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This webpage reproduces a Book of the
De Divinatione


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. XX) Cicero

 p371  On Divination
Book II

After serious and long continued reflection as to how I might do good to as many people as possible and thereby prevent any interruption of my service to the State, no better plan occurred to me than to conduct my fellow-citizens in the ways of the noblest learning — and this, I believe, I have already accomplished through my numerous books. For example, in my work entitled Hortensius,​144 I appealed as earnestly as I could for the study of philosophy. And in my Academics, in four volumes, I set forth the philosophic system which I thought least arrogant, and at the same time most consistent and refined. 2 And, since the foundation of philosophy rests on the distinction between good and evil, I exhaustively treated that subject in five volumes​145 and in such a way that the conflicting views of the different philosophers might be known. Next, and in the same number of volumes, came the Tusculan Disputations, which made plain the means most essential to a happy life. For the first volume treats of indifference to death, the second of enduring pain, the third of the alleviation of sorrow, the fourth of other spiritual disturbances; and the fifth embraces a topic which sheds the brightest light on the entire field of philosophy since it teaches that virtue is sufficient of itself for the attainment of happiness.

 p373  3 After publishing the works mentioned I finished three volumes On the Nature of the Gods, which contain a discussion of every question under that head. With a view of simplifying and extending the latter treatise I started to write the present volume On Divination, to which I plan to add a work on Fate; when that is done every phase of this particular branch of philosophy will be sufficiently discussed. To this list of works must be added the six volumes which I wrote while holding the helm of state, entitled On the Republic — a weighty subject, appropriate for philosophic discussion, and one which has been most elaborately treated by Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, and the entire peripatetic school. What need is there to say anything of my treatise On Consolation? For it is the source of very great comfort to me and will, I think, be of much help to others. I have also recently thrown in that book On Old Age, which I sent my friend Atticus; and, since it is by philosophy that a man is made virtuous and strong, my Cato146 is especially worthy of a place among the foregoing books. 4 Inasmuch as Aristotle and Theophrastus, too, both of whom were celebrated for their keenness of intellect and particularly for their copiousness of speech, have joined rhetoric with philosophy, it seems proper also to put my rhetorical books in the same category; hence we shall include the three volumes On Oratory, the fourth entitled Brutus, and the fifth called The Orator.

2 I have named the philosophic works so far written: to the completion of the remaining books of this series I was hastening with so much ardour that if some most grievous cause​147 had not intervened  p375 there would not now be any phase of philosophy which I had failed to elucidate and make easily accessible in the Latin tongue. For what greater or better service can I render to the commonwealth than to instruct and train the youth — especially in view of the fact that our young men have gone so far astray because of the present moral laxity that the utmost effort will be needed to hold them in check and direct them in the right way? 5 Of course, I have no assurance — it could not even be expected — that they will all turn to these studies. Would that a few may! Though few, their activity may yet have a wide influence in the state. In fact, I am receiving some reward for my labour even from men advanced in years; for they are finding comfort in my books, and by their ardour in reading are raising my eagerness for writing to a higher pitch every day. Their number, too, I learn, is far greater than I had expected. Furthermore, it would redound to the fame and glory of the Roman people to be made independent of Greek writers in the study of philosophy, 6 and this result I shall certainly bring about if my present plans are accomplished.

The cause of my becoming an expounder of philosophy sprang from the grave condition of the State during the period of the Civil War, when, being unable to protect the Republic, as had been my custom, and finding it impossible to remain inactive, I could find nothing else that I preferred to do that was worthy of me. Therefore my countrymen will pardon me — rather they will thank me — because, when the State was in the power of one man, I refused to hide myself, to quit my place, or to be cast down; I did not bear  p377 myself like one enraged at the man or at the times; and, further, I neither so fawned upon nor admired another's fortune as to repent me of my own.

For one thing in particular I had learned from Plato​148 and from philosophy, that certain revolutions in government are to be expected; so that states are now under a monarchy, now under a democracy, and now under a tyranny. 7 When the last-named fate had befallen my country, and I had been debarred from my former activities, I began to cultivate anew these present studies that by their means, rather than by any other, I might relieve my mind of its worries and at the same time serve my fellow-countrymen as best I could under the circumstances. Accordingly, it was in my books that I made my senatorial speeches and my forensic harangues; for I thought that I had permanently exchanged politics for philosophy. Now, however, since I have begun to be consulted again about public affairs, my time must be devoted to the State, or, rather, my undivided thought and care must be fixed upon it; and only so much time can be given to philosophy as will not be needed in the discharge of my duty to the commonwealth. But more of this at another time; now let us return to the discussion with which we started.

3 8 After my brother Quintus had delivered his views on divination, as set out in the preceding volume, and we had walked as much as we wished, we took our seats in the library in my "Lyceum," and I remarked:

"Really, my dear Quintus, you have defended  p379 the Stoic doctrine with accuracy and like a Stoic. But the thing that delights me most is the fact that you illustrated your argument with many incidents taken from Roman sources — incidents, too, of a distinguished and noble type. I must now reply to what you said, but I must do so with great diffidence and with many misgivings, and in such a way as to affirm nothing and question everything.​149 For if I should assume anything that I said to be certain I should myself be playing the diviner while saying that no such thing as divination exists!

9 "I am impressed with the force of the questions with which Carneades used to begin his discussions: 'What are the things within the scope of divination? Are they things that are perceived by the senses? But those are things that we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Is there, then, in such objects some quality that we can better perceive with the aid of prophecy and inspiration than we can with the aid of the senses alone? And is there any diviner, anywhere, who, if blind, like Tiresias, could tell the difference between white and black? Or, who, if deaf, could distinguish between different voices and different tones? Now you must admit that divination is not applicable in any case where knowledge is gained through the senses.

"Nor is there any need of divination even in matters within the domain of science and of art. For, when people are sick, we, as a general rule, do not summon a prophet or a seer, but we call in a physician. Again, persons who want to learn to play on the harp or on the flute take lessons, not from a soothsayer, but from a musician. 10 The same rule applies in literature and in other departments  p381 of learning. And do you really believe that those who are credited with powers of divining, can, for that reason, tell whether the sun is larger than the earth, and whether it is as big as it seems to be? Or whether the moon shines by its own light or by that of the sun? Or do you think that they understand the motions of the sun and moon and of the five stars, which are called 'planets'? Your reputed diviners do not claim that they can answer any of these questions; nor will they profess to tell whether geometrical figures are correctly drawn or not, for that is the business of mathematicians, not of seers.

4 "Now let us consider matters within the purview of philosophy: When the question is as to what is morally right, or morally wrong, or as to what is neither the one nor the other, do we usually have our doubts resolved by diviners? In fact, do we often consult them in such a case? 11 Certainly not, for problems of this kind belong to philosophers. Again, where the question is one of duty: who ever consults a soothsayer as to how he should demean himself towards his parents, his brothers, or his friends? or as to how he should use his wealth, his office, or his power? Such matters are usually referred to sages, not to diviners.

"Furthermore, can any of the questions of dialectic or of physics be solved by divination? For example, is there one world, or are there many worlds? What are the primary elements from which all things are derived? Such problems belong to the science of physics. Again, suppose one should wish to know how to resolve the 'liar' fallacy,​150 which the Greeks call 'ψευδόμενον'; or how to meet the 'heap' fallacy, known in Greek as sorites (which,  p383 if a Latin equivalent were needed, could be represented by the word acervalis, but none is needed; for, just as the word 'philosophy' and many other words are of Greek origin and are in general use as Latin words, so it is with sorites),​151 — in both these cases the logician, and not the diviner, would speak.

"Assume, next, that the inquiry is as to the best form of government, or as to what laws or what customs are beneficial and what are harmful, will you call soothsayers out of Etruria to settle the question, or will you accept the decision of men of eminence chosen for their knowledge of statecraft? 12 But if there is no place for divination in things perceived by the senses, or in those included among the arts, or in those discussed by philosophers, or in those which have to do with government, I see absolutely no need for it anywhere. For either it ought to be of use in every case, or, at least, some department in which it may be employed should be found. But divination is not of use in every case, as my reasoning has shown; nor can any field or subject matter be found over which it may exercise control. 5 Therefore I am inclined to think that there is no such thing as divination. There is a much-quoted Greek verse to this effect:

The best diviner I maintain to be

The man who guesses or conjectures best.​152

Now do you think that a prophet will 'conjecture' better whether a storm is at hand than a pilot? or that he will by 'conjecture' make a more accurate diagnosis than a physician, or conduct a war with more skill than a general?

 p385  13 "But I observed, Quintus, that you prudently withdrew divination from conjectures based upon skill and experience in public affairs, from those drawn from the use of the senses and from those made by persons in their own callings.​153 I observed, also, that you defined divination to be 'the foreknowledge and foretelling of things which happen by chance.'​154 In the first place, that is a contradiction of what you have admitted. For the foreknowledge possessed by a physician, a pilot, and a general is of 'things which happen by chance.' Then can any soothsayer, augur, prophet, or dreamer conjecture better than a physician, a pilot, or a general that an invalid will come safely out of his sickness, or that a ship will escape from danger, or that an army will avoid an ambuscade?

14 "And you went on to say that even the foreknowledge of impending storms and rains by means of certain signs was not divination, and, in that connexion, you quoted a number of verses from my translation of Aratus. Yet such coincidences 'happen by chance,' for though they happen frequently they do not happen always. What, then, is this thing you call divination — this 'foreknowledge of things that happen by chance' — and where is it employed? You think that 'whatever can be foreknown by means of science, reason, experience, or conjecture is to be referred, not to diviners, but to experts.' It follows, therefore, that divination of 'things that happen by chance' is possible only of things which cannot be foreseen by means of skill or wisdom. Hence, if someone had declared many years in advance that the famous Marcus Marcellus, who was consul three times, would perish in a shipwreck,  p387 this, by your definition, undoubtedly would have been a case of divination, since that calamity could not have been foreseen by means of any other skill or by wisdom. That is why you say that divination is the foreknowledge of such things as depend upon chance.

6 15 "Can there, then, be any foreknowledge of things for whose happening no reason exists? For we do not apply the words 'chance,' 'luck,' 'accident,' or 'casualty' except to an event which has so occurred or happened that it either might not have occurred at all, or might have occurred in any other way. How, then, is it possible to foresee and to predict an event that happens at random, as the result of blind accident, or of unstable chance? 16 By the use of reason the physician foresees the progress of a disease, the general anticipates the enemy's plans and the pilot forecasts the approach of bad weather. And yet even those who base their conclusions on accurate reasoning are often mistaken: for example, when the farmer sees his olive-tree in bloom he expects also, and not unreasonably, to see it bear fruit, but occasionally he is disappointed. If then mistakes are made by those who make no forecasts not based upon some reasonable and probable conjecture, what must we think of the conjectures of men who foretell the future by means of entrails, birds, portents, oracles, or dreams? I am not ready yet to take up one by one the various kinds of divination and show that the cleft in the liver, the croak of a raven, the flight of an eagle, the fall of a star, the utterances of persons in a frenzy, lots, and dreams have no prophetic value whatever; I shall discuss each of them in its turn — now I am discussing the subject as a whole.

 p389  17 "How can anything be foreseen that has no cause and no distinguishing mark of its coming? Eclipses of the sun and also of the moon are predicted for many years in advance by men who employ mathematics in studying the courses and movements of the heavenly bodies; and the unvarying laws of nature will bring their predictions to pass. Because of the perfectly regular movements of the moon the astronomers calculate when it will be opposite the sun and in the earth's shadow — which is 'the cone of night'​155 — and when, necessarily, it will become invisible. For the same reason they know when the moon will be directly between the earth and the sun and thus will hide the light of the sun from our eyes. They know in what sign each planet will be at any given time and at what time each day any constellation will rise and set. You see the course of reasoning followed in arriving at these predictions.

7 18 "But what course of reasoning is followed by men who predict the finding of a treasure or the inheritance of an estate? On what law of nature do such prophecies depend? But, on the other hand, if the prophecies just mentioned and others of the same class are controlled by some natural and immutable law such as regulates the movements of the stars, pray, can we conceive of anything happening by accident, or chance? Surely nothing is so at variance with reason and stability as chance? Hence it seems to me that it is not in the power even of God himself to know what event is going to happen accidentally and by chance. For if He knows, then the event is certain to happen; but if it is certain to happen, chance does not exist.  p391 And yet chance does exist, therefore there is no foreknowledge of things that happen by chance.

19 "But if you deny the existence of chance and assert that the course of everything present or future has been inevitably determined from all eternity, then you must change your definition of divination, which you said was 'the foreknowledge of things that happen by chance.' For if nothing can happen, nothing befall, nothing come to pass, except what has been determined from all eternity as bound to happen at a fixed time, how can there be such a thing as chance? And if there is no such thing as chance, what room is there for that divination, which you termed 'a foreknowledge of things that happen by chance'? And you were inconsistent enough, too, to say that everything that is or will be is controlled by Fate!​156 Why, the very word 'Fate' is full of superstition and old women's credulity, and yet the Stoics have much to say of this Fate of yours. A discussion on Fate​157 is reserved for another occasion; at present I shall speak of it only in so far as it is necessary.

8 20 "Of what advantage to me is divination if everything is ruled by Fate? On that hypothesis what the diviner predicts is bound to happen. Hence I do not know what to make of the fact that an eagle recalled our intimate friend Deiotarus from his journey;​158 for if he had not turned back he must have been sleeping in the room when it was destroyed the following night, and, therefore, have been crushed in the ruins. And yet, if Fate had willed it, he would not have escaped that calamity; and vice versa. Hence, I repeat, what is the good of divination? Or what is it that lots, entrails, or any  p393 other means of prophecy warn me to avoid? For, if it was the will of Fate that the Roman fleets in the First Punic War should perish — the one by shipwreck and the other at the hands of the Carthaginians — they would have perished just the same even if the sacred chickens had made a tripudium solistimum in the consul­ship of Lucius Junius and Publius Claudius!​159 On the other hand, if obedience to the auspices would have prevented the destruction of the fleets, then they did not perish in accordance with Fate. But you insist that all things happen by Fate; therefore there is no such thing as divination.

21 Again, if it was the will of Fate that the Roman army should perish at Lake Trasimenus in the Second Punic War, could that result have been avoided if the consul Flaminius had obeyed the signs and the auspices which forbade his joining battle?​160 Assuredly not. Therefore, either the army did not perish by the will of Fate, or, if it did (and you are certainly bound as a Stoic to say that it did), the same result would have happened even if the auspices had been obeyed; for the decrees of Fate are unchangeable. Then what becomes of that vaunted divination of you Stoics? For if all things happen by Fate, it does us no good to be warned to be on our guard, since that which is to happen, will happen regardless of what we do. But if that which is to be can be turned aside, there is no such thing as Fate; so, too, there is no such thing as divination — since divination deals with things that are going to happen. But nothing is 'certain to happen' which there is some means of dealing with​161 so as to prevent its happening.

 p395  9 22 "And further, for my part, I think that a knowledge of the future would be a disadvantage. Consider, for example, what Priam's life would have been if he had known from youth what dire events his old age held in store for him! But let us leave the era of myths and come to events nearer home. In my work On Consolation I have collected instances of very grievous deaths that befell some of the most illustrious men of our commonwealth. Passing by men of earlier day, let us take Marcus Crassus. What advantage, pray, do you think it would have been to him, when he was at the very summit of power and wealth, to know that he was destined to perish beyond the Euphrates in shame and dishonour, after his son had been killed and his own army had been destroyed? Or do you think that Gnaeus Pompey would have found joy in his three consul­ships, in his three triumphs, and in the fame of his transcendent deeds, if he had known that he would be slain in an Egyptian desert, after he had lost his army, and that following his death those grave events would occur of which I cannot speak without tears?

23 "Or what do we think of Caesar? Had he foreseen that in the Senate, chosen in most part by himself, in Pompey's hall,​162 aye, before Pompey's very statue, and in the presence of many of his own centurions, he would be put to death by most noble citizens, some of whom owed all that they had to him, and that he would fall to so low an estate that no friend — no, not even a slave — would approach his dead body, in what agony of soul would he have spent his life!

"Of a surety, then, ignorance of future ills is more  p397 profitable than the knowledge of them. 24 For, assuming that men knew the future it cannot in any wise be said — certainly not by the Stoics — that Pompey would not have taken up arms, that Crassus would not have crossed the Euphrates, or that Caesar would not have embarked upon the civil war. If so, then, the deaths that befell these men were not determined by Fate. But you will have it that everything happens by Fate; consequently, knowledge of the future would have done these men no good. In reality it would have entirely deprived the earlier portion of their lives of enjoyment; for how could they have been happy in reflecting what their ends would be? And so, however the Stoics turn and twist, all their shrewdness must come to naught. For, if a thing that is going to happen, may happen in one way or another, indifferently, chance is predominant; but things that happen by chance cannot be certain. But if it is certain what is going to befall me in reference to any matter and on every occasion, how do the soothsayers help me by saying that the greatest misfortunes await me?

10 25 "To the last point the Stoics make the rejoinder that 'every evil which is going to befall us is made lighter by means of religious rites.' But if nothing happens except in accordance with Fate, no evil can be made lighter by means of religious rites. Homer shows his appreciation of this fact when he represents Jupiter as complaining because he could not snatch his son Sarpedon from death​163 when Fate forbade. The same thought is expressed in the following verses translated from a Greek poet:164

 p399  That which has been decreed by Fate to be

Almighty Jove himself cannot prevent.

The whole idea of Fate in every detail is justly, as I think, the subject of derision even in Atellan farces,​165 but in a discussion as serious as ours joking is out of place. So then let us sum up our argument: If it is impossible to foresee things that happen by chance because they are uncertain, there is no such thing as divination; if, on the contrary, they can be foreseen because they are preordained by Fate, still there is no such thing as divination, which, by your definition, deals with 'things that happen by chance.' 26 But this introductory part of my discussion has been mere skirmishing with light infantry; now let me come to close quarters and see if I cannot drive in both wings of your argument.

11 "You divided divination into two kinds, one artificial and the other natural.​166 'The artificial, you said, 'consists in part of conjecture and in part of long-continued observation; while the natural is that which the soul has seized, or, rather, has obtained, from a source outside itself — that is, from God, whence all human souls have been drawn off, received, or poured out.' Under the head of artificial divination you placed predictions made from the inspection of entrails, those made from lightnings and portents, those made by augurs, and by persons who depend entirely upon premonitory signs. Under the same head you included practically every method of prophecy in which conjecture was employed. 27 Natural divination, on the other hand, according to your view, is the result — 'the effusion,' as it were — of mental excitement, or it is the prophetic power which the soul has during  p401 sleep while free from bodily sensation and worldly cares. Moreover, you derived every form of divination from three sources — God, Fate, and Nature.​167 And although you could not give a reason for any kind of divination, still you carried on the war by marshalling an astonishing array of examples from fiction.​168 Of such a course I wish to say emphatically that it is not becoming in a philosopher to introduce testimony which may be either true by accident, or false and fabricated through malice. You ought to have employed arguments and reason to show that all your propositions were true and you ought not to have resorted to so‑called occurrences — certainly not to such occurrences as are unworthy of belief.

12 28 "In discussing separately the various methods of divination, I shall begin with soothsaying, which, according to my deliberate judgement, should be cultivated from reasons of political expediency and in order that we may have a state religion. But we are alone and for that reason we may, without causing ill-will, make an earnest inquiry into the truth of soothsaying — certainly I can do so, since in most things my philosophy is that of doubt.​169 In the first place, then, if you please, let us make 'an inspection' of entrails! Now can anybody be induced to believe that the things said to be predicted by means of entrails were learned by the soothsayers through 'long-continued observation'? How long, pray, did the observations last? How could the observations have continued for a long time? How did the soothsayers manage to agree among themselves what part of the entrails was unfavourable, and what part favourable; or what cleft in the liver indicated danger and what promised some  p403 advantage? Are the soothsayers of Etruria, Elis, Egypt, and of Carthage in accord on these matters? Apart from such an agreement being impossible in fact, it is impossible even to imagine; and, moreover, we see some nations interpreting entrails in one way and some in another; hence there is no uniformity of practice.

29 "Surely if entrails have any prophetic force, necessarily that force either is in accord with the laws of nature, or is fashioned in some way by the will and power of the gods. But between that divine system of nature whose great and glorious laws pervade all space and regulate all motion what possible connexion can there be with — I shall not say the gall of a chicken, whose entrails, some men assert, give very clear indications of the future, but — the liver, heart, and lungs of a sacrificial ox? And what natural quality is there in the entrails which enables them to indicate the future?

13 30 "Nevertheless Democritus jests rather prettily for a natural philosopher — and there is no more arrogant class — when he says:

No one regards the things before his feet,

But views with care the regions of the sky.​170

And yet Democritus gives his approval to divination by means of entrails only to the extent of believing that their condition and colour indicate whether hay and other crops will be abundant or the reverse, and he even thinks that the entrails give signs of future health or sickness. O happy mortal! He never failed to have his joke — that is absolutely certain. But was he so amused with petty trifles as to fail to see that his theory would be plausible only on the assumption that the entrails of all cattle  p405 changed to the same colour and condition at the same time? But if at the same instant the liver of one ox is smooth and full and that of another is rough and shrunken, what inference can be drawn from 'the condition and colour of the entrails'?

31 "Equally amusing is your story about Pherecydes, who, after looking at some water just drawn from a well, foretold an earthquake.​171 It would be presumptuous enough, I think, for natural philosophers to attempt to explain the cause of an earthquake after it had happened; but can they actually tell, from looking at fresh water, that an earthquake is going to happen? Such nonsense is often heard in the schools, but one does not have to believe everything one hears. 32 But grant that these absurdities of Democritus are true — when do we ever consult entrails to learn about crops or health, or when have we acquired information on these particulars from a soothsayer after he had made an inspection of entrails? The soothsayers warn us of dangers by fire and flood and sometimes they prophesy the inheritance, sometimes the loss, of money: they discuss the favourable and the unfavourable cleft; they view the head of the liver with the utmost care from every side. If, perchance, the liver's head should be wanting they regard it as the most unpropitious sign that could have happened.

14 33 "Such signs, as I have shown before, certainly could not come within your classification of the kinds of divination 'dependent on observation.' Therefore they are not the result of immemorial usage, but they are the inventions of art — if there can be any art in the occult. But what relation­ship have they with the laws of nature?  p407 Assuming that all the works of nature are firmly bound together in a harmonious whole (which, I observe, is the view of the natural philosophers and especially of those men​172 who maintain that the universe is a unit), what connexion can there be between the universe and the finding of a treasure? For instance, if the entrails foretell an increase in my fortune and they do so in accordance with some law of nature, then, in the first place, there is some relation­ship between them and the universe, and in the second place, my financial gain is regulated by the laws of nature. Are not the natural philosophers ashamed to utter such nonsense? And yet a certain contact between the different parts of nature may be admitted and I concede it. The Stoics have collected much evidence to prove it. They claim, for example, that the livers of mice become larger in winter; that the dry pennyroyal​173 blooms the very day of the winter solstice, and that its seed-pods become inflated and burst and the seeds enclosed thither are sent in various directions; that at times when certain strings of the lyre are struck others sound; that it is the habit of oysters and of all shell-fish to grow with the growth of the moon and to become smaller as it wanes; and that trees are considered easiest to cut down in winter and in the dark of the moon, because they are then free from sap.

34 "There is no need to go on and mention the seas and straits with their tides, whose ebb and flow are governed by the motion of the moon. Innumerable instances of the same kind may be given to prove that some natural connexion does exist between objects apparently unrelated. Concede  p409 that it does exist; it does not contravene the point I make, that no sort of a cleft in a liver is prophetic of financial gain. What natural tie, or what 'symphony,' so to speak, or association, or what 'sympathy,' as the Greeks term it, can there be between a cleft in a liver and a petty addition to my purse? Or what relation­ship between my miserable money-getting, on the one hand, and heaven, earth, and the laws of nature on the other?

15 "However, I will concede even this if you wish, though it will greatly weaken my case to admit that there is any connexion between nature and the condition of the entrails; 35 yet, suppose the concession is made, how is it brought about that the man in search of favourable signs will find a sacrifice suitable to his purpose? I thought the question insoluble. But what a fine solution is offered! I am not ashamed of you — I am actually astonished at your memory; but I am ashamed of Chrysippus, Antipater, and Posidonius who say exactly what you said: 'The choice of the sacrificial victim is directed by the sentient and divine power which pervades the entire universe.'

"But even more absurd is that other pronouncement of theirs which you adopted: 'At the moment of sacrifice a change in the entrails takes place; something is added or something taken away; for all things are obedient to the Divine Will.' 36 Upon my word, no old woman is credulous enough now to believe such stuff! Do you believe that the same bullock, if chosen by one man, will have a liver without a head, and if chosen by another will have a liver with a head? And is it possible that this sudden going or coming of the liver's head occurs  p411 so that the entrails may adapt themselves to the situation of the person who offers the sacrifice? Do you Stoics fail to see in choosing the victim it is almost like a throw of the dice, especially as facts prove it? For when the entrails of the first victim have been without a head, which is the most fatal of all signs, it often happens that the sacrifice of the next victim is altogether favourable. Pray what became of the warnings of the first set of entrails? And how was the favour of the gods so completely and so suddenly gained?

16 "But, you say, 'Once, when Caesar was offering a sacrifice, there was no heart in the entrails of the sacrificial bull;​174 and, and, since it would have been impossible for the victim to live without a heart, the heart must have disappeared at the moment of immolation.' 37 How does it happen that you understand the one fact, that the bull could not have lived without a heart and do not realize the other, that the heart could not suddenly have vanished I know not where? As for me, possibly I do not know what vital function the heart performs; if I do I suspect that the bull's heart, as the result of a disease, became much wasted and shrunken and lost its resemblance to a heart. But, assuming that only a little while before the heart was in the sacrificial bull, why do you think it suddenly disappeared at the very moment of immolation? Don't you think, rather, that the bull lost his heart when he saw that Caesar in his purple robe had lost his head?175

"Upon my word you Stoics surrender the very city of philosophy while defending its outworks! For, by your insistence on the truth of soothsaying,  p413 you utterly overthrow physiology. There is a head to the liver and a heart in the entrails, presto! they will vanish the very second you have sprinkled them with meal and wine! Aye, some god will snatch them away! Some invisible power will destroy them or eat them up! Then the creation and destruction of all things are not due to nature, and there are some things which spring from nothing or suddenly become nothing. Was any such statement ever made by any natural philosopher? 'It is made,' you say, 'by soothsayers.' Then do you think that soothsayers are worthier of belief than natural philosophers?

17 38 "Again, when sacrifices are offered to more than one god at the same time, how does it happen that the auspices are favourable in one case and unfavourable in another? Is it not strange fickleness in the gods to threaten disaster in the first set of entrails and to promise a blessing in the next? Or is there such discord among the gods — often even among those who are nearest of kin — that the entrails of the sacrifice you offer to Apollo, for example, are favourable and of those you offer at the same time to Diana are unfavourable? When victims for the sacrifice are brought up at haphazard it is perfectly clear that the character of entrails that you will receive will depend on the victim chance may bring. Oh! but someone will say, 'The choice itself is a matter of divine guidance, just as in the case of lots the drawing is directed by the gods!' I shall speak of lots presently; although you really do not strengthen the cause of sacrifices by comparing them to lots; but you do weaken the cause of lots by comparing them with sacrifices.  p415 39 When I send a slave to Aequimelium to bring me a lamb for a sacrifice and he brings me the lamb which has entrails suited to the exigencies of my particular case, it was not chance, I suppose, but a god that led the slave to that particular lamb! If you say that in this case too chance is, as it were, a sort of lot in accordance with the divine will, then I am sorry that our Stoic friends have given the Epicureans so great an opportunity for laughter, for you know how much fun they make of statements like that.

40 "And they can laugh with the better grace because Epicurus, to make the gods ridiculous, represents them as transparent, with the winds blowing through them, and living between two worlds​176 (as if between our two groves)​177 from fear of the downfall. He further says that the gods have limbs just as we have, but make no use of them. Hence, while he takes a roundabout way to destroy the gods, he does not hesitate to take a short road to destroy divination. At any rate Epicurus is consistent, but the Stoics are not; for his god, who has no concern for himself or for anybody else, cannot impart divination to men. And neither can your Stoic god impart divination, although he rules the world and plans for the good of mankind. 41 Why then do you Stoics involve yourselves in these sophistries, which you can never explain? Members of your school, when they are more hurried than usual, generally give us this syllogism: 'If there are gods, there is divination; but there are gods, therefore there is divination.' A more logical one would be this: 'There is no divination, therefore there are no gods.' Observe how rashly they  p417 commit themselves to the proposition, 'if there is no divination, there are no gods.' I say 'rashly,' for it is evident that divination has been destroyed and yet we must hold on to the gods.

18 42 "In demolishing divination by means of entrails we have utterly demolished the soothsayer's art; for the same fate awaits divination by means of lightnings and portents. According to your view, long-continued observation is employed in the case of lightnings, and reason and conjecture are generally employed in the case of portents. But what is it that has been observed in the case of lightnings? The Etruscans divided the sky into sixteen parts. Of course it was easy enough for them to double the four parts into which we divide it and then double that total and tell from which one of those divisions a bolt of lightning had come. In the first place, what difference does its location make? and, in the second place, what does it foretell? It is perfectly evident that, out of the wonder and fear excited in primitive man by lightning and thunderbolts, sprang his belief that those phenomena were caused by omnipotent Jove. And so we find it recorded in our augural annals: 'When Jove thunders or lightens it is impious to hold an election.' 43 This was ordained, perhaps, from reasons of political expediency; for our ancestors wished to have some excuse for not holding elections sometimes. And so lightning is an unfavourable sign only in case of an election; in all other cases we consider it the best of auspices, if it appears on the left side. But I shall speak of auspices in another connexion — now I am going to discuss lightnings.

19 "There is, then, no statement less worthy  p419 of a natural philosopher than that anything can be foretold with a certainty by uncertain signs. Of course I do not think you are credulous enough to believe that Jove's thunderbolt was made on Mount Aetna by the Cyclopes. 44 For if he had but one bolt his hurling it so often would be strange. Nor would he be able to give men so many advices by thunderbolts as to what they should or should not do. But the Stoics account for the thunderbolt thus: 'When the cold exhalations from the earth begin to circulate they become winds; when these winds enter a cloud they begin to break up and scatter its thinnest portions; if they do this very rapidly and with great violence, thunder and lightning are thereby produced. Again, when clouds collide their heat is forcibly driven out and the thunderbolt is the result.' Realizing, then, that these phenomena are due to natural causes, and happen without regularity and at no certain time, shall we look to them for signs of future events? It is passing strange, if Jupiter warns us by means of thunderbolts, that he sends so many to no purpose! 45 What, for example, is his object in hurling them into the middle of the sea? or, as he so often does, on to the tops of lofty mountains? Why, pray, does he waste them in solitary deserts? And why does he fling them on the shores of peoples who do not take any notice of them?

20 "Oh! but you say, 'the head was found in the Tiber.'​178 As if I contended that your soothsayers were devoid of art! My contention is that there is no divination. By dividing the heavens in the manner already indicated​179 and by noting what happened in each division the soothsayers learn whence the thunderbolt comes and whither it goes,  p421 but no method can show that the thunderbolt has any prophetic value. However, you array those verses of mine against me:

For high-thundering Jove, as he stood on starry Olympus,

Hurtled his blows at the temples and monuments raised in his honour,

And on the Capitol's site unloosed the bolts of his lightning.

'Then,' the poem goes on to say, 'the statue of Natta, the images of the gods and the piece representing Romulus and Remus, with their wolf-nurse, were struck by a thunderbolt and fell to the ground. The prophecies made by the soothsayers from these events were fulfilled to the letter.' 46 Besides, you quote me as authority for the remarkable fact that, at the very time when proof of the conspiracy was being presented to the Senate, the statue of Jupiter, which had been contracted for two years before, was being erected on the Capitol.

" 'Will you then' — for thus you pleaded with me — 'will you then persuade yourself to take sides against me in this discussion, in the face of your own writings and of your own practice?' You are my brother and on that account I shrink from recrimination.​180 But what, pray, is causing you distress in this matter? Is it the nature of the subject? Or is it my insistence on finding out the truth? And so I waive your charge of my inconsistency — I am asking you for an explanation of the entire subject of soothsaying. But you betook yourself to a strange place of refuge. You knew that you would be in straits when I asked your reason for each kind of divination, and, hence, you had much  p423 to say to this effect: 'Since I see what divination does I do not ask the reason or the cause why it does it. The question is, what does it do? not, why does it do it?' As if I would grant either that divination accomplished anything, or that it was permissible for a philosopher not to ask why anything happened! 47 It was in that same connexion that you brought force my Prognostics181a and some samples of herbs — the scammony and aristolochia​182 root — saying that you could see their virtue and effect but did not know the cause.

21 "But your illustrations are not pertinent at all. For example, the causes of meteorological phenomena have been investigated by Boëthus​181b the Stoic, whom you mentioned, and by our friend Posidonius; and even if the causes are not discovered by them, yet the phenomena themselves are capable of observation and study. But what opportunity was there for long-continued observation in the case where Natta's statue and the brazen tablets of laws were struck by lightning?​183 'The Nattas,' you say, 'were of the Pinarian gens​184 and of noble birth, therefore danger was to be expected from the nobility.' So clever of Jupiter to devise such a means to warn us of danger! 'The statue of the infant Romulus,' you observe, 'was struck by a thunderbolt; hence danger was thereby predicted to the city which he founded.' How wise of Jupiter to use signs in conveying information to us! Again, you say, 'Jupiter' statue was being set up at the very time the conspiracy was being exposed.'​185 You, of course, prefer to attribute this coincidence to a divine decree rather than to chance. The man to whom Cotta and Torquatus let the contract for the  p425 statue did not, I presume, delay the completion of his work either from lack of energy or from lack of funds, but his hand was stayed till the appointed hour by the immortal gods!

48 "I am not a hopeless sceptic on the subject of such warnings really being sent by the gods; however, I do not know that they are and I want to learn the actual facts from you. Again, when certain other events occurred as they had been foretold by diviners and I attributed the coincidence to chance, you talked a long time about chance. You said, for example, 'For the Venus-throw to result from one cast of the four dice might be due to chance; but if a hundred Venus-throws resulted from one hundred casts this could not be due to chance.'​186a In the first place I do not know why it could not; but I do not contest the point, for you are full of the same sort of examples — like that about the scattering of the paints and that one about the hog's snout,​186b and you had very many other examples besides. You also mentioned that myth from Carneades about the head of Pan​186c — as if the likeness could not have been the result of chance! and as if every block of marble did not necessarily have within it heads worthy of Praxiteles! For his masterpieces were made by chipping away the marble, not by adding anything to it; and when, after much chipping, the lineaments of a face were reached, one then realized that the work now polished and complete had always been inside the block. 49 Therefore, it is possible that some such figure as Carneades described did spontaneously appear in the Chian quarries. On the other hand, the story may be untrue. Again, you have often  p427 noticed clouds take the form of a lion or a hippocentaur. Therefore it is possible for chance to imitate reality, and this you just now denied.187

22 "But since entrails and lightnings have been sufficiently discussed it remains for us to examine portents, if we are to treat soothsaying in its entirety. You spoke of a mule bearing a colt.​188 Such an event excites wonder because it seldom occurs; but if it had been impossible it would not have occurred. And it may be urged with effect against all portents that the impossible never has happened and that the possible need not excite any wonder. Now, in case of some new occurrence, ignorance of its cause is what excites our wonder; whereas, the same ignorance as to things of frequent occurrence does not. For the man who marvels that a mule has foaled does not understand how a mare foals and is ignorant of animal parturition in general. What he sees frequently causes him no astonishment even though he does not know how it happened. If something happens which he never saw before he considers it a portent. Then, which is the portent — the mule's conception or its parturition? 50 The conception, it may be, is contrary to the usual course of nature, but the parturition follows as a necessary sequel of conception.

23 "It seems useless to say more about soothsaying. However, let us examine its origin and thus we shall very readily determine its value. The tradition is that, once upon a time, in the district of Tarquinii, while a field was being ploughed, the ploughshare went deeper than usual and a certain Tages suddenly sprang forth and spoke to the ploughman. Now this Tages, according to the  p429 Etruscan annals, is said to have had the appearance of a boy, but the wisdom of a seer. Astounded and much frightened at the sight, the rustic raised a great cry; a crowd gathered and, indeed, in a short time, the whole of Etruria assembled at the spot. Tages​189 then spoke at length to his numerous hearers, who received with eagerness all that he had to say, and committed it to writing. His whole address was devoted to an exposition of the science of soothsaying. Later, as new facts were learned and tested by reference to the principles imparted by Tages, they were added to the original fund of knowledge.

"This is the story as we get it from the Etruscans themselves and as their records preserve it, and this, in their own opinion, is the origin of their art. 51 Now do we need a Carneades or an Epicurus to refute such nonsense? Who in the world is stupid enough to believe that anybody ever ploughed up — which shall I say — a god or a man? If a god, why did he, contrary to his nature, hide himself in the ground to be uncovered and brought to the light of day by a plough? Could not this so‑called god have delivered this art to mankind from a more exalted station? But if this fellow Tages was a man, pray, how could he have lived covered with earth? Finally, where had he himself learned the things he taught others? But really in spending so much time in refuting such stuff I am more absurd than the very people who believe it.

24 "But indeed, that was quite a clever remark which Cato made many years ago: 'I wonder,' said he, 'that a soothsayer doesn't laugh when he sees another soothsayer.' 52 For how many things predicted by them really come true? If any  p431 do come true, then what reason can be advanced why the agreement of the event with the prophecy was not due to chance? While Hannibal was in exile at the court of King Prusias he advised the king to go to war, but the king replied, 'I do not dare, because the entrails forbid.' 'And do you,' said Hannibal, 'put more reliance in piece of ox‑meat than you do in a veteran commander?' Again, when Caesar himself was warned by a most eminent soothsayer not to cross over to Africa before the winter solstice, did he not cross? If he had not done so all the forces opposed to him would have effected a junction. Why need I give instances — and, in fact, I could give countless ones — where the prophecies of soothsayers either were without result or the issue was directly the reverse of the prophecy? 53 Ye gods, how many times were they mistaken in the late civil war! What oracular messages the soothsayers sent from Rome to our Pompeian party then in Greece! What assurances they gave to Pompey! For he placed great reliance in divination by means of entrails and portents. I have no wish to call these instances to mind, and indeed it is unnecessary — especially to you, since you had personal knowledge of them. Still, you are aware that the result was nearly always contrary to the prophecy. But enough on this point: let us now come to portents.

25 54 "You have cited many instances of portents from the verses which I wrote during my consul­ship;​190 you adduced many others which occurred prior to the Marsian War​191 and which are included in Sisenna's compilation, and you mentioned a great number which are recorded by Callisthenes and which preceded the unfortunate battle of the  p433 Spartans at Leuctra.​192 I shall, of course, speak of each of these instances separately, in so far as they require notice; but I must first discuss portents generally. Now, what is the nature of these intimations, or of this advance-information, as it were, sent out by the gods to apprise us of coming disasters? In the first place, why do immortal gods see fit to give us warning which we can't understand without the aid of interpreters? In the next place, why do they warn us of things which we cannot avoid? Why, even a mortal, if he has a proper sense of duty, does not warn his friends of imminent disasters which can in no way be escaped. Physicians, for example, although they know many times that their patients are going to die of a present disease, yet never tell them so; for a forewarning of an evil is justified only when to the warning is joined a means of escape. 55 However, then, did portents of their interpreters help the Spartans of long ago, or our Pompeian friends in more recent times? If these signs you speak of are to be considered as sent by the gods, why were they so obscure? For, if we had the right to know what was going to happen, it should have been stated to us clearly: or, if the gods did not wish us to know, they should not have told us — even in riddles.

26 "Now every sort of conjecture — and divination depends on conjecture — is often applied by the wit of man to many different and even contradictory uses. As in judicial causes the prosecutor draws one inference and the lawyer for the defendant another from the same set of facts, and yet the inferences of both are plausible; so, in all investigations in which it is customary to employ conjecture, ambiguity is found. Moreover, in the case of things  p435 that happen now by chance now in the usual course of nature (sometimes too mistakes are caused by taking appearance for reality), it is the height of folly to hold the gods as the direct agents and not to inquire into the causes of such things.

56 "You believe that the Boeotian bards at Lebadia foretold victory for the Thebans from the crowing of cocks; for cocks, you say, are wont to be silent when defeated and to crow when victorious.​193 Do you really believe that Jupiter would have employed chickens to convey such a message to so great a state? And is it true that these fowls are not accustomed to crow except when they are victorious? But at that time they did crow and they had not yet been victorious. 'Oh! that was a "portent," ' you say. A fine portent indeed! you talk as if a fish and not a cock had done the crowing! But come; is there any time, day or night, when they are not liable to crow? And if the pleasant sensation — or 'joy' if you will — which comes from victory causes them to crow, then, possibly, joy springing from some other source may have the same effect. 57 By the way, Democritus gives a very good explanation of why cocks crow before day. 'Their food,' he says, 'after it has been digested, is expelled from the craw and is distributed over the entire body. By the time that process is completed they have had sleep enough and begin to crow.' And then, 'in the silence of the night,' as Ennius says, 'they indulge their russet throats in song and beat their flapping wings.' In view, then, of the fact that this creature is prone to crow of its own volition at any time, and may be made to crow either by nature or by chance, how did it ever occur to Callisthenes to say  p437 that the gods conveyed prophecies to men by the crowing of cocks?

27 58 " 'Reports,' you say, 'were made to the Senate that there was a shower of blood, that the river Atratus actually flowed with blood and that the statues of the gods dripped with sweat.'​194 You do not think for a moment that Thales, Anaxagoras, or any other natural philosopher would have believed such reports? Sweat and blood you may be sure do not come except from animate bodies. An effect strikingly like blood is produced by the admixture of water with certain kinds of soil; and the moisture which forms on the outside of objects, as we see it on our plastered walls when the south wind blows, seems to resemble sweat. Such occurrences, which in time of war appear to the timid to be most frequent and most real, are scarcely noticed in times of peace. Moreover, in periods of fear and of danger stories of portents are not only more readily believed, but they are invented with greater impunity. 59 But are we simple and thoughtless enough to think it a portent for mice to gnaw something, when gnawing is their one business in life? 'But,' you say, 'the fact that just before the Marsian War mice gnawed the shields at Lanuvium was pronounced by the soothsayers to be a very direful portent.'​195 As if it mattered a whit whether mice, which are gnawing something day and night, gnawed shields or sieves! Hence, by the same token, the fact that, at my house, mice recently gnawed my Plato's Republic should fill me with alarm for the Roman republic; or if they had gnawed my Epicurus On Pleasure I should have expected a rise in the market price of food!196

 p439  28 60 "Are we going to be frightened at these tales of portents, whether of animal or of human birth? Not to be too verbose, all portents have one and the same explanation and it is this: whatever comes into existence, of whatever kind, must needs find its cause in nature; and hence, even though it may be contrary to experience, it cannot be contrary to nature. Therefore, explore the cause, if you can, of every strange thing that the excites your astonishment. If you do not find the cause be assured, nevertheless, that nothing could have happened without a cause, and employ the principles of natural philosophy to banish the fear which the novelty of the apparition may have occasioned. Then no earthquake or opening of the heavens, no showers of stones or blood, no shooting stars, or comets, will fill you with alarm.

61 "If I were to ask Chrysippus the causes of all the phenomena just mentioned, that distinguished writer on divination would never say that they happened by chance, but he would find an explanation for each of them in the laws of nature. For he would say: 'Nothing can happen without a cause; nothing actually happens that cannot happen; if that has happened which could have happened, then it should not be considered a portent; therefore there are no such things as portents.' Now if a thing is to be considered a portent because it is seldom seen, then a wise man is a portent; for, as I think, it oftener happens that a mule brings forth a colt than that nature produces a sage. Chrysippus, in this connexion, gives the following syllogism: 'That which could not have happened never did happen; and that which could have  p441 happened is no portent; therefore, in any view, there is no such thing as a portent.' 62 This is illustrated by the story of a clever response made by a certain diviner and interpreter of portents. A man referred to him for interpretation as a portent the fact that a snake was seen at his house, coiled about a beam. 'That was not a portent,' said the diviner; 'it would have been if the beam had been wrapped around the snake.' By this answer he said plainly enough: 'Nothing that can happen is to be considered a portent.'

29 "You refer to a letter, written by Gaius Gracchus to Marcus Pomponius, stating that Tiberius Gracchus, father of Gaius, caught two snakes in his house and called together the soothsayers.​197 And why a conference about snakes rather than about lizards or mice? You answer, 'Because we see lizards and mice every day; snakes we do not.' As if it makes any difference how often a thing happens if it can happen at all! And yet what surprises me is this: If the release of the female snake was to be fatal to Tiberius Gracchus and that of the male was to be the death of Cornelia, why in the world did he let either snake escape? For Gaius in his letter does not state that the soothsayers expressed any opinion as to the result if neither snake had been released. 'Be that as it may,' you reply, 'death overtook Gracchus.' That is granted, but his death was caused by some very serious illness and not by the release of the snake. Besides, soothsayers are not so unlucky that their predictions never come true — even by accident!

30 63 "I should, of course, marvel at that famous story you got out of Homer about Calchas predicting the years of the Trojan War from the number of  p443 sparrows — if I believed it!​198 In a leisure moment I thus translated what Agamemnon​199 in Homer says about this prophecy:

Be patient, men; with fortitude endure

Your grievous tasks till we can ascertain

If what our Calchas prophesies be true,

Or only idle fancies of his breast

For all who have not left the light of day,

In gloomy shades to dwell, retain these signs

Imprinted on their minds. When Aulis first

Was decked with Grecian fleets, which carried death

For Priam, ruin for Troy, we stood about

The fountains cool and sought to please the gods

With gold-crowned bulls on smoking altars laid.

Beneath the plane-tree's shade, whence gushed a spring,

We saw a frightful dragon, huge of size,

With mighty folds, forth from an altar come,

By Jove impelled. It seized some sparrows hid

Within the plane-tree's leafy boughs and eight

Devoured; the ninth — the mother bird — began

To flutter round and utter plaintive cries:

From her the cruel beast her vitals tore.

64 Now when the mother and her tender brood

Were slain, the son of Saturn who had sent

The dragon forth, took it away; and then

Did change its form into enduring stone.

In fear we stood and watched the monster strange,

As midst the altars of the gods it moved.

Then Calchas, full occurring, thus did speak:

'Why paralysed with sudden fear, O Greeks?

These signs divine were sent by Jove himself.

And though these tardy signs were long delayed,

Their fame and glory will for ever live.

The number of the birds ye saw destroyed

By horrid tooth, portends how many years

Of war we shall endure in front of Troy.

The tenth year Troy will fall and then her fate

Will satisfy the Greeks.' Thus Calchas spoke

And what he prophesied ye see fulfilled.

 p445  65 But, pray, by what principle of augury does he deduce years rather than months or days from the number of sparrows? Again, why does he base his prophecy on little sparrows which are not abnormal sights and ignore the alleged fact — which is impossible — that the dragon was turned to stone? Finally, what is there about a sparrow to suggest 'years'? In connexion with your story of the snake which appeared to Sulla when he was offering sacrifices,​200 I recall two facts: first, that when Sulla offered sacrifices, as he was about to begin his march against the enemy, a snake came out from under the altar; and, second, that the glorious victory won by him that day was due not to the soothsayer's art, but to the skill of the general.

31 66 "There is nothing remarkable about the so‑called portents of the kind just mentioned; but after they have happened they are brought within the field of prophecy by some interpretation Take, for example, your stories of the grains of wheat heaped into the mouth of Midas when a boy,​201a and of the bees which settled on the lips of Plato,​201b when he was a child — they are more remarkable as guesses than as real prophecies. Besides, the incidents may have been fictitious; if not, then the fulfilment of the prophecy may have been accidental. As to that incident about Roscius it may, of course, be untrue that a snake coiled itself around him;​202 but it is not so surprising that a snake was in his cradle — especially in Solonium where snakes are attracted in large numbers by the heat of the fireplaces. As to your statement that the soothsayers prophesied a career of unrivalled brilliancy for Roscius, it is a strange thing to me that the immortal gods foretold  p447 the glory of a future actor and did not foretell that of Africanus!

67 And you have even collected the portent-stories connected with Flaminius:​203 'His horse,' you say, 'stumbled and fell with him.' That is very strange, isn't it? And, 'The standard of the first company could not be pulled up.' Perhaps the standard-bearer had planted it stoutly and pulled it up timidly. What is astonishing in the fact that the horse of Dionysius​204 came up out of the river, or that it had bees in its mane? And yet, because Dionysius began to reign a short time later — which was a mere coincidence — the event referred to is considered a portent! 'The arms sounded,' you say, 'in the temple of Hercules in Sparta; the folding-doors of the same god at Thebes, though securely barred, opened of their own accord, and the shields hanging upon the walls of that temple fell to the ground.'​205 Now since none of these things could have happened without some exterior force, why should we say that they were brought about by divine agency rather than by chance?

32 68 "You mention the appearance — a 'sudden' appearance it was — of a crown of wild herbs on the head of Lysander's statue at Delphi.​206a Really? And do you think the crown of herbs appeared before their seeds were formed? Besides, the wild herbs, in my opinion, came from seeds brought by birds and were not planted by human agency. Again, imagination can make anything on top of a head look like a crown. 'At the same time,' you say, 'the golden stars in the temple of Castor and Pollux at Delphi fell down and were nowhere to be found.'​206b That appears to me to have been the  p449 work of thieves rather than of gods. 69 I am indeed astonished that Greek historians should have recorded the mischievous pranks of the Dodonean ape.​207 For what is less strange than for this hideous beast to have turned over the vase and scattered the lots? And yet the historians declare that no portent more direful than this ever befell the Spartans!

"You spoke also of the Veientine prophecy​208 that 'if Lake Albanus overflowed and emptied into the sea, Rome would fall, but if held in check Veii would fall.' Well, it turned out that the water from the lake was drawn off — but it was drawn off through irrigation ditches — not to save the Capitol and the city, but to improve the farming lands. 'And, not long after this occurred, a voice was heard,' you say, 'warning the people to take steps to prevent the capture of Rome by the Gauls. Therefore an altar was erected on the Nova Via in honour of Aius the Speaker.' But why? Did your 'Aius the Speaker,' before anybody knew who he was, both speak and talk and from that fact receive his name? And after he had secured a seat, an altar, and a name did he become mute? Your Juno Moneta​209 may likewise be dismissed with a question: What did she ever admonish us about except the pregnant sow?

33 70 "Enough has been said of portents; auspices remain and so do lots — I mean 'lots' that are drawn, and not those uttered by prophets, and more correctly styled 'oracles.' I shall speak of oracles when I get to natural divination. In addition I must discuss the Chaldeans. But first let us consider auspices. 'To argue against auspices is a hard thing,' you say, 'for an augur to do.' Yes, for a Marsian, perhaps; but very easy for a Roman.  p451 For we Roman augurs are not the sort who foretell the future by observing the flights of birds and other signs. And yet, I admit that Romulus, who founded the city by the direction of auspices, believed that augury was an art useful in seeing things to come — for the ancients had erroneous views on many subjects. But we see that the art has undergone a change, due to experience, education, or the long lapse of time. However, out of respect for the opinion of the masses and because of the great service to the State we maintain the augural practices, discipline, religious rites and laws, as well as the authority of the augural college.

71 "In my opinion the consuls, Publius Claudius and Lucius Junius, who set sail contrary to the auspices, were deserving of capital punishment; for they should have respected the established religion and should not have treated the customs of their forefathers with such shameless disdain. Therefore it was a just retribution that the former was condemned by a vote of the people and that the latter took his own life. 'Flaminius,' you say, 'did not obey the auspices, therefore he perished with his army.' But a year later Paulus did obey them; and did he not lose his army and his life in the battle of Cannae? Granting that there are auspices (as there are not), certainly those which we ordinarily employ — whether by the tripudium or by the observation of the heavens — are not auspices in any sense, but are the mere ghosts of auspices.210

34 " 'Quintus Fabius, I wish you to assist me at the auspices.' He answers, 'I will.' (In our forefathers' time the magistrates on such occasions used to call in some expert person to take the  p453 auspices — but in these days anyone will do. But one must be an expert to know what constitutes 'silence,' for by that term we mean 'free of every augural defect.' 72 To understand that belongs to a perfect augur.) After the celebrant​211 has said to his assistant, "Tell me when silence appears to exist,' the latter, without looking up or about him, immediately replies, 'Silence appears to exist.' Then the celebrant says, 'Tell me when the chickens begin to eat.' 'They are eating now,' is the answer. But what are these birds they are talking about, and where are they? Someone replies, 'It's poultry. It's in a cage and the person who brought it is called "a poulterer," because of his business.' These, then, are the messengers of Jove! What difference does it make whether they eat or not? None, so far as the auspices are concerned. But, because of the fact that, while they eat, some food must necessarily fall from their mouths and strike upon the ground (terram pavire), — this at first was called terripavium, and later, terripudium; now it is called tripudium — therefore, when a crumb of food falls from a chicken's mouth a tripudium solistimum is announced to the celebrant.212

35 73 "Then, how can there be anything divine about an auspice so forced and so extorted? That such a practice did not prevail with the augurs of ancient times is proven by an old ruling of our college which says, 'Any bird may make a tripudium.' There might be an auspice if the bird were free to show itself outside its cage. In that case it might be called 'the interpreter and satellite of Jove.'​213 But now, when shut up inside a cage and tortured by hunger, if it seizes greedily upon its morsel of  p455 pottage and something falls from its mouth, do you consider that is an auspice? Or do you believe that this was the way in which Romulus used to take the auspices? 74 Again, do you not think that formerly it was the habit of the celebrants themselves to make observation of the heavens? Now they order the poulterer, and he gives responses!​214 We regard lightning on the left as a most favourable omen for everything except for an election, and this exception was made, no doubt, from reasons of political expediency so that the rulers of the State would be the judges of the regularity of an election, whether held to pass judgements in criminal cases, or to enact laws, or to elect magistrates.

" 'The consuls, Scipio and Figulus,' you say, 'resigned their office when the augurs rendered a decision based on a letter written by Tiberius Gracchus, to the effect that those consuls had not been elected according to augural law.' Who denies that augury is an art? What I deny is the existence of divination. But you say: 'Soothsayers have the power of divination'; and you mention the fact that, on account of the unexpected death of the person who had suddenly fallen while bringing in the report of the vote of the prerogative century, Tiberius Gracchus introduced the soothsayers into the Senate and they declared that 'the president' had violated augural law.​215 75 Now, in the first place, do not understand that by 'the president' they meant the president of the prerogative century, for he was dead; and, moreover, they could have told that by conjecture without the use of divination; or, in the second place, perhaps, they said so by accident which is no wise to be left out of account  p457 in cases of this kind. For what could the Etruscan soothsayers have known, either as to whether the tabernaculum had been properly placed, or as to whether the regulations pertaining to the pomerium216 had been observed? For my part, I agree with Gaius Marcellus, rather than with Appius Claudius — both of whom were my colleagues — and I think that, although in the beginning augural law was established from a belief in divination, yet later it was maintained and preserved from considerations of political expediency. 36 76 But we shall discuss the latter point at greater length in other discourses; let us dismiss it for the present.

"Now let us examine augury as practised among foreign nations, whose methods are not so artificial as they are superstitious. They employ almost all kinds of birds, we only a few; they regard some signs as favourable, we, others. Deiotarus used to question me a great deal about our system of augury, and I him about that of his country. Ye gods! how much they differed! So much that in some cases they were directly the reverse of each other. He employed auspices constantly, we never do except when the duty of doing so is imposed by a vote of the people. Our ancestors would not undertake any military enterprise without consulting the auspices; but now, for many years, our wars have been conducted by pro-consuls and pro-praetors, who do not have the right to take auspices. 77 Therefore they have no tripudium and they cross rivers without first taking the auspices. What, then, has become of divining by means of birds? It is not used by those who conduct our wars, for they have not the right of auspices. Since it has been  p459 withdrawn from use in the field I suppose it is reserved for city use only!

"As to divination ex acuminibus,​217 which is altogether military, it was wholly ignored by that famous man, Marcus Marcellus, who was consul five times and, besides, was a commander-in‑chief, as well as a very fine augur. In fact, he used to say that, if he wished to execute some manoeuvre which he did not want interfered with by the auspices, he would travel in a closed litter.​218 His method is of a kind with the advice which we augurs give, that the draught cattle be ordered to be unyoked so as to prevent a iuge auspicium.​219 78 What else does a refusal to be warned by Jove accomplish except either to prevent an auspice from occurring, or, if it occurs, to prevent it from being seen?

37 "Your story about Deiotarus​220 is utterly absurd: 'He did not regret the auspices given him as he was setting out to join Pompey. They caused him to continue in the path of loyalty and friendship to the Roman people and to perform his duty; for he valued his reputation and glory more than kingdom and riches.' I dare say; but that has nothing to do with auspices. For the crow would not tell Deiotarus that he was doing right in preparing to defend the liberty of the Roman people. He ought to have realized that of himself, and in fact he did. 79 Birds indicate that results will be unfavourable or favourable. In my view of the case Deiotarus employed the auspices of virtue, and virtue bids us not to look to fortune until the claims of honour are discharged. However, if the birds indicated that the issue would be favourable to Deiotarus they certainly deceived him. He fled  p461 from the battle with Pompey — a serious situation! He separated from Pompey — an occasion of sorrow! He beheld Caesar at once his enemy and his guest — what could have been more distressing than that? Caesar wrested from him the tetrarchy over the Trocmi and conferred it upon some obscure sycophant of his own from Pergamus; deprived him of Armenia, a gift from the Senate; accepted a most lavish hospitality at the hands of his royal host and left him utterly despoiled. But I wander too far: I must return to the point at issue. If we examine this matter from the standpoint of the results — and that was the question submitted to the determination of the birds — the issue was in no sense favourable to Deiotarus; but if we examine it from the standpoint of duty, he sought information on that score not from the auspices, but from his own conscience.

38 80 "Then dismiss Romulus's augural staff,​221 which you say the hottest of fires was powerless to burn, and attach slight importance to the whetstone of Attus Navius.​222 Myths would have no place in philosophy. It would have been more in keeping with your rôle as a philosopher to consider, first, the nature of divination generally, second, its origin, and third, its consistency. What, then, is the nature of an art which makes prophets out of birds that wander aimlessly about — now here, now there — and makes the action or inaction of men depend upon the song or flight of birds? and why was the power granted to some birds to give a favourable omen when on the left side and to others when on the right? Again, however, when, and by whom, shall we say that the system was invented?  p463 The Etruscans, it is true, find the author of their system in the boy who was ploughed up out of the ground; but whom have we? Attus Navius? But Romulus and Remus, both of whom, by tradition, were augurs, lived many years earlier. Are we to say that it was invented by the Pisidians, Cilicians, or Phrygians? It is your judgement, then, that those devoid of human learning are the authors of a divine science!223

39 81 " 'But,' you say, 'all kings, peoples, and nations employ auspices.' As if there were anything so absolutely common as want of sense, or as if you yourself in deciding anything would accept the opinion of the mob! How often will you find a man who will say that pleasure is not a good! Most people actually call it the highest good. Then will the Stoics abandon their views about pleasure because the crowd is against them? or do you think that the multitude follows the lead of the Stoics in very many matters? What wonder, then, if in auspices and in every kind of divination weak minds should adopt the superstitious practices which you have mentioned and should be unable to discern the truth? 82 Moreover, there is no uniformity, and no consistent and constant agreement between augurs. Ennius, speaking with reference to the Roman system of augury, said:

Then on the left, from out a cloudless sky,

Jove's thunder rolled its goodly omen forth.​224

But Homer's Ajax,​225 in complaining to Achilles of some ferocious deed or other of the Trojans, speaks in this wise:

For their success Jove thunders on the right.

 p465  So we regard signs on the left as best — Greeks and barbarians, those on the right. And yet I am aware that we call favourable signs sinistra, or 'left-hand' signs, even though they may be on the right.​226 Undoubtedly our ancestors in choosing the left side and foreign nations the right were both influenced by what experience had shown them was the more favourable quarter in most cases. 83 What a conflict this is! In view, then, of the differences between different nations in the responses, in the manner in which observations are made and in the kinds of birds and signs employed, need I assert that divination is compounded of a little error, a little superstition, and a good deal of fraud?

40 "And to these superstitions you have actually joined omens! For example: 'Aemilia told Paulus that Persa was dead and her father accepted this as an omen.'​227 'Caecilia said that she surrendered her seat to her sister's daughter.' Then you go on and speak of the order of silence, favete linguis228 and the 'prerogative,' or omen of the elections.​229 This is indeed turning the artillery of one's eloquence and learning against oneself! For while on the watch for these 'oracles' of yours could you be so free and calm of mind that you would have reason and not superstition to guide your course? Now, if a person in the course of his own business or conversation should make some remark, and a word spoken by him happened to apply to what you were doing or thinking, do you really believe that such an accident should cause you either fear or joy? 84 When Marcus Crassus was embarking his army at Brundisium​230 a man who was selling Caunian figs at the  p467 harbour, repeatedly cried out 'Cauneas, Cauneas.'​231 Let us say, if you will, that this was a warning to Crassus to bid him 'Beware of going,' and that if he had obeyed the omen he would not have perished. But if we are going to accept chance utterances of this kind as omens, we had better look out when we stumble, or break a shoe-string, or sneeze!

41 "Lots and the Chaldean astrologers remain to be discussed before we come to prophets and to dreams. 85 And pray what is the need, do you think, to talk about the casting of lots? It is much like playing at morra, dice, or knuckle-bones, in which recklessness and luck prevail rather than reflection and judgement. The whole scheme of divination by lots was fraudulently contrived from mercenary motives, or as a means of encouraging superstition and error. But let us follow the method used in the discussion of soothsaying and consider the traditional origin of the most famous lots. According to the annals of Praeneste Numerius Suffustius, who was a distinguished man of noble birth, was admonished by dreams, often repeated, and finally even by threats, to split open a flint rock which was lying in a designated place. Frightened by the visions and disregarding the jeers of his fellow-townsmen he set about doing as he had been directed. And so when he had broken open the stone, the lots sprang forth carved on oak, in ancient characters. The site where the stone was found is religiously guarded to this day. It is hard by the statue of the infant Jupiter, who is represented as sitting with Juno in the lap of Fortune and reaching for her breast, and it is held in the highest reverence by mothers.

 p469  86 "There is a tradition that, concurrently with the finding of the lots and in the spot where the temple of Fortune now stands, honey flowed from an olive-tree. Now the soothsayers, who had declared that those lots would enjoy an unrivalled reputation, gave orders that a chest should be made from the tree and lots placed in the chest. At the present time the lots are taken from their receptacle if Fortune directs.​232 What reliance, pray, can you put in these lots, which at Fortune's nod are shuffled and drawn by the hand of a child? And how did they ever get in that rock? Who cut down the oak-tree? and who fashioned and carved the lots? Oh! but somebody says, 'God can bring anything to pass.' If so, then I wish he had made the Stoics wise, so that they would not be so pitiably and distressingly superstitious and so prone to believe everything they hear! This sort of divining, however, has now been discarded by general usage. The beauty and age of the temple still preserve the name of the lots of Praeneste — that is, among the common people, 87 for no magistrate and no man of any reputation ever consults them; but in all other places lots have gone entirely out of use. And this explains the remark which, according to Clitomachus, Carneades used to make that he had at no other place seen Fortune more fortunate than at Praeneste.​233 Then let us dismiss this branch of divination.

42 "Let us come to Chaldean manifestations. In discussing them Plato's pupil, Eudoxus, whom the best scholars consider easily the first in astronomy, has left the following opinion in writing: 'No reliance whatever is to be placed in Chaldean  p471 astrologers when they profess to forecast a man's future from the position of the stars on the day of his birth.' 88 Panaetius, too, who was the only one of the Stoics to reject the prophecies of astrologers,​234 mentions Anchialus and Cassander as the greatest astronomers of his day and states that they did not employ their art as a means of divining, though they were eminent in all other branches of astronomy. Scylax of Halicarnassus, an intimate friend of Panaetius, and an eminent astronomer, besides being the head of the government in his own city, utterly repudiated the Chaldean method of foretelling the future.

89 "But let us dismiss our witnesses and employ reasoning. Those men who defend the natal-day prophecies of the Chaldeans, argue in this way: 'In the starry belt which the Greeks call the Zodiac there is a certain force of such a nature that every part of that belt affects and changes the heavens in a different way, according to the stars that are in this or in an adjoining locality at a given time. This force is variously affected by those stars which are called 'planets' or wandering' stars. But when they have come into that sign of the Zodiac under which someone is born, or into a sign having some connexion with or accord with the natal sign, they form what is called a 'triangle' or 'square.'​235 Now since, through the procession and retrogression of the stars, the great variety and change of the seasons and of temperature take place, and since the power of the sun produces such results as are before our eyes, they believe that it is not merely probable, but certain, that just as the temperature of the air is regulated by this celestial force, so also  p473 children at their birth are influenced in soul and body and by this force their minds, manners, disposition, physical condition, career in life and destinies are determined.

43 90 "What inconceivable madness! For it is not enough to call an opinion 'foolishness' when it is utterly devoid of reason. However, Diogenes the Stoic makes some concessions to the Chaldeans. He says that they have the power of prophecy to the extent of being able to tell the disposition of any child and the calling for which he is best fitted. All their other claims of prophetic powers he absolutely denies. He says, for example, that twins are alike in appearance, but that they generally unlike in career and in fortune. Procles and Eurysthenes, kings of the Lacedaemonians, were twin brothers. 91 But they did not live the same number of years, for the life of Procles was shorter by a year than that of his brother and his deeds were far more glorious. But for my part I say that even this concession which our excellent friend Diogenes makes to the Chaldeans in a sort of collusive way,​236 is in itself unintelligible. For the Chaldeans, according to their own statements, believe that a person's destiny is affected by the condition of the moon at the time of his birth, and hence they make and record their observations of the stars which anything in conjunction with the moon on his birthday. As a result, in forming their judgements, they depend on the sense of sight, which is the least trustworthy of the senses, whereas they should employ reason and intelligence. For the science of mathematics which the Chaldeans ought to know, teaches us how close the moon comes to  p475 the earth, which indeed it almost touches; how far it is from Mercury, the nearest star; how much further yet it is from Venus; and what a great interval separates it from the sun, which is supposed to give it light. The three remaining distances are beyond computation: from the Sun to Mars, from Mars to Jupiter, from Jupiter to Saturn. Then there is the distance from Saturn to the limits of heaven — the ultimate bounds of space. 92 In view, therefore, of these almost limitless distances, what influence can the planets exercise upon the moon, or rather, upon the earth?

44 "Again, when the Chaldeans say, as they are bound to do, that all persons born anywhere in the habitable earth under the same horoscope, are alike and must have the same fate, is it not evident that these would‑be interpreters of the sky are of a class who are utterly ignorant of the nature of the sky? For the earth is, as it were, divided in half and our view limited by those circles which the Greeks call ὁρίζοντες, and which we may in all accuracy term finientes or horizons. Now these horizons vary without limit according to the position of the spectator. Hence, of necessity, the rising and setting of the stars will not occur at the same time for all persons. 93 But if this stellar force affects the heavens now in one way and now in another, how is it possible for this force to operate alike on all persons who are born at the same time, in view of the fact that they are born under vastly different skies? In those places in which we live the Dog-star rises after the solstice,​237 in fact, several days later. But among the Troglodytes, we read, it sets before the solstice. Hence if we should now admit  p477 that some stellar influence affects persons who are born upon the earth, then it must be conceded that all persons born at the same time may have different natures owing to the differences in their horoscopes. This is a conclusion by no means agreeable to the astrologers; for they insist that all persons born at the same time, regardless of the place of birth, are born to the same fate.​a

45 94 "But what utter madness in these astrologers, in considering the effect of the vast movements and changes in the heavens, to assume that wind and rain and weather anywhere have no effect at birth! In neighbouring places conditions in these respects are so different that frequently, for instance, we have one state of weather at Tusculum and another at Rome. This is especially noticeable to mariners who often observe extreme changes of weather take place while they rounding the capes. Therefore, in view of the fact that the heavens are now serene and now disturbed by storms, is it the part of a reasonable man to say that this fact has no natal influence — and of course it has not — and then assert that a natal influence is exerted by some subtle, imperceptible, well-nigh inconceivable force which is due to the condition of the sky, which condition, in turn, is due to the action of the moon and stars?

"Again, is it no small error of judgement that the Chaldeans fail to realize the effect of the parental seed which is an essential element of the process of generation? For, surely, no one fails to see that the appearance and habits, and generally, the carriage and gestures of children are derived from their parents. This would not be  p479 the case if the characteristics of children were determined, not by the natural power of heredity, but by the phases of the moon and by the condition of the sky. 95 And, again, the fact that men who were born at the very same instant, are unlike in character, career, and in destiny, makes it very clear that the time of birth has nothing to do in determining man's course in life. That is, unless perchance we are to believe that nobody else was conceived and born at the very same time that Africanus was. For was there ever anyone like him?

46 96 "Furthermore, is it not a well-known and undoubted fact that many persons who were born with certain natural defects have been restored completely by Nature herself, after she had resumed her sway, or by surgery or by medicine? For example, some, who were so tongue-tied that they could not speak, have had their tongues set free by a cut from the surgeon's knife. Many more have corrected a natural defect by intelligent exertion. Demosthenes is an instance: according to the account given by Phalereus, he was unable to pronounce the Greek letter rho, but by repeated effort learned to articulate it perfectly. But if such defects had been engendered and implanted by a star nothing could have changed them. Do not unlike places produce unlike men? It would be an easy matter to sketch rapidly in passing the differences in mind and body which distinguish the Indians from the Persians and the Ethiopians from the Syrians — differences so striking and so pronounced as to be incredible. 97 Hence it is evident that one's birth is more affected by local environment than by the condition of the moon. Of course, the  p481 statement quoted by you that the Babylonians for 470,000 years​238 had taken the horoscope of every child and had tested it by the results, is untrue; for if this had been their habit they would not have abandoned it. Moreover we find no writer who says that the practice exists or who knows that it ever did exist.

47 "You observe that I am not repeating the arguments of Carneades, but those of Panaetius, the head of the Stoic school. But now on my own initiative I put the following questions: Did all the Romans who fell at Cannae have the same horoscope? Yet all had one and the same end. Were all the men eminent for intellect and genius born under the same star? Was there ever a day when countless numbers were not born? And yet there never was another Homer. 98 Again: if it matters under what aspect of the sky or combination of the stars every animate being is born, then necessarily the same conditions must affect inanimate beings also: can any statement be more ridiculous than that? Be that as it may, our good friend Lucius Tarutius of Firmum, who was steeped in Chaldaic lore, made a calculation, based on the assumption that our city's birthday was on the Feast of Pales​239 (at which time tradition says it was founded by Romulus), and from that calculation Tarutius even went so far as to assert that Rome was born when the moon was in the sign of Libra and from that fact unhesitatingly prophesied her destiny.​b 99 What stupendous power delusion has! And was the city's natal day also subject to the influence of the moon and stars? Assume, if you will, that it matters in the case of a child under what arrangement of the heavenly bodies it draws  p483 its first breath, does it also follow that the stars could have had any influence over the bricks and cement of which the city was built? But why say more against a theory which every day's experience refutes? I recall a multitude of prophecies which the Chaldeans made to Pompey, to Crassus and even to Caesar himself (now lately deceased), to the effect that no one of them would die except in old age, at home and in great glory. Hence it would seem very strange to me should anyone, especially at this time, believe in men whose predictions he sees disproved every day by actual results.

48 100 "There remain the two kinds of divination which we are said to derive from nature and not from art — vaticination and dreams, — these, my dear Quintus, if agreeable to you, let us now discuss."

"Delighted, I assure you," said he, "for I am in entire accord with the views which you have so far expressed. To be quite frank, your argument has merely strengthened the opinion which I already had, for my own reasoning had convinced me that the Stoic view of divination smacked too much of superstition. I was more impressed by the reasoning of the Peripatetics, of Dicaearchus, of ancient times, and of Cratippus,​240 who still flourishes. According to their opinion there is within the human soul some sort of power — 'oracular,' I might call it — by which the future is foreseen when the soul is inspired by a divine frenzy, or when it is released by sleep and is free to move at will. I should like very much to learn your views of these two classes of divination and by what arguments you disprove them."

 p485  49 101 After this statement had been made by Quintus, I began again, making a new start, so to speak:

"I am well aware, my dear Quintus, that, while you have always felt a doubt about all other kinds of divination, you approve of the two you just mentioned — divination by frenzy and divination by dreams, both of which, it is thought, flow from a soul set free. Let me, then, state my opinion of these two kinds of divination. But, first, let me examine that syllogism​241 of the Stoics and of our friend Cratippus and see how sound it is. You stated the syllogism of Chrysippus, Diogenes, and Antipater​242 in this way:

" 'If there are gods and they do not make clear to man in advance what the future will be, then they do not love man, or they themselves do not know what the future will be; or they think that it is of no advantage to man to know what the future will be; or they think it inconsistent with their dignity to give to man forewarnings of the future; or they, though gods, cannot give signs of human events. 102 But it is not true that the gods do not love us (for they are the friends and benefactors of the human race); nor is it true that they do not know what they themselves have determined and planned; nor is it true that it is of no advantage to us to know what is going to happen (for man would be more prudent if he knew); nor is it true that the gods think it inconsistent with their dignity to give forecasts of the future (for there is no more excellent quality than kindness); nor is it true that they have not the power to know the future; therefore, it is not true that there are gods and yet that  p487 they do not give us signs of the future; but there are gods; therefore they give us such signs; and it is not true, if they give us such signs, that they give us no means of understanding those signs, otherwise their signs would be useless; nor, if they give us the means, is it true that there is no divination: therefore divination exists.'

103 "What keen-witted men! With how very few words they think the business dispatched! But to establish their syllogism they take propositions for granted which are not conceded at all; yet a chain of reasoning, to be valid, should proceed from premises which are not doubtful to the conclusion which is in dispute.

50 "Pray observe the neat way in which Epicurus (whom you Stoics usually call a blundering idiot) proves that what we term 'the universe' is infinite. 'That,' said he, 'which is finite has an end.' Who would deny that? Again, 'That which has an end is seen from some point outside itself.' That, too, must be granted. 'But the universe is not seen from without itself.' We cannot question the proposition either. 'Therefore, since it has no end the universe must be infinite.' 104 You see how Epicurus proceeds from admitted premises to the proposition to be established. But this you Stoic logicians do not do; for you not only do not assume premises which everybody concedes, but you even assume premises which, if granted, do not tend in the least to establish what you wish to prove. For you start with this assumption: 'If there are gods they are kindly disposed towards men.' Now who will grant you that? Epicurus? But he says that the gods do not trouble a whit about themselves or  p489 about anybody else. Is it our own Ennius? But he says with general approval and applause:243

I always said that there were gods on high,

And this I never will neglect to say;

But my opinion is they do not care

What destiny befalls the human race.

To be sure he proceeds to give the reason for his opinion in succeeding lines, but there is no need to repeat them. Enough has been shown to make it clear that your Stoic friends assume as certain what is the subject of doubt and discussion.

51 105 "But the syllogism goes on to say: 'The gods are not ignorant of anything, for all things were ordained by them.' But what a heavy attack is made on this very point by scholars who deny that such and such things were ordained by the immortal gods! 'But it is to our interest to know what is going to happen.' Yet Dicaearchus has written a large volume to prove that it is better not to know than to know the future. They say further: 'It is not inconsistent with the dignity of gods to give knowledge of the future.' But entirely consistent, I presume, for them to peer into every man's house to see what he needs! 106 'It is not true that the gods cannot know the future.' But their ability to know is denied by those who maintain that it is not certain what the future will be. Now don't you see what doubtful premises they assume to be certain and take for granted? Next they hurl this dialectical dart: 'Therefore it is not true both that there are gods and yet that they do not give signs of the future.' And of course you think that the matter is now settled. Then they make another assumption: 'But there are gods.' Even that is  p491 not conceded by everybody. 'Therefore they give signs of the future.' Not necessarily so: for they may not give us signs of the future and still be gods. 'Nor is it true that, if they give such signs, they give no means of interpreting those signs.' But it may be that they have the means and yet do not impart them to man; for why would they impart them to the Etruscans rather than to the Romans? Again, the Stoics say: 'If the gods do impart the means, that is divination.' Grant that they do (which is absurd), what is the good if we do not understand? Their conclusion is: 'Therefore there is divination.' Suppose that is their conclusion, still they have not proved it; for, as they themselves have taught us, the truth cannot be proved from false premises. Hence their entire argument falls to the ground.

52 107 "Now let us come to the argument of that most worthy gentleman, our intimate friend, Cratippus:244

" 'Though without eyes,' he says, 'it is impossible to perform the act and function of sight, and though the eyes sometimes cannot perform their appointed function, yet when a person has once so employed his eyes as to see things as they are, he has a realization of what correct vision is. Likewise, too, although without the power of divination it is impossible for the act and function of divining to exist, and though one with that power may be mistaken and may make erroneous prophecies, yet to establish the existence of divination it is enough that a single event has been so clearly foretold as to exclude the hypothesis of chance. But there are many such instances; therefore the existence of divination must be conceded.'

"Delightfully and briefly put; but after he has  p493 twice made gratuitous assumptions, even though he has found us quite generous in making concessions, yet his further assumption cannot possibly be conceded. 108 He says in substance, 'If the eyes are sometimes at fault, yet, because they have sometimes seen correctly, the power of sight resides within them; likewise if a person has once foreseen something by means of divination, yet even when he errs in his predictions, he must be held to have the power of divination.'

53 "Pray point out, my dear Cratippus, the similarity in these propositions of yours. I confess that it is not apparent to me. For the eyes in seeing correctly employ a sense conferred by nature; while the soul, if it ever has a true vision of the future, whether by vaticination or by dreams, relies upon luck or chance. This you must admit unless, perchance, you think that those who consider dreams as dreams and nothing more, are going to concede that the fulfilment of any dream was ever due to anything but luck. While we may grant your two major premises, — these the Greeks call λήμματα, but we prefer to call them by their Latin equivalent sumptiones — yet we will not grant your minor premise — which the Greeks call πρόσληψις.

109 "Cratippus states his minor premise thus; 'But there are countless instances of prophecies being fulfilled without the intervention of luck.' On the contrary, I say there isn't even one. Observe how keen the controversy grows! Now that the minor premise is denied the conclusion fails. But he retorts: 'You are unreasonable not to grant it, it is so evident.' Why 'evident'? 'Because many prophecies come true.' And what of the fact that many more don't  p495 come true? Does not this very uncertainty, which is characteristic of luck, demonstrate that their fulfilment is accounted for by luck and not by any law of nature? Furthermore, my dear Cratippus — for my controversy is with you — if that argument of yours is sound, don't you see that it is equally available in behalf of the means of divination practised by soothsayers, augurs, Chaldeans and by interpreters of lightnings, portents, and lots? For each of these classes will furnish you with at least one instance of a prophecy that came to pass. Therefore either they too are all means of divining — and this you very properly deny — or, if they are not, then, so far as I can see, the two classes which you permit to remain are not means of divining. Hence the same reasoning employed by you to establish the two kinds which you accept may be used to establish the others which you reject.

54 110 "But what weight is to be given to that frenzy of yours, which you term 'divine' and which enables the crazy man to see what the wise man does not see, and invests the man who has lost human intelligence with the intelligence of the gods? We Romans venerate the verses of the Sibyl who is said to have uttered them while in a frenzy. Recently there was a rumour, which was believed at the time, but turned out to be false, that one of the interpreters​245 of those verses was going to declare in the Senate that, for our safety, the man whom we had as king in fact should be made king also in name. If this is in the books, to what man and to what time does it refer? For it was clever in the author to take care that whatever happened should appear foretold because all reference to persons or time had been  p497 omitted. 111 He also employed a maze of obscurity so that the same verses might be adapted to different situations at different times. Moreover, that this poem is not the work of frenzy is quite evident from the quality of its composition (for it exhibits artistic care rather than emotional excitement), and is especially evident from the fact that it is written in what is termed 'acrostics,' wherein the initial letters of each verse taken in order convey a meaning; as, for example, in some of Ennius's verses, the initial letters form the words, Quintus Ennius Fecit, that is, 'Quintus Ennius wrote it.' That surely is the work of concentrated thought and not of a frenzied brain. 112 And in the Sibylline books, throughout the entire work, each prophecy is embellished with an acrostic, so that the initial letters of each of the lines give the subject of that particular prophecy. Such a work comes from a writer who is not frenzied, who is painstaking, not crazy. Therefore let us keep the Sibyl under lock and key so that in accordance with the ordinances of our forefathers her books may not even be read without permission of the Senate and may be more effective in banishing rather than encouraging superstitious ideas. And let us plead with the priests to bring forth from those books anything rather than a king, whom henceforth neither gods nor men will suffer to exist in Rome.

55 "But many persons in a frenzy often utter true prophecies, as Cassandra did when she said

Already on the mighty deep . . .​246

and when, a little later, she exclaimed,

Alas! behold! . . .​247

113 Then, I suppose you are going to force me to believe  p499 in myths? Let them be as charming as you please and as finished as possible in language, thought, rhythm, and melody, still we ought not to give credence to fictitious incidents or to quote them as authority. On that principle no reliance, in my opinion, should be placed in the prophecies of your Publicius​248a — whoever he may have been — or in those of the Marcian bards​249 or in those of the hazy oracles of Apollo:​248b some were obviously false and others mere senseless chatter and none of them were ever believed in by any man of ordinary sense, much less by any person of wisdom.

114 " 'Oh! but what about that oarsman in Coponius's fleet,'​250 you say, 'didn't he truly foretell what afterwards came to pass?' He did indeed, and the very things that all of us at the time feared would happen. For news was coming to us that the armies of Caesar and Pompey were facing each other in Thessaly. We thought that Caesar's troops had more reckless courage because they were fighting against their country and greater strength because of their long military training. Besides there was not one of us who did not dread the outcome of the battle, but our apprehension was not openly shown and was such as not to be discreditable to men of strong character. As for that Greek sailor, is it strange if, in the extremity of his fear, he, as most people do in such cases, lost his courage, reason, and self-control? In his mental excitement and aberration, he merely stated that things would occur, which, when he was himself, he feared would come to pass. In heaven's name, pray tell me, then, which you think was more likely to have had the power to interpret the decrees of the immortal gods — that crazy sailor,  p501 or someone of our party then on the ground — Cato, Varro,​251 Coponius or I?

56 115 "But now I come to you,

Apollo, sacred guard of earth's true core,

Whence first came frenzied, wild prophetic words.​252

Chrysippus filled a whole volume with your oracles;​253 of these some, as I think, were false; some came true by chance, as happens very often even in ordinary speech; some were so intricate and obscure that their interpreter needs an interpreter and the oracles themselves must be referred back to the oracle; and some so equivocal that they require a dialectician to construe them. For example, when the following oracular response was made to Asia's richest king:

When Croesus o'er the river Halys goes

He will a mighty kingdom overthrow,​254

Croesus thought that he would overthrow his enemy's kingdom, whereas he overthrew his own. 116 But in either event the oracle would have been true. Besides, why need I believe that this oracle was ever given to Croesus? or why should I consider Herodotus​255 more truthful than Ennius? and was the former less able to invent stories about Croesus than Ennius was about Pyrrhus? For instance, nobody believes Ennius when he says that Apollo's oracle gave the following response to Pyrrhus:

O son of Aeacus, my prediction is

That you the Roman army will defeat.​256

In the first place Apollo never spoke in Latin; second, that oracle is unknown to the Greeks; third, in the days of Pyrrhus Apollo had already ceased making  p503 verses, and, finally, although "the sons of Aeacus have ever been," as Ennius says,

a stolid race,

And more for valour than for wisdom famed,

still Pyrrhus would have had sense enough to see that the equivocal line — "You the Roman army will defeat" — was no more favourable to him than to the Romans. As for that equivocal response which deceived Croesus, it might have deceived — Chrysippus, for example; but the one made to Pyrrhus wouldn't have fooled — even Epicurus!

57 117 "However, the main question is this: Why are Delphic oracles (of which I have just given you examples) not uttered at the present time and have not been for a long time?​c And why are they regarded with the utmost contempt? When pressed at this point their apologists affirm that 'the long flight of time has gradually dissipated the virtue of the place whence came those subterranean exhalations which inspired the Pythian priestess to utter oracles.' One might think that they are talking about wine or brine which do evaporate. But the question is about the virtue of a place — a virtue which you call not only 'natural' but even 'divine,' — pray how did it evaporate? 'By length of time,' you say. But what length of time could destroy a divine power? And what is as divine as a subterranean exhalation that inspires the soul with power to foresee the future — a power such that it not only sees things a long time before they happen, but actually foretells them in rhythmic verse? When did the virtue disappear? Was it after men began to be less credulous?

 p505  118 "By the way, Demosthenes, who lived nearly three hundred years ago, used to say even then that the Pythian priestess 'philippized,'​257 in other words, that she was Philip's ally. By this expression he meant to infer that she had been bribed by Philip. Hence we may conclude that in other instances the Delphic oracles were not entirely free of guile. But, for some inexplicable cause, those superstitious and half-cracked philosophers of yours would rather appear absurd than anything else in the world. You Stoics, instead of rejecting these incredible tales, prefer to believe that a power had gradually faded into nothingness, whereas if it ever had existed it certainly would be eternal.

58 119 "There is a like error in regard to dreams. How far-fetched is the argument in their defence! 'Our souls' (according to the view of your school) 'are divine and are derived from an external source; the universe is filled with a multitude of harmonious souls; therefore, because of its divinity and its contact with other souls, the human soul during sleep foresees what is to come.' But Zeno thinks that sleep is nothing more than a contraction — a slipping and a collapse, as it were — of the human soul. Then Pythagoras and Plato, who are most respectable authorities, bid us, if we would have trustworthy dreams, to prepare for sleep by following a prescribed course in conduct and in eating. The Pythagoreans make a point of prohibiting beans, as if thereby the soul and not the belly was filled with wind! Somehow or other no statement is too absurd for some philosophers to make.

120 "Then shall we believe that the souls of sleepers while dreaming are spontaneously moved? or, as  p507 Democritus thinks, that they are impelled to action by phantoms from without?​258 Whether the one theory or the other be correct, the fact remains that men in sleep assume many false apparitions to be true. Likewise, to men who are sailing, stationary objects on shore seem to be moving; and also, sometimes in looking at a lamp, by some sort of optical illusion we see two flames instead of one. Why need I mention how many non-existent things are seen by men who are drunk or crazy? And if we are to put no trust in such apparitions of the waking man I do not understand why we should put any trust in dreams. Of course you may argue, if you will, about these tricks of vision as you would about dreams, and say, for example, that when stationary objects appear to be in motion, it foretells an earthquake or a sudden flight; and when the lamp's flame appears to be double it portends that insurrection and rebellion are afoot!

59 121 "By applying conjecture to the countless delusions of drunk or crazy men we may sometimes deduce what appears to be a real prophecy; for who, if he shoots at a mark all day long, will not occasionally hit it? We sleep every night and there is scarcely ever a night when we do not dream; then do we wonder that our dreams come true sometimes? Nothing is so uncertain as a cast of dice and yet there is no one who plays often who does not sometimes make a Venus-throw and occasionally twice or thrice in succession. Then are we, like fools, to prefer to say that it happened by the direction of Venus rather than by chance? And if we are to put no trust in false visions at other times I do not see what especial virtue there is in sleep to entitle its false visions to  p509 be taken as true. 122 On the other hand if nature had intended that sleepers should do what they dreamed, persons on going to bed would always have to be tied, otherwise they would commit more follies in their dreams than any madman ever did.

"And if, because of their unreality, we are to have no faith in the visions of the insane, I do not understand why we place any confidence in dreams, which are far more confused. Is it because the insane do not tell their delusions to interpreters of visions while dreamers do? I ask you this: suppose I wished to read, write, or sing, or to play on the lute, or to solve some problem in geometry, physics, or logic, must I wait for a dream, or must I depend upon the peculiar knowledge which each of these several arts or sciences requires and without which none of them can be utilized or mastered? No; and not even if I wanted to sail a ship, would I pilot it as I might have dreamed I should; for the punishment would be immediate. 123 What would be the sense in the sick seeking relief from an interpreter of dreams rather than from a physician? Or do you think that Aesculapius and Serapis​259 have the power to prescribe a cure for our bodily ills through the medium of a dream and that Neptune cannot aid pilots thru the same means? or think you that though Minerva​260 will prescribe physic in a dream without the aid of a physician, yet that the Muses will not employ dreams to impart a knowledge of reading, writing, and of other arts? If knowledge of a remedy for disease were conveyed by means of dreams, knowledge of the arts just mentioned would also be given by dreams. But since knowledge of these arts is not so conveyed neither is the knowledge  p511 of medicine. The theory that the medical art was imparted by means of dreams having been disproved, the basis of a belief in dreams is utterly destroyed.

60 124 "But, though the conclusion just stated is obvious, let us now look deeper into the question. Surely you must assume, either that there is a Divine Power which, in planning for our good, gives us information by means of dreams; or that, because of some natural connexion and association — the Greeks call it συμπάθεια — interpreters of dreams know what sort of a dream is required to fit any situation and what sort of a result will follow any dream; or that neither of these suppositions is true, but that the usual result or consequence of every dream is known by a consistent system of rules based on long-continued observation. In the first place, then, it must be understood that there is no divine power which creates dreams. And indeed it is perfectly clear that none of the visions seen in dreams have their origin in the will of the gods; for the gods, for our sakes, would so interpose that we might be able to foresee the future.

125 "But how often, pray, do you find anyone who pays any attention to dreams or who understands or remembers them? On the other hand, how many treat them with disdain, and regard a belief in them as the superstition of a weak and effeminate mind! Moreover, why does God, in planning for the good of the human race, convey his warnings by means of dreams which men consider unworthy not only of worrying about, but even of remembering? For it is impossible that God does not know how people generally regard dreams; and to do anything needlessly and without a cause  p513 is unworthy of a god and is inconsistent even with the habits of right-thinking men. And hence, if most dreams are unnoticed and disregarded, either God is ignorant of that fact, or he does a vain thing in conveying information by means of dreams; but neither supposition accords with the nature of a god, therefore, it must be admitted that God conveys no information by means of dreams.

61 126 "I also ask, if God gives us these visions as forewarnings, why does he not give them to us when we are awake rather than when we are asleep? For, whether our souls in sleep are impelled by some external and foreign force; or whether they are self-moved; or whether there is some other cause why, during sleep, we imagine ourselves seeing or hearing, or doing certain things — whatever the cause, it would apply just as well when we are awake. If the gods did send us warnings in our sleep and for our good they would do the same for us when we are awake, especially since, as Chrysippus says in replying to the Academicians, appearances seen when we are awake are much more distinct and trustworthy than those seen in dreams. It would, therefore, have been more in keeping with the beneficence of gods, in consulting for our good, to send us clear visions in our waking moments rather than unintelligible ones in our dreams. But since that is not the case, dreams ought not to be held divine. 127 And further, what is the need of a method which, instead of being direct, is so circuitous and roundabout that we have to employ men to interpret our dreams? And if it be true that God consults for our advantage he would say: 'Do this,' 'Don't do that,' and not give us visions when we are awake rather than when we are asleep.

 p515  62 "And further, would anybody dare to say that all dreams are true? 'Some dreams are true,' says Ennius, 'but not necessarily all.' Pray how do you distinguish between the two? What mark have the false and what the true? And if God sends the true, whence come the false? Surely if God sends the false ones too what is more untrustworthy than God? Besides what is more stupid than to excite the souls of mortals with false and lying visions? But if true visions are divine while the false and meaningless ones are from nature, what sort of caprice decided that God made the one and nature made the other, rather than that God made them all, which your school denies, or that nature made them all? Since you deny that God made them all you must admit that nature made them all. 128 By 'nature,' in this connexion, I mean that force because of which the soul can never be stationary​261 and free from motion and activity. And when, because of the weariness of the body, the soul can use neither the limbs nor the senses, it lapses into varied and untrustworthy visions, which emanate from what Aristotle​262 terms 'the clinging remnants of the soul's waking acts and thoughts.' These 'remnants,' when aroused, sometimes produce strange types of dreams. Now if some of these dreams are true and others false, I should like very much to know by what mark they may be distinguished. If there is none, why should we listen to your interpreters? But if there is one, I am eager for them to tell me what it is, but they will grow confused when I ask and will not answer.

63 129 "The question now arises as to which is the more probable: do the immortal gods, who are  p517 of surpassing excellence in all things, constantly flit about, not only the beds, but even the lowly pallets of mortals, wherever they may be, and when they find someone snoring, throw at him dark and twisted visions, which scare him from his sleep and which he carries in the morning to a dream-expert to unravel? or does nature bring it to pass that the ever-active soul sees in sleep phantoms of what it saw when the body was awake? Which is more consonant with philosophy: to explain these apparitions by the superstitious theories of fortune-telling hags, or by an explanation based on natural causes? But even if it were possible to draw trustworthy inferences from dreams, it could not be done by those who profess to have that power; for their fraternity is composed of the most shallow and the most ignorant of men. Yet your Stoics assert that no one can be a diviner unless he is a 'wise man.'

130 "Chrysippus, indeed, defines divination in these words: 'The power to see, understand, and explain premonitory signs given to men by the gods.' 'Its duty,' he goes on to say, 'is to know in advance the disposition of the gods towards men, the manner in which that disposition is shown and by what means the gods may be propitiated and their threatened ills averted.' And this same philosopher defines the interpretation of dreams thus: 'It is the power to understand and explain the visions sent by the gods to men in sleep.' Then, if that be true, will just ordinary shrewdness meet these requirements, or rather is there not need of surpassing intelligence and absolutely perfect learning? But I have never seen such a man.

64 131 "Therefore, even if I granted your contention as to the existence of divination — and this I will  p519 never do — still, you must realize that it would be impossible for us to find a diviner. Then what do the gods mean by sending us in our dreams visions which we cannot understand ourselves and which we cannot find anybody to interpret for us? If the gods send us these unintelligible and inexplicable dream-messages they are acting as Carthaginians and Spaniards would if they were to address our Senate in their own vernacular without the aid of an interpreter. 132 Beside, what purpose is served by dark and enigmatic dreams? Surely the gods ought to want us to understand the advice they give us for our good. 'Oh!' but you retort, 'Are poets and natural philosophers never obscure?' Indeed they are: Euphorion​263 is even too obscure; but Homer is not. 133 Which of them, pray, is the better poet? Heraclitus​264 is very obscure; Democritus is not so in the least: then are they to be compared? But you give me advice and for my good in words that I cannot understand. Then why do you advise me at all? That's like a doctor ordering a patient to take

A bloodless, earth-engendered thing that crawls

And bears its habitation on its back,

instead of saying in common, every-day speech, 'a snail.' Amphion, in a play by Pacuvius,​265 speaks to the Athenians of a creature as

Four-footed, of stature short; rough, shy, and slow;

Fierce-eyed, with tiny head and serpent's neck;

When disembowelled and deprived of life,

It lives for ever in melodious song.

His meaning being too obscure the Athenians replied:

 p521  Speak plainer, else we cannot understand.

Whereupon he described it in a single word — 'a tortoise.' Couldn't you have said so at first, you cithara-player?

65 134 "A diviner was consulted by a man who had dreamed that he saw an egg hanging from the bed-cords of the bed in his sleeping-room — the story is from Chrysippus On Dreams — and the diviner answered, 'A treasure is buried under your bed.' The man dug, found a quantity of gold surrounded with silver and sent the diviner as much of the silver as he thought fit. The diviner then inquired, 'Do I get none of the yolk?' For, in his view, the yolk meant gold, the white of the egg, silver. Now, did no one else ever dream of an egg? If so, then why did this fellow, whoever he was, alone find a treasure by dreaming of an egg? What a lot of poor devils there are, deserving of divine assistance, who never were instructed by a dream how to find a treasure! Furthermore, why was this man given so obscure an intimation as that contained in the fancied resemblance between an egg and a treasure, instead of being as plainly directed as Simonides​266 was when he was bidden not to go on board the ship? 135 My conclusion is that obscure messages by means of dreams are utterly inconsistent with the dignity of gods.

66 "Let us now consider dreams that are clear and direct, like the dream of the man who was killed by the innkeeper at Megara;​267 or like that of Simonides who was warned by the man he had buried not to sail; and also like Alexander's dream, which, to my surprise, my dear Quintus, you passed by without notice: Alexander's intimate friend, Ptolemaeus, had been struck in battle by a  p523 poisoned arrow and was at the point of death from his wound and suffering the most excruciating agony. Alexander, while sitting by the bedside of his friend, fell fast asleep. Thereupon, so the story goes, he dreamed that the pet serpent of his mother Olympias appeared to him carrying a root in its mouth and, at the same time, gave him the name of a place close by where it said the root grew. This root, the serpent told him, was of such great virtue that it would effect the speedy cure of Ptolemaeus. As soon as Alexander awoke he related his dream to his friends and men were sent to find the root. It is said that when the root was found it worked the cure not only of Ptolemaeus, but also of many soldiers who had been wounded by the same kind of arrow.

136 "You, too, have drawn on history for dreams, a number of which you told. You spoke, for example, of the dreams of the mother of Phalaris,​268 of Cyrus the Elder,​269 of the mother of Dionysius,​270 of the Carthaginians Hamilcar​271 and Hannibal,​272 and of Publius Decius.​273 You mentioned that much-spoken‑of dream about the slave who opened the votive games,​274 also the dream of Gaius Gracchus​275 and the recent one of Caecilia,​276 the daughter of Balearicus. But these are other people's dreams​277 and hence we know nothing about them and some of them are fabrications perhaps. For who stands sponsor for them? And what have we to say of our own dreams? Of your dream of me and of my horse emerging from the river and appearing on the bank?​278 and of my dream of Marius, attended by his laurelled fasces, ordering me to be conducted to his monument?279

67 "All dreams, my dear Quintus, have one explanation and, in heaven's name, let us see that it  p525 is not set at naught by superstition and perversity. 137 Now what Marius do you think it was I saw? His 'likeness' or 'phantom,'​280 I suppose — at least that is what Democritus thinks. Whence did the 'phantom' come? He would have it that 'phantoms' emanate from material bodies and from actual forms. Then, it was the body of Marius from which my 'phantom' came? 'No,' says Democritus, 'but from his body that was.' So that 'phantom' of Marius was pursuing me to the plains of Atina? 'Oh, but the universe is full of "phantoms"; no picture of anything can be formed in the mind except as the result of the impact of "phantoms." ' 138 Then are these 'phantoms' of yours so obedient to our beck and call that they come the instant we summon them? And is this true even of the 'phantoms' of things that do not exist? For what is there so unreal and unheard of that we cannot form a mental picture of it? We even shape things which we have never seen — as the sites of towns and the faces of men. 139 Then, by your theory, when I think of the walls of Babylon or of the face of Homer, some 'phantom' of what I have in mind 'strikes upon my brain'! Hence it is possible for us to know everything we wish to know, since there is nothing of which we cannot think. Therefore no 'phantoms' from the outside steal in upon our souls in sleep; nor do 'phantoms' stream forth at all. In fact I never knew anybody who could say nothing with more ponderous gravity than Democritus.

"The soul is of such a force and nature that, when we are awake, it is active, not because of any extraneous impulse, but because of its own inherent power of self-motion and a certain incredible  p527 swiftness.​281 When the soul is supported by the bodily members and by the five senses its powers of perception, thought, and apprehension are more trustworthy. But when these physical aids are removed and the body is inert in sleep, the soul then moves of itself. And so, in that state, visions flit about it, actions occur and it seems to hear and say many things. 140 When the soul itself is weakened and relaxed many such sights and sounds, you may be sure, are seen and heard in all manner of confusion and diversity. Then especially do the 'remnants' of our waking thoughts and deeds move and stir within the soul. For example, in the time of my banishment Marius was often in my mind as I recalled with what great fortitude and courage he had borne his own heavy misfortunes, and this I think is the reason why I dreamed about him.

68 "As for your dream, it occurred while you were thinking and worrying about me​282 and then you had the vision of me as I suddenly arose from the river. For in the souls of us both were 'traces of our waking thoughts,' but with some added features, of course: as, for example, my dreaming of Marius's monument and your dreaming that the horse on which I rode sank with me and then reappeared. 141 But do you suppose that there ever would have been any old woman crazy enough to believe in dreams, if by some lucky accident or chance they had not come true sometimes? But let us consider Alexander's dream of the talking serpent. The story may be true and it may be wholly false. In either case it is no miracle; for he did not hear the serpent speak, but thought he heard it and, strangest thing of all, he thought it  p529 spoke while it held the root in its mouth! But nothing seems strange to a man when he is dreaming. Now, if Alexander ever had such a vivid and trustworthy dream as this, I want to ask why he never had another one like it and why other men have not had many of the same kind? As for me, except for that dream about Marius, I really never had one that I can recall. Think then how many nights in my long life I have spent in vain! 142 Moreover, at the present time, owing to the interruption of my public labours, I have ceased my nocturnal studies, and (contrary to my former practice) I have added afternoon naps. Yet despite all this time spent in sleep I have not received a single prophecy in a dream, certainly not one about the great events​283 now going on. Indeed, I never seem to be dreaming more than when I see the magistrates in the forum and the Senate in its chamber.284

69 "Coming now to the second branch of the present topic, is there some such natural connecting link,​285 which, as I said before,​286 the Greeks call συμπάθεια, that the finding of a treasure must be deduced from dreaming of an egg? Of course physicians, from certain symptoms, know the incipiency and progress of a disease; and it is claimed that from some kinds of dreams they even can gather certain indications as to a patient's health, as whether the internal humours of the body are excessive or deficient. But what natural bond of union is there between dreams, on the one hand, and treasures, legacies, public office, victory and many other things of the same kind, on the other? 143 A person, it is said, while dreaming of coition, ejected gravel. In this case I can see a relation between the dream and  p531 the result; for the vision presented to the sleeper was such as to make it clear that what happened was due to natural causes and not to the delusion.​287 But by what law of nature did Simonides receive that vision which forbade him to sail? or what was the connexion between the laws of nature and the dream of Alcibiades in which according to history, shortly before his death, he seemed to be enveloped in the cloak of his mistress? Later, when his body had been cast out and was lying unburied and universally neglected, his mistress covered it with her mantle. Then do you say that this dream was united by some natural tie with the fate that befell Alcibiades, or did chance cause both the apparition and the subsequent event?

70 144 "Furthermore, is it not a fact that the conjectures of the interpreters of dreams give evidence of their authors' sagacity rather than afford any proof of a relation between dreams and the laws of nature? For example, a runner, who was planning to set out for the Olympic games, dreamed that he was riding in a chariot drawn by four horses. In the morning he went to consult an interpreter, who said to him, 'You will win, for that is implied in the speed and strength of horses.' Later the runner went to Antipho, who said, 'You are bound to lose, for do you not see that four ran ahead of you? And behold another runner! — for the books of Chrysippus and Antipater are full of such dreams — but to return to the runner: he reported to an interpreter that he had dreamed of having been changed into an eagle. The interpreter said to him, 'You are the victor, for no bird flies faster than the eagle.' This runner also consulted Antipho.  p533 'Simpleton,' said the latter, 'don't you see that you are beaten? For that bird is always pursuing and driving other birds before it and itself is always last.'

145 "A married woman who was desirous of a child and was in doubt whether she was pregnant or not, dreamed that her womb had been sealed. She referred the dream to an interpreter. He told her that since her womb was sealed conception was impossible. But another interpreter said, 'You are pregnant, for it is not customary to seal that which is empty.' Then what is the dream-interpreter's art other than a means of using one's wits to deceive? And those incidents which I have given and the numberless ones collected by the Stoics prove nothing whatever except the shrewdness of men who employ slight analogies in order to draw now one inference and now another. There are certain indications from the condition of the pulse and breath and from many other symptoms in sickness by means of which physicians foretell the course of a disease. When pilots see cuttle-fish leaping or dolphins betaking themselves to a haven they believe that a storm is at hand.​d In such cases signs are given which are traceable to natural causes and explicable by reason, but that is far from true of the dreams spoken of a little while ago.

71 146 "In our consideration of dreams we come now to the remaining point​288 left for discussion, which is your contention that 'by long-continued observation of dreams and by recording the results an art has been evolved.' Really? Then, it is possible, I suppose, to 'observe' dreams? If so, how? For they are of infinite variety and there is no imaginable thing too absurd, too involved, or too abnormal for us to dream about it. How, then, is it possible  p535 for us either to remember this countless and ever-changing mass of visions or to observe and record the subsequent results? Astronomers have recorded the movements of the planets and thereby have discovered an orderly course of the stars, not thought of before. But tell me, if you can, what is the orderly course of dreams and what is the harmonious relation between them and subsequent events? And by what means can the true be distinguished from the false, in view of the fact that the same dreams have certain consequences for one person and different consequences for another and seeing also that even for the same individual the same dream is not always followed by the same result? As a rule we do not believe a liar even when he tells the truth, but, to my surprise, if one dream turns out to be true, your Stoics do not withdraw their belief in the prophetic value of that one though it is only one out of many; rather, from the character of the one true dream, they establish the character of countless others that are false.

147 "Therefore, if God is not the creator of dreams; if there is no connexion between them and the laws of nature; and finally, if, by means of observation no art of divining can be found in them, it follows that absolutely no reliance can be placed in dreams. This becomes especially evident when we consider that those who have the dreams deduce no prophecies from them; that those who interpret them depend upon conjecture and not upon nature; that in the course of the almost countless ages, chance has worked more miracles through all other agencies than through the agency of dreams; and, finally, that nothing is more uncertain than conjecture,  p537 which may be led not only into varying, but sometimes even into contradictory, conclusions.

72 148 "Then let dreams, as a means of divination, be rejected along with the rest. Speaking frankly, superstition, which is widespread among the nations, has taken advantage of human weakness to cast its spell over the mind of almost every man. This same view was stated in my treatise On the Nature of the Gods; and to prove the correctness of that view has been the chief aim of the present discussion. For I thought that I should be rendering a great service both to myself and to my countrymen if I could tear this superstition up by the roots. But I want it distinctly understood that the destruction of superstition does not mean the destruction of religion. For I consider it the part of wisdom to preserve the institutions of our forefathers by retaining their sacred rites and ceremonies. Furthermore, the celestial order and the beauty of the universe compel me to confess that there is some excellent and eternal Being, who deserves the respect and homage of men.

149 "Wherefore, just as it is a duty to extend the influence of true religion, which is closely associated with the knowledge of nature, so it is a duty to weed out every root of superstition. For superstition is ever at your heels to urge you on; it follows you at every turn. It is with you when you listen to a prophet, or an omen; when you offer sacrifices or watch the flight of birds; when you consult an astrologer or a soothsayer; when it thunders or lightens or there is a bolt from on high; or when some so‑called prodigy is born or is made. And since necessarily some of these signs  p539 are nearly always being given, no one who believes in them can ever remain in a tranquil state of mind.

150 "Sleep is regarded as a refuge from every toil and care; but it is actually made the fruitful source of worry and fear. In fact dreams would be less regarded on their own account and would be viewed with greater indifference had they not been taken under the guardian­ship of philosophers — not philosophers of the meaner sort, but those of the keenest wit, competent to see what follows logically and what does not — men who are considered well-nigh perfect and infallible. Indeed, if their arrogance had not been resisted by Carneades, it is probable that by this time they would have adjudged the only philosophers. While most of my war of words has been with these men, it is not because I hold them in especial contempt, but on the contrary, it is because they seem to me to defend their own views with the greatest acuteness and skill. Moreover, it is characteristic of the Academy to put forward no conclusions of its own, but to approve those which seem to approach nearest to the truth; to compare arguments; to draw forth all that may be said in behalf of any opinion; and, without asserting any authority of its own, to leave the judgement of the inquirer wholly free. That same method, which by the way we inherited from Socrates, I shall, if agreeable to you, my dear Quintus, follow as often as possible in our future discussions."

"Nothing could please me better," Quintus replied.

When this was said, we arose.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

144 Cf. August. Confess. III.4.7 ille vero liber (Hortensius) mutavit affectum meum et ad te ipsum, Domine, mutavit preces meas et vota ac desideria mea fecit alia.

145 De finibus bonorum et malorum.

146 The lost Laus Catonis, to which Caesar wrote a reply; cf. Ad Att. XII.40.

147 Cicero refers to the chaotic condition of public affairs following the death of Caesar.

148 Plato, Rep. VIII.2.545.

149 This was the characteristic mental attitude in which the disciples of the New Academy approached every question.

150 The form of this fallacy best known was this: "Epimenides calls the Cretans liars, but he is himself a Cretan; does he then lie or tell the truth?" Cf. Cic. Acad. II.29.95; Gellius XVIII.2.10.

151 The original form of this fallacy began with the question: "Does one grain make a heap?" The answer was "no." One grain after another was added until there were, say, n grains, when it would be admitted that n + 1 grains made a heap. Hence the difference between n + 1 and n grains, or one grain, made a heap, which was contrary to the first answer. Cf. Reid's Acad. II.16.49 note.

152 From Euripides and quoted in Plutarch, De orac. defect. 432C μάντις δ’ ἄριστος ὅστις εἰκάζει καλῶς.

153 Cf.  I.49.111 seq.

154 Cf.  I.5.9.

155 Cf. Pliny, N. H. II.7 manifestum est. . . neque aliud esse noctem, quam terrae umbram: figuram autem similem metae, ac turbini inverso.

156 Cf.  I.55.125.

157 i.e. in the De fato.

158 Cf.  I.8.20.

159 Cf.  I.16.29.

160 Cf.  I.25.77.

161 Procuratio is a technical term for using means, by sacrifice or otherwise, to avert some evil omen or portent.

162 Built by Pompey and used as a meeting-place for the Senate.

163 Il. XVI.433.

164 It is not known from whom this line is taken. The same thought is often found. Cf. Aesch. Prom. 527; Herod. I.91; Plato, De leg. V.10.

165 The Fabulae Atellanae originated in Atella, a town between Capua and Naples. They are often called Osci ludi. Cf. Livy VII.2, X.208; Cic. Ad fam. IX.16.7.

166 Cf.  I.6.12; I.18.34.

167 Cf.  I.55.125.

168 e.g. I.21, 42, 43, 44, etc.

169 Cicero was a disciple of the New Academy and as such reserved the right to question any proposition without giving adherence to any. Cf.  I.4.7.

170 This is the third of three verses quoted by Cicero from the Iphigenia of Ennius in De rep.  I.18.30, but the apophthegm is common. It is sometimes attributed to Thales.

171 Cf.  I.50.112.

172 Cicero has in mind, among others, Xenophanes of Colophon. Cf. Cic. Acad. II.37.118.

173 See valuable discussion by Pease in his De div. II.33, 34.

174 Cf.  I.52.119.

175 Cicero plays on the common use of cor as = intelligence; cf. Caesar's remark on a like occasion (Suet. Iul. Caesar 77) that it was no prodigy si pecudi cor defuisset, "if a brute wanted wits."

176 i.e. in the intermundia, μετακόσμια, where they were safe when a world fell to pieces.

177 The depression between the two peaks of the Capitoline hill was called Asylum or Inter Duos Lucos. According to tradition it was there that Romulus established his asylum or place of refuge for criminals. The groves were originally on the summits. See Platner, Topography and Monuments of Ancient Rome, p305.

178 Cf.  I.10.16.

179 Cf. II.18.42.

180 Orelli interprets thus: eo vereor dicere, te vel desipere, vel iniquius mecum agere; id quod v.c. Epicureo alicui exprobrarem apertius. Moser with a few MSS. reads non vereor and explains, eo non vereor, sc. fateri, quod sentio; quamquam alibi aliter locutus sum, nimirum publice, et rei pub. causa.

181a 181b Cf.  I.8.13.

182 Cf.  I.10.16.

183 Cf.  I.12.19.

184 The Pinarian gens was one of the most ancient patrician families at Rome.

185 I.12.21.

186a 186b 186c I.13.23.

187 Cf.  I.13.23 ad fin.

188 Cf.  I.18.36.

189 Cf. Ovid, Met. XV.553.

190 I.11.17‑21.

191 I.44.99.

192 I.34.74.

193 I.34.74.

194 Cf.  I.43.98.

195 Cf.  I.44.99.

196 Cicero habitually refers to Epicurus as an apostle of physical gratification. Here, he playfully assumes that the treatise On Pleasure had a tendency to increase the number of gourmands: the more gourmands, whether men or mice, the higher the price of food.

197 Cf.  I.18.36.

198 Cf.  I.33.72.

199 It was Ulysses, not Agamemnon; cf. Il. II.299.

200 Cf.  I.33.72.

201a 201b Cf.  I.36.78.

202 Cf.  I.36.79.

203 Cf.  I.35.77.

204 Cf.  I.33.73.

205 Cf.  I.34.74.

206a 206b Cf.  I.34.75.

207 Cf.  I.34.76.

208 Cf.  I.44.100.

209 Cf.  I.45.101.

210 Cicero now proceeds to illustrate his point by giving the empty formulae used by the magistrates in taking the auspices. He represents himself as the celebrant and addresses his assistant, the augur, as "Quintus Fabius" — the name of any free man you please and as indefinite and impersonal as "John Doe," or "Richard Roe."

211 "The celebrant" is here intended to translate is, qui auspicatur, i.e. the magistrate who directs and presides at the taking of the auspices; while qui in auspicium adhibetur is the expert (the augur, the assistant), who actually takes the auspices.

212 Cf.  I.15.28.

213 Cf.  I.47.106; Hom. Od. XV.525.

214 Apparently Cicero ridicules the idea of a "poulterer" and not the "celebrant" taking the auspices.

215 See this incident more fully described in Cic. N.D. II chap. 4; cf.  I.17.33. The prerogative century — or the one which voted first at the election — had its rogator, or president, who collected the votes; and the entire assembly, made up of all the electors voting by centuries, had its rogator, usually the consul who received the reports of the subordinate presidents.

216 As to tabernaculum and pomerium see I.17.33 and note.

217 This is supposed to be a divining by means of electrical flashes from the points of spears, swords, and javelins. Cf.  Pliny, H. N. II.37; Seneca, Q.N. I.1; Livy XXII.1; XLIII.13; Cic. N.D. II.3.9.

218 So that he would not see any unpropitious signs.

219 This occurred when two draught cattle while yoked together dunged at the same time.

220 Cf.  I.15.26‑27.

221 Cf.  I.17.30. Cicero having discussed foreign instances in Chapters 36 and 37 now returns to Roman illustrations.

222 Cf.  I.17.32.

223 Cicero uses divinitas here for divinatio to bring out the contrast with humanitas and to add to the sarcastic effect.

224 From the Annales, II.5.

225 Cf. Iliad, IX.236. Cicero's memory again deceives him, the reference being to Ulysses.

226 In taking the auspices Roman augurs faced the south, Greek augurs faced the north, and hence the left of the Roman observer would be the right of the Greek. But some right-hand signs were favourable to the Romans — e.g. the croaking of a crow; cf.  I.7.12.

227 Cf.  I.46.103.

228 Cf.  I.45.102.

229 Cf.  I.45.103.

230 When he was starting on his fatal expedition against the Parthians.

231 i.e. "Caunian figs," but might be heard as cave ne eas. This illustration of the identity of sound between cavneas, i.e. cave ne eas, and cauneas has been the subject of some interesting discussion in Latin phonetics. Cf. Moser, Div., ad loc.

232 If the statue of the goddess gives a sign by a nod or otherwise.

233 i.e. the reputation of the lots at Praeneste lasted longer than elsewhere.

234 The word astrologus = "student of the stars," can mean either "astronomer" or "astrologer."

235 See Moser, Div., ad loc., note on "triangle" and "square"; cf. Sext. Empir. Adv. mathem. V.39.

236 Praevaricatio is used of an advocate who acts in collusion with the opposite side.

237 The summer solstice, on June 22d.

238 Cf.  I.19.36.

239 Celebrated on April 21. Pales was the tutelary god of shepherds.

240 At the time of the dialogue, 45 B.C., Cratippus was lecturing in Athens and had as one of his pupils Marcus, the only son of Marcus Cicero.

241 Cf.  I.38.82.

242 All leading Stoics and defenders of divination. Cf.  I.3.6.

243 In his Telamon. The succeeding line is quoted in Cic. N.D. III.32.79 nam si curent, bene bonis sit, male malis; quod nunc abest.

244 Cf.  I.32.71.

245 Lucius Cotta, one of the quindecimviri who had charge of the verses. This story is told by Suetonius in his Iul. Caesar, ch. 79. It was said that according to the Sibylline verses the Parthians could only be conquered by a king and therefore that Caesar should be called king. Plutarch, Caesar, ch. 60 and 64.

246 Cf.  I.31.67.

247 Cf.  I.50.114.

248a 248b Cf.  I.50.115.

249 Cf.  I.40.89.

250 Cf.  I.32.68.

251 Marcus Varro, the most learned Roman of his time.

252 The author of these lines is unknown; umbilicus terrarum (ὀμφαλὸς γῆς), because it was supposed to be the centre of the earth.

253 Cf.  I.3.6, I.19.37, I.50.115.

254 In Greek Κροῖσος Ἅλυν διαβὰς μεγάλην ἀρχὴν καταλύσει.

255 Herodotus gives the substance of this story in I.53.

256 From the Annales of Ennius.

257 Cf. Dem. 287.1; Aeschin. 72.14.

258 Visiones, the equivalent of spectra, simulacra, εἴδωλα, phantoms from without which burst upon the mind through the body. Cf. Cic. Acad. II.15.

259 With the temples of these gods were connected dream-oracles by means of which remedies were prescribed for the sick.

260Ἀθήνη Ὑγίεια.

261 Insistensetiamsi insistit a cogitationibus opera, Giese.

262 Aristot. Περὶ ἐνυπνίων ch. 3.

263 Clement of Alexandria classes him in this respect with Callimachus and Lycophron.

264 Heraclitus was called ὁ σκοτεινός, "The Obscure." Cf. Cic. De fin. II.5.15.

265 The lines are from his Antiope and occur in a discussion between Amphion and his brother Zethus.

266 Cf.  I.27.56.

267 Cf.  I.27.57.

268 Cf.  I.23.46.

269 Cf.  I.23.46.

270 Cf.  I.20.39.

271 Cf.  I.24.50.

272 Cf.  I.24.48, 49.

273 Cf.  I.24.51.

274 Cf.  I.26.55.

275 Cf.  I.26.56.

276 Cf.  I.44.99.

277 So Moser, Giese, and Kühner explain haec externa.

278 Cf.  I.28.58.

279 Cf.  I.28.59.

280 One of the εἴδωλα, simulacra, given off according to the atomic philosophers by all bodies and by their impact causing sight.

281 This same view (which is also expressed in Cic. C.M. 21.78, Tusc. I.43), was held by the ancient philosophers generally.

282 During Cicero's banishment.

283 The turmoil and chaos which followed Caesar's death.

284 Because they were mere shadows, without real authority.

285 i.e. between dreams and things seen in dreams.

286 Cf. II.14.31.

287 The translation adopts the interpretation of Hottinger, De div. p541. What is implied is that the dream was the effect and not the cause eiectionis calculorum.

288 i.e. of the three mentioned in II.60.124.

Thayer's Notes:

a This is not true now, nor was it true when Cicero wrote: astrologers, since they are casting a chart of the skies for the subject's time and place of birth, inevitably produce different charts for different places of birth, especially depending on the longitude, according to which a planet may for example be above or below the horizon, etc. Like many other critics of astrology, Cicero does not have the fullest grasp of it; this is just the most salient example.

b This is an example of rectification, which consists in deciding what a date and time might have been by finding one that would have been astrologically responsible for the known characteristics of the event: here, the future of Rome. The actual chart thus derived for the foundation of Rome has been preserved for us in Solinus (I.18); or so it would seem if it weren't astronomically quite impossible. Those interested in the question should start at Eduardo Vila Echagüe's excellent page; if that page returns "not found", contact me: I have a downloaded copy.

c The question was addressed at great length by Plutarch in a specific essay, de Defectu oraculorum, the classic text on the subject.

d Cf. Plin. 18.361; Theophrastus, de Signis 19.

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