DE NATURADEORUM. INTRODUCTION. SuBJECT.—In De Natura Deorum Cicero put before. Roman readers the theological views of the three schools. Fdbricatio hominis a Cicerone libro secundo de Natura Deorum descripta cum annotationibus Alberti Novicampiani Cracoviae. (In the British Museum. De natura deorum: Marco Tullio Cicerone ; commento di Carlo Giambelli. Front Cover. Marcus Tullius Cicero. Loescher, – pages.
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If you find a mistake though, please let me know! This being so, I, who am a high priest, and who hold it to be a duty most solemnly to maintain the rights and doctrines of the established religion, deorun be glad to be convinced of this fundamental tenet of the divine existence, not as an article of faith merely but as an ascertained fact. For many disturbing reflections occur to my mind, which sometimes make me think that there are no gods at naturz.
But argument is both inconclusive and untrue. In the first place, how do you know what foreign races believe? What are we to say about the men guilty of sacrilege or impiety or perjury? Suppose that ever Lucius Tubulus, Lupus or Carbo, or some son of Neptune, 27 as Lucilius has it, had believed in the gods, would he have been such a perjurer and scoundrel? In regard to all of them you make great play with the lawless domination of the atoms; from these you construct and create everything that comes upon the ground, 28 as he says.
Now in the first place, there are no such things as atoms. For there is nothing. But where is the truth to be found? Where then do we find that happiness and that eternity which in your system are the two catchwords that denote divinity? When you wish to make this out, you take cover in a thicket of jargon; you gave us the formula just now 30 — God has not body but a semblance of body, not blood but a kind of blood.
You advance a paradox, and then, when you want to escape censure, you adduce in support of it some absolute impossibility; so that you would have done better to abandon the point in dispute rather than to offer so shameless a defence. For instance, Epicurus saw that if the atoms travelled downwards by their own weight, we should have no freedom of the will, since the motion of the atoms would be determined by necessity.
He therefore invented a device to escape from determinism the point had apparently escaped the notice of Democritus: He does the same in his battle with the logicians. Now what could be stupider than that? Arcesilas used to attack Zeno because, whereas he himself said that all sense-presentations are false, Zeno said that some were false, but not all. Epicurus feared that if a single sensation were admitted to be false, none would be true: In none of these cases did he behave very cleverly, for to parry a lighter blow he laid himself open to one that was more severe.
In his desire to avoid the assumption of a dense cluster of atoms, which would involve the possibility of destruction and dissipation, he says that the gods have not a body but a semblance of body, and not blood but a semblance of blood.
He shows not the faintest trace of the Academy or the Lyceum, or even of the ordinary schoolboy studies. He stands convicted in the case of Nausiphanes, a follower of Democritus, whom he does not deny he heard lecture, but whom nevertheless he assails with every sort of abuse.
Yet if he had not heard from him these doctrines of Democritus, what had he heard? Therefore we shall use the same language as we should of the Venus of Cos: The third reason you advance is that no other shape is capable of being the abode of intelligence. These notions moreover have been fostered by poets, painters and artificers, who found it difficult to represent living and active deities in the likeness of any other shape than that of man.
Perhaps also man’s belief in his own superior beauty, to which you referred, may have contributed to the result. Do you suppose that there is a single creature on land or in the sea which does not prefer an animal of its own specie to any other?
If this were not so, why should not a bull desire to couple with a mare, or a horse with a cow? Do you imagine that an eagle or lion or dolphin thinks any shape more beautiful than its own? Is it then surprising if nature has likewise taught man to think his own species the most beautiful. Still, the question is, like what man?
How small a percentage of handsome people there are! Alcaeus ‘admires a mole upon his favourite’s wrist’; 34 of course a mole is a blemish, but Alcaeus thought it a beauty. To Catulus, Roscius was fairer than a god. Suppose we grant you that, are we also to say that they are all exactly alike? If not, there will be degrees of beauty among them, and therefore a god can fall short of supreme beauty.
M. Tullio Cicerone: De Natura Deorum : Liber primus
If on the other hand they are all alike, then the Academic school must have a large following in heaven, since if there is no difference between one god and another, among the gods knowledge and perception must be impossible. Very likely we Romans do imagine god as you say, because from our childhood Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Neptune, Vulcan and Apollo have been known to us with the aspect with which painters and sculptors have chosen to represent them, and not with that aspect only, but having that equipment, age and dress.
But they are not se known to the Egyptians or Syrians, or any almost of the uncivilized races. Among these you will find a belief in certain animals more firmly established than is reverence for the holiest sanctuaries and images of the gods with us. What therefore do you infer?
De Natura Deorum – Wikipedia
Precisely as much as you believe the Saviour Juno of your native place to be a goddess. Yet that is not the aspect of the Argive Juno, nor of the Roman. It follows that Juno has one form for the Argives, another for the people of Lanuvium, and another for us.
Doerum your principle it will be legitimate to assert that Jupiter always wears a beard and Apollo never, and that Minerva has grey eyes and Neptune blue. Yes, and at Athens there is a much-praised statue of Vulcan made nattura Alcamenes, a standing figure, draped, which displays a slight lameness, though not enough to be nattura. We shall therefore deem god to be lame, since tradition represents Vulcan so.
Tell me now, do we also make out the gods to have the same names as those by which they are known to us? You are Velleius wherever you travel, but Vulcan has a different name in Italy, in Africa and in Spain. Again, the total number of names even in our pontifical books is not great, but there are gods innumerable.
M. Tullius Cicero, de Natura Deorum, LIBER PRIMUS, section 1
Are they without names? You Epicureans at all events are forced to say so, since what is the point of more names when they are all exactly alike? How delightful it would be, Velleius, if when you did not know a thing you would admit your ignorance, instead of uttering this drivel, which must make even your own gorge rise with disgust?
Of course you do not. If so, we must also say that it is happy; but what forms of enjoyment constitute its happiness?
These are arguments employed by your own school. You do not dare to. Well, that is no doubt wise — although in this matter it is not the public that you fear, but the gods themselves: That which is blessed and immortal neither experiences trouble nor causes it to anyone.
They fail to notice that although his language is ambiguous here, yet in many other places both he and Metrodorus speak as plainly as you yourself did just now. Terrors that do not very seriously alarm ordinary people, according to Epicurus haunt the minds of all mortal men: The sun, limiting his motion by the two extreme points of one orbit, completes his courses yearly.
The five planets, holding the same orbit, but some nearer to and others farther from the earth, from the same starting-points complete the same distances in different periods of time.
And what of god himself? You have never seen him, have you? Why then do you believe in his existence? On this principle we must sweep aside everything unusual of which history or science informs us. How can such narrowness of mind be possible? It follows that, if you had been born in Seriphus and had never left the island, where you had been used to seeing nothing larger than hares and foxes, when lions and panthers were described to you, you would refuse to believe in their existence; and if somebody told you about an elephant, you would actually think that he was making fun of you!
You assumed that the gods are happy: But no one, you said, can be happy without virtue. But virtue cannot exist without reason.
To this also we must agree. You add, neither can reason exist save embodied in human form. Who do you suppose will grant you this? But what about your successive steps? That is not a step, it is a headlong plunge. We ought not to say that the gods have human form, but that our form is divine. Are we to think that divine seed fell from heaven to earth, and that thus men came into being resembling their sires?
But you do not say anything of the sort — you say that our likeness to the gods was caused by chance. Does not even a consideration of the adaptation of man’s limbs to their functions convince you that the gods do not require human limbs? It seems then that god will have a tongue, and will not speak; teeth, a palate, a throat, for no use; the organs that nature has attached to the body for the purpose of procreation — these god will possess, but to no purpose; and not only the external but also the internal organs, the heart, lungs, liver and the rest, which if they are not useful are assuredly not beautiful — since your school holds that god possesses bodily parts because of their beauty.
Her style no doubt is the neatest of Attic, but all the same! And yet you are touchy yourselves, indeed Zeno actually used to invoke the law. You will have to assign to god exactly the same physical exercises and care of the person as are proper to men: All the same you never cease vociferating that we must on no account relinquish the divine happiness and immortality. But what prevents god from being happy without having two legs?
No, you will reply. Then why did you venture to assert the existence of, not thousands and thousands, but a countless number of worlds? Why then, if we are inferior to god in all else, are we his equals in form?
Yet not even the most diligent investigators could possibly collect information about all the vast multitude of creatures that exist on land and in the sea, the marshes and the rivers: Why, does not a dog resemble a wolf? The elephant is the wisest of beasts, but the most ungainly in shape. If you stand out against each of these assumptions, why be troubled about shape only?
This is not to weigh the question, it is to toss up for what you are to say. What a nuisance it is to have a single finger too many!