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The Academic Questions, Treatise De Finibus, and Tusculan Disputations, of M.T. Cicero, With a Sketch of the Greek Philosophers Mentioned by Cicero »


By Marcus Tullius Cicero

ye immortal gods, did that man use to bear, when all his limbs seemed as

if they were on fire. And yet he did not appear to be miserable, (because

in truth pain was not the greatest of evils,) but only afflicted. But if

he had been immersed in continued pleasure, passing at the same time a

vicious and infamous life, then he would have been miserable.

XXIX. But when you say that great pains last but a short time, and that if

they last long they are always light, I do not understand the meaning of

your assertion. For I see that some pains are very great, and also very

durable. And there is a better principle which may enable one to endure

them, which however you cannot adopt, who do not love what is honourable

for its own sake. There are some precepts for, and I may almost say laws

of, fortitude, which forbid a man to behave effeminately in pain.

Wherefore it should be accounted disgraceful, I do not say to grieve, (for

that is at times unavoidable,) but to make those rocks of Lemnos

melancholy with such outcries as those of Philoctetes–

Who utters many a tearful note aloud,

With ceaseless groaning, howling, and complaint.

Now let Epicurus, if he can, put himself in the place of that man–

Whose veins and entrails thus are racked with pain

And horrid agony, while the serpent’s bite

Spreads its black venom through his shuddering frame.

Let Epicurus become Philoctetes. If his pain is sharp it is short. But in

fact he has been lying in his cave for ten years. If it lasts long it is

light, for it grants him intervals of relaxation. In the first place it

does not do so often; and in the second place what sort of relaxation is

it when the memory of past agony is still fresh, and the fear of further

agony coming and impending is constantly tormenting him. Let him die, says

he. Perhaps that would be the best thing for him; but then what becomes of

the argument, that the wise man has always more pleasure than pain? For if

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