Cicero : Tusculan Disputations

-   Book 2 , 1-67

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 1

[1] L   Neoptolemus, in Ennius, indeed, says, that the study of philosophy was expedient for him; but that it required limiting to a few subjects, for that to give himself up entirely to it, was what he did not approve of. And for my part, Brutus, I am perfectly persuaded that it is expedient for me to philosophize; for what can I do better, especially as I have no regular occupation? but I am not for limiting my philosophy to a few subjects, as he does; for philosophy is a matter in which it is difficult to acquire a little knowledge without acquainting yourself with many, or all its branches, nor can you well take a few subjects without selecting them out of a great number; nor can anyone, who has acquired the knowledge of a few points, avoid endeavouring with the same eagerness to understand more. [2] But still, in a busy life, and in one mainly occupied with military matters, such as that of Neoptolemus was at that time, even that limited degree of acquaintance with philosophy may be of great use, and may yield fruit, not perhaps so plentiful as a thorough knowledge of the whole of philosophy, but yet such as in some degree may at times deliver us from the dominion of our desires, our sorrows, and our fears; just as the effect of that discussion which we lately maintained in my Tusculan villa seemed to be, that a great contempt of death was engendered; which contempt is of no small efficacy towards delivering the mind from fear; for whoever dreads what cannot be avoided, can by no means live with a quiet and tranquil mind. But he who is under no fear of death, not only because it is a thing absolutely inevitable, but also because he is persuaded that death itself hath nothing terrible in it, provides himself with a very great resource towards a happy life. However, [3] L   I am not ignorant, that many will argue strenuously against us; and, indeed, that is a thing which can never be avoided, except by abstaining from writing at all. For if my Orations, which were addressed to the judgment and approbation of the people, (for that is a popular art, and the object of oratory is popular applause,) have been criticised by some people who are inclined to withhold their praise from everything except what they are persuaded they can attain to themselves, and who limit their ideas of good speaking by the hopes which they conceive of what they themselves may attain to, and who declare, when they are overwhelmed with a flow of words and sentences, that they prefer the utmost poverty of thought and expression to that plenty and copiousness; (from which arose the Attic kind of oratory, which they who professed it were strangers to, though they have now been some time silenced, and laughed out of the very courts of justice;) what may I not expect, when at present I cannot have the least countenance from the people, by whom I used to be upheld before? [4] For philosophy is satisfied with a few judges, and of her own accord industriously avoids the multitude, who are jealous of it, and utterly displeased with it; so that, should anyone undertake to cry down the whole of it, he would have the people on his side; while, if he should attack that school which I particularly profess, he would have great assistance from those of the other philosophers.

[2.] But I have answered the detractors of philosophy in general, in my Hortensius. And what I had to say in favour of the Academics, is, I think, explained with sufficient accuracy in my four books of the Academic Question.

But yet I am so far from desiring that no one should write against me, that it is what I most earnestly wish; for philosophy would never have been in such esteem in Greece itself, if it had not been for the strength which it acquired from the contentions and disputations of the most learned men; [5] L   and therefore I recommend all men who have abilities to follow my advice, to snatch this art also from declining Greece, and to transport it to this city; as our ancestors by their study and industry have imported all their other arts, which were worth having. Thus the praise of oratory, raised from a low degree, is arrived at such perfection, that it must now decline, and, as is the nature of all things, verge to its dissolution in a very short time. Let philosophy then derive its birth in Latin language from this time, and let us lend it our assistance, and bear patiently to be contradicted and refuted; and although those men may dislike such treatment who are bound and devoted to certain predetermined opinions, and are under such obligations to maintain them that they are forced, for the sake of consistency, to adhere to them even though they do not themselves wholly approve of them; we, on the other hand, who pursue only probabilities, and who cannot go beyond that which seems really likely, can confute others without obstinacy, and are prepared to be confuted ourselves without resentment. [6] Besides, if these studies are ever brought home to us, we shall not want even Greek libraries, in which there is an infinite number of books, by reason of the multitude of authors among them; - for it is a common practice with many to repeat the same things which have been written by others, which serves no purpose, but to stuff their shelves: and this will be our case, too, if many apply themselves to this study.

[3.] But let us excite those, if possible, who have had a liberal education, and are masters of an elegant style, and who philosophize with reason and method.

[7] L   For there is a certain class of them who would willingly be called philosophers, whose books in our language are said to be numerous, and which I do not despise, for indeed I never read them: but still because the authors themselves declare that they write without any regularity, or method, or elegance, or ornament, I do not care to read what must be so void of entertainment. There is no one in the least acquainted with literature, who does not know the style and sentiments of that school; wherefore, since they are at no pains to express themselves well, I do not see why they should be read by anybody except by one another: let them read them, if they please, who are of the same opinions: [8] for in the same manner as all men read Plato, and the other Socratics, with those who sprung from them, even those who do not agree with their opinions, or are very indifferent about them; but scarcely anyone except their own disciples, take Epicurus, or Metrodorus, into their hands; so they alone read these Latin books, who think that the arguments contained in them are sound. But, in my opinion, whatever is published, should be recommended to the reading of every man of learning; and though we may not succeed in this ourselves, yet nevertheless we must be sensible that this ought to be the aim of every writer. [9] L   And on this account I have always been pleased with the custom of the Peripatetics, and Academics, of disputing on both sides of the question; not solely from its being the only method of discovering what is probable on every subject, but also because it affords the greatest scope for practising eloquence; a method that Aristotle first made use of, and afterward all the Aristotelians; and in our own memory Philon, whom we have often heard, appointed one time to treat of the precepts of the rhetoricians, and another for philosophical discussion, to which custom I was brought to conform by my friends at my Tusculum; and accordingly our leisure time was spent in this manner. And therefore, as yesterday before noon, we applied ourselves to speaking; and in the afternoon went down into the Academy: the discussions which were held there I have acquainted you with, not in the manner of a narration, but in almost the very same words which were employed in the debate.

[4.] [10] The discourse, then, was introduced in this manner, whilst we were walking, and it was commenced by some such an opening as this.

A. It is not to be expressed how much I was delighted, or rather edified, by your discourse of yesterday. For although I am conscious to myself that I have never been too fond of life, yet at times, when I have considered that there would be an end to this life, and that I must some time or other part with all its good things, a certain dread and uneasiness used to intrude itself on my thoughts; but now, believe me, I am so freed from that kind of uneasiness, that there is nothing that I think less worth any regard.

M. [11] L   I am not at all surprised at that, for it is the effect of philosophy, which is the medicine of our souls; it banishes all groundless apprehensions, frees us from desires, and drives away fears: but it has not the same influence over all men; it is of very great influence when it falls in with a disposition well adapted to it. For not only does Fortune, as the old proverb says, assist the bold, but reason does so in a still greater degree; for it, by certain precepts, as it were, strengthens even courage itself. You were born naturally great and soaring, and with a contempt for all things which pertain to man alone; therefore a discourse against death took easy possession of a brave soul. But do you imagine that these same arguments have any force with those very persons who have invented, and canvassed, and published them, excepting indeed some very few particular persons? For how few philosophers will you meet with, whose life and manners are conformable to the dictates of reason! who look on their profession, not as a means of displaying their learning, but as a rule for their own practice! who follow their own precepts, and comply with, their own decrees! [12] You may see some of such levity, and such vanity, that it would have been better for them to have been ignorant; some covetous of money, some others eager for glory, many slaves to their lusts; so that their discourses and their actions are most strangely at variance; than which nothing in my opinion can be more unbecoming: for just as if one who professed to teach grammar, should speak with impropriety; or a master of music sing out of tune; such conduct has the worse appearance in these men, because they blunder in the very particular with which they profess that they are well acquainted: so a philosopher, who errs in the conduct of his life, is the more infamous, because he is erring in the very thing which he pretends to teach, and whilst he lays down rules to regulate life by, is irregular in his own life.

[5.] A. Should this be the case, is it not to be feared that you are dressing up philosophy in false colours? for what stronger argument can there be that it is of little use, than that some very profound philosophers live in a discreditable manner?

M. [13] L   That, indeed, is no argument at all, for as all the fields which are cultivated are not fruitful, ( and this sentiment of Accius is false, and asserted without any foundation,

The ground you sow on, is of small avail;
To yield a crop good seed can never fail: )

it is not every mind which has been properly cultivated that produces fruit; - and to go on with the comparison, as a field, although it may be naturally fruitful cannot produce a crop, without dressing, so neither can the mind, without education; such is the weakness of either without the other. Whereas philosophy is the culture of the mind: this it is which plucks up vices by the roots; prepares the mind for the receiving of seeds, commits them to it, or, as I may say, sows them, in the hope that, when come to maturity, they may produce a plentiful harvest. Let us proceed, then, as we begun; say, if you please, what shall be the subject of our disputation.

A. [14] I look on pain to be the greatest of all evils.

M. What, even greater than infamy?

A. I dare not indeed assert that, and I blush to think I am so soon driven from my ground.

M. You would have had greater reason for blushing had you persevered in it; for what is so unbecoming - what can appear worse to you, than disgrace, wickedness, immorality? To avoid which, what pain is there which we ought not (I will not say to avoid shirking, but even) of our own accord to encounter, and undergo, and even to court?

A. I am entirely of that opinion; but notwithstanding that pain is not the greatest evil, yet surely it is an evil.

M. Do you perceive, then, how much of the terror of pain you have given up on a small hint?

A. [15] L   I see that plainly; but I should be glad to give up more of it.

M. I will endeavour to make you do so, but it is a great undertaking, and I must have a disposition on your part, which is not inclined to offer any obstacles.

A. You shall have such: for as I behaved yesterday, so now I will follow reason wherever she leads.

[6.] M. First, then, I will speak of the weakness of many philosophers, and those too of various sects; the head of whom, both in authority and antiquity, was Aristippus, the pupil of Socrates, who hesitated not to say, that pain was the greatest of all evils. And after him Epicurus easily gave into this effeminate and enervated doctrine. After him Hieronymus, the Rhodian, said, that to be without pain was the chief good, so great an evil did pain appear to him to be. The rest, with the exceptions of Zenon, Ariston, Pyrrhon, were pretty much of the same opinion that you were of just now, that it was indeed an evil, but that there were many worse. [16] When then nature herself and a certain generous feeling of virtue at once prevents you from persisting in the assertion that pain is the chief evil, and when you were driven from such an opinion when disgrace was contrasted with pain, shall philosophy, the preceptress of life, cling to this idea for so many ages? What duty of life, what praise, what reputation would be of such consequence that a man should be desirous of gaining it at the expense of submitting to bodily pain, when he has persuaded himself that pain is the greatest evil? On the other side, what disgrace, what ignominy, would he not submit to, that he might avoid pain, when persuaded that it was the greatest of evils? Besides, what person, if it be only true that pain is the greatest of evils, is not miserable, not only when he actually feels pain, but also whenever he is aware that it may befal him? And who is there whom pain may not befall? so that it is clear that there is absolutely no one who can possibly be happy. [17] L   Metrodorus, indeed, thinks that man perfectly happy, whose body is free from all disorders, and who has an assurance that it will always continue so; but who is there who can be assured of that?

[7.] But Epicurus, indeed, says such things that it should seem that his design was only to make people laugh; for he affirms somewhere, that if a wise man were to be burned, or put to the torture - you expect, perhaps, that he is going to say he would bear it, he would support himself under it with resolution! he would not yield to it, and that, by Hercules! would he very commendable, and worthy of that very Hercules whom I have just invoked: but even this will not satisfy Epicurus, that robust and hardy man! No; his wise man, even if he were in Phalaris's bull, would say, How sweet it is! how little do I regard it! What sweet? is it not sufficient, if it is not disagreeable? But those very men who deny pain to be an evil, are not in the habit of saying that it is agreeable to anyone to be tormented; they rather say, that it is cruel, or hard to bear, afflicting, unnatural, but still not an evil: while this man who says that it is the only evil, and the very worst of all evils, yet thinks that a wise man would pronounce it sweet. [18] I do not require of you to speak of pain in the same words which Epicurus uses - a man, as you know, devoted to pleasure: he may make no difference, if he pleases, between Phalaris's bull, and his own bed: but I cannot allow the wise man to be so indifferent about pain. If he bears it with courage, it is sufficient; that he should rejoice in it, I do not expect; for pain is, beyond all question, sharp, bitter, against nature, hard to submit to, and to bear. [19] L   Observe Philoctetes: We may allow him to lament, for he saw Hercules himself groaning loudly through extremity of pain on Mount Oeta: the arrows with which Hercules presented him, were then no consolation to him, when

The viper's bite, impregnating his veins
With poison, racked him with its bitter pains.

And therefore he cries out, desiring help, and wishing to die,

Oh! that some friendly hand its aid would lend,
My body from this rock's vast height to send
Into the briny deep! I'm all on fire,
And by this fatal wound must soon expire.

It is hard to say that the man who was obliged to cry out in this manner, was not oppressed with evil, and great evil too.

[8.] [20] But let us observe Hercules himself, who was subdued by pain at the very time when he was on the point of attaining immortality by death. What words does Sophocles here put in his mouth, in his Trachiniae? who, when Deianira had put upon him a tunic dyed in the centaur's blood, and it stuck to his entrails, says,

What tortures I endure no words can tell,
Far greater these, than those which erst befell
From the dire terror of thy consort, Jove;
E'en stern Eurystheus' dire command above;
This of thy daughter, Oeneus, is the fruit,
Beguiling me with her envenomed suit,
Whose close embrace doth on my entrails prey,
Consuming life; my lungs forbid to play;
The blood forsakes my veins, my manly heart
Forgets to beat; enervated, each part
Neglects its office, whilst my fatal doom
Proceeds ignobly from the weaver's loom.
The hand of foe ne'er hurt me, nor the fierce
Giant issuing from his parent earth.
Never could the Centaur such a blow enforce,
No barbarous foe, nor all the Grecian force;
This arm no savage people could withstand,
Whose realms I traversed to reform the land.
Thus, though I ever bore a manly heart,
I fall a victim to a woman's art.
[9.] Assist, my son, if thou that name dost hear,
My groans preferring to thy mother's tear;
Convey her here, if, in thy pious heart,
Thy mother shares not an unequal part:
[21] L   Proceed, be bold, thy father's fate bemoan,
Nations will join, you will not weep alone.
O what a sight is this same briny source,
Unknown before, through all my labours' course!
That virtue, which could brave each toil but late,
With woman's weakness now bewails its fate.
Approach, my son; behold thy father laid,
A withered carcase that implores thy aid;
Let all behold; and thou, imperious Jove,
On me direct thy lightning from above:
Now all its force the poison doth assume,
And my burnt entrails with its flame consume.
[22] Crest-fallen, unembraced I now let fall
Listless, those hands that lately conquered all;
When the Nemean lion owned their force,
And he indignant fell a breathless corpse:
The serpent slew, of the Lernean lake,
As did the Hydra of its force partake:
By this, too, fell the Erymanthian boar:
E'en Cerberus did his weak strength deplore.
This sinewy arm did overcome with ease
That dragon, guardian of the golden fleece.
My many conquests let some others trace;
It's mine to say, I never knew disgrace. **

Can we, then, despise pain, when we see Hercules himself giving vent to his expressions of agony with such impatience?

[10.] [23] L   Let us see what Aeschylus says, who was not only a poet, but a Pythagorean philosopher, also, for that is the account which you have received of him; how doth he make Prometheus bear the pain he suffered for the Lemnian theft, when he clandestinely stole away the celestial fire, and bestowed it on men, and was severely punished by Jupiter for the theft. Fastened to mount Caucasus, he speaks thus:

Thou heaven-born race of Titans here fast bound,
Behold thy brother! As the sailors sound
With care the bottom, and their ships confine
To some safe shore, with anchor and with line:
So, by Jove's dread decree the god of fire
Confines me here the victim of Jove's ire.
With baneful art his dire machine he shapes;
From such a god what mortal ever escapes?
[24] When each third day shall triumph over the night,
Then doth the vulture, with his talons light,
Seize on my entrails; which, in ravenous guise,
He preys on! then with wing extended flies
Aloft, and brushes with his plumes the gore:
But when dire Jove my liver doth restore,
Back he returns impetuous to his prey,
Clapping his wings, he cuts the ethereal way.
[25] L   Thus do I nourish with my blood this pest,
Confined my arms, unable to contest;
Entreating only, that in pity Jove
Would take my life, and this cursed plague remove.
But endless ages past, unheard my moan,
Sooner shall drops dissolve this very stone. **

And therefore it scarcely seems possible to avoid calling a man who is suffering, miserable; and if he is miserable, then pain is an evil.

[11.] A. [26] Hitherto you are on my side; I will see to that by-and-by; and, in the meanwhile, whence are those verses? I do not remember them.

M. I will inform you, for you are in the right to ask. Do you see that I have much leisure?

A. What then?

M. I imagine, when you were at Athens, you attended frequently at the schools of the philosophers.

A. Yes, and with great pleasure.

M. You observed then, that, though none of them at that time were very eloquent, yet they used to mix verses with their harangues.

A. Yes, and particularly Dionysius, the Stoic, used to employ a great many.

M. You say right; but they were quoted without any appropriateness or elegance. But our friend Philon used to give a few select lines and well adapted; and in imitation of him, ever since I took a fancy to this kind of elderly declamation, I have been very fond of quoting our poets, and where I cannot be supplied from them, I translate from the Greek, that the Latin language may not want any kind of ornament in this kind of disputation.

[27] L   But do you not see how much harm is done by poets? They introduce the bravest men lamenting over their misfortunes: they soften our minds, and they are besides so entertaining, that we do not only read them, but get them by heart. Thus the influence of the poets is added to our want of discipline at home, and our tender and delicate manner of living, so that between them they have deprived virtue of all its vigour and energy. Plato therefore was right in banishing them from his commonwealth, where he required the best morals, and the best form of government. But we, who have all our learning from Greece, read and learn these works of theirs from our childhood; and look on this as a liberal and learned education.

[12.] [28] But why are we angry with the poets? we may find some philosophers, those masters of virtue, who have taught that pain was the greatest of evils. But you, young man, when you said but just now that it appeared so to you, upon being asked by me what appeared greater than infamy, gave up that opinion at a word. Suppose I ask Epicurus the same question. He will answer, that a trifling degree of pain is a greater evil than the greatest infamy; for that there is no evil in infamy itself, unless attended with pain. What pain then attends Epicurus, when he says this very thing, that pain is the greatest evil; and yet nothing can be a greater disgrace to a philosopher than to talk thus. Therefore, you allowed enough when you admitted that infamy appeared to you to be a greater evil than pain. And if you abide by this admission, you will see how far pain should be resisted: and that our inquiry should be not so much whether pain be an evil; as how the mind may be fortified for resisting it. [29] L   The Stoics infer from some petty quibbling arguments, that it is no evil, as if the dispute was about a word, and not about the thing itself. Why do you impose upon me, Zenon? for when you deny what appears very dreadful to me to be an evil; I am deceived, and am at a loss to know why that which appears to me to be a most miserable thing, should be no evil. The answer is, that nothing is an evil but what is base and vicious. You return to your trifling, for you do not remove what made me uneasy. I know that pain is not vice - you need not inform me of that: but show me, that it makes no difference to me whether I am in pain or not. It has never anything to do, say you, with a happy life, for that depends upon virtue alone; but yet pain is to be avoided. If I ask, why? it is disagreeable, against nature, hard to bear, woeful and afflicting.

[13.] [30] Here are many words to express that by so many different forms, which we call by the single word, evil. You are defining pain, instead of removing it, when you say, it is disagreeable, unnatural, scarcely possible to be endured or borne: nor are you wrong in saying so; but the man who vaunts himself in such a manner should not give way in his conduct, if it be true that nothing is good but what is honest, and nothing evil but what is disgraceful. This would be wishing, not proving. - This argument is a better one, and has more truth in it, that all things which nature abhors are to be looked upon as evil; that those which she approves of, are to be considered as good: for when this is admitted, and the dispute about words removed, that which they with reason embrace, and which we call honest, right, becoming, and sometimes include under the general name of virtue, appears so far superior to everything else, that all other things which are looked upon as the gifts of fortune, or the good things of the body, seem trifling and insignificant: and no evil whatever, nor all the collective body of evils together, appears to be compared to the evil of infamy. [31] L   Therefore, if, as you granted in the beginning, infamy is worse than pain, pain is certainly nothing; for while it appears to you base and unmanly to groan, cry out, lament, or faint under pain - while you cherish notions of probity, dignity, honour, and keeping your eye on them, refrain yourself - pain will certainly yield to virtue, and by the influence of imagination, will lose its whole force. - For you must either admit that there is no such thing as virtue, or you must despise every kind of pain. Will you allow of such a virtue as prudence, without which no virtue whatever can even be conceived? What then? will that suffer you to labour and take pains to no purpose? Will temperance permit you to do anything to excess? Will it be possible for justice to be maintained by one who through the force of pain discovers secrets, or betrays his confederates, or deserts many duties of life? [32] Will you act in a manner consistently with courage, and its attendants, greatness of soul, resolution, patience, and contempt for all worldly things? Can you hear yourself called a great man, when you lie grovelling, dejected, and deploring your condition, with a lamentable voice; no one would call you even a man, while in such a condition: you must therefore either abandon all pretensions to courage, or else pain must be put out of the question.

[14.] You know very well, that even though part of your Corinthian furniture were gone, the remainder might be safe without that; but if you lose one virtue (though virtue in reality cannot be lost), still if, I say, you should acknowledge that you were deficient in one, you would be stripped of all. [33] L   Can you, then, call yourself a brave man, of a great soul, endued with patience and steadiness above the frowns of fortune? or Philoctetes? for I choose to instance him, rather than yourself, for he certainly was not a brave man, who lay in his bed, which was watered with his tears,

Whose groans, laments, and whose bitter cries,
With grief incessant rent the very skies.

I do not deny pain to be pain; for were that the case, in what would courage consist? but I say it should be assuaged by patience, if there be such a thing as patience: if there be no such thing, why do we speak so in praise of philosophy? or why do we glory in its name? Does pain annoy us? let it sting us to the heart: if you are without defensive armour, bare your throat to it; but if you are secured by Vulcanian armour, that is to say by resolution, resist it; should you fail to do so, that guardian of your honour, your courage, will forsake and leave you. - [34] By the laws of Lycurgus, and by those which were given to the Cretans by Jupiter, or which Minos established under the direction of Jupiter, as the poets say, the youths of the state are trained by the practice of hunting, running, enduring hunger and thirst, cold and heat. The boys at Sparta are scourged so at the altars, that blood follows the lash in abundance, nay, sometimes, as I used to hear when I was there, they are whipped even to death; and yet not one of them was ever heard to cry out, or so much as groan. What then? shall men not be able to bear what boys do? and shall custom have such great force, and reason none at all?

[15.] [35] L   There is some difference betwixt labour and pain; they border upon one another, but still there is a certain difference between them. Labour is a certain exercise of the mind or body, in some employment or undertaking of serious trouble and importance; but pain is a sharp motion in the body, disagreeable to our senses. - Both these feelings, the Greeks, whose language is more copious than ours, express by the common name of Πόνος; therefore they call industrious men, pains-taking, or rather fond of labour; we, more conveniently, call them laborious; for labouring is one thing and enduring pain another. You see, O Greece, your barrenness of words, sometimes, though you think you are always so rich in them. I say, then, that there is a difference betwixt labouring and being in pain. When Gaius Marius had an operation performed for a swelling in his thigh, he felt pain; when he headed his troops in a very hot season, he laboured. Yet these two feelings bear some resemblance to one another; for the accustoming ourselves to labour makes the endurance of pain more easy to us. - [36] And it was because they were influenced by this reason, that the founders of the Greek form of government provided that the bodies of their youth should be strengthened by labour, which custom the Spartans transferred even to their women, who in other cities lived more delicately, keeping within the walls of their houses, but it was otherwise with the Spartans.

The Spartan women, with a manly air,
Fatigues and dangers with their husbands share:
They in fantastic sports have no delight,
Partners with them in exercise and fight.

And in these laborious exercises pain interferes sometimes; they are thrown down, receive blows, have bad falls, and are bruised, and the labour itself produces a sort of callousness to pain.

[16.] [37] L   As to military service, (I speak of our own, not of that of the Spartans, for they used to march slowly to the sound of the flute, and scarce a word of command was given without an anapaest;) you may see in the first place whence the very name of an army {exercitus} ** is derived; and secondly, how great the labour is of an army on its march; then consider that they carry more than a fortnight's provision, and whatever else they may want: that they carry the burthen of the stakes, ** for as to shield, sword, or helmet, they look on them as no more encumbrance than their own limbs, for they say that arms are the limbs of a soldier, and those indeed they carry so commodiously, that when there is occasion they throw down their burdens, and use their arms as readily as their limbs. Why need I mention the exercises of the legions? and how great the labour is which is undergone in the running, encounters, shouts! Hence it is, that their minds are worked up to make so light of wounds in action. Take a soldier of equal bravery, but undisciplined, and he will seem a woman. [38] Why is it that there is this clear difference betwixt a raw recruit and a veteran soldier? The age of the young soldiers is for the most part in their favour, but it is practice only that enables men to bear labour, and despise wounds. Moreover, we often see, when the wounded are carried off the field, the raw untried soldier, though but slightly wounded, cries out most shamefully; but the more brave experienced veteran only inquires for some one to dress his wounds, and says,

Patroclus, to thy aid I must appeal
Ere worse ensue, my bleeding wounds to heal;
The sons of Aesculapius are employed,
No room for me, so many are annoyed.

[17.] [39] L   This is certainly Eurypylus himself. What an experienced man! - Whilst his friend is continually enlarging on his misfortunes, you may observe that he is so far from weeping, that he even assigns a reason why he should bear his wounds with patience.

Who at his enemy a stroke directs,
His sword to light upon himself expects.

Patroclus, I suppose, will lead him off to his chamber to bind up his wounds, at least if he be a man: but not a word of that; he only inquires how the battle went.

Say how the Argives bear themselves in fight?

- And yet no words can show the truth as well as those, your deeds and visible sufferings.

Peace! and my wounds bind up;

- but though Eurypylus could bear these afflictions, Aesopus could not,

Where Hector's fortune pressed our yielding troops;

- and he explains the rest, though in pain; so unbounded is military glory in a brave man! Shall, then, a veteran soldier be able to behave in this manner, and shall a wise and learned man not be able? Surely the latter might be able to bear pain better, and in no small degree either: [40] at present, however, I am confining myself to what is engendered practice and discipline. I am not yet come to speak of reason and philosophy. You may often hear of old women living without victuals for three or four days: but take away a wrestler's provisions but for one day, and he will implore the aid of Olympian Jupiter, the very God for whom he exercises himself: he will cry out that he cannot endure it. Great is the force of custom! Sportsmen will continue whole nights in the snow: they will bear being almost frozen upon the mountains. From practice boxers will not so much as utter a groan, however bruised by the cestus. [41] L   But what do you think of those to whom a victory in the Olympic games seemed almost on a par with the ancient consulships of the Roman people? What wounds will the gladiators bear, who are either barbarians, or the very dregs of mankind! How do they, who are trained to it, prefer being wounded to basely avoiding it! How often do they prove that they consider nothing but the giving satisfaction to their masters or to the people! for when covered with wounds, they send to their masters to learn their pleasure; if it is their will, they are ready to lie down and die. What gladiator, of even moderate reputation, ever gave a sigh? who ever turned pale? who ever disgraced himself either in the actual combat, or even when about to die? who that had been defeated ever drew in his neck to avoid the stroke of death? So great is the force of practice, deliberation, and custom! Shall this, then, be done by

A Samnite rascal, worthy of his trade;

and shall a man born to glory have so soft a part in his soul as not to be able to fortify it by reason and reflection? The sight of the gladiators' combats is by some looked on as cruel and inhuman, and I do not know, as it is at present managed, but it may be so; but when the guilty fought, we might receive by our ears perhaps (but certainly by our eyes we could not) better training to harden us against pain and death.

[18.] [42] I have now said enough about the effects of exercise, custom, and careful meditation; proceed we now to consider the force of reason, unless you have something to reply to what has been said.

A. That I should interrupt you! by no means; for your discourse has brought me over to your opinion. Let the Stoics, then, think it their business to determine whether pain be an evil or not, while they endeavour to show by some strained and trifling conclusions, which are nothing to the purpose, that pain is no evil. My opinion is, that whatever it is, it is not so great as it appears; and I say, that men are influenced to a great extent by some false representations and appearance of it, and that all which is really felt is capable of being endured. Where shall I begin, then? shall I superficially go over what I said before, that my discourse may have a greater scope?

[43] L   This, then, is agreed upon by all, and not only by learned men, but also by the unlearned, that it becomes the brave and magnanimous, those that have patience and a spirit above this world, not to give way to pain. Nor has there ever been anyone who did not commend a man who bore it in this manner. That, then, which is expected from a brave man, and is commended when it is seen, it must surely be base in anyone to be afraid of at its approach, or not to bear when it comes. But I would have you consider whether, as all the right affections of the soul are classed under the name of virtues, the truth is that this is not properly the name of them all, but that they all have their name from that leading virtue which is superior to all the rest: for the name, "virtue," comes from vir, a man, and courage is the peculiar distinction of a man: and this virtue has two principal duties, to despise death and pain. We must, then, exert these, if we would be men of virtue, or rather, if we would be men, because virtue {virtus} takes its very name from vir, man.

[19.] [44] You may inquire, perhaps, how? and such an inquiry is not amiss, for philosophy is ready with her assistance. Epicurus offers himself to you, a man far from a bad, or, I should rather say, a very good man; he advises no more than he knows. "Despise pain," says he. Who is it saith this? Is it the same man who calls pain the greatest of all evils? It is not, indeed, very consistent in him. Let us hear what he says:- "If the pain is excessive it must needs be short." I must have that over again, for I do not apprehend what you mean exactly by "excessive" or "short." That is excessive, than which nothing can be greater; that is short, than which nothing is shorter. I do not regard the greatness of any pain from which, by reason of the shortness of its continuance, I shall be delivered almost before it reaches me. But, if the pain be as great as that of Philoctetes, it will appear great indeed to me, but yet not the greatest that I am capable of bearing; for the pain is confined to my foot: but my eye may pain me, I may have a pain in the head, or sides, or lungs, or in every part of me. It is far, then, from being excessive; therefore, says he, pain of a long continuance has more pleasure in it than uneasiness. [45] L   Now I cannot bring myself to say so great a man talks nonsense; but I imagine he is laughing at us. My opinion is that the greatest pain (I say the greatest, though it may be ten atoms less than another) is not therefore short, because acute; I could name to you a great many good men who have been tormented many years with the acutest pains of the gout. But this cautious man doth not determine the measure of that greatness or of duration, so as to enable us to know what he calls excessive, with regard to pain, or short, with respect to its continuance. Let us pass him by, then, as one who says just nothing at all; and let us force him to acknowledge, notwithstanding he might behave himself somewhat boldly under his cholic and his strangury, that no remedy against pain can be had from him who looks on pain as the greatest of all evils. We must apply, then, for relief elsewhere, and nowhere better (if we seek for what is most consistent with itself) than to those who place the chief good in honesty, and the greatest evil in infamy. You dare not so much as groan, or discover the least uneasiness in their company, for virtue itself speaks to you through them.

[20.] [46] Will you, when you may observe children at Lacedaemon, and young men at Olympia, and barbarians in the amphitheatre, receive the severest wounds, and bear them without once opening their mouths - will you, I say, if any pain should by chance attack you, cry out like a woman? will you not rather bear it with resolution and constancy? and not cry, It is intolerable, nature cannot bear it. I hear what you say - Boys bear this because they are led thereto by glory: some bear it through shame, many through fear, and yet are we afraid that nature cannot bear what is borne by many, and in such different circumstances? Nature not only bears it, but challenges it, for there is nothing with her preferable, nothing which she desires more, than credit, and reputation, and praise, and honour, and glory. I choose here to describe this one thing under many names, and I have used many that you may have the clearer idea of it; for what I mean to say is, that whatever is desirable of itself, proceeding from virtue, or placed in virtue, and commendable on its own account, (which I would rather agree to call the only good than deny it to be the chief good,) is what men should prefer above all things. And as we declare this to be the case with respect to honesty, so we speak in the contrary manner of infamy; nothing is so odious, so detestable, nothing so unworthy of a man: [47] L   and if you are thoroughly convinced of this (for, at the beginning of this discourse, you allowed that there appeared to you more evil in infamy than in pain), it follows that you ought to have the command over yourself, though I scarcely know how this expression may seem an accurate one, which appears to represent man as made up of two natures, so that one should be in command and the other be subject to it.

[21.] Yet this division does not proceed from ignorance; for the soul admits of a two-fold division, one of which partakes of reason, the other is without it; when, therefore, we are ordered to give a law to ourselves, the meaning is, that reason should restrain our rashness. There is in the soul of every man, something naturally soft, low, enervated in a manner, and languid. Were there nothing besides this, men would be the greatest of monsters; but there is present to every man reason, which presides over, and gives laws to all; which, by improving itself, and making continual advances, becomes perfect virtue. It behoves a man, then, to take care that reason shall have the command over that part which is bound to practise obedience. [48] In what manner? you will say. Why, as a master has over his slave, a general over his army, a father over his son. If that part of the soul which I have called soft behaves disgracefully, if it gives itself up to lamentations and womanish tears, then let it be restrained, and committed to the care of friends and relations, for we often see those persons brought to order by shame, whom no reasons can influence. Therefore, we should confine those feelings, like our servants, in safe custody, and almost with chains. But those who have more resolution, and yet are not utterly immovable, we should encourage with our exhortations, as we would good soldiers, to recollect themselves, and maintain their honour. That wisest man of all Greece, in the Niptrae, does not lament too much over his wounds, or rather, he is moderate in his grief:-

Move slow, my friends, your hasty speed refrain,
Lest by your motion you increase my pain.

[49] L   Pacuvius is better in this than Sophocles, for in the one Ulysses bemoans his wounds too vehemently; for the very people who carried him after he was wounded, though his grief was moderate, yet, considering the dignity of the man, did not scruple to say,

And thou, Ulysses, long to war inured,
Thy wounds, though great, too feebly hast endured.

The wise poet understood that custom was no contemptible instructor how to bear pain. [50] But the same hero complains with more decency, though in great pain -

Assist, support me, never leave me so;
Unbind my wounds, oh! execrable woe!

He begins to give way, but instantly checks himself:-

Away, begone, but cover first the sore;
For your rude hands but make my pains the more.

Do you observe how he constrains himself; not that his bodily pains were less, but because he checks the anguish of his mind? Therefore, in the conclusion of the Niptrae, he blames others, even when he himself is dying:-

Complaints of fortune may become the man,
None but a woman will thus weeping stand.

And so that soft place in his soul obeys his reason, just as an abashed soldier does his stern commander.

[22.] [51] L   The man, then, in whom absolute wisdom exists (such a man, indeed, we have never as yet seen, but the philosophers have described in their writings what sort of man he will be, if he should exist); such a man, or at least that perfect and absolute reason which exists in him, will have the same authority over the inferior part as a good parent has over his dutiful children, he will bring it to obey his nod, without any trouble or difficulty. He will rouse himself, prepare and arm himself to oppose pain as he would an enemy. If you inquire what arms he will provide himself with, they will be contention, encouragement, discourse with himself; he will say thus to himself, Take care that you are guilty of nothing base, languid, or unmanly. [52] He will turn over in his mind all the different kinds of honour. Zenon of Elea will occur to him, who suffered everything rather than betray his confederates in the design of putting an end to the tyranny. He will reflect on Anaxarchus, the pupil of Democritus, who having fallen into the hands of Nicocreon king of Cyprus, without the least entreaty for mercy, or refusal, submitted to every kind of torture. Calanus the Indian will occur to him, an ignorant man and a barbarian, born at the foot of Mount Caucasus, who committed himself to the flames by his own free, voluntary act. But we, if we have the tooth-ache, or a pain in the foot, or if the body be any ways affected, cannot bear it. For our sentiments of pain, as well as pleasure, are so trifling and effeminate, we are so enervated and relaxed by luxuries, that we cannot bear the sting of a bee without crying out. [53] L   But Gaius Marius, a plain country-man, but of a manly soul, when he had an operation performed on him, as I mentioned above, at first refused to be tied down; and he is the first instance of anyone's having had an operation performed on him without being tied down. Why, then, did others bear it afterwards? Why, from the force of example. You see, then, that pain exists more in opinion than in nature, and yet the same Marius gave a proof that there is something very sharp in pain, for he would not submit to have the other thigh cut. So that he bore his pain with resolution as a man; but, like a reasonable person, he was not willing to undergo any greater pain without some necessary reason. The whole, then, consists in this, that you should have command over yourself. I have already told you what kind of command this is; and by considering what is most consistent with patience, fortitude, and greatness of soul, a man not only restrains himself, but somehow or other mitigates even pain itself.

[23.] [54] Even as in a battle, the dastardly and timorous soldier throws away his shield on the first appearance of an enemy, and runs as fast as he can, and on that account loses his life sometimes, though he has never received even one wound, when he who stands his ground has nothing of the sort happen to him; so, they who cannot bear the appearances of pain, throw themselves away, and give themselves up to affliction and dismay; but they that oppose it, often come off more than a match for it. For the body has a certain resemblance to the soul: as burdens are more easily borne the more the body is exerted, while they crush us if we give way; so the soul by exerting itself resists the whole weight that would oppress it; but if it yields, it is so pressed, that it cannot support itself. [55] L   And if we consider things truly, the soul should exert itself in every pursuit, for that is the only security for its doing its duty. But this should be principally regarded in pain, that we must not do anything timidly, or dastardly, or basely, or slavishly, or effeminately, and above all things we must dismiss and avoid that Philoctetean sort of outcry. A man is allowed sometimes to groan, but yet seldom; but it is not permissible even in a woman to howl; for such a noise as this is forbidden, by the twelve tables, to be used even at funerals. [56] Nor does a wise or brave man ever groan, unless when he exerts himself to give his resolution greater force, as they who run in the stadium make as much noise as they can. The wrestlers, too, do the same when they are training; and the boxers, when they aim a blow with the cestus at their adversary, give a groan, not because they are in pain, or from a sinking of their spirits, but because their whole body is put upon the stretch by the throwing out of these groans, and the blow comes the stronger.

[24.] What! they who would speak louder than ordinary, are they satisfied with working their jaws, sides, or tongue, or stretching the common organs of speech and utterance? the whole body and every muscle is at full stretch, if I may be allowed the expression, every nerve is exerted to assist their voice. [57] L   I have actually seen the knees of Marcus Antonius touch the ground when he was speaking with vehemence for himself, with relation to the Varian law. For as the engines you throw stones or darts with, throw them out with the greater force the more they are strained and drawn back; so it is in speaking, running, or boxing, the more people strain themselves, the greater their force. Since, therefore, this exertion has so much influence - if in a moment of pain groans help to strengthen the mind, let us use them; but if they be groans of lamentation, if they be the expression of weakness or abjectness, or unmanly weeping, then I should scarcely call him a man who yielded to them. For even supposing that such groaning could give any ease, it still should be considered, whether it were consistent with a brave and resolute man. But, if it does not ease our pain, why should we debase ourselves to no purpose? for what is more unbecoming in a man than to cry like a woman? [58] But this precept which is laid down with respect to pain is not confined to it; we should apply this exertion of the soul to everything else. Is anger inflamed? is lust excited? we must have recourse to the same citadel, and apply to the same arms; but since it is pain which we are at present discussing, we will let the other subjects alone. To bear pain, then, sedately and calmly, it is of great use to consider with all our soul, as the saying is, how noble it is to do so, for we are naturally desirous (as I said before, but it cannot be too often repeated) and very much inclined to what is honourable, of which, if we discover but the least glimpse, there is nothing which we are not prepared to undergo and suffer to attain it. From this impulse of our minds, this desire for genuine glory and honourable conduct, it is that such dangers are supported in war, and that brave men are not sensible of their wounds in action, or if they are sensible of them, prefer death to the departing but the least step from their honour. [59] L   The Decii saw the shining swords of their enemies when they were rushing into the battle. But the honourable character and the glory of the death which they were seeking, made all fear of death of little weight. Do you imagine that Epaminondas groaned when he perceived that his life was flowing out with his blood? No; for he left his country triumphing over the Lacedaemonians, whereas he had found it in subjection to them. These are the comforts, these are the things that assuage the greatest pain.

[25.] [60] You may ask, how the case is in peace? what is to be done at home? how we are to behave in bed? You bring me back to the philosophers, who seldom go to war. Among these, Dionysius of Heraclea, a man certainly of no resolution, having learned fortitude of Zenon, quitted it on being in pain; for, being tormented with a pain in his kidneys, in bewailing himself he cried out, that those things were false which he had formerly conceived of pain. And when his fellow-disciple, Cleanthes, asked him why he had changed his opinion, he answered, "That the case of any man who had applied so much time to philosophy, and yet was unable to bear pain, might be a sufficient proof that pain is an evil. That he himself had spent many years at philosophy, and yet could not bear pain. It followed, therefore, that pain was an evil." It is reported that Cleanthes on that struck his foot on the ground, and repeated a verse out of the Epigoni -

Amphiaraus, hearest thou this below?

He meant Zenon : he was sorry the other had degenerated from him.

[61] L   But it was not so with our friend Posidonius, whom I have often seen myself, and I will tell you what Pompey used to say of him: that when he came to Rhodes, after his departure from Syria, he had a great desire to hear Posidonius, but was informed that he was very ill of a severe fit of the gout; yet he had great inclination to pay a visit to so famous a philosopher. Accordingly, when he had seen him, and paid his compliments, and had spoken with great respect of him, he said he was very sorry that he could not hear him lecture. But indeed you may, replied the other, nor will I suffer any bodily pain to occasion so great a man to visit me in vain. On this Pompey relates that, as he lay on his bed, he disputed with great dignity and fluency on this very subject - That nothing was good but what was honest; and that in his paroxysms he would often say, "Pain, it is to no purpose, notwithstanding you are troublesome, I will never acknowledge you an evil." And in general all celebrated and notorious afflictions become endurable by disregarding them.

[26.] [62] Do we not observe, that where those exercises called gymnastic are in esteem, those who enter the lists never concern themselves about dangers: that where the praise of riding and hunting is highly esteemed, they who practise these arts decline no pain. What shall I say of our own ambitious pursuits, or desire of honours? What fire have not candidates run through to gain a single vote? Therefore Africanus had always in his hands Xenophon, the pupil of Socrates, being particularly pleased with his saying, that the same labours were not equally heavy to the general and to the common man, because the honour itself made the labour lighter to the general. [63] L   But yet, so it happens, that even with the illiterate vulgar, an idea of honour is of great influence, though they cannot understand what it is. They are led by report and common opinion to look on that as honourable, which has the general voice. Not that I would have you, should the multitude be ever so fond of you, rely on their judgment, nor approve of everything which they think right; you must use your own judgment. If you are satisfied with yourself when you have approved of what is right, you will not only have the mastery over yourself, (which I recommend to you just now,) but over everybody, and everything. [64] Lay this down, then, as a rule, that a great capacity, and lofty elevation of soul, which distinguishes itself most by despising and looking down with contempt on pain, is the most excellent of all things, and the more so, if it does not depend on the people, and does not aim at applause, but derives its satisfaction from itself. Besides, to me indeed everything seems the more commendable the less the people are courted, and the fewer eyes there are to see it. Not that you should avoid the public, for every generous action loves the public view; yet no theatre for virtue is equal to a consciousness of it.

[27.] [65] L   And let this be principally considered, that this bearing of pain, which I have often said is to be strengthened by an exertion of the soul, should be the same in everything. For you meet with many who, through a desire of victory, or for glory, or to maintain their rights, or their liberty, have boldly received wounds, and borne themselves up under them; and yet those very same persons, by relaxing that intenseness of their minds, were unequal to bearing the pain of a disease. For they did not support themselves under their former sufferings by reason or philosophy, but by inclination and glory. Therefore some barbarians and savage people are able to fight very stoutly with the sword, but cannot bear sickness like men: but the Greeks, men of no great courage, but as wise as human nature will admit of, cannot look an enemy in the face, yet the same will bear to be visited with sickness tolerably, and with a sufficiently manly spirit; and the Cimbrians and Celtiberians are very alert in battle, but bemoan themselves in sickness; for nothing can be consistent which has not reason for its foundation. [66] But when you see those who are led by inclination or opinion, not retarded by pain in their pursuits, nor hindered by it from succeeding in them, you may conclude, either that pain is no evil, or that, notwithstanding you may choose to call an evil whatever is disagreeable and contrary to nature, yet it is so very trifling an evil, that it may so effectually be got the better of by virtue as quite to disappear. And I would have you think of this night and day; for this argument will spread itself, and take up more room sometime or other, and not be confined to pain alone; for if the motives to all our actions are to avoid disgrace and acquire honour, we may not only despise the stings of pain, but the storms of fortune, especially if we have recourse to that retreat which was pointed out in our yesterday's discussion: [67] L   for as, if some God had advised a man who was pursued by pirates to throw himself overboard, saying, There is something at hand to receive you; either a dolphin will take you up, as it did Arion of Methymna; or those horses sent by Neptune to Pelops (who are said to have carried chariots so rapidly as to be borne up by the waves) will receive you, and convey you wherever you please; cast away all fear: so, though your pains be ever so sharp and disagreeable, if the case is not such that it is worth your while to endure them, you see whither you may betake yourself. I think this will do for the present. But perhaps you still abide by your opinion.

A. Not in the least, indeed; and I hope I am freed by these two days' discourses from the fear of two things that I greatly dreaded.

M. To-morrow then for rhetoric, as we were saying; but I see we must not drop our philosophy.

A. No, indeed, we will have the one in the forenoon, and this at the usual time.

M. It shall be so, and I will comply with your very laudable inclinations.

Book 3


1. Soph. Trach. 1047.

2. The lines quoted by Cicero here, appear to have come from the Latin play of Prometheus by Accius; the ideas are borrowed rather than translated from the Prometheus of Aeschylus.

3. From  exerceo .

4. Each soldier carried a stake, to help form a palisade in front of the camp.

Book 3

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