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and his kingdom safe,

1 The self-starver.

62 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

" In all the splendor of barbaric wealth,
With fretted ceilings, and with towering walls," 1

would he have departed from good, or from evil ?
From good, it would certainly have seemed. But it
surely would have been better for him; for then we
should not have had the mournful strain,

" I saw in flames the palace and the city,
The death of Priam in the holy shrine,
Jove's altar foully sprinkled with his blood," 1

as if at that time anything better could have hap-
pened to him than the stroke by which he died.
Now if he had died at an earlier time, nothing at
all of this kind would have befallen him ; but when
he did die, what he lost was the consciousness of
evils. My friend Pompey, when he was severely
ill at Neapolis, seemed to fare prosperously. On
his recovery the Neapolitans wore crowns, so did
the people of Puteoli, and public congratulations
came from the neighboring towns. It was, indeed,
a foolish fashion, a Greek way of doing things ; yet
it betokened his good fortune. Now if he had died
at that time, would he have departed from good
things, or from evil ? Certainly, from wretchedness.
For in that case he would not have made war against
his father-in-law; he would not have commenced
hostilities without due preparation; he would not
have abandoned his home ; he would not have fled
from Italy ; he would not have lost his army and
fallen defenceless into the hands and upon the

1 These poetical quotations are from the Andromache of Ennius.

On the Contempt of Death. 63

swords of slaves ; his children would not have been
blotted out of being; all that he had would not
have come into the possession of his conquerors.
Had he died then, he would have passed away in
the fulness of prosperity. By the prolonging of his
life, how many, how great, how incredible calami-
ties was he doomed to bear !

36. These things are escaped by death, even
though they might not have happened, because they
may happen ; but men are not wont to think that
such things can befall them. Every one hopes for
himself the fortune of Metellus, just as if there were
more fortunate than unhappy persons, or there were
something worthy of reliance in human affairs, or it
were wiser to hope than to fear. But grant that
men are deprived of good things by death, do the
dead therefore want 1 the comforts of life, and are
they made miserable by that want ? This is what
is implied in saying that the dead are unhappy.
But can he who does not exist want anything?
Want is a sad word; but there lies under it the
meaning : he had, he has not, he desires, he
craves, he needs. Herein consists the discomfort
of him who is in want. He wants eyes ; blindness
is annoying. He wants children; bereavement is

1 The reasoning of this section turns entirely on the word careo
and its inflections, which in every instance I have rendered want.
Of the several English definitions of the Latin word, this, I think,
is the only one that would bear the precise treatment here given
to careo.

64 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

wretchedness. This is so among the living. But
of the dead no one wants, not only the comforts of
life, but life itself. I am speaking of the dead,
who, as we are now supposing, do not exist As
for us who do exist, though we have neither horns
nor wings, does any one say that we want them ?
Certainly not. But why not ? Because when you
do not have what is fit for you neither by custom
nor by nature, you do not want it, though you are
conscious of not having it. This argument should
be urged again and again, it being established be-
yond a doubt that, if souls are mortal, there must
be so entire a destruction of being in death, that
there is not the least suspicion of consciousness
remaining. This then being well determined and
settled, we must ascertain precisely what it is to
want, lest there may lurk some error in the use of
the word. To want, then, means to be destitute of
that which you desire to have. Desire is included
in the signification of want, unless when the word
is employed in an entirely different sense, as you
might use it about a fever. In this other meaning
one is, indeed, said to want what he has not and is
conscious of not having, yet is very willing to dis-
pense with. Ordinarily we do not speak of want-
ing an evil ; nor would this be a subject for regret.
We speak of wanting a good, which want is an evil.
But a living man does not want a good unless he
needs it. Yet in the case of a living man, I should
be understood were I to say that you want a king-

On the Contempt of Death. 65

dom. But this could not be said of you with strict
accuracy, though it might have been properly said
of Tarquin after he had been expelled from his
kingdom. The term cannot be used at all of a dead
person; for want can be affirmed only of a being
that is conscious, and a dead person has no con-
sciousness, and therefore is not capable of want.

37. But what reason have we for philosophizing
in this matter, when we see that it is hardly in
need of philosophical treatment ? How often have
not only our commanders, but even whole armies,
rushed to certain death ! But if death had been
feared, Brutus would not have fallen in battle to
prevent the return of the tyrant whom he himself
had expelled ; nor would the elder Decius in fight-
ing with the Latins, his son with the Etruscans,
his grandson with Pyrrhus, have exposed them-
selves to the weapons of the enemy ; nor would
Spain have seen in the same war two Scipios fall-
ing for their country ; nor would Cannae have wit-
nessed the death of Paullus and Geminus, Venusia
that of Marcellus, Litana that of Albinus, Lucania
that of Gracchus. Is any one of these men wretched
to-day ? No ; nor have they been so since they
drew their last breath. Nor can any one be miser-
able when deprived of consciousness. Do you say
that the very absence of consciousness is sad ? It
would be sad if it implied want. But since it is
perfectly plain that nothing can exist in him who
himself does not exist, what can there be sad in



Cicero's Ticsculan Disputations.

ta WV<K


him who neither wants nor is conscious ? At the
risk of too frequent repetition, I will say that here l
is the reason of the shrinking of the soul for fear of
death. If one will sufficiently consider what is
clearer than the light, that when soul and body are
consumed, the entire living being blotted out, and
a complete destruction effected, that which was en-
dowed with life becomes nothing, he will plainly
see that there is no difference between the Centaur
who never existed and king Agamemnon, and that
Marcus Camillus makes no more account of the
present civil war than I do of the capture of Home
in his time.

Why then would Camillus have grieved, had he
thought that what is taking place now would take
place nearly three hundred and fifty years after his
time ? And why should I feel sorrow if I supposed
that ten thousand years hence another race will
have possession of our city ? Because so great is
the love of country, that we measure it not by our
consciousness, but by the country's own well-being.

38. Therefore death, which is daily impending
from unforeseen casualties, and on account of the
shortness of life can never be very remote, does not
deter the wise man from consulting for the endur-
ing good of his country and of those under his
special charge, or from feeling that the posterity of
which he will have no knowlede belongs to him.

1 In the feeling that the dead retain some kind or degree of

- VX*v*~ca /

, oo

On the Contempt of Death. 67

Thus he who regards the soul as mortal may plan for
eternity, not from the desire of a fame of which he
may be unconscious, but from the impulse of virtue,
which fame must of necessity follow, even though
it be not held in view. The order of nature is such
that as our birth brings to us the beginning, so may
death bring the end of all things. As nothing be-
longed to us before we were born, so nothing will
belong to us after we are dead. What evil can
there be in this, since death appertains neither to
the living nor to the dead ? The latter do not
exist ; it does not yet touch the former. Those
who make light of death represent it as very closely
analogous to sleep, as if one would be willing to
live ninety years, on condition that after sixty he
should sleep the rest of the time. Not even the
swine would crave this ; much less a human being.
Endymion is fabled to have gone to sleep, I know
not when, on Mount Latmus in Caria, and, I think,
is not yet awake. Do you suppose that he cares
when the Moon is in trouble, 1 though she is said to
have put him to sleep that she might kiss him in
his sleep ? What can he care, not being even con-
scious? You have in sleep the image of death;
you daily clothe yourself with it; and can you
doubt whether there may not be unconsciousness in
death, when you see that there is no consciousness 2
in its image ?

1 On the wane, or in eclipse.

2 Latin, scnsus, which may mean either feeling or consciousness*

68 Cicero's Tuscula.n Disputations.

39. Away then with the almost anile folly that
it is a wretched thing to die before one's time.
What time, forsooth ? The appointed time of Na-
ture ? But Nature has given us the use of life, as
we might have that of money, with no day fixed
for repayment. What reason for complaint is there,
then, if she demands it at her pleasure ? It was
on that condition that we received it. Those who
make such complaint admit that when a little child
dies the event should be borne with equanimity,
nay, if it be only an infant in the cradle, that there
is no reason for regret. Yet Nature has in this
case been the opposite of indulgent in demanding
what she had given. The reply is that the child
has not had a taste of the sweetness of life, while
one somewhat older is already anticipating the great
things which he has begun to enjoy. But as in
other matters it is thought better to obtain a part
than none at all, why not as to life ? Yet Callima-
chus says with truth that Priam had wept oftener
than Troilus. But those are regarded as specially
fortunate who die full of years. Why ? I think

that there are some old men whose life would grow

. .

more pleasant were it prolonged. There certainly

is nothing that a man enjoys more than he does
wisdom, and this old age assuredly brings, if it de-
prives one of other things. But what lifetime is

With either definition the analogy is lame, as both feeling and
consciousness continue in sleep, though only in part, or not at
all, corresponding to things as they are.

On the Contempt of Death. 69

really long ? or what is there appertaining to man
that can be termed long ? Does not old age,

" Close following on boyhood aiid on youth,
Arrest men's steps before they think it near ? "

But because we have nothing beyond, we call the
life of the old long. All things that Nature gives
us are either long or short in proportion to their
utmost allotted time. On the Eiver Hypanis, which
flows from some part of Europe into the Euxine
Sea, Aristotle says that there is a certain species of
insects that live only a day. 1 One of them that
died at the eighth hour of the day would have died
at an advanced age ; one of them that died at sun-
set, especially at the summer solstice, would have
been decrepit. If we compare our life with eter-
nity, we shall find ourselves of almost as brief a
being as those insects.

40. Let us then despise all these absurdities (for
why should I give a less severe name to such light-
mindedness ?) and let us consider the entire capa-
city of happy living as consisting in strength and

1 Pliny quotes and reaffirms Aristotle's story about these in-
sects. He says that at the summer solstice the River Hypanis
(now Bog) brings down membranous particles looking like grape-
stones, from which issue quadripedal insects that live but for a
day. Cuvier thinks that the description probably designates the
genus Phryganca, which comprehends some peculiarly short-lived
species. They are not, however, confined to the River Bog.
Aelian describes under the name of ephemera insects of still
shorter lives, that are bred in wine, and when the flask is opened,
fly out and die immediately.

70 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

greatness of mind, in looking with contempt and
scorn on the vicissitudes of human life, and in the
practice of every virtue. For now we are prone to
be made effeminate by the most enervating habits
of thought, so that if death comes earlier than the
astrologers 1 predicted it, we feel as if we were
robbed of certain great goods that were ours of
right, and were both mocked and defrauded. But
if we are, while living, held in suspense, in torture,
distressed by expectation and longing, by the
immortal gods, how pleasant should be the journey,
which once finished, there can be no more care or
anxiety ! How much delight do I take in Theram-
enes ! 2 What loftiness of soul do we see in him !
For though his story makes us weep, yet there is
nothing to be pitied in the death of this illustrious
man, who, when cast into prison by the thirty ty-
rants, drank the poison eagerly, as if he were thirsty,

1 Latin, Chaldaeorum. The earliest astrologers were from the
remote East, and the name of Chaldaei was therefore given to all
who professed to predict human fortunes by consulting the stars.
In Cicero's time faith in astrology was very rife, and astrologers
were in great credit, and were consulted even by wise and emi-
nent men.

2 The record of the life of Theramenes is less honorable than
that of his death. That he performed great services for his coun-
try there can be no doubt, and with some historians he is the
subject of unqualified eulogy ; but he seems to have been some-
thing less than a rigidly upright man, if not a traitor. He con-
sented to be one of the thirty, as his eulogists say, in order to
check their violence. If so, his conduct was like that of a man
who should ship on board a piratical vessel in order to prevent
murder with robbery.

On the Contempt of Death. 71

and so dashed the dregs from the cup that they fell
with an echo, on hearing which he said laughing,
" I drink this to the health of fair Critias," the
man who had been his greatest enemy ; for ^the
Greeks in their banquets always name the guest to
whom they are going to pass the cup. This excel-
lent man joked with his last breath, when his vital
organs were already in the grasp of death ; and to
the man to whose health he had drunk the poison
his was a true prophecy of the death which ensued
very soon afterward. Who would praise this calm-
ness of a very great soul in dying, if he thought
death an evil ? A few years later Socrates goes
into the same prison and drinks the same cup, by a
crime of the judges like that of the tyrants who
doomed Theramenes to death. What then does
Socrates say in the speech which, as reported by
Plato, he made before the judges after he had
received the death-sentence ?

41. " I have a strong hope," he says, " that it
will be happy for me, judges, that I am doomed to
death. For one of two things must of necessity be
the case, either that death takes away conscious-
ness altogether, or that at death one migrates from
these regions to some other place. But if con-
sciousness is blotted out, and death is like that
sleep which, unbroken by dreams, sometimes gives
us supremely peaceful rest, ye good gods, what gain
it is to die! How many days can be found pref-
erable to such a night, which if the whole coming v ux^jo

U^"~ \ Q ' V

\ -


72 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

eternity shall resemble, who can be happier than I ?
But if it is true, as it is said, that death is migra-
tion to regions inhabited by those who have de-
parted from life, this is even much more happy for
me. To escape from those who want to be ac-
counted as judges, to come to those who can with
truth be called judges, Minos, Rhadamanthus, Aea-
cus, Triptolemus, and to meet those who have lived
uprightly and in good faith, can such a change
of abode seem to you a small affair ? Then again,
how much do you think it is worth to have the
opportunity of conversing with Orpheus, Musaeus,
Homer, Hesiod ? Indeed, were it possible, I would
gladly die often, were I sure of finding these things
of which I speak. How should I delight to meet
Palamedes, 1 Ajax, 2 and others who were unrighte-
ously condemned ! I should also make trial of the
wisdom of that greatest king of his time who led
the largest army to Troy, and of Ulysses, and of
Sisyphus, nor should I be condemned to death for
searching into the truth 3 as I did here. Nor ought

1 There were several mutually inconsistent stories about the
death of Palamedes. The one referred to here doubtless is, that
Ulysses, whose feigned insanity Palamedes had detected, in re-
venge induced him to descend into a well to search for hidden
treasures, and that Ulysses and Diomedes stoned him there.

2 The most prevalent, not to say authentic, myth about Ajax
was that he died by his own hand. Reference, however, is evi-
dently here made to some other story.

* Latin, quum haec exquircrem. But the, as it seems to
ine, cannot refer to anything in this sentence or in this immedi-
ate connection. It refers undoubtedly to the opinions and inves-

On the Contempt of Death. 73

you among the judges who voted for my acquittal
to have any fear of death ; for nothing evil can be-
fall any good man, whether living or dead. The
immortal gods will never neglect aught that con-
cerns his welfare. This has not happened to me
by chance. Nor have I any cause of complaint
against my accusers or those who voted for my con-
demnation, unless it be that they thought that they
were doing me harm." In this way he continued
to speak. But there is nothing better than his
close. "But it is time," he says, "to go hence, I
to die, you to live on. Which is to be preferred
the immortal gods know ; I do not believe that any.
man knows."

42. I verily would much rather have this soul
than the fortunes of all those who passed judgment
on it. But what he says that no one save the gods
knows, whether life or death is better, he him-
self knows ; for he has already spoken of death as
the better of the two. Yet he maintained to the
last his custom of refraining from positive assertion
on any subject. But let us hold fast to the princi-
ple that nothing which is appointed by nature for
all is an evil, and let us bear it in mind, too, that if
death be an evil, it is an eternal evil ; for a wretched
life seems to find its end in death, while if death is
miserable, there can be no end to the misery of
life. But why should I commemorate Socrates or

tigations winch formed the substance of the capital charge against



. \

A/6 _

74 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

Theramenes, men of surpassing fame for virtue and
wisdom ? I might speak of a certain Lacedaemo-
nian whose name tradition has not preserved, who
so despised death, that when under a capital sen-
tence he was taken to execution by the magistrates
with a glad and gleeful countenance, and some
enemy asked him, " Do you scorn the laws of Ly-
curgus ? " he answered, " I indeed render the most
hearty thanks to him who fined me with a penalty
which I can discharge without borrowing or paying
interest." Oh, man worthy of Sparta ! who had so
great a soul that it seems as if he must have been
condemned without guilt. Our republic has borne
more such men than we can number. But why
name commanders and those in high station, when
Cato 1 writes that whole legions have often gone
with alacrity to places whence they had no expec-
tation of returning ? With like greatness of soul
the Lacedaemonians fell at Thermopylae, on whom
Simonides wrote :

" At Sparta, stranger, tell that here we lie
In loyal service to our fatherland."

What does their leader Leonidas say ? " Go on,
Lacedaemonians, with a brave soul. To-day, per-
chance, we shall sup in the underworld." This was
a brave race, while the laws of Lycurgus were in
full force. One of them, when a Persian enemy in
a boastful strain said, " Our darts and arrows will

1 In the Origines.

On the Contempt of Death. 75

be so thick that you cannot see the sun," replied,
" We shall fight all the better in the shade." I am
speaking of men. What a noble woman was that
Lacedaemonian mother, who had sent her son to
battle, and hearing that he had been slain, said, " I
gave birth to him that he might be one who would
not hesitate to meet death for his country ! "

43. The Spartans, it must be admitted, were a
brave and hardy race. The training of citizens
under the rule of the State has great efficacy. But
do we not in like manner admire Theodoras of
Gyrene, a philosopher of no mean reputation, who
said when King Lysimachus threatened to have him
crucified, " Make these horrible threats, I beg you,
to your purple-clad courtiers ; to Theodorus it is of
no concern whether he rots in the ground or in the
air ? " This saying of his reminds me that mention
ought to be made of interment and sepulture ; nor
is it a difficult subject, especially when we consider
what was said a little while ago about unconscious-
ness in death. How Socrates felt about it appears
in the book concerning his death J of which I have
said so much. When he had been discoursing on
the immortality of souls, and the moment of his
death was now close at hand, Crito asked him
how he would wish to be buried, and he replied,
"I have indeed, my friends, employed much labor
in vain ; for I have not convinced my friend
Crito that I am going to fly away hence, and to

i The Phaedo.

76 Cicero's Tiisculan Disputations.

leave nothing of myself here. Nevertheless, Crito,
if you can follow me, or can find me anywhere,
bury me as you please. But, believe me, no one
of you will overtake me when I shall have gone
hence." This was well said, at once giving the
desired liberty to his friend, and showing his own
entire unconcern about anything of the kind. Di-
ogenes was of harder make, and of the same opinion,
which he, as a Cynic, expressed in a coarser way,
giving orders that his body should be thrown out
unburied. When his friends asked, "Thrown to
the birds and the wild beasts ? " he replied, " By
no means ; put my staff by me, that I may drive
them away." " How can you do it ? " said they.
"You will have no consciousness." He rejoined,
"What harm then can it do me to be torn by
beasts, if I know nothing about it ? " Anaxagoras
expressed himself happily when he was dying at
Lampsacus. His friends asked him whether, if any-
thing happened, 1 he would wish to be carried to
Clazomene, his native place, and he replied, " There
is no need of it ; it is as far to the underworld from
one place as from another." On this whole sub-
ject of burial one thing is to be kept in mind,
that burial belongs to the body alone, whether the
soul dies or continues to live. But it is very plain,
that if the soul either is blotted out or passes away,
no consciousness remains in the body.

1 Latin, si quid acddisset, literally corresponding to our accus-
tomed euphemism in speaking of death.

On the Contempt of Death. 77

44. But we are constantly encountering errors in
this matter. 1 Achilles drags Hector bound to his
chariot. He thinks, I suppose, that Hector is lacer-
ated, and feels the suffering thus occasioned. He
therefore imagines that he is avenging himself on
his enemy. In the tragedy we hear one 2 mourning
over this intensest extremity of woe :

" What Hector suffered I beheld ; I saw him
Dragged in the dust behind the chariot- wheels."

What Hector? Or how long will he be Hector?
Attius 3 comes nearer the truth, and according to
him Achilles, on one occasion at least, understands
the case as it really is.

" I gave the body ; Hector I removed."

It was not Hector that you dragged, Achilles, but
the body that had been Hector's. So, another per-
sonage of the drama springs from the ground, who
will not let his mother sleep. 4

1 Latin, sed plena, errorum sunt omnia. Omnia of course in-
cludes everything that is read, or heard in the theatre.

2 Latin, ilia, referring to some known personage in a tragedy
then extant, probably the Andromache of Eunius, in which case
ilia may denote Andromache. One manuscript of some authority

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