Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK III. - On Moral Duties (De Officiis)
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BOOK III. - Marcus Tullius Cicero, On Moral Duties (De Officiis) [44 BC]
Cicero De Officiis, translated with an Introduction and Notes by Andrew P. Peabody (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1887).
Part of: Ethical Writings of Cicero: De Officiis (On Moral Duties); De Senectute (On Old Age); De Amicitia (On Friendship), and Scipio’s Dream
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1. My son Marcus, Cato, who was nearly of the same age1 with Publius Scipio, the first of the family that bore the name of Africanus, represents him as in the habit of saying that he was never less at leisure than when he was at leisure, or less alone than when he was alone, — a truly magnificent utterance and worthy of a great and wise man, indicating that in leisure he was wont to think of business2 and in solitude to commune with himself,3 so that he was never idle, and had no need betweenwhile4 of another person’s conversation. Thus the two things, leisure and solitude, which with others occasion languor, quickened his energies. I could wish that I were able to say the same; but if I cannot by imitation attain such transcendent excellence of temperament, I at any rate in my inclination make as near an approach to it as I can; for, debarred from political and forensic employments by sacrilegious arms and violence, I am abandoning myself to leisure, and therefore, leaving the city and wandering from one place in the country to another, I am often alone. But neither is this leisure of mine to be compared with the leisure of Africanus, nor this solitude with his. He, indeed, reposing from the most honorable public trusts, upon certain occasions snatched leisure for himself, and from the company and concourse of men betweenwhile betook himself to solitude as to a harbor. But my leisure proceeds from lack of employment, not from desire for repose. For, the Senate being silenced1 and the courts suspended,2 what is there worthy of myself that I can do either in the senate-house or in the forum? Thus, after having lived in the greatest publicity and in the presence of my fellow-citizens, I now hide myself to escape the sight of bad men who swarm everywhere, and I am often alone. Yet since philosophers say that one ought not only of evils to choose the least, but from even these least evils to extract whatever of good there may be in them, I therefore am utilizing my leisure, though it be not that to which I was entitled after having obtained leisure3 for the state, nor am I suffering this solitude — which necessity, not choice, imposes upon me — to remain idle. Africanus, indeed, as I think, attained a higher merit; for no monuments of his genius were committed to writing, there remains no work of his leisure, no fruit of his solitude, — whence it should be inferred that it was in consequence of mental activity and the investigation of those things to which he directed his thoughts, that he was never at leisure or alone. But I who have not such strength of mind that I can abstract myself from the weariness of solitude by silent meditation, am directing all my study and care to this labor of writing, and thus in the short time that has elapsed since the overthrow of the state, I have written more than in many years while it stood.1
2. But while all philosophy, my Cicero, is fertile and fruitful, nor is any part of it untilled or unoccupied, there is no department within its pale more productive or more prolific than that relating to the duties whence are derived rules for living consistently and virtuously. Therefore, although I trust that you are diligently hearing and receiving instruction on this subject from Cratippus, the foremost philosopher of the present age, yet I think that it will be for your benefit that your ears should constantly ring with such themes, and, were it possible, should hear nothing else. While this should be the case with all who mean to enter on a virtuous life, I am inclined to think that there is no one for whom it is more fitting than for you, — liable as you are to no small anticipation of imitating my diligence, to the confident expectation that you will succeed me in public trusts, and to some hope, perhaps, of rivalling my reputation. You have, beside, taken upon yourself the heavy responsibility of both Athens and Cratippus, to which and to whom, after resorting as to a mart of good culture, it would be in the last degree shameful for you to return empty-minded, thus disgracing the reputation of both the city and the master. Look to it, then, that you accomplish as much as you can aim after in purpose, and strive for by labor, — if learning be labor rather than pleasure, — nor suffer it so to be, that when I have given you the most liberal supplies,1 you may appear to have been false to your own interest. But enough of this; for I have written to you much and often by way of exhortation. Let us now return to the remaining head of my proposed division.
Panaetius, then, who without doubt discussed the subject of duty with the utmost precision, and whom I have thus far followed for the most part, with an occasional correction, having laid down three heads under which men were wont to reason and deliberate concerning duty, — one, the inquiry whether the act under discussion is right or wrong, the second, whether it is expedient or inexpedient, the third, the mode of settling the discrepancy in case what has the appearance of right is repugnant to what seems expedient, — treated of the first two heads in three books, and said that he would speak of the third head in its turn, but failed to keep his promise. I am the more surprised at this, because Posidonius, his pupil, says that he lived thirty years after writing those first three books. I am surprised, too, to find this head but slightly touched upon in certain essays of Posidonius, especially as he says that there is no subject of so essential importance in all philosophy. I by no means agree with those who maintain that this subject was not overlooked by Panaetius, but purposely omitted, and that it ought not to have been written upon at all, inasmuch as expediency can never be in conflict with the right. With regard to this assertion one thing admits of doubt, whether this third head of Panaetius ought to have been taken into consideration or entirely omitted; the other thing admits of no doubt, that it was undertaken by Panaetius, but left unwritten; for to him who has finished two heads of a threefold division the third of necessity remains. Besides, at the close of his third book he promises to treat of this division in its turn. We have further the testimony of Posidonius, a credible witness, who also writes in one of his letters that Publius Rutilius Rufus, a pupil of Panaetius, used to say that as no painter could be found who would finish the part of the Venus of Cos1 which Apelles had left imperfect — the beauty of the countenance putting it beyond hope that the rest of the body could be finished so as to bear comparison with it — so no one had attempted what Panaetius had left incomplete, on account of the surpassing excellence of the things that he had completed.
3. There can, then, be no doubt about the intention of Panaetius; but whether he was right or not in annexing this third head to his discussion of duty may, perhaps, admit of doubt. For whether the right is the sole good, as the Stoics think, or whether, as your Peripatetics maintain, the right is the supreme good in such a sense that all things else placed in the opposite scale are of insignificant moment, it is beyond question that expediency can never clash with the right. Thus we learn that Socrates used to denounce as worthy of execration those who regarded as separable the expedient and the right, which are conjoined by nature. The Stoics have agreed with him in maintaining that whatever is right must be expedient, and that nothing can be expedient which is not right. Now if Panaetius were the sort of man to say that virtue ought to be cultivated because it is productive of utility, as those do who measure the desirableness of objects by the pleasure or the freedom from pain that they may afford, he might in that case have said that expediency is sometimes repugnant to the right. But since he belongs to the class of men who regard what is right as alone good, and consider life as made neither better by the acquisition nor worse by the loss of those things which with a certain show of expediency are in conflict with the right, it does not seem as if he ought to have introduced a discussion in which what appears to be expedient should be compared with what is right. For what the Stoics term the supreme good, to live in conformity with nature, means, as I think, to be always in harmony with virtue, yet to make free choice among things in general that are in accordance with nature, only on condition of their not being repugnant to virtue. Such being the case, some think that this comparison is not properly brought forward, and that no practical lessons ought to have been given under this head. Indeed, that which is properly and with literal truth called the right is found in the wise alone, nor can it ever be separated from virtue; while in those not possessed of perfect wisdom, the perfect right itself cannot possibly be, but only semblances of the right. For all these duties discussed in the present treatise — contingent,1 as the Stoics call them — are common, and are largely practised, and many attain to them by excellence of natural disposition and by advancement in knowledge. But that duty which the Stoics term the right is perfect and absolute, and, in the phrase of those same philosophers, has all the numbers,2 nor can it come into the possession of any one except the wise man. But when anything is done in which contingent duties are manifest, it seems to be abundantly perfect, because people in general do not understand what in it is wanting to perfection, while so far as they do understand, they think nothing omitted. The like is of ordinary occurrence in poems, pictures, and many other matters, namely, that the unskilled view with delight and commendation things that do not deserve praise, because, I suppose, there is in them something good of a kind to take the fancy of the ignorant, who are incapable of determining what defect there may be in the several objects thus placed before them; while after they have been taught by experts, they readily change their opinion.
4. These duties which I am discussing in the present treatise the Stoics call a sort of second-grade duties, not belonging to the wise alone, but common to them with the whole human race. Thus all in whom there is a virtuous disposition are favorably inclined to them. Nor, indeed, when the two Decii or the two Scipios are commemorated as brave men, or when Fabricius is called just, is the example of fortitude sought from them, or of justice from him, as from men in the strict sense of the term “wise;” for neither of them was wise as we would have the word “wise” understood. Nor yet were the men who were esteemed and surnamed Wise, Marcus Cato and Caius Laelius, wise in this sense, nor yet those famous seven;1 but from their constant practice of common duties they bore to a certain degree the semblance and aspect of wise men.2 Therefore, while it is an error to compare the right properly so called with expediency when repugnant to it, at the same time that which is commonly called right, and is held sacred by those who want to be regarded as good men, should never be compared with external goods; and it is as incumbent on us to defend and preserve that right which is on a level with our apprehension, as it is on the wise to cherish the right properly and truly so called. Otherwise, if any progress toward virtue has been made, it cannot be maintained. Enough has now been said about those who are reputed as good men on account of the discharge of common duties. But those who measure everything by the standard of gain and personal convenience, nor are willing that these goods should be outweighed by virtue, are accustomed, in their plans of life, to compare the right with what they deem expedient; good men are not so accustomed. I therefore think that when Panaetius said that men are wont to hesitate in this comparison, he meant precisely what he said; for he said only that they were wont, not that they ought, to hesitate. And, indeed, it is in the utmost degree base not only to prize what seems expedient above what is right, but even to compare them with each other and to incline to doubt with regard to them. What is it, then, that is wont sometimes to occasion doubt and may seem worthy of consideration? I believe that if doubt ever occurs, it is as to the actual character of that which is under consideration; for it often happens, under special circumstances, that what is wont for the most part to be accounted as wrong is found not to be wrong. Let a case which admits of a wider application be taken by way of example. What greater crime can there be than to kill not only a man, but an intimate friend? Has one, then, involved himself in guilt by killing a tyrant, however intimate with him?1 This is not the opinion of the Roman people, who of all deeds worthy of renown regard this as the most noble. Has expediency, then, got the advantage over the right? Nay, but expediency has followed in the direction of the right.
Therefore, that we may be able to discriminate without mistake, if at any time what we call expedient shall seem repugnant to what we conceive of as right, there must be established some general rule,2 which if we recognize in the comparison of things, we shall never be false to our duty. But this rule shall be in close accordance with the method and system of the Stoics, whom I am following in this treatise, because though by the early Academics and by the Peripatetics who were formerly identical with them those things that are right are preferred to those that seem expedient, yet these themes are discussed in a loftier tone by those to whom both whatever is right is also expedient, and there is nothing expedient that is not right, than by those to whom anything right can be otherwise than expedient, or anything expedient otherwise than right. Moreover, my sect of the Academy gives me broad liberty, so that I have a right to defend whatever seems to me probable. But I return to the general rule.
5. For a man to take anything wrongfully from another, and to increase his own means of comfort by his fellow-man’s discomfort, is more contrary to nature than death, than poverty, than pain, than anything else that can happen to one’s body or his external condition.1 In the first place, it destroys human intercourse and society; for if we are so disposed that every one for his own gain is ready to rob or outrage another, that fellowship of the human race which is in the closest accordance with nature must of necessity be broken in sunder. As if each member of the body were so affected as to suppose itself capable of getting strength by appropriating the strength of the adjacent member, the whole body must needs be enfeebled and destroyed, so if each of us seizes for himself the goods of others, and takes what he can from every one for his own emolument, the society and intercourse of men must necessarily be subverted. It is, indeed, permitted, with no repugnancy of nature, that each person may prefer to acquire for himself, rather than for another, whatever belongs to the means of living; this, however, nature does not suffer, — that we should increase our means, resources, wealth, by the spoils of others. Nor is this so merely by the law of nature and of nations; but also by those statutes of particular communities on which the body politic in each state depends for its safety, it is in like manner enacted that no one can be permitted to injure another for his own benefit. It is to this that the laws look, it is this that they mean, that the union of citizens shall be secure; and those who dissever it they restrain by death, exile, imprisonment, fine. Moreover, much more is this end effected by the reason inherent in nature, which is the law of gods and of men, which he who wills to obey — and all will obey it who desire to live according to nature — will never so act as to seek what belongs to another and to appropriate to himself what he has taken from another. For loftiness and largeness of soul, and therewith affability, justice, kindness, are more in accordance with nature than pleasure, than life, than wealth, to despise which and to count them as naught when compared with the common good is the token of a great and lofty mind. To take aught from another for one’s own benefit is, then, more opposed to nature than death, or pain, or any other adverse experience. At the same time, it is more in accordance with nature to assume the greatest labors and discomforts for the preservation and succor of all nations, were it possible, imitating that Hercules whom human gratitude, commemorative of his services, exalted to a seat among the gods, than to live in isolation, not only free from all causes of disturbance, but even in the fulness of sensual gratification, abounding in resources of every kind, nay, even surpassing all others in beauty and in strength. Therefore every man endowed with a mind of superior excellence and brilliancy prefers the former to the latter mode of life, whence it may be inferred that man, when obedient to nature, cannot injure man. Still further, he who maltreats another that he himself may obtain some benefit, either is unaware that he is acting contrary to nature, or else thinks that poverty, pain, loss of children, of kindred, of friends, is to be avoided rather than wrong-doing to a fellow-man. If he is unaware that he is acting contrary to nature in maltreating men, how are you to reason with one who takes away from man all that makes him man? But if he thinks that wrong-doing ought indeed to be shunned, but that death, poverty, or pain is much more to be shunned, he errs in imagining any evil affecting the bodily condition or property to be of greater consequence than moral evil.
6. This, then, above all, ought to be regarded by every one as an established principle, that the interest of each individual and that of the entire body of citizens are identical, which interest if any one appropriate to himself alone, he does it to the sundering of all human intercourse. And further, if nature prescribes this, that man shall desire the promotion of man’s good for the very reason that he is man, it follows in accordance with that same nature that there are interests common to all. The antecedent is true; therefore the consequent is true. For this is absurd indeed which some say, that they would take nothing from a parent or a brother for their own benefit, but that it is quite another thing with persons outside of one’s own family. These men disclaim all mutual right and partnership with their fellow-citizens for the common benefit, — a state of feeling which dismembers the fellowship of the community. Those, too, who say that account is to be taken of citizens, but not of foreigners, destroy the common sodality of the human race, which abrogated, beneficence, liberality, kindness, justice, are removed from their very foundations. And those who remove them are to be regarded as impious toward the immortal gods; for they overturn the fellowship established among men by the gods, the closest bond of which fellowship is the opinion that it is more contrary to nature for man to take anything from man for his own benefit than to endure all forms of discomfort, whether external, or bodily, or even mental, which leave room for the exercise of justice. For this one virtue is mistress and queen of all the virtues. One may perhaps say, “Should not then a wise man who is perishing with hunger take away food from another man who is good for nothing?” No, indeed, by no means; for my life is not of greater service to me than is such a disposition of mind as would preclude my injuring any one for my own benefit. What if a good man, to save himself from perishing with the cold, should rob of his clothes the cruel and savage tyrant Phalaris? May he do it? These matters are very easy of determination. If, indeed, you were to take anything from a perfectly worthless man merely for your own benefit, you would perform an inhuman act and one contrary to nature. If, however, you are a person capable, by prolonging your life, of rendering great service to the state and to human society, and for that reason you take something from another person, you would not be blameworthy. But except in such a case, each man must bear his own privations rather than take what belongs to another. Sickness, or poverty, or anything of this kind is not, indeed, more opposed to nature than is the appropriation or coveting of what belongs to another. But at the same time the dereliction of the common good is opposed to nature, for it is unjust; and therefore the very law of nature, which preserves and maintains the good of man, undoubtedly prescribes that the necessaries of life should be transferred from an inefficient and useless man to a wise, good, brave man, whose death would make a large deduction from the common good, — provided he effect the transfer in such a way that his self-esteem and self-love may not furnish a pretext for wrong-doing. In this way he will perform his duty with reference to the good of mankind and to the human fellowship of which I have so often spoken. Now as regards Phalaris the decision is very easy; for we1 have no fellowship with tyrants, but rather the broadest dissiliency from them, and this whole pestiferous and impious class of men ought to be exterminated from human society. Indeed, as limbs are amputated when they are bloodless and virtually lifeless, and injure the rest of the body, so this beastly savageness and cruelty in human form ought to be cut off from what may be called the common body of humanity. Of this sort are all the questions in which duty is to be determined from circumstances.
7. Panaetius would, I think, have followed up topics of this kind, had not some accident or some other occupation frustrated his intention. Toward these very inquiries there may be drawn from his first three books many maxims, from which it can be clearly seen what is to be avoided on account of its immorality, and what is not to be avoided because not absolutely immoral.
But since I am, as it were, putting the topstone on a work incomplete, yet almost finished, as mathematicians are wont, instead of demonstrating everything, to ask that some things be admitted1 in order to explain more easily what they want to prove, so I ask of you, my Cicero, to admit, if you can, that nothing except what is right is to be sought for its own sake. If, however, you cannot grant this without hindrance from the teachings of Cratippus, you can certainly admit that what is right is to be sought chiefly for its own sake. Either proposition is sufficient for my purpose; and now this, now that, seems the more probable, while no other proposition relating to this subject is in any degree probable. At the same time, Panaetius ought in the first place to be defended on this point; inasmuch as he said, not that expediency could ever be in conflict with the right, — for this he could not consistently say, — but that things that seemed expedient might be thus in conflict. Indeed, he often affirms that nothing is expedient which is not also right, and nothing right which is not also expedient; and he maintains that no more prolific source of evil has ever found its way into human society than the opinion of those who have divorced the expedient and the right. Therefore, it was not in order that on certain occasions we should prefer expediency to the right, but that we might discriminate without mistake between appearance and reality, if at any time there were a seeming conflict, that he introduced into the plan of his work a seeming, not an actual, collision between the expedient and the right. This division, then, which he left unwritten, I propose to fill out, relying on no authority, from my own resources;1 for since the time of Panaetius there has been nothing written on this head of a nature to satisfy me, among the works that have come into my hands.
8. When any specious appearance of expediency is presented, one cannot help being impressed by it. But if, when you give it closer attention, you see that there is something morally wrong connected with what thus seems expedient, in that case you are not to sacrifice expediency, but you are to understand that where there is moral wrong expediency cannot be. For if nothing is so contrary to nature as immorality (inasmuch as nature craves things right, and fitting, and consistent), and nothing so in unison with nature as expediency, then it is certain that expediency and immorality cannot exist in the same thing.2 Still further, if we were born for virtue, and the right either is alone worthy to be sought (as Zeno maintained), or is assuredly to be regarded as immeasurably outweighing all things else (as is Aristotle’s doctrine), then, of necessity, what is right must be either the sole or the supreme good. But what is good is certainly expedient. Consequently whatever is right is expedient.1 It is then the misapprehension of bad men which, when it lays hold on anything that seems expedient, considers it independently of the question of right. This is the origin of assassinations, poisonings, forgeries of wills. Hence come thefts, embezzlements of public money, plunderings and pillagings of allies and of citizens. Hence, too, proceed the intolerable usurpations of excessive wealth, and, lastly, even in free states, the yearning for sovereign authority, than which nothing can be imagined more foul or more offensive. Men, indeed, in their false appreciation, see the profit of the wrong they do; they see not the punishment, I do not say, of the laws which they often evade, but of the guilt itself, of which the punishment is intensely bitter. Therefore let no quarter be given to this class of doubters, utterly wicked and impious, who deliberate whether they shall pursue what they see to be right, or shall knowingly defile themselves with guilt; for there is crime in the mere hesitation, even if they do not go so far as the outward act. Therefore those things in which the very deliberation is criminal ought not to be deliberated at all. Moreover, the hope and expectation of concealment, whether of the act or of the actor, ought to be excluded from every deliberation on the conduct to be pursued. If we have made even the least proficiency in philosophy, we ought to be thoroughly persuaded that, even though we could escape the view of all gods and men, still nothing ought to be done by us avariciously, nothing unjustly, nothing lustfully, nothing extravagantly.
9. For this reason Plato introduces the wellknown story of Gyges,1 who, when the ground had caved away on account of heavy rains, passed down into the opening, and saw, as the story goes, a brazen horse with doors in his sides. Opening these doors, he saw a man of unusual size, with a gold ring on his finger, which drawing off, he put it on his own finger (he was a shepherd in the king’s service), and then repaired to the company of the shepherds. There, as often as he turned the part of the ring where the stone was set to the palm of his hand, he became invisible, yet himself saw everything; and was again visible when he restored the ring to its proper place. Then, availing himself of the advantage which the ring gave him, he committed adultery with the queen, and by her assistance killed the king his master, and removed by death those whom he thought in his way. Nor could any one see him in connection with these crimes. By means of the ring he in a short time became king of Lydia. Now if a wise man had this ring, he would not think himself any more at liberty to do wrong than if he had it not; for it is right things, not hidden things, that are sought by good men. Here, however, certain philosophers, by no means ill-disposed, yet somewhat deficient in acuteness, say that this is only a fictitious and imaginary story that Plato has told, — as though, forsooth, he asserted that such a thing took place or could have taken place. The meaning of this ring and of this example is as follows: If no one would ever know, if no one would ever suspect, when you performed some act for the sake of wealth, power, ascendency, lust, — if it would remain forever unknown to gods and men, would you do it? They say that it is impossible. Yet it is not utterly impossible. But I ask, If that were possible which they say is impossible, what would they do? They persist, awkwardly indeed; they maintain that such a thing could not be, and they stand firm in this assertion; they do not take in the meaning of the phrase, “If it were possible.” For when we ask what they would do if they could conceal what they did, we do not ask whether they can hide it; but we put them, as it were, on the rack, that if they answer that they would do what seemed expedient if assured of impunity, they may confess themselves atrociously guilty; and if they make the contrary answer, that they may grant that whatever is wrong in itself ought to be shunned. Let us now return to the subject under discussion.
10. There occur many cases of a nature to perplex the mind under the aspect of expediency, — cases in which the real question is not whether the right is to be sacrificed on account of the greatness of the benefit to be gained (for that is unquestionably wrong), but whether that which seems expedient can be done without guilt. When Brutus deposed his colleague Collatinus from the consulship, he might seem to have done this unjustly; for Collatinus had been the associate of Brutus, and his assistant in measures for the expulsion of the royal family. But when the chief men of the state had come to the determination that the kindred of Superbus, and the name of the Tarquins, and the remembrance of kingly government must be put out of the way, what was expedient — that is, care for the well-being of the country — was so entirely right that it ought to have satisfied Collatinus himself. Thus expediency became valid on account of the right that was in it, without which, indeed, there could not have been any expediency. Not so, however, in the case of the king who founded the city; for a bare show of expediency struck his mind. When it seemed to him better to reign alone than with a colleague, he killed his brother. He set aside both brotherly affection and humanity, in order to attain what seemed expedient, yet was not so; and then offered in defence the pretext of the wall, — a mere show of right, improbable in itself, and insufficient even if true. He was therefore entirely in the wrong. With his leave I would say it, whether he be Quirinus or Romulus.1 Nevertheless, advantages that are properly our own we are not to abandon, or to yield up to others, if we ourselves need them; but each one must minister to his own advantage only so far as it may be done without wrong to others. Chrysippus,2 who has written many sensible things, wisely says: “He who is running a race ought to endeavor and strive to the utmost of his ability to come off victor; but it is utterly wrong for him to trip up his competitor, or to push him aside. So in life it is not unfair for one to seek for himself what may accrue to his benefit; but it is not right to take it from another.”
But in the case of friendships there is the greatest perplexity as to duty, it being equally opposed to duty to withhold what you can rightfully concede to a friend, and to concede what is not right. Office, wealth, pleasure, other things of that sort, are certainly never to be preferred to friendship. At the same time a good man will do nothing against the state, or in violation of his oath or of good faith, for the sake of his friend, not even if he were a judge in his friend’s case. For
“He drops the friend, when he puts on the judge.”1
He will yield so far to friendship as to wish his friend’s case to be worthy of succeeding, and to accommodate him as to the time of trial within legal limits. But inasmuch as he must pass sentence upon his oath, he will bear it in mind that he has God for a witness, that is, as I think, his own conscience, than which God himself has given man nothing more divine. In this view, it is an admirable custom derived from our ancestors — if we would only adhere to it — that when a favor is asked of a judge, it is in the words, “So far as it can be done without a breach of good faith.” A request proffered in such terms applies to things which, as I just said, can be granted by a friend who is acting as a judge. On the other hand, were one to feel bound to do all that friends might desire, such connections ought to be considered as not friendships, but conspiracies. I am speaking of ordinary friendships; for in the case of wise and perfect men there can be nothing of the kind. It is related that Damon and Phintias,2 Pythagoreans, were so disposed toward each other, that when Dionysius the tyrant had fixed for one of them the day of execution, and he that was condemned to death asked for a few days’ respite to make arrangements for the care of his family, the other became surety for his appearance, to die in his stead if he did not return. When he returned on the day appointed, the tyrant, admiring their mutual good faith, begged them to admit him to their friendship as a third person. In fine, whenever what seems expedient in friendship comes into competition with what is right, let the apparent expediency be disregarded; let the right prevail. Moreover, when in friendship things that are not right are demanded, religion and good faith are to take precedence of friendship. Thus will the choice of duty, which is the subject of our inquiry, be determined.
11. But it is in affairs of state that wrong is the most frequently committed under the show of expediency. Our own people were thus guilty with reference to the demolition of Corinth. The Athenians acted with still greater severity in decreeing that the men of Aegina,1 who were able seamen, should have their thumbs cut off. This seemed expedient; for Aegina was too threatening on account of its proximity to the Piraeus. But nothing that is cruel is expedient; for cruelty is in the utmost degree hostile to human nature, which ought to be our guide. Those also are to be blamed who prohibit foreigners from living in their cities, and expel them, as Fannius did in the time of our fathers, and Papius more recently.1 It is indeed right that one who is not a citizen should lack the full privileges of citizenship, as is enacted by the law passed under the consulship of those very wise men Crassus and Scaevola; but it is clearly inhumane to prohibit foreigners from living in the city. On the other hand, a worthy renown rests upon the instances in which the show of public benefit is despised in comparison with the right. Our history is full of examples of this kind, while often at other times, especially in the second Punic war, when, after the disaster of Cannae, the people manifested greater spirit than ever in prosperity. There was no symptom of fear, no intimation of peace. Such is the power of the right, that it eclipses the show of expediency. When the Athenians were utterly unable to sustain the assault of the Persians, and determined that, deserting the city and leaving their wives and children at Troezen, they would go on board of their ships and defend the liberty of Greece by their fleet, they stoned to death a certain Cyrsilus who pressed upon them the advice to stay in the city and receive Xerxes. He, indeed, seemed to advocate expediency; but expediency did not exist, when the right was on the other side. Themistocles, after the victory in the Persian war, said in a popular assembly that he had a plan conducive to the public good, but that it was not desirable that it should be generally known. He asked that the people should name some one with whom he might confer. Aristides was named. Themistocles said to him that the fleet of the Lacedaemonians, which was drawn ashore at Gytheum, could be burned clandestinely, and if that were done, the power of the Lacedaemonians would be inevitably broken. Aristides, having heard this, returned to the assembly amidst the anxious expectation of all, and said that the measure proposed by Themistocles was very advantageous, but utterly devoid of right. Thereupon the Athenians concluded that what was not right was not expedient, and they repudiated the entire plan which they had not heard, on the authority of Aristides. Better this than our conduct in holding pirates free from all exactions,1 our allies tributary.2
12. Let it be settled, then, that what is wrong is never expedient, not even when you obtain by it what you think to be of advantage to you. Nay, the mere thinking that what is wrong is expedient is in itself a misfortune. But, as I have already said, there often occur cases of such a nature that expediency seems in conflict with the right, so that it must be ascertained by close examination whether it is really thus in conflict, or whether it can be brought into harmony with the right. Of this class are questions like the following: If, for example, a good man has brought from Alexandria to Rhodes a large cargo of corn, when there is a great scarcity and dearth at Rhodes and corn is at the highest price, — in case this man knows that a considerable number of merchants have set sail from Alexandria, and on his passage he has seen ships laden with corn bound for Rhodes, shall he give this information to the Rhodians, or shall he keep silence and sell his cargo for the most that it will bring? We are imagining the case of a wise and good man. We want to know about the thought and feeling of such a man as would not leave the Rhodians uninformed if he thinks it wrong, but who doubts whether it is wrong or not. In cases of this kind Diogenes of Babylon,1 an eminent Stoic of high authority, is wont to express one opinion, Antipater1 his pupil, a man of superior acuteness, another. According to Antipater, all things ought to be laid open, so that the buyer may be left in ignorance of nothing at all that the seller knows. According to Diogenes, the seller is bound to disclose defects in his goods so far as the law of the land requires, to transact the rest of the business without fraud, and then, since he is the seller, to sell for as much as he can get. “I have brought my cargo; I have offered it for sale; I am selling my corn for no more than others ask, perhaps even for less than they would ask, since my arrival has increased the supply. Whom do I wrong?” On the other side comes the reasoning of Antipater: “What say you? While you ought to consult the welfare of mankind and to render service to human society, and by the very condition of your being have such innate natural principles which you are bound to obey and follow, that the common good should be your good, and reciprocally yours the common good, will you conceal from men what comfort and plenty are nigh at hand for them?” Diogenes, perhaps, will reply as follows: “It is one thing to conceal, another not to tell. Nor am I now concealing anything from you, by not telling you what is the nature of the gods, or what is the supreme good, — things which it would profit you much more to know than to know the cheapness of wheat. But am I under the necessity of telling you all that it would do you good to hear?” “Yes, indeed, you are under that necessity, if you bear it in mind that nature establishes a community of interest among men.” “I do bear this in mind. But is this community of interest such that one can have nothing of his own? If it be so, everything ought, indeed, to be given, not sold.”
13. You see that in this whole discussion it is not said, “Although this be wrong, yet, because it is expedient I will do it;” but that it is expedient without being morally wrong, and, on the other side, that because it is wrong it ought not to be done. A good man sells a house on account of some defects, of which he himself is aware and others ignorant. Perhaps it is unhealthy, and is supposed to be healthy, — it is not generally known that snakes make their appearance in all the bedrooms, — it is built of bad materials, and is in a ruinous condition; but nobody knows this except the owner. I ask, if the seller should have failed to tell these things to the buyer, and should thus have sold his house for a higher price than he could have reasonably expected, whether he would have acted unjustly or unfairly? “Yes, he would,” says Antipater; “for what is meant by not putting into the right way one who has lost his way (which at Athens exposed a man to public execration), if it does not include the case in which a buyer is permitted to rush blindly on, and through his mistake to fall into a heavy loss by fraudulent means? It is even worse than not showing the right way; it is knowingly leading another into the wrong way.” Diogenes, on the other hand, says: “Did he who did not even advise you to buy, force you to buy? He advertised for sale what he did not like; you bought what you did like. Certainly, if those who advertise a good and well-built house are not regarded as swindlers, even though it is neither good nor properly built, much less should those be so regarded who have said nothing in praise of their house. For in a case in which the buyer can exercise his own judgment, what fraud can there be on the part of the seller? And if all that is said is not to be guaranteed, do you think that what is not said ought to be guaranteed? What could be more foolish than for the seller to tell the defects of the article that he is selling? Nay, what so absurd as for an auctioneer, by the owner’s direction, to proclaim, ‘I am selling an unhealthy house’?” Thus, then, in certain doubtful cases the right is defended on the one side; on the other, expediency is urged on the ground that it is not only right to do what seems expedient, but even wrong not to do it. This is the discrepancy which seems often to exist between the expedient and the right. But I must state my decision in these cases; for I introduced them, not to raise the inquiry concerning them, but to give their solution. It seems to me, then, that neither that Rhodian corn-merchant nor this seller of the house ought to have practised concealment with the buyers. In truth, reticence with regard to any matter whatever does not constitute concealment; but concealment consists in willingly hiding from others for your own advantage something that you know. Who does not see what sort of an act such concealment is, and what sort of a man he must be who practises it? Certainly this is not the conduct of an open, frank, honest, good man, but rather of a wily, dark, crafty, deceitful, ill-meaning, cunning man, an old rogue, a swindler. Is it not inexpedient to become liable to these so numerous and to many more bad names?1
14. But if those who keep silence deserve censure, what is to be thought of those who employ absolute falsehood? Caius Canius, a Roman knight, a man not without wit and of respectable literary culture, having gone to Syracuse, for rest, as he used to say, not for business, wanted to buy a small estate, to which he could invite his friends, and where he could take his own pleasure without intruders. When his wish had become generally known, a certain Pythius, who was doing a banker’s business at Syracuse, told him that he had a country-seat, not, indeed, for sale, but which Canius was at liberty to use as his own if he wished to do so; and at the same time he invited the man to supper at the country-seat for the next day. He having accepted the invitation, Pythius, who, as being a banker, was popular among all classes, called the fishermen together, asked them to fish the next day in front of his villa, and told them what he wanted them to do. Canius came to supper at the right time; a magnificent entertainment was prepared by Pythius; a multitude of little boats were in full sight; every fisherman brought what he had taken; the fish were laid down at the feet of Pythius. Then Canius says, “Prithee, what does this mean? So many fish here? So many boats?” And he answered, “What wonder? All the fish for the Syracuse market are here; they come here to be in fresh water. The fishermen cannot dispense with this villa.” Canius, inflamed with longing, begs Pythius to sell the place. He hesitates at first. To cut the story short, Canius over-persuades him. The greedy and rich man buys the villa for as high a price as Pythius chooses to ask, and buys the furniture too. He gives security; he finishes the business. Canius the next day invites his friends. He comes early; he sees not a thole-pin. He asks his next neighbor whether it is a fishermen’s holiday, as he sees none of them. “Not so far as I know,” was the reply. “No fishermen are in the habit of fishing here. I therefore yesterday could not think what had occurred to bring them.” Canius was enraged. But what was he to do? My colleague and friend, Aquillius,1 had not then published his forms of legal procedure in the case of criminal fraud, as to which when he was asked for a definition of criminal fraud, he replied, “When one thing is pretended, another done.” This is perfectly clear, as might be expected from a man skilled in defining. Pythius, then, and all who do one thing while they pretend another, are treacherous, wicked, villanous. Therefore nothing that they do can be expedient, when defiled by so many vices.
15. But if the definition of Aquillius is correct, pretence and concealment should be entirely done away with. Thus a good man will neither pretend nor conceal anything for the sake of buying or selling on better terms. Indeed, this offence of criminal fraud had been previously punished both by the laws, as in the case of guardianship, by the Twelve Tables, and in the defrauding of minors, by the Plaetorian law,2 and also, without express statute, by legal decisions in which the phrase “As good faith requires” is employed.1 In other decisions the following words hold a prominent place: — in the case of arbitration about a wife’s property, “The better, the more equitable;”2 in the case of trust-property, “Fair dealing between good men.”3 What then? Can there be any admixture of deceit in “The better, the more equitable?” Or when “Fair dealing between good men” is specified, can anything be done craftily or fraudulently? But, as Aquillius says, criminal fraud consists in misrepresentation. All falsehood, then, must be removed from contracts. The seller must not employ a sham purchaser, nor the buyer one to depreciate the article on sale by too low a bid. Let either party, if it comes to naming the price, say once for all what he will give or take. Quintus Scaevola, the son of Publius, when he asked to have the price of an estate that he was buying named once for all, and the seller had complied with his request, said that he thought it worth more, and added a hundred thousand sesterces.1 There is no one who would say that this was not the act of a good man; but men in general would not regard it as the act of a wise man, any more than if he had sold an estate for less than it would bring. This, then, is the mischievous doctrine, — regarding some men as good, others as wise, according to which notion Ennius writes that the wise man who cannot provide for his own advantage is wise in vain. I would readily account this saying true, if I were agreed with Ennius as to what one’s advantage is. I see, indeed, that Hecato of Rhodes, a disciple of Panaetius, says, in the books on Duties which he dedicated to Quintus Tubero: “It is a wise man’s duty, while he does nothing contrary to morals, laws, and customs, to have regard to his private fortune. For we desire to be rich, not for ourselves alone, but for children, kindred, friends, and most of all for the state, — considering that the means and resources of individual citizens are the wealth of the state.” The act of Scaevola just named cannot, then, be in any way pleasing to Hecato. Nor is any great praise or favor to be rendered to a man who merely says that he will not do for his own benefit what is unlawful. But if pretence and concealment constitute criminal fraud, there are very few transactions entirely free from criminal fraud; or if he is a good man who does good to those to whom he can and injures no one, of a certainty we shall not easily find that good man. We conclude, then, that it is never expedient to do wrong, because wrong-doing is always disgraceful; and because to be a good man is always right, it is always expedient.
16. As to landed property, the law of the state enacts that defects known to the seller must be made known in selling it; and while by the law of the Twelve Tables it was enough for such things as were guaranteed to be made good, and for the seller who made false statements with regard to them to pay double damages, the jurisconsults have determined that the legal penalty applies also to reticence.1 Their doctrine is, that whatever defect there may be in an estate, if the seller knows it, he is bound to make it good. Thus when the augurs were going to take an augury on the Capitol,2 and had ordered Tiberius Claudius Centumalus, who had a house on the Coelian hill, to pull down those parts of it which were so high as to obstruct their view of the heavens, Claudius advertised the detached house, and sold it. The purchaser was Publius Calpurnius Lanarius. The same notice was given to him by the augurs. So when Calpurnius had complied with the order, and had ascertained that Claudius advertised the house for sale after being notified of the decree of the augurs, he procured the appearance of Claudius before a legally appointed arbitrator, suing him for damages for his breach of good faith. Marcus Cato pronounced the decision, the father of my friend Cato — for as other men are named from their fathers, so is the father of that illustrious man to be named from his son — he, I say, as judge, pronounced the decision: “Forasmuch as the seller knew of that decree when he sold the house, and did not make it known, the damage ought to be made good to the buyer.” He thus decided that in good faith a defect known by the seller ought to be known by the buyer. If this was a right decision, then neither that corn-merchant, nor the seller of the unhealthy house, had a right to keep silence. But all such cases of reticence cannot be comprised in the law of the land, though those which can be so comprised are carefully repressed. Marcus Marius Gratidianus, my kinsman, had sold to Caius Sergius Orata the house which he had bought from that same Orata a few years before. The estate was subject to certain rights of way, which Marius had omitted to name in the contract of sale. The case was brought into court. Crassus was advocate for Orata, Antonius for Gratidianus. Crassus laid stress on the law that any defect known by the seller and not mentioned ought to be made good. Antonius rested his plea on the equity of the case, that inasmuch as the defect was not unknown to Sergius, who had previously sold the house, there was no need of its being specified, nor had the purchaser been imposed upon, since he knew perfectly well to what the estate purchased was liable. To what purpose do I name these things? That you may understand that our ancestors did not approve of chicanery.1
17. But the laws remove chicanery in one way, philosophers in another, — the laws, so far as they can lay hold on overt acts; philosophers, so far as they can reach such cases by reason and understanding. Reason, then, demands that nothing be done ensnaringly, nothing under false pretence, nothing deceitfully. Yet is it not ensnaring to spread nets, even if you do not start and hunt your victims? For beasts themselves often fall into nets without being pursued. Is it not thus that you advertise a house, — put up a notice of sale as a net; sell the house on account of its defects; and some unwary person runs into the net? Yet such is the degenerate state of feeling, that I find this neither accounted as morally wrong, nor yet forbidden by statute or by the civil law, though it is forbidden by the law of nature. For there is — though I have often said it, there is need of its being said still oftener — a fellowship of men with men, which has, indeed, the broadest possible extent; a more intimate union, of those who belong to the same race; one closer still, of those who belong to the same state. Therefore our ancestors recognized a distinction between the law of nations and the law of the state. What is the law of the state is not necessarily also the law of nations; but whatever is the law of nations ought also to be the law of the state. But of true law and genuine justice we have no real and lifelike representation; their shadow and semblances alone are ours. Yet would that we might follow even these! For they are drawn from excellent models presented by nature and truth. How precious are these words: “That I be not taken in and defrauded through you or on account of my confidence in you!” What a golden formula is this: “As ought to be done between good men, fairly and without fraud!”1 But the great question is, Who are the “good men,” and what is it to be “fairly done”? Quintus Scaevola, the head of the pontifical college, said that there was the greatest force in all decisions to which the phrase “in good faith” was annexed, and he thought that as the term “good faith” had the broadest application as employed in guardianships, partnerships, trusts, commissions, purchases, sales, hiring, leases, which make up the whole system of social transactions, it required a judge of superior capacity to determine — especially as there are often cross-suits — what each party is bound to render, and to whom, in the satisfaction of just claims.
There should, then, be an end of chicanery and of that cunning which means indeed to pass for prudence, but is an entirely different thing and at the widest distance from it; for prudence has its proper place in the choice between good and evil, while cunning — if whatever is immoral is evil — prefers evil things to good.
Nor is it only with reference to landed estate that the civil law, derived from nature, punishes cunning and fraud; but in the sale of slaves also all fraud on the part of the seller is prohibited. By the edict of the aediles,1 the seller who may rightly be supposed to know about the health, the truant habits, the dishonesty of the slave, is bound to guarantee the purchaser against damage. The case of persons who sell slaves that have recently come to them by inheritance is different.2 From these instances it is clear, since nature is the fountain of law, that it is in accordance with nature that no one should act so as to prey upon another’s ignorance. Nor can there be found any greater source of mischief to human society than the false show of intelligence in the practice of cunning. Hence spring those countless cases in which expediency seems to be in conflict with the right. For how few will be found who, if impunity and absolute secrecy were offered, could refrain from wrong-doing!
18. Let us, if you please, try the principle that I have laid down, with reference to cases in which the generality of mankind do not think that any wrong is committed. For I am not going to speak here of assassins, poisoners, forgers of wills, thieves, peculators, who are to be repressed, not by words and philosophical discussion, but by chains and imprisonment. Let us consider the things that are done by those who are accounted as good men. Certain persons brought from Greece to Rome a forged will of Lucius Minucius Basilus, a rich man. That they might more easily maintain its validity, they made joint-heirs with themselves Marcus Crassus and Quintus Hortensius, the most influential men of that time, who, while they suspected the forgery, yet being conscious of no guilt of their own in the case, did not spurn the paltry present that came to them through the crime of others. What then? Is their freedom from the positive offence of forgery sufficient for their acquittal? I think not, though I loved one of them while he lived,1 and am not an enemy of the other now that he is dead.1 But when Basilus meant that his sister’s son, Marcus Satrius, should take his name, and had made him his heir, — I mean this patron of the Picene and Sabine territory, to the disgrace of our time,2 — was it right that those distinguished citizens should have the property, and that nothing save the name should descend to Satrius? Forsooth, if he who does not, when he can, ward off or repel wrong is guilty of injustice (as I showed in the First Book), what is to be thought of him who, so far from repelling, abets the wrong? To me, indeed, genuine inheritances do not seem right, if sought by knavish blandishments, — by attentions rendered not from sincere but simulated kindness.3 In such affairs, one thing sometimes appears expedient, another right. But it is a deceptive appearance; for the standard of expediency is the same as that of right. He who does not clearly see this is capable of any kind of fraud, of any crime. For he who thinks, “That is indeed right, but this is expedient,” will dare in his ignorance to divorce things united by nature, — a state of feeling which is the source of all frauds, wrongs, crimes.
19. Therefore, if a good man could by snapping his fingers make his name creep surreptitiously into rich men’s wills, he would not use this power, no, not even though he were absolutely certain that no one would ever have the least suspicion of it. But had you given this power to Marcus Crassus, that by snapping his fingers he could get his name inserted in a will though he were not really the heir, I warrant you he would have danced in the forum. A just man, however, and one whom we feel to be a good man, will take nothing from any one to transfer it to himself. Let him who marvels at this confess that he knows not what a good man is. But if one would only develop the idea of a good man wrapped up in his own mind, he would then at once tell himself that he is a good man who benefits all that he can, and does harm to no one unless provoked by injury.1 What then? Must not he do harm, who, as if by enchantment, displaces the true heirs, to put himself in their stead? “Is he not, then,” some one may say, “to do what is serviceable, what is expedient?” Yes, but let him understand that nothing unjust can be either expedient or serviceable. He who has not learned this cannot be a good man. In my boyhood I heard from my father that Fimbria, who had been consul, was appointed judge in the case of Marcus Lutatius Pinthias, a Roman knight, not otherwise than respectable, who had laid a wager, to be forfeited if he did not prove himself to be a good man. Fimbria said that he would never act as judge in the case, lest, if he decided against Pinthias, he might deprive a worthy man of his reputation, or if he decided in his favor, he might seem to have pronounced some ordinary person to be a good man, while such a character was made up of innumerable duties and merits. To a good man, then, even in the conception of Fimbria, not to say of Socrates,1 nothing can by any possibility seem expedient that is not right. Therefore such a man will not dare, not only to do, but even to think anything which he may not venture to proclaim publicly. Is it not shameful that philosophers should be in doubt about these matters as to which even peasants have no doubt? From the peasants sprang the old saying that has become proverbial. When they commend any one’s honesty and goodness, they say that you might trust him to play odd and even2 with you in the dark. What does this mean, unless that what is unbecoming is not expedient, even if you could obtain it without any one being able to prove it against you? Do you not see that according to this proverb there could be no apology either for that Gyges of whom I have spoken, or for this man whom I just now supposed by way of illustration, who by snapping his fingers could convert the inheritances of a whole community to his own use? For as what is immoral, though concealed, cannot be in any way made right, so it cannot be brought about that, in spite of the opposition and repugnancy of nature, what is not right should in any case be expedient.
20. Yet it may be said that when the gain is very great, there is justifying cause for wrong-doing. When Caius Marius had no near prospect of the consulship, and still remained in obscurity the seventh year after he had been praetor, nor gave any token that he was ever going to offer himself as a candidate for the consulship, having been sent to Rome by his commander Quintus Metellus, a man and citizen of the highest eminence, whose lieutenant he was, he charged Metellus before the Roman people with needlessly protracting the war, intimating that if they had made him consul, he would in a short time have given Jugurtha either living or dead into the power of the Roman people. And so he was indeed made consul; but in bringing into odium by a false accusation a citizen of the highest worth and eminence, whose lieutenant he was1 and by whom he had been sent home, he made a wide departure from good faith and honesty. My kinsman Gratidianus2 did not play the part of a good man on the occasion when he was praetor, and the tribunes of the people had called into counsel the college of praetors, that the currency might have its standard fixed by a joint resolution; for the value of money was then so fluctuating that no one could know how much or how little property he had. The tribunes and praetors jointly framed a decree, specifying the penalty and the judicial proceedings for its violation, and agreed to mount the rostrum together in the afternoon. The others went their several ways; while Marius from the seats of the tribunes directly mounted the rostrum, and alone announced the decree which had resulted from their combined action. This affair, if you want to know, brought him great popularity. Statues were erected in his honor in all the streets; incense and wax tapers were burned before them. To cut the story short, no man was ever more cherished by the multitude. These are the cases which sometimes perplex one in the discussion, — cases where the matter in which honesty is transgressed is not so very great, while that which is obtained by means of it is of the very highest value; as, for Marius, it was not so irredeemably shameful to forestall the popular favor from his colleagues and the tribunes of the people, while by this means to become consul, the end which he then had in view,1 seemed in the highest degree desirable. But there is one rule for all cases, which I would have profoundly impressed on your mind, — either that what seems expedient must not be wrong, or if it be wrong, that it must not seem to be expedient. Can we deem either that Marius or this a good man? Unfold and examine2 your own consciousness, that you may see what within it is the aspect, shape, and conception of a good man. Does it fall in with the character of a good man to lie, to slander, to forestall, to deceive? Nothing certainly can be less in harmony with it. Is there, then, any object of so much value, or any advantage so worthy of your quest, that you should forfeit for it the glory and reputation of a good man? What is there that so-called expediency can bring to you of equal worth with what it takes from you, if it robs you of the reputation of a good man, and deprives you of truth and honesty? For what difference does it make, whether one turns himself from a man into a beast, or in the form of a man carries the moral obduracy of a beast?
21. What? Do not those who violate all that is right and virtuous if they can only obtain power, do the same thing with him who chose to have even for a father-in-law the man by whose audacity he himself might become powerful?1 It seemed expedient to him to avail himself of the other’s unpopularity for his own great advancement. He did not perceive how unjust this was to the country, how base, and how harmful. The father-in-law himself had always on his lips the Greek verses from the Phoenissae, which I will render as I can, awkwardly it may be, but still so as to be intelligible: —
It was criminal in Eteocles,2 or rather in Euripides, to except that one thing which was the most wicked of all. Why, then, do we gather up crimes on a small scale, fraudulent heirships, bargains, sales? Here you have a man who desired to be king of the Roman people, and who accomplished his purpose. Whoever says that this desire was right, is mad; for he approves of the destruction of laws and of liberty, and deems their foul and detestable suppression glorious. But as for him who acknowledges that it is not right to usurp sovereign power in a state which was and which ought to be free, yet that it is expedient for him who can do so, by what remonstrance, or rather by what reproach, can I strive to draw him back from so grave an error? For (ye immortal gods!) can the basest and foulest parricide1 committed upon his country be expedient for any man, even though he who has made himself thus guilty be called parent by the citizens whom he has brought under the yoke? Expediency, then, ought to be measured by the right, and so indeed, that the two, though expressed by different names, may have to the ear the same sound. I do not accord with the opinion of the multitude who ask what can be more expedient than the possession of sovereign power; on the other hand, I find nothing more inexpedient for him who has obtained this power unjustly, when I begin to recall reason to things as they really are. For can anxieties, solicitudes, terrors by day and by night, a life crowded full of snares and of perils, be expedient for any one? Attius says,
“The throne has many faithless, loyal few.”
But of what throne does he say this? Of one that was held by right, transmitted from Tantalus and Pelops. How much more, think you, must those words apply to that king who by the army of the Roman people subdued that very Roman people, and forced to servile obedience a state not only free, but ruling over whole races of men? What misgivings of conscience must he have had on his mind, think you? What inward wounds? Whose life can be serviceable to himself if he holds it on condition that whoever deprives him of it will rise to the summit of favor and glory? But if these things which seem in the highest degree expedient are yet inexpedient because full of disgrace and wickedness, we ought to be thoroughly convinced that there is nothing expedient that is not right.
22. This, while often indeed at other times, was expressly decreed by Caius Fabricius in his second consulate and by our Senate, in the war with Pyrrhus. For Pyrrhus having made war with the Roman people without provocation, and there being a contest for supremacy with that high-minded and powerful king, a deserter came from him to the camp of Fabricius, and promised that, if he would give him his price, as he had come secretly, so he would return secretly to the camp of Pyrrhus, and kill him by poison. Fabricius sent the man back to Pyrrhus, and that act of his was commended by the Senate. Yet if we look to the appearance and the popular opinion of expediency, a single deserter would have put an end to that great war and to a dangerous enemy of the empire. But it would have been a great disgrace and scandal for one with whom the contest was for glory to have been overcome by crime, not by valor. Which, then, was the more expedient, for Fabricius, who was in this city what Aristides was in Athens, or for the Senate, which never divorced expediency from honor, to contend with the enemy by arms, or by poison? If empire is to be sought for the sake of glory, let crime, in which there can be no glory, be excluded; but if power be sought by any means whatsoever, it can be of no service conjoined with infamy. Therefore the proposal of Lucius Philippus, the son of Quintus, was not expedient, namely, that the states which by a decree of the Senate Lucius Sulla, for money received from them,1 had freed from tribute should be taxed again, without our returning to them the money that they had paid for their exemption. The Senate assented to the proposal, to the disgrace of the empire. Pirates keep better faith. But it may be said that the revenues were increased, and it was therefore expedient. How long will men dare to call anything expedient that is not right? Can odium and infamy be of service to any empire, which ought to be supported by glory and by the good-will of its allies? I was often at variance even with my friend Cato. He seemed to me to guard the treasury and the revenues too obstinately, to refuse everything to the farmers of the revenue,1 and many things to our allies; while we ought to be generous to our allies, and to deal with the farmers of the revenue as leniently as we individually do with our own tenants, especially as the union of orders2 to which such a course would conduce is for the well-being of the state. Curio, too, was entirely in the wrong, when he said that the cause of the colonies north of the Po3 was just, but always added, “Let expediency prevail.” He should have said that it was not just because it was not expedient for the state, rather than have acknowledged it as just while saying that it was not expedient.
23. The Sixth Book of Hecato’s treatise on Duties is full of such questions as these. “Ought a good man in a time of extreme dearth to continue to furnish food to his slaves?” He discusses both sides of the question, yet at the last makes expediency rather than humanity the standard of duty. He asks, “If in a storm at sea something must be thrown overboard, shall it be a valuable horse, or a slave of no value?” In this case interest inclines in one direction, humanity in the other. “If in case of shipwreck a fool gets possession of a plank, shall a wise man wrest it from him if he can?” He answers in the negative, because it would be unjust. “What may the master of the ship do in such a case? May he not take possession of the plank as his own property?” Not by any means. He has no more right to do this than to throw a passenger from the ship into the sea because the ship is his own. Until it arrives at the port to which passage has been taken, the ship belongs not to the master, but to the passengers. “What if there be but one plank for two shipwrecked passengers, both wise men? Shall they both try to get possession of it, or shall one yield to the other?” One should give it up to the other; but let that other be the one whose life is the more valuable, either for his own sake or for that of the state. “What if their claims are equal?” There must be no quarrel between them, but one must yield to the other, as if he had come off second-best in drawing lots or at odd and even. “What if a father pillages temples, or makes an underground passage to the public treasury? Shall the son give information to the magistrates?” That indeed would be wrong. Nay, he may even defend his father if he should be publicly accused. “Does not then duty to the country take precedence of all other duties?” Yes, indeed; but it is for the welfare of the country to have citizens dutiful toward their parents. “What if the father should attempt to usurp supreme authority, or to betray the country? Shall the son keep silence?” Yes, but he will implore his father not to do so. If that is of no avail, he will take him earnestly to task; will even threaten him; yet at the last, if there is danger of great harm to the country, he will prefer the country’s safety to his father’s safety. He asks also, “If a wise man by an oversight takes counterfeit coins for good, when he ascertains what they are, shall he pay them for good money to his creditors?” Diogenes says, Yes; Antipater, No, and I agree with him. “Ought the seller of wine that he knows will not keep, to tell his purchasers?” Diogenes says that there is no need of it; Antipater thinks that a good man would tell. These questions are like mooted points of law, among the Stoics. “In selling a slave, are his faults to be told? Not such faults as, if not mentioned, would by the civil law throw the slave back upon the vender’s hands, but such as his being a liar, a gambler, thievish, a drunkard?” Antipater says that they are to be told; Diogenes, that they are not. “If any one selling gold thinks that it is brass that he is selling, will a good man tell him that it is gold, or will he buy for a shilling1 what is worth a thousand shillings?” It is plain enough by this time what I think of these things, and what a difference of opinion there is among the philosophers that I have named.2
24. It is asked whether agreements and promises are always to be kept, if made — to borrow the language of the praetorian edict — neither by force nor by criminal fraud. If one had given to a person a remedy for the dropsy, and had stipulated that he should never afterward use the medicine, — in case that person, having been cured by the medicine, were to contract the same disease some years afterward, and could not obtain from him with whom he had made the agreement leave to use the remedy again, what ought he to do? Since he who would refuse such a request would be inhuman, and no harm can be done to him by using the remedy, regard should be paid to life and health. What, if a wise man were asked by one who wants to make him his heir to the amount of a million of sesterces,1 to promise that before taking possession of his legacy he will dance in the forum publicly by daylight, and if without this promise the testator would not have given the legacy? Shall he keep his promise, or not? I should prefer that he had not made the promise, and this I think would have befitted his dignity. But since he has made the promise, if he thinks it disgraceful to dance in the forum, the least immoral falsehood of the two will be for him to break his promise and decline the legacy, unless, perchance, he can expend that money for the state in some great emergency of need, so that even dancing in the forum for the country’s benefit would not be disgraceful.
25. Nor yet are those promises to be kept which are not for the advantage of those to whom you have made them. To go back to myths, Phoebus having promised his son Phaethon that he would do whatever he wished, the son wished to be taken up into his father’s chariot. He was taken up, and before he was fairly seated, he was consumed by a thunderbolt. How much better would it have been if in this case the father’s promise had not been kept! What shall be said of the promise that Theseus exacted of Neptune? Neptune having promised to grant him three wishes, he asked for the death of his son Hippolytus, whom he suspected of intrigue with his stepmother; but when Theseus had obtained his wish he was plunged into the deepest sorrow.1 What shall we say of Agamemnon, who, having vowed to Diana the most beautiful creature that should be born that year in his kingdom, immolated Iphigenia, because no creature more beautiful was born that year in the kingdom? It would have been better not to keep the promise than to commit so foul a crime. Therefore promises are sometimes not to be kept, nor are deposits always to be returned. If one had deposited a sword with you when he was of sound mind, and were to ask for it in a fit of insanity, to restore it would be wrong; not to restore it, your duty. What if he who had deposited money with you were to levy war against the country? Should you deliver up the trust? I think not; for you would act against the state, which ought to be nearest to your affection. Thus many things which seem to be right by nature become wrong by circumstances. To keep promises, to abide by agreements, to restore trusts, by a change of expediency becomes wrong. I think that I have now said all that is necessary about those things that seem to be expedient under the pretext of prudence, yet are really opposed to justice.
But since in the First Book I derived duties from four sources of right, I will adopt the same division in showing how hostile to virtue are those things that seem to be expedient, yet are not so. I have already, indeed, treated of prudence which cunning would fain imitate, and of justice which is always expedient. There remain two divisions of the right, one of which is witnessed in the greatness and superiority of a lofty mind; the other, in the shaping and government of the life by self-restraint and temperance.
26. It seemed expedient to Ulysses,1 — as the story has come to us through some of the tragedians;2 Homer throws no such suspicion on him, but there are tragedies that charge him with having purposed to escape service in the war by feigning insanity. The purpose was not right. “Yet it was expedient,” some one perchance will say, “to reign in Ithaca, and to live at his ease with his parents, with his wife, with his son. Do you think any honor won in daily labors and perils to be compared with this quiet life?” I, indeed, think that this quiet life was to be despised and spurned; for the repose which was not right I cannot regard as expedient. What, think you, would Ulysses have heard, had he persevered in his pretended insanity? when, after his greatest achievements in the war, he hears from Ajax: —
It was, indeed, better for him to fight, not only with the enemy, but with the waves, as he did, than to desert Greece confederated with one mind to carry war into the country of the barbarians.2 But let us leave myths and foreign instances. Let us come to fact and to our own history. Marcus Atilius Regulus, when in his second consulship3 he was captured by troops in ambush under Xanthippus the Lacedaemonian, — Hamilcar, Hannibal’s father, being commander-in-chief, — was sent to the Senate under oath that, unless certain prisoners of high rank were restored to the Carthaginians, he would himself return to Carthage. He on his arrival at Rome saw the semblance of expediency — but, as fact shows, regarded it as delusive — to be in his own home, with his wife, with his children; to maintain unimpaired his consular dignity, regarding the calamity which he had incurred in battle as but a common incident in the fortunes of war. Who can deny that this was expedient? Who, think you? Magnanimity and Fortitude deny this.
27. Do you ask for better authorities? It is the property of these virtues to fear nothing, to despise all human vicissitudes, to think nothing that can happen to man intolerable. And so what did he do? He came to the Senate; he stated his mission; he refused to give his own vote in the case, because so long as he was bound by his oath to the enemy he was not a senator. He, however, denied the expediency of sending back the prisoners of war (“O foolish man,” some one may have said, “to contend against his own interest”); for the prisoners were young men and good leaders, while his vigor was already impaired by age. By virtue of his influence the prisoners were retained. He himself returned to Carthage, nor did his love for his country or his kindred retain him. Yet he then well knew that he was returning to an implacably cruel enemy and to excruciating punishment; but he considered his oath as binding. Thus when he was killed by being deprived of sleep1 he was in a better condition than if he had remained at home, a captive old man, a perjurer of consular dignity. “Yet he acted foolishly, in not only declining to vote in favor of sending the prisoners back, but in also giving his advice against their release.” How, foolishly? Did he act foolishly, if it was for the good of the state? Can what is harmful to the state be expedient for any citizen?
28. Men subvert the very foundations of nature when they separate expediency from the right. For we all seek what is expedient, and are drawn toward it, nor can we anyhow resist its attraction. Forsooth, who is there that shuns the things that are expedient? Or rather, who is there that does not pursue them with the utmost earnestness? But because we never can find what is expedient, save in good report, honor, right, we therefore esteem these first and highest; we regard expediency thus defined as not so much respectable as indispensable. “What is there in an oath?” some one may say. “Do we fear the anger of Jupiter? It is indeed an opinion common to all philosophers, not only to those who believe that the Deity neither does anything nor makes manifestation of himself to any other being,1 but equally to those who suppose him always active in the government and direction of events,2 that the Deity is never angry and never does harm. But what more harm could an angry Jupiter have done than Regulus did to himself? There was then no power of religion that could supersede expediency so weighty. Was his motive to avoid acting basely? In the first place, the least of evils are to be chosen. Was then the evil in the baseness of which you speak so great as that of the torture which he had to bear? Then again, this sentiment from Attius, —
although put into the mouth of an impious king, yet is admirably well said.” They add also that as we say that some things seem expedient that are not so, in like manner they say that some things seem right that are not so, — as, for instance, this very thing, returning to torture for the sake of preserving an oath inviolate seems right, yet becomes wrong, because a promise extorted by force ought not to be ratified. They still further say that whatever is highly expedient becomes right, even if it did not seem so before.
29. This is the substance of the case against Regulus. Let us now examine the first count. “He had no need to fear any harm from Jupiter’s anger; for Jupiter is not wont either to be angry or to do harm.” This argument is of no more force against Regulus than against any oath. But in an oath the point to be considered is not what it threatens, but what it means. For an oath is a religious affirmation. Therefore what you positively promise as in the presence of God ought to be performed. The question, then, no longer concerns the anger of the gods (for there is no such thing), but it is a question of honesty and good faith. Ennius well says: —
“Oh genial, bright-winged Faith, and oath of Jove!”
He, then, who profanes an oath, profanes Faith, whom — as it is said in Cato’s speech — our ancestors chose to have in the Capitol,1 hard by the shrine of Jupiter Best and Greatest. “Then, too, Jupiter, if he had been angry, could not have done more harm to Regulus than Regulus did to himself.” Undoubtedly, if pain were the only evil. But philosophers of the highest authority affirm, not only that pain is not the greatest evil, but that it is not even an evil. For the truth of this do not, I beg you, cast reproach on the testimony of Regulus, a witness not of moderate, but, so far as I know, of the very highest credibility; for what more trustworthy witness can you ask than the chief man of the Roman people, who of his own accord endured torture that he might keep duty inviolate? Then, as to what they say about “the least of evils,” — namely, that meanness is to be preferred to calamity, — is there any evil greater than meanness? If such meanness as there is in the case of bodily deformity has in it something offensive, in what vile esteem ought the depravation and foulness of soul to be held! Therefore those who take the strongest ground on these matters dare to affirm that meanness of soul is the only evil; those who speak with more laxity do not hesitate to call it the greatest of evils. As to the saying,
“I neither gave nor give faith to the faithless,”
the poet had a right to say this; for in bringing Atreus upon the stage, he had to support the character. But if those who are reasoning against Regulus assume that the faith pledged to a faithless person is null, let them look to it lest there be found here a subterfuge for perjury. Even belligerents have rights, and an oath is often to be kept sacred with an enemy. For what was so sworn that the mind of him who took the oath at the time confessed the obligation, ought to be fulfilled; what was not so sworn may be left unfulfilled without perjury.1 Thus you would not pay robbers a price that you had agreed to pay for your life; it is no wrong if you fail to do this after having promised with an oath. For a robber2 is not included in the list of belligerents, but is the common enemy of all. Between him and other men there ought to be neither mutual confidence nor binding oath. For it is not simply swearing what is false that constitutes perjury; but it is perjury not to perform what you have sworn, as it is expressed in our legal form, in the purpose of your own mind. Euripides makes a proper distinction when he says: —
“I swore in words; my mind I keep unsworn.”3
But Regulus was bound in duty not to violate conditions and agreements made in war and with an enemy; for his concern was with a rightful and legitimate enemy, and as to such enemies our whole fecial law and many mutual rights were valid between them and us. If it were not so, the Senate would never have surrendered to enemies men of renown as prisoners.
30. This they did in the case of Titus Veturius and Spurius Postumius, who, in their second consulship, after the defeat at Caudium when our soldiers passed under the yoke, having concluded a peace with the Samnites without the consent of the people and the Senate,1 were delivered up to the Samnites. At the same time Tiberius Numicius and Quintus Maelius, then tribunes of the people, because the peace had been concluded by their authority, were also surrendered, to consummate the repudiation of the treaty with the Samnites. Moreover, Postumius himself, who was among those surrendered, advised and supported the measure. Many years afterward the same thing was done by Caius Mancinus, who, having made a treaty with the Numantians without authority from the Senate, was surrendered to them, he himself advising the passage by the people of the decree to that effect, reported from the Senate by Publius Furius and Sextus Atilius. He acted more honorably than Quintus Pompeius, who when he was in the same case begged to be let off, and the decree of surrender was not passed. Here what seemed expedient preponderated over the right; in the former instances the false show of expediency was outweighed by the authority of the right. “But a promise exacted by force ought not to be performed.” As if force could be brought to bear upon a brave man. “Still, why did he go to the Senate for the special purpose of dissuading them from surrendering the prisoners?” In asking this question, you cast reproach on what was greatest in Regulus. For he did not make himself judge in his own case; he undertook the management of the case that the Senate might decide upon it, and unless he had led the way to the decision by his authority, the prisoners would have been returned. Thus Regulus would have remained safe in his own country. Because he thought that this was not expedient for the country, he believed it right for himself to express his opinion and to suffer. Still further, as to their saying that whatever is highly expedient becomes right, the truth is that it is right, not that it becomes right. For nothing is expedient which is not also right, nor is anything right because it is expedient, but expedient because it is right. Therefore from many remarkable examples it would be difficult to name one more praiseworthy or illustrious than this.
31. Of all that is thus praiseworthy in the conduct of Regulus the one thing specially worthy of admiration is that he gave his advice in favor of retaining the prisoners. That, having thus advised, he returned, now seems to us admirable; in those times he could not have done otherwise. This merit therefore belongs to the times, not to the man; for our ancestors considered no bond more stringent than an oath in securing good faith. This is declared by the Sacred Laws;1 it is declared by treaties in which good faith even with an enemy is made binding; it is declared by the examinations and sentences of the censors, who used to take no more diligent cognizance of any other subject than they took of oaths. Marcus Pomponius, tribune of the people, gave notice of an impeachment to Lucius Manlius, son of Aulus, after his dictatorship, because he had illegally added a few days to the term of his dictatorship. He also reproached him with having banished his son Titus from society and ordered him to live in the country. When the young man, the son of Manlius, heard that legal proceedings were instituted against his father, he is said to have hastened to Rome, and to have come to the house of Pomponius at early dawn. On his being announced, Pomponius, supposing that he had come in anger to bring some charge against his father, rose from his bed, and suffering none others to be present, gave orders for the young man to come to him. He, on entering, at once drew his sword, and swore that he would kill Pomponius instantly unless he gave his oath to drop the prosecution. Pomponius, constrained by imminent peril, took the oath; did not lay the accusation before the people; told why he had been compelled to drop the case; discharged Manlius. Such was the importance attached to an oath in those times. This Titus Manlius is the one who obtained his surname1 near the Anio from a collar taken from a Gaul who had challenged him and was killed by him, in whose third consulship the Latin army was scattered and put to flight near the Veseris, — a very distinguished man, as bitterly severe toward his son2 as he had been excessively kind to his father.
32. But as Regulus merits renown for keeping his oath inviolate, so are those ten whom, after the battle of Cannae, Hannibal sent to the Senate under oath that they would return to the camp that had fallen into the possession of the Carthaginians, unless they obtained the redemption of the prisoners of war, to be held in the vilest esteem, if they really did not return. As to these men accounts vary.1 Polybius, a fully trustworthy authority, says that of ten men of the highest rank who were sent, nine returned, not having obtained from the Senate the release of the prisoners, but that one who had gone back to the camp shortly after leaving it on the pretence of having forgotten something, remained in Rome. By his return to the camp he maintained that he was acquitted of his oath; but wrongly, for deceit aggravates perjury instead of annulling it. This was, then, a foolish cunning perversely assuming the aspect of prudence. The Senate, therefore, decreed that the rogue and cheat should be sent in chains to Hannibal. But there was something still greater on the part of the Roman people. Hannibal held as prisoners eight thousand men, who had not been taken in battle or escaped when in peril of death, but who had been left in camp by Paulus and Varro. The Senate refused to have them redeemed, though it might have been done for a small sum of money, that it might be ingrafted in the minds of our soldiers that they must either conquer or die. Polybius writes that when Hannibal heard this his spirit was broken, because the Senate and the Roman people had borne their reverses with so lofty a mind. Thus does what seems expedient sink out of account when brought into comparison with the right. I ought to add that Acilius, who wrote a history in Greek, says that there were several who returned to the camp to free themselves from their oath by the same equivocation, and that they were branded with every token of ignominy by the censors. We may close this head; for it is perfectly clear that whatever is done with a timid, sordid, abject mind — such as the action of Regulus would have been, had he either given his opinion concerning the prisoners in his own interest and not in that of the state, or consented to remain at home — is not expedient, because it is infamous, foul, base.
33. There remains the fourth division, comprehending becomingness, moderation, discretion, self-restraint, temperance. Can anything be expedient which is opposed to this choir1 of such virtues? However, those of the Cyrenaic school2 and the disciples of Anniceris,3 philosophers only in name, followed Aristippus in making all good to consist in pleasure, and regarded virtue as commendable only in its pleasure-giving capacity. They having passed almost out of notice, Epicurus holds his ground as an advocate and teacher of nearly the same doctrine. With these I must contend, as the phrase is, with infantry and cavalry,4 if I mean to guard and maintain the right. For if not only expediency but everything appertaining to a happy life consists in a strong constitution of body and in a reasonable expectation of preserving that constitution, as Metrodorus1 writes, certainly this expediency — the highest expediency in the opinion of those who thus reason — will be in conflict with the right. For where, in the first place, shall room be found for prudence? In raking together from every quarter objects to delight the senses? How wretched this slavery of virtue in bondage to pleasure! What, then, is the function of prudence? To choose pleasures intelligently? Grant that nothing can be more delightful than this, what can be imagined meaner? Then, again, what room is there for fortitude, which is the contempt of pain and labor, with him who calls pain the greatest of evils? For although Epicurus may in many places, as he does, speak bravely enough about pain, we are to look, not at what he says, but at what it is consistent for him to say, who acknowledged no good except pleasure, no evil except pain. Thus also, if I listen to him about self-restraint and temperance, he says indeed much in many places; but, as the phrase is, the water does not run.1 For how can he commend temperance, who places the greatest good in pleasure? Temperance is inimical to the sensual appetites; but those appetites are the handmaids of pleasure. Yet as to these three virtues they shift and turn as they can, and with no little ingenuity. They bring in prudence as knowledge employed to supply pleasures, to drive away pain. They also explain fortitude after some fashion, calling it the method of taking no account of death and putting up with pain. Temperance, too, they drag in, not very easily indeed, but as well as they can, saying that the highest pleasure amounts to no more than the absence of pain. Justice totters, or rather lies prostrate, and so do all those virtues which belong to social life and the fellowship of the human race. Nor can there be goodness, or generosity, or courtesy, any more than friendship, if they are not to be sought on their own account, but only with reference to pleasure. To sum up the whole in brief, as I have maintained that there is no expediency which is opposed to the right, so I affirm that all sensual pleasure is opposed to the right. All the more do I find fault with Calliphon and Dinomachus,2 who thought that they were going to put an end to the controversy by uniting pleasure with the right, as they might yoke a beast with a man. The right does not accept this union, spurns it, repels it. Nor can the supreme good, which ought to be simple, be mingled and compounded of widely unlike ingredients. But of this — for it is a great theme — I treat more at length elsewhere.1 As to the subject now in hand, I have sufficiently shown how the matter is to be decided, if at any time what seems to be expedient is repugnant to the right. But if sensual pleasure shall be said even to have the appearance of expediency, it cannot have any union with the right. To make such concession as we can in favor of pleasure, the most that we can say of it is that it may perhaps give some seasoning to life; it certainly is of no benefit.
You have from your father, my son Marcus, a gift, in my opinion, great; but that will be according to the use that you make of it. Although you are to take in these three books as guests among the lectures of Cratippus, yet as if, in case I had come to Athens — which I should indeed have done had not the country with a loud voice recalled me midway — you would sometimes have listened to me as well as to Cratippus, so since my voice reaches you by means of these volumes, you will give them as much time as you can, and you can give them as much time as you please. When I shall have become fully aware that you take pleasure in science of this type, while I shall, as I hope, at no great distance of time, talk with you face to face, I shall none the less, while we are apart, converse with you though absent from you. Farewell, then, my Cicero, and believe that you are very dear to me, and will be much more dear if you shall find your happiness in writings like these and in such precepts as they contain.
[1 ]About ten years younger.
[2 ]Latin, otio de negotiis = nec-otiis.
[3 ]Latin, in solitudine secum loqui solitum.
[4 ]Latin, interdum, literally, betweenwhile.
[1 ]Antony had surrounded the Senate in its sessions with armed followers of his, and of course the purpose, as well as the effect of so doing, was to repress freedom of utterance.
[2 ]Brutus and Cassius, both praetors, could not safely remain in or return to the city, and as they were legally at the head of the judiciary, the courts were suspended.
[3 ]Latin, otium. Repose would be a better rendering, were it not that we should lose Cicero’s play upon otium, which is broad enough in its meaning to apply to the repose of the state from the plots of conspirators no less than to the rest of a worker from his labor.
[1 ]Almost all Cicero’s philosophical and rhetorical works were written in the last three or four years of his life.
[1 ]Young Cicero’s annual allowance would amount in our money to a little more than four thousand dollars.
[1 ]The most admired of all the pictures of Apelles. He completed one picture of Venus Anadyomene (or rising out of the sea) for the temple of Aesculapius at Cos, which was afterward placed by Augustus in the temple which he built to Julius Caesar. This was injured, and no one dared to repair it. The painter commenced another picture of Venus, for the Coans, intending to surpass the previous one, but died before it was completed, and it remained unfinished. It is probably to this that Cicero refers.
[1 ]Latin, media, which, literally translated, conveys no meaning. Contingent expresses, perhaps, as well as any single word the Stoic conception of the ordinary duties performed by persons not philosophers. The truly wise or ideal man (for the extreme Stoics denied that he had ever existed) discerned the absolute right in its very essence, by direct intuition. Other men performed duties, not because they were intrinsically right, but because each specific act of duty had for them its rule or law in external circumstances.
[2 ]Most commentators say that the allusion here is to the rhythmical movements in dancing and gymnastic exercises, in which he who was perfect was said to have or to keep all the numbers. It seems to me more probable that Cicero refers to the Pythagorean doctrine of numbers, specific numbers denoting perfection of specific kinds, and “all the numbers” designating absolute perfection.
[1 ]The seven sages of Greece, — Bias, Chilo, Cleobulus, Pittacus, Periander, Solon, and Thales.
[2 ]There is a striking analogy between the ideal man of the Stoics whom man never saw, and the Christian ideal of humanity but once realized in human form, and with reference to which as incarnate the best Christians hold the same position that was held by the warriors, patriots, and sages here named with reference to the Stoic ideal.
[1 ]The reference here is, obviously, to the friendly relation in which Brutus stood to Caesar.
[2 ]Latin, formula.
[1 ]This is the general rule, or formula, referred to in § 4. It embraces all forms of wrong-doing from man to man, and thus extends to all offences under the second and third of Cicero’s divisions of duty, but would not include sins under the first and fourth.
[1 ]We, i. e. the Roman people. Cicero evidently has the death of Caesar in his mind.
[1 ]Axioms, which in their very nature do not admit of proof.
[1 ]Latin, sed, ut dicitur, Marte nostro, literally, “But, as the saying is, by my own Mars,” i. e. fighting my own battle, depending on myself alone.
[2 ]This was undoubtedly intended as a syllogism, — a favorite mode of statement or argument among the Stoics. It would admit of several logical forms, among others, of the following: —
[1 ]Another syllogism, in Barbara: —
[1 ]Herodotus makes Gyges, not a shepherd, but the prime minister of Candaules, King of Lydia, and writes that he killed Candaules and succeeded to the kingdom by the queen’s connivance and aid. The story of the ring Plato quotes as a tradition, and makes the same use of it in the Second Book of the Republic that Cicero makes of it here.
[1 ]Whether he be god or man. Romulus was deified and worshipped under the name of Quirinus.
[2 ]A Stoic, and the most logical interpreter of the doctrines of the Stoic school.
[1 ]A verse from an unknown poet.
[2 ]Valerius Maximus writes this name Pythias.
[1 ]This, if authentic, must have taken place in the fifth century before the Christian era. It is mentioned in no extant work of any Greek historian. It is related by Aelian, who, indeed, wrote in Greek, but was an Italian, lived as late as the reign of Hadrian, and embodied in his work floating traditions with authentic history.
[1 ]Both of these men, in their respective tribunates, procured the passage of laws by which foreigners, temporarily resident in Rome, were compelled to leave the city.
[1 ]After Pompey had suppressed piracy, the Cilician pirates whom he had subdued were formed into a flourishing colony, and subsequently entered into friendly and helpful relations with Antony.
[2 ]The people of Marseilles, king Deiotarus, and, in fine, all the allies that had adhered to the Pompeian faction, were burdened with heavy tribute under Caesar’s government.
[1 ]Diogenes was one of the three philosophers sent on an embassy from Athens to Rome (b. c. 155), to deprecate the payment of a heavy fine imposed on the Athenians. Aulus Gellius characterizes his eloquence as moderate and sober (modesta et sobria).
[1 ]Little is known of Antipater, and of his works nothing remains; but from the incidental notices of his character and opinions, and of the reverence in which he and his memory were held, we have reason to believe that his opinions both in ethics and in theology were in advance of his age. He was the teacher of Panaetius.
[1 ]Latin, vitiorum nomina, literally, names of vices.
[1 ]Caius Aquillius Gallus was Cicero’s colleague in the praetorship, and as the head of the judiciary introduced into his official edict, and thus into the body of the Roman law, important improvements in the legal remedies against criminal fraud (dolus malus).
[2 ]This law (b. c. 192) first discriminated between minors (minores) under twenty-five years and those of age (majores). By this law fraud on minors was punished by a heavy fine and public infamy. It provided also that contracts with minors should be voidable, unless made with the consent of a guardian appointed by the praetor.
[1 ]The text is slightly ambiguous, at least to a modern translator. Some commentators render the sentence as referring to decisions as to contracts in which the words ex fide bona are used; others, as referring to decisions in which these words are employed.
[2 ]Melius aequius, prescribing, as I understand, a leaning in the wife’s favor in any questions about the dowry to be restored in case of the wife’s death, or, in that age more frequently, in case of her divorce.
[3 ]Inter bonos bene agier, in the case of property conveyed to a trustee on condition of its being restored, — a condition sometimes to be inferred from the circumstances under which the conveyance was made rather than from the express terms of the contract.
[1 ]Sestertii, or one hundred sestertia, equivalent to between four and five thousand dollars of our money.
[1 ]This statement refers not to praetorian edicts or to judicial decisions, but to the interpretation of the statute by men learned in the law.
[2 ]The augurs faced the east in taking their observations, so that a high house on the Coelian hill might obstruct their view, all the more so, if one of the augurs had any private grudge against the owner of the house.
[1 ]Cicero here means to say: “Cases of this kind are comparatively recent. The records of the earlier and better times contain no such instances of chicanery.”
[1 ]These were forms used in deeds of trust.
[1 ]The regulation of the markets was among the functions of the aediles.
[2 ]One who had just come into an inheritance of human chattels could not be expected to know their characters and habits.
[1 ]Hortensius. As rival orators, cicero and Hortensius might have been on other than friendly terms, had they not both been intimate friends of Atticus.
[1 ]Cicero charged Crassus with complicity in Catiline’s conspiracy, and Crassus was a friend of Clodius, Cicero’s bitterest enemy. After Cicero’s return from exile, Crassus sought a formal reconciliation with Cicero, and there was no subsequent manifestation of hostility on his part.
[2 ]It was shameful, as Cicero could not but think, that states whose citizens nominally enjoyed the rights of Roman citizenship should need official patrons, and equally so, in his esteem, that those patrons should be, like Satrius, selected from among Antony’s adherents and satellites.
[3 ]It is a singular feature of Roman society in and after Cicero’s time that the legacy-hunters (heredipetae) should have been numerous enough and should have found dupes enough to form a distinct class, and almost a recognized profession.
[1 ]See Book I. § 7.
[1 ]Of a man of the world, not of a philosopher.
[2 ]Latin, mices. Micare, or micare digitis (to flash with the fingers), denotes the game of mora, which is still a favorite recreation, or rather mode of gambling, with the Roman populace, and may be often seen in the streets. Story, in his Roba di Roma, describes it as follows: “Two persons place themselves opposite each other, holding their right hands closed before them. They then simultaneously and with a sudden gesture throw out their hands, some of the fingers being extended, and others shut up on the palm, — each calling out in a loud voice, at the same moment, the number he guesses the fingers extended by himself and his adversary to make. If neither cry out aright, or if both cry out aright, nothing is gained or lost; but if only one guess the true number, he wins a point.”
[1 ]The relation of a legatus, or lieutenant, to his commander was, in Roman ethics, not unlike that of a son to his father, so that Marius in his conduct toward Metellus might have been pronounced impius.
[2 ]Marcus Marius Gratidianus, son of an adopted son of the brother of Caius Marius.
[1 ]He never obtained the consulship; but the very popularity won by his agency in settling the fluctuating currency was in Sulla’s eyes a crime which made him one of the dictator’s earliest victims.
[2 ]Latin, explica atque excute, literally, unfold and shake out.
[1 ]Pompey married Caesar’s daughter, and hoped to gain ascendency by throwing upon Caesar the unpopularity of whatever was offensive in the measures of the triumvirate.
[2 ]Words put into the mouth of Eteocles when, having agreed to hold the sovereignty of Thebes with his brother on alternate years, he refused to resign the throne at the end of the first year.
[1 ]The term parricide (parricidium) was always employed with reference to heinous crimes against the country (patria) as well as to the murder of a father.
[1 ]Probably some of the petty states that had been obtained by the conquest of Mithridates, and to which Sulla had sold this exemption for the money needed to pay his army.
[1 ]They were sometimes in the position of rural tenants when the crops failed. There were times when the under-farmers (portitores) could not make their collections of taxes in full and in due season; but Cato was in favor of the most rigid treatment of the farmers-general (publicani), however they might fare with their subordinates.
[2 ]The farmers of the revenue were of equestrian rank, and it was deemed desirable that the equites should be on good terms with the Senate.
[3 ]They had claimed the full rights of citizenship in common with the colonies south of the Po, — a claim which Caesar granted.
[1 ]Latin, denarius. The denarius was about equivalent to our New England shilling.
[2 ]Though Cicero seems to have thought rightly on these questions, the very fact that they could be mooted among members of the school of philosophy most noted for its high ethical standard, gives us a not very favorable impression of pre-Christian ethics; and the contrast between these Stoics and certain of the post-Christian, though non-Christian moralists, gives color to the belief that Christianity had somehow penetrated where it was not recognized.
[1 ]Nearly half a million of our money.
[1 ]In Book I. § 10, this example is used to substantially the same purpose, — the object there being to show, under the head of justice, that the literal keeping of a promise may, under some peculiar stress of circumstances, be virtually wrong; while here the proposition is that the intense stress of expediency may make that right which has the prima facie aspect of wrong.
[1 ]I leave the ellipsis as it stands in the original.
[2 ]Notably, Euripides and Sophocles, as also some of the Roman tragedians. The story is that he, as one of Helen’s suitors, was the first to propose the oath by which they bound themselves, in case the marital rights of the successful suitor should be invaded, to join in defending or avenging him. But when he was called upon to fulfil his part of the covenant, he feigned insanity, yoked an ox and an ass together, ploughed a field with them, and sowed it with salt. Palamedes took Telemachus, and placed him where his father’s plough would go over him, and Ulysses, by stopping his plough so as to avoid doing harm to the child, showed that he was not demented, and was thus compelled to keep his agreement and to bear his illustrious part in the Trojan war.
[1 ]These verses are from the Armorum Judicium of Pacuvius.
[2 ]The Greeks called all except themselves barbarians.
[3 ]He was proconsul in Africa, his second consulship having expired the previous year.
[1 ]Accounts as to the death of Regulus vary, — some saying that he was put into a chest studded in the inside with nails; others, that his eyebrows were cut off, and his face then exposed to the full glare of an African sun; while it would seem that Cicero had a still different account, that he died from enforced wakefulness. Niebuhr sees no reason to suppose that he was tortured or killed, indeed, has very little faith in any part of his story, and it is maintained by some of the writers of his school that the report of his being so tortured was circulated in Rome to excuse the cruelties perpetrated by the family of Regulus on Carthaginian captives committed to their charge.
[1 ]The Epicureans.
[2 ]The Stoics.
[3 ]This is from the Atreus of Attius. Thyestes asks Atreus, Fregistin fidem? and Atreus replies that he denies the obligation of keeping good faith with treacherous men.
[1 ]Numa was said to have built a temple to Fides on the Capitoline Hill.
[1 ]The most patent sophistry. If the sincerity with which an oath is taken be the sole ground of its sacredness, free license is opened for unnumbered forms of perjury, — certainly for the proverbially untrustworthy custom-house oaths, than which the civilization of our time has had no fouler opprobrium.
[2 ]Latin, pirata, which commonly means a robber by sea, yet is sometimes used, as here, in the same sense with praedo, a robber by land.
[3 ]From the Hippolytus. Unfortunately for Cicero’s use of these words, which Euripides puts into the mouth of Hippolytus, the oath is regarded as sacred. He had sworn that he would not divulge Phaedra’s guilty secret to his father, and in the scene from which this verse is taken he says that but for the oath into which he had been entrapped unawares, nothing could have prevented him from telling his father the whole truth.
[1 ]The commanders, even were they the consuls, could not lawfully make a treaty. The most that they had a right to do was to make a truce or an armistice, or to name terms of peace to be ratified by the Senate and people. The principle thus recognized is so obvious that if war be not, in Cicero’s phrase, “opposed to nature,” it might seem to belong to the law of nature no less than to the law of nations.
[1 ]Latin, leges sacratae. They were, probably, laws for the violation of which the criminal and his property were nominally consecrated to some god, i. e. he execrated and his property confiscated, — laws which had in Cicero’s time become obsolete, as had the strict exercise of the censorial animadversion in the case of perjury. Of this class were the laws passed on Mons Sacer on the occasion of the first secession of the plebeians from Rome. Some commentators say that these laws were the only ones known as leges sacratae. Yet another opinion is that the leges sacratae corresponded to the canon law of Christendom, — that there were certain offences, perjury among the nest, the legal eognizance of which belonged to the priests.
[2 ]Shortly before this very battle of Veseris the consuls gave orders that no Roman should engage in single combat with any soldier of the opposing army. The son of Torquatus, driven almost to madness by the taunts and insults of a Tuscan soldier, accepted his challenge, killed him, and brought the trophies of the successful conflict to his father, who immediately ordered the youth to be beheaded.
[1 ]This story, it will be remembered, is told in a slightly different form in Book I. § 13. The passage in which that version of it occurs is wanting in some manuscripts, and omitted in some editions; but the critical evidence is in its favor. It is appropriately told in each connection, and Cicero is never unwilling to tell the same story twice, if it will in each instance serve the purpose in hand. There seems to have been about the Punic wars, as about many passages of Roman history, a strange mingling of authentic narrative and popular tradition, so that of events that undoubtedly took place there are often several versions. The science of historical criticism had not been even conceived of, and we find that writers, Plutarch included, always select the version of a story that will best point a moral or illustrate a character.
[1 ]This figure is used in another instance by Cicero, in the Tusculanae Disputationes, Book V. It is also used once in the New Testament, where our English version gives no intimation of it, in 2 Peter i. 5. “With all diligence bring up and lead on in the choir [or dance] (ἐπιχορηγήσατε) on [or next to] faith, virtue,” &c.
[2 ]The Cyrenaic school was founded by Aristippus. See Book I. § 41, note.
[3 ]Anniceris is regarded as having been of the Cyrenaic school, and differed from Aristippus chiefly in admitting that the social virtues are good in themselves, yet good because, though they sometimes give trouble, their pleasure-yielding capacity transcends the labor, inconvenience, and sorrow that may incidentally result from them.
[4 ]Latin, viris equisque, literally, with men and horses, i. e. in full military array, with all the strength that I can muster, with might and main.
[1 ]The disciple, inseparable companion, and intimate friend of Epicurus, and his destined successor, though Epicurus outlived him by seven years. He gave his master’s philosophy its fullest development in the direction of sensuality, expressly and seriously maintaining that the organs of digestion furnish the true test and measure for everything appertaining to a happy life.
[1 ]A figure derived from a watercourse whose flow is obstructed. The idea is: What he says about these virtues does not flow easily, as if he were sincere and thoroughly in earnest.
[2 ]Their doctrine was that for man pleasure and virtue are both ends of being, — pleasure by nature and from the beginning, virtue after experience of the good that there is in it.
[1 ]In the Second Book of De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum.