Saturday, 19 October 2013

54 BC, On the Commonwealth, Cicero.

[From the Editors Preface: With the exception of the dream of Scipio, in the last book, the whole treatise was lost till the year 1822, when the librarian of the Vatican discovered a portion of them among the palimpsests in that library. What he discovered is translated here; but it is in a most imperfect and mutilated state]

Book 3
XXV Hear what Tully [Cicero] says more plainly still in the third book of his treatise on the Commonwealth, when discussing the reasons for government. Do we not, says he, see that nature herself has given the power of dominion to everything that is best, to the extreme advantage of what is subjected to it? Why, then, does God govern man, and why does the mind govern the body, and reason govern lust and passion and the other vicious parts of the same mind? Listen thus far; for presently he adds, But still there are dissimilarities to be recognized in governing and in obeying. For as the mind is said to govern the body, and also to govern lust, still it governs the body as a king governs his subjects, or a parent his children; but it governs lust as a master governs his slaves, because it restrains and breaks it. The authority of kings, of generals, of magistrates, of fathers, and of nations, rules their subjects and allies as the mind rules bodies; but masters control their slaves, as the best part of the mind—that is to say, wisdom—controls the vicious and weak parts of itself, such as lust, passion, and the other perturbations.

For there is a kind of unjust slavery when those belong to some one else who might be their own masters; but when those are slaves who cannot govern themselves, there is no injury done.

Book 4

Well did Marcus Tullius say, In truth, if there is no one who would not prefer death to being changed into the form of some beast, although he were still to retain the mind of a man, how much more wretched is it to have the mind of a beast in the form of a man! To me this fate appears as much worse than the other as the mind is superior to the body.

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