falsify Cicero's estimate of their value.
94 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
ing what is probable, but because this method fur-
nishes the best exercise for speaking, the opportunity
for which was first made availing by Aristotle, 1
and then by those who followed him. Within my
memory Philo, whom I often heard, used to make
an arrangement at certain times to teach rhetoric,
at other times philosophy. I have been induced
by my friends to adopt this method for the time
that we have spent together at Tusculum. Thus,
having given the forenoon to speaking, as we did
on the previous day, in the afternoon we went
down into the Academy, 2 in which I will give you
our discussion, not in a narrative form, but, as
nearly as possible, in the very words employed on
4. Our conversation was thus held while we
were walking, and began somewhat in this way.
A. It is impossible to say how much I was de-
lighted, or rather helped, by your yesterday's dis-
cussion ; for though I am conscious of never having
been over-desirous of life, yet I sometimes felt a
certain dread and pain in the thought that there
must at one day be an end of its light and a loss
of all its comforts. Believe me, I am so entirely
freed from trouble of this kind, that there is noth-
ing that now seems to me less worth my care.
1 In his public lectures.
2 Cicero had in his Tusculan villa an apartment which he
called Academia, devoted entirely to philosophical lectures and
On Bearing Pain. 95
M. This is by no means wonderful ; for such is
the work of philosophy. It cures souls, draws off
vain anxieties, confers freedom from desires, drives
away fears. But this efficacy which belongs to it
is not equally availing with all; it accomplishes
the most when it takes hold of a congenial nature.
Not only does Fortune, as the old proverb says,
help the brave ; Reason does so still more, by cer-
tain of her precepts, so to speak, intensifying the
force of that which is already brave. Nature, for-
sooth, made you aspiring, and lofty of spirit, and
disposed to look down on human fortunes, and thus
a discourse aimed against the fear of death found
its easy lodgment in so brave a soul. But do you
suppose that these same considerations would be of
avail, save in exceedingly few cases, with the very
men who have thought them out, and reasoned about
them, and committed them to writing ? How few
philosophers are to be found who are such in char-
acter, so ordered in soul and in life, as reason de-
mands ; who regard their teaching not as a display
of knowledge, but as the rule of life; who obey
themselves, and submit to their own decrees ! You
see some of them so frivolous and boastful that it
were better if they had remained unlearned, some
greedy of money, some of fame, some the slaves of
lust, so that there is an amazing contrast between
their teaching and their living, which indeed seems
to me in the lowest degree disgraceful. For as
when one who professes to be a grammarian talks
96 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
inelegantly, or when one who wants to be consid-
ered as a musician sings out of time and tune, 1 he
disgraces himself all the more for his failure in
that in which he pretends to be a proficient, so the
philosopher who is faulty in his manner of living
is worthy of the greater infamy, because he fails in
duty of which he desires to be a teacher, and while
professing the art of true living, is delinquent in
the practice of that art.
5. A. If what you say is true, is there not fear
that you may be decking philosophy with a glory
that does not belong to it ? For what stronger
proof can there be of its uselessness than that some
accomplished philosophers lead disgraceful lives ?
M. It is no proof at all; for as all cultivated
fields are not harvest-yielding, and as there is 110
truth in what Attius says,
" Though seed be sown on unpropitious soil,
It springs and ripens by its innate virtue, " 2
so all cultivated minds do not bear fruit To con-
tinue the figure: as a field, though fertile, cannot
yield a harvest without cultivation, no more can
the mind without learning ; thus each is feeble
without the other. But philosophy is the culture
of the soul. It draws out vices by the root, pre-
pares the mind to receive seed, and commits to it,
and, so to speak, sows in it what, when grown, may
bear the most abundant fruit. Let us go on then
1 Latin, absurde.
3 From the Atreus of Attius.
On Bearing Pain. 97
as we began. Name, if you please, the subject
which you wish to hear discussed.
A. I think pain the greatest of all evils.
M. Greater than disgrace ?
A. That indeed I dare not affirm; and yet I
am ashamed to be so soon thrown down from my
M. It would have been a greater shame to have
maintained it ; for what is more unworthy than
that anything should seem to you worse than dis-
grace, crime, baseness ? To escape these what pain
should be not only not shunned, but voluntarily
sought, endured, welcomed ?
A. So I am now inclined to think. But if pain
be not indeed the greatest evil, it is certainly an
M. Do you not see then how much of the fear-
fulness of pain you have thrown aside on account
of the few words that I have spoken ?
A. I see it plainly ; but I want more.
M. I will attempt to give you more ; but I need
on your part a mind not unwilling.
A. That you shall have indeed ; for as I did yes-
terday, I will now follow Reason whithersoever she
shall lead me.
6. M. First then I will speak of the weakness of
many philosophers of various schools, of whom the
foremost both in authority and in antiquity, Aris-
tippus, the disciple of Socrates, 1 did not hesitate to
1 His disciple, but not his follower. He was a luxurious liver,
98 Cicero's Ttisculan Disputations.
call pain the greatest of evils. Then to this nerve-
less and womanish opinion Epicurus offered himself
a ready disciple. After him Hieronymus of Rhodes
said that the supreme good implies exemption
from pain, so much of evil did he regard as being
included in pain. Others, with the exception of
Zeno, Aristo and Pyrrho, have taken nearly the
same ground with you, that pain is indeed an evil,
but that there are other things that are worse. Is
it then true, that Philosophy, the mistress of life,
persists for so many ages in maintaining what
Nature herself and a certain generous feeling of
the virtuous mind so loathe and spurn, 1 that you
could not regard pain as the greatest evil, but
were driven from that opinion the moment that
the alternative of pain or disgrace was presented ?
What duty, what merit, what honor can be so
great that he who shall have persuaded himself
that pain is the greatest evil, will incur bodily
pain for its sake ? Then again, what ignominy,
what degradation will not one endure to escape
pain, if he shall have determined pain to be the
greatest of evils ? Still farther, who is there that
is not miserable, not only in the future when he
shall be weighed down by the utmost severity of
and probably illustrated in his practice the ethical doctrine, so
far as we know first promulgated by him, that actions are morally
indifferent ; having no characteristics of their own as good or evil,
but deriving their character solely from their consequences.
1 Latin, respuit, literally, spits out.
On Bearing Pain. 99
pain, if he thinks it the greatest of evils, but even
in the mere knowledge that such may be his lot ?
And who is there to whom this may not happen ?
With this possibility no person whatsoever can be
happy. Metrodorus, indeed, thinks him perfectly
happy whose body is in a good condition, and who
is sure that it will always be so. But who is there
that can be sure of this ?
7. But Epicurus says what seems to have been
designed to provoke laughter ; for in one place
he says, "If a wise man is burned or put to tor-
ture" you expect him to add, it may be, "He
will endure it, he will bear it to the end, he will
not yield to it," which, by Hercules, would be a
great merit, and worthy of the very Hercules by
whom I swear; but for Epicurus, rough and hard
man as he is, this is not enough ; "If he shall be
in the bull of Phalaris, he will say, How sweet this
is ! How utterly indifferent to me ! " Sweet, for-
sooth ? Is it too little for one not to find it bitter ?
But the very persons who deny that pain is an evil
are not wont to say that it is sweet for any one to
be tortured. They say that it is vexatious, hard to
bear, annoying, contrary to nature, yet not an evil.
Meanwhile he who calls pain the only evil and the
extreme of all evils, thinks that a wise man will
call it sweet. I do not ask of you that you should
define pain by the same terms by which Epicurus,
a voluptuary, as you know, designates pleasure.
He indeed would have said the same things in the
100 Cicero's Tmculan Disputations.
bull of Phalaris which he would have said in bed.
I do not ascribe to wisdom such power against
pain. That one be brave in enduring it, is enough
for duty ; I do not ask that he should rejoice in it.
It is doubtless a sad thing, vexatious, bitter, hostile
to nature, difficult to be borne and endured. Look
at Philoctetes. We must grant him the liberty of
groaning ; for he has heard Hercules himself howl-
ing on Mount Oeta in the greatness of his suf-
ferings. The arrows which Hercules gave him,
therefore, afford him no comfort when
" From viper's bite the veins imbued with poison
Throb in the entrails with intensest torture ; "
and so he cries, craving help, and longing to die,
" Oh who will hurl me from the lofty cliff
Into the waves that dash against its base ?
I perish even now ; the burning wound
Consumes my soul in hopeless agony." *
It seems hard to say that he who is forced to utter
such cries is not suffering evil, and indeed great
8. But let us look at Hercules when broken
down by pain, while by death itself he was seeking
1 These verses are from the tragedy of Philoctetes, by Attius.
Homer simply says that Philoctetes, on his way to Troy, was left
by his followers on the Island of Lemnos because he was wounded
in his foot and disabled by the bite of a snake, and afterward
returned in safety. He was a celebrated archer ; hence the myth
of the arrows given to him by Hercules. He was a frequent sub-
ject of tragedy, and the snake-bite, its occasion and its issue, form
the subject of a great diversity of mutually irreconcilable myths.
On Bearing Pain. 101
immortality. 1 What are the words which Sopho-
cles puts into his lips in the Trachiniae? When
Dejauira had put upon him the garment that had
been dipped in the Centaur's blood, and it stuck
to his entrails, he says:
" What woes unspeakable and past endurance
Have racked my body and my soul tormented !
Not Juno's wrath a nor vengeful Eurystheus
Could heap such tortures on my suffering frame
As Oeneus' mad daughter 3 piles upon me.
She snared me with the fury- woven shirt,
Which, cleaving to my side, my entrails tears,
Draws panting breath from palpitating lungs,
And from my burning veins sucks out the blood.
My body putrifies in noisome gore,
And in this textile plague fast bound, I perish.
No hand of enemy, nor earth-born giant,
Nor bi-formed Centaur with impetuous rush,
By spear or battle-axe has laid me low ;
Nor Grecian force ; nor savage cruelty,
Nor the fierce races among which I journeyed,
To give them laws, and teach them arts humane,
A man, by woman's hand I meanly die.
9. " My son,* of thy true fatherhood give proof,
Nor let a mother's love make void my prayer.
1 The myth is that he built his own funeral pile, ascended
it, and obtained the services of a shepherd who was passing by
to light it.
2 She was angry with him from, or rather before, his birth, be-
cause Zeus was his father ; and the story is that in his juvenile
assault on the gods, he wounded Hera (or Juno), and thus made
her wrath implacable.
* Hyllus, his eldest son by Dejanira, whom Sophocles, in ac-
cordance with the mythical narrative, makes present at his father's
death, or rather, translation to heaven from the funeral pile.
102 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
"With pious hands bring her for my revenge,
Thus show if she or I prevail with thee.
Behold, my son, have pity on thy father.
Nations shall mourn my fate, that he who quailed not
Before the direst forms of mortal ill
Now like a hapless maiden weeps forlorn,
Valor till now unconquered, nerveless, powerless.
Come, son, stand by. Thy father's wretched body
See torn and disembowelled. Look ye all.
And thou, the father of the host of heaven,
Launch upon me thy naming thunderbolt.
Now creeps the hidden fire through all my bones ;
Now writhe my limbs in agony. Oh hands,
Oh brawny breast, oh arms that never
Of victory failed, strangled in your embrace
The lion of Nemea ceased to breathe ;
By this right hand the Lernean hydra fell ;
To this the Centaur host succumbed in battle ;
This laid in dust the Erymanthian boar ;
This from Tartarean darkness dragged to light
The triple-headed dog that guards its portal ;
This slew the unslumbering dragon by the tree
Where hung the golden apples. Other deeds
Unnumbered bear the record of my prowess,
Nor was a trophy ever taken from me."
Can we despise pain, when we see even Hercules
suffering so impatiently ?
10. Let us now listen to Aeschylus, who was not
only a poet, but, as we are told, a disciple of Py-
thagoras. How does he make Prometheus bear the
pain inflicted on him for his theft at Lemnos,
" Whence fire was first dispensed for mortal use ?
Prometheus stole it from the forge of Vulcan,
And for his craft, by the decree of Jove,
He paid in full the grievous penalty." 1
1 These verses are from the Philoctetes of Attius.
On Bearing Pain. 103
Under this sentence, nailed to Caucasus, he says, l
" Oh heaven-born Titans, partners of my blood,
Behold your brother bound to flinty rocks.
As timid sailors fasten ships by night
With line and anchor when the waves dash high,
So has the son of Saturn nailed me here
By iron-working Vulcan's power and skill.
These spikes with cruel cunning he has driven
Through flesh and bone into the beetling cliff;
And in this camp of Furies I must dwell.
Each third day, as it dawns, with fateful wing
Jove's carrion bird fastens his talons on me,
And fiercely feeds upon my quivering entrails ;
Then with my liver crammed and satiate,
"With hideous shriek he takes his flight on high,
And brushes with his tail my trickling blood.
Then as my liver grows he comes again,
And fills and stuffs anew his hateful maw.
Thus feed I still this keeper of my prison,
Whose gluttony is ray unceasing woe ;
For, as you see, in adamantine bonds,
I cannot drive the foul bird from my breast.
So on this lonely crag I bear my torment,
Praying for death to close my term of ill.
But far from death the will of Jove repels me.
This ancient doom, through centuries of horror,
Has held me in its grasp since first the snow,
Thawed by the sun-heat on the mountain's summit,
Coursed down the rugged sides of Caucasus. "
It seems hardly possible not to call such a sufferer
1 These verses are not found in the Prometheus Vinctus, which
was the first of a trilogy, or series of three tragedies, of which the
second and third are lost. The second was entitled HponyOefa
\v6fitvos, i. e. Prometheus loosed or unbound ; and the verses here
quoted would have been entirely in place in one of its opening
104 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
miserable ; and if we call him miserable, we must
admit that pain is an evil.
11. A. You are thus far on my side ; but by and
by I shall know what you have in mind. Mean-
while, whence came these verses ? 1 for I do not
M. I will tell you, by Hercules ; for you are in
the right in asking. Do you not see that I have
ample leisure ? 2
A. What then ?
M. When you were in Athens, you frequented, I
think, the schools of the philosophers.
A. I did, and very gladly.
M. Did you not notice that, though none of them
then were very fluent speakers, yet they always
quoted poetry in their lectures ?
A. Yes, and especially Dionysius the Stoic.
M. You are right. But he repeated verses by
rote, as if they were dictated by some one else, with
neither appropriateness nor elegance. On the other
hand, my friend Philo used to quote a fitting num-
ber of choice poetical passages, and always to the
point. In like manner, since I adopted this style
1 Cicero had said that they were from Aeschylus ; but his
interlocutor is made to express his admiration far their perfect-
ness as a specimen of Latin poetry. He virtually asks : " Where
did you find so excellent a Latin translation ? " To which Cicero
replies : " (By Hercules) I do not wonder that you ask ; I made
8 Since I have given up my practice in the courts, and no
longer take an active part in the proceedings of the Senate.
On Bearing Pain. 105
of senile declamation, as one might call it, I am
fond of making such use of our native poets ; and
when they have failed me, I have often translated
from the Greek, so that I might not be forced in
discussions of this sort to employ directly any other
than our own Latin tongue. 1 But do you not see
what mischief the poets are doing ? They intro-
duce the bravest men as indulging in lamentation.
They make our souls effeminate. Then, too, their
strains are so sweet, that, not content with reading
them, we even commit them to memory. Thus the
poets have enhanced the influence of our bad do-
mestic discipline and our easy and luxurious modes
of living, so as to enfeeble all the nerves of courage.
Poets were therefore rightly excluded by Plato from
his ideal commonwealth, since he required there
the highest type of morals and the best condition
of public affairs. But we, deriving our instruction
from Greece, read and learn these poems even from
boyhood; and this we account as liberal learning
12. But why are we angry with the poets ? Phi-
losophers, masters of virtue, have been found ready
1 In the De Offkiis (I. 31) Cicero ridicules those "who are
perpetually foisting in Greek words," and his own habit is to
adhere to the Latin always, except when some single term or
phrase either is needed because it has no Latin equivalent, or
specially craves interpretation. Unless it be in some of his famil-
iar letters, he never quotes a passage from a Greek author in the
way in which pedantic writers and speakers of our own time inter-
lard their English with Latin quotations.
106 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
to call pain the greatest of evils. But you, young
man, immediately after expressing yourself thus,
when I asked you whether pain is a greater evil
than disgrace, receded from your opinion at a word.
I put the same question to Epicurus, and he will say
that a moderate degree of pain is a greater evil than
the greatest disgrace, inasmuch as there is no evil
in disgrace, unless it be followed by pain. What
pain then follows Epicurus for making this very
assertion that pain is the greatest of evils, for which
I can look for nothing more deeply disgraceful from
a philosopher ? You therefore conceded enough for
me when you replied that disgrace seemed to you
a greater evil than pain ; for if you hold fast to this
opinion, you will understand how pain is to be
resisted, nor is it so important a question whether
pain is an evil, as how the soul may be strength-
ened to bear it. The Stoics give paltry reasons
why pain is not an evil, as if the question were
one about a term, not about the thing itself. Why
do you deceive me, Zeno ? For I am taken in by
you when you deny that what seems to be the
object of intensest dread is in any degree an evil ;
and I want to know how it is that what I regard
as the extreme of misery is not an evil in any wise.
"Nothing," says he, "is evil except what is base
and vicious." But I reply, You return to empty
words ; for you do not take away the cause of my
uneasiness. I know that wickedness and pain are
not the same thing. Cease to insist on this ; but
On Bearing Pain. 107
teach me that it makes no difference to me whether
I have pain or do not have it. " This," he replies,
"has no bearing on the happiness of life, which
depends on virtue alone; yet still pain is to be
shunned." Why? "It is annoying, contrary to
nature, difficult to bear, sad, hard." l
13. Here we have a multitude of words in which
we may express in many different ways what we
all designate by the one word, " evil." You barely
define, you do not remove pain when you call it
annoying, contrary to nature, difficult to be borne
or tolerated. You tell the truth indeed ; but while
you teach that there is nothing good save what is
light, nothing evil save what is wrong, one who
makes such boast in words ought not to succumb
in his conduct. He who thus yields barely wishes
that his words were true instead of teaching that
they are true. 2 But it is better and more true to
class all things which Nature spurns as evils, all
things which she approves, as among the goods.
This established, and verbal disputes laid aside, that
which those philosophers 3 fitly embrace, that which
we call honorable, right, becoming, and which we
1 Some of the Stoic moralists get over, or creep round, the dif-
ficulty here presented, by maintaining that though as to happi-
ness the goods of life are indifferent, their possession and the
absence of pain and of physical evil enable a man to be more
efficiently virtuous. They therefore recognize a secondary order
of goods and evils.
a "Which can be effectively taught only by example.
8 Latin, isti, evidently referring to the Stoics.
108 Cicero's Tusculan Disputations.
sometimes include under the general name of vir-
tue, has such paramount excellence that all things
beside which are regarded as goods of the body and
of fortune seem very small and paltry, nor is any
evil, nor are all evils, were they brought together
and massed on one spot, to be compared with the
evil of disgrace. Therefore if, as you admitted at
the outset, disgrace is worse than pain, pain is evi-
dently nothing. For so long as it shall seem to
you disgraceful and unworthy of a man to groan, to
wail, to lament, to be broken down, to be unnerved
by pain ; so long as the right, dignity, honor shall
be present, and you, looking steadfastly on them,
shall retain your self-possession, pain will cer-
tainly yield to virtue, and will become enfeebled
by your resoluteness of souL Indeed, either there
is no such thing as virtue, or all pain is to be held
in contempt. Will you put on the list of virtues
prudence, without which no virtue can be even
imagined ? What then ? Will that suffer you to
do anything by which you effect no purpose, and
give yourself trouble in vain ? J Or will temper-
ance suffer you to do anything to excess ? Or can
justice be held in reverence by a man whom the
power of pain can force to declare what has been
told him in confidence, to betray those whose
secrets are in his keeping, or to leave unperformed
duties incumbent on him ? How will you give
account of yourself to courage and its associate
1 To indulge ID. fruitless lamentation.
On Bearing Pain. 109
virtues, magnanimity, seriousness of purpose, pa-
tience, contempt for the vicissitudes of human for-
tune ? While you are beaten down, and prostrate,
and wailing with cries of lamentation, will any one
say to you, " Oh, brave man " ? Indeed, were you
in that condition, no one would call you even a
man. Courage then must be parted with, or pain
must be buried.
14. Were you to lose one of your Corinthian
vases, 1 you might have the rest of your furniture
safe ; but do you not know that if you shall have
lost one virtue (although virtue cannot be lost), or
I would rather say, if you must confess that you
lack one virtue, you will have no virtue at all ?
Can you then call that Philoctetes in the play (for
I would rather take an example other than your-
self) a brave man, or a man of great soul, or patient,
or of a substantial character, or in a position to
despise human fortunes ? Certainly he is not brave
who lies on
" A couch bedewed with tears, from which resound
Unceasing tones of querulous complaint,
Groans, sobs, and howls of bitter agony." 3
I do not deny that pain is pain ; else where were
the need of fortitude ? But I do say that pain is
subdued by patience, if patience be a real quality;
1 Latin, tuis Corinthiis, probably referring to vases or similar