46 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
regarded as the work of unequalled wisdom ? Or
who assembled scattered men together, and brought
them into the life of society ? Or who comprised
the sounds of the human voice, which seem infinite
in number, in a few written characters ? Or who
marked out the courses, the relative movements,
the laws of the wandering stars ? All these were
great men ; but greater still were they who invented
agriculture, raiment, houses, the modes of decent
living, the means of defence against wild beasts,
by whose agency men, tamed and refined, have
gradually passed from the arts essential to life
to those of the more elegant type. For now we
derive great pleasure through the ears from the
discovery and modulation of musical tones of
widely various nature ; and we look up with
intelligent admiration to the stars, both to those
which always hold the same place in the heavens,
and to those that are wandering in name, though
not in fact. The soul that understands all their
circuits and motions proves itself a soul like that
of him who created them in the heavens. For
when Archimedes combined in his artificial sphere
the motions of the moon, the sun and the five
planets, he accomplished the same thing with
Plato's god in the Timaeus, who made the uni-
verse, in one cycle of revolution comprehending
motions differing most widely as to velocity. If
in the universe this could not be done without
a god, no more could Archimedes without a god-
On the Contempt of Death.
derived genius have imitated the same motions in
his planetarium. 1
26. To me, indeed, none of these more honored
and renowned pursuits of men seem to lack a divine
power, so that I cannot imagine a poet producing
verse of grand import and perfect rhythm without
some heavenly inbreathing of the mind, or elo-
quence flowing in high-sounding words and fruitful
thoughts without more than earthly impulse. Phi-
losophy, too, mother of all arts, what else is it
than, as Plato terms it, a gift, an invention of the
gods ? This led men first to the worship of the
gods, then to those mutual rights that are inherent
in human society, then to modesty and magnanim-
ity; and at the same time it dispelled darkness
from the soul as from the eyes, so that we could
see all things, above, beneath, beginning, end, and
middle. This which effects so many and so great
things is evidently a divine power. For what is
the memory of things and of words ? What, still
further, is invention? Certainly that than which
nothing greater can be conceived of in a god. For
I do not think that the gods rejoice in ambrosia
or nectar, or in Juventas 2 filling their cups ; nor do
I believe Homer when he says that Ganymede was
stolen for his beauty to become Jupiter's cupbearer.
1 Of this planetarium there remains no detailed description ;
but from what we learn of it, it must have revolved by machinery
like that of the modern orrery.
2 An alias for Hebe.
48 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
This was no sufficient reason for inflicting such
a wrong on Laomedon. Homer in these fictions
transferred to the gods what belongs to man. I
would rather that he had transferred divine things
to us. What are the things divine ? To be strong,
to be wise, to invent, to remember. Therefore the
soul which, as I say, is divine, Euripides even dares
to call a god. Indeed, if God is either air or fire,
the soul of man is the same ; for the celestial na-
ture is free from the elements of earth and water,
and the human soul equally lacks them both. But
if there is the fifth nature first introduced into phi-
losophy by Aristotle, this is the nature alike of gods
and of souls.
27. To this last opinion I gave expression in my
book entitled Consolation. 1 " No earthly origin can
be found for souls ; for there is in souls nothing
that is mixed or compounded, or that seems to be
of earthly birth or fabrication, nor indeed anything
that partakes of the nature of water, or of air, or of
fire. For in these elements there is nothing that
has the power of memory, mind, thought, nothing
that can keep its hold on the past, foresee the future,
and comprehend the present, properties which are
exclusively divine, nor can any source be found
whence they can come, unless they come from God.
The soul, then, has a certain nature and power of
1 Consolatio, a book written by Cicero for his own consola-
tion after the death of his daughter. It is lost, except so far as
the author himself gives fragments of it in his other writings.
On the, Contempt of Death. 49
its own, distinct from these natures within our fa-
miliar knowledge. Thus whatever that is, which
feels, which knows, which lives, which has an inte-
rior principle of life, is heavenly and divine, and
must therefore of necessity be eternal. Nor can
the God whom we understand be understood except
as mind, unbound and free, separate from all mortal
admixture, perceiving and moving all things, and
itself endowed with the power of perpetual motion."
28. Of this order of being, and of the same
nature with that of the gods, is the human mind.
Where then is that mind, or how may it be de-
scribed ? Where is yours, and how may it be
described ? Can you say ? If I have not all the
means for understanding it which I might wish to
have, will you not permit me to use such as I pos-
sess ? The soul cannot see itself ; but, like the
eye, the soul, not seeing itself, sees other things.
It does not, you say (a matter of small concern),
see its own form, perhaps not, yet it may; we
may leave this out of the question it certainly
does see, as its own, sagacity, memory, motion,
celerity. These are great, divine, eternal. How
the soul looks, or where it lives, there is no need of
asking. When we behold, first, the beauty and
brightness of the heavens, then their revolution
faster than we can think, then the alternation of
day and night, and the fourfold change of seasons,
adapted to the ripening of the harvest and the
healthful condition of our bodies, the sun, the
50 Cicero's Titsculan Disputations.
ruler and guide of all, the moon, whose light
waxes and wanes as if to mark and designate our
religious festivals, 1 then in the same sphere, with
its twelve divisions, the five planets 2 borne along,
keeping with the utmost precision their unchang-
ing orbits, though with different velocities, then
this earthly globe, projecting from the ocean, fixed
in the centre of the entire universe, habitable and
cultivated in two opposite zones, the one lying
"The polar Wain, whence the fierce northern blast
Heaps in vast gelid piles the driven snow ; "
the other in the south, unknown to us, called by
the Greeks avrfyOova ; 3 the rest of the world un-
cultivated, while where we live, in fitting season,
" The heavens shine, the trees put forth their leaves,
The joy-dispensing vine its clusters ripens,
The trees bend low their heavy-laden boughs,
With harvest wealth the yellow grain-fields teem,
The fountains gush, and grass the meadows clothes,"
then the abundant supply of domestic animals,
some for food, some for field-work, some for draught,
some to furnish clothing, and man himself framed
1 The lunar month, as distinguished from the month of the
calendar, has in all ages and countries been largely recognized in
the adjustment of religious festivals, as it is now in determining
the Passover or Easter, which to a considerable extent governs
the ecclesiastical year, Jewish and Christian.
a Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
8 Literally, the opposite region, corresponding to our anglicized
Greek word antipodes.
On the Contempt of Death. 51
as if to contemplate the heavens and the powers
above and to worship the gods, and all land and
sea submissive to man's service, when we discern
these things, and more beside than we can number,
can we doubt that there presides over them some
creator, if, as Plato thinks, they began to be, or if,
as Aristotle maintains, they were from eternity,
some ruler of a system so vast and so munificent ?
So, though you see not the mind of man, as you see
not God, yet as you recognize God from his works,
so would I bid you to recognize the divine power
of the human mind from its memory of things,
from its inventive capacity, from its swiftness of,
motion, from all the beauty of its virtue.
29. Where then is it ? I think that it is in ,
the head, and I can give reasons for so thinking.
But, waiving the question where the soul is, it is
certainly within you. What is its nature ? Pecu-
liar, I think, and its own. But admit that it con-
sists of air or of fire, it is a matter that has no
bearing on our discussion. Consider this alone,
As you know God, although you know neither his
dwelling nor his countenance, so you ought to know
your own soul, even if you do not know its habita-
tion or its form. We so far know the soul that,
unless we are utterly stupid l in our conceptions of
natural science, we are sure that in souls there is
nothing mixed, compounded, joined together, com-
pacted, double. Since this is so, the soul cannot
1 Latin, plumbei, literally, leaden.
52 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
be separated, or divided, or torn apart, or drawn in
sunder, and therefore cannot die ; for death is, so to
speak, the disuniting, dividing and separating of
those parts which before death were somehow held
together. By these and similar reasons Socrates
was induced to dispense with the services of an
advocate in his capital trial, and to omit all appeal
to the mercy of his judges, before whom, under the
inspiration, not of pride, but of true greatness of
mind, he uttered himself with freedom and firm-
ness ; and on the last day of his life he discoursed
largely on immortality. So too, when a few days
before, he might have been easily released from
confinement, he rejected the opportunity, and when
the fatal cup was ready to be put into his hand, he
so spake that he seemed as one not about to be
forced to die, but on the point of ascending to
30. He believed and taught that there were two
ways and a double course for souls on leaving the
body, that for those who had contaminated them-
selves by the vices to which men are addicted, had
given themselves up entirely to sensual lusts, and,
blinded by them, had become defiled in private life
by habits of gross profligacy, and for those who
had incurred inexpiable guilt by plotting against
their country, there was a devious road, leading far
from the company of the gods; while those who
had preserved their integrity and chastity, had de-
rived the least possible contagion from the body,
On the Contempt of Death. 53
had always kept themselves independent of it, and
in human bodies had imitated the life of the gods,
had opened for them an easy return to those from
whom they came. Therefore he says that all good
and wise men should be like the swans, which, con-
secrated to Apollo, not without reason, but because
they seem to have the power of divination, and
foreseeing how much of good there is in death, die
with songs and joy. Nor could any one doubt
this, unless the same thing should befall us when
earnestly meditating on the soul which happens to
those who in looking intently at the setting sun
lose it altogether from sight. In like manner the
eye of the mind in profound introspection some-
times becomes dull, and for that reason we relax
the intensity of contemplation. Thus doubting,
looking around on every side, hesitating, in dread
of what may be adverse, our reasoning on these
themes is tossed to and fro like a ship on the vast
ocean. These things are old, and from the Greeks.
But in our own time Cato 1 departed from life as if
he rejoiced to have found a reason for dying. The
god who rules within us forbids us to go hence
without his command ; but when that god himself
1 Cato Uticensis. Cicero in the De Gfficiis, I. 31, justifies
Cato's suicide on the ground of his massiveness of character,
which made it impossible for him to look upon the face of a
tyrant, but says that for a man of less weight of character it
would have been unjustifiable. The Stoics, after the example of
their founder, Zeno, generally regarded suicide as a right, or even
as a duty, under irretrievable calamity.
54 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
gives good reason for so doing, as of old to Socra-
tes, 1 of late to Cato, often to many, the wise man
will rejoice to go forth from this darkness into that
light. He will not have broken the bonds of his
prison; for the laws forbid it. But as if released
by a magistrate or some legitimate authority, he
will have gone forth as summoned and set free by
God. Indeed, as Socrates says, the entire life of
philosophers is a meditation on death.
31. For what else are we doing when we sepa-
rate the soul from pleasure, that is, from the body,
from the management of property, which is the
minister and servant of the body, from public
charge, from business of every kind? "What, I
ask, are we then doing, unless we are calling the
soul to itself, forcing it into its own society, and
chief of all leading it away from the body ? But
separating the soul from the body is nothing else
than learning to die. This, even while we remain
on earth, will be like the life of heaven ; and when,
released from these bonds, we shall be borne thither,
our souls will be the less delayed on their way. For
those who have always lived in the fetters of the
1 Cicero is wrong in classing Socrates with Cato as a suicide.
Socrates could, indeed, have saved his life ; but he was legally
condemned, and might fittingly have regarded it as wrong to
evade even an unrighteous sentence pronounced by competent
authority. His case is much more nearly parallel to that of those
Christian martyrs who have preferred being the victims of right-
ful authority wrongfully exercised, to saving life by means not
On the Contempt of Death.
body, even when they are released, make slower
progress, like those who have been for many years
bound with iron chains. When we shall have
come to heaven, then at length shall we live. For
this life, indeed, is death, and if I chose, I could
make lamentation over it.
A. You have lamented sufficiently over it in
your Consolation, which when I read I desire noth-
ing else save to leave these earthly things, but much
more in hearing what you have now said.
M. The time will come, and speedily indeed, and
alike whether you hold back or are in haste; for life v * <t>
flies. But death is so far from being the evil that it (K^CM*-
seemed to you a little while ago, that I apprehend,
not that there is nothing else that may not be an
evil, but rather that there is no other good, if indeed
we are going to be gods, or to live with the gods.
A. What matters it, which of the two will be our
M. There are those present who are not of my
opinion ; but I will never let you go from the sound
of my voice in a state of mind in which death can
for any reason seem to you an evil.
A. How can it so seem when I know what I
have heard from you?
M. How can it, do you ask ? There come
crowds of those who hold the contrary opinion.
Not only the Epicureans, whom indeed I do not
despise; 1 but somehow men of superior learning
1 Latin, non despicio. Probably ironical ; for the Epicureans
56 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
in general hold my belief in contempt ; while my
favorite author, Dicaearchus, has argued with great
acuteness against this immortality of souls. He
wrote three books, called Lesbiacs because the scene
of the Dialogues that they contain is laid at Myti-
lene, in which he aims to show that souls are mor-
tal. But the Stoics grant us an extended lease of
life, as the crows have. They say that souls will
live long, 1 but not forever.
32. Will you not then hear why, if those who
deny the immortality of the soul are in the right,
death still is not to be reckoned among the evils ?
A. As you please. But no one shall drive me
from the hope of immortality.
M. This indeed is to your credit, but one ought
not to be over-confident on any subject; for even
on matters that are comparatively clear we are
often moved by the conclusion of some skilfully
managed argument, and afterward yield our ground
and change our opinion, and there is certainly some
obscurity in the subject now in hand. Let us then
be armed, in case our ground should be assailed.
A. You are in the right, no doubt; but I will
take care that nothing of this kind shall happen
M. Is there then any reason for not dismissing
are contrasted with the men of superior learning. Non respido
is a reading of the opposite sense, and expresses Cicero's actual
opinion of the Epicureans ; but though received by some editors,
it rests on very slight authority.
1 Till the destruction by fire of the now existing universe.
On the Contempt of Death. 57
my friends, 1 the Stoics ? I mean those who think
that souls live after leaving the body, but not
A. We certainly need not trouble ourselves about
those who admit what is the most difficult of all
to believe, that the soul can survive without the
body, yet do not concede what is not only easy of
belief, but follows as a consequence of their admis-
sion ; namely, that when the soul has long lived in
its separate state it cannot die.
M. Your objection is sound. The matter is as
you say. Can we then agree with Pauaetius
wherein he differs from his master Plato ? He
constantly calls Plato divine, supremely wise, the
holiest of men, the Homer of philosophers, but
rejects this one belief of his as to the immortality
of the soul. His reasoning is, that whatever is
born must die, and that souls are born, as appears
from the resemblance of children to their parents,
which is evident in mind no less than in body.
He gives yet another argument. Nothing can suf-
fer pain that is not also liable to disease ; whatever
can become diseased will die ; souls suffer pain,
therefore they die.
33. These arguments can be answered ; for they
1 Latin, arnicas nostros, which I render my friends rather than
our friends, because Cicero was really, in most particulars, more
of a Stoic than of an Academic, and he always speaks of the Stoic
philosophy and its teachers with both familiarity and reverence,
while he is in the constant habit of using the plural of the first
person instead of the singular.
58 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
come from one who does not know that when the
immortality of souls is spoken of, it is affirmed of
the mind, which is always free from every disturb-
ing emotion, not of those parts of the man in which
sickness, angry passions and lusts have their field,
and which his opponent regards as separated and
shut off from the mind. As for the likeness of chil-
dren to parents, it is seen in beasts, whose souls are
destitute of reason. But in men the likeness exists
chiefly in the conformation of the body, and it is, in-
deed, a matter of great importance in what sorts of
bodies souls are quartered ; for many things proceed-
ing from the body give keenness to the mind, and
many things from the same source make it dull.
Aristotle, forsooth, says that all men of genius are of
melancholic temperament, 1 so that I might not be
sorry if my own temperament were of a less lively
type. He names many instances, and as if it were
an undoubted fact, he adduces a reason for it. But
if those things that are born in the body have so
great an influence on the habit of the mind and
it is these, whatever they are, that create the like-
ness the resemblance between parent and child
is no proof that souls are born. I will not dwell
on the cases of non-resemblance. Yet I should
be glad if Panaetius were here, as he lived in the
family of Africanus. I should like to ask him
which of his family the grandson of the brother of
1 Or, a bilious temperament. Melancholy, by its derivation,
means black bile.
On the Contempt of Death. 59
Africanus 1 resembled, so like his father in face, in
life so like the most abandoned men that he might
easily have been taken for the worst of them all.
Whom did the grandson of Publius Crassus, 2 that
wise and eloquent and eminent man, resemble ?
The same question may be asked about the grand-
sons and the sons of many other distinguished men
whom there is no need of naming. But what are
we about ? Have we forgotten that we proposed,
when we had said enough concerning immortality,
to show that, even were souls to die, there is no
evil in death ?
A. I had not forgotten it; but I readily suffer
you, while talking about eternity, to wander from
34. M. I see that you look high, and want to
migrate to heaven.
A. I hope that this may be my lot. But sup-
pose that, as the philosophers whom you have
mamed think, souls do not remain in being after
death, if this be so, it seems to me that we suffer
loss in being deprived of the hope of a happier life.
1 Quintus Fabius Maximus, a man of unsurpassed vileness and
profligacy, and so notoriously infamous that the city praetor would
not suffer him to administer his father's estate.
2 Publius Licinius Crassus Dives, known principally for his
prodigality. Inheriting great wealth, he early became a bankrupt.
The contrast with his grandfather was all the greater because
the latter had proposed and carried through a much-approved
sumptuary law to prevent extravagance and gluttony in and at
60 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
M. Yet, in truth, what evil comes to us in that
case ? For suppose that the soul dies as the body
does, is there therefore any pain, or any feeling at
all, in the body after death ? No one says that there
is. Though Epicurus accuses Democritus of saying
so, the disciples of Democritus deny it. Nor can
any feeling remain in the soul ; for it is nowhere.
Where then is the evil, since beside body and soul
there is no third substance ? Is it that the depar-
ture of the soul from the body does not take place
without pain ? Admitting this to be the case, how
slight is the pain ! But I think that there is none.
In most cases death occurs without the conscious-
ness of dying, in some with pleasure ; and however
it may be, the whole of dying is of comparatively
little importance, for it is momentary. What gives
pain, even agony, is the departure from all the
goods that belong to life. Consider whether it
might not be said with greater truth, from all the
evils. Yet why should I now make lamentation
over human life, as I might with truth and right ?
When my aim is to show that we cannot anticipate
any misery after death, why need I make life even
more wretched by mourning over it ? I have done
this in the book in which I gave myself all the
consolation that I could. If then \ve want to know
the truth, death takes us from evil, not from good.
Indeed this proposition was maintained by Hege-
sias, the Cyrenaic philosopher, with such a wealth
of argument, that Ptolemy is said to have prohib-
On the Contempt of Death. 61
ited him from lecturing in the schools of philoso-
phy, because many of his hearers committed suicide.
There is, too, an epigram of Callimachus on Cleom-
brotus of Ambracia, who, as the poet says, without
having encountered anything adverse, threw him-
self into the sea after reading one of Plato's books.
The book of Hegesias to which I referred is
/caprepwv, 1 in which a man who is starving himself
to death is arrested in his purpose by his friends,
whom he answers by enumerating the discomforts
of human life. I might do the same, but not so
thoroughly as he who thinks life not worth living
for any one. Not to mention others, is it expedient
for me to live ? Deprived as I am of the comforts
and adornments both of home and of public life,
certainly, if I had died before I lost them all, death
would have removed me from evil, not from good.
35. Take the case, then, of one who has nothing
evil in his lot, and has received no wound from
Fortune, Metellus, for instance, with his four
honored sons ; Priam, with his fifty, seventeen of -^ f*
them by his lawful wife. Fortune had equal power
over both of them ; she exercised it in the case of v
one. Metellus was placed on the funeral pile by
a multitude of sons, daughters, grandsons, grand-
daughters ; Priam, bereaved of all his children, and
fleeing to the altar, was slain by the hand of an
enemy. If he had died while his sons were living