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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



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Cicero, On The Nature Of The Gods, 1.7


nanBut if any one should ask what has induced me, in the decline of life, to write on these subjects, nothing is more easily answered; for when I found myself entirely disengaged from business, and the commonwealth reduced to the necessity of being governed by the direction and care of one man, I thought it becoming, for the sake of the public, to instruct my countrymen in philosophy, and that it would be of importance, and much to the honor and commendation of our city, to have such great and excellent subjects introduced in the Latin tongue. I the less repent of my undertaking, since I plainly see that I have excited in many a desire, not only of learning, but of writing; for we have had several Romans well grounded in the learning of the Greeks who were unable to communicate to their countrymen what they had learned, because they looked upon it as impossible to express that in Latin which they had received from the Greeks. In this point I think I have succeeded so well that what I have done is not, even in copiousness of expression, inferior to that language. Another inducement to it was a melancholy disposition of mind, and the great and heavy oppression of fortune that was upon me; from which, if I could have found any surer remedy, I would not have sought relief in this pursuit. But I could procure ease by no means better than by not only applying myself to books, but by devoting myself to the examination of the whole body of philosophy. And every part and branch of this is readily discovered when every question is propounded in writing; for there is such an admirable continuation and series of things that each seems connected with the other, and all appear linked together and united.


nanMoreover, if it be true that all the doctrines of philosophy have a practical bearing, I may claim that in my public and private conduct alike I have practised the precepts taught by reason and by theory. If again anyone asks what motive has induced me so late in the day to commit these precepts to writing, there is nothing that I can explain more easily. I was languishing in idle retirement, and the state of public affairs was such that an autocratic form of government had become inevitable. In these circumstances, in the first place I thought that to expound philosophy to my fellow-countrymen was actually my duty in the interests of the commonwealth, since in my judgement it would greatly contribute to the honour and glory of the state to have thoughts so important and so lofty enshrined in Latin literature also;


Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

4 results
1. Cicero, Academica, 2.148 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

2. Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, 1.1-1.4, 1.6, 1.10-1.14, 2.5 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.1. There are a number of branches of philosophy that have not as yet been by any means adequately explored; but the inquiry into the nature of the gods, which is both highly interesting in relation to the theory of the soul, and fundamentally important for the regulation of religion, is one of special difficulty and obscurity, as you, Brutus, are well aware. The multiplicity and variety of the opinions held upon this subject by eminent scholars are bound to constitute a strong argument for the view that philosophy has its origin and starting-point in ignorance, and that the Academic School were well-advised in "withholding assent" from beliefs that are uncertain: for what is more unbecoming than ill‑considered haste? and what is so ill‑considered or so unworthy of the dignity and seriousness proper to a philosopher as to hold an opinion that is not true, or to maintain with unhesitating certainty a proposition not based on adequate examination, comprehension and knowledge? 1.2. As regards the present subject, for example, most thinkers have affirmed that the gods exist, and this is the most probable view and the one to which we are all led by nature's guidance; but Protagoras declared himself uncertain, and Diagoras of Melos and Theodorus of Cyrene held that there are no gods at all. Moreover, the upholders of the divine existence differ and disagree so widely, that it would be a troublesome task to recount their opinions. Many views are put forward about the outward form of the gods, their dwelling-places and abodes, and mode of life, and these topics are debated with the widest variety of opinion among philosophers; but as to the question upon which the whole issue of the dispute principally turns, whether the gods are entirely idle and inactive, taking no part at all in the direction and government of the world, or whether on the contrary all things both were created and ordered by them in the beginning and are controlled and kept in motion by them throughout eternity, here there is the greatest disagreement of all. And until this issue is decided, mankind must continue to labour under the profoundest uncertainty, and to be in ignorance about matters of the highest moment. 1.3. For there are and have been philosophers who hold that the gods exercise no control over human affairs whatever. But if their opinion is the true one, how can piety, reverence or religion exist? For all these are tributes which it is our duty to render in purity and holiness to the divine powers solely on the assumption that they take notice of them, and that some service has been rendered by the immortal gods to the race of men. But if on the contrary the gods have neither the power nor the will to aid us, if they pay no heed to us at all and take no notice of our actions, if they can exercise no possible influence upon the life of men, what ground have we for rendering any sort of worship, honour or prayer to the immortal gods? Piety however, like the rest of the virtues, cannot exist in mere outward show and pretence; and, with piety, reverence and religion must likewise disappear. And when these are gone, life soon becomes a welter of disorder and confusion; 1.4. and in all probability the disappearance of piety towards the gods will entail the disappearance of loyalty and social union among men as well, and of justice itself, the queen of all the virtues. There are however other philosophers, and those of eminence and note, who believe that the whole world is ruled and governed by divine intelligence and reason; and not this only, but also that the gods' providence watches over the life of men; for they think that the cornº and other fruits of the earth, and also the weather and the seasons and the changes of the atmosphere by which all the products of the soil are ripened and matured, are the gift of the immortal gods to the human race; and they adduce a number of things, which will be recounted in the books that compose the present treatise, that are of such a nature as almost to appear to have been expressly constructed by the immortal gods for the use of man. This view was controverted at great length by Carneades, in such a manner as to arouse in persons of active mind a keen desire to discover the truth. 1.6. I observe however that a great deal of talk has been current about the large number of books that I have produced within a short space of time, and that such comment has not been all of one kind; some people have been curious as to the cause of this sudden outburst of philosophical interest on my part, while others have been eager to learn what positive opinions I hold on the various questions. Many also, as I have noticed, are surprised at my choosing to espouse a philosophy that in their view robs the world of daylight and floods it with a darkness as of night; and they wonder at my coming forward so unexpectedly as the champion of a derelict system and one that has long been given up. As a matter of fact however I am no new convert to the study of philosophy. From my earliest youth I have devoted no small amount of time and energy to it, and I pursued it most keenly at the very periods when I least appeared to be doing so, witness the philosophical maxims of which my speeches are full, and my intimacy with the learned men who have always graced my household, as well as those eminent professors, Diodotus, Philo, Antiochus and Posidonius, who were my instructors. 1.10. Those however who seek to learn my personal opinion on the various questions show an unreasonable degree of curiosity. In discussion it is not so much weight of authority as force of argument that should be demanded. Indeed the authority of those who profess to teach is often a positive hindrance to those who desire to learn; they cease to employ their own judgement, and take what they perceive to be the verdict of their chosen master as settling the question. In fact I am not disposed to approve the practice traditionally ascribed to the Pythagoreans, who, when questioned as to the grounds of any assertion that they advanced in debate, are said to have been accustomed to reply 'He himself said so,' 'he himself' being Pythagoras. So potent was an opinion already decided, making authority prevail unsupported by reason. 1.11. To those again who are surprised at my choice of a system to which to give my allegiance, I think that a sufficient answer has been given in the four books of my Academica. Nor is it the case that I have come forward as the champion of a lost cause and of a position now abandoned. When men die, their doctrines do not perish with them, though perhaps they suffer from the loss of their authoritative exponent. Take for example the philosophical method referred to, that of a purely negative dialectic which refrains from pronouncing any positive judgement. This, after being originated by Socrates, revived by Arcesilas, and reinforced by Carneades, has flourished right down to our own period; though I understand that in Greece itself it is now almost bereft of adherents. But this I ascribe not to the fault of the Academy but to the dullness of mankind. If it is a considerable matter to understand any one of the systems of philosophy singly, how much harder is it to master them all! Yet this is the task that confronts those whose principle is to discover the truth by the method of arguing both for and against all the schools. 1.12. In an undertaking so extensive and so arduous, I do not profess to have attained success, though I do claim to have attempted it. At the same time it would be impossible for the adherents of this method to dispense altogether with any standard of guidance. This matter it is true I have discussed elsewhere more thoroughly; but some people are so dull and slow of apprehension that they appear to require repeated explanations. Our position is not that we hold that nothing is true, but that we assert that all true sensations are associated with false ones so closely resembling them that they contain no infallible mark to guide our judgement and assent. From this followed the corollary, that many sensations are probable, that is, though not amounting to a full perception they are yet possessed of a certain distinctness and clearness, and so can serve to direct the conduct of the wise man. 1.13. However, to free myself entirely from ill‑disposed criticism, I will now lay before my readers the doctrines of the various schools on the nature of the gods. This is a topic on which it seems proper to summon all the world to sit in judgement and pronounce which of these doctrines is the true one. If it turn out that all the schools agree, or if any one philosopher be found who had discovered the truth, then but not before I will convict the Academy of captiousness. This being so, I feel disposed to cry, in the words of the Young Comrades: O ye gods and O ye mortals, townsmen, gownsmen, hear my call; I invoke, implore, adjure ye, bear ye witness one and all — not about some frivolous trifle such as that of which a character in the play complains — . . . here's a monstrous crime and outrage in the land; Here's a lady who declines a guinea from a lover's hand! 1.14. but to attend in court, try the case, and deliver their verdict as to what opinions we are to hold about religion, piety and holiness, about ritual, about honour and loyalty to oaths, about temples, shrines and solemn sacrifices, and about the very auspices over which I myself preside; for all of these matters ultimately depend upon this question of the nature of the immortal gods. Surely such wide diversity of opinion among men of the greatest learning on a matter of the highest moment must affect even those who think that they possess certain knowledge with a feeling of doubt. 2.5. how is the latter fact more evident than the former? Nothing but the presence in our minds of a firmly grasped concept of the deity could account for the stability and permanence of our belief in him, a belief which is only strengthened by the passage of the ages and grows more deeply rooted with each successive generation of mankind. In every other case we see that fictitious and unfounded opinions have dwindled away with lapse of time. Who believes that the Hippocentaur or the Chimaera ever existed? Where can you find an old wife senseless enough to be afraid of the monsters of the lower world that were once believed in? The years obliterate the inventions of the imagination, but confirm the judgements of nature. "Hence both in our own nation and among all others reverence for the gods and respect for religion grow continually stronger and more profound.
3. Cicero, On Duties, 1.6 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.6. Quae quamquam ita sunt in promptu, ut res disputatione non egeat, tamen sunt a nobis alio loco disputata. Hae disciplinae igitur si sibi consentaneae velint esse, de officio nihil queant dicere, neque ulla officii praecepta firma, stabilia, coniuncta naturae tradi possunt nisi aut ab iis, qui solam, aut ab iis, qui maxime honestatem propter se dicant expetendam. Ita propria est ea praeceptio Stoicorum, Academicorum, Peripateticorum, quoniam Aristonis, Pyrrhonis, Erilli iam pridem explosa sententia est; qui tamen haberent ius suum disputandi de officio, si rerum aliquem dilectum reliquissent, ut ad officii inventionem aditus esset. Sequemur igitur hoc quidem tempore et hac in quaestione potissimum Stoicos non ut interpretes, sed, ut solemus, e fontibus eorum iudicio arbitrioque nostro, quantum quoque modo videbitur, hauriemus.
4. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 1.8 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.8. itaque dierum quinque scholas, ut Graeci appellant, in totidem libros contuli. fiebat autem ita ut, cum is his G 1 V 1 H qui audire audiri X ( corr. V 2 l e ss. K 2 ) vellet dixisset, quid quod K 1 V 2 sibi videretur, tum ego contra dicerem. haec est enim, ut scis, vetus et et om. V 1 add. 2 Socratica ratio contra alterius opinionem disserendi. nam ita facillime, quid veri simillimum esset, inveniri posse Socrates arbitrabatur. Sed quo commodius disputationes nostrae explicentur, sic eas exponam, quasi agatur res, non quasi narretur. Philosophia ... 221, 7 narretur H (27 fieri 220, 5 litteris et 220,13 adulescentes 220, 18 dicere bis ) ergo ergo et primam lit- teram verbi malum om. R 1 V 1 spatio rubicatori relicto ; ergo add. R al. m ergo et m V c ita nasce- in r. V 1 nascatur corr. V c ita nascetur exordium: Malum ergo et primam lit- teram verbi malum om. R 1 V 1 spatio rubicatori relicto ; ergo add. R al. m ergo et m V c ita nasce- in r. V 1 nascatur corr. V c mihi videtur esse mors.


Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
academy Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 124
aporia / ἀπορία Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 66
carneades Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 124
censure Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179
chilon Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179, 190
clusters Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179
conscience Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179
cosmos Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 124
deception Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
duplicity Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
enemies Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
epicureanism Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 124
epistemology Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 66
falsehood Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
friendship Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
gods Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 124
integrity Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
justice / iustitia Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 66
love Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
physics Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 124
praise Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179
preconceptions Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 124
reader Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 115
religion Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 124
reproach Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
reputation Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
self-control Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179
shame Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
sinners Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
society / societas Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 66
socrates Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 66
speech Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179, 190
stoicism, xi Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 115, 124
the mind Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179
the tongue Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179, 190
theology Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 66
theory Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 66
tradition Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 66
truth Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 115; Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
varro Atkins, The Cambridge Companion to Cicero's Philosophy (2021) 115
warnings Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190
wickedness Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 179
wisdom' Wilson, The Sentences of Sextus (2012) 190