Cicero : Tusculan Disputations

-   Book 5 , 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 4

[1] L   This fifth day, Brutus, shall put an end to our Tusculan Disputations: on which day we discussed your favourite subject. For I perceive from that book which you wrote for me, with the greatest accuracy, as well as from your frequent conversation, that you are clearly of this opinion, that virtue is of itself sufficient for a happy life: and though it may be difficult to prove this, on account of the many various strokes of fortune, yet it is a truth of such a nature, that we should endeavour to facilitate the proof of it. For among all the topics of philosophy, there is not one of more dignity or importance. [2] For as the first philosophers must have had some inducement, to neglect everything for the search of the best state of life: surely, the inducement must have been the hope of living happily, which impelled them to devote so much care and pains to that study. Now, if virtue was discovered and carried to perfection by them; and if virtue is a sufficient security for a happy life: who can avoid thinking the work of philosophising excellently recommended by them, and undertaken by me? But if virtue, as being subject to such various and uncertain accidents, were but the slave of fortune, and were not of sufficient ability to support herself; I am afraid that it would seem desirable rather to offer up prayers than to rely on our own confidence in virtue, as the foundation for our hope of a happy life. [3] L   And, indeed, when I reflect on those troubles, with which I have been so severely exercised by fortune, I begin to distrust this opinion; and sometimes even to dread the weakness and frailty of human nature, for I am afraid lest, when nature had given us infirm bodies, and had joined to them incurable diseases, and intolerable pains, she perhaps also gave us minds participating in these bodily pains, and harassed also with troubles and uneasinesses, peculiarly their own. [4] But here I correct myself, for forming my judgment of the power of virtue more from the weakness of others, or of myself perhaps, than from virtue itself: for she herself (provided there is such a thing as virtue, and your uncle Brutus has removed all doubt of it) has everything that can befall mankind in subjection to her; and by disregarding such things, she is far removed from being at all concerned at human accidents; and, being free from every imperfection, she thinks that nothing which is external to herself can concern her. But we, who increase every approaching evil by our fear, and every present one by our grief, choose rather to condemn the nature of things, than our own errors.

[2.] [5] L   But the amendment of this fault, and of all our other vices and offences, is to be sought for in philosophy: and as my own inclination and desire led me, from my earliest youth upwards, to seek her protection; so, under my present misfortunes, I have had recourse to the same port from whence I set out, after having been tossed by a violent tempest. O Philosophy, thou guide of life! thou discoverer of virtue, and expeller of vices! what had not only I myself, but the whole life of man been without you? To you it is that we owe the origin of cities; you it was who called together the dispersed race of men into social life; you united them together, first, by placing them near one another, then by marriages, and lastly, by the communication of speech and languages. You have been the inventress of laws; you have been our instructress in morals and discipline: to you we fly for refuge; from you we implore assistance; and as I formerly submitted to you in a great degree, so now I surrender up myself entirely to you. For one day spent well, and agreeably to your precepts, is preferable to an eternity of error. Whose assistance, then, can be of more service to me than yours, when you have bestowed on us tranquillity of life, and removed the fear of death? [6] But Philosophy is so far from being praised as much as she has deserved by mankind, that she is wholly neglected by most men, and actually evil spoken of by many. Can any person speak ill of the parent of life, and dare to pollute himself thus with parricide! and be so impiously ungrateful as to accuse her, whom he ought to reverence, even were he less able to appreciate the advantages which he might derive from her? But this error, I imagine, and this darkness, has spread itself over the minds of ignorant men, from their not being able to look so far back, and from their not imagining that those men by whom human life was first improved, were philosophers: for though we see philosophy to have been of long standing, yet the name must be acknowledged to be but modern.

[3.] [7] L   But indeed, who can dispute the antiquity of philosophy, either in fact or name? for it acquired this excellent name from the ancients, by the knowledge of the origin and causes of everything, both divine and human. Thus those seven Σόφοι, as they were considered and called by the Greeks, have always been esteemed and called wise men by us: and thus Lycurgus many ages before, in whose time, before the building of this city, Homer is said to have lived, as well as Ulysses and Nestor in the heroic ages, are all handed down to us by tradition as having really been what they were called, wise men; [8] nor would it have been said that Atlas supported the heavens, or that Prometheus was bound to Caucasus, nor would Cepheus, with his wife, his son-in-law, and his daughter, have been enrolled among the constellations, but that their more than human knowledge of the heavenly bodies had transferred their names into an erroneous fable. From whence, all who occupied themselves in the contemplation of nature, were both considered and called, wise men: and that name of theirs continued to the age of Pythagoras, who is reported to have gone to Phlius, as we find it stated by Heraclides Ponticus, a very learned man, and a pupil of Plato, and to have discoursed very learnedly and copiously on certain subjects, with Leon, prince of the Phliasii - and when Leon, admiring his ingenuity and eloquence, asked him what art he particularly professed; his answer was, that he was acquainted with no art, but that he was a philosopher. Leon, surprised at the novelty of the name, inquired what he meant by the name of philosopher, and in what philosophers differed from other men: [9] L   on which Pythagoras replied, "That the life of man seemed to him to resemble those games, which were celebrated with the greatest possible variety of sports, and the general concourse of all Greece. For as in those games there were some persons whose object was glory, and the honour of a crown, to be attained by the performance of bodily exercises: so others were led thither by the gain of buying and selling, and mere views of profit: but there was likewise one class of persons, and they were by far the best, whose aim was neither applause nor profit, but who came merely as spectators through curiosity, to observe what was done, and to see in what manner things were carried on there. And thus, said he, we come from another life and nature unto this one, just as men come out of some other city, to some much frequented mart; some being slaves to glory, others to money; and there are some few who, taking no account of anything else, earnestly look into the nature of things: and these men call themselves studious of wisdom, that is, philosophers; and as there it is the most reputable occupation of all to be a looker-on, without making any acquisition, so in life, the contemplating things, and acquainting oneself with them, greatly exceeds every other pursuit of life."

[4.] [10] Nor was Pythagoras the inventor only of the name, but he enlarged also the thing itself, and, when he came into Italy after this conversation at Phlius, he adorned that Greece, which is called Magna Graecia, both privately and publicly, with the most excellent institutions and arts; but of his school and system, I shall, perhaps, find another opportunity to speak. But numbers and motions, and the beginning and end of all things, were the subjects of the ancient philosophy down to Socrates, who was a pupil of Archelaus, who had been the disciple of Anaxagoras. These made diligent inquiry into the magnitude of the stars, their distances, courses, and all that relates to the heavens. But Socrates was the first who brought down philosophy from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil. [11] L   And his different methods of discussing questions, together with the variety of his topics, and the greatness of his abilities, being immortalized by the memory and writings of Plato, gave rise to many sects of philosophers of different sentiments: of all which I have principally adhered to that one which, in my opinion, Socrates himself followed; and argue so as to conceal my own opinion, while I deliver others from their errors, and so discover what has the greatest appearance of probability in every question. And this custom Carneades adopted with great copiousness and acuteness, and I myself have often given in to it on many occasions elsewhere, and in this manner, too, I disputed lately, in my Tusculan villa; indeed I have sent you a book of the four former days' discussions; but the fifth day, when we had seated ourselves as before, what we were to dispute on was proposed thus:-

[5.] [12] A. I do not think virtue can possibly be sufficient for a happy life.

M. But my friend Brutus thinks so, whose judgment, with submission, I greatly prefer to yours.

A. I make no doubt of it; but your regard for him is not the business now; the question is now what is the real character of that quality of which I have declared my opinion. I wish you to dispute on that.

M. What! do you deny that virtue can possibly be sufficient for a happy life?

A. It is what I entirely deny.

M. What! is not virtue sufficient to enable us to live as we ought, honestly, commendably, or, in fine, to live well?

A. Certainly sufficient.

M. Can you, then, help calling anyone miserable, who lives ill? or will you deny that anyone who you allow lives well, must inevitably live happily?

A. Why may I not? for a man may be upright in his life, honest, praiseworthy, even in the midst of torments, and therefore live well. Provided you understand what I mean by well; for when I say well, I mean with constancy, and dignity, and wisdom, and courage; [13] L   for a man may display all these qualities on the rack; but yet the rack is inconsistent with a happy life.

M. What then? is your happy life left on the outside of the prison, whilst constancy, dignity, wisdom, and the other virtues, are surrendered up to the executioner, and bear punishment and pain without reluctance?

A. You must look out for something new, if you would do any good. These things have very little effect on me, not merely from their being common, but principally because, like certain light wines, that will not bear water, these arguments of the Stoics are pleasanter to taste than to swallow. As when that assemblage of virtues is committed to the rack, it raises so reverend a spectacle before our eyes, that happiness seems to hasten on towards them, and not to suffer them to be deserted by her. [14] But when you take your attention off from this picture and these images of the virtues, to the truth and the reality, what remains without disguise is, the question whether anyone can be happy in torment? Wherefore let us now examine that point, and not be under any apprehensions, lest the virtues should expostulate and complain, that they are forsaken by happiness. For if prudence is connected with every virtue, then prudence itself discovers this, that all good men are not therefore happy; and she recollects many things of Marcus Atilius, ** Quintus Caepio, ** Marcus Aquilius; ** and prudence herself, if these representations are more agreeable to you than the things themselves, restrains happiness, when it is endeavouring to throw itself into torments, and denies that it has any connexion with pain and torture.

[6.] [15] L   M. I can easily bear with your behaving in this manner, though it is not fair in you to prescribe to me, how you would have me carry on this discussion; but I ask you if I have effected anything or nothing in the preceding days?

A. Yes, something was done, some little matter indeed.

M. But if that is the case, this question is settled, and almost put an end to.

A. How so?

M. Because turbulent motions and violent agitations of the mind, when it is raised and elated by a rash impulse, getting the better of reason, leave no room for a happy life. For who that fears either pain or death, the one of which is always present, the other always impending, can be otherwise than miserable? Now supposing the same person, which is often the case, to be afraid of poverty, ignominy, infamy, or weakness, or blindness; or lastly, slavery, which doth not only befall individual men, but often even the most powerful nations; now can anyone under the apprehension of these evils be happy? [16] What shall we say of him who not only dreads these evils as impending, but actually feels and bears them at present? Let us unite in the same person, banishment, mourning, the loss of children; now how can anyone who is broken down and rendered sick in body and mind by such affliction be otherwise than very miserable indeed? What reason again can there be, why a man should not rightly enough be called miserable, whom we see inflamed and raging with lust, coveting everything with an insatiable desire, and in proportion as he derives more pleasure from anything, thirsting the more violently after them? And as to a man vainly elated, exulting with an empty joy, and boasting of himself without reason, is not he so much the more miserable in proportion as he thinks himself happier? Therefore, as these men are miserable, so on the other hand those are happy, who are alarmed by no fears, wasted by no griefs, provoked by no lusts, melted by no languid pleasures that arise from vain and exulting joys. We look on the sea as calm when not the least breath of air disturbs its waves; and in like manner the placid and quiet state of the mind is discovered when unmoved by any perturbation. [17] L   Now if there be anyone who holds the power of fortune, and everything human, everything that can possibly befall any man, as supportable, so as to be out of the reach of fear or anxiety; and if such a man covets nothing, and is lifted up by no vain joy of mind, what can prevent his being happy? and if these are the effects of virtue, why cannot virtue itself make men happy?

[7.] A. But the other of these two propositions is undeniable, that they who are under no apprehensions, who are no ways uneasy, who covet nothing, who are lifted up by no vain joy, are happy: and therefore I grant you that; but as for the other, that is not now in a fit state for discussion; for it has been proved by your former arguments that a wise man is free from every perturbation of mind.

[18] M. Doubtless, then, the dispute is over; for the question appears to have been entirely exhausted.

A. I think indeed that that is almost the case.

M. But yet, that is more usually the case with the mathematicians than philosophers. For when the geometricians teach anything, if what they have before taught relates to their present subject, they take that for granted which has been already proved; and explain only what they had not written on before. But the philosophers, whatever subject they have in hand, get together everything that relates to it; notwithstanding they may have dilated on it somewhere else. Were not that the case, why should the Stoics say so much on that question, whether virtue was abundantly sufficient to a happy life? when it would have been answer enough, that they had before taught, that nothing was good but what was honourable; for as this had been proved, the consequence must be, that virtue was sufficient to a happy life: and each premise may be made to follow from the admission of the other, so that if it be admitted that virtue is sufficient to secure a happy life, it may also be inferred that nothing is good except what is honourable. [19] L   They however do not proceed in this manner; for they would separate books about what is honourable, and what is the chief good: and when they have demonstrated from the one that virtue has power enough to make life happy, yet they treat this point separately; for everything, and especially a subject of such great consequence, should be supported by arguments and exhortations which belong to that alone. For you should have a care how you imagine philosophy to have uttered anything more noble, or that she has promised anything more fruitful or of greater consequence: for, good Gods! doth she not engage, that she will render him who submits to her laws so accomplished as to be always armed against fortune, and to have every assurance within himself of living well and happily; that he shall, in short, be for ever happy. [20] But let us see what she will perform? In the meanwhile I look upon it as a great thing, that she has even made such a promise. For Xerxes, who was loaded with all the rewards and gifts of fortune, not satisfied with his armies of horse and foot, nor the multitude of his ships, nor his infinite treasure of gold, offered a reward to anyone who could find out a new pleasure: and yet, when it was discovered, he was not satisfied with it, nor can there ever be an end to lust. I wish we could engage anyone by a reward, to produce something the better to establish us in this belief.

[8.] [21] L   A. I wish that indeed myself; but I want a little information. For I allow, that in what you have stated, the one proposition is the consequence of the other; that as, if what is honourable be the only good, it must follow, that a happy life is the effect of virtue: so that if a happy life consists in virtue, nothing can be good but virtue. But your friend Brutus, on the authority of Ariston and Antiochus, does not see this: for he thinks the case would be the same, even if there were anything good besides virtue.

M. What then? do you imagine that I am going to argue against Brutus?

A. You may do what you please: for it is not for me to prescribe what you shall do.

[22] M. How these things agree together shall be examined somewhere else: for I frequently discussed that point with Antiochus, and lately with Aristus, when, during the period of my command as general, I was lodging with him at Athens. For to me it seemed that no one could possibly be happy under any evil: but a wise man might be afflicted with evil, if there are any things arising from body or fortune, deserving the name of evils. These things were said, which Antiochus has inserted in his books in many places: that virtue itself was sufficient to make life happy, but yet not perfectly happy: and that many things derive their names from the predominant portion of them, though they do not include everything, as strength, health, riches, honour, and glory: which qualities are determined by their kind, not their number: thus a happy life is so called from its being so in a great degree, even though it should fall short in some point. [23] L   To clear this up, is not absolutely necessary at present, though it seems to be said without any great consistency: for I cannot imagine what is wanting to one that is happy, to make him happier, for if anything be wanting to him he cannot be so much as happy; and as to what they say, that everything is named and estimated from its predominant portion, that may be admitted in some things. But when they allow three kinds of evils; when anyone is oppressed with every imaginable evil of two kinds, being afflicted with adverse fortune, and having at the same time his body worn out and harassed with all sorts of pains, shall we say that such a one is but little short of a happy life, to say nothing about the happiest possible life?

[9.] [24] This is the point which Theophrastus was unable to maintain: for after he had once laid down the position, that stripes, torments, tortures, the ruin of one's country, banishment, the loss of children, had great influence on men's living miserably and unhappily, he durst not any longer use any high and lofty expressions, when he was so low and abject in his opinion. How right he was is not the question; he certainly was consistent. Therefore I am not for objecting to consequences where the premises are admitted. But this most elegant and learned of all the philosophers, is not taken to task very severely when he asserts his three kinds of good; but he is attacked by everyone for that book which he wrote on a happy life, in which book he has many arguments, why one who is tortured and racked cannot be happy. For in that book he is supposed to say, that a man who is placed on the wheel, (that is a kind of torture in use among the Greeks,) cannot attain to a completely happy life. He nowhere, indeed, says so absolutely, but what he says amounts to the same thing. [25] L   Can I, then, find fault with him; after having allowed, that pains of the body are evils, that the ruin of a man's fortunes is an evil, if he should say that every good man is not happy, when all those things which he reckons as evils may befall a good man? The same Theophrastus is found fault with by all the books and schools of the philosophers, for commending that sentence in his Callisthenes:

Fortune, not wisdom, rules the life of man.

They say, never did philosopher assert anything so languid. They are right, indeed, in that: but I do not apprehend anything could be more consistent: for if there are so many good things that depend on the body, and so many foreign to it that depend on chance and fortune, is it inconsistent to say that fortune, which governs everything, both what is foreign and what belongs to the body, has greater power than counsel. [26] Or would we rather imitate Epicurus ? who is often excellent in many things which he speaks, but quite indifferent how consistent he may be, or how much to the purpose he is speaking. He commends spare diet, and in that he speaks as a philosopher; but it is for Socrates or Antisthenes to say so, and not for one who confines all good to pleasure. He denies that anyone can live pleasantly unless he lives honestly, wisely, and justly. Nothing is more dignified than this assertion, nothing more becoming a philosopher, had he not measured this very expression of living honestly, justly, and wisely, by pleasure. What could be better than to assert that fortune interferes but little with a wise man? But does he talk thus, who after he has said that pain is the greatest evil, or the only evil, might himself be afflicted with the sharpest pains all over his body, even at the time he is vaunting himself the most against fortune? [27] L   And this very thing, too, Metrodorus has said, but in better language: "I have anticipated you, Fortune; I have caught you, and cut off every access, so that you cannot possibly reach me." This would be excellent in the mouth of Ariston of Chios, or Zenon the Stoic, who held nothing to be an evil but what was base; but for you, Metrodorus, to anticipate the approaches of fortune, who confine all that is good to your bowels and marrow - for you to say so, who define the chief good by a strong constitution of body, and a well assured hope of its continuance - for you to cut off every access of fortune? Why, you may instantly be deprived of that good. Yet the simple are taken with these propositions, and a vast crowd is led away by such sentences to become their followers.

[10.] [28] But it is the duty of one who would argue accurately, to consider not what is said, but what is said consistently. As in that very opinion which we have adopted in this discussion, namely, that every good man is always happy; it is clear what I mean by good men: I call those both wise and good men, who are provided and adorned with every virtue. Let us see, then, who are to be called happy. I imagine, indeed, that those men are to be called so, who are possessed of good without any alloy of evil: nor is there any other notion connected with the word that expresses happiness, but an absolute enjoyment of good without any evil. [29] L   Virtue cannot attain this, if there is anything good besides itself: for a crowd of evils would present themselves, if we were to allow poverty, obscurity, humility, solitude, the loss of friends, acute pains of the body, the loss of health, weakness, blindness, the ruin of one's country, banishment, slavery, to be evils: for a wise man may be afflicted by all these evils, numerous and important as they are, and many others also may be added; for they are brought on by chance, which may attack a wise man: but if these things are evils, who can maintain that a wise man is always happy, when all these evils may light on him at the same time? [30] I therefore do not easily agree with my friend Brutus, nor with our common masters, nor those ancient ones, Aristotle, Speusippus, Xenocrates, Polemon, who reckon all that I have mentioned above as evils, and yet they say that a wise man is always happy; nor can I allow them, because they are charmed with this beautiful and illustrious title, which would very well become Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, to persuade my mind, that strength, health, beauty, riches, honours, power, with the beauty of which they are ravished, are contemptible, and that all those things which are the opposites of these are not to be regarded. Then might they declare openly, with a loud voice, that neither the attacks of fortune, nor the opinion of the multitude, nor pain, nor poverty, occasion them any apprehensions; and that they have everything within themselves, and that there is nothing whatever which they consider as good but what is within their own power. [31] L   Nor can I by any means allow the same person, who falls into the vulgar opinion of good and evil, to make use of these expressions, which can only become a great and exalted man. Struck with which glory, up starts Epicurus, who, with submission to the Gods, thinks a wise man always happy. He is much charmed with the dignity of this opinion, but he never would have owned that, had he attended to himself: for what is there more inconsistent, than for one who could say that pain was the greatest or the only evil, to think also that a wise man can possibly say in the midst of his torture, How sweet is this! We are not, therefore, to form our judgment of philosophers from detached sentences, but from their consistency with themselves, and their ordinary manner of talking.

[11.] [32] A. You compel me to be of your opinion; but have a care that you are not inconsistent yourself.

M. In what respect?

A. Because I have lately read your fourth book on Good and Evil : and in that you appeared to me, while disputing against Cato, to be endeavouring to show, which in my opinion means to prove, that Zenon and the Peripatetics differ only about some new words; but if we allow that, what reason can there be, if it follows from the arguments of Zenon, that virtue contains all that is necessary to a happy life, that the Peripatetics should not be at liberty to say the same? For, in my opinion, regard should be had to the thing, not to words.

[33] L   M. What? you would convict me from my own words, and bring against me what I had said or written elsewhere. You may act in that manner with those who dispute by established rules: we live from hand to mouth, and say anything that strikes our mind with probability, so that we are the only people who are really at liberty. But, since I just now spoke of consistency, I do not think the inquiry in this place is, if the opinion of Zenon and his pupil Ariston be true, that nothing is good but what is honourable; but, admitting that, then, whether the whole of a happy life can be rested on virtue alone. [34] Wherefore, if we certainly grant Brutus this, that a wise man is always happy, how consistent he is, is his own business: for who indeed is more worthy than himself of the glory of that opinion? Still we may maintain that such a man is more happy than anyone else.

[12.] Though Zenon of Citium, a stranger and an inconsiderable coiner of words, appears to have insinuated himself into the old philosophy; still the prevalence of this opinion is due to the authority of Plato, who often makes use of this expression, "that nothing but virtue can be entitled to the name of good," agreeably to what Socrates says in Plato's Gorgias; for it is there related that when some one asked him if he did not think Archelaus the son of Perdiccas, who was then looked upon as a most fortunate person, a very happy man: [35] L   "I do not know," replied he, "for I never conversed with him." "What, is there no other way you can know it by?" "None at all." "You cannot, then, pronounce of the great king of the Persians, whether he is happy or not?" "How can I, when I do not know how learned or how good a man he is?" "What! do you imagine that a happy life depends on that?" "My opinion entirely is, that good men are happy, and the wicked miserable." "Is Archelaus, then, miserable?" "Certainly, if unjust." Now does it not appear to you, that he is here placing the whole of a happy life in virtue alone? [36] But what does the same man say in his funeral oration? "For," saith he, "whoever has everything that relates to a happy life so entirely dependent on himself as not to be connected with the good or bad fortune of another, and not to be affected by, or made in any degree uncertain by, what befalls another; and whoever is such a one has acquired the best rule of living; he is that moderate, that brave, that wise man, who submits to the gain and loss of everything, and especially of his children, and obeys that old precept; for he will never be too joyful or too sad, because he depends entirely upon himself."

[13.] [37] L   From Plato, therefore, all my discourse shall be deduced, as if from some sacred and hallowed fountain. Whence can I, then, more properly begin than from nature, the parent of all? For whatsoever she produces (I am not speaking only of animals, but even of those things which have sprung from the earth in such a manner as to rest on their own roots) she designed it to be perfect in its respective kind. So that among trees and vines, and those lower plants and trees which cannot advance themselves high above the earth, some are evergreen, others are stripped of their leaves in winter, and, warmed by the spring season, put them out afresh, and there are none of them but what are so quickened by a certain interior motion, and their own seeds enclosed in every one, so as to yield flowers, fruit, or berries, that all may have every perfection that belongs to it, provided no violence prevents it. [38] But the force of nature itself may be more easily discovered in animals, as she has bestowed sense on them. For some animals she has taught to swim, and designed to be inhabitants of the water; others she has enabled to fly, and has willed that they should enjoy the boundless air; some others she has made to creep, others to walk. Again, of these very animals, some are solitary, some gregarious, some wild, others tame, some hidden and buried beneath the earth, and every one of these maintains the law of nature, confining itself to what was bestowed on it, and unable to change its manner of life. And as every animal has from nature something that distinguishes it, which everyone maintains and never quits; so man has something far more excellent, though everything is said to be excellent by comparison. But the human mind, being derived from the divine reason, can be compared with nothing but with the Deity itself, if I may be allowed the expression. [39] L   This, then, if it is improved, and when its perception is so preserved as not to be blinded by errors, becomes a perfect understanding, that is to say, absolute reason, which is the very same as virtue. And if everything is happy which wants nothing, and is complete and perfect in its kind, and that is the peculiar lot of virtue; certainly all who are possessed of virtue are happy. And in this I agree with Brutus, and also with Aristotle, Xenocrates, Speusippus, Polemon.

[14.] [40] To me such are the only men who appear completely happy; for what can he lack for a complete happy life who relies on his own good qualities, or how can he be happy who does not rely on them? But he who makes a threefold division of goods must necessarily be diffident, for how can he depend on having a sound body, or that his fortune shall continue? but no one can be happy without an immovable, fixed, and permanent good. What, then, is this opinion of theirs? So that I think that saying of the Spartan may be applied to them, who, on some merchant's boasting before him, that he had despatched ships to every maritime coast, replied, that a fortune which depended on ropes was not very desirable. Can there be any doubt that whatever may be lost, cannot be properly classed in the number of those things which complete a happy life? for of all that constitutes a happy life, nothing will admit of withering, or growing old, or wearing out, or decaying; for whoever is apprehensive of any loss of these things cannot be happy; [41] L   the happy man should be safe, well fenced, well fortified, out of the reach of all annoyance, not like a man under trifling apprehensions, but free from all such. As he is not called innocent who but slightly offends, but he who offends not at all; so it is he alone who is to be considered without fear who is free from all fear, not he who is but in little fear. For what else is courage but an affection of mind, that is ready to undergo perils, and patient in the endurance of pain and labour without any alloy of fear? [42] Now this certainly could not be the case, if there were anything else good but what depended on honesty alone. But how can anyone be in possession of that desirable and much-coveted security (for I now call a freedom from anxiety a security, on which freedom a happy life depends) who has, or may have, a multitude of evils attending him? How can he be brave and undaunted, and hold everything as trifles which can befall a man, for so a wise man should do, unless he be one who thinks that everything depends on himself? Could the Lacedaemonians without this, when Philip threatened to prevent all their attempts, have asked him, if he could prevent their killing themselves? Is it not easier, then, to find one man of such a spirit as we are inquiring after, than to meet with a whole city of such men? Now, if to this courage I am speaking of we add temperance, that it may govern all our feelings and agitations, what can be wanting to complete his happiness who is secured by his courage from uneasiness and fear; and is prevented from immoderate desires and immoderate insolence of joy, by temperance? I could easily show that virtue is able to produce these effects, but that I have explained on the foregoing days.

[15.] [43] L   But as the perturbations of the mind make life miserable, and tranquillity renders it happy; and as these perturbations are of two sorts, grief and fear, proceeding from imagined evils, and as immoderate joy and lust arise from a mistake about what is good, and as all these feelings are in opposition to reason and counsel; when you see a man at ease, quite free and disengaged from such troublesome commotions, which are so much at variance with one another can you hesitate to pronounce such an one a happy man? Now the wise man is always in such a disposition, therefore the wise man is always happy. Besides, every good is pleasant; whatever is pleasant may he boasted and talked of; whatever may he boasted of, is glorious, but whatever is glorious is certainly laudable, and whatever is laudable doubtless, also, honourable; whatever, then, is good is honourable; [44] (but the things which they reckon as goods, they themselves do not call honourable;) therefore what is honourable alone is good. Hence it follows that a happy life is comprised in honesty alone. Such things, then, are not to be called or considered goods, when a man may enjoy an abundance of them, and yet be most miserable. [45] L   Is there any doubt but that a man who enjoys the best health, and who has strength and beauty, and his senses flourishing in their utmost quickness and perfection; suppose him likewise, if you please, nimble and active, nay, give him riches, honours, authority, power, glory; now, I say, should this person, who is in possession of all these, be unjust, intemperate, timid, stupid, or an idiot, could you hesitate to call such an one miserable? What, then, are those goods, in the possession of which you may be very miserable? Let us see if a happy life is not made up of parts of the same nature, as a heap implies a quantity of grain of the same kind. And if this be once admitted, happiness must be compounded of different good things which alone are honourable; if there is any mixture of things of another sort with these, nothing honourable can proceed from such a composition; now, take away honesty, and how can you imagine anything happy? For whatever is good is desirable on that account; whatever is desirable must certainly be approved of; whatever you approve of must be looked on as acceptable and welcome. You must consequently impute dignity to this; and if so, it must necessarily be laudable; therefore, everything that is laudable is good. Hence it follows, that what is honourable is the only good. And should we not look upon it in this light, there will be a great many things which we must call good.

[16.] [46] I forbear to mention riches, which, as anyone, let him be ever so unworthy, may have them, I do not reckon amongst goods; for what is good is not attainable by all. I pass over notoriety, and popular fame, raised by the united voice of knaves and fools. Even things which are absolute nothings may be called goods; such as white teeth, handsome eyes, a good complexion, and what was commended by Euryclea, when she was washing Ulysses's feet, the softness of his skin and the mildness of his discourse. If you look on these as goods, what greater encomiums can the gravity of a philosopher be entitled to than the wild opinion of the vulgar and the thoughtless crowd? [47] L   The Stoics give the name of excellent and choice to what the others call good: they call them so, indeed; but they do not allow them to complete a happy life. But these others think that there is no life happy without them; or, admitting it to be happy, they deny it to be the most happy. But our opinion is, that it is the most happy; and we prove it from that conclusion of Socrates. For thus that author of philosophy argued: that as the disposition of a man's mind is, so is the man: such as the man is, such will be his discourse: his actions will correspond with his discourse, and his life with his actions. But the disposition of a good man's mind is laudable; the life, therefore, of a good man is laudable: it is honourable, therefore, because laudable: the unavoidable conclusion from which is, that the life of good men is happy. [48] For, good Gods! did I not make it appear, by my former arguments - or was I only amusing myself and killing time in what I then said - that the mind of a wise man was always free from every hasty motion which I call a perturbation, and that the most undisturbed peace always reigned in his breast? A man, then, who is temperate and consistent, free from fear or grief, and uninfluenced by any immoderate joy or desire, cannot be otherwise than happy: but a wise man is always so, therefore he is always happy. Moreover, how can a good man avoid referring all his actions and all his feelings to the one standard of whether or not it is laudable? But he does refer everything to the object of living happily: it follows, then, that a happy life is laudable; but nothing is laudable without virtue: a happy life, then, is the consequence of virtue. - And this is the unavoidable conclusion to be drawn from these arguments.

[17.] [49] L   A wicked life has nothing which we ought to speak of or glory in: nor has that life which is neither happy nor miserable. But there is a kind of life that admits of being spoken of, and gloried in, and boasted of; as Epaminondas saith -

The wings of Sparta's pride my counsels clipt.

And Africanus boasts -

Who, from beyond Maeotis to the place
Where the sun rises, deeds like mine can trace?

[50] If, then, there is such a thing as a happy life, it is to be gloried in, spoken of, and commended by the person who enjoys it: for there is nothing excepting that which can be spoken of, or gloried in; and when that is once admitted, you know what follows. Now, unless an honourable life is a happy life, there must of course be something preferable to a happy life: for that which is honourable, all men will certainly grant to be preferable to anything else. And thus there will be something better than a happy life; but what can be more absurd than such an assertion? What! when they grant vice to be effectual to the rendering life miserable, must they not admit that there is a corresponding power in virtue to make life happy? For contraries follow from contraries. [51] L   And here I ask, what weight they think there is in the balance of Critolaus, who, having put the goods of the mind into one scale, and the goods of the body and other external advantages into the other, thought the goods of the mind outweighed the others so far, that they would require the whole earth and sea to equalise the scale.

[18.] What hinders Critolaus, then, or that gravest of philosophers, Xenocrates (who raises virtue so high, and who lessens and depreciates everything else), from not only placing a happy life, but the happiest possible life, in virtue? and, indeed, if this were not the case, virtue would be absolutely lost. [52] For whoever is subject to grief, must necessarily be subject to fear too; for fear is an uneasy apprehension of future grief: and whoever is subject to fear is liable to dread, timidity, consternation, cowardice. Therefore, such a person may, some time or other, be defeated, and not think himself concerned with that precept of Atreus :

And let men so conduct themselves in life,
As to be always strangers to defeat.

But such a man, as I have said, will be defeated; and not only defeated, but made a slave of. But we would have virtue always free, always invincible; and were it not so, there would be an end of virtue. [53] L   But if virtue has in herself all that is necessary for a good life, she is certainly sufficient for happiness: virtue is certainly sufficient, too, for our living with courage; if with courage, then with a magnanimous spirit, and indeed so as never to be under any fear, and thus to be always invincible. - Hence it follows, that there can be nothing to be repented of, no wants, no lets or hindrances. Thus all things will be prosperous, perfect, and as you would have them; and consequently happy: but virtue is sufficient for living with courage, and therefore virtue is able by herself to make life happy. [54] For as folly, even when possessed of what it desires, never thinks it has acquired enough: so wisdom is always satisfied with the present, and never repents on her own account.

[19.] Look but on the single consulship of Laelius - and that, too, after having been set aside (though when a wise and good man, like him, is outvoted, the people are disappointed of a good consul, rather than he disappointed by a vain people); but the point is, would you prefer, were it in your power, to be once such a consul as Laelius, or be elected four times, like Cinna? [55] I have no doubt in the world what answer you will make, and it is on that account I put the question to you.

I would not ask everyone this question; for someone perhaps might answer that he would not only prefer four consulates to one, but even one day of Cinna's life to whole ages of many famous men. Laelius would have suffered had he but touched anyone with his finger; but Cinna ordered the head of his colleague consul, Cn. Octavius, to be struck off; and put to death P. Crassus ** and L. Caesar, ** those excellent men, so renowned both at home and abroad; and even M. Antonius, ** the greatest orator whom I ever heard; and C. Caesar, who seems to me to have been the pattern of humanity, politeness, sweetness of temper, and wit. Could he, then, be happy who occasioned the death of these men? So far from it, that he seems to be miserable, not only for having performed these actions, but also for acting in such a manner, that it was lawful for him to do it, though it is unlawful for anyone to do wicked actions; but this proceeds from inaccuracy of speech, for we call whatever a man is allowed to do, lawful. - [56] Was not Marius happier, I pray you, when he shared the glory of the victory gained over the Cimbrians with his colleague Catulus (who was almost another Laelius, for I look upon the two men as very like one another,) than when, conqueror in the civil war, he in a passion answered the friends of Catulus, who were interceding for him, "Let him die" ? And this answer he gave, not once only, but often. But in such a case, he was happier who submitted to that barbarous decree than he who issued it. And it is better to receive an injury than to do one; and so it was better to advance a little to meet that death that was making its approaches, as Catulus did, than, like Marius, to sully the glory of six consulships, and disgrace his latter days, by the death of such a man.

[20.] [57] L   Dionysius exercised his tyranny over the Syracusans thirty-eight years, being but twenty-five years old when he seized on the government. How beautiful and how wealthy a city did he oppress with slavery! And yet we have it from good authority, that he was remarkably temperate in his manner of living, that he was very active and energetic in carrying on business, but naturally mischievous and unjust; from which description, everyone who diligently inquires into truth must inevitably see that he was very miserable. Neither did he attain what he so greatly desired, even when he was persuaded that he had unlimited power; [58] for, notwithstanding he was of a good family and reputable parents (though that is contested by some authors), and had a very large acquaintance of intimate friends and relations, and also some youths attached to him by ties of love after the fashion of the Greeks, he could not trust any one of them, but committed the guard of his person to slaves, whom he had selected from rich men's families and made free, and to strangers and barbarians. And thus, through an unjust desire of governing, he in a manner shut himself up in a prison. Besides, he would not trust his throat to a barber, but had his daughters taught to shave; so that these royal virgins were forced to descend to the base and slavish employment of shaving the head and beard of their father. Nor would he trust even them, when they were grown up, with a razor; but contrived how they might burn off the hair of his head and beard with red-hot nut-shells. [59] L   And as to his two wives, Aristomache his countrywoman, and Doris of Locris, he never visited them at night before everything had been well searched and examined. And as he had surrounded the place where his bed was with a broad ditch, and made a way over it with a wooden bridge, he drew that bridge over after shutting his bedchamber door. And as he did not dare to stand on the ordinary pulpits from which they usually harangued the people, he generally addressed them from a high tower. [60] And it is said, that when he was disposed to play at ball - for he delighted much in it - and had pulled off his clothes, he used to give his sword into the keeping of a young man whom he was very fond of. On this, one of his intimates said pleasantly, "You certainly trust your life with him;" and as the young man happened to smile at this, he ordered them both to be slain, the one for showing how he might be taken off, the other for approving of what had been said by smiling. But he was so concerned at what he had done, that nothing affected him more during his whole life; for he had slain one to whom he was extremely partial. Thus do weak men's desires pull them different ways, and whilst they indulge one, they act counter to another.

[21.] [61] L   This tyrant, however, showed himself how happy he really was: for once, when Damocles, one of his flatterers, was dilating in conversation on his forces, his wealth, the greatness of his power, the plenty he enjoyed, the grandeur of his royal palaces, and maintaining that no one was ever happier - "Have you an inclination," said he, "Damocles, as this kind of life pleases you, to have a taste of it yourself, and to make a trial of the good fortune that attends me?" And when he said that he should like it extremely, Dionysius ordered him to be laid on a bed of gold with the most beautiful covering, embroidered and wrought with the most exquisite work, and he dressed out a great many sideboards with silver and embossed gold. He then ordered some youths, distinguished for their handsome persons, to wait at his table, and to observe his nod, in order to serve him with what he wanted. [62] There were ointments and garlands; perfumes were burned; tables provided with the most exquisite meats. Damocles thought himself very happy. In the midst of this apparatus, Dionysius ordered a bright sword to be let down from the ceiling, suspended by a single horsehair, so as to hang over the head of that happy man. After which he neither cast his eye on those handsome waiters, nor on the well wrought plate; nor touched any of the provisions: presently the garlands fell to pieces. At last he entreated the tyrant to give him leave to go, for that now he had no desire to be happy. ** Does not Dionysius, then, seem to have declared there can be no happiness for one who is under constant apprehensions? But it was not now in his power to return to justice, and restore his citizens their rights and privileges; for, by the indiscretion of youth, he had engaged in so many wrong steps, and committed such extravagances, that had he attempted to have returned to a right way of thinking he must have endangered his life.

[22.] [63] L   Yet, how desirous he was of friendship, though at the same time he dreaded the treachery of friends, appears from the story of those two Pythagoreans: one of these had been security for his friend, who was condemned to die; the other, to release his security, presented himself at the time appointed for his dying: "I wish," said Dionysius, "you would admit me as the third in your friendship." What misery was it for him to be deprived of acquaintance, of company at his table, and of the freedom of conversation; especially for one who was a man of learning, and from his childhood acquainted with liberal arts, very fond of music, and himself a tragic poet - how good a one is not to the purpose, for I know not how it is, but in this way, more than any other, everyone thinks his own performances excellent. I never as yet knew any poet (and I was very intimate with Aquinius), who did not appear to himself to be very admirable. The case is this; you are pleased with your own works, I like mine. But to return to Dionysius: he debarred himself from all civil and polite conversation, and spent his life among fugitives, bondmen, and barbarians; for he was persuaded that no one could be his friend who was worthy of liberty or had the least desire of being free.

[23.] [64] Shall I not, then, prefer the life of Plato and Archytas, manifestly wise and learned men, to his, than which nothing can possibly be more horrid, or miserable, or detestable?

I will present you with an humble and obscure mathematician of the same city, called Archimedes, who lived many years after; whose tomb, overgrown with shrubs and briars, I in my quaestorship discovered, when the Syracusans knew nothing of it, and even denied that there was any such thing remaining: for I remembered some verses, which I had been informed were engraved on his monument, and these set forth that on the top of the tomb there was placed a sphere with a cylinder. [65] L   When I had carefully examined all the monuments (for there are a great many tombs at the gate Achradinae), I observed a small column standing out a little above the briars, with the figure of a sphere and a cylinder upon it; whereupon I immediately said to the Syracusans, for there were some of their principal men with me there, that I imagined that was what I was inquiring for. Several men being sent in with scythes, cleared the way, and made an opening for us. [66] When we could get at it, and were come near to the front of the pedestal, I found the inscription, though the latter parts of all the verses were effaced almost half away. Thus one of the noblest cities of Greece, and one which at one time likewise had been very celebrated for learning, had known nothing of the monument of its greatest genius, if it had not been discovered to them by a native of Arpinum. But to return to the subject from which I have been digressing. Who is there in the least degree acquainted with the Muses, that is, with liberal knowledge, or that deals at all in learning, who would not choose to be this mathematician rather than that tyrant? If we look into their methods of living and their employments, we shall find the mind of the one strengthened and improved with tracing the deductions of reason, amused with his own ingenuity, which is the one most delicious food of the mind; the thoughts of the other engaged in continual murders and injuries, in constant fears by night and by day. Now imagine a Democritus, a Pythagoras, and an Anaxagoras; what kingdom, what riches would you prefer to their studies and amusements? [67] L   for you must necessarily look for that excellence which we are seeking for in that which is the most perfect part of man; but what is there better in man than a sagacious and good mind? The enjoyment, therefore, of that good which proceeds from that sagacious mind, can alone make us happy: but virtue is the good of the mind; it follows, therefore, that a happy life depends on virtue. Hence proceed all things that are beautiful, honourable, and excellent, as I said above (but this point must, I think, be treated of more at large), and they are well stored with joys. For, as it is clear that a happy life consists in perpetual and unexhausted pleasures, it follows too, that a happy life must arise from honesty.

Following sections (68-121)


4. This was Marcus Atilius Regulus, the story of whose treatment by the Carthaginians in the first Punic War is well known to everybody.

5. This was Quintus Servilius Caepio, who, 105 B.C., was destroyed, with his army, by the Cimbri - it was believed as a judgment for the covetousness which he had displayed in the plunder of Tolosa.

6. This was Marcus Aquilius, who, in the year 88 B.C., was sent against Mithridates as one of the consular legates: and being defeated, was delivered up to the king by the inhabitants of Mitylene. Mithridates put him to death by pouring molten gold down his throat.

7. This was the elder brother of the triumvir Marcus Crassus, 87 B.C. He was put to death by Fimbria, who was in command of some of the troops of Marius.

8. Lucius Caesar and Caius Caesar were relations (it is uncertain in what degree) of the great Caesar, and were killed by Fimbria on the same occasion as Octavius.

9. M. Antonius was the grandfather of the triumvir; he was murdered the same year, 87 B.C., by Annius, when Marius and Cinna took Rome.

10. This story is alluded to by Horace -

Districtus ensis cui super impiâ
Cervice pendet non Siculae dapes
Dulcem elaborabunt saporem,
Non avium citharaeve cantus
Somnum reducent.   - iii. 1. 17.

Following sections (68-121)

Attalus' home page   |   02.09.21   |   Any comments?