On Consolation

To Polybius


(First Century A.D.)

Cities and monuments made of stone, if you compare them with our life, are enduring; if you submit them to the standard of Nature's law they are perishable, since Nature brings all things to destruction and recalls them to the state from which they sprang. For what that mortal hands have made is ever immortal? The seven wonders of the world and all the works, far more wonderful than these, that the ambition of later years has reared, will some day be seen levelled to the ground. So it is — nothing is everlasting, few things are even long-lasting; one thing perishes in one way, another in another, though the manner of their passing varies, yet whatever has beginning has also an end. Some there are who threaten even the world with destruction, and (if you think that piety admits the belief) this universe, which contains all the works of gods and men, will one day be scattered and plunged into the ancient chaos and darkness.

What folly, then, for anyone to weep for the lives of individuals, to mourn over the ashes of Carthage and Numantia and Corinth and the fall of any other city, mayhap loftier than these, when even this universe will perish though it has no place into which it can fall; what folly for anyone to complain that Fate, though she will some day dare so great a crime, has not spared even him! Who is of such haughty and overweening presumption as to wish that he and his dear ones alone be excepted from this law of Nature that brings all things to their end, and to exempt some one household from the destruction that threatens even the world itself? A man, therefore, will find the greatest comfort in the thought that what has befallen himself was suffered by all who were before him and will be suffered by all who come after him; and Nature has, it seems to me, made universal what she had made hardest to bear in order that the uniformity of fate might console men for its cruelty.

And it will help you, too, not a little if you reflect that your grief can accomplish nothing either for him whose loss you mourn or for yourself; for the suffering that is vain you will be unwilling to prolong. For if we are likely to accomplish anything by sorrow, I do not refuse to shed whatever tears my own fortune has left me in regret for yours; for I shall even yet find some that may flow from these eyes of mine, that have already been drained by my personal woes, if only thereby I may do you some good. Why do you hesitate? Let us lament together, or rather I myself will bring forth this indictment as my own: "O Fortune, you who by the verdict of all men are most unjust, you seemed hitherto to have cherished this man in your bosom, for, thanks to you, he had by a rare accident won so much respect that his prosperity escaped envy. But now you have stamped upon him the greatest sorrow that, while Caesar lives, he could possibly have received, and, having thoroughly reconnoitered him on every side, you discovered that from this direction only was he exposed to your arrows. For what other harm could you have dealt him? Should you have snatched away his money? But he was never its slave; even now he thrusts it from him as much as he can, and, though he has so many opportunities to acquire it, he seeks from it no greater gain than the power to scorn it. Should you have snatched away his friends? But you knew that, so lovable is he, he could easily substitute others in place of those he had lost; for of all those I have seen holding high place in the imperial household, I seem to have discovered in him the only one whom, though it is to the interest of all, it is yet even more their pleasure, to have as a friend. Should you have snatched away his good reputation? But in his case this is too well-grounded for even you to be able to shake it. Should you have snatched away good health? But you knew that his mind was so well grounded by liberal studies — for he had not merely been bred, but born, among books — that it rose superior to all pains of the body. Should you have snatched away his life? But how little you could have harmed him!

"Fame has promised him that the life of his genius shall be very long; and he himself has made it his aim that he should endure, in the better part of him, and by the composition of glorious works of eloquence rescue himself from mortality. So long as letters shall have any honor, so long as the force of the Latin or the grace of the Greek tongue shall survive, he shall flourish in the company of those giants of whose genius he has made himself a rival, or, if his modesty refuses so much, a devotee. Consequently, Fortune, you have found out that this is the only way in which you could injure him very deeply; for the better a man is, the more often is he wont to endure your assaults — you who vent your rage without discrimination, and are to be feared even in the midst of your kindnesses. How little it would have cost you to render him exempt from such an injury — a man to whom, it seemed, your favor had been extended on a fixed principle, and had not, after your usual fashion, fallen upon him at random."

Let us add, if you will, to these grounds of complaint the character of the youth himself, cut off in the midst of its first growth; worthy was he to be your brother. You, at any rate, were most worthy that not even an unworthy brother should be to you any cause for grief. All men alike bear witness to his character; he is regretted in compliment to you, he is lauded in compliment to himself. There was nothing in him which you were not glad to recognize. You would indeed have been good even to a brother less good, but in his case your natural affection, having found a suitable object, displayed itself much more generously. No one was ever made to feel his power from an injury he did, he never threatened anyone with your being his brother. He had molded himself after the pattern of your modesty, and remembered what a great ornament you were to your family, and what a responsibility; but he was equal to this burden. O pitiless Fate, always unjust to virtue! Before your brother could know his own happiness, he was taken from it. But I know that I express my indignation poorly; for nothing is so difficult as to find words to match a great sorrow. Yet once again, if words can be of any avail, let us complain together: "What did you mean, O Fortune, by being so unjust and so violent? Did you repent so quickly of your former kindness? What cruelty is this, to make your assault upon a company of brothers, and by such cruel robbery to impoverish so loving a group? Did you mean to break up a household of admirable young men so closely united, no one of whom fell short of his brothers, and without any reason to take one from their number? Does blamelessness, then, avail nothing, though tested by every principle? old-fashioned simplicity, nothing? persistent self-restraint when there was unlimited opportunity to gain unlimited wealth, nothing? a sincere and safe love of letters, nothing? a mind free from every taint of sin, nothing? Polybius mourns, and, warned by the fate of one brother of what he may dread concerning the rest, he fears for the very solaces of his sorrow. O the shame! Polybius mourns and suffers sorrow while Caesar smiles upon him! O unbridled Fortune, clearly what you aimed at was this — to show that no one can be protected against you — no, not even by Caesar."

We can go on blaming Fate much longer, change it we cannot. It stands harsh and inexorable; no one can move it by reproaches, no one by tears, no one by his cause; it never lets anyone off nor shows mercy. Accordingly let us refrain from tears, that profit nothing; for sooner will this grief unite us with the dead than bring them back to us. And if grief tortures us and does not help us, we ought to lay it aside as soon as possible, and recall the mind from its empty consolations and a sort of morbid pleasure in grieving. For unless reason puts an end to our tears, fortune will not do so.

Come, look about you, survey all mortals — everywhere there is ample and constant reason for tears. Toilsome poverty summons one man to his daily task, never-resting ambition harasses another; one fears the riches that he had prayed for, and suffers from the granting of his prayer; his loneliness torments one, the throng that besieges his threshold, another; this man mourns because he has children, this one because he has lost them. Tears will fail us sooner than the causes for weeping. Do you not see what sort of life Nature has promised us — she who decreed that the first act of man at birth should be to weep? With such a beginning are we brought forth, with such the whole series of later years accords. Thus we spend our lives, and therefore we ought to do in moderation this thing that we must do so often; and as we look back upon the great mass of sorrows that threatens us behind, we ought, if not to end our tears, yet at any rate to keep guard over them. Nothing must be husbanded more carefully than that of which there is such frequent need.

And this also will give you no small help — if you reflect that there is no one who is less pleased by your grief than he to whom it seems to be offered; for he either does not wish you to suffer, or does not know that you do. There is, therefore, no sense in this service, for if he to whom it is offered lacks consciousness, it is useless, and, if he has consciousness, it is displeasing to him. I may say boldly that there is no one in the whole wide world who finds pleasure in your tears. And what then? Do you suppose that your brother has towards you the disposition that no one else displays — the desire that you should withdraw from your ordinary tasks — that is, from the serving of Caesar — in order to do harm to yourself by self-torture? This is not likely. For he always paid to you the love due to a brother, the respect due to a parent, and the court due to a superior; he wishes to be missed by you, not to cause you suffering. Why, therefore, do you choose to pine away with a sorrow which, if the dead have any consciousness, your brother desires to have ended? Were it any other brother, about whose good-will there might seem to be some uncertainty, I should put all these things doubtfully, and say: "If your brother desires that you be tortured with tears that never cease, he is unworthy of this affection of yours; if he does not wish this, leave off the grief that is painful to both; an unloving brother ought not, and a loving brother would not want, to be mourned for in this way." But in his case his brotherly love has been so clearly proved that we must feel sure that nothing could be more bitter for him than seeing that this mishap of his is bitter for you, that it in any way causes you distress, that to those eyes of yours, which least deserve so great an ill, it, too, brings both trouble and exhaustion without any end of weeping.

Nothing, however, will so effectually restrain your love from such useless tears as the thought that you ought to give to your brothers an example by bearing this injustice of Fortune bravely. This is the way great generals act in times of disaster — they purposely make pretense of cheerfulness, and conceal their misfortunes by feigning joy, lest the soldiers themselves should likewise grow faint-hearted if they saw the spirit of their leader broken. You also must now do the same. Assume an expression that belies your feeling, and, if you can, wholly cast out all your sorrow; if not, hide it in your heart, and keep it from showing, and make effort to have your brothers copy you, who will think whatever they see you doing to to be right, and will take heart from your face. You ought to be to them both their comfort and their consoler; but you will not be able to check their sorrow if you indulge your own.

And it may be that this also will keep you from excessive grief — if you remind yourself that none of the things that you do can be kept secret. Public opinion has assigned to you an important role; this you must maintain. All yonder throng that offers you consolation stands about you, and it searches into your heart, and descries how much strength this has in the face of sorrow, and whether you only know how to use prosperity adroitly, or are able also to bear adversity with courage. They watch your eyes! Those have more liberty whose feelings are able to be concealed; you are not free to have any privacy. Fortune has placed you in the bright light; all people will know how you have behaved under this wound of yours — whether the moment you were struck you laid down your arms, or stood your ground. Long ago the love of Caesar lifted you to a higher rank, and your literary pursuits have elevated you. Nothing vulgar, nothing base befits you. Yet what is so base and so womanish as to give oneself over to be utterly consumed by sorrow? Though you have equal grief, you do not have the same liberty as your brothers; there are many things that the opinion which others have formed of your learning and your character does not permit you to do — men demand much of you, expect much. If you wished to be free to do everything, you should not have turned all faces toward you; as it is, you must make good all that of which you have given promise. All those who praise the works of your genius, who take copies of them, who, though they have no need of your greatness, have need of your genius, keep watch on your mind. And thus you can never do anything unworthy of your claim to be a sage and a scholar without making many repent of their admiration for you. You may not weep beyond measure nor is this the only thing you may not do; you may not either prolong sleep into the hours of day, or flee from the turmoil of business to the leisure of rural repose, or refresh your body, wearied by its constant guard at the post, of toilsome duty, by a trip abroad for pleasure, or engage your mind with a variety of shows, or arrange your day according to your own desire. Many things you may not do, which the lowliest wretch that lies in his corner may do.

A great fortune is a great slavery; you may not do anything according to your wish. You must give audience to countless thousands of men, countless petitions must be disposed of; so great is the pile of business, accumulated from every part of the world, that must be carefully weighed in order that it may be brought to the attention of a most illustrious prince in the proper order. You, I say, are not allowed to weep; in order that you may be able to listen to the many who weep — in order that you may dry the tears of those who are in peril and desire to obtain mercy from Caesar's clemency, it is your own tears that you must dry. My suggestions, so far, deal with the milder remedies, nevertheless they will help you; but when you shall wish to forget everything else — think of Caesar. Think what loyalty, what industry, you owe him in return for his imperial favor to you; you will then understand that you may no more bend beneath the burden than he — if there really is anyone such as myths tell of — whose shoulders uphold the sky. Even Caesar himself, who may do all things, may not do many things for the very same reason. His watchfulness guards all men's sleep, his toil all men's ease, his industry all men's dissipations, his work all men's vacation. On the day that Caesar dedicated himself to the wide world, he robbed himself of himself; and even as the planets, which, unresting, ever pursue their courses, he may never halt or do anything for himself. And so, to a certain degree, the same necessity is enjoined upon you also; you may not pay regard to your own interests or to your books. While Caesar owns the wide world, you can give no part of yourself either to pleasure or sorrow or anything else; you owe the whole of yourself to Caesar. And besides, since you always declare that Caesar is dearer to you than your own life, it is not right for you to make complaint of Fortune while Caesar is alive, so long as he is alive, your dear ones are alive — you have lost nothing. Your eyes ought to be not only dry, but even happy; in him you have all things, he takes the place of all. If you allow yourself to weep for anything while he is alive, you lack gratitude for your good fortune; but this is very foreign to your sensible and loyal disposition.

Further, I shall prescribe a remedy that is not indeed surer, but more private. Whenever you retire to your home, then will be the time for you to dread your sadness. For as long as your divinity is before your eyes, that will find no access to you, Caesar will possess all that is in you; but when you have left him, then, having found, as it were, a good opportunity, sorrow will be in wait for your loneliness, and will little by little steal upon your mind when it is unoccupied. And so there is no reason why you should allow any of your time to be without the interest of literature. Then let your books, so long and so faithfully loved, repay your favor, then let them claim you for their high priest and worshipper, then let Homer and Virgil, to whom the human race owes as much as they and all men owe to you, whom you wished to become known to a wider circle than that for which they wrote, be much in your company; the time that you entrust to their safeguarding will be safe indeed. Then, with your best powers, compile an account of the deeds of your Caesar, so that, being heralded by one of his own household, they may be repeated throughout all ages; since, for the fashioning and writing of history, he himself will best supply you with both matter and model.

I do not venture to push you to the point of putting together also, with your characteristic charm, the tales and fables of Aesop — a task that Roman talent has not yet essayed.

It would be difficult indeed for a mind so severely smitten to approach so quickly this lighter kind of literature; nevertheless, if it shall be able to pass from more serious compositions to these less exacting ones, you must count this as proof that it has now recovered its strength and is itself again. For in the case of the former, the very sternness of the subject which it treats will distract the mind although still suffering and struggling with itself; the latter, which must be pondered with a brow unbent, it will not endure until it has wholly recovered its native harmony. Your duty, therefore, will be first to give it hard work with a more serious subject, and then to modify its effort with a lighter.

It will also serve as a great relief, if you will often question yourself thus: "Am I grieving on my own account, or on account of him who has departed? If on my own account, this parade of affection is idle, and my grief, the only excuse for which is that it is honorable, begins to show defection from brotherly love when it looks toward personal advantage; but nothing is less becoming to a good man than to be calculating in his grief for a brother. If I grieve on his account, I must decide that one or the other of the two following views is true. For, if the dead retain no feeling whatever, my brother has escaped from all the ills of life, and has been restored to that state in which he had been before he was born, and, exempt from every ill, he fears nothing, desires nothing, suffers nothing. What madness this is — that I should never cease to grieve for one who will never grieve any more! If, however, the dead do retain some feeling, at this moment my brother's soul, released, as it were, from its long imprisonment, exults to be at last its own lord and master, enjoys the spectacle of Nature, and from its higher place looks down upon all human things, while upon things divine, the explanation of which it had so long sought in vain, it gazes with a nearer vision. And so why should I pine away in yearning for him who either is happy or does not exist? But to weep for one who is happy is envy; for one who does not exist, madness."

Or is it this that moves you — the thought that he has been deprived of great blessings just when they were showered upon him? But when you reflect that there are many things which he has lost, reflect also that there are more which he no longer fears. He is not racked by anger, he is not smitten with disease, he is not worried by suspicion, he is not assailed by gnawing envy that is always hostile to other men's successes, he is not disquieted by fear, he is not alarmed by the fickleness of Fortune, who quickly shifts her favors. If you count carefully, he has been spared more than he has lost. He will not enjoy wealth, nor favor at court, his own together with yours; he will not receive benefits, he will not bestow them. Do you think that he is unhappy because he has lost these things, or happy because be does not miss them? Believe me, he is happier who does not need good fortune than he for whom it is in store.

All those goods which delight us by their showy, but deceptive, charm — money, standing, power, and the many other things at the sight of which the human race, in its blind greed, is filled with awe — bring trouble to their possessor, stir jealousy in the beholder, and in the end also crush the very men that they adorn; they are more of a menace than a good. They are slippery and uncertain, and are never held happily; for though there should be no anxiety about the future, yet the mere preservation of great prosperity is full of worry. If we are to believe some who have a more profound insight into truth, all life is a torment. Plunged into this deep and restless sea, that ebbs and flows with changing tides, now uplifting us with sudden accessions of fortune, now sweeping us downward with greater losses and flinging us about incessantly, we never stay steadfast in one place, we dangle aloft, are tossed hither and thither, collide with each other, and sometimes suffer shipwreck, always fear it; for those who sail upon this sea, so stormy and exposed to every gale, there is no harbor save death. And so do not grudge your brother this — he is at rest. At last he is free, at last safe, at last immortal. He leaves Caesar and all of Caesar's offspring still surviving, he leaves you surviving in company with the brothers of you both. While Fortune was still standing near him and bestowing her gifts with generous hand, he left her before she could make any change in her favor. He delights now in the open and boundless sky, from a low and sunken region he has darted aloft to that place (whatever it be) which receives in its happy embrace souls that are freed from their chains; and he now roams there, and explores with supreme delight all the blessings of Nature. You are mistaken — your brother has not lost the light of day, but he has gained a purer light. The way thither is the same for us all. Why do we bemoan his fate? He has not left us, but has gone before. Believe me, there is great happiness in the very necessity of dying. We can be sure of nothing — not even for the whole of one day. Where the truth is so dark and involved, who can divine whether Death had a grudge against your brother or sought his welfare?

And, such is your justice in all things, this, too, must give you comfort — the thought that no wrong has been done you because you lost such a brother, but that a favor was shown you, because you were permitted to have and enjoy his affection so long. He who does not leave to the giver the power over his own gift is unfair, he who does not count whatever he receives as gain and yet counts whatever he gives back as loss, is greedy. He who calls the ending of pleasure an injustice is an ingrate; he who thinks that there is no enjoyment from blessings unless they are present, who does not find comfort also in past blessings, and does not regard those that are gone as more certain because he need have no fear that they will cease — this man is a fool. He limits his pleasures too narrowly who thinks that he enjoys only those which he now has and sees, and counts his having had these same pleasures as nothing; for every pleasure quickly leaves us — it flows on and passes by and is gone almost before it comes, and so our thoughts must be turned towards time that has passed, and whatever has once brought us pleasure must be recalled, and we must ruminate over it by frequent thought; the remembrance of pleasures is more lasting and trustworthy than their reality. Count this, then, among your greatest blessings — the fact that you have had an excellent brother! There is no reason for you to think of how much longer you might have had him — think, rather, of how long you did have him. Nature gave him to you, just as she gives to others their brothers, not as a permanent possession, but as a loan; when it seemed best to her, then she took him back, nor was she guided by your having had your fill of him, but only by her own law. If anyone should be angry that he has had to pay back borrowed money — especially that of which he had the use without paying interest — would he not be considered an unfair man?

Nature gave your brother his life, she has likewise given you yours. If she has required from him from whom she wanted it an earlier payment of her loan, she has but used her own right; the fault is not with her, for her terms were known, but with the greedy hopes of mortal minds that often forget what nature is, and never remember their own lot except when they are reminded. Rejoice, therefore, that you have had such a good brother, and have had the use and enjoyment of him; though this was briefer than you wished, count it so much good. Reflect that to have had him is most delightful; to have lost him, the human lot. For nothing is less consistent than for a man to grieve because he did not have long enough the blessing of such a brother, and not to rejoice because, after all, such a blessing had once been his. "But," you say, "he was snatched from me unexpectedly." Every man is deceived by his own credulity, and in the case of those whom he loves he willfully forgets mortality. Yet Nature has made it clear that she will exempt no man from her stern law. Every day the funerals of acquaintances and strangers pass by before our eyes, we, nevertheless, pay no heed, and we count that event as sudden of whose coming the whole of life has given us warning. This, therefore, is not the injustice of Fate, but the perversity of the human mind that, with its insatiable greed for all things, chafes at leaving a place to which it was admitted on sufferance.

How much more righteous was he who, on the announcement of the death of his son, uttered the words, worthy of a great man: "When I begat him, I knew then that he would die." We need not be at all surprised that the son of such a man was one who was able to die bravely. He did not receive the news of the death of his son as a strange thing; for why is it surprising that man should die when his whole life is nothing but a journey towards death? "When I begat him, I knew then that he would die," he said. And then he added some words that show even greater wisdom and courage: "And it was for this that I reared him." It is for this that we all are reared; every man who is brought into life is appointed to die. Let us rejoice, therefore, in whatever shall be given us, and let us return it when we are asked for it. The Fates will seize one at one time, another at another; they will pass no man by. Let the mind, then, stand in readiness, and let it never fear whatever must be, let it always expect whatever may be.

Why need I tell you of generals and the offspring of generals, of men famous for their many consulships or many triumphs, who have finished their appointed lot? Whole kingdoms with their kings and peoples with their rulers have met their fate; all men, nay, all things, look toward their last day. They do not all have the same end; life forsakes one in the middle of his career, it leaves another at the very entrance, and another it reluctantly releases in extreme old age when he is now worn out and eager to depart; one goes at one time, another at another, yet we are all travelling toward the same place. I know not whether it is more foolish to be ignorant of the law of mortality, or more presumptuous to refuse to obey it.

Turn, now, to those poems which the efforts of our genius have made famous and which you have turned into prose with such skill that, though their form has disappeared, they, nevertheless, retain all their charm (for you have so performed the most difficult task of transferring them from one language to another that all their merits have followed them into the foreign speech) — take into your hands whichever of the two authors you please, and you will find that there is not a single book of their writings which does not supply numberless examples of the vicissitudes of human life, of unexpected misfortunes, and of tears that for one reason or another have been made to flow. Read with what great vigor you have thundered in mighty words; suddenly to break down and fall short of such grandeur of utterance will make you blush. Let it not happen that every one who admired your writings as a model should wonder how a spirit so easily broken produced such mighty and substantial works.

Do you turn, rather, from the thoughts that torture you to the many and great sources of consolation you have, and look upon your admirable brothers, look upon your wife, look upon your son; it is for all their lives that Fortune has settled with you for this partial payment. You have many on whose affection to rest. Save yourself from the shame of having everybody think that your grief for one counts for more than these many sources of comfort.

You see that they all have been smitten along with you, and you know that they are not able to come to your rescue — nay, even that they on their part are expecting to be rescued by you; and, therefore, the less their learning, the less their ability than yours, the more necessary it is for you to withstand the common misfortune. Moreover, to share one's grief with many is in itself a kind of consolation; because, if it is distributed among many, the part that is left behind with you must be small. I shall not cease to confront you over and over again with Caesar. While he governs the earth, while he shows how much better it is to safeguard the empire by benefits than by arms, while he presides over human affairs, there is no danger of your feeling that you have suffered any loss; in this one source you have ample protection, ample consolation. Lift yourself up, and every time that tears well up in your eyes, fix these upon Caesar; at the sight of the exceeding greatness and splendor of his divinity they will be dried; his brilliance will dazzle them so that they will be able to see nothing else, and will keep them fastened upon himself. He, whom you behold day and night, from whom you never lower your thoughts, must fill your mind, he must be summoned to your help against Fortune. And, so great is his kindness; so great is his gracious favor toward all followers, I do not doubt that he has already covered over this wound of yours with many balms, that he has already supplied many things to stay your sorrow.

Besides, even though he has done none of these things, are not the very sight and merely the thought of Caesar, in themselves, forthwith to you the very greatest comfort? May gods and goddesses lend him long to earth! May he rival the achievements, may he surpass the years, of the deified Augustus! So long as he shall linger among mortals, may he not learn that aught of his house is mortal! By long proof may he commend his son as ruler to the Roman Empire and see him his father's consort ere that he is his successor! Late be the day and known only to our grandchildren on which his kindred claim him for the skies! From him, O Fortune, refrain thy hands, and in his case display not thy power save in that part where thou dost benefit. Suffer him to heal the human race, that has long been sick and in evil case, suffer him to restore and return all things to their place out of the havoc the madness of the preceding prince has wrought! May this sun, which has shed its light upon a world that had plunged into the abyss and was sunk in darkness, ever shine! May he bring peace to Germany, open up Britain, and celebrate again both his father's triumphs and new ones! And his mercy, which in the list of his virtues holds the chief place, raises the hope that of these I also shall not fail to be a spectator. For he has not cast me down with no thought of ever lifting me up — nay, he has not even cast me down, but when I had been smitten by Fortune and was falling, he checked my fall, and, using the mitigating power of his divine hand, he let me down gently when I was plunging to destruction; he besought the senate in my behalf, and not only gave me my life, but even begged it. Be his the care — howsoever he shall wish, such let him account my case. Let either his justice discern that it is good, or his mercy make it good; whether he shall discern that I am innocent, or shall wish me to be so — either, in my eyes, will equally show his kindness.

Meanwhile, the great consolation of my own wretchedness is to see his compassion spreading over the whole world; and since even in this remote corner, in which I am planted, his mercy has unearthed many who were buried under a downfall that came long years ago, and has restored them to light, I do not fear that I shall be the only one it will pass by. But he himself knows best the time at which he ought to come to each man's rescue; I, for my part, shall strive that he should not blush to come to mine. O how blessed is your mercy, Caesar, which makes exiles live more peacefully under your rule than did princes recently under the rule of Gaius! They are not uneasy, nor do they expect the sword hour by hour, nor cower at the sight of every ship; through you they possess not only a limit to the cruelty of Fortune, but also the hope of her being more kindly and peace even as she is. One may know that those thunderbolts are indeed most just which even those they have smitten worship. And so this prince, who is the universal consolation of all mankind, has already, if I am not altogether mistaken, revived your spirit and applied the more potent remedies to a wound so serious. He has already strengthened you in every way; by reason of his most retentive memory he has already presented to you all the examples which could bring your mind to a state of equanimity; with his habitual eloquence he has already set before you the precepts of all the sages.

There is no one, therefore, who could better have appropriated these roles of the comforter. Words, when he speaks, have, as if the utterances of an oracle, a different weight; his divine authority will dull all the sharpness of your grief. Think, then, that he speaks to you in these words. "You are not the only one whom Fortune has picked out to afflict with an injury so grievous; there is no family in all the earth, nor has there ever been one, that has no one to mourn for. I will pass over examples from the masses, which, while they have less weight, are nevertheless countless — I will direct you to the Calendar and the State Chronicles. See you all these portrait busts that fill the hall of the Caesars? Every one of these men is marked by some ill that befell their dear ones; every one, too, of those men whose glory lights up the ages was either tortured with yearning for dear ones, or was yearned for by dear ones with bitterest torture of mind. Why need I remind you of Scipio Africanus, who learned of the death of his brother while he himself was in exile? The brother who snatched his brother from prison was not able to snatch him from Fate. And Africanus's brotherly love made it clear to all how impatient he was of equal rights; for on the same day on which he had rescued his brother from the hands of a court-summoner, he also, though he held no office, interfered with the acts of a tribune of the people. Yet he showed as much greatness of spirit in his grief for his brother as he had shown in his defense.

"Why need I remind you of Scipio Aemilianus, who viewed the triumph of his father and the funerals of his two brothers at almost the same time? Nevertheless, a mere youth and hardly more than a boy, he bore that sudden desolation, which befell his own family close upon the triumph of Paulus, with all the courage that became a man, born to the end that a Scipio might not fail, or Carthage outlive, the city of Rome. Why need I remind you of the two Luculli, whose concord was broken only by death? Or of the Pompeys, to whom cruel Fortune did not even grant that they should perish together in the same disaster? Sextus Pompeius, in the first place, survived his sisters by whose death the closely knit bonds of peace between the Romans were broken, and he likewise survived his excellent brother, whom Fortune had raised aloft for the very purpose of hurling him down from a pinnacle not less high than that from which she had hurled his father; and yet, even after this misfortune, Sextus Pompeius sustained the burden, not only of grief, but also of war. The examples that are supplied from every side of brothers who were separated by death are innumerable — nay, almost never have pairs of brothers been seen who were growing old together. But I shall be content with examples from my own family; for no one will be so devoid of feeling and good sense as to complain that Fortune has brought grief upon any when he knows that she has coveted the tears of even the Caesars.

"The deified Augustus lost his darling sister Octavia, and not even was he, whom Nature had destined for heaven, made exempt from the necessity of mourning — nay, he was harassed by every sort of bereavement, and, when he had planned to make his sister's son his own successor, he lost him. In fine, not to mention his sorrows one by one, he lost his sons-in-law and his children and his grandchildren, and, while he lingered among men, no one of all mortals had clearer evidence that he was a man. Nevertheless, his heart that was able to bear all things bore bravely these many deep afflictions, and the deified Augustus rose victor, not only over foreign nations, but also over sorrows. Gaius Caesar, grandson of the deified Augustus, my great-uncle, when he was in the early years of manhood, lost his beloved brother Lucius; Prince of the Roman Youth, he lost a 'Prince' of that same youth in the very midst of his preparation for the Parthian War, and he suffered much more deeply from this wound of the mind than he did later from the wound of his body; yet he bore both most righteously and bravely.

"Tiberius Caesar, my uncle, lost his younger brother Drusus Germanicus, my father, just when he was opening up the remote parts of Germany, and was bringing the fiercest tribes under the power of Rome, and, holding him in his arms, he gave him a last kiss. Yet, not only for himself but for others, he set a limit upon mourning, and when the whole army was not only disconsolate but even distraught, and claimed the body of the loved Drusus for itself, he forced it to return to the Roman fashion of mourning, and ruled that discipline must be maintained, not only in fighting, but also in grieving. But he would not have been able to check the tears of others if he had not first repressed his own. Mark Antony, my grandfather, second to none save his conqueror, received the news of his brother's execution just at the time when he was setting the state in order, and when, as a member of the triumvirate, he beheld no man above him — nay, with the exception of his two colleagues, saw all men beneath him. O unbridled Fortune, what sport dost thou make for thyself out of human ills. At the very time at which Mark Antony sat enthroned with the power of life and death over his own countrymen, the brother of Mark Antony was being ordered to execution! Yet such a bitter wound was borne by Mark Antony with the same loftiness of spirit with which he had endured all his other adversities, and this was his mourning — to give sacrifice to the shade of his brother with the blood of twenty legions!

"But to pass over all ether examples, to be silent concerning the other deaths, even in my own case also twice has Fortune assailed me through my grief as a brother, twice has she learned that I might be injured, but that I could not be conquered. I lost my brother Germanicus, and how much I loved him all those assuredly understand who consider how brothers, who have true affection, love their brothers; yet I so ruled my feelings that I neither left anything undone that ought to have been required of a loving brother, nor did anything that a prince could have been censured for doing."

Consider, therefore, that these are the examples the Father of the State cites for you, and that he also shows how nothing is sacred and inviolable to Fortune, who has dared to lead funerals from those households whence she was to seek gods. And so let no man be surprised at any cruel or unjust act of hers; for is it possible that she, whose insatiate cruelty has so often desolated the very seats of the gods, should know any justice or self-restraint in her dealings with private families? Though we heap reproach upon her, voicing not merely our own protest, but that of all men, she will not be changed; she will work her will despite all entreaties, despite all complaints. Such has fortune ever been in human affairs, such will she ever be. Nothing has she ever left undared, nothing will she ever leave untried; in violent rage will she range through all places just as has always been her wont, she who, on injury bent, has dared to enter even those houses whose entrance lies through the temples of the gods, and she will drape the laurelled doors with the garb of mourning. If she has not yet resolved to destroy utterly the human race, if she still looks with favor upon the name of Roman, may we by public vows and prayers obtain from her this one concession — that this prince, who has been granted to the fallen estate of mankind, should be held as sacred by her as he is by all mortal men! Let her learn mercy from him, and to the kindest of all princes let her become kind!

And so you ought to turn your eyes upon all these — those whom I have just mentioned as either enrolled in the skies or soon so to be — and submit calmly to Fortune, who now lays also upon you the hands that she does not withhold even from those by whose names we swear; you must imitate the firmness of these in enduring and conquering sorrows, so far as it is permissible for a man to follow in the footsteps of the gods. Although in other matters there are great distinctions of rank and birth, virtue is accessible to all; she deems no man unworthy if only he deems himself worthy of her. Surely you cannot do better than imitate those who, though they might have been indignant that even they were not exempt from this evil, yet decided that it was not injustice, but the law of mortality, that in this one respect put them on a level with the rest of mankind, and endured what had befallen them neither with too much bitterness and wrath, nor in a weak and womanly fashion; for it is not human not to feel misfortunes, and it is not manly not to bear them.

And yet, since I have run through the roll of all the Caesars from whom Fortune snatched brothers and sisters, I cannot pass by the one whose name ought to be torn from very list of the Caesars, whom Nature produced to be the ruin and the shame of the human race, who utterly wasted and wrecked the empire that is now being restored by the mercy of the kindliest of princes. Having lost his sister Drusilla, Gaius Caesar, a man who could no more indulge his grief than his pleasure in princely fashion, fled the sight and society of his fellow-men, did not attend the funeral of his sister, did not pay to his sister the ordinary tributes, but in his villa at Alba he tried to relieve his distress at her deeply regretted death with dice and gaming- board and other common engrossments of this sort. What a disgrace to the empire! Gambling was the solace of a Roman prince mourning for his sister! And this same Gaius with mad caprice, sometimes allowing his beard and hair to grow, sometimes shearing them close, wandering aimlessly along the coast of Italy and Sicily, and never quite sure whether he wished his sister to be lamented or worshipped, during the whole time that he was rearing temples and shrines to her memory would inflict the most cruel punishment upon those who had not shown sufficient sorrow; for he was bearing the blows of adversity with the same lack of self restraint from which, when puffed up by prosperity, he was swollen with pride beyond all human decency. Far be it from every manly Roman to follow such an example — either to divert his sorrow by untimely amusements, or to encourage it by disgraceful neglect and squalor, or to seek relief by that most inhuman of consolations, the causing of suffering to others.

You, however, need make no change in your habits, since, indeed, you have taught yourself to love those studies which most fittingly exalt prosperity and most easily lessen calamity, and are at the same time both the greatest adornments and the greatest comforts for man. Now, therefore, bury yourself more deeply in your studies, now encircle yourself with them as bulwarks for your mind in order that sorrow may find no point that will give entrance to you. And, too, prolong the remembrance of your brother by some memorial in your writings; for among human achievements this is the only work that no storm can harm nor length of time destroy. All others, those that are formed by piling up stones and masses of marble, or rearing on high huge mounds of earth, do not secure a long remembrance, for they themselves will also perish; but the fame of genius is immortal. Do you lavish such upon your brother, in such embalm his name. It will be better for you to immortalize him by your genius that will live forever than mourn for him with a sorrow that is futile.

So far as concerns Fortune herself, even if it is impossible just now to plead her case before you — for everything that she has given us is hateful to you merely for the reason that she has snatched one thing from you — yet there will be need to plead her case as soon as lapse of time shall have made you a more impartial judge; for then you will be able to restore her to favor. For she has provided many things to offset this injustice; she will still give you many things to make atonement for it; indeed this very thing that she has now withdrawn she had herself given. Refuse, therefore, to employ your talent against yourself, refuse to give support to your sorrow. For it is possible for your eloquence to make things that are really small seem important, and, on the other hand, to minimize important things and reduce them to merest trifles; but let it keep the former kind of power for another occasion — just now let it direct all its effort toward giving you comfort. And yet consider whether even this be not by this time superfluous; for Nature requires from us some sorrow, while more than this is the result of vanity. But never will I demand of you that you should not grieve at all. And I well know that some men are to be found whose wisdom is harsh rather than brave, who deny that the wise man will ever grieve. But these, it seems to me, can never have fallen upon this sort of mishap; if they had, Fortune would have knocked their proud philosophy out of them, and, even against their will, have forced them to admit the truth.

Reason will have accomplished enough if only she removes from grief whatever is excessive and superfluous; it is not for anyone to hope or to desire that she should suffer us to feel no sorrow at all. Rather let her maintain a mean which will copy neither indifference nor madness, and will keep us in the state that is the mark of an affectionate, and not an unbalanced, mind. Let your tears flow, but let them also cease, let deepest sighs be drawn from your breast, but let them also find an end; so rule your mind that you may win approval both from wise men and from brothers. Make yourself willing to encounter oft the memory of your brother, both to speak of him frequently in your conversation, and to picture him to yourself by constant remembrance, all of which you will be able to accomplish only if you make the thought of him more pleasant than tearful; for it is only natural that the mind should always shrink from a subject to which it reverts with sadness. Think of his modesty, think of his alertness in the activities of life, of his diligence in performing them, of his steadfastness to promises. Set forth all his words and deeds to others and do you yourself recall them to mind. Think what he was, and what he might have been expected to become. For what guarantee could not have been safely given concerning such a brother?

I have put these things together, as best I could, with a mind now weakened and dulled by long rusting. If they shall seem to you to be ill suited to your intelligence, or to ill supply the healing of your sorrow, reflect how he who is held fast in the grip of his own misfortunes is not at leisure to comfort others, and how Latin words do not suggest themselves readily to one in whose ears the uncouth jargon of barbarians is ever ringing, distressing even to the more civilized barbarians.

You've seen how it begins, now see how it ends.
Watch the dream die.