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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



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Cicero, On The Nature Of The Gods, 1.94


nanYou yourself just now, when reeling off the list of philosophers like the censor calling the roll of the Senate, said that all those eminent men were fools, idiots and madmen. But if none of these discerned the truth about the divine nature, it is to be feared that the divine nature is entirely non‑existent. "For as for your school's account of the matter, it is the merest fairy-story, hardly worthy of old wives at work by lamplight. You don't perceive what a number of things you are let in for, if we consent to admit that men and gods have the same form. You will have to assign to god exactly the same physical exercises and care of the person as are proper to men: he will walk, run, recline, bend, sit, hold things in the hand, and lastly even converse and make speeches.


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

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1. Theophrastus, Characters, 16 (4th cent. BCE - 3rd cent. BCE)

2. Cicero, On Divination, 1.7, 2.19, 2.36, 2.125 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.7. Sed haec quidem laus Academiae praestantissumi philosophi iudicio et testimonio conprobata est. Etenim nobismet ipsis quaerentibus, quid sit de divinatione iudicandum, quod a Carneade multa acute et copiose contra Stoicos disputata sint, verentibusque, ne temere vel falsae rei vel non satis cognitae adsentiamur, faciendum videtur, ut diligenter etiam atque etiam argumenta cum argumentis comparemus, ut fecimus in iis tribus libris, quos de natura deorum scripsimus. Nam cum omnibus in rebus temeritas in adsentiendo errorque turpis est, tum in eo loco maxime, in quo iudicandum est, quantum auspiciis rebusque divinis religionique tribuamus; est enim periculum, ne aut neglectis iis impia fraude aut susceptis anili superstitione obligemur. 2.19. Aut si negas esse fortunam et omnia, quae fiunt quaeque futura sunt, ex omni aeternitate definita dicis esse fataliter, muta definitionem divinationis, quam dicebas praesensionem esse rerum fortuitarum. Si enim nihil fieri potest, nihil accidere, nihil evenire, nisi quod ab omni aeternitate certum fuerit esse futurum rato tempore, quae potest esse fortuna? qua sublata qui locus est divinationi? quae a te fortuitarum rerum est dicta praesensio. Quamquam dicebas omnia, quae fierent futurave essent, fato contineri. Anile sane et plenum superstitionis fati nomen ipsum; sed tamen apud Stoicos de isto fato multa dicuntur; de quo alias; nunc quod necesse est. 2.36. deorum enim numini parere omnia. Haec iam, mihi crede, ne aniculae quidem existimant. An censes, eundem vitulum si alius delegerit, sine capite iecur inventurum; si alius, cum capite? Haec decessio capitis aut accessio subitone fieri potest, ut se exta ad immolatoris fortunam accommodent? non perspicitis aleam quandam esse in hostiis deligendis, praesertim cum res ipsa doceat? Cum enim tristissuma exta sine capite fuerunt, quibus nihil videtur esse dirius, proxuma hostia litatur saepe pulcherrime. Ubi igitur illae minae superiorum extorum? aut quae tam subito facta est deorum tanta placatio? Sed adfers in tauri opimi extis immolante Caesare cor non fuisse; id quia non potuerit accidere, ut sine corde victuma illa viveret, iudicandum esse tum interisse cor, cum immolaretur. 2.125. Quotus igitur est quisque, qui somniis pareat, qui intellegat, qui meminerit? quam multi vero, qui contemt eamque superstitionem inbecilli animi atque anilis putent! Quid est igitur, cur his hominibus consulens deus somniis moneat eos, qui illa non modo cura, sed ne memoria quidem digna ducant? Nec enim ignorare deus potest, qua mente quisque sit, nec frustra ac sine causa quid facere dignum deo est, quod abhorret etiam ab hominis constantia. Ita, si pleraque somnia aut ignorantur aut negleguntur, aut nescit hoc deus aut frustra somniorum significatione utitur; et horum neutrum in deum cadit; nihil igitur a deo somniis significari fatendum est. 1.7. At any rate, this praiseworthy tendency of the Academy to doubt has been approved by the solemn judgement of a most eminent philosopher. [4] Accordingly, since I, too, am in doubt as to the proper judgement to be rendered in regard to divination because of the many pointed and exhaustive arguments urged by Carneades against the Stoic view, and since I am afraid of giving a too hasty assent to a proposition which may turn out either false or insufficiently established, I have determined carefully and persistently to compare argument with argument just as I did in my three books On the Nature of the Gods. For a hasty acceptance of an erroneous opinion is discreditable in any case, and especially so in an inquiry as to how much weight should be given to auspices, to sacred rites, and to religious observances; for we run the risk of committing a crime against the gods if we disregard them, or of becoming involved in old womens superstition if we approve them. [5] 1.7. As briefly as I could, I have discussed divination by means of dreams and frenzy, which, as I said, are devoid of art. Both depend on the same reasoning, which is that habitually employed by our friend Cratippus: The human soul is in some degree derived and drawn from a source exterior to itself. Hence we understand that outside the human soul there is a divine soul from which the human soul is sprung. Moreover, that portion of the human soul which is endowed with sensation, motion, and carnal desire is inseparable from bodily influence; while that portion which thinks and reasons is most vigorous when it is most distant from the body. 2.19. But if you deny the existence of chance and assert that the course of everything present or future has been inevitably determined from all eternity, then you must change your definition of divination, which you said was the foreknowledge of things that happen by chance. For if nothing can happen, nothing befall, nothing come to pass, except what has been determined from all eternity as bound to happen at a fixed time, how can there be such a thing as chance? And if there is no such thing as chance, what room is there for that divination, which you termed a foreknowledge of things that happen by chance? And you were inconsistent enough, too, to say that everything that is or will be is controlled by Fate! Why, the very word Fate is full of superstition and old womens credulity, and yet the Stoics have much to say of this Fate of yours. A discussion on Fate is reserved for another occasion; at present I shall speak of it only in so far as it is necessary. [8] 2.36. Upon my word, no old woman is credulous enough now to believe such stuff! Do you believe that the same bullock, if chosen by one man, will have a liver without a head, and if chosen by another will have a liver with a head? And is it possible that this sudden going or coming of the livers head occurs so that the entrails may adapt themselves to the situation of the person who offers the sacrifice? Do you Stoics fail to see in choosing the victim it is almost like a throw of the dice, especially as facts prove it? For when the entrails of the first victim have been without a head, which is the most fatal of all signs, it often happens that the sacrifice of the next victim is altogether favourable. Pray what became of the warnings of the first set of entrails? And how was the favour of the gods so completely and so suddenly gained?[16] But, you say, Once, when Caesar was offering a sacrifice, there was no heart in the entrails of the sacrificial bull; and, and, since it would have been impossible for the victim to live without a heart, the heart must have disappeared at the moment of immolation. 2.125. But how often, pray, do you find anyone who pays any attention to dreams or who understands or remembers them? On the other hand, how many treat them with disdain, and regard a belief in them as the superstition of a weak and effeminate mind! Moreover, why does God, in planning for the good of the human race, convey his warnings by means of dreams which men consider unworthy not only of worrying about, but even of remembering? For it is impossible that God does not know how people generally regard dreams; and to do anything needlessly and without a cause is unworthy of a god and is inconsistent even with the habits of right-thinking men. And hence, if most dreams are unnoticed and disregarded, either God is ignorant of that fact, or he does a vain thing in conveying information by means of dreams; but neither supposition accords with the nature of a god, therefore, it must be admitted that God conveys no information by means of dreams. [61]
3. Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, 1.18-1.41, 1.55, 1.57-1.63, 1.65, 1.69, 1.71-1.74, 1.76-1.88, 1.92-1.93, 1.95-1.97, 1.100-1.101, 1.104-1.105, 1.107, 1.109, 1.111-1.112, 1.114, 1.116-1.121, 1.123, 2.5, 2.70, 2.72, 2.148, 3.92 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.18. Hereupon Velleius began, in the confident manner (I need not say) that is customary with Epicureans, afraid of nothing so much as lest he should appear to have doubts about anything. One would have supposed he had just come down from the assembly of the gods in the intermundane spaces of Epicurus! "I am not going to expound to you doctrines that are mere baseless figments of the imagination, such as the artisan deity and world-builder of Plato's Timaeus, or that old hag of a fortune-teller, the Pronoia (which we may render 'Providence') of the Stoics; nor yet a world endowed with a mind and senses of its own, a spherical, rotatory god of burning fire; these are the marvels and monstrosities of philosophers who do not reason but dream. 1.19. What power of mental vision enabled your master Plato to descry the vast and elaborate architectural process which, as he makes out, the deity adopted in building the structure of the universe? What method of engineering was employed? What tools and levers and derricks? What agents carried out so vast an undertaking? And how were air, fire, water and earth enabled to obey and execute the will of the architect? How did the five regular solids, which are the basis of all other forms of matter, come into existence so nicely adapted to make impressions on our minds and produce sensations? It would be a lengthy task to advert upon every detail of a system that is such as to seem the result of idle theorizing rather than of real research; 1.20. but the prize example is that the thinker who represented the world not merely as having had an origin but even as almost made by hand, also declared that it will exist for ever. Can you suppose that a man can have even dipped into natural philosophy if he imagines that anything that has come into being can be eternal? What composite whole is not capable of dissolution? What thing is there that has a beginning but not an end? While as for your Stoic Providence, Lucilius, if it is the same thing as Plato's creator, I repeat my previous questions, what were its agents and instruments, and how was the entire undertaking planned out and carried though? If on the contrary it is something different, I ask why it made the world mortal, and not everlasting as did Plato's divine creator? 1.21. Moreover I would put to both of you the question, why did these deities suddenly awake into activity as world-builders after countless ages of slumber? for though the world did not exist, it does not follow that ages did not exist — meaning by ages, not periods made up of a number of days and nights in annual courses, for ages in this sense I admit could not have been produced without the circular motion of the firmament; but from the infinite past there has existed an eternity not measured by limited divisions of time, but of a nature intelligible in terms of extension; since it is inconceivable that there was ever a time when time did not exist. 1.22. Well then, Balbus, what I ask is, why did your Providence remain idle all through that extent of time of which you speak? Was it in order to avoid fatigue? But god cannot know fatigue; and also there was no fatigue in question, since all the elements, sky, fire, earth and sea, were obedient to the divine will. Also, why should god take a fancy to decorate the firmament with figures and illuminations, like an aedile? If it was to embellish his own abode, then it seems that he had previously between dwelling for an infinite time in a dark and gloomy hovel! And are we to suppose that thenceforward the varied beauties which we see adorning earth and sky have afforded him pleasure? How can a god take pleasure in things of this sort? And if he did, he could not have dispensed with it so long. 1.23. Or were these beauties designed for the sake of men, as your school usually maintains? For the sake of wise men? If so, all this vast effort of construction took place on account of a handful of people. For the sake of fools then? But in the first place there was no reason for god to do a service to the wicked and secondly, what good did he do? inasmuch as all fools are beyond question extremely miserable, precisely because they are fools (for what can be mentioned more miserable than folly?), and in the second place because there are so many troubles in life that, though wise men can assuage them by balancing against them life's advantages, fools can neither avoid their approach nor endure their presence. Those on the other hand who said that the world is itself endowed with life and with wisdom, failed entirely to discern what shape the nature of an intelligent living being could conceivably possess. I will touch on this a little later; 1.24. for the present I will confine myself to expressing my surprise at their stupidity in holding that a being who is immortal and also blessed is of a spherical shape, merely on the ground that Plato pronounces a sphere to be the most beautiful of all figures. For my own part, on the score of appearance I prefer either a cylinder or a cube or a cone or a pyramid. Then, what mode of existence is assigned to their spherical deity? Why, he is in a state of rotation, spinning round with a velocity that surpasses all powers of conception. But what room there can be in such an existence for steadfastness of mind and for happiness, I cannot see. Also, why should a condition that is painful in the human body, if even the smallest part of it is affected, be supposed to be painless in the deity? Now clearly the earth, being a part of the world, is also a part of god. Yet we see that vast portions of the earth's surface are uninhabitable deserts, being either scorched by the sun's proximity, or frost-bound and covered with snow owing to its extreme remoteness. But if the world is god, these, being parts of the world, must be regarded as limbs of god, undergoing the extremes of heat and cold respectively. 1.25. So much, Lucilius, for the doctrines of your school. To show what the older systems are like, I will trace their history from the remotest of your predecessors. Thales of Miletus, who was the first person to investigate these matters, said that water was the first principle of things, but that god was the mind that moulded all things out of water — supposing that gods can exist without sensation; and why did he make mind an adjunct of water, if mind can exist by itself, devoid of body? The view of Anaximander is that the gods are not everlasting but are born and perish at long intervals of time, and that they are worlds, countless in number. But how we conceive of god save as living for ever? 1.26. Next, Anaximenes held that air is god, and that it has a beginning in time, and is immeasurable and infinite in extent, and is always in motion; just as if formless air could be god, especially seeing that it is proper to god to possess not merely some shape but the most beautiful shape; or as if anything that has had a beginning must not necessarily be mortal. Then there is Anaxagoras, the successor of Anaximenes; he was the first thinker to hold that the orderly disposition of the universe is designed and perfected by the rational power of an infinite mind. But in saying this he failed to see that there can be no such thing as sentient and continuous activity in that which is infinite, and that sensation in general can only occur when the subject itself becomes sentient by the impact of a sensation. Further, if he intended his infinite mind to be a definite living creature, it must have some inner principle of life to justify the name. But mind is itself the innermost principle. Mind therefore will have an outer integument of body. 1.27. But this Anaxagoras will not allow; yet mind naked and simple, without any material adjunct to serve as an organ of sensation, seems to elude the capacity of our understanding. Alcmaeon of Croton, who attributed divinity to the sun, moon and other heavenly bodies, and also to the soul, did not perceive that he was bestowing immortality on things that are mortal. As for Pythagoras, who believed that the entire substance of the universe is penetrated and pervaded by a soul of which our souls are fragments, he failed to notice that this severance of the souls of men from the world-soul means the dismemberment and rending asunder of god; and that when their souls are unhappy, as happens to most men, then a portion of god is unhappy; which is impossible. 1.28. Again, if the soul of man is divine, why is it not omniscient? Moreover, if the Pythagorean god is pure soul, how is he implanted in, or diffused throughout, the world? Next, Xenophanes endowed the universe with mind, and held that, as being infinite, it was god. His view of mind is as open to objection as that of the rest; but on the subject of infinity he incurs still severer criticism, for the infinite can have no sensation and no contact with anything outside. As for Parmenides, he invents a purely fanciful something resembling a crown — stephanè is his name for it —, an unbroken ring of glowing lights, encircling the sky, which he entitles god; but no one can imagine this to possess divine form, or sensation. He also has many other portentous notions; he deifies war, strife, lust and the like, things which can be destroyed by disease or sleep or forgetfulness or lapse of time; and he also deifies the stars, but this has been criticized in another philosopher and need not be dealt with now in the case of Parmenides. 1.29. Empedocles again among many other blunders comes to grief most disgracefully in his theology. He assigns divinity to the four substances which in his system are the constituent elements of the universe, although manifestly these substances both come into and pass out of existence, and are entirely devoid of sensation. Protagoras also, who declares he has no clear views whatever about the gods, whether they exist or do not exist, or what they are like, seems to have no notion at all of the divine nature. Then in what a maze of error is Democritus involved, who at one moment ranks as gods his roving 'images,' at another the substance that emits and radiates these images, and at another again the scientific intelligence of man! At the same time his denial of immutability and therefore of eternity, to everything whatsoever surely involves a repudiation of deity so absolute as to leave no conception of a divine be remaining! Diogenes of Apollonia makes air a god; but how can air have sensation, or divinity in any shape? 1.30. The inconsistencies of Plato are a long story. In the Timaeus he says that it is impossible to name the father of this universe; and in the Laws he deprecates all inquiry into the nature of the deity. Again, he holds that god is entirely incorporeal (in Greek, asomatos); but divine incorporeity is inconceivable, for an incorporeal deity would necessarily be incapable of sensation, and also of practical wisdom, and of pleasure, all of which are attributes essential to our conception of deity. Yet both in the Timaeus and the Laws he says that the world, the sky, the stars, the earth and our souls are gods, in addition to those in whom we have been taught to believe; but it is obvious that these propositions are both inherently false and mutually destructive. 1.31. Xenophon also commits almost the same errors, though in fewer words; for in his memoir of the sayings of Socrates he represents Socrates as arguing that it is wrong to inquire about the form of god, but also as saying that both the sun and the soul are god, and as speaking at one moment of a single god and at another of several: utterances that involve almost the same mistakes as do those which we quoted from Plato. 1.32. Antisthenes also, in his book entitled The Natural Philosopher, says that while there are many gods of popular belief, there is one god in nature, so depriving divinity of all meaning or substance. Very similarly Speusippus, following his uncle Plato, and speaking of a certain force that governs all things and is endowed with life, does his best to root out the notion of deity from our minds altogether. 1.33. And Aristotle in the Third Book of his Philosophy has a great many confused notions, not disagreeing with the doctrines of his master Plato; at one moment he assigns divinity exclusively to the intellect, at another he says that the world is itself a god, then again he puts some other being over the world, and assigns to this being the rôle of regulating and sustaining the world-motion by means of a sort of inverse rotation; then he says that the celestial heat is god — not realizing that the heavens are a part of that world which elsewhere he himself has entitled god. But how could the divine consciousness which he assigns to the heavens persist in a state of such rapid motion? Where moreover are all the gods of accepted belief, if we count the heavens also as a god? Again, in maintaining that god is incorporeal, he robs him entirely of sensation, and also of wisdom. Moreover, how is motion possible for an incorporeal being, and how, if he is always in motion, can he enjoy tranquillity and bliss? 1.34. Nor was his fellow-pupil Xenocrates any wiser on this subject. His volumes On the Nature of the Gods give no intelligible account of the divine form; for he states that there are eight gods: five inhabiting the planets, and in a state of motion; one consisting of all the fixed stars, which are to be regarded as separate members constituting a single deity; seventh he adds the sun, and eighth the moon. But what sensation of bliss these things can enjoy it is impossible to conceive. Another member of the school of Plato, Heracleides of Pontus, filled volume after volume with childish fictions; at one moment he deems the world divine, at another the intellect; he also assigns divinity to the planets, and holds that the deity is devoid of sensation and mutable of form; and again in the same volume he reckons earth and sky as gods. 1.35. Theophrastus also is intolerably inconsistent; at one moment he assigns divine pre‑eminence to mind, at another to the heavens, and then again to the constellations and stars in the heavens. Nor is his pupil, Strato, surnamed the Natural Philosopher, worthy of attention; in his view the sole repository of divine power is nature, which contains in itself the causes of birth, growth and decay, but is entirely devoid of sensation and of form. 1.36. Lastly, Balbus, I come to your Stoic school. Zeno's view is that the law of nature is divine, and that its function is to command what is right and to forbid the opposite. How he makes out this law to be alive passes our comprehension; yet we undoubtedly expect god to be a living being. In another passage however Zeno declares that the aether is god — if there is any meaning in a god without sensation, a form of deity that never presents itself to us when we offer up our prayers and supplications and make our vows. And in other books again he holds the view that a 'reason' which pervades all nature is possessed of divine power. He likewise attributes the same powers to the stars, or at another time to the years, the months and the seasons. Again, in his interpretation of Hesiod's Theogony (or Origin of the Gods) he does away with the customary and received ideas of the gods altogether, for he does not reckon either Jupiter, Juno or Vesta as gods, or any being that bears a personal name, but teaches that these names have been assigned allegorically to dumb and lifeless things. 1.37. Zeno's pupil Aristo holds equally mistaken views. He thinks that the form of the deity cannot be comprehended, and he denies the gods sensation, and in fact is uncertain whether god is a living being at all. Cleanthes, who attended Zeno's lectures at the same time as the last-named, at one moment says that the world itself is god, at another gives this name to the mind and soul of the universe, and at another decides that the most unquestionable deity is that remote all‑surrounding fiery atmosphere called the aether, which encircles and embraces the universe on its outer side at an exceedingly lofty altitude; while in the books that he wrote to combat hedonism he babbles like one demented, now imagining gods of some definite shape and form, now assigning full divinity to the stars, now pronouncing that nothing is more divine than reason. The result is that the god whom we apprehend by our intelligence, and desire to make to correspond with a mental concept as a seal tallies with its impression, has utterly and entirely vanished. 1.38. Persaeus, another pupil of Zeno, says that men have deified those persons who have made some discovery of special utility for civilization, and that useful and health-giving things have themselves been called by divine names; he did not even say that they were discoveries of the gods, but speaks of them as actually divine. But what could be more ridiculous than to award divine honours to things mean and ugly, or to give the rank of gods to men now dead and gone, whose worship could only take the form of lamentation? 1.39. Chrysippus, who is deemed to be the most skilful interpreter of the Stoic dreams, musters an enormous mob of unknown gods — so utterly unknown that even imagination cannot guess at their form and nature, although our mind appears capable of visualizing anything; for he says that divine power resides in reason, and in the soul and mind of the universe; he calls the world itself a god, and also the all‑pervading world-soul, and again the guiding principle of that soul, which operates in the intellect and reason, and the common and all‑embracing nature of things; beside this, the fire that I previously termed aether; and also the power of Fate, and the Necessity that governs future events; and also all fluid and soluble substances, such as water, earth, air, the sun, moon and stars, and the all‑embracing unity of things; and even those human beings who have attained immortality. 1.40. He also argues that the god whom men call Jupiter is the aether, and that Neptune is the air which permeates the sea, and the goddess called Ceres the earth; and he deals in the same way with the whole series of the names of the other gods. He also identifies Jupiter with the mighty Law, everlasting and eternal, which is our guide of life and instructress in duty, and which he entitles Necessity or Fate, and the Everlasting Truth of future events; none of which conceptions is of such a nature as to be deemed to possess divinity. 1.41. This is what is contained in his Nature of the Gods, Book I. In Book II he aims at reconciling the myths of Orpheus, Musaeus, Hesiod and Homer with his own theology as enunciated in Book I, and so makes out that even the earliest poets of antiquity, who had no notion of these doctrines, were really Stoics. In this he is followed by Diogenes of Babylon, who in his book entitled Minerva rationalizes the myth of the birth of the virgin goddess from Jove by explaining it as an allegory of the processes of nature. 1.55. An outcome of this theology was first of all your doctrine of Necessity or Fate, heimarmenē, as you termed it, the theory that every event is the result of an eternal truth and an unbroken sequence of causation. But what value can be assigned to a philosophy which thinks that everything happens by fate? it is a belief for old women, and ignorant old women at that. And next follows your doctrine of mantikē, or Divination, which would so steep us in superstition, if we consented to listen to you, that we should be the devotees of soothsayers, augurs, oracle-mongers, seers and interpreters of dreams. 1.57. Then Cotta took up the discussion. "Well, Velleius," he rejoined, with his usual suavity, "unless you had stated a case, you certainly would have had no chance of hearing anything from me. I always find it much easier to think of arguments to prove a thing false than to prove it true. This often happens to me, and did so just now while I was listening to you. Ask me what I think that the divine nature is like, and very probably I shall make no reply; but inquire whether I believe that it resembles the description of it which you have just given, and I shall say that nothing seems to me less likely. But before proceeding to examine your arguments, I will give my opinion of yourself. 1.58. I fancy I have often heard that friend of yours [Lucius Crassus] declare that of all the Roman adherents of Epicureanism he placed you unquestionably first, and that few of those from Greece could be ranked beside you; but knowing his extraordinary esteem for you, I imagined that he was speaking with the partiality of a friend. I myself however, though reluctant to praise you to your face, must nevertheless pronounce that your exposition of an obscure and difficult theme has been most illuminating, and not only exhaustive in its treatment of the subject, but also graced with a charm of style not uncommon in your school. 1.59. When at Athens, I frequently attended the discourses of Zeno, whom our friend Philo used to call the leader of the Epicurean choir; in fact it was Philo who suggested that I should go to him — no doubt in order that I might be better able to judge how completely the Epicurean doctrine may be refuted when I had heard an exposition of it from the head of the school. Now Zeno, unlike most Epicureans, had a style as clear, cogent and elegant as your own. But what often occurred to me in his case happened just now while I was listening to you: I felt annoyed that talents so considerable should have chanced to select (if you will forgive my saying it) so trivial, not to say so stupid, a set of doctrines. 1.60. Not that I propose at the moment to contribute something better of my own. As I said just now, in almost all subjects, but especially in natural philosophy, I am more ready to say what is not true than what is. Inquire of me as to the being and nature of god, and I shall follow the example of Simonides, who having the same question put to him by the great Hiero, requested a day's grace for consideration; next day, when Hiero repeated the question, he asked for two days, and so went on several times multiplying the number of days by two; and when Hiero in surprise asked why he did so, he replied, 'Because the longer I deliberate the more obscure the matter seems to me.' But Simonides is recorded to have been not only a charming poet but also a man of learning and wisdom in other fields, and I suppose that so many acute and subtle ideas came into his mind that he could not decide which of them was truest, and therefore despaired of truth altogether. 1.61. But as for your master Epicurus (for I prefer to join issue with him rather than with yourself), which of his utterances is, I do not say worthy of philosophy, but compatible with ordinary common sense? "In an inquiry as to the nature of the gods, the first question that we ask is, do the gods exist or do they not? 'It is difficult to deny their existence.' No doubt it would be if the question were to be asked in a public assembly, but in private conversation and in a company like the present it is perfectly easy. This being so, I, who am a high priest, and who hold it to be a duty most solemnly to maintain the rights and doctrines of the established religion, should be glad to be convinced of this fundamental tenet of the divine existence, not as an article of faith merely but as an ascertained fact. For many disturbing reflections occur to my mind, which sometimes make me think that there are no gods at all. 1.62. But mark how generously I deal with you. I will not attack those tenets which are shared by your school with all other philosophers — for example the one in question, since almost all men, and I myself no less than any other, believe that the gods exist, and this accordingly I do not challenge. At the same time I doubt the adequacy of the argument which you adduce to prove it. You said that a sufficient reason for our admitting that the gods exist was the fact that all the nations and races of mankind believe it. But argument is both inconclusive and untrue. In the first place, how do you know what foreign races believe? For my part I think that there are many nations so uncivilized and barbarous as to have no notion of any gods at all. 1.63. Again, did not Diagoras, called the Atheist, and later Theodorus openly deny the divine existence? Since as for Protagoras of Abdera, the greatest sophist of that age, to whom you just now alluded, for beginning a book with the words 'About the gods I am unable to affirm either how they exist or how they do not exist,' he was sentenced by a decree of the Athenian assembly to be banished from the city and from the country, and to have his books burnt in the market-place: an example that I can well believe has discouraged many people since from professing atheism, since the mere expression of doubt did not succeed in escaping punishment. What are we to say about the men guilty of sacrilege or impiety or perjury? Suppose that ever Lucius Tubulus, Lupus or Carbo, or some son of Neptune, as Lucilius has it, had believed in the gods, would he have been such a perjurer and scoundrel? 1.65. I grant the existence of the gods: do you then teach me their origin, their dwelling-place, their bodily and spiritual nature, their mode of life; for these are the things which I want to know. In regard to all of them you make great play with the lawless domination of the atoms; from these you construct and create everything that comes upon the ground, as he says. Now in the first place, there are no such things as atoms. For there is nothing . . . incorporeal, but all space is filled with material bodies; hence there can be no such thing as void, and no such thing as an indivisible body. 1.69. This is a very common practice with your school. You advance a paradox, and then, when you want to escape censure, you adduce in support of it some absolute impossibility; so that you would have done better to abandon the point in dispute rather than to offer so shameless a defence. For instance, Epicurus saw that if the atoms travelled downwards by their own weight, we should have no freedom of the will, since the motion of the atoms would be determined by necessity. He therefore invented a device to escape from determinism (the point had apparently escaped the notice of Democritus): he said that the atom while travelling vertically downward by the force of gravity makes a very slight swerve to the side. 1.71. He does the same as regards the nature of the gods. In his desire to avoid the assumption of a dense cluster of atoms, which would involve the possibility of destruction and dissipation, he says that the gods have not a body but a semblance of body, and not blood but a semblance of blood. It is thought surprising that an augur can see an augur without smiling; but it is more surprising that you Epicureans keep a grave face when by yourselves. 'It is not body but a semblance of body.' I could understand what this supposition meant if it related to waxen images or figures of earthenware, but what 'a semblance of body' or 'a semblance of blood' may mean in the case of god, I cannot understand; nor can you either, Velleius, only you won't admit it. 1.72. The fact is that you people merely repeat by rote the idle vapourings that Epicurus uttered when half asleep; for, as we read in his writings, he boasted that he had never had a teacher. This I for my part could well believe, even if he did not proclaim it, just as I believe the owner of an ill‑built house when he boasts that he did not employ an architect! He shows not the faintest trace of the Academy or the Lyceum, or even of the ordinary schoolboy studies. He might have heard Xenocrates — by heaven, what a master! — and some people think that he did, but he himself denies it, and he ought to know! He states that he heard a certain Pamphilus, a pupil of Plato, at Samos (where he resided in his youth with his father and brother — his father Neocles had gone there to take up land, but failing to make a living out of his farm, I believe kept a school). 1.73. However Epicurus pours endless scorn on this Platonist, so afraid is he of appearing ever to have learnt anything from a teacher. He stands convicted in the case of Nausiphanes, a follower of Democritus, whom he does not deny he heard lecture, but whom nevertheless he assails with every sort of abuse. Yet if he had not heard from him these doctrines of Democritus, what had he heard? for what is there in Epicurus's natural philosophy that does not come from Democritus? Since even if he introduced some alterations, for instance the swerve of the atoms, of which I spoke just now, yet most of his system is the same, the atoms, the void, the images, the infinity of space, and the countless number of worlds, their births and their destructions, in fact almost everything that is comprised in natural science. 1.74. As to your formula 'a semblance of body' and 'a semblance of blood,' what meaning do you attach to it? That you have a better knowledge of the matter than I have I freely admit, and what is more, am quite content that this should be so; but once it is expressed in words, why should one of us be able to understand it and not the other? Well then, I do understand what body is and what blood is, but what 'a semblance of body' and 'a semblance of blood' are I don't understand in the very least. You are not trying to hide the truth from me, as Pythagoras used to hide it from strangers, nor yet are you speaking obscurely on purpose like Heraclitus, but (to speak candidly between ourselves) you don't understand it yourself any more than I do. 1.76. On this topic you are at no loss for arguments designed to prove that the gods have the form of men: first because our minds possess a preconceived notion of such a character that, when a man thinks of god, it is the human form that presents itself to him; secondly, because inasmuch as the divine nature surpasses all other things, the divine form also must needs be the most beautiful, and no form is more beautiful than that of man. The third reason you advance is that no other shape is capable of being the abode of intelligence. 1.77. Well then, take these arguments one by one and consider what they amount to; for in my view they based on an arbitrary and quite inadmissible assumption on your part. First of all, was there ever any student so blind as not to see that human shape has been thus assigned to the gods either by the deliberate contrivance of philosophers, the better to enable them to turn the hearts of the ignorant from vicious practices to the observance of religion, or by superstition, to supply images for men to worship in the belief that in so doing they had direct access to the divine presence? These notions moreover have been fostered by poets, painters and artificers, who found it difficult to represent living and active deities in the likeness of any other shape than that of man. Perhaps also man's belief in his own superior beauty, to which you referred, may have contributed to the result. But surely you as a natural philosopher are aware what an insinuating go‑between and pander of her own charms nature is! Do you suppose that there is a single creature on land or in the sea which does not prefer an animal of its own specie to any other? If this were not so, why should not a bull desire to couple with a mare, or a horse with a cow? Do you imagine that an eagle or lion or dolphin thinks any shape more beautiful than its own? Is it then surprising if nature has likewise taught man to think his own species the most beautiful . . . that this was a reason why we should think the gods resemble man? 1.78. Suppose animals possessed reason, do you not think that they would each assign pre‑eminence to their own species? For my part I protest (if I am to say what I think) that although I am not lacking in self-esteem yet I don't presume to call myself more beautiful than the famous bull on which Europa rode; for the question is not here of our intellectual and oratorical powers but of our outward form and aspect. Indeed if we choose to make imaginary combinations of shapes, would you not like to resemble the merman Triton who is depicted riding upon swimming monsters attached to his man's body? I am on ticklish ground here, for natural instinct is so strong that every man wishes to be like a man and nothing else. 1.79. Yes, and every ant like an ant! Still, the question is, like what man? How small a percentage of handsome people there are! When I was at Athens, there was scarcely one to be found in each platoon of the training-corps — I see why you smile, but the fact is all the same. Another point: we, who with the sanction of the philosophers of old are fond of the society of young men, often find even their defects agreeable. Alcaeus 'admires a mole upon his favourite's wrist'; of course a mole is a blemish, but Alcaeus thought it a beauty. Quintus Catulus, the father of our colleague and friend to‑day, was warmly attached to your fellow-townsman Roscius, and actually wrote the following verses in his honour: By chance abroad at dawn, I stood to pray To the uprising deity of day; When lo! upon my left — propitious sight — Suddenly Roscius dawned in radiance bright. Forgive me, heavenly pow'rs, if I declare, Meseem'd the mortal than the god more fair. To Catulus, Roscius was fairer than a god. As a matter of fact he had, as he has to‑day, a pronounced squint; but no matter — in the eyes of Catulus this in itself gave him piquancy and charm. 1.80. I return to the gods. Can we imagine any gods, I do not say as cross-eyed as Roscius, but with a slight cast? Can we picture any of them with a mole, a snub nose, protruding ears, prominent brows and too large a head — defects not unknown among us men —, or are they entirely free from personal blemishes? Suppose we grant you that, are we also to say that they are all exactly alike? If not, there will be degrees of beauty among them, and therefore a god can fall short of supreme beauty. If on the other hand they are all alike, then the Academic school must have a large following in heaven, since if there is no difference between one god and another, among the gods knowledge and perception must be impossible. 1.81. Furthermore, Velleius, what if your assumption, that when we think of god the only form that presents itself to us is that of a man, be entirely untrue? will you nevertheless continue to maintain your absurdities? Very likely we Romans do imagine god as you say, because from our childhood Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Neptune, Vulcan and Apollo have been known to us with the aspect with which painters and sculptors have chosen to represent them, and not with that aspect only, but having that equipment, age and dress. But they are not so known to the Egyptians or Syrians, or any almost of the uncivilized races. Among these you will find a belief in certain animals more firmly established than is reverence for the holiest sanctuaries and images of the gods with us. 1.82. For we have often seen temples robbed and images of gods carried off from the holiest shrines by our fellow-countrymen, but no one ever even heard of an Egyptian laying profane hands on a crocodile or ibis or cat. What therefore do you infer? that the Egyptians do not believe their sacred bull Apis to be a god? Precisely as much as you believe the Saviour Juno of your native place to be a goddess. You never see her even in your dreams unless equipped with goat-skin, spear, buckler and slippers turned up at the toe. Yet that is not the aspect of the Argive Juno, nor of the Roman. It follows that Juno has one form for the Argives, another for the people of Lanuvium, and another for us. And indeed our Jupiter of the Capitol is not the same as the Africans' Juppiter Ammon. 1.83. Should not the physical philosopher therefore, that is, the explorer and tracker-out of nature, be ashamed to go to minds besotted with habit for evidence of truth? On your principle it will be legitimate to assert that Jupiter always wears a beard and Apollo never, and that Minerva has grey eyes and Neptune blue. Yes, and at Athens there is a much-praised statue of Vulcan made by Alcamenes, a standing figure, draped, which displays a slight lameness, though not enough to be unsightly. We shall therefore deem god to be lame, since tradition represents Vulcan so. Tell me now, do we also make out the gods to have the same names as those by which they are known to us? 1.84. But in the first place the gods have as many names as mankind has languages. You are Velleius wherever you travel, but Vulcan has a different name in Italy, in Africa and in Spain. Again, the total number of names even in our pontifical books is not great, but there are gods innumerable. Are they without names? You Epicureans at all events are forced to say so, since what is the point of more names when they are all exactly alike? How delightful it would be, Velleius, if when you did not know a thing you would admit your ignorance, instead of uttering this drivel, which must make even your own gorge rise with disgust? Do you really believe that god resembles me, or yourself? of course you do not. "What then? Am I to say that the sun is a god, or the moon, or the sky? If so, we must also say that it is happy; but what forms of enjoyment constitute its happiness? and wise; but how can wisdom reside in a senseless bulk like that? These are arguments employed by your own school. 1.85. Well then, if the gods do not possess the appearance of men, as I have proved, nor some such form as that of the heavenly bodies, as you are convinced, why do you hesitate to deny their existence? You do not dare to. Well, that is no doubt wise — although in this matter it is not the public that you fear, but the gods themselves: I personally am acquainted with Epicureans who worship every paltry image, albeit I am aware that according to some people's view Epicurus really abolished the gods, but nominally retained them in order not to offend the people of Athens. Thus the first of his selected aphorisms or maxims, which you call the Kyriai Doxai, runs, I believe, thus: That which is blessed and immortal neither experiences trouble nor causes it to anyone. Now there are people who think that the wording of this maxim was intentional, though really it was due to the author's inability to express himself clearly; their suspicion does an injustice to the most guileless of mankind. 1.86. It is in fact doubtful whether he means that there is a blessed and immortal being, or that, if there is, that being is such as he describes. They fail to notice that although his language is ambiguous here, yet in many other places both he and Metrodorus speak as plainly as you yourself did just now. Epicurus however does actually think that the gods exist, nor have I ever met anybody more afraid than he was of those things which he says are not terrible at all, I mean death and the gods. Terrors that do not very seriously alarm ordinary people, according to Epicurus haunt the minds of all mortal men: so many thousands commit brigandage, for which the penalty is death, and other men rob temples whenever they have the chance; I suppose the former are haunted by the fear of death and the latter by the terrors of religion! 1.87. But as you have not the courage (for I will now address myself to Epicurus in person) to deny that the gods exist, what should hinder you from reckoning as divine the sun, or the world, or some form of ever-living intelligence? 'I have never seen a mind endowed with reason and with purpose,' he replies, 'that was embodied in any but a human form.' Well, but have you ever seen anything like the sun or the moon or the five planets? The sun, limiting his motion by the two extreme points of one orbit, completes his courses yearly. The moon, lit by the sun's rays, achieves this solar path in the space of a month. The five planets, holding the same orbit, but some nearer to and others farther from the earth, from the same starting-points complete the same distances in different periods of time. 1.88. Now, Epicurus, have you ever seen anything like this? Well, then, let us deny the existence of the sun, moon and planets, inasmuch as nothing can exist save that which we have touched or seen. And what of god himself? You have never seen him, have you? Why then do you believe in his existence? On this principle we must sweep aside everything unusual of which history or science informs us. The next thing would be for inland races to refuse to believe in the existence of the sea. How can such narrowness of mind be possible? It follows that, if you had been born in Seriphus and had never left the island, where you had been used to seeing nothing larger than hares and foxes, when lions and panthers were described to you, you would refuse to believe in their existence; and if somebody told you about an elephant, you would actually think that he was making fun of you! 1.92. Did you think they were all out of their minds because they pronounced that god can exist without hands or feet? Does not even a consideration of the adaptation of man's limbs to their functions convince you that the gods do not require human limbs? What need is there for feet without walking, or for hands if nothing has to be grasped, or for the rest of the list of the various parts of the body, in which nothing is useless, nothing without a reason, nothing superfluous, so that no art can imitate the cunning of nature's handiwork? It seems then that god will have a tongue, and will not speak; teeth, a palate, a throat, for no use; the organs that nature has attached to the body for the purpose of procreation — these god will possess, but to no purpose; and not only the external but also the internal organs, the heart, lungs, liver and the rest, which if they are not useful are assuredly not beautiful — since your school holds that god possesses bodily parts because of their beauty. 1.93. Was it dreams like these that not only encouraged Epicurus and Metrodorus and Hermarchus to contradict Pythagoras, Plato and Empedocles, but actually emboldened a loose woman like Leontium to write a book refuting Theophrastus? Her style no doubt is the neatest of Attic, but all the same! — such was the licence that prevailed in the Garden of Epicurus. And yet you are touchy yourselves, indeed Zeno actually used to invoke the law. I need not mention Albucius. As for Phaedrus, though he was the most refined and courteous of old gentlemen, he used to lose his temper if I spoke too harshly; although Epicurus attacked Aristotle in the most insulting manner, abused Socrates' pupil Phaedo quite outrageously, devoted whole volumes to an onslaught on Timocrates, the brother of his own associate Metrodorus, for differing from him on some point or other of philosophy, showed no gratitude toward Democritus himself, whose system he adopted, and treated so badly his own master Nausiphanes, from whom he had learnt a considerable amount. As for Zeno, he aimed the shafts of his abuse not only at his contemporaries, Apollodorus, Silus and the rest, but Socrates himself, the father of philosophy, he declared to have been the Attic equivalent of our Roman buffoons; and he always alluded to Chrysippus in the feminine gender. 1.95. As for your saying that the gods are male and female, well, you must see what the consequence of that will be. For my part, I am at a loss to imagine how your great founder arrived at such notions. All the same you never cease vociferating that we must on no account relinquish the divine happiness and immortality. But what prevents god from being happy without having two legs? and why cannot your 'beatitude' or 'beatity,' whichever form we are to use — and either is certainly a hard mouthful, but words have to be softened by use — but whatever it is, why can it not apply to the sun yonder, or to this world of ours, or to some eternal intelligence devoid of bodily shape and members? 1.96. Your only answer is: 'I have never seen a happy sun or world.' Well, but have you ever seen any other world but this one? No, you will reply. Then why did you venture to assert the existence of, not thousands and thousands, but a countless number of worlds? 'That is what reason teaches.' Then will not reason teach you that when we seek to find a being who shall be supremely excellent, and happy and eternal as well — and nothing else constitutes divinity —, even as that being will surpass us in immortality, so also will it surpass us in mental excellence, and even as in mental excellence, so also in bodily. Why then, if we are inferior to god in all else, are we his equals in form? for man came nearer to the divine image in virtue than in outward aspect. 1.97. [Can you mention anything so childish (to press the same point still further) as to deny the existence of the various species of huge animals that grow in the Red Sea or in India? Yet not even the most diligent investigators could possibly collect information about all the vast multitude of creatures that exist on land and in the sea, the marshes and the rivers: the existence of which we are to deny, because we have never seen them!] "Then take your favourite argument from resemblance: how utterly pointless it really is! Why, does not a dog resemble a wolf? — and, to quote Ennius, How like us is that ugly brute, the ape! — but the two differ in habits. The elephant is the wisest of beasts, but the most ungainly in shape. 1.100. Then you censured those who argued from the splendour and the beauty of creation, and who, observing the world itself, and the parts of the world, the sky and earth and sea, and the sun, moon and stars that adorn them, and discovering the laws of the seasons and their periodic successions, conjectured that there must exist some supreme and transcendent being who had created these things, and who imparted motion to them and guided and governed them. Though this guess may be wide of the mark, I can see what they are after; but as for you, what mighty masterpiece pray do you adduce as apparently the creation of divine intelligence, leading you to conjecture that gods exist? 'We have an idea of god implanted in our minds,' you say. Yes, and an idea of Jupiter with a beard, and Minerva in a helmet; but do you therefore believe that those deities are really like that? 1.101. The unlearned multitude are surely wiser here — they assign to god not only a man's limbs, but the use of those limbs. For they give him bow, arrows, spear, shield, trident, thunderbolt; and if they cannot see what actions the gods perform, yet they cannot conceive of god as entirely inactive. Even the Egyptians, whom we laugh at, deified animals solely on the score of some utility which they derived from them; for instance, the ibis, being a tall bird with stiff legs and a long horny beak, destroys a great quantity of snakes: it protects Egypt from plague, by killing and eating the flying serpents that are brought from the Libyan desert by the south-west wind, and so preventing them from harming the natives by their bite while alive and their stench when dead. I might describe the utility of the ichneumon, the crocodile and the cat, but I do not wish to be tedious. I will make my point thus: these animals are at all events deified by the barbarians for the benefits which they confer, but your gods not only do no service you can point to, but they don't do anything at all. 1.104. About your deity therefore I want to know, first, where he dwells; secondly, what motive he has for moving in space, that is, if he ever does so move; thirdly, it being a special characteristic of animate beings to desire some end that is appropriate their nature, what is the thing that god desires; fourthly, upon what subject does he employ his mental activity and reason; and lastly, how is he happy, and how eternal? For whichever of these questions you raise, you touch a tender spot. An argument based on such insecure premisses can come to no valid conclusion. 1.105. Your assertion was that the form of god is perceived by thought and not by the senses, that it has no solidity nor numerical persistence, and that our perception of it is such that it is seen owing to similarity and succession, a never-ceasing stream of similar forms arriving continually from the infinite number of atoms, and that thus it results that our mind, when its attention is fixed on these forms, conceives the divine nature to be happy and eternal. Now in the name of the very gods about whom we are talking, what can possibly be the meaning of this? If the gods only appeal to the faculty of thought, and have no solidity or definite outline, what difference does it make whether we think of a god or of a hippocentaur? Such mental pictures are called by all other philosophers mere empty imaginations, but you say they are the arrival and entrance into our minds of certain images. 1.107. Suppose that there are such images constantly impinging on our minds: but that is only the presentation of a certain form — surely not also of a reason for supposing that this form is happy and eternal? "But what is the nature of these images of yours, and whence do they arise? This extravagance, it is true, is borrowed from Democritus; but he has been widely criticized, nor can you find a satisfactory explanation, and the whole affair is a lame and impotent business. For how can be more improbable than that images of Homer, Archilochus, Romulus, Numa, Pythagoras and Plato should impinge on me at all — much less that they should do so in the actual shape that those men really bore? How then do these images arise? and of whom are they the images? Aristotle tells us that the poet Orpheus never existed, and the Pythagoreans say that the Orphic poem which we possess was the work of a certain Cecrops; yet Orpheus, that is, according to you, the image of him, often comes into my mind. 1.109. And how extravagantly! There is a constant passage or stream of visual presentations which collectively produce a single visual impression. I should be ashamed to say that I do not understand the doctrine, if you who maintain it understood it yourselves! How can you prove that the stream of images is continuous, or if it is, how are the images eternal? You say that there is an innumerable supply of atoms. Are you going to argue then that everything is eternal, for the same reason? You take refuge in the principle of 'equilibrium' (for so with your consent we will translate isonomia), and you say that because there is mortal substance there must also be immortal substance. On that showing, because there are mortal men, there are also some that are immortal, and because there are men born on land, there are men born in the water. 'And because there are forces of destruction, there are also forces of preservation.' Suppose there were, they would only preserve things that already exist; but I am not aware that your gods do exist. 1.111. In what then does his life consist? 'In a constant succession of things good,' you reply, 'without any admixture of evils.' Things good — what things? Pleasures, I suppose — that is, of course, pleasures of the body, for your school recognizes no pleasures of the mind that do not arise from and come back to the body. I don't suppose that you, Velleius, are like the rest of the Epicureans, who are ashamed of certain utterances of Epicurus, in which he protests that he cannot conceive any good that is unconnected with the pleasures of the voluptuary and the sensualist, pleasures which in fact he proceeds without a blush to enumerate by name. 1.112. Well then, what viands and beverages, what harmonies of music and flowers of various hue, what delights of touch and smell will you assign to the gods, so as to keep them steeped in pleasure? The poets array banquets of nectar and ambrosia, with Hebe or Ganymede in attendance as cup‑bearer; but what will you do, Epicurean? I don't see either where your god is to procure these delights or how he is to enjoy them. It appears then that mankind is more bountifully equipped for happiness than is the deity, since man can experience a wider range of pleasures. 1.114. 'But they are free from pain.' Does that satisfy the ideal of perfect bliss, overflowing with good things? 'God is engaged (they say) in ceaseless contemplation of his own happiness, for he has no other object for his thoughts.' I beg of you to realize in your imagination a vivid picture of a deity solely occupied for all eternity in reflecting 'What a good time I am having! How happy I am!' And yet I can't see how this happy god of yours is not to fear destruction, since he is subjected without a moment's respite to the buffeting and jostling of a horde of atoms that eternally assail him, while from his own person a ceaseless stream of images is given off. Your god is therefore neither happy nor eternal. 1.116. 'But deity possesses an excellence and pre‑eminence which must of its own nature attract the worship of the wise.' Now how can there be any excellence in a being so engrossed in the delights of his own pleasure that he always has been, is, and will continue to be entirely idle and inactive? Furthermore how can you owe piety to a person who has bestowed nothing upon you? or how can you owe anything at all to one who has done you no service? Piety is justice towards the gods; but how can any claims of justice exist between us and them, if god and man have nothing in common? Holiness is the science of divine worship; but I fail to see why the gods should be worshipped if we neither have received nor hope to receive benefit from them. 1.117. On the other hand what reason is there for adoring the gods on the ground of our admiration for the divine nature, if we cannot see that that nature possesses any special excellence? "As for freedom from superstition, which is the favourite boast of your school, that is easy to attain when you have deprived the gods of all power; unless perchance you think that it was possible for Diagoras or Theodorus to be superstitious, who denied the existence of the gods altogether. For my part, I don't see how it was possible even for Protagoras, who was not certain either that the gods exist or that they do not. For the doctrines of all these thinkers abolish not only superstition, which implies a groundless fear of the gods, but also religion, which consists in piously worshipping them. 1.118. Take again those who have asserted that the entire notion of the immortal gods is a fiction invented by wise men in the interest of the state, to the end that those whom reason was powerless to control might be led in the path of duty by religion; surely this view was absolutely and entirely destructive of religion. Or Prodicus of Ceos,',WIDTH,)" onmouseout="nd();"º who said that the gods were personifications of things beneficial to the life of man — pray what religion was left by his theory? 1.119. Or those who teach that brave or famous or powerful men have been deified after death, and that it is these who are the real objects of the worship, prayers and adoration which we are accustomed to offer — are not they entirely devoid of all sense of religion? This theory was chiefly developed by Euhemerus, who was translated and imitated especially by our poet Ennius. Yet Euhemerus describes the death and burial of certain gods; are we then to think of him as upholding religion, or rather as utterly and entirely destroying it? I say nothing of the holy and awe‑inspiring sanctuary of Eleusis, Where tribes from earth's remotest confines seek Initiation, and I pass over Samothrace and those occult mysteries Which throngs of worshippers at dead of night In forest coverts deep do celebrate at Lemnos, since such mysteries when interpreted and rationalized prove to have more to do with natural science than with theology. 1.120. For my own part I believe that even that very eminent man Democritus, the fountain-head from which Epicurus derived the streams that watered his little garden, has no fixed opinion about the nature of the gods. At one moment he holds the view that the universe includes images endowed with divinity; at another he says that there exist in this same universe the elements from which the mind is compounded, and that these are gods; at another, that they are animate images, which are wont to exercise a beneficent or harmful influence over us; and again that they are certain vast images of such a size as to envelop and enfold the entire world. All these fancies are more worthy of Democritus's native city than of himself; 1.121. for who could form a mental picture of such images? who could adore them and deem them worthy of worship or reverence? "Epicurus however, in abolishing divine beneficence and divine benevolence, uprooted and exterminated all religion from the human heart. For while asserting the supreme goodness and excellence of the divine nature, he yet denies to god the attribute of benevolence — that is to say, he does away with that which is the most essential element of supreme goodness and excellence. For what can be better or more excellent than kindness and beneficence? Make out god to be devoid of either, and you make him devoid of all love, affection or esteem for any other being, human or divine. It follows not merely that the gods do not care for mankind, but that they have no care for one another. How much more truth there is in the Stoics, whom you censure! They hold that all wise men are friends, even when strangers to each other, since nothing is more lovable than virtue, and he that attains to it will have our esteem in whatever country he dwells. 1.123. Epicurus is making fun of us, though he is not so much a humorist as a loose and careless writer. For how can holiness exist if the gods pay no heed to man's affairs? Yet what is the meaning of an animate being that pays no heed to anything? "It is doubtless therefore truer to say, as the good friend of us all, Posidonius, argued in the fifth book of his On the Nature of the Gods, that Epicurus does not really believe in the gods at all, and that he said what he did about the immortal gods only for the sake of deprecating popular odium. Indeed he could not have been so senseless as really to imagine god to be like a feeble human being, but resembling him only in outline and surface, not in solid substance, and possessing all man's limbs but entirely incapable of using them, an emaciated and transparent being, showing no kindness or beneficence to anybody, caring for nothing and doing nothing at all. In the first place, a being of this nature is an absolute impossibility, and Epicurus was aware of this, and so actually abolishes the gods, although professedly retaining them. 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. 2.70. Do you see therefore how from a true and valuable philosophy of nature has been evolved this imaginary and fanciful pantheon? The perversion has been a fruitful source of false beliefs, crazy errors and superstitions hardly above the level of old wives' tales. We know what the gods look like and how old they are, their dress and their equipment, and also their genealogies, marriages and relationships, and all about them is distorted into the likeness of human frailty. They are actually represented as liable to passions and emotions — we hear of their being in love, sorrowful, angry; according to the myths they even engage in wars and battles, and that not only when as in Homer two armies and contending and the gods take sides and intervene on their behalf, but they actually fought wars of their own, for instance with the Titans and with the Giants. These stories and these beliefs are utterly foolish; they are stuffed with nonsense and absurdity of all sorts. 2.72. Persons who spent whole days in prayer and sacrifice to ensure that their children should outlive them were termed 'superstitious' (from superstes, a survivor), and the word later acquired a wider application. Those on the other hand who carefully reviewed and so to speak retraced all the lore of ritual were called 'religious' from relegere (to retrace or re‑read), like 'elegant' from eligere (to select), 'diligent' from diligere (to care for), 'intelligent' fromintellegere (to understand); for all these words contain the same sense of 'picking out' (legere) that is present in 'religious.' Hence 'superstitious' and 'religious' came to be terms of censure and approval respectively. I think that I have said enough to prove the existence of the gods and their nature. 2.148. it is by collating and comparing our precepts that we also create the arts that serve either practical necessities or the purpose of amusement. Then take the gift of speech, the queen of arts as you are fond of calling it — what a glorious, what a divine faculty it is! In the first place it enables us both to learn things we do not know and to teach things we do know to others; secondly it is our instrument for exhortation and persuasion, for consoling the afflicted and assuaging the fears of the terrified, for curbing passion and quenching appetite and anger; it is this that has united us in the bonds of justice, law and civil order, this that has sped us from savagery and barbarism. 3.92. But at all events a god could have come to the aid of those great and splendid cities and have preserved them — for you yourselves are fond of saying that there is nothing that a god cannot accomplish, and that without any toil; as man's limbs are effortlessly moved merely by his mind and will, so, as you say, the god's power can mould and move and alter all things. Nor do you say this as some superstitious fable or old wives' tale, but you give a scientific and systematic account of it: you allege that matter, which constitutes and contains all things, is in its entirety flexible and subject to change, so that there is nothing that cannot be moulded and transmuted out of it however suddenly, but the moulder and manipulator of this universal substance is divine providence, and therefore providence, whithersoever it moves, is able to perform whatever it will. Accordingly either providence does not know its own powers, or it does not regard human affairs, or it lacks power of judgement to discern what is the best.
4. Sextus, Against The Mathematicians, 9.149, 9.165-9.166, 9.178-9.179, 9.181 (2nd cent. CE - 3rd cent. CE)

5. Augustine, The City of God, 6.9 (4th cent. CE - 5th cent. CE)

6.9. And as to those very offices of the gods, so meanly and so minutely portioned out, so that they say that they ought to be supplicated, each one according to his special function - about which we have spoken much already, though not all that is to be said concerning it - are they not more consistent with mimic buffoonery than divine majesty? If any one should use two nurses for his infant, one of whom should give nothing but food, the other nothing but drink, as these make use of two goddesses for this purpose, Educa and Potina, he should certainly seem to be foolish, and to do in his house a thing worthy of a mimic. They would have Liber to have been named from liberation, because through him males at the time of copulation are liberated by the emission of the seed. They also say that Libera (the same in their opinion as Venus) exercises the same function in the case of women, because they say that they also emit seed; and they also say that on this account the same part of the male and of the female is placed in the temple, that of the male to Liber, and that of the female to Libera. To these things they add the women assigned to Liber, and the wine for exciting lust. Thus the Bacchanalia are celebrated with the utmost insanity, with respect to which Varro himself confesses that such things would not be done by the Bacchanals except their minds were highly excited. These things, however, afterwards displeased a saner senate, and it ordered them to be discontinued. Here, at length, they perhaps perceived how much power unclean spirits, when held to be gods, exercise over the minds of men. These things, certainly, were not to be done in the theatres; for there they play, not rave, although to have gods who are delighted with such plays is very like raving. But what kind of distinction is this which he makes between the religious and the superstitious man, saying that the gods are feared by the superstitious man, but are reverenced as parents by the religious man, not feared as enemies; and that they are all so good that they will more readily spare those who are impious than hurt one who is innocent? And yet he tells us that three gods are assigned as guardians to a woman after she has been delivered, lest the god Silvanus come in and molest her; and that in order to signify the presence of these protectors, three men go round the house during the night, and first strike the threshold with a hatchet, next with a pestle, and the third time sweep it with a brush, in order that these symbols of agriculture having been exhibited, the god Silvanus might be hindered from entering, because neither are trees cut down or pruned without a hatchet, neither is grain ground without a pestle, nor grain heaped up without a besom. Now from these three things three gods have been named: Intercidona, from the cut made by the hatchet; Pilumnus, from the pestle; Diverra, from the besom;- by which guardian gods the woman who has been delivered is preserved against the power of the god Silvanus. Thus the guardianship of kindly-disposed gods would not avail against the malice of a mischievous god, unless they were three to one, and fought against him, as it were, with the opposing emblems of cultivation, who, being an inhabitant of the woods, is rough, horrible, and uncultivated. Is this the innocence of the gods? Is this their concord? Are these the health-giving deities of the cities, more ridiculous than the things which are laughed at in the theatres? When a male and a female are united, the god Jugatinus presides. Well, let this be borne with. But the married woman must be brought home: the god Domiducus also is invoked. That she may be in the house, the god Domitius is introduced. That she may remain with her husband, the goddess Manturn is used. What more is required? Let human modesty be spared. Let the lust of flesh and blood go on with the rest, the secret of shame being respected. Why is the bed-chamber filled with a crowd of deities, when even the groomsmen have departed? And, moreover, it is so filled, not that in consideration of their presence more regard may be paid to chastity, but that by their help the woman, naturally of the weaker sex, and trembling with the novelty of her situation, may the more readily yield her virginity. For there are the goddess Virginiensis, and the god-father Subigus, and the goddess-mother Prema, and the goddess Pertunda, and Venus, and Priapus. What is this? If it was absolutely necessary that a man, laboring at this work, should be helped by the gods, might not some one god or goddess have been sufficient? Was Venus not sufficient alone, who is even said to be named from this, that without her power a woman does not cease to be a virgin? If there is any shame in men, which is not in the deities, is it not the case that, when the married couple believe that so many gods of either sex are present, and busy at this work, they are so much affected with shame, that the man is less moved, and the woman more reluctant? And certainly, if the goddess Virginiensis is present to loose the virgin's zone, if the god Subigus is present that the virgin may be got under the man, if the goddess Prema is present that, having been got under him, she may be kept down, and may not move herself, what has the goddess Pertunda to do there? Let her blush; let her go forth. Let the husband himself do something. It is disgraceful that any one but himself should do that from which she gets her name. But perhaps she is tolerated because she is said to be a goddess, and not a god. For if she were believed to be a male, and were called Pertundus, the husband would demand more help against him for the chastity of his wife than the newly-delivered woman against Silvanus. But why am I saying this, when Priapus, too, is there, a male to excess, upon whose immense and most unsightly member the newly-married bride is commanded to sit, according to the most honorable and most religious custom of matrons? Let them go on, and let them attempt with all the subtlety they can to distinguish the civil theology from the fabulous, the cities from the theatres, the temples from the stages, the sacred things of the priests from the songs of the poets, as honorable things from base things, truthful things from fallacious, grave from light, serious from ludicrous, desirable things from things to be rejected, we understand what they do. They are aware that that theatrical and fabulous theology hangs by the civil, and is reflected back upon it from the songs of the poets as from a mirror; and thus, that theology having been exposed to view which they do not dare to condemn, they more freely assail and censure that picture of it, in order that those who perceive what they mean may detest this very face itself of which that is the picture - which, however, the gods themselves, as though seeing themselves in the same mirror, love so much, that it is better seen in both of them who and what they are. Whence, also, they have compelled their worshippers, with terrible commands, to dedicate to them the uncleanness of the fabulous theology, to put them among their solemnities, and reckon them among divine things; and thus they have both shown themselves more manifestly to be most impure spirits, and have made that rejected and reprobated theatrical theology a member and a part of this, as it were, chosen and approved theology of the city, so that, though the whole is disgraceful and false, and contains in it fictitious gods, one part of it is in the literature of the priests, the other in the songs of the poets. Whether it may have other parts is another question. At present, I think, I have sufficiently shown, on account of the division of Varro, that the theology of the city and that of the theatre belong to one civil theology. Wherefore, because they are both equally disgraceful, absurd, shameful, false, far be it from religious men to hope for eternal life from either the one or the other. In fine, even Varro himself, in his account and enumeration of the gods, starts from the moment of a man's conception. He commences the series of those gods who take charge of man with Janus, carries it on to the death of the man decrepit with age, and terminates it with the goddess N nia, who is sung at the funerals of the aged. After that, he begins to give an account of the other gods, whose province is not man himself, but man's belongings, as food, clothing, and all that is necessary for this life; and, in the case of all these, he explains what is the special office of each, and for what each ought to be supplicated. But with all this scrupulous and comprehensive diligence, he has neither proved the existence, nor so much as mentioned the name, of any god from whom eternal life is to be sought - the one object for which we are Christians. Who, then, is so stupid as not to perceive that this man, by setting forth and opening up so diligently the civil theology, and by exhibiting its likeness to that fabulous, shameful, and disgraceful theology, and also by teaching that that fabulous sort is also a part of this other, was laboring to obtain a place in the minds of men for none but that natural theology, which he says pertains to philosophers, with such subtlety that he censures the fabulous, and, not daring openly to censure the civil, shows its censurable character by simply exhibiting it; and thus, both being reprobated by the judgment of men of right understanding, the natural alone remains to be chosen? But concerning this in its own place, by the help of the true God, we have to discuss more diligently.
6. Stoic School, Stoicor. Veter. Fragm., 3.229



Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
anaxagoras Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
atom / atomism Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
brutus m. junius Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
carneades Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
cicero, on academic sceptics Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
concepts Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
cotta c. aurelius Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
criterium / criterion Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
desire / tendency / adpetitio Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
diogenes of babylon Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
empedocles Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
epicureanism Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
epicurus, on nature and the self Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
evil Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
gender, and age Mowat, Engendering the Future: Divination and the Construction of Gender in the Late Roman Republic (2021) 51
gods, scepticism about Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
happiness / εὐδαιμονία Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
infinity Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
lucilius balbus, quintus Mowat, Engendering the Future: Divination and the Construction of Gender in the Late Roman Republic (2021) 51
necessity / necessitas / necessarium / ἀνάγκη Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
physical elements Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
plato Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
pleasure Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
probable / probability / probabilitas / πιθανόν Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
sextus empiricus Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
stoicism, stoics, theology of Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
stoicism Mowat, Engendering the Future: Divination and the Construction of Gender in the Late Roman Republic (2021) 51
superstition Mowat, Engendering the Future: Divination and the Construction of Gender in the Late Roman Republic (2021) 51
theology Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
tullius cicero, marcus Mowat, Engendering the Future: Divination and the Construction of Gender in the Late Roman Republic (2021) 51
velleius c. Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
verisimilaritude / veri simile / εἰκός Maso, CIcero's Philosophy (2022) 35
virtue' Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117
xenophanes Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 117