Cicero, Tusc. 1.96-99

96 quodsi expectando et desiderando pendemus animis, cruciamur, angimur, pro di immortales, quam illud iter iucundum esse debet, quo confecto nulla reliqua cura, nulla sollicitudo futura sit! quam me delectat Theramenes! quam elato animo est! etsi enim flemus, cum legimus, tamen non miserabiliter vir clarus emoritur: qui cum coniectus in carcerem triginta iussu tyrannorum venenum ut sitiens obduxisset, reliquum sic e poculo eiecit, ut id resonaret, quo sonitu reddito adridens 'popino' inquit 'hoc pulchro Critiae', qui in eum fuerat taeterrimus. Graeci enim <in> conviviis solent nominare, cui poculum tradituri sint. lusit vir egregius extremo spiritu, cum iam praecordiis conceptam mortem contineret, vereque ei, cui venenum praebiberat, mortem eam est auguratus, quae brevi consecuta est.

97 Quis hanc maximi animi aequitatem in ipsa morte laudaret, si mortem malum iudicaret? vadit enim in eundem carcerem atque in eundem paucis post annis scyphum Socrates, eodem scelere iudicum quo tyrannorum Theramenes. quae est igitur eius oratio, qua facit eum Plato usum apud iudices iam morte multatum? XLI. 'Magna me' inquit 'spes tenet, iudices, bene mihi evenire, quod mittar ad mortem. necesse est enim sit alterum de duobus, ut aut sensus omnino omnes mors auferat aut in alium quendam locum ex his locis migretur. quam ob rem, sive sensus extinguitur morsque ei somno similis est, qui non numquam etiam sine visis somniorum placatissimam quietem adfert, di boni, quid lucri est emori! aut quam multi dies reperiri possunt, qui tali nocti anteponantur! cui si similis est perpetuitas omnis consequentis temporis, quis me beatior?

98 sin vera sunt quae dicuntur, migrationem esse mortem in eas oras, quas qui e vita excesserunt incolunt, id multo iam beatius est. tene, cum ab is, qui se iudicum numero haberi volunt, evaseris, ad eos venire, qui vere iudices appellentur, Minoem Rhadamanthum Aeacum Triptolemum, convenireque eos qui iuste <et> cum fide vixerint —haec peregrinatio mediocris vobis videri potest? ut vero conloqui cum Orpheo Musaeo Homero Hesiodo liceat, quanti tandem aestimatis? equidem saepe emori, si fieri posset, vellem, ut ea quae dico mihi liceret invisere. quanta delectatione autem adficerer, cum Palamedem, cum Aiacem, cum alios iudicio iniquo circumventos convenirem! temptarem etiam summi regis, qui maximas copias duxit ad Troiam, et Ulixi Sisyphique prudentiam, nec ob eam rem, cum haec exquirerem sicut hic faciebam, capite damnarer.— Ne vos quidem, iudices i qui me absolvistis, mortem timueritis.

99 nec enim cuiquam bono mali quicquam evenire potest nec vivo nec mortuo, nec umquam eius res a dis inmortalibus neglegentur, nec mihi ipsi hoc accidit fortuito. nec vero ego is, a quibus accusatus aut a quibus condemnatus sum, habeo quod suscenseam, nisi quod mihi nocere se crediderunt.' et haec quidem hoc modo; nihil autem melius extremo: 'sed tempus est' inquit 'iam hinc abire, me, ut moriar, vos, ut vitam agatis. utrum autem sit melius, dii inmortales sciunt, hominem quidem scire arbitror neminem.'

Let us, then, despise all these follies — for what softer name can I give to such levities? — and let us lay the foundation of our happiness in the strength and greatness of our minds, in a contempt and disregard of all earthly things, and in the practice of every virtue. For at present we are enervated by the softness of our imaginations, so that, should we leave this world before the promises of our fortune-tellers are made good to us, we should think ourselves deprived of some great advantages, and seem disappointed and forlorn. But if, through life, we are in continual suspense, still expecting, still desiring, and are in continual pain and torture, good Gods! how pleasant must that journey be which ends in security and ease! How pleased am I with Theramenes! Of how exalted a soul does he appear! For, although we never read of him without tears, yet that illustrious man is not to be lamented in his death, who, when he had been imprisoned by the command of the thirty tyrants, drank off, at one draught, as if he had been thirsty, the poisoned cup, and threw the remainder out of it with such force that it sounded as it fell; and then, on hearing the sound of the drops, he said, with a smile, “I drink this to the most excellent Critias,” who had been his most bitter enemy; for it is customary among the Greeks, at their banquets, to name the person to whom they intend to deliver the cup. This celebrated man was pleasant to the last, even when he had received the poison into his bowels, and truly foretold the death of that man whom he named when he drank the poison, and that death soon followed. Who that thinks death an evil could approve of the evenness of temper in this great man at the instant of dying? Socrates came, a few years after, to the same prison and the same cup by as great iniquity on the part of his judges as the tyrants displayed when they executed Theramenes. What a speech is that which Plato makes him deliver before his judges, after they had condemned him to death! XLI “I am not without hopes, O judges, that it is a favourable circumstance for me that I am condemned to die; for one of these two things must necessarily happen — either that death will deprive me entirely of all sense, or else that, by dying, I shall go from hence into some other place; wherefore, if all sense is utterly extinguished, and if death is like that sleep which sometimes is so undisturbed as to be even without the visions of dreams — in that case, O ye good Gods! what gain is it to die? or what length of days can be imagined which would be preferable to such a night? And if the constant course of future time  is to resemble that night, who is happier than I am? But if on the other hand, what is said be true, namely, that death is but a removal to those regions where the souls of the departed dwell, then that state must be more happy still to have escaped from those who call themselves judges, and to appear before such as are truly so — Minos, Rhadamanthus, Æacus, Triptolemus — and to meet with those who have lived with justice and probity! 24 Can this change of abode appear otherwise than great to you? What bounds can you set to the value of conversing with Orpheus, and Musæus, and Homer, and Hesiod? I would even, were it possible, willingly die often, in order to prove the certainty of what I speak of. What delight must it be to meet with Palamedes, and Ajax, and others, who have been betrayed by the iniquity of their judges! Then, also, should I experience the wisdom of even that king of kings, who led his vast troops to Troy, and the prudence of Ulysses and Sisyphus: nor should I then be condemned for prosecuting my inquiries on such subjects in the same way in which I have done here on earth. And even you, my judges, you, I mean, who have voted for my acquittal, do not you fear death, for nothing bad can befall a good man, whether he be alive or dead; nor are his concerns ever overlooked by the Gods; nor in my case either has this befallen me by chance; and I have nothing to charge those men with who accused or condemned me but the fact that they believed that they were doing me harm.” In this manner he proceeded. There is no part of his speech which I admire more than his last words: “But it is time,” says he, “for me now to go hence, that I may die; and for you, that you may continue to live. Which condition of the two is the best, the immortal Gods know; but I do not believe that any mortal man does.”

 

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