Haec docuit colere divina, humana diligere, et penes deos imperium esse, inter homines consortium. Quod aliquandiu inviolatum mansit, antequam societatem avaritia distraxit et paupertatis causa etiam is, quos fecit locupletissimos, fuit. Desierunt1 enim omnia possidere, dum volunt propria.
4Sed primi mortalium quique ex his geniti naturam incorrupti sequebantur, eundem habebant et ducem et legem, commissi melioris arbitrio. Naturae est enim potioribus deteriora summittere. Mutis quidem gregibus aut maxima corpora praesunt aut vehementissima. Non praecedit armenta degener taurus, sed qui magnitudine ac toris ceteros mares vicit. Elephantorum gregem excelsissimus ducit; inter homines pro summo2 est optimum. Animo itaque rector eligebatur, ideoque summa felicitas erat gentium, in quibus non poterat potentior esse nisi melior. Tuto3 enim quantum vult potest, qui se nisi quod debet non putat posse.4
5Illo ergo saeculo, quod aureum perhibent, penes sapientes fuisse regnum Posidonius iudicat. Hi continebant
together in close-united fellowship. Philosophy has taught us to worship that which is divine, to love that which is humana; she has told us that with the gods lies dominion, and among men, fellowship. This fellowship remained unspoiled for a long time, until avarice tore the community asunder and became the cause of poverty, even in the case of those whom she herself had most enriched. For men cease to possess all things the moment they desire all things for their own.
But the first men and those who sprang from them, still unspoiled, followed nature, having one man as both their leader and their law, entrusting themselves to the control of one better than themselves. For nature has the habit of subjecting the weaker to the stronger. Even among the dumb animals those which are either biggest or fiercest hold sway. It is no weakling bull that leads the herd; it is one that has beaten the other males by his might and his muscle. In the case of elephants, the tallest goes first; among men, the best is regarded as the highest. That is why it was to the mind that a ruler was assigned; and for that reason the greatest happiness rested with those peoples among whom a man could not be the more powerful unless he were the better. For that man can safely accomplish what he will who thinks he can do nothing except what he ought to do.
- aCompare the “knowledge of things divine and things human’ of lxxxix. 5.
- bThe “Golden Age” motif was a frequent one in Latin literature. Compare, e.g., Tibullus, i. 3. 35 ff., the passage beginning:
Cf. § 46, summing up the message of Seneca’s letter.
Quam bene Saturno vivebant rege, priusquam Tellus in longas est patefacta vias!
- cWhile modern philosophy would probably side with Seneca rather than with Posidonius, it is interesting to know the opinion of Macaulay, who holds (Essay on Bacon) that there is much in common between Posidonius and the English inductive philosopher, and thinks but little of Seneca’s ideas on the subject. Cf. W. C. Summers, Select Letters of Seneca, p. 312.