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.
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[21.]  And indeed the Epicureans, those best of men, for there is no order of men more innocent, complain, that I take great pains to inveigh against Epicurus. We are rivals, I suppose, for some honour or distinction. I place the chief good in the mind, he in the body; I in virtue, he in pleasure; and the Epicureans are up in arms, and implore the assistance of their neighbours, and many are ready to fly to their aid. But, as for my part, I declare that I am very indifferent about the matter, and that I consider the whole discussion which they are so anxious about at an end.  L For what! is the contention about the Punic War ? on which very subject, though M. Cato and L. Lentulus were of different opinions, still there was no difference betwixt them. But these men behave with too much heat, especially as the opinions which they would uphold are no very spirited ones, and such as they dare not plead for either in the senate, or before the assembly of the people, or before the army, or the censors: but, however, I will argue with them another time, and with such a disposition that no quarrel shall arise between us; for I shall be ready to yield to their opinions when founded on truth. Only I must give them this advice: That were it ever so true, that a wise man regards nothing but the body; or, to express myself with more decency, never does anything except what is expedient, and views all things with exclusive reference to his own advantage; as such things are not very commendable, they should confine them to their own breasts, and leave off talking with that parade of them.
[22.]  What remains is the opinion of the Cyrenaics, who think that men grieve when anything happens unexpectedly. And that is, indeed, as I said before, a great aggravation of a misfortune; and I know that it appeared so to Chrysippus, "Whatever falls out unexpected is so much the heavier." But the whole question does not turn on this; though the sudden approach of an enemy sometimes occasions more confusion than it would if you had expected him, and a sudden storm at sea throws the sailors into a greater fright than one which they have foreseen; and it is the same in many other cases. But when you carefully consider the nature of what was expected, you will find nothing more, than that all things which come on a sudden appear greater; and this upon two accounts: first of all, because you have not time to consider how great the accident is; and secondly, because you are probably persuaded that you could have guarded against it had you foreseen it, and therefore the misfortune, having been seemingly encountered by your own fault, makes your grief the greater.  L That it is so, time evinces; which, as it advances, brings with it so much mitigation, that though the same misfortunes continue, the grief not only becomes the less, but in some cases is entirely removed. Many Carthaginians were slaves at Rome, and many Macedonians when Perseus their king was taken prisoner. I saw, too, when I was a young man, some Corinthians in the Peloponnese. They might all have lamented with Andromache -
but they had perhaps given over lamenting themselves, for by their countenances, and speech, and other gestures, you might have taken them for Argives or Sicyonians. And I myself was more concerned at the ruined walls of Corinth, than the Corinthians themselves were, whose minds by frequent reflection and time had become callous to such sights.  I have read a book of Clitomachus, which he sent to his fellow-citizens, who were prisoners, to comfort them after the destruction of Carthage; there is in it a treatise written by Carneades, which, as Clitomachus says, he had inserted into his book; the subject was, "That it appeared probable that a wise man would grieve at the state of subjection of his country," and all the arguments which Carneades used against this proposition are set down in the book. There the philosopher applies such a strong medicine to a fresh grief, as would be quite unnecessary in one of any continuance; nor, if this very book had been sent to the captives some years after, would it have found any wounds to cure, but only scars; for grief, by a gentle progress and slow degrees, wears away imperceptibly. Not that the circumstances which gave rise to it are altered, or can be, but that custom teaches what reason should, that those things which before seemed to be of some consequence, are of no such great importance after all.
[23.]  L It may be said, What occasion is there to apply to reason, or to any sort of consolation such as we generally make use of, to mitigate the grief of the afflicted? For we have this argument always at hand, that nothing ought to appear unexpected. But how will anyone be enabled to bear his misfortunes the better by knowing that it is unavoidable that such things should happen to man? Saying this subtracts nothing from the sum of the grief: it only asserts that nothing has fallen out but what might have been anticipated; and yet this manner of speaking has some little consolation in it, though I apprehend not a great deal. Therefore those unlooked-for things have not so much force as to give rise to all our grief; the blow perhaps may fall the heavier, but whatever happens does not appear the greater on that account; no, it is the fact of its having happened lately, and not of its having befallen us unexpectedly, that makes it seem the greater.  There are two ways then of discerning the truth, not only of things that seem evil, but of those that have the appearance of good. For we either inquire into the nature of the thing, of what description, and magnitude, and importance it is - as sometimes with regard to poverty, the burden of which we may lighten when by our disputations we show how few things nature requires, and of what a trifling kind they are - or, without any subtle arguing, we refer them to examples, as here we instance a Socrates, there a Diogenes, and then again that line in Caecilius,
For as poverty is of equal weight with all, what reason can be given, why what was borne by Fabricius should be spoken of by anyone else as unsupportable when it falls upon themselves?  L Of a piece with this is that other way of comforting, which consists in pointing out that nothing has happened but what is common to human nature; for this argument doth not only inform us what human nature is, but implies that all things are tolerable which others have borne and are bearing.
[24.] Is poverty the subject? they tell you of many who have submitted to it with patience. Is it the contempt of honours? they acquaint you with some who never enjoyed any, and were the happier for it; and of those who have preferred a private retired life to public employment, mentioning their names with respect; they tell you of the verse ** of that most powerful king, who praises an old man, and pronounces him happy, because he was unknown to fame, and seemed likely to arrive at the hour of death in obscurity and without notice.  Thus too they have examples for those who are deprived of their children; they who are under any great grief are comforted by instances of like affliction; and thus the endurance of every misfortune is rendered more easy by the fact of others having undergone the same, and the fate of others causes what has happened to appear less important than it has been previously thought, and reflection thus discovers to us how much opinion had imposed on us. And this is what that Telamon declares, "I, when my son was born," etc.; and thus Theseus, "I on my future misery did dwell;" and Anaxagoras, "I knew my son was mortal." All these men, by frequently reflecting on human affairs, had discovered that they were by no means to be estimated by the opinion of the multitude; and indeed it seems to me to be pretty much the same case with those who consider beforehand as with those who derive their remedies from time, excepting that a kind of reason cures the one, and the other remedy is provided by nature; by which we discover (and this contains the whole marrow of the matter) that what was imagined to be the greatest evil, is by no means so great as to defeat the happiness of life.  L And the effect of this is, that the blow is greater by reason of its not having been foreseen, and not, as they suppose, that when similar misfortunes befall two different people, that man only is affected with grief whom this calamity has befallen unexpectedly. So that some persons, under the oppression of grief, are said to have borne it actually worse for hearing of this common condition of man, that we are born under such conditions as render it impossible for a man to be exempt from all evil.
[25.] For this reason Carneades, as I see our friend Antiochus writes, used to blame Chrysippus for commending these verses of Euripides -
 He would not allow a speech of this kind to avail at all to the cure of our grief, for he said it was a lamentable case itself, that we were fallen into the hands of such a cruel fate; and that a speech like that, preaching up comfort from the misfortunes of another, was a comfort adapted only to those of a malevolent disposition. But to me it appears far otherwise; for the necessity of bearing what is the common condition of humanity forbids your resisting the will of the Gods, and reminds you that you are a man; which reflection greatly alleviates grief; and the enumeration of these examples is not produced with a view to please those of a malevolent disposition, but in order that anyone in affliction may be induced to bear what he observes many others have previously borne with tranquillity and moderation.  L For they who are falling to pieces, and cannot hold together through the greatness of their grief, should be supported by all kinds of assistance. From whence Chrysippus thinks that grief is called λύπη, as it were λύσις, that is to say, a dissolution of the whole man. The whole of which I think may be pulled up by the roots, by explaining, as I said at the beginning, the cause of grief; for it is nothing else but an opinion and judgment formed of a present acute evil. And thus any bodily pain, let it be ever so grievous, may be endurable where any hopes are proposed of some considerable good; and we receive such consolation from a virtuous and illustrious life, that they who lead such lives are seldom attacked by grief, or but slightly affected by it.
[26.] But as besides this opinion of great evil there is this other added also, that we ought to lament what has happened, that it is right so to do, and part of our duty; then is brought about that terrible disorder of mind, grief.  And it is to this opinion that we owe all those various and horrid kinds of lamentation, that neglect of our persons, that womanish tearing of our cheeks, that striking on our thighs, breasts, and heads. Thus Agamemnon, in Homer and in Accius -
from whence comes that pleasant saying of Bion, that the foolish king in his sorrow tore away the hairs of his head, imagining that his grief would be alleviated by baldness.  L But men do all these things from being persuaded that they ought to do so. And thus Aeschines inveighs against Demosthenes for sacrificing within seven days after the death of his daughter. But with what eloquence, with what fluency does he attack him! what sentiments does he collect! what words does he hurl against him! You may see by this that an orator may do anything; but nobody would approve of such licence if it were not that we have an idea innate in our minds, that every good man ought to lament the loss of a relation as bitterly as possible. And it is owing to this that some men, when in sorrow, betake themselves to deserts, as Homer says of Bellerophon; -
And thus Niobe is feigned to have been turned into stone, from her never speaking, I suppose, in her grief. But they imagine Hecuba to have been converted into a bitch, from her rage and bitterness of mind. There are others who love to converse with solitude itself, when in grief, as the nurse in Ennius -
[27.]  Now all these things are done in grief, from a persuasion of their truth, and propriety, and necessity; and it is plain, that those who behave thus, do so from a conviction of its being their duty; for should these mourners by chance drop their grief, and either act or speak for a moment in a more calm or cheerful manner, they presently check themselves and return to their lamentations again, and blame themselves for having been guilty of any intermissions from their grief. And parents and masters generally correct children not by words only, but by blows, if they show any levity by either word or deed when the family is under affliction, and, as it were, oblige them to be sorrowful. What? does it not appear, when you have ceased to mourn, and have discovered that your grief has been ineffectual, that the whole of that mourning was voluntary, on your part?  L What does that man say, in Terence, who punishes himself, the Self-tormentor?
He determines to be miserable: and can anyone determine on anything against his will?
He would think he deserved any misfortune, were he otherwise than miserable! Therefore, you see the evil is in opinion, not in nature. How is it, when some things do of themselves prevent your grieving at them? as in Homer, so many died and were buried daily, that they had not leisure to grieve: where you find these lines -
 Therefore it is in our own power to lay aside grief upon occasion; and is there any opportunity (seeing the thing is in our own power) that we should let slip of getting rid of care and grief? It was plain, that the friends of Cnaeus Pompeius, when they saw him fainting under his wounds, at the very moment of that most miserable and bitter sight were under great uneasiness how they themselves, surrounded by the enemy as they were, should escape, and were employed in nothing but encouraging the rowers and aiding their escape; but when they reached Tyre, they began to grieve and lament over him. Therefore, as fear with them prevailed over grief, cannot reason and true philosophy have the same effect with a wise man?
[28.] But what is there more effectual to dispel grief than the discovery that it answers no purpose, and has been undergone to no account? Therefore, if we can get rid of it, we need never have been subject to it. It must be acknowledged, then, that men take up grief wilfully and knowingly;  L and this appears from the patience of those who, after they have been exercised in afflictions and are better able to bear whatever befalls them, suppose themselves hardened against fortune; as that person in Euripides -
As, then, the frequent bearing of misery makes grief the lighter, we must necessarily perceive that the cause and original of it does not lie in the calamity itself.  Your principal philosophers, or lovers of wisdom, though they have not yet arrived at perfect wisdom, are not they sensible that they are in the greatest evil? For they are foolish, and foolishness is the greatest of all evils, and yet they lament not. How shall we account for this? Because opinion is not fixed upon that kind of evil; it is not our opinion that it is right, meet, and our duty to be uneasy because we are not all wise men. Whereas this opinion is strongly affixed to that uneasiness where mourning is concerned, which is the greatest of all grief.  L Therefore Aristotle, when he blames some ancient philosophers for imagining that by their genius they had brought philosophy to the highest perfection, says, they must be either extremely foolish or extremely vain; but that he himself could see that great improvements had been made therein in a few years, and that philosophy would in a little time arrive at perfection. And Theophrastus is reported to have reproached nature at his death for giving to stags and crows so long a life, which was of no use to them, but allowing only so short a span to men, to whom length of days would have been of the greatest use; for if the life of man could have been lengthened, it would have been able to provide itself with all kinds of learning, and with arts in the greatest perfection. He lamented, therefore, that he was dying just when he had begun to discover these. What? does not every grave and distinguished philosopher acknowledge himself ignorant of many things, and confess that there are many things which he must learn over and over again?  and yet, though these men are sensible that they are standing still in the very midway of folly, than which nothing can be worse, they are under no great affliction, because no opinion that it is their duty to lament is ever mingled with this knowledge. What shall we say of those who think it unbecoming in a man to grieve? amongst whom we may reckon Q. Maximus, when he buried his son that had been consul, and L. Paulus, who lost two sons within a few days of one another. Of the same opinion was M. Cato, who lost his son just after he had been elected praetor, and many others, whose names I have collected in my book on Consolation.  L Now what made these men so easy, but their persuasion that grief and lamentation was not becoming in a man? Therefore, as some give themselves up to grief from an opinion that it is right so to do, they refrained themselves, from an opinion that it was discreditable; from which we may infer that grief is owing more to opinion than nature.
[29.] It may be said, on the other side, Who is so mad as to grieve of his own accord? Pain proceeds from nature; which you must submit to, say they, agreeably to what even your own Crantor teaches, for it presses and gains upon you unavoidably, and cannot possibly be resisted. So that the very same Oileus, in Sophocles, who had before comforted Telamon on the death of Ajax, on hearing of the death of his own son is broken-hearted. On this alteration of his mind we have these lines:-
Now when they urge these things, their endeavour is to prove that nature is absolutely and wholly irresistible; and yet the same people allow that we take greater grief on ourselves than nature requires. What madness is it then in us to require the same from others?  But there are many reasons for our taking grief on us. The first is from the opinion of some evil, on the discovery and certainty of which grief comes of course. Besides, many people are persuaded that they are doing something very acceptable to the dead when they lament bitterly over them. To these may be added a kind of womanish superstition, in imagining that when they have been stricken by the afflictions sent by the gods, to acknowledge themselves afflicted and humbled by them is the readiest way of appeasing them. But most men appear to be unaware what contradictions these things are full of. They commend those who die calmly, but they blame those who can bear the loss of another with the same calmness, as if it were possible that it should be true, as is occasionally said in love speeches, that anyone can love another more than himself.  L There is, indeed, something excellent in this, and, if you examine it, something no less just than true, that we love those who ought to be most dear to us as well as we love ourselves; but to love them more than ourselves is absolutely impossible; nor is it desirable in friendship that I should love my friend more than myself, or that he should love me so; for this would occasion much confusion in life, and break in upon all the duties of it.
[30.] But we will speak of this another time: at present it is sufficient not to attribute our misery to the loss of our friends, nor to love them more than, if they themselves could be sensible of our conduct, they would approve of, or at least not more than we do ourselves. Now as to what they say, that some are not at all appeased by our consolations; and moreover as to what they add, that the comforters themselves acknowledge they are miserable when fortune varies the attack and falls on them - in both these cases the solution is easy: for the fault here is not in nature, but in our own folly; and much may be said against folly. But men who do not admit of consolation seem to bespeak misery for themselves; and they who cannot bear their misfortunes with that temper which they recommend to others, are not more faulty in this particular than most other persons; for we see that covetous men find fault with others who are covetous; as do the vain-glorious with those who appear too wholly devoted to the pursuit of glory. For it is the peculiar characteristic of folly to perceive the vices of others, but to forget its own.  But since we find that grief is removed by length of time, we have the greatest proof that the strength of it depends not merely on time, but on the daily consideration of it. For if the cause continues the same, and the man be the same, how can there be any alteration in the grief, if there is no change in what occasioned the grief, nor in him who grieves? Therefore it is from daily reflecting that there is no real evil in the circumstance for which you grieve, and not from the length of time, that you procure a remedy for your grief.
[31.] Here some people talk of moderate grief; but if such be natural, what occasion is there for consolation? for nature herself will determine the measure of it; but if it depends on and is caused by opinion, the whole opinion should be destroyed. I think that it has been sufficiently said, that grief arises from an opinion of some present evil, which includes this belief, that it is incumbent on us to grieve.  L To this definition Zenon has added very justly, that the opinion of this present evil should be recent. Now this word recent they explain thus; - those are not the only recent things which happened a little while ago, but as long as there shall be any force or vigour or freshness in that imagined evil, so long it is entitled to the name of recent. Take the case of Artemisia, the wife of Mausolus king of Caria, who made that noble sepulchre at Halicarnassus; whilst she lived she lived in grief, and died of it, being worn out by it, for that opinion was always recent with her: but you cannot call that recent, which has already begun to decay through time. Now the duty of a comforter is, to remove grief entirely, to quiet it, or draw it off as much as you can, or else to keep it under, and prevent its spreading any further, and to divert one's attention to other matters.  There are some who think with Cleanthes, that the only duty of a comforter is to prove, that what one is lamenting is by no means an evil. Others, as the Peripatetics, prefer urging that the evil is not great. Others, with Epicurus, seek to divert your attention from the evil to good: some think it sufficient to show, that nothing has happened but what you had reason to expect, and this is the practice of the Cyrenaics. But Chrysippus thinks that the main thing in comforting is, to remove the opinion from the person who is grieving, that to grieve is his bounden duty. There are others who bring together all these various kinds of consolations, for people are differently affected; as I have done myself in my book on Consolation: for as my own mind was much disordered, I have attempted in that book to discover every method of cure. But the proper season is as much to be attended to in the cure of the mind, as of the body; as Prometheus in Aeschylus, on its being said to him,
[32.]  L But the principal medicine to be applied in consolation, is to maintain either that it is no evil at all, or a very inconsiderable one: the next best to that is, to speak of the common condition of life, having a view, if possible, to the state of the person whom you comfort particularly. The third is, that it is folly to wear oneself out with grief which can avail nothing. For the comfort of Cleanthes is suitable only for a wise man, who is in no need of any comfort at all; for could you persuade one in grief, that nothing is an evil but what is base, you would not only cure him of grief, but folly. But the time for such precepts is not well chosen. Besides, Cleanthes does not seem to me sufficiently aware that affliction may very often proceed from that very thing which he himself allows to be the greatest misfortune. For what shall we say? When Socrates had convinced Alcibiades, as we are told, that he had no distinctive qualifications as a man different from other people, and that in fact there was no difference betwixt him, though a man of the highest rank, and a porter; and when Alcibiades became uneasy at this, and entreated Socrates, with tears in his eyes, to make him a man of virtue, and to cure him of that mean position; what shall we say to this, Cleanthes? Was there no evil in what afflicted Alcibiades thus?  What strange things does Lycon say? who, making light of grief, says that it arises from trifles, from things that affect our fortune or bodies, not from the evils of the mind. What, then - did not the grief of Alcibiades proceed from the defects and evils of the mind? I have already said enough of Epicurus's consolation.
[33.]  L Nor is that consolation much to be relied on, though it is frequently practised, and sometimes has some effect, namely, "That you are not alone in this."- It has its effect, as I said, but not always, nor with every person; for some reject it, but much depends on the application of it; for you ought rather to show, not how men in general have been affected with such evils, but how men of sense have borne them. As to Chrysippus's method, it is certainly founded in truth; but it is difficult to apply it in time of distress. It is a work of no small difficulty to persuade a person in affliction that he grieves, merely because he thinks it right so to do. Certainly then, as in pleadings we do not state all cases alike, (if I may adopt the language of lawyers for a moment,) but adapt what we have to say to the time, to the nature of the subject under debate, and to the person; so too in alleviating grief, regard should be had to what kind of cure the party to be comforted can admit of.  But, somehow or other, we have rambled from what you originally proposed. For your question was concerning a wise man, with whom nothing can have the appearance of evil, that is not dishonourable: or at least, anything else would seem so small an evil, that by his wisdom he would so over-match it, as to make it wholly disappear; and such a man makes no addition to his grief through opinion, and never conceives it right to torment himself above measure, nor to wear himself out with grief, which is the meanest thing imaginable. Reason, however, it seems, has demonstrated, (though it was not directly our object at the moment to inquire whether anything can be called an evil except what is base,) that it is in our power to discern, that all the evil which there is in affliction has nothing natural in it, but is contracted by our own voluntary judgment of it, and the error of opinion.
[34.]  L But the kind of affliction of which I have treated is that which is the greatest; in order that when we have once got rid of that, it may appear a business of less consequence to look after remedies for the others. For there are certain things which are usually said about poverty; and also certain statements ordinarily applied to retired and undistinguished life. There are particular treatises on banishment, on the ruin of one's country, on slavery, on weakness, on blindness, and on every incident that can come under the name of an evil. The Greeks divide these into different treatises and distinct books: but they do it for the sake of employment: not but that all such discussions are full of entertainment;  and yet, as physicians, in curing the whole body, attend to even the most insignificant part of the body which is at all disordered, so does philosophy act, after it has removed grief in general, (still if any other deficiency exists, should poverty bite, should ignominy sting, should banishment bring a dark cloud over us, or should any of those things which I have just mentioned appear,)- there is for each its appropriate consolation: which you shall hear whenever you please. But we must have recourse again to the same original principle, that a wise man is free from all sorrow, because it is vain, because it answers no purpose, because it is not founded in nature, but on opinion and prejudice, and is engendered by a kind of invitation to grieve, when once men have imagined that it is their duty to do so.  L When then we have taken away what is altogether voluntary, that mournful uneasiness will be removed; yet some little anxiety, some slight pricking will still remain. They may indeed call this natural, provided they give it not that horrid, solemn, melancholy name of grief, which can by no means consist with wisdom. But how various, and how bitter, are the roots of grief! Whatever they are, I propose, after having felled the trunk, to destroy them all; even if it should be necessary, by allotting a separate dissertation to each, for I have leisure enough to do so, whatever time it may take up. But the principle of every uneasiness is the same, though they may appear under different names. For envy is an uneasiness; so are emulation, detraction, anguish, sorrow, sadness, tribulation, lamentation, vexation, grief, trouble, affliction, and despair.  The Stoics define all these different feelings, and all those words which I have mentioned belong to different things, and do not, as they seem, express the same ideas; but they are to a certain extent distinct, as I shall make appear perhaps in another place. These are those fibres of the roots, which, as I said at first, must be traced back and cut off, and destroyed, so that not one shall remain. You say it is a great and difficult undertaking:- who denies it? But what is there of any excellency which has not its difficulty? - Yet philosophy undertakes to effect it, provided we admit its superintendence. But enough of this: the other books, whenever you please, shall be ready for you here, or anywhere else.
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9. This refers to the speech of Agamemnon in Euripides, in the Iphigenia in Aulis -
10. This is a fragment from the Hypsipyle -
13. This is a translation from Euripides -
15. This is one of the fragments of Euripides which we are unable to assign to any play in particular; it occurs Var. Ed. Tr. Inc. 167.
16. This is only a fragment preserved by Stobaeus -
Aesch. Prom. v. 378.
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