8 See 19.
174 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
have taken them for citizens of Argos or of Sicyon.
Indeed, the aspect of the walls of Corinth, as it
came to me suddenly, had already affected me more
than it did the Corinthians, whose minds prolonged
thought on their condition had made callous by the
mere lapse of time. I once read a book of Clitom-
achus 1 which, after the overthrow of Carthage, he
sent to his captive fellow-citizens for their consola-
tion, and in this, as he said, he had copied a treatise
of Carneades, 2 containing what he wrote to contro-
vert the proposition, that the wise man would seem
grieved if his country were subdued by a foreign
power. In that case the philosopher applies to the
fresh disaster such remedy as is not needed in a
calamity of long standing; and if that book had
been sent to the captives some years later, it would
have been not wounds, but scars that needed heal-
ing. Gradually and step by step grief is worn
away, not that the cause of grief usually is or
can be changed, but experience teaches what reason
ought to have taught, that misfortunes are really
less than they at first seemed.
23. What need is there at all, some one will say,
of reason, or of the consolation which we are wont
to offer when we wish to relieve the pain of those
1 A disciple of Carneades, and himself a voluminous writer,
having left no less than four hundred books.
2 The founder of the New Academy, who carried his philo-
sophical scepticism so far that Clitomachus, after years of close
intimacy, said that he never knew his master's actual opinion on
any subject whatsoever.
On Grief. 175
in affliction ? For we can hardly fail to have this
at hand, that nothing ought to seem unexpected;
yet who will bear an untoward event with less dis-
comfort for knowing that it was necessary that
some such thing should happen to man ? Such
utterances subtract nothing from the sum of evil.
They only assert that nothing has happened which
might not have been anticipated. Still, sentiments
of this kind are not wholly without avail for com-
fort, though I doubt whether they have very much
power. The unexpectedness of events then has
not such force that all grief springs from it. The
grief perhaps is thus made heavier; but it is not
their suddenness that makes them seem greater ;
they seem greater because they are recent, not be-
cause they are sudden. There are then two ways
of ascertaining the truth, not only as to those things
that seem evil, but equally as to those things that
seem good. We either inquire what and how great
is the thing in question in its very nature, as this
is sometimes done concerning poverty, whose bur-
den we lighten by discussion, showing how small
and few are the things which nature needs ; or from
the subtilty of discussion we refer to examples, here
mentioning Socrates, here again Diogenes, then that
verse of Caecilius, 1
"A sordid garb is oft the robe of wisdom."
For as the force of poverty is always one and the
1 A comic poet contemporary with Ennius.
176 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
same, what reason can be given why, when Caius
Fabricius found it tolerable, others should say that
they cannot bear it ? Closely allied to this mode
of giving comfort is that which shows that what
has happened belongs to human fortunes ; for this
not only recognizes what belongs to the human
race, but signifies that things are tolerable which
others have borne and are bearing.
24. Is poverty the subject ? Many of the pa-
tient poor are named. Or the despising of civic
honors ? 1 There are brought to notice many of
those who have lived without them, and indeed of
those who were happier for that reason ; the lives
of men, specified by name, who have preferred pri-
vate ease to public office are spoken of with praise ;
nor does one fail to quote the anapaest of the most
powerful king of his time, 2 who commends an old
man, and pronounces him happy, because he will
reach the close of life without fame or distinction.
In like manner, by way of example, those who have
been bereaved of children are spoken of, and the
sorrows of those who suffer severely in any way are
soothed by instances of similar affliction. Thus the
1 In general, a Roman whose birth, position or ability would
make him a possible candidate for civic office, regarded it as one
of the greatest afflictions that he should remain in private life.
2 Agamemnon. In the Iphigenia in Aulis. Euripides, in the
opening scene, represents Agamemnon as meeting by night an old
man, to whom he says, "I envy thee, old man, and I envy that
man who has passed through life without danger, unknown,
inglorious ; but I less envy those in honor."
On Grief. 177
endurance of others makes misfortunes seem much
less than they would otherwise be accounted, so
that the afflicted come gradually to think how
largely opinion had exaggerated fact. This same
thing is suggested in Telamon's
" At my son's birth I knew that he was mortal," 1
in that saying of Theseus,
" I thought what ills the future had in store," 2
and in that of Anaxagoras, "I knew that I had
begotten a mortal." 3 All these men, meditating
long on human affairs, came to the conclusion that
they were by no means to be feared in proportion
to the general opinion concerning them. Indeed it
seems to me that the same thing happens to those
who meditate on misfortune beforehand as to those
whom time cures, with this distinction, that the
former are relieved by a certain exercise of reason,
the latter by nature. In either case it is learned
which is the main thing to be regarded that the
evil which is to be accounted the greatest is by no
means sufficient to subvert the happiness of life.
Thus it appears that the blow may be heavier from
an unexpected event, but not, as some think, that
when equal calamities occur to two persons, it is
only the one on whom the affliction falls suddenly
that is affected by grief. Nay, on the other hand,
some sorrow-stricken persons are said to have been
the more grievously afflicted by being reminded of
1 See 13. 2 See 14. 8 See 14.
178 Cicero's Fusculan Disputations.
this common condition of humanity, that we are
born under the law that no one can be always
exempt from evil.
25. Therefore, as I see that my friend Antiochus 1
writes, Carneades used to blame Chrysippus for
quoting with approval these verses of Euripides, 2
" No mortal is there unassailed by pain ;
Few households are there not bereaved of children ;
And all that dwell beneath the sun are death-doomed.
No need then is there for distress and dread.
Earth must be rendered back to earth, and life
Reaped like ripe corn ; for so has Fate ordained."
He said that language like this is of no avail for
the assuaging of grief, but that it is only the greater
reason for painful thought that we have fallen upon
a necessity so cruel, and that talking about the evils
endured by others is fitted to comfort only the ma-
levolent. I indeed think very differently ; for the
necessity of bearing human fortunes restrains us
from fighting, as it were, with God, and warns us
that we are but men ; while examples are adduced,
not to delight a malevolent mind, but that the
afflicted person may feel that he has to bear what
he sees many to have borne calmly and quietly.
Every possible mode of support must be employed
for those who are prostrated and cannot contain
themselves 8 by reason of the greatness of their
1 One of the chief luminaries of the New Academy, and Cice-
ro's principal teacher when he was a student in Athens.
2 From the lost tragedy of Hypsipyle.
8 Latin, cohaerere, literally, "stick together;" and it is in
On Grief. 179
grief. It is on account of this extremity of afflic-
tion, as Chrysippus thinks, that the Greeks call
affliction \v7rtjv, 1 as virtually the dissolution of the
whole man. All this sorrow may be rooted out, as
I said in the beginning, by explaining the cause of
grief, which is nothing else than an opinion and
judgment as to the existence of a present and
pressing evil. Thus bodily pain, the very most
intense, is borne with the hope of some good issue ;
and an honored and illustrious life yields such con-
solation that those who have thus lived are either
untouched by grief, or very slightly pained by it.
26. But if to the opinion as to the presence of
a great evil is added the opinion that it is fitting,
right and a matter of duty to bear what may have
happened with sorrow, then at length is brought
about the severe disturbance of mind attendant
upon grief. From opinion proceed those various
and detestable forms of mourning, squalid attire,
effeminate laceration of cheeks, breast, thighs, beat-
ing of the head. Hence Agamemnon is represented
by both Homer and Attius as
" His unshorn locks tearing in agony,"
on which Bion facetiously says, that " the great fool
of a king plucked out his hair in mourning as if his
contrast with this word that solutio, i. e. "dissolution," or "fall-
ing to pieces," is used in the following sentence.
1 "Grief,"' or " distress." Cicero evidently regards this word as
allied, derivatively, with Xrfcnr, which means "dissolution." Plato
the best authority possible gives the same derivation
180 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
sorrow would be relieved by baldness." But peo-
ple do all these things because they think it proper
to do so. Therefore Aeschines inveighs against
Demosthenes for offering sacrifice 1 the seventh day
after his daughter's death. And how rhetorically,
how copiously ! What an array of opinions does
he bring together! What words does he hurl at
his antagonist ! giving you to understand that
there is no liberty forbidden to the orator. But
no one would approve of this, unless we had it
ingrafted in our minds that all good men ought to
be in the utmost affliction on the death of their
kindred. It is for this reason that some in distress
of mind resort to solitary places, as Homer says of
" He wandered sorrowing in the Aleian fields,
His heart devouring, human footprints shunning."
Niobe, I suppose, is turned to stone because of her
unbroken silence in sorrow; while it is thought
that Hecuba was changed into a dog on account of
a certain bitterness and madness of souL There
are yet others who in sorrow often take delight in
conversing with Solitude herself, like that nurse in
the play of Ennius,
" Fain would I in my wretchedness proclaim
To heaven and earth the sorrows of Medea."
1 On the receipt of the news of King Philip's death, Demos-
thenes bore a prominent part in the festal offering, crowned and
clad in white.
On Grief. 181
27. All these things afflicted persons do because
they think them in accordance with right, truth
and obligation ; and that they are done from a sense
of duty is shown especially by this, that if those
who would wish to maintain the position of mourn-
ers chance to act more naturally or to speak more
cheerfully, they instantly recall themselves to sad-
ness, and charge themselves with wrong because
they have made an intermission in their show of
sorrow. Mothers and teachers, too, are wont to
reprove children, not by words alone, but even by
stripes, and thus force them to mourn if they say
or do anything merrily while the family mourning
lasts. What ? When the mourning ceases, and it
appears that the sorrow has accomplished no val-
uable purpose, is it not perfectly manifest that
it was all a matter of free choice ? What does
that self-punisher, the 'Eavrbv TifAwpovpevos 1 of
Terence say ?
" Chremes, my son receives less harm from me
While I become as wretched as I can."
He determines to be miserable. But does any one
so determine unless of his own free will ?
" I count myself worthy of every evil."
He accounts himself deserving of evil unless he
be wretched. What is to be said of those whom
circumstances will not suffer to mourn ? Thus
1 The Greek name of Terence's Heautontimorumenos, or the
182 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
according to Homer the many slaughters and deaths
of every day appease sorrow. Ulysses says :
" So many fall around us every day
That we can find no leisure for our grief.
Then calmly let us bury those that die,
And each day's sorrow end with each day's tears."
It is then in your power to cast away sorrow
at pleasure, if occasion demands. Now since this
thing is within our own power, is there any occa-
sion of which we may not fitly avail ourselves for
laying aside care and grief ? It was evident that
those who saw Cneius Pompeius falling under his
wounds, while they feared for themselves in he-
holding that most bitter and miserable spectacle,
seeing themselves surrounded by the hostile fleet,
did nothing then save to urge the rowers to seek
safety by flight; after their arrival at Tyre they
began to mourn and lament. Fear then could in
their case repel grief; shall not reason and true
wisdom have equal power ?
28. But what is there that can be of more avail
for the laying aside of sorrow, than its being under-
stood that it is of no profit and is endured to no
purpose ? Now if it can be laid aside, one can also
refrain from taking it up. It must be acknowl-
edged then that grief is assumed by one's own will
and judgment. This is shown by the patience of
those who, after having suffered often and much,
bear more easily whatever happens, and think that
they have hardened themselves against fortune,
On Grief. 183
like that character in the play of Euripides who
" If now the first sad day had dawned on me,
Nor had I sailed upon a sea of sorrow,
It were with me as with the colt unbroken
That rears and plunges as the spur strikes deep ;
But woe succeeding woe has made me torpid." 1
Since then weariness of misfortunes makes grief
lighter, the necessary inference is that the event
itself is not the cause and fountain of the sorrow.
Do not the most eminent philosophers, while they
have not yet fully attained wisdom, understand
that they are enduring the greatest evil possible ?
For they are unwise, and there is no greater evil
than unwisdom. Yet they do not .mourn for this.
How so ? Because to this class of evils, the lack
of wisdom, there is not affixed the opinion that it is
right, arid just, arid a part of duty, to grieve, while
we do affix this opinion to that kind of grief,
reputed the greatest, to which the forms of mourn-
ing belong. Aristotle, blaming the earlier philoso-
phers who thought philosophy already perfected
by their genius, says that they were either the
most foolish or the most boastful of men, but that
considering the great progress made within a few
years, it will not be long before philosophy will
have reached perfection. Theophrastus, too, in dy-
ing is reported to have accused Nature because she
had given to stags and crows a long life which is
1 From a lost tragedy.
184 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
of no consequence to them, to men to whom it is a
matter of the greatest concern, a life so very short ;
and to have said that could human life have been
longer, it might have sufficed for perfection in all the
arts, and for the attainment of every kind of learn-
ing. Did he therefore complain that he must cease
to be when he had just begun to see these things ?
What ? Of other philosophers do not all the best
and wisest confess that they are ignorant of many
things, and that they need to learn many things
over and over ? Yet aware that they are stuck fast
in the midst of unwisdom, than which there is noth-
ing worse, they are not weighed down by grief; for
there is here no admixture of the opinion as to the
duty of sorrow. What is to be said of those who
think that men ought not to mourn ? Among these
were Quintus Maxirnus who carried to the funeral-
pile his son, an ex-consul, Lucius Paullus who lost
two young sons, Marcus Cato whose son died when
he was praetor elect, and such others as I have
named in my book entitled Consolation. What
kept these men calm, except that they thought
that mourning and grief do not belong to a man ?
Therefore as others, thinking it right, are accus-
tomed to surrender themselves to grief, these men,
thinking such compliance disgraceful, repelled grief.
From this it is inferred that grief is not in the
nature of things, but in opinion.
29. On the other side it is asked, who is so far
demented that he will grieve voluntarily ? " Grief
On Grief. 185
is brought on by nature, to which," they say, " even
your own 1 Grantor thinks it necessary to yield;
for it is pressing and urgent, and cannot be re-
sisted." Thus in the play of Sophocles, Oileus,
who had before comforted Telamon, was broken
down when he heard of the death of his own son ;
and it is said of his change of mind :
" No comforter is so endowed with wisdom
That, while he soothes another's heavy grief,
If altered Fortune turns on him her blow,
He will not bend beneath the sudden shock,
And spurn the consolation he had given. " a
Those who reason thus endeavor to show that na-
ture can in no wise be withstood ; yet they confess
that men take upon themselves severer sorrow than
nature makes necessary. What madness then is it
for us, also, to require this of them ! But there
are reasons, it is said, for assuming the burden of
sorrow. In the first place, there is the opinion of
the presence of an actual evil, which seen and be-
lieved, grief necessarily follows. Then it is imag-
ined that it is even gratifying to the dead to make
great lamentation for them. To this is added a
womanish superstition in the idea that the immor-
tal gods are more easily satisfied if men confess
themselves beaten down and prostrated by their
stroke. But most persons do not see how mutually
1 Your own, i. e. Cicero's own. Grantor was a Platonist of the
old school, and a specially favorite author with Cicero.
2 From a lost tragedy.
186 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
repugnant these reasons are ; for they praise those
who die with equanimity, and yet think those wor-
thy of censure who bear another's death with like
equanimity, as if what is said in the dialect of
lovers were in any way possible, that one should
have more affection for another than for himself.
It is very noble, and at the same time, if we look
into the matter, it is right and fitting, that we love
those who are dearest to us as much as we love
ourselves ; but it is impossible for us to love them
more. In friendship it is by no means to be de-
sired that my friend should love me more than
himself, or that I should love him more than my-
self. Were this so, a confusion of life and of all its
duties would ensue.
30. But of this on some other occasion. It is
sufficient now that we do not ascribe our misery to
the loss of friends, and that we do not love them
more than they desire if they are still conscious,
or in any case more than we love ourselves. Now
when it is said that most persons derive no relief
from the consolations administered to them, and it
is added that the comforters themselves confess
that they are miserable when Fortune turns her
assault upon them, both these assertions are easily
disposed of; for these are not defects of nature, but
we ourselves are to blame for them. Here we have
ample right to make the charge of folly ; for those
who are not relieved invite wretchedness upon
themselves, and those who do not bear their own
On Grief. 187
calamities in the spirit which they recommend to
others are not more faulty than most other persons,
for instance, than the avaricious who reproach their
like, and the trumpeters of their own fame who
reprove those who are covetous of fame. It is the
property of folly to see the faults of others, to for-
get its own. But that grief is removed by time is
the strongest proof that its force is contingent, not
on time, but on continuous thought upon the cause
of grief; for if the event is the same and the man is
the same, how can there be any change in the sor-
row, if there be no change either in the cause of the
sorrow or in him who mourns ? J It is then the
continuous thought that there is no evil in the event,
not mere length of time, that cures sorrow.
31. Some 2 speak to me of the mean between ex-
tremes which ought to be observed. If this mean
as to grief be natural, what need is there of conso-
lation ? Nature will determine the measure. But
if it be a matter of opinion, let the opinion be
wholly removed. I think that I have made it suf-
1 Here Cicero forgets that though the event is the same, its
bearing on the happiness of the person afflicted by it may not
continue the same. The fact of the death of a friend remains
unchanged, and is thought of years afterward as if the grief were
still fresh. But the place which he filled in his friend's outward
life is in process of time more or less filled by others, and thus
the occasions on which he is vividly reminded of his loss are less
2 The Peripatetics, who maintained that in every matter of
moral interest or duty the way between two extremes is the right,
and the only right way.
188 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
ficiently plain that the opinion that an evil is pres-
ent constitutes grief, this opinion including the
feeling that grief is a matter of obligation. Zeno
rightly adds to this definition that the opinion with
regard to the present evil must be recent. But
"recent" is so interpreted as to embrace not only
what happened a little while ago ; but as long as
there is in the supposed evil a force which retains
its vigor and freshness, it is fitly called "recent."
For instance, Artemisia, the wife of Mausolus, king
of Caria, who built that splendid tomb at Halicar-
nassus, lived in sorrow as long as she lived, and
wasted away because worn out by it. To her that
opinion was recent every day; but it cannot be
called " recent " when time has withered it. These
then are the duties of those who administer con-
solation, to remove grief entirely, to moderate it,
to draw it off as much as possible, to suppress it
and not suffer it to flow farther, or to bring over
the thoughts to other subjects. There are those
who, with Cleanthes, 1 think it the sole duty of the
comforter to show that the object of sorrow was
not at all an evil. There are those, like the Peripa-
tetics, who would make it not a great evil. There
are those, like Epicurus, who lead the thoughts
away from evils to goods. There are those who
think it enough to show that what has happened
might have been expected, and is therefore not an
evil Chrysippus thinks that in consolation the
1 One of the most rigid of the Stoics.
On Grief. 189
main thing is to remove the opinion of the afflicted
person that he is discharging an obligation that is
just and due. Then there are some who unite all
these modes of consolation. Different persons are
moved in different ways. Thus in my book enti-
tled Consolation I have thrown together almost
every topic; for my own mind was in agitation
when I wrote it, and I tried in it every method of
cure. But the right time must be taken in dis-
eases of the mind no less than in those of the body.
Thus the Prometheus of Aeschylus, when it has
been said to him,
" I think, Prometheus, you agree with me
That wrath and rage admit the cure of reason,"
" If one apply the cure in fitting time,
Nor with rude hands smite on the rankling wound."
32. In administering consolation, then, the first
remedy is to show that what has happened is either
no evil, or a very slight evil ; the second, to dis-
course on the common condition of life, and espe-
cially on anything that may be peculiar in the
condition of the person afflicted ; the third, to de-
monstrate the extreme folly of wearing one's self
out with fruitless sorrow, from which it is well un-
derstood that nothing is to be gained. The comfort
that Cleanthes gives is adapted only to the wise
man who is not in need of consolation; for were
you to convince a person in sorrow that there is no
190 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
evil except what is morally vile, you would have
taken from him not only his sorrow, but also his
unwisdom. 1 But another time is more appropriate
for such teaching. Yet it seems to me that Cle-
anthes did not see clearly enough that grief may
sometimes be the consequence of that very thing
which he acknowledges to be the greatest of evils.
For what shall we say when Socrates had con-
vinced Alcibiades that he was nothing of a man, and
that there was no difference between him, though