Cicero, Tusculan Disputations

LCL 141: 426-427

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Marcus Tullius Cicero

a nobis susceptam operam philosophandi arbitretur? Sin autem virtus subiecta sub varios incertosque casus famula fortunae est nec tantarum virium est, ut se ipsa tueatur, vereor ne non tam virtutis fiducia nitendum nobis ad spem beate vivendi quam vota 3facienda videantur. Equidem eos casus, in quibus me fortuna vehementer exercuit, mecum ipse considerans huic incipio sententiae diffidere interdum et humani generis imbecillitatem fragilitatemque extimescere. Vereor enim ne natura, cum corpora nobis infirma dedisset iisque et morbos insanabiles et dolores intolerabiles adiunxisset, animos quoque dederit et corporum doloribus congruentes et separatim 4suis angoribus et molestiis implicatos. Sed in hoc me ipse castigo, quod ex aliorum et ex nostra fortasse mollitia, non ex ipsa virtute, de virtutis robore existimo. Illa enim, si modo est ulla virtus—quam dubitationem avunculus tuus, Brute, sustulit—, omnia, quae cadere in hominem possunt, subter se habet eaque despiciens casus contemnit humanos culpaque omni carens praeter se ipsam nihil censet ad se pertinere. Nos autem omnia adversa cum venientia metu augentes turn maerore praesentia rerum naturam quam errorem nostrum damnare malumus.

5II. Sed et huius culpae et ceterorum vitiorum peccatorumque nostrorum omnis a philosophia petenda correctio est; cuius in sinum cum a primis


Disputations, V.

carrying it on as a noble effort? But if on the other hand virtue lies at the mercy of manifold and uncertain accidents and is the handmaid of fortune, and has insufficient strength to maintain herself alone, I fear it seems to follow that in hoping to secure a happy life we should not place our confidence in virtue so much as offer up prayers to heaven. For my part, when I consider with myself the hazards in which fortune has tried me so severely, there are moments when I begin to lose confidence in this opinion of yours and feel exceeding fear of the weakness and frailty of mankind. For I am afraid that nature in giving us, to begin with, feeble bodies, with which she has combined both incurable diseases and unendurable pains, has also given us souls that both share in the suffering of physical pain and, apart from this, have their own entanglement of trouble and vexation. But in such a mood I rebuke myself for forming my judgment of the strength of virtue from the effeminacy of others and perhaps from my own, and not from virtue itself. For virtue, if only any exists—and that doubt your uncle,1 Brutus, has destroyed—keeps beneath its own level all the issues that can fall to man’s lot, and looking down upon them despises the chances of mortal life, and free of all reproach thinks that nothing concerns it besides itself. We on the contrary, magnifying the approach of all adversities by our fears, as well as their presence by our sorrow, prefer to condemn the course of events rather than our own mistakes.

II. But the amendment of this fault, as of all our other failings and offences, must be sought for from philosophy; to whose bosom I was driven from the

  • 1Cato Uticensis.
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-tusculan_disputations.1927