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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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