back

Cicero : Tusculan Disputations

-   Book 3 , 1-49


Translated by C.D. Yonge (1877). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.



Book 2

[1] L   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, whilst 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. [2] 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 anyone 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.

[2.] [3] L   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 honours and commands, and a high reputation with the people; which indeed every excellent man aims at; but whilst he pursues that only true honour, 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 preeminent 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. [4] 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?

[3.] [5] L   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? [6] 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.

[7] L   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.

[4.] 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 πάθη. 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.

[8] 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 ** implies a sickness of the mind and disease, that is to say an unsoundness, and an unhealthiness of mind, which they call madness. [9] L   But the philosophers call all disturbances 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.

[5.] [10] 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 oneself." 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. [11] L   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 μανία, 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 μελαγχολία, 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 humour, 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.

[6.] [12] 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." [13] L   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 fibre 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. Therefore, as we begun, 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; afterwards I shall enlarge more in my own way.

[7.] [14] 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. [15] L   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.

[8.] [16] And from these considerations we may get at a very probable definition of the temperate man, whom the Greeks call σώφρων, and they call that virtue σωφροσύνην, 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 χρησίμους, which implies only that they are useful: but our name has a more extensive meaning; for all abstinence, all innocence, (which the Greeks have no ordinary name for, though they might use the word ἀβλάβεια, for innocence 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 ** would not have been in so great esteem. [17] L   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}. [18] 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 {nequicquam} 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.

[9.] 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
My rage rekindles, and my soul's in flame:
'Tis just resentment, and becomes the brave,
Disgraced, dishonoured like the vilest slave ** -

he reasons thus: [19] L   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 neighbour'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. [20] 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.

[10.] [21] L   Therefore compassion and envy are consistent in the same man; for whoever is uneasy at anyone'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 he 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. [22] 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. [23] L   The Greeks call all perturbation of mind by pretty nearly the same name; for they name every turbid motion of the soul πάθος, 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.

[11.] [24] 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. [25] L   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.

[12.] [26] 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,
That no pollutions your sound hearts pervade,
So foul a stain my body doth partake.

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,
His furrowed cheeks his frequent tears betray;
His beard neglected, and his hoary hairs
Rough and uncombed, bespeak his bitter cares.

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. [27] L   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 Cumae, and to have died in that city, of old age and grief!

[13.] 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. [28] 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 he drew his breath,
Destined by fate to an untimely death;
And when I sent him to defend the Greeks,
War was his business, not your sportive freaks.

[14.] [29] L   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,
And on my future misery did dwell;
I thought of bitter death, of being drove
Far from my home by exile, and I strove
With every evil to possess my mind,
That, when they came, I the less care might find. **

[30] 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,
When his affairs go on most swimmingly,
Even then it most behoves to arm himself
Against the coming storm: loss, danger, exile,
Returning ever, let him look to meet;
His son in fault, wife dead, or daughter sick:
All common accidents, and may have happened,
That nothing shall seem new or strange. But if
Aught has fallen out beyond his hopes, all that
Let him account clear gain. **

[15.] [31] L   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 Xanthippe, 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. [32] 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 and 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. [33] L   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.

[16.] [34] 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 a man, with the feelings and spirit of a man; and lastly, because he considers that what is blameable is the only evil; but it is not your fault that something has happened to you which it was impossible for man to avoid. [35] L   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.

[17.] [36] 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. [37] L   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 amongst 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. [38] This is what he says, and what that subtle fellow, old Zenon, 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.

[18.] You have here a representation of a happy life according to Epicurus, in the words of Zenon, so that there is no room for contradiction in any point. [39] L   What then? Can the proposing and thinking of such a life make Thyestes' 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?
Is this that Telamon so highly praised
By wondering Greece, at whose sight, like the sun,
All others with diminished lustre shone?

[40] Now, should anyone, 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? [41] L   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 anyone 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." [42] And these are his exact words, so that anyone 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. [43] L   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.

[19.] [44] 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;
By birth I boast of a descent from kings;
Hence may you see from what a noble height
I'm sunk by fortune to this abject plight.

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?
Where hence betake me, or to whom resort?
No means remain of comfort or of joy,
In flames my palace, and in ruins Troy ;
Each wall, so late superb, deformed nods,
And not an altar's left t' appease the gods.

You know what should follow, and particularly this:-

Of father, country, and of friends bereft,
Not one of all these sumptuous temples left;
Which, whilst the fortune of our house did stand,
With rich-wrought ceilings spoke the artist's hand.

[45] L   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;
The foe old Priam of his life beguiled,
And with his blood, thy altar, Jove, defiled.

[46] Admirable poetry! There is something mournful in the subject, as well as in the words and 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.

[20.] 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 endeavouring at, but to clear up truth in every question? [47] L   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 anyone 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 betwixt 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. [48] 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. [49] L   Epicurus denies that anyone 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?

Following sections (50-84)



FOOTNOTES

4. Insania - from in, a particle of negative force in composition, and sanus, healthy, sound.

5. The man who first received this surname was L. Calpurnius Piso, who was consul, 133 B.C., in the Servile War.

6. The Greek is -

Ἀλλά μοι οἰδάνεται κραδίν χόλω ὅπποτ ἐκείνου
Μνήσομαι ὅς μ᾽ ἀσύφηλον ἐν Ἀργείοισιν ἔρεξεν. - Il. ix. 642.

I have given Pope's translation in the text.

7. This is from the Theseus -

Ἐγὼ δὲ τοῦτο παρὰ σοφοῦ τινος μαθὼν
εἰς φροντίδας νοῦν συμφοράς τ᾽ ἐβαλλόμην
φυγάς τ᾽ ἐμαυτῷ προστιθεὶς πάτρας ἐμῆς.
θανάτους τ᾽ ἀώρους, καὶ κακῶν ἄλλας ὁδοὺς
ὥς, εἴ τι πάσχοιυμ᾽ ὦν ἐδοξαζόν ποτε
Μή μοι νέορτον προσπεσὸν μᾶλλον δάκοι.

8. Ter. Phorm. II. i. 11.





Following sections (50-84)



Attalus' home page   |   24.02.21   |   Any comments?