Cicero, in Pisonem (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Pis.].
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68

Some one will say, “How did you find out all

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this?” I will not indeed, describe any one in such a manner as to insult him, especially if he be an ingenious and learned man, a class with whom I could not be angry, even if I wished it. There is a certain Greek who lives with him, a man, to tell the truth, (I speak as I have found him,) of good manners, at least as long as he is in other company than Piso's, or while he is by himself. He, when he had met that man, as a young man, though even then he had an expression of countenance as if he were angry with the gods, did not disdain his friendship, as the other sought for it with great eagerness; he gave himself up to intimacy with him, so as indeed to live wholly with him, and I may almost say, never to depart from him. I am speaking not before illiterate men, but, as I imagine, in a company of the most learned and highly accomplished men possible. You have no doubt heard it said, that the Epicurean philosophers measure everything which a man ought to desire by pleasure;—whether that is truly said or not is nothing to us, or if it be anything to us, it certainly has no bearing on the present subject; but still it is a tempting sort of argument for a young man, and one always dangerous to a person of no great intelligence.

69 Therefore, that profligate fellow, the moment that he heard that pleasure was so exceedingly praised by a philosopher, inquired nothing further; he so excited all his own senses which could be affected by pleasure, he neighed so on hearing this statement, that it was plain he thought that he had discovered not a teacher of virtue, but a pander to his lust. The Greek first began to distinguish between those precepts, and to separate them from one another, and to show in what sense they are uttered; but that cripple held the ball, as they say; he was determined to retain what he had got; he would have witnesses, and would have all the papers sealed up; he said, that Epicurus was an eloquent man. And so he is; he says, as I conceive, that he cannot understand the existence of any good when all the pleasures of the body are taken away. Why need I say much on such a topic?

70 The Greek is an easy man, and very complaisant; he had no idea of being too contradictory to an “Imperator” of the Roman people.

ch. 29

But the man of whom I am speaking is excessively accomplished, not in philosophy alone, but also in general

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literature, which they say that the rest of the Epicureans commonly neglect. He composes a poem, so witty, so neat, so elegant, that nothing can be cleverer. In respect of which any one may find fault with him who pleases, provided he does so good-humouredly, treating him not as a profligate, or a rascal, or a desperado, but merely as a Greekling, as a flatterer, as a poet. He comes to, or rather, I should say, he falls in with him, deceived by the same rigid brow of his (being, too, a Greek and a stranger) as this wise and great city was beguiled by. He could not withdraw when he had once become entangled in his intimacy, and he was afraid also of getting the character of being fickle. Being entreated, and invited, and compelled, he wrote so many things which he addressed to him, so many things too about him, that he has described in the most delicate poetry possible all the lusts of the man, all his debaucheries, all his different suppers and revels, and even all his adulteries.

71 And, in that poetry, any one who pleases can see that fellow's way of life reflected as in a mirror. And I would recite you much of it, which many men have read or heard, if I were not afraid that even the kind of speech which I am indulging in at this moment is at variance with the general usages of this place; and at the same time, I do not wish to do any injury to the character of the man who wrote it.

For if he had had better fortune in getting a pupil, perhaps he might have turned out a more strict and dignified man himself; but chance has led him into a habit of writing in this manner, very unworthy of a philosopher; if at least philosophy does, as is reported, comprehend the whole system of virtue, and duty, and living properly; and a man who professes it appears to me to have taken on himself a very serious and difficult character.

72 But the same chance has polluted the man, who was quite ignorant of what he was professing when he called himself a philosopher, with the mud and filth of that fellow's most obscene and intemperate flock.

And when he had praised the achievements of my consulship, (and I feel that the panegyric of that basest of men was almost a discredit to me myself,) “it was not,” says he, “any odium that you incurred by your conduct then, which injured you, but your verses.” It was too great a punishment that was established, I trust, by you when you were consul, for a

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poet, whether he were a bad one, or too free an one. For you wrote— Arms to the gown must yield.
What then?—“This was what excited all that storm against you.” But I imagine that never was written in that panegyric, which, while you were consul was engraved on the sepulchre of the republic—“May it please you, that because Marcus Cicero has written a verse,...” but because he punished the guilty.

ch. 30

73

But since we are to consider you not as Aristarchus, but as a sort of grammatical Phalaris, a man who does not put a mark to a bad verse but who pursues the poet with arms, I wish to know what fault you find with this verse “Arms to the gown must yield.” “You say,” says he “that the greatest generals must yield to the gown.”Why now, you ass, am I to teach you letters? I do not want words for such a purpose but a stick. I did not say this gown, in which I am clothed, nor, when I said “arms,” did I mean the sword and shield of any one particular general. But as the gown is the emblem of peace and tranquillity, and arms on the contrary are a token of disturbance and war, speaking after the manner of poets, I wished this to be understood that war and tumult were to yield to peace and tranquillity.



Cicero, in Pisonem (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Pis.].
<<Cic. Pis. 64 Cic. Pis. 70 (Latin) >>Cic. Pis. 76

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