Cicero : Tusculan Disputations

-   Book 1 , 67-119

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.

Previous sections (1-66)

[28.] [67] L  Of this kind and nature is the intellect of man. Where, then, is this intellect seated, and of what character is it? where is your own, and what is its character? are you able to tell? If I have not faculties for knowing all that I could desire to know, will you not even allow me to make use of those which I have? The soul has not sufficient capacity to comprehend itself; yet, the soul, like the eye, though it has no distinct view of itself, sees other things: it does not see (which is of least consequence) its own shape; perhaps not, though it possibly may; but we will pass that by: but it certainly sees that it has vigour, sagacity, memory, motion, and velocity; these are all great, divine, eternal properties. What its appearance is, or where it dwells, it is not necessary even to inquire. [68] As when we behold, first of all, the beauty and brilliant appearance of the heavens; secondly, the vast velocity of its revolutions, beyond power of our imagination to conceive; then the vicissitudes of nights and days; the four-fold division of the seasons, so well adapted to the ripening of the fruits of the earth, and the temperature of our bodies; and after that we look up to the sun, the moderator and governor of all these things; and view the moon, by the increase and decrease of its light, marking, as it were, and appointing our holy days; and see the five planets, borne on in the same circle, divided into twelve parts, preserving the same course with the greatest regularity, but with utterly dissimilar motions amongst themselves; and the nightly appearance of the heaven, adorned on all sides with stars; then, the globe of the earth, raised above the sea, and placed in the centre of the universe, inhabited and cultivated in its two opposite extremities; one of which, the place of our habitation, is situated towards the north pole, under the seven stars:-

Where the cold northern blasts, with horrid sound,
Harden to ice the snowy covered ground -

the other, towards the south pole, is unknown to us; but is called by the Greeks ἀντίχθονα: [69] L  the other parts are uncultivated, because they are either frozen with cold, or burnt up with heat; but where we dwell, it never fails in its season,

To yield a placid sky, to bid the trees
Assume the lively verdure of their leaves:
The vine to bud, and, joyful in its shoots,
Foretell the approaching vintage of its fruits:
The ripened corn to sing, whilst all around
Full rivulets glide; and flowers deck the ground:-

then the multitude of cattle, fit part for food, part for tilling the ground, others for carrying us, or for clothing us; and man himself, made as it were on purpose to contemplate the heavens and the Gods, and to pay adoration to them; lastly, the whole earth, and wide extending seas, given to man's use. [70] When we view these, and numberless other things, can we doubt that they have some being who presides over them, or has made them (if, indeed, they have been made, as is the opinion of Plato, or if, as Aristotle thinks, they are eternal), or who at all events is the regulator of so immense a fabric and so great a blessing to men? Thus, though you see not the soul of man, as you see not the Deity, yet, as by the contemplation of his works you are led to acknowledge a God, so you must own the divine power of the soul, from its remembering things, from its invention, from the quickness of its motion, and from all the beauty of virtue. Where, then, is it seated, you will say?

[29.] In my opinion it is seated in the head, and I can bring you reasons for my adopting that opinion. At present, let the soul reside where it will, you certainly have one in you. Should you ask what its nature is? It has one peculiarly its own; but admitting it to consist of fire, or air, it does not affect the present question; only observe this, that as you are convinced there is a God, though you are ignorant where he resides, and what shape he is of; in like manner you ought to feel assured that you have a soul, though you cannot satisfy yourself of the place of its residence, nor its form. [71] L  In our knowledge of the soul, unless we are grossly ignorant of natural philosophy, we cannot but be satisfied that it has nothing but what is simple, unmixed, uncompounded, and single; and if this is admitted, then it cannot be separated, nor divided, nor dispersed, nor parted, and therefore it cannot perish; for to perish implies a parting asunder, a division, a disunion of those parts which, whilst it subsisted, were held together by some band; and it was because he was influenced by these and similar reasons that Socrates neither looked out for anybody to plead for him when he was accused, nor begged any favour from his judges, but maintained a manly freedom, which was the effect not of pride, but of the true greatness of his soul: and on the last day of his life, he held a long discourse on this subject; and a few days before, when he might have been easily freed from his confinement, he refused to be so, and when he had almost actually hold of that deadly cup, he spoke with the air of a man not forced to die, but ascending into heaven.

[30.] [72] For so indeed he thought himself, and thus he spoke:-"That there were two ways, and that the souls of men, at their departure from the body, took different roads, for those which were polluted with vices, that are common to men, and which had given themselves up entirely to unclean desires, and had become so blinded by them as to have habituated themselves to all manner of debauchery and profligacy, or to have laid detestable schemes for the ruin of their country, took a road wide of that which led to the assembly of the Gods: but they who had preserved themselves upright and chaste, and free from the slightest contagion of the body, and had always kept themselves as far as possible at a distance from it, and whilst on earth, had proposed to themselves as a model the life of the Gods, found the return to those beings from whom they had come an easy one." [73] L  Therefore he argues, that all good and wise men should take example from the swans, who are considered sacred to Apollo, not without reason, but particularly because they seem to have received the gift of divination from him, by which, foreseeing how happy it is to die, they leave this world with singing and joy. Nor can anyone doubt of this, unless it happens to us who think with care and anxiety about the soul, (as is often the case with those who look earnestly at the setting sun,) to lose the sight of it entirely: and so the mind's eye viewing itself, sometimes grows dull, and for that reason we become remiss in our contemplation. Thus our reasoning is borne about, harassed with doubts and anxieties, not knowing how to proceed, but measuring back again those dangerous tracts which it has passed, like a boat tossed about on the boundless ocean. [74] But these reflections are of long standing, and borrowed from the Greeks. But Cato left this world in such a manner, as if he were delighted that he had found an opportunity of dying; for that God who presides in us, forbids our departure hence without his leave. But when God himself has given us a just cause, as formerly he did to Socrates, and lately to Cato, and often to many others - in such a case, certainly every man of sense would gladly exchange this darkness, for that light: not that he would forcibly break from the chains that held him, for that would be against the law; but like a man released from prison by a magistrate, or some lawful authority, so he too would walk away, being released and discharged by God. For the whole life of a philosopher is, as the same philosopher says, a meditation on death.

[31.] [75] L  For what else is it that we do, when we call off our minds from pleasure, that is to say, from our attention to the body, from the managing our domestic estate, which is a sort of handmaid and servant of the body, or from duties of a public nature, or from all other serious business whatever? What else is it, I say, that we do, but invite the soul to reflect on itself? oblige it to converse with itself, and, as far as possible, break off its acquaintance with the body? Now to separate the soul from the body, is to learn to die, and nothing else whatever. Wherefore take my advice; and let us meditate on this, and separate ourselves as far as possible from the body, that is to say, let us accustom ourselves to die. This will be enjoying a life like that of heaven even while we remain on earth; and when we are carried thither and released from these bonds, our souls will make their progress with more rapidity: for the spirit which has always been fettered by the bonds of the body, even when it is disengaged, advances more slowly, just as those do who have worn actual fetters for many years: but when we have arrived at this emancipation from the bonds of the body, then indeed we shall begin to live, for this present life is really death, which I could say a good deal in lamentation for if I chose.

A. [76] You have lamented it sufficiently in your book on Consolation; and when I read that, there is nothing which I desire more than to leave these things: but that desire is increased a great deal by what I have just heard.

M. The time will come, and that soon, and with equal certainty whether you hang back or press forward; for time flies. But death is so far from being an evil, as it lately appeared to you, that I am inclined to suspect, not that there is no other thing which is an evil to man, but rather that there is nothing else which is a real good to him; if, at least, it is true, that we become thereby either Gods ourselves, or companions of the Gods. However, this is not of so much consequence, as there are some of us here who will not allow this. But I will not leave off discussing this point till I have convinced you that death can, upon no consideration whatever, be an evil.

A. [77] L  How can it, after what I now know?

M. Do you ask how it can? There are crowds of arguers who contradict this; and those not only Epicureans, whom I regard very little, but, somehow or other, almost every man of letters; and, above all, my favourite Dicaearchus is very strenuous in opposing the immortality of the soul: for he has written three books, which are entitled Lesbiacs, because the discourse was held at Mytilene, in which he seeks to prove that souls are mortal. The Stoics, on the other hand, allow us as long a time for enjoyment as the life of a raven; they allow the soul to exist a great while, but are against its eternity.

[32.] Are you willing to hear then why, even allowing this, death cannot be an evil?

A. As you please; but no one shall drive me from my belief in mortality.

M. [78] I commend you indeed, for that; though we should not be too confident in our belief of anything; for we are frequently disturbed by some subtle conclusion; we give way and change our opinions even in things that are more evident than this; for in this there certainly is some obscurity. Therefore, should anything of this kind happen, it is well to be on our guard.

A. You are right in that, but I will provide against any accident.

M. Have you any objection to our dismissing our friends the Stoics ? those, I mean, who allow that the souls exist after they have left the body, but yet deny that they exist for ever.

A. We certainly may dismiss the consideration of those men who admit that which is the most difficult point in the whole question, namely, that a soul can exist independently of the body, and yet refuse to grant that, which is not only very easy to believe, but which is even the natural consequence of the concession which they have made, that if they can exist for a length of time, they most likely do so for ever.

M. You take it right; that is the very thing: [79] L  shall we give, therefore, any credit to Panaetius, when he dissents from his master, Plato ? whom he everywhere calls divine, the wisest, the holiest of men, the Homer of philosophers; and whom he opposes in nothing except this single opinion of the soul's immortality: for he maintains what nobody denies, that everything which has been generated will perish; and that even souls are generated, which he thinks appears from their resemblance to those of the men who begot them; for that likeness is as apparent in the turn of their minds as in their bodies. But he brings another reason; that there is nothing which is sensible of pain which is not also liable to disease; but whatever is liable to disease must be liable to death; the soul is sensible of pain, therefore it is liable to perish.

[33.] [80] These arguments may be refuted; for they proceed from his not knowing that while discussing the subject of the immortality of the soul, he is speaking of the intellect, which is free from all turbid motion; but not of those parts of the mind in which those disorders, anger and lust, have their seat, and which he whom he is opposing, when he argues thus, imagines to be distinct and separate from the mind. Now this resemblance is more remarkable in beasts, whose souls are void of reason. But the likeness in men consists more in the configuration of the bodies; and it is of no little consequence in what bodies the soul is lodged; for there are many things which depend on the body that give an edge to the soul, many which blunt it. Aristotle indeed, says, that all men of great genius are melancholy; so that I should not have been displeased to have been somewhat duller than I am. He instances many, and, as if it were matter of fact, brings his reasons for it: but if the power of those things that proceed from the body be so great as to influence the mind, (for they are the things, whatever they are, that occasion this likeness,) still that does not necessarily prove why a similitude of souls should be generated. I say nothing about cases of unlikeness. [81] L  I wish Panaetius could be here; he lived with Africanus; I would inquire of him which of his family the nephew of Africanus's brother was like? Possibly he may in person have resembled his father; but in his manners, he was so like every profligate abandoned man, that it was impossible to be more so. Who did the grandson of P. Crassus, that wise, and eloquent, and most distinguished man resemble? Or the relations and sons of many other excellent men, whose names there is no occasion to mention? But what are we doing? Have we forgotten that our purpose was, when we had sufficiently spoken on the subject of the immortality of the soul, to prove that, even if the soul did perish, there would be, even then, no evil in death?

A. I remembered it very well; but I had no dislike to your digressing a little from your original design, whilst you were talking of the soul's immortality.

M. I perceive you have sublime thoughts, and are eager to mount up to heaven.

[34.] [82] I am not without hopes myself that such may be our fate. But admit what they assert; that the soul does not continue to exist after death.

A. Should it be so, I see that we are then deprived of the hopes of a happier life.

M. But what is there of evil in that opinion? For let the soul perish as the body: is there any pain, or indeed any feeling at all in the body after death? No one, indeed, asserts that; though Epicurus charges Democritus with saying so; but the disciples of Democritus deny it. No sense, therefore, remains in the soul; for the soul is nowhere; where, then, is the evil? for there is nothing but these two things. Is it because the mere separation of the soul and body cannot be effected without pain? but even should that be granted, how small a pain must that be! Yet I think that it is false; and that it is very often unaccompanied by any sensation at all, and sometimes even attended with pleasure: but certainly the whole must be very trifling, whatever it is, for it is instantaneous. [83] L  What makes us uneasy, or rather gives us pain, is the leaving all the good things of life. But just consider, if I might not more properly say, leaving the evils of life; only there is no reason for my now occupying myself in bewailing the life of man, and yet I might, with very good reason; but what occasion is there, when what I am labouring to prove is that no one is miserable after death, to make life more miserable by lamenting over it? I have done that in the book which I wrote, in order to comfort myself as well as I could. If, then, our inquiry is after truth, death withdraws us from evil, not from good. This subject is indeed so copiously handled by Hegesias, the Cyrenaic philosopher, that he is said to have been forbidden by Ptolemy from delivering his lectures in the schools, because some who heard him made away with themselves. [84] There is too, an epigram of Callimachus, ** on Cleombrotus of Ambracia; who, without any misfortune having befallen him, as he says, threw himself from a wall into the sea, after he had read a book of Plato's. The book I mentioned of that Hegesias, is called Ἀποκαρτερῶν, or "A Man who starves himself," in which a man is represented as killing himself by starvation, till he is prevented by his friends, in reply to whom he reckons up all the miseries of human life: I might do the same, though not so fully as he, who thinks it not worth any man's while to live. I pass over others. Was it even worth my while to live, for, had I died before I was deprived of the comforts of my own family, and of the honours which I received for my public services, would not death have taken me from the evils of life, rather than from its blessings?

[35.] [85] L  Mention, therefore, someone, who never knew distress; who never received any blow from fortune. The great Metellus had four distinguished sons; but Priam had fifty, seventeen of which were born to him by his lawful wife: Fortune had the same power over both, though she exercised it but on one: for Metellus was laid on his funeral pile by a great company of sons and daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters; but Priam fell by the hand of an enemy, after having fled to the altar, and having seen himself deprived of all his numerous progeny. Had he died before the death of his sons and the ruin of his kingdom,

With all his mighty wealth elate,
Under rich canopies of state;

would he then have been taken from good or from evil? It would indeed, at that time, have appeared that he was being taken away from good; yet surely, it would have turned out advantageous for him; nor should we have had these mournful verses -

Lo! these all perished in one flaming pile;
The foe old Priam did of life beguile,
And with his blood, thy altar, Jove, defile.

As if anything better could have happened to him at that time, than to lose his life in that manner; but yet, if it had befallen him sooner, it would have prevented all those consequences; but even as it was it released him from any further sense of them. [86] The case of our friend Pompey ** was something better: once, when he had been very ill at Naples, the Neapolitans on his recovery put crowns on their heads, as did those of Puteoli; the people flocked from the country to congratulate him; - it is a Greek custom, and a foolish one; still it is a sign of good fortune. But the question is, had he died, would he have been taken from good, or from evil? Certainly from evil. He would not have been engaged in a war with his father-in-law; ** he would not have taken up arms before he was prepared; he would not have left his own house, nor fled from Italy; he would not, after the loss of his army, have fallen unarmed into the hands of slaves, and been put to death by them; his children would not have been destroyed; nor would his whole fortune have come into the possession of the conquerors. Did not he, then, who, if he had died at that time would have died in all his glory, owe all the great and terrible misfortunes into which he subsequently fell to the prolongation of his life at that time?

[36.] These calamities are avoided by death, for even though they should never happen, there is a possibility that they may; but it never occurs to a man, that such a disaster may befall him himself. Every one hopes to be as happy as Metellus: as if the number of the happy exceeded that of the miserable; or as if there were any certainty in human affairs; or again, as if there were more rational foundation for hope than fear. [87] L  But should we grant them even this, that men are by death deprived of good things, would it follow that the dead are therefore in need of the good things of life, and are miserable on that account? Certainly they must necessarily say so. Can he who does not exist, be in need of anything? To be in need of, has a melancholy sound, because it in effect amounts to this - he had, but he has not; he regrets, he looks back upon, he wants. Such are, I suppose, the distresses of one who is in need of. Is he deprived of eyes? to be blind is misery. Is he destitute of children? not to have them is misery. These considerations apply to the living, but the dead are neither in need of the blessings of life, nor of life itself. But when I am speaking of the dead I am speaking of those who have no existence. But would anyone say of us, who do exist, that we want horns or wings? Certainly not. Should it be asked, why not? the answer would be, that not to have what neither custom nor nature has fitted you for, would not imply a want of them, even though you were sensible that you had them not. [88] This argument should be pressed over and over again, after that point has once been established, which if souls are mortal there can be no dispute about - I mean, that the destruction of them by death is so entire, as to remove even the least suspicion of any sense remaining. When, therefore, this point is once well grounded and established, we must correctly define what the term, to want, means; that there may be no mistake in the word. To want, then, signifies this; to be without that which you would be glad to have: for inclination for a thing is implied in the word want; excepting when we use the word in an entirely different sense, as we do when we say that a fever is wanting to anyone. For it admits of a different interpretation, when you are without a certain thing, and are sensible that you are without it, but yet can easily dispense with having it. "To want," then, is an expression which you cannot apply to the dead, nor is the mere fact of wanting something necessarily lamentable. The proper expression ought to be, "that they want a good," and that is an evil.

But a living man does not want a good, unless he is distressed without it; and yet, we can easily understand how any man alive can be without a kingdom. But this cannot be predicated of you with any accuracy: it might have been asserted of Tarquin, when he was driven from his kingdom: but when such an expression is used respecting the dead it is absolutely unintelligible. For to want, implies to be sensible; but the dead are insensible; therefore the dead can be in no want.

[37.] [89] L  But what occasion is there to philosophize here, in a matter with which we see that philosophy is but little concerned? How often have not only our generals, but whole armies, rushed on certain death! but if it had been a thing to be feared, L. Brutus would never have fallen in fight, to prevent the return of that tyrant whom he had expelled; nor would Decius the father have been slain in fighting with the Latins; nor would his son, when engaged with the Etruscans, nor his grandson with Pyrrhus, have exposed themselves to the enemy's darts. Spain would never have seen, in one campaign, the Scipios fall fighting for their country; nor would the plains of Cannae have witnessed the death of Paulus and Geminus; or Venusia, that of Marcellus: nor would the Latins have beheld the death of Albinus; nor the Lucanians, that of Gracchus. But are any of these miserable now? nay, they were not so even at the first moment after they had breathed their last: nor can anyone be miserable after he has lost all sensation. [90] Oh, but the mere circumstance of being without sensation is miserable. It might be so if being without sensation were the same thing as wanting it; but as it is evident there can be nothing of any kind in that which has no existence, what can there be afflicting to that which can neither feel want, nor be sensible of anything? We might be said to have repeated this over too often, only that here lies all that the soul shudders at, from the fear of death. For whoever can clearly apprehend that which is as manifest as the light, that when both soul and body are consumed, and there is a total destruction, then that which was an animal, becomes nothing; will clearly see, that there is no difference between a Hippocentaur, which never had existence, and king Agamemnon; and that M. Camillus is no more concerned about this present civil war, than I was at the sacking of Rome, when he was living.

[38.] [91] L  Why, then, should Camillus be affected with the thoughts of these things happening three hundred and fifty years after his time? And why should I be uneasy if I were to expect that some nation might possess itself of this city, ten thousand years hence? Because so great is our regard for our country, as not to be measured by our own feeling, but by its own actual safety.

Death, then, which threatens us daily from a thousand accidents, and which, by reason of the shortness of life, can never be far off, does not deter a wise man from making such provision for his country and his family, as he hopes may last for ever; and from regarding posterity, of which he can never have any real perception, as belonging to himself. Wherefore a man may act for eternity, even though he be persuaded that his soul is mortal; not, indeed, from a desire of glory, which he will be insensible of, but from a principle of virtue, which glory will inevitably attend, though that is not his object. The process, indeed, of nature is this; that just in the same manner as our birth was the beginning of things with us, so death will be the end; and as we were no ways concerned with anything before we were born, so neither shall we be after we are dead; and in this state of things where can the evil be? since death has no connexion with either the living or the dead; the one have no existence at all, the other are not yet affected by it. [92] They who make the least of death consider it as having a great resemblance to sleep; as if anyone would choose to live ninety years on condition that, at the expiration of sixty, he should sleep out the remainder. The very swine would not accept of life on those terms, much less I: Endymion, indeed, if you listen to fables, slept once on a time, on Latmus, a mountain of Caria, and for such a length of time that I imagine he is not as yet awake. Do you think that he is concerned at the Moon's being in difficulties, though it was by her that he was thrown into that sleep, in order that she might kiss him while sleeping; for what should he be concerned for who has not even any sensation? You look on sleep as an image of death, and you take that on you daily; and have you, then, any doubt that there is no sensation in death, when you see there is none in sleep, which is its near resemblance?

[39.] [93] L  Away, then, with those follies which are little better than the old women's dreams, such as that it is miserable to die before our time. What time do you mean? That of nature? But she has only lent you life, as she might lend you money, without fixing any certain time for its repayment. Have you any grounds of complaint, then, that she recalls it at her pleasure? for you received it on these terms. They that complain thus, allow, that if a young child dies the survivors ought to bear his loss with equanimity; that if an infant in the cradle dies, they ought not even to utter a complaint; and yet nature has been more severe with them in demanding back what she gave. They answer by saying, that such have not tasted the sweets of life; while the other had begun to conceive hopes of great happiness, and indeed had begun to realize them. Men judge better in other things, and allow a part to be preferable to none; why do they not admit the same estimate in life? Though Callimachus does not speak amiss in saying, that more tears had flowed from Priam than his son; yet they are thought happier who die after they have reached old age. [94] It would be hard to say why; for I do not apprehend that anyone, if a longer life were granted to him, would find it happier. There is nothing more agreeable to a man than prudence, which old age most certainly bestows on a man, though it may strip him of everything else; but what age is long? or what is there at all long to a man? Does not

Old age, though unregarded, still attend
On childhood's pastimes, as the cares of men?

But because there is nothing beyond old age, we call that long; all these things are said to be long or short, according to the proportion of time they were given us for. Aristotle says, there is a kind of insect near the river Hypanis, which runs from a certain part of Europe into the Pontus, whose life consists but of one day; those that die at the eighth hour, die in full age; those who die when the sun sets are very old, especially when the days are at the longest. Compare our longest life with eternity and we shall be found almost as short-lived as those little animals.

[40.] [95] L  Let us, then, despise all these follies - for what softer name can I give to such levities? - and let us lay the foundation of our happiness in the strength and greatness of our minds, in a contempt and disregard of all earthly things, and in the practice of every virtue. For at present we are enervated by the softness of our imaginations, so that, should we leave this world before the promises of our fortune-tellers are made good to us, we should think ourselves deprived of some great advantages, and seem disappointed and forlorn. [96] But if, through life, we are in continual suspense, still expecting, still desiring, and are in continual pain and torture, good Gods! how pleasant must that journey be which ends in security and ease! How pleased am I with Theramenes ! of how exalted a soul does he appear! For, although we never read of him without tears, yet that illustrious man is not to be lamented in his death, who, when he had been imprisoned by the command of the thirty tyrants, drank off, at one draught, as if he had been thirsty, the poisoned cup, and threw the remainder out of it with such force, that it sounded as it fell; and then, on hearing the sound of the drops, he said, with a smile, "I drink this to the most excellent Critias, " who had been his most bitter enemy; for it is customary among the Greeks, at their banquets, to name the person to whom they intend to deliver the cup. This celebrated man was pleasant to the last, even when he had received the poison into his bowels, and truly foretold the death of that man whom he named when he drank the poison, and that death soon followed. [97] L  Who that thinks death an evil, could approve of the evenness of temper in this great man at the instant of dying? Socrates came, a few years after, to the same prison and the same cup, by as great iniquity on the part of his judges as the tyrants displayed when they executed Theramenes. What a speech is that which Plato makes him deliver before his judges, after they had condemned him to death!

[41.] "I am not without hopes, O judges, that it is a favourable circumstance for me that I am condemned to die; for one of these two things must necessarily happen, either that death will deprive me entirely of all sense, or else, that by dying I shall go from hence into some other place; wherefore, if all sense is utterly extinguished, and if death is like that sleep which sometimes is so undisturbed as to be even without the visions of dreams - in that case, O ye good Gods! what gain is it to die! or what length of days can be imagined which would be preferable to such a night? And if the constant course of future time is to resemble that night, who is happier than I am? [98] But if, on the other hand, what is said be true, namely, that death is but a removal to those regions where the souls of the departed dwell, then that state must be more happy still, to have escaped from those who call themselves judges, and to appear before such as are truly so, Minos, Rhadamanthys, Aeacus, Triptolemus, and to meet with those who have lived with justice and probity! ** Can this change of abode appear otherwise than great to you? What bounds can you set to the value of conversing with Orpheus, and Musaeus, and Homer, and Hesiod? I would even, were it possible, willingly die often, in order to prove the certainty of what I speak of. What delight must it be to meet with Palamedes, and Ajax, and others, who have been betrayed by the iniquity of their judges! Then, also, should I experience the wisdom of even that king of kings, who led his vast troops to Troy, and the prudence of Ulysses and Sisyphus: nor should I then be condemned for prosecuting my inquiries on such subjects in the same way in which I have done here on earth. And even you, my judges, you, I mean, who have voted for my acquittal, do not you fear death, [99] L  for nothing bad can befall a good man, whether he be alive or dead; nor are his concerns ever overlooked by the Gods, nor in my case either has this befallen me by chance; and I have nothing to charge those men with who accused or condemned me, but the fact that they believed that they were doing me harm." In this manner he proceeded: there is no part of his speech which I admire more than his last words: "But it is time," says he, "for me now to go hence, that I may die; and for you, that you may continue to live. Which condition of the two is the best, the immortal Gods know; but I do not believe that any mortal man does."

[42.] Surely I would rather have had this man's soul, than all the fortunes of those who sat in judgment on him; although that very thing which he says no one except the Gods knows, namely, whether life or death is most preferable, he knows himself, for he had previously stated his opinion on it; but he maintained to the last that favourite maxim of his, of affirming nothing. [100] And let us, too, adhere to this rule of not thinking anything an evil, which is a general provision of nature: and let us assure ourselves, that if death is an evil, it is an eternal evil, for death seems to be the end of a miserable life; but if death is a misery, there can be no end of that. But why do I mention Socrates, or Theramenes, men distinguished by the glory of virtue and wisdom? when a certain Lacedaemonian, whose name is not so much as known, held death in such contempt, that, when led to it by the ephors, he bore a cheerful and pleasant countenance; and, when he was asked by one of his enemies whether he despised the laws of Lycurgus ? "On the contrary," answered he, "I am greatly obliged to him, for he has punished me with a fine which I can pay without borrowing, or taking up money at interest." This was a man worthy of Sparta! and I am almost persuaded of his innocence because of the greatness of his soul. [101] L  Our own city has produced many such. But why should I name generals, and other men of high rank, when Cato could write, that legions have marched with alacrity to that place from whence they never expected to return? With no less greatness of soul fell the Lacedaemonians at Thermopylae, on whom Simonides wrote the following epitaph:-

Go, stranger, tell the Spartans, here we lie,
Who to support their laws durst boldly die. **

What was it that Leonidas, their general, said to them? "March on with courage, my Lacedaemonians; tonight, perhaps, we shall sup in the regions below." This was a brave nation whilst the laws of Lycurgus were in force. One of them, when a Persian had said to him in conversation, "We shall hide the sun from your sight by the number of our arrows and darts;" replied, "We shall fight then in the shade." [102] Do I talk of their men? how great was that Lacedaemonian woman, who had sent her son to battle, and when she heard that he was slain, said, "I bore him for that purpose, that you might have a man who durst die for his country." However, it is a matter of notoriety that the Spartans were bold and hardy, for the discipline of a republic has great influence.

[43.] What, then, have we not reason to admire Theodorus of Cyrene, a philosopher of no small distinction? who, when Lysimachus threatened to crucify him, bade him keep those menaces for his courtiers: "to Theodorus it makes no difference whether he rot in the air or underground." By which saying of the philosopher I am reminded to say something of the custom of funerals and burial, and of funeral ceremonies, which is, indeed, not a difficult subject, especially if we recollect what has been before said about insensibility. The opinion of Socrates respecting this matter is clearly stated in the book which treats of his death; or which we have already said so much; [103] L  for when he had discussed the immortality of the soul, and when the time of his dying was approaching rapidly, being asked by Criton how he would be buried, "I have taken a great deal of pains," saith he, "my friends, to no purpose, for I have not convinced our Criton, that I shall fly from hence, and leave no part of me behind: notwithstanding, Criton, if you can overtake me, wheresoever you get hold of me, bury me as you please: but believe me, none of you will be able to catch me when I have flown away from hence." That was excellently said, inasmuch as he allows his friend to do as he pleased, and yet shows his indifference about anything of this kind. [104] Diogenes was rougher, though of the same opinion, but in his character of a Cynic, he expressed himself in a somewhat harsher manner; he ordered himself to be thrown anywhere without being buried. And when his friends replied, "What, to the birds and beasts?" "By no means," saith he; "place my staff near me, that I may drive them away." "How can you do that," they answer, "for you will not perceive them?" "How am I then injured by being torn by those animals, if I have no sensation?" Anaxagoras, when he was at the point of death, at Lampsacus, and was asked by his friends, whether, if anything should happen to him, he would not choose to be carried to Clazomenae, his country, made this excellent answer - "There is," says he, "no occasion for that, for all places are at an equal distance from the infernal regions." There is one thing to be observed with respect to the whole subject of burial, that it relates to the body, whether the soul live or die. Now with regard to the body, it is clear that whether the soul live or die, that has no sensation.

[44.] [105] L  But all things are full of errors. Achilles drags Hector, tied to his chariot; he thinks, I suppose, he tears his flesh, and that Hector feels the pain of it; therefore, he avenges himself on him, as he imagines; but Hecuba bewails this as a sore misfortune -

I saw (a dreadful sight!) great Hector slain,
Dragg'd at Achilles' car along the plain.

What Hector? or how long will he be Hector? Accius is better in this, and Achilles, too, is sometimes reasonable -

I Hector's body to his sire conveyed,
Hector I sent to the infernal shade.

It was not Hector that you dragged along, but a body that had been Hector's. [106] Here another starts from underground, and will not suffer his mother to sleep -

To thee I call, my once loved parent, hear,
Nor longer with thy sleep relieve thy care;
Thine eye which pities not is closed - arise,
Lingering I wait the unpaid obsequies.

When these verses are sung with a slow and melancholy tune, so as to affect the whole theatre with sadness, one can scarce help thinking those unhappy that are unburied -

Ere the devouring dogs and hungry vultures

He is afraid he shall not have the use of his limbs so well if they are torn to pieces, but is under no such apprehensions if they are burned -

Nor leave my naked bones, my poor remains,
To shameful violence, and bloody stains.

[107] L  I do not understand what he could fear who could pour forth such excellent verses to the sound of the flute. We must, therefore, adhere to this, that nothing is to be regarded after we are dead, though many people revenge themselves on their dead enemies. Thyestes pours forth several curses in some good lines of Ennius, praying, first of all, that Atreus may perish by a shipwreck, which is certainly a very terrible thing, for such a death is not free from very grievous sensations. Then follow these unmeaning expressions:-

    . . . . . . May
On the sharp rock his mangled carcase lie,
His entrails torn, to hungry birds a prey;
May he convulsive writhe his bleeding side,
And with his clotted gore the stones be dyed.

The rocks themselves were not more destitute of feeling than he who was hanging to them by his side; though Thyestes imagines he is wishing him the greatest torture. It would be torture indeed, if he were sensible; but as he is not, it can be none; then how very unmeaning is this!

Let him, still hovering o'er the Stygian wave,
Ne'er reach the body's peaceful port, the grave.

You see under what mistaken notions all this is said. He imagines the body has its haven, and that the dead are at rest in their graves. Pelops was greatly to blame in not having informed and taught his son what regard was due to everything.

[45.] [108] But what occasion is there to comment on the opinions of individuals, when we may observe whole nations to fall into all sorts of errors? The Egyptians embalm their dead, and keep them in their houses; the Persians dress them over with wax, and then bury them, that they may preserve their bodies as long as possible. It is customary with the Magi, to bury none of their order, unless they have been first torn by wild beasts. In Hyrcania, the people maintain dogs for the public use, the nobles have their own; and we know that they have a good breed of dogs; but every one, according to his ability, provides himself with some, in order to be torn by them; and they hold that to be the best kind of interment. Chrysippus, who is curious in all kinds of historical facts, has collected many other things of this kind, but some of them are so offensive as not to admit of being related. All that has been said of burying, is not worth our regard with respect to ourselves, though it is not to be neglected as to our friends, provided we are thoroughly aware that the dead are insensible; [109] L  but the living, indeed, should consider what is due to custom and opinion, only they should at the same time consider that the dead are no ways interested in it. But death truly is then met with the greatest tranquillity, when the dying man can comfort himself with his own praise. No one dies too soon who has finished the course of perfect virtue. I myself have known many occasions when I have seemed in danger of immediate death; oh! how I wish it had come to me, for I have gained nothing by the delay. I had gone over and over again the duties of life; nothing remained but to contend with fortune. If reason, then, cannot sufficiently fortify us to enable us to feel a contempt for death, at all events, let our past life prove that we have lived long enough, and even longer than was necessary; for notwithstanding the deprivation of sense, the dead are not without that good which peculiarly belongs to them, namely, the praise and glory which they have acquired, even though they are not sensible of it. For although there be nothing in glory to make it desirable, yet it follows virtue as its shadow. And the genuine judgment of the multitude on good men, if ever they form any, is more to their own praise, than of any real advantage to the dead; yet I cannot say, however it may be received, that Lycurgus and Solon have no glory from their laws, and from the political constitution which they established in their country; or that Themistocles and Epaminondas have not glory from their martial virtue.

[46.] [110] For Neptune shall sooner bury Salamis itself with his waters, than the memory of the trophies gained there; and the Boeotian Leuctra shall perish, sooner than the glory of that great battle. And longer still shall fame be before it deserts Curius, and Fabricius, and Calatinus, and the two Scipios, and the two Africani, and Maximus, and Marcellus, and Paulus, and Cato, and Laelius, and numberless other heroes; and whoever has caught any resemblance of them, not estimating it by common fame, but by the real applause of good men, may with confidence, when the occasion requires, approach death, on which we are sure that even if the chief good is not continued, at least no evil is. Such a man would even wish to die, whilst in prosperity; for all the favours that could be heaped on him, would not be so agreeable to him, as the loss of them would be painful. [111] L  That speech of the Lacedaemonian seems to have the same meaning, who, when Diagoras of Rhodes, who had himself been a conqueror at the Olympic games, saw two of his own sons conquerors there on the same day, approached the old man, and congratulating him, said, "You should die now, Diagoras, for no greater happiness can possibly await you." The Greeks look on these as great things; perhaps they think too highly of them, or rather they did so then. And so he who said this to Diagoras, looking on it as something very glorious, that three men out of one family should have been conquerors there, thought it could answer no purpose to him, to continue any longer in life, where he could only be exposed to a reverse of fortune.

I might have given you a sufficient answer, as it seems to me, on this point, in a few words, as you had allowed the dead were not exposed to any positive evil; but I have spoken at greater length on the subject for this reason, because this is our greatest consolation in the losing and bewailing of our friends. For we ought to bear with moderation any grief which arises from ourselves, or is endured on our own account, lest we should seem to be too much influenced by self-love. But should we suspect our departed friends to be under those evils, which they are generally imagined to be and to be sensible of them, then such a suspicion would give us intolerable pain; and accordingly I wished, for my own sake, to pluck up this opinion by the roots, and on that account I have been perhaps somewhat more prolix than was necessary.

[47.] [112] A. More prolix than was necessary? certainly not, in my opinion. For I was induced by the former part of your speech, to wish to die; but, by the latter, sometimes not to be unwilling, and at others to be wholly indifferent about it. But the effect of your whole argument is, that I am convinced that death ought not to be classed among the evils.

M. Do you, then, expect that I am to give you a regular peroration, like the rhetoricians, or shall I forego that art?

A. I would not have you give over an art which you have set off to such advantage; and you were in the right to do so, for, to speak the truth, it also has set you off. But what is that peroration? for I should be glad to hear it, whatever it is.

M. [113] L  It is customary in the schools, to produce the opinions of the immortal gods on death; nor are these opinions the fruits of the imagination alone of the lecturers, but they have the authority of Herodotus and many others. Cleobis and Biton are the first they mention, sons of the Argive priestess; the story is a well-known one. As it was necessary that she should be drawn in a chariot to a certain annual sacrifice, which was solemnized at a temple some considerable distance from the town, and the cattle that were to draw the chariot had not arrived, those two young men whom I have just mentioned, pulling off their garments, and anointing their bodies with oil, harnessed themselves to the yoke. And in this manner the priestess was conveyed to the temple; and when the chariot had arrived at the proper place, she is said to have entreated the goddess to bestow on them, as a reward for their piety, the greatest gift that a God could confer on man. And the young men, after having feasted with their mother, fell asleep; and in the morning they were found dead. [114] Trophonius and Agamedes are said to have put up the same petition, for they having built a temple to Apollo at Delphi, offered supplications to the god, and desired of him some extraordinary reward for their care and labour, particularizing nothing, but asking for whatever was best for men. Accordingly, Apollo signified to them that he would bestow it on them in three days, and on the third day at daybreak they were found dead. And so they say that this was a formal decision pronounced by that god, to whom the rest of the deities have assigned the province of divining with an accuracy superior to that of all the rest.

[48.] There is also a story told of Silenus, who, when taken prisoner by Midas, is said to have made him this present for his ransom; namely, that he informed him ** that never to have been born, was by far the greatest blessing that could happen to man; and that the next best thing was, to die very soon; [115] L  which very opinion Euripides makes use of in his Cresphontes, saying -

When man is born, 'tis fit, with solemn show,
We speak our sense of his approaching woe,
With other gestures, and a different eye,
Proclaim our pleasure when he's bid to die. **

There is something like this in Crantor's Consolation; for he says, that Terinaeus of Elysia, when he was bitterly lamenting the loss of his son, came to a place of divination to be informed why he was visited with so great affliction, and received in his tablet these three verses -

Thou fool, to murmur at Euthynous' death
The blooming youth to fate resigns his breath:
The fate, whereon your happiness depends,
At once the parent and the son befriends. **

[116] On these and similar authorities they affirm that the question has been determined by the Gods. Nay more; Alcidamas, an ancient rhetorician of the very highest reputation, wrote even in praise of death, which he endeavoured to establish by an enumeration of the evils of life; and his Dissertation has a great deal of eloquence in it, but he was unacquainted with the more refined arguments of the philosophers. By the orators, indeed, to die for our country is always considered not only as glorious, but even as happy; they go back as far as Erechtheus, ** whose very daughters underwent death, for the safety of their fellow-citizens: they instance Codrus, who threw himself into the midst of his enemies, dressed like a common man, that his royal robes might not betray him; because the oracle had declared the Athenians conquerors, if their king was slain. Menoeceus ** is not overlooked by them, who, in compliance with the injunctions of an oracle, freely shed his blood for his country. Iphigenia ordered herself to be conveyed to Aulis, to be sacrificed, that her blood might be the cause of spilling that of her enemies.

[49.] From hence they proceed to instances of a fresher date. Harmodius and Aristogiton are in everybody's mouth; the memory of Leonidas the Lacedaemonian, and Epaminondas the Theban, is as fresh as ever. Those philosophers were not acquainted with the many instances in our country - to give a list of whom would take up too much time - who, we see, considered death desirable as long as it was accompanied with honour. [117] L  But, notwithstanding this is the correct view of the case, we must use much persuasion, speak as if we were endued with some higher authority, in order to bring men to begin to wish to die, or cease to be afraid of death. For if that last day does not occasion an entire extinction, but a change of abode only, what can be more desirable? and if it on the other hand destroys, and absolutely puts an end to us, what can be preferable to the having a deep sleep fall on us, in the midst of the fatigues of life, and being thus overtaken, to sleep to eternity? And, should this really be the case, then Ennius's language is more consistent with wisdom than Solon's; for our Ennius says -

Let none bestow upon my passing bier
One needless sigh or unavailing tear.

But the wise Solon says -

Let me not unlamented die, but o'er my bier
Burst forth the tender sigh, the friendly tear. **

[118] But let us, if indeed it should be our fate to know the time which is appointed by the Gods for us to die, prepare ourselves for it, with a cheerful and grateful mind, thinking ourselves like men who are delivered from a jail, and released from their fetters, for the purpose of going back to our eternal habitation, which may be more emphatically called our own; or else to be divested of all sense and trouble. If, on the other hand, we should have no notice given us of this decree, yet let us cultivate such a disposition as to look on that formidable hour of death as happy for us, though shocking to our friends; and let us never imagine anything to be an evil, which is an appointment of the immortal Gods, or of nature, the common parent of all. For it is not by hazard or without design that we have been born and situated as we have. On the contrary, beyond all doubt there is a certain power, which consults the happiness of human nature; and this would neither have produced nor provided for a being, which after having gone through the labours of life was to fall into eternal misery by death. Let us rather infer, that we have a retreat and haven prepared for us, [119] L  which I wish we could crowd all sail and arrive at; but though the winds should not serve, and we should be driven back, yet we shall to a certainty arrive at that point eventually, though somewhat later. But how can that be miserable for one which all must of necessity undergo? I have given you a peroration, that you might not think I had overlooked or neglected anything.

A. I am persuaded you have not; and, indeed, that peroration has confirmed me.

M. I am glad it has had that effect; but it is now time to consult our health; to-morrow, and all the time we continue in this Tusculan villa, let us consider this subject; and especially those portions of it which may ease our pain, alleviate our fears, and lessen our desires, which is the greatest advantage we can reap from the whole of philosophy.

Book 2


19. The epigram is -

Εἴπας Ἥλιε χαῖρε, Κλεόμβροτος Ὅμβρακιώτης
ἥλατ᾽ ἀφ᾽ ύψηλοῦ τείχεος εἰς Ἀίδην,
ἄξιον οὐδὲν ἰδὼν θανάτου κακὸν, ἀλλὰ Πλάτωνος
ἔν τὸ περὶ ψύχης γράμμ᾽ ἀναλεξάμενος.

Which may be translated, perhaps -

Farewell, O sun, Cleombrotus exclaim'd,
Then plung'd from off a height beneath the sea;
Stung by pain, of no disgrace ashamed,
But mov'd by Plato's high philosophy.

20. This is alluded to by Juvenal -

Provida Pompeio dederat Campania febres
Optandas: sed multae urbes et publica vota
Vicerunt. Igitur Fortuna ipsius et Urbis,
Servatum victo caput abstulit.
  { Sat. x. 283. }

21. Pompey's second wife was Julia, the daughter of Julius Caesar; she died the year before the death of Crassus, in Parthia. Virgil speaks of Caesar and Pompey as relations, using the same expression (socer) as Cicero -

Aggeribus socer Alpinis atque arce Monoeci
Descendens, gener adversis instructus Eois.
  { Aen. vi. 830. }

22. This idea is beautifully expanded by Byron:-

Yet if, as holiest men have deem'd, there be
A land of souls beyond that sable shore
To shame the doctrine of the Sadducee
And sophist, madly vain of dubious lore,
How sweet it were in concert to adore
With those who made our mortal labours light,
To hear each voice we fear'd to hear no more,
Behold each mighty shade reveal'd to sight,
The Bactrian, Samian sage, and all who taught the right.
  { Childe Harold, ii. 8. }

23. The epitaph in the original is -

Ὥ ξεῖν᾽ ἀγγεῖλον Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων πειθόμενοι νομίμοις.

24. This was expressed in the Greek verses -

Ἀρχὴν μὲν μὴ φῦναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἄριστον,
φύντα δ᾽ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀίδαο περῆσαι;

which by some authors are attributed to Homer.

25. This is the first fragment of the Cresphontes. - Ed. Var. vii. p. 594

Ἔδει γὰρ ἡμᾶς σύλλογον ποιουμένους
Τὸν φύντα θρηνεῖν, εὶς ὅσ᾽ ἔρχεται κακά.
Τὸν δ᾽ αὖ θανόντα καὶ πόνων πεπαυμένον
χαίροντας εὐφημοῖντας ἐκπέμπειν δόμων.

26. The Greek verses are quoted by Plutarch -

. . . Ἤπου νήπιε, ἠλίθιοι φρένες ἀνδρᾶν
Εὐθύνοος κεῖται μοιριδίῳ θανάτῳ
Οὐκ ἦν γὰρ ζώειν καλὸν αὐτῷ οὄτε γονεῦσι.

27. This refers to the story that when Eumolpus, the son of Neptune, whose assistance the Eleusinians had called in against the Athenians, had been slain by the Athenians, an oracle demanded the sacrifice of one of the daughters of Erechtheus, the King of Athens. And when one was drawn by lot, the others voluntarily accompanied her to death.

28. Menoeceus was son of Creon, and in the war of the Argives against Thebes, Teresias declared that the Thebans should conquer if Menoeceus would sacrifice himself for his country; and accordingly he killed himself outside the gates of Thebes.

29. The Greek is,

μήδε μοι ἄκλαυστος θάνατος μόλοι, ἀλλὰ φίλοισι
ποιήσαιμι θανὼν ἄλγεα καὶ στοναχάς.

Book 2

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