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invent something worthy of the gift (as I said before) of the gods.
Therefore we should consider those who have discussed the proper
conduct of human life to be great men (as indeed they are); let them be

Another paraphrase of the same passage appears in Ambrose, On the death of Satyrus .

[Ziegler ±b]: What is more wretched than we are? We are tossed out into this life like people
stripped naked, with weak bodies, treacherous hearts, and a feeble spirit; we are worried by cares,
lazy in the face of toil, prone to pleasures. Ziegler includes here also a passage from
Lactantius which is less likely to come from this passage; here it is printed at the end of
Book .

There are similar arguments repeatedly in Balbus™ exposition of Stoic beliefs in On the
Nature of the Gods Book , e.g. at ±µ.

Book 

considered learned men, masters of truth and virtue. But this too should
be something deserving of considerable respect (as in fact it is): the study
of civil society and the organization of peoples “ whether it was dis-
covered by men who had experience in the range of forms of common-
wealth, or was the object of study in the leisure time of philosophers “ a
study which brings about in good minds now, as often in the past, the
development of an incredible, divine virtue.µ [µ] If anyone has thought to
add learning and a fuller knowledge of a¬airs to the mental apparatus
which he acquired through nature or civil institutions, such as the men
who took part in the conversation recorded in this work, then everyone
ought to consider them the best of all. What, after all, can be more
glorious than the conjunction of practical experience in great a¬airs of
state with the knowledge of these arts acquired through study and
learning? What can be imagined more perfect than Publius Scipio or
Gaius Laelius or Lucius Philus? In order to achieve the highest glory of
great men, they added to the traditional knowledge of their own ancestors
the imported philosophical knowledge of the Socratic school. [a] The
person who has had the will and capacity to acquire both “ that is,
ancestral institutions and philosophical learning “ is the one who I think
has done everything deserving of praise. But if it should be necessary to
choose one path of learning or the other, even if the tranquil pattern of
life devoted to study and learning may seem more blessed, nevertheless
civic life is both more praiseworthy and more glorious: this life endows
the greatest men with honor, such as Manius Curius, ˜˜whom no one
could overcome with either steel or gold,™™ or *
[three leaves missing]
[b] Seneca, Moral Letters ±°.: Then he [the grammarian] gathers
verses by Ennius, and particularly those written about Africanus:· ˜˜to whom
no one, neither citizen nor enemy, will be able to render full reward for
his actions.™™ From this he said that he understood that the word ops in early
times means not only ˜˜aid™™ but ˜˜action.™™
[·] * great wisdom existed, but there was this di¬erence between the
two approaches, that one group cultivated the principles of nature
through words and through learning, the other through institutions and
laws. This single city has brought forth many, if not philosophers (since

This passage continues and elaborates the argument of the preface to Book ±; see in

particular ±., ±. Ennius, Annals ° Warmington.

Ennius, Epigrams µ“ Warmington. Scipio Africanus, grandfather of Scipio Aemilianus

and conqueror of Hannibal in the Second Punic War.

On the Commonwealth

this term is used so narrowly by them), then at least men worthy of the
greatest praise, because they cultivated the precepts and discoveries of
the philosophers. And if we take the praiseworthy states which exist and
have existed (since the foundation of a state capable of lasting for a long
time takes greater judgment than anything in the world), and if we count
one person to each state, then how great a multitude we will ¬nd of
excellent men! If in Italy we consider Latium, or the Sabine and Volscian
nations, or Samnium, Etruria, and Magna Graecia, and add to them the
Assyrians, Persians, Carthaginians, if these *
[six leaves missing]
[] * ° © ¬µ : What a marvelous case you give me, asking me to
undertake the defense of wickedness.
¬ ¬ © µ: As if you need to worry about seeming to believe the usual
arguments against justice that you speak! You are yourself almost the
only true example of ancient honesty and faith; and we know your
custom of speaking on both sides of the question in order to arrive at the
truth most easily.
° ©¬ µ: Oh well, I will go along with you and cover myself with ¬lth
deliberately. If people who look for gold don™t object to it, then we who
are searching for justice, something far more valuable than all the gold in
the world, should not shirk any di¬culty.±° But I wish that, just as I will
use someone else™s arguments, I could use someone else™s mouth too! As
it is, Lucius Furius Philus is compelled to say things that Carneades, a
Greek and one accustomed :to expressing9 whatever seemed useful *
[two leaves missing]
[b] Lactantius, Inst. µ.±.“µ: Anyone who does not know about Carneades
the Academic philosopher “ his power in speaking, his eloquence, his sharpness
“ can learn about him from the praise of Cicero or of Lucilius, in whose
writings Neptune in discoursing on a very di¬cult subject shows that it could
not be explained ˜˜not even if Hell should send back Carneades himself.™™±±
When Carneades was sent as an ambassador of the Athenians to Rome, he
gave an eloquent speech about justice in the hearing of Galba and Cato the

C. uses sapiens to translate the Greek philosophos; the model for such wise men is the Seven
Sages; see above, ±.±.

Speaking on both sides of a question with equal conviction was the basic method used by
academic skeptics (including Carneades) to prove to their hearers and to themselves the
impossibility of certain knowledge of anything.
Cf. Plato, Republic ±.e.

Lucilius, fr. µ Warmington. It is quite possible that C. was Lactantius™ source for the


Book 

Censor, the greatest orators of the time. But on the next day Carneades
overturned his own speech with one arguing the opposite, and destroyed the
justice which he had praised on the day before. He did not employ the
seriousness of a philosopher (whose opinion ought to be ¬xed and stable) but
rather the style of the oratorical exercise of arguing on both sides of a question;
he did this regularly in order to be able to refute his opponents, whatever
position they took. In Cicero Lucius Furius recalls the argument in which
Carneades overturned justice; I think that he did so because he [Cicero] was
discussing the commonwealth in order to introduce the defense and praise of
justice, without which he thought that a commonwealth could not be adminis-
tered. Carneades on the other hand, in order to refute Aristotle and Plato the
defenders of justice, in his ¬rst speech gathered all the arguments used on behalf
of justice so that he could overturn them, as he did.
[±a] Lactantius, Inst. µ.±.“: Therefore Carneades, because the asser-
tions of the philosophers were weak, had the daring to refute them, because he
understood that they could be refuted. The gist of his argument was as follows:
that men ordain laws for themselves in accordance with utility, that is to
say they vary in accordance with customs and have frequently been
altered by the same people in accordance with the times; there is no such
thing as natural law. All men and all other animate creatures are drawn to
their own utility under the guidance of nature; and furthermore, either
there is no justice at all, or if there is any, it is the highest stupidity, since
it would harm itself in looking after the interest of others.
[±] ° ©¬ µ : * in order to ¬nd and defend :justice9, the other ¬lled
four quite large books about justice itself.± I looked for nothing grand or
magni¬cent from Chrysippus, who speaks in his own fashion, looking at
everything in terms of the signi¬cance of words, not the substance of
things. It was the task of those heroes to take that virtue, which is the one
that is most generous and liberal (if it exists at all), which loves all people
more than itself, which is born for others rather than for itself,± and to
rouse it up from where it was lying and to place it on the divine throne
not far from wisdom. [±] They lacked neither the will “ what other plan
or reason for writing did they have? “ nor the genius, in which they stood
above everyone; but the case itself overcame their will and their capaci-
ties. The justice we are considering is something civil and not natural at
all. If it were natural, then “ like hot and cold and bitter and sweet “ just
and unjust things would be the same for everyone.
The damaged ¬rst clause describes Plato™s Republic; the second, Aristotle™s lost dialogue

Cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics µ.± ±±°a“±.
On Justice.

On the Commonwealth

[±] But now, if someone ˜˜riding on a chariot of winged snakes™™ (to
use Pacuvius™ phrase)± were able to look down on and inspect the many
varied races and cities, he would see ¬rst among the Egyptians, the most
uncorrupted of races, which has consigned to writing the memory of
many generations and events, that a bull is considered a god, which the
Egyptians name Apis, and that many other monstrosities and creatures of
every sort have been consecrated as gods by this same people. Then in
Greece (as here), that magni¬cent temples have been consecrated with
human statues, which the Persians thought sacrilegious: for that one
reason, Xerxes is said to have ordered the temples of the Athenians to be
burned, because he thought that it was sinful for the gods, whose home is
this whole world, to be shut in by walls. [±µ] Later on, Philip (who
planned it) and Alexander (who waged it) used this excuse for making
war on the Persians, namely to avenge the shrines of Greece “ shrines
which the Greeks did not think should even be rebuilt, so that their
descendants would have before their eyes eternal evidence of the crime of
the Persians. How many people, like the Taurians in the Black Sea, like
Busiris the king of Egypt, like the Gauls and the Carthaginians, have
thought it both pious and highly pleasing to the immortal gods to
sacri¬ce human beings! Human customs are so far apart that the Cretans
and the Aetolians think it honorable to be a bandit, and that the Lac-
edaemonians asserted that all territory belonged to them which they
could touch with a spear. The Athenians used to swear a public oath that
all land was theirs that bore either olives or grain; the Gauls think it
disgraceful to raise crops with their own hands, and so they harvest
others™ ¬elds under arms. [±] We ourselves, the most just of peoples, do
not permit the tribes on the other side of the Alps to grow olives and
vines, so that our olive groves and vineyards may be more valuable. In so
doing, we are said to behave with prudence but not with justice: this will
show you the di¬erence between fairness and wisdom. Even Lycurgus,
the discoverer of the best laws and the most equitable justice, entrusted
the lands of the rich to be cultivated by the common people as if they
were slaves.
[±·] If I wished to list the types of law, institutions, customs, and
behaviors not only in their varieties among the races of the world but in
one city, even in this one, I would show that they were changed a
thousand times, so that our friend Manilius here, the interpreter of the

Plays fr.  Warmington.

Book 

law, would recognize one set of laws now concerning legacies and
inheritances of women, but when he was a young man used to recognize
something quite di¬erent before the passage of the Voconian Law.±µ And
that law itself, which was passed in the interest of men™s utility, is highly
injurious to women. Why should a woman not have money? Why should
she be heir to a Vestal Virgin but not to her own mother? Why, if the
point was to set a limit to women™s wealth, could the daughter of Publius
Crassus, if she were an only child, receive a million sesterces without
breaking the law, while my daughter could not have three hundred
thousand? *
[one leaf missing]
[±] * would have established laws for us, and we would all use the same,
and the same people would not use now one set, now another.
But I ask you, if it is the part of a just and good man to obey the laws,
which ones should he obey? Whatever there are at a given moment? But
virtue does not allow inconsistency, nor does nature permit variation; our
laws are observed because of punishments, not because of our justice.
Justice, therefore, is not natural at all; and that leads to the conclusion
that no people is naturally just. Or do they say that there is variation in
laws, but that good men naturally follow true justice, not that which is
thought to be justice? It is the part of a good and just man to give to each
person what is worthy of him.± [±] Well then, what shall we ¬rst give to
the dumb beasts? It was no average men, but the greatest and most
learned, Pythagoras and Empedocles, who claimed that one justice ap-
plied to all animate beings, and they assert that inexpiable penalties await
those who harm an animal. Therefore it is a crime to harm a beast, and
the person who wants :to avoid9 this crime *
[nine leaves missing]
[] ° © ¬µ :±· * all those who have the power of life and death over a

people are tyrants, but they prefer themselves to be called kings, using
The Voconian Law of ±  prohibited wealthy men from naming women as heirs but

allowed them to leave legacies to women up to a certain percentage of the estate. The
di¬erence between what Crassus™ daughter and Philus™ can receive is a function of the
value of their estates. Vestal Virgins (considered to be men for legal purposes) had the
right both to make wills and to inherit.
Distributive justice; cf. Plato, Republic ±.±e, and Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics µ,

particularly µ. ±±±a±°“b.
There is clearly a gap in the argument here: the argument against carnivorousness will
have ended by showing that it is utility rather than altruism that governs human behavior;
in what follows, Philus is showing that the rule applies to states as much as to individuals
and that governments are based on the self-interest of the ruling class.

On the Commonwealth

the title of highest Jupiter.± Furthermore, when certain individuals
because of their wealth or family or other resources control the common-
wealth, it is a faction, but they call themselves ˜˜the best people.™™± And if
the people has the greatest power and everything is done by its decision,
that is called liberty but is in fact license. But when each fears another,
both individuals and classes, then because no one is sure of himself, there
is a kind of bargain made between the people and the magnates, and out
of this arises that combined form of state which Scipio praised; and
indeed neither nature nor our wishes is the mother of justice: weakness
is. When it is necessary to make a choice among three possibilities, to do
injury and not receive it, both to do it and to receive it, or neither, the
best is to act without penalty if you can, the second best is neither to do
nor to receive injury, and far the worst is always to be ¬ghting in the
arena both giving and receiving injuries.° Therefore those who can
achieve the ¬rst *
[four leaves missing]
[°a] Lactantius, Inst. ..“:± If someone ignorant of divine law wishes to
follow justice, he will embrace the laws of his own people as if they were true
justice, but in fact it was utility rather than justice that discovered them. Why
have di¬erent and various laws been established throughout the world, if not
because each people ordained for itself what it thought useful for its own
a¬airs? The Roman people teaches us the distance between utility and justice:
by declaring war through the fetials and by causing injury under the guise of
law, by constantly desiring and seizing others™ property, they obtained pos-
session of the entire world.
[b] ° © ¬µ : * remember. Wisdom orders us to increase our re-
sources, to enlarge our wealth, to extend our boundaries “ what else is the
reason for the praise carved on the tombs of the greatest generals that ˜˜he
extended the boundaries of the empire™™ if something had not been added
from others™ territory? “ to rule over as many people as possible, to enjoy
pleasures, to be powerful, to rule, to be a lord; but justice instructs us to
spare everyone, to look after the interests of the human race, to render to
each his own, to keep hands o¬ things that are sacred or public or belong
to someone else. What will be the result if you obey wisdom? Wealth,
power, resources, o¬ces, commands, rule, whether by individuals or

Compare ±.µ° above. Compare ±.µ±“µ above.
± ±

Cf. Plato, Republic .µe“µb.

This passage presumably summarizes part of Philus™ argument, although the reference to
˜˜divine law™™ shows Lactantius™ di¬erent perspective.

Book 

nations. But since we are talking about the commonwealth, and since
things that are done in public are more perspicuous, and since the
reasoning underlying law is the same for both, I think that I should speak
about the wisdom of nations. And to set other peoples aside: our own
people, whose history from the beginning Africanus discussed in yester-
day™s conversation, whose rule now controls the whole world “ do you
think that it was through justice or wisdom that it grew from a tiny nation
to the :greatest9 of all? *
[ten leaves missing]
[a] For when he was asked what crime drove him to ravage the seas
with one galley, he replied, ˜˜the same one that drove you to ravage the
whole world.™™ [Nonius ±µ.±, ±.±, µ.±µ]
[±b] Lactantius, Inst. µ.±.: He made use of the following arguments: All
successful imperial powers, including the Romans themselves who have
gained possession of the entire world, if they should wish to be just “ that
is to say to return property that belongs to others “ would have to go back
to living in huts and languishing in want and wretchedness.
[µ] ° ©¬ µ: * except the Arcadians and Athenians; and in my
opinion, because they were afraid that at some time this injunction of
justice would be served on them, they pretended that they arose from the
earth like these mice from the ¬eld.
[] The reply to these arguments comes ¬rst from those who give the
least-dishonest response;µ they have all the more weight in this case
because in the search for a good man, whom we want to be both open and
straightforward, they are not tricky or arti¬cial or deceitful in their
arguments. They deny that the wise man is good because goodness and
justice are automatically or in themselves pleasing to him, but because
the life of good men is one free from fear, care, worry and danger, while
The same anecdote about Alexander the Great and the pirate is also taken from C. by
Augustine, City of God ..
Similarly in Lactantius, Epitome µ±(µ). [not in Ziegler]: ˜˜If all the peoples who hold

empires, including the Romans themselves who control the whole world, should wish to
follow justice and return to everyone the possessions which they have taken through force
of arms, they would return to huts and to poverty. If they did that, one would have to
judge that they were just but stupid in their e¬ort to help others by harming themselves.™™
A briefer summary in Augustine, City of God ±.± (below, .).
Both the Arcadians and the Athenians claimed to be autochthonous and are hence (in this
argument) the only people who can claim original possession of their land. The argument
here probably alludes to Roman property law: ownership (as opposed to possession) can
only be proven by tracing title back to an original mode of acquisition “ known as probatio
diabolica (the Devil™s proof ) in the Middle Ages because of its virtual impossibility.
The Epicureans.

On the Commonwealth

there is always some uneasiness clinging to the minds of the wicked, and
they always have before their eyes the prospect of trials and torture: there
is no advantage or reward derived from injustice that is so great that you
should always be afraid, that you should always think that some penalty
or loss is in the o¬ng or hanging over you *
[four leaves missing]
[] Lactantius, Inst. µ.±.µ“±: Then he moved from generalities to
particulars: ˜˜If a good man,™™ he said, ˜˜has a fugitive slave or an unhealthy
and contaminated house, and he alone knows of these defects, and
advertises them for sale, will he admit that he is selling a fugitive slave or
a contaminated house, or will he conceal it from the buyer? If he admits
it, he will be judged to be good because he is not deceptive, but he will
still be judged stupid, because he will sell it at a low price or not at all. If
he conceals it, he will be intelligent in looking after his property, but he
will also be wicked, because he is deceptive. Again: if he ¬nds someone
who thinks that he is selling brass when it is in fact gold, or lead, when it
is really silver, will he keep quiet to buy it at a low price, or will he reveal
it and pay a high price? It seems obviously stupid to prefer to pay the high
price.™™ He wanted it to be understood from this that the just and good man is
stupid, and the smart one is wicked. And yet it is possible for men to be content
with poverty without any danger.
[°] Therefore, he turned to larger issues, in which no one could be just
without risk to his life. He said: ˜˜It is just not to kill a man, and not to lay
hold of someone else™s property. So what will the just man do if he
happens to be shipwrecked, and a weaker man has got hold of a plank?
Won™t he push him o¬ and get on himself and use it to escape “ especially
since there are no witnesses in the middle of the ocean? If he is smart, he
will do it: he will have to die if he doesn™t, and if he prefers to die rather

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