Page images
PDF
EPUB

666

must be willing to take the initiative, just as we must begin by sowing, in order to reap afterwards?'

“The wise man will dogmatize and not raise sceptical objections (απορήσειν).

“The wise man will not fall in love, nor will he marry or beget children except under special circumstances, for many are the inconveniences of marriage?

I add one more quotation to illustrate not so much the doctrines of Epicurus, as the grandeur and the gloom of one who was a Roman and a poet before he was an Epicurean.

“Now no more shall thy home receive thee with glad welcome, nor wife and children run to be the first to snatch kisses and touch thy heart with a silent joy. One disastrous day has taken from thee, luckless man, all the many prizes of life.” This do men say, but add not thereto “and now no longer does any craving for these things beset thee withal.” For thus they ought rather to think "Thou, even as now thou art, sunk in the sleep of death, shalt continue so for ever, freed from all distress; but we with a sorrow that would not be sated, wept for thee, when close by, thou didst turn to an ashen hue on the appalling funeral pile, and no length of days shall pluck from our hearts our ever

1 Diog. X 121. Seneca Ep. 9, draws the contrast between the Epicurean which recommended friendship in order that one might have a friend's help and succour, ut habeat qui sibi aegro assideat, succurrat in vincula conjecto vel inopi, and the Stoic view that he might be useful to others, ut habeat aliquem cui ipse aegro assideat, quem ipse circumventum hostili custodia liberet. But Epicurus allows there may be occasions on which the wise man would die for his friend, Útèp pílov TOTÈ Tedvýšeobar. Diog. 121. 2 Diog. X 121.

The last clause is added by Seneca, see Zeller, P. 459, n.

3

Diog. X 119.

during grief."...Once more, if Nature could suddenly utter a voice and rally any one of us in such words as these, “what reason hast thou, O mortal, for all this exceeding sorrow? why bemoan and bewail death? For, if thy life past and gone has been welcome to thee, why not take thy departure like a guest filled with life, and enter with resignation on untroubled rest? But if all thou hast enjoyed has been squandered and lost and life is a grievance, why seek to add more, to be wasted in its turn and utterly lost without avail ? Why not rather make an end of life and travail ? for there is nothing more which I can contrive to give thee pleasure: all things are ever the same.”... With good reason, methinks, Nature would bring her charge ; for old things give way and are supplanted by new,...one thing never ceases to rise out of another, and life is granted to none in feesimple, to all in usufruct...And those things sure enough, which are fabled to be in the deep of Acheron, do all exist for us in this life...Cerberus and the Furies and Tartarus belching forth hideous fires from his throat, these are things which nowhere are, nor sooth to say can be. But there is in life a dread of punishment for evil deeds, signal as the deeds are signal; there is the prison and the hurling from the rock, the scourging and the executioner, the dungeon of the doomed; or should these be wanting, yet the conscience-stricken mind through boding fears applies to itself whips and goads, and sees not what end there can be of evils or what limit at last is set to punishments, and fears lest these very evils be aggravated after death, so that the life of fools becomes at length a hell on earth. Remember too that even worthy Ancus has closed his eyes in darkness, who was

far, far better than thou, unconscionable man. And since then, many kings and potentates have been laid low, who lorded it over mighty nations. He too, even he who erst made a path for his legions to march over the deep, and set at naught the roarings of the seas, trampling on them with his horses, had the light taken from him and shed forth his soul from his dying body. The son of the Scipios, thunderbolt of war, terror of Carthage, yielded his bones to earth, just as if he were the lowest menial. Think too of the inventors of all sciences and graceful arts, think of the companions of the Heliconian maids; among whom Homer bore the sceptre without a peer, and he now sleeps the same sleep as others... Even Epicurus passed away, when his light of life had run its course, he who surpassed in intellect the race of man and quenched the light of all, as the etherial sun arisen quenches the stars. Wilt thou then hesitate and think it a hardship to die? thou for whom life is well nigh dead whilst yet thou livest and seest the light, who wastest the greater part of thy time in sleep and snorest wide awake and ceasest not to see visions and hast a mind troubled with groundless terror and canst not discover often what it is that ails thee, when, besotted man, thou art sore pressed on all sides with a multitude of cares and goest astray still floundering in the maze of error!

[ocr errors]

"In tracing the history of the post-Aristotelian philosophy we have seen that, underneath the antagonisms of the different schools of this period, there was, in the first place, much which they held in common, in opposition

1 Lucr. III 894–1052. The translation is Munro's, slightly altered and abbreviated.

to the earlier schools; and secondly that there was a constant tendency, especially noticeable in the Academic and Stoic schools, to approximate to each other and to modify or suppress their own distinctive characteristics. Partly owing to better acquaintance and improved understanding of each other's doctrines, and partly as a result of criticism bringing to light the weak points of each, there was a double movement going on, towards eclecticism on the one side, as it began to be surmised that the different schools presented different aspects of truth, and towards scepticism on the other side, as it was felt that no school could boast to have attained to absolute truth. This natural tendency of speculative thought was further assisted by the circumstances of the time, especially by the rise of the Roman power and the growing intercourse between Greece and Rome. To estimate the nature and extent of this influence on the ulterior development of philosophy, there are four points to be considered; (1) what new factors were supplied by Rome? or, to express it differently, what were the distinguishing features of the Roman intellect and character before it underwent the process of Hellenizing? (2) through what channels was this process carried on ? (3) what was the result as regards the Romans? (4) how did Rome react on Greece?

As regards (1), if we compare a Roman or a Sabine at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. with an Athenian, we shall probably find the latter to be a townsman, vain, flighty, impressible, excitable; tolerant and liberal in opinion, and lax, not to say loose, in morality; of ready and versatile talent, with a taste for literature and art, and a natural fondness for discussion, ever seeking for novelty and amusement; democratic in politics, so far as, under the altered circumstances of Athens, he still retains any interest in politics; half sceptical, half superstitious and wholly inquisitive in matters of religion. The former is the contrary of all this, a dweller in the country, fond of home, proud, stubborn, earnest, narrowly conservative, a stern moralist and strict disciplinarian, scorning luxury and refinement, and content to be guided in all things by the wisdom of his ancestors, suspicious of ideas and rhetoric, indifferent to all but practical considerations, aristocratic in politics, with a deep-rooted belief in his traditional religion, as the only foundation and safeguard of the fortune and the greatness of the city, for which he is at all times ready to sacrifice his life'. The contrast was often commented on both by Greeks and Romans. Thus Polybius in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. writes as follows, 'the great superiority of the Romans lies in their religious belief: what is blamed among other men is the foundation of their power, I mean, superstition. They endeavour in every way to heighten the imposing aspect of their religion (étè τοσούτον εκτετραγώδηται) and to extend its influence over the whole of life, both public and private. And this seems to be done especially with a view to the common people, for in a state consisting of wise men alone, perhaps such a course would be less necessary. But as the multitude is always frivolous, full of lawless passions and senseless anger, nothing remains but to restrain them by giving form and shape to the terrors of an unseen world (τοίς αδήλους φόβους και τη τοιαύτη τραγωδία). Hence it appears to me that the ancients had good reason for in

6

i See the account of Cato the elder in Mommsen, Bk. III. ch. 13.

« PreviousContinue »