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reads, instead of ilia, Eccuba, i. e. Hecuba.

3 The greater part of such fragments of Attius as are extant
are preserved by Cicero.

4 This is from the tragedy of Iliona, by Pacuvius. The story
is that Iliona married Polymnester, king of the Thracian Cher-
sonesus, and adopted her brother Polydorus, giving him the place
in her household belonging to her own son, whom she called Poly-
dorus. The Greeks, wishing to exterminate the race of Priam,
hired Polymnester to kill Polydorus, and he killed his own son,


Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

" Mother, from quiet and unpitying sleep
I pray thee wake and rise, thy son to bury."

When these verses are sung in slow and mournful
strains, filling the whole theatre with sadness, it is
hard not to account the unburied as wretched.

" Haste to my rescue ere the birds of prey
r~j( And wild beasts rend my body, limb from limb."

He fears that he may not be able to make good use
of his limbs if they are lacerated. He has no such
fear if they are burned.

" Nor let what 's left of me, my fleshless bones,
Foul with black gore, be rudely torn asunder."

I do not understand what he dreads when he pours
forth to the accompaniment of the flute these high-
sounding iambics. 1 We must then keep it in mind
that there is nothing to be cared for after death,
even though many persons do wreak vengeance on
their enemies after they are dead. In some per-
fectly intelligible 2 verses of Ennius 3 Thyestes heaps
curses on Atreus, chief of all, hoping that he may
perish by shipwreck, a hard fate indeed; for such
a death is not without severe suffering. But what
follows is utterly devoid of sense :

"Transfixed on crags that beetle o'er the main,
Sprinkling the rocks with blood, and disembowelled."

supposing him to be the desired victim. The real Polydorus and
Iliona took vengeance on him by first putting his eyes out, and then
killing him. 1 Latin, bonos septenarios.

2 Latin, lucvlentis sane versibus.

8 In his tragedy of Thyestes.

On the Contempt of Death. 79

Not the rocks themselves are more entirely desti-
tute of feeling than the man " transfixed on crags,"
on whom Thyestes here imagines that he is invok-
ing torture. But this is even more exceedingly
foolish :

" Nor may his body find a sepulchre,
A port where it can rest from bitter woe."

You see how full of error all this is. He thinks
that there is a port for the body, and that the sep-
ulchre is a place of rest for the dead. Pelops was
very much to blame for not instructing his son, and
teaching him how far any specific object or event
was worth his caring for it.

45. But why need I take notice of the errors of
individuals, when the various errors of entire na-
tions may be passed in review ? The Egyptians
embalm their dead and keep them in their houses ;
the Persians preserve theirs by smearing them with
wax, that they may last as long as possible. It is
the custom of the Magi not to bury the bodies of
the members of their order till they have first been
torn by beasts. In Hyrcania the common people
keep dogs that are public property, the principal
men, dogs of their own (and we know that they are
a noble breed), 1 and each person provides according
to his ability for being torn by dogs, regarding this

1 The Hyrcanian dogs were probably at once the most intelli-
gent and the bravest of their species. Aelian says that they were
trained for military service, and that no Hyrcanian went into
battle without his dog.

80 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

as the best mode of sepulture. Chrysippus, 1 in his
curious antiquarian researches, has collected many
other modes of disposing of the dead, some of
which are so offensive that the tongue and pen re-
fuse and dread to name them. As to ourselves, this
whole subject may be treated as one of utter indif-
ference ; but with regard to our friends we should
not neglect it, though all the while we, the surviv-
ors, are aware that the bodies of the dead have no
consciousness. Let the living take care that due
concessions be made to custom and general opinion,
yet with the understanding that these matters are
of no concern to the dead. But undoubtedly death
is met with the greatest tranquillity of soul, when
closing life can find comfort in its own good desert.
No one has had a short life, who has completed a
career of perfect virtue. I myself have seen many
occasions when death would have been timely. 2
Would to heaven that this had been my fortune ;
for no good has come to me by the delay. The
duties of life had been fully performed ; the con-
flict witli fortune remained. If then reason does
not suffice to produce an absolute indifference to
death, the experience of life may make us feel that
we have lived long enough and too long; for though

1 A Stoic philosopher celebrated for his various erudition, and
for the number and variety of his writings. It is said that he was
versed in all departments of learning except mathematics and the
exact sciences. He left more than seven hundred works, not a
word of which remains extant.

2 His exile, the death of his daughter, the rain of the republic.

On the Contempt of Death. 81


the dead may be unconscious, they do not in their
unconsciousness lack their own peculiar property
of merit and fame, though as to fame, there is
nothing in it that should make it an object of
desire ; but it follows virtue like its shadow.

46. The approving verdict of the multitude, when
they pass it, is indeed much more to their credit
than for the happiness of those whom they praise.
Yet, whatever sense may be given to my words, I
cannot say that Lycurgus and Solon lack fame for
their legislative and administrative wisdom, or The-
mistocles and Epaminondas for their valor in war.
For sooner will Neptune submerge Salamis itself
than the trophies there won, and the Boeotian
Leuctra will be obliterated before the glory of the
battle of Leuctra shall cease. Much later still shall
fame abandon Curius, Fabricius, Calatinus, the two
Scipios, the two Africani, Maximus, Marcellus, Paul-
lus, Cato, Laelius, and others more than I can num-
ber, whose likeness he who shall in some measure
have attained, estimating it not by popular applause,
but by the genuine praise of good men, if the occa-
sion demands, will with a trusting soul march on
to death, in which we have seen that there is either
supreme good or no evil. Moreover, he will even
prefer to die while in full prosperity ; for the accu-
mulation of good things cannot give pleasure equal
to the pain of losing them. This, it seems to me,
was meant by that utterance of the Lacedaemonian
who, when Diagoras of Rhodes, himself ennobled as


82 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

a victor in the Olympic games, saw his two sons
victors at Olympia, came to the old man and said
by way of congratulation, " Die, Diagoras ; for you
are not going to ascend to heaven." 1 The Greeks
regard these honors as great, and perhaps they place
too high an estimate upon them, or rather they did
then ; and he who said this to Diagoras, deeming it
the summit of happiness that three Olympian vic-
tors should have come from one house, thought it
useless for him to remain longer in life, exposed to
the caprices of fortune. On this subject I might
have answered you sufficiently, as it seemed to me,
in few words ; but I have prolonged my argument
because here is to be found our greatest consolation
in bereavement and sorrow. For we ought to en-
dure with moderation such sorrow as is confined to
ourselves or as we incur on our own account, lest we
seem to love ourselves too well ; but it torments us
with unendurable grief to imagine that those of
whom we are bereaved are with any degree of con-
sciousness exposed to the evils which in the com-
mon belief they endure. I wanted for myself to
exterminate this opinion by the roots, and I have
perhaps been too long in so doing.

47. A. You too long ? Not indeed for me ; for

1 That is, "You can rise no higher, and if you live, you may
not keep your present elevation." Aulus Gellius tells the story
differently. He says that Diagoras had three sons, all victors in
different contests on the same day, and that when they brought
their crowns and put them on his head, the old man died in their

On the Contempt of Death. 83

the first part of your discourse made me desire
death, while the latter part has made me feel, some-
times that I should not be unwilling, sometimes
that I should not be sorry, to die. But the entire
discourse has brought me to the state of mind in
which it would be impossible for me to account
death as an evil.

M. Do we need then a rhetorical peroration, or
may we now entirely dispense with the rhetorical

A. You certainly ought not to abandon the art
which you have always adorned, and, indeed, of
good right; for, to tell the truth, it has adorned
you. But what is your proposed peroration ? For
I want to hear it, whatever it is.

M. Philosophers in the schools are wont to cite
the decisions of the immortal gods concerning death,
decisions which are not figments of theirs, but
rest on the authority of Herodotus and of not a few
others. Mention may first be made of Cleobis and
Bito, sons of a priestess in Argos. 1 When, as was
her wont, she was to be drawn in a chariot to a
solemn and stated sacrifice, it being a considerable
distance from the town to the temple, and the beasts
that should have drawn her not having arrived, the
young men whom I have named stripped off their
clothes, anointed their bodies with oil, and were
yoked to the chariot. The priestess, having arrived
at the temple, thus drawn by her sons, is said to
1 This story is told by Herodotus.

84: Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

have prayed to the goddess that for their piety she
would give them the greatest reward that a god
could bestow upon a man. The young men, having
shared the feast with their mother, went to sleep,
and were found dead in the morning. Trophonius
and Agamedes are said to have offered a similar
prayer. After they had built a temple to Apollo at
Delphi, while worshipping the god, they asked of
him no small reward for their care and toil, not
specifying what they craved, but desiring whatever
it was best for man to have. Apollo signified to
them that on the third day following he would
grant their request, and on the dawn of that day
they were found dead. This is cited as the decision,
not only of a god, but of him to whom the rest of
the gods had conceded superior power of divination.
48. There is added to these narratives the story
of Silenus, who, when captured by Midas, is said in
recompense for his release to have taught the king
that by far the best thing for man is not to be
born; the next best, to die as soon as possible.
This is the sentiment expressed by Euripides in his
Cresphontes : 1

" Bewailing strains befit the fated house
Where man is born, and whence he must go forth
To meet the varied ills of human life ;
But friends with sympathetic joy should follow
Him who from toil and pain rests in the grave."

1 A lost tragedy, of which Varro has preserved some fragments,
and this among the rest.

On the Contempt of Death. 85

There is something not unlike this in the Consola-
tion l of Grantor ; for he there says that a certain
Elysius of Terina, oppressed with grief for the
death of his son, went to an oracle of the dead 2 to
inquire what was the cause of so great a calamity,
and received on a tablet these three verses :

" In life men wander 3 with beclouded mind ;
By fate divine Euthynous dwells * in death ;
Thus was it better far for him and thee."

On this and like authority it is maintained that the
case has been actually decided by the immortal
gods. Alcidamas indeed, among the most distin-
guished of the earlier rhetoricians, wrote a treatise
even in praise of death, consisting of an enumera-
tion of the evils of human life. His book was defi-
cient in such reasons as philosophers compile with
superior skill ; but in richness of diction there was
no lack. The orators represent the far-famed deaths
of those who have sacrificed life for their country

1 The title of this book is Hepl TltvQovs, On Grief. Cicero made
great use of it in his Consolatio, and also in the third of the Tus-
culan Disputations. Plutarch gives some extracts from it in his
Consolation to Apollonius.

2 These oracles were places where it was pretended that the
dead were called up to hold communion with the living. The
necromancy of our time has had its parallel superstition in almost
every age and country. There is a very close analogy between
the witch of Endor and the medium of the nineteenth century.

8 Latin, errant.

* Latin, potitur. There is an intended contrast between the
unsettled condition of the living and the permanent habitancy of
the dead.

86 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

as not only glorious, but happy. They go back to
Erechtheus, 1 whose daughters earnestly craved death
for the life of their fellow-citizens. Then they name
Codrus, who plunged into the midst of the enemy in
the dress of a servant, lest he might be recognized
by his royal attire, an oracle having announced
that if her king were slain, Athens would conquer.
They do not omit Meuoeceus, 2 who, in accordance
with an oracle, freely poured out his blood for his
country. Iphigenia, too, at Aulis, was led to be
sacrificed at her own command, that by her blood
the blood of the enemy might be made to flow.

49. They come down to later time. Harmodius
and Aristogiton are eulogized. Leonidas the Lace-
daemonian and Epaminondas the Theban flourish in
undecaying fame. The authors that I have quoted
had no knowledge of our fellow-countrymen, whom
it is an arduous labor to enumerate, so many are
they whom we see to have made choice of death
with glory. Yet although this is the case, great
eloquence must be employed, and not only so, a

1 According to one of several mutually incompatible myths,
the Athenians having killed a son of Poseidon, it was demanded
of them in expiation that one of the four daughters of Erechtheus,
the king, should be sacrificed. One was drawn by lot, and the
others fulfilled a previous agreement that if one should die, her
sisters should die with her.

8 His was a myth that seems to have been copied from that of
Codrus. According to some authorities Tiresias, according to
others the Delphian oracle, promised victory to the Thebans, if
Menoeceus would sacrifice himself.

On the Contempt of Death. 87

weight of authority as if the appeal were made from
some loftier standing ground, to persuade men either
to begin to prefer death, or, at the least, to cease to ,
fear it. Now if that last day leads not to the ex-
tinction of being, but to a change of place, what is
more desirable ? But if it destroys and blots out
being altogether, what is better than to fall asleep
in the midst of the labors of life, and so, closing the
eyes, to be lulled in eternal slumber ? If this be
so, Ennius speaks of death more wisely than Solon.
Ennius says :

" Let no one honor me with tears, or make
A lamentation at my funeral."

But that wise man. 1 Solon writes :

" Let not my death lack tears. Grief to my friends
I fain would leave, as they surround my bier."

As for ourselves, if such a thing should be that we
should seem bidden by God to depart from life, 2 let
us obey gladly and thankfully, considering ourselves
as released from prison and lightened of our bonds,
that we may either return to the eternal home
which is evidently our own, or may lack all feeling
and all trouble. But if we shall receive no such

1 Solon was on the list of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, and
the aim of the comparison is to bring to view the superior wisdom
of Ennius, Cicero's favorite poet, who was never termed pre-
eminently wise.

2 What Cicero means to say here is, " If there should ever be'
justifiable reason for suicide," the liberty of which in extreme/
cases was claimed by the Stoics.

88 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

command, let us still be so disposed in mind that
we may regard that day, so horrible to others, as
fortunate for us, and may reckon among evils noth-
ing that is appointed either by the immortal gods
or by Nature, the mother of all For we were not
born and created at random and haphazard; but
there was certainly some power which consulted for
the well-being of the human race, and could not
have produced or nourished that which, when it
had filled out its term of labor, should fall in dying
into eternal evil. Rather let us think that we have
a port and a refuge made ready for us, whither we
might well wish to be borne with full sail. Yet
if we. are thrown back on our course by contrary
winds, we must of necessity reach our destination,
though a little later. But can what is necessary
for all be a source of misery to one ? You have
my peroration, so that you may not think that any-
thing has been passed over or left out.

A. I am sure that nothing has been omitted, and
indeed this peroration has strengthened me in my

M. I rejoice that is so. Now let us give some
attention to health ; but to-morrow and the rest of
the time that we are together here in the Tusculan
villa, let us discuss subjects of this kind, and espe-
cially those which may lighten our pains, fears and
desires, which is the richest fruit that philosophy
can yield.


1. NEOPTOLEMUS is made by Ennius in the trag-
edy 1 to say that he found it necessary to philoso-
phize, but only as to a few things ; for as a general
pursuit it gave him no pleasure. I regard it as
necessary for me to cultivate philosophy ; (for what
else can I do, especially now that I have no regular
employment ?) but not, like him, as to a few things.
For in philosophy it is difficult for one to know a
few things, who is not conversant with many or
all. 2 Indeed, the few things can be chosen only
out of many ; nor yet will he who has obtained the
knowledge of a few things fail to pursue what still
remains unknown with like zeal. But yet in a busy
career, and in a military life, as that of Neoptole-
mus then was, the few things are often of benefit,
and bear fruit, if not as much as can be reaped from
the entire range of philosophy, yet sufficient to yield
us in some degree occasional relief from desire,

1 A tragedy of which these few words are the only fragment

2 A truth for all time, that no man can be successful as a
specialist who is not possessed of a broad general culture.

90 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

or grief, or fear. Thus the discussion which I
lately held in my Tusculan villa seemed to result
in the entire contempt of death, which is of no
little worth in freeing the soul from fear; for he
who fears what cannot be avoided, cannot possibly
live with a quiet mind. But he who has no fear of
death, not only because one must needs die, but
because there is nothing in death to be dreaded,
obtains for himself great help toward a happy life.
Yet I am not unaware that I shall encounter the
earnest opposition of many, which I could avoid
only by writing nothing at all. For if my orations,
in which I meant to satisfy the judgment of the
people at large, eloquence being a popular talent,
employed with a view to the approval of the hear-
ers, yet found some who would praise nothing
which they did not feel able to imitate, who as-
signed to good speaking only the limit which they
hoped to reach, and when overwhelmed with the
affluence of thoughts and words, said that they pre-
ferred leanness and baldness to wealth of thought
and richness of diction (whence sprang the so-called
Attic style, which in its true sense was beyond
the comprehension of those who professed to prac-
tise it, who now have become silent, having been
driven by ridicule out of the very courts of justice),
what can I expect, now that I cannot have in the
least degree the countenance and sympathy of the
people, which I was formerly wont to have ? For
philosophy is content with the judgment of the

On Bearing Pain. 91

few, purposely shunning the multitude, by which it
is in its turn both suspected and hated, so that if
one wishes to cast reproach on philosophy as a
whole, he can do so with the approval of the people;
while if he attempts to assail the philosophical
doctrines which I specially advocate, he can derive
great assistance from the teachings of other schools
of philosophy.

2. But I have answered those who heap con-
tumely on all philosophy, in my Hortensius; 1 while
I think that in my four Books of Academics 2 I
have drawn out at sufficient length what ought to
be said in behalf of the philosophy of the Academy.
Yet I am so far from not wishing to be written
against, that I very greatly prefer it; for philos-
ophy would never have attained such honor in
Greece, unless it had flourished by means of the
controversies and disputes of the most learned men.
I therefore urge all who can do so to wrest superior
merit in this department from Greece, now in her
decline, and to make it the property of our own
city, as our ancestors by their zeal and industry
transferred hither all the other arts that were desir-
able. Thus while the glory of our orators, raised
from the lowest point, has reached the summit
whence as is the law of nature as to almost
everything it must lapse into senile decay and

1 De Philosophia, a lost work.

2 An exposition of the philosophy of the New Academy, extant
only in part.

92 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.

shortly come to nought, let philosophy in its Latin
garb have its birth at this very time; and let us
give it our aid, and suffer ourselves to be argued
against and refuted. This, to be sure, is borne re-
luctantly by those who are, so to speak, devoted
and consecrated to certain fixed and determinate
opinions, and bound by a necessity which compels
them for consistency's sake to defend what they do
not heartily approve. On the other hand, we who
seek the probable, 1 and assert of no proposition
anything more than its truthlikeness in our own
view, are ready to refute without obstinacy, and to
be refuted without anger. But if these studies
shall be transferred to our people, we shall no
longer need the Greek libraries, 2 in which there is
an infinite number of books, on account of the
multitude of writers ; for the same things are said
over and over again by many writers, so that
their books are crammed with repetitions. This
indeed will be the case with our people, if many
shall crowd into these studies. But if we can,
let us rouse those who are liberally educated to
philosophize with reason and method, and at the
same time to consult elegance of diction in their

3. There is, indeed, a certain class of men who

1 It will be remembered that the disciples of the New Acad-
emy, to which Cicero professed adherence, denied the possibility
of attaining absolute truth, or certitude.

2 When their place shall be supplied by Latin writers.

On Bearing Pain. 93

want to be called philosophers, 1 who are said to
have written many Latin books, which I do not
despise, because I have never read them ; but inas-
much as their authors profess to write with neither
precision, nor system, nor elegance, nor ornament,
I omit reading what can give me no pleasure. For
no moderately learned man is ignorant of what
those of that school say and think. If then they
take no pains as to the way of saying it, I do not
understand why they should be read, unless so far
as those of the same opinions read one another.
As, while all, even those who do not agree with
them, or care very little about their opinions, read
Plato and the rest of the Socratic school and their
successors, none but their own disciples ever take
up a book of Epicurus or Metrodorus, so these
Latin writers are read only by those who are in har-
mony with them. But to me it seems fitting that
whatever is committed to writing should be pre-
pared with a view to its being read by all men of
learning ; and even if one cannot fully reach this
end, I feel that it should none the less be aimed at.
I therefore have always been pleased with the cus-
tom of the Peripatetic and Academic philosophers,
that of discussing both sides of every question, not
merely because there is no other way of ascertain-

1 Cicero here undoubtedly refers to Amafanius and other Epi-
cureans, who were the earliest writers on philosophy in the Latin
tongue, none of whose writings are preserved, so as to verify or

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