sage Aelius.
Empedocles imagines the blood, which is suffused over the heart, to be the soul; to others, a certain part of the brain seems to be the throne of the soul; others neither allow the heart itself, nor any portion of the brain, to be the soul, but think either that the heart is the seat and abode of the soul, or else that the brain is so. Some would have the soul, or spirit, to be the anima, as our schools generally agree; and indeed the name signifies as much, for we use the expressions animam agere, to live; animam efflare, to expire; animosi, men of spirit; bene animati, men of right feeling; exanirni sententia, according to our real opinion; and the very word animus is derived from anima. Again, the soul seems to Zeno the Stoic to be fire.
X. But what I have said as to the heart, the blood, the brain, air, or fire being the soul, are common opinions: the others are only entertained by individuals; and, indeed, there were many among the ancients who held singular opinions on this subject, of whom the latest was Aristoxenus, a man who was both a musician and a philosopher. He maintained a certain straining of the body, like what is called harmony in music, to be the soul, and believed that, from the figure and nature of the whole body, various motions are excited, as sounds are from an instrument. He adhered steadily to his system, and yet he said something, the nature of which, whatever it was, had been detailed and explained a great while before by Plato.
Xenocrates denied that the soul had any figure, or anything like a body; but said it was a number, the power of which, as Pythagoras had fancied, some ages before, was the greatest in nature: his master, Plato, imagined a threefold soul, a dominant portion of which—that is to say, reason—he had lodged in the head, as in a tower; and the other two parts—namely, anger and desire—he made subservient to this one, and allotted them distinct abodes, placing anger in the breast, and desire under the praecordia. But Dicaearchus, in that discourse of some learned disputants, held at Corinth, which he details to us in three books—in the first book introduces many speakers; and in the other two he introduces a certain Pherecrates, an old man of Phthia, who, as he said, was descended from Deucalion; asserting, that there is in fact no such thing at all as a soul, but that it is a name without a meaning; and that it is idle to use the expression “animals,” or “animated beings;” that neither men nor beasts have minds or souls, but that all that power by which we act or perceive is equally infused into every living creature, and is inseparable from the body, for if it were not, it would be nothing; nor is there anything whatever really existing except body, which is a single and simple thing, so fashioned as to live and have its sensations in consequence of the regulations of nature.
Aristotle, a man superior to all others, both in genius and industry (I always except Plato), after having embraced these four known sorts of principles, from which all things deduce their origin, imagines that there is a certain fifth nature, from whence comes the soul; for to think, to foresee, to learn, to teach, to invent anything, and many other attributes of the same kind, such as to remember, to love, to hate, to desire, to fear, to be pleased or displeased — these, and others like them, exist, he thinks, in none of those first four kinds: on such account he adds a fifth kind, which has no name, and so by a new name he calls the soul ενδελεχεια, as if it were a certain continued and perpetual motion.
XI. If I have not forgotten anything unintentionally, these are the principal opinions concerning the soul. I have omitted Democritus, a very great man indeed, but one who deduces the soul from the fortuitous concourse of small, light, and round substances; for, if you believe men of his school, there is nothing which a crowd of atoms cannot effect. Which of these opinions is true, some God must determine. It is an important question for us, Which has the most appearance of truth? Shall we, then, prefer determining between them, or shall we return to our subject?
A. I could wish both, if possible; but it is difficult to mix them: therefore, if without a discussion of them we can get rid of the fears of death, let us proceed to do so; but if this is not to be done without explaining the question about souls, let us have that now, and the other at another time.
M. I take that plan to be the best, which I perceive you are inclined to; for, reason will demonstrate that, whichever of the opinions which I have stated is true, it must follow, then, that death cannot be an evil; or that it must rather be something desirable; for if either the heart, or the blood, or the brain, is the soul, then certainly the soul, being corporeal, must perish with the rest of the body; if it is air, it will perhaps be dissolved; if it is fire, it will be extinguished; if it is Aristoxenus’s harmony, it will be put out of tune.
What shall I say of Dicaearchus, who denies that there is any soul? In all these opinions, there is nothing to affect any one after death; for all feeling is lost with life, and where there is no sensation, nothing can interfere to affect us. The opinions of others do indeed bring us hope; if it is any pleasure to you to think that souls, after they leave the body, may go to heaven as to a permanent home.
A. I have great pleasure in that thought, and it is what I most desire; and even if it should not be so, I should still be very willing to believe it.
M. What occasion have you, then, for my assistance? Am I superior to Plato in eloquence? Turn over carefully his book that treats of the soul; you will have there all that you can want.
A. I have, indeed, done that, and often; but, I know bit how it comes to pass, I agree with it while I am reading it; but when I have laid down the book, and begin to reflect with myself on the immortality of the soul, all that agreement vanishes.
M. How comes that? Do you admit this—that souls either exist after death, or else that they also perish at the moment of death?
A. I agree to that. And if they do exist, I admit that they are happy; but if they perish, I cannot suppose them to be unhappy, because, in fact, they have no existence at all. You drove me to that concession but just now.
M. How, then, can you, or why do you, assert that you think that death is an evil, when it either makes us happy, in the case of the soul continuing to exist, or, at all events, not unhappy, in the case of our becoming destitute of all sensation?
XII. A. Explain, therefore, if it is not troublesome to you, first, if you can, that souls do exist after death; secondly, should you fail in that (and it is a very difficult thing to establish), that death is free from all evil; for I am not without my fears that this itself is an evil: I do not mean the immediate deprivation of sense, but the fact that we shall hereafter suffer deprivation.
M. I have the best authority in support of the opinion you desire to have established, which ought, and generally has, great weight in all cases. And, first, I have all antiquity on that side, which the more near it is to its origin and divine descent, the more clearly, perhaps, on that account, did it discern the truth in these matters. This very doctrine, then, was adopted by all those ancients whom Ennius calls in the Sabine tongue Casci; namely, that in death there was a sensation, and that, when men departed this life, they were not so entirely destroyed as to perish absolutely. And this may appear from many other circumstances, and especially from the pontifical rites and funeral obsequies, which men of the greatest genius would not have been so solicitous about, and would not have guarded from any injury by such severe laws, but from a firm persuasion that death was not so entire a destruction as wholly to abolish and destroy everything, but rather a kind of transmigration, as it were, and change of life, which was, in the case of illustrious men and women, usually a guide to heaven, while in that of others it was still confined to the earth, but in such a manner as still to exist.
From this, and the sentiments of the Romans,
In heaven Romulus with Gods now lives,
as Ennius saith, agreeing with the common belief; hence, too, Hercules is considered so great and propitious a God among the Greeks, and from them he was introduced among us, and his worship has extended even to the very ocean itself. This is how it was that Bacchus was deified, the offspring of Semele; and from the same illustrious fame we receive Castor and Pollux as Gods, who are reported not only to have helped the Romans to victory in their battles, but to have been the messengers of their success.
What shall we say of Ino, the daughter of Cadmus? Is she not called Leucothea by the Greeks, and Matuta by us? Nay, more; is not the whole of heaven (not to dwell on particulars) almost filled with the offspring of men?
Should I attempt to search into antiquity, and produce from thence what the Greek writers have asserted, it would appear that even those who are called their principal Gods were taken from among men up into heaven.
XIII. Examine the sepulchres of those which are shown in Greece; recollect, for you have been initiated, what lessons are taught in the mysteries; then will you perceive how extensive this doctrine is. But they who were not acquainted with natural philosophy (for it did not begin to be in vogue till many years later) had no higher belief than what natural reason could give them; they were not acquainted with the principles and causes of things; they were often induced by certain visions, and those generally in the night, to think that those men who had departed from this life were still alive. And this may further be brought as an irrefragable argument for us to believe that there are Gods—that there never was any nation so barbarous, nor any people in the world so savage, as to be without some notion of Gods.
Many have wrong notions of the Gods, for that is the nature and ordinary consequence of bad customs, yet all allow that there is a certain divine nature and energy. Nor does this proceed from the conversation of men, or the agreement of philosophers; it is not an opinion established by institutions or by laws; but, no doubt, in every case the consent of all nations is to be looked on as a law of nature. Who is there, then, that does not lament the loss of his friends, principally from imagining them deprived of the conveniences of life? Take away this opinion, and you remove with it all grief; for no one is afflicted merely on account of a loss sustained by himself. Perhaps we may be sorry, and grieve a little; but that bitter lamentation and those mournful tears have their origin in our apprehensions that he whom we loved is deprived of all the advantages of life, and is sensible of his loss. And we are led to this opinion by nature, without any arguments or any instruction.
XIV. But the greatest proof of all is, that nature herself gives a silent judgment in favor of the immortality of the soul, inasmuch as all are anxious, and that to a great degree, about the things which concern futurity:
One plants what future ages shall enjoy,
as Statius saith in his Synephebi. What is his object in doing so, except that he is interested in posterity? Shall the industrious husbandman, then, plant trees the fruit of which he shall never see? And shall not the great man found laws, institutions, and a republic? What does the procreation of children imply, and our care to continue our names, and our adoptions, and our scrupulous exactness in drawing up wills, and the inscriptions on monuments, and panegyrics, but that our thoughts run on futurity?
There is no doubt but a judgment may be formed of nature in general, from looking at each nature in its most perfect specimens; and what is a more perfect specimen of a man than those are who look on themselves as born for the assistance, the protection, and the preservation of others? Hercules has gone to heaven; he never would have gone thither had he not, while among men, made that road for himself. These things are of old date, and have, besides, the sanction of universal religion.
XV. What will you say? What do you imagine that so many and such great men of our republic, who have sacrificed their lives for its good, expected? Do you believe that they thought that their names should not continue beyond their lives? None ever encountered death for their country but under a firm persuasion of immortality! Themistocles might have lived at his ease; so might Epaminondas; and, not to look abroad and among the ancients for instances, so might I myself. But, somehow or other, there clings to our minds a certain presage of future ages; and this both exists most firmly, and appears most clearly, in men of the loftiest genius and greatest souls.
Take away this, and who would be so mad as to spend his life amidst toils and dangers? I speak of those in power. What are the poet’s views but to be ennobled after death? What else is the object of these lines,
Behold old Ennius here, who erst
He is challenging the reward of glory from those men whose ancestors he himself had ennobled by his poetry. And in the same spirit he says, in another passage,
Let none with tears ray funeral grace, for I
Why do I mention poets? The very mechanics are desirous of fame after death. Why did Phidias include a likeness of himself in the shield of Minerva, when he was not allowed to inscribe his name on it? What do our philosophers think on the subject? Do not they put their names to those very books which they write on the contempt of glory?
If, then, universal consent is the voice of nature, and if it is the general opinion everywhere that those who have quitted this life are still interested in something, we also must subscribe to that opinion. And if we think that men of the greatest abilities and virtues see most clearly into the power of nature, because they themselves are her most perfect work, it is very probable that, as every great man is especially anxious to benefit posterity, there is something of which he himself will be sensible after death.
XVI. But as we are led by nature to think there are Gods, and as we discover, by reason, of what description they are, so, by the consent of all nations, we are induced to believe that our souls survive; but where their habitation is, and of what character they eventually are, must be learned from reason. The want of any certain reason on which to argue has given rise to the idea of the shades below, and to those fears which you seem, not without reason, to despise; for as our bodies fall to the ground, and are covered with earth (humus), from whence we derive the expression to be interred (humari), that has occasioned men to imagine that the dead continue, during the remainder of their existence, under ground; which opinion has drawn after it many errors, which the poets have increased; for the theatre, being frequented by a large crowd, among which are women and children, is wont to be greatly affected on hearing such pompous verses as these,
Lo! here I am, who scarce could gain this place,
And the error prevailed so much, though indeed at present it seems to me to be removed, that although men knew that the bodies of the dead had been burned, yet they conceived such things to be done in the infernal regions as could not be executed or imagined without a body; for they could not conceive how disembodied souls could exist; and, therefore, they looked out for some shape or figure.
This was the origin of all that account of the dead in Homer. This was the idea that caused my friend Appius to frame his Necromancy; and this is how there got about that idea of the lake of Avernus, in my neighborhood,
From whence the souls of undistinguished shape,
And they must needs have these appearances speak, which is not possible without a tongue, and a palate, and jaws, and without the help of lungs and sides, and without some shape or figure; for they could see nothing by their mind alone—they referred all to their eyes. To withdraw the mind from sensual objects, and abstract our thoughts from what we are accustomed to, is an attribute of great genius. I am persuaded, indeed, that there were many such men in former ages; but Pherecydes the Syrian is the first on record who said that the souls of men were immortal, and he was a philosopher of great antiquity, in the reign of my namesake Tullius. His disciple Pythagoras greatly confirmed this opinion, who came into Italy in the reign of Tarquin the Proud; and all that country which is called Great Greece was occupied by his school, and he himself was held in high honor, and had the greatest authority; and the Pythagorean sect was for many ages after in such great credit, that all learning was believed to be confined to that name.
XVII. But I return to the ancients. They scarcely ever gave any reason for their opinion but what could be explained by numbers or definitions. It is reported of Plato that he came into Italy to make himself acquainted with the Pythagoreans; and that when there, among others, he made an acquaintance with Archytas [of Tarentum] and Timaeus [of Locri], and learned from them all the tenets of the Pythagoreans; and that he not only was of the same opinion with Pythagoras concerning the immortality of the soul, but that he also brought reasons in support of it; which, if you have nothing to say against it, I will pass over, and say no more at present about all this hope of immortality.
A. What, will you leave me when you have raised my expectations so high? I had rather, so help me Hercules! be mistaken with Plato, whom I know how much you esteem, and whom I admire myself, from what you say of him, than be in the right with those others.
M. I commend you; for, indeed, I could myself willingly be mistaken in his company. Do we, then, doubt, as we do in other cases (though I think here is very little room for doubt in this case, for the mathematicians prove the facts to us), that the earth is placed in the midst of the world, being, as it were, a sort of point, which they call a κεντρον, surrounded by the whole heavens; and that such is the nature of the four principles which are the generating causes of all things, that they have equally divided among them the constituents of all bodies; moreover, that earthy and humid bodies are carried at equal angles by their own weight and ponderosity into the earth and sea; that the other two parts consist, one of fire, and the other of air? As the two former are carried by their gravity and weight into the middle region of the world, so these, on the other hand, ascend by right lines into the celestial regions, either because, owing to their intrinsic nature, they are always endeavoring to reach the highest place, or else because lighter bodies are naturally repelled by heavier; and as this is notoriously the case, it must evidently follow that souls, when once they have departed from the body, whether they are animal (by which term I mean capable of breathing) or of the nature of fire, must mount upward.
But if the soul is some number, as some people assert, speaking with more subtlety than clearness, or if it is that fifth nature, for which it would be more correct to say that we have not given a name to than that we do not correctly understand it—still it is too pure and perfect not to go to a great distance from the earth. Something of this sort, then, we must believe the soul to be, that we may not commit the folly of thinking that so active a principle lies immerged in the heart or brain; or, as Empedocles would have it, in the blood.
XVIII. We will pass over Dicaearchus [of Messina, Sicily, disciple of Aristotle], with his contemporary and fellow-disciple Aristoxenus [of Tarentum], both indeed men of learning. One of them seems never even to have been affected with grief, as he could not perceive that he had a soul; while the other is so pleased with his musical compositions that he endeavors to show an analogy betwixt them and souls. Now, we may understand harmony to arise from the intervals of sounds, whose various compositions occasion many harmonies; but I do not see how a disposition of members, and the figure of a body without a soul, can occasion harmony.
He had better, learned as he is, leave these speculations to his master Aristotle, and follow his own trade as a musician. Good advice is given him in that Greek proverb,
Apply your talents where you best are skilled.
I will have nothing at all to do with that fortuitous concourse of individual light and round bodies, notwithstanding Democritus insists on their being warm and having breath, that is to say, life. But this soul, which is compounded of either of the four principles from which we assert that all things are derived, is of inflamed air, as seems particularly to have been the opinion of Panaetius, and must necessarily mount upward; for air and fire have no tendency downward, but always ascend; so should they be dissipated that must be at some distance from the earth; but should they remain, and preserve their original state, it is clearer still that they must be carried heavenward, and this gross and concrete air, which is nearest the earth, must be divided and broken by them; for the soul is warmer, or rather hotter, than that air, which I just now called gross and concrete: and this may be made evident from this consideration—that our bodies, being compounded of the earthy class of principles, grow warm by the heat of the soul.
XIX. We may add, that the soul can the more easily escape from this air, which I have often named, and break through it, because nothing is swifter than the soul; no swiftness is comparable to the swiftness of the soul, which, should it remain uncorrupt and without alteration, must necessarily be carried on with such velocity as to penetrate and divide all this atmosphere, where clouds, and rain, and winds are formed, which, in consequence of the exhalations from the earth, is moist and dark: but, when the soul has once got above this region, and falls in with, and recognizes, a nature like its own, it then rests upon fires composed of a combination of thin air and a moderate solar heat, and does not aim at any higher flight; for then, after it has attained a lightness and heat resembling its own, it moves no more, but remains steady, being balanced, as it were, between two equal weights. That, then, is its natural seat where it has penetrated to something like itself, and where, wanting nothing further, it may be supported and maintained by the same aliment which nourishes and maintains the stars.
Now, as we are usually incited to all sorts of desires by the stimulus of the body, and the more so as we endeavor to rival those who are in possession of what we long for, we shall certainly be happy when, being emancipated from that body, we at the same time get rid of these desires and this rivalry. And that which we do at present, when, dismissing all other cares, we curiously examine and look into anything, we shall then do with greater freedom; and we shall employ ourselves entirely in the contemplation and examination of things; because there is naturally in our minds a certain insatiable desire to know the truth, and the very region itself where we shall arrive, as it gives us a more intuitive and easy knowledge of celestial things, will raise our desires after knowledge.
For it was this beauty of the heavens, as seen even here upon earth, which gave birth to that national and hereditary philosophy (as Theophrastus calls it), which was thus excited to a desire of knowledge. But those persons will in a most especial degree enjoy this philosophy, who, while they were only inhabitants of this world and enveloped in darkness, were still desirous of looking into these things with the eye of their mind.
XX. For if those men now think that they have attained something who have seen the mouth of the Pontus, and those straits which were passed by the ship called Argo, because,
From Argos she did chosen men convey,
or those who have seen the straits of the ocean,
Where the swift waves divide the neighboring shores
what kind of sight do you imagine that will be when the whole earth is laid open to our view? and that, too, not only in its position, form, and boundaries, nor those parts of it only which are habitable, but those also that lie uncultivated, through the extremities of heat and cold to which they are exposed; for not even now is it with our eyes that we view what we see, for the body itself has no senses; but (as the naturalists, ay, and even the physicians assure us, who have opened our bodies, and examined them) there are certain perforated channels from the seat of the soul to the eyes, ears, and nose; so that frequently, when either prevented by meditation, or the force of some bodily disorder, we neither hear nor see, though our eyes and ears are open and in good condition; so that we may easily apprehend that it is the soul itself which sees and hears, and not those parts which are, as it were, but windows to the soul, by means of which, however, she can perceive nothing, unless she is on the spot, and exerts herself.
How shall we account for the fact that by the same power of thinking we comprehend the most different things—as color, taste, heat, smell, and sound—which the soul could never know by her five messengers, unless every thing were referred to her, and she were the sole judge of all? And we shall certainly discover these things in a more clear and perfect degree when the soul is disengaged from the body, and has arrived at that goal to which nature leads her; for at present, notwithstanding nature has contrived, with the greatest skill, those channels which lead from the body to the soul, yet are they, in some way or other, stopped up with earthy and concrete bodies; but when we shall be nothing but soul, then nothing will interfere to prevent our seeing everything in its real substance and in its true character.
XXI. It is true, I might expatiate, did the subject require it, on the many and various objects with which the soul will be entertained in those heavenly regions; when I reflect on which, I am apt to wonder at the boldness of some philosophers, who are so struck with admiration at the knowledge of nature as to thank, in an exulting manner, the first inventor and teacher of natural philosophy, and to reverence him as a God; for they declare that they have been delivered by his means from the greatest tyrants, a perpetual terror, and a fear that molested them by night and day.
What is this dread—this fear? What old woman is there so weak as to fear these things, which you, forsooth, had you not been acquainted with natural philosophy, would stand in awe of?
The hallowed roofs of Acheron, the dread
And does it become a philosopher to boast that he is not afraid of these things, and that he has discovered them to be false? And from this we may perceive how acute these men were by nature, who, if they had been left without any instruction, would have believed in these things. But now they have certainly made a very fine acquisition in learning that when the day of their death arrives, they will perish entirely.
And, if that really is the case—for I say nothing either way—what is there agreeable or glorious in it? Not that I see any reason why the opinion of Pythagoras and Plato may not be true; but even although Plato were to have assigned no reason for his opinion (observe how much I esteem the man), the weight of his authority would have borne me down; but he has brought so many reasons, that he appears to me to have endeavored to convince others, and certainly to have convinced himself.
XXII. But there are many who labor on the other side of the question, and condemn souls to death, as if they were criminals capitally convicted; nor have they any other reason to allege why the immortality of the soul appears to them to be incredible, except that they are not able to conceive what sort of thing the soul can be when disentangled from the body; just as if they could really form a correct idea as to what sort of thing it is, even when it is in the body; what its form, and size, and abode are; so that were they able to have a full view of all that is now hidden from them in a living body, they have no idea whether the soul would be discernible by them, or whether it is of so fine a texture that it would escape their sight. Let those consider this, who say that they are unable to form any idea of the soul without the body, and then they will see whether they can form any adequate idea of what it is when it is in the body.
For my own part, when I reflect on the nature of the soul, it appears to me a far more perplexing and obscure question to determine what is its character while it is in the body—a place which, as it were, does not belong to it—than to imagine what it is when it leaves it, and has arrived at the free aether, which is, if I may so say, its proper, its own habitation. For unless we are to say that we cannot apprehend the character or nature of anything which we have never seen, we certainly may be able to form some notion of God, and of the divine soul when released from the body.
Dicaearchus, indeed, and Aristoxenus, because it was hard to understand the existence and substance and nature of the soul, asserted that there was no such thing as a soul at all. It is, indeed, the most difficult thing imaginable to discern the soul by the soul. And this, doubtless, is the meaning of the precept of Apollo, which advises every one to know himself. For I do not apprehend the meaning of the God to have been that we should understand our members, our stature, and form; for we are not merely bodies; nor, when I say these things to you, am I addressing myself to your body: when, therefore, he says, “Know yourself,” he says this, “Inform yourself of the nature of your soul;” for the body is but a kind of vessel, or receptacle of the soul, and whatever your soul does is your own act.
To know the soul, then, unless it had been divine, would not have been a precept of such excellent wisdom as to be attributed to a God; but even though the soul should not know of what nature itself is, will you say that it does not even perceive that it exists at all, or that it has motion? On which is founded that reason of Plato’s, which is explained by Socrates in the Phaedrus, and inserted by me, in my sixth book of the Republic.
XXIII. “That which is always moved is eternal; but that which gives motion to something else, and is moved itself by some external cause, when that motion ceases, must necessarily cease to exist. That, therefore, alone, which is self-moved, because it is never forsaken by itself, can never cease to be moved. Besides, it is the beginning and principle of motion to everything else; but whatever is a principle has no beginning, for all things arise from that principle, and it cannot itself owe its rise to anything else; for then it would not be a principle did it proceed from anything else. But if it has no beginning, it never will have any end; for a principle which is once extinguished cannot itself be restored by anything else, nor can it produce anything else from itself; inasmuch as all things must necessarily arise from some first cause.
“And thus it comes about that the first principle of motion must arise from that thing which is itself moved by itself; and that can neither have a beginning nor an end of its existence, for otherwise the whole heaven and earth would be overset, and all nature would stand still, and not be able to acquire any force by the impulse of which it might be first set in motion. Seeing, then, that it is clear that whatever moves itself is eternal, can there be any doubt that the soul is so? For everything is inanimate which is moved by an external force; but everything which is animate is moved by an interior force, which also belongs to itself. For this is the peculiar nature and power of the soul; and if the soul be the only thing in the whole world which has the power of self-motion, then certainly it never had a beginning, and therefore it is eternal.”
Now, should all the lower order of philosophers (for so I think they may be called who dissent from Plato and Socrates and that school) unite their force, they never would be able to explain anything so elegantly as this, nor even to understand how ingeniously this conclusion is drawn. The soul, then, perceives itself to have motion, and, at the same time that it gets that perception, it is sensible that it derives that motion from its own power, and not from the agency of another; and it is impossible that it should ever forsake itself. And these premises compel you to allow its eternity, unless you have something to say against them.
A. I should myself be very well pleased not to have even a thought arise in my mind against them, so much am I inclined to that Opinion.
XXIV. M. Well, then, I appeal to you, if the arguments which prove that there is something divine in the souls of men are not equally strong? But if I could account for the origin of these divine properties, then I might also be able to explain how they might cease to exist; for I think I can account for the manner in which the blood, and bile, and phlegm, and bones, and nerves, and veins, and all the limbs, and the shape of the whole body, were put together and made; ay, and even as to the soul itself, were there nothing more in it than a principle of life, then the life of a man might be put upon the same footing as that of a vine or any other tree, and accounted for as caused by nature; for these things, as we say, live.
Besides, if desires and aversions were all that belonged to the soul, it would have them only in common with the beasts; but it has, in the first place, memory, and that, too, so infinite as to recollect an absolute countless number of circumstances, which Plato will have to be a recollection of a former life; for in that book which is inscribed Menon, Socrates asks a child some questions in geometry, with reference to measuring a square; his answers are such as a child would make, and yet the questions are so easy, that while answering them, one by one, he comes to the same point as if he had learned geometry. From whence Socrates would infer that learning is nothing more than recollection; and this topic he explains more accurately in the discourse which he held the very day he died; for he there asserts that any one, who seeming to be entirely illiterate, is yet able to answer a question well that is proposed to him, does in so doing manifestly show that he is not learning it then, but recollecting it by his memory.
Nor it to be accounted for in any other way, how children come to have notions of so many and such important things as are implanted, and, as it were, sealed up, in their minds (which the Greeks call εννοιαι), unless the soul, before it entered the body, had been well stored with knowledge. And as it had no existence at all (for this is the invariable doctrine of Plato, who will not admit anything to have a real existence which has a beginning and an end, and who thinks that that alone does really exist which is of such a character as what he calls ειδεα, and we species), therefore, being shut up in the body, it could not while in the body discover what it knows; but it knew it before, and brought the knowledge with it, so that we are no longer surprised at its extensive and multifarious knowledge. Nor does the soul clearly discover its ideas at its first resort to this abode to which it is so unaccustomed, and which is in so disturbed a state; but after having refreshed and recollected itself, it then by its memory recovers them; and, therefore, to learn implies nothing more than to recollect.
But I am in a particular manner surprised at memory. For what is that faculty by which we remember? what is its force? what its nature? I am not inquiring how great a memory Simonides [the celebrated poet of Ceos] may be said to have had, or Theodectes [rhetorician and tragic poet of Phaselis, in Pamphylia], or that Cineas [of Thessaly] who was sent to Rome as ambassador from Pyrrhus; or, in more modern times, Charmadas [fellow-pupil with Philo, the Larissaean of Clitomachus, the Carthaginian]; or, very lately, Metrodorus [minister of Mithridates the Great] the Scepsian, or our own contemporary [Quintus] Hortensius: I am speaking of ordinary memory, and especially of those men who are employed in any important study or art, the great capacity of whose minds it is hard to estimate, such numbers of things do they remember.
XXV. Should you ask what this leads to, I think we may understand what that power is, and whence we have it. It certainly proceeds neither from the heart, nor from the blood, nor from the brain, nor from atoms; whether it be air or fire, I know not, nor am I, as those men are, ashamed, in cases where I am ignorant, to own that I am so. If in any other obscure matter I were able to assert anything positively, then I would swear that the soul, be it air or fire, is divine. Just think, I beseech you: can you imagine this wonderful power of memory to be sown in or to be a part of the composition of the earth, or of this dark and gloomy atmosphere? Though you cannot apprehend what it is, yet you see what kind of thing it is, or if you do not quite see that, yet you certainly see how great it is.
What, then? Shall we imagine that there is a kind of measure in the soul, into which, as into a vessel, all that we remember is poured? That indeed is absurd; for how shall we form any idea of the bottom, or of the shape or fashion of such a soul as that? And, again, how are we to conceive how much it is able to contain? Shall we imagine the soul to receive impressions like wax, and memory to be marks of the impressions made on the soul? What are the characters of the words, what of the facts themselves? and what, again, is that prodigious greatness which can give rise to impressions of so many things?
What, lastly, is that power which investigates secret things, and is called invention and contrivance ? Does that man seem to be compounded of this earthly, mortal, and perishing nature who first invented names for everything, which, if you will believe Pythagoras, is the highest pitch of wisdom? or he who collected the dispersed inhabitants of the world, and united them in the bonds of social life? or he who confined the sounds of the voice, which used to seem infinite, to the marks of a few letters? or he who first observed the courses of the planets, their progressive motions, their laws? These were all great men.
But they were greater still who invented food, and raiment, and houses; who introduced civilization among us, and armed us against the wild beasts; by whom we were made sociable and polished, and so proceeded from the necessaries of life to its embellishments. For we have provided great entertainments for the ears by inventing and modulating the variety and nature of sounds; we have learned to survey the stars, not only those that are fixed, but also those which are improperly called wandering; and the man who has acquainted himself with all their revolutions and motions is fairly considered to have a soul resembling the soul of that Being who has created those stars in the heavens: for when Archimedes described in a sphere the motions of the moon, sun, and five planets, he did the very same thing as Plato’s God, in his Timaeus, who made the world, causing one revolution to adjust motions differing as much as possible in their slowness and velocity. Now, allowing that what we see in the world could not be effected without a God, Archimedes could not have imitated the same motions in his sphere without a divine soul.
XXVI. To me, indeed, it appears that even those studies which are more common and in greater esteem are not without some divine energy: so that I do not consider that a poet can produce a serious and sublime poem without some divine impulse working on his mind; nor do I think that eloquence, abounding with sonorous words and fruitful sentences, can flow thus without something beyond mere human power. But as to philosophy, that is the parent of all the arts: what can we call that but, as Plato says, a gift, or, as I express it, an invention, of the Gods? This it was which first taught us the worship of the Gods; and then led us on to justice, which arises from the human race being formed into society; and after that it imbued us with modesty and elevation of soul. This it was which dispersed darkness from our souls, as it is dispelled from our eyes, enabling us to see all things that are above or below, the beginning, end, and middle of everything.
I am convinced entirely that that which could effect so many and such great things must be a divine power. For what is memory of words and circumstances? What, too, is invention? Surely they are things than which nothing greater can be conceived in a God! For I do not imagine the Gods to be delighted with nectar and ambrosia, or with Juventas presenting them with a cup; nor do I put any faith in Homer, who says that Ganymede was carried away by the Gods on account of his beauty, in order to give Jupiter his wine. Too weak reasons for doing Laomedon such injury! These were mere inventions of Homer, who gave his Gods the imperfections of men. I would rather that he had given men the perfections of the Gods! those perfections, I mean, of uninterrupted health, wisdom, invention, memory. Therefore the soul (which is, as I say, divine) is, as Euripides more boldly expresses it, a God. And thus, if the divinity be air or fire, the soul of man is the same; for as that celestial nature has nothing earthly or humid about it, in like manner the soul of man is also free from both these qualities: but if it is of that fifth kind of nature, first introduced by Aristotle, then both Gods and souls are of the same.
XXVII. As this is my opinion, I have explained it in these very words, in my [lost] book on Consolation. The origin of the soul of man is not to be found upon earth, for there is nothing in the soul of a mixed or concrete nature, or that has any appearance of being formed or made out of the earth; nothing even humid, or airy, or fiery. For what is there in natures of that kind which has the power of memory, understanding, or thought? which can recollect the past, foresee the future, and comprehend the present? for these capabilities are confined to divine beings; nor can we discover any source from which men could derive them, but from God.
There is therefore a peculiar nature and power in the soul, distinct from those natures which are more known and familiar to us. Whatever, then, that is which thinks, and which has understanding, and volition, and a principle of life, is heavenly and divine, and on that account must necessarily be eternal; nor can God himself, who is known to us, be conceived to be anything else except a soul free and unembarrassed, distinct from all mortal concretion, acquainted with everything, and giving motion to everything, and itself endued with perpetual motion.
XXVIII. Of this kind and nature is the intellect of man. Where, then, is this intellect seated, and of what character is it? where is your own, and what is its character? Are you able to tell? If I have not faculties for knowing all that I could desire to know, will you not even allow me to make use of those which I have? The soul has not sufficient capacity to comprehend itself; yet, the soul, like the eye, though it has no distinct view of itself, sees other things: it does not see (which is of least consequence) its own shape; perhaps not, though it possibly may; but we will pass that by: but it certainly sees that it has vigor, sagacity, memory, motion, and velocity; these are all great, divine, eternal properties.
What its appearance is, or where it dwells, it is not necessary even to inquire. As when we behold, first of all, the beauty and brilliant appearance of the heavens; secondly, the vast velocity of its revolutions, beyond power of our imagination to conceive; then the vicissitudes of nights and days, the fourfold division of the seasons, so well adapted to the ripening of the fruits of the earth, and the temperature of our bodies: and after that we look up to the sun, the moderator and governor of all these things; and view the moon, by the increase and decrease of its light, marking, as it were, and appointing our holy days; and see the five planets, borne on in the same circle, divided into twelve parts, preserving the same course with the greatest regularity, but with utterly dissimilar motions among themselves; and the nightly appearance of the heaven, adorned on all sides with stars; then, the globe of the earth, raised above the sea, and placed in the center of the universe, inhabited and cultivated in its two opposite extremities, one of which, the place of our habitation, is situated towards the north pole, under the seven stars:
Where the cold northern blasts, with horrid sound,
the other, towards the south pole, is unknown to us, but is called by the Greeks αντιχθονα: the other parts are uncultivated, because they are either frozen with cold, or burned up with heat; but where we dwell, it never fails, in its season,
To yield it placid sky, to bid the trees
then the multitude of cattle, fit part for food, part for tilling the ground, others for carrying us, or for clothing us; and man himself, made, as it were, on purpose to contemplate the heavens and the Gods, and to pay adoration to them: lastly, the whole earth, and wide extending seas, given to man’s use.
When we view these and numberless other things, can we doubt that they have some being who presides over them, or has made them (if, indeed, they have been made, as is the opinion of Plato, or if, as Aristotle thinks, they are eternal), or who at all events is the regulator of so immense a fabric and so great a blessing to men? Thus, though you see not the soul of man, as you see not the Deity, yet, as by the contemplation of his works you are led to acknowledge a God, so you must own the divine power of the soul, from its remembering things, from its invention, from the quickness of its motion, and from all the beauty of virtue. Where, then, is it seated, you will say?
XXIX. In my opinion, it is seated in the head, and I can bring you reasons for my adopting that opinion. At present, let the soul reside where it will, you certainly have one in you. Should you ask what its nature is? It has one peculiarly its own; but admitting it to consist of fire, or air, it does not affect the present question. Only observe this, that as you are convinced there is a God, though you are ignorant where he resides, and what shape he is of; in like manner you ought to feel assured that you have a soul, though you cannot satisfy yourself of the place of its residence, nor its form.
In our knowledge of the soul, unless we are grossly ignorant of natural philosophy, we cannot but be satisfied that it has nothing but what is simple, unmixed, uncompounded, and single; and if this is admitted, then it cannot be separated, nor divided, nor dispersed, nor parted, and therefore it cannot perish; for to perish implies a parting-asunder, a division, a disunion, of those parts which, while it subsisted, were held together by some band. And it was because he was influenced by these and similar reasons that Socrates neither looked out for anybody to plead for him when he was accused, nor begged any favor from his judges, but maintained a manly freedom, which was the effect not of pride, but of the true greatness of his soul; and on the last day of his life he held a long discourse on this subject; and a few days before, when he might have been easily freed from his confinement, he refused to be so; and when he had almost actually hold of that deadly cup, he spoke with the air of a man not forced to die, but ascending into heaven.
XXX. For so indeed he thought himself, and thus he spoke: “That there were two ways, and that the souls of men, at their departure from the body, took different roads; for those which were polluted with vices that are common to men, and which had given themselves up entirely to unclean desires, and had become so blinded by them as to have habituated themselves to all manner of debauchery and profligacy, or to have laid detestable schemes for the ruin of their country, took a road wide of that which led to the assembly of the Gods; but they who had preserved themselves upright and chaste, and free from the slightest contagion of the body, and had always kept themselves as far as possible at a distance from it, and while on earth had proposed to themselves as a model the life of the Gods, found the return to those beings from whom they had come an easy one.”
Therefore, he argues, that all good and wise men should take example from the swans, who are considered sacred to Apollo, not without reason, but particularly because they seem to have received the gift of divination from him, by which, foreseeing how happy it is to die, they leave this world with singing and joy. Nor can any one doubt of this, unless it happens to us who think with care and anxiety about the soul (as is often the case with those who look earnestly at the setting sun), to lose the sight of it entirely; and so the mind’s eye, viewing itself, sometimes grows dull, and for that reason we become remiss in our contemplation. Thus our reasoning is borne about, harassed with doubts and anxieties, not knowing how to proceed, but measuring back again those dangerous tracts which it has passed, like a boat tossed about on the boundless ocean.
But these reflections are of long standing, and borrowed from the Greeks. But Cato left this world in such a manner as if he were delighted that he had found an opportunity of dying; for that God who presides in us forbids our departure hence without his leave. But when God himself has given us a just cause, as formerly he did to Socrates, and lately to Cato, and often to many others—in such a case, certainly every man of sense would gladly exchange this darkness for that light: not that he would forcibly break from the chains that held him, for that would be against the law; but, like a man released from prison by a magistrate or some lawful authority, so he too would walk away, being released and discharged by God. For the whole life of a philosopher is, as the same philosopher says, a meditation on death.
XXXI. For what else is it that we do, when we call off our minds from pleasure, that is to say, from our attention to the body, from the managing our domestic estate, which is a sort of handmaid and servant of the body, or from duties of a public nature, or from all other serious business whatever? What else is it, I say, that we do, but invite the soul to reflect on itself? oblige it to converse with itself, and, as far as possible, break off its acquaintance with the body?
Now, to separate the soul from the body, is to learn to die, and nothing else whatever. Wherefore take my advice; and let us meditate on this, and separate ourselves as far as possible from the body, that is to say, let us accustom ourselves to die. This will be enjoying a life like that of heaven even while we remain on earth; and when we are carried thither and released from these bonds, our souls will make their progress with more rapidity; for the spirit which has always been fettered by the bonds of the body, even when it is disengaged, advances more slowly, just as those do who have worn actual fetters for many years: but when we have arrived at this emancipation from the bonds of the body, then indeed we shall begin to live, for this present life is really death, which I could say a good deal in lamentation for if I chose.
A. You have lamented it sufficiently in your book on Consolation; and when I read that, there is nothing which I desire more than to leave these things; but that desire is increased a great deal by what I have just heard.
M. The time will come, and that soon, and with equal certainty, whether you hang back or press forward; for time flies. But death is so far from being an evil, as it lately appeared to you, that I am inclined to suspect, not that there is no other thing which is an evil to man, but rather that there is nothing else which is a real good to him; if, at least, it is true that we become thereby either Gods ourselves, or companions of the Gods. However, this is not of so much consequence, as there are some of us here who will not allow this. But I will not leave off discussing this point till I have convinced you that death can, upon no consideration whatever, be an evil.
A. How can it, after what I now know?
M. Do you ask how it can? There are crowds of arguers who contradict this; and those not only Epicureans, whom I regard very little, but, somehow or other, almost every man of letters; and, above all, my favorite Dicaearchus is very strenuous in opposing the immortality of the soul: for he has written three books, which are entitled Lesbiacs, because the discourse was held at Mitylene, in which he seeks to prove that souls are mortal. The Stoics, on the other hand, allow us as long a time for enjoyment as the life of a raven; they allow the soul to exist a great while, but are against its eternity.
XXXII. Are you willing to hear then why, even allowing this, death cannot be an evil.
A. As you please; but no one shall drive me from my belief in mortality.
M. I commend you, indeed, for that; though we should not be too confident in our belief of anything; for we are frequently disturbed by some subtle conclusion. We give way and change our opinions even in things that are more evident than this; for in this there certainly is some obscurity. Therefore, should anything of this kind happen, it is well to be on our guard.
A. You are right in that; but I will provide against any accident.
M. Have you any objection to our dismissing our friends the Stoics—those, I mean, who allow that the souls exist after they have left the body, but yet deny that they exist forever?
A. We certainly may dismiss the consideration of those men who admit that which is the most difficult point in the whole question, namely, that a soul can exist independently of the body, and yet refuse to grant that which is not only very easy to believe, but which is even the natural consequence of the concession which they have made—that if they can exist for a length of time, they most likely do so forever.
M. You take it right; that is the very thing. Shall we give, therefore, any credit to Panaetius, when he dissents from his master, Plato? whom he everywhere calls divine, the wisest, the holiest of men, the Homer of philosophers, and whom he opposes in nothing except this single opinion of the soul’s immortality: for he maintains what nobody denies, that everything which has been generated will perish, and that even souls are generated, which he thinks appears from their resemblance to those of the men who begot them; for that likeness is as apparent in the turn of their minds as in their bodies. But he brings another reason—that there is nothing which is sensible of pain which. is not also liable to disease; but whatever is liable to disease must be liable to death. The soul is sensible of pain, therefore it is liable to perish.
XXXIII. These arguments may be refuted; for they proceed from his not knowing that, while discussing the subject of the immortality of the soul, he is speaking of the intellect, which is free from all turbid motion; but not of those parts of the mind in which those disorders, anger and lust, have their seat, and which he whom he is opposing, when he argues thus, imagines to be distinct and separate from the mind. Now this resemblance is more remarkable in beasts, whose souls are void of reason. But the likeness in men consists more in the configuration of the bodies: and it is of no little consequence in what bodies the soul is lodged; for there are many things which depend on the body that give an edge to the soul, many which blunt it.
Aristotle, indeed, says that all men of great genius are melancholy; so that I should not have been displeased to have been somewhat duller than I am. He instances many, and, as if it were matter of fact, brings his reasons for it. But if the power of those things that proceed from the body be so great as to influence the mind (for they are the things, whatever they are, that occasion this likeness), still that does not necessarily prove why a similitude of souls should be generated. I say nothing about cases of unlikeness.
I wish Panaetius could be here: he lived with Africanus. I would inquire of him which of his family the nephew of Africanus’s brother was like? Possibly he may in person have resembled his father; but in his manners he was so like every profligate, abandoned man, that it was impossible to be more so. Whom did the grandson of P. Crassus, that wise and eloquent and most distinguished man, resemble? Or the relations and sons of many other excellent men, whose names there is no occasion to mention? But what are we doing? Have we forgotten that our purpose was, when we had sufficiently spoken on the subject of the immortality of the soul, to prove that, even if the soul did perish, there would be, even then, no evil in death?
A. I remembered it very well; but I had no dislike to your digressing a little from your original design, while you were talking of the soul’s immortality.
M. I perceive you have sublime thoughts, and are eager to mount up to heaven.
XXXIV. I am not without hopes myself that such may be our fate. But admit what they assert—that the soul does not continue to exist after death.
A. Should it be so, I see that we are then deprived of the hopes of a happier life.
M. But what is there of evil in that opinion? For let the soul perish as the body: is there any pain, or indeed any feeling at all, in the body after death? No one, indeed, asserts that; though Epicurus charges Democritus with saying so; but the disciples of Democritus deny it. No sense, therefore, remains in the soul; for the soul is nowhere. Where, then, is the evil? for there is nothing but these two things. Is it because the mere separation of the soul and body cannot be effected without pain? But even should that be granted, how small a pain must that be! Yet I think that it is false, and that it is very often unaccompanied by any sensation at all, and sometimes even attended with pleasure; but certainly the whole must be very trifling, whatever it is, for it is instantaneous.
What makes us uneasy, or rather gives us pain, is the leaving all the good things of life. But just consider if I might not more properly say, leaving the evils of life; only there is no reason for my now occupying myself in bewailing the life of man, and yet I might, with very good reason. But what occasion is there, when what I am laboring to prove is that no one is miserable after death, to make life more miserable by lamenting over it? I have done that in the book which I wrote, in order to comfort myself as well as I could.
If, then, our inquiry is after truth, death withdraws us from evil, not from good. This subject is indeed so copiously handled by Hegesias, the Cyrenaic philosopher, that he is said to have been forbidden by Ptolemy from delivering his lectures in the schools, because some who heard him made away with themselves. There is, too, an epigram of Callimachus on Cleombrotus of Ambracia, who, without any misfortune having befallen him, as he says, threw himself from a wall into the sea, after he had read a book of Plato’s.
[Farewell, O sun, Cleombrotus exclaimed,
The book I mentioned of that Hegesias is called 'Αποκαρτερων, or “A Man who starves himself,” in which a man is represented as killing himself by starvation, till he is prevented by his friends, in reply to whom he reckons up all the miseries of human life. I might do the same, though not so fully as he, who thinks it not worth any man’s while to live. I pass over others. Was it even worth my while to live, for, had I died before I was deprived of the comforts of my own family, and of the honors which I received for my public services, would not death have taken me from the evils of life rather than from its blessings?
XXXV. Mention, therefore, some one, who never knew distress; who never received any blow from fortune. The great Metellus had four distinguished sons; but Priam had fifty, seventeen of whom were born to him by his lawful wife. Fortune had the same power over both, though she exercised it but on one; for Metellus was laid on his funeral pile by a great company of sons and daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters; but Priam fell by the hand of an enemy, after having fled to the altar, and having seen himself deprived of all his numerous progeny. Had he died before the death of his sons and the ruin of his kingdom,
With all his mighty wealth elate,
would he then have been taken from good or from evil? It would indeed, at that time, have appeared that he was being taken away from good; yet surely it would have turned out advantageous for him; nor should we have had these mournful verses,
Lo! these all perished in one flaming pile;
As if anything better could have happened to him at that time than to lose his life in that manner; but yet, if it had befallen him sooner, it would have prevented all those consequences; but even as it was, it released him from any further sense of them The case of our friend Pompey was something better: once, when he had been very ill at Naples, the Neapolitans, on his recovery, put crowns on their heads, as did those of Puteoli; the people flocked from the country to congratulate him—it is a Grecian custom, and a foolish one; still it is a sign of good fortune.
But the question is, had he died, would he have been taken from good, or from evil? Certainly from evil. He would not have been engaged in a war with his father-in-law [Pompey’s second wife was Julia, the daughter of Julius Caesar.]; he would not have taken up arms before he was prepared; he would not have left his own house, nor fled from Italy; he would not, after the loss of his army, have fallen unarmed into the hands of slaves, and been put to death by them; his children would not have been destroyed; nor would his whole fortune have come into the possession of the conquerors. Did not he, then, who, if he had died at that time, would have died in all his glory, owe all the great and terrible misfortunes into which he subsequently fell to the prolongation of his life at that time?
XXXVI. These calamities are avoided by death, for even though they should never happen, there is a possibility that they may; but it never occurs to a man that such a disaster may befall him himself. Every one hopes to be as happy as Metellus: as if the number of the happy exceeded that of the miserable; or as if there were any certainty in human affairs; or, again, as if there were more rational foundation for hope than fear. But should we grant them even this, that men are by death deprived of good things; would it follow that the dead are therefore in need of the good things of life, and are miserable on that account?
Certainly they must necessarily say so. Can he who does not exist be in need of anything? To be in need of has a melancholy sound, because it in effect amounts to this—he had, but he has not; he regrets, he looks back upon, he wants. Such are, I suppose, the distresses of one who is in need of. Is he deprived of eyes? to be blind is misery. Is he destitute of children? not to have them is misery. These considerations apply to the living, but the dead are neither in need of the blessings of life, nor of life itself. But when I am speaking of the dead, I am speaking of those who have no existence. But would any one say of us, who do exist, that we want horns or wings? Certainly not. Should it be asked, why not? the answer would be, that not to have what neither custom nor nature has fitted you for would not imply a want of them, even though you were sensible that you had them not.
This argument should be pressed over and over again, after that point has once been established, which, if souls are mortal, there can be no dispute about—I mean, that the destruction of them by death is so entire as to remove even the least suspicion of any sense remaining. When, therefore, this point is once well grounded and established, we must correctly define what the term to want means; that there may be no mistake in the word. To want, then, signifies this: to be without that which you would be glad to have; for inclination for a thing is implied in the word want, excepting when we use the word in an entirely different sense, as we do when we say that a fever is wanting to any one. For it admits of a different interpretation, when you are without a certain thing, and are sensible that you are without it, but yet can easily dispense with having it. “To want,” then, is an expression which you cannot apply to the dead; nor is the mere fact of wanting something necessarily lamentable. The proper expression ought to be, “that they want a good,” and that is an evil.
But a living man does not want a good, unless he is distressed without it; and yet, we can easily understand how any man alive can be without a kingdom. But this cannot be predicated of you with any accuracy: it might have been asserted of Tarquin, when he was driven from his kingdom. But when such an expression is used respecting the dead, it is absolutely unintelligible. For to want implies to be sensible; but the dead are insensible: therefore, the dead can be in no want.
XXXVII. But what occasion is there to philosophize here in a matter with which we see that philosophy is but little concerned? How often have not only our generals, but whole armies, rushed on certain death! But if it had been a thing to be feared, L. Brutus would never have fallen in fight, to prevent the return of that tyrant whom he had expelled; nor would Decius the father have been slain in fighting with the Latins; nor would his son, when engaged with the Etruscans, nor his grandson with Pyrrhus, have exposed themselves to the enemy’s darts. Spain would never have seen, in one campaign, the Scipios fall fighting for their country; nor would the plains of Cannae have witnessed the death of Paulus and Geminus, or Venusia that of Marcellus; nor would the Latins have beheld the death of Albinus, nor the Leucanians that of Gracchus.
But are any of these miserable now? Nay, they were not so even at the first moment after they had breathed their last; nor can any one be miserable after he has lost all sensation. Oh, but the mere circumstance of being without sensation is miserable. It might be so if being without sensation were the same thing as wanting it; but as it is evident there can be nothing of any kind in that which has no existence, what can there be afflicting to that which can neither feel want nor be sensible of anything? We might be said to have repeated this over too often, only that here lies all that the soul shudders at from the fear of death. For whoever can clearly apprehend that which is as manifest as the light — that when both soul and body are consumed, and there is a total destruction, then that which was an animal becomes nothing — will clearly see that there is no difference between a Hippocentaur, which never had existence, and King Agamemnon; and that M. Camillus is no more concerned about this present civil war than I was at the sacking of Rome, when he was living.
XXXVIII. Why, then, should Camillus be affected with the thoughts of these things happening three hundred and fifty years after his time? And why should I be uneasy if I were to expect that some nation might possess itself of this city ten thousand years hence? Because so great is our regard for our country, as not to be measured by our own feeling, but by its own actual safety.
Death, then, which threatens us daily from a thousand accidents, and which, by reason of the shortness of life, can never be far off, does not deter a wise man from making such provision for his country and his family as he hopes may last forever; and from regarding posterity, of which he can never have any real perception, as belonging to himself. Wherefore a man may act for eternity, even though he be persuaded that his soul is mortal; not, indeed, from a desire of glory, which he will be insensible of, but from a principle of virtue, which glory will inevitably attend, though that is not his object. The process, indeed, of nature is this: that just in the same manner as our birth was the beginning of things with us, so death will be the end; and as we were noways concerned with anything before we were born, so neither shall we be after we are dead.
And in this state of things where can the evil be, since death has no connection with either the living or the dead? The one have no existence at all, the other are not yet affected by it. They who make the least of death consider it as having a great resemblance to sleep; as if any one would choose to live ninety years on condition that, at the expiration of sixty, he should sleep out the remainder. The very swine would not accept of life on those terms, much less I.
Endymion, indeed, if you listen to fables, slept once on a time on Latmus, a mountain of Caria, and for such a length of time that I imagine he is not as yet awake. Do you think that he is concerned at the Moon’s being in difficulties, though it was by her that he was thrown into that sleep, in order that she might kiss him while sleeping. For what should he be concerned for who has not even any sensation? You look on sleep as an image of death, and you take that on you daily; and have you, then, any doubt that there is no sensation in death, when you see there is none in sleep, which is its near resemblance?
XXXIX. Away, then, with those follies, which are little better than the old women’s dreams, such as that it is miserable to die before our time. What time do you mean? That of nature? But she has only lent you life, as she might lend you money, without fixing any certain time for its repayment. Have you any grounds of complaint, then, that she recalls it at her pleasure? for you received it on these terms. They that complain thus allow that if a young child dies, the survivors ought to bear his loss with equanimity; that if an infant in the cradle dies, they ought not even to utter a complaint; and yet nature has been more severe with them in demanding back what she gave. They answer by saying that such have not tasted the sweets of life; while the other had begun to conceive hopes of great happiness, and, indeed, had begun to realize them.
Men judge better in other things, and allow a part to be preferable to none. Why do they not admit the same estimate in life? Though Callimachus does not speak amiss in saying that more tears had flowed from Priam than his son; yet they are thought happier who die after they have reached old age. It would be hard to say why; for I do not apprehend that any one, if a longer life were granted to him, would find it happier. There is nothing more agreeable to a man than prudence, which old age most certainly bestows on a man, though it may strip him of everything else. But what age is long, or what is there at all long to a man? Does not
Old age, though unregarded, still attend
But because there is nothing beyond old age, we call that long: all these things are said to be long or short, according to the proportion of time they were given us for. Aristotle saith there is a kind of insect near the river Hypanis, which runs from a certain part of Europe into the Pontus, whose life consists but of one day; those that die at the eighth hour die in full age; those who die when the sun sets are very old, especially when the days are at the longest. Compare our longest life with eternity, and we shall be found almost as short-lived as those little animals.
XL. Let us, then, despise all these follies—for what softer name can I give to such levities?—and let us lay the foundation of our happiness in the strength and greatness of our minds, in a contempt and disregard of all earthly things, and in the practice of every virtue. For at present we are enervated by the softness of our imaginations, so that, should we leave this world before the promises of our fortune-tellers are made good to us, we should think ourselves deprived of some great advantages, and seem disappointed and forlorn. But if, through life, we are in continual suspense, still expecting, still desiring, and are in continual pain and torture, good Gods! how pleasant must that journey be which ends in security and ease!
How pleased am I with Theramenes! Of how exalted a soul does he appear! For, although we never read of him without tears, yet that illustrious man is not to be lamented in his death, who, when he had been imprisoned by the command of the thirty tyrants; drank off, at one draught, as if he had been thirsty, the poisoned cup, and threw the remainder out of it with such force that it sounded as it fell; and then, on hearing the sound of the drops, he said, with a smile, “I drink this to the most excellent Critias,” who had been his most bitter enemy; for it is customary among the Greeks, at their banquets, to name the person to whom they intend to deliver the cup.
This celebrated man was pleasant to the last, even when he had received the poison into his bowels, and truly foretold the death of that man whom he named when he drank the poison, and that death soon followed. Who that thinks death an evil could approve of the evenness of temper in this great man at the instant of dying? Socrates came, a few years after, to the same prison and the same cup by as great iniquity on the part of his judges as the tyrants displayed when they executed Theramenes. What a speech is that which Plato makes him deliver before his judges, after they had condemned him to death!
XLI. “I am not without hopes, O judges, that it is a favorable circumstance for me that I am condemned to die; for one of these two things must necessarily happen—either that death will deprive me entirely of all sense, or else that, by dying, I shall go from hence into some other place; wherefore, if all sense is utterly extinguished, and if death is like that sleep which sometimes is so undisturbed as to be even without the visions of dreams—in that case, O ye good Gods! what gain is it to die? or what length of days can be imagined which would be preferable to such a night? And if the constant course of future time is to resemble that night, who is happier than I am?
“But if, on the other hand, what is said be true, namely, that death is but a removal to those regions where the souls of the departed dwell, then that state must be more happy still to have escaped from those who call themselves judges, and to appear before such as are truly so—Minos, Rhadamanthus, Aeacus, Triptolemus—and to meet with those who have lived with justice and probity! Can this change of abode appear otherwise than great to you? What bounds can you set to the value of conversing with Orpheus, and Musaeus, and Homer, and Hesiod? I would even, were it possible, willingly die often, in order to prove the certainty of what I speak of. What delight must it be to meet with Palamedes, and Ajax, and others, who have been betrayed by the iniquity of their judges!
“Then, also, should I experience the wisdom of even that king of kings, who led his vast troops to Troy, and the prudence of Ulysses and Sisyphus: nor should I then be condemned for prosecuting my inquiries on such subjects in the same way in which I have done here on earth. And even you, my judges, you, I mean, who have voted for my acquittal, do not you fear death, for nothing bad can befall a good man, whether he be alive or dead; nor are his concerns ever overlooked by the Gods; nor in my case either has this befallen me by chance; and I have nothing to charge those men with who accused or condemned me but the fact that they believed that they were doing me harm.” In this manner he proceeded. There is no part of his speech which I admire more than his last words: “But it is time,” says he, “for me now to go hence, that I may die; and for you, that you may continue to live. Which condition of the two is the best, the immortal Gods know; but I do not believe that any mortal man does.”
XLII. Surely I would rather have had this man’s soul than all the fortunes of those who sat in judgment on him; although that very thing which he says no one except the Gods know, namely, whether life or death is most preferable, he knows himself, for he had previously stated his opinion on it; but he maintained to the last that favorite maxim of his, of affirming nothing. And let us, too, adhere to this rule of not thinking anything an evil which is a general provision of nature; and let us assure ourselves, that if death is an evil, it is an eternal evil, for death seems to be the end of a miserable life; but if death is a misery, there can be no end of that.
But why do I mention Socrates, or Theramenes, men distinguished by the glory of virtue and wisdom? when a certain Lacedaemonian, whose name is not so much as known, held death in such contempt, that, when led to it by the ephori, he bore a cheerful and pleasant countenance; and, when he was asked by one of his enemies whether he despised the laws of Lycurgus, “On the contrary,” answered he, “I am greatly obliged to him, for he has amerced me in a fine which I can pay without borrowing, or taking up money at interest.” This was a man worthy of Sparta. And I am almost persuaded of his innocence because of the greatness of his soul.
Our own city has produced many such. But why should I name generals, and other men of high rank, when Cato could write that legions have marched with alacrity to that place from whence they never expected to return? With no less greatness of soul fell the Lacedaemonians at Thermopylae, on whom Simonides wrote the following epitaph:
Go, stranger, tell the Spartans, here we lie,
What was it that Leonidas, their general, said to them? “March on with courage, my Lacedaemonians. To-night, perhaps, we shall sup in the regions below.” This was a brave nation while the laws of Lycurgus were in force. One of them, when a Persian had said to him in conversation, “We shall hide the sun from your sight by the number of our arrows and darts,” replied, “We shall fight, then, in the shade.” Do I talk of their men? How great was that Lacedaemonian woman, who had sent her son to battle, and when she heard that he was slain, said, “I bore him for that purpose, that you might have a man who durst die for his country!” However, it is a matter of notoriety that the Spartans were bold and hardy, for the discipline of a republic has great influence.
XLIII. What, then, have we not reason to admire Theodorus the Cyrenean, a philosopher of no small distinction, who, when Lysimachus threatened to crucify him, bade him keep those menaces for his courtiers? “To Theodorus it makes no difference whether he rot in the air or underground.” By which saying of the philosopher I am reminded to say something of the custom of funerals and sepulture, and of funeral ceremonies, which is, indeed, not a difficult subject, especially if we recollect what has been before said about insensibility. The opinion of Socrates respecting this matter is clearly stated in the book which treats of his death, of which we have already said so much; for when he had discussed the immortality of the soul, and when the time of his dying was approaching rapidly, being asked by Criton how he would be buried, “I have taken a great deal of pains,” saith he, “my friends, to no purpose, for I have not convinced our Criton that I shall fly from hence, and leave no part of me behind. Notwithstanding, Criton, if you can overtake me, wheresoever you get hold of me, bury me as you please: but believe me, none of you will be able to catch me when I have flown away from hence.” That was excellently said, inasmuch as he allows his friend to do as he pleased, and yet shows his indifference about anything of this kind.
Diogenes was rougher, though of the same opinion; but in his character of a Cynic he expressed himself in a somewhat harsher manner; he ordered himself to be thrown anywhere without being buried. And when his friends replied,” What! to the birds and beasts?” “By no means,” saith he; “place my staff near me, that I may drive them away.” “How can you do that,” they answer, “for you will not perceive them?” “How am I then injured by being torn by those animals, if I have no sensation?” Anaxagoras, when he was at the point of death at Lampsacus, and was asked by his friends, whether, if anything should happen to him, he would not choose to be carried to Clazomenae, his country, made this excellent answer, “There is,” says he, “no occasion for that, for all places are at an equal distance from the infernal regions.” There is one thing to be observed with respect to the whole subject of burial, that it relates to the body, whether the soul live or die. Now, with regard to the body, it is clear that, whether the soul live or die, that has no sensation.
XLIV. But all things are full of errors. Achilles drags Hector, tied to his chariot; he thinks, I suppose, he tears his flesh, and that Hector feels the pain of it; therefore, he avenges himself on him, as he imagines. But Hecuba bewails this as a sore misfortune:
I saw (a dreadful sight) great Hector slain,
What Hector? or how long will he be Hector? Accius is better in this, and Achilles, too, is sometimes reasonable:
I Hector’s body to his sire conveyed,
It was not Hector that you dragged along, but a body that had been Hector’s. Here another starts from underground, and will not suffer his mother to sleep:
To thee I call, my once-loved parent, hear,
When these verses are sung with a slow and melancholy tune, so as to affect the whole theatre with sadness, one can scarce help thinking those unhappy that are unburied:
Ere the devouring dogs and hungry vultures. . .
He is afraid lie shall not have the use of his limbs so well if they are torn to pieces, but is under no such apprehensions if they are burned:
Nor leave my naked bones, my poor remains,
I do not understand what he could fear who could pour forth such excellent verses to the sound of the flute. We must, therefore, adhere to this, that nothing is to be regarded after we are dead, though many people revenge themselves on their dead enemies. Thyestes pours forth several curses in some good lines of Ennius, praying, first of all, that Atreus may perish by a shipwreck, which is certainly a very terrible thing, for such a death is not free from very grievous sensations. Then follow these unmeaning expressions:
The rocks themselves were not more destitute of feeling than he who was hanging to them by his side; though Thyestes imagines he is wishing him the greatest torture. It would be torture, indeed, if he were sensible; but as he is not, it can be none; then how very unmeaning is this:
Let him, still hovering over the Stygian wave,
You see under what mistaken notions all this is said. He imagines the body has its haven, and that the dead are at rest in their graves. Pelops was greatly to blame in not having informed and taught his son what regard was due to everything.
XLV. But what occasion is there to animadvert on the opinions of individuals, when we may observe whole nations to fall into all sorts of errors? The Egyptians embalm their dead, and keep them in their houses; the Persians dress them over with wax, and then bury them, that they may preserve their bodies as long as possible. It is customary with the Magi to bury none of their order, unless they have been first torn by wild beasts. In Hyrcania, the people maintain dogs for the public use; the nobles have their own—and we know that they have a good breed of dogs; but every one, according to his ability, provides himself with some, in order to be torn by them; and they hold that to be the best kind of interment.
Chrysippus, who is curious in all kinds of historical facts, has collected many other things of this kind; but some of them are so offensive as not to admit of being related. All that has been said of burying is not worth our regard with respect to ourselves, though it is not to be neglected as to our friends, provided we are thoroughly aware that the dead are insensible. But the living, indeed, should consider what is due to custom and opinion; only they should at the same time consider that the dead are noways interested in it.
But death truly is then met with the greatest tranquillity when the dying man can comfort himself with his own praise. No one dies too soon who has finished the course of perfect virtue. I myself have known many occasions when I have seemed in danger of immediate death; oh! how I wish it had come to me! for I have gained nothing by the delay. I had gone over and over again the duties of life; nothing remained but to contend with fortune. If reason, then, cannot sufficiently fortify us to enable us to feel a contempt for death, at all events let our past life prove that we have lived long enough, and even longer than was necessary; for notwithstanding the deprivation of sense, the dead are not without that good which peculiarly belongs to them, namely, the praise and glory which they have acquired, even though they are not sensible of it. For although there be nothing in glory to make it desirable, yet it follows virtue as its shadow; and the genuine judgment of the multitude on good men, if ever they form any, is more to their own praise than of any real advantage to the dead. Yet I cannot say, however it may be received, that Lycurgus and Solon have no glory from their laws, and from the political constitution which they established in their country; or that Themistocles and Epaminondas have not glory from their martial virtue.
XLVI. For Neptune shall sooner bury Salamis itself with his waters than the memory of the trophies gained there; and the Boeotian Leuctra shall perish sooner than the glory of that great battle. And longer still shall fame be before it deserts Curius, and Fabricius, and Calatinus, and the two Scipios, and the two Africani, and Maximus, and Marcellus, and Paulus, and Cato, and Laelius, and numberless other heroes; and whoever has caught any resemblance of them, not estimating it by common fame, but by the real applause of good men, may with confidence, when the occasion requires, approach death, on which we are sure that even if the chief good is not continued, at least no evil is.
Such a man would even wish to die while in prosperity; for all the favors that could be heaped on him would not be so agreeable to him as the loss of them would be painful. That speech of the Lacedaemonian seems to have the same meaning, who, when Diagoras the Rhodian, who had himself been a conqueror at the Olympic games, saw two of his own sons conquerors there on the same day, approached the old man, and, congratulating him, said, “You should die now, Diagoras, for no greater happiness can possibly await you.” The Greeks look on these as great things; perhaps they think too highly of them, or, rather, they did so then. And so he who said this to Diagoras, looking on it as something very glorious, that three men out of one family should have been conquerors there, thought it could answer no purpose to him to continue any longer in life, where he could only be exposed to a reverse of fortune.
I might have given you a sufficient answer, as it seems to me, on this point, in a few words, as you had allowed the dead were not exposed to any positive evil; but I have spoken at greater length on the subject for this reason, because this is our greatest consolation in the losing and bewailing of our friends. For we ought to bear with moderation any grief which arises from ourselves, or is endured on our own account, lest we should seem to be too much influenced by self-love. But should we suspect our departed friends to be under those evils, which they are generally imagined to be, and to be sensible of them, then such a suspicion would give us intolerable pain; and accordingly I wished, for my own sake, to pluck up this opinion by the roots, and on that account I have been perhaps somewhat more prolix than was necessary.
XLVII. A. More prolix than was necessary? Certainly not, in my opinion. For I was induced, by the former part of your speech, to wish to die; but, by the latter, sometimes not to be unwilling, and at others to be wholly indifferent about it. But the effect of your whole argument is, that I am convinced that death ought not to be classed among the evils.
M. Do you, then, expect that I am to give you a regular peroration, like the rhetoricians, or shall I forego that art?
A. I would not have you give over an art which you have set off to such advantage; and you were in the right to do so, for, to speak the truth, it also has set you off. But what is that peroration? For I should be glad to hear it, whatever it is.
M. It is customary, in the schools, to produce the opinions of the immortal Gods on death; nor are these opinions the fruits of the imagination alone of the lecturers, but they have the authority of Herodotus and many others. Cleobis and Biton are the first they mention, sons of the Argive priestess; the story is a well-known one. As it was necessary that she should be drawn in a chariot to a certain annual sacrifice, which was solemnized at a temple some considerable distance from the town, and the cattle that were to draw the chariot had not arrived, those two young men whom I have just mentioned, pulling off their garments, and anointing their bodies with oil, harnessed themselves to the yoke. And in this manner the priestess was conveyed to the temple; and when the chariot had arrived at the proper place, she is said to have entreated the Goddess to bestow on them, as a reward for their piety, the greatest gift that a God could confer on man. And the young men, after having feasted with their mother, fell asleep; and in the morning they were found dead.
Trophonius and Agamedes are said to have put up the same petition, for they, having built a temple to Apollo at Delphi, offered supplications to the God, and desired of him some extraordinary reward for their care and labor, particularizing nothing, but asking for whatever was best for men. Accordingly, Apollo signified to them that he would bestow it on them in three days, and on the third day at daybreak they were found dead. And so they say that this was a formal decision pronounced by that God to whom the rest of the deities have assigned the province of divining with an accuracy superior to that of all the rest.
XLVIII. There is also a story told of Silenus, who, when taken prisoner by Midas, is said to have made him this present for his ransom—namely, that he informed him that never to have been born was by far the greatest blessing that could happen to man; and that the next best thing was to die very soon; which very opinion Euripides makes use of in his Cresphontes, saying,
When man is born, ‘tis fit, with solemn show,
There is something like this in Crantor’s Consolation; for he says that Terinaeus of Elysia, when he was bitterly lamenting the loss of his son, came to a place of divination to be informed why he was visited with so great affliction, and received in his tablet these three verses:
Thou fool, to murmur at Euthynous’ death!
On these and similar authorities they affirm that the question has been determined by the Gods. Nay, more; Alcidamas, an ancient rhetorician of the very highest reputation, wrote even in praise of death, which he endeavored to establish by an enumeration of the evils of life; and his Dissertation has a great deal of eloquence in it; but he was unacquainted with the more refined arguments of the philosophers.
By the orators, indeed, to die for our country is always considered not only as glorious, but even as happy: they go back as far as Erechtheus [An oracle demanded the sacrifice of one of the daughters of Erechtheus, the King of Athens. And when one was drawn by lot, the others voluntarily accompanied her to death.], whose very daughters underwent death, for the safety of their fellow-citizens: they instance Codrus, who threw himself into the midst of his enemies, dressed like a common man, that his royal robes might not betray him, because the oracle had declared the Athenians conquerors, if their king was slain. Menoeceus [Menoeceus was son of Creon, and in the war of the Argives against Thebes, Teresias declared that the Thebans should conquer if Menoeceus would sacrifice himself for his country; and accordingly he killed himself outside the gates of Thebes.] is not overlooked by them, who, in compliance with the injunctions of an oracle, freely shed his blood for his country. Iphigenia ordered herself to be conveyed to Aulis, to be sacrificed, that her blood might be the cause of spilling that of her enemies.
XLIX. From hence they proceed to instances of a fresher date. Harmodius and Aristogiton are in everybody’s mouth; the memory of Leonidas the Lacedaemonian and Epaminondas the Theban is as fresh as ever. Those philosophers were not acquainted with the many instances in our country—to give a list of whom would take up too much time—who, we see, considered death desirable as long as it was accompanied with honor. But, notwithstanding this is the correct view of the case, we must use much persuasion, speak as if we were endued with some higher authority, in order to bring men to begin to wish to die, or cease to be afraid of death.
For if that last day does not occasion an entire extinction, but a change of abode only, what can be more desirable? And if it, on the other hand, destroys, and absolutely puts an end to us, what can be preferable to the having a deep sleep fall on us, in the midst of the fatigues of life, and being thus overtaken, to sleep to eternity? And, should this really be the case, then Ennius’s language is more consistent with wisdom than Solon’s; for our Ennius says,
Let none bestow upon my passing bier
But the wise Solon says,
Let me not unlamented die, but over my bier
But let us, if indeed it should be our fate to know the time which is appointed by the Gods for us to die, prepare ourselves for it with a cheerful and grateful mind, thinking ourselves like men who are delivered from a jail, and released from their fetters, for the purpose of going back to our eternal habitation, which may be more emphatically called our own; or else to be divested of all sense and trouble.
If, on the other hand, we should have no notice given us of this decree, yet let us cultivate such a disposition as to look on that formidable hour of death as happy for us, though shocking to our friends; and let us never imagine anything to be an evil which is an appointment of the immortal Gods, or of nature, the common parent of all. For it is not by hazard or without design that we have been born and situated as we have. On the contrary, beyond all doubt there is a certain power which consults the happiness of human nature; and this would neither have produced nor provided for a being which, after having gone through the labors of life, was to fall into eternal misery by death. Let us rather infer that we have a retreat and haven prepared for us, which I wish we could crowd all sail and arrive at; but though the winds should not serve, and we should be driven back, yet we shall to a certainty arrive at that point eventually, though somewhat later. But how can that be miserable for one which all must of necessity undergo? I have given you a peroration, that you might not think I had overlooked or neglected anything.
A. I am persuaded you have not; and, indeed, that peroration has confirmed me.
M. I am glad it has had that effect. But it is now time to consult our health. To-morrow, and all the time we continue in this Tusculan villa, let us consider this subject; and especially those portions of it which may ease our pain, alleviate our fears, and lessen our desires, which is the greatest advantage we can reap from the whole of philosophy.
ON BEARING PAIN.
I. NEOPTOLEMUS, in Ennius, indeed, says that the study of philosophy was expedient for him; but that it required limiting to a few subjects, for that to give himself up entirely to it was what he did not approve of. And for my part, Brutus, I am perfectly persuaded that it is expedient for me to philosophize; for what can I do better, especially as I have no regular occupation? But I am not for limiting my philosophy to a few subjects, as he does; for philosophy is a matter in which it is difficult to acquire a little knowledge without acquainting yourself with many, or all its branches, nor can you well take a few subjects without selecting them out of a great number; nor can any one, who has acquired the knowledge of a few points, avoid endeavoring with the same eagerness to understand more.
But still, in a busy life, and in one mainly occupied with military matters, such as that of Neoptolemus was at that time, even that limited degree of acquaintance with philosophy may be of great use, and may yield fruit, not perhaps so plentiful as a thorough knowledge of the whole of philosophy, but yet such as in some degree may at times deliver us from the dominion of our desires, our sorrows, and our fears; just as the effect of that discussion which we lately maintained in my Tusculan villa seemed to be that a great contempt of death was engendered, which contempt is of no small efficacy towards delivering the mind from fear; for whoever dreads what cannot be avoided can by no means live with a quiet and tranquil mind. But he who is under no fear of death, not only because it is a thing absolutely inevitable, but also because he is persuaded that death itself hath nothing terrible in it, provides himself with a very great resource towards a happy life.
However, I am not ignorant that many will argue strenuously against us; and, indeed, that is a thing which can never be avoided, except by abstaining from writing at all. For if my Orations, which were addressed to the judgment and approbation of the people (for that is a popular art, and the object of oratory is popular applause), have been criticized by some people who are inclined to withhold their praise from everything but what they are persuaded they can attain to themselves, and who limit their ideas of good speaking by the hopes which they conceive of what they themselves may attain to, and who declare, when they are overwhelmed with a flow of words and sentences, that they prefer the utmost poverty of thought and expression to that plenty and copiousness (from which arose the Attic kind of oratory, which they who professed it were strangers to, though they have now been some time silenced, and laughed out of the very courts of justice), what may I not expect, when at present I cannot have the least countenance from the people by whom I used to be upheld before?
For philosophy is satisfied with a few judges, and of her own accord industriously avoids the multitude, who are jealous of it, and utterly displeased with it; so that, should any one undertake to cry down the whole of it, he would have the people on his side; while, if he should attack that school which I particularly profess, he would have great assistance from those of the other philosophers.
II. But I have answered the detractors of philosophy in general, in my Hortensius. And what I had to say in favor of the Academics, is, I think, explained with sufficient accuracy in my four books of the Academic Question.
But yet I am so far from desiring that no one should write against me, that it is what I most earnestly wish; for philosophy would never have been in such esteem in Greece itself, if it had not been for the strength which it acquired from the contentions and disputations of the most learned men; and therefore I recommend all men who have abilities to follow my advice to snatch this art also from declining Greece, and to transport it to this city; as our ancestors by their study and industry have imported all their other arts which were worth having. Thus the praise of oratory, raised from a low degree, is arrived at such perfection that it must now decline, and, as is the nature of all things, verge to its dissolution in a very short time.
Let philosophy, then, derive its birth in Latin language from this time, and let us lend it our assistance, and bear patiently to be contradicted and refuted; and although those men may dislike such treatment who are bound and devoted to certain predetermined opinions, and are under such obligations to maintain them that they are forced, for the sake of consistency, to adhere to them even though they do not themselves wholly approve of them; we, on the other hand, who pursue only probabilities, and who cannot go beyond that which seems really likely, can confute others without obstinacy, and are prepared to be confuted ourselves without resentment. Besides, if these studies are ever brought home to us, we shall not want even Greek libraries, in which there is an infinite number of books, by reason of the multitude of authors among them; for it is a common practice with many to repeat the same things which have been written by others, which serves no purpose but to stuff their shelves; and this will be our case, too, if many apply themselves to this study.
III. But let us excite those, if possible, who have had a liberal education, and are masters of an elegant style, and who philosophize with reason and method.
For there is a certain class of them who would willingly be called philosophers, whose books in our language are said to be numerous, and which I do not despise; for, indeed, I never read them: but still, because the authors themselves declare that they write without any regularity, or method, or elegance, or ornament, I do not care to read what must be so void of entertainment. There is no one in the least acquainted with literature who does not know the style and sentiments of that school; wherefore, since they are at no pains to express themselves well, I do not see why they should be read by anybody except by one another. Let them read them, if they please, who are of the same opinions; for in the same manner as all men read Plato and the other Socratics, with those who sprung from them, even those who do not agree with their opinions, or are very indifferent about them; but scarcely any one except their own disciples take Epicurus or Metrodorus into their hands; so they alone read these Latin books who think that the arguments contained in them are sound.
But, in my opinion, whatever is published should be recommended to the reading of every man of learning; and though we may not succeed in this ourselves, yet nevertheless we must be sensible that this ought to be the aim of every writer. And on this account I have always been pleased with the custom of the Peripatetics and Academies, of disputing on both sides of the question; not solely from its being the only method of discovering what is probable on every subject, but also because it affords the greatest scope for practicing eloquence; a method that Aristotle first made use of, and afterward all the Aristotelians; and in our own memory Philo, whom we have often heard, appointed one time to treat of the precepts of the rhetoricians, and another for philosophical discussion, to which custom I was brought to conform by my friends at my Tusculum; and accordingly our leisure time was spent in this manner. And therefore, as yesterday before noon we applied ourselves to speaking, and in the afternoon went down into the Academy, the discussions which were held there I have acquainted you with, not in the manner of a narration, but in almost the very same words which were employed in the debate.
IV. The discourse, then, was introduced in this manner while we were walking, and it was commenced by some such an opening as this:
A. It is not to be expressed how much I was delighted, or rather edified, by your discourse of yesterday. For although I am conscious to myself that I have never been too fond of life, yet at times, when I have considered that there would be an end to this life, and that I must some time or other part with all its good things, a certain dread and uneasiness used to intrude itself on my thoughts; but now, believe me, I am so freed from that kind of uneasiness that there is nothing that I think less worth any regard.
M. I am not at all surprised at that, for it is the effect of philosophy, which is the medicine of our souls; it banishes all groundless apprehensions, frees us from desires, and drives away fears: but it has not the same influence over all men; it is of very great influence when it falls in with a disposition well adapted to it. For not only does Fortune, as the old proverb says, assist the bold, but reason does so in a still greater degree; for it, by certain precepts, as it were, strengthens even courage itself. You were born naturally great and soaring, and with a contempt for all things which pertain to man alone; therefore a discourse against death took easy possession of a brave soul. But do you imagine that these same arguments have any force with those very persons who have invented, and canvassed, and published them, excepting indeed some very few particular persons?
For how few philosophers will you meet with whose life and manners are conformable to the dictates of reason! who look on their profession, not as a means of displaying their learning, but as a rule for their own practice! who follow their own precepts, and comply with their own decrees! You may see some of such levity and such vanity, that it would have been better for them to have been ignorant; some covetous of money, some others eager for glory, many slaves to their lusts; so that their discourses and their actions are most strangely at variance; than which nothing in my opinion can be more unbecoming: for just as if one who professed to teach grammar should speak with impropriety, or a master of music sing out of tune, such conduct has the worst appearance in these men, because they blunder in the very particular with which they profess that they are well acquainted. So a philosopher who errs in the conduct of his life is the more infamous because he is erring in the very thing which he pretends to teach, and, while he lays down rules to regulate life by, is irregular in his own life.
V. A. Should this be the case, is it not to be feared that you are dressing up philosophy in false colors? For what stronger argument can there be that it is of little use than that some very profound philosophers live in a discreditable manner?
M. That, indeed, is no argument at all, for as all the fields which are cultivated are not fruitful (and this sentiment of Accius is false, and asserted without any foundation,
The ground you sow on is of small avail;
it is not every mind which has been properly cultivated that produces fruit; and, to go on with the comparison, as a field, although it may be naturally fruitful, cannot produce a crop without dressing, so neither can the mind without education; such is the weakness of either without the other. Whereas philosophy is the culture of the mind: this it is which plucks up vices by the roots; prepares the mind for the receiving of seeds; commits them to it, or, as I may say, sows them, in the hope that, when come to maturity, they may produce a plentiful harvest. Let us proceed, then, as we began. Say, if you please, what shall be the subject of our disputation.
A. I look on pain to be the greatest of all evils.
M. What, even greater than infamy?
A. I dare not indeed assert that; and I blush to think I am so soon driven from my ground.
M. You would have had greater reason for blushing had you persevered in it; for what is so unbecoming—what can appear worse to you, than disgrace, wickedness, immorality? To avoid which, what pain is there which we ought not (I will not say to avoid shirking, but even) of our own accord to encounter, and undergo, and even to court?
A. I am entirely of that opinion; but, notwithstanding that pain is not the greatest evil, yet surely it is an evil.
M. Do you perceive, then, how much of the terror of pain you have given up on a small hint?
A. I see that plainly; but I should be glad to give up more of it.
M. I will endeavor to make you do so; but it is a great undertaking, and I must have a disposition on your part which is not inclined to offer any obstacles.
A. You shall have such: for as I behaved yesterday, so now I will follow reason wherever she leads.
VI. M. First, then, I will speak of the weakness of many philosophers, and those, too, of various sects; the head of whom, both in authority and antiquity, was Aristippus, the pupil of Socrates, who hesitated not to say that pain was the greatest of all evils. And after him Epicurus easily gave in to this effeminate and enervated doctrine. After him Hieronymus the Rhodian said, that to be without pain was the chief good, so great an evil did pain appear to him to be. The rest, with the exceptions of Zeno, Aristo, Pyrrho, were pretty much of the same opinion that you were of just now — that it was indeed an evil, but that there were many worse.
When, then, nature herself, and a certain generous feeling of virtue, at once prevents you from persisting in the assertion that pain is the chief evil, and when you were driven from such an opinion when disgrace was contrasted with pain, shall philosophy, the preceptress of life, cling to this idea for so many ages? What duty of life, what praise, what reputation, would be of such consequence that a man should be desirous of gaining it at the expense of submitting to bodily pain, when he has persuaded himself that pain is the greatest evil?
On the other side, what disgrace, what ignominy, would he not submit to that he might avoid pain, when persuaded that it was the greatest of evils? Besides, what person, if it be only true that pain is the greatest of evils, is not miserable, not only when he actually feels pain, but also whenever he is aware that it may befall him. And who is there whom pain may not befall? So that it is clear that there is absolutely no one who can possibly be happy. Metrodorus, indeed, thinks that man perfectly happy whose body is free from all disorders, and who has an assurance that it will always continue so; but who is there who can be assured of that?
VII. But Epicurus, indeed, says such things that it should seem that his design was only to make people laugh; for he affirms somewhere that if a wise man were to be burned or put to the torture—you expect, perhaps, that he is going to say he would bear it, he would support himself under it with resolution, he would not yield to it (and that, by Hercules! would be very commendable, and worthy of that very Hercules whom I have just invoked): but even this will not satisfy Epicurus, that robust and hardy man! No; his wise man, even if he were in Phalaris’s bull, would say, How sweet it is! how little do I regard it! What, sweet? Is it not sufficient, if it is not disagreeable? But those very men who deny pain to be an evil are not in the habit of saying that it is agreeable to any one to be tormented; they rather say that it is cruel, or hard to bear, afflicting, unnatural, but still not an evil: while this man who says that it is the only evil, and the very worst of all evils, yet thinks that a wise man would pronounce it sweet.
I do not require of you to speak of pain in the same words which Epicurus uses—a man, as you know, devoted to pleasure: he may make no difference, if he pleases, between Phalaris’s bull and his own bed; but I cannot allow the wise man to be so indifferent about pain. If he bears it with courage, it is sufficient: that he should rejoice in it, I do not expect; for pain is, beyond all question, sharp, bitter, against nature, hard to submit to and to bear. Observe Philoctetes: We may allow him to lament, for he saw Hercules himself groaning loudly through extremity of pain on Mount Oeta. The arrows with which Hercules presented him were then no consolation to him, when
The viper’s bite, impregnating his veins
And therefore he cries out, desiring help, and wishing to die,
Oh that some friendly hand its aid would lend,
It is hard to say that the man who was obliged to cry out in this manner was not oppressed with evil, and great evil, too.
VIII. But let us observe Hercules himself, who was subdued by pain at the very time when he was on the point of attaining immortality by death. What words does Sophocles here put in his mouth, in his Trachiniae? who, when Deianira had put upon him a tunic dyed in the centaur’s blood, and it stuck to his entrails, says,
What tortures I endure no words can tell,
Assist, my son, if thou that name dost hear,
Can we, then, despise pain, when we see Hercules himself giving vent to his expressions of agony with such impatience?
X. Let us see what AeschyIus says, who was not only a poet, but a Pythagorean philosopher also, for that is the account which you have received of him; how doth he make Prometheus bear the pain he suffered for the Lemnian theft, when he clandestinely stole away the celestial fire, and bestowed it on men, and was severely punished by Jupiter for the theft. Fastened to Mount Caucasus, he speaks thus:
Thou heaven-born race of Titans here fast bound,
And therefore it scarcely seems possible to avoid calling a man who is suffering, miserable; and if he is miserable, then pain is an evil.
XI. A. Hitherto you are on my side; I will see to that by-and-by; and, in the mean while, whence are those verses? I do not remember them.
M. I will inform you, for you are in the right to ask. Do you see that I have much leisure?
A. What, then?
M. I imagine, when you were at Athens, you attended frequently at the schools of the philosophers.
A. Yes, and with great pleasure.
M. You observed, then, that though none of them at that time were very eloquent, yet they used to mix verses with their harangues.
A. Yes, and particularly Dionysius the Stoic used to employ a great many.
M. You say right; but they were quoted without any appropriateness or elegance. But our friend Philo used to give a few select lines and well adapted; and in imitation of him, ever since I took a fancy to this kind of elderly declamation, I have been very fond of quoting our poets; and where I cannot be supplied from them, I translate from the Greek, that the Latin language may not want any kind of ornament in this kind of disputation.
But do you not see how much harm is done by poets? They introduce the bravest men lamenting over their misfortunes: they soften our minds; and they are, besides, so entertaining, that we do not only read them, but get them by heart. Thus the influence of the poets is added to our want of discipline at home, and our tender and delicate manner of living, so that between them they have deprived virtue of all its vigor and energy. Plato, therefore, was right in banishing them from his commonwealth, where he required the best morals, and the best form of government. But we, who have all our learning from Greece, read and learn these works of theirs from our childhood; and look on this as a liberal and learned education.
XII. But why are we angry with the poets? We may find some philosophers, those masters of virtue, who have taught that pain was the greatest of evils. But you, young man, when you said but just now that it appeared so to you, upon being asked by me what appeared greater than infamy, gave up that opinion at a word. Suppose I ask Epicurus the same question. He will answer that a trifling degree of pain is a greater evil than the greatest infamy; for that there is no evil in infamy itself, unless attended with pain. What pain, then, attends Epicurus, when he says that very thing, that pain is the greatest evil! And yet nothing can be a greater disgrace to a philosopher than to talk thus.
Therefore, you allowed enough when you admitted that infamy appeared to you to be a greater evil than pain. And if you abide by this admission, you will see how far pain should be resisted; and that our inquiry should be not so much whether pain be an evil, as how the mind may be fortified for resisting it. The Stoics infer from some petty quibbling arguments that it is no evil, as if the dispute were about a word, and not about the thing itself. Why do you impose upon me, Zeno? For when you deny what appears very dreadful to me to be an evil, I am deceived, and am at a loss to know why that which appears to me to be a most miserable thing should be no evil. The answer is, that nothing is an evil but what is base and vicious. You return to your trifling, for you do not remove what made me uneasy. I know that pain is not vice—you need not inform me of that: but show me that it makes no difference to me whether I am in pain or not. It has never anything to do, say you, with a happy life, for that depends upon virtue alone; but yet pain is to be avoided. If I ask, why? It is disagreeable, against nature, hard to bear, woeful and afflicting.
XIII. Here are many words to express that by so many different forms which we call by the single word evil. You are defining pain, instead of removing it, when you say, it is disagreeable, unnatural, scarcely possible to be endured or borne, nor are you wrong in saying so: but the man who vaunts himself in such a manner should not give way in his conduct, if it be true that nothing is good but what is honest, and nothing evil but what is disgraceful. This would be wishing, not proving. This argument is a better one, and has more truth in it—that all things which Nature abhors are to be looked upon as evil; that those which she approves of are to be considered as good: for when this is admitted, and the dispute about words removed, that which they with reason embrace, and which we call honest, right, becoming, and sometimes include under the general name of virtue, appears so far superior to everything else that all other things which are looked upon as the gifts of fortune, or the good things of the body, seem trifling and insignificant; and no evil whatever, nor all the collective body of evils together, appears to be compared to the evil of infamy.
Wherefore, if, as you granted in the beginning, infamy is worse than pain, pain is certainly nothing; for while it appears to you base and unmanly to groan, cry out, lament, or faint under pain; while you cherish notions of probity, dignity, honor, and, keeping your eye on them, refrain yourself, pain will certainly yield to virtue, and, by the influence of imagination, will lose its whole force.— For you must either admit that there is no such thing as virtue, or you must despise every kind of pain. Will you allow of such a virtue as prudence, without which no virtue whatever can even be conceived? What, then? Will that suffer you to labor and take pains to no purpose? Will temperance permit you to do anything to excess? Will it be possible for justice to be maintained by one who through the force of pain discovers secrets, or betrays his confederates, or deserts many duties of life? Will you act in a manner consistently with courage, and its attendants, greatness of soul, resolution, patience, and contempt for all worldly things? Can you hear yourself called a great man when you lie grovelling, dejected, and deploring your condition with a lamentable voice; no one would call you even a man while in such a condition. You must therefore either abandon all pretensions to courage, or else pain must be put out of the question.
XIV. You know very well that, even though part of your Corinthian furniture were gone, the remainder might be safe without that; but if you lose one virtue (though virtue in reality cannot be lost), still if, I say, you should acknowledge that you were deficient in one, you would be stripped of all. Can you, then, call yourself a brave man, of a great soul, endued with patience and steadiness above the frowns of fortune? or Philoctetes? for I choose to instance him, rather than yourself, for he certainly was not a brave man, who lay in his bed, which was watered with his tears,
Whose groans, bewailings, and whose bitter cries,
I do not deny pain to be pain—for were that the case, in what would courage consist?—but I say it should be assuaged by patience, if there be such a thing as patience: if there be no such thing, why do we speak so in praise of philosophy? or why do we glory in its name?
Does pain annoy us? Let it sting us to the heart: if you are without defensive armor, bare your throat to it; but if you are secured by Vulcanian armor, that is to say by resolution, resist it. Should you fail to do so, that guardian of your honor, your courage, will forsake and leave you.—By the laws of Lycurgus, and by those which were given to the Cretans by Jupiter, or which Minos established under the direction of Jupiter, as the poets say, the youths of the State are trained by the practice of hunting, running, enduring hunger and thirst, cold and heat. The boys at Sparta are scourged so at the altars that blood follows the lash in abundance; nay, sometimes, as I used to hear when I was there, they are whipped even to death; and yet not one of them was ever heard to cry out, or so much as groan. What, then? Shall men not be able to bear what boys do? and shall custom have such great force, and reason none at all?
XV. There is some difference between labor and pain; they border upon one another, but still there is a certain difference between them. Labor is a certain exercise of the mind or body, in some employment or undertaking of serious trouble and importance; but pain is a sharp motion in the body, disagreeable to our senses.—-Both these feelings, the Greeks, whose language is more copious than ours, express by the common name of Πονος: therefore they call industrious men painstaking, or, rather, fond of labor; we, more conveniently, call them laborious; for laboring is one thing, and enduring pain another. You see, O Greece! your barrenness of words, sometimes, though you think you are always so rich in them.
I say, then, that there is a difference between laboring and being in pain. When Caius Marius had an operation performed for a swelling in his thigh, he felt pain; when he headed his troops in a very hot season, he labored. Yet these two feelings bear some resemblance to one another; for the accustoming ourselves to labor makes the endurance of pain more easy to us. And it was because they were influenced by this reason that the founders of the Grecian form of government provided that the bodies of their youth should be strengthened by labor, which custom the Spartans transferred even to their women, who in other cities lived more delicately, keeping within the walls of their houses; but it was otherwise with the Spartans.
The Spartan women, with a manly air,
And in these laborious exercises pain interferes sometimes. They are thrown down, receive blows, have bad falls, and are bruised, and the labor itself produces a sort of callousness to pain.
XVI. As to military service (I speak of our own, not of that of the Spartans, for they used to march slowly to the sound of the flute, and scarce a word of command was given without an anapaest), you may see, in the first place, whence the very name of an army (exercitus) [from exerceo] is derived; and, secondly, how great the labor is of an army on its march: then consider that they carry more than a fortnight’s provision, and whatever else they may want; that they carry the burden of the stakes [Each soldier carried a stake, to help form a palisade in front of the camp.], for as to shield, sword, or helmet, they look on them as no more encumbrance than their own limbs, for they say that arms are the limbs of a soldier, and those, indeed, they carry so commodiously that, when there is occasion, they throw down their burdens, and use their arms as readily as their limbs.
Why need I mention the exercises of the legions? And how great the labor is which is undergone in the running, encounters, shouts! Hence it is that their minds are worked up to make so light of wounds in action. Take a soldier of equal bravery, but undisciplined, and he will seem a woman. Why is it that there is this sensible difference between a raw recruit and a veteran soldier? The age of the young soldiers is for the most part in their favor; but it is practice only that enables men to bear labor and despise wounds. Moreover, we often see, when the wounded are carried off the field, the raw, untried soldier, though but slightly wounded, cries out most shamefully; but the more brave, experienced veteran only inquires for some one to dress his wounds, and says,
Patroclus, to thy aid I must appeal
XVII. This is certainly Eurypylus himself. What an experienced man!—While his friend is continually enlarging on his misfortunes, you may observe that he is so far from weeping that be even assigns a reason why he should bear his wounds with patience.
Who at his enemy a stroke directs,
Patroclus, I suppose, will lead him off to his chamber to bind up his wounds, at least if he be a man: but not a word of that; he only inquires how the battle went:
Say how the Argives bear themselves in fight?
And yet no words can show the truth as well as those, your deeds and visible sufferings.
Peace! and my wounds bind up;
but though Eurypylus could bear these afflictions, Aesopus could not,
Where Hector’s fortune pressed our yielding troops;
and he explains the rest, though in pain. So unbounded is military glory in a brave man! Shall, then, a veteran soldier be able to behave in this manner, and shall a wise and learned man not be able? Surely the latter might be able to bear pain better, and in no small degree either. At present, however, I am confining myself to what is engendered by practice and discipline. I am not yet come to speak of reason arid philosophy. You may often hear of old women living without victuals for three or four days; but take away a wrestler’s provisions but for one day, and he will implore the aid of Jupiter Olympius, the very God for whom he exercises himself: he will cry out that he cannot endure it.
Great is the force of custom! Sportsmen will continue whole nights in the snow; they will bear being almost frozen upon the mountains. From practice boxers will not so much as utter a groan, however bruised by the cestus. But what do you think of those to whom a victory in the Olympic games seemed almost on a par with the ancient consulships of the Roman people? What wounds will the gladiators bear, who are either barbarians, or the very dregs of mankind! How do they, who are trained to it, prefer being wounded to basely avoiding it! How often do they prove that they consider nothing but the giving satisfaction to their masters or to the people! for when covered with wounds, they send to their masters to learn their pleasure: if it is their will, they are ready to lie down and die. What gladiator, of even moderate reputation, ever gave a sigh? who ever turned pale? who ever disgraced himself either in the actual combat, or even when about to die? who that had been defeated ever drew in his neck to avoid the stroke of death? So great is the force of practice, deliberation, and custom! Shall this, then, be done by
A Samnite rascal, worthy of his trade;
and shall a man born to glory have so soft a part in his soul as not to be able to fortify it by reason and reflection? The sight of the gladiators’ combats is by some looked on as cruel and inhuman, and I do not know, as it is at present managed, but it may be so; but when the guilty fought, we might receive by our ears perhaps (but certainly by our eyes we could not) better training to harden us against pain and death.
XVIII. I have now said enough about the effects of exercise, custom, and careful meditation. Proceed we now to consider the force of reason, unless you have something to reply to what has been said.
A. That I should interrupt you! By no means; for your discourse has brought me over to your opinion. Let the Stoics, then, think it their business to determine whether pain be an evil or not, while they endeavor to show by some strained and trifling conclusions, which are nothing to the purpose, that pain is no evil. My opinion is, that whatever it is, it is not so great as it appears; and I say, that men are influenced to a great extent by some false representations and appearance of it, and that all which is really felt is capable of being endured. Where shall I begin, then? Shall I superficially go over what I said before, that my discourse may have a greater scope?
This, then, is agreed upon by all, and not only by learned men, but also by the unlearned, that it becomes the brave and magnanimous—those that have patience and a spirit above this world—not to give way to pain. Nor has there ever been any one who did not commend a man who bore it in this manner. That, then, which is expected from a brave man, and is commended when it is seen, it must surely be base in any one to be afraid of at its approach, or not to bear when it comes. But I would have you consider whether, as all the right affections of the soul are classed under the name of virtues, the truth is that this is not properly the name of them all, but that they all have their name from that leading virtue which is superior to all the rest: for the name “virtue” comes from vir, a man, and courage is the peculiar distinction of a man: and this virtue has two principal duties, to despise death and pain. We must, then, exert these, if we would be men of virtue, or, rather, if we would be men, because virtue (virtus) takes its very name from vir, man.
XIX. You may inquire, perhaps, how? And such an inquiry is not amiss, for philosophy is ready with her assistance. Epicurus offers himself to you, a man far from a bad—or, I should rather say, a very good man: he advises no more than he knows. “Despise pain,” says he. Who is it saith this? Is it the same man who calls pain the greatest of all evils? It is not, indeed, very consistent in him. Let us hear what he says: “If the pain is excessive, it must needs be short.” I must have that over again, for I do not apprehend what you mean exactly by “excessive” or “short.” That is excessive than which nothing can be greater; that is short than which nothing is shorter.
I do not regard the greatness of any pain from which, by reason of the shortness of its continuance, I shall be delivered almost before it reaches me. But if the pain be as great as that of Philoctetes, it will appear great indeed to me, but yet not the greatest that I am capable of bearing; for the pain is confined to my foot. But my eye may pain me, I may have a pain in the head, or sides, or lungs, or in every part of me. It is far, then, from being excessive. Therefore, says he, pain of a long continuance has more pleasure in it than uneasiness. Now, I cannot bring myself to say so great a man talks nonsense; but I imagine he is laughing at us.
My opinion is that the greatest pain (I say the greatest, though it may be ten atoms less than another) is not therefore short, because acute. I could name to you a great many good men who have been tormented many years with the acutest pains of the gout. But this cautious man doth not determine the measure of that greatness or of duration, so as to enable us to know what he calls excessive with regard to pain, or short with respect to its continuance. Let us pass him by, then, as one who says just nothing at all; and let us force him to acknowledge, notwithstanding he might behave himself somewhat boldly under his colic and his strangury, that no remedy against pain can be had from him who looks on pain as the greatest of all evils. We must apply, then, for relief elsewhere, and nowhere better (if we seek for what is most consistent with itself) than to those who place the chief good in honesty, and the greatest evil in infamy. You dare not so much as groan, or discover the least uneasiness in their company, for virtue itself speaks to you through them.
XX. Will you, when you may observe children at Lacedaemon, and young men at Olympia, and barbarians in the amphitheatre, receive the severest wounds, and bear them without once opening their mouths—will you, I say, if any pain should by chance attack you, cry out like a woman? Will you not rather bear it with resolution and constancy? and not cry, It is intolerable; nature cannot bear it! I hear what you say: Boys bear this because they are led thereto by glory; some bear it through shame, many through fear, and yet are we afraid that nature cannot bear what is borne by many, and in such different circumstances? Nature not only bears it, but challenges it, for there is nothing with her preferable, nothing which she desires more than credit, and reputation, and praise, and honor, and glory.
I choose here to describe this one thing under many names, and I have used many that you may have the clearer idea of it; for what I mean to say is, that whatever is desirable of itself, proceeding from virtue, or placed in virtue, and commendable on its own account (which I would rather agree to call the only good than deny it to be the chief good) is what men should prefer above all things. And as we declare this to be the case with respect to honesty, so we speak in the contrary manner of infamy; nothing is so odious, so detestable, nothing so unworthy of a man. And if you are thoroughly convinced of this (for, at the beginning of this discourse, you allowed that there appeared to you more evil in infamy than in pain), it follows that you ought to have the command over yourself, though I scarcely know how this expression may seem an accurate one, which appears to represent man as made up of two natures, so that one should be in command and the other be subject to it.
XXI. Yet this division does not proceed from ignorance; for the soul admits of a twofold division, one of which partakes of reason, the other is without it. When, therefore, we are ordered to give a law to ourselves, the meaning is, that reason should restrain our rashness. There is in the soul of every man something naturally soft, low, enervated in a manner, and languid. Were there nothing besides this, men would be the greatest of monsters; but there is present to every man reason, which presides over and gives laws to all; which, by improving itself, and making continual advances, becomes perfect virtue. It behooves a man, then, to take care that reason shall have the command over that part which is bound to practice obedience.
In what manner? you will say. Why, as a master has over his slave, a general over his army, a father over his son. If that part of the soul which I have called soft behaves disgracefully, if it gives itself up to lamentations and womanish tears, then let it be restrained, and committed to the care of friends and relations, for we often see those persons brought to order by shame whom no reasons can influence. Therefore, we should confine those feelings, like our servants, in safe custody, and almost with chains. But those who have more resolution, and yet are not utterly immovable, we should encourage with our exhortations, as we would good soldiers, to recollect themselves, and maintain their honor. That wisest man of all Greece, in the Niptrae, does not lament too much over his wounds, or, rather, he is moderate in his grief:
Move slow, my friends; your hasty speed refrain,
Pacuvius is better in this than Sophocles, for in the one Ulysses bemoans his wounds too vehemently; for the very people who carried him after he was wounded, though his grief was moderate, yet, considering the dignity of the man, did not scruple to say,
And thou, Ulysses, long to war inured,
The wise poet understood that custom was no contemptible instructor how to bear pain. But the same hero complains with more decency, though in great pain:
Assist, support me, never leave me so;
He begins to give way, but instantly checks himself:
Away! begone! but cover first the sore;
Do you observe how he constrains himself? not that his bodily pains were less, but because he checks the anguish of his mind. Therefore, in the conclusion of the Niptrae, he blames others, even when he himself is dying:
Complaints of fortune may become the man,
And so that soft place in his soul obeys his reason, just as an abashed soldier does his stern commander.
XXII. The man, then, in whom absolute wisdom exists (such a man, indeed, we have never as yet seen, but the philosophers have described in their writings what sort of man he will be, if he should exist); such a man, or at least that perfect and absolute reason which exists in him, will have the same authority over the inferior part as a good parent has over his dutiful children: he will bring it to obey his nod without any trouble or difficulty. He will rouse himself, prepare and arm himself, to oppose pain as he would an enemy.
If you inquire what arms he will provide himself with, they will be contention, encouragement, discourse with himself. He will say thus to himself: Take care that you are guilty of nothing base, languid, or unmanly. He will turn over in his mind all the different kinds of honor. Zeno of Elea will occur to him, who suffered everything rather than betray his confederates in the design of putting an end to the tyranny. He will reflect on Anaxarchus, the pupil of Democritus, who, having fallen into the hands of Nicocreon, King of Cyprus, without the least entreaty for mercy or refusal, submitted to every kind of torture. Calanus the Indian will occur to him, an ignorant man and a barbarian, born at the foot of Mount Caucasus, who committed himself to the flames by his own free, voluntary act.
But we, if we have the toothache, or a pain in the foot, or if the body be anyways affected, cannot bear it. For our sentiments of pain as well as pleasure are so trifling and effeminate, we are so enervated and relaxed by luxuries, that we cannot bear the sting of a bee without crying out. But Caius Marius, a plain countryman, but of a manly soul, when he had an operation performed on him, as I mentioned above, at first refused to be tied down; and he is the first instance of any one’s having had an operation performed on him without being tied down. Why, then, did others bear it afterward? Why, from the force of example.
You see, then, that pain exists more in opinion than in nature; and yet the same Marius gave a proof that there is something very sharp in pain, for he would not submit to have the other thigh cut. So that he bore his pain with resolution as a man; but, like a reasonable person, he was not willing to undergo any greater pain without some necessary reason. The whole, then, consists in this—that you should have command over yourself. I have already told you what kind of command this is; and by considering what is most consistent with patience, fortitude, and greatness of soul, a man not only restrains himself, but, somehow or other, mitigates even pain itself.
XXIII. Even as in a battle the dastardly and timorous soldier throws away his shield on the first appearance of an enemy, and runs as fast as be can, and on that account loses his life sometimes, though he has never received even one wound, when he who stands his ground has nothing of the sort happen to him, so they who cannot bear the appearance of pain throw themselves away, and give themselves up to affliction and dismay. But they that oppose it, often come off more than a match for it.
For the body has a certain resemblance to the soul: as burdens are more easily borne the more the body is exerted, while they crush us if we give way, so the soul by exerting itself resists the whole weight that would oppress it; but if it yields, it is so pressed that it cannot support itself. And if we consider things truly, the soul should exert itself in every pursuit, for that is the only security for its doing its duty. But this should be principally regarded in pain, that we must not do anything timidly, or dastardly, or basely, or slavishly, or effeminately, and, above all things, we must dismiss and avoid that Philoctetean sort of outcry.
A man is allowed sometimes to groan, but yet seldom; but it is not permissible even in a woman to howl; for such a noise as this is forbidden, by the twelve tables, to be used even at funerals. Nor does a wise or brave man ever groan, unless when he exerts himself to give his resolution greater force, as they who run in the stadium make as much noise as they can. The wrestlers, too, do the same when they are training; and the boxers, when they aim a blow with the cestus at their adversary, give a groan, not because they are in pain, or from a sinking of their spirits, but because their whole body is put upon the stretch by the throwing-out of these groans, and the blow comes the stronger.
XXIV. What! they who would speak louder than ordinary, are they satisfied with working their jaws, sides, or tongue, or stretching the common organs of speech and utterance? The whole body and every muscle is at full stretch, if I may be allowed the expression; every nerve is exerted to assist their voice. I have actually seen the knees of Marcus Antonius touch the ground when he was speaking with vehemence for himself, with relation to the Varian law. For, as the engines you throw stones or darts with throw them out with the greater force the more they are strained and drawn back; so it is in speaking, running, or boxing — the more people strain themselves, the greater their force. Since, therefore, this exertion has so much influence — if in a moment of pain groans help to strengthen the mind, let us use them; but if they be groans of lamentation, if they be the expression of weakness or abjectness, or unmanly weeping, then I should scarcely call him a man who yielded to them. For even supposing that such groaning could give any ease, it still should be considered whether it were consistent with a brave and resolute man. But if it does not ease our pain, why should we debase ourselves to no purpose?
For what is more unbecoming in a man than to cry like a woman? But this precept which is laid down with respect to pain is not confined to it. We should apply this exertion of the soul to everything else. Is anger inflamed? is lust excited? we must have recourse to the same citadel, and apply to the same arms. But since it is pain which we are at present discussing, we will let the other subjects alone. To bear pain, then, sedately and calmly, it is of great use to consider with all our soul, as the saying is, how noble it is to do so, for we are naturally desirous (as I said before, but it cannot be too often repeated) and very much inclined to what is honorable, of which, if we discover but the least glimpse, there is nothing which we are not prepared to undergo and suffer to attain it.
From this impulse of our minds, this desire for genuine glory and honorable conduct, it is that such dangers are supported in war, and that brave men are not sensible of their wounds in action, or, if they are sensible of them, prefer death to the departing but the least step from their honor. The Decii saw the shining swords of their enemies when they were rushing into the battle. But the honorable character and the glory of the death which they were seeking made all fear of death of little weight. Do you imagine that Epaminondas groaned when he perceived that his life was flowing out with his blood? No; for he left his country triumphing over the Lacedaemonians, whereas he had found it in subjection to them. These are the comforts, these are the things that assuage the greatest pain.
XXV. You may ask, How the case is in peace? What is to be done at home? How we are to behave in bed? You bring me back to the philosophers, who seldom go to war. Among these, Dionysius of Heraclea, a man certainly of no resolution, having learned fortitude of Zeno, quitted it on being in pain; for, being tormented with a pain in his kidneys, in bewailing himself he cried out that those things were false which he had formerly conceived of pain. And when his fellow-disciple, Cleanthes, asked him why he had changed his opinion, he answered,” That the case of any man who had applied so much time to philosophy, and yet was unable to bear pain, might be a sufficient proof that pain is an evil; that he himself had spent many years at philosophy, and yet could not bear pain: it followed, therefore, that pain was an evil.” It is reported that Cleanthes on that struck his foot on the ground, and repeated a verse out of the Epigonae:
Amphiaraus, hearest thou this below?
He meant Zeno: he was sorry the other had degenerated from him.
But it was not so with our friend Posidonius, whom I have often seen myself; and I will tell you what Pompey used to say of him: that when he came to Rhodes, after his departure from Syria, he had a great desire to hear Posidonius, but was informed that he was very ill of a severe fit of the gout; yet he had great inclination to pay a visit to so famous a philosopher. Accordingly, when he had seen him, and paid his compliments, and had spoken with great respect of him, he said he was very sorry that he could not hear him lecture. “But indeed you may,” replied the other, “nor will I suffer any bodily pain to occasion so great a man to visit me in vain.” On this Pompey relates that, as he lay on his bed, he disputed with great dignity and fluency on this very subject: that nothing was good but what was honest; and that in his paroxysms he would often say, “Pain, it is to no purpose; notwithstanding you are troublesome, I will never acknowledge you an evil.” And in general all celebrated and notorious afflictions become endurable by disregarding them.
XXVI. Do we not observe that where those exercises called gymnastic are in esteem, those who enter the lists never concern themselves about dangers? that where the praise of riding and hunting is highly esteemed, they who practice these arts decline no pain? What shall I say of our own ambitious pursuits or desire of honors? What fire have not candidates run through to gain a single vote? Therefore Africanus had always in his hands Xenophon, the pupil of Socrates, being particularly pleased with his saying, that the same labors were not equally heavy to the general and to the common man, because the honor itself made the labor lighter to the general.
But yet, so it happens, that even with the illiterate vulgar an idea of honor is of great influence, though they cannot understand what it is. They are led by report and common opinion to look on that as honorable which has the general voice. Not that I would have you, should the multitude be ever so fond of you, rely on their judgment, nor approve of everything which they think right: you must use your own judgment. If you are satisfied with yourself when you have approved of what is right, you will not only have the mastery over yourself (which I recommended to you just now), but over everybody, and everything. Lay this down, then, as a rule, that a great capacity, and lofty elevation of soul, which distinguishes itself most by despising and looking down with contempt on pain, is the most excellent of all things, and the more so if it does not depend on the people and does not aim at applause, but derives its satisfaction from itself. Besides, to me, indeed, everything seems the more commendable the less the people are courted, and the fewer eyes there are to see it. Not that you should avoid the public, for every generous action loves the public view; yet no theatre for virtue is equal to a consciousness of it.
XXVII. And let this be principally considered: that this bearing of pain, which I have often said is to be strengthened by an exertion of the soul, should be the same in everything. For you meet with many who, through a desire of victory, or for glory, or to maintain their rights, or their liberty, have boldly received wounds, and borne themselves up under them; and yet those very same persons, by relaxing that intenseness of their minds, were unequal to bearing the pain of a disease; for they did not support themselves under their former sufferings by reason or philosophy, but by inclination and glory. Therefore some barbarians and savage people are able to fight very stoutly with the sword, but cannot bear sickness like men; but the Grecians, men of no great courage, but as wise as human nature will admit of, cannot look an enemy in the face, yet the same will bear to be visited with sickness tolerably, and with a sufficiently manly spirit; and the Cimbrians and Celtiberians are very alert in battle, but bemoan themselves in sickness.
For nothing can be consistent which has not reason for its foundation. But when you see those who are led by inclination or opinion, not retarded by pain in their pursuits, nor hindered by it from succeeding in them, you may conclude, either that pain is no evil, or that, notwithstanding you may choose to call an evil whatever is disagreeable and contrary to nature, yet it is so very trifling an evil that it may so effectually be got the better of by virtue as quite to disappear. And I would have you think of this night and day; for this argument will spread itself, and take up more room some time or other, and not be confined to pain alone; for if the motives to all our actions are to avoid disgrace and acquire honor, we may not only despise the stings of pain, but the storms of fortune, especially if we have recourse to that retreat which was pointed out in our yesterday’s discussion; for, as if some God had advised a man who was pursued by pirates to throw himself overboard, saying, “There is something at hand to receive you; either a dolphin will take you up, as it did Arion of Methymna; or those horses sent by Neptune to Pelops (who are said to have carried chariots so rapidly as to be borne up by the waves) will receive you, and convey you wherever you please. Cast away all fear.” So, though your pains be ever so sharp and disagreeable, if the case is not such that it is worth your while to endure them, you see whither you may betake yourself. I think this will do for the present. But perhaps you still abide by your opinion.
A. Not in the least, indeed; and I hope I am freed by these two days’ discourses from the fear of two things that I greatly dreaded.
M. To-morrow, then, for rhetoric, as we were saying. But I see we must not drop our philosophy.
A. No, indeed; we will have the one in the forenoon, and this at the usual time.
M. It shall be so, and I will comply with your very laudable inclinations.
ON GRIEF OF MIND.
1. WHAT reason shall I assign, O Brutus, why, as we consist of mind and body, the art of curing and preserving the body should be so much sought after, and the invention of it, as being so useful, should be ascribed to the immortal Gods; but the medicine of the mind should not have been so much the object of inquiry while it was unknown, nor so much attended to and cultivated after its discovery, nor so well received or approved of by some, and accounted actually disagreeable, and looked upon with an envious eye by many? Is it because we, by means of the mind, judge of the pains and disorders of the body, but do not, by means of the body, arrive at any perception of the disorders of the mind? Hence it comes that the mind only judges of itself when that very faculty by which it is judged is in a bad state.
Had nature given us faculties for discerning and viewing herself, and could we go through life by keeping our eye on her—our best guide—there would be no reason certainly why any one should be in want of philosophy or learning; but, as it is, she has furnished us only with some feeble rays of light, which we immediately extinguish so completely by evil habits and erroneous opinions that the light of nature is nowhere visible. The seeds of virtues are natural to our constitutions, and, were they suffered to come to maturity, would naturally conduct us to a happy life; but now, as soon as we are born and received into the world, we are, instantly familiarized with all kinds of depravity and perversity of opinions; so that we may be said almost to suck in error with our nurse’s milk. When we return to our parents, and are put into the hands of tutors and governors, we are imbued with so many errors that truth gives place to falsehood, and nature herself to established opinion.
II. To these we may add the poets; who, on account of the appearance they exhibit of learning and wisdom, are heard, read, and got by heart, and make a deep impression on our minds. But when to these are added the people, who are, as it were, one great body of instructors, and the multitude, who declare unanimously for what is wrong, then are we altogether overwhelmed with bad opinions, and revolt entirely from nature; so that they seem to deprive us of our best guide who have decided that there is nothing better for man, nothing more worthy of being desired by him, nothing more excellent, than honors and commands, and a high reputation with the people; which indeed every excellent man aims at; but while he pursues that only true honor which nature has in view above all other objects, he finds himself busied in arrant trifles, and in pursuit of no conspicuous form of virtue, but only some shadowy representation of glory.
For glory is a real and express substance, not a mere shadow. It consists in the united praise of good men, the free voice of those who form a true judgment of pre-eminent virtue; it is, as it were, the very echo of virtue; and being generally the attendant on laudable actions, should not be slighted by good men. But popular fame, which would pretend to imitate it, is hasty and inconsiderate, and generally commends wicked and immoral actions, and throws discredit upon the appearance and beauty of honesty by assuming a resemblance of it.
And it is owing to their not being able to discover the difference between them that some men, ignorant of real excellence, and in what it consists, have been the destruction of their country and of themselves. And thus the best men have erred, not so much in their intentions as by a mistaken conduct. What? is no cure to be attempted to be applied to those who are carried away by the love of money, or the lust of pleasures, by which they are rendered little short of madmen, which is the case of all weak people? or is it because the disorders of the mind are less dangerous than those of the body? or because the body will admit of a cure, while there is no medicine whatever for the mind?
III. But there are more disorders of the mind than of the body, and they are of a more dangerous nature; for these very disorders are the more offensive because they belong to the mind and disturb it; and the mind, when disordered, is, as Ennius says, in a constant error: it can neither bear nor endure anything, and is under the perpetual influence of desires. Now, what disorders can be worse to the body than these two distempers of the mind (for I overlook others), weakness and desire? But how, indeed, can it be maintained that the mind cannot prescribe for itself, when she it is who has invented the medicines for the body, when, with regard to bodily cures, constitution and nature have a great share, nor do all who suffer themselves to be cured find that effect instantly; but those minds which are disposed to be cured, and submit to the precepts of the wise, may undoubtedly recover a healthy state?
Philosophy is certainly the medicine of the soul, whose assistance we do not seek from abroad, as in bodily disorders, but we ourselves are bound to exert our utmost energy and power in order to effect our cure. But as to philosophy in general, I have, I think, in my Hortensius, sufficiently spoken of the credit and attention which it deserves: since that, indeed, I have been continually either disputing or writing on its most material branches; and I have laid down in these books all the discussions which took place between myself and my particular friends at my Tusculan villa. But as I have spoken in the two former of pain and death, this book shall be devoted to the account of the third day of our disputations.
We came down into the Academy when the day was already declining towards afternoon, and I asked one of those who were present to propose a subject for us to discourse on; and then the business was carried on in this manner:
IV. A. My opinion is, that a wise man is subject to grief.
M. What, and to the other perturbations of mind, as fears, lusts, anger? For these are pretty much like what the Greeks call παθη. I might call them diseases, and that would be a literal translation, but it is not agreeable to our way of speaking. For envy, delight, and pleasure are all called by the Greeks diseases, being affections of the mind not in subordination to reason; but we, I think, are right in calling the same motions of a disturbed soul perturbations, and in very seldom using the term diseases; though, perhaps, it appears otherwise to you.
A. I am of your opinion.
M. And do you think a wise man subject to these?
A. Entirely, I think.
M. Then that boasted wisdom is but of small account, if it differs so little from madness?
A. What? does every commotion of the mind seem to you to be madness?
M. Not to me only; but I apprehend, though I have often been surprised at it, that it appeared so to our ancestors many ages before Socrates; from whom is derived all that philosophy which relates to life and morals.
A. How so?
M. Because the name madness [Insania—from in, a particle of negative force in composition, and sanus, healthy, sound.] implies a sickness of the mind and disease; that is to say, an unsoundness and an unhealthiness of mind, which they call madness. But the philosophers call all perturbations of the soul diseases, and their opinion is that no fool is ever free from these; but all that are diseased are unsound; and the minds of all fools are diseased; therefore all fools are mad. For they held that soundness of the mind depends on a certain tranquillity and steadiness; and a mind which was destitute of these qualities they called insane, because soundness was inconsistent with a perturbed mind just as much as with a disordered body.
V. Nor were they less ingenious in calling the state of the soul devoid of the light of the mind, “a being out of one’s mind,” “a being beside one’s self.” From whence we may understand that they who gave these names to things were of the same opinion with Socrates, that all silly people were unsound, which the Stoics have carefully preserved as being derived from him; for whatever mind is distempered (and, as I just now said, the philosophers call all perturbed motions of the mind distempers) is no more sound than a body is when in a fit of sickness. Hence it is that wisdom is the soundness of the mind, folly a sort of unsoundness, which is insanity, or a being out of one’s mind: and these are much better expressed by the Latin words than the Greek, which you will find the case also in many other topics. But we will discuss that point elsewhere: let us now attend to our present subject.
The very meaning of the word describes the whole thing about which we are inquiring, both as to its substance and character. For we must necessarily understand by “sound” those whose minds are under no perturbation from any motion as if it were a disease. They who are differently affected we must necessarily call “unsound.” So that nothing is better than what is usual in Latin, to say that they who are run away with by their lust or anger have quitted the command over themselves; though anger includes lust, for anger is defined to be the lust of revenge.
They, then, who are said not to be masters of themselves, are said to be so because they are not under the government of reason, to which is assigned by nature the power over the whole soul. Why the Greeks should call this μανια, I do not easily apprehend; but we define it much better than they, for we distinguish this madness (insania), which, being allied to folly, is more extensive, from what we call furor, or raving. The Greeks, indeed, would do so too, but they have no one word that will express it: what we call furor, they call μελαγχολια, as if the reason were affected only by a black bile, and not disturbed as often by a violent rage, or fear, or grief. Thus we say Athamas, Alcmaeon, Ajax, and Orestes were raving (furere); because a person affected in this manner was not allowed by the Twelve Tables to have the management of his own affairs; therefore the words are not, if he is mad (insanus), but if he begins to be raving (furiosus).
For they looked upon madness to be an unsettled humor that proceeded from not being of sound mind; yet such a person might perform his ordinary duties, and discharge the usual and customary requirements of life: but they considered one that was raving as afflicted with a total blindness of the mind, which, notwithstanding it is allowed to be greater than madness, is nevertheless of such a nature that a wise man may be subject to raving (furor), but cannot possibly be afflicted by insanity (insania). But this is another question: let us now return to our original subject.
VI. I think you said that it was your opinion that a wise man was liable to grief.
A. And so, indeed, I think.
M. It is natural enough to think so, for we are not the offspring of flints; but we have by nature something soft and tender in our souls, which may be put into a violent motion by grief, as by a storm; nor did that Crantor, who was one of the most distinguished men that our Academy has ever produced, say this amiss: “I am by no means of their opinion who talk so much in praise of I know not what insensibility, which neither can exist, nor ought to exist. “I would choose,” says he, “never to be ill; but should I be so, still I should choose to retain my sensation, whether there was to be an amputation or any other separation of anything from my body. For that insensibility cannot be but at the expense of some unnatural ferocity of mind, or stupor of body.”
But let us consider whether to talk in this manner be not allowing that we are weak, and yielding to our softness. Notwithstanding, let us be hardy enough, not only to lop off every arm of our miseries, but even to pluck up every fiber of their roots. Yet still something, perhaps, may be left behind, so deep does folly strike its roots: but whatever may be left, it will be no more than is necessary. But let us be persuaded of this, that unless the mind be in a sound state, which philosophy alone can effect, there can be no end of our miseries. Wherefore, as we began, let us submit ourselves to it for a cure; we shall be cured if we choose to be.
I shall advance something further. I shall not treat of grief alone, though that indeed is the principal thing; but, as I originally proposed, of every perturbation of the mind, as I termed it; disorder, as the Greeks call it: and first, with your leave, I shall treat it in the manner of the Stoics, whose method is to reduce their arguments into a very small space; afterward I shall enlarge more in my own way.
VII. A man of courage is also full of faith. I do not use the word confident, because, owing to an erroneous custom of speaking, that word has come to be used in a bad sense, though it is derived from confiding, which is commendable. But he who is full of faith is certainly under no fear; for there is an inconsistency between faith and fear. Now, whoever is subject to grief is subject to fear; for whatever things we grieve at when present we dread when hanging over us and approaching. Thus it comes about that grief is inconsistent with courage: it is very probable, therefore, that whoever is subject to grief is also liable to fear, and to a broken kind of spirits and sinking. Now, whenever these befall a man, he is in a servile state, and must own that he is overpowered; for whoever admits these feelings, must admit timidity and cowardice. But these cannot enter into the mind of a man of courage; neither, therefore, can grief: but the man of courage is the only wise man; therefore grief cannot befall the wise man.
It is, besides, necessary that whoever is brave should be a man of great soul; that whoever is a man of a great soul should be invincible; whoever is invincible looks down with contempt on all things here, and considers them beneath him. But no one can despise those things on account of which he may be affected with grief; from whence it follows that a wise man is never affected with grief: for all wise men are brave; therefore a wise man is not subject to grief. And as the eye, when disordered, is not in a good condition for performing its office properly; and as the other parts, and the whole body itself, when unsettled, cannot perform their office and business; so the mind, when disordered, is but ill-fitted to perform its duty. The office of the mind is to use its reason well; but the mind of a wise man is always in condition to make the best use of his reason, and therefore is never out of order. But grief is a disorder of the mind; therefore a wise man will be always free from it.
VIII. And from these considerations we may get at a very probable definition of the temperate man, whom the Greeks call σωφρων: and they call that virtue σωφροσυνην, which I at one time call temperance, at another time moderation, and sometimes even modesty; but I do not know whether that virtue may not be properly called frugality, which has a more confined meaning with the Greeks; for they call frugal men χρησιμους, which implies only that they are useful; but our name has a more extensive meaning: for all abstinence, all innocency (which the Greeks have no ordinary name for, though they might use the word αβλαβεια, for innocency is that disposition of mind which would offend no one) and several other virtues are comprehended under frugality; but if this quality were of less importance, and confined in as small a compass as some imagine, the surname of Piso [L. Calpurnius Piso was consul, 133 B.C., in the Servile War] would not have been in so great esteem.
But as we allow him not the name of a frugal man (frugi), who either quits his post through fear, which is cowardice; or who reserves to his own use what was privately committed to his keeping, which is injustice; or who fails in his military undertakings through rashness, which is folly—for that reason the word frugality takes in these three virtues of fortitude, justice, and prudence, though it is indeed common to all virtues, for they are all connected and knit together. Let us allow, then, frugality itself to be another and fourth virtue; for its peculiar property seems to be, to govern and appease all tendencies to too eager a desire after anything, to restrain lust, and to preserve a decent steadiness in everything. The vice in contrast to this is called prodigality (nequitia).
Frugality, I imagine, is derived from the word fruge, the best thing which the earth produces; nequitia is derived (though this is perhaps rather more strained; still, let us try it; we shall only be thought to have been trifling if there is nothing in what we say) from the fact of everything being to no purpose (nequicquarn) in such a man; from which circumstance he is called also Nihil, nothing. Whoever is frugal, then, or, if it is more agreeable to you, whoever is moderate and temperate, such a one must of course be consistent; whoever is consistent, must be quiet; the quiet man must be free from all perturbation, therefore from grief likewise: and these are the properties of a wise man; therefore a wise man must be free from grief.
IX. So that Dionysius of Heraclea is right when, upon this complaint of Achilles in Homer,
Well hast thou spoke, but at the tyrant’s name
he reasons thus: Is the hand as it should be, when it is affected with a swelling? or is it possible for any other member of the body, when swollen or enlarged, to be in any other than a disordered state? Must not the mind, then, when it is puffed up, or distended, be out of order? But the mind of a wise man is always free from every kind of disorder: it never swells, never is puffed up; but the mind when in anger is in a different state.
A wise man, therefore, is never angry; for when he is angry, he lusts after something; for whoever is angry naturally has a longing desire to give all the pain he can to the person who he thinks has injured him; and whoever has this earnest desire must necessarily be much pleased with the accomplishment of his wishes; hence he is delighted with his neighbor’s misery; and as a wise man is not capable of such feelings as these, he is therefore not capable of anger. But should a wise man be subject to grief, he may likewise be subject to anger; for as he is free from anger, he must likewise be free from grief. Again, could a wise man be subject to grief, he might also be liable to pity, or even might be open to a disposition towards envy (invidentia); I do not say to envy (invidia), for that can only exist by the very act of envying: but we may fairly form the word invidentia from invidendo, and so avoid the doubtful name invidia; for this word is probably derived from in and video, looking too closely into another’s fortune; as it is said in the Melanippus,
Who envies me the flower of my children?
where the Latin is invidit florem. It may appear not good Latin, but it is very well put by Accius; for as video governs an accusative case, so it is more correct to say invideo florem than flori. We are debarred from saying so by common usage. The poet stood in his own right, and expressed himself with more freedom.
X. Therefore compassion and envy are consistent in the same man; for whoever is uneasy at any one’s adversity is also uneasy at another’s prosperity: as Theophrastus, while he laments the death of his companion Callisthenes, is at the same time disturbed at the success of Alexander; and therefore lie says that Callisthenes met with a man of the greatest power and good fortune, but one who did not know how to make use of his good fortune. And as pity is an uneasiness which arises from the misfortunes of another, so envy is an uneasiness that proceeds from the good success of another: therefore whoever is capable of pity is capable of envy. But a wise man is incapable of envy, and consequently incapable of pity. But were a wise man used to grieve, to pity also would be familiar to him; therefore to grieve is a feeling which cannot affect a wise man.
Now, though these reasonings of the Stoics, and their conclusions, are rather strained and distorted, and ought to be expressed in a less stringent and narrow manner, yet great stress is to be laid on the opinions of those men who have a peculiarly bold and manly turn of thought and sentiment. For our friends the Peripatetics, notwithstanding all their erudition, gravity, and fluency of language, do not satisfy me about the moderation of these disorders and diseases of the soul which they insist upon; for every evil, though moderate, is in its nature great. But our object is to make out that the wise man is free from all evil; for as the body is unsound if it is ever so slightly affected, so the mind under any moderate disorder loses its soundness; therefore the Romans have, with their usual accuracy of expression, called trouble, and anguish, and vexation, on account of the analogy between a troubled mind and a diseased body, disorders.
The Greeks call all perturbation of mind by pretty nearly the same name; for they name every turbid motion of the soul παθος, that is to say, a distemper. But we have given them a more proper name; for a disorder of the mind is very like a disease of the body. But lust does not resemble sickness; neither does immoderate joy, which is an elated and exulting pleasure of the mind. Fear, too, is not very like a distemper, though it is akin to grief of mind, but properly, as is also the case with sickness of the body, so too sickness of mind has no name separated from pain. And therefore I must explain the origin of this pain, that is to say, the cause that occasions this grief in the mind, as if it were a sickness of the body. For as physicians think they have found out the cure when they have discovered the cause of the distemper, so we shall discover the method of curing melancholy when the cause of it is found out.
XI. The whole cause, then, is in opinion; and this observation applies not to this grief alone, but to every other disorder of the mind, which are of four sorts, but consisting of many parts. For as every disorder or perturbation is a motion of the mind, either devoid of reason, or in despite of reason, or in disobedience to reason, and as that motion is excited by an opinion of either good or evil; these four perturbations are divided equally into two parts: for two of them proceed from an opinion of good, one of which is an exulting pleasure, that is to say, a joy elated beyond measure, arising from an opinion of some present great good; the other is a desire which may fairly be called even a lust, and is an immoderate inclination after some conceived great good without any obedience to reason.
Therefore these two kinds, the exulting pleasure and the lust, have their rise from an opinion of good, as the other two, fear and grief, have from an opinion of evil. For fear is an opinion of some great evil impending over us, and grief is an opinion of some great evil present; and, indeed, it is a freshly conceived opinion of an evil so great that to grieve at it seems right: it is of that kind that he who is uneasy at it thinks he has good reason to be so. Now we should exert our utmost efforts to oppose these perturbations—which are, as it were, so many furies let loose upon us and urged on by folly—if we are desirous to pass this share of life that is allotted to us with ease and satisfaction. But of the other feelings I shall speak elsewhere: our business at present is to drive away grief if we can, for that shall be the object of our present discussion, since you have said that it was your opinion that a wise man might be subject to grief, which I can by no means allow of; for it is a frightful, miserable, and detestable thing, which we should fly from with our utmost efforts—with all our sails and oars, as I may say.
XII. That descendant of Tantalus, how does he appear to you—he who sprung from Pelops, who formerly stole Hippodamia from her father-in-law, King Oenomaus, and married her by force?—he who was descended from Jupiter himself, how broken-hearted and dispirited does he not seem!
Stand off, my friends, nor come within my shade,
Will you condemn yourself, Thyestes, and deprive yourself of life, on account of the greatness of another’s crime? What do you think of that son of Phoebus? Do you not look upon him as unworthy of his own father’s light?
Hollow his eyes, his body worn away,
O foolish Aeetes! these are evils which you yourself have been the cause of, and are not occasioned by any accidents with which chance has visited you; and you behaved as you did, even after you had been inured to your distress, and after the first swelling of the mind had subsided!— whereas grief consists (as I shall show) in the notion of some recent evil—but your grief, it is very plain, proceeded from the loss of your kingdom, not of your daughter, for you hated her, and perhaps with reason, but you could not calmly bear to part with your kingdom. But surely it is an impudent grief which preys upon a man for not being able to command those that are free.
Dionysius, it is true, the tyrant of Syracuse, when driven from his country, taught a school at Corinth; so incapable was he of living without some authority. But what could be more impudent than Tarquin, who made war upon those who could not bear his tyranny; and, when he could not recover his kingdom by the aid of the forces of the Veientians and the Latins, is said to have betaken himself to Cuma, and to have died in that city of old age and grief!
XIII. Do you, then, think that it can befall a wise man to be oppressed with grief, that is to say, with misery? for, as all perturbation is misery, grief is the rack itself. Lust is attended with heat, exulting joy with levity, fear with meanness, but grief with something greater than these; it consumes, torments, afflicts, and disgraces a man; it tears him, preys upon his mind, and utterly destroys him: if we do not so divest ourselves of it as to throw it completely off, we cannot be free from misery. And it is clear that there must be grief where anything has the appearance of a present sore and oppressing evil.
Epicurus is of opinion that grief arises naturally from the imagination of any evil; so that whosoever is eye-witness of any great misfortune, if he conceives that the like may possibly befall himself, becomes sad instantly from such an idea. The Cyrenaics think that grief is not engendered by every kind of evil, but only by unexpected, unforeseen evil; and that circumstance is, indeed, of no small effect on the heightening of grief; for whatsoever comes of a sudden appears more formidable. Hence these lines are deservedly commended:
I knew my son, when first be drew his breath,
XIV. Therefore, this ruminating beforehand upon future evils which you see at a distance makes their approach more tolerable; and on this account what Euripides makes Theseus say is much commended. You will give me leave to translate them, as is usual with me:
I treasured up what some learned sage did tell,
But Euripides says that of himself, which Theseus said he had heard from some learned man, for the poet had been a pupil of Anaxagoras, who, as they relate, on hearing of the death of his son, said, “I knew that my son was mortal;” which speech seems to intimate that such things afflict those men who have not thought on them before. Therefore, there is no doubt but that all those things which are considered evils are the heavier from not being foreseen.
Though, notwithstanding this is not the only circumstance which occasions the greatest grief, still, as the mind, by foreseeing and preparing for it, has great power to make all grief the less, a man should at all times consider all the events that may befall him in this life; and certainly the excellence and divine nature of wisdom consists in taking a near view of, and gaining a thorough acquaintance with, all human affairs, in not being surprised when anything happens, and in thinking, before the event, that there is nothing but what may come to pass.
Wherefore every man,
XV. Therefore, as Terence has so well expressed what he borrowed from philosophy, shall not we, from whose fountains he drew it, say the same thing in a better manner, and abide by it with more steadiness? Hence came that steady countenance, which, according to Xantippe, her husband Socrates always had; so that she said that she never observed any difference in his looks when he went out and when he came home. Yet the look of that old Roman, M. Crassus, who, as Lucilius says, never smiled but once in his lifetime, was not of this kind, but placid and serene, for so we are told. He, indeed, might well have had the same look at all times who never changed his mind, from which the countenance derives its expression. So that I am ready to borrow of the Cyrenaics those arms against the accidents and events of life by means of which, by long premeditation, they break the force of all approaching evils; and at the same time I think that those very evils themselves arise more from opinion than nature, for if they were real, no forecast could make them lighter.
But I shall speak more particularly on these matters after I have first considered Epicurus’s opinion, who thinks that all people must necessarily be uneasy who believe themselves to be in any evils, let them be either foreseen arid expected, or habitual to them; for with him evils are not the less by reason of their continuance, nor the lighter for having been foreseen; and it is folly to ruminate on evils to come, or such as, perhaps, never may come: every evil is disagreeable enough when it does come; but he who is constantly considering that some evil may befall him is loading himself with a perpetual evil; and even should such evil never light on him, he voluntarily takes upon himself unnecessary misery, so that he is under constant uneasiness, whether he actually suffers any evil, or only thinks of it. But he makes the alleviation of grief depend on two things—a ceasing to think on evil, and a turning to the contemplation of pleasure. For he thinks that the mind may possibly be under the power of reason, and follow her directions: he forbids us, therefore, to mind trouble, and calls us off from sorrowful reflections; he throws a mist over our eyes to hinder us from the contemplation of misery. Having sounded a retreat from this statement, he drives our thoughts on again, and encourages them to view and engage the whole mind in the various pleasures with which he thinks the life of a wise man abounds, either from reflecting on the past, or from the hope of what is to come. I have said these things in my own way; the Epicureans have theirs. However, let us examine what they say; how they say it is of little consequence.
XVI. In the first place, they are wrong in forbidding men to premeditate on futurity and blaming their wish to do so; for there is nothing that breaks the edge of grief and lightens it more than considering, during one’s whole life, that there is nothing which it is impossible should happen, or than, considering what human nature is, on what conditions life was given, and how we may comply with them. The effect of which is that we are always grieving, but that we never do so; for whoever reflects on the nature of things, the various turns of life, and the weakness of human nature, grieves, indeed, at that reflection; but while so grieving he is, above all other times, behaving as a wise man, for he gains these two things by it: one, that while he is considering the state of human nature he is performing the especial duties of philosophy, and is provided with a triple medicine against adversity—in the first place, because he has long reflected that such things might befall him, and this reflection by itself contributes much towards lessening and weakening all misfortunes; and, secondly, because he is persuaded that we should bear all the accidents which can happen to man with the feelings and spirit of a man; and, lastly, because he considers that what is blamable is the only evil. But it is not your fault that something has happened to you which it was impossible for man to avoid.
For that withdrawing of our thoughts which he recommends when he calls us off from contemplating our misfortunes is an imaginary action; for it is not in our power to dissemble or to forget those evils which lie heavy on us; they tear, vex, and sting us — they burn us up, and leave no breathing-time. And do you order us to forget them (for such forgetfulness is contrary to nature), and at the same time deprive us of the only assistance which nature affords, the being accustomed to them? For that, though it is but a slow medicine (I mean that which is brought by lapse of time), is still a very effectual one. You order me to employ my thoughts on something good, and forget my misfortunes. You would say something worthy a great philosopher if you thought those things good which are best suited to the dignity of human nature.
XVII. Should Pythagoras, Socrates, or Plato say to me, Why are you dejected or sad? Why do you faint, and yield to fortune, which, perhaps, may have power to harass and disturb you, but should not quite unman you? There is great power in the virtues; rouse them, if they chance to droop. Take fortitude for your guide, which will give you such spirits that you will despise everything that can befall man, and look on it as a trifle. Add to this temperance, which is moderation, and which was just now called frugality, which will not suffer you to do anything base or bad—for what is worse or baser than an effeminate man? Not even justice will suffer you to act in this manner, though she seems to have the least weight in this affair; but still, notwithstanding, even she will inform you that you are doubly unjust when you both require what does not belong to you, inasmuch as though you who have been born mortal demand to be placed in the condition of the immortals, and at the same time you take it much to heart that you are to restore what was lent you.
What answer will you make to prudence, who informs you that she is a virtue sufficient of herself both to teach you a good life and also to secure you a happy one? And, indeed, if she were fettered by external circumstances, and dependent on others, and if she did not originate in herself and return to herself, and also embrace everything in herself, so as to seek no adventitious aid from any quarter, I cannot imagine why she should appear deserving of such lofty panegyrics, or of being sought after with such excessive eagerness.
Now, Epicurus, if you call me back to such goods as these, I will obey you, and follow you, and use you as my guide, and even forget, as you order me, all my misfortunes; and I will do this the more readily from a persuasion that they are not to be ranked among evils at all. But you are for bringing my thoughts over to pleasure. What pleasures? Pleasures of the body, I imagine, or such as are recollected or imagined on account of the body. Is this all? Do I explain your opinion rightly? for your disciples are used to deny that we understand at all what Epicurus means. This is what he says, and what that subtle fellow, old Zeno, who is one of the sharpest of them, used, when I was attending lectures at Athens, to enforce and talk so loudly of; saying that he alone was happy who could enjoy present pleasure, and who was at the same time persuaded that he should enjoy it without pain, either during the whole or the greatest part of his life; or if, should any pain interfere, if it was very sharp, then it must be short; should it be of longer continuance, it would have more of what was sweet than bitter in it; that whosoever reflected on these things would be happy, especially if satisfied with the good things which he had already enjoyed, and if he were without fear of death or of the Gods.
XVIII. You have here a representation of a happy life according to Epicurus, in the words of Zeno, so that there is no room for contradiction in any point. What, then? Can the proposing and thinking of such a life make Thyestes’s grief the less, or Aeetes’s, of whom I spoke above, or Telamon’s, who was driven from his country to penury and banishment? in wonder at whom men exclaimed thus:
Is this the man surpassing glory raised?
Now, should any one, as the same author says, find his spirits sink with the loss of his fortune, he must apply to those grave philosophers of antiquity for relief, and not to these voluptuaries: for what great abundance of good do they promise? Suppose that we allow that to be without pain is the chief good? Yet that is not called pleasure. But it is not necessary at present to go through the whole: the question is, to what point are we to advance in order to abate our grief? Grant that to be in pain is the greatest evil: whosoever, then, has proceeded so far as not to be in pain, is he, therefore, in immediate possession of the greatest good?
Why, Epicurus, do we use any evasions, and not allow in our own words the same feeling to be pleasure which you are used to boast of with such assurance? Are these your words or not? This is what you say in that book which contains all the doctrine of your school; for I will perform on this occasion the office of a translator, lest any one should imagine that I am inventing anything. Thus you speak: “Nor can I form any notion of the chief good, abstracted from those pleasures which are perceived by taste, or from what depends on hearing music, or abstracted from ideas raised by external objects visible to the eye, or by agreeable motions, or from those other pleasures which are perceived by the whole man by means of any of his senses; nor can it possibly be said that the pleasures of the mind are excited only by what is good, for I have perceived men’s minds to be pleased with the hopes of enjoying those things which I mentioned above, and with the idea that it should enjoy them without any interruption from pain.” And these are his exact words, so that any one may understand what were the pleasures with which Epicurus was acquainted.
Then he speaks thus, a little lower down: “I have often inquired of those who have been called wise men what would be the remaining good if they should exclude from consideration all these pleasures, unless they meant to give us nothing but words. I could never learn anything from them; and unless they choose that all virtue and wisdom should vanish and come to nothing, they must say with me that the only road to happiness lies through those pleasures which I mentioned above.” What follows is much the same, and his whole book on the chief good everywhere abounds with the same opinions. Will you, then, invite Telamon to this kind of life to ease his grief? And should you observe any one of your friends under affliction, would you rather prescribe him a sturgeon than a treatise of Socrates? or advise him to listen to the music of a water-organ rather than to Plato? or lay before him the beauty and variety of some garden, put a nosegay to his nose, burn perfumes before him, and bid him crown himself with a garland of roses and woodbines? Should you add one thing more, you would certainly wipe out all his grief.
XIX. Epicurus must admit these arguments, or he must take out of his book what I just now said was a literal translation; or, rather, he must destroy his whole book, for it is crammed full of pleasures. We must inquire, then, how we can ease him of his grief who speaks in this manner:
My present state proceeds from fortune’s stings;
What! to ease his grief, must we mix him a cup of sweet wine, or something of that kind? Lo! the same poet presents us with another sentiment somewhere else:
I, Hector, once so great, now claim your aid.
We should assist her, for she looks out for help:
Where shall I now apply, where seek support?
You know what should follow, and particularly this:
Of father, country, and of friends bereft,
O excellent poet! though despised by those who sing the verses of Euphorion. He is sensible that all things which come on a sudden are harder to be borne. Therefore, when he had set off the riches of Priam to the best advantage, which had the appearance of a long continuance, what does he add?
Lo! these all perished in one blazing pile;
Admirable poetry! There is something mournful in the subject, as well as in the words mid measure. We must drive away this grief of hers: how is that to be done? Shall we lay her on a bed of down; introduce a singer; shall we burn cedar, or present her with some pleasant liquor, and provide her something to eat? Are these the good things which remove the most afflicting grief? For you but just now said you knew of no other good. I should agree with Epicurus that we ought to be called off from grief to contemplate good things, if we could only agree upon what was good.
XX. It may be said, What! do you imagine Epicurus really meant this, and that he maintained anything so sensual? Indeed I do not imagine so, for I am sensible that he has uttered many excellent things and sentiments, and delivered maxims of great weight. Therefore, as I said before, I am speaking of his acuteness, not of his morals. Though he should hold those pleasures in contempt which he just now commended, yet I must remember wherein he places the chief good. For he was not contented with barely saying this, but he has explained what he meant: he says that taste, and embraces, and sports, and music, and those forms which affect the eyes with pleasure, are the chief good.
Have I invented this? have I misrepresented him? I should be glad to be confuted; for what am I endeavoring at but to clear up truth in every question? Well, but the same man says that pleasure is at its height where pain ceases, and that to be free from all pain is the very greatest pleasure. Here are three very great mistakes in a very few words. One is, that he contradicts himself; for, but just now, he could not imagine anything good unless the senses were in a manner tickled with some pleasure; but now he says that to be free from pain is the highest pleasure. Can any one contradict himself more?
The next mistake is, that where there is naturally a threefold division—the first, to be pleased; next, to be in pain; the last, to be affected neither by pleasure nor pain—he imagines the first and the last to be the same, and makes no difference between pleasure and a cessation of pain. The last mistake he falls into in common with some others, which is this: that as virtue is the most desirable thing, and as philosophy has been investigated with a view to the attainment of it, he has separated the chief good from virtue. But he commends virtue, and that frequently; and indeed C. Gracchus, when he had made the largest distributions of the public money, and had exhausted the treasury, nevertheless spoke much of defending the treasury.
What signifies what men say when we see what they do? That Piso, who was surnamed Frugal, had always harangued against the law that was proposed for distributing the corn; but when it had passed, though a man of consular dignity, he came to receive the corn. Gracchus observed Piso standing in the court, and asked him, in the hearing of the people, how it was consistent for him to take corn by a law he had himself opposed. “It was,” said he, “against your distributing my goods to every man as you thought proper; but, as you do so, I claim my share.” Did not this grave and wise man sufficiently show that the public revenue was dissipated by the Sempronian law? Read Gracchus’s speeches, and you will pronounce him the advocate of the treasury.
Epicurus denies that any one can live pleasantly who does not lead a life of virtue; he denies that fortune has any power over a wise man; he prefers a spare diet to great plenty, and maintains that a wise man is always happy. All these things become a philosopher to say, but they are not consistent with pleasure. But the reply is, that he doth not mean that pleasure: let him mean any pleasure, it must be such a one as makes no part of virtue. But suppose we are mistaken as to his pleasure; are we so, too, as to his pain? I maintain, therefore, the impropriety of language which that man uses, when talking of virtue, who would measure every great evil by pain.
XXI. And indeed the Epicureans, those best of men — for there is no order of men more innocent — complain that I take great pains to inveigh against Epicurus. We are rivals, I suppose, for some honor or distinction. I place the chief good in the mind, he in the body; I in virtue, he in pleasure; and the Epicureans are up in arms, and implore the assistance of their neighbors, and many are ready to fly to their aid. But as for my part, I declare that I am very indifferent about the matter, and that I consider the whole discussion which they are so anxious about at an end.
For what! is the contention about the Punic war? on which very subject, though M. Cato and L. Lentulus were of different opinions, still there was no difference between them. But these men behave with too much heat, especially as the opinions which they would uphold are no very spirited ones, and such as they dare not plead for either in the senate or before the assembly of the people, or before the army or the censors. But, however, I will argue with them another time, and with such a disposition that no quarrel shall arise between us; for I shall be ready to yield to their opinions when founded on truth. Only I must give them this advice: That were it ever so true, that a wise man regards nothing but the body, or, to express myself with more decency, never does anything except what is expedient, and views all things with exclusive reference to his own advantage, as such things are not very commendable, they should confine them to their own breasts, and leave off talking with that parade of them.
XXII. What remains is the opinion of the Cyrenaics, who think that men grieve when anything happens unexpectedly. And that is indeed, as I said before, a great aggravation of a misfortune; and I know that it appeared so to Chrysippus—“Whatever falls out unexpected is so much the heavier.” But the whole question does not turn on this; though the sudden approach of an enemy sometimes occasions more confusion than it would if you had expected him, and a sudden storm at sea throws the sailors into a greater fright than one which they have foreseen; and it is the same in many other cases.
But when you carefully consider the nature of what was expected, you will find nothing more than that all things which come on a sudden appear greater; and this upon two accounts: first of all, because you have not time to consider how great the accident is; and, secondly, because you are probably persuaded that you could have guarded against it had you foreseen it, and therefore the misfortune, having been seemingly encountered by your own fault, makes your grief the greater. That it is so, time evinces; which, as it advances, brings with it so much mitigation that though the same misfortunes continue, the grief not only becomes the less, but in some cases is entirely removed.
Many Carthaginians were slaves at Rome, and many Macedonians, when Perseus their king was taken prisoner. I saw, too, when I was a young man, some Corinthians in the Peloponnesus. They might all have lamented with Andromache,
All these I saw. . .
but they had perhaps given over lamenting themselves, for by their countenances, and speech, and other gestures you might have taken them for Argives or Sicyonians. And I myself was more concerned at the ruined walls of Corinth than the Corinthians themselves were, whose minds by frequent reflection and time had become callous to such sights.
I have read a book of Clitomachus, which he sent to his fellow-citizens who were prisoners, to comfort them after the destruction of Carthage. There is in it a treatise written by Carneades, which, as Clitomachus says, he had inserted into his book; the subject was, “That it appeared probable that a wise man would grieve at the state of subjection of his country,” and all the arguments which Carneades used against this proposition are set down in the book. There the philosopher applies such a strong medicine to a fresh grief as would be quite unnecessary in one of any continuance; nor, if this very book had been sent to the captives some years after, would it have found any wounds to cure, but only scars; for grief, by a gentle progress and slow degrees, wears away imperceptibly. Not that the circumstances which gave rise to it are altered, or can be, but that custom teaches what reason should—that those things which before seemed to be of some consequence are of no such great importance after all.
XXIII. It may be said, What occasion is there to apply to reason, or to any sort of consolation such as we generally make use of, to mitigate the grief of the afflicted? For we have this argument always at hand, that nothing ought to appear unexpected. But how will any one be enabled to bear his misfortunes the better by knowing that it is unavoidable that such things should happen to man? Saying this subtracts nothing from the sum of the grief: it only asserts that nothing has fallen out but what might have been anticipated; and yet this manner of speaking has some little consolation in it, though I apprehend not a great deal.
Therefore those unlooked-for things have not so much force as to give rise to all our grief; the blow perhaps may fall the heavier, but whatever happens does not appear the greater on that account. No, it is the fact of its having happened lately, and not of its having befallen us unexpectedly, that makes it seem the greater. There are two ways, then, of discerning the truth, not only of things that seem evil, but of those that have the appearance of good. For we either inquire into the nature of the thing, of what description, and magnitude, and importance it is—as sometimes with regard to poverty, the burden of which we may lighten when by our disputations we show how few things nature requires, and of what a trifling kind they are—or, without any subtle arguing, we refer them to examples, as here we instance a Socrates, there a Diogenes, and then again that line in Caecilius,
Wisdom is oft concealed in mean attire.
For as poverty is of equal weight with all, what reason can be given why what was borne by Fabricius should be spoken of by any one else as unsupportable when it falls upon themselves? Of a piece with this is that other way of comforting, which consists in pointing out that nothing has happened but what is common to human nature; for this argument doth not only inform us what human nature is, but implies that all things are tolerable which others have borne and are bearing.
XXIV. Is poverty the subject? They tell you of many who have submitted to it with patience. Is it the contempt of honors? They acquaint you with some who never enjoyed any, and were the happier for it; and of those who have preferred a private retired life to public employment, mentioning their names with respect; they tell you of the verse [Euripides, in the Iphigenia in Aulis—v. 15.]of that most powerful king who praises an old man, and pronounces him happy because he was unknown to fame and seemed likely to arrive at the hour of death in obscurity and without notice. Thus, too, they have examples for those who are deprived of their children: they who are under any great grief are comforted by instances of like affliction; and thus the endurance of every misfortune is rendered more easy by the fact of others having undergone the same, and the fate of others causes what has happened to appear less important than it has been previously thought, and reflection thus discovers to us how much opinion had imposed on us. And this is what the Telamon declares, “I, when my son was born,” etc.; and thus Theseus, “I on my future misery did dwell;” and Anaxagoras, “I knew my son was mortal.”
All these men, by frequently reflecting on human affairs, had discovered that they were by no means to be estimated by the opinion of the multitude; and, indeed, it seems to me to be pretty much the same case with those who consider beforehand as with those who derive their remedies from time, excepting that a kind of reason cures the one, and the other remedy is provided by nature; by which we discover (and this contains the whole marrow of the matter) that what was imagined to be the greatest evil is by no means so great as to defeat the happiness of life. And the effect of this is, that the blow is greater by reason of its not having been foreseen, and not, as they suppose, that when similar misfortunes befall two different people, that man only is affected with grief whom this calamity has befallen unexpectedly. So that some persons, under the oppression of grief, are said to have borne it actually worse for hearing of this common condition of man, that we are born under such conditions as render it impossible for a man to be exempt from all evil.
XXV. For this reason Carneades, as I see our friend Antiochus writes, used to blame Chrysippus for commending these verses of Euripides:
Man, doomed to care, to pain, disease, and strife,
He would not allow a speech of this kind to avail at all to the cure of our grief, for he said it was a lamentable case itself that we were fallen into the hands of such a cruel fate; and that a speech like that, preaching up comfort from the misfortunes of another, was a comfort adapted only to those of a malevolent disposition.
But to me it appears far otherwise; for the necessity of bearing what is the common condition of humanity forbids your resisting the will of the Gods, and reminds you that you are a man, which reflection greatly alleviates grief; and the enumeration of these examples is not produced with a view to please those of a malevolent disposition, but in order that any one in affliction may be induced to bear what he observes many others have previously borne with tranquillity and moderation. For they who are falling to pieces, and cannot hold together through the greatness of their grief, should be supported by all kinds of assistance.
From whence Chrysippus thinks that grief is called λυπη, as it were λυσις, that is to say, a dissolution of the whole man—the whole of which I think may be pulled up by the roots by explaining, as I said at the beginning, the cause of grief; for it is nothing else but an opinion and judgment formed of a present acute evil. And thus any bodily pain, let it be ever so grievous, may be endurable where any hopes are proposed of some considerable good; and we receive such consolation from a virtuous and illustrious life that they who lead such lives are seldom attacked by grief, or but slightly affected by it.
XXVI. But as besides this opinion of great evil there is this other added also—that we ought to lament what has happened, that it is right so to do, and part of our duty, then is brought about that terrible disorder of mind, grief. And it is to this opinion that we owe all those various and horrid kinds of lamentation, that neglect of our persons, that womanish tearing of our cheeks, that striking on our thighs, breasts, and heads. Thus Agamemnon, in Homer and in Accius,
Tears in his grief his uncombed locks; [Il. x. 15.]
from whence comes that pleasant saying of Bion, that the foolish king in his sorrow tore away the hairs of his head, imagining that his grief would be alleviated by baldness. But men do all these things from being persuaded that they ought to do so. And thus Aeschines inveighs against Demosthenes for sacrificing within seven days after the death of his daughter. But with what eloquence, with what fluency, does he attack him! what sentiments does he collect! what words does he hurl against him! You may see by this that an orator may do anything; but nobody would approve of such license if it were not that we have an idea innate in our minds that every good man ought to lament the loss of a relation as bitterly as possible. And it is owing to this that some men, when in sorrow, betake themselves to deserts, as Homer says of Bellerophon:
Distracted in his mind,
And thus Niobe is feigned to have been turned into stone, from her never speaking, I suppose, in her grief. But they imagine Hecuba to have been converted into a bitch, from her rage and bitterness of mind. There are others who love to converse with solitude itself when in grief, as the nurse in Ennius,
Fain would I to the heavens and earth relate
XXVII. Now all these things are done in grief, from a persuasion of their truth and propriety and necessity; and it is plain that those who behave thus do so from a conviction of its being their duty; for should these mourners by chance drop their grief, and either act or speak for a moment in a more calm or cheerful manner, they presently check themselves and return to their lamentations again, and blame themselves for having been guilty of any intermissions from their grief; and parents and masters generally correct children not by words only, but by blows, if they show any levity by either word or deed when the family is under affliction, and, as it were, oblige them to be sorrowful. What! does it not appear, when you have ceased to mourn, and have discovered that your grief has been ineffectual, that the whole of that mourning was voluntary on your part? What does that man say in Terence who punishes himself, the Self-tormentor?
I think I do my son less harm, O Chremes,
He determines to be miserable: amid can any one determine on anything against his will?
I well might think that I deserved all evil.
He would think he deserved any misfortune were he otherwise than miserable! Therefore, you see, the evil is in opinion, not in nature. How is it when some things do of themselves prevent your grieving at them? as in Homer, so many died and were buried daily that they had not leisure to grieve: where you find these lines—
The great, the bold, by thousands daily fall,
Therefore it is in our own power to lay aside grief upon occasion; and is there any opportunity (seeing the thing is in our own power) that we should let slip of getting rid of care and grief? It was plain that the friends of Cnaeus Pompeius, when they saw him fainting under his wounds, at the very moment of that most miserable and bitter sight were under great uneasiness how they themselves, surrounded by the enemy as they were, should escape, and were employed in nothing but encouraging the rowers and aiding their escape; but when they reached Tyre, they began to grieve and lament over him. Therefore, as fear with them prevailed over grief, cannot reason and true philosophy have the same effect with a wise man?
XXVIII. But what is there more effectual to dispel grief than the discovery that it answers no purpose, and has been undergone to no account? Therefore, if we can get rid of it, we need never have been subject to it. It must be acknowledged, then, that men take up grief willfully and knowingly; and this appears from the patience of those who, after they have been exercised in afflictions and are better able to bear whatever befalls them, suppose themselves hardened against fortune; as that person in Euripides,
Had this the first essay of fortune been,
As, then, the frequent bearing of misery makes grief the lighter, we must necessarily perceive that the cause and original of it does not lie in the calamity itself.
Your principal philosophers, or lovers of wisdom, though they have not yet arrived at perfect wisdom, are not they sensible that they are in the greatest evil? For they are foolish, and foolishness is the greatest of all evils, and yet they lament not. How shall we account for this? Because opinion is not fixed upon that kind of evil, it is not our opinion that it is right, meet, and our duty to be uneasy because we are not all wise men. Whereas this opinion is strongly affixed to that uneasiness where mourning is concerned, which is the greatest of all grief. Therefore Aristotle, when he blames some ancient philosophers for imagining that by their genius they had brought philosophy to the highest perfection, says, they must be either extremely foolish or extremely vain; but that he himself could see that great improvements had been made therein in a few years, and that philosophy would in a little time arrive at perfection. And Theophrastus is reported to have reproached nature at his death for giving to stags and crows so long a life, which was of no use to them, but allowing only so short a span to men, to whom length of days would have been of the greatest use; for if the life of man could have been lengthened, it would have been able to provide itself with all kinds of learning, and with arts in the greatest perfection. He lamented, therefore, that he was dying just when he had begun to discover these.
What! does not every grave and distinguished philosopher acknowledge himself ignorant of many things, and confess that there are many things which he must learn over and over again? And yet, though these men are sensible that they are standing still in the very midway of folly, than which nothing can be worse, they are under no great affliction, because no opinion that it is their duty to lament is ever mingled with this knowledge. What shall we say of those who think it unbecoming in a man to grieve? among whom we may reckon Q. Maximus, when he buried his son that had been consul, and L. Paulus, who lost two sons within a few days of one another. Of the same opinion was M. Cato, who lost his son just after he had been elected praetor, and many others, whose names I have collected in my book on Consolation. Now what made these men so easy, but their persuasion that grief and lamentation was not becoming in a man? Therefore, as some give themselves up to grief from an opinion that it is right so to do, they refrained themselves, from an opinion that it was discreditable; from which we may infer that grief is owing more to opinion than nature.
XXIX. It may be said, on the other side, Who is so mad as to grieve of his own accord? Pain proceeds from nature, which you must submit to, say they, agreeably to what even your own Crantor teaches, for it presses and gains upon you unavoidably, and cannot possibly be resisted. So that the very same Oileus, in Sophocles, who had before comforted Telamon on the death of Ajax, on hearing of the death of his own son, is broken-hearted. On this alteration of his mind we have these lines:
Show me the man so well by wisdom taught
Now, when they urge these things, their endeavor is to prove that nature is absolutely and wholly irresistible; and yet the same people allow that we take greater grief on ourselves than nature requires. What madness is it, then, in us to require the same from others? But there are many reasons for our taking grief on us. The first is from the opinion of some evil, on the discovery and certainty of which grief comes of course. Besides, many people are persuaded that they are doing something very acceptable to the dead when they lament bitterly over them.
To these may be added a kind of womanish superstition, in imagining that when they have been stricken by the afflictions sent by the Gods, to acknowledge themselves afflicted and humbled by them is the readiest way of appeasing them. But most men appear to be unaware what contradictions these things are full of. They commend those who die calmly, but they blame those who can bear the loss of another with the same calmness, as if it were possible that it should be true, as is occasionally said in love speeches, that any one can love another more than himself. There is, indeed, something excellent in this, and, if you examine it, something no less just than true, that we love those who ought to be most dear to us as well as we love ourselves; but to love them more than ourselves is absolutely impossible; nor is it desirable in friendship that I should love my friend more than myself, or that he should love me so; for this would occasion much confusion in life, and break in upon all the duties of it.
XXX. But we will speak of this another time: at present it is sufficient not to attribute our misery to the loss of our friends, nor to love them more than, if they themselves could be sensible of our conduct, they would approve of, or at least not more than we do ourselves. Now as to what they say, that some are not at all appeased by our consolations; and, moreover, as to what they add, that the comforters themselves acknowledge they are miserable when fortune varies the attack and falls on them—in both these cases the solution is easy: for the fault here is not in nature, but in our own folly; and much may be said against folly. But men who do not admit of consolation seem to bespeak misery for themselves; and they who cannot bear their misfortunes with that temper which they recommend to others are not more faulty in this particular than most other persons; for we see that covetous men find fault with others who are covetous, as do the vainglorious with those who appear too wholly devoted to the pursuit of glory.
For it is the peculiar characteristic of folly to perceive the vices of others, but to forget its own. But since we find that grief is removed by length of time, we have the greatest proof that the strength of it depends not merely on time, but on the daily consideration of it. For if the cause continues the same, and the man be the same, how can there be any alteration in the grief, if there is no change in what occasioned the grief, nor in him who grieves? Therefore it is from daily reflecting that there is no real evil in the circumstance for which you grieve, and not from the length of time, that you procure a remedy for your grief.
XXXI. Here some people talk of moderate grief; but if such be natural, what occasion is there for consolation? for nature herself will determine the measure of it: but if it depends on and is caused by opinion, the whole opinion should be destroyed. I think that it has been sufficiently said, that grief arises from an opinion of some present evil, which includes this belief, that it is incumbent on us to grieve. To this definition Zeno has added, very justly, that the opinion of this present evil should be recent. Now this word recent they explain thus: those are not the only recent things which happened a little while ago; but as long as there shall be any force, or vigor, or freshness in that imagined evil, so long it is entitled to the name of recent.
Take the case of Artemisia, the wife of Mausolus, King of Caria, who made that noble sepulchre at Halicarnassus; while she lived, she lived in grief, and died of it, being worn out by it, for that opinion was always recent with her: but you cannot call that recent which has already begun to decay through time. Now the duty of a comforter is, to remove grief entirely, to quiet it, or draw it off as much as you can, or else to keep it under, and prevent its spreading any further, and to divert one’s attention to other matters. There are some who think, with Cleanthes, that the only duty of a comforter is to prove that what one is lamenting is by no means an evil. Others, as the Peripatetics, prefer urging that the evil is not great. Others, with Epicurus, seek to divert your attention from the evil to good: some think it sufficient to show that nothing has happened but what you had reason to expect; and this is the practice of the Cyrenaics.
But Chrysippus thinks that the main thing in comforting is, to remove the opinion from the person who is grieving, that to grieve is his bounden duty. There are others who bring together all these various kinds of consolations, for people are differently affected; as I have done myself in my book on Consolation; for as my own mind was much disordered, I have attempted in that book to discover every method of cure. But the proper season is as much to be attended to in the cure of the mind as of the body; as Prometheus in Aeschylus, on its being said to him,
I think, Prometheus, you this tenet hold,
Yes, when one reason properly applies;
XXXII. But the principal medicine to be applied in consolation is, to maintain either that it is no evil at all, or a very inconsiderable one: the next best to that is, to speak of the common condition of life, having a view, if possible, to the state of the person whom you comfort particularly. The third is, that it is folly to wear one’s self out with grief which can avail nothing. For the comfort of Cleanthes is suitable only for a wise man, who is in no need of any comfort at all; for could you persuade one in grief that nothing is an evil but what is base, you would not only cure him of grief, but folly. But the time for such precepts is not well chosen. Besides, Cleanthes does not seem to me sufficiently aware that affliction may very often proceed from that very thing which he himself allows to be the greatest misfortune.
For what shall we say? When Socrates had convinced Alcibiades, as we are told, that he had no distinctive qualifications as a man different from other people, and that, in fact, there was no difference between him, though a man of the highest rank, and a porter; and when Alcibiades became uneasy at this, and entreated Socrates, with tears in his eyes, to make him a man of virtue, and to cure him of that mean position; what shall we say to this, Cleanthes? Was there no evil in what afflicted Alcibiades thus? What strange things does Lycon say? who, making light of grief, says that it arises from trifles, from things that affect our fortune or bodies, not from the evils of the mind. What, then? did not the grief of Alcibiades proceed from the defects and evils of the mind? I have already said enough of Epicurus’s consolation.
XXXIII. Nor is that consolation much to be relied on, though it is frequently practiced, and sometimes has some effect, namely, “That you are not alone in this.” It has its effect, as I said, but not always, nor with every person, for some reject it; but much depends on the application of it; for you ought rather to show, not how men in general have been affected with such evils, but how men of sense have borne them. As to Chrysippus’s method, it is certainly founded in truth; but it is difficult to apply it in time of distress.
It is a work of no small difficulty to persuade a person in affliction that he grieves merely because he thinks it right so to do. Certainly, then, as in pleadings we do not state all cases alike (if I may adopt the language of lawyers for a moment), but adapt what we have to say to the time, to the nature of the subject under debate, and to the person; so, too, in alleviating grief, regard should be had to what kind of cure the party to be comforted can admit of.
But, somehow or other, we have rambled from what you originally proposed. For your question was concerning a wise man, with whom nothing can have the appearance of evil that is not dishonorable; or at least, anything else would seem so small an evil that by his wisdom he would so overmatch it as to make it wholly disappear; and such a man makes no addition to his grief through opinion, and never conceives it right to torment himself above measure, nor to wear himself out with grief, which is the meanest thing imaginable. Reason, however, it seems, has demonstrated (though it was not directly our object at the moment to inquire whether anything can be called an evil except what is base) that it is in our power to discern that all the evil which there is in affliction has nothing natural in it, but is contracted by our own voluntary judgment of it, and the error of opinion.
XXXIV. But the kind of affliction of which I have treated is that which is the greatest; in order that when we have once got rid of that, it may appear a business of less consequence to look after remedies for the others. For there are certain things which are usually said about poverty; and also certain statements ordinarily applied to retired and undistinguished life. There are particular treatises on banishment, on the ruin of one’s country, on slavery, on weakness, on blindness, and on every incident that can come under the name of an evil. The Greeks divide these into different treatises and distinct books; but they do it for the sake of employment: not but that all such discussions are full of entertainment. And yet, as physicians, in curing the whole body, attend to even the most insignificant part of the body which is at all disordered, so does philosophy act, after it has removed grief in general; still, if any other deficiency exists—should poverty bite, should ignominy sting, should banishment bring a dark cloud over us, or should any of those things which I have just mentioned appear, there is for each its appropriate consolation, which you shall hear whenever you please.
But we must have recourse again to the same original principle, that a wise man is free from all sorrow, because it is vain, because it answers no purpose, because it is not founded in nature, but on opinion and prejudice, and is engendered by a kind of invitation to grieve, when once men have imagined that it is their duty to do so. When, then, we have subtracted what is altogether voluntary, that mournful uneasiness will be removed; yet some little anxiety, some slight pricking, will still remain. They may indeed call this natural, provided they give it not that horrid, solemn, melancholy name of grief, which can by no means consist with wisdom. But how various and how bitter are the roots of grief! Whatever they are, I propose, after having felled the trunk, to destroy them all; even if it should be necessary, by allotting a separate dissertation to each, for I have leisure enough to do so, whatever time it may take up.
But the principle of every uneasiness is the same, though they may appear under different names. For envy is an uneasiness; so are emulation, detraction, anguish, sorrow, sadness, tribulation, lamentation, vexation, grief, trouble, affliction, and despair. The Stoics define all these different feelings; and all those words which I have mentioned belong to different things, and do not, as they seem, express the same ideas; but they are to a certain extent distinct, as I shall make appear perhaps in another place. These are those fibres of the roots which, as I said at first, must be traced back and cut off and destroyed, so that not one shall remain. You say it is a great and difficult undertaking: who denies it? But what is there of any excellency which has not its difficulty? Yet philosophy undertakes to effect it, provided we admit its superintendence. But enough of this. The other books, whenever you please, shall be ready for you here or anywhere else.