Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Clicca hic ad Latinam paginam legendam.]

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

This webpage reproduces part of the
De Natura Deorum


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.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Public service message, 24 Feb 22: A Ukrainian historical researcher who has contributed to this site has advised me that The Ukrainian Red Cross Society is accepting donations from abroad in relief of civilian populations in Ukraine and persons displaced due to the Russian war against that country, and has set up a page for those wishing to donate. (And yes, I've donated a bit myself, about $350 thru Oct 2023.)

(Vol. XIX) Cicero
De Natura Deorum

 p345  24 6135 ". . . Do you then think that any more subtle argument is needed to refute these notions? Intelligence, faith, hope, virtue, honour, victory, safety, concord and the other things of this nature obviously abstractions, not personal deities. For they are either properties inherent in ourselves, for instance intelligence, hope, faith, virtue, concord, or objects of our desire, for instance honour, safety, victory. I see that they have value, and I am also aware that statues are dedicated to them; but why they should be held to possess divinity is a thing that I cannot understand without further enlightenment. Fortune has a very strong claim to be counted in this list, and nobody will dissociate fortune from inconstancy and haphazard action, which are certainly unworthy of a deity.

62 "Again, why are so fond of those allegorizing and etymological methods of explaining the mythology? The mutilation of Caelus by his son, and likewise the imprisonment of Saturn by his, these and similar figments you rationalize so effectively as to  p347 make out their authors to have been not only not idiots, but actually philosophers. But as for your strained etymologies, one can only pity your misplaced ingenuity! Saturnus is so called because he is 'sated with years,'​36 Mavors because he 'suberts the great,' Minerva because she 'minishes,' or because she is 'minatory,' Venus because she 'visits' all things, Ceres from gero 'to bear.' What a dangerous practice! with a great many names you will be in difficulties. What will you make of Vejovis, or Vulcan? though since you think the name Neptune comes from nare 'to swim,' there will be no name of which you could not make the derivation clear by altering one letter:​37 in this matter you seem to me to be more at sea than Neptune himself! 63 A great deal of quite unnecessary trouble was taken first by Zeno, then by Cleanthes and lastly by Chrysippus, to rationalize these purely fanci­ful myths and explain the reasons for the names by which the various deities are called. But in so doing you clearly admit that the facts are widely different from men's belief, since the so‑called gods are really properties of things, not divine persons at all. 25 So far did this sort of error go, that even harmful things were not only given the names of gods but actually had forms of worship instituted in their honour: witness the temple to Fever on the Palatine, that of Orbona the goddess of bereavementa close to the shrine of the Lares, and the altar consecrated to Misfortune on the Esquiline. 64 Let us therefore banish from philosophy entirely the error of making assertions in discussing the immortal gods that are derogatory to their dignity: a subject on which I know what views to hold myself, but do not know how to agree to your views. You say that Neptune  p349 is the rational soul that pervades the sea; and similarly for Ceres; but your notion of the sea or the land possessing a rational intelligence is not merely something that I cannot fully understand, but I have not the slightest inkling what it means. Accordingly I must seek elsewhere for instruction both as to the existence and as to the nature of the gods; as for your account of them <perhaps it may be impossible. 65 Now > let us consider the next topics — first whether the world is ruled by divine providence, and then whether the gods have regard for the affairs of mankind. For these are the two that I have left of the heads into which you divided the subject; and if you gentlemen approve, I feel that they require a somewhat detailed discussion."

"For my part," said Velleius, "I approve entirely, for I anticipate something more important still to come, and I also strongly agree with what has been said already."

'I do not want to interrupt you with questions," added Balbus, "we will take another time for that: I warrant I will bring you to agree. But . . .38

. . . . .

Nay, 'twill not be; a struggle is in store,

What, should I fawn on him and speak him fair,

Save for my purpose —​39

26 66 Is there any lack of reasoning here, think you, and is she not plotting dire disaster for herself? Again, how cleverly reasoned is the saying:

For him that wills that which he wills, the event

Shall be as he shall make it!​40

 p351  Yet this verse contains the seeds of every kind of mischief.

He with misguided ind

This day hath put the keys into my hand

Wherewith I will unlock my utmost wrath

And work his ruin; grief shall be my portion

And sorrow his; mine exile, his extinction.​41

This gift of reason forsooth, which according to your school divine beneficence has bestowed on man alone, the beasts do not possess; 67 do you see then how great a boon the gods have vouchsafed to us? And Medea likewise, when flying from her father and her fatherland,

when her sire drew near,

And now was all but in the act to seize her,

Her boy she did behead, and joint by joint

Severed his limbs, and all about the fields

His body strewed: the same with this intent,

That, while her father strove to gather up

Her son's dismember'd members, in the meantime

She might herself escape, so that his grief

Should hinder his pursuit, and she win safety

By most unnatural murder of her kin.​42

68 Medea was criminal, but also she was perfectly rational. Again, does not the hero plotting the direful banquet for his brother turn the design this way and that in his thoughts?

More must I moil and bigger bale must brew,

Whereby to quell and crush his cruel heart.​43

27 Nor must we pass over Thyestes himself, who

Was not content to tempt my wife to sin —

an offence of which Atreus speaks correctly and with perfect truth —

 p353  the which I deem the height of peril

In matters of high state, if royal mothers

Shall be debauched, the royal blood corrupted,

The lineage mixed.

But how craftily this very crime is plotted by his brother, employing adultery as a means to gain the throne:

Thereto withal (says Atreus) the heavenly sire did send me

A warning portent, to confirm my reign —

A lamb, conspicuous among the flock

With fleece of gold, Thyestes once did dare

To steal from out my palace, and in this deed

My consort did suborn as his accomplice.

69 Do you see that Thyestes, while acting with extreme wickedness, displayed complete rationality as well? And not only does the stage teem with crimes of this sort, but ordinary life even more so, and with almost worse crimes. Our private homes; the law‑courts, the senate, the hustings; our allies, our provinces — all have cause to know that just as right actions may be guided by reason, so also may wrong ones, and that whereas few men do the former, and on rare occasions, so very many do the latter, and frequently; so that it would have been better if the immortal gods had not bestowed upon us any reasoning faculty at all than that they should have bestowed it with such mischievous results. Wine is seldom beneficial and very often harmful to the sick, and therefore it is better not to give it to them at all than to run a certain risk of injury in the doubtful hope of a cure; similarly it would perhaps have been better if that nimbleness and penetration and cleverness of thought which we term 'reason,' being as it is disastrous to many and wholesome to but few, had never been given to the human race at all, than that it would have been  p355 given in such bounteous abundance. 70 If therefore the divine intelligence and will displayed care for men's welfare because it bestowed upon them reason, it cared for welfare of those only to whom it gave virtuous reason, whom we see to be very few, if not entirely non‑existent. We cannot, however, suppose that the immortal gods have cared for only a few; it follows therefore that they have cared for none.

28 "This line of argument is usually met by your school thus: it does not follow, you say, that the gods have not made the best provision for us because many men employ their bounty wrongly; many men make bad use of their inheritances, but this does not prove that they have received no benefit from their fathers. Does anybody deny this? and where is the analogy in your comparison? When Deianira gave Hercules the shirt soaked in the Centaur's blood, she did not intend to injure him. when the soldier with a stroke of his sword opened Jason of Pherae's tumour which the physicians had failed to cure, he did not intend to do him good.​44 Plenty of people have done good when they intended to do harm and harm when they intended to do good. The nature of the gift does not disclose the will of the giver, and the fact that the recipient makes good use of it does not prove that the giver gave it with friendly intentions. 71 Is there a single act of lust, of avarice or of crime, which is not entered on deliberately or which is not carried out with active exercise of thought, that is, by aid of the reason? inasmuch as every belief is an activity of reason — and of reason that is a good thing if the belief is true, but a bad thing if it is false. But god bestows upon us (if indeed he does) merely reason — it is we who make  p357 it good or the reverse. The divine bestowal of reason upon man is not in itself an act of beneficence, like the bequest of an estate; for what other gift which the gods have given to men in preference if their intention had been to do them harm? and from what seeds could injustice, intemperance and cowardice spring, if these vices had not a basis in reason?

29 "We alluded just now to Medea and Atreus, characters of heroic legend, planning their atrocious crimes with a cool calculation of profit and loss. 72 But what of the frivolous scenes of comedy? do not these show the reasoning faculty constantly employed? Does not that young man in the Eunuch45 argue subtly enough:

What shall I do then? . . .

She shut me out, and now she calls me back:

Well, shall I go? No, not if she implores me.

While the one in the Young Comrades46 does not hesitate to employ the weapon of reason, in true Academic style, to combat received opinion, when he says

'Tis sweet, when deep in love and deep in debt,

To have a niggardly and ungracious sire,

Who loves you not and cares not for your weal —

73 an extraordinary dictum for which he subjoins some reasons of a sort:

Then either you may cheat him of a rent,

Or forge a document and intercept

A debt that's due to him, or send your page‑boy

To trick him with some scare; and last of all,

How much more fun it is to squander money

Which you have screwed out of a stingy father!

And he proceeds to argue that a kind and generous father is a positive inconvenience to a son in love:

 p359  How I'm to cheat him, what to levy off him,

What plot to plan or trick to play upon him,

I can't imagine: all my tricks and dodges

My father's generosity has out‑tricked.

Well then, how can those plots and devices, those dodges and tricks have come into existence without reasoning? What a noble gift of the gods, that enables Phormio to say:

Produce the old boy — my plans are all prepared!

30 74 "But let us quit the theatre and visit the law‑courts. The praetor is about to take his seat. What is the trial to be about? To find out what set fire to the record office. How could you have a craftier crime? yet Quintus Socius, a distinguished Roman knight, confessed he had done it. To find out who tampered with the public accounts. We, this again was done by Lucius Alenus, when he forged the handwriting of the six senior treasury clerks; what could be craftier than this fellow? Note other trials — the affair of the gold from Toulouse,​47 Jugurtha's conspiracy; go back to an earlier period, and take the trial of Tubulus for giving a bribed verdict, or to a later one, and take the trial for incest on Peducaeus's motion, and then the trials under the new law, the cases of assassination, poisoning, embezzlement and forgery of wills, that are daily occurrences at the present time. Reason is the source of the charge 'I declare that with your aid and counsel a theft was committed'; hence spring all the trials for breach of trust as to a guardian­ship, commission, in virtue of partner­ship, trustee­ship, and all the other cases arising from breach of faith in purchase or sale or hire or lease; hence procedure on the public behalf in a private suit  p361 under the law of Plaetorius;​48 hence that net to catch wrong-doing of all sorts, the 'action for malicious fraud'​49 promulgated by our friend Gaius Aquillius, a charge of fraud that Aquillius likewise holds to be proved when a man has pretended to do one thing and has done another. 75 Do we then really think that this enormous crop of evil was sown by the immortal gods? For if the gods gave man reason, they gave him malice, for malice is the crafty and covert planning of harm; and likewise also the gods gave him trickery and crime natural the other wickednesses, none of which can be either planned or executed without reasoning. 'If only,' as the old nurse prays in the tragedy,

Pelion's galdes had never seen

The axe fell to the earth the pine-tree trunks,​50

so if only the gods had never given to man that cunning which you speak of! What very few use well, and even these themselves are all the same often crushed by those who use it badly; whereas countless numbers use it wickedly, and make it seem that this divine gift of reason and of wisdom was imparted to man for the purpose of deception and not of honest dealing.

31 76 "But you keep insisting that mankind and not the gods are to blame for this. That is as if a physician should plead the severity of the disease, or a helmsman the violence of the storm. Though these are mere men — but even for them it would be an absurd plea: 'if it were not so,' anybody would rejoin, 'who would have employed you?' But a god one might rebut more roundly: 'You say that the fault lies in men's vices; you ought to have given men a rational faculty of such a nature as would have  p363 precluded vice and crime.' What room therefore was there for error on the part of the gods? We men bequeath legacies in the hope of bestowing them beneficially, a hope in which we may be deceived; but how could god be deceived? As the Sun was, when he gave his son Phaëthon a ride in his chariot? or Neptune, when his bestowal on his son of permission for three wishes resulted in Theseus' causing the death of Hippolytus?​51 77 These are fables of the poets, whereas we aim at being philosophers, who set down facts, not fictions. And all the same, even these gods of poetry would be held guilty of mistaken kindness if they knew that their gifts would bring their sons disaster. Just as, if a favourite saying of Aristo of Chios was true, that philosophers are harmful to their hearers when the hearers put a bad interpretation on doctrines good in themselves (for he allowed it was possible to leave the school of Aristippus a profligate, or that of Zeno cantankerous), then clearly, if their pupils were likely to go away depraved because they misinterpreted the philosophers' discourses, it would be better for the philosophers to keep silence than to do harm to those who heard them: 78 similarly, if men abuse the faculty of ra, bestowed on them with a good intention by the immortal gods, by employing it to cheat and wrong their fellows, it would have been better for it than to be bestowed upon the human race than to be bestowed. Just as, supposing a doctor to know that a patient for whom he prescribes wine will be certain to drink it with too little water and will die on the spot, that doctor would be greatly to blame, so your Stoic providence is to be censured for bestowing reason upon those whom it knew to be going to use  p365 it wrongly and evilly. Unless perhaps you say that providence did not know. I only wish you would! but you will not dare to, for I am well aware how highly you esteem its name.

32 79 "But this topic we may now bring to an end. For if by the general consent of all philosophers folly is a greater evil than all the ills of fortune and of the body when placed in the scale against it, and if wisdom on the other hand is attained by nobody, we, for whose welfare you say that the gods have cared most fully, are really in the depth of misfortune. for just as it makes no difference whether no one is in good health or no one can be in good health, so I do not understand what difference it makes whether no one is wise or no one can be wise.

"However, we are dwelling too long on a point that is perfectly clear. Telamo dispatches the whole topic of proving that the gods pay no heed to man in a single verse:

For if they cared for men, good men would prosper

And bad men come to grief; but this is not so.​52

Indeed the gods ought to have made all men good, if they really cared for the human race; 80 or failing that, they certainly ought at all events to have cared for the good. Why then were the two Scipios, the bravest and noblest of men, utterly defeated by the Carthaginians in Spain? why did Maximus bury his son, a man of consular rank? why did Hannibal slay Marcellus? why did Cannae prove the ruin of Paulus? why was the person of Regulus surrendered to the cruelty of the Carthaginians? why was not Africanus shielded by the walls of his home?​53 But these and numerous other instances are of long  p367 ago; let us look at more recent cases. Why is my uncle Publius Rutilius, a man of stainless honour and also of consummate learning, now in exile? why was my comrade Drusus murdered in his own home? why was that pattern of high principle and of wisdom, the chief pontife Quintus Scaevola, assassinated in front of the statue of Vesta? why before that were so many leading citizens also made away with by Cinna? why had that monster of treachery Gaius Marius the power to order the death of that noblest of mankind, Quintus Catulus? 81 The day would be too short if I desired to recount the good men visited by misfortune; and equally so were I to mention the wicked who have prospered exceedingly. For why did Marius die so happily in his own home, an old man and consul for the seventh time? why did that monster of cruelty Cinna lord it for so long? You will say that he was punished. 33 It would have been better for him to be hindered and prevented from murdering so many eminent men, than finally to be punished in his turn. That barbarous creature Quintus Varius was executed with the most painful torture: if this was for stabbing Drusus and poisoning Metellus, it would have been better for their lives to be preserved than for varius to be punished for his crime. Dionysius was despot of a most wealthy and prosperous city for thirty-eight years; 82 and before him, for how many years was Pisistratus tyrant of Athens, the very flower of Greece! 'Ah but Phalaris (you say) met with punishment, and so did Apollodorus.' Yes, but not till after they had tortured and killed many victims. Many brigands too are frequently punished, but still we cannot say that the captives cruelly murdered do not outnumber  p369 the brigands executed. It is related that Anaxarchus the disciple of Democritus was cruelly butchered by the tyrant of Cyprus, and Zeno of elea tortured to death. Why need I mention Socrates, whose death when I read Plato​54 never fails to move me to tears? Do you see then that the verdict of the gods, if they do regard men's fortunes, has destroyed all distinction between them? 34 83 Indeed Diogenes the Cynic used to say that Harpalus, a brigand of the day who passed as fortunate, was a standing witness against the gods, because he lived and prospered as he did for so long. Dionysius, whom I mentioned before, having plundered the temple of Proserpine at Locri, was sailing back to Syracuse, and as he ran before a very favourable wind, remarked with a smile, 'See you, my friends, what a good crossing the immortal gods bestow on men guilty of sacrilege?' He was a clever fellow, and grasped the truth so well and clearly that he remained in the same belief continuously; for touching with his fleet on the coast of the Peloponnese and arriving at the temple of Olympian Zeus, he stripped him of his gold mantle, an adornment consisting of a great weight of metal, bestowed upon the god by the tyrant gelo out of the spoils of the Carthaginians, and actually made a jest about it, saying that a golden mantle was oppressive in the summer and cold in winter, and he threw on the god a woollen cloak, saying it was for every season of the year. He also gave orders for the removal of the golden beard of Aesculapius at Epidaurus, saying it was not fitting for the son to wear a beard when his father​55 appeared in all his temples beardless. 84 He even ordered the silver tables to be carried off from all the shrines, saying that as they bore the inscription 'the  p371 property of the good gods,' he desired to profit by their goodness.​56 Also he used to have no scruples in removing the little gold images of Victory and the gold cups and crowns carried in the outstretched hands of statues, and he used to say that he did not take them but accepted them, for it was folly to pray to certain beings for benefits and then when they proffered them as a gift to refuse to receive them. It is also related that he produced in the market-place the spoils of the temples which I have mentioned and sold them by auction, and after he had got the money issued a proclamation that anybody who possessed any article taken from a holy place must restore that article before a fixed date to the shrine to which it belonged; thus to impiety towards the gods he added injustice towards men. 35 Well, Dionysius was not struck dead with a thunderbolt by Olympian Jupiter, nor did Aesculapius cause him to waste away and perish of some painful and lingering disease. He died in his bed and was laid upon a royal​57 pyre, and the power which he had himself secured by crime he handed on as an inheritance to his son as a just and lawful sovereignty. 85 It is with reluctance that I enlarge upon this topic, since you may think that my discourse lends authority to sin; and you would be justified in so thinking, were not an innocent or guilty conscience so power­ful a force in itself, without the assumption of any divine design. Destroy this, and everything collapses; for just as a household or a state appears to lack all rational system and order if in it there are no rewards for right conduct and no punishments for transgression, so there is no such thing at all as the divine governance of the world if  p373 that governance makes no distinction between the good and the wicked.

86 " 'But,' it may be objected, 'the gods disregard smaller matters, and do not pay attention to the petty farms and paltry vines of individuals, and any trifling damage done by blight or hail cannot have been a matter for the notice of Jupiter; even kings do not attend to all the petty affairs in their kingdoms': this is how you argue. As if forsooth it was Publius Rutilius's estate at Formiae about which I complained a little time ago,​58 and not his loss of all security! 36 But this is the way with all mortals: their external goods, their vineyards, cornº-fields and olive-yards, with their abundant harvests and fruits, and in short all the comfort and prosperity of their lives, they think of as coming to them from the gods; but virtue no one ever imputed to a god's bounty. 87 And doubtless with good reason; for our virtue is a just ground for others' praise and a right reason for our own pride, and this would not be so if the gift of virtue came to us from a god and not from ourselves. On the other hand when we achieve some honour or some accession to our estate, or obtain any other of the goods or avoid any of the evils of fortune, it is then that we render thanks to the gods, and do not think that our credit has been enhanced. Did anyone ever render thanks to the gods because he was a good man? No, but because he was rich, honoured, secure. The reason why men give to Jupiter the titles of Best and Greatest is not that they the hand that he makes us just, temperate or wise, but safe, secure, wealthy and opulent. 88 Nor did anyone ever vow to pay a tithe to Hercules​59 if he became a wise man! It is true there is a story that Pythagoras  p375 used to sacrifice an ox to the Muses when he had made a new discovery in geometry! but I don't believe it, since Pythagoras refused even to sacrifice a victim to Apollo of Delos, for fear of sprinkling the altar with blood. However, to return to my point, it is the considered belief of all mankind that they must pray to god for fortune but obtain wisdom for themselves. Let us dedicate temples as we will to Intellect, Virtue and Faith, yet we perceive that these things are within ourselves; hope,​60 safety, wealth, victory are blessings which we must seek from the gods. Accordingly the prosperity and good fortune of the wicked, as Diogenes used to say, disprove the might and power of the gods entirely. 37 89 'But sometimes good men come to good ends.' Yes, and we seize upon these cases and impute them with no reason to the immortal gods. Diagoras, named the Atheist, once came to Samothrace, and a certain friend said to him, 'You who think that the gods disregard men's affairs, do you not remark all the votive pictures that prove how many persons have escaped the violence of the storm, and come safe to port, by dint of vows to the gods?' 'That is so,' replied Diagoras; 'it is because there are nowhere any pictures of those who have been shipwrecked and drowned at sea.' On another voyage he encountered a storm which threw the crew of the vessel into a panic, and in their terror they told him that they had brought it on themselves by having taken him on board their ship. He pointed out to them a never of other vessels making heavy weather on the same course, and inquired whether they supposed that those ships also had a Diagoras on board. The fact really is that your character and past life make no  p377 difference whatever as regards your fortune good or bad.

90 " 'The gods do not take notice of everything, any more than do human rulers,' says our friend. Where is the parallel? If human rulers knowingly overlook a fault they are greatly to blame; 38 but as for god, he cannot even offer the excuse of ignorance. And how remarkably you champion his cause, when you declare that the divine power is such that even if a person has escaped punishment by dying, the punishment is visited on his children and grandchildren and their descendants! What a remarkable instance of the divine justice! Would any state tolerate a lawgiver who should enact that a son or grandson was to be sentenced for the transgression of a father or grandfather?

Where shall the Tantalids' vendetta end?

What penalty for Myrtilus' murder

Shall ever glut the appetite of vengeance?​61

91 Whether the Stoic philosophers were led astray by the poets, or the poets relied on the authority of the Stoics, I should find it hard to say; for both tell some monstrous and outrageous tales. For the victim lashed by the lampoons of Hipponax or the verses of Archilochus nursed a wound not inflicted by a god but received from himself; and we do not look for any heaven-sent cause​62 when we view the licentiousness of aegisthus or of Paris, since their guilt almost cries aloud in our ears; and the bestowal of health upon many sick persons I ascribe to Hippocrates rather than to Aesculapius; and I will never allow that Sparta received the Lacedaemonian rule of life from Apollo rather than from Lycurgus. It was Critolaus,​63 I aver, who overthrew Corinth, and  p379 Hasdrubal Carthage: those two glories of the sea‑coast were extinguished by these mortals, not by some angry god — who according to your school is entirely incapable of anger. 92 But at all events a god could have come to the aid of those great and splendid cities and have preserved them — 39 for you yourselves are fond of saying that there is nothing that a god cannot accomplish, and that without any toil; as man's limbs are effortlessly moved merely by his mind and will, so, as you say, the god's power can mould and move and alter all things. Nor do you say this as some superstitious fable or old wives' tale, but you give a scientific and systematic account of it: you allege that matter, which constitutes and contains all things, is in its entirety flexible and subject to change, so that there is nothing that cannot be moulded and transmuted out of it however suddenly, but the moulder and manipulator of this universal substance is divine providence, and therefore providence, whithersoever it moves, is able to perform whatever it will. Accordingly either providence does not know its own powers, or it does not regard human affairs, or it lacks power of judgement to discern what is the best. 93 'It does not care for individuals.' This is no wonder; no more does it care for cities. Not for temple? Not for tribes or nations either. And if it shall appear that it despises even nations, what wonder is it that it has scorned the entire human race? But how can you both maintain that the gods do not pay attention to everything and also believe that dreams are distributed and doled out to men by the immortal gods? I argue this with you because the belief in the truth of dreams is a tenet of your school. And do you also say that it is proper  p381 for men to take vows upon themselves? Well, but vows are made by individuals; therefore the divine mind gives a hearing even to the concerns of individuals; do you see therefore that it is not so engrossed in business as you thought? Grant that it is distracted between moving the heavens and watching the earth and controlling the seas: why does it suffer so many gods to be idle and keep holiday? why does it not appoint some of leisured gods whose countless numbers you expounded, Balbus, to superintend human affairs?

"This more or less is what I have to say about the nature of the gods; it is not my design to disprove it, but to bring you to understand how obscure it is and how difficult to explain."

40 94 So saying, Cotta ended. But Lucilius said: "You have indeed made a slashing attack upon the most reverently and wisely constructed Stoic doctrine of the divine providence. But as evening is now approaching, you will assign us a day on which to make our answer to your views. For I have to fight against you on behalf of our altars and hearths, of the temples and shrines of the gods, and of the city-walls, which you as pontifes declare to be sacred and are more careful to hedge the city round with religious ceremonies than even with fortifications; and my conscience forbids me to abandon their cause so long as I yet can breathe."

95 "I on my side," replied Cotta, "only desire to be refuted. My purpose was rather to discuss the doctrines I have expounded than to pronounce judgement upon them, and I am confident that you can easily defeat me."

 p383  "Oh, no doubt," interposed Velleius; "why, he thinks that even our dreams are sent to us by Jupiter — though dreams themselves are not so unsubstantial as a Stoic disquisition on the nature of the gods."

Here the conversation ended, and we parted, Velleius thinking Cotta's discourse to be the truer, while I felt that that of Balbus approximated more nearly to a semblance of the truth.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

35 See note on § 53. The introduction of the next topic seems to have been lost.

36 For this and the following etymologies see II.64‑67.

37 Or perhaps 'find out the derivation by the light of one letter.'

38 A considerable passage has been lost, part of it being according to Plasberg the fragments preserved by Lactantius; see p384.

39 These verses are from the Medea of Ennius, and correspond to Euripides, Medea 365 ff.

40 'Where there's a will there's a way.' The quotation is assigned to Ennius.

41 Again from Medea of Ennius; cf. Eur. Med. 371 f., 394 ff.

42 Possibly from the Medea of Accius, cf. II89. This part of the story is not in Euripides.

43 This and the three following quotations are from the Atreus of Accius. Atreus deliberates how to take vengeance on his brother Thyestes for seducing his wife Aërope.

44 Pliny, N. H. VII.51, implies that this was a wound inflicted by an enemy in battle; Seneca, Benef. II.18.8, seems to speak of the attempt of an assassin.

45 Terence, Eun. Act i. init.

46 See on I.13.

47 Toulouse joined the Cimbri in their revolt, and was sacked by Q. Servilius Caepio, 106 B.C.; the temples contained large stores of gold. Caepio was most severely punished for sacrilege on his return to Rome.

48 This law made the cheating of young men by money-lenders a criminal offence, conviction carrying ineligibility for public office.

49 Probably this gave action for forms of fraud not coming under any previous formula.

50 The opening lines of Ennius's Medea, translated from Euripides: εἶθ’ ὤφελε . . . μηδ’ ἐν νάπαισι Πηλίου πεσεῖν ποτε τμηθεῖσα πεύκη.

51 Poseidon gave his son Theseus, King of Athens, three wishes. Theseus wished the death of his own son Hippolytus, falsely accused by his step-mother Phaedra of love for her. Poseidon sent a sea‑bull that scared Hippolytus's chariot-horses, and he was killed.

52 From Ennius's Telamon: the hero is bewailing the death of Ajax.

53 See II.14 note c.

54 sc. the Phaedo.

55 Apollo.

56 i.e., kindness, bounty, bonté.

57 The text is probably corrupt.

58 § 80.

59 A tenth part of spoils of war and of treasure-trove was devoted to Hercules as god of treasures.

60 "Hope" should probably be transferred to the preceding list, after "Faith," cf. § 61.

61 By Attius, probably from Thyestes.

62 Viz. of the death of Agamemnon, and the fall of Troy.

63 General of the Achaean League, defeated by the Romans 147 B.C.; next year Corinth was taken and destroyed.

Thayer's Note:

a The words "the goddess of bereavement" are not in the Latin; they are a gloss by the Loeb translator.

Page updated: 9 Feb 22