Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and on Divination 1107070481, 9781107070486

During the months before and after he saw Julius Caesar assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Cicero wrote two philo

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Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and on Divination
 1107070481, 9781107070486

Table of contents :
Introduction: Cicero and the Translation
Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination
Velleius the Epicurean
Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic
Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination
Marcus’ Arguments against Divination
Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question
Terminology in DND and Div. for Religious Virtues and Vices, and Greek Equivalents
Velleius’ Strategies against his Opponents
Balbus’ Classification of the Gods
General index
Index locorum antiquorum

Citation preview


During the months before and after he saw Julius Caesar assassinated on the Ides of March,  BC, Cicero wrote two philosophical dialogues about religion and theology: On the nature of the gods and On divination. This book brings to life his portraits of Stoic and Epicurean theology, as well as the skepticism of the new Academy, his own school. We meet the Epicurean gods who live a life of pleasure and care nothing for us, the determinism and beauty of the Stoic universe, itself our benevolent creator, and the reply to both that traditional religion is better served by a lack of dogma. Cicero hoped that these reflections would renew the traditional religion at Rome, with its prayers and sacrifices, temples and statues, myths and poets, and all forms of divination. This volume is the first fully to investigate Cicero’s dialogues as the work of a careful philosophical author. . . .  is Associate Professor of Classics in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at the University of Utah. He is a scholar of later ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and religion, and a specialist on Cicero, Stoic and skeptical philosophy, and the philosophy of religion in the ancient world.

CICERO ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination

J. P. F. WYNNE University of Utah

University Printing House, Cambridge  , United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, th Floor, New York,  , USA  Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne,  , Australia –, rd Floor, Plot , Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – , India  Anson Road, #–/, Singapore  Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Information on this title: : ./ © J. P. F. Wynne  This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published  Printed in the United Kingdom TJ International Ltd., Padstow, Cornwall A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library.  ---- Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Acknowledgments List of Abbreviations

page viii x

Introduction: Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome

Chapter : Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination


Chapter : Velleius the Epicurean


Chapter : Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic


Chapter : Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination


Chapter : Marcus’ Arguments against Divination


Chapter : Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question


Appendix : Terminology in DND and Div. for Religious Virtues and Vices, and Greek Equivalents Appendix : Velleius’ Strategies against his Opponents Appendix : Balbus’ Classification of the Gods Bibliography General index Index locorum antiquorum

     



This book began as a  dissertation at Cornell. I would like to thank my doctoral committee members, Terence Irwin and Hayden Pellicia. To my committee chair Charles Brittain, I owe a particular and ongoing debt of thanks. Other Cornellians, present or former, to whom I owe thanks from some part of the genesis of the book include Tobias Torgerson, Aaron Kelsh, Erik Kenyon, Brent Hannah, Anthony Hunter, Scott MacDonald, Michael Fontaine, Tad Brennan, and Gail Fine. I am very lucky in my colleagues and students (again present or former) at Northwestern, a wonderful place to study and to teach the classics and philosophy. My sincerest thanks for all their various help, kindness, advice, undeserved patience, and intellectual company to Sara Monoson, Richard Kraut, Ann Gunter, Will West, Robert Wallace, Marianne Hopman, Reginald Gibbons, Francesca Tataranni, David Ebrey, John Schafer, Baron Reed, and Kenneth Seeskin. Malcolm Schofield was kind enough to read a draft of this book and discuss it with me at length. I am very grateful for this experience, and for all the ways in which he improved my work. The ‘Second Saturdays’ work-in-progress group of the Chicago Area Consortium in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy read and commented on a number of pieces relevant to this book. My thanks to the ancient philosophy community in Chicago, and in the Midwest at large, among whom are (or were) Elizabeth Asmis, Agnes Callard, Gabriel Richardson Lear, Constance Meinwald, Emily Fletcher, Jason Rheins, and Dhananjay Jagannathan. An audience at the  Northwestern– Pisa conference at the University of Pisa heard and helped to improve an early version of Chapter . During my final editing of the manuscript while on leave from Northwestern in –, the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah was kind enough to arrange facilities for me as a visiting scholar. viii



The anonymous readers from the Press have improved the book immeasurably, as has my editor Michael Sharp. He has also shown the patience of Job. Despite the many sources of advice and improvement I have mentioned, I am a stubborn individual, and the errors or infirmities in the book are firmly and entirely my own. Above all, to my family ShawnaKim, Jack, and Elizabeth: thanks.



Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of the eminent philosophers Lucretius, De rerum natura (On the nature of things) Long and Sedley () Liddell, Scott, Jones et al. () Oxford Latin dictionary (nd ed.) = Glare () Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft = Wissowa et al. (–) Shackleton Bailey (–) or () Stoicorum veterum fragmenta = von Arnim (–) Thesaurus linguae latinae (–)

When I cite certain of Cicero’s works central to understanding his philosophical writing, I abbreviate or translate their conventional Latin titles as shown in the table below. I cite all other works by a commonly used title, whether in English or in the original language.

My label

Latin title

Consolation Div. DND Hortensius Laws Letters to Atticus Letters to his friends Letters to Quintus

Consolatio De divinatione De natura deorum Hortensius De legibus Epistolae ad Atticum Epistolae ad familiares Epistolae ad Quintum fratrem De auguriis De officiis De finibus (bonorum et malorum)

On augury On duties On ends

Other common titles


On divination (On) the nature of the gods On the laws

On obligations On the ends of goods and evils, On moral ends

List of Abbreviations


(cont.) My label

Latin title

On fate On friendship On glory On invention On old age On the orator On the parts of rhetoric Republic Timaeus Tusculans

De fato (Laelius) de amicitia De gloria De inventione (Cato) de senectute De oratore De partitione oratoria De re publica Timaeus Tusculanae disputationes

Other common titles Laelius Cato On the ideal orator

Tusculan disputations

What I cite, following convention, as the Academica, is a portmanteau text. Its books are the surviving parts of two of the drafts Cicero made of his dialogue about the skeptical Academy: Academica book  Academica book 

Part of the first book of the second of the two drafts. Cicero called this draft the Academic books (Academici libri). Scholars sometimes call it the Academica posteriora. What Cicero called the Lucullus, one of the books of the first draft. Scholars sometimes call this draft the Academica priora.

Introduction: Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome

The Romans did not understand their own religion. They were the heirs to immemorial practices in honor of their gods. But when they paid the gods cult, they did not know the meaning of what they did, nor the nature of the gods they worshipped. The result was that they moved like strangers through their own city, looking for a way to feel at home. Or that is how Cicero paints it (p.  below). The problem was one for intellectuals, perhaps a small class, who wanted not only to practice their religion, but also to understand it in a rigorous way. One remedy was the antiquarianism of Varro, who aimed by historical study to recover the intentions of the religion’s founders. But Cicero’s suggestion was to apply a new resource to the problem: Greek philosophy. In the event, Cicero carried through this project in two dialogues, On the nature of the gods and On divination (De natura deorum, thus DND, and De divinatione, thus Div.). In this book, I aim to interpret the whole and some parts of these texts themselves, not the Hellenistic philosophy for which they are excellent sources, nor what Cicero’s own sources might have been. Now I do not argue that in these dialogues Cicero wrote, or aimed to write, as an “original philosopher.” But I do think that he shaped the drama, the characters, their speeches, and his own authorial comments, as parts of literary and philosophical wholes. I think that he thus suggested a unique and interesting answer to the dialogues’ questions. 

A third dialogue, On fate was planned to complete this sequence. Cicero indeed wrote an On fate, but not as he had planned it. I argue below (p. –) that we may read DND and Div., without On fate, as a completed project. Was Cicero an “original” philosopher? If the question is whether he brought forth ideas or arguments that he did not get from anybody else, then it seems probable that he did so in his writings on political philosophy, especially in the Republic, Laws, and On friendship. But it is rare to find evidence that he does so in what I call the Late Sequence dialogues. Nor was it his objective to do so. But why must the philosopher who always produces original ideas be valued higher than somebody who presented or used the ideas and arguments of others in an original way? Both promote wisdom, which is why universities employ historians of philosophy today.

Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome

My goals are first, to interpret that answer, and second, to show by example that Cicero’s philosophical dialogues may fruitfully be read in this way. A century ago, when philological science held Cicero’s philosophical writing in low esteem, it would have looked silly to write this book. The best scholars, and what seemed the best evidence, suggested that Cicero’s philosophical dialogues would not reward a reader who looked for unity of literary form and a fertile intellectual project. It was even said that Cicero was unable or unwilling fully to understand the philosophy he wrote about. My book is one attempt to make good on a slow rise in scholarly opinion of Cicero since then. In this introduction I shall collect some reasons to allow the assumption that Cicero’s dialogues might sustain my sort of treatment. Cicero’s philosophical dialogues fall into two kinds. One kind includes dialogues in which Cicero’s skepticism, and the Hellenistic philosophers whom he treats, are rarely drawn to the reader’s attention (Republic, Laws, On old age, On friendship). The second kind includes dialogues in which Cicero points to his skeptical agenda and to his Hellenistic material. These are the sequence of dialogues marked out by Cicero at Div. .: Hortensius, Academica, On ends, Tusculans, DND, Div., and On fate. I shall call the latter set of dialogues the “Late Sequence” because these works were written in sequence towards the end of Cicero’s life. I shall draw on evidence from and about the other dialogues when I explore Cicero’s approach to the dialogue form in general. But the arguments of this introduction are intended to apply principally to the Late Sequence. I note one further convention here. Cicero puts “himself” into his dialogues as a character, but I think we should not simply assume that these characters reflect accurately the historical Marcus Tullius Cicero. Rather than labor these distinctions, I shall from now on call Cicero the historical person, or his authorial voice, “Cicero,” but his avatar in each respective dialogue “Marcus.” His brother’s avatar, who appears in Div., is “Quintus.”

. An Older View of the Late Sequence [Cicero] sive diffitetur sive confitetur, omni tempore secutus Ennianum illud philosophari est mihi necesse, at paucis, nam omnino haut placet et degustandum non ingurgitandum sibi ratus, cum senex civibus philosophia explicanda utilis esse statuisset, tanta facilitate et celeritate libros scripsit ediditque, ut Graecorum exemplis vix legendis vacaret. miranti vel Attico respondit

. An Older View of the Late Sequence

apographa sunt, minore labore fiunt: verba tantum adfero, quibus abundo. bene profecto actum nobiscum esset, si optimorum librorum vel Panaetii ac Posidonii apographa nobis reliquisset. at nego Ciceronem eum fuisse qui philosophum Graecum veritatem spinosa arte exputantem et in viscera penetrantem sequi aut vellet aut posset. foro natum erat hoc ingenium, non scholae. [Cicero], whether he admits or denies it, followed Ennius’ line every time, I must philosophise, but only a little, for to philosophise entirely displeases, and reckoned that he should taste, but not gorge himself. When, as an old man, he had decided to make himself useful to his fellow citizens by explaining philosophy, he wrote and published books so quickly and glibly that there was scarcely time left to read his Greek models. He replied to Atticus, who was perhaps wondering about this, “they are copies, they come out with relatively little work. I add only the words, with which I overflow.” Certainly he would have done well by us, had he left us ‘copies’ of the best books of, say, Panaetius and Posidonius. But I deny that Cicero was a man who was either able, or wished, to follow a Greek philosopher thinking out the truth with his thorny art, and penetrating to the guts of it. Cicero’s genius was born for the forum, not for the lecture hall.

If these words were only a little less kind, you might guess they came from Theodor Mommsen, Cicero’s chief deprecator (see p.  below). In fact Hermann Usener wrote them, in the preface to his Epicurea (p. lxv). The attitude to Cicero that Usener reports is important to the story of Cicero’s philosophical writings, because it represents well the attitude that prevailed during a crucial period in the history of classical scholarship, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Epicurea was, and still is, a landmark collection of texts for the study of Epicurus. Usener influenced Hermann Diels, author and editor of Doxographi graeci and Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, and Hans von Arnim, editor of Stoicorum veterum fragmenta (SVF). Doxographi graeci was a foundational contribution on our sources for philosophy of the centuries before and after Plato and Aristotle. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker is still the standard collection of texts for the Presocratics, SVF for the older Stoics. In his preface to SVF, von Arnim signs on to the picture of Cicero “whose authority in     

Usener here flatly denies Cicero’s own claim at Tusculans .. Usener supplements Cicero’s version of Ennius’ line from Gellius NA ... Usener quotes Letters to Atticus ..  SB. See below pp. –. For example, while David Konstan’s Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy bibliography (Konstan ) lists Arighetti’s as the “best edition,” Usener is the “most complete collection of fragments.” For Usener’s influence on Diels, and on the project of Doxographi Graeci in particular, see Mansfeld and Runia () vol. pp. –. For his influence on von Arnim, see SVF p. iii. On Diels and Doxographi Graeci see Mansfeld and Runia (–) vol. Chapter .

Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome

philosophical matters Usener has weighed in Epicurea.” Diels, meanwhile, seems to compliment Cicero when he quotes him for the epigraph to Doxographi Graeci: “it is one of slow wit who follows little streams and does not see their sources.” But the compliment delivers an insult, since for Diels Cicero is a little stream whom, at best, we can follow to his sources. “Excessive ignorance of ancient philosophy” hindered Cicero and he followed the Greek “tentative and anxious like a blind man.” When we confront a philosophical speech in Cicero with what Diels thought was its Greek source, we expose “either Cicero’s mendacity or his stupidity.” For those of us who rate Cicero’s philosophical writing higher than this, it is confounding to see first-rate scholars attack him in such terms. It helps to recall how different from our own was the intellectual climate of nineteenth-century Germany in which they trained. Mommsen had a theory that civilizations rise and fall and that the ancient Mediterranean had a long story with just such an arc, of which in the History of Rome he wrote the last chapter. The final pages are a sort of cabinet of freaks in which Mommsen collects proofs that by the end of the Roman Republic, ancient civilization was decadent. Here we encounter Cicero’s Late Sequence, written “with equal peevishness and precipitation.” Mommsen thought the dialogues were in “rude imitation of the popular writings of Aristotle,” “stitched together” by Cicero from whichever writings of Hellenistic philosophers “came or were given into his hand, into a so-called dialogue.” Cicero exhibited . . . that sort of bungling, which a man of letters, who has not attained to philosophic thinking or even to philosophic knowledge and who works rapidly and boldly, shows in the reproduction of dialectic trains of thought. In this way no doubt a multitude of thick tomes might very quickly come into existence “They are copies,” wrote the author himself to a friend who wondered at his fertility; “they give me little trouble, for I supply only the words and these I have in abundance.” Against this nothing further could be said; but any one who seeks classical productions in works so written can only be advised to study in literary matters a becoming silence.   

  

cuius in philosophicis auctoritatem in Epicureis examinavit Usener, p. xix. tardi ingeni est rivulos consectari, fontes rerum non videre, from Cicero, On the orator, .. Diels probably meant to call to mind Academica ., where Varro’s character tells Marcus that he did not write philosophy in Latin because he instead tells friends who are interested to go directly to the Greeks, and “to drink from the sources rather than follow little streams,” ut. . . a fontibus potius hauriant quam rivulos consectentur. nimia vetustae philosophiae ignorantia; vacillans et anxius ut caecus. Diels () , describing Marcus’ summary of Greek opinions at Academica .. vel fraudem vel socordiam, Diels () . Dickson’s translation, sanctioned by Mommsen, vol.  pt.  () p. .

. A More Positive View of Cicero’s Dialogues

Although Epicurea and SVF appeared half a century after Mommsen’s History, the sort of views about history that Mommsen represented are visible in Usener and von Arnim’s attitudes, as they were from Diels when he published Doxographi graeci in . Now, these were brilliant, and most responsible, scholars. As we shall see, there was what seemed to be good evidence for their view of the Late Sequence. Thus, although I shall reject their view as others have now done, we should remember one good reason for these scholars’ extravagance against Cicero was that it was in keeping with some big ideas, and the exemplary scholarship, of their times.

. A More Positive View of Cicero’s Dialogues Since the last quarter of the twentieth century there has been a revival in the understanding of Hellenistic philosophy. This revival owes a large debt to the philologists I have mentioned, and to others like them, who flourished a century earlier. For it has shared one part of their approach, the thought that, to quote Long and Sedley (LS p. ), “Hellenistic philosophy is a jigsaw.” So it is, if we define Hellenistic philosophy more strictly as the philosophy of the Greek schools after the death of Aristotle and before Cicero began to write. For, with the exception of some texts from Epicurus, no complete piece of Greek philosophical writing from that time survives. Yet the thought that was contained in the lost texts is recoverable. If we cut up Cicero, and many other sources, into jigsaw pieces, we can rearrange them by school, thinker, and topic, so as to make pictures of the Hellenistic period. “So far as I could,” wrote von Arnim, “I projected in [SVF] a full and accurate image of Chrysippus’ philosophy.” When we open volumes II and III of SVF, we see that this “image” is made of small jigsaw pieces cut from many texts. Painstaking collection by scholars like von Arnim ultimately bore fruit in today’s Hellenistic revival, because it turned out to be true that the “images” they made could yield coherent and fertile reconstructions of Hellenistic thought. We should keep cutting up Cicero for such purposes. I hope that work like mine can make the pieces more useful still.

 

It is not my intention here to trace in detail the history of influence among these scholars. For introductions to this history see the relevant articles in Briggs and Calder (). Chrysippeae philosophiae accuratam atque plenam imaginem, quatenus potui, hoc opere adumbravi, SVF p. iii.

Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome

But we have seen that the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars matched their care for the philosophy to which Cicero is a witness with a negative view of Cicero’s own philosophical acumen. By and large, historians of philosophy do not share that negative view today. When scholars have built reconstructions of Hellenistic philosophy in large part on Cicero’s reports, those reconstructions have seemed to be well founded. It would be implausible now to think that Cicero was stupid or mendacious in writing about philosophy. That has suggested to many that Cicero’s texts might be worth a look not only as sources, but also as objects of study in themselves. We may see Hellenistic philosophy, defined more loosely as the whole life of the Hellenistic schools in antiquity, not in fragments, but available to us in rich and continuous texts. Sure enough, for decades there have been rallying-cries to the study of Cicero’s dialogues on their own merits. A number of scholars have taken up the challenge, explicitly or implicitly. The jigsaw approach to Cicero has remained dominant, but in interpreting DND and Div. as I do I am not doing anything unheralded or unprecedented – despite Mommsen’s warning. One positive view of the Late Sequence I shall call the encyclopedia view. The encyclopedia view takes its cue from Cicero’s success as a philosophical source. It supposes Cicero’s dominant goal in the Late Sequence to be the opening up of philosophy to a new Roman audience by the composition of a philosophical “encyclopedia.” On this reading, the topics covered in the dialogues form a curriculum that covers a representative selection of Hellenistic philosophical topics. A given speech represents Cicero’s version of the Stoic view on the dialogue’s topic, or the Epicurean view, or the skeptic’s reply, while a given speaker is cast to represent some particular, or an ideal, member of a school. 





Some examples of studies where Cicero has been vital in reconstructing even relatively technical aspects of Hellenistic thought: Bobzien () who draws extensively on On fate and Div., Brittain () who draws on Academica, Graver () who draws on Tusculans, and many of the essays in Sedley (). Some rallying-cries: Boyancé () and preface to Boyancé (), Douglas () and (), Striker (), Powell’s introduction to his (a), Smith (), Schofield (). In one way or another these works also make a start on reading the dialogues as they recommend we should. Schultz’s () commentary on Div.  similarly takes Div. seriously as a unified whole (see pp. –). Coverage of all the philosophical dialogues is in Su¨ss (), although he regards the quality of the dialogues as uneven, and Woolf (). Woolf reads many of the dialogues carefully as Cicero’s own projects. Atkins () is not on Late Sequence dialogues, but reads the Republic and Laws in a similar spirit, as does Zarecki (). In addition to readings more focused on the philosophical purposes of the dialogues, there is recent work exploring Cicero’s artful use of the dialogues as part of his rhetorical and philosophical life. See Steel () Chapter , Gildenhard (), Baraz (). A sophisticated defense of the Late Sequence using the encyclopedia view appears in Striker ().

. A More Positive View of Cicero’s Dialogues

There are good reasons to think that to make his dialogues useful as an encyclopedia was one goal to which Cicero gave thought. For one sort of audience whom the dialogues seem to envisage is unlearned Romans who could not get their philosophy from the Greeks. These Romans, before Cicero, could read only works of Epicurean authors in Latin whom Cicero thought incompetent. (See pp. – below.) Of Cicero’s Late Sequence writings, the work most obviously intended to address this need was the Hortensius, for it was meant to turn new readers to philosophy. To further strengthen the conclusion that one purpose of the Late Sequence was as an encylopedia, we find that the Sequence appears to have a curricular order and completeness. Cicero lists the Sequence at Div. .–. When we read this list, we see that it begins with the call to philosophy in Hortensius, before turning to Cicero’s favored school (Academica) and the ethical foundation that philosophy offers (On ends). Next, the Tusculans offer doses of philosophical medicine to soothe common sources of distress – the fear of death, for example – in a way that should appeal to the beginner at philosophy at least as much as to the savant. Further, the Sequence overall is probably meant to cover some of each of the three conventional parts of Hellenistic thought: logic (Academica), ethics (Tusculans, On ends), and physics (DND, Div., On fate). Indeed, it was Cicero’s declared hope in Div. . that he would have time to treat every topic of philosophy in Latin. In sum, the Late 



For evidence of attention to unlearned readers, see: Marcus’ reply to Varro at Academica .; Tusculans .– which paints the Romans as generally unversed in philosophy; Div. ., which envisages transmission of philosophy to Cicero’s fellow citizens. Tusculans . speaks of “opening up” the sources of philosophy and Div. . describes Tusculans as “opening up” matters necessary for living well. Tusculans .– imagines readers with a liberal education, whose refined literary taste means that they might read Plato and other Socratics, but who would never read ugly texts by Epicurus or the Latin Epicurean authors. Arguably, the end of the Lucullus (Academica .) signals a plan whereby the characters of the sequence Hortensius, Catulus, and Lucullus were to keep going with a series of discussions of the ethical and physical topics raised in the latter part of Lucullus. So perhaps there was a plan that the Academica was to cover logic. See Griffin () – with her references, and note her counter-arguments. But it is also possible that this impression is illusory. Although the epistemological content of Academica makes it look like a “logical” work to us, Cicero never describes it thus. He describes it as his advocacy of the New Academy, which might mean that he thinks it gave an Academic treatment of philosophy in general (see Griffin ). Neither On ends nor the Tusculans is anything close to a comprehensive treatment of ethics. The Sequence gives little coverage to politics, a philosophical topic in which Cicero certainly took an interest – did Cicero think the Republic and Laws could fill that gap, even though they are not in the Late Sequence style? DND, Div., and On fate cover only a limited part of physics, and not all their material is obviously physical rather than logical, or ethical. The sketched preface in Timaeus suggests Cicero toyed with some more general treatment of physics from a skeptical point of view.

Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome

Sequence seems designed with one eye to new philosophical readers who wanted to use it as something like a comprehensive curriculum. Thus the encyclopedia view contains truth to the extent that making a philosophical encyclopedia was one of Cicero’s goals for the Late Sequence. But Cicero had other goals, which were often more important to him than the encyclopedia view alone would suggest. There is another part of the audience that the dialogues envisage: the learned. These are Romans who already have some, or much, philosophy from the Greeks. To see who these Romans might be, it helps to remember how Cicero’s texts were disseminated. We know from his letters that Cicero sent off manuscripts for the copyists whom Atticus retained. Thus there was a system of production and distribution not entirely within Cicero’s control. But this was little like modern publication and distribution of books. The immediate audience for the dialogues would be people who were part of Cicero and Atticus’ intellectual and social circle. Such people very often had some degree of Greek education and philosophical learning. Among these were readers like Atticus himself, Varro, or Brutus, whose knowledge of




Cicero envisages these readers who use his dialogues to get acquainted with philosophy, perhaps for the first time. But were there any such readers? We know that pirate copies were made of some of the Late Sequence, notably On ends, from drafts in Atticus’ possession. (Letters to Atticus .a SB, . SB) The respective owners of the copies are named as Cornelius Balbus and Caerellia. The former appears elsewhere in the letters as a politician and not an intellectual, so perhaps he was someone who wanted to learn about philosophy for the first time from On ends. Then again, perhaps he made the copies out of politeness to Atticus, or perhaps he was more learned in philosophy than he appears. Cicero says of Caerellia, an acquaintance to whom he had owed money (Letters to Atticus . SB, Letters to Atticus . SB), that she was mirifice. . . videlicet studio philosophiae flagrans, “no doubt aflame with a wonderous zeal for philosophy.” (Letters to Atticus .a SB) This strikes the eye as sarcastic, and Cicero certainly resents that Caerellia has read his private draft. But it is also possible that Cicero thought either that Caerellia was a learned and enthusiastic reader, or that she was unlearned in philosophy but earnestly hoped to learn. The obvious evidence of this readership comes from the small circle of knowledgeable contemporaries who serve as dedicatees and speakers in the dialogues, for example Brutus, Varro, Atticus, Quintus, Torquatus, or the recently deceased Cato. The sort of “study abroad” in Athens depicted at the start of On ends Book  was real. Many professional philosophers were living in Italy under Roman patrons, so that a philosophical education was available to interested aristocrats. Rawson () surveys much of the evidence for these intellectual circles. Cicero implies that he was attacked for taking this interest beyond a gentlemanly minimum (On ends .), but he was not the only one. In his depiction of them Cicero may well exaggerate the degree to which some of these men had all the arguments at their fingertips, but it is plain from Cicero’s letters and from their own literary endeavors that they and others at Rome were capable philosophical hobbyists. For the intellectual culture visible in Cicero’s letters, see McConnell (). On the distribution of books, see Kenney () and Starr (). Murphy () collects evidence for the early readership of Cicero’s dialogues.

. A More Positive View of Cicero’s Dialogues

philosophy was probably comparable to Cicero’s own. In other words, Cicero writes in the dialogues in part for people who already know about the material he is presenting, or who at least could look it up, or ask a philosopher, in Greek. For these readers, a Latin encyclopedia of philosophy would be of little use. This philosophically learned readership is important to bear in mind when we try to understand the Late Sequence. For it explains a common phenomenon faced by philosophical interpreters. Often Cicero, or a character, will merely mention or allude to some argument or philosophical position, or give a very spare account of it, so that modern interpreters need to turn to other Hellenistic sources to understand what Cicero, or the character, is talking about. I often follow that procedure in this book. The trick makes dramatic sense: inside the fictional world of the drama, both the character and his interlocutors are supposed to know their philosophy. But as to why Cicero does this for his readers, if you took only the encyclopedia view of the dialogues, you would face a puzzle. Why would Cicero refer to ideas in a way that will confuse his readers who would be, ex hypothesi, ignorant of those ideas? But once we have in mind the learned readers, we may suppose that Cicero sometimes merely mentions arguments or views because there is a part of his readership, on whom he is often focused, who will get the reference, or who can easily follow it up. But then we might wonder, if Cicero wrote in part for readers to whom it is not his purpose to teach the material, what were they supposed to get out of the Late Sequence? And, if there is more to the Sequence than a philosophical encyclopedia, are even unlearned readers given more than just an introduction to the material? Let us look at some of Cicero’s answers to these questions. In his preface to On ends, Cicero distinguishes four types of his critics (.): (a) people who dislike philosophy entirely, (b) people who think it should not be done too much, (c) people who are educated in Greek and who would prefer to read philosophy in that language, and (d) people who think he should write about something else. It is to people of type (c) that he gives by far his most detailed reply. (On ends .–) But these are not people who are hostile to, nor necessarily ignorant of, the philosophical content of the Late Sequence. Against them Cicero argues:


For the wealth of philosophical culture in Cicero’s letters, see McConnell (). For more specific evidence that some recipients of Cicero’s letters could be expected to get philosophical jokes, see Griffin (). For his Epicurean friend Matius, see Griffin ().

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome nam si dicent [sc. his opponents] ab illis [sc. the Greeks] has res esse tractatas, ne ipsos quidem Graecos est cur tam multos legant quam legendi sunt. quid enim est a Chrysippo praetermissum in Stoicis? legimus tamen Diogenem, Antipatrum, Mnesarchum, Panaetium, multos alios, in primisque familarem nostrum Posidonium. quid? Theophrastus mediocriterne delectat cum tractat locos ab Aristotele ante tractatos? For if they will say that the Greeks have already covered these topics, then there is no reason to read even so many of the Greek authors themselves as one is supposed to read. For what, in the case of the Stoics, did Chrysippus leave out? Yet we read Diogenes, Antipater, Mnesarchus, Panaetius, and many others, not least our friend Posidonius. Does Theophrastus give us only moderate pleasure, when he deals with topics already covered by Aristotle? (On ends ., translation from Annas and Woolf ())

This group of critics, then, have quite a reading list, and Cicero implies (“we read”) that some of them have read it. They do not need to be filled in on the material in the Late Sequence. Instead, Cicero needs to convince them of what he argues in On ends .: that his own project is worth writing (see also p.  below). Turning to the philosophically unlearned readers, we find that even the most hostile among them, the critics of type (a), are not wholly unlearned (non admodum indoctis, On ends .). In the Tusculans Cicero applies another word to his target audience: “educated” (eruditi). sed eos, si possumus, excitemus, qui liberaliter eruditi adhibita etiam disserendi elegantia ratione et via philosophentur. But let us rouse up, if we can, those with a liberal education, both to philosophise methodically, and also to employ a polished style of discourse. (Tusculans ., translation from Douglas (), modified)

Since Cicero thinks that Roman educated culture in his day extended to oratory and poetry but not to philosophy, it is clear that he means to



Perhaps this is the “royal” we. But the argument seems to depend on his opponents’ granting at least that one should read all the Greeks on the list, so it is more likely that Cicero graciously suggests that his opponents do read them. I read philosophentur, an emendation by Sauppe with some weak manuscript support, adopted, for example, by Ku¨hner () and Dougan (), rather than philosophantur, which has the support of by far the stronger part of the manuscript tradition. The context shows that Cicero’s purpose is to stimulate those who have an education in eloquence to use it in a new way, to write well about philosophy, rather than to excite to greater efforts some people who already write well on the subject.

. A More Positive View of Cicero’s Dialogues


inspire some people educated in oratory and poetry to bring their existing skills to bear in a new area. If we bear in mind all these readers whom Cicero envisages for the Late Sequence, we gain the following picture of his goals in writing. He hopes, first, to produce a comprehensive example of how philosophy could be translated. That will inspire his Greek-reading, philosophically learned readers. Next, he hopes to give an example of how philosophy can be brought to life in letters and in its application to Roman culture. That will inspire his educated readers in general. Neither of these goals is incompatible with the encyclopedic element in the Sequence. Indeed, addressing both goals over a full range of philosophical material will help to convince and to inspire. But these goals yield reasons for Cicero to do more than be encyclopedic. Let us see what more Cicero might try to do. First, we shall look at Cicero’s translation project. By “translation” I mean translation from Greek into Latin, but also from a Greek literary and cultural context to a Roman one. It is plain on all views of the Late Sequence that Cicero took some existing material – Hellenistic philosophy in Greek – and then did something to it. But Cicero’s own metaphor for what he did to it is not transcription, translation, or even teaching. It is that he “illuminates” philosophy (illustrare). Specifically, he will illuminate it, for the first time, with “the lamp of Latin letters.” (lumen litterarum Latinarum, Tusculans .) This metaphor bears two meanings, both of which I think Cicero intends. The first is that by illuminating philosophy with Latin he makes it visible for the first time to those who can only “see” Latin: monoglot Romans. Thus he will “open up the sources” of philosophy. (fontes aperiemus, Tusculans .) But the second meaning is that he will benefit philosophy by, so to speak, showing it in a new light. What do I mean by this latter point? Cicero is optimistic about the prospects for translation into Latin. In replying to Romans who oppose translation, he says in the preface to On ends: . . . ita sentio et saepe disserui, Latinam linguam non modo inopem, ut vulgo putarent, sed locupletiorem etiam esse quam Graecam. quando enim



Here I agree with Smith () and Schofield () that Cicero’s emphasis in the Tusculans on rhetorical sophistication in philosophical writing is important to how we should understand his project. Academica .; Tusculans ., .; Div. .. Lucretius uses the same metaphor, DRN ..

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome nobis, vel dicam aut oratoribus bonis aut poetis, postea quidem quam fuit quem imitarentur, ullus orationis vel copiosae vel elegantis ornatus defuit? . . . my view is, as I have often argued, that, far from lacking in resources, the Latin language is even richer than the Greek. When, after all, have we, or rather our good orators and poets, lacked the wherewithal to create either a full or a spare style in their work, at least since they have had models to imitate? (On ends ., translation from Annas and Woolf ())

Now you might take Cicero to say something silly here: that Latin as he found it was already better equipped for philosophy than was Greek. That was obviously not true. Admittedly, Cicero found that sometimes prephilosophical Latin could throw up happier terminology than Greek, as one might expect from any language. But most of the time he had had to work hard to find or to coin Latin equivalents for Greek terms of art. The Greeks themselves, he points out, had needed to coin technical terms, so he could hardly have expected to find such words ready-made in Latin. (On ends .) Thus I think that Cicero’s point is rather that given someone to imitate, good Latin authors will in the future do well at philosophical writing. He plans to give them someone to imitate. Thus he must think not that Latin is already better equipped for philosophy than is Greek, but rather that it starts with more raw materials out of which make philosophical terms of art (cf. Tusculans .–). But Cicero thinks that the Latin language is not the only Roman advantage he can bring to philosophy. The prefaces to the five books of the Tusculans amount, in no particular order, to a theoretical history of philosophy, and a picture of a place for Rome in that history. Let us survey this story. The human soul, says Cicero, is sick and in need of healing. (Tusculans .) Things would have been all right if only we were born able to grasp the nature of things, and thereby to lead our lives according to nature. (Tusculans .) But, as it is, our natural endowment consists only




Cicero’s fellow pioneer, Lucretius, is clear on Latin’s inadequacies, DRN .–. Some of the technical vocabulary that Latin did already have was borrowed from Greek, as Cicero of course admits. (On ends .) In the Tusculans Marcus distinguishes labor (toil) from dolor (pain). He points out that both words would be rendered in Greek by the ambiguous πόνος. “This time you’re poor in words, o Greece, who always think you overflow with them,” he exclaims. (o verborum inops interdum, quibus abundare te semper putas, Graecia!, Tusculans ..) In Div. Cicero is pleased that Latin gives divinatio an august connection with the divi, the gods, while Greek μαντική is derived from the less salubrious μανία, meaning “frenzy” or “insanity.” (Div. .) On Cicero’s ambitions as a translator, and late Republican Latin’s ability to carry the project, see Poncelet (), Powell (b), Moatti () –, and White ().

. A More Positive View of Cicero’s Dialogues


in “tiny little sparks” (parvulos. . . igniculos) of understanding, the “seeds of the virtues” (semina. . . virtutum). (Tusculans .) Furthermore, these starting-points are degraded under the social influence of those who have not done philosophy, and end up deeper in confusion and vice. (Tusculans .–) But there is a medicine for the soul: philosophy. (Tusculans .) It is the method by which we may heal ourselves, working (presumably) from the first glimmers of understanding with which we were endowed and which have survived social distortion. (Tusculans .–) The idea of wisdom, Cicero will go on to say, is immemorial, and there were always people regarded as wise, whether in the age of myth, like Ulysses and Nestor, or in history, like the Seven Sages. (Tusculans .) Since we are not naturally wise (as he told us in Tusculans .–), the implication is that there must have been people doing something like philosophy in prehistoric times, though they did not call it that. (Tuculans .) Philosophy so called began with Pythagoras and its tradition continued through Anaxagoras, Archelaus, Socrates, Plato, the Academy, and hence to Cicero. (Tusculans .–) Cicero will now introduce it fully and openly into Roman letters for the first time. (Tusculans .–) If he succeeds, then the Romans who take up his challenge will start the process of looking to their natural glimmers of understanding, undoing vicious social influence, and working from there towards wisdom. But Cicero hints that Romans start with two sorts of advantage. These advantages cannot come from natural endowment, since that must be the same in all humans. They must lie in the social influences that Romans suffer. The first advantage is that many of Rome’s institutions are younger than the recent tradition of philosophy. Cicero – with due caution – conjectures that since Pythagoras was influential in Italy at the time when Rome threw out the kings, perhaps some of the Republic’s institutions were influenced by him or his followers. (Tusculans .–) As was customary among Pythagoreans (he says), these influences were not publicized, but expressed indirectly. For example, the Pythagoreans used to contemplate song and harp music, and early Romans sang to the flute – for the Twelve Tables even had to ban singing that led to “another’s injury.” (alterius iniuriam, Tusculans .) Later generations with some philosophical interest, including notable historical figures like Laelius and Scipio in the second century BC, showed similar interests in their lives, but did not write about them. (Tusculans .) So the social influence to which centuries of Romans had been subject, distorting their natural glimmers of understanding, was perhaps less damaging than some, since it may itself have been shaped, quietly, by philosophy.

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome The second advantage for Romans is more straightforward: “I have always held the view that in their own discoveries our Roman forebears showed greater wisdom than the Greek, while what they received from the Greeks they made better.” (Tusculans .) The evidence for this assertion is that Roman “customs and rules of living” (mores et instituta vitae) are better, as are Rome’s constitution, laws, and warfare. (Tusculans .) The Romans are better at gravitas, at consistency (constantia), at magnanimity (magnitudo animi), at ethical rectitude (probitas), at good faith (fides), and at virtue in general. (Tusculans .) These are all virtues one might expect to gain from philosophy. But, before any doctrina, any teaching (Tusculans .), “What they had from nature, not acquired from books, is beyond comparison with Greece or any other nation.” (Tusculans .) As I say, in this philosophical context it is unlikely that Cicero means that Romans are better at birth than are Greeks. It is rather that Romans, being relatively unschooled, are closer to nature as they grow up. In consequence, they have better retained their natural seeds of the virtues. Thus they have pursued what they pursue better than have the culturally advanced Greeks. Then on two counts, the rude Romans are well placed to start on philosophy. Just as the Latin language has resources waiting to be developed, so the Romans are ready to become a philosophical nation. Did Cicero really think that Roman culture had these advantages? They look like a patchwork of jingoism, run up for exactly the kind of educated but parochial Roman Cicero hoped to inspire. He admits that the “history” of philosophy at Rome in the preface to Tusculans Book  is guesswork from circumstantial evidence. Further, as we shall see (pp. –), a radical skeptic like Cicero has reason to regard the picture of philosophy he paints with suspicion: if he were sure we could “heal” ourselves philosophically using some helpful endowment of natural concepts, he might be less inclined to skepticism. Nevertheless, that he offers his Roman readers this place in philosophical history tells us something about how he intends them to be inspired by the Late Sequence. There was also a bedrock of plausibility (which is not to say truth) under Cicero’s salesmanship. Many Hellenistic philosophers would share the view that philosophy helps to develop the seeds of virtue we naturally share, in order to cure the foolishness from which we suffer and which cultural influences  

. . . meum semper iudicium fuit omnia nostros aut invenisse per se sapientius quam Graecos aut accepta ab illis fecisse meliora . . . Translation from Douglas (), modified. iam illa, quae natura, non litteris adsecuti sunt, neque cum Graecia neque ulla cum gente conferenda. Translation from Douglas ().

. A More Positive View of Cicero’s Dialogues


tend to reinforce (see pp. – and – below). The story of a philosophical tradition stretching back at least to Socrates is correct. Finally, Cicero of course had real respect for the traditions of Rome, despite the troubles of his own day, so that what he says may have seemed more plausible to him than it does to us. But Cicero’s hopes for a Roman philosophical tradition do not seem to be invested in Romans discovering new ideas or arguments. He never envisages a class of “original” Roman philosophers. Instead, he looks forward to taking Greek ideas and to making a Latin philosophical literature: quod si haec studia traducta erunt ad nostros, ne bibliothecis quidem Graecis egebimus, in quibus multitudo infinita librorum propter eorum est multitudinem qui scripserunt; eadem enim dicuntur a multis, ex quo libris omnia referserunt: quod accidet etiam nostris, si ad haec studia plures confluxerint. But if these studies are brought over to the Romans, we shall not even need the Greek libraries in which there is an endless throng of books, because of the throng of those who have written them. Many writers say the same things, and as a result they have stuffed the world with books. This will happen to the Romans too, if many of us flood into these studies. (Tusculans ., translation from Douglas (), modified)

Cicero does not regard innovation in content as a universal feature of the tradition of philosophical literature. But, as the last sentence here indicates, he does not disapprove of such repetition. The mockery of Greek graphomania is affectionate. If he accepts as plausible something like the picture of philosophy we have just seen, this reaction is explicable: the philosophical tradition communicates a method for healing oneself by moving from the same natural glimmers of understanding to the same kind of wisdom. So, while the Late Sequence is full of the attribution of particular arguments to particular philosophers, it is not surprising that the general course of philosophy should be similar over time, and that ideas and arguments should be repeated. If that is how he thinks philosophy goes, sheer originality of idea and argument is not something by which Cicero will set much store. But where the Romans have room to do well is in the literary style of philosophy. Cicero regards his predecessors in Latin philosophical writing – who were Epicureans – as bad writers for the educated reader. (Tusculans ., .–) They do not express what they think using the tools of oratory. fieri autem potest ut recte quis sentiat et id, quod sentit, polite eloqui non possit. sed mandare quemquam litteris cogitationes suas, qui eas nec disponere nec

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome illustrare possit nec delectatione aliqua adlicere lectorem, hominis est intemperanter abutentis et otio et litteris. Now, it can happen that somebody who has a correct view cannot express it with polish. But that anybody should commit to writing his thoughts, when he can neither arrange nor illuminate them nor attract the reader with any charm that is the behavior of a man who abuses intemperately both leisure and literature. (Tusculans ., translation from Douglas (), modified)

Cicero’s criticism here has nothing to do with content. It would apply to an author with whose view he agreed as well as to an Epicurean. The educated reader, equipped with the critical tools of the rhetor, has to be addressed by somebody like Cicero, who can use those same tools well. If not, then “I do not see why [the Epicureans] need to be read except to each other, by those who hold the same views.” (Tusculans .) When Cicero said he would be the first to bring the “lamp” of Latin letters to bear on philosophy (Tusculans .), it was not that he was overlooking the Epicureans. It was that he did not think they had a lamp. Exactly which tools of rhetoric does Cicero think will illuminate philosophy? No doubt all could help in some way. But “illumination” carries with it certain connotations that point to certain features of the Late Sequence more than to others. One such connotation emerges from Cicero’s On the parts of rhetoric. Speaking of the choice and arrangement of words, he explains “illuminated speech” (oratio illustris) to his son: est enim haec pars orationis, quae rem constituat paene ante oculos; is enim maxime sensus attingitur, sed et ceteri tamen et maxime mens ipsa moveri potest. sed quae dicta sunt de oratione dilucida, cadunt in hanc illustrem omnia. est enim plus aliquanto illustre quam illud dilucidum. altero fit ut intellegamus, altero ut videre videamur.   

For more on this passage, see Smith (), Gildenhard () –. . . . cur legendi nisi ipsi inter se, qui idem sentiunt, non intellego. Translation from Douglas (). The Latin Epicureans Cicero has in mind are, if not others, Amafinius and Rabirius, Academica ., Tusculans .– cf. On ends .–, Tusculans .. Cicero says that there were sane multi, “fairly many” of their books around, Tusculans .. Here we come to a mystery: what about Lucretius? About Lucretius’ “poems” (poemata), Cicero wrote in  BC to his brother Quintus, that they shone with multis luminibus ingenii, multae tamen artis, literally, “many lamps of talent, but with great technique.” (Letters to Quintus ..) So why does Cicero not acknowledge in the Late Sequence that he has at least one predecessor who wrote illuminatingly about philosophy in Latin? One guess is that Cicero read something by Lucretius not about philosophy, and that he did not know our DRN. But the context in Cicero’s letter inclines me against this: to judge from the title of Sallustius’ lost poem, DRN is an apt point of comparison with the Empedoclea. The other, distasteful possibility is that Cicero deliberately ignored Lucretius in the Late Sequence, because such an impressive Epicurean poet was inconvenient.

. A More Positive View of Cicero’s Dialogues


For it is this department of oratory which almost sets the fact before the eyes for it is the sense of sight that is most appealed to, although it is nevertheless possible for the rest of the senses and also most of all the mind itself to be affected. But the things that were said about clear speech all apply to the illuminated kind. For what is illuminated is worth considerably more than that clarity above mentioned. By the one it comes about that we understand what is said, but by the other that we seem to see it. (On the parts of rhetoric , translation from Rackham ())

Illumination in this narrow sense – illuminating by choice and arrangement of words – is not broad enough to cover all the effects that Cicero aims for in the Late Sequence. But the wider idea of “illumination” it exemplifies is apt: to illuminate is to make the subject seem to stand before the reader’s eye. Cicero takes material from philosophers who write clearly, so that they may be understood, but will illuminate it, so that the reader seems to see. How the dialogues achieve this is obvious. They bring philosophical speakers in front of our imagination. But, writing for his rhetorically educated peers, Cicero will have to do a good job of this. The speakers will have to be convincing characters who give coherent speeches that fit their dramatic context. Since some of his readers will be learned about philosophy, the back-and-forth will also need to make dialectical sense to somebody with philosophical acumen. This, then, is something more than an encyclopedia that we should expect from the Late Sequence. A second connotation for “illumination” comes from Cicero’s subsequent description of the Tusculans itself, at Div. .. The Tusculans at large “opened up the subjects most necessary for happy living.” Cicero then says that Book  of the Tusculans, eum locum complexus est, qui totam philosophiam maxime illustrat; docet enim ad beate vivendum virtutem se ipsa esse contentam. contained that commonplace that most of all illuminates the whole of philosophy, for it teaches that virtue is self sufficient for happy living.

The “commonplace” is not an argument to which Marcus in Tusculans Book  is committed, because he gives it in his capacity as a skeptical interlocutor. Neither is Cicero the author of Div. committed to it. Thus Cicero would not say that this topic illuminates by teaching his reader that virtue is sufficient for happiness, since it is not Cicero’s intention that it


res ad beate vivendum maxime necessarias aperuerunt.

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome should teach the reader this. The way this argument “illuminates the whole of philosophy” must, for Cicero, be less direct. It shows how philosophy can help us to deal with no less than the spectre of human fragility, of which Cicero was sometimes terrified. (Tusculans .) For the purpose of interpreting DND and Div., I can sum up what I want to add to the encyclopedia view in two principles. The other chapters of my book aim to show these principles’ worth by putting them into action. They are: The learned reader principle: to get the most from Cicero’s dialogues, we should read them as though we were learned readers, who are already aware of many of the philosophers, views, and arguments we read about, or could find out about them for ourselves fairly easily. For us, this means reading the dialogues with our other sources for Hellenistic philosophy at our elbow. The literary unity principle: we should read the dialogues as though Cicero has an overall goal in writing each of them, which influences his choice of schools for presentation and criticism, his characters, their arguments, and so on, and we should read each speech as written for a coherent character who chooses a set of arguments in response to a given dramatic setting. In the remaining sections of this introduction, I shall proceed as follows. In section . I shall re-examine an old challenge to a position like mine, the single-source hypothesis. In sections . and . I look at the evidence for two approaches that Cicero took to his literary project: the dialogue form at large, and his application of it to skeptical writing in particular. In section . I look ahead to the two dialogues with which I shall be concerned in the rest of the book.

. The Single Source Hypothesis Source criticism, or Quellenforschung, is an attempt critically to determine the sources of a given text and, perhaps, to reconstruct those sources if they are lost. In the nineteenth and the earlier part of the twentieth century, much of the scholarly attention devoted to Cicero’s dialogues was in


It is not my view that Cicero never made mistakes in pursuit of his goals. For some exceptions to the literary unity principle in Div., see Chapter  section ., but cf. Chapter  section ..

. The Single Source Hypothesis


pursuit of his sources. A particular version of this source criticism depended on the single source hypothesis: that in most or all of his dialogues, for long stretches of prose and perhaps in whole speeches or even books, Cicero followed and translated a single source closely, making changes only where needed in order to retain a Roman setting. On this hypothesis, it might be possible to reconstruct much of each source that Cicero used. The practice of single source criticism for the Late Sequence has failed to achieve much consensus. In fact, the frustrations of single source critics helped to summon the animus we saw directed at Cicero at the start of this introduction. Frustration resulted in part from disappointment: if, as was reasonable at the time, Cicero was read with the single source hypothesis in mind, and yet attempts to identify and reconstruct single originals failed to achieve accepted results, then it must be that Cicero could not or would not transcribe his sources faithfully. But once we abandon the single source hypothesis, we have another explanation for its failure: in writing speeches for his dialogues, Cicero was his own man. He might “transcribe” a Greek source for a long stretch if so minded, but he could also assemble words, sentences, arguments, and topics as he wished, from many sources, from memory, or by creation de novo. Now it is not my intention to revisit the arguments against single source criticism as it was and is practiced. Rather, I want to address the hypothesis itself, for two reasons. First, at its simplest, it is at loggerheads with my view of the dialogues, because it denies Cicero much agency in shaping them. Second, the evidence for, and attractions of, the hypothesis were once very strong, strong enough that its summary dismissal today represents a failure of imagination. But other data, and advances in scholarship, are now sufficient to reject the hypothesis decisively. This decisive rejection has not yet been set out in one place. So I shall aim to set out the evidence for and against the hypothesis here. So far as I can see, there were three main pieces of evidence in favor of the hypothesis, as follows: 


See Pease () vol.  pp. – n.  for source-critical bibliography on DND from the period when single-source criticism was in vogue. Pease refers only to “the more important suggestions,” but he gives sixty citations spread between  and . Not all of these are straightforwardly source-critical. For example, he cites Boyancé (), who was hostile to source-criticism. For Div., see Pease (–) n. Some decisive criticisms were Boyancé (), Douglas () –. An illustration of the curiously low esteem in which it is held is that a late twentieth century editor of On duties, a text which explicitly claims to stay close to its sources, and where our evidence for the identity of those sources is good, felt the need to give a special explanation for investigating them: Dyck () –.

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome . Letters to Atticus .. (= SB): “They are copies, they come out with relatively little work. I add only the words, with which I overflow.” This sentence is often quoted (as in the passages from Usener and Mommsen with which I began). It was interpreted as Cicero’s confession that the dialogues were made up of something close to mere translations of a source. . Haste. Cicero composed the Late Sequence in less than two years, and all of it except the Hortensius in little more than a year. It seemed unreasonable to expect anything more than transcripts at this rate of production. Sure enough, there are marks of haste in the writing, for example the traces in DND of a draft in which the drama was spread over more than the single sitting narrated in our text. . The Epicurean text we call Philodemus, On piety, written during the time when Cicero was involved in philosophy in Italy, and found on papyrus at Herculaneum. This was published in  with the observation, never seriously challenged, that it seemed to be closely related to part of Velleius’ Epicurean speech in Book  of DND. It was thus plausible that excavators had in fact found one of Cicero’s single sources. This must have seemed a spectacular confirmation of what ) and ) suggested. With the facts in )–) accepted widely, and interpreted as described, the evidence in the nineteenth century for the single source hypothesis must have seemed formidable. In the face of the arid style of the single source critics, we should add that their hypothesis is very exciting: it offers to conjure texts of Hellenistic philosophy from the grave. There was nothing either silly or boring about taking the hypothesis very seriously. The respective answers to the three pieces of evidence for the singlesource hypothesis are these: . Letters to Atticus .. (= SB): There are two parts to this answer. The first is that it is most obscure what Cicero meant by the oftenquoted sentence. For one thing, the context is disputable. The sentence comes in a short paragraph, to which the letter turns abruptly from other matters. The style of the paragraph is compressed. Part of the text is garbled in our manuscripts. The paragraph runs: De lingua Latina securi es animi. dices †qui alia quae scribis†. ἀπόγραφα sunt, minore labore fiunt; verba tantum adfero, quibus abundo. 

DND ., .. See Dyck () –.


Drummond and Walpole ().

. The Single Source Hypothesis


About the Latin language, your mind is at rest. You will say, ‘How about the other things you’re writing?’ They are copies (apographa), they come about with relatively little work. I just contribute the words, which I have in plenty. (Trans. from Shackleton Bailey (), substantially adapted for neutrality between interpretations)

The tone of the opening sentence of this paragraph traditionally is thought to be something like, “set your mind at rest,” as if Atticus has voiced some worry. If so, it is not clear what the worry was. Perhaps Atticus was worried that Cicero’s use of language in his philosophical writing was poor. That was apparently Usener and Mommsen’s reading (pp. – above). Another interpretation would be that Atticus objected to Cicero’s coining of a Latin philosophical vocabulary. But neither of these suggestions seems plausible when we note how Cicero reasserts, and then answers, Atticus’ worry. For if Atticus was worried about the quality of Cicero’s writing, then Cicero would not have reassured Atticus by playing down the amount of effort involved. Meanwhile, Shackleton Bailey supposes that “the Latin language” refers not to the tongue, but to Varro’s work with that title, or perhaps to some such work Cicero was contemplating. (Shackleton Bailey  ad loc.) If so, then perhaps Atticus’ concern is beyond recovery today. In short, if it is right that Atticus needed to be pacified, we do not know what he was worried about. Cicero then seems to reassert the worry on Atticus’ behalf. What new challenge Cicero posed is lost, since the words between the daggers in my quotation (translated “How about the other things you’re writing?”) represent nonsense in all our manuscripts. No satisfactory restoration is yet available. Cicero appears to have imagined that Atticus would refer to something else that he, Cicero, was writing. These other writings are usually interpreted as the philosophical dialogues, but there is no direct evidence for that interpretation. Cicero then replies that these writings are apographa. This Greek word is mysterious. Its cognate verb, literally to write from, means to copy, to enter in a list, or to bring a formal charge against (LSJ sv.). apographa is either the plural of a neuter noun, or an adjective agreeing with such. In either case it is extremely rare. What does it mean? The Greek rhetorician Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a younger contemporary of Cicero, uses the adjective to contrast the orator Lysias’ verbal portrait of a client, which he calls an “archetype,” with Isaeus’, which he calls an apographos. Dionysius intends the term pejoratively, saying that the apographos portrayal is “obviously a fiction of the rhetorical art,” in contrast

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome to the vividly portrayed archetype. (οὐ λανθάνοντα ὅτι πέπλασται ῥητορικῇ τέχνῃ, Isaeus ) So the word seems to mean a one-dimensional character, a transparent copy of a fleshed-out original. Meanwhile, Pliny the Elder applies the singular noun to a marketable copy of a portrait painting of a girl, explaining the term as “a copy, which they call an apographon.” (exemplar, quod apographon vocant, Natural history .) So it is likely that with the word apographa Cicero means to call his writings “copies.” But it is by no means clear that he means “mere transcripts” in the sense of uncreative translations. Another possibility, for example, is that Atticus had raised a concern about Cicero’s choice or portrayal of the Roman characters in the dialogues. Letters to Atticus . was written a week or so after Cicero had reported to Atticus the completion of the first version of the Academica (Letters to Atticus .. = SB) and about a month before Cicero decided to rework the dialogue with Varro among its characters (Letters to Atticus ..– = SB). Perhaps Atticus’ concern helped to prompt Cicero’s rethink. If so, then in our passage Cicero replies that the characters will not give offense, because they are obviously literary fictions. If the metaphor were of visual portraits, then it would be easy to make sense of his next remark, “I add only the words” – a curiously redundant point if it were about translation – as meaning, “I just give them their lines.” That reading would be as consistent with my view as with the single source hypothesis, since Cicero could say this about carefully written characters in carefully shaped dialogues. However that may be, given these many uncertainties about what it means, proponents of the single-source view were unwise to put much weight on Letters to Atticus ... The second part of the answer to ) is that even if we assumed that in Letters to Atticus .. Cicero does admit that he made mere transcripts with little effort, this would not prove much, since a great deal of evidence countervails. Against this background, Cicero’s “admission” would look like playful self-deprecation. First, for other purposes I examine below ample evidence in the letters themselves that Cicero effortfully crafted, and re-drafted, his dialogues (pp. –). This seems inconsistent with mere transcription. Second, I add here that a month after Letters to Atticus ., Cicero’s opinions of his finished Academica project seem at odds with a single source view: “I finished off the whole subject of Academic philosophy . . . how well I cannot say, but so carefully that nothing further could be done,” “unless my share of amour propre deceives me, it has turned out

. The Single Source Hypothesis


better than anything in its genre now existing, even in Greek.” The first quotation suggests that Cicero put more than mere word-for-word translation into the project in its various drafts. The second suggests that he thought the result was in some way original by comparison with any similar Greek text. But the main font of evidence contrary to the single-source interpretation of Letters to Atticus .. is in Cicero’s descriptions of his writing in the dialogues themselves, which we have already seen in section . of this introduction. In the preface to On ends Book , Cicero upbraids learned Romans who turn their nose up at Latin: quid? si nos non interpretum fungimur munere, sed tuemur ea quae dicta sunt ab iis quos probamus eisque nostrum iudicium et nostrum scribendi ordinem adiungimus, quid habent cur Graeca anteponant iis quae et splendide dicta sint neque sint conversa de Graecis? What of it, if I do not perform the task of translator, but preserve the views of those whom I consider sound while contributing my own judgment and order of composition? What reason does anyone have for preferring Greek to that which is written with brilliance and is not a translation from the Greek? (On ends ., translation from Annas and Woolf ())

The isolated and ambiguous evidence of Letters to Atticus .., then, is not persuasive when set against the plentiful and unambiguous evidence the other way. . Haste. How fast did Cicero write the Late Sequence? We can make a rough but helpful estimate. As a unit of length familiar to readers of Cicero we can use the shorter sections into which his corpus (except the letters) was divided by Alexander Scot. These are not exactly of uniform length, since their divisions follow the syntax of the Latin. But they are roughly so. We might say that their usual length is about that of a paragraph in today’s academic English. Now the first work of the sequence, Hortensius, is lost and the last, On fate, is mutilated. But Cicero wrote those two before and after the other members of the sequence, respectively, so we can drop their composition from our calculations. Let us estimate how long it took him



absolvi nescio quam bene, sed ita accurate ut nihil posset supra, Academicam omnem quaestionem libris quattor, Letters to Atticus .. SB. nisi forte me communis φιλαυτία decipit, ut in tali genere ne apud Graecos quidem simile quicquam, Letters to Atticus .. SB. Translations from Shackleton Bailey (), modified. Glucker () –. These are the shorter “sections” that appear in modern editions, usually indicated with Arabic numerals.

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome to write the five dialogues he completed in between: Academica, On ends, Tusculans, DND, and Div. On ends seems to be mentioned in Cicero’s letters to Atticus in mid-March  BC. Let us say that Cicero started the Academica–Div. sequence then, although he could well have begun it earlier. When Cicero finished Div. is hard to say, but he certainly did some work on it after Caesar’s death on the Ides of March  BC. So let us say that it was complete at the end of that March, although this date might be early. This conservative estimate, from mid-March  BC to the end of March  BC, gives Cicero about  days for our five works. How much did Cicero write in this time? The length of the Academica presents some difficulties, since Cicero completed two versions of it, of one of which we have half, and of the other less than a quarter. He also worked out some part of an intermediate draft. The writing of the two versions overlaps with the writing of our other texts so that, unlike Hortensius and On fate, we cannot drop the Academica from our calculations. We must therefore guess how much of it Cicero wrote. The first version consisted of two book-length dialogues, the Catulus and the Lucullus. We have the whole Lucullus. To guess the length of the whole first version, let us say that the Catulus was the same length as the Lucullus. The final version divided the same material into four Academic books, with different speakers and setting. Just how much new writing this required we do not know. The new writing may have been extensive, especially as Cicero considered yet a third version for a few days. Let us then guess that the Academic books required as much writing as the first version again, so that we should quadruple the length of Lucullus for our guess at the total number of section-lengths Cicero finished in the course of the Academica project. Our other difficulty in calculating how much Cicero wrote is DND Book , from which a significant amount of text is lost. Since Cotta’s speech in Book  is a point-by-point reply to Balbus’ speech in Book , let us guess that Book  was originally the same length as Book . If we add the existing lengths to the guessed lengths I have suggested, we calculate that Cicero wrote about  sections of the sequence Academica

    

Letters to Atticus . SB. de Epicuro suggests that Cicero is planning On ends Book . For the date of composition of Div., see the judicious discussion in Wardle () –, and Durand (), Falconer (), and Giomini (). For the complex evidence for Cicero’s composition of Academica, see Griffin (). DND .–, –. This may well be an overestimate, since Balbus’ is the longest speech in the Late Sequence and Book  of DND is its longest book.

. The Single Source Hypothesis


to Div. in his  days. That is about six sections a day, on average. The “on average” matters. On some days, for example, Cicero was traveling and presumably wrote little. Moreover, in the same period he wrote the eightyfive sections of On old age, the lost Consolation (Div. .–), and his translation of part of Plato’s Timaeus, to push his average output of all philosophical prose over six sections per day. He often had nonphilosophical writing on hand, too. Thus an average of six paragraphs a day of philosophical prose finished for the Late Sequence is a most impressive pace. But, especially if Cicero’s task was not, for the most part, original argument, but rather the shaping and presentation of the arguments of others, six sections is hardly so much that it is incredible that he should have worked with a degree of care. We might compare On duties, a later work that Cicero himself says was based on a single source, but not slavishly so. On one recent estimate Cicero wrote On duties at a rate of thirty-one sections per day. Next to this, six or seven sections a day of something more complex than single source “transcription” looks plausible. Cicero’s pace of writing becomes easier to understand when we look at his circumstances in those  days. Admittedly, they were very varied. We have much the best evidence for the earlier part of the period, from March through August  BC, at which point daily letters to Atticus break off. At times Cicero was busy, likely more so in the period later in  and in  BC when he was often at Rome or when, in December  BC, he played host to Caesar (Letters to Atticus .=SB). But we know from his letters that he also had plenty of leisure, at least during the time of daily letters. His time then was distributed between his villas at Astura, a relatively isolated seaside area, Tusculum, where his main library was, and Arpinum, his ancestral estate. He was bereaved at the death of his daughter, Tullia. This bereavement affected him severely for some months. Early on in our period he seems to have spent most of his waking hours in literary pursuits. On th March  he wrote to Atticus from Astura: 

 


Academica:  x   sections; Tusculans:  +  +  +  +  ; On ends:  +  +  +  +  ; DND  +  x  ; Div  +  ; total  sections.  sections /  days about . sections per day. Cicero refers to On old age as a recent work at Div. .. Cf. Letters to Atticus .. SB from  May  BC. Including On old age (and the Timaeus (fifty-two sections) yields / about . sections/ day. The Consolation means that the real figure was higher. For the sake of argument, if the Consolation was one-hundred sections long, Cicero’s average was about . sections/day.  Dyck () –. See Treggiari () –.

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome in hac solitudine careo omnium colloquio, cumque mane me in silvam abstrusi densam et asperam, non exeo inde ante vesperum. secundum te nihil est mihi amicius solitudine. in ea mihi omnis sermo est cum litteris. eum tamen interpellat flatus; cui repugno quoad possum, sed adhuc pares non sumus. In this lonely place I do not talk to a soul. Early in the day I hide myself in a thick, thorny wood, and don’t emerge till evening. Next to yourself solitude is my best friend. When I am alone all my conversation is with literature, but it is interrupted by fits of weeping, against which I struggle as best I can. But so far it is an unequal fight. (Letters to Atticus .=SB, translation from Shackleton Bailey ())

The next day, he reports that, “Reading and writing bring me, not solace indeed, but distraction;” on  March, he rejects Atticus’ advice to return to his “old ways” and says that he is satisfied with what he has achieved in his consolation “through literature” (per litteras); on th May, he writes through the whole of each day (dies totos) since even though it does not lighten the load, it distracts him. While the acute stage of Cicero’s grief does not seem to have lasted through the summer of  BC and his preoccupations became more varied, writing remains visible as the largest object of his effort. While at Arpinum, he gave great attention to redrafting the Academica and putting the final touches both to it and to On ends, along with preparing both as gifts, to Varro and Brutus respectively. In July , by which time he seems to have become less obsessive in his literary pursuits, Cicero nevertheless spent some time “before dawn” working for a few hours (ante lucem, Letters to Atticus .=SB). The letters suggest, then, that during our  days Cicero had some, and sometimes many, hours in the day to give to reading and writing – and that he used them. That being so, I suggest that the Late Sequence dialogues were written at a most impressive speed, but not with such haste that we must discount their quality ahead of reading them. . On piety. That this papyrus text from Herculaneum, which was written during Cicero’s life is closely related to Velleius’ Epicurean speech in DND Book , either as a source or as a descendant of the same source, has been accepted very widely since its first publication. Thus it can be surprising to put even an older edition of On piety like Gomperz’ next to

 

Translation from Shackleton Bailey (), slightly altered. me scriptio et litterae non leniunt sed obturbant, . SB; consuetudinem, .. SB; . SB. Translations from Shackleton Bailey ().

. The Single Source Hypothesis


Velleius’ speech and see that the correspondences, although persuasive in broad strokes, are not as thoroughgoing as one might expect. The most important parallel is that Velleius, in his catalog of philosophers’ views about the gods, mostly mentions the same philosophers as does On piety and mostly in the same order, as is emphasized by Diels’ printing of the two texts in parallel columns. Although the eminence of most of the authors in the catalog and the broadly chronological order of their listing could provide an alternative explanation for this coincidence, on balance it convinces that there is some close relationship of sources between the catalogs in the two texts. But in other respects even the catalogs do not look alike. There is only one close parallel of wording, otherwise Velleius seems to identify and phrase the philosophers’ views differently than does the author of On piety. So far as one can tell from the fragmentary papyrus text, Velleius gives more space to Epicurean counterargument against the other views listed than On piety does. We should accept that Cicero wrote Velleius’ catalog by following On piety or a text very like it, but what we learn is not that he translated the model word-forword, but rather that he adapted it to his purposes. A second parallel between the two texts is that while Velleius’ speech features first the catalog of philosophers, second a criticism of the poets, and third a statement of Epicurean theology, the papyrus text features a catalog of philosophers, a criticism of poets, arguments for the existence of the gods, and a set of evidence of the Epicureans’ piety. So we might think that aside from the differences in the last stated sections on Epicurean theology, and the much greater length of the papyrus section on poets, Cicero has given Velleius’ speech the same structure he found in On piety. This must have seemed the more compelling to readers of a text like Gomperz’, since in Gomperz’ edition the three parts of On piety appear in the same order as do their apparent counterparts in Velleius’ speech. But the picture is different today, when Dirk Obbink has published the first part of his edition of On piety (). Obbink examined the confusing evidence, created by the complex history of the treatment of the papyrus and its copies, far more closely than did most other editors. Convincingly, Obbink reverses the order of On piety. The exposition of Epicurean piety comes first, followed by the sections on philosophers and poets.    

Gomperz’ edition () has been influential in that Diels relied on it in Doxographi Graeci ().  Diels () –. The passage on Anaximenes, DND . On piety p.  Gomperz. For a sophisticated treatment of the parallels, see Obbink () –, with his references.  See Obbink (), Introduction, especially pp. –. Obbink () , –.

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome When we match this with the radically smaller space Velleius devotes to his remarks on poets and the largely distinct content of his positive, Epicurean arguments, Velleius’ speech looks very different from the papyrus text. If, again, we envisage Cicero writing the speech with On piety before him, we now have to conclude that he adapted parts of it very substantially, left out other parts, and introduced much that was new, whether with other texts as his guides or from his own knowledge. Thus, far from supporting the single source hypothesis, the comparison of On piety with Velleius’ speech now supports a view of Cicero as the creative user of a source to compose a speech of his own devising. To sum up: where the evidence for the single source hypothesis used to appear strong, and the hypothesis was well worth exploring, closer examination and related scholarly advances leave the evidence either uncertain, outweighed by opposing data, or so changed that it points in the opposite direction. We should not think of Cicero in his dialogues merely as a transcriber of single sources for Hellenistic philosophy.

. Cicero and the Revival of the Classical Dialogue Later in the Hellenistic period, continuous prose tended to replace dialogues as the form of choice for technical exposition. The authors that Cicero names as the important models for his and Varro’s dialogues – Plato, Aristotle, and Heraclides of Pontus – had written centuries before. So when Romans like Varro and Cicero wrote dialogues they were engaged in a literary revival of a form that had flourished hundreds of 



Obbink himself thinks that, if Cicero had On piety in hand, he “rolled very quickly through” the part on Epicurean piety, “reduced some  columns [of the criticism of poets] . . . to a single paragraph” and put the criticism of philosophers up front, affording himself a survey of philosophical views at the outset of the dialogue and an apt portrayal of the Epicureans as he understood them, as “cultural renegades bent on undermining the whole of traditional learning” (Obbink , pp. –). For the exceptions, see Hirzel () –. An example of a (relatively early) Hellenistic dialogue to which Cicero certainly gave attention was a work on the soul in three books by Dicaearchus (Tusculans ., cf. Cicero’s reading list in Letters to Atticus .. SB). My point is not that nobody wrote technical dialogues in the Hellenistic period – they did – but rather that the important technical books of the period usually were not dialogues, and that Cicero does not look to Hellenistic dialogists as his models, or left no evidence that he did so. There were some predecessors in writing Latin dialogues. A Marcus Junius Brutus had written them in the previous century, On the orator .–, cf. Pro Cluentio . This cannot be “M. Brutus (the father of the conspirator)” as Powell (b)  suggests. Rather, he is Iunius no.  in RE. Gaius Scribonius Curio was another Latin dialogist contemporary with Cicero, Brutus , Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars ., Hirzel () –. Given Cicero’s casual references to Brutus and Curio as dialogists, it seems likely to me that there were other technical dialogues in Latin prior to Varro and Cicero. There were, obviously, other sorts of dialogues in drama and satire

. Cicero and the Revival of the Classical Dialogue


years before and was not the vital genre of technical literature in their own day, not even in Greek. When we read Cicero’s dialogues, we should remember we are reading not someone striving toward a contemporary Greek model, but Cicero’s attempt to do better at the illumination of philosophy than Greek authors of his own day, by going back to classical examples of the fourth century BC. In this section, I will present some of the evidence for this view of Cicero’s approach to dialogues. It shows in particular that Cicero and his circle had models to whom they looked when they discussed the dialogue form. Naturally enough, Cicero seems to have referred to these models most often when he was beginning to write dialogues, so that much of the evidence here is directly concerned with dialogues he wrote earlier than the Late Sequence. But we see arise here many aspects of the Late Sequence dialogues, which I shall turn to in the next section. We shall look in a moment at Cicero’s use of his models Plato, Aristotle, and Heraclides, but let us note first his acquaintace with classical dialogists was broader than just these three. Whether directly or from a quotation, in On invention .– the young Cicero translated a comic little scene “in Aeschines the Socratic” between Aspasia, Xenophon, and Xenophon’s wife. In a stiff footnote to a May  letter to Atticus, Cicero returns his verdict on the writings of Antisthenes, “Cyrus  pleased me the same way as the rest of Antisthenes’ stuff—the man is sharper than he is cultured.” Most importantly, Cicero was more than familiar with Xenophon’s dialogues, and especially with the Oeconomicus. In Cicero’s On old



 


(see Hirzel () –). In April  Cicero thanks Atticus for his mirificos cum Publio dialogos, “wonderful dialogues with Publius” (Letters to Atticus .. SB). When Cicero uses the transliterated Greek dialogus he usually seems to mean a piece in the dialogue genre – had Atticus been playfully reporting conversations in the form of a literary dialogue, much as Cicero himself does in his miniature dialogue with Quintus filius (Letters to Atticus . SB)? Of course, this is not to say that there were no recent and interesting Greek dialogues in Cicero’s day. It is possible that Antiochus’ Sosus (Academica .) was a dialogue. A proper name for a title is suggestive. Some of the more elaborate arguments that Sosus was a dialogue are made in the hope that it is the source for a part of Academica: Hirzel () – and cf. Hirzel () n, Glucker () –. Cf. Hirzel’s chapter on Varro and Cicero, entitled ‘Wiederbelebung des Dialogs’ (, –). Zoll () proposes a “Platonrenaissance” in the second and first centuries at Rome, especially marked with Cicero (). This is presumably from Aeschines’ Aspasia, a work that DL rates as “stamped with the Socratic character” (τὸ Σωκρατικὸν ἦθος), .. I am not sure what the “” signifies here. DL lists four different works of Antisthenes named Cyrus (DL ., ). In any case, the β´ is Shackleton Bailey’s correction of the vulgate reading. He takes this “” to refer to the second listed Cyrus dialogue, on kingship. Κῦρος β´ mihi sic placuit ut cetera Antisthenis, hominis acuti magis quam eruditi, Letters to Atticus .a. SB, and cf. Tusculans ..

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome age Cato, explicitly his mouthpiece (On old age ) says that “Xenophon’s books are very useful for many matters,” and follows this with a summary and quotations from Oeconomicus .. Cicero did not cull these details from some intermediate source, for he tells his son Marcus in On duties that, in his youth, he translated the whole Oeconomicus into Latin (On duties .), a boast corroborated by Quintillian (Institutes ..). Cicero, then, was well grounded in classical Greek dialogues. But he and his peers take three authors specifically as models: Plato, Aristotle, and Heraclides of Pontus. Although he is by far the least well known of the three, the literary achievement of Heraclides’ dialogues was much admired in antiquity. DL introduces the list of Heraclides’ works with, “There are in circulation writings of his of the greatest beauty and highest quality— dialogues . . .” (.) The impressive quality of these dialogues evidently inspired some technical literary criticism. DL says that Heraclides composed dialogues in both of ‘comic’ and ‘tragic’ diction. (.) Furthermore: ἔστι δ’ αὐτῷ καὶ μεσότης τις ὁμιλητικὴ φιλοσόφων τε καὶ στρατηγικῶν καὶ πολιτικῶν ἀνδρῶν πρὸς ἀλλήλους διαλεγομένων. . . . ἄλλως τ’ ἐν ἅπασι ποικίλος τε καὶ διηρμένος τὴν λέξιν ἐστὶ καὶ ψυχαγωγεῖν ἱκανῶς δυνάμενος. He has as well a certain middle style of conversation, representing philoso phers and generals and statesmen in discussion with each other. . . . And otherwise in all his writings he is varied and lofty in his style and sufficiently able to capture the mind. (DL ., translation from Schu¨trumpf, Stork, van Ophuijsen, and Prince ())

As DL tells it, Heraclides held considerable interest specifically as an author of dialogues that (to use Cicero’s metaphor) illuminated their subject matter. If we assume that Heraclides’ reputation in Cicero’s day was not unlike what DL has to say of him, it is not surprising that Cicero took him as a model dialogist. Indeed, Cicero took Heraclides as his first model. Concerning his revisions of Academica, and Atticus’ suggestion that Varro and

   

multas ad res perutiles Xenophontis libri sunt. On other Ciceronian references to Xenophon, see Zoll () n. φέρεται δ’ αὐτοῦ συγγράμματα κάλλιστά τε καὶ ἄριστα· διάλογοι . . . Translation from Schu¨trumpf, Stork, van Ophuijsen, and Prince (), modified. On Heraclides’ dialogues, see Gottschalk () –, Fox (). For Heraclides in general see Gottschalk (), Schu¨trumpf et al. (), Fortenbaugh and Pender ().

. Cicero and the Revival of the Classical Dialogue


Gaius Aurelius Cotta (narrator of On the orator, who will speak for the Academy in DND) be the speakers, he writes: si Cottam et Varronem fecissem inter se disputantis, ut a te proximis litteris admoneor, meum κωφὸν πρόσωπον esset. hoc in antiquis personis suaviter fit, ut et Heraclides in multis et nos in sex de re publica libris fecimus. sunt etiam de oratore nostri tres mihi vehementer probati. If I had made Cotta and Varro discuss it between them, as you suggest in your last letter, I should have been a ‘silent character.’ This is quite agreeable if the characters belong to history. Heraclides did it in many works, and I myself in my six books on the Republic. And there are my three On the orator, of which I entertain a very good opinion. (Letters to Atticus ..  = SB , translation from Shackleton Bailey (), modified)

Here we see that Heraclides served, both for Cicero and for Atticus, as a model. Cicero proposes to Atticus Heraclides’ historical dialogues as a reason to think that such dialogues can be done well. Indeed, Atticus evidently enjoyed the Heraclidean style because in his attempts to broker a literary exchange between Cicero and Varro he tried to elicit from each “something Heraclidean.” On the other hand, Heraclides’ limitations as a model were felt early, at least by Cicero’s audience. In  BC while his Republic was in progress Cicero wrote to his brother Quintus that he had read out the first two books to Sallustius and received a worrying response: admonitus sum ab illo multo maiore auctoritate illis de rebus dici posse si ipse loquerer de re publica, praesertim cum essem non Heraclides Ponticus sed consularis et is qui in maximis versatus in re publica rebus essem; quae tam antiquis hominibus attribuerem, ea visum iri ficta esse; oratorum sermonem in illis nostris libris qui essent de ratione dicendi, belle a me removisse, ad eos tamen rettulisse quos ipse vidissem; Aristotelem denique quae de re publica et praestanti viro scribat ipsum loqui. [Sallustius] pointed out that these matters could be treated with much more authority if I spoke of the commonwealth in my own person. After all, he said, I was no Heraclides of Pontus but a consular, one who had been involved in most important state affairs. Speeches attributed to persons so remote in time would appear fictitious. In my earlier work on the theory of  

From Varro to Cicero, Letters to Atticus .. SB, . SB; from Cicero .. SB, .. SB, .. SB. For an examination of Cicero’s reasons to use great men of the past as characters, see Steel () –.

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome oratory, he said, I had tactfully separated the conversation of the orators from myself, but I had put it into the mouths of men whom I had personally seen. Finally, that Aristotle’s writings on the state and the preeminent individual are in his own person. (Letters to Quintus .. = SB, translation from Shackleton Bailey ())

Cicero goes on to say that he was shaken by this advice, and that he entertained the possibility of abandoning the Heraclidean form of the books. In the end, he seems to have added prefaces in his own voice rather than give up the historical setting. Note that all these observations on the advantages and disadvantages of the two dialogue forms – Heraclidean and Aristotelian – came from Sallustius. Even in  BC Cicero was not alone among his friends in the ability to give some thought to different models for the dialogue. Of course, Cicero himself was not unreflective about Heraclides as a model, and he quickly departed from it when it suited him. But as we have just seen in Letters to Atticus . (p.  above), when he departed, it was in favor of another model, Aristotle. Let us turn, then, to Aristotle, and look at two letters in which we see Cicero and Atticus acknowledge him as a model. As we have seen, in earlier dialogues like On the orator or his Republic, Cicero used historical characters in the Heraclidean manner. This meant that in those earlier works, Cicero could not pay Varro the compliment of writing him a part in a dialogue, as Atticus consistently urged (cf. Letters to Atticus .., p.  above). In  BC, while writing the Republic, Cicero defended this decision, reassuring Atticus that, “I am making a suitable occasion to address him [i.e. Varro] in one of the prefaces which I am writing to each book, as Aristotle did in what he calls his ‘exoteric’ pieces [i.e. Aristotle’s dialogues].” (Letters to Atticus .. = SB) Meanwhile, in Letter .., Cicero comments on his switch, in the Late Sequence, away from the Heraclidean model: “. . . But my recent compositions follow the Aristotelian pattern, in which the other roles in the dialogue are subordinate to the author’s own.” Cicero’s appearance in his own dialogues, of course, required a contemporary setting and characters. Between these two letters, we see Cicero justify two of the most strikingly un-Platonic (and so, to us, apparently original) aspects of his dialogues as borrowings from Aristotle. These are, first, the appearance of his own character and, second,  

itaque cogitabam, quoniam in singulis libris utor prohoemiis ut Aristoteles in iis quos ἐξωτερικοὺς vocat, aliquid efficere ut non sine causa istum appellarem. Translation from Shackleton Bailey (). . . . quae autem his temporibus scripsi Ἀριστοτέλειον morem habent, in quo ita sermo inducitur ceterorum ut penes ipsum sit principatus.

. Cicero and the Revival of the Classical Dialogue


the prefaces to each work, and sometimes to individual books, that he wrote in his own voice. It is likely that if we could read Aristotle’s dialogues, their literary influence on Cicero would prove wider still. Cicero’s third model, then, was Plato. The breadth of Cicero’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for Plato’s texts is well documented. We should be careful with this evidence. We cannot always be sure that Cicero makes a reference to Plato from his own knowledge rather than from what he found in another text. But the sheer number of citations (and translations) in Cicero’s corpus, and his tendency to effusive praise for deus ille noster Plato, “that god of ours, Plato” (Letters to Atticus ..=SB), makes an eloquent case that Cicero was very well read in the master’s corpus and thought highly of his philosophical and literary monuments. It is not my purpose here to make that case over again. Rather, I want to look at some indications that Cicero reflected on Plato’s dialogues when he was deciding how best to write his own, so that Lactantius echoed Cicero’s verdict on Plato in his own verdict on Cicero, summus ille noster Platonis imitator, “our greatest imitator of Plato.” Of Plato’s works, Cicero translated at least the Protagoras and the part of the Timaeus of which his version survives. When Cicero came to write his first dialogue, On the orator (completed in  BC), although Heraclides was the model for Cicero’s use of characters from history, Plato is also an important influence. The narrator in Cotta’s scene-setting for the 



 

In On the orator ., Crassus says the perfect orator would be one who “could speak on either side of the issue in all matters, in the Aristotelian manner,” Aristotelio more de omnibus rebus in utramque partem possit dicere (cf. On ends ., Orator ). This sets up Aristotle and the Peripatos in competition with the Academy as proponents of the rhetorical practice of speaking on either side of an issue (cf. Tusculans .). (See Long () –.) Zoll () – thinks that Aristotle’s dialogues, rather than just his rhetorical theory and Peripatetic teaching methods, involved speaking in utramque partem rather as we find in Cicero’s dialogues. See especially Degraff (), Long () –. The evidence also emerges in studies of Cicero as translator like Poncelet () and Powell (c). For Cicero as a creative adapter of Plato see Douglas (), Boyancé () –. For two recent interpretations of Cicero’s philosophical responses to Plato, rather than his use of Plato as a model for the dialogue form (although the two subjects are of course not entirely distinct), see Annas () and Gildenhard (). Lactantius, Divine institutes .., cf. ... For more on antiquity’s judgment of Cicero as Plato Latinus see Quintillian, Institutes .. (and also perhaps ..), [Longinus], De sublimitate , Zoll () –. Four fragments survive, Priscian .., .., .., Donatus On Phormio ... It is possible that Cicero made both translations after On ends (cf. On ends .), which would make the last two years of his life still more crowded than we already know them to have been. But if the Protagoras translation was a youthful work like the Oeconomicus then perhaps he could overlook it in On ends. On the other hand, his Timaeus is probably later than On ends, since it is certainly later than Academica (Cicero, Timaeus ) and likely contemporary with the Tusculans (see the seeming reference to a separate discussion of Pythagoreanism at Tusculans ., and the discussion of dating in Sedley ()).

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome conversation of Book  makes a fuss of recalling Plato’s Phaedrus. Cotta tells Marcus that Scaevola explicitly set out to recall the Phaedrus, saying (On the orator .), “Crassus, why don’t we imitate the Socrates of Plato’s Phaedrus?” He has spotted a shady plane tree, just as Socrates and Phaedrus do, and he and Crassus decide to sit and talk under it. What may be a pun on his own name by Plato in the Phaedrus (the plane tree is a πλάτανον, platanon, a) becomes clearly playful in Cicero’s use of platanus in close proximity to Platonis. Cicero used Plato in thinking about another detail of the dialogue, too. Atticus had complained that Cicero removes Scaevola from the dialogue too early. Cicero replies non eam temere dimovi sed feci idem quod in πολιτείᾳ deus ille noster Plato. cum in Piraeum Socrates venisset ad Cephalum, locupletem et festivum senem, quoad primus ille sermo habetur, adest in disputando senex, deinde cum ipse quoque commodissime locutus esset, ad rem divinam dicit se velle discedere neque postea revertitur. credo Platonem vix putasse satis consonum fore si hominem id aetatis in tam longo sermone diutius retinuisset. I did not drop him [i.e. Scaevola] casually, but followed the example of our divine Plato in his Republic. Socrates calls on Cephalus, a rich, genial old gentleman, in the Piraeus. During the opening talk the old fellow is present at the discussion, but then, after speaking himself and very nicely too, he says he has to go and attend to a sacrifice, and does not reappear. I imagine that Plato thought it would not be convenable to keep a man of Cephalus’ age too long in so protracted a conversation. (Letters to Atticus ..=SB, translation from Shackleton Bailey ())

Notice first that, as with Heraclides and Aristotle, Cicero presents Plato as an authoritative model. Atticus is meant to back down from his complaints once he agrees that Plato did what Cicero has done. But the appeal to Plato is much more involved than the invocation of precedent, and it is not just an appeal to general features of Plato’s style. Instead, Cicero reconstructs Plato’s specific creative process in presenting and then removing the elderly Cephalus, and compares his own policy on Scaevola in the sentences after my quotation. The parallel between Scaevola and Cephalus is a subtle one (unlike that between Cato and Cephalus in On old age) and without the comment in Cicero’s letter we might miss it as easily as 


DL . records, but does not endorse, the story that the Phaedrus was the first dialogue Plato wrote. The Phaedrus, with its material on rhetoric, is in any case a natural point of reference for On the orator, but if Cicero was familiar with this tale, perhaps that provided another link. Where Socrates likes the idea of sitting on the grass (Phaedrus c), Cicero makes the two Romans call for cushions (On the orator .). Perhaps this is a humorous contrast, or perhaps it is an allowance for their relatively advanced age.

. Cicero and the Skeptical Dialogue


Atticus did (cf. Schu¨trumpf () ). This suggests that Cicero’s use of Plato as a model was not limited to the moments where he makes an obvious allusion. Rather, he could use Plato’s monuments as a sounding-board when devising elements of his own work that strike us as original.

. Cicero and the Skeptical Dialogue So far I have argued that Cicero and his peers set out to revive the dialogue form they found in Classical Greek authors. That revival is clearest in evidence I have presented to do with dialogues Cicero wrote before the Late Sequence. With the Late Sequence, Cicero was caused to think about the dialogue form afresh. For he wrote the Late Sequence so as to call to the reader’s attention his Academic skepticism. The Hortensius was meant to turn the reader to philosophy, but the next in the series, the Academica, indicated which school was Cicero’s own. After that, the rest of the Late Sequence dialogues are given prefaces which point out their skeptical authorship. This led Cicero to bend the form of his dialogues to the new purpose. But before I detail that new form, I should say what his skepticism was. Just as Cicero and his peers had brought new life to an old literary form, in the Late Sequence he writes from the point of view of an outmoded philosophical school, the New Academy. As suited his temperament, Cicero thought that he remained a friend to the patrimony of Socrates and the Academy, skepticism, when “stupidity” (tarditas) had left it almost deserted by others, and even by the Greeks. (DND .) Skepticism admits of many variations, so I should say first out of what sort of skepticism I think Cicero writes in the Late Sequence. This is a difficult and complex question, so I can give here only my controversial opinion. When the Academy turned to skepticism, they had an opponent in the confidence of early Stoics that our minds can have a firm grasp on the 


For many more and stronger claims about Platonic parallels in On the orator see Schu¨trumpf () and Zoll () –. Annas () explores deeper parallels between Cicero’s and Plato’s respective Laws. Here I set aside the possibility that Cicero went through a non-skeptical phase. See Görler () vs. Glucker (). In any case, at the start of DND Marcus seems to accept that he is a pupil of Philo (.), from which it would follow that he is at any rate not an Antiochean in the conversation of DND. Other treatments of Cicero’s overall standpoint on philosophy and skepticism are Taran (), Steinmetz (), Glucker ().

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome world. In Cicero’s telling, the dispute with the Stoics that arose over this issue defined the Academy’s history into the earlier part of Cicero’s own lifetime. The Stoics held that much of the mental life of rational animals like ourselves is made up of rational impressions in the mind, whether impressions from the senses or impressions we imagine in thought. That these impressions are rational means that they have content, they say or mean something. When an impression says or means some assertion, that assertion is either true or false, and in virtue of the assertions they make, our impressions can thus be true or false. For example, I at present have a visual impression that has the rational content, “there is a blue book on my desk.” If it is true that there is a blue book on my desk, my impression is thereby true. Similarly, when I say to myself mentally, “two plus two equals four,” I have a true impression that two plus two equals four. Further, I am able to assent to these impressions (or their content), that is to say, to take them to be true, or to withhold my assent. For me to assent to an impression is thus for me to form an ordinary, but confident or “dogmatic,” sort of belief. The goal, of course, is to assent to the true impressions and withhold assent from the false ones. Now the Stoics thought that of our true impressions, there are some which are such that they cannot be false. In fact, my impression that there is a blue book on the table – formed in good light, my eyes working well – might well be an impression of this kind. I cannot have a false impression of this sort, with just this causal history and thus this clarity and distinctness. These are called “cataleptic” (i.e. grasping) or “cognitive” impressions, because if and only if I assent to one of them, then I have succeeded in grasping the world. Not only have I taken a true impression to be true, I have taken to be true an impression which cannot be playing me false, which describes the world with guaranteed reliability. The Stoic wise person, the sage, is able always to distinguish these cataleptic impressions from false impressions and from those that are true but not cataleptic. The sage will withhold assent from any impression that might be false (whether false impressions or those true but not cataleptic), and assent only to cataleptic impressions. Thus the Stoic sage is infallible: she forms only true beliefs. Against the Stoics, the Academics argued that there could be no impression of such a sort that no impression just like it could be false. To take a


This account of the Stoic position is based on Cicero’s description, Academica .–, ., .–, ., ..

. Cicero and the Skeptical Dialogue


visual example, suppose you cannot tell apart two twins, Castor and Pollux. You see Castor nearby, in good light. You form the visual impression that “that is Castor.” This impression, it would appear, is true, and clear, and distinct. Thus it seems at first to be a cataleptic impression for the Stoics. But if you had seen Pollux in just the same way, you would have an indistinguishable impression that “that is Castor” – and this impression would have been false. Thus your actual impression, of Castor, cannot be cataleptic, because there could be an impression just like it that was false. If you assent to it, then, for all you can tell, you might be assenting to a false impression, so you have hardly gained a secure grasp on the world as it is. But the Academics offered arguments like this across the whole range of impressions you might have, from sensory impressions to philosophical thoughts. Indeed, they not only disputed Stoic epistemology, they argued against every philosophical school’s thesis on any question, so as to show that there was not evidence to guarantee to us the truth of any proposition. We shall see the Academics Cotta and Marcus engaged in this practice in DND and Div., respectively, arguing against Stoic and Epicurean theology. With these arguments in hand, the Academics claimed to have shown the Stoics that there are no cataleptic impressions. The Academics pointed out that conclusion that there are no cataleptic impressions would have a dire consequence for the Stoics. For the Stoics think that one should assent only to cataleptic impressions. If there are none, then one should never assent, never take anything to be true. But the Stoic could ask, do you Academics draw this conclusion? Do you really think you should never take anything to be true? Here the Academics seem to have parted ways in the generation before Cicero. Some, Cicero’s teacher Philo of Larissa among them, seem to have answered that the Academy merely used the Stoic premise that one should assent only to cataleptic impressions in argument against the Stoics. Philo himself thought one might take impressions to be true, provided that he acknowledged that any impression might be false. Let us call Philo’s view Mitigated Academic skepticism. But Clitomachus of Carthage took the Stoic premise to heart, and concluded that the wise person will never take anything to be true. When challenged as to how one could live that way, he answered that one can live by following what seemes plausible (probabile in Cicero’s Latin) or like the truth (veri simile), as Philo might, but


This account of the Academic position is based on Cicero’s description, Academica .–, .–, ..

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome without taking any impression to be true. Let us call Clitomachus’ view Radical Academic skepticism. Does Cicero write the Late Sequence as a Radical or a Mitigated skeptic? It seems to me that he writes consistently in these dialogues as a Radical skeptic. That is to say, he presents himself and “Marcus” as aiming to take nothing to be true, but rather to follow what seems plausible or like the truth. (In Academica . Marcus admits that he does not always live up to this principle, but that very admission shows that it is the principle against which he measures himself.) There is not space here to establish Cicero’s Radical skepticism in the Late Sequence at large. But I shall offer some evidence for DND and Div.. My reading of this evidence will seem stronger in conjunction with another of Marcus’ remarks about himself in the Academica: that he yearns for the truth, “But just as I judge that this is most beautiful, to see the truth, just so I judge it most vicious to approve falsehoods in place of truths.” (.) To Marcus’ mind, a Mitigated skeptic risks doing what is most vicious, in the pursuit of what is most beautiful. A Radical skeptic turns away from this risk, keeping chaste his ardor for the unreachable truth. This, I think, is the reason why Marcus in the Academica explicitly prefers Clitomachus’ Radical interpretation of Academic skepticism. (.) This principle – that one should not approve what is false in place of the truth – also seems to me to point to, although not to prove, Cicero’s Radical skepticism when read in conjunction with the two examples of skepticism that I shall now give from DND and Div.. In my first example, Cicero gives a summary of Academic skepticism in the preface to DND. He says: non enim sumus ii quibus nihil verum esse videatur, sed ii qui omnibus veris falsa quaedam adiuncta esse dicamus tanta similitudine ut iis nulla insit certa iudicandi et adsentiendi nota. Ex quo exsistit illud, multa esse probabilia, quae 

 

Cicero characterizes Philo and Clitomachus’ positions as interpretations of Carneades: did he give his epistemological “views” just for the sake of argument against the Stoics, or was he committed to a view like Clitomachus’? On this question see Allen (), Schofield (). For Clitomachus’ view see Academica .–, ., .–, .–, for Philo’s Mitigated view see Academica ., ., .. Of these disputes I accept the reconstruction of Brittain () Introduction, Chapter  and Chapter ), summarized also at Brittain () x–xi. For clarity I omit the “Roman Books” view that Brittain finds in Philo’s late career. While controversial (as any interpretation will be, given the difficult subject and small evidence) it has precedent, especially in its distinction between radical and mitigated skepticism, see e.g. Striker (c)  and n, Frede () –. An expansive response to Brittain is Glucker (). For two other recent views see Thorsrud () –, n, Thorsrud () –, n, and Lévy () –. Görler () reads this passage differently, supposing that Cicero is proud to be a great opiner. sed ut hoc pulcherrimum esse iudico, vera videre, sic pro veris probare falsa turpissimum est.

. Cicero and the Skeptical Dialogue


quamquam non perciperentur, tamen quia visum quendam haberent insignem et inlustrem iis sapientis vita regeretur. For we are not those to whom it seems that nothing is true. Rather, we are those who say that to all truths falsehoods are linked by a likeness so great that there is no certain mark in them by which to judge and assent. Whence emerged the following, that many things are plausible and that, although they were not cognitively grasped, the life of the wise man is nevertheless ruled by them, because they have a certain vivid and illuminated appear ance. (DND .)

This description suggests Cicero’s specifically Radical skepticism for two reasons. First, it says that truths have no mark by which one can distinguish them in order to assent. This suggests Cicero thinks one ought not to assent to them, because we cannot distinguish them from falsehoods. Second, Cicero says that the wise man is ruled by plausible things (probabilia) because of a vividness in how they appear. Together these two points suggest strongly that the wise man will be ruled by what seems vividly plausible rather than by assent to impressions as true. Now, a Mitigated reading of this passage is admittedly possible. First, when Cicero says there is no certain mark by which to assent, he leaves it open that perhaps the wise man nevertheless assents, as a Mitigated skeptic might do. Second, while he says that the wise man is ruled by what seems plausible, he does not say that he is ruled by it exclusively, nor does he say that the wise man is ruled by what seems plausible without assenting to it. Nevertheless, on the balance of probabilities I take DND . to give a Radical account of the Academic skepticism to which Cicero is committed. The last sentence of DND gives some confirmation to this, when Marcus favors a view because “it seemed to tilt closer to a likeness of the truth” (ad veritatis similitudinem videretur esse propensior), in contrast to his Epicurean interlocutor who prefers a view because it “seemed more true” (verior . . . videretur) (DND .). Marcus seems to govern his views by what is like the truth rather than by what is true. Especially when taken in conjunction with the intuition that Marcus reports in the Academica, that one should not put what is false in place of the truth, it seems likely that Cicero and Marcus will not take to be true what seems like the truth, but rather will follow it for its vividness. To take up my second example, at the end of Div. Cicero gives Marcus this summary of Academic method: cum autem proprium sit Academiae iudicium suum nullum interponere, ea probare quae simillima veri videantur, conferre causas, et quod in quamque

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome sententiam dici possit expromere, nulla adhibita sua auctoritate iudicium audientium relinquere integrum ac liberum, tenebimus hanc consuetudinem, a Socrate traditam, eaque inter nos, si tibi, Quintus frater, placebit, quam saepisse utemur. But since it is the peculiar procedure of the Academy to introduce no judgment of its own, to approve what seems most like the truth, to compare the cases and to bring out whatever can be said for each view, to leave the judgment of listeners free and unimpaired by making no use of its own authority, if you please, my brother Quintus, we will hold onto this habit that was passed down from Socrates, and use it as often as we can between ourselves. (Div. .)

This characterization of the Academy once again looks Radical. Cicero says that the Academy makes its decisions on the basis of what seems most like the truth. Again, Marcus does not specify that the Academy approves what is most like the truth and ought not take it to be true. But that is, again, the most natural way to read the passage. The evidence, then, points to Cicero and the Marcuses of DND and Div. writing and speaking as Radical skeptics. In the rest of the book, I shall express myself as though Cicero writes DND and Div. from this Radical perspective (although, outside the context of the historical debate in the late Academy, I shall drop the capital R and simply call him a “radical” skeptic): that one ought not to assent, ought to aim to take nothing to be true. I do this for the reasons I have given, but also for reasons outside the scope of this book. Much of the time, what I say may easily be adapted to an understanding of Cicero as a Mitigated skeptic, who takes his views to be true, but in such a way that he thinks they might be false. Let us now see how Cicero shapes his dialogues in accordance with his skepticism. One attraction of the Academy for Cicero, as we see in Div. ., was that it dealt with the problem of authority. This problem stemmed from the organization of Hellenistic philosophy into schools. Would-be students of philosophy, as Cicero depicts it, were expected to shop around until they found a teacher whom they liked. Suppose this teacher was a Stoic, for example. Now the students were expected to become faithful followers of Stoicism. If there was some Stoic doctrine they did not understand, their responsibility was not to question or to 


For a different view, that in these dialogues Cicero himself was a mitigated skeptic of a sort, and indeed that he was the author of mitigated Academic skepticism, see Thorsrud () Chapter . For other views of Cicero the Mitigated skeptic, see the references in n.  above. Academica ., On ends .–.

. Cicero and the Skeptical Dialogue


correct it, but rather to find out how to accept it. In this respect, Hellenistic philosophical education tended to be alien to our practices today. Cicero was disturbed, too. How could a choice made quickly and by an ill-equipped beginner be the right way to choose the subsequent raft of philosophical, and potentially life-altering, views? In DND, Cotta the Academic makes fun of Velleius the Epicurean for parroting views that “Epicurus meandered on about while he was nodding off.” (quae Epicurus oscitans halucinatus est, .) Cicero tells us in DND’s preface that Academics, by contrast, reject such methods, like the infamous Pythagorean proof by Pythagoras’ authority: “he said it himself,” ipse dixit (.). Many aristocratic Roman students of philosophy were especially vulnerable to these problems of authority. Preparing for a political career, they would not have a lifetime to devote to study, and could not hope to become as accomplished in philosophy as their teachers were. If they chose the wrong lecturer early in their studies, they might never be able to correct the errors that flowed from that choice. For these reasons, as well as for the theoretical epistemological reasons of the Academica, Cicero recommends the skeptical Academy to Romans: it should be by “rational argument” (ratio) that a view is made to seem like the truth, not by “authority” (auctoritas). (DND .) How, then, does Cicero turn the dialogue form to skeptical use? Consider the position of an Academic teacher as described in Div. .. On the one hand, he wants to expound the various arguments on all sides of a question, so that each listener is left with a free judgment about it. On the other, he is aware one or another answer may seem plausible to each student at a given time, and happy that the student will live by this view. Teaching the arguments for any position will therefore be very risky, since it might give the appearance that the teacher puts his authority behind the arguments’ conclusions. If a student gets this impression, he might find the conclusion plausible because he suspects it seems plausible to the teacher. But that is exactly what the teacher tries to avoid. If the teacher is careful to remind students about the properly skeptical way to use his teaching, it is still easy to imagine students discussing what positions seem to excite the teacher more, why he chose some conclusion and not another to present, and so on. Even Carneades’ own students seem to have engaged in such guessing games, although their disagreement among themselves suggests that he was skillfully inscrutable (see p.  n. ). 

Academica ., Tusculans ..

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome Cicero describes a complex history of responses by Academic teachers to this problem, but he tends to pick out two forms of Academic teaching in particular. We need not suppose that he reports two rigid procedures that historical Academic teachers always followed. It seems more likely that these are two theoretical approaches to what happened in the classroom, which in practice was no doubt more various. But it will be helpful to see the clear distinction that Cicero makes, and to compare this with a distinction among his Late Sequence dialogues. First, Cicero tells us that the Academics would sometimes talk in utramque partem, “for either side” of an issue. Cicero’s presentation of the exercise may well owe something to Carneades’ infamous visit to Rome, on which Carneades gave first a speech arguing that justice is natural, and then a speech arguing that it is not natural. The second form of Academic exposition that Cicero describes did not involve two speeches. Instead, a member of the audience would set the topic by giving a “proposition” (propositum), of the form “It seems to me that . . .” The Academic teacher would then argue against the propositum. In On ends, Marcus complains that in the old days the member of the audience would honestly report some view he held, presumably hoping for a salutary dose of counter-argument, but that the practice had changed so that people would give a propositum they wished to hear refuted. (On ends .) Both these forms of exposition have the features that Academics wanted. Both allow the listeners to form their own judgments. But also, as a remedy for the problem of authority, in both the Academic teacher always argues for a conclusion that is dictated to him by the form of exposition, arguing either in succession for and then against some proposition, or against a propositum raised by someone else. The listeners can always tell  


 On the orator ., Tusculans .. Lactantius, Divine institutes, ..–, cf. On ends .. On ends .–, Tusculans ., On the orator .. Cicero gives the propositum method a complex history. He associates it with Socrates (On ends .–, Tusculans .), with Arcesilaus (On the orator ., On ends .), with Carneades (Tusculans . and perhaps Tusculans .), and, mysteriously, with some version of the Academy contemporary with the drama of On ends .. Rather than simply give his own continuous speech, the philosopher replying to the propositum might, like Arcesilaus, have invited the poser of the propositum to defend it in conversation. This would seem to make the distinction between the propositum method and speaking in utramque partem a matter of degree rather than kind. For the further complexity of the association with Socrates and his methods, see Schofield () . Of course, in the argument-on-either-side form, it seems the teacher could choose the proposition to argue first for, then against. Thus pupils might try to divine the teacher’s leanings from his choice of topic. But if the teacher kept his arguments well balanced, and tended to choose obvious, often-discussed, topics in the way that Cicero does, it seems likely that he could keep his own reactions private.

. Cicero and the Skeptical Dialogue


that the Academic teacher does not put his authority behind anything he says, because the teacher is not free to choose to argue for any particular conclusion. Cicero took these two forms of Academic spoken exposition and turned them into two distinct forms of dialogue. This is explicit in his preface to On fate. Cicero writes, quod autem in aliis libris feci, qui sunt de natura deorum, itemque in iis, quos de divinatione edidi, ut in utramque partem perpetua explicaretur oratio, quo facilius id a quoque probaretur quod cuique maxime probabile videretur, id in hac disputatione de fato casus quidam ne facerem impedivit. But a chance occurrence prevented me from doing, in this discussion on fate, what I have done in my other books which are concerned with the nature of the gods and likewise in those which I produced on divination, that a continuous speech should be set out for either side, so that each person might more easily approve what seemed most plausible to each. (On fate , translation from Sharples (), modified)

Cicero explains that, following Caesar’s death, the consul-designate Hirtius visited. Having some leisure, Hirtius asks to hear Marcus declaim. Marcus offers him the choice of a rhetorical display or philosophical argument. Hirtius chooses the latter: . . . quoniam. . . hanc Academicorum contra propositum disputandi consuetudinem indicant te suscepisse Tusculanae disputationes, ponere aliquid ad quod audiam, si tibi non est molestum, volo. . . . since your discussions at Tusculum show that you have adopted this Academic habit of arguing against something proposed, I would like, if you don’t mind, to propose something on which I might hear you. (On fate , translation from Sharples ())

Marcus agrees and they sit to talk. The text that follows is lost, but since when it resumes Marcus is giving a long speech on fate, presumably Hirtius gave some propositum on the subject. Hirtius’ reference in the Tusculans is clear: the conversation of each book begins with an interlocutor stating what seems to be the case to him. “If anyone wishes, let him say what he wants to hear argument about,” says Marcus (Tusculans .), and the proposita then give the target of all Marcus’ arguments: “it seems to me 

Since Marcus seems mostly to argue against Chrysippus’ position on fate, I suspect Hirtius’ propositum was mihi videtur omnia fato fieri, “it seems to me that everything happens by fate.” In Div. Quintus promised a discussion of that thesis “in another place” – a curious piece of prescience from a character (.).

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome that death is an evil”, “that pain is the greatest of all evils,” “that the wise man suffers distress,” “that the wise man can lack any trouble in his soul,” “that virtue cannot be sufficient for living happily.” Each of these proposita is a thesis that seems extremely plausible before philosophical argument and each, taken seriously, conduces to a distressing life. Cicero regards it as his job as Academic speaker to “cover up my own opinion and relieve others of error, so that we may inquire into what is most like the truth.” (Tusculans .) By getting his interlocutors to withhold assent from the distressing beliefs he hopes to relieve them of especially troubling error, and he allows them to form a suitably Radical view of what seems like the truth on each issue, at least for now. We can, then, divide the surviving parts of the Late Sequence between these two types of dialogue. Academica, On ends, DND, and Div. feature continuous speeches for either side of an issue. Tusculans and On fate feature arguments against a propositum. Cicero arranges the machinery of the dialogues so as to dramatize the outcomes of an Academic exposition. He, as the author, is the authority figure. He arrogates some of this authority to himself by attaching prefaces to the dialogues in which he frames their project and importance and by narrating, in the same authorial voice, all the events of the conversation. When we “hear” a character speaking, we hear Cicero narrate the speech. But Cicero then refuses to put this authority behind any philosophical argument, since those arguments are distributed among characters in the narrative. While we know that Cicero is an Academic, and he often appears as an Academic character, we see that even the Academic characters only deliver arguments demanded by their role in the conversation. Thus Cicero never interposes his own authoritative view, leaving the reader’s judgment free. But he also dramatizes the other part of the procedure, that at a particular time one side of the issue may seem to each person more like the truth. This he achieves by his own presence as a character in the dialogue. Thus he  

   

Tusculans ., ., ., ., .. I thus disagree with Griffin () , who thinks that the Tusculans are dogmatic. In Div. ., aperuerunt means “to open up,” i.e. to make available, and it is the locus, i.e. the set argument contained in Tusculans , which docet, “teaches,” that virtue is sufficient for happiness. Tusculans  as a whole does not teach this. The exception is On ends Book , where Piso receives no answering speech. In what follows, I am in substantial agreement with Schofield (). Some of his prefaces are more intimately connected with the conversation that follows than others. See p.  below. There is, of course, some bleeding from the identity of the “Marcus” characters to Cicero the author. In On ends ., for example, the authorial voice claims to add his own judgments, by which he seems to mean the views of the character.

. Cicero and the Skeptical Dialogue


can either, as in On ends, show us his skeptical self wrestling with and changing his mind about which side of a conundrum seems most like the truth or, as in DND and Div., construct a stable view for himself (see Chapter ). These two forms of Academic writing required some changes to Cicero’s earlier thinking about dialogues. As we saw in Letters to Atticus . (pp.  and  above), Cicero changed his habit from the Heraclidean model of characters from history to the Aristotelian model of taking a role himself and using his contemporaries as interlocutors. He gives more of his reasons for this change, as Letter . continues: ita confeci quinque libros περὶ Τελῶν ut Epicurea L. Torquato, Stoica M. Catoni, περιπατητικὰ M. Pisoni darem. ἀζηλοτύπητον id fore putaram quod omnes illi decesserant. haec Αcademica, ut scis, cum Catulo, Lucullo, Hortensio contuleram. sane in personas non cadebant; erant enim λογικώτερα quam ut illi de iis somniasse umquam viderentur. itaque ut legi tuas de Varrone, tamquam ἕρμαιον adripui. aptius esse nihil potuit ad id philosophiae genus, quo ille maxime mihi delectari videtur . . . In the five books which I composed On ends I gave the Epicurean case to L. Torquatus, the Stoic to M. Cato, and the Peripatetic to M. Piso. I thought it would excite no jealousy, since none of them was still living. This treatise on the Academy I had given, as you know, to Catulus, Lucullus, and Hortensius. It must be confessed that the matter did not fit the persons, who could not be supposed ever to have dreamed of such abstrusities. So when I read your letter about Varro I seized upon it as a godsend. No name could have been better suited to that brand of philoso phy [=Antiocheanism] in which he seems to me to have taken a particular pleasure. (Letters to Atticus ..  = SB , translation from Shackleton Bailey (), modified)

For one thing, Cicero was under social pressure (“jealousy”) to give a part to friends and acquaintances or to an important literary colleague like Varro (cf. Letters to Atticus .=SB). But for another, he knows that even his older contemporaries like Hortensius, Catulus, and Lucullus did not really know about the details of philosophy. It was therefore implausible to make them speak such details. But his objective in the Late Sequence was to take the matter of technical Greek philosophy and “illuminate” it, to bring it to life. He therefore needed speakers whom his educated readers – many of whom would know many of the characters personally – could believe knew 

For a more detailed study of Cicero’s skepticial use of the for and against structure of On ends, see Brittain (), while Schofield () analyzes the skeptical propositum structure in Tusculans.

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome enough. This, then, is a reason to switch from the Heraclidean model to the Aristotelian: he can have his own character conduct the Academic parts of the argument with people who plausibly knew and were enthusiastic about their arguments. Of course, the stock of such people even among Cicero’s age group was probably small. So we see him take steps to make knowledge plausible. He finds Cato in a heap of Stoic books, primed for his part in On ends (.). In DND he uses Stoic and Epicurean speakers, Velleius and Balbus, who do not seem to have been known for much besides their respective philosophies (DND . cf. On the orator .). In Div. his brother Quintus has been reading DND and wants to talk about it – perhaps we are to think he has been swotting up. This concludes my survey of the evidence for the thought that Cicero put into his dialogues, in relation to his classical models and for the overtly skeptical writing of the Late Sequence. Now from Cicero’s classical models, and from his scorn of his Epicurean predecessors who could not illuminate their material, we might extrapolate the following conjecture. He complained that, while the Epicureans may present their views accurately, they could not make them vivid or attractive. So why, he asked, would anybody read them who does not already agree with them (see p.  above)? Now, we do not know enough about the full variety of Hellenistic philosophical writing in Greek to say what it was all like. But it seems that much of it might have been vulnerable to the criticisms which Cicero makes against the Latin Epicureans – even if its philosophical content was of the highest quality. Epicurus’ own writings surely would not meet Cicero’s demands, nor would the Herculaneum texts. As to the Stoics, Cicero certainly regarded their greatest thinker, Chrysippus, as a poor stylist. (On the orator .) Thus perhaps Cicero thought not that the Latin Epicureans were uniquely bungling, but that a lot of Greek philosophical writing since Plato, Aristotle, and Heraclides had gone the same way. Roman philosophical writing, with Cicero as its exemplar, would bring written philosophy back to life.


Cicero’s Theological Trilogy

In the catalog of his works in Div. .–, Cicero describes DND, Div. and On fate as follows: quibus rebus editis tres libri perfecti sunt de natura deorum, in quibus omnis eius loci quaestio continetur. quae ut plane esset cumulateque perfecta, de divinatione ingressi sumus his libris scribere; quibus, ut est in animo, de fato si adiunxerimus, erit abunde satis factum toti huic quaestioni.

. Cicero’s Theological Trilogy


Once [the Tusculans] were produced, I completed three books On the nature of the gods, in which the whole inquiry about that topic is contained. So that I might complete this inquiry clearly and copiously, I have begun to write these books On divination. If, as I have in mind to do, I join to them On fate, then a generously sufficient amount will have been done for this whole inquiry. (Div. .)

This description shows that one quaestio, “inquiry”, runs through all three of DND, Div., and On fate. In Chapter  I shall show what that “inquiry” is, and in my remaining chapters I shall show how carefully DND and Div. conduct it. But, while I use its material, I do not offer an extended interpretation of On fate. Why not? On fate is partly lost. Among other parts, we have lost the propositum that Hirtius gives (see pp. – above), and we have lost the end of the dialogue. We do not know what Marcus argues against, how he goes about the argument as a whole, or whether he, or Cicero, said anything which helped to illuminate Cicero’s own stance on the inquiry of DND and Div.. Thus while On fate provides rich material for the jigsaw approach to Hellenistic views of fate, and therefore sheds much light on DND and Div., it is not amenable to my methods in this book.


Given what Marcus seems to be arguing in On fate (cf. n.  above) it is unlikely that he agrees with the Stoics. But there is some evidence that, for some reason, he advocated a view of fate related to, but distinct from, the Stoic one. On fate would thus have shown us an aspect of theology where Cicero was closer to the Stoic view than in Div. but further than he seems in DND. One of the short fragments of On fate (fr.  Yon, Sharples) is the following passage of Servius’ comment on Aeneid . volvitque vices: definitio fati secundum Tullium, qui ait, fatum est conexio rerum per aeternitatem se invicem tenens, quae sub ordine et lege variatur, ita tamen ut ipsa varietas habeat aeternitatem, “A definition of fate according to Cicero, who says, ‘fate is a reciprocal interconnection of events through all eternity, which varies according to order and a law but so that the very variation itself has eternity.’” We might compare this with Quintus’ definition of fate in Div. .: ordinem seriemque causarum, cum causa causae nexa rem ex se gignat. Ea est ex omni aeternitate fluens veritas sempiterna. “An order and series of causes, where cause bound to cause produces an event out of itself. It is eternal truth flowing from all eternity.” Servius’ “Tullian” definition is similar to Quintus’ definition on the surface, especially in the emphasis on eternal order and the interconnection of things. It might, indeed, be compatible with Stoicism, although it is not the same as other well-known Stoic definitions, SVF .–. But it is technically quite different from Quintus’ definition. Quintus says that fate is about the connection of causes and gets the Stoic account of causation just right (a cause is a body producing an incorporeal effect “at” or “for” another body), and he says that an important consequence of this is that propositions about the future or the past can be made true now. The “Tullian” definition is about the connection of res, not causes. The “eternity” involved in it is the eternity of some natural law whereby the world proceeds. This natural law seems to imply physical determinism but not necessarily the involvement of a divine, rational planner. There is no mention of eternal truth. Could it be that this definition really is Cicero’s own rather than a Stoic one and that it was found in On fate?

 Cicero and the Translation of Philosophy from Greece to Rome Is this a problem? Given my emphasis on the literary unity of Cicero’s writings in the Late Sequence, you might think that missing a part of the trilogy described in Div . leaves too large a gap. But there is reason to think that DND and Div. on their own give us a complete picture of Cicero’s project. This is thanks to a very plausible history we can reconstruct, of Cicero’s writing of DND, Div., and On fate. Div. seems to have been begun before the death of Caesar, when Cicero still felt pushed out of public life (Div. .). But some of it was certainly finished after Caesar’s assassination (e.g. Div. .). Cicero says that, returned to political influence, he might no longer have time for philosophy. (Div. .) Thus in Div. . he is not sure whether he will write On fate. In the event, he did write On fate, but in the first section of that work (p.  above) he tells us that he has changed his plan for its structure. The circumstances he cites – Hirtius asking for a display – are a literary artifice. Cicero’s dialogues are not transcripts of real conversations. But the propositum format is shorter than speeches on either side, since only one side of the case is argued. It is natural to think that this was one of Cicero’s reasons to write On fate as he did, as he seems to imply in On fate . So what Cicero suggests happened is this. He was writing Div. when Caesar was killed. Foreseeing that his leisure would be curtailed, he wrote up a bibliography and coda for all his dialogues. He prepended this to a book he had in hand, book  of Div., as its preface. Finding some time, he finished On fate in a shorter format than originally he had planned. Now you might argue that all this is merely a narrative gambit by Cicero, designed to convey the disruption and activity into which he was thrown rather than to record how he wrote the dialogues. You might be right. But it seems to me that what Cicero suggests is very plausible. I am inclined to accept it as the truth. If the picture Cicero gives us is correct, then when he put the finishing touches to Div. he was not sure that he would ever write On fate, nor of the form the work would take if he found time to write it. So when we see that the end of Div. seems to be an ending appropriate to the project set out in DND (as I shall argue in Chapter ), we are entitled to think that Cicero wrote that ending of Div. on the assumption that it might stand as the end

 

On the date of Div., see n.  above. But Hirtius really was with Cicero around the time On fate was written and he did ask for a declamation, Letters to Atticus .. SB on  April  BC.

. Cicero’s Theological Trilogy


of the inquiry he began in DND. Thus I think it legitimate to draw the conclusions I do about DND and Div. as a unity, even though vital parts of On fate are lost. For this reason, in the chapters that follow I use evidence from On fate where appropriate, but I interpret DND and Div. as two works that form one whole. 

I anticipate here another objection to what follows. Some readers interested in Cicero’s project in writing his dialogues will be disappointed that I rarely mention the political context in which Cicero wrote DND and Div.. That is, I have suggested that Cicero claims to help Roman society by giving it new intellectual resources, but I do not ask whether or how DND and Div. comment on their contemporary political realities, like Caesar’s dictatorship and death. Those realities were, of course, extraordinarily urgent. They must have intruded on Cicero’s mind. When we look for Cicero’s comment on these circumstances, one place to look is in these two texts. It is all the more natural to do so when Cicero says that the philosophical writings constituted a continuation by other means of his political life. (Div. .–) Nevertheless, I find that we do not need to look to political realities to explain anything about the large-scale features of DND and Div.. The intellectual project of DND and Div., which I outline in this introduction and in Chapter  below, is sufficient on its own to explain the dialogues on a large scale. That Cicero might also have other, political reasons for giving the dialogues the form and arguments that he does is not excluded by this conclusion. But if we try to reconstruct such further reasons, we should take account of the full and properly understood philosophical and literary sophistication of these works.

 

Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination

I shall argue that Cicero tells us the point of DND in the dialogue’s first sentence: cum multae res in philosophia nequaquam satis adhuc explicatae sint, tum perdifficilis, Brute, quod tu minime ignoras, et perobscura quaestio est de natura deorum, quae et ad cognitionem animi pulcherrima est et ad moderandam religionem necessaria. While many matters in philosophy have not at all had sufficient treatment yet, inquiry into the nature of the gods as hardly escapes you, Brutus is particularly difficult and thoroughly opaque. This inquiry is both most beautiful for the mind to grasp, and necessary for the moderation of religion. (DND .)

Cicero tells Brutus and the reader that inquiry into the nature of the gods is attractive in two ways. First comes beauty. Beauty will matter in the end but it is not what Cicero takes up in the rest of his preface. Instead he elaborates the second point: moderation of religion. Staging a philosophical inquiry into the nature of the gods in the hope of moderating religion is, I shall argue, Cicero’s project in DND and Div..

Whether with cognitionem or the alternative reading agnitionem, in recent centuries this phrase has most often been interpreted with animi as an objective genitive: “best for the grasp of the soul,” that is, best in order to understand our own souls (see Davies (), Mayor (), Pease ()). But that does not seem to be the use that Cicero makes of the inquiry in DND and Div., or of the beauty we encounter in it. I prefer to take animi as a subjective genitive, in which I have the support of Walsh (): “the noblest of studies for the human mind to grasp.” Cicero seems to suggest that Brutus had some marked acquaintance with the question of the nature of the gods. Perhaps this is flattery or refers to Brutus’ general philosophical learning (for which see Sedley ). Perhaps the Antiochean Brutus’ treatise On the blessed life included some material on contemplation as imitation of the divine (cf. Tsouni () –). Or perhaps he had ruminated on the sort of Antiochean theology suggested at Boys-Stones () – or Blank () –. For the crucial role of beauty in Cicero’s understanding of DND and Div., see Chapter  section .. and Chapter  section ..


Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination  That a preface should tell you the point of the work to follow might sound unsurprising. But with Cicero’s philosophical works it can be doubted. The doubts stem from a letter to Atticus, who oversaw copying of Cicero’s works. In the letter Cicero confessed that he attached to a manuscript of his On glory the preface he had already used for Book  of the Academica. “This happened because I have a volume of prefaces from which I am in the habit of selecting when I have put a work in hand.” (Letters to Atticus .. = SB ) The letter suggests that Cicero is careless about his prefaces and that any of them could easily be cut from one work and pasted into another. If so then perhaps the prefaces are rhetorical exercises, standing free from the work to which they are glued. But there can be no such doubts about the preface to DND. It is plain that a large part, if not all, of it was written specifically for a philosophical work on the nature of the gods. For half of it is directly and explicitly concerned with the significance of the question of the gods’ nature and the import of philosophers’ views in the matter. (DND .–, .–) The remainder of the preface takes up the defense of philosophical writing and of Cicero’s Academic skepticism in particular (DND .–). Now Cicero could have taken this passage from a prewritten preface and fitted it into DND. But it melds seamlessly with its surroundings. For, Cicero’s opening points with which we began (DND .), that the question of the nature of the gods is difficult and important, are also useful to him in this defence of skepticism. In the nature of the gods, he suggests, we find a particularly important question, on which philosophers are particularly prone to disagreement, because it is particularly difficult. This should help us to see why skepticism, the withholding of assent to any dogmatic answer about a question, can be due caution: on the nature of the gods, no one can (yet) be confident of her answer, and a wrong answer would be a disaster. Thus the conceit of Cicero’s quaestio, his “inquiry.” In the preface to DND Cicero presents this inquiry not only as the philosophical investigation about which his characters are to dispute, but also as a quaestio in the sense of a session of a court: “on this topic (quo quidem loco) it seems I should summon all people to judge what of these is true.” (DND .) We the audience are to hear the speakers Cicero brings before the inquiry. The preface concludes that we should see  

id evenit ob eam rem quod habeo volumen prohoemiorum. ex eo eligere soleo cum aliquod σύγγραμμα institui. Translation from Shackleton Bailey (). quo quidem loco convocandi omnes videntur, qui quae sit earum vera iudicent.

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination . . . quid de religione pietate sanctitate caerimoniis fide iure iurando, quid de templis delubris sacrificiisque sollemnibus, quid de ipsis auspiciis, quibus nos praesumus, existimandum sit (haec enim omnia ad hanc de dis inmortalibus quaestionem referenda sunt): profecto eos ipsos, qui se aliquid certi habere arbitrantur, addubitare coget doctissimorum hominum de maxuma re tanta dissensio. . . . what we should reckon about religion, piety, holiness, rites, good faith, and oaths, about temples, shrines, and solemn sacrifices, about the auspices that I myself oversee (for we must relate all these things to our inquiry about the immortal gods); certainly such great disagreement among the most learned, about a matter of the greatest importance, will compel those who judge that they themselves have some certainty, to hesitate. (DND .)

Thus even if part of the preface to DND were drawn from a roll of prefabricated paragraphs, all of it is fitted to the dialogue it introduces, either directly, or indirectly by recommending that skepticism is an appropriate response to this inquiry in particular. The preface tells us the point of the dialogue and also, as I shall argue, the point of Div. If I am right about Cicero’s project, it poses a puzzle. For in Cicero’s Rome religio, what I have innocently called “religion,” was in important respects unlike what we tend to call “religion” today. For example, theological beliefs do not seem to have played much part in how a Roman and an augur like Cicero, who “oversaw the auspices,” regulated his religio. But on the face of it beliefs are all that a philosophical inquiry could change, or at least all that it could change directly. So what could Cicero mean when he says that his quaestio will moderate religio? We turn first to that puzzle.

. Action, Belief, and Roman religio Many students of “Roman religion” stress a difference between what they study and the religions we in the west tend to think of today. In the western world the religions that come quickest to mind, like Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, tend to require certain beliefs. For example, if you do not believe in God, many Christian authorities would say, you are not, or 

When Cicero wrote Div., he had been a member of the college of augurs for about eight years. For the circumstances of his election, see pp. – of Linderski (). Marcus in the Laws claims to be very proud of his position as an augur (.). In Div., Cicero has Quintus remind Marcus, and the reader, of this aspect of his own interest in the subject of the dialogue (.), and Marcus alludes to debates inside the college of augurs in his own speech (., cf. p.  n.  below). Letters to his friends .. gives us a sense of how these debates played out in writing. For the tradition that Cicero wrote his own On augury, see p.  n.  below.

. Action, Belief, and Roman religio


not fully, a Christian. So we tend to think of religions as requiring at least a certain orthodoxy. But what we put under the heading “Roman religion” was a set of institutions that do not seem to have required any particular beliefs from their adherents. Instead they required only particular actions. So we think of “Roman religion” as requiring not orthodoxy but rather what is sometimes called orthopraxy. In this book I use this widely accepted model of “Roman religion” as orthopractic. I do so because, as we shall see, I think it is also the model Cicero gives to his characters in DND and Div. For my purposes, what do I mean by “Roman religion”? We can get an approximate answer from an early part of Cotta’s skeptical speech in Book  of DND, where he declares his determination to defend something like “Roman religion.” Cotta is a traditionally minded member of the chief priestly college, the pontifices, just as Cicero himself was a member of the chief college of diviners, the augurs. Thus we should expect from Cotta an attempt to sum up what Roman religio amounts to, from the point of view of someone in traditional religious authority: cumque omnis populi Romani religio in sacra et in auspicia divisa sit, tertium adiunctum sit si quid praedictionis causa ex portentis et monstris Sibyllae interpretes haruspicesve monuerunt, harum ego religionum nullam umquam contemnendam putavi mihique ita persuasi, Romulum auspiciis Numam sacris constitutis fundamenta iecisse nostrae civitatis, quae numquam profecto sine summa placatione deorum inmortalium tanta esse potuisset. Although the whole religion (religio) of the Roman people is divided into rites and auspices (and a third part is added when the haruspices or the interpreters of the Sibylline books have given some predictive warning derived from portents or prodigies), I myself think that none of these religious duties (religionum) is ever to be despised, and I have persuaded 

Some textbook examples of this description of Roman religion: Beard, North, and Price () vol. pp. x, –, Scheid () –, –. Recently some scholars have asked whether this picture captures all there is to say about Roman religious life. Examples are Ando () –, Scheid (). Ru¨pke () offers a story of “rationalization” of religion in the late Republic, but by this he does not mean in general the sort of philosophical rationalization I attribute to Cicero, but rather “the ordering and systematization of concepts, practices or instruments used to reach particular ends” (p. ). Boys-Stones () – similarly sketches the significance of ancient orthopraxy for ancient philosophical approaches to religion. Cicero himself was able to entertain other models. Gildenhard (, pp. –) points out that in De domo sua  Cicero implies that if the pontifices side with Clodius’ impiety, then they are not the religious authorities after all. Gildenhard says that, “on this premise, it is the philosopher who tells the pontiffs what is and is not holy, and not the pontiffs who decide whether an act of religio has been performed.” (p. , emphasis added) This exordium thus goes further than does any voice in DND or Div..

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination myself that Romulus, with the institution of the auspices, and Numa, with the rites, laid the foundations of our state which would certainly never have been so great without the greatest propitiation of the immortal gods. (DND .)

Let us say that the “Roman religion” of Cicero’s day was roughly what Cotta calls here religio (the singular) or religiones (the plural). These are the sorts of institutions (like priesthoods, temples, or temple buildings and property) or required actions (like sacrifices, prayers, the taking of the auspices, the expiation of prodigies, or the swearing of oaths) that a pontifex like Cotta, or an augur like Cicero, might be called on to oversee. If we open a book on “Roman religion” today we are likely to find more or less this agglomeration of subjects. For Cicero’s idealized but recognizable version of Cotta’s traditional institutions and requirements, we may read his Laws. (Laws .–) This loose set of institutions and practices, then, is what I shall generally call “Roman religion” in this book. It is this religion that Cicero’s characters assume to demand actions, but not beliefs, from its practitioners. Now when philosophers (ancient or modern) think about the idea of an action they tend to conclude that it is complex, and that it requires an agent to have some beliefs. “Action” here means something more than a movement of the body. It refers to the actions of an agent, the sort of actions for which she is responsible. When my leg twitches thanks to some reflex, or when somebody else forces my arm to move, those movements of my body are not my actions. Further, when philosophers try to decide what action has been done, the agents’ mental attitudes, like her beliefs and desires, often come into play. When somebody utters a falsehood, whether or not she lied depends on whether she meant to deceive. If somebody decides not to pay the taxes he owes, it might be tax evasion, or an honest mistake, or a political protest, and our assessment of the morality of his decision will differ accordingly. When we look at actions from this philosophical perspective, the claim that Roman religion is orthopractic and not orthodox might look naïve. For if actions are in part to be 


On priesthoods under the republic, see Beard (). North () weighs some of the difficulties in treating Roman traditional religio as “religion,” and considers the role of Romans like Varro and Cicero in forming the modern notion of “religion.” To take the three philosophical schools represented in DND as examples: for the Stoics on action, see p.  n.  below. In Academica Marcus’ Academic engagement with the Stoic theory of action is at .–. For the Epicureans, see Lucretius .–, .–. Discussions, which focus on issues of freedom, responsibility, and the swerve, include Furley (), Purinton (), Bobzien (), and O’Keefe ().

. Action, Belief, and Roman religio


distinguished by what the agent believes, then perhaps doing certain actions requires certain beliefs. But in fact when we say orthopraxy requires only actions, we use “actions” in a qualified sense: Roman religion required public or outward actions. That is, it required the right bodily movements and utterances, at the right time, in the right place, in the right dress, and so on. These are aspects of actions that (in principle) other people can observe. So far as religious requirements went, in making such movements a Roman could think what she liked about them. If she dropped a pinch of incense on an ember at the right time and place, she would have succeeded in her relevant religious duty whether she thought she was doing it for a god who was identical with, or who simply looked like, the statue in front of her, or for some force of nature whom the statue personified, or for no god at all – and so on. For clarity I shall distinguish two terms from now on. On the one hand, I shall call the outward, observable aspect of an action a “performance.” On the other, I shall call the fully described action, with its agent’s relevant beliefs and desires taken into account, an “action.” Using the terms that way, we may say that the orthopractic Roman religion demanded certain performances, but did not mind what actions those performances were part of. My general answer to our puzzle about the moderation of religion will rely on the distinction I have just made between action and performance. In very large part, the participants in Cicero’s inquiry do not hope to change which performances were required at Rome. But just because the traditional religion that he accepted demanded only performances, it does not follow that a private individual like Cicero, or any Roman, was unable to think that such religiously correct performances were made into pious or impious actions by what the agent believed she was doing. If two men burn some incense exactly as a pontifex would recommend, one to do honor to a god of whom he has an accurate view, the other with the thought that no god knows what he is doing or would care that he does so, a Roman could think that both men made a religiously correct performance, but that the first man did a pious action while the second did an impious one. Hellenistic philosophy offered a choice of theoretical justifications for such views. While philosophers at large could agree that they all 

Of course, among the motivations of somebody making a religiously correct performance is likely to be precisely the desire to make a religiously correct performance as such. Thus in my terms, a religiously correct performance is likely to be part of an action aiming (perhaps among other things) at orthopraxy.

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination performed rituals as demanded by a priest like Cotta, an adherent of each dogmatic school would add that, because of their differences in theology, she herself satisfied the ritual prescription well while representatives of the other schools did not. If we ask by what set of values “pious,” “impious,” or “well” are measured, the answer is not the criteria of religious correctness, which in this example we suppose are satisfied by all, but rather the criteria of the ethics and theology recommended respectively by each philosophical school. We should reflect that in this way DND and Div. are further evidence for the orthopractic view of Roman religion. The characters do not propose to change any points of “outward” Roman religion. It is not that they are unaware that the religious tradition has changed over time and could well change again. The debate between Balbus and Cotta I examine in Chapter  is in part premised on past changes. But no character in DND or Div. proposes further changes of his own. The changes the characters propose are in what to believe about the religion. Futhermore, when confronted with one another’s contradictory views about what to believe about religious orthopraxy, the characters do not accuse one another of failing to adhere to its demands. This is despite the clear implication of the speeches of the characters in DND, that each thinks that the others are impious, or superstitious, or both. This behavior itself shows that Cicero imagined such debates would proceed on the assumption that the requirements of the “outward” religion as such did not extend to what participants should believe about the nature of the gods. 


 

Beard, North, and Price () vol. pp. x, – point out that for Romans through much of the period of Republic, there was little opportunity for an individual Roman to find fulfillment in a private religious group, as we might find fulfillment by converting to Christianity or Buddhism. DND shows us how educated Romans of the Late Republic could adopt philosophical schools (or other schemes of thought, perhaps) and privately interpret their public religious actions in a way that these too might give them a similar sort of fulfillment. Moatti ()  similarly says that in Div. Cicero will not question “Roman religion as an ensemble of practices and rites. He simply criticizes a mode of belief . . .” But I cannot agree with her further thought that, for Cicero, the mode of belief in question is one that is “founded on passivity and a philosophy (Stoicism) that is fundamentally incapable of thinking through religio.” Rather, the mode of belief in question is rash assent to answers to the Central Question. Balbus is suspicious of the worship of what he sees as vices (see pp. –). But he does not explicitly propose any changes to such cults at Rome. Some students of anthropology might think that even to accept the model of orthopraxy and belief that I give here, where beliefs about orthopractic religion may render religious actions pious or impious, gives too much weight to the notion of “belief.” For it is sometimes argued that “belief” itself is a culturally contingent notion, conditioned by Abrahamic faiths, not necessarily found elsewhere. Thus you might say that even my model “Christianizes” if not Roman religion, then at least the Romans’ experience of their religion. (Feeney  pp. – gives an introductory

. Theological Facts and Conventional Piety


. Theological Facts and Conventional Piety The last section was a start in solving our puzzle about philosophy and religion. But it remains that Cicero said that his inquiry is ad moderandam religionem necessaria, “necessary for the moderation of religion.” (.) Yet I should not think that in this sentence he means by “the moderation of religion” reform of the performances that Roman religion required. For I have said that no character in the dialogues calls for significant change to those forms. Then what does Cicero mean? I shall argue that Cicero thinks philosophical inquiry into the nature of the gods can moderate religious performances by changing the agent’s beliefs about those performances, so that she at least has no false beliefs such as would, if she had them, turn the performances into impious or superstitious actions. In order to get at the importance of this inquiry, in the preface to DND Cicero assumes a certain common-sense view of piety and religion, and points out that the fact of the matter about the nature of the gods makes this view either true or false. Thus by holding fixed some theological beliefs and considering alternative sets of theological facts, he furnishes the reader with an example of the importance of the truth or falsity of theological beliefs in deciding the right or wrong view of religion. I shall examine that argument from his preface in this section. In the next section I will ask how, if we did not hold our beliefs fixed, Cicero thinks philosophical inquiry can change them for the better. Why would Cicero need to tell us that theological facts matter for religion? Is that not obvious? In fact, for the reasons we have seen, it might not have been obvious to a Roman. For an orthopractic religion might be conceived and justified in many ways. Perhaps, for example, it is a set of ceremonies useful for holding society together, regardless of the nature of the gods. Cicero sets out to suggest how, for one plausible understanding of religion and its related virtues, the theological facts do matter. I turn first to the long passage of DND’s preface where Cicero presents the importance of the question of the nature of the gods. I shall quote this crucial text in full. Cicero has just said that everybody but Protagoras (who hesitated), Diagoras of Melos, and Theodorus of Cyrene (who both discussion of such questions in the context of Roman religion.) I answer that in Cicero’s corpus in general, and in the Academica in particular, there is a great deal of painstaking discussion of what various philosophers had understood by what we would call “beliefs” (of which Chapter  section . gives a sample). It is these ideas I intend when I speak of “beliefs” about religion, and not necessarily to invoke any modern notion of specifically “religious belief” or “faith.”

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination declared that there were no gods) has agreed that there are gods. Further, those who believe in the gods have arrived at this most plausible view duce natura, “with nature as a guide.” (.) This is supposed to explain why Cicero will write about the nature of the gods: their existence may be assumed, so that their nature is what is at issue. He continues (Roman numerals are mine): [i] (.) . . . qui vero deos esse dixerunt tanta sunt in varietate et dissensione, ut eorum infinitum sit enumerare sententias. (.) nam et de figuris deorum et de locis atque sedibus et de actione vitae multa dicuntur, deque is summa philosophorum dissensione certatur; quod vero maxime rem causamque continet, utrum nihil agant nihil moliantur omni curatione et administratione rerum vacent, an contra ab iis et a principio omnia facta et constituta sint et ad infinitum tempus regantur atque moveantur, in primis magna dissensio est, eaque nisi diiudicatur in summo errore necesse est homines atque in maximarum rerum ignoratione versari. [ii] sunt enim philosophi et fuerunt qui omnino nullam habere censerent rerum humanarum procurationem deos. quorum si vera sententia est, quae potest esse pietas quae sanctitas quae religio? haec enim omnia pure atque caste tribuenda deorum numini ita sunt, si animadvertuntur ab is et si est aliquid a deis inmortalibus hominum generi tributum; sin autem dei neque possunt nos iuvare nec volunt nec omnino curant nec quid agamus animadvertunt nec est quod ab is ad hominum vitam permanare possit, quid est quod ullos deis inmortalibus cultus honores preces adhibeamus? in specie autem fictae simulationis sicut reliquae virtutes item pietas inesse non potest; cum qua simul sanctitatem et religionem tolli necesse est, quibus sublatis perturbatio vitae sequitur et magna confusio; (.) atque haut scio an pietate adversus deos sublata fides etiam et societas generis humani et una excellentissuma virtus iustitia tollatur. [iii] sunt autem alii philosophi, et hi quidem magni atque nobiles, qui deorum mente atque ratione omnem mundum administrari et regi censeant, neque vero id solum, sed etiam ab isdem hominum vitae consuli et provideri; nam et fruges et reliqua quae terra pariat et tempestates ac temporum varietates caelique mutationes, quibus omnia quae terra gignat maturata pubescant, a dis inmortalibus tribui generi humano putant, multaque quae dicentur in his libris colligunt, quae talia sunt ut ea ipsa dei inmortales ad usum hominum fabricati paene videantur.


By duce natura, Cicero may mean that most philosophers have arrived at theism as a result of their study of natural science. But it seems more likely that Cicero means to agree with the speakers in DND, that human nature – our psychology, we might say – tends to lead to belief in the gods. Of course, this view is not so pausible today, when we know so many atheists or agnostics. An argument against the view, represented by Cicero here, that ancient intellectual history was overwhelmingly theist, is Whitmarsh ().

. Theological Facts and Conventional Piety


[i] (.) . . . But there is such great disagreement and diversity among those who have said that there are gods that it would be an endless task to list their views. (.) For they make many claims about the gods’ forms, about where they are and their seats and about the life they lead, and these issues are contested as a great controversy among the philosophers. But there is especially great disagreement about the issue which most of all comprises the case and the matter at hand: whether the gods do nothing, work at nothing, and take no care of, nor govern, affairs, or whether, on the contrary, everything was made and set up by them from the beginning and is ruled and set in motion by them into infinite time. Unless this issue is decided, it is necessary that humanity live in the highest error and in ignorance of the greatest matters. [ii] For there were and are philosophers who hold that the gods take no care whatsoever of human affairs. If their view is true, what piety (pietas) can there be, what holiness (sanctitas), what religion (religio)? For all these things are to be rendered (tribuenda) to the gods’ persons with purity and without pollution (pure atque caste), on this condition: if the gods notice them and if something is rendered by the immortal gods to the race of humans. But if they neither can help us nor wish to, neither care at all what we do nor notice, if there is nothing which can flow from them through to human life, what reason is there (quid est quod) for us to apply to them cult, honors, and prayers? Just as with the other virtues (virtutes), there can be no piety in the appearance of invented pretense. Of necessity, holiness and religion are taken away when piety is and when those are taken away, a troubled life follows, and great disorder. (.) Indeed it might be that when piety towards the gods is taken away, then even good faith (fides) is taken away, and the community (societas) of the human race, and with them the most excellent virtue, justice. [iii] But there are other philosophers, these being great and noble philosophers, who hold that the whole cosmos is governed and ruled by the mind and reason of the gods, and not only that, but even that the gods care about human life and are provident. For they think that the immortal gods render to the human race crops and the rest of what the earth bears, weather and the variety of the seasons and the changes of the heavens by which ripens and matures everything that the earth brings forth. They talk about many things (which are collected in these volumes) that are such that the immortal gods almost seem to have made those very things for human use. (DND . )

Cicero does not name any philosophers in this passage. But the obvious representatives of the two positions he describes are in [ii] the Epicureans, who deny the gods’ involvement in our lives, and in [iii] the Stoics, who endorse it. My paragraph [i] is satisfying reading for modern students of ancient Rome (or Greece). For many of us face puzzles about how the Romans

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination understood the gods they represented in literature, art, or religion, and whom they spoke of as playing a part in history. Did they really think the gods looked like humans? Are the gods on the Capitoline, or Olympus, in heaven, or everywhere? Cicero shows us in DND that we are not wrong to be puzzled, since in antiquity, too, people (philosophers if nobody else) asked similar questions. He also shows us some possible answers to these. But Cicero wants to focus on one question in particular: do the gods govern the world and care about human life, or do they not? This, he says, maxime rem causamque continet, “most of all comprises the case and the matter at hand.” He means, I think, that this is the key question before the inquiry he is about to stage, because it is the key question for humanity’s relationship with the divine, and thus, for the moderation of religion. I shall call it: The Central Question: Do the gods care for us? By this phrasing I mean to suggest both (a) can they and do they act in our world and our lives, and (b) do they care about us, so that they exercise their abilities on our behalf? In my paragraphs [ii] and [iii] Cicero spells out what is staked on the Central Question. Let us take his explanation step by step. First, in paragraph [ii], we are to consider the Epicurean view that the gods do not notice what we do and would not care if they did, that they can do nothing for us and would do nothing even if they could. If this is true, says Cicero, “what piety can there be, what holiness, what religion?” This is a rhetorical question to which the answer turns out to be “none.” Piety, holiness, and religion would be “taken away.” We have Cicero’s first move: if the gods do not care at all about us, there can be no piety, holiness, or religion. Now that is at first sight a baffling claim. Cicero does not say (as a Stoic might) that if the gods ceased to care, our familiar world would dissolve altogether. His point is rather that if it turns out that the gods have never cared, we would be here, but piety would not. But Roman religion in the sense of outward performance could no doubt go on in such an absence of divine care. Indeed if the Epicureans were right, Roman religion in that sense had already gone on for many centuries in just such an absence. So it must be that Cicero here does not use “piety,” “holiness,” or even “religion” in the purely outward sense. He uses them to mean something that there can be only when the gods care. What is this? We see the answer from a careful reading of the following sentences of [ii]. Cicero’s next move is to give us another conditional: if the gods notice what we do and if they render us something in return, then piety, holiness,

. Theological Facts and Conventional Piety


and religion are to be rendered to the gods. Here the language of ethics enters the argument. We have a reason and perhaps an obligation to give pious religion to the gods if the gods notice the gift and themselves give in return. But if, Cicero goes on to say, they do not notice or care or help us, “what reason is there (quid est quod) for us to apply to them cult, honors, and prayers?” Again, this is a rhetorical question to which the answer is, “none.” Now these conditionals (if – and only if – the gods care about us then we should render them pious religion) are supposed to explain the original claim that if the gods do not care at all about us, there can be no piety, holiness, or religion. So piety, holiness, and religion must be such that we can say of them that there can be (e.g.) piety only when there is a reason why there should be piety. Cicero reveals what sort of thing he is talking about: “Just as with the other virtues, there can be no piety in the mere appearance of invented pretense.” Now a virtue must have a purpose, and a virtuous action must have a purpose. Suppose I say that my courage led me to do something to no end. If I am right that there was no end, then what led me to do it was not, in fact, courage. Similarly, if there is no benefit in having, or obligation to have, a certain trait of character – no purpose to it, let us say – that trait is not a virtue. So virtues and virtuous actions have the logical features Cicero wants for his argument. There can only be a virtue where there is something to be had or to be done. There is more evidence for this reading in that piety (pietas) and holiness (sanctitas) are used as terms for virtues throughout DND. Specifically, they are used as for these terms understood roughly as the Stoics do, in opposition to the way that the Epicureans understand them. In Appendix  I present the standard Stoic Greek definitions of the virtues of εὐσέβεια, “piety” (defined as “knowledge of the service of the gods”) and ὁσιότης, “holiness” (defined as “justice towards the gods”). I then quote Cicero’s Stoic speaker Balbus, or his Academic Cotta when arguing against the Epicureans, as they give pietas and sanctitas respectively the same definitions as in the Stoic Greek sources. I think Cicero also has these meanings in mind for pietas and sanctitas in my paragraphs [i]–[iii] of DND .–. Now knowledge of the service of the gods, and justice towards the gods, have clear purposes. Cicero’s term for the “service” in question is cultus. This noun can mean the cultivation of a field, a friend, or a friendship, as well as the cultivation or worship of the gods. It implies a real interaction between the cultivated and the cultivator, where one benefits the other. 

For another survey of these terms in DND, see Ru¨pke () –.

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination Knowledge of this sort of service to the gods has as its purpose getting the human side of such interactions right. So if gods and humans cannot interact or benefit one another, then there can be no such purpose to such knowledge. Thus what we thought was the virtue of piety, knowledge of the service of the gods, is robbed of its assumed purpose and is not a virtue, at least not in the way that we thought. Similarly, justice towards the gods has as its purpose acting justly towards the gods. But that requires that there is some way in which humans could act justly towards the gods. We must be related to them in such a way that we have duties of justice towards them, and we must be able to fulfill those duties. But if we are not in any sort of community with the gods, so that we have no duties of justice to them, and in any case we cannot interact with them, then we cannot act justly towards them. What we thought was the virtue of holiness, justice towards the gods, is robbed of its assumed purpose. Therefore it is not a virtue, at least not in the way that we thought. If the “piety” and “sanctity” that the Epicureans would take away refer to virtues, what about the trickier case of “religion”? What does that mean and how is it taken away? One possibility is that in this case Cicero uses religio, too, for a virtue. We find this use elsewhere in his corpus. In his youthful On invention he called religio a kind of justice not opposite to but neighboring the vice of superstition. (On invention .–) In the On the parts of rhetoric he says that superstition imitates religio as rashness (a vice) imitates courage (a virtue) or severity (another vice) imitates justice (another virtue) (Parts ). Thus perhaps Cicero just means that religio, in the sense of another virtue by which outward religious practice is thought to be done well, would be taken away. But there is another possibility. Perhaps here Cicero uses religio in the way that Cotta will use it against Velleius: religio quae pio cultu deorum continetur, “religio which is comprised by pious service to the gods.” (DND .) Religio in this use means not simply religious performance but rather right religion, religious performance made with the virtue of piety. What Cicero goes on to say in [ii] meshes with this reading. When the gods care and respond to what we do, Cicero says, there is a reason to give “cult, honors, and prayers” to them. “Cult, honors, and prayers” sound like the sort of performances called for by traditional religion. He does not say that if the Epicureans are right we should or would stop making those performances. Rather, he says we would have lost our reason to make them and, along with that, the piety we thought we had with which to make 

Of course, in those circumstances there can also be no such knowledge.

. Theological Facts and Conventional Piety


them well. For piety, being a virtue, is not to be found in “the appearance of invented pretense” (specie. . . fictae simulationis). This phrase strikes me as carefully written. First, a cult performance is a species, an appearance, something observable. On a Stoic view of the world, this could be the appearance of an action pious because it was done for gods who care. But according to the Epicureans nobody has that sort of piety because the gods do not care. So at most the outward action is the appearance of a pretense to piety towards gods who care. Further, it is not that somebody who earnestly tries to act piously is pretending, but failing to achieve a possible piety towards such gods. Tradition, and philosophers like the Stoics, have invented such a notion of piety in the first place. Thus religio in the sense of outward religious actions done virtuously would be taken away along with the virtues of piety and holiness. An Epicurean might well complain that in this passage Cicero has his thumb on the scales. As we shall see in the next chapter, Epicureans defended their own conception of piety and, like the Stoics, advocated the maintenance of traditional religious practice. They interpreted piety as the virtue whereby one venerates gods who, happily, do not care about humans. So the Epicureans would reject the claim of [ii] that, if the gods do not care about us, then there can be no piety. Thus Cicero does not use a philosophically neutral notion of piety in his preface. This is certainly of a piece with Cicero’s general attitude towards Epicurus and his school. Although in principle Academic skepticism should have made him more neutral, Cicero never leaves much doubt that he thought Epicurus was a bungler. So it is not surprising that rhetorically speaking the Epicureans’ role in the preface is to have only the troubling consequences of their view put on show. But there is more to be said in defense of Cicero’s use in this preface of ideas of piety, holiness, and religion slanted against the Epicureans. First, it would be reasonable for him to think that piety as understood by common sense had to do with behaving correctly in one’s relationship with others who paid attention to what one did, and who gave in return. Aeneas would not be pious in an obvious sense if he were mistaken in thinking that those whom he served cared what he did. So it seems fair of Cicero to suggest that the Epicureans would do away with the received notion of religious piety. Indeed, as we shall see in Chapter , Epicurus would readily agree to


Cicero and his characters often use this sort of language when attacking Epicurean ethics. See Academica ., On friendship , On ends ..

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination this. This is what I mean when I say that Cicero assumes a certain traditional or common-sense idea of piety in the preface. A second point to notice in Cicero’s defence is that he does not say that the Epicureans are wrong. Admittedly, in paragraph [iii] he makes the consequences of the Stoic position sound more attractive. But immediately after my quoted text he will tell us that the skeptic Carneades came up with many provocative arguments against the Stoics. The preface, with its skeptical set-up, is not meant to leave us convinced of Stoic theology. On the contrary: about the facts of the gods’ nature it is meant to leave us worried, but open-minded. Thus in this preface, Cicero unblinkingly faces the possibility that the Epicureans are right. If they were, then the received purpose of outward religious practice, and the virtues needed to pursue that purpose, would have either to be abandoned, or radically to be reconceived. But Cicero does not think that the consequences of the Epicurean view end there. He tells us in [ii] that in the first place, troubled life and great disorder are bound to follow. Then perhaps along with piety, holiness, and religion will be taken away good faith, the community of the human race, and justice itself. So at first sight, Cicero seems to think that if Epicureans are right then Roman society – or human society in general – might collapse. Such a thought would be implausible, especially today when wider experience of influential deists and atheists suggests that they are unlikely to cause society’s downfall. So you might think that Cicero is up to a rhetorical trick familiar from his speeches in court, where, regardless of the real importance of the case, he tells the jury that the very survival of the Republic is in their hands. But I think Cicero’s point is not, in fact, that society will collapse in the obvious sense. He is not predicting riots. First, notice what Cicero does not say here. He does not say that the consequences he points to are a result of what people believe. He does not say that if the Romans came to be Epicureans in large numbers then, 

 

Graver () – says that Cicero takes the Epicurean position as “target” in the preface to DND. This is a reasonable position, since (as Graver points out) the consequences of Epicureanism are described in such dire terms, and since Marcus sides with Balbus in DND ., when Balbus has disagreed with the Epicurean answer to the Central Question. However, I do not agree. First, refuting Epicureanism is certainly not the “stated aim of the treatise.” (p. , emphasis added) Second, affording the audience free and informed judgment on the Question is the stated aim. (DND .–) Third, Cotta’s arguments against Balbus are very compelling, and were probably all the more compelling before some of his speech was lost from the MS tradition, so that Marcus’ preference in DND . can come as a surprise. This would be strange if the clear goal of the dialogue were to discourage the Epicurean answer to the Central Question. E.g. Pro Roscio Amerina , Pro Murena –. Of course, at Rome in the s BC, further social collapse would have been a reasonable prediction.

. Theological Facts and Conventional Piety


because they no longer believed that gods care about us, they would cease to act in the just and socially cohesive ways that traditional piety motivates. Rather, he refers to the fact of the matter about the gods. If, as it happens, the Epicureans are right and the gods do not care about us, then it follows already that piety and perhaps justice are taken away. As Cicero states it, in an Epicurean world there would be no piety, and there might be no society, even if all Romans were Stoics who labored under the delusion that the gods care and who tried to act in Stoically pious, just, and cohesive ways. So I think that Cicero’s point here is not about how the Romans’ beliefs will lead them to behave if Epicurus is right. Instead, it is about how a theoretician should analyze the ethics of Roman behavior. It helps to notice that the verb I have translated “take away” (tollere) is ambiguous between literal removal and refutation by argument. If the Epicureans are right, piety as traditionally understood is refuted, or metaphorically removed from the world, in the sense that it is shown never to have been there. In examining the wider social consequences of Epicurean theology, Cicero first says that “good faith” (fides) might be threatened if Epicurus is correct. This “faith” is of course not the faith of modern religions, a kind of belief. Rather it is the good faith with which one acts bona fide. At Rome fides could plausibly be said to be backed by religion. It was worshipped as a goddess, Fides, with a temple on the Capitoline (cf. DND ., ., .). Good faith was what one showed in fulfilling an oath and what one looked for in an oath-taker. Cicero gives us a discussion of the ethics of taking an oath in On Duties (.–). If I take an oath by Jupiter, should I keep it because I am afraid that the god will otherwise get angry? Cicero reminds the reader that good philosophers argue that a god will not be prone to anger: est enim ius iurandum affirmatio religiosa; quod autem affirmate, quasi deo teste promiseris, id tenendum est. iam enim non ad iram deorum, quae nulla est, sed ad iustitiam et ad fidem pertinet. nam praeclare Ennius: O Fides alma apta pinnis et ius iurandum Iovis. qui ius igitur iurandum violat, is fidem violat, quam in Capitolio vicinam Iovis optimi maximi . . . maiores nostri esse voluerunt. . . . for a sworn oath is a religious (religiosa) affirmation: and if you have promised something by affirmation with a god as a witness you must hold to it. What is relevant here is not the anger of the gods, which does not exist, but justice and good faith (fidem). For what about Ennius’ splendid words, ‘Oh winged and nurturing Faith, and oath sworn in Jupiter’s name!’

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination Therefore anyone who violates a sworn oath violates Fides, whom our ancestors wished to dwell on the Capitol, as ‘neighbor to Jupiter Optimus Maximus’ . . . (On duties ., translation from Griffin and Atkins (), modified)

Such a view of good faith is what Cicero must have in mind in [ii]. When I take an oath in good faith, even an oath in favor of another human, I understand myself to enter into an arrangement with a god whom I have taken as my witness. My good faith leads me to honor the promise in part because a god has witnessed it. But if no god witnesses what we do, then good faith understood in this way is, like piety, a fiction. Perhaps there are other theories about why, if that were so, it would still be desirable to keep our word and to be trustworthy. An Epicurean could say that we keep our word so as to ensure our own peace of mind, and that reflection on divine tranquility is helpful to us in doing so. But by the truth of such Epicurean theology good faith understood as a part of justice in fact overseen by a god would be taken away, because there is no divine overseer. Still more dramatic is Cicero’s next claim, that “the community of the human race” (societas generis humani) might also be taken away. Perhaps in part this is just a consequence of the loss of good faith: if the desire to act in good faith is not really part of a relationship between ourselves and the gods, then our community is not on the footing that Roman tradition suggested. But perhaps Cicero is driving at a bigger point. We can see this point against some background in his thoughts about societas we find in his dialogue the Laws. In the first book of the Laws, there is much discussion of what Marcus calls societas, “community.” Marcus argues that the community of the 



Compare Cicero’s argument at Laws . that the opinion that rational gods look after us or threaten punishment is useful: it strengthens oaths or treaties, discourages crime and leaves “citizens’ community with one another holy,” sancta. . . societas civium inter ipsos. This argument, that what people think about the gods matters, is distinct from the discussion of the consequences of what might be true of the gods in the preface to DND. I must be cautious in how I use the Laws to interpret DND. Laws is incomplete as we have it. When Cicero wrote it and whether he completed it is uncertain. How far a skeptic like Cicero endorses what his character says in any dialogue or would wish it to be read into other works is never clear. In that regard the Laws is a particular challenge because it contains no obvious acknowledgment of Cicero’s skepticism. Indeed it can seem rather dogmatic (see especially Laws .), although I agree with the consensus that it is not so (see Görler , Atkins  pp. –). But the Laws contains (in Book ) an idealized version of Roman religious law and (in Book ) a discussion of the fundamental nature of law. Both are given by Cicero’s own character. I think it is fair to use these books as background for the sort of issues Cicero might have in mind in writing the general remarks in the preface to DND. Laws . , , , , , , , , . societas is most literally “companionship” or “society.” But in translating Stoic political ideas, Cicero seems to use societas for the Greek κοινωνία (see

. Theological Facts and Conventional Piety


human race is based on our shared law. For him this law is simply our reason that (if we all used it rightly) would lead us all in the same way. (Laws .) But Marcus thinks that the gods, too, have reason. So he thinks that they, too, are part of our community of the rational. (Laws .–) Now members of this community, he argues, should have a natural desire to be just to the other members of the community. By this he means that we do not desire justice for some further goal, like assuring a safe society for our own needs. Rather, we naturally want to be just to others for their own sake. If we were to think that this was not a natural desire, but rather that we desire to be just with (e.g.) our own Epicurean advantage in mind as a further end, Marcus argues this would undermine not only real justice to other humans, but also justice from us to the gods. (Laws .) Now one attraction that rational virtue in this community holds for us is that we can see it perfected in divine nature – we want to show ourselves worthy of what we have in common with the divine. But suppose, as Cicero contemplates in the preface to DND, there are no gods in our community, because no gods care about us. That might make it less attractive to be in a community with our fellow human beings where we desire to help others for their own sake and not for our own. For perhaps thinking of gods who are not active parts of the community would lead us to imitate the Epicureans and leave the community, as he suggests the Epicureans in fact did. (DND .) Such is the climactic criticism that Cotta will bring against Velleius at the end of DND Book . (DND .–, see pp. – below.) Note that this need not mean that the Epicureans literally wall themselves up in their gardens. They might carry on participating in what looks like the old community, but now for selfish reasons, so that their society is not the web of mutual concern that it used to be. The threat from Epicurean theology that Cicero paints, then, is not that life in Italy might descend into chaos in an obvious, outward sense. Instead it is that society, religion, and their attendant virtues (as those things were conventionally understood) would be hollow fictions if the Epicureans were right. This means that, for a thinking Roman who realized that this was the case, confusion about why such apparent goods are good at all would follow. In order to be true, beliefs about such values would have to be refounded, perhaps on Epicurean or similar principles.

Wynne () n). Given Cicero’s emphasis on the source of societas in shared reason, “community” seems apt.

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination

. How Philosophical Inquiry Can Moderate Religion We have seen that from Cicero’s philosophical point of view, it is important that the facts about the gods can vitiate or underwrite accepted beliefs about religion. But it is our beliefs, not how the gods are, that our philosophizing can change. So it ought to be that philosophical inquiry moderates religion by changing what we think. How should it change what we think, and why should this amount to moderation for the better? One way for Cicero’s inquiry to moderate religion for the better would be for it to change its audience’s views to fit the facts. Cicero does not discuss this sort of moderation of religion in his preface. But, as we shall see in my next two chapters, in the rest of DND, his Epicurean and Stoic speakers do so. Velleius the Epicurean holds that the Stoics overwork their god, and “impose an eternal slave-master on our necks, whom we must fear through all the nights and days.” (DND .) By contrast, he says, Epicurus showed how the gods could lead a tranquil life, without work in keeping with their happiness, so that we should have no fear of them. His view of the gods brings it about ut deos pie coleremus et ut superstitione liberaremur, “that we give cult to the gods piously,” acknowledging their true happiness, “and that we are liberated from superstition,” because we do not fear their anger (DND .). Meanwhile the Stoic Balbus (who, we may assume, regards Velleius’ position as impious) says that Stoic theology leads one to rationalize and reinterpret the traditional, poetic understanding of the gods, which is in some respects a false and distorted understanding. This is, says Balbus, a distinction between religion (religio), practiced by those who have done such reinterpretation, and superstition (superstitio), practiced by those who have not (DND .). He says that the etymology of superstitio is that Roman ancestors applied it to people who constantly sacrificed and prayed so that their children might be their survivors (superstites). (DND .). Both Epicureans and Stoics, then, are concerned to avoid both impiety and superstition. For Stoics, right religion is, so to speak, between impiety and superstition. Impious religious practice is done in the belief that the gods care for us less than they do, while superstitious practice is done in the belief that the gods care more than they do. For the Epicureans, superstition and impiety come together. They say that a view of the gods like the Stoic one will lead to superstitious practice, since a Stoic believes that the gods notice and care about what she does, and impious practice, since for 

imposuistis in cervicibus nostris sempiternum dominum, quem dies et noctes timeremus.

. How Philosophical Inquiry Can Moderate Religion


the gods to care about and provide for us is inconsistent with their divine happiness. Although he does not address it in the preface to DND, in the preface to the first book of Div. Cicero himself will encapsulate the consequences of reaching the wrong sort of view about the nature of the gods: nam cum omnibus in rebus temeritas in adsentiendo errorque turpis est, tum in eo loco maxime, in quo iudicandum est, quantum auspiciis rebusque divinis religionique tribuamus; est enim periculum, ne aut neglectis iis impia fraude aut susceptis anili superstitione obligemur. For error and rashness in assent is vicious in any matter, but it is especially so on that question where we must judge how much credit to give to auspices, to divinity, and to religion. For there is a danger that we shall be involved either in an impious fraud (if we neglect these matters) or in the superstition of an old woman (if we accept them). (Div. .)

The dangers here are an impious fraud (inpia fraus) or an old woman’s superstition (anilis superstitio). I suggest that an impious fraud is what a Roman would be involved in when she practiced religion if the Stoics’ answer to the Central Question is true but she had adopted the Epicurean answer. For then she would do the outward actions of a pious person, but fraudulently because she would in fact do them in vicious error about the gods who had done so much for her and who saw what she was doing. Meanwhile, an old woman’s superstition is what a Roman would be involved in when he practiced religion if the Epicurean answer to the Central Question is true but he had adopted the Stoic answer. For he would suppose that the gods saw and cared about what he was doing, and that they could affect his life, when they cannot. In DND we have a similar picture of the relationship between piety and superstition from the skeptic Cotta in his reply to Velleius. Velleius has advertised Epicureanism as a liberation from superstition, but Cotta shoots back: nam superstitione, quod gloriari soletis, facile est liberare, cum sustuleris omnem vim deorum. nisi forte Diagoram aut Theodorum, qui omnino deos esse negabant, censes superstitiosos esse potuisse; ego ne Protagoram quidem, cui neutrum licuerit, nec esse deos nec non esse. horum enim sententiae omnium non modo superstitionem tollunt, in qua inest timor inanis deorum, sed etiam religionem, quae deorum cultu pio continetur. For liberation from superstition (in which you Epicureans are accustomed to glory) is easy when you have taken away all the power of the gods. Unless perhaps you think that Diagoras or Theodorus, who deny that there are gods at all, could have been superstitious. I don’t think even Protagoras

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination could have been superstitious, who allowed neither claim, neither that there are gods, nor that there are not. For all these mens’ views destroy not only superstition, in which there is empty fear of the gods, but also religion, which is comprised by pious cult of the gods. (DND .)

Cotta’s criticism uses the conceptual map of pious religion between superstition and impiety. Velleius boasts of freeing people from superstition. But Cotta asks if this is to be counted a success when Velleius has done it at the cost of moving people from superstition right through pious religion and out into impiety. By robbing the gods of their power, Epicurus has left a view of them equivalent in its implications for religion to those of thinkers who deny or doubt the gods’ existence. We now see one way in which philosophical inquiry could moderate religion in the sense of outward practice: discovery of the truth. It could give the inquirer and his audience true beliefs (or, hopefully, even knowledge) about the nature of the gods. For example, if the Epicureans were right, then the Romans until Cicero’s day had been making religiously correct performances as parts of susperstitious and impious actions, because they believed that the gods cared. If philosophical inquiry then discovered the truth, the Romans might drop that superstitious and impious belief and start to do pious religious actions. But Cicero’s radical skepticism means that this cannot be the only kind of moderation he invites us to consider. For he expects that his inquiry will not lead to discovery of truths about the gods. He hopes that it will lead to hesitation and suspension of judgment on the matter. If so, how will the inquiry moderate religion? Before I answer that question, I should address a problem for my skeptical reading of Cicero’s preface. For in paragraph [i] Cicero said that unless the issue before his inquiry is decided (diiudicatur) humanity will live in error or ignorance (error, ignoratio). This might suggest that Cicero would in fact be dissatisfied with a skeptical outcome of the inquiry. For it suggests that he thinks ignorance a bad outcome. A skeptic claims to live without knowledge and thus, in a sense, to live in ignorance. But we find elsewhere in Cicero’s philosophical dialogues another sense of ignorance: ignorance not simply as lack of knowledge, but also as false opinion. For example, consider this passage from On ends where another Epicurean, Torquatus, says in support of the use of natural science: omnium autem rerum natura cognita levamur superstitione, liberamur mortis metu, non conturbamur ignoratione rerum, e qua ipsa horribiles existunt saepe formidines.

. How Philosophical Inquiry Can Moderate Religion


By knowing the nature of all things we are freed from superstition and liberated from the fear of death. We are not thrown into confusion by ignorance (ignoratio) and by the chilling fear that often results from ignor ance alone. (On ends ., translation from Annas and Woolf ())

Again, terrors do not emerge from sheer lack of knowledge. Rather they emerge from the false beliefs that the gods might harm us and that we might suffer after death. So both of these Epicurean speakers use “ignorance” to mean, so to speak, positive ignorance: false beliefs. So I suggest that Cicero, too, uses ignoratio in [i] in the sense of positive ignorance. False belief is something that a skeptic would seek to avoid. So Cicero as a skeptic could agree with the dogmatic philosophers that ignorance in this sense is undesirable. I think Cicero does not, in the end, endorse the conditional that, unless the question of the gods’ care for us is finally decided, we must live in error and positive ignorance. For he proposes another option: if the case appears undecided, we could withhold assent from any belief, and thereby live without false beliefs. This is the sort of outcome he expects from the inquiry in DND . (quoted p.  above). In Div. . he suggests that rash assent leading to error is what leads both to impiety and to superstition. A skeptical version of the moderation of religion, then, would be suspension of judgment on the question of the nature of the gods. If impiety and superstition are false beliefs, then by suspending judgment Cicero, and others led to suspension by the arguments exhibited in DND and Div., can avoid both. This skeptical moderation of religion might look second best. Would it not be preferable to achieve dogmatic but true beliefs, or even knowledge, about the nature of the gods? Cicero would probably accept that in principle such discoveries would be preferable, since in his Academica even the most radical skeptic wishes to discover the truth. (Academica .–) But Cicero would argue that in the absence of any clear evidence one way or another, suspension of judgment is better than rash assent. It was not just mistaken assent about religion that he called an especially foul error in Div. . (p.  above), but rather rash assent, which might be assent to the truth. Further, even after suspension of judgment one might find oneself with views about the gods, views that do not amount to beliefs about what 

It is possible that with error and ignoratio Cicero gives respectively Stoic and Epicurean descriptions of false opinion in the matter of the gods. If so, his point in my paragraph [i] of DND .– (p.  above) might be that the dogmatic parties to the dispute about the gods’ involvement would say between them that until the dispute is settled people will live either in error or in ignorance. They would omit another option, suspension of judgment.

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination is true. For as a radical skeptic Cicero would not accept the truth of any claim, but instead he may follow what seems to him for the present plausible (probabile) or like the truth (veri simile) (see pp. – above). Thus Cicero himself may moderate his religious actions not only by suspending judgment about the truth of the nature of the gods but also by engaging in carefully balanced inquiry so that their nature seems this way or that to him on some basis that seems responsible. He may encourage his readers to form their own free judgments of this sort. In Chapter  I shall investigate what, if any, of his “own” judgments he indicates in our dialogues. But despite these weak and ephemeral judgments of what seems like the truth, the crucial aspect of skeptical moderation is that Cicero will not accept as true any beliefs about an action that, if he accepted them as true, would leave the action impious or superstitious. Perhaps his resulting action is not pious, or is less pious than it could be, in principle, if he knew the truth. But if knowledge or warranted beliefs about the gods’ true nature are beyond him, he thinks it is better to avoid than to risk impiety and superstition. I can now sum up the project that, I have argued, Cicero has in mind when he looks for moderation of religion from philosophical inquiry into the nature of the gods. modero, to “moderate,” means to impose modi on something. A modus is a measure or a bound. Philosophical inquiry may impose two sorts of bound on Roman religion, that is, on Roman religious practice: that it be neither superstitious nor impious. It will not do this by bringing about any substantial reform of outward religious performance. Rather, it will make each religiously required performance an action neither superstitious nor impious by leading the religious actor to lack the false beliefs about the gods which would make the performance superstitious or impious. The inquiry will achieve this either by discovering the truth about the nature of the gods or, as Cicero expects, by leading us to suspend judgment about the truth of their nature. The Central Question about the gods’ nature for this purpose is whether they care about and intervene in human life. For if a religious agent believes falsely that they do care and intervene then she acts superstitiously, but if she believes falsely that they do not care or intervene then she acts impiously.  

See Lewis and Short (), OLD, TLL s.v. Moatti () – explores in DND and Div. how Cicero thinks philosophy can save us from superstition, but puts less emphasis on how it can save us from impiety. Santangelo ()  and – concentrates on Cicero’s ambition in Div. to relieve religio of superstitio. He gives helpful detail on the meanings of the term superstitio.

. Cicero’s Project in its Intellectual Context


. Cicero’s Project in its Intellectual Context You might ask: why would Cicero choose precisely that project for these dialogues? One answer, it seems to me, is that the various theological teachings of Hellenistic philosophers did indeed suggest to an attentive student that the question of the gods’ involvement in our lives was a crucial issue. But as I shall now point out, Cicero’s project also responds to a further set of questions we can trace in Cicero’s own corpus and in the (often scanty) monuments of the intellectual society of his day. “We were strangers and lost in our own city until your books played the role of hosts, leading us home so we could at last recognize ourselves and where we were.” (Academica .) So says Marcus to his interlocutor Varro in the first book of Cicero’s final draft of the Academica. He seems to refer mainly to Varro’s Antiquities human and divine and to include that huge work’s antiquarian investigation of Roman religion: “you have opened up for us . . . the laws governing our rites and priesthoods . . . the titles, classes, duties, and origins of everything human and divine.” (.) Marcus’ reason for admiring these books is important background for the project of DND and Div. Let us see why this is so. 




Rawson () surveys the evidence for the lively intellectual efforts of the first century BC at Rome. Moatti () argues from the whole of this evidence for a general conclusion about the motivations for these efforts in some ways similar to the one I have attributed to Cicero for DND and Div., namely that, in the face of the long political chaos and series of civil wars through which they lived, people had a sense of bewilderment at, and loss of understanding of, their own institutions, of the sort that Cicero tries to repair by importing Greek philosophy. “To defend that tradition [i.e. that from which Rome had gradually emerged], the ‘last of the Republicans’ had sought, not to refound the state [as Augustus would], but to enable it to endure, to safeguard its stability and conservation, even if that involved finding new bases for it” (p. , emphasis added). Scholarship on Varro has tended to agree with this characterization of the purpose of his antiquarian work. “Religious antiquities, Varro stresses, must be preserved, since they are by common consent threatened by the negligence of the citizenry . . . If the religious edifice on which the res publica depended were weakened, would not the whole structure of society begin to collapse? Indeed, much of the work of the Roman antiquarians has been seen rightly, as a literature of crisis trying to place against what the antiquarian sees as a chaotic and dangerous world . . . an idealized picture of the way things were and should be again in order to correct that process of deleterious change.” (Tarver () ). nam nos in nostra urbe peregrinantis errantisque tamquam hospites tui libri quasi domum deduxerunt, ut possemus aliquando qui et ubi essemus agnoscere. tu . . . sacrorum iura tu sacerdotum, tu sedum regionum locorum tu omnium divinarum humanarumque rerum nomina genera officia causas aperuisti. Translations from Brittain (). As I suggested above (p. ), although Marcus describes Varro’s remedy as though it helped Romans at large, it is likely that only a small class would read his writing. In practice, Cicero’s philosophical efforts were probably similarly for an elite audience, even if in principle they are not intended to be esoteric (cf. p.  below). Brunt () concludes that, “It seems probable that the theological doubts and contradictions of the philosophic schools had little effect on Roman religious practices, or so far as concerns the mentality of most Romans, on the beliefs associated with them.” (p. )

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination The Marcus and Varro of the Academic books are, of course, fictionalized characters speaking fictional lines. But the content of the real Antiquities was much as Marcus describes it. Most of the work’s great length is lost, but hefty reports and quotations survive, primarily in Christian sources. To Varro, Christian sources are hostile sources, at least for the history of religion. But with due care some part of Varro’s project and findings seems to be recoverable. Augustine, for example, offers what he takes to be a charitable interpretation of Varro’s procedure. The Antiquities human and divine, says Augustine, came in two distinct parts, about human and divine matters respectively. This was because Varro intended a work not about the nature of gods and men at large, but about Rome. “Just as the painter is prior to the painting, the builder to the building, so cities are prior to what cities institute.” For Varro thought Rome, and not the gods, had instituted Rome’s religion. Further, he seems to have reconstructed early Roman religion as different in some respects from that of his own day. For their city’s first  years, he said, Romans worshipped without names or images for the gods. Jupiter (or the god later called such) he seems to have regarded as akin to a monotheistic deity, set over the others, “no different from the god of the Jews.” Later there were changes and additions in which, for example, the temple of Jupiter was built on the Capitoline. Varro expressed some dissatisfaction with what the founders and reformers made: if he were founding a religion from scratch, he would make it more in harmony with the principles of nature. Varro’s researches were, at least in part, intended to recall his contemporaries to forgotten religious lore. Some gods, he said, were falling into disuse, so that he would rescue them, like Aeneas who carried the Penates out of burning Troy. To this end he cataloged all the gods he could find

    

On the other hand, it seems possible that Marcus’ diagnosis of alienation and bewilderment in the face of the traditional religion was true for people even beyond those with the leisure and education for intellectual pursuits, even if the philosophical help that he designs for them in DND or Book  of his Laws would not, in practice, reach them. But were Romans at large picking up and considering philosophical ideas in other ways? So far as I know, the evidence does not allow us to answer this question. sicut prior est . . . pictor quam tabula picta, prior faber quam aedificium, ita priores sunt civitates quam ea, quae a civitatibus instituta sunt . . . . Fr.  Cardauns Augustine, City of God .. Fr.  Cardauns Augustine, City of God ., .. Fr.  Cardauns Augustine, De consensu evangelistarum .., cf. fr  Cardauns John Lydus, De mensibus .. Fr.  Cardauns Augustine, City of God .. Fr. a Cardauns Augustine City of God ..

. Cicero’s Project in its Intellectual Context


and suggested to which god the Romans should pay cult for which purpose. He also tried to revive some neglected interpretations of Roman practice. For example, when the temple of Jupiter was planned, he said, all the gods who had altars on the site agreed by way of augury to have their altars moved, except three. These were Mars (god of war), Juventas (the goddess Youth), and Terminus (god of boundaries), whose primitive altars were still to be found inside the precincts of Jupiter’s temple. This signified, said Varro, that Rome would always be martial and young, and that her borders would not yield. Such is the treatise that Marcus in the Academica congratulates for making Romans at home in their own city. Marcus seems to think, then, that the Romans had lost something: the full understanding of their own institutions and religion. This resulted, he suggests, in the alienation of Romans from their own institutions, a problem that Marcus thinks the Antiquities can help significantly to address by informing Romans about their religion’s full meaning. The rules of the religion were not (for the most part) revealed by the gods, but were rather the creation of statesmen. They could not be justified just by appeal to divine command, but they could be understood through the history of their design and development. It is that history which the antiquarian could try to recover. The goal of Varro’s treatise thus understood has much in common with Cicero’s own project in DND and Div. Both works equip, or re-equip, Romans with a helpful understanding of their own religion, an understanding that had been lacking or lost. Nor, seemingly, were Cicero and Varro alone in this sort of project. In her summary of intellectual theology at Rome in the Late Republic, Elizabeth Rawson counts (for example) in addition to Cicero five other Roman authors on augury from the first century BC, or two Roman works on aspects of the pontifical college from the same period. In some cases little of these authors’ work survives. But their number suggests a general concern with historical or theoretical treatment of the religion. In Div.,   

 

Fr.  Cardauns Augustine, City of God, .. Fr.  Cardauns Augustine, City of God .. The exception in the pages of DND and Div. is the Etruscan art of haruspicy, whose original handbook was divulged by the supernatural man-boy Tages – or so says a rather satirical Marcus at Div. .. A recent co-ordination of the real Varro and Cicero’s projects is Ru¨pke () Chapters –. Rawson () –. It is commonly accepted that Cicero wrote a work, now lost, On augury. So far as I know, the positive evidence for the existence of this work are citations by the fourth century AD grammarian Charisius in his Ars grammatica (pp. ,  Barwick). Cicero may allude to a plan for such a work at Letters to his friends .., and perhaps Div. ..

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination Marcus mentions a controversy between the augurs Appius Claudius Pulcher and Gaius Marcellus over whether augury was a real art, or was invented for civic reasons. Several others contributed books on the topic, the contents of which seem to have been “strongly antiquarian.” (Rawson () ) We can glean a little more about another of Cicero’s intellectual contemporaries, the “Pythagorean” speculator Nigidius Figulus, who features in Cicero’s sketched Timaeus (section ). He wrote works On the gods (in at least nineteen books), On entrails, On private augury, On dreams, and he translated a book on lightning strikes, the latter four works being to do with divination. So it is clear that Nigidius had a close interest in the investigation of religion. He also wrote a work on language, the Philological notebooks (Commentarii grammatici), in a passage of which he argued for the pejorative connotation of the adjectival suffix -osus, quoting an old poem, saying that to be religiosus was to have an immoderate and excessive religiosity and thus to be superstitious, a character flaw which might lead one into excessive religious performance. It is plausible to think that, as for Cicero, to avoid such excesses (or perhaps their contrary defects) was part of Nigidius’ motivation for his studies. Thus in DND and Div. Cicero responded to an intellectual concern of his times at Rome: to rediscover, or simply to find, the right way to understand the performances of the traditional religion. We can see Cicero’s approach more clearly if we look at the Laws and Academica as background. As we have seen (p.  n.  above), we should not press too hard to reconcile the Laws with other dialogues. Rather, we should use  


Div. ., cf. Laws .–. “Pythagorean” and physical speculation, Cicero, Timaeus ; On the gods, Macrobius, Saturnalia ..; On entrails, Gellius, Noctes Atticae ..; On private augury, Gellius, Noctes Atticae ..; On dreams, brontoscopy, John Lydus, De ostentis, , . We can find evidence of the sort of unease about religion that may have motivated the intellectuals in Cicero’s works for wider audiences. Even in speeches Cicero can argue against some (notional?) atheists in favor of providence both from Rome’s imperial success and from cosmological arguments (Pro Cluentio ); that Sicily had fallen into superstition because of the false belief that the gods were angry with the island and that the Romans should “heal” the Sicilian religion by removing the ground of this belief (In Verrem ..–); (sarcastically) to the pontifices that Clodius, who infiltrated the women-only rites of the Bona Dea, was motivated by anilis superstitio, “an old woman’s superstition” (cf. Div. ., p.  above) that the gods wanted him to infiltrate the rites and that he should be told by the pontifices to impose some modus, limit, on his religion (cf. DND .) – presumably, by removing the belief which led to the offending performance (De domo sua ). So Cicero thought that his contemporaries were alive to the idea that one’s beliefs about religion might lead one astray, either into wrong performances or into wrong beliefs about those performances, and to be open to intellectual argument about those beliefs. It would follow that intellectual argument could lead one right or astray. See also Gildenhard () part III and the religious material collected from speeches by R. J. Goar ().

. Cicero’s Project in its Intellectual Context


it as background. But it is very useful background here, since in it Cicero gives us an extended attempt to reconceive (mostly) traditional Roman religion in line with a philosophical theory of politics. We saw that in Laws Book , Marcus argues that we humans share reason with one another and with the gods, and that this is the basis of our justice towards one another (p.  above). A creator god, he says, gave us this reason. (Laws .–) Our shared human nature is also reflected in our shared capacity for superstition, which is cross-cultural even if its expression, like the worship of animals in Egypt, sometimes is not. (Laws .) When Cicero comes to his formulation of idealized Roman religious law in the second book of the Laws, he aims to give a traditional rather than a new code. Changes to the required performances are few. As it happens, they are often in line with the project of promoting in DND virtuous religious actions, since what are rejected are performances which are unusually incompatible with this project: the worship of vices is abandoned (Laws .) and collections of money for religious use are banned in part because they lead to superstition (Laws .). Meanwhile, the traditional religious performances retained are interpreted in the context of the theory of Laws Book . For example, Marcus considers whether to retain temple buildings or, like the Persians, to torch such shrines lest the gods be enclosed. He decides to keep the buildings, but on the grounds that they encourage Romans to think of the gods as neighbors, who have houses alongside their own, and therefore as members of their own society. (Laws .–) A preamble to the religious laws encourages the Romans to see the religion in the light of true gods, whose reality can be apparent through the order of the cosmos and arguments much like Balbus’ Stoic position in Book  of DND. (Laws .–) So in the terms of Book  of the Laws, Marcus in Book  of the Laws wants to use the religion to promote Romans’ natural, rational capacity for justice towards the gods, and to inhibit their natural capacity for superstition. The Laws, then, shows us how a philosophical theology could give meaning to traditional Roman religion, and virtue to its practitioners. Now Marcus’ exposition in the Laws seems very confident. But of course, given his skepticism, if Cicero had a view about the right way to interpret traditional religion, it was probably not so confident. Sure 

Through such interpretations, Marcus in the Laws is sympathetic to the visual metaphors of traditional religious buildings and cult images (cf. Laws .). It is tempting to see in this an answer to Varro’s apparent admiration of early Roman religion, which he thought was aniconic. (Varro’s Antiquities frs. , , and  Cardauns.)

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination enough, in Academica, as Marcus talks his way through a catalog of disagreements among dogmatists, we come to the example of natural theology. The Stoics may argue, he says, that the cosmos is a god, that it has a mind, and that it ordered and moves itself. But they will run into Aristotle, who will argue that the order of the cosmos was never created. They may argue that god created everything (besides himself, we assume) and that he did so for our sakes, but they will run into the Peripatetic physicist Strato of Lampsacus, who will argue that nature and not god made everything, freeing god from such labors. “But I don’t assent to Strato, or to you either,” Marcus sums up, “now one view seems more plausible, now the other.” (Academica .–) So in Academica, Marcus claims to suspend judgment on some of the theological claims which underwrote the religious views of the Laws: are we really given reason by a creator god, and do the gods really care about us in such a way that we could meaningfully think of them as members of our society? These are puzzles closely related to the Central Question of DND. This background in Cicero’s corpus, then, gives us sharper focus on his project in DND and Div. Varro, the author of the Antiquities as portrayed in Academica , who chose not to write philosophy and instead to gather new data, looked on the state religion as founded by statesmen and changed over a long tradition. He offered his data as a way to recall the Romans to the fullness of their orthopractic tradition, by reminding them of its development and complexity, regrettable though some aspects of the tradition might be from the point of view of natural philosophy. Cicero, by contrast, is much less interested in the history of traditional rules for performance. His approach is to accept the performances as given by tradition, and then to supply from philosophical investigation intellectually rigorous ways to interpret those performances, so that one may render them pious, or at least so that one may avoid the false beliefs about them which would make them impious or superstitious. These interpretations may be entirely new. In Varro’s metaphor, Cicero’s goal is not necessarily to reconstruct the meaning that the “painter” intended in the “painting” of Roman religion, but rather to arrive at a philosophically grounded interpretation of the picture. In this way Cicero has little room for the distinction between philosophical and civic theology made in Varro’s work. He suggests that the right way for the Romans to return from alienation is that the legacy of those who devised the religion, namely its required performances, should indeed be retained, but that it should be 

nec Stratoni tamen adsentior nec vero tibi; modo hoc modo illud probabilius videtur.

. How the Project Shapes the Dialogues


moderated from without by the philosophical views, or skeptical integrity, of religious agents. Philosophical theology itself yields a civic benefit.

. How the Project Shapes the Dialogues The last plank in my argument that Cicero pursues the project I have suggested is a brief examination of the dialogues themselves. For it is not just that the preface to DND piques the reader’s interest with the questions I have examined. Rather, Cicero chooses and shapes the arguments portrayed throughout DND and Div. in order to pursue the debate on the Central Question. It is hard to know which Cicero thought were the “main” philosophical views of the gods at Rome in the s BC. To us, perhaps, the Epicureans and the Stoics seem the salient contenders. But that might be an accident, the result of their portrayal in DND and the survival of Epicurean texts at Herculaneum. Cicero knew a number of Antiocheans, including Varro the author of the Antiquities and Brutus the addressee of DND, so their theological views, where distinct from the Stoic view, could also have been options for inclusion in DND (see p.  n. ). Indeed Cicero reminds the reader of this when Marcus observes that a representative of Antiochus is the only significant omission from the scene. (DND .) Meanwhile, in Div. Quintus will reveal that he is most sympathetic to the Peripatetic view of divination. (.) The Peripatetic Strato’s view was the foil for Stoic theology in the Academica, and from the sketch of a dialogue on physics which we call the Timaeus it appears that the Peripatetic Cratippus was intended to contribute. In the Timaeus Nigidius was also to appear, 



Feeney () – draws a similar contrast between Varro and Cicero’s respective projects. Notice that by characterizing Varro’s project as antiquarian rather than philosophical, I do not mean that it was merely antiquarian, or that the conclusions Varro reached about early Roman religion were not informed by philosophical knowledge. I am inclined to agree with van Nuffelen () against Moatti () or Momigliano () that Varro hoped to recover some truths about philosophical subjects that informed early Roman religion. In this way his project has something in common with, say, Balbus’ treatment of traditional religion in DND Book . Cicero, by contrast, seeks to bring new philosophical insight to bear from the outside, so that it would be an additional bit of luck, rather than the goal of his project, if it turned out that some of this insight were already encoded in parts of the tradition. Ru¨pke () contemplates the historicizing nature of Varro’s project. Wallace-Hadrill () – puts these questions into the wider context of his “cultural revolution” in late Republican Rome. Cf. Furley (). But Balbus’ point has to do with Antiochus’ claim, explored at length in On ends Books –, that the Stoic and Peripatetic theories of value differed only verbally. This is not directly relevant to the subject matter of DND. So Balbus’ remark is dramatically appropriate, but does not, I think, give us Cicero’s reason for omitting an Antiochean character from DND. Cicero seems to find Aristotle’s own theology elusive, blurred perhaps by Aristotle’s dialogues. See DND ., ., but cf. the more familiarly Aristotelian view of Academica ..

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination described as a Pythagorean, and probably to deliver the translated excerpt from Plato’s Timaeus that makes up the rest of that text. That excerpt contains plenty of theology. So even if there had not been an obvious alternative to Stoic and Epicurean theology in the views of Antiochus, nevertheless Peripatetic, Platonic, and “Pythagorean” theologies were also current for Cicero. Of the dogmatic options available to him, why did Cicero choose to examine the Epicurean and Stoic views, and only those views, in detail? If you took the “encyclopedia” view of Cicero’s later philosophica (pp. –), you might insist that, since Cicero’s dominant aim was to provide a philosophical encyclopedia, Cicero presumably did choose the Stoic and Epicurean views just because they struck him as the main views that readers needed to know about. But my position is that although Cicero had some thought for an encyclopedia, he was more interested in shaping his dialogues as works each with unity and an aim. My position can make good sense of his choice of the Epicureans and the Stoics. For consider that the Central Question of Cicero’s project, as I interpret it, is whether the gods care about us and act in our lives. But the Stoics and Epicureans are polar and rich opposites on this question. The two schools are polar opposites in that the Stoics hold that god fated every last detail about our world, to include everything about us, and did so for our benefit, while the Epicureans hold that the gods have never had anything to do with us or our world, cannot do anything to or for us, and would not if they could. Cicero could have got a similar polar contrast from other schools. In particular, we already have seen that in the Academica he drew the same contrast but with Aristotle or Strato representing the view that no divine mind created or acts in the world. But, by opposing the Epicureans in particular to the Stoics, Cicero also achieves a particularly rich contrast. Both Stoics and Epicureans see the gods as like us in important respects. The Stoics see gods and humans in a community of the rational with duties to one another. The Epicureans see the gods’ perfect happiness as  

 

See Furley () for another discussion of Cicero’s omission of Peripatetic views. For example, Brunt ()  concludes from Cicero’s choices that Stoic, Epicurean, and Academic theologies “had the most currency in contemporary Rome.” Brunt nevertheless sees some of the polar contrast to be drawn between the Epicureans and Stoics, but characterizes Balbus’ Stoic gods as more rationalized, and less personally caring, than I do (pp. –). Bénatouïl () shows how thoroughly, and controversially, the Stoics made their god fate every last detail of the world. Academica .. In DND . Velleius interprets Strato’s position as attributing a sort of divinity to nature, but that does not seem to be part of Marcus’ interpretation in Academica Book .

. How the Project Shapes the Dialogues


implying precisely that the gods are not part of any community with us, and rather that they are above any involvement in the business of the cosmos or of our lives, so that their life of pleasure is assured. Further, both schools think we should imitate the gods in these respects so far as we can. For Cicero’s Epicureans, our community with one another is regrettable, merely a remedy for our weakness. Thus these two answers to Cicero’s question lead to very different visions not merely of right religion, but also of happy and virtuous human life in general. By way of comparison, the Aristotelian god also does not care for us. But Aristotelians do not draw the conclusion that we should all seek to imitate god in that respect. The choice of exactly the two schools he chooses, then, makes most clear what is at stake in Cicero’s Central Question. Moving to Div., Cicero there includes speeches only for a specific Stoic view of divination (Quintus’ speech in Book ) and Academic arguments targeted at that view of divination in particular (Marcus’ speech in Book ). The Epicureans rejected divination entirely, and thus could have spoken in opposition to the Stoics, or could have been given their own speech and counter-argument. But in Div., unlike in DND, Epicurus is summarily dismissed, “babbling about the nature of the gods.” (balbutientem de natura deorum, Div. .) Why? Cicero does not seem to have rated Epicurean arguments against the Stoics very high: unless Carneades had come along, Marcus says at the end of Div., the Stoics might have been judged “the only philosophers” by Marcus’ day. (soli. . . philosophi, Div. .) But I suspect there is more to it than that. The Epicurean view of divination was purely negative. The positive Epicurean theology and physics on which the negative view rested was covered by DND (and would be expanded on in On fate, if Cicero got around to it). Now if Cicero’s main concern were to be encyclopedic he might still have included the Epicurean arguments and a reply. But if I am right, he left them out because there was no positive and fertile Epicurean view to engage with. A Stoic argument for divination is therefore picked out as the richest representative of the view that the gods 

The only other school which gets some airing in Div. – the Peripatetics, who held that “natural” divination is real but “artificial” divination is not, a view to which Quintus himself in fact subscribes – could have had its own treatment (see Div. ., ., .). But as Quintus and Marcus present it, the Peripatetic view is assimilable for dialectical purposes to that part of the Stoic view which argues that natural divination is real. The Peripatetic view is therefore covered efficiently as part of the general positive and rich view that divination is real. Meanwhile, according to Cicero, Panaetius had distinguished himself among Stoics by his doubts about divination at large, and rejection of some aspects of it, but Cicero gives his arguments little space in Div. (See Academica ., Div. ., ., ., .. DL . says that Panaetius simply denied the reality of divination, but Cicero seems likely to be more accurate in this regard.)

 Cicero’s Project in On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination give us helpful information, a view which implies a positive answer to the Central Question of DND. The choice of schools and speakers is not the only element of the structure of the dialogues shaped by the Central Question and its vital role in the moderation of religion. In the chapters ahead, I shall argue that Cicero the author often reminds the reader of the Question at significant junctures. Now, so far as the speakers of DND are aware, their topic of discussion is the nature of the gods in general, and neither the Central Question nor religion specifically. (DND .) Yet Cicero shapes their conversation so that the Central Question and religion receive emphasis. Both Velleius’ speech and Cotta’s response to Velleius culminate in drawing the consequences for religion from the Epicurean answer to the Central Question. (DND .–, .–, see Chapter  section .) Cicero has Cotta specifically request that Balbus give us the Stoic arguments that the gods run the world and care about us, that is to say, his answer to the Central Question. (DND .) Balbus does so at enormous length. (DND .–) But by a dramatic trick Cicero also emphasizes that part of Balbus’ speech that deals with religion, and makes this a key bone of contention in Cotta’s response (see below, pp. –). Meanwhile, Div. is set in train by a conversation about just these disagreements in DND, and features a conclusion that revisits the Central Question. (Div. .–, cf. Chapter  section .) In any case, Cicero’s choice of divination as a topic for further elaboration is well explained by the Central inquiry. As Quintus points out in opening the conversation of Div., if the gods give us divination, then it follows that they do indeed care for us. (Div. .)

 

Velleius the Epicurean

In this chapter, I examine Cicero’s first step in the project I outlined in the previous chapter. In sections . and . I interpret the Epicurean answer to the question of the nature of the gods, given by Gaius Velleius in his speech in the first book of DND. In section ., I follow the consequences for Roman religion that Cicero draws from Velleius’ theology, through both Velleius’ speech and that of his skeptical opponent, Cotta. For an Epicurean like Velleius, good theology stems from the premise that the gods are happy and eternal. But a grave obstacle to good theology is the human psyche: we are naturally acquainted with the happy and eternal gods, yet we are prone to draw the wrong, and troubling, conclusions from this acquaintance. We are fortunate, then, to live after Epicurus, the man who grasped the true implications of divine happiness. The centrality of happiness in Velleius’ speech is such that Cotta, his opponent, coins two words for it: beatitas or beatitudo (DND .). Epicurean beatitude is the absence of pain and anxiety, a passive and self-sufficient quietness. With such happiness in mind, through Velleius and Cotta, Cicero offers to careful readers a vision of the traditional religion performed by happy Romans in honor of happy gods. A key property of these gods is that, being passive and self-sufficient, they do not care for us at all. Velleius’ answer to the Central Question is “no” (see p. ). For that very reason, he thinks the Romans should worship the gods as an ideal. I must first mention a related controversy. Epicureans like Velleius believed that the gods exist. So when an Epicurean made a religious performance, she made it for an ideal, but for one who, she thought, 

At one point, Cotta agrees with Posidonius in doubting the sincerity of Epicurus’ theism. But this comes in the rhetorical climax of his speech, when he thinks he has shown that Epicurus’ doctrines are laughable and reprehensible. (DND .) The direct textual evidence of Epicurus’ theism is strong and univocal, see especially Letter to Menoeceus . Indeed in a calmer moment Cotta himself admits that the much more plentiful textual evidence available in his day was similarly unambiguous. (DND .) On accusations like Cotta’s see Obbink ().



Velleius the Epicurean

nevertheless existed. Today there is controversy over how Epicurus’ gods both exist and yet act in our lives only as our ideals. Perhaps Epicurus thought that the gods exist only as our ideals, as the conglomerations of atoms that impact our minds when we imagine the gods. Or perhaps he thought that the gods have eternal bodies of human shape but are so distant, or are made of such evanescent matter, that they could have no direct effect on us even if they wished to. Partisans on both sides of this modern debate find some of their evidence in DND Book . But in order to understand Velleius on the Central Question and religion, it is not necessary for us to settle his place in the debate over how Epicurus’ gods exist. What matters is the view he attributes to Epicurus, that the gods exist but act for us only as our ideals. That is so on either modern view of the existence of Epicurus’ gods. Thus I do not choose between those views in this chapter. I should also mention another important question that is not my focus in this chapter. Thanks to the resemblances of Velleius’ speech to the Herculaneum On piety, Book  of DND is often studied with its sources in mind (see pp. –) Even scholars who give Cicero agency in this book’s composition tend to see it as their task to detect, and then to explain, Cicero’s use of and supplements to his sources. But my intention here is to study on its own terms the product of whatever process of writing Cicero went through. When we come to Velleius’ speech, we have just read Cicero’s preface. If as learned readers we recognized in the preface that the party who answered that the gods do not care for us were Epicureans, we know now that we have one of them before us. If we are unlearned and did not recognize this, then Cicero has Velleius enlighten us straightaway. Thus, guided by Cicero’s preface, what we expect is an intellectual bombthrower whose views would do away with traditional piety, or with society, and even with justice itself. Velleius is indeed a combative and confident speaker. But in other ways Cicero allows Velleius to confound our negative expectations. Velleius tries to keep his speech short and, although he does not think so (DND .), he succeeds. Cotta praises the speech as an unusually clear and stylish exposition of a difficult subject. (DND .) I think Cicero means us to agree with Cotta. Most of Velleius’ speech is a single, well-organized, and concise argument for the Epicurean position on  

For this debate, see Konstan () and Sedley () with their references. Some older treatments of Epicurean theology are Festugière () and Lemke (). See for example Obbink (), Essler ().

. Velleius’ Theology


the Central Question. It depends on a central argument lasting just two sections. (DND .–) This argument is followed by an exposition of some of its satisfying consequences (DND .–). It is preceded by a catalog of its deadly implications for rival theologies. (DND .–) In my interpretation I shall switch the order so that I treat the main argument and its theological consequences first (section .) and the catalog second (section .). Although Velleius is unaware that he is part of a dialogue about the Central Question and its implications of Roman religion, Cicero shapes his speech with that project in mind. Further, Cotta’s reply to Velleius helps to bring out those religious implications in full. Thus in section . I put together Velleius’ and Cotta’s speeches to see how Cicero suggests that the Epicureans would moderate Roman religion.

. Velleius’ Theology Velleius’ short main argument proceeds from the nature of the human psyche to the existence, eternity, and happiness of the gods. It draws on the department of Epicurean thought called “canonics” or, roughly speaking, what we call epistemology. (DND .) The “canon” in question is the set of true criteria by which we ought to judge whether further claims are true. Two parts of this canon rely on the Epicurean dogma that all sensations are true. To take the sense of sight as our example, Epicurus thought that we see thanks to skeins of atoms that are cast off by visible bodies, and that are images of the bodies that cast them off. When an image impacts in our eyes, we see the body from which it came. A stream of images from one body allows us to see it over time. Furthermore, said Epicurus, when I visualize, then too my imagination or “mind’s eye” is impacted by images. For example, when I call to mind an absent friend, I open up my imagination to skeins of atoms that have flown from his body to my mine. This view allowed Epicurus to take an optimistic view of our cognitive abilities both in sensation and in imagination. If I see a straight stick that looks bent in water, then that sensation is true, in that it results from the impact on my eye of a real image of the stick, an image that has indeed been “bent” by passing through water. Meanwhile, if I hallucinate a griffin, that hallucination is true, in that an image of a griffin is indeed hitting my imagination. (LS ) Of course, Epicurus did not think we are free from error. We introduce error in our beliefs about our sensations or imaginings. If, in the examples just given, I judge that “that stick is bent” or that “there is a griffin over


Velleius the Epicurean

there,” then I introduce error where before there was none. If I were skillful in my judgments, I would be able to judge from the true images that “that stick is straight, but appears bent due to refraction,” or that, “this image of a griffin has struck my imagination, and not my eye.” But sometimes I will fail at these judgments, and draw false conclusions from the true sensations: that the stick is bent, or that I see a griffin over there. (LS ) Sensations, then, are always true, and function as criteria for judging further truths, if only we would use them well. Criteria of a second sort are preconceptions (πρόληψις, prolēpsis). After many sensations of some kind of thing – say, of trees – I naturally form a preconception of trees. The preconception is an accurate idea of a tree that comes to mind when I come across the word “tree,” giving the word meaning, so that I can talk about trees and, if I want to, investigate them scientifically. Although the preconception is accurate, we are fallible, so the accuracy of our preconceptions does not guarantee that our investigations will go well. In the case of the gods our preconception evidently has at least a “visual” element: Greeks and Romans imagined the gods with human bodies. But this “visual” element does not mean that we ever see gods with our eyes. For of course, unlike trees, we never see gods around us. Our preconception of the gods is thus formed only by the images of the gods in the imagination. It is the doctrine that natural preconceptions are accurate on which Velleius relies for his main theological argument. The first part of this argument establishes that there are gods. Now this part of the argument is important for understanding the basis of Velleius’ theology – his inference from our preconceptions about the gods to the gods’ existence. This part of the argument is thus very important for my interpretation of Velleius’ speech. But it has also aroused a good deal of puzzlement and confusion. Therefore, since I hope to show that Velleius speaks and argues well, I must lay these confusions to rest. Thus I shall comment on this part of his argument in some detail. For ease of reference I give it here in full. For ease of reference, I have made my own divisions of the argument, numbered in bold with round brackets. (i) ea qui consideret quam inconsulte ac temere dicantur, venerari Epicurum et in eorum ipsorum numero de quibus haec quaestio est habere debeat.

 

On Epicurean preconceptions in general, see DL ., Epicurus Letter to Herodotus –, LS Chapter , Manuwald (), and Striker (b) –. See pp. – below.

. Velleius’ Theology


(ii) solus enim vidit primum esse deos, quod in omnium animis eorum notionem inpressisset ipsa natura. quae est enim gens aut quod genus hominum quod non habeat sine doctrina anticipationem quandam deorum, quam appellat πρόληψιν Epicurus id est anteceptam animo rei quandam informationem, sine qua nec intellegi quicquam nec quaeri nec disputari potest. (iii) quoius rationis vim atque utilitatem ex illo caelesti Epicuri de regula et iudicio volumine accepimus. quod igitur fundamentum huius quaestionis est, id praeclare iactum videtis. (iv) (a) cum enim non instituto aliquo aut more aut lege sit opinio constituta maneatque ad unum omnium firma consensio, (b) intellegi necesse est esse deos, quoniam insitas eorum vel potius innatas cognitiones habemus; (v) de quo autem omnium natura consentit, id verum esse necesse est; esse igitur deos confitendum est. (i) Someone who considers how rashly and carelessly [other theologies] are uttered, must revere Epicurus and count him among those about whom we inquire [i.e. among the gods]. (ii) For he alone saw first that there are gods because nature itself has impressed the idea of them in everybody’s soul. For what nation or kind of human beings is there that does not have some ‘preconception’ of the gods, without being taught it? Epicurus calls this a prolēpsis, that is, some representation of an object preconceived by the soul, without which nothing can be understood, or inquired into, or dicussed. (iii) We were given the power and utility of this argument in that Olympian book of Epicurus’, On the canon and criterion. Thus you see that this foundation of our inquiry was admirably laid down. (iv) For (a) since the opinion was brought about not by any insti tution, or custom, or law, and persisted unanimously as a firm consensus of all people, (b) it is necessarily understood that there are gods (intellegi necesse est esse deos), because we have implanted, or rather inborn, concep tions of them. (v) But whatever everyone’s nature agrees on, that is necessarily true. Thus we must acknowledge that there are gods. (DND . )

Now I shall offer my interpretation of this controversial argument. Velleius appeals to an alleged ethnographic fact, that people of all nations have both a preconception of the gods, and a belief that the gods exist. From this he argues that there are, indeed, gods. Even if we grant Velleius’ ethnographic premise, this sort of argument can look very suspicious. “If we all believe it, then it is true” might once have proved that the Earth does not move. But Velleius’ argument is not so simple. His point is that the preconception of the gods is natural in humans. Nature has pressed the 

Obbink () – questions Velleius’ use of consensus arguments and suggests that Cicero himself rendered the Epicurean position this way, reproducing Stoic consensus arguments.


Velleius the Epicurean

idea into our minds (ii), so that our common nature agrees about it (v). It is natural concepts Velleius thinks are always right. Thus that we all have a concept, or that that concept appears in all societies, is not supposed to be direct evidence that that concept is accurate. Instead, it is direct evidence that the concept is natural. After all, if there is no culture whose people lack some concept, then that is evidence that the concept is cross-cultural and the product not of nurture, but of nature (ii). Now, one might reply, perhaps natural preconceptions are universal, but it does not follow that all universal concepts are natural. But in fact Velleius does not seem to think that universality on its own proves naturalness. Instead, in (iv)(a), he suggests some further criteria. First, no cultural institution or custom produced the belief that there are gods. Second, once it had arisen, this belief persisted as a stable consensus, which suggests that it did not encounter resistance from some other, perhaps natural, concepts. So if we discover a universal belief, Velleius allows that further historical and sociological tests may be applied before we may declare the belief’s associated concepts natural: it should not have arisen from mere custom, and it should have remained a stable consensus. Finally, if we decide that a concept is indeed natural, then we invoke further reasons to think it is right, namely, Epicurus’ optimism about our natural ability to perceive the world accurately, represented in his theory of “canonics” mentioned in (ii). But Velleius’ argument has offered further puzzles. A first puzzle has been that the argument seems oddly repetitive. Velleius seems to say the same thing three times in (ii), (iv), and (v): since there is a natural consensus that the gods exist, the gods exist. That would be a dilatory way for Velleius to speak when he wants to fit so much into his short speech. Further, (iii) reads as though, far from repeating himself, Velleius thinks he is developing an argument by stages. He says that (ii) and (iii) are supposed to show us that Epicurus laid some foundation for what follows. Thus it would be helpful to find some way in which (ii) gives us a premise for (iv) and (v). A second puzzle is the following. The relationship between the preconception of the gods and the belief that there are gods 

  

Note that I do not here take a position on whether our preconception of the gods is “innate” (see Konstan , Sedley ). Velleius’ claim that nature impresses it on our minds could mean either that we have an innate disposition to form the preconception, or that nature brings it about in all of us after birth. Here I agree with Sedley () – against Obbink () –. For these puzzles, see Sedley () –. For complaints that the structure of the argument is informal, see Sedley () , or repetitive, see Konstan () .

. Velleius’ Theology


seems obscure. In (iv) and (v) Velleius seems to treat the two, and their correctness, as interchangeable. Yet these are importantly different things, and to substitute them for one another would seem to confuse Velleius’ position. For example, I might have an accurate preconception of the dodo, but no belief that dodos exist. So might I not be similarly disposed towards the gods? Since I think this argument is at the heart of Velleius’ speech, I will offer a detailed attempt to solve these puzzles. I begin by taking the hint in (iii) and identifying a first premise in (ii). This premise, I think, is that if I am to understand anything about (for example) dogs, I must have a preconception of dogs that I call to mind when I study or talk about them. Now I suppose in (ii) “understood” (intellegi) could mean successful understanding, in the way that Einstein understood General Relativity and I do not. If so, then (ii) already implies that there are gods, and Velleius will indeed repeat himself. But it is better to take “understand” to mean any understanding, in the sense that I must have some understanding of what sort of thing General Relativity is before I can talk about it at all. Thus in (ii) Velleius seems to be saying we need a preconception to think or talk about something at all, not just to think about it correctly. Taking “understand” in this way, let us draw from (ii) this Velleius’ first premise: V. If we understand something about x, we have a preconception of x. Next, (iv)(a) says that, without any cultural influence and stably over time, we share an opinion. This opinion is spelled out in (iv)(b): that there are gods. Now in the underlined part of (iv)(b), “understood” (intellegi) sometimes is taken simply to draw from (iv)(a) a conclusion we understand, successfully, that there are gods. If this were so, then indeed Velleius would repeat his conclusion in (iv) and (v). But it is better to take “understood” in the same way as I took it in (ii): if we all believe that there are gods, then we must understand that there are gods, in the sense that we must have some idea what we are thinking about. If so, then in (iv) (b) Velleius still has not concluded that there are gods. Rather, the purpose of (iv) is to infer from our natural opinion that there are gods, to the conclusion that we have a natural preconception of the gods. Specifically, the next premise conveyed in (iv) relies on the universality and non-cultural origin of the belief. If human beings come to the belief that there are gods, everywhere and without cultural prompting, then we can see that, 

Cf. Striker (b) –.


Velleius the Epicurean V. We naturally understand that there are gods.

But if this is so, we must have had the preconception before the belief, everywhere and without cultural prompting. That is to say, given premises V and V, it follows that, as Velleius says in (iv)(b), V. We naturally have a preconception of the gods. We still have not concluded that there are gods. In (v) Velleius proceeds to his conclusion. Velleius helps himself to a given of Epicurean canonics, that, V. Whatever we all naturally agree about is true. Then he concludes that, “we must acknowledge that there are gods,” i.e., V. It is true that there are gods. Now it is clear that we need to give to Velleius a further unstated premise, since V does not follow from the conjunction of V with any previous premise(s). This further premise must be, as is implicit in (iv), V. Our natural preconception of the gods is such that we all agree that there are gods. There is a parallel for V in DND . (quoted on p. ), where Velleius says that we have a preconception of the gods with the result that (ut) we think the gods are happy and immortal. This seems to me to furnish an interpretation of the implicit premise V: our preconception of the gods, which is a necessary condition for us to be able to think about the gods, and therefore in turn for the belief that there are gods, is of such a kind that it also results in this belief. Thus, if we accept that Velleius’ argument is as I have interpreted it in V–V, he does not repeat himself, but rather proceeds from an initial premise given in (ii), through a series of distinct inferences valid given Epicurean canonics, to a unique conclusion in (v). Further, we do not have to attribute to him a confusion of the preconception of the gods with the belief that they exist. Despite all that I have said for it, this argument for the existence of the gods is hardly satisfactory on its own. For one thing, the premises V and V, that Velleius draws from Epicurean canonics, are controversial, even implausible, for somebody who is not an Epicurean. Velleius does nothing to justify them. Thus you might ask, is it not strange that Velleius would not help his audience, and Cicero would not help his readers, to

. Velleius’ Theology


understand the argument, for example by providing the sort of commentary I have just offered? I answer that Velleius’ behavior fits the drama. He is talking to people who are probably aware of at least the basic information about Epicureanism with which I prefaced my discussion of his argument. So he simply draws on the relevant premises in canonics without explaining them further. He might not convince his friends who are not Epicureans, but they can see where he is coming from. But then, what about Cicero’s readers? This passage will be much more meaningful to philosophically learned readers than to their unlearned counterparts. This is intelligible given my “learned reader” principle (see p. ). But what about the unlearned reader, also on Cicero’s mind, who may want further information? All this reader is given is a reference to where to find help: Epicurus’ theory of the preconception. Is this a weakness in Cicero’s writing of the scene? I think this difficulty is less acute when we see Velleius’ argument in its context in DND. For in the preface to the dialogue, Cicero has already said that nearly all of us come to think that there are gods, “with nature as a guide.” (duce natura, DND .) We might say that the reader has been asked to grant this claim about human psychology as a basis for what follows. Further, Balbus will later agree with Velleius that universal and stable consensus is evidence that this belief is inborn. (DND .–) Even Cotta will say that belief in the gods “cannot be burnt out” of his mind and that everybody else, except the particularly impious, agrees. (ex animo exuri non potest, DND .) Thus Balbus, Cotta, and Cicero concede the plausibility of Velleius’ conclusion, and some of its premises. Thus the unlearned reader, when he sees Velleius’ speech in the context of DND, may at least grant for the sake of argument what Velleius has said. From the point of view of my literary unity thesis (see p. ) it is reasonable that Velleius merely mentions this basis for his position. A more serious problem for the argument lies in its appeal to universal consensus. The problem is not that Velleius draws an unwarranted conclusion from the evidence he adduces: in principle, the use of a carefully examined consensus to establish that a belief is natural does not seem unwarranted. The problem is that he simply asserts as evidence, from his armchair as it were, that there has been such a consensus, everywhere and at all times. This alleged fact could only be determined (if it could now be determined at all) by exploration and very long empirical study. Now, although a Stoic like Posidonius had done some ethnography, Velleius is not unusual among Hellenistic philosophers in asserting merely from his


Velleius the Epicurean

armchair that belief in the gods is found universally. Greek and Roman philosophers, after all, had yet to hear of a people who did not, in the estimation of Greek and Roman philosophers, exhibit belief in some sort of god. If they had, Cotta or Sextus Empiricus would tell us about it precisely to counter the argument from universal consensus. So Velleius could be excused on the grounds that the universality of belief in the gods seemed plausible on all sides. But Velleius is uniquely at fault for his further assertions, about the non-cultural origins of, and persistent consensus about, the belief. Those are subtle and specific assertions about how things were from deep in prehistory. How could Velleius, or Epicurus, possibly know that these assertions are true? This seems to me to be a weakness at the heart of Velleius’ position, both about the existence of the gods and about the further facts of their nature. But it is to these further facts that we now turn. Velleius informs us that our preconception of the gods is such that, in addition to believing that there are gods, we form a view of their nature. This view is the basis for his answer to the Central Question, and for his account of religion: Quod quoniam fere constat inter omnis non philosophos solum sed etiam indoctos, fatemur constare illud etiam, hanc nos habere sive anticipationem, ut ante dixi, sive praenotionem deorum (sunt enim rebus novis nova ponenda nomina, ut Epicurus ipse πρόληψιν appellavit, quam antea nemo eo verbo nominarat) hanc igitur habemus, ut deos beatos et inmortales putemus. quae enim nobis natura informationem ipsorum deorum dedit, eadem insculpsit in mentibus ut eos aeternos et beatos haberemus. Quod si ita est, vere exposita illa sententia est ab Epicuro, quod beatum aeternumque sit id nec habere ipsum negotii quicquam nec exhibere alteri, itaque neque ira neque gratia teneri, quod quae talia essent inbecilla essent omnia. Seeing that almost everybody, not only among philosophers, but also among the unlearned, agrees that there are gods, we confess that the following is established, too: that we have a ‘pre conception,’ as I put it before, or a ‘pre notion’ (for we must give new terms to new material, just as Epicurus himself called it a prolēpsis, though previously nobody had referred to it by that name) anyhow, we have this preconception with the result that we think the gods are happy and immortal. For the same  

Some examples of Posidonius’ ethnography: Edelstein and Kidd (–) T, FC, FA, Fab, F, F–. Velleius moves without comment from the conclusion that the gods are immortal to the thought that they are eternal. If the latter means that they are not only immortal but also ungenerated, this is a substantial step. Even the sort of mechanism given by Lucretius in DRN .- could yield a belief that the divine figures are immortal but that they have not existed from all eternity.

. Velleius’ Theology


nature that gave us an impression of the gods themselves, has carved into our minds that we should hold them eternal and happy. This being so, Epicurus correctly promulgated his view that, “Whatever is happy and eternal neither has any trouble of its own nor gives any trouble to another. And thus it is in the grip neither of anger nor of grace, for everything of that sort is weak.” (DND . )

The quotation from Epicurus is Cicero’s translation of the first of a collection of Epicurus’ sayings we call the Principal doctrines. Epicurus encouraged his followers to memorize such collections. Along with the second saying, that “death is nothing to us,” the first aims to free those who accept it from what Epicurus thought were the fundamental fears of unenlightened humanity: death and the gods. The mechanism by which our natural preconception of the gods gives us the belief that the gods are happy and eternal, Velleius does not specify. We can fill in a mechanism he may have in mind by appeal to Cicero’s contemporary, the Epicurean poet Lucretius. Lucretius tells us that the humans of old used to experience, asleep and awake, images of huge, strong figures in human form. (DRN .–) Velleius would say these images were the basis for these people’s preconception of the gods. Lucretius goes on: aeternamque dabant vitam, quia semper eorum suppeditabatur facies et forma manebat, et tamen omnino quod tantis viribus auctos non temere ulla vi convinci posse putabant. fortunisque ideo longe praestare putabant, quod mortis timor haut quemquam vexaret eorum, et simul in somnis quia multa et mira videbant efficere et nullum capere ipsos inde laborem. They endowed [the gods] with everlasting life, because their appearance was in perpetual supply and the form remained unchanged, and more generally because they supposed that beings with such strength could not be over come by any force. And hence they supposed them to be supremely blessed, because none of them seemed oppressed by fear of death, and also because in their dreams they saw them perform many marvelous acts with no trouble to themselves. (DRN . , translation from LS A()) 

 

Here and below, when I translate gratia as “grace,” I do not mean to impute a Christian view of grace to Velleius or to Cotta. Specifically, they do not use the word to mean a gift given to the undeserving. They seem to mean that attitude whereby one helps others for those others’ own sake, and thus a gift freely given in that sense.  Cf. DND ., On ends ., DL .–. Letter to Herodotus , On ends .. Principal doctrines , Philodemus’ “tetrapharmakos” at LS J, On ends ..


Velleius the Epicurean

The first four lines here show us why the images of the gods led early humans to attribute immortality to the gods. The latter four lines show why the images suggested that the gods were, in Epicurean terms, happy. It is some such mechanism, no doubt, that Velleius thinks naturally led to the belief that the gods are happy and eternal. That belief will form the main premise for Velleius’ view of religion, as we shall see in section .. But Velleius’ opponents could ask: if we naturally have this preconception of the gods, and its attendant beliefs, why do most of us not agree with Epicurus about theology? Velleius explains that, on its own, the opinion that the gods are happy and eternal would be all we need for piety. “But,” he continues, “to make sure of this opinion, the soul looks for a form for god, and life, and action or activity of mind.” (DND .) That Velleius makes the soul the subject of this sentence suggests that, just as he has been speaking of natural processes that sculpt a preconception in the soul, here he gives us another fact of human psychology independent of human agency. It is not as though we could choose not to desire confirmation of the opinion that the gods are happy and immortal. We might conjecture why this is so: once we have decided that there are eternal, happy gods, we are naturally curious about what they are like, and whether they might have anything to do with us. We cannot help but wonder whether, just as our own happiness depends on our form, and way of life, and activities, the gods might not need to be active, too. Indeed, the passage of Lucretius I have just quoted continues seamlessly into some further judgments that humans of old made about their gods. Faced with natural phenomena they could not understand, or feared, these people concluded that the gods were responsible for those phenomena: the heavens, the seasons, weather, lights in the sky. (DRN .–) In the circumstances, this seems a reasonable, albeit false, conclusion: the ancients had the belief (and according to Velleius, the true belief ) that powerful-looking gods existed, so when they could not find another way to explain things that inspired wonder or terror, they put two and two together, and saw not only human form in the gods, but also activity, the production of what impressed and frightened them. But in Epicurus’ eyes, this conclusion was a disaster for humanity. For, it gave the wrong answer to the Central Question, and made us fear the gods. What does a follower of Epicurus, like Velleius, think we should do in this predicament? Luckily for us, we live after Epicurus. Epicurus is the 

sed ad hanc confirmandam opinionem anquirit animus et formam et vitam et actionem mentis atque agitationem in deo.

. Velleius’ Theology


heroic figure whose clarity of mind and dexterous manipulation of his preconceptions allowed him to reach the right conclusions about the gods. This sort of insight, and the happiness it brought, means that Velleius is probably serious in attributing something close to divinity to Epicurus. And luckily for us, Epicurus passed his reasoning to his followers so that it is now available to all. Velleius gives us some of this reasoning in the sections after the main argument. Let us look at an example of this help that Epicurus left us. He thought that the gods have human form: arms, legs, heads, and so on, of the same shape as our own. Velleius says that “in part nature suggests, in part reason teaches” this. (DND .) Nature suggests it in that, according to Velleius, our preconception of the gods has human shape, since that is how we imagine the gods, “for what other form ever comes to anyone awake or asleep?” (DND .) The verb “suggests” (admonet) is appropriate for the way a non-rational preconception will lead us to a belief. Now Velleius’ claim might be true for Greeks and Romans but as Cotta will point out, it would appear to be false for humanity at large: witness the Egyptians, whose god Apis took the form of a cow. (DND .) But reason, Velleius says, whose appropriate verb is “teaches” (docet), supplies arguments that the Greeks and Romans have hewed closer to their natural preconception. One argument is that the gods must be most beautiful, but no shape is more beautiful than the human form – a violent disagreement with the view of thinkers like Plato and the Stoics that the simple sphere is most beautiful. (DND .– cf. DND .–) Another argument Velleius gives will be a useful point of reference in the next section of this chapter. This is that: quoniamque deos beatissimos esse constat, beatus autem esse sine virtute nemo potest nec virtus sine ratione constare nec ratio usquam inesse nisi in hominis figura, hominis esse specie deos confitendum est. Since it is agreed that the gods are most happy, but that nobody can be happy without virtue, and that virtue cannot be consistent without reason, and that reason cannot be present anywhere but in a human figure, we must acknowledge that the gods have human appearance. (DND .)

This argument relies on premises drawn from elsewhere in Epicurean theory: that virtue is necessary for happiness (On ends .–), that it  

See Erler (). ac de forma quidem partim natura nos admonet partim ratio docet . . . quae enim forma alia occurrit umquam aut vigilanti cuiquam aut dormienti?


Velleius the Epicurean

requires reason, and so on. Perhaps the strangest-looking idea (for an ancient philosopher) is that only a human shape can support reason. This follows from Epicurus’ materialism, much as a materialist about the mind today might argue that there can only be reason in a human brain. For Epicurus, the soul and its reasoning part are made of fine atoms, but they need the structure of a body to hold them together (see LS ). We see the reasoning part held together in the right way by the human anatomy, but no reasoning part in any other animal. Thus we cannot expect to find reason in anything that lacks the form of the anatomy of the relevant part of the human body. Note two further implications of this passage that will be of use in my next section. These are, first, that having reason in a body of human form, the gods must have souls. Second, having a soul in human form, the gods must have sensation (sensus). For an Epicurean, this would also follow immediately from the gods’ happiness: since happiness consists in a life of pleasure, the gods must be able to feel pleasure. Let us now leave Velleius’ positive arguments for Epicurean theology, and move on to his treatment of Epicurus’ opponents.


Velleius’ Treatment of his Opponents

Now that we have established the heart of Velleius’ speech, I would like to go back to the earlier part of the speech, in which Velleius attacks his opponents. For I think that the argument we have just explored in section . helps us to understand Velleius’ attack. Before the catalog of opponents itself, Velleius launches a broadside at the theologies of the Stoics and of Plato’s Timaeus (DND .–). This beginning looks puzzling. Instead of explaining a clear structure for what is to come, Velleius bursts into the middle of specific controversy. Further, Plato and several Stoics will receive a second treatment during the catalog to follow, and the Stoics will come under fire yet again at the end of the speech. Thus not only is this opening section poorly introduced, it seems redundant. What is its purpose? Both from the point of view of Velleius’ dramatic situation, and from that of Cicero’s project, we can make some sense of Velleius’ opening. We are told that Velleius begins with a reprise of what he had already begun before Marcus came in. (DND .) Perhaps this explains Velleius’ abrupt start: Balbus and Cotta know what he is up to, and he expects Marcus to pick up the thread. Indeed, Velleius’ own reason for starting with an attack on Plato and the Stoa is obvious enough. As has been drawn to the reader’s

. Velleius’ Treatment of his Opponents


attention (DND .–), his interlocutors represent respectively the Stoa and the Academy. An attack on the Stoics and on Plato, the founder of the Academy, is thus a natural choice: “your Plato” he says to Cotta and Marcus (Plato vester, DND .), “your [Stoic] Providence” to Balbus (Pronoea. . . vestra, DND .). Cotta and Marcus, of course, are New Academics. Thus, while they have some allegiance to Plato, they have no allegiance to Timaeus’ views. The attack on Timaeus is therefore at best an indirect and rhetorical attack on Cotta and Marcus. Velleius may be excused on this point to the partial extent that he takes not Plato’s own views to task, but rather “the god from Plato’s Timaeus” (Platonis de Timaeo deum, DND .). The tenor of his criticism is mostly to ask how Plato could come up with anything so daft, rather than to accuse Plato of believing it. But if Velleius’ own reason for starting his speech as he does is given by his conversational setting, Cicero has other reasons. The speech follows swiftly on the preface we examined in Chapter . In the preface, Cicero presented two opposing views on the Central Question, but he did not identify the parties who hold these views. Some readers might not be sure. So Cicero fixes this quickly. We are told before his speech that Velleius is an earnest Epicurean. (DND .) Immediately, he directs his attack on the providential and creationist aspects of Timaeus’ and the Stoics’ theologies, that is to say, precisely against their positive answer to the Central Question. Velleius’ fusillade of arguments, then, functions not so much as the dialogue’s serious exposition of these arguments, but rather to plunge us into the disagreement among philosophers that Cicero has just advertised in the preface. We are shown, not told, that an Epicurean represents the view that gods did not make the world and do not care for us. We have just read that such a person would like to take away traditional piety and perhaps “the community of the human race” (DND .). But now we are confronted with Velleius, passionate and overflowing with arguments for this radical view. It is suddenly not so easy to see whose side we are on. Velleius’ speech settles down to its systematic structure at DND ., where he moves from his first attack on Timaeus’ and Stoic theology to his catalog of his opponents. He responds to each opponent in turn. He treats a long list of philosophers and then, briefly, the poets and the opinions of the vulgar. As we saw in my introduction (pp. –), it is plausible that Cicero wrote this catalog by reordering the list of 

The only clear exception is the attribution to Plato of the denial that any figure is more beautiful than the sphere, DND . .


Velleius the Epicurean

theological views given in an Epicurean text at least closely related to the Herculaneum On piety. But Cicero appears to supplement this text’s Epicurean replies to each opponent, and his supplements seem to have certain consistent features that call for explanation. What sense can we make of Velleius’ tirade? Velleius does not tell us what approach he means to take to his catalog, or how he grounds any of his criticisms of his opponents. But it seems to me that we can detect a pattern in his criticisms. For many of them draw on premises which an Epicurean would think follow simply from the true and natural preconception uncovered in Velleius’ main argument. That preconception led naturally to the belief: N: There are gods, and gods are happy and eternal. When I say the premises follow simply, I mean first that they follow either from N alone or from N and some other natural preconceptions. Second, they seem to follow by inferences of the sort we can make easily, without philosophical training. From N follow straightforwardly: G: There are gods. H: The gods are happy. E: The gods are are eternal. We have seen that both directly from the preconception and indirectly (DND ., quoted p. ) from H follows: F: The gods have human bodily form. The steps in the argument from H to F also showed us that Velleius must think that: A: The gods have souls. S: The gods have sensation. Let us now see how Velleius puts these premises to use. He has two ways to deal with his opponents. The first way is to call attention to contradictions or other incoherences among their views. The second way, sometimes combined with the first, is to point out that the opponent’s view contradicts one or more of the seven lettered Epicurean claims we have just 

Velleius tends to use the contradiction or incoherence criticism more as he moves later in his broadly chronological list. This tendency is understandable since Velleius attributes more complex positions to more recent and better documented philosophers. Simple views are not so vulnerable to accusations of self-contradiction.

. Velleius’ Treatment of his Opponents


derived, directly or via some other basic Epicurean notions, from Velleius’ preconception of the gods. It is striking that these are all the resources that Velleius needs to refute the twenty-eight opponents in his catalog. In the table in Appendix  I have indicated where Velleius uses each strategy. This suggests that Velleius has a fairly restricted set of theological claims in mind throughout his speech, and that Cicero intends to make him look a coherent and elegant speaker within the limits of his material – as Cotta says. (DND .) Velleius sometimes seems to abuse his opponents immoderately. The views of Timaeus and the Stoics are “worthless and fabricated” (futtilis commenticiasque, DND .). The views of those in the catalog are pretty much “the dreams of the deranged” (delirantium somnia, .). Empedocles “slips most disgracefully” (turpissime labitur, .), Heraclides of Pontus gives us “puerile myths” (puerilibus fabulis, .), Cleanthes writes “as though deranged” (quasi delirans, .), and so on. Cotta will point out that this sort of tone is characteristic of Epicureans (.–). But there is a serious point to the terms Velleius uses. For the belief that there exist eternal and happy gods is supposed to be natural: everybody naturally has it, or at least had it at some point in a natural development. The other lettered premises are supposed to follow simply from that natural belief, requiring at most some other natural preconception and our natural ability to reason well. So to arrive at a view that contradicts one of these premises does not require merely the mistake of a responsible philosopher. It means that the thinker has, at some point, flown in the face of her accurate and natural conceptual endowment. I see the gods in my mind’s eye, happy and eternal, and yet come to a view of them that contradicts either this vision itself, or its conjunction with other, equally natural and accurate preconceptions. This sort of error might rightly be labeled a malfunction of the imagination, like madness or the nonsequitur delusion of a dream. Velleius’ list of opponents in the catalog may well have been determined by Cicero’s source, but the nature of the list fits Velleius’ approach since he enumerates and replies to individual philosophers, not to whole schools. Where schools could not rightly be said to dream or go mad, he takes on the individuals whose minds “slipped,” the 

Despite Cicero’s usual hostility to Epicurus, I do not think he tries to undermine Epicurean theology by making Velleius’ catalog look silly, as e.g.McKirahan (), and Obbink ()  suggest. That said, Cotta’s surprise that Velleius had all the facts for the catalog at his fingertips may well be Cicero’s admission that such knowledge was unlikely in a Roman Epicurean. (DND .)


Velleius the Epicurean

subjects of psychological failure. In sum, just as Velleius’ positive theological arguments are based on human psychology, so his treatment of his opponents is to put his finger on where their psyches went astray into a sort of delusion, beckoned on by the compulsion we saw in DND . (pp. –). The catalog of opponents’ failings prepares us for the contrast with Epicurus. For Velleius he was a unique figure who taught theological views but who was himself “divine” enough to handle his preconceptions successfully. (DND ., .) Now, the heroic status which Velleius gives Epicurus helps us with an uncomfortable feature of his strategy. For we could ask him, if we all have these natural preconceptions, why are Epicurus’ views so controversial? That they are controversial, after all, is the point of the catalog. But that Epicurus is a hero shows that Velleius thinks that, although the cardinal points of Epicurean theology follow simply from our preconceptions, we are compelled to know more and it is hard to avoid psychological failures and bad philosophy of a sort that push us away from the simple and correct chains of inference. Most of us need Epicurus to save us. We can see now the place of his catalog of opponents in the argumentative structure of Velleius’ speech. The premises that, along with accusations of self-contradiction, are used to refute all opponents, follow simply from the preconception uncovered in the main argument, so that by contrast with Epicurus the opponents are failures. Velleius’ coherent strategy throughout is to work from his “facts” of human psychology. Those facts give him, on the one hand, the preconception from which he derives the existence, happiness, and eternity of the gods and, on the other, the tendency of humans to draw further but false, and indeed deranged, theological conclusions in the face of their preconceptions, so long as they lack either Epicurus’ abilities or his “divine” aid. The catalog of opponents is of a piece with this picture of our psyche, and what might seem the immoderate tone of its criticism of the opponents as suffering from madness is exactly motivated by Velleius’ ideas about psychology. Now 


It seems harsh for Velleius to cast this blanket aspersion over the whole list of philosophers, since some of them he accuses only of self-contradiction, not of contradicting their natural preconceptions. Perhaps we are to make exceptions, or perhaps Velleius thinks that espousing contradictory views requires a similar sort of psychological failure. In addition to the problems encountered by early humans we saw in Lucretius (pp. –) Velleius reminds us, in passing, of one other factor since then: people are subject to social influences towards false views, like the blandishments of poetic depictions of the gods or the opinions of the vulgar (DND .).

. Velleius’ Treatment of his Opponents


this coherence would have been clearer if Velleius had not put the cart before the horse when he gives the catalog of his opponents before the main argument that tells us the basis for his rebuttal of those opponents. Why does he do so and why did Cicero? For, as I have argued above (pp. –), we can no longer suppose that Cicero wrote the speech in this order simply because he followed sources like the Herculaneum On piety, since we now know that On piety ended with the catalog. Cicero chose this order. Velleius must assume that his listeners Cotta, Balbus, and Marcus are aware already of at least the basics of Epicurean theology. He is therefore free to put the catalog first for rhetorical purposes. The effect is to put Epicurus in a heroic light, by contrast with the failure of all his rivals. Cicero, meanwhile, has an obvious reason of his own to put the catalog first. He told us in the preface that there was huge diversity among the philosophers in their view of the nature of the gods, but he has not told us all those views. He limited himself to the two sides of the Central Question. Velleius’ catalog, coming soon after the preface, thus fills this gap for readers. But this is hardly sufficient reason for Cicero to put the cart before the horse. The catalog would fill the gap even if it appeared later in the speech. I suspect Cicero had a further motivation, to do with his larger goals for DND. We have just learnt that Velleius earnestly represents a philosophy that Cicero told us in the preface would overthrow traditional piety, and perhaps even justice itself. We know, then, that Velleius is a radical reformer of our ideas. By starting with the initial attack on the Stoics and Plato, and then by having him catalog the failings of all rival philosophers, of the poets, and of the vulgar as instances of delusion, Cicero shows us the thoroughness and supposed rigor of this radical attitude and prepares us for Velleius’ positive portrayal of Epicurus and his revolutionary views. Velleius’ theology for our purposes, then, is this. Human beings naturally form a correct preconception of eternal, happy gods, with bodies of human form. This shows us that those gods exist. But the human psyche does not rest easy with this preconception. Instead, it casts about for further explanations of the gods’ character or way of life. In this subsequent reasoning we are sadly prone to mistakes, especially under cultural 

Obbink puts a similar point: “Given his purpose in writing, it seems understandable that Cicero, who consistently portrays the Epicureans as cultural renegades bent on undermining the whole of traditional learning, should have given pride of place to the Epicureans’ criticism of the philosophical and mythical tradition.” (, p. )


Velleius the Epicurean

influence but also (I have presumed, relying on Lucretius) when we confront features in the natural world we do not understand. We tend to think that the gods are active, and that they show anger or grace towards us. Thus philosophers may end up with theologies that fly in the face of their original preconceptions of the gods and of happiness. These theologies are a kind of madness. Epicurus was able without help to resist these mistakes and to come to the proper conclusion: the eternal and happy gods will not care for us one way or another. We ought to take up his help and reach the same conclusion. Such is Velleius’ answer to the Central Question.

. Religion and Epicureanism We saw that Velleius brought his main argument as far as the first of Epicurus’ Principal sayings, in which the happiness and eternity of the gods was said to show that they have neither anger nor grace (DND ., pp. –). Velleius then concludes his main argument as follows: Si nihil aliud quaereremus nisi ut deos pie coleremus et ut superstitione liberaremur, satis erat dictum; nam et praestans deorum natura hominum pietate coleretur, cum et aeterna esset et beatissima (habet enim venerationem iustam quicquid excellit), et metus omnis a vi atque ira deorum pulsus esset; intellegitur enim a beata inmortalique natura et iram et gratiam segregari; quibus remotis nullos a superis inpendere metus. If we were seeking no more than piously to worship the gods and to be freed from superstition, then what has been said would be enough. For then, on the one hand, we humans would worship with piety the gods’ preeminent nature, since that nature is both eternal and blessed for whatever excels is justly worshipped and, on the other, we would have been purged of any fear of violence or anger from the gods. For it is understood that anger and grace do not mix with a happy and immortal nature. When we have taken away anger and grace, no fear of the heavenly gods hangs over us. (DND .)

Cicero makes Velleius draw this consequence of the main argument and of Epicurus’ Principal doctrines  first because this principle doctrine gives a clear answer to Cicero’s Central Question: no, the gods do not care for us. Second, Velleius shows how this answer to the Central Question moderates religion, one of Cicero’s purposes in DND and Div.. He says that Epicureans will give cult to the gods. In Cicero’s usage in the preface to DND, this seemed likely to refer to the performances required by orthopractic religion. But, adds Velleius, Epicureans shall do so piously

. Religion and Epicureanism


and without superstition. They will be pious because they will believe correctly that the gods are eternal and happy and that such excellence makes the gods worthy of worship. They will be without superstition because they will not fear the gods in the way that believing they might care about us would allow us to fear them. Velleius, then, shows us here that in the preface Cicero was using a traditional notion of piety, but not the only one. The Epicurean version, indeed, is intended as a different way to do what Cicero wants: to impose limits on what one may piously believe about religion. In Cicero’s version in the premise, piety was between two limits: impiety on one hand (believing that the gods care for us less than they do) and superstition on the other (believing that they care more than they do). In Velleius’ scheme, one could not be both pious and superstitious. For Velleius, superstition and impiety are the same thing, namely the belief that the gods care for us. This for him involves both the false belief, which he would call superstition, that we should fear the gods, and the false belief, which he would call impiety, that the gods are not happy in the Epicurean sense of the word. Now Principal doctrines ’s crucial point in relation to religion, that the gods lack anger and grace, is to be inferred in particular from divine happiness. The Stoics, for whom the virtuous are not subject to everyday passions, will agree with the Epicureans that a god’s happiness implies that he is not subject to anger. But they will not agree that it implies that he lacks grace in the Epicurean sense. For Velleius wants grace to imply that a gracious being will want to help others when it does not need to for the sake of its own happiness. But the Stoic god helps human beings when he does not need to for the sake of his own happiness. Here we have a fundamental point of disagreement between Velleius and the Stoic view, and it turns on the ethical question of the nature of happiness. The final section of Velleius’ speech sets out this disagreement. (DND .–) Epicurean happiness is the life of pleasure. Not long before he wrote DND, Cicero wrote in On ends a discussion of this view of happiness for the Epicurean Torquatus. Torquatus says, “there can be no doubt that pleasure is the highest and ultimate of all goods, and that to live happily is nothing other than to live with pleasure.” (On ends .) But the extreme of pleasure is not to add more and more individual and exciting pleasures, like food or sex, but rather to achieve the absence of physical pain and psychic distress, tranquility. (On ends .–, ) Mental pleasure 

non potest esse dubium quin id [i.e. voluptas] sit summum atque extremum bonorum omnium, beateque vivere nihil aliud sit nisi cum voluptate vivere.


Velleius the Epicurean

can overcome physical pain, so that the sage may endure physical illness and injury by recourse to her mental delight. (On ends .) Her happy life of pleasure is thus achieved not by hedonism in our everyday sense, but by a disciplined, modest life, run by rational virtues that allow the virtuous person to feel that her pleasure is secure. (On ends .–) Further, Epicureans thought that the basic ground on which this view of happiness rests – that ultimate value is found in pleasure and pain – should be obvious to all, since it is in pleasure and pain that we directly feel value, good or bad. (On ends .–) This direct sensation of value, and its consequent preconceptions of happiness or the good, plays a role in the view of happiness similar to the preconception of the gods in theology: from it the rest should be inferred. Velleius’ gods must be happy (beati), then, in this Epicurean sense. Since this sense of happiness is naturally available to us just as is the preconception of the gods, we ought all to infer from these two preconceptions that the gods have this kind of happiness. But many of us, for example the Stoics, do not infer this. Velleius says: et quaerere a nobis Balbe soletis quae vita deorum sit quaeque ab is degatur aetas. ea videlicet qua nihil beatius nihil omnibus bonis affluentius cogitari potest. nihil enim agit, nullis occupationibus est implicatus, nulla opera molitur, sua sapientia et virtute gaudet, habet exploratum fore se semper cum in maximis tum in aeternis voluptatibus. hunc deum rite beatum dixerimus, vestrum vero laboriosissimum. You [Stoics], Balbus, are in the habit of asking us what life the gods have, and how they pass their time. The answer is that it is a life happier than which nothing can be imagined, nothing more abundant with every good. For a god does nothing, is entangled in no business, strives at no tasks, rejoices in his own wisdom and virtue, and has it for certain that he will always have pleasures that not only are of the greatest magnitude, but also are eternal. We shall say rightly that this god is happy, but that your god struggles extremely. (DND . )

Velleius gives the gods each of the aspects of happiness Torquatus defines in On ends Book . They are wise and virtuous and take mental joy in this. Their security in their pleasure is eternal and they do not need to undertake even those labors which the Epicurean human sage will undertake out of necessity. There is no possibility of distress, either present or future, to disturb them. Velleius contrasts this god with the Stoic version, who must constantly labor to keep every aspect of the world going. For Velleius the Stoic world has an unhappy, self-torturing god that intrudes itself into our

. Religion and Epicureanism


lives because of its unnecessary concern for us (DND .), fating events and providing us with divinatory information (DND .). From such a nightmarish thought, Velleius finds that Epicurean cosmology, where the cosmos is made by the chance collision of atoms, is a welcome release. (DND .) his terroribus ab Epicuro soluti et in libertatem vindicati nec metuimus eos quos intellegimus nec sibi fingere ullam molestiam nec alteri quaerere, et pie sancteque colimus naturam excellentem atque praestantem. Loosed by Epicurus from such do not fear those whom we themselves and do not seek cult piously and with holiness (DND .)

terrors and emancipated into freedom, we understand never make any trouble for any trouble for another, and we give to that excellent and outstanding nature.

Religious performances, then, are made into pious actions when done in favor of a god possessed of Epicurean happiness, who therefore takes no interest in us and should not scare us. This passage marks the ends of Velleius’ arguments. Cicero has given him a peroration on happiness that establishes an Epicurean answer to the Central Question and points to the upshot of this answer for religion. Velleius, then, makes some illuminating but bare statements of the Epicurean attitude to religion in general. For Cicero’s project, this leaves a crucial question unanswered: how would the Epicurean attitude apply to Roman religion in particular? Velleius’ attitude might suggest that an Epicurean would wish to alter the demands of the Roman orthopraxy. Indeed, it seems likely that if Epicurus had designed a society and religion from scratch, he would not have prescribed all the practices of the Roman state. But in reality Epicureans found themselves living in cities with established orthopraxies. The Herculaneum On piety – whose subject we reconstruct as piety, not theology at large – proposes a litany of evidence both that Epicurus himself made at least all the religious performances legally required where he lived, and that he recommended to other Epicureans that they do the same (lines – in Obbink’s edition). The papyrus sums up the evidence it will present: [ὁ δ’] Ἐπίκουρος φανή[σεται] καὶ τετηρηκὼς [ἅπαν]τα καὶ τοῖς φί[λοις τ]ηρεῖν παρεγ[γυηκ]ώς, οὐ μόνον [διὰ τ]οὺς νόμους ἀλλὰ διὰ φυσικὰς [αἰτιάς·] προσεύχεσθαι γὰρ ἐν τῶι Περὶ [βίων] οἰκεῖον εἶναι [ἡμεῖ]ν ̣ φησιν, οὐχ ὡς [δυσ]μενῶν τῶν [θεῶν] εἰ μὴ ποιή[σομεν,] ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν ἐπίνοιαν τῶν [ὑπερβ]αλλουσῶν [δυνά]μει καὶ σπου[δαιότ]ητι φύσεων [ἵνα τά]ς τε τελ{λ}ε̣[ιότητας] γ̣ιγν ̣ώσκω[μεν καὶ] τοῖς νόμοις [συμπερι]φόρας·. . .


Velleius the Epicurean Furthermore, it will appear that Epicurus loyally observed all the forms of worship and enjoined upon his friends to observe them, not only on account of the laws but for physical reasons as well. For in On lifecourses he says that to pray is natural for us, not because the gods would be hostile if we did not pray, but in order that, according to the understanding of beings surpassing in power and excellence, we may realize our fulfillments and social conformity with the laws. (On piety ll.   Obbink, text and translation from Obbink ())

Epicurus, then, did not wish to alter the performances of traditional religion. Instead, he wanted Epicureans to make their traditional performances into pious actions by believing Epicurus’ answer to the Central Question. In DND Book , it is not Velleius but rather Cotta who tells us about this part of the Epicurean position. In the last ten sections of his speech, Cotta turns from the Epicurean views on the nature of the gods to an attack on the Epicureans’ notion of piety (DND .–). He, too, makes it clear that Epicurus claimed to adhere to the local orthopraxy in Athens where he lived: ”at etiam de sanctitate de pietate adversus deos libros scripsit Epicurus.”at quo modo in his loquitur: ut Coruncanium aut P. Scaevolam pontifices maximos te audire dicas, non eum qui sustulerit omnem funditus religionem nec manibus ut Xerxes sed rationibus deorum immortalium templa et aras everterit. “But[,” say the Epicureans, “] Epicurus wrote books about piety towards the gods.” But how does he talk in these books? So that you would say you were listening to Tiberius Coruncanius or Publius Scaevola, pontifices maximi, not to the man who demolished all religion down to its founda tions, who overturned the temples and the altars, not with his hands like Xerxes, but with arguments. (DND .)

Cotta’s incredulity indicates that Epicurus claimed not to overthrow Athenian religion. Cotta is himself a pontifex. Two of the pontifices whom he says he follows as particular authorities are Tiberius Coruncanius and Publius Scaevola. (DND .) So when he says that Epicurus talks like those two, he means that Epicurus strove to sound like somebody with a legitimate commitment to traditional religion – in Epicurus’ case, to Athenian rather than to Roman religion, of course. That he puts Epicurus’ point in Roman terms shows that Cotta thinks Epicurus’ attitude can be translated from the Athenian context to the Roman one. By way of confirmation, Cotta later says, in response to the Epicurean claim that the gods do not care about us, that if it is so, then

. Religion and Epicureanism


. . . quid veneramur quid precamur deos, cur sacris pontifices cur auspiciis augures praesunt, quid optamus a deis inmortalibus quid vovemus? “At etiam liber est Epicuri de sanctitate.” ludimur ab homine non tam faceto quam ad scribendi licentiam libero. . . . why should we revere the gods, why should we pray to them? Why do the pontifices preside over the rites, why do the augurs preside over the auspices? What do we hope for from the immortal gods? What do we promise to them? “But there’s Epicurus’ book On holiness.” We are made sport of by a man who was not so much witty, as unrestrained in the licence he took when writing. (DND . )

Cotta’s imaginary Epicurean says that Epicurus’ books could underwrite Roman practices like augury or pontifically sanctioned rites. Through Cotta’s incredulous eyes, then, we see how an Epicurean would want to import Epicurus’ piety to Rome: the required performances are to be left intact, but they are to be understood in a new way. Velleius does not demur. Roman religion, like Athenian religion, began to be practiced long before Epicurus. So Velleius, who thinks that Epicurus alone drew the right conclusions about the gods, must conclude that Roman religion was founded by people who had a very distorted view of those gods. No doubt these founders attributed anger and grace to their objects of worship. Therefore, unlike Varro or the Stoics, Velleius cannot hope to recover any forgotten theological insights that lay behind early Roman religion. If he wants to keep it, he has to give the traditional orthopraxy some entirely new meaning. Perhaps Cotta refers to this radical reinterpretation of traditional religion when he compares Epicurus to Xerxes. This comparison may not be wholly pejorative. In Cicero’s Laws, Marcus attributes Xerxes’ destruction of Athens’ temple buildings to his belief that the gods should not be cooped up when the cosmos at large is their temple. (Laws .) In that telling of the story, Xerxes did not take himself to lack piety, or to have destructive intentions, towards the Athenian gods. On the contrary, he was motivated by his own, un-Athenian views about the pious way to treat those same gods. Epicurus, similarly, wants to be rid of traditional beliefs about the gods



Understood this way, Cicero’s picture of Epicurean attitudes to traditional religion accords with the views scholars have attributed to Epicurus himself. See Obbink () –, Algra () –, and Penwill (). A dated but still rich account is Festugière () –. Lucretius is explicit that it was early man’s mistake in attributing control of the cosmos to the gods that led to religious performances, DRN .–.


Velleius the Epicurean

in order to make his own idea of piety, rather than to leave behind no sort of piety at all. There is more to be said about Cotta himself, the pontifex who opposes dogmatic theology. But I leave that to my next chapter because Cotta’s role comes most into its own in his exchange with Balbus. I shall close this chapter with Cotta’s opposition to Velleius’ view of religion in particular. This section is the climax of Cotta’s speech in Book , and in it Cotta levels three criticisms. The first two argue that Velleius has not given us, as he claimed he would, a basis for piety without superstition. The third argues much more forcefully, that Epicurus’ reimagining of religion tears love itself out of human life. Let us take each point in turn. On the count of piety, Cotta says that while Epicurus may have protested that he was pious because he made the right religious performances, there can be no piety towards the Epicurean gods. If we, consistently with the Epicurean view, conceive of pious religion as a demonstration of admiration at the gods’ excellence, then Cotta declines to find the Epicurean gods, who are passive hedonists, excellent. Thus Cotta, in effect, rejects the Epicurean re-interpretation of piety by rejecting Epicurean ethics. For him, Epicurus’ admiration for uncaring hedonists is a vice, not a virtue, and therefore is not piety. But if, Cotta says, we instead conceive piety more traditionally, as the virtue by which we interact well with beings with whom we are bound by duties of justice, then of course Epicurean piety simply is not that. (DND .–) On the count of superstition, Cotta attacks the Epicurean strategy of minimizing entirely the degree to which the gods care for us. (DND .–) Velleius may be able to free us from superstition this way, since we do not end up believing that the gods care about us where they do not. But, as just argued, he does so at the cost of throwing us into impiety. The third count on which Cotta attacks Velleius’ view of religion is more surprising. He takes on Velleius for denying grace to the gods: when 

Cotta will say that Epicurean piety rips religio out of the human soul, so the comparison to Xerxes is at least partly pejorative. Xerxes’ overturning of altars, after all, is less easy to excuse than his demolition of temple walls. Lucretius offers, with approval, a comparable image of a victorious Epicurus trampling religio underfoot. (DRN .–) Perhaps this suggests not radical reconceiving of a religion that was begun from the wrong motives, but rather destruction of that religion, even though Lucretius is not formally opposed to religious gestures undertaken with Epicurean piety. (DRN .–) But Lucretius uses the term religio not, as Cicero does, for the performances of an orthopractic religion or for a pious version of those performances, but rather for a traditional religion of fear and placation of the gods. (DRN .–, ; .; .; .) So he may well mean simply that Epicurus defeated religio in the latter sense. That would be compatible with Cicero’s portrayal of Epicurean attitudes.

. Religion and Epicureanism


Epicurus did so, he “pulled up at the roots religion from the human soul.” (ex animis hominum extraxit radicitus religionem, DND ..) First, Cotta points out that not only will the Epicurean gods not care for us, they will not care for each other, either. Unlike Stoic gods they will not be social beings, concerned for others, at all. Then, he draws a consequence for the Epicurean view of human ethics: ut enim omittam vim et naturam deorum, ne homines quidem censetis, nisi inbecilli essent, futuros beneficos et benignos fuisse? nulla est caritas naturalis inter bonos? carum ipsum verbum est amoris, ex quo amicitiae nomen est ductum; quam si ad fructum nostrum referemus, non ad illius commoda quem diligemus, non erit ista amicitia sed mercatura quaedam utilitatum suarum. prata et arva et pecudum greges diliguntur isto modo, quod fructus ex is capiuntur, hominum caritas et amicitia gratuita est; quanto igitur magis deorum, qui nulla re egentes et inter se diligunt et hominibus consulunt. quod ni ita sit . . . For, to set aside the power and nature of the gods, do you not think that humans, too, would have been beneficent and benevolent, were they not weak? Is there no natural dearness between good people? The very word ‘love’ (amor) is dear, from which ‘friendship’ (amicitia) is derived. If we refer friendship to our own enjoyment, not to what is advantageous for the person we love, that will not be friendship, but rather a transaction in what each needs for his own use. We love pastures and fields and flocks of cattle in the latter way, because we take produce from them, but dearness and friendship between human beings is a matter of grace. Thus how much more gracious is the friendship of the gods, who, although they lack nothing, both love one another, and care for humans. If that is not so, [there follows the quotation on p. ]. (DND .)

Cotta’s criticism assumes that the Epicurean gods are an ideal for human ethics. If the gods are not friends with one another through love of the friend for his own sake, then ideal human beings will not be so either. Thus good human beings will have no “natural dearness.” Instead, because unlike the gods they cannot be secure in their life of pleasure without other people, they will make deals to mutual advantage with other humans. Yet Cotta says this is not how we are naturally. Our intuitions tell us that to love another for her own sake is good. Thus, contrary to Epicurean claims, it is Velleius whose position flies in the face of our natural instincts. One way to put the point is this. Epicurus and his followers liked to protest the immense value they found in friendship, in justice, and in 

This position bears a close resemblance to the one which Laelius takes up in Cicero, On friendship, especially in sections – of that work.


Velleius the Epicurean

social life in general. But for Cotta, the case of the gods reveals the hollowness of those protests. For the gods, having perfect security of pleasure without anybody else’s help or forbearance, do not trouble themselves about anybody else. This shows that a human Epicurean sage will be friendly, just, and social only because he needs to in his human weakness. If only he were as strong as a god, he would not care about others at all. This criticism of the Epicurean religion must be what Cicero had in mind in his preface when he said that the community of the human race would be taken away were Epicurean theology true (see p. ). It seems to me to be a deep criticism. For you might think that a great attraction of Velleius’ Epicurean religion was as follows. When Cotta denies that there can be piety for beings who do not give in return (DND .), this might put us in mind of a stereotype of Roman religion: do ut des, “I give so that you give.” Roman religion often looks like a self-interested business, seeking gain from the gods. A cynic could read Cicero’s own preface in this vein: if the gods do not give anything back, there is no virtue in worshipping them. In fact, Cotta will be frank that the city’s gain is his own reason for maintaining Rome’s cults. (DND .) Of course, Epicurean ethics, too, refers all virtuous actions ultimately to one’s own happiness. But an Epicurean worshipper does not expect any crude, pragmatic returns, like riches or victory in battle. Her attention is directed at admiration of the beautiful and perfectly happy gods. The benefits that will accrue to her from this admiration are, so to speak, spiritual: they improve her state of mind. But Cotta’s criticism takes away this seemingly impressive feature of Epicurean religion. For the picture of piety which Cotta opposes to the Epicurean version is not do ut des, but rather a desire on either side to give simply out of love. On this opposing view, the gods give benefits to humans because they wish to benefit us for our own sake, and if we are virtuous we, similarly, worship them out of a desire to do right by them. It is the same as when good people help one another not out of self-interest, but because they care for one another. Even if the Epicurean gods were not too lazy and selfish to deserve worship, Cotta suggests, Epicurean piety is itself a selfish affair.  

On ends .–; LS . Something like this seems to be the freight of the charge that Cicero likes to lodge against those who make friendship or justice stem from need rather than from nature (presumably the Epicureans): On friendship –, Laws .–.

 

Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

Nature, says Balbus, is not only craftsmanlike, but is actually a craftsman. (natura non artificiosa solum sed plane artifex, DND .–) The world not only has the appearance of rational design, it was indeed designed, and was made, by a rational god. Balbus argues at length that the cosmos is “governed” by the gods (administrari, DND .–) who “care about us” (consulere nobis, DND .–) and even about individual humans (DND .–). It was made for the sake of gods and of humans, who share it as our common home. (DND ., .) Against Velleius, here we have a stout defender of the contrary answer to Cicero’s Central Question (see p. ): the gods do care for us. But Balbus also describes one category of the gods thus: “From . . . physical theory has flowed a great mass of gods, who, dressed in human appearance, have supplied the poets with myths, but have crammed human life with every supersitition.” (DND .) Who are these “confected and fictional gods” (.) who feature in “impious myths” (DND .)? To name a few, they include Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Vesta, and Janus (DND .–) – many of the leading gods at Rome. Stoicism might lend piety to some ideal, rational religion. But will it do for Roman religion? Balbus thinks so. Cotta, both a skeptic and a pontifex, is not convinced. This is the side of the Central Question I examine in this chapter, and the one to which Cicero turns our attention in Books  and  of DND. Balbus defends the Stoic view (Book ), then Cotta delivers a skeptical response (Book ). Thus although the exchange on Stoicism is formally of equal importance in the structure of the DND’s debate, Cicero allows it much greater length than he does to Epicurus. He also gives it a narrative exclamation mark. For the dialogue ends with his contrast of Velleius’ 

ex ratione . . . physica magna fluxit multitudo deorum, qui induti specie humana fabulas poetis suppeditaverunt, hominum autem vitam superstitione omni referserunt.



Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

preference for Cotta’s case with Marcus’ preference for Balbus’. (.) We last see Velleius, so to speak, sitting on the sidelines with Marcus, a spectator at the main event. The reason for this is not far to seek. Cicero is careful to stage a debate where the reader is indeed free to make up his own mind on the Central Question. As we saw in Chapter , the Epicurean view receives fairer treatment in DND  than Cicero’s preface might have led one to expect. In the end, Cicero tells us that Marcus liked Balbus’ speech more than Cotta’s – but not whether Marcus liked Balbus’ speech more than Velleius’. But in my final chapter I shall argue that Marcus in Div. does express a preference for Balbus’ view of religion. Cicero himself also thinks that Stoicism is worth taking more seriously than is Epicureanism. Thus he stages more grandly the debate on the Stoa’s prospects for moderating religion. In this chapter I shall start by examining the dramatic aspects of the exchange between Balbus and Cotta (section .). For the drama around their respective speeches helps us to situate the speeches in Cicero’s project. Then I shall examine Balbus’ speech in section . and Cotta’s in section ..

. Balbus versus Cotta on Religion In Chapter , we saw that the implications of Epicurean theology for religion form the climax to Velleius’ and Cotta’s speeches in DND Book . In Books  and  this connection is not emphasized in the same way. It is, nevertheless, emphasized, and it is my main purpose in this section to point out that emphasis. I shall argue that in this part of the dialogue Cicero keeps his project before the reader’s mind by dramatic means, engineering a personal clash between Balbus and Cotta that puts the spotlight on the adequacy of Stoic theology to moderate Roman religion. Another purpose for this section is that I wish to remove a false assumption that has been common in scholarly interpretations of the latter two books of DND. This is the assumption that Balbus represents theism and support for traditional religion, while Cotta represents opposition to both these causes. On the contrary, both Balbus and Cotta are theists and supporters 

This assumption is visible in, for example, Bringmann () , and Momigliano () . Of course, there are many other interpretations of DND . which do not make the objectionable assumption, though they may be mistaken in other ways. E.g. Levine, who offers the literary analysis that Cicero was afraid of Cotta’s view being misunderstood as negative dogmatism (Levine () –); a biographical explanation by Glucker ()  n. , but cf. successful refutations by Görler (), DeFilippo ()  n. ; Mora () –, who accepts that . is corrupt,

. Balbus versus Cotta on Religion


of the traditional religion, but Cotta is the arch-traditionalist, and Balbus is the would-be reformer of related beliefs. First, recall again that while we readers know of Cicero the author’s project and that we are to consider the Central Question, the characters in DND have taken as their topic simply the nature of the gods. (DND ., ., .) In this way the characters naturally give their answers to the Central Question in the context of their whole theologies, where if only the Question had been put before them, their speeches would have been more circumscribed. But Cicero must therefore write the drama in such a way that the reader keeps the Question in mind and is steered towards the relevant theology. Let us see how this is achieved in Books  and  of DND. Cicero bookends Balbus’ speech with two short conversations in which Balbus and Cotta trade remarks on Cotta’s dual status as a pontifex and an Academic skeptic. (DND .–, .–.) Balbus attacks first, immediately before and after his speech: eundem equidem mallem audire Cottam, dum qua eloquentia falsos deos sustulit eadem veros inducat. est enim et philosophi et pontificis et Cottae de dis inmortalibus habere non errantem et vagam ut Academici sed ut nostri stabilem certamque sententiam. I would prefer to hear this same Cotta introduce true gods with that same eloquence with which he refuted the false [sc. Epicurean] ones. For it belongs to a philosopher and a pontifex and a Cotta to have about the immortal gods not a wandering and roving view like the Academics, but rather a stable and sure one like our [Stoics]. (DND .) haec mihi fere in mentem veniebant quae dicenda putarem de natura deorum. tu autem Cotta si me audias eandem causam agas teque et principem civem et pontificem esse cogites et, quoniam in utramque partem vobis licet disputare, hanc potius sumas . . . potius huc conferas. mala enim et impia consuetudo est contra deos disputandi, sive ex animo id fit sive simulate. These things, more or less, came to mind as what I thought I should say about the nature of the gods. But you, Cotta, if you heed me, would make the same case and consider that you as both a leading citizen and a pontifex should take up this case rather than [the opposing one], since you [Aca demics] are allowed to argue on either side . . . For it is a bad and an impious habit to argue against the gods, whether it comes from the heart or is pretended. (DND .) which seems unlikely in view of the testimony of Augustine City of God .. I give my own interpretation of DND . in Chapter . Pease () and in his commentary (–) surveys some older interpretations.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

Balbus takes full account of the subtleties of Cotta’s roles in these two criticisms, as follows. Balbus’ criticisms are not of Cotta as merely an adherent of the religion the pontifices prescribe. Balbus might think an Academic is capable of making those performances in a religiously correct way, albeit impiously from the point of view of Stoic ethics. The epistemological standard he proposes is for philosophers and for those in charge – leading citizens, aristocrats like men of Cotta’s family, and the pontifices. It is the pontifices, after all, who not only must perform what is prescribed but also must give the prescriptions. In the former passage just quoted (DND .), Balbus poses his epistemological problem: there is an instability in the views of a skeptic. Presumably he means by this that a radical skeptic will hold her views weakly and according to how things seem to her at the time, not with the conviction that she has in hand sufficient reason to take them to be true. Thus she may find it easier to revise her views than does a dogmatist like Balbus. Such potential instability of views about the gods might on its own keep a pontifex from doing a good job. For Cotta might change his mind too often about what is required orthopractically in difficult cases. Worse still, who is to say that his magpie mind will not light on the view that the gods wish him to use his position to overthrow the traditional orthopraxy altogether? Furthermore, even if instability of views does not prevent Cotta from doing his job as required by religious constraints, it might well lead him into episodes of impiety or superstition. For example, he might swing to the view that he is not performing his duties for a god who cares when, in fact, a god cares. That would be impious. In my second passage (DND .), Balbus does accuse Cotta of risking impiety (as opposed to religious incorrectness), but in doing so he still honors the rationale behind Cotta’s skeptical practices. He does not, for example, infer from Cotta’s anticipated arguments against Stoic theism that Cotta himself denies the existence of the gods. Balbus is aware that such arguments might be “pretended” (simulate) only in order to answer his own. Rather, he says that the practice of even pretended arguments against the gods is impious. The thought seems to be that it is impious to devise or to give such arguments even if one does not endorse them. So skeptical practice is impious because it leads one habitually to give such arguments. Balbus implies that that is especially bad for somebody in religious authority. Before we see Cotta’s answers to these two charges, note what they imply for Balbus’ understanding of his own Stoicism and for the structure of his speech. For although Cicero’s characters are not always convinced of

. Balbus versus Cotta on Religion


the arguments they are assigned, we are told that Balbus is an expert Stoic. Thus we may presume the Stoicism he expounds reflects his own opinions. Now Balbus says that as a pontifex Cotta should have stable views and should not have to speak against the gods, not even for the sake of argument. To meet these demands, it seems, Cotta could pick any dogmatic theism he liked. But Balbus wants Cotta to introduce the true gods (as in DND .). For Balbus, the true gods are the Stoic gods. Thus, Balbus must imagine that Stoicism could be a philosophy for a pious pontifex. He must think the apparent tensions between Stoicism and Roman religious orthopraxy to which I pointed at the start of this chapter can and should be resolved. We shall see soon how Balbus hopes to do this (section . of this chapter). Next, see the implication for the makeup of Balbus’ speech. Shortly after DND ., with the superiority of his theology for pontifical purposes fresh in his mind, Balbus proposes the following structure for his speech: omnino dividunt nostri totam istam de dis inmortalibus quaestionem in partis quattor. [] [] [] []

primum docent esse deos, deinde quales sint, tum mundum ab his administrari, postremo consulere eos rebus humanis.

nos autem hoc sermone quae priora duo sunt sumamus; tertium et quartum, quia maiora sunt, puto esse in aliud tempus differenda. Our Stoics divide that whole inquiry about the immortal gods into four parts. [] [] [] []

First, they teach that there are gods; then, what the gods are like; next, that the cosmos is governed by the gods; finally, that the gods care about human affairs.

But in this conversation, let’s take up the first two. The third and fourth, because they are longer, I think should be carried over to another time. (DND .) 

DND .. Quintus Lucilius Balbus was a senator and is probably one of the two Balbi Cicero mentions as Stoics at On the orator .. Otherwise the historical Balbus is obscure to us. No doubt Cicero wanted to choose a Roman, even a relatively obscure one, who could plausibly be assigned an in-depth knowledge of Stoic theology. Perhaps it is playful that this long, minutely argued, but less eloquent speech is delivered by a man called Balbus (meaning “the stutterer”). See also Goulet (–) vol.  number A.. Balbus makes a contrast with the historical Cotta, who was an orator whom Cicero admired (see Malcovati () vol.  –). “Cotta” also narrates On the orator. see also Goulet (–) s.v. “Cotta.”


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

Balbus at first intends his speech to end with the Stoic view of what the gods are like, in part no doubt because that is the question the characters believe is before them. But note that Balbus speaks these words with DND . fresh in his mind. We may conclude that he plans to finish with the climax of section [] as we have it, the declaration that a Stoic theology would help one to right religion and to avoid superstition (DND .–). Just as Velleius’ speech ended with a conclusion from the nature of his gods to the moderation of religion, so would have Balbus’. To Balbus’ intention to omit parts [] and [] of his speech, Cotta replies, “Not at all, for we are at leisure, and our debate is on issues which should come even before business.” (DND .) Thus Balbus gives parts [] and [] of his speech after all. Here Cicero’s hand is clear. For the Stoic-sounding answer to the Central Question in the preface to DND was phrased thus: “that the whole cosmos is governed and ruled by the mind and reason of the gods” and “even that the gods care about human life and are provident.” (DND .) Thus parts [] and [] of Balbus’ speech argue with precision for the result Cicero represented in the preface as one important answer to the Central Question. Thus we see that while Balbus’ initial plan for the speech and Cotta’s reply might seem gratuitous dramatic details, by introducing them Cicero contrives to have his cake and eat it too. For [] and [] must follow [] and [] in the argument, and in any case are the parts of the speech directly relevant to the Central Question, so that Balbus’ reflections on religion in section [] might seem less prominent than did Velleius’ equivalent peroration. Cicero thus has Balbus address the full Stoic answer to the Central Question. But now we also see that Balbus has his own eye on section [], and its reflections on traditional gods, as something of a climax in his message to Cotta. Thus we are told that Balbus attaches importance to his own use of his view of the nature of the gods as a way to moderate religion – which was one of Cicero’s stated purposes in the first sentence of the preface. 

minime vero . . . nam et otiosi sumus et his de rebus agimus, quae sunt etiam negotiis anteponenda. Mayor () ad loc. notes that Cotta’s words allude to Plato, Phaedrus b. This elegant turn suggests that Cicero had some careful purpose in mind for them. Auvray-Assayas () and () shows that a huge transposition of the text as found in the MSS is made in every modern edition of DND Book . She demonstrates that originally the transposition was made on the basis merely of a conjecture due to Politian. She then argues (a) that there is no philological reason to accept this conjecture and (b) that the MSS text makes for interesting philosophical reading. I would resist the argument at (a), since it seems to me that . (qui locus est proximus) answers the structure adumbrated at . (tertius est locus) and must be connected to . as it is in modern editors’ texts. deorum mente atque ratione omnem mundum administrari et regi; etiam ab isdem hominum vitae consuli et provideri.

. Balbus versus Cotta on Religion


Cotta is rankled enough by Balbus’ challenges to answer them. This is not part of his skeptical counter-argument, but a set of personal remarks: “but before the matter at hand, a few things about me.” (sed ante quam de re, pauca de me, .) non enim mediocriter moveor auctoritate tua Balbe orationeque ea quae me in perorando cohortabatur ut meminissem me et Cottam esse et pontificem; quod eo credo valebat, ut opiniones, quas a maioribus accepimus de dis immortalibus, sacra caerimonias religionesque defenderem. ego vero eas defendam semper semperque defendi, nec me ex ea opinione, quam a maioribus accepi de cultu deorum immortalium, ullius umquam oratio aut docti aut indocti movebit. sed cum de religione agitur, Ti. Coruncanium P. Scipionem P. Scaevolam pontifices maximos, non Zenonem aut Cleanthen aut Chrysippum sequor, habeoque C. Laelium augurem eundemque sapientem quem potius audiam dicentem de religione in illa oratione nobili quam quemquam principem Stoicorum. . . . habes Balbe quid Cotta quid pontifex sentiat; fac nunc ego intellegam tu quid sentias; a te enim philosopho rationem accipere debeo religionis, maioribus autem nostris etiam nulla ratione reddita credere. For I am no little moved by your authority, Balbus, and by your speech that, in its conclusion, urged me to recall that I am a Cotta and a pontifex. [Cf. DND ..] I believe that meant that I should defend the rites, the ceremonies, the religious duties (religiones), and the opinions about the immortal gods that we have received from our ancestors. Assuredly I shall always defend them and have defended them always. Nor will the speech of any man, neither a learned man nor unlearned, ever move me from that opinion that I have received from the ancestors about the cult of the gods. But when religion is at issue, I follow Tiberius Coruncanius, Publius Scipio, and Publius Scaevola the pontifices maximi, not Zeno or Cleanthes or Chrysippus, and I have Gaius Laelius, an augur and at the same time a wise man, whom I would rather hear speak about religion in his noble oration than any Stoic chief. [The text quoted on pp.   appears here.] There you have the view of a Cotta and pontifex, Balbus. Now make me understand what your view is: for I must receive a theory of religion from a philosopher like you, but I must trust our ancestors even with no theory given. (DND . )

Cotta’s rhetorical tactic is to shift the burden Balbus has placed on him back onto Balbus. Now he, Cotta, is the unshrinking defender of traditional religion as such. Balbus, with his rationalizing theories, is the threat to tradition. Let us examine briefly how Cotta argues that this is so.

For more detail on Cotta’s skepticism and its relation to his pontifical duties, see Wynne (). For another view, see DeFilippo ().


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

Although in DND .– he refers to . in particular, I think Cotta also answers the instability charge of .. He reports how his own behavior and disposition seem to him: “Assuredly I shall always defend them and have defended them always.” He does not claim to believe the ancestral opinions about the immortal gods in a dogmatic way but rather that he stably makes a defence of them. In this way, lack of theological views or unstable theological views might be no threat to a pontifex’s performance of his duties, provided that the pontifex decided to act on ancestral authority. Meanwhile, against the charge of impiety Balbus brought against even insincere skeptical arguments against the gods (DND .), Cotta turns the tables. As one who trusts the ancestors, Cotta has ample basis to accept what seem to be the traditional views about theology and religion, for example, that there are gods. But Balbus, as a Stoic, makes acting on such a belief dependent on having sufficiently good evidence in hand that one is warranted to assent to it dogmatically. Cotta, of course, will go on to argue that Balbus offers no such evidence. “You bring forward all these proofs as to why there are gods,” Cotta will say later, “and you make doubtful a matter that is, in my view, least doubtful.” (DND .) Thus Cotta, who trusts his ancestors in this matter, feels secure in supporting the religion they have handed down, but fears that Balbus, who demands a “theory of religion,” will be left bereft when Cotta shows that the Stoic theory is ill-founded. Cotta is also a theist, or as much a theist as an Academic skeptic can be. He says so both to Velleius and to Balbus. To Velleius he says: itaque ego ipse pontifex, qui caerimonias religionesque publicas sanctissime tuendas arbitror, is hoc quod primum est, esse deos, persuaderi mihi non opinione solum sed etiam ad veritatem plane velim. multa enim occurrunt quae conturbent, ut interdum nulli esse videantur. Sed vide quam tecum agam liberaliter: quae communia sunt vobis cum ceteris philosophis non attingam, ut hoc ipsum; placet enim omnibus fere mihique ipsi in primis deos esse. So I myself, a pontifex, who think that the rites and public religious duties are to be defended as most sacred, I would want entirely to be convinced about that which is the first issue, that there are gods, not only as a matter of opinion but even as regards truth. For many points rush in to confuse, so that sometimes there seem to be no gods. But see how generously I will deal with you: I won’t touch what is common to you and other philosophers, like this position itself for nearly everybody holds, and I myself am among the first to do so, that there are gods. (DND . ) 

adfers haec omnia argumenta cur dii sint, remque mea sententia minime dubiam argumentando dubiam facis.

. Balbus versus Cotta on Religion


And to Balbus: . . . quod inter omnis nisi admodum impios convenit, mihi quidem ex animo exuri non potest, esse deos, id tamen ipsum, quod mihi persuasum est auctoritate maiorum, cur ita sit nihil tu me doces. . . . what is agreed among all people, except the utterly impious, cannot be burnt out of my mind: that there are gods. But that very point, of which I am persuaded by the authority of our ancestors you teach me nothing of why it is the case. (DND .)

Cotta seems to agree with Cicero’s observation in the preface that almost everyone believes in the gods “with nature as a guide.” (DND .) He does not put the point in the form of a dogmatic-sounding claim about human nature. Rather he concedes how two sorts of data appear to him, psychological and sociological. In his own psychology he can report that the thesis “there are gods” cannot be “burnt out” of his mind. Similarly, in society, he sees that nearly everybody agrees with him. That includes the Roman ancestors, by whom he is further persuaded. Now he does not hold this view as a “matter of truth.” (DND .) For unlike a dogmatist he does not take himself to have discovered the truth of the matter. All a skeptic can do is report how things seem to him, and to Cotta it seems that there are gods. To this he enters one exception. When he encounters arguments for the existence of the gods, his skeptical training calls counter-arguments immediately to mind. In the immediate grip of these (“many points rush in to confuse”) it can seem to Cotta that there are no gods. But this is a phenomenon that arrives in intellectual discussion. In the public assembly, it would be difficult to deny the gods’ existence. (DND .) Cotta is a thorough theist, then, and it is only when dogmatists try to help him out that he calls this view into question. Thus I draw two conclusions about the staging of Books  and . First, we are shown where to look for the material that interests us as readers of Cicero’s project, examining the Central Question. But, second, we have also been shown two interlocutors neither of whom is hostile either to theism or to the traditional religion. Each thinks that his set of views (or suspensions of judgment) keeps orthopraxy pious, and that the other’s 

Cotta says that he would nevertheless like to be convinced as a matter of truth that there are gods. This might sound unskeptical, or at any rate not compatible with the most radical sort of Academic skepticism in which the skeptic does not take his views to be true. Should such a skeptic even wish to discover the truth? But Cicero’s answer to this question is “yes,” as is clear from Academica .. Cotta’s desire here is thus compatible even with the most radical, Clitomachean Academic skepticism.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

dogmatism or skepticism threatens to lead its adherents into impiety or superstition. In sections . and . I shall now devote more space to Balbus’ side of the dispute. That is because his Stoic position, as one of the two answers to the Central Question, is of great importance to my reading of DND. Moreover, it is the view that Marcus will prefer in the end. In section . I shall then turn back to Cotta.

. Balbus and the Central Question Balbus’ speech is very long and detailed. A full exposition of his theology would be beyond the scope of this book. In this section, then, I shall concentrate on two areas that are of direct relevance to my interpretation of Cicero’s project. In section .. I shall first exhibit Balbus’ extremely emphatic answer to the Central Question, that the gods do care for us. Then, in section .., I shall expand on one aspect of this answer, its stress on beauty. I take up this latter point because I think it is the bridge that links the emphasis on beauty in the opening sentence of DND (“most beautiful for the mind to grasp,” see p. ) to its reappearance in the closing sentences of Div. (., “the beauty and the order of the cosmos compel one to admit. . .,” see pp. –). ..

That God Governs the World and Cares about Us

In this section I shall often speak of “Balbus’ god” or “the Stoic god” and by this I mean the cosmic active principle (on which more in a moment). Like many ancient polytheist theologians, Balbus will often use “god” or “gods” interchangeably to mean roughly what we call “god,” or the divine in general. Thus, for example, Balbus’ four theses in his speech are phrased to respond to polytheist questions – “that the gods govern the world” etc. – but often his arguments for these theses focus without embarrassment on the cosmic god. Sometimes, though, when Balbus says “gods” he intends specifically the gods plural, as when he means to include the sun, moon, and stars, or the souls of heroes. I call the Stoic god “god” without the article like “God,” since this usage helps to communicate that the Stoic god is a good and very powerful creator and is in those ways like the God of Abrahamic faiths. But I give him a small g, to remind us that he is not supposed to be that sort of transcendent, omnipotent God. I call him 

For a somewhat different reading of the point of the staging in Books  and , see DeFilippo () –.

. Balbus and the Central Question


“him” because that is his grammatical gender in Greek and Latin when the Stoics refer to him as a “god” (deus, θεός). It reminds us that he is in many ways a person. But it would also be helpful to think of him as an “it,” a sexless and non-human animal. I begin with a summary of some foundations in Stoic thought necessary to follow the rest of the chapter. The Stoics were materialists or, more accurately, corporealists. They held that there are only bodies, which is to say objects in three dimensions that can act, be acted upon, or (as in almost all cases) both. The most basic bodies, two spatially continuous principles, exist eternally, inseparably, and in the same volume. One of the two would lack all qualities if it were not acted upon and is called “matter.” (DL .) The other acts on the matter, giving it qualities and forming from it the elements, their compounds, and bodies of the familiar sort we see around us, to include ourselves. Balbus speaks of the active principle as a kind of heat or fire, moving of its own volition. (DND .) Balbus and other Stoics think that there are many gods. But it is the active principle that is most fundamentally the Stoic god. Not only is it the mover of all nature, Natura itself, it is also rational as we are. Indeed Stoics sometimes call the active principle λόγος, logos, “reason” in Greek (DL .), the word Cicero translates with ratio (DND .). Balbus argues that like us this active principle of nature must have a rational mind, a “leading part” in Stoic terminology, that rules the rest of us lesser natures. (DND .–) It follows, he says, that this Nature must be the best and most worthy of power. Thus not only it is rational like us, but, better than nearly all of us, it has perfect reason and is “wise.” (sapiens, DND ., .–) What does a Stoic like Balbus mean by “wisdom” or “perfect reason”? This is easiest to understand in the human case. A human child is born without reason, a brute. But her senses supply “impressions” to her mind and she remembers these. As she ages her mind sorts her memories and builds concepts. At some point in late childhood or early adolescence she has a sufficient assembly of concepts to become rational. Now when she has a sensory impression, or entertains a thought or utters a sentence, 

 

Of course, speaking of a goddess, with feminine pronouns, would have achieved this goal just as well, but that is not what the ancient Stoics did when they spoke specifically about their deus. They did argue that some other, feminine nouns also referred to god, like natura, “nature” or εἱμαρμενή, “fate.” SVF .–, .–. For the active principle as god, and its role in making everything else besides the material principle, see Sedley (). Cf. Cooper () and his references, Lapidge ().


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

she does so in light of her relevant concepts and thus she sees or thinks or speaks something meaningful. In Stoic terms she says something, a “sayable” (λεκτόν), and only the rational can say anything. Now one sort of thing we might say, an “assertible,” might be true or false. Another consequence of her acquisition of reason is that our growing child becomes interested in truth. She can assent to a thought or a sensory impression if she thinks that what it says is true. But for the moment she can get this wrong: her stock of concepts is imperfect enough that she may mistake a true impression for a false one. This is where doing philosophy comes in. The Stoics propose that we should sort through our concepts, our beliefs, and the further evidence and arguments they supply, to acquire ever more accurate concepts and well-founded true beliefs. Eventually, in the ideal case, this assembly would become knowledge and we would thus have become wise. Our true, harmonious, self-consistent knowledge would be such that we would never again be fooled by a false impression. From then on we would form only true beliefs. The full importance to the Stoics of becoming wise emerges when we see how they think we act responsibly and what things they think are valuable. For the Stoics, to act is to form a certain sort of belief, of a form something like, “it is appropriate now for me to do x.” They think that when a person assents to belief of this sort, his mind releases an “impulse” that makes his body move so that he does x. But recall that to form a belief was to take one’s impression to say something true. If I make a mistake about this then I might take to be true an impression that is false. I might think, “although I am not hungry and it will damage my health, it is appropriate for me now to take one more slice of this delicious cake, even though Thomas has not yet had a slice.” By assenting to this false belief, I have done something bad. It is intemperate (I damage myself for superfluous pleasure) and unjust (I rob Thomas of his desert). But now recall that the wise person, the “sage,” never assents to a false belief. Thus she never does anything bad, but only what is in truth appropriate for her to do. She would never be fooled by the cake. Therfore to be wise is also to be virtuous: one will move through life never doing anything bad. But what about those of us who are not yet wise? We are vulnerable to forming false beliefs because there are inconsistencies and falsehoods among our existing  

For the Stoics on reason and sayables, see LS –, , with Frede (), on wisdom, LS , , , . For the Stoic theory of action see LS – with Inwood () –, Brennan () –, Brennan () Chapters  and . Cicero’s familiarity with this theory is apparent in On fate, especially sections –, and Academica, especially .–, .–.

. Balbus and the Central Question


concepts and beliefs. Thus we might do things that are not appropriate. The Stoics are hard on this failing. There is no middle ground: they call all of us who are not virtuous vicious. It is a moot point whether they thought any human had ever perfected his reason so as to become virtuous. Either all or almost all of us are vicious. But god is wise. What, then, is divine wisdom like? For you might guess that it is quite different from the human variety. But Balbus attributes wise psychology to his god most explicitly in the following passage: ipsius vero mundi, qui omnia conplexu suo coercet et continet, natura non artificiosa solum sed plane artifex ab eodem Zenone dicitur, consultrix et provida utilitatum oportunitatumque omnium. atque ut ceterae naturae suis seminibus quaeque gignuntur augescunt continentur, sic natura mundi omnis motus habet voluntarios, conatusque et adpetitiones, quas ὁρμὰς Graeci vocant, et is consentaneas actiones sic adhibet ut nosmet ipsi qui animis movemur et sensibus. Talis igitur mens mundi cum sit ob eamque causam vel prudentia vel providentia appellari recte possit (Graece enim πρόνοια dicitur). . . The nature of the cosmos itself, which both contains and holds together everything in its embrace, is called by the same Zeno [the founder of Stoicism] not only craftsmanlike, but actually a craftsman, caring and provident for all that is useful and advantageous. And as other natures are severally engendered, and grow, and are held together by their own seeds, thus the nature of all the cosmos has voluntary motions, efforts, and impulses, which the Greeks call hormai [impulses], and it directs consistent actions at these in the way that we do who are moved by senses and by souls. Therefore, since the mind of the cosmos is such [i.e. rational and impulsive], for that reason it can rightly be called either ‘practical wisdom’ or ‘providence’, which is said pronoia [= providence] in Greek;. . . (DND . )

God, then, acts like an animal with a soul and sensation. Its body (that is to say, the cosmos) moves as a result of impulses that it controls by “consistent actions”, that is to say, by assents to impressions consistent with its other rational endowment, its beliefs and actions. That it is wise then allows Balbus to call it “practical wisdom” and “providence.” These are terms for virtues the human sage might have. Thus the Stoic god has the same sort of reason, action, and virtue as does the human sage. 


Each of consentaneus and actio might have several meanings. But I take consentaneus in the sense of “rationally consistent” (see On ends ., On duties .) and actio in the philosophical sense of a Stoic “action,” see On fate  where Stoic actiones are distinguished from impulses and are grouped with assents. For prudentia as a rendering of φρόνησις see On duties .. For πρόνοια the Stoic virtue see SVF ..


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

As the final piece of the background, let us survey what things the Stoics think are valuable. They maintain that only one thing is choiceworthy: virtue. For it is this perfection of our reason that always leads us to do the good thing, to be good ourselves, and to be happy. Conversely, it is vice, the lack of virtue, that leads us to be bad and unhappy. Thus the Stoics limit their list of good things to “virtue and what shares in virtue.” The sage’s virtue is good, by having virtue the sage is good, by resulting from her virtue her actions and feelings are good, and so on. Equivalently, fools like ourselves are bad because our vice is bad, our actions are bad, our feelings are bad, and so on. Thus the list of evils is “vice and what participates in vice.” Everything else is neither good nor bad but rather “indifferent.” This includes things that most people find to be of far from indifferent value: life, death, family, social honor, health, wealth, and so on. But when the sage acts she pursues or avoids such things, preferring one to another. So the virtuous person chooses well among indifferents. The criterion for this choice is what is natural, since the Stoics define the happy life as “life in agreement with nature.” In most circumstances, obviously, it will be most natural to pursue life over death. But sometimes, in exceptional circumstances, we should pursue death over life, for example if called on to sacrifice ourselves in just defence of others. For we are social animals, say the Stoics, so it is natural for us to take other humans’ needs into account. There is one further outwork of this view of value to consider. The Stoics are most famous for their view that ordinary human emotions, like fear, anger, or grief, are the result of vice and are to be extirpated. For to be vulnerable to these emotions involves beliefs about value that only a vicious person could have. If I fear loss, pain, or death then I must believe that those things are bad, when they are not. They are indifferent. A virtuous person could deal with them as such, secure in her own goodness. The sage will not suffer anger, fear, grief and the rest, but rather will feel untroubling feelings of her own, like joy. With all this background in hand, let us turn to Balbus on the Central Question. The Stoics’ cosmic god is not an omnipotent Creator in the manner of the Abrahamic God. He does not make the physical world from nothing. Rather, he finds himself joined to a material principle that is eternal, just as he is. He gives all this matter all of its properties. It is in this large but finite and inescapable physical realm that he can do what he likes.  

Key texts for Stoic value theory are conveniently collected in LS Chapters  and . For the Stoics on the emotions, see Cicero Tusculans  and , Frede (), Brennan () and (), Graver ().

. Balbus and the Central Question


We know one thing he has chosen to do in this circumstance: he made the cosmos as we know it. Now the Stoics, notoriously, do not think that this state of affairs is permanent. They think that the processes of circulation and combustion by which our world and its stars are kept running lead the universe, periodically, to burn up entirely. We call this the “conflagration.” Once the world has become a pure, undifferentiated “flash” in this way, god is left alone with matter. He begins, again, the process of making elements, compounds and bodies so as to produce a world like ours afresh. Since god always makes the best choices at the first go, he never experiments with this process. He makes the world, from scratch, the same way each time, so that it is like the one we know. But why? Since we share her human nature, when we assess actions of the Stoic sage we can see what things might suggest themselves to her as natural to pursue in a given set of cirumstances. But god’s nature and circumstances are quite different, most of all during the conflagration when he must decide whether and how to organize the cosmos anew. Why did he do as he did this time, and as he always does? Balbus answers this question, in terms so straightforward that it is easy to miss their significance. The answer comes in section [] of his speech, “that the gods care about us,” where Balbus argues that the natural items we use were in fact made for our use. Now in what follows it is important that the Stoics used the word “cosmos” (κόσμος, mundus) with three distinct meanings. One of these meanings is god the rational animal, the eternal creator. A second meaning is the order of things the creator brings about between conflagrations, the “cosmos” as the familiar structure of the world today. “Cosmos” with the first of these meanings refers to the maker of what it refers to with the second. A third meaning is as the “world” in the sense of the community of all people, humans and gods. Now let us turn to Balbus’ answer to why god made the world: principio ipse mundus deorum hominumque causa factus est, quaeque in eo sunt ea parata ad fructum hominum et inventa sunt. est enim mundus quasi communis deorum atque hominum domus aut urbs utrorumque; soli enim ratione utentes iure ac lege vivunt. ut igitur Athenas et Lacedaemonem Atheniensium Lacedaemoniorumque causa putandum est conditas esse, omniaque quae sint in his urbibus eorum populorum recte esse dicuntur, sic quaecumque sunt in omni mundo deorum atque hominum putanda sunt. 


Balbus’ description of the conflagration is at DND .. My account of the physical process of the conflagration here draws on Cooper (). For different Stoic views of the conflagration and its place in god’s providential plan, see Mansfeld (), Salles () and (b). For the various meanings of cosmos, see SVF .–.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic In the first place, the cosmos itself was made for the sake of gods and humans, and everything that is in it was prepared and devised for the enjoyment of humans. For the cosmos is as it were a common home or settlement of both gods and humans, for only they live by law and statute using reason. Therefore just as one must think Athens or Sparta was founded for the sake of the Athenians or the Spartans, and that everything that is in these settlements rightly belongs to their peoples, so one must think that whatever things are in all the cosmos belong to gods and to humans. (DND .)

The “cosmos” here is made. It is distinguished from the cosmic community of gods and humans who inhabit it. So it must be the cosmos in the sense of the current order of things. God made and ordered these things, quite simply, for our sake. By “us” here I mean rational beings, including god himself, the other gods, and humanity. Furthermore, everything in it was made for human use (as well as for the gods). Now I think that Balbus means this assertion quite literally. For he immediately launches into a list of things made for our use, which proceeds methodically from the heavens inwards through air, sea, and land to the benefits stored up for us under the ground. (DND .–). The heavens, for example, are a spectacle and give us timekeeping and the seasons (DND .); the soul of the pig has the same function in the cosmic order as salt can have, to keep pork fresh until we want to eat it (DND .); only humans mine the commodities under the ground (DND .). Just as musical instruments must be made for those who can play them, all the bounty of agriculture is made for those who can use it. (DND .–) What does Balbus mean when he says that the cosmos is “as it were a common home or settlement”? Applying my learned reader principle (see p. ), that Balbus is talking to people who already know about Stoic philosophy, and that Cicero wrote with some such readers in mind, it helps to simulate that knowledge by looking at a parallel from a passage of Stoic doctrines attributed by Eusebius to an Epitome of philosophical views prepared by the first century BC philosopher Arius Didymus:


We might wonder whether bed-bugs, scorpions, and other natural irritants or threats were made for our use. But Chrysippus said that lice are useful for waking us up and mice for making us tidy. (Plutarch, Stoic Self-contradictions d SVF .) We learn from Lactantius that “the Stoics . . . say . . . that there are many plants and animals whose utility is so far hidden; but that they will be discovered with the passing of time, just as today need and use have discovered many things unknown in earlier ages.” (On the anger of God  SVF .) So Balbus, too, would probably say that if we think something is not useful, that is because we have not yet discovered its use.

. Balbus and the Central Question


ὃν γὰρ τρόπον πόλις λέγεται διχῶς τό τε οἰκητήριον καὶ τὸ ἐκ τῶν ἐνοικούντων σὺν τοῖς πολίταις σύστημα, οὕτω καὶ ὁ κόσμος οἱονεὶ πόλις ἐστὶν ἐκ θεῶν καὶ ἀνθρώπων συνεστῶσα, τῶν μὲν θεῶν τὴν ἡγεμονίαν ἐχόντων, τῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ὑποτεταγμένων. κοινωνίαν δ’ ὑπάρχειν πρὸς ἀλλήλους διὰ τὸ λόγου μετέχειν, ὅς ἐστι φύσει νόμος· τὰ δ’ ἄλλα πάντα γεγονέναι τούτων ἕνεκα. οἷς ἀκολούθως νομιστέον προνοεῖν τῶν ἀνθρώ πων τὸν τὰ ὅλα διοικοῦντα θεόν, εὐεργετικὸν ὄντα καὶ χρηστὸν καὶ φιλάνθρωπον δίκαιόν τε καὶ πάσας ἔχοντα τὰς ἀρετάς. διὸ δὴ καὶ Ζεὺς λέγεται ὁ κόσμος, ἐπειδὴ τοῦ ζῆν αἴτιος ἡμῖν ἐστι. For in the same way as ‘city’ has two meanings, the dwelling place, and the system resulting from the combination of residents and citizens, so also the cosmos is, as it were, a city composed of gods and men, in which the gods have the rule, and the men are subject. There is, however, a community between them, because they partake of reason, which is nature’s law: and for their sakes all other things have been made. From which things it follows that we must believe that the god who administers the whole is provident, being beneficent, and helpful, and friendly to man, and just, and possessed of all virtues. For that reason, the cosmos is also called ‘Zeus’, since it is the cause of our life (zēn). (Eusebius Preparation for the Gospel .. = SVF ., translation from Gifford (), adapted)

Our author here argues that the “cosmos” which is the cause of our life can be seen to be as a god that administers an appropriate habitation for the “cosmos” in the sense of the “city” of gods and humans. Now in Stoic political theory, all and only the wise are citizens of the cosmic city-state. For only they understand and obey the laws, that is to say the demands of reason, well enough to be fully “naturalized” members of the state. So only the gods and the few, if any, wise human souls are in fact citizens. But all of the rest of us who live under the demands of the reason, that is to say under the same law, form a “community” along with the wise. Thus the world as a whole contains a society like the United States, a community of both citizens (the wise) and of resident and socially integrated aliens (the rest of us). In this sense the cosmic community of all gods and humans is as it were (οἱονεί, quasi) a city-state but is not strictly a city-state. It fails to be a city-state not because it is not literally a community of inhabitants living in the same place and under the same law – it is literally such a community – but because many of the inhabitants are not citizens. This is why Balbus, too, says that the cosmos is “as it were a common home or  

DL . SVF ., Stobaeus ..i SVF .. There is also a city-state in the strict sense, the city of the gods and any wise humans. See my ‘God’s Indifferents’ (). For other views, see Schofield (), Obbink (), Vogt () Chapter .


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

settlement of both gods and humans, for only they live by law and statute using reason.” (DND ., quoted pp. – above.) On this basis he argues by analogy that the other bits of the cosmos must have been made for us, just as we would say that the architecture and infrastructure of Chicago was made for its people and not vice-versa. Thus: everything else was made for us, the rational. Now we might still wonder: why did god make the world? We have seen his purpose in making the cosmos as he made it. It was for us. But now we recall that as part of this same process of creation he made us, too, and all the other gods. What is the point of us? Balbus has already told us this. It comes in the course of an argument that the cosmos is perfect in that it lacks nothing. Scite enim Chrysippus, ut clipei causa involucrum vaginam autem gladii, sic praeter mundum cetera omnia aliorum causa esse generata, ut eas fruges atque fructus quos terra gignit animantium causa, animantes autem hominum, ut ecum vehendi causa arandi bovem venandi et custodiendi canem; ipse autem homo ortus est ad mundum contemplandum et imitandum nullo modo perfectus sed est quaedam particula perfecti. For Chrysippus said shrewdly that, just as the cover is made for the sake of the shield, but the sheath for the sake of the sword, in the same way everything else (other than the cosmos) was generated for the sake of some further thing, like the crops and the fruit that the earth produces for the sake of animals, while animals are generated for the sake of humans, like the horse for transport, the ox for ploughing, and the dog for guarding and for hunting. But the human being himself arose to contemplate and to imitate the cosmos. He is not at all complete, but he is a tiny part of the complete cosmos. (DND .)

The important principle here is that “everything else besides the cosmos was generated for the sake of some further thing.” It is clear that “cosmos” in this sense is god himself, the creator, because we have seen in DND . (pp. – above) that the cosmos in the sense of the created order was made for the sake of other things, for gods and humans. Thus now we learn that the creator did not come into being for the sake of something else, but everything else did. This implies that humans were created for the sake of some further thing. For the sake of what? “To contemplate and to imitate the cosmos.” But “the cosmos” in this passage has meant god himself, the creator. So god made us for his own sake, to contemplate and to imitate him. It is helpful to compare another statement from Chrysippus on the same matter, this one transmitted by Cato the Stoic in Cicero’s On ends:

. Balbus and the Central Question


praeclare enim Chrysippus, cetera nata esse hominum causa et deorum, eos autem communitatis et societatis suae, ut bestiis homines uti ad utilitatem suam possint sine iniuria. Chrysippus made the famous remark that all other things were created for the sake of humans and gods, but that humans and gods were created for the sake of their own community and society; and so humans can use animals for their own benefit with impunity. (On ends ., translation from Annas and Wolfe ())

At first sight this looks like a different answer to the question of our purpose: we were made for the sake of our community and society, not for god’s own sake. But I think it is a different way of putting the same point. For god is a member of our community and society, the society of the rational. A way to play our part into this society is to use our reason, or to try to use our reason, to imitate god. Many people, of course, succeed in this project only marginally, or misconceive it in (for example) the manner of the Epicureans. But by using reason they are, in fact, trying to get things rationally correct and so, even if they do not know it, in the Stoics’ eyes they strive to imitate god. Thus when Balbus says that our purpose is to contemplate the cosmos, he refers to a part we have to play in the cosmic society. For if we contemplate it successfully then we shall realize that the cosmos was ordered by its own rational mind, and we shall realize that we have social ties to this mind and to our fellow rational creatures in general. I think that Cato has the same social role in mind for us when he says that we were made for the society we share with the gods. The Stoic god knew what he was getting into when he planned to make us. Very, very few, if any, humans become wise. Thus very few of us succeed fully at the task of contemplating and imitating god. Thus very few of us become citizens of the city of the wise. So god must be not only a political animal, who values his citizenship in the city of the wise. He must also be a social animal, in that he must value the mere society he shares with us rational but vicious beings who have not achieved citizenship in the cosmic city. In this sense, god cares about us. In the sense that he has provided a world for us, he cares for us. This is Balbus’ general answer to the Central Question. Very well, god aims to shape the cosmos as our common home. But what steps has he taken to this end? Balbus tells us in a passage immediately following his characterization of Zeno’s view of Nature as a craftsman (DND .–, quoted on p.  above). In acting as a virtuous craftsman,


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic haec potissimum providet et in is maxime est occupata, (a) primum ut mundus quam aptissimus sit ad permanendum, (b) deinde ut nulla re egeat, (c) maxume autem ut in eo eximia pulchritudo sit atque omnis ornatus. [Nature] above all provides for the following things and is most taken up with them (a) first, that the cosmos should be as fit as possible to endure, (b) then, that it should lack nothing, (c) but most of all, that there should be in it exceeding beauty and every adornment. (DND .)

Here we have an insight into god’s virtuous purposes in running the world as it is: (a)–(c). But we have seen Balbus say also that the cosmos and everything in it is made for the sake of gods and humans. Are these statements in conflict? Not necessarily, and one way they might go together is that god might have some particular set of amenities he wants to make for our sake. In fact (a)–(c) are, I suggest, a list of the features god is occupied with in providing the fabric he has built for his cosmic society to live in. In (a), the cosmos that god tries to make stable cannot be the cosmos in the sense of the two principles that survive eternally. God, the active principle, can change neither his own eternity, nor that of the passive principle. (a) must refer to the cosmos in the sense of the current system of the world which god has designed. God can only make it as fit as possible to endure because eventually the conflagration will overtake it. (b) might sound like a sort of metaphysical principle of plenitude: god sees to it that everything which could come into being does so. But this does not seem to be what god does. We could imagine many things that god could have made, even with the limited resources available to the Stoic god, but which he has not. So I think (b) is to be read in light of DND . (quoted above, p. ). There we saw the web of purposes and dependences that god has organized. God sees to it that every niche in this cosmic economy is filled so that no other part of it suffers a lack. Herbivores have plants, god has 

If god cares so much about the cosmos’ survival, why build in the conflagration? This is a vexed question. Mansfeld () argues that Chrysippus thought the conflagration preferable to the cosmic order between conflagrations. Far from the conflagration being a regrettable interruption of our world order, our world order would thus be an instrument to bring about the conflagration. But even if Mansfeld were right about Chrysippus, it is clear that Balbus, perhaps following Cleanthes, thinks that our current world order is preferable to the conflagration (DND ., cf. Salles , b).

. Balbus and the Central Question


contemplators, and so on. Consideration of god’s purpose in (c) I leave to sub-section .. below. Why does god want to give us exactly these three advantages in our cosmic home? Balbus does not go on to elaborate the point. But if we put ourselves in the position of god the architectus of the cosmos as Balbus calls him (DND .), god the architect or city planner, we can get some idea. Suppose you were given fairly plentiful resources to design and to build a house. What would you aim at in your design? You would want it not to fall down, which equates to Balbus’ point (a). You would want it to have all the rooms and amenities that its likely inhabitants would require, together with the physical plant to sustain these – point (b). You would want it to be attractive and meaningful, as in purpose (c). If those aims seem important but arbitrarily chosen, it is instructive to turn to Cicero’s younger contemporary, the architect Vitruvius. Vitruvius lists exactly three chief concerns of an architect in building: haec autem ita fieri debent, ut habeatur ratio firmitatis, utilitatis, venustatis. (i) (ii) (iii)

firmitatis erit habita ratio, cum fuerit fundamentorum ad solidum depressio, quaque e materia, copiarum sine avaritia diligens electio; utilitatis autem, emendata et sine inpeditione usus locorum dispositio et ad regiones sui cuiusque generis apta et commoda distributio; venustatis vero, cum fuerit operis species grata et elegans membrorumque commensus iustas habeat symmetriarum ratiocinationes.

And all these buildings must be executed in such a way as to take account of durability (firmitas), utility (utilitas), and loveliness (venustas): (i) (ii) (iii)

Durability will be catered for when the foundations have been sunk down to solid ground and the building materials carefully selected from the available resources without cutting corners; the requirements of utility will be satisfied when the organization of the spaces is correct, with no obstacles to their use, and they are suitably and conveniently orientated as each type requires. Loveliness will be achieved when the appearance of a building is pleasing and elegant and the commensurability (symmetriarum) of its components is correctly related to the system of modules. (Vitru vius, On architecture .., translation from Schofield ())

Vitruvius’ three concerns of the human architect correspond to Balbus’ three divine purposes, and in the same order. As to (a) and (i), Balbus’ god makes the cosmos as fit as possible to survive, Vitruvius gives his building the foundation and materials it needs to stand firm. As to (b) and (ii),


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

Balbus’ god ensures the world lacks nothing it needs, Vitruvius arranges and divides the space available on the site of the building for its use. As to (c) and (iii), Balbus’ god aims at beauty, Vitruvius aims at loveliness. Indeed Vitruvius’ theory of proportions (symmetriai, ..) is very close to the Stoic definition of beauty, “the proportion of the parts to one another and to the whole.” The coincidence between Vitruvius’ principles of building and the goals of Balbus’ god is very suggestive. It does not have to mean that there was any direct influence from Hellenistic architectural theory into this aspect of Stoic theology or vice-versa, although perhaps there was. But it shows that when Balbus gives priorities to his creator for the housing of the cosmic community, he is thinking in the way that an architect of his day might have thought about how to accommodate his clients. To conclude this sub-section, notice that Balbus’ answer to the Central Question is starkly opposed to Velleius’ in the sentiments it implies are pious for the worshipper. For Velleius, it was a consequence of the gods’ invulnerability and Epicurean virtue that they are passive and in no way social. So of course they did not make, neither do they act in, our world. That they would never wish to intervene in our lives is part of what makes Velleius admire and want to worship them. But for Balbus, the virtuous creator and his divine helpers have in mind first of all to make and to join a society of the rational, and then to form everything else in the world for the sake of those rational creatures. This virtuous creation and help is part of what makes Balbus want to worship it and them. Velleius admires the gods in part because they do not care for us, Balbus admires the gods in part because they do. .. Beauty and the Central Question We saw in DND . (p.  above) that in his capacity as cosmic architect god most of all pursues “beauty and every adornment.” In Vitruvius’   

Cicero, Tusculans .; Galen, On the doctrines of Plato and Hippocrates, ..; Stobaeus ... Some further perspectives on Stoic creationism and providence are the essays collected in Salles (a), and Dragona-Monachou (), Frede (), and Sedley () –. Another interpretation of this word, pulchritudo, would be that it is equivalent to the Greek Stoic term τὸ καλόν, “the fine.” Τὸ καλόν is formed from the Greek adjective καλός which can mean “beautiful” as well as “fine.” For the Stoics, “the fine” is another way to describe virtue or the good. Thus you might think that what Balbus means in DND . is that god aims most of all to bring about virtue and goodness. But I have argued elsewhere that this cannot be right (Wynne () –). In Stoic contexts Cicero translates τὸ καλόν as honestum (e.g. On ends . cf. Plutarch On Stoic self-contradictions c; On ends .). It is in Stoic contexts where he renders the related

. Balbus and the Central Question


terms, what god wants to provide for our home is “loveliness” above all else. At first sight this is puzzling. The Stoics can seem dour – why would their god put beauty before usefulness? Yet once your eye is open to it, you see “beauty” (pulchritudo) everywhere in Balbus’ speech. It is one of the signatures his creator gives to the world. To help us to understand why, I shall look at two stages where beauty is key to Balbus’ arguments. The first stage is early on in section [], “that there are gods.” Balbus has argued that there is a universal consensus that there are gods (DND .–) and proposes to conclude that we have a natural preconception that this is so: “it is born into all people, and as it were carved into their souls, that there are gods.” (omnibus. . . innatum est et in animo quasi insculptum esse deos, DND .) For the Stoics, as for the Epicureans, a natural preconception must be an accurate preconception, so if Balbus is right then he would have proved to his own satisfaction there are gods. But this poses a question: how do we naturally acquire this preconception? We do not, of course, see gods around in the way we see dogs. We might reply that, according to Balbus, we see nothing but the cosmos or its parts, and it is a god. But we can imagine that Stoics would not wish to rest on this point, for the divinity of the world around us is not obvious to every casual observer, so that it would be implausible that simply from seeing the world around us we get our concept of the divine. Further, unlike Velleius, Balbus cannot appeal to an influx to the mind of true images of the gods (cf. p.  above). Rather, he gives four causes of our preconception owed to the Stoic Cleanthes. The last runs: quartam causam esse eamque vel maximam aequabilitatem motus conversionem caeli, solis lunae siderumque omnium distinctionem utilitatem pulchritudinem ordinem, quarum rerum aspectus ipse satis indicaret non esse ea fortuita. [Cleanthes says that] the fourth cause [of our concept of god], and that perhaps the greatest, is the evenness, the motions and the rotation of the heaven, the contrast of the sun and moon and all the stars, the utility, beauty, order, the very sight of which (he said) shows sufficiently that these things are not by chance. (DND .)


Greek noun τὸ κάλλος that he uses pulchritudo (Tusculans . cf. Stobaeus .. SVF .; DND . cf. Aëtius . SVF .). Τὸ κάλλος is a Stoic indifferent, most obviously beauty as we find it in the body (DL ., Plutarch, On common conceptions c, Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos .). This latter is the sort of beauty, then, that Balbus’ god aims to provide. For Stoic beauty and its relation with the fine, see also Bett (), and Graver (). On Stoic preconceptions, see LS , Schofield (), Brittain ().


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

There follows a comparison with seeing a house or a gymnasium: you would not see such a building and conclude that its rationally motivated features could have happened without some designing intelligence. Similarly, the visible qualities of the heavens, beauty among them, tell us that they have some designer. But this is supposed to give us our concept of god. Thus we are supposed to be able to see a rational “hand” behind the sky even when we have not yet conceived of god. According to Balbus, Cleanthes thought beauty was a clue to rational design available to those who might not even have expected it. The relation in which this beauty puts us to god is further explained a few lines later. Balbus has moved from Cleanthes’ four causes of our concept of god to Chrysippus’ related description of learning his first idea of god from nature: an vero, si domum magnam pulchramque videris, non possis adduci ut, etiam si dominum non videas, muribus illam et mustelis aedificatam putes tantum ergo ornatum mundi, tantam varietatem pulchritudinemque rerum caelestium, tantam vim et magnitudinem maris atque terrarum si tuum ac non deorum inmortalium domicilium putes, nonne plane desipere videare? Or indeed, should you have seen a large and beautiful house, you could not be induced to think it was built for the mice and the weasels even if you should not see its master. Therefore such great decoration of the cosmos, such great differentiation and beauty of the heavenly realm, such great size and energy of the sea and the land if you should think that these are your home and not the home of the immortal gods, surely you would be seen simply to have lost your mind? (DND .)

The conclusion of this argument is potentially misleading. For it could suggest that the cosmos is the home of the gods and not your home. But this, as we have seen, is not Balbus’ view. So he must mean that the cosmos is not only your home, but is also the home of the gods. This we are supposed to conclude from the sheer scale of the beauty of the heavens, and so on. Now this point, unlike Cleanthes’, relates beauty not to its artist but to its appreciator. Do you think that humans like yourself can be the only intended audience for beauty on the scale of the heavens? No, there must be some other and greater beings who, like you, appreciate beauty: those other rational animals, the gods.


Both Rackham () and Walsh () translate “by” the mice and weasels. But this destroys the analogy. Balbus’ point is that the house is not built for mice and weasels, since it is built for humans. Thus the cosmos is not built only for human beings, since it is also built for the gods.

. Balbus and the Central Question


Between the two last quoted passages, we see that when beauty is made specifically to be appreciated, it is made by the rational for the rational. When found in nature it is a clue that somebody like us made our world, and did so with observers like himself in mind. We have already seen why god might have done this and why he might want to give us the concept of his own nature. For he made us to contemplate and to imitate him, so we had better be able to spot his work and think about its maker. In ., as part of his argument that the gods care about us, Balbus has just given us DND . (pp. – above). Everything was made for the use of gods and humans. He begins his catalog of human uses thus: iam vero circumitus solis et lunae reliquorumque siderum, quamquam etiam ad mundi cohaerentiam pertinent, tamen et spectaculum hominibus praebent; nulla est enim insatiabilior species, nulla pulchrior et ad rationem sollertiamque praestantior; eorum enim cursus dimetati maturitates temporum et varietates mutationesque cognovimus. quae si hominibus solis nota sunt, hominum facta esse causa iudicandum est. Now in fact the circlings of the sun and moon and of the rest of the stars, although they have to do with the cohesion of the cosmos, nevertheless they also provide a spectacle for humans. For there is no sight that it is harder to have enough of, none more beautiful or that stands out better to reason and intelligence. For it is when we have measured the stars’ courses that we know the ripenings, the differentiation and changes of the seasons. If these things are observed (nota) only by humans, we must judge that they were made for humans’ sake. (DND .)

Presumably the heavenly movements are not known only to humans. The gods must know about them too. But what is unique to us is that we are rational creatures with the sense of sight, who look from the perspective of the Earth, around which the visible heavenly movements are made. So it is the sight of the heavens, from our perspective at their centre, that is known only to us. This, with its usefulness and above all beauty, must be intended for us. Notice that, since Balbus has said that the heavenly bodies are selfmoving gods (DND .–), those lesser, created gods cooperate with their creator in bestowing this vision on us. Now I shall move to a second instance where beauty does special work in Balbus’ argument. This comes in part [] of his speech, “that the cosmos is governed by the gods.” At the start of part [], he advertises a subdivision into three kinds of argument, of which “the second is one which teaches that all things are controlled by a sentient nature and that everything is run


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

most beautifully by it.” (DND .) The arguments of this subdivision duly appear at DND .–. Now these arguments, which Balbus calls arguments from the “most beautiful” running of the world to the thesis that the cosmos is governed by gods, look very like what we would call arguments from design. Imagine you found a watch in a forest, a modern creationist might say – surely you could not look at it and say that it came about by chance? The intricacy of its mechanism implies design. But living things are similarly intricate, she goes on to say, and therefore they are designed. Balbus’ parallel examples include some clocks, but also the course of a ship or a magnificent orrery built by Posidonius to model the motions of the sun, the moon, and the five planets. (DND .–) But Balbus’ general label for the property that cannot have come about by chance (cf. DND . quoted p.  above) in these examples is not intricacy or complexity, but beauty. Balbus captures this outlook in a passage that contrasts his answer to the Central Question with Velleius’: hic ego non mirer esse quemquam qui sibi persuadeat corpora quaedam solida atque individua vi et gravitate ferri mundumque effici ornatissimum et pulcherrimum ex eorum corporum concursione fortuita? hoc qui existimat fieri potuisse, non intellego cur non idem putet, si innumerabiles unius et viginti formae litterarum vel aureae vel qualeslibet aliquo coiciantur, posse ex is in terram excussis annales Enni ut deinceps legi possint effici; quod nescio an ne in uno quidem versu possit tantum valere fortuna. Should I not now be amazed that there is anybody who can convince himself that some solid and indivisible bodies are moved by force and weight and that the cosmos, most decorated and most beautiful, is made by chance collisions of these bodies? I don’t understand why somebody who judges that that could have happened should not also think that, if uncountably many images of the  letters, made of gold, or of whatever, are gathered into some vessel, then one could make the Annals of Ennius, such that the poem can be read in order, by pouring these letters out on the ground. I doubt that luck could manage so much as one line. (DND .)

Balbus’ understanding of probability is unsatisfactory. He thinks that it is not even possible that the Annals could appear if you poured out innumerable Scrabble tiles. In fact, it is vanishingly unlikely, but it could happen by chance. But all that is needed for the arguments of the Epicureans with their infinitely large and old universe is that something could happen by chance, because then somewhere out in infinity it will 

secunda est autem quae docet omnes res subiectas esse naturae sentienti ab eaque omnia pulcherrime geri.

. Balbus and the Central Question


have happened. But the probabilities are likely not where the force of Balbus’ point is really supposed to lie. When you encounter a great work of art like the Annals, the Aeneid of Cicero’s day, you would find it very hard to imagine that it came about by chance. It has all the hallmarks of a rational artist behind it. This is to say, for Balbus, that it is beautiful. We can understand better the connection between beauty and reason in Balbus’ views if we look at part of his argument against the Epicureans, that the gods can be spherical, like the cosmos or the sun, because the sphere is the most beautiful shape. globus (sic enim σφαῖραν interpretari placet), ex planis autem circulus aut orbis, qui κύκλος Graece dicitur, his duabus formis contingit solis ut omnes earum partes sint inter se simillumae a medioque tantum absit extremum, quo nihil fieri potest aptius sed si haec non videtis, quia numquam eruditum illum pulverem attigistis, ne hoc quidem physici intellegere potuistis, hanc aequabilitatem motus constantiamque ordinum in alia figura non potuisse servari? But whereas two shapes are most outstanding, among solids the sphere (let us translate sphaera thus), but among plane figures the circle or ring, which is said kuklos in Greek, it occurs in only these two shapes that all their parts are most similar to one another, and that the outer surface is a distance from the centre that could not be made more fitting. But if you [Epicureans] cannot see this, because you have never touched that educated dust, could you not understand even this much physics, that this evenness of motion and constancy of order could not have been preserved in any other form? (DND . )

The “educated dust” is the geometer’s sandbox. So what Balbus has just said is supposed to be a point about geometry as understood by the educated, albeit not a very complicated one. The parts of a circle, or of the surface of a sphere, are all very similar to one another. These internal relations can only be understand by someone with basic geometrical training and therefore with reason. But that suggests that beautiful properties like sphericity can only be brought about by a craftsman with the same faculty. Balbus thus describes the sphere and the circle as satisfying what seems to be in other sources the Stoic definition of beauty, “the proportion of the parts to one another and to the whole” (see p.  nn.  and ). Now beauty for Balbus, as for the Stoics in general, does not always seem to be a matter of quantitative or geometrical proportion. 

Balbus’ general views on beauty, as well as of its role in our concept of the divine, find a very close parallel in Aëtius . SVF ..


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

Much of the beauty he describes in the cosmos is more a matter of fitting together its web of purposes and dependences in a way that is more qualititative and to do with elegant fitting of means and ends. But these too, Balbus thinks, require a rational craftsman and, when we perceive them in an object, they allow us to infer that the craftsman made it. I shall return to Cicero’s experience of beauty and its importance for the Central Question in my last chapter. For now, imagine the world through Balbus’ eyes. A social being, he sees his fellow humans, and he sees gods with whom he shares reason processing magnificently across the sky. Everything else he sees was made to help him, or the rest of the human race, or the gods. But besides what is useful, the world was made to be beautiful. To be awed by the heaven at night is not to see beauty of a different kind than we find in an art gallery. It is the same kind of beauty, and is made by a good person (among other purposes) for the same purpose as a painting, for us to see. The third of Balbus’ proofs that the cosmos is run by gods is simply an expression of admiratio, “wonder,” as he contemplates the “beauty” of what divine providence has made. (DND ., .) He runs on at this for fifty-six rapturous sections. (DND .–) Faced by such overwhelming evidence of the hand of a caring god, Balbus might wish to express his awe and gratitude in a meaningful way. That is where religion comes in.

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion Now that we are acquainted with Balbus’ theology, we can see that when it comes to Roman religion he faces a puzzle that, put in the broadest way, is not so different from what Velleius confronts: both of them can honor some seemingly vital phenomena of the religion, but cannot honor others. Velleius can do justice to the iconography and popular imagining of the gods as blessed beings of human shape. But he cannot allow that religion is done for gods who care. Balbus, meanwhile, can supply the latter, but his cosmic god, while a blessed and virtuous person, is a very long way from the Jupiter portrayed in cult statues or in myth. Even when Balbus begins to elaborate his polytheism and introduces the heavenly bodies as gods, the geometrically uplifting sun, moon, and stars seem rationalized gods indeed. If Balbus is to use belief in gods like these to moderate Roman religion, he must show how the religion’s traditional performances – statues and temples, sacrifices and prayers – could be made piously by people who know and embrace Stoic theology. It is naturally in part [] of his speech (see p.  above), “what the gods are like,” that Balbus comes

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


most directly to grips with this question. In this section I shall examine that second part of Balbus’ speech in detail. Balbus’ discussion of “what the gods are like” amounts to a classification of the gods. I shall say that he gives us gods of five types (which he explicitly distinguishes from one another) on two levels (which he distinguishes only implicitly). I illustrate this classification in the table in Appendix . There are gods of two types in the higher level, which I shall call the paradigmatic gods. I call these paradigmatic because in the theological arguments in the other parts of his speech, these are the gods Balbus tends to consider. In the table I number Balbus’ types of god for convenience. The only god of type  (the cosmos) and the gods of type  (the heavenly bodies) are found in the higher, paradigmatic level. The lower level I shall call the cultural gods because Balbus is most interested in the origin of their place in human culture. Among these we find type , some gods named metonymically for their beneficial powers or the benefits they bestow, type , deified heroes, and type , aspects of the natural world. Balbus unreservedly argues for the view that the paradigmatic gods are gods. When he comes to the cultural gods, while he accepts in one way or another that they are divine, to varying degrees Balbus seeks to reform existing beliefs about them. In particular, he thinks that existing beliefs about the gods of type  have gone badly awry. From the table we can get a first idea of Balbus’ approach to the traditional gods. First note that – very loosely speaking – as we move down the table, Balbus’ endorsement of the gods’ divinity becomes more qualified, but the gods become more prominent in traditional religion. This is an indication of the depth of the problem that Balbus faces. Second, note that of the paradigmatic gods as Balbus describes them, only two were worshipped at Rome (Sol and Luna, the sun and moon). By contrast, all the gods at the cultural level were worshipped at Rome. Balbus brings them up exactly for that reason. His task with the cultural gods is to explain how they can be the proper objects of cult when they are not, or seem not to be, his paradigmatic gods. Velleius gave us a history in which everybody’s natural preconception of the gods had suffered serious distortion, until Epicurus single-handedly 

Brennan () - observes “two kinds of polytheism” in Stoicism, which describe respectively “nominalist” deities (roughly equivalent to my cultural gods) and “planetary” ones (equivalent to my type  gods). He asks whether this reflects different approaches in different Stoic sources, or two approaches to polytheism that the same Stoic could take (p. ). Balbus accommodates gods of both Brennan’s kinds, which shows that at least as Cicero understood it, a Stoic could support both of these accounts of polytheism at once.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

stepped forth to save us. For Velleius, traditional religion reflects this serious, ancestral distortion. Velleius’ reconsideration of religion then needed to be most radical: although he can accept features like the human form and reputed blessedness of the traditional gods, to moderate the tradition he must apply Epicurus’ entirely independent discoveries (see Chapter  section .). As the table shows, Balbus also submits a cultural history of religion. But note that in each of the three cultural levels, Balbus says that the origin of the Roman gods in human culture was acceptable or even good. This means that he thinks that there was truth in the ideas behind the founding of Rome’s cults, and at least a kernel of truth implicit in the orthopraxy or attendant myths that have been handed down. Balbus thus can hope to show not only that Stoicism can bring to bear some helpful new ideas from outside, but also that many Stoic truths are already latent in the tradition. He is more a supporter of traditional religion as traditional than is Velleius. Let us then take Balbus’ classification of the gods type by type. At the paradigmatic level, Balbus acknowledges that he faces something like the reverse of Velleius’ problem: restat ut qualis eorum natura sit consideremus; in quo nihil est difficilius quam a consuetudine oculorum aciem mentis abducere. ea difficultas induxit et vulgo imperitos et similes philosophos imperitorum, ut nisi figuris hominum constitutis nihil possent de dis immortalibus cogitare; cuius opinionis levitas confutata a Cotta non desiderat orationem meam. It remains for us to consider what [the gods’] nature is like. On this topic, nothing is harder than to draw the mind’s gaze away from what our eyes are accustomed to. This difficulty has taken in both unsophisticated people generally and philosophers who are like the unsophisticated, so that they are unable to think at all about the immortal gods except in the form of human figures. The ridiculousness of this opinion was refuted by Cotta, and it does not call for a speech from me. (DND .)

As we have seen, it is important to Balbus that the gods are in some ways like us, especially in their rational psychology. But his paradigmatic gods are nothing like us in the shape or constitution of their bodies. Thus his paradigmatic gods meet resistance in minds whose habits have been shaped by life at Rome. Now Balbus’ difficulty here is more pointed than he makes it sound. For Balbus, like Velleius but on different grounds, accepts the view that whatever natural preconceptions we might have are true. One sort of evidence for a natural preconception is a universal consensus among

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


peoples, since such a consensus is more easily explained as the product of human nature than of culture. Thus there follows Balbus’ problem. For there was of course a widespread, albeit not universal, consensus in the ancient Mediterranean that the gods could rightly be thought of in human form. This is certainly the case for the gods of myth and poetry. With the gods of cult, we cannot know how literally adherents in general took anthropomorphic symbols. We recall Augustine’s report that Varro made his religiously learned speaker, one of the Scaevolae, say that the gods of myth were inimical to civic religion. (City of God .) So those in charge of Rome’s religion probably did not think mythical representations of the gods should be taken literally. Still, it is easy to imagine that performing traditional religion and hearing its related stories fostered a tendency in many to think of the gods in human shape – precisely the anthropomorphism that Velleius welcomes as evidence for the truth. Thus Balbus must convince his listeners that this particular tendency does not reflect a natural, and therefore true, preconception of the gods. He must “draw the mind’s gaze away from what our eyes are accustomed to.” His approach is to argue that the gods of the paradigmatic level, which are spherical and not in the least human-looking, are indeed gods. Let us then look in more detail at Balbus’ arguments that the gods of types  and  are gods. The only god of type  is the cosmos. Balbus spends most of the relevant paragraphs (DND .–) mocking Epicurus’ contention that a sphere, the shape of the Stoic cosmos, is not the most beautiful solid (see .–, quoted on p.  above). The mockery is not idle. For he considers not only the cosmos but also the heavenly bodies spherical (., pulcherrima forma, “most beautiful shape”). To establish the superior and therefore divine beauty of the sphere over that of the human body is thus an important part of Balbus’ task in drawing our minds away from accustomed images. Further, as Balbus remarks, too much special argument here for the divinity of the cosmos would be idle, since much of the rest of his speech serves that function. Type  gods are the heavenly bodies, both the fixed stars and the seven planets, the stars that we see “wander” against the background of their fixed counterparts. The planets are the sun, the moon, and what we would call today the five visible planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The five planets, which we call by the names of the gods, are known to Balbus as the “star of Mercury” (stella Mercurii) and so on. 

On arguments from consensus, see Schofield (), Brittain ().


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

(DND .–) No identification of the god and the heavenly object is implied merely by the name. Balbus’ first step in showing the divinity of all these bodies is to describe the amazing regularity and precision of their motions. (DND .–) In the case of the fixed stars, this does not take much arguing. Of course, they go around once every sidereal day. For the various planets there is more work to do. The sun moves around (as the Stoics saw it) once per solar day, while moving against the fixed stars along the ecliptic over the course of  / days (.), producing the year, the course of the ecliptic rising and dropping in the zodiac to produce the seasons. The moon travels a similar path against the fixed stars monthly, and has its phases (DND .). Both of these sets of movements are not only marvelously regular, but have direct benefits for us – timekeeping for one thing, but also the terrestrial manifestations of the seasons, the growth of crops, and so forth. With the other five planets, showing regularity is harder again. Their movements against the fixed stars appear much less regular than those of the sun or moon. But Balbus reminds us that this is merely an appearance. Greek mathematical astronomy had long ago shown that although the five planets’ motions were more complex, they were as regular and predictable as the moon’s and the sun’s. Balbus says that the five planets have “two continual revolutions.” (continuas conversiones duas, DND .) He means, I suppose, that we can model their apparently irregular motions as the sum of two sorts of regular motion. Which two such motions he has in mind is not clear. Perhaps he means that the apparent motion of each planet can be explained as the sum of, first, the motion of the heavens as a whole and, second, the planet’s own movements around the ecliptic. Ancient astronomers could model each planet’s motion mathematically, so that moving according to the required geometry was a feat that suggested that the source of the planet’s motion, too, understood mathematics. Furthermore, Balbus then reminds us that even these complex movements are cyclical and return to where they began to start again. To underline the point, he gives us approximate observational data for the periods of the planets’ movements, Saturn the longest at thirty solar years, Mercury the shortest at a single solar year. (DND .–) 

The talk of two motions must call to mind the motions of the Same and the Different in Plato’s Timaeus, see e–b, translated by Cicero in what we call his Timaeus, sections –. But perhaps Balbus has in mind some sort of further mathematical model of the motions in terms of the sum of the revolutions of more than one sphere, like that going back to Eudoxus and Calippus. For the tradition of celestial mechanics, and the Stoics’ apparent lack of interest in it, see Jones () –.

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


All this regularity is very well. For Balbus it indicates that there is reason behind the motions of the heavenly bodies. But it is not enough to get Balbus his conclusion that the heavenly bodies themselves are gods. Why should we not think that the reason behind these motions is just that of the cosmos itself? That an orrery must be designed does not show that its model planets themselves have reason. Balbus’ extra premise here is revealed in his description of the fixed stars. (DND .–) He says that the stars are not moved in virtue of being fixed to a rotating sphere of aether or the like, but rather that they move under their own power. The same presumably goes for the sun, moon, and other planets. This would make the celestial bodies, including the fixed stars, self-moving parts of the cosmos much as we are. Thus the reason and intelligence evident in their motions must, in the first instance, be their own. In order to move according to the regular rules we can discern only with our reason, they themselves must understand these rules. Thus Balbus triumphantly reaches his conclusion in DND .. He is satisfied that he has given us a multitude of gods (as many as there are fixed stars in the sky + seven planets + the cosmos) that fit our preconceptions of the gods, but are not of human bodily shape. These are what I call his paradigmatic gods. Where Balbus’ task at the paradigmatic level was to turn our mind’s eye away from conventional representations of the gods to his own, celestial deities, at the cultural level his task is to account for the worship of the traditional gods. His exchange with Cotta further shows that not just any explanation will do. Balbus must show how these gods and their cults are such that Stoic theology will support rather than undermine them. To begin with the gods of type , Balbus introduces them as follows: multae autem aliae naturae deorum ex magnis beneficiis eorum non sine causa et a Graeciae sapientissimis et a maioribus nostris constitutae nominataeque sunt. quicquid enim magnam utilitatem generi adferret humano, id non sine divina bonitate erga homines fieri arbitrabantur. But the wisest men of Greece, and our own ancestors, established and named many other divine natures, and not without cause. For the wise thought that whatever brought great utility to the human race did not come about without divine goodness towards humans. (DND .)

He sums them up thus: utilitatum igitur magnitudine constituti sunt ei di qui utilitates quasque gignebant, atque is quidem nominibus quae paulo ante dicta sunt quae vis sit in quoque declaratur deo.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic Thus the gods who brought about each thing of use were established as gods for the greatness of these useful gifts. Indeed, what power there was in each god is made plain by the names we have just spoken about. (DND .)

These gods, then, are classified not by their intrinsic properties, but by their origin in human culture. They were wisely or traditionally established as gods at some time in Greek and Roman history, and they were named. They were picked out by the benefit they bestow, and named after their power to bestow it. Nor is this history mere conjecture. In the case of his Roman examples, Balbus says that some of the relevant cults were started by known founders at various dates in the historical period. (DND .) Balbus gives those who established these gods a lot of credit. Various Roman forebears set them up, which for Cicero is always a good thing, but for Balbus the Stoic the bigger praise is probably that the “wisest men of Greece” did the same. It is likely that he does not mean “wisest” in the technical Stoic sense, since the Stoics do not think there have been many sages. But the term is still a compliment. Further, Balbus gives some degree of approval to these founders’ rationale: it was “not without cause.” The rationale was that great benefits did not come about without divine goodness towards us. We know why Balbus approves of this sentiment. It is his view that a good god made everything else in the cosmos for us, gods and humans. So he thinks that to set up cults to this divine goodness is an appropriate response. At the same time, and whatever he may think about the wisest men of Greece, Balbus almost certainly does not think that eminent Roman ancestors were sages. It is their foundations he will discuss directly. So he will not expect perfect consistency or correctness in the rationale behind these foundations. With these type- gods Balbus is interested in how they came to be named. This is natural, since their names are transparently meaningful: “Good Faith,” “Abundance,” and so on. Thus it is obvious that there must have been some rationale in their naming. Balbus distinguishes three items in his analysis of this rationale: the benefit bestowed (utilitas) or “thing itself’” (res ipsa), the god (deus), and the power by which the benefit is bestowed or controlled (vis). He describes three sorts of naming that happened:


For the supporting evidence – much of it from Livy – see Pease (–) ad loc. Whether or not this history is right, it is plausible that Cicero thought it was.

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


itaque tum illud quod erat a deo natum nomine ipsius dei nuncupabant, ut cum fruges Cererem appellamus vinum autem Liberum. . . [ii] tum autem res ipsa, in qua vis inest maior aliqua, sic appellatur ut ea ipsa vis nominetur deus, ut Fides ut Mens . . . [iii] quid Opis quid Salutis quid Concordiae Libertatis Victoriae; quarum omnium rerum quia vis erat tanta ut sine deo regi non posset, ipsa res deorum nomen optinuit. [i]


Thus sometimes they used to dub that which was born from the god with the name of the god himself, as when we call grain ‘Ceres’ but wine ‘Liber’ . . . [ii] but sometimes the thing itself, in which there is some some greater power, is so called that the power itself is named a god, like Fides (“Good Faith”) or like Mens (“Mind”). . . [iii] What about Ops (“Abundance”), what about Salus (“Security”). . .? Because the power of these things was so great that they could not be controlled without a god, the thing itself supplied the name of the gods. (DND . )

(The text continues with a problematic list of gods to which I shall return to on p. .) [i] and [iii] are a neat pair: in [i] the benefit is named after the god, in [iii] the god is named after the benefit. [ii] is more complex: the god is named after the power in the benefit. DND . (as quoted pp. –) clarifies that this power is also in the god. As I read DND .–, [i] does not describe a cultural origin for a kind of god. Ceres and Liber must already have been thought gods, and so named, for Balbus’ example to work. They will appear again in the list of type  gods and seem at home there. I am not aware of any cult that worshipped grain or wine simply as such. So I think that [i] is an illustration of the sort of metonymical naming that Balbus says happened in [ii] and [iii]. It is meant to make the metonymies of [ii] and [iii] plausible by appeal to a similar idiom in regular use. Why does Balbus complicate matters by giving distinct naming histories in [ii] and [iii]? I suggest this is because all the examples in [ii] can by construed as referring to divine rational virtue: Fides and Mens as above, but also Virtus (“Virtue”) and Honor (“Honor”). But all the examples in [iii] can be construed, for the Stoics, as mere indifferents: Ops and Salus but also Concordia (“Concord”), Libertas (“Liberty”), and Victoria (“Victory”). If that is right, it explains why Balbus’ emphasis in [iii] is on the need for divine control over indifferents (which could help or harm) while 

One could construe “concord” as a reference to the inner concord of a virtuous soul, “liberty” to the true freedom of the sage, “security” to the sage’s inability to be harmed, or “abundance” to the sage’s


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

in [ii] he emphasizes the divine power of the virtues, which can only help. But in any case, various Romans named the god they “established” or “consecrated” metonymically, after the benefit the god bestowed or the virtue with the god bestowed it. Note that as Balbus sees it, these ancestors were not so far from expressing his own answer to the Central Question: the gods’ virtue leads them to bestow benefits on the human race. It is striking that Balbus construes the motivation of the consummate Roman leaders who founded these cults, the likes of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and Marcus Claudius Marcellus, as gratitude on behalf of the human race at large, not of the city of Rome in particular. (DND .) There is an ambiguity in what Balbus says the ancestors were up to. On one reading, he says that “Fides,” “Ops,” and so on were not really names for gods. Rather, they were names for benefits or beneficial powers for which divine goodness was thought a necessary condition. DND . (quoted on p. ) seems to point in this direction. The cult of, say, Fides, would then have functioned indirectly as worship of the gods who have or bestow the “named” benefit, good faith. But on another reading, Balbus does think that these names referred to gods, but that they do so via some metonymical figure. When you say “Fides” you figuratively refer to the cosmic god, perhaps, or to all the gods, who have or bestow the virtue of good faith. DND . (quoted on pp. –) seems to point in this direction. Perhaps, given the flexibility with which Balbus applies his models of naming in this passage, the ancestors sometimes intended one option and sometimes the other, or did not see the distinction. After all, Balbus is not committed to the systematicity or clarity of the historical decisions he describes here, since the Roman ancestors were not sages. But Balbus, seeing the large measure of laudable insight in the cults handed down, can calibrate his own beliefs about what each performance means quite precisely. Let us look at some evidence for how he does so. Later in his speech, Balbus will confirm that he understands these type- “gods” as properties or benefits of the gods, rather than independent gods in themselves: sequitur ut eadem sit in is quae humano in genere ratio, eadem veritas utrobique sit eademque lex, quae est recti praeceptio pravique depulsio. ex quo intellegitur prudentiam quoque et mentem a deis ad homines pervenisse (ob eamque causam maiorum institutis Mens Fides Virtus Concordia consecratae et publice dedicatae sunt; quae qui convenit penes deos esse negare, cum true wealth, namely virtue. But Balbus’ description of these things, as needing a god to rule them, points in the other direction.

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


eorum augusta et sancta simulacra veneremur: quod si inest in hominum genere mens fides virtus concordia, unde haec in terram nisi ab superis defluere potuerunt?). . . It follows that there is the same reason in [the gods] as there is in the human race, there is the same truth in both, and the same law, which is the injunction of what is right and the expulsion of what is immoral, whence we understand that wisdom and intelligence came to people from the gods. And it was for that reason, through the institutions of our ancestors, that Mens (‘Mind’), Fides (‘Good Faith’), Virtus (‘Virtue’), and Concordia (‘Concord’) were enshrined and dedicated by the state. How is it appropri ate to deny that these things are in the possession of gods, when we worship their solemn and holy images? Because if there is intelligence, good faith, virtue, and concord in the human race, from where did these flow to earth if not from those above? (DND .)

In this passage, where Balbus has returned to more abstractly physical arguments, he reserves the word “gods” for the beings who have, and give us, good faith, virtue, and so on. The institution of the cults of Mens, Fides, and the rest, he offers as evidence that the ancestors thought the gods have the same reason and law as we do. This argument requires that the “mind” and “good faith” we refer to when we worship are not independent gods, but human-style virtues of the gods. Presumably, Balbus has it in mind that the gods “above” who possess these goods, and give them to us, are the paradigmatic gods of types  and , the cosmos and the heavenly bodies (as well, perhaps, as any gods of type  as there may be). Presumably, then, the following is what Balbus thinks a Roman sage would tell himself as he approached a ceremony in honor of (for example) Fides. “There is no god called Fides distinct from other gods, like the cosmos or the heavenly bodies. This cult was set up by my ancestors in honor of the virtue of good faith, as evoked by the name of its ‘god.’ But good faith is a virtue of the gods, and one on which my fellow Romans and I depend. My own good faith is a gift from the gods, who gave me my reason, and conditions that allowed me to perfect it. Thus understood, my performance will be a pious action in favor of the gods.” Before we leave the type- gods, I would like to return to the problematic list of gods I set aside, which appears at DND .: Cupido (“Eros” or “Lust”), Voluptas (“Pleasure”), and Venus Lubentina (“Pleasing Venus”). This list needs careful handling. For Balbus seems to imply criticism of these gods’ divine status. If so, and even if only implicit, this would be the only criticism of an aspect of traditional orthopraxy anywhere in DND or


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

Div. For Balbus presents these as established gods, with “consecrated” names, but then seems to imply that they might not really be gods, virtues, or benefits of the gods. If so, they should not have been consecrated in the way that they were. Now Balbus’ hostility to these particular gods is puzzling. What seems to unite the list is a connection with pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, and the desire for it. But the Stoics have no problem with pleasure, or with sex enjoyed in the right circumstances, and they think that there can be right circumstances. The sage is notoriously “erotic,” that is to say, interested in romantic or sexual relationships. Not only this, but Zeno, founder of the Stoa, made Cupido’s Greek equivalent Eros a, or the, patron deity of his ideal republic. So it is surprising that these gods are a source of concern for Balbus. He could easily have put them in the same category as “Abundance”: preferred indifferents to be controlled by virtue. But instead he says that their names “are consecrated, the terms for vicious and unnatural things – although Velleius reckons otherwise, nevertheless these very vices often assault nature quite fiercely.” (DND .) So Balbus refers Cupido and Venus Lubentina not to erotic desire in general, but to vicious lust in particular. Voluptas he must think evokes a vicious, passionate pleasure. That Balbus intends some criticism of the cult of these gods is hard to avoid. For how could a Stoic accept the worship of vices, or of the consequences of vice? Even Marcus in Cicero’s Laws, not a Stoic, expels the cults of vices from his idealized Rome. (Laws .) Nevertheless, Balbus does not make any criticism explicit. On the contrary, he classifies these gods so that it is possible to see how they might fit into his scheme. He says they are of the kind described in my division [iii] of DND . (p.  above). We might interpret as follows. Urges contrary to virtue try to overthrow the natural order of things: they “assault nature quite fiercely.” But divinely ordained nature can fight back in the form of our reason. Thus the virtuously rational divine powers are again to be thanked for our power, in principle, to control these lusts. In this way these vices or vicious phenomena are like “Abundance” and so forth: without divine virtue they could not be controlled. Thus understood, the performance of   


See Schofield (), Nussbaum (). See Schofield () Chapter , Boys-Stones (). Reading naturam. The whole quotation is, vocabula consecrata sunt, vitiosarum rerum neque naturalium – quamquam Velleius aliter existimat, sed tamen ea ipsa vitia naturam vehementius saepe pulsant. He will soon use the word cupiditates, related to Cupido, to refer to vicious lusts which virtuous gods do not have. (.)

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


their cults might be useful to Stoics in promoting self-control. If Balbus thinks that Stoic ethics can accommodate these gods it must be along some such lines. But it is tempting to think that he would eliminate them if he could. That he does not say so is evidence that he is doing his best to accommodate everything that is traditional in Roman religion. Let us turn now to the gods of type . These we might call deified heroes: divinities who were once mortals, but who have achieved some sort of apotheosis. suscepit autem vita hominum consuetudoque communis ut beneficiis excellentis viros in caelum fama ac voluntate tollerent. hinc Hercules hinc Castor et Pollux hinc Aesculapius hinc Liber etiam . . . hinc etiam Romulum, quem quidam eundem esse Quirinum putant. quorum cum remanerent animi atque aeternitate fruerentur, rite di sunt habiti, cum et optimi essent et aeterni. But [the conventions of] human life and common habit have allowed people to raise to the heaven men who have excelled in the benefits [they have given], thanks to their reputation and to people’s gratitude. Hence Hercules, hence Castor and Pollux, hence Aesculapius, hence Liber too . . . [Balbus explains that this Liber, the son of Semele, is not the same as the Liber in type ] . . . hence even Romulus, whom some consider to be the same as Quirinus. Since their souls would persist and enjoy eternity, they were duly taken to be gods, since they were the best and eternal. (DND .)

Balbus once again approves of the cultural process he describes. He says that the heroes were taken to be gods rite (‘duly’ in my translation), a word that is ambiguous between religious or secular procedural correctness. He says that the heroes’ souls enjoy persistence after death and are “the best,” two divine qualities. Balbus endorses the divinity and continued existence of the type  gods. Just as the type- gods had to do with benefits to humanity that require divine goodness, so type- gods have excelled in benefits. Hercules’ best known contribution today is that he rid the world of some monsters in his labors. But he also loomed large as a prototypical beneficent hero, victoriously facing down danger for the general good. Such a figure appealed to the Stoics. In On ends Cicero has the Stoic Cato say that Hercules, along with Liber, had an impulse to “save the human race,” and was someone 


When we consider these type- gods, we should remember that when his daughter Tullia died, only a few months before he wrote DND, Cicero made an earnest effort to build a shrine, a fanum, for her, in order to achieve an “apotheosis.” (Letters to Atticus .. SB) For some philosophical uses of Hercules, see On ends .–; On duties .; Seneca, De constantia ..; Epictetus, Dissertations .–.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

with the resources and strength to do so. (On ends .) Now Hercules was involved in the prehistory of Rome. His story, which was to become prominent in the Augustan authors, was as victor over the bandit or monster Cacus, who lived on or near the future site of Rome. As our sources (all later than Cicero) tell it, the area was then inhabited by, among others, some Arcadian Greeks, whose king, Evander, helped to set up the altar and cult of Hercules that had persisted down to classical times at the Ara Maxima, the Great Altar to Hercules. This particular cult of Hercules at Rome, then, was according to the myth a commemoration of a specific benefit done to people who would welcome Aeneas to Italy. But Balbus elects to emphasize not Hercules’ contribution to Rome’s forebears, but rather the response of humanity in general to such generous heroes. Aesculapius, Greek Asclepius, was a great healer. Castor and Pollux help soldiers and sailors. Liber, son of Semele, is Dionysus as depicted, for example, in Euripides’ Bacchae. He gave humanity wine. Romulus, of course, founded Rome – although Balbus may well not accept that he should be identified with the god Quirinus. If not, he agrees with Scipio in Cicero’s Republic that Romulus, although a remarkable enough man to prompt stories of apotheosis, died a natural death. (Republic .–) Although he accepts them, Balbus handles the type- gods gingerly. In their legends, more unites them than he lets on. They were all thought, in some version of their respective myths, to be the sons of mortal mothers by divine fathers. Sometimes, bad divine behavior ensued. Most notably it was the anger of the jealous Hera that led to Hercules’ labors. Balbus can admit none of these stories literally understood. As we shall see, Balbus’ type- gods, who include the gods of myth like Juno, the Roman equivalent of Hera, do not walk among us in the shape of humans or other animals, do not have genitals, do not seduce or rape women, and do not suffer jealousy or anger. Not only this, but the deeds of the heroes themselves were questionable at times. For example, Hercules murdered his own children in place of Eurystheus’ in Euripides’ Hercules furens. This was a traditional philosophical example of unreason, indeed of insanity. (Academica ., Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos .–.) Again, Romulus’ homicide of his own twin, Remus, was an action we might call, at best, open to various interpretations. So how is Balbus to deal with the worship of heroes to whom such stories are attached? One option is what Balbus will do for gods of type . He could interpret, for 

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman antiquities .–, Virgil, Aeneid .–, Ovid, Fasti .–, Livy ., Propertius ..

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


example, Hercules’ story as an allegory for the victorious triumph of divine virtue over laborious challenges. Thus the humanity of Hercules and with it all the troubling aspects of the myth could be explained away. This is what Cornutus, another Stoic interpreter of the traditional gods, would later do. (Cornutus, Theology – Lang) But Balbus chooses to accept that type- gods were indeed mortals who became gods. He must therefore winnow out the chaff of scandalous myths, but accept literally the kernel of these stories, that these men once lived, “excelled in benefits,” and are now “the best and eternal.” Balbus’ acceptance of the gods of type  reflects an accepted but now rather obscure Stoic doctrine. The most helpful report is in DL: “And [the Stoics] say that there also exist some daimones who have a sympathy with human beings, and are overseers of human affairs; and the surviving souls of virtuous men are heroes.” (.) Daimones – whence “demons” – had often appeared in the philosophical tradition as beings intermediate between gods and humans. So it is not strange that the Stoics had their own version of this view. Meanwhile the souls of sages, presumably because they are physically as well as epistemically more coherent than foolish souls, survive for a longer time the death of the rest of the body. They live on as “heroes,” former mortals who have graduated to a semi-divine life. Even before death, the difference between the virtuous reason of a sage and the virtuous reason of a full-blown god is one of size, not of kind, so that the difference in kind between a human sage and a god is one only of body and mortality. (Posidonius fr.  EK, Seneca Letter ) Souls with that kind of divine status that also “enjoy eternity,” as Balbus puts it, might rightly be called gods. Thus Balbus makes no in-principle objection to mortals taking the best of their own deceased to be gods. Yet his endorsement is lukewarm. “The 


 

The evidence is collected at SVF .–. The reports besides DL’s lump the Stoics in with Plato, Pythagoras, Thales, and so on. Nevertheless, they establish that Chrysippus held this sort of view. See also Brennan () –, with his sources. Φασὶ δ’ εἶναι καί τινας δαίμονας ἀνθρώπων συμπάθειαν ἔχοντας, ἐπόπτας τῶν ἀνθρωπείων πραγμάτων· καὶ ἥρωας τὰς ὑπολελειμμένας τῶν σπουδαίων ψυχάς. Translation from Inwood and Gerson (), modified. E.g. Plato, Apology d, Symposium –; Epinomis –; Aristotle, Divination in dreams b–. When Balbus calls these heroes “eternal” he exaggerates: like the other gods besides the cosmos itself, they will burn in the conflagration. So “eternal” must be used loosely, to mean “very longlived,” perhaps with some implication of the close relationship between the hero’s soul and the truly eternal, divine principle. The latter might be what Balbus has in mind when he says heroic human souls “enjoy eternity” – they enjoy the eternity of the truly immortal divine principle with which they are in touch.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

wisest men of Greece” introduced gods of type , but type- is a product of convention. That suggests that a Stoic would want to tread more carefully and see if these cults may involve one in vicious ideas. Balbus in fact proposes conditions on which the endorsement of a type- god would be proper. The person in question must be the best (i.e. a sage) and eternal in soul. Since the Stoics have very high standards for sagehood, Balbus quietly leaves it open to a Stoic to deny on further analysis that the heroes in question were sages. Nevertheless, it is best to read Balbus’ own endorsement of the traditional gods he puts in type  as genuine. After all, he says that the examples he mentioned are the best and eternal. Thus the Roman sage who accepts one of these cults will think to herself as she approaches a ritual performance for Hercules, “This cult is in honor of a man who was a sage, who thus had a divine soul which now persists, who bestowed and bestows benefits. Thus understood, my performance will be a pious action in favor of this god.” Last in Balbus’ classification, we turn to type- gods. In this category we find what are clearly the leading gods of myth (or at least of the Greek myth so influential in Roman literary culture), and are in many respects the leading gods of Roman cult, especially of public cult as overseen by Cotta and the pontifices – Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Vesta, the Penates, Janus, and so on. Balbus gives easily his most complex cultural history to these gods. He proposes two influences on how they came to be. First, they were characterized by a physical argument or method. (ex ratione physica, DND .) The physics on which the gods were based he considers to have been sound. He calls its discoveries “well and usefully discovered.” (bene atque utiliter inventis, DND .) Rather than with proper names the discoverers of these physical ideas, or religious innovators informed by them, designated the type- gods with descriptive terms or phrases. These terms and phrases, as we shall see, either described aspects of the divine as rightly understood in physics, or aspects of a desirable sort of worship. But these welcome developments were overtaken by a second influence. The entities the physicists had described were “dressed in human appearance.” (induti specie humana, DND .) This must mean that they were represented in human shape. Thus they became fodder for the poets, who distorted the gods’ nature still further in stories where the gods live and 

For further consideration of the question of in what sense the Stoics thought human sages had become heroes or divine, see Brouwer (), pp. –, –.

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


behave like ordinary humans. (DND ., .). Meanwhile, as is evident in classical Latin, the meaning of the descriptive terms or phrases for the gods was obscured or lost altogether. They came to seem to be arbitrary designations for each god, in other words, proper names of the sort that humans are given. The objects of worship identified and described in the light of respectable physics had become the gods of myth, familiar from Homer and the other poets. (DND .). Some of these myths became impious. (DND .) Balbus says that the consequences of this shift were dire: videtisne igitur ut a physicis rebus bene atque utiliter inventis tracta ratio sit ad commenticios et fictos deos. quae res genuit falsas opiniones erroresque turbulentos et superstitiones paene aniles. et formae enim nobis deorum et aetates et vestitus ornatusque noti sunt, genera praeterea coniugia cognationes, omniaque traducta ad similitudinem inbecillitatis humanae. nam et perturbatis animis inducuntur: accepimus enim deorum cupiditates aegritudines iracundias; nec vero, ut fabulae ferunt, bellis proeliisque caruerunt, nec solum ut apud Homerum cum duo exercitus contrarios alii dei ex alia parte defenderent, sed etiam ut cum Titanis ut cum Gigantibus sua propria bella gesserunt. haec et dicuntur et creduntur stultissime et plena sunt futtilitatis summaeque levitatis. You see how, from physical facts whose discovery was good and useful, was wrenched a plan for confected and fictional gods. This state of affairs gave rise to false opinions, distressing errors, and superstitions almost like those of an old woman. Even the gods’ figures are known to us, their ages and costumes and accessories, not to mention their family trees, their couplings and siblings, and everything travestied into a likeness of human weakness. For they are even brought before us with their souls in passion: we are presented with the lusts, the distress, the rages of the gods. Nor indeed, so the myths allege, did the gods lack for wars and battles, and not merely as in Homer where different gods pick a different side among two opposing armies to defend, but they even waged their very own wars with Titans and with Giants! These things are said, and they are trusted, with great stupid ity. They are full of fatuity and the greatest inanity. (DND .)

We can see why Balbus might think that all these myths are impious. They present the gods as less divine than they are, in human shape and prey to the passions that (according to the Stoics) result only from vice. Not only do the gods help defensively in human wars – which at a stretch Balbus might be able to accept as a sign of their care for us – they fight as a body against their creatures, the Titans and Giants. These are not Balbus’ just gods in community with all the rational. We can further see why Balbus says such stories give rise to superstition. These would be gods for us to fear, prone to anger, lust, and weakness. The sort of excessive


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

placation he will call superstition in DND .– (see pp. – below) would seem justified if we thought the gods were like that. In some ways, these gods of myth should not trouble a Stoic adherent of Roman religion. Many of their faults are “known” from poetry, much of it not Roman. The performer of religious actions is no more required to believe in this than in any other theology. Strictly speaking, then, orthopractic Roman religiosity has little to do with the myths. But for Balbus, the problem is that the myths have not remained culturally idle. They have filled the gap left as an older, physical understanding of the gods was forgotten. In some ways, as in cult statues or the use of what have become meaningless proper names, religion even tends to suggest the myths over other interpretations of its own meaning. Thus, thanks to the cultural importance of the myths, for somebody in first-century BC Rome, or indeed for readers of DND today, it might not be obvious what a Stoic who says “Jupiter” might mean – if Jupiter is not a bearded figure throwing thunderbolts, then what is he? Balbus shows how Stoics might undo some of the distortions in the myths by a program of allegoresis and etymology. In allegoresis he treats a scandalous myth as allegory for a respectable bit of physics. In etymology he gives a history of the name of each type- god. Now allegoresis and etymology were common Stoic activities. There survives a compendious parallel for Balbus’ program in the Theology of Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, a Stoic of the century after Cicero. But Stoics in general, including the older Stoics, tried to re-read names and myths in general, and poetry in particular, in light of their own theories. Scholars have reconstructed their reasons for doing so as follows. The Stoics thought that early people, in the state of nature, lacked the ill social influences that we are under. They were therefore able to get a clearer grasp of nature than are we. This “wisdom” came to be encoded in myths, either put into allegories by early people themselves, or through distortion as Balbus describes. Old, clear concepts were preserved in the origins of words. Thus the Stoics, while deploring the confusions, went looking to recover this deposit of primitive insight. Now I think that this picture of Stoic allegoresis and etymology in general is correct. But I am not sure that it is what Balbus in particular is   

For Stoic allegoresis see Most (), and Boys-Stones (a), (b) Chapters –. For Cornutus, see Most (), Boys-Stones (b) –, Ramelli (). For Stoic debates on human origins see Boys-Stones (b) Chapter . For Stoic etymology see Allen () and Long ().The key texts for the Stoic theory of etymology are Origen, Contra Celsum . SVF .; Augustine, De dialectica .

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


up to. For I am not sure that the chronology works, and I am sure that if Balbus is trying to recover lost wisdom, he is bad at it. To take chronology first, we ask, when does Balbus think the two influences on the type  gods – correct physics and unwelcome distortion – were exerted? He thinks that the two processes overlapped. This is visible in his etymology of Neptune, as follows. Jupiter and Juno he thinks stand for the sky, the joint realm of (respectively) the aetherial heaven and the air. (DND .–) “There remained water and earth, with the result that the myths divided up three kingdoms.” (.) So Balbus envisages that, first, Jupiter and Juno were described according to physics, and second, myths arrived, perhaps where Jupiter had two brother kings. In reaction to the myths, two more portions of the divine were given descriptive names: Neptune (connected to “swimming”) and Dis (connected to the “riches” the earth offers). Thus myths and scientific naming were able to interact. So when did these processes overlap? Balbus does not give a date. One has the sense that he regards the specific events he reconstructs as immemorial. But he does not seem to set them in an utterly remote past. In his etymologies, he assumes that the gods were dubbed by people who spoke some comprehensible predecessor of Latin. But he thinks they were in touch with speakers of Greek who had similar gods. (DND .–) For, first, he thinks the names can be explained from familiar Latin words that sound only a bit different: e.g. Diana from dies (“day”) and nox (“night”), Janus from eundo (“going”), Jupiter from iuvans pater (“helpful father”) or Jove from iuvare (“to help”). Second, he thinks that some names were derived or just borrowed from Greek: Proserpina derived from Greek Persephone, Vesta from Hestia, Apollo just borrowed. A period when speakers of early Latin were in touch with similar speakers of Greek sounds more like the legendary time of Latinus, Evander, or Aeneas familiar from sources written soon after Cicero, Virgil’s Aeneid or the beginning of Livy’s history, than it does the time of the first emergence of humanity. Again, Balbus says that the physical gods, dressed in human shape, provided material to the poets. Which poets? There were poets before Homer, but Homer is the poet he names. (DND .) In Cicero’s writings people date Homer to about a century and half before the foundation of Rome, meaning they think Homer flourished about  BC. (Cicero, Republic .–; Tusculans .) So the process of mythical distortion was still ongoing not many centuries before Rome and its religion began. Finally, we might ask, does Balbus credit the tradition that Romulus and his 

aqua restabat et terra, ut essent ex fabulis tria regna divisa.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

successor as king, Numa Pompilius, had an important part to play in formulating Rome’s practices? (cf. DND .) He never says so, but if so, his treatment of the type- gods implies that some physics reached the first kings relatively undistorted. On the whole, the formative period of the type- gods sounds like the centuries from the age of the Homeric heroes down to the first decades of Rome. If I am right about Balbus’ chronology, it is still possible that he looks for the most primitive “wisdom” in his allegories and etymologies. Perhaps he thinks the world began, or that humanity was in a state of nature, not so long before the age of the Homeric heroes. Perhaps he thinks primitive “wisdom” was passed down clearly for a long time and distorted only his last millennium. But it seems more likely that he thinks the (admittedly mysterious) old physicists who existed in this period were more like the Stoics, making discoveries by philosophy or something like it, and not that they were ingenuous primitives. In Div., Quintus will say that the Babylonians have collected astrological observations for , years. (Div. .) Cicero knows that this is ridiculous (cf. Div. ., p.  below) but it suggests that his Stoics trace humanity’s history back much further than the period Balbus appears to describe. If so, then Balbus does not seem to look for the most primitive “wisdom,” but rather to show us that Roman religion from the start was designed with more or less correct physics in mind. After chronology, my second point is that if Balbus were aiming to excavate ancient truths for our benefit, he is not very good at it. His allegoresis, which he attributes to Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus, runs as follows: the myth is that Saturn, Greek Kronos, castrated his father Caelum (“Heaven,” Greek Uranus), and was in turn bound by his son Jupiter, Greek Zeus. Balbus thinks that the castration of Uranus is an allegorical way of saying that divine aether produces without genitals. He says that Saturn or Kronos represents time, which contains the movements of the aether, and that Jupiter represents limitation of the courses of heavenly, aetherial bodies into regular motions. (DND .) Now it seems to me that Balbus’ reading of the myth goes by very quickly and that it is obscure in some respects. In particular, it would take much more explanation to say what correct physical theory Balbus wants us to think is enclosed in the allegory as a whole. His point about the castration, 

Perhaps Cicero imagines that these philosophers gave rise to the myths of Atlas, Prometheus, or Cepheus, whose myths he interprets at Tusculans . as distorted descriptions of prowess at cosmology.

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


I suppose, is clear enough. The rest has something to do with the productive relationship between aether, time, and the structured heavens, all three of which are accorded some divine status. But what the nature of the productive relationship or the nature of the divine status might be is opaque. So I think Balbus’ aim here is not to excavate some ancient physics for our edification. Rather, his aim is merely to tell us that allegoresis of the myth in terms of physical claims acceptable to a Stoic is possible. If learned readers want to learn more, let them look in Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus. If Balbus’ aim were the recovery of the encoded physics, his etymologies would also pose some puzzles. Often they reveal nothing more than that Ceres, for example, goddess of fertility and agriculture, “bears crops” (from gerere, to bear, DND .). These descriptions of the gods are consistent with Balbus’ position, but they are so vague that they would be consistent with many positions. Nor do they reveal much news of their own. With Apollo and Proserpina, Balbus points out that a god’s name is borrowed or derived from Greek, but stops there, without etymologizing the Greek names in turn. To trace every god’s name all the way back to its physical meaning does not seem to be the goal. At times, Balbus is more interested in arguing that the names of the type- Roman gods were derived from earlier terms than he is in the specific theories that originally produced those terms. He certainly wants his audience to think that all the names could be traced to the ideas of the old physicists, but in some cases he limits himself to showing the first step or two of the trace. In sum, Balbus applies the techniques of etymology and allegoresis not primarily to reveal the physical principles that stand behind the type  gods. Rather, he demonstrates that techniques are available that, when applied more thoroughly than Balbus has time for, could show that the myths and the names were derived in a complex process from some earlier set of ideas. Not only that, but this set of ideas is such that a Stoic can 

Is this particular Stoic use of etymology new with Balbus? I suspect not. Take this report about Antipater’s etymology of the Syrian goddess Atargatis: “And yet Antipater of Tarsus, the Stoic, in the fourth book of [his] On superstition, says that it is said by some that Gatis, the queen of the Syrians, was such a gastronome that she ordered that ‘without Gatis (ater Gatidos, ἄτερ Γάτιδος) no fish was to be eaten;’ and he says that through ignorance the many named her Atargatis, but stayed away from fish.” καίτοι γε Ἀντίπατρος ὁ Ταρσεὺς ὁ ἀπὸ τῆς στοᾶς ἐν τετάρτῳ περὶ δεισιδαιμονίας λέγεσθαί φησι πρός τινων ὅτι Γάτις ἡ τῶν Σύρων βασίλισσα οὕτως ἦν ὀψοφάγος ὥστε κηρῦξαι ἄτερ Γάτιδος μηδένα ἰχθὺν ἐσθίειν· ὑπ’ ἀγνοίας δὲ τοὺς πολλοὺς αὐτὴν μὲν Ἀταργάτιν ὀνομάζειν, ἰχθύων δὲ ἀπέχεσθαι. (Athenaeus .a Antipater fr.  in SVF vol. .) Notice two things. First, “the many” mistake a meaningful phrase for a meaningless proper name. Second, the context for Antipater’s story was his On superstition. So perhaps for Antipater this story illustrated the sort of naming mistake people made about Balbus’ type- gods.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

plausibly argue that they were the same as the Stoic view of the world. So Balbus does not have to reject the type- gods, or their traditional worship, at all. Far from it: they were his gods and his worship all along. Stoics are the very people to moderate Roman religion, because people like them advised on its design in the first place. So then, how does Balbus think the designers of Roman religion made it a system to worship Stoic-style gods? In the first place, he understands many of the type- gods as, in origin, references to his paradigmatic gods. He says sed tamen is fabulis spretis ac repudiatis deus pertinens per naturam cuiusque rei, per terras Ceres per maria Neptunus alii per alia, poterunt intellegi qui qualesque sint quoque eos nomine consuetudo nuncupaverit. But now, once these myths are condemned and rejected, we will be able understand who the god is who permeates the nature of each thing, Ceres through the earth, Neptune through the sea, other gods through other things, what they are like, and by what name custom has called them. (DND .)

Compare Ceres and Neptune thus understood with what Balbus said about the cosmic nature, rational and equipped with sensation, at DND .–. He argued that the four “parts” of the cosmos, earth, water, air, and the ether, are hot, and thus pervaded by the fiery cosmic nature. (DND .–) “But we see that in the parts of the cosmos (for there is nothing in the cosmos that is not part of the whole) are sense and reason” (DND .). In ., then, Balbus has detected this same theory of the cosmic nature behind some of the type- gods. Neptune is the part of the cosmic nature in the sea, Ceres that part in the earth when considered as the source of fertile harvests. To extrapolate: Juno is the part in the air (DND .–); Dis, Greek Hades, is also the part in the earth, considered as that from which everything terrestrial is made and into which it decays (DND .); Jupiter is that part in the aetherial heaven (DND .–). Since Balbus thinks that the heaven is where the mind of cosmic nature as a whole resides (DND .–), Jupiter would seem to be, as is consistent with his commanding role in myth, either the type god himself, or the “leading part” (the Stoic ἡγεμονικόν) of the type- god, its mind. Perhaps Balbus thinks that each of the other parts of the cosmos is equipped with its own reason, an agent like the heavenly bodies. 

videmus autem in partibus mundi (nihil enim est in omni mundo quod non pars universi sit) inesse sensum atque rationem.

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


But perhaps he thinks each is a way to refer to that part of cosmic god that is in and controls each respective part. In the second place, we move to traditional gods that Balbus identifies with type- gods, the heavenly bodies. By etymologizing Diana from “day” and “night,” Balbus concludes that she was was originally the moon, which makes the day as though night. (DND .) Her epithet Omnivaga (“Allwandering”) conveys that she is one of the seven vagantes, the “wanderers” or planets. Apollo, he asserts, is the sun. (DND .) Thus these two gods are revealed to be type- gods after all, and cult doublets of Sol and Luna. Thus understood, Roman religion allows Balbus to worship his paradigmatic gods. Balbus concludes part [] of his speech, “what the gods are like,” as follows. quos deos et venerari et colere debemus. cultus autem deorum est optimus idemque castissimus atque sanctissimus plenissimusque pietatis, ut eos semper pura integra incorrupta et mente et voce veneremur. non enim philosophi solum verum etiam maiores nostri superstitionem a religione separaverunt. nam qui totos dies precabantur et immolabant, ut sibi sui liberi superstites essent, superstitiosi sunt appellati, quod nomen patuit postea latius; qui autem omnia quae ad cultum deorum pertinerent diligenter retractarent et tamquam relegerent, sunt dicti religiosi ex relegendo, elegantes ex eligendo, diligendo diligentes, ex intellegendo intellegentes; his enim in verbis omnibus inest vis legendi eadem quae in religioso. ita factum est in superstitioso et religioso alterum vitii nomen alterum laudis. Ac mihi videor satis et esse deos et quales essent ostendisse. These gods [i.e. Ceres, Neptune, and other type  gods] we must both worship and pay cult to. But cult of the gods is best and least polluted, and again most holy and most full of piety, when we worship always with both mind and voice pure, faultless, and untainted. For not only philosophers but even our own ancestors distinguished superstition from religion. For people who spent whole days praying and sacrificing so that their children would survive them (sibi superstites essent) were called ‘superstitious,’ a term that later got a wider application. But people who carefully went back over everything to do with the cult of the gods and as it were ‘re read’ (relegerent) it, they were called ‘religious,’ as elegans from e-ligere (‘well chosen’ from ‘to pick out’), diligens from di-ligere (‘careful’ from ‘to love’), intellegens from intel-legere (‘intelligent’ from ‘to understand’). In all of these 

Balbus’ intention here is to make it plausible that religio and its cognates are derived from a compound of legere by mentioning other, more obvious compounds of legere. In addition to the phonetic comparison, he probably intends us to see some of the senses of legere like “to gather” or “to pick” as part of the original meanings of verbs like intel-legere, so that part of the original


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic words there is the same force of legere (‘to gather’, ‘pick’, or ‘read’) as there is in religiosus (‘religious’). Thus it came about that between ‘superstitous’ and ‘religious,’ one is a term for vice, the other a term of praise. And it seems to me that I have shown sufficiently that there are gods and what they are like. (DND . )

This passage is full of Cicero’s terminology from his preface (see Chapter  and Appendix ). In DND .– (quoted on pp. – above) Cicero wondered how to worship the gods “with purity and without pollution” (pure atque caste), how piety and holiness could be secured. Now he has Balbus tell us how the cult of the gods is “least polluted” (castissimus), done with a pure (pura) mind, most holy and full of piety. The answer is that such virtuous performance follows an intellectual activity, the “re-reading” or “re-gathering” of traditional cult. This is the sort of interpretation that Balbus has been engaged in. By it, the Stoic can come to believe correctly that traditional practices were designed to be performed for the paradigmatic gods themselves, in honor of their virtues and their gifts, or for the divine souls of human sages. Thus her rational and linguistic faculty is purified, with more accurate beliefs and concepts, and she moves closer to a perfect virtue of piety. She will not fear the angry, lustful gods of myth, thus she will have avoided superstition. She will accept that the gods she worships care for her, her fellow citizens, and people in general, so she will have avoided impiety. In Cicero’s terms, this is moderate religion. But how should she perform in their honor? Some traditional performances make easy sense. For example, speaking in Jupiter’s honor seems quite rational, since the cosmic god is supposed to have sensation in all his parts and must, then, notice what we say to him. But Balbus’ paradigmatic gods do not benefit in any obvious way from an elaborate animal sacrifice. Might the cosmic god (for example) not think the Romans had mistaken his nature when they sacrificed? But Balbus thinks that sacrifice was written into the religion from the start. Speaking of some of its original authors, he says: cumque in omnibus rebus vim haberent maximam prima et extrema, principem in sacrificando Ianum esse voluerunt, quod ab eundo nomen est ductum, ex quo transitiones perviae iani foresque in liminibus profanarum aedium ianuae nominantur. nam Vestae nomen a Graecis (ea est enim quae ab illis Ἑστία dicitur); vis autem eius ad aras et focos pertinet, itaque in ea dea, quod est rerum custos intimarum, omnis et precatio et sacrificatio extrema est. nec longe meaning of “to understand” is “to choose between” or “discriminate”, or di-ligere so that part of the original “to love” is “to pick out.”

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


absunt ab hac vi di Penates, sive a penu ducto nomine (est enim omne quo vescuntur homines penus) sive ab eo quod penitus insident; ex quo etiam penetrales a poetis vocantur. And since in all matters the first and the last things have the greatest force, they wished the leader in sacrifice to be Janus, because his name is taken from eundo [‘going’], from which name shortcut passage ways are named ‘Januses,’ and the doors in the entrance to ordinary houses are called ianuae. For Vesta’s name is from the Greeks, since she is the one whom they call Hestia [‘hearth’]. But the force of the name applies to altars and hearths, thus in this goddess is the end of prayer and sacrifice, because she is the guardian of matters internal. Nor are the ‘Penates’ far from this same force, whether their name is from penus [‘larder’] since the ‘larder’ is everything which people eat, or whether from that which resides ‘deep inside’ [penitus], for which reason the poets call them penetrales (‘the ones deep inside’). (DND . )

To catch Balbus’ meaning, it helps to compare his treatment of Vesta with Cornutus’ treatment of her Greek analogue Hestia. (Cornutus – Lang) One meaning Cornutus gives to Hestia is that of the divine fire that is the sustaining principle mixed into all parts of everything, into which everything will (roughly speaking) burn up, and by which everything will be made again at the conflagration. This is why the hearth is the centre of the home, he says, because, like the divine principle in the cosmos, the hearth houses the fire inside that sustains. Greek sacrifices begin and end with Hestia, Cornutus continues, in acknowledgment of the divine fire’s role at the beginning and end of the cosmos. Thus we see that Balbus, too, wants Vesta to be the fire inside, the ultimate end of prayer and sacrifice, or the Penates to be the inward part which feeds us all. He too gestures at Vesta and the Penates as symbols of the all-pervading divine principle, and thus proper objects of cult. But it is over-subtle to think that such symbolism is Balbus’ only objective in this passage. His more obvious purpose is to refer the names Janus, Vesta, and Penates to a model for traditional Roman sacrifice. As Balbus’ flexible model acknowledges, it is hard to say what a “typical” Roman sacrifice was like even in one historical period, since sacrifices ranged in scale and kind from big public processions to private occasions, in honor of many idiosyncratic gods, with many items sacrificed. Let us take one reconstruction of larger and more public animal sacrifices. 

Here I follow Scheid in Ru¨pke () –. Scheid’s view of sacrifice emerged from his work on the Arval Brethren, see Scheid () –. For questions about Scheid’s approach see


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

A procession entered the templum, the plot of land consecrated to the god. On this plot would typically be built the god’s “house” with an altar in front of it. There would be an initial libation and burning of incense. Other gifts to the god might be given. The animal would be “immolated,” which is to say covered with sacred meal, and then killed. Its innards would be inspected to see if the god had accepted it. If so, the god’s portion was symbolically handed over, for example by burning on the altar. The remainder of the animal was then declared ready for mortal consumption and eaten in a feast. The god was considered to be a fellow participant at this feast. Balbus’ model captures the movement of this process. Janus was given first place because he symbolizes movement, the procession over the boundary into the templum. Sure enough, there is evidence that Janus was given the first honors even at sacrifices or prayers to other gods. Vesta is the last because she is the hearth or altar, the place where the god’s portion is given over, at what you might think is the culmination of the sacrifice. Or, as in a private house or the exceptional temple of Vesta where the altar was not outside, Vesta is “inside,” away from the worshippers in the god’s aedes at a temple or in the private space reached by crossing into an ordinary house. The Penates are either the place inside the house or aedes, or the “larder” from which everyone feeds, the feast. By these double meanings – divine fire and the terms of the ritual – Balbus assimilates sacrifice as a symbol of thanks to the divine fire within, which gives us plenty. The designers of the religion made divine patrons for the parts of the ritual to indicate its divine acceptance. To speculate, it suits Balbus that some sacrifices culminated in a feast alongside the god – it symbolized the bountiful gods’ place with us in the society of the rational. In sum, in this analysis of the role of Janus, Vesta, and the Penates in sacrifice, we see Balbus gesture at how the rituals of the religion, and not just the names and depictions of its gods, might be re-read to express views the Stoics would call pious. My last point on Balbus’ etymologies is that they are plausibly Cicero’s own work. It is possible that some of the many Stoics who had contact with Romans had done for the Roman gods what their predecessors had done for the Greek. Meanwhile, Varro had done non-Stoic etymology of the same names. But Cicero is the pioneer of Stoic thought in Latin, so it is plausible that Balbus’ etymologies are Cicero’s own. By contrasting them


Ando’s  review of Scheid (). For a collection of evidence on sacrifice see Wissowa () –. Ovid, Fasti .–, Livy .; Wissowa () –.

. Balbus’ Stoic View of Traditional Religion


with Cornutus’ equivalents, Stoic but Greek, and Varro’s, Latin but not Stoic, we can pick out a theme. To begin from Jupiter, Balbus could have looked for an equivalent to the Greek Zeus, “the father of gods and men” (πατὴρ. . . θεῶν καὶ ἀνθρώπων, Cornutus  Lang) from “to live” (zēn, ζῆν), as in Eusebius Preparation for the Gospel .. (see p.  above) and Cornutus  Lang, because he is alive everywhere and causes the other living things. Perhaps Varro’s Dies-piter, “day” or “sky father” could have helped, linking Balbus’ heavenly Jupiter with the creative role of the cosmic god (On the Latin language .–). But Balbus goes another way: iuvans pater, “helpful father.” (DND .–) “Helpful father” exactly captures Balbus’ theology. The cosmic god made us and the type- gods to be like himself in respect of reason: he is our “father.” But then he went on to help us: he makes and sustains the rest of the cosmos for our sake. In the same way, Balbus goes on to emphasize divine beneficence in many of his gods. He says that the Greek Stoics identify Juno with the air. (ΗΡΑ from ΑΗΡ, i.e. (H)ēra from aēr, Cornutus  Lang.) But for his part, Balbus derives her Latin name, like Jupiter, from iuvare, to help (this time in agreement with Varro, On the Latin language .). Dis, alternatively named Pluto, may in both languages be derived from “wealth” (dives, πλοῦτος). Accordingly Cornutus says that Hades, lord of the underworld or “earth” in Balbus’ estimation, is called Pluto, “wealthy,” because all perishable things die and thus become his possession in the end. ( Lang) But that is perhaps too depressing for Balbus. He explains the etymology, “because everything both dies into the earth and arises from the earth.” (quia recidunt omnia in terras et oriuntur e terris, DND .) Thus Balbus makes Dis generous with his wealth rather than simply host to the dead. Varro agrees with the cyclical interpretation, but does not mention wealth. (On the Latin language .) These examples show that by choosing among etymologies like those we find in Varro or Cornutus, or by pioneering his own, Cicero not only makes Balbus’ type- gods Stoic. He also hones them to his own purpose by making them indicative of gods who care about us. This beneficence is the same quality we saw Balbus emphasize in the gods of types  and . This, then, is Balbus’ view of the traditional religion. Or, to put it in his own terms in DND .– (pp. – above), it is his view of how the “cult of the gods,” the cultus deorum, is to be pursued piously by religio, “re-reading.” Perhaps with an unspoken exception or three, the cult of each Roman god was originally, and is still for a discerning Stoic, a system of gesture understood to honor in the right way the paradigmatic gods, virtuous and helpful members of our rational society. Balbus thus


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

welcomes the traditional religion as traditional. He does not think it has ever been a static tradition. Its early development was complex and additions kept coming. But all these innovative foundations turn out to have used a deep, or at least a respectable, understanding of how the gods really are, and how we should treat them, even if in the case of the type- gods their contributions have suffered distortion. Now notice one more feature of DND .–. Balbus thinks that some Roman ancestors devised the term religio to distinguish religious people from the superstitious. At the time, the “superstitious” engaged in too many ceremonies in the hope that their children would survive them (would be superstites). These people must already have been confused by threatening “gods” like those in myth. Thus it was already part of the early tradition, preserved in the word religio, that the traditional cult of the gods invites constant reflection and reinterpretation. Done right, this does not result in radically new meanings for the cult. Although it may also bring clarification of earlier ideas, as with the gods of types  and , it is chiefly how the cult’s pious performance can be preserved from the distortion. When Balbus imports the thought of the Stoics and looks for the evidence that the same ideas prompted the design of the cult, he does what tradition calls for. Perhaps this is just good luck. If Balbus found that Roman cult was not compatible with Stoic ethics he would reject it. If he found that it was not originally so, but could be reformed radically rather as Velleius wants to do, he would do the latter. But as it is, he claims to be the one who is truly at home with the tradition. In this sense he is a reformer: he wishes to reform what was deformed. 

On this account, you might think Balbus looks too friendly to traditional cult to be a good Stoic. For there is evidence that Zeno was unfriendly to it. We read that in his Republic he recommended that no temples be built (texts collected at SVF .). We should not mistake this for an edict to destroy existing temples, but it does imply that Zeno thought having temples was not ideal. The hostile Plutarch said that Zeno’s recommendation committed the whole school to hypocrisy if ever they took part in traditional religion. (On Stoic self-contradictions c) Further, there are passages where Seneca emphasizes that sages have no need of conventional religious performance: vis deos propitiare? bonus esto. satis illos coluit quisquis imitatus est. “You want to win over the gods? Be good. He has given them cult enough who has imitated them.” (Letters .) But if Zeno was against traditional performances, he was not followed by the rest of the Stoa. Seneca himself, while he has his doubts about gilding the horns of a sacrificial cow, approves of sacrificial performance when done with pious intention, just as Balbus would lead us to expect. (De beneficiis ..) In the doxographers, not only is the Stoic sage said to be pious thanks to the unity of the virtues (Stobaeus .. SVF .), he also makes a study of the conventions of worship (DL . SVF .). The picture that emerges is that while the sage can exercise piety without performing her city’s religion, in general she will choose to make the traditional gestures, understanding those gestures piously. How the Stoics reconciled their determinist theology with religious actions like (say) prayer is another question. For excellent treatments of all the matters in this note see Algra (), (), and ().

. Cotta’s Response


. Cotta’s Response It is time to turn back to Balbus’ opponent. Shortly I shall examine some key points in Cotta’s arguments against Balbus. As with Balbus’ speech, a full treatment of Book  would be beyond the scope of this book. In addition, Cotta’s speech has gaps in its transmitted text, so that it is hard to pick up the thread of his general strategy at particular points. Instead, I shall concentrate on arguments with which Cotta matches the parts of Balbus’ speech I examined above. In sub-section .. we shall see an objection Cotta submits to Balbus’ positive outlook on the Central Question. In sub-section .. we shall look at Cotta’s approach to Balbus’ thesis that Stoicism and Roman religion are compatible. But first let us examine the figure of Cotta more closely. In section . of this chapter it emerged that Cotta defends the traditional religion as handed down by his pontifical predecessors. We also saw that it seems to him that there are gods. Here I shall examine the other features of Cotta’s outlook on the relationship between skepticism and religion. For although both are Academic skeptics, Cicero seems to have designed Cotta to approach the matter differently than does his own character, Marcus. First, Cotta finds it most plausible that the traditional requirements of Roman religion should be performed. That is to say, he is not just going through the motions when he does his pontifical job, or when he defends it. For as he says of himself, “I have persuaded myself that Romulus, with the institution of the auspices, and Numa, with the rites, laid the foundations of our state which would certainly never have been so great without the greatest propitiation of the gods.” (DND ., see pp. – above.) Cotta has persuaded himself using some historical evidence – Rome’s rise to greatness – and a further argument, that if Romulus and Numa had not so successfully established Roman propitiation of the gods, Rome’s rise would not have occurred. For the sort of historical facts and arguments he has in mind, we can compare Livy’s stories of Romulus and Numa’s role in founding the religion (Livy .–, –) and the great speech Livy gives to Camillus, linking piety and impiety with Rome’s successes and 

These lacunae were evidence for A. C. Clark in The Descent of Manuscripts (). He argues that they are a result of the loss of whole pages, quires, and so on. If Clark was right, perhaps these parts of books were lost by accident. If so, it is in a way good news for modern readers, since the losses are arbitrarily related to their content, and thus might not distort our interpretation in a systematic way. But crude, censorious editing is possible too. For example, perhaps Christian readers tore out pages or quires to which they objected. (My thanks to an anonymous reviewer for the latter point.)


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

failures (Livy .–). Is this self-persuasion unskeptical on Cotta’s part? No, because this persuasion is only a matter of historical argument. For Cicero, and thus probably for Cotta too, historical argument is about rhetorical plausibility and not about rigorous proof of the truth. (On the orator .–) So Cotta can have persuaded himself of this view in the way he describes without taking it be true. Notice that Cotta’s reason to support traditional religious performance has nothing whatsoever to do with the nature of the gods. So far as he has claimed they might not care at all. “Propitiating” them might benefit Rome just by strengthening the “propitiators’” moral fibre. This lack of theology is not an accident. For Cotta consistently disclaims any view at all about the nature of the gods, not even a skeptical claim about what seems plausible for the moment. The matter always seems “thoroughly opaque” to him. (perobscura, DND ., cf. ., .–) In summary, then: it seems plausible to Cotta that there are gods and that it benefits Rome to keep up the traditional religion. But he never forms a view on whether the gods care about this, or are in a position to do anything in return. Thus in contrast to Balbus and Velleius, Cotta takes Cicero’s skeptical option in the moderation of religion. He avoids positive impiety or superstition by refusing assent to the truth of either answer to the Central Question. In this way he represents beside them a third possible outcome to Cicero’s project in DND and Div. But there is also something unsettling for Cicero about Cotta’s comfort in his total inability to form even a provisional view on what is plausible about the nature of the gods. This is that even in this predicament Cotta does not seem to feel alienated from his religion. Perhaps he would have more time for an antiquarian approach like Varro’s than he does for Velleius’ and Balbus’ philosophies, but at any rate, far from appreciating Balbus’ attempt to lead the Romans’ home to a theoretical understanding of cult, he thinks that the theories if anything weaken his own grasp on what is pious. One recent interpretation of Cotta is that his long consideration of philosophical accounts of religion have led him to suspend judgment about religious matters in such a way that he merely follows religious views, taking them neither to be true nor even persuasive. On this account, Cotta strives to keep religion out of the realm of philosophical evaluation altogether. This seems to me to go too far. Of course, as an Academic, Cotta’s philosophical reflections lead him to suspend judgment about truth. But Cotta takes his views, for example that there are gods, to 

DeFilippo () .

. Cotta’s Response


be persuasive. As I have just argued, he has no view about the nature of the gods not because he has no views about what is persuasive, but because it happens to be a particularly difficult question. Further, Cotta has not stopped philosophizing about religion. He is the host of the conversation in DND and seemingly its instigator. Like Marcus even at his most skeptical in the Academica (.–), Cotta would like to be persuaded even as to the truth, at least of the existence of the gods. (DND .) Cotta’s conjunction of skepticism and traditional religious practices are thus something more like what Sextus Empiricus says of the Pyrrhonist skeptic’s outlook: τάχα γὰρ ἀσφαλέστερος παρὰ τοὺς ὡς ἑτέρως φιλοσοφοῦντας εὑρεθήσεται ὁ σκεπτικός, κατὰ μὲν τὰ πάτρια ἔθη καὶ τοὺς νόμους λέγων εἶναι θεοὺς καὶ πᾶν τὸ εἰς τὴν τούτων θρῃσκείαν καὶ εὐσέβειαν συντεῖνον ποιῶν, τὸ δ’ ὅσον ἐπὶ τῇ φιλοσόφῳ ζητήσει μηδὲν προπετευόμενος. For perhaps the sceptic will be found to be safer than those who do philosophy in another way; in line with his ancestral customs and laws, he says that there are gods and does everything that tends to worship of and reverence towards them, but as far as philosophical investigation is con cerned, he makes no rash moves. (Adversus mathematicos ., translation from Bett ())

This sort of attitude to religion, where radical skepticism leads to sturdy traditionalism, has had great influence on some modern thinkers. We can see it as an inspiration for fideism, the view that skepticism about rational inquiry leads us to fall back on faith or tradition. (Mutatis mutandis – orthopractic Cotta does not have the idea of religious faith in the modern sense.) Perhaps, in this way, Cotta, and not the other characters or even Cicero, has turned out to be the most influential voice in DND. ..

Cotta and the Problem of Us

In this sub-section, I examine a key objection Cotta makes to Balbus’ answer to the Central Question. Now, as to his general strategy, Cotta found that Balbus said a great many things that were “fitting and coherent with one another.” (apta inter se et cohaerentia) Therefore Cotta will “not so much refute [Balbus’] speech as inquire after the things I did not 

Popkin () documents this history amply. It seems likely that many of the authors whom Popkin treats, being conversant with Latin, may have taken more interest in Cotta and Cicero’s Academic skepticism than Popkin mentions, since he is interested specifically in the influence of ancient Pyrrhonism. Penelhum () reflects on this same fideist history.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

understand.” (DND .) So, unlike what he did to Velleius, Cotta will not try to convict Balbus of self-contradiction. Thus he intends to put problems for Balbus’ position on some other bases. He does so from the point of view of a philosophically well-informed listener who can adduce his own reasons why Balbus’ arguments are puzzling to someone who is not a Stoic. This approach is apparent in the argument I interpret here. In sub-section .. of this chapter I argued that Balbus’ resounding “yes” to the Central Question was based on our reason. God gave it to us so that we could be part of a cosmic society with him and the other gods. Reason is the basis of the relationship with us that leads god to make everything else for our sake. It is on this point that Cotta mounts his attack on Balbus’ theology. The attack comes at DND .–. The beginning of the attack is lost, but it is part of Cotta’s reply to part [] of Balbus’ speech, “that the gods care about us” (DND ., cf. .). Cotta gives the final inference of the argument thus: nam si C. C. C.

stultitia consensu omnium philosophorum maius est malum quam si omnia mala et fortunae et corporis ex altera parte ponantur, sapientiam autem nemo adsequitur, in summis malis omnes sumus, quibus vos optume consultum a dis inmortalibus dicitis.

nam ut nihil interest utrum nemo valeat an nemo possit valere, sic non intellego quid intersit utrum nemo sit sapiens an nemo esse possit. For if, C. C. C.

by universal consensus of philosophers, foolishness is a greater evil than all the evils of fortune or the body that could be opposed to it, but nobody attains wisdom, then we, who you say are cared for very well by the immortal gods, are in the most evil circumstances.

For just as it makes no difference whether nobody is healthy or nobody can be healthy, thus I do not understand what difference it makes whether nobody is wise or nobody can be wise. (DND .)

As Cotta promised, this argument does not accuse Balbus of a selfcontradiction. Balbus could even accept all of C–C provided that, first, 

non tam refellere eius orationem quam ea quae minus intellexi requirere.

. Cotta’s Response


he could suppose that foolishness is a greater evil in the sense that it is evil and other challenges are not, and that, second, he was allowed to understand our evil circumstances as all our own fault. For (if we make the relevant allowances) premises C and C are welcome to him. Following them, he can agree that we are all evil and as unhappy as can be in the sense that we have not achieved wisdom. What he will not accept is the informal implication of C, that our unhappy case looks puzzling next to his claim that the gods themselves care for us very well. Where Cotta might interpret our “evil circumstances” as an evil world, Balbus thinks our unhappiness is our own fault, our misunderstanding of a good world. Thus it is not at odds with the benevolence of the gods. Cotta is aware that Balbus keeps premise  consistent with itself by holding that each of us could make ourselves good and happy, and thus that we are responsible for our own evils. But Cotta wants to know how this excuses god when, as a matter of fact, we make ourselves bad and unhappy. It is as though god planned a world where we could, in principle, be healthy, but also planned that in the event every one of us was sick. Notice what a fundamental part of Balbus’ position Cotta attacks. To be good or bad is a property only of the rational, since the only things good or bad are virtue, vice, or those which share in them. Thus by giving us reason god gave us the opportunity not only to contemplate, to imitate him, and to strive to be good – he also gave us the capacity to be bad, and ingeniously so. Cotta says, “if the gods gave humans reason, they gave us malice.” (DND .) Perhaps some Stoics would reply that Cotta exaggerates when he says that all humans are bad. Perhaps there have been some very few good sages. But the score is billions of bad and unhappy mortals against at most a few of the good and happy. Balbus’ god may have made us a universe that is full of useful and beautiful things. But, Cotta points out, for a Stoic 



I use “evil” simply as the noun corresponding to “bad,” since that is traditional in discussions of the theogical “problem of evil.” I do not mean “evil” to connote extremely bad, as it sometimes does today. Cotta’s argument has something in common with contemporary debate on the problem of evil. In a classic formulation of the problem, J. L. Mackie () pointed out today’s theists are generally committed to the propositions () “there is an omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good God,” and () “there is evil.” But he conceded that there is nothing formally contradictory about these two propositions. So he then made the case for () “if () is true, then () is false.” If someone could succeed in proving (), then contemporary theism would be shown to be irrational. Debate therefore centers on (). Similarly, Balbus accepts  and  but also asserts that we are cared for very well by the gods. What Cotta does not understand is his basis for holding all these thoughts in his head at once. si enim rationem hominibus di dederunt, malitiam dederunt.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

that is of no account against our foolishness. Cotta’s objection, then, is a version of the problem of evil. Balbus has a quick way with some other varieties of this problem. If you appeal to him with natural disasters and unfair distribution of indifferents, he can say that those are things we should rise above. If you confront him with anybody’s ethical evil, he can say that it is the fault of that person alone and that it need make only her unhappy, a precisely condign punishment. But Cotta’s question is about god’s decision to make humanity in general to be the way we are: would a good god have condemned all of us fools to evil and unhappiness, just so that we could have the reason that is the very cause of our unhappiness? This is a deep challenge to Balbus’ theology. What is there to be said in Balbus’ defence? He did not address this issue in his speech in Book . It is possible that he replied, or that Cotta put some reply in his mouth, in the lost section of Cotta’s argument (immediately before the lacuna in DND .). But Cotta gives us some indications of what Balbus’ defence would rest on. One point is that, “But again and again you argue that this is the fault of humans, not of the gods . . .” (sed urgetis identidem hominum esse istam culpam non deorum, .) Although everything in the Stoics’ world was fated by god, each of our actions depends on our assent. Thus my character is a crucial factor in determining each thing that I think or do. To make this vision of ethical responsibility in a deterministic world rigorous, Chrysippus devised for the Stoics a theory of necessity and possibility that allowed that, although each action is fated, it is up to us. Thus whether we decide to do the work required to make ourselves virtuous or not is up to us. God is therefore excused. He may have made the world so that each of us was fated to be bad and unhappy, but we and not he are responsible for our evil and unhappiness. Since our evil is the only evil, the Stoic god is responsible for no evil and his benevolence is not contradicted. This, then, is the consistent position that we can attribute to Balbus. Cotta anticipates a remark from Balbus that when a child uses his inheritance badly, we do not blame the parent who left the estate (DND .). God gave us the means to be happy, it is up to us to use it well. What does Cotta find hard to understand about this? As he said in DND . (p.  above), it is that he is unsure that god can be excused his design decisions just by the subtle conclusion that each of us, in the Stoic sense of “could,” could do otherwise than we do. God is like a professional 

See On fate –, Bobzien () Chapter . That god is responsible for everything except evil is already clear in Cleanthes Hymn –.

. Cotta’s Response


philosopher who knows that some difficult teaching is likely to be misunderstood and lead students astray, but gives it anyway, on the grounds that it is the students’ fault if they misunderstand. (DND .) In .– Cotta has a battery of examples to illustrate the point. We abuse the very capacities that make reason seem a gift, so that we can be all the more creative in evil. Medea, when she killed their children to undo her husband, was using her reason. (DND .–) The characters of comedy give reasons and arguments for their silly or vicious goals. (DND .–) Roman history and the law-courts of Cotta’s own day furnish endless examples of inventive crimes. Balbus will agree that all these actions are evil, that they are evil precisely because they are done using reason, and that god gave us the reason we use. Cotta redescribes this situation so that it seems grotesque. For the reasons which Balbus would insist on, this argument of Cotta’s would not shake a convinced Stoic. It does not try to attack the Stoic using only premises she would accept. But as a skeptic Cotta does not need always to disarm his opponent in that way. All he needs to do is give arguments of equal weight to his opponent’s. He gives a thoughtful listener a weighty reason to wonder if Balbus’ sunny theology holds up: if god made us evil and unhappy so that he could have our company, does he really care for us well? It seems that the world whose beauty enraptures Balbus is in fact a sort of hell. Cicero gives us something to ponder about Marcus’ (and, as I shall argue in Chapter ., his own) preferred answer to the Central Question. ..

Cotta’s Reply to Balbus on Religion

Now that we have seen what a hefty weapon Cotta wields against Balbus’ answer to the Central Question, we turn to his reply to Balbus’ arguments that Stoic theology can render Roman religion piously done. The target is thus part [] of Balbus’ speech, “what the gods are like,” the part of the speech summarized in the table in Appendix . Religion officially becomes the topic in DND ., and Cotta sticks with this topic all the way to .. It is a significant focus of his speech. Cotta’s tactic, again, is not to aim for formal refutation, but rather to ask about what he does not understand. What he does not understand in this case is Balbus’ various attempts to accommodate the gods of types – (or even of type ) in a theology focused on the cosmic god of type . He says:


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic quando enim me in hunc locum deduxit oratio, docebo meliora me didicisse de colendis diis inmortalibus iure pontificio et more maiorum capedunculis his, quas Numa nobis reliquit, de quibus in illa aureola oratiuncula dicit Laelius, quam rationibus Stoicorum. Now that my speech has led me to this topic, I shall tell you that I have learnt better things about how the gods are to be worshipped according to pontifical law and ancestral custom from those little pots which Numa left to us, about which Laelius speaks in his tiny little golden speech, than from the arguments of the Stoics. (DND .)

Laelius’ aureola oratiuncula, “tiny little golden speech,” probably mentioned the little pots as evidence that Numa, reputed founder of many aspects of the religion, was frugal in his religious practices. Now if we had not examined Balbus’ ideas about religion closely, Cotta’s answer here might look misplaced. Balbus did not intend to change anything about pontifical law or ancestral custom in the sense of changing any prescriptions for performance. So why does Cotta object that Balbus has taught him nothing about legal or customary worship? He does so because Balbus wants to help Cotta understand why the traditional prescriptions were instituted, and what they mean. Cotta replies with an apt, if satirically small, point of comparison. From Laelius’ citation of the pots he learnt something about what a founder figure intended by his prescriptions. As a priest, he can report that the pots were more use than all the Stoic theorizing, but in just the way that the Stoic theorizing was supposed to be useful. What does Cotta not understand about Balbus’ theories? Cotta does not object to the rationalization of traditional beliefs about the gods per se. Indeed he alleges that he wants more of it. The problem is rather that Balbus’ methods do not work to Cotta’s satisfaction. For example, in the case of some Greek myths, he says atque haec quidem eius modi ex vetere Graeciae fama collecta sunt. quibus intellegis resistendum esse, ne perturbentur religiones; vestri autem non modo haec non refellunt verum etiam confirmant interpretando quorsum quidque pertineat. And these particular stories, and others of this kind, have been assembled thanks to their ancient acclaim in Greece. You understand that they must be resisted lest religion be distressed. But your Stoics not only do not refute the stories, rather they even strengthen them by interpreting what each one refers to. (DND .) 

See the texts cited by Mayor () ad loc.

. Cotta’s Response


As he presents it here, Cotta would not mind if Balbus wanted simply to reject these myths as prone to produce superstition. It is Balbus’ methods for adopting the myths that Cotta worries about. When Cotta refers to problematic Greek myths, he does not mean that any myth is problematic. Rather, what he has just done, as he says, is to go through assemblies of myths, all of good repute. (DND .–) Each group of myths is about some one god, but each myth in the group attributes to the god different parentage. But if two people do not share both parents, they cannot be the same person. Thus if we adopt all five of Cotta’s distinct myths about Mercury, for example, it follows that there are five different Mercuries. So does Balbus, who wants to accommodate all the myths by interpretation, intend to multiply Mercury? But then the number of type- gods that religion should acknowledge will have grown in a worrying way. Now Balbus could have an answer to this charge. He might say, for example, that each myth of Mercury’s origin discloses a distinct piece of physical information about the god to which it refers. These bits of physical information need not be contradictory. So Balbus does not have to concede that the myths require five Mercuries. But Cotta’s argument here is indicative of a trend. He tends to object that Balbus’ methods yield too many gods. Cotta sets this agenda early on in his reaction to part [] of Balbus’ speech, “what the gods are like:” nec vero volgi atque imperitorum inscitiam despicere possum, cum ea considero quae dicuntur a Stoicis. sunt enim illa imperitorum: piscem Syri venerantur, omne fere genus bestiarum Aegyptii consecraverunt; iam vero in Graecia multos habent ex hominibus deos . . . Herculem Aesculapium Tyndaridas Romulum nostri aliosque compluris, quos quasi novos et adscripticios cives in caelum receptos putant. haec igitur indocti; quid vos philosophi, qui meliora? omitto illa, sunt enim praeclara: sit sane deus ipse mundus. . . . quare igitur pluris adiungimus deos? quanta autem est eorum multitudo! I cannot look down on the ignorance of the mob and the uneducated, when I reflect on what the Stoics say. From the uneducated you get these sorts of things: the Syrians revere a fish, the Egyptians have consecrated almost every kind of beast. Now, even in Greece they have many gods made out of 


I agree with Mayor () against e.g. Ax () and Pease () in reading nostri over nostrum. It is, of course, possible that Cotta gives a list of the heroes of Greece, marking out Romulum nostrum as the only Roman on the list. But that makes the sequence of thought strange: why would Cotta restrict his list of the uneducated to Greeks and barbarians? If we read nostri then he moves from the Greek heroes to a list of the heroes accepted by the Romans. Cf. DND ., p.  above. This claim probably stems from the iconography of either Atargatis or Dagon.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic humans . . . our own people have Hercules, Aesculapius, Castor and Pollux, Romulus, and many others, who they think were admitted to heaven as new and naturalised citizens. So that’s what the unlearned say what do you philosophers say, how is it better? I pass over your well known arguments, let the cosmos itself be a god at least . . . So why do we add many gods? But how great is the crowd of them! (DND . )

Cotta proceeds to argue that the Stoics match the stupidity of the crowd point for point. They deify stars which they name after beasts, matching the mistake of the Syrians and Egyptians. They make gods of dead humans, matching the mistake of the Greeks and Romans. (DND .–) But although these are particular arguments, “why do we add many gods?” could stand as the slogan for all of Cotta’s engagement with Balbus on religion. He will grant the existence of the singular, type- god (“let the cosmos itself be a god”) in order to raise difficulties about the introduction of further gods. Thus what he wants to question is Balbus’ methods: if Balbus wants to get from one god to many in such-and-such a way, then he will find himself led to yet more, and too many, gods. Cotta takes on Balbus’ methods directly, as we saw in DND . (p.  above) or in an attack on allegoresis (explicatio fabularum) and etymology (enodatio nominum) (DND .–). But recent scholarship has given pride of place among Cotta’s argument to a volley of arguments of the type we call the sorites, or “heap.” (DND .–) Cotta explicitly attributes these arguments to Carneades. (DND .) We have a close enough parallel for some of them in Sextus Empiricus to say with Sextus that they were written down by Carneades’ pupil, Clitomachus. (Adversus mathematicos .) Here we find Cicero, directly or indirectly, and from a source or from memory, using a set of arguments whose provenance we know. We can see what he does with them. Let us see first, then, what these arguments given by Carneades were like. Arguments in the sorites or “heap” type can be put in various forms, but one such would be this. The question is raised, how many grains of sand make a heap? One grain on its own is not a heap. A million grains is a heap. Furthermore, one grain of sand is negligible. The addition of just that one grain could never turn a collection that is not yet a heap into a heap. Thus we can say, if one grain of sand is not a heap, then neither are two. If two grains of sand are not a heap, then neither are three. On we go, 

In this summary interpretation of Carneades’ theological sorites arguments I am indebted to Couissin () and especially to Barnes () and Burnyeat (). I agree with Burnyeat in particular. For Cicero’s knowledge of the sorites as such, see Academica ., .–.

. Cotta’s Response


until we reach: if , grains of sand are not a heap, then neither are a million. Thus we seem to reach a false conclusion from true premises by valid reasoning. Such arguments would appeal to skeptics since they confront dogmatists with apparently unattractive options. Either the dogmatist can give up one of the plausible sounding claims about what a heap is or whether a single grain of sand makes a difference, or he can give up on if-then reasoning. It seems that Chrysippus’ response for the Stoics to such arguments was to reject the thesis that the addition of one more grain cannot turn a little collection into a heap. For him, the source of the apparent trouble is not that there is no definite point at which a heap appears, but rather that we do not know exactly where it is. Thus Chrysippus could hold on to the soundness of if-then reasoning where all of its conditionals are true. But he can say that somewhere in the sequence of conditionals between “if one is not a heap, then neither are two” and “if , are not a heap, then neither are a million” is a false conditional, perhaps “if , are not a heap, then neither are ,.” The sort of sorites argument that Carneades used against Chrysippan theology, and which Cotta exploits against Balbus, was meant to capitalize on Chrysippus’ response to the sorites in general. Suppose Carneades could construct a sequence of conditionals that ran from “if Zeus is a god, then so is Poseidon” to “if a brook is a god, then so is a puddle.” Suppose that a Stoic would agree that Zeus is a god, but a puddle is not. Then, according to Chrysippus’ own response, the Stoic would have to conclude that one of the if-then claims in between “Zeus is a god” and “a puddle is a god” was false. Thus if Carneades could only show that each of his if-then claims is true, or at any rate that each is compelling to a Stoic, then the Stoic’s rational approach to theology would totter. She would have to accept either that Zeus is not a god, or that a puddle is a god, or that there is something fishy about if-then reasoning after all. Moving from one god to many would seem a task that risks much. Since each premise in such a sorites must be examined, Carneades’ theological sorites are rather short. We do not go a million gods deep. We go just far enough to reach some candidate “god” who all would agree is not a god. Thus unlike with the sand argument I gave above, Carneades 

Strictly speaking Chrysippus seems to have formulated the sorites not with the strongest form of Stoic conditional, which was true if and only if the truth of its antecedent was incompatible with the falsity of its consequent, but with a truth functional or material conditional, which is true if and only if it is not the case that both its consequent is false and its antecedent true. See Burnyeat () –.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

does not need to skip a long sequence of conditionals and say “on we go, until we reach . . .” If one conditional in the chain seems weak or controversial, he can provide it with the support it needs. Here is a sample from Sextus: καὶ μὴν εἰ ὁ ἥλιος θεός ἐστιν, καὶ ἡμέρα ἂν εἴη θεός· οὐ γὰρ ἄλλο τι ἦν ἡμέρα ἢ ἥλιος ὑπὲρ γῆς. εἰ δ’ ἡμέρα ἐστὶ θεός, καὶ ὁ μὴν ἔσται θεός· σύστημα γάρ ἐστιν ἐξ ἡμερῶν. εἰ δὲ ὁ μὴν θεός ἐστι, καὶ ὁ ἐνιαυτὸς ἂν εἴη θεός· σύστημα γάρ ἐστιν ἐκ μηνῶν ὁ ἐνιαυτός. οὐχὶ δέ γε τοῦτο· τοίνυν οὐδὲ τὸ ἐξ ἀρχῆς. Then again, if the sun is a god, day too would be a god; for day is none other than the sun above the earth. But if day is a god, the month too will be a god; for it is a composite of days. And if the month is a god, the year too would be a god; for the year is a composite of months. But this is not so; therefore neither is the original point . . . (Sextus, Adversus mathematicos ., translation from Bett ())

The Stoics think the sun is a god. Thus Carneades constructs a sequence of conditionals that move them from that claim to the claim that the year is a god. But he thinks the Stoics would reject that latter. Thus the Stoics have Carneades’ intended three unwelcome options: they must reject the divinity of the sun, endorse the divinity of the year, or reject the reasoning of the argument. Each conditional is supposed to rely on some thought analogous to the addition of a single grain of sand. The distinction between, for example, the sun and the sun above the earth is supposed to be too small to allow us to attribute divinity to the one but not the other. But instead of leaving each of these moves to a mechanical principle, as we did in the sand example, Carneades specifies in which respect each pair are too similar for the Stoics to make only one of them a god. So then, what distinctive use does Cotta make of these arguments? The most obvious distinction is that Sextus deploys them for the conclusion that there are no gods (Adversus mathematicos .) but Cotta does not. For Cotta says, “Carneades used to say these things, not to refute the gods (for what is less fitting for a philosopher?) but so as to make the case that the Stoics explain nothing about the gods.” (DND .) Cotta certainly 


Many of Carneades’ grounds for similarity seem unconvincing to me. If the sun is a god then of course the sun, when above the earth, is a god. But the state of affairs, the sun being above the earth, need not be. Day seems to be the state of affairs, not the sun. So why, if the day is a god, need it follow that the month is one too? Perhaps Carneades’ arguments seem most attractive if you already have the sense that the Stoics’ accounts of some polytheist gods look like special pleading. If they went to these lengths to make such an arbitrary range of entities divine, why these rather than those? haec Carneades aiebat, non ut deos tolleret (quid enim philosopho minus conveniens), sed ut Stoicos nihil de dis explicare convinceret.

. Cotta’s Response


sees the big picture. For Carneades the skeptic cannot have meant to prove, once and for all, that there are no gods. Instead, like Sextus, his larger goal must have been to match the Stoic arguments that there are gods. But of the various conclusions available from these arguments, it is possible that Sextus is right that Carneades stated the one given, that none of the “gods” mentioned from the start of the argument are gods. Indeed in general Carneades may have stated these sorites arguments with Sextus’ conclusion that there are no gods. For he may have thought that this was the sting in the tail for the Stoics: they gave a theology that argued for gods, he uses their own methods to argue that there are not. If so, then Cotta describes Carneades’ purpose accurately but adapts the arguments for his own purposes by leaving out the atheist conclusions in which Sextus is interested. A second difference is that Sextus’ Carneades uses his sorites against Stoic gods in general. For example, in the argument quoted above (p. ) he argues against one of Balbus’ type- gods. But Cotta only uses his (surviving) sorites against cultural gods. Where he attacks the divinity of the sun, moon, or heaven, it is in arguments whose steps depend on myths and the identification of, for example, the sun with Apollo. (DND ., .) Thus those arguments deal with the gods of type . In Cotta’s hands these arguments are not against Stoic theology in general, but rather against Balbus’ methods in accommodating cultural gods. A third difference is that, in keeping with his general strategy, Cotta does not claim to have convicted Balbus of incoherence or irrationality. In Sextus’ handling, at any rate, Carneades’ formal treatment amounts to an argument that the Stoics are either deceived about the consistency of their views, or are irrational by their own standards in holding them. Cotta instead introduces these arguments as something Carneades “used to say” (DND .), asking “if I should follow you, tell me, what I should say to somebody who questions me as follows? . . .” (DND .). Cotta does not assert the arguments or that Balbus has no way to respond to them. It is just that he, Cotta, does not understand what Balbus can say. Thus the reader is left suspending judgment on the issue and Cotta will not “follow” Balbus. A fourth difference is that Cotta is often interested not only in the existence of the gods he mentions, but also in whether they deserve worship. For example, Cotta argues that if the Roman gods are to be worshipped, then so are the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. But if Isis and Osiris are to be worshipped, then so are the other barbarian gods. Cotta says that the latter include cows and horses, ibises, hawks, crocodiles, fish,


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

and so on. (DND .) Balbus is thus left to choose between unwelcome options, that cows should be worshipped or that the Roman gods should not. This argument shows not only that among Cotta’s targets in the sorites arguments is Balbus’ defence of traditional religion, but also that Cotta looks at the question from a specifically Roman perspective. He asks not only “are these gods worthy of worship?” but also “are these gods whom the Romans should accept as such or worship?” This emphasis in Cotta’s sorites is of not only theoretical import. For the treatment of new claimants to divinity was a real issue for the authorities at Rome, especially as the empire expanded. At one extreme might be introduction of the cult of a new god at Rome itself. But even acknowledging the divinity of gods overseas could have conseqences. Cotta alludes to one such real case, one for which the historical Cicero sat on the investigating committee of senators. Here is the relevant sorites: an Amphiaraus erit deus et Trophonius? nostri quidem publicani, cum essent agri in Boeotia deorum inmortalium excepti lege censoria, negabant immortalis esse ullos qui aliquando homines fuissent. sed si sunt i di, est certe Erectheus, cuius Athenis et delubrum vidimus et sacerdotem. quem si deum facimus, quid aut de Codro dubitare possumus aut de ceteris qui pugnantes pro patriae libertate ceciderunt? quod si probabile non est, ne illa quidem superiora unde haec manant probanda sunt. Or will Amphiaraus be a god and Trophonius? Our taxmen, at any rate, used to deny that there are any immortals who were once humans, when there were fields in Boeotia belonging to the immortal gods exempted from tax by the censors’ code. But if they are gods, Erechtheus certainly is, who, as I saw myself, has a shrine and a priest at Athens. If we make him a god, how can we hesitate either over Codrus or over others who fell fighting for their country? But if the latter is not plausible, neither are those earlier points from which the later ones flow. (DND .)

Amphiaraus and Trophonius were two heroes – gods of Balbus’ type  – who were worshipped in Boeotia, a region of Greece north of Athens. Land consecrated to the gods was exempt from tax under the law Cotta cites. Thus the tax farmers of Boeotia argued that the two heroes were not gods, in order to secure the tax from their land. The Senate’s decision was that Amphiaraus and Trophonius were gods. So Cotta here reminds his listeners that for the Roman authorities, the divinity of the two heroes was 

For the case and Cicero’s involvement, see Ando () –. See also his Chapter  on interpretatio Romana. North ()  points out that the Amphiaraus case happened at roughly the dramatic date of DND.

. Cotta’s Response


a question with practical implications. Then his sorites proceeds. Erechtheus, legendary Athenian king, similarly had a cult, so by the same criteria as Romans accepted Amphiaraus as a god they should accept him, too. But then Codrus, a less prominent mythical king who died to save Athens and was also accorded cult, should be accepted as divine, and so on. But if it is not plausible that Codrus and other such heroes are gods (and exempt from Roman tax!), then, by the logic of the sorites, the decision about Amphiaraus was wrong. In this way, Cotta finds that Balbus’ openness to type- gods threatens to undermine an established decision. In summary, Cotta’s sorites arguments are in large part intended to show that Balbus has not succeeded to Cotta’s satisfaction in accounting for the reality of the traditional gods, of types –, in such a way that the Romans may worship them without superstition. For Balbus’ methods seem to apply too widely, so that piety threatens to commit the Romans to the worship, or acknowledgment, of a crowded, indeterminate mass of gods. Further, we see Cicero shaping his material, for he uses Carneades’ arguments to Cotta’s purpose in a way that Sextus, with his different purpose, did not use the same material. Is Cotta right to be puzzled in this way? There seems to be an obvious answer available to Balbus. This is that he has not set out to prescribe a religion from scratch. Rather he offers support for Roman religion as it actually is. His method is to reconstruct the historical circumstances of each innovation. But then of course the choice of the Roman gods, and not others, seems arbitrary. The gods of Rome were indeed selected by a long, complex, and as a whole rather arbitrary set of decisions. Meanwhile, among the many religious innovations of the past, there were of course an indeterminate number of ways that the gods of religion might relate to the paradigmatic gods. Again, this is not the fault of Balbus’ methods. Rather his methods rightly reveal the complexities of history. In short, it is not Balbus’ job to cut off Cotta’s sorites at the appropriate point. It is his job only to interpret the data of Roman tradition, messy as they are. The boundary of those data is given to him as his cut-off. So is Cotta putting Carneades’ arguments to unfair use? No, he could find sufficient grounds to press his question fairly. First, although Balbus is  

For data on Erechtheus and Codrus, see entries in Kearns (), Appendix . Of course, Sextus may have adapted the arguments, too. It is possible that Cotta’s arguments are in fact closer to what Carneades gave. Cotta’s version could work against a lot of Stoic allegoresis and divine etymology, notably what we find in Cornutus.


Balbus the Stoic and Cotta the Skeptic

not prescribing a religion from scratch, his views on the type- gods suggest that people with a Stoic-style world-view prescribed many early and surviving aspects of the Roman tradition. Not only that, but such people also gave rise to the Greek myths. If Balbus were an Egyptian or a Syrian, no doubt he could come up with a way to see the hand of protoStoics in the origin of the worship of Serapis or of the fish. Thus if the old physicists were right to prescribe the worship of Jupiter but also right in the views that gave rise to the myth of his many brothers, why does Balbus think he should worship Jupiter but not adopt the brothers as gods, too? I expect Balbus could say that Romans worship the paradigmatic gods by their traditional conventions, the Syrians do so by theirs, and so on. Each tradition is sufficient for its own citizens but not required of others. But, second, as Balbus testifies, the nature of the Roman tradition was not to guard some static set of gods over time. Balbus’ history of the religion is a history of innovation and of new gods, all of which he accepts as traditional. Thus if Balbus commits himself to the equal propriety of worshipping Jupiter and the Syrians’ fish, and if Cotta the pontifex were to follow him in this, consistency could require Cotta to push for the introduction of the fish to Rome as a god. It is not clear how Balbus proposes to block this consequence. These last two paragraphs of dialectic are only my informed speculation, and one could go through many more rounds to and fro. It is into exactly this sort of beard-stroking, I think, that Cotta means to send us with his sorites, and with the other arguments that Balbus commits himself to too many gods. For Cotta’s point is not that Balbus is definitely wrong, but rather that Balbus has not yet told us enough to allow us to understand how Stoic theology and traditional religion are compatible. If Cotta were to use Balbus, rather than his pontifical predecessors, as his authority on the nature of the religious tradition, religion at Rome might be confused and distressed. These particular arguments are given in Cotta’s skeptical role. But as it happens they fit neatly with what he tells us about his personal outlook. Cotta will leave Stoic theorizing well alone, remain in complete ignorance of the nature of the gods, and carry out the duties of a pontifex simply as tradition requires. We should come away from Books  and  of DND with respect for the courage of Cicero’s skeptical practice. The manner in which Cicero faces 

Here we might compare Balbus with Chaeremon who, in the century after Cicero, was an Egyptian grammarian and allegorist of religious matters in the Stoic style. See Van der Horst (), Frede ().

. Cotta’s Response


both what is most attractive and what is most troubling in Balbus’ ideas is courageous. To a Roman searching for a philosophical religion, Balbus’ world is enticing indeed, a cosmos of beauty and beneficence to which the bewildering old cults suddenly turn out to have been tailored. But Cicero gives Cotta strong reasons to doubt this world, even to recoil from it. The “benificent” god gave us not only beauty, but also Thyestean feasts and pandemic evil. The accommodation of traditional religion to philosophical theology, it turns out, may be so much irresponsible special pleading. Cotta is such a forceful character that, after these objections, Marcus’ preference for Balbus’ speech at the end of Book  comes as a surprise. Whichever way Cicero’s own ideas tended to run, we should see these two books as what they are, a remarkable exercise in intellectual integrity: the avoidance of rash assent, even in matters of moment. In the next chapter we turn to Div., where, I shall argue, scrutiny of Cotta and Balbus’ debate on the Central Question is narrowed and resumed.

 

Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

Consider again the following passage (cf. p.  above): nam cum omnibus in rebus temeritas in adsentiendo errorque turpis est, tum in eo loco maxime, in quo iudicandum est, quantum auspiciis rebusque divinis religionique tribuamus; est enim periculum, ne aut neglectis iis impia fraude aut susceptis anili superstitione obligemur. For error and rashness in assent is vicious in any matter, but it is especially so on that question where we must judge how much credit to give to auspices, to divinity, and to religion. For there is a danger that we shall be involved either in an impious fraud (if we neglect these matters) or in the superstition of an old woman (if we accept them). (Div. .)

With this envoi Cicero’s preface to Div. gives way to the dialogue itself. It puts back squarely before the reader the Central Question of DND (see p.  above): do the gods care for us? For of the motivations that Cicero gave in the preface to DND for the study of the nature of the gods, the more salient was that it is ad moderandam religionem necessaria, “necessary for the moderation of religion.” I argued that Cicero means that natural theology puts modi, limits, on religion, becuse it keeps religious actions between, on the one hand, impiety and, on the other, superstition (see Chapter  section ., and Appendix ). Now, as we enter the drama of Div., we are reminded that exactly this is the central project of the two dialogues. For Cicero says that we run the risk of superstition if we “accept” (susceptis) augury and religion. suscipio was the verb to describe a Roman father’s ritual lifting up of a baby at the hearth, to accept it into the family. If an augur “accepts” his auspices, he takes them to heart – he thinks that they really obtain divine sanction so that, if they do not really do so, he is superstitious. But if he “neglects” them (neglectis) he thinks that they do not really obtain divine sanction so that, if they do obtain divine sanction, his action is an impious fraud. 

Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination


Div. involves more detailed and more technical philosophy than does DND. My exposition in this and the next chapter must reflect that. We can see why Div. has this texture. So to speak, Cicero has zoomed in on one piece of Balbus’ and Cotta’s architecture of arguments. The implication of the dense and technical character of Div. is that Cicero thought divination was worthy of very serious philosophical consideration. We should first reflect for a moment on why Cicero was inclined to take the subject seriously. As is documented very amply in Div., divination was everywhere in Roman life. There were private practices, like astrology (a recent arrival at Rome in Cicero’s day), or attention to the premonitory power of one’s dreams and reveries. But there were also the grand consultations of the traditional religion. We saw that in DND Cotta described two of his three parts of Roman religion as divinatory: augury and haruspicy (see p.  above). Augury involved, primarily, the observation of the behavior of birds, to determine whether the gods gave their assent to this or that action of the state. Cicero himself was an augur, a member of the college of officials who oversaw augury (see p.  n. ). Thus, just as in DND Cotta the pontifex takes on the subject of the nature of the gods, so in Div. Marcus the augur takes on the subject of divination. Meanwhile the haruspices, whose office was seen as Etruscan in origin, consulted such evidence as flaws in the entrails of sacrificial victims, or lightning strikes, and thus were able to prescribe remedies for disturbances in Rome’s relationship with the gods, notice of which the gods portended to the city by the arrival of “prodigies,” strikingly strange events. In summary a Roman, and especially a Roman of the ruling class, lived surrounded by phenomena that might, according to tradition or to private belief, bring news from the gods. Thus this Roman might be expected to expend energy, and perhaps a good deal of energy, to mark and to interpret these potential messages. In Cicero’s world, what did intellectuals make of this ever-present aspect of Roman life? It is hard to put ourselves into their minds in this regard. Obviously, they had not considered the Christian condemnation of divination that has held sway for most of the time between Cicero and our day, namely, that we should recoil from it, since if it works, it works by demonic intervention. Meanwhile, I expect that to many of my twentyfirst-century academic readers, Roman divinatory practices simply seem bizarre, or pseudo-scientific, or at any rate a waste of time. Cicero was certainly aware that one could arrive at this latter sort of attitude, and may have done so himself, as we see in the last sections of Div. Ancient


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

Epicureans, especially, were dismissive. But if ancient Roman (or Greek) intellectuals found a dismissive view of divination obvious, they did not say so. Their general experience seems to be best summed up by the opening of Aristotle’s little treatise On divination in dreams (b–): τὸ μὲν γὰρ πάντας ἢ πολλοὺς ὑπολαμβάνειν ἔχειν τι σημειῶδες τὰ ἐνύπνια παρέχεται πίστιν ὡς ἐξ ἐμπειρίας λεγόμενον, καὶ τὸ περὶ ἐνίων εἶναι τὴν μαντικὴν ἐν τοῖς ἐνυπνίοις οὐκ ἄπιστον· ἔχει γάρ τινα λόγον· διὸ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἐνυπνίων ὁμοίως ἄν τις οἰηθείη. τὸ δὲ μηδεμίαν αἰτίαν εὔλογον ὁρᾶν καθ’ ἣν ἂν γίνοιτο, τοῦτο δὴ ἀπιστεῖν ποιεῖ·. . . The fact that all persons, or many, suppose dreams to possess a special significance, tends to inspire us with belief in it, as founded on the testimony of experience; and indeed that divination in dreams should, as regards some subjects, be genuine, is not incredible, for it has a show of reason; from which one might form a like opinion also respecting all other dreams. Yet the fact of our seeing no reasonable cause to account for such divination tends to inspire us with distrust. (Translation by J. I. Beare in Barnes () vol. )

Aristotle’s attitude is that divination (in dreams, anyhow) has a certain anecdotal plausibility, but that it seems very hard, or impossible, rationally to explain its causes. Aristotle, of course, was writing in Greece three centuries before Cicero, but his attitude captures the sort of puzzle faced by the Hellenistic philosophers who inform Cicero, and by thoughtful Romans, too. It was not only that the kinds of divination were variously entrenched and recommended in law or in custom. There was also the sense from experience and anecdote that, inexplicably, divination sometimes delivered results that were hard to dismiss. To illustrate this experience, Cicero uses a setting for Div. reminiscent of other dialogues he wrote on personal themes, On friendship and On old age. That is to say, we are flies on the wall at a private conversation between Marcus and his own brother, Quintus. In this intimate setting, the brothers can call on their familiarity with one another’s inner lives for moments where the hope, or the threat, of divination, could grip. We learn, for example, that the two had a pair of strange but strikingly premonitory dreams, both of which predicted Cicero’s return from political exile. (Div. .–) Whether these particular stories are fiction does not matter. Cicero shows us why, in a society or a family stocked with such anecdotes, even the most critical philosopher might keep an open mind, and allow that divinatory phenomena might be an object of serious intellectual concern. 

Schultz () – also emphasizes the intimacy of Div.’s setting.

Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination


Notice that once it is your concern, divination raises questions at the heart of philosophy. Is the future fated now? Can anyone or anything know it? What distinguishes a science from a pseudo-science? What, indeed, is truth, what is meaning, and where do we find them? With such questions at stake, it is no surprise that philosophers like the Stoics subjected divination to careful scrutiny. Then there is Cicero’s Central Question from DND: are there gods who care for us? The reality of divination would prove at a stroke Balbus’ answer to the Central Question. For if the gods send us information, and especially if they surround us with signs as the Stoics claim, then they can and do care for us. In sum, Div. is more than a pendant to DND. It is the technical scrutiny of a weighty and potentially decisive aspect of DND’s project. To frustrate “vicious” “rashness of assent” (Div. .) in these matters, then, Cicero balances the two books of Div. between a long exposition of a Stoic defence of divination in the mouth of Quintus (Book ), and a long speech against this Stoic position in the mouth of his own character, Marcus (Book ). In this and the next chapter I shall offer philosophical interpretation of the main bone of contention in the two speeches respectively. In this chapter I shall examine the Stoic case for divination that Quintus gives. Now by his own account, Quintus’ Stoic case for divination rests entirely on what he calls eventa or “outcomes.” (Div. .–, see pp. –.) That is to say, he seeks to prove the reality of divination simply by pointing out many cases where divinatory predictions came true. By this he avoids basing his proof on what he calls a ratio or “theory” to explain why they come true. The quotation from Aristotle we have just seen gives us a sense of why this would be a promising strategy. Now in fact in the latter part of his speech Quintus gives in addition some causal explanations of divination. (Div. .–) Those explanations are worth lengthy attention in their own right, but since Quintus puts no weight on them in arguing for his conclusion, they are not part of the trajectory of this book. Thus in this chapter we shall examine only the case from outcomes. In the next chapter we shall see Marcus’ response to it. The long, former part of Quintus’ speech (Div. .–), the part on outcomes, presents some difficulties. For example, Quintus maintains and emphasizes throughout what seems an unnecessarily strong distinction between two kinds of divination, “artificial” and “natural.” But then he 

Some recent studies of the causal explanations in Div. .– are Dragona-Monachou (), Glucker (), Tarrant (), Guillaumont (), Brittain (), and the relevant parts of Schäublin (), Yon and Guillaumont (), Wardle (), and Schultz ().


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

includes what seems to be a previously unremarked third kind, “from conjecture.” Another difficulty is that Quintus often seems to move from one topic to another at random, and to digress or to repeat himself. Most of all, the thing reads as a welter of bizarre anecdotes. To quote Malcolm Schofield: This deluge of examples permits Cicero to indulge his skills as a story teller (not to mention his ambitions as a poet) on a much grander scale [than in DND]. The reader may be forgiven for feeling sometimes that the real point of Div.  is simply that it gives him the opportunity to do so. The underlying philosophical thought is presumably that it is precisely an authentically messy welter of allegedly divinatory experiences which gives the best chance of persuading someone of the case for divination. . . . Of course, there are alternative justifications conceivable: pile up the evidence; if there is a lot of it, the reader may begin to think there is something in it. But why the chaotic disorder of Quintus’ examples? (Schofield ())

As I have already suggested, I agree with Schofield that Quintus’ strategy is to invoke the “authentically messy welter of allegedly divinatory experiences.” But I hope to discover more about why Quintus takes this approach, and how “the underlying philosophical thought” is supposed to work. My interpretation of Quintus’ speech benefits from my two principles of interpretation in this book, the literary unity thesis and the learned reader principle (see p.  above). For I think Quintus does not simply recite “the” Stoic view of divination, and that he does not attempt to introduce the topic from scratch to a layman. Rather, his speech has the following complex goals. In his reply to Balbus in DND, Cotta challenged a Stoic view that divination is an art. When he did this, Cotta attacked an account of divination associated in our sources with many Stoics, but most closely with Chrysippus. Quintus wishes to answer Cotta’s questions. Yet he does so not by defending Chrysippus’ account, but rather by advancing a second Stoic account that inherits many ideas from, but is not compatible with, Chrysippus’. According to this new account, divination is not an art, but rather a kind of prediction, which sometimes uses arts, and sometimes does not. If I am right about these complexities in Quintus’ speech, they can solve some of its difficulties. For one thing, some of Quintus’ apparent muddles are not muddles, but rather are complexities where two different Stoic accounts of divination are under discussion. For another, Quintus 

For attempts to make sense of the complexities of Div. at the level of rhetoric and the formation of discourse, see Beard (), Krostenko ().

. The Occasion for Quintus’ Speech


observes his distinction between natural and artificial divination so rigidly because that is the distinctive feature of his position, and where he sees the strength of his answer to Cotta. I shall offer this interpretation as follows. In section ., I shall show that a response to DND, and to Cotta in particular, is Quintus’ goal. In section ., I shall set out what I have called Chrysippus’ position on divination, the foil to Quintus’ own version of the Stoic account. In section ., I give Quintus’ account. I then show how Quintus applies his new Stoic account of divination, first to what he calls artificial divination (section .), and then to what he calls natural divination (section .).

. The Occasion for Quintus’ Speech Cicero begins the dialogue of Div. with an unusual literary scheme. His characters Quintus and Marcus discuss his (the real Cicero’s) recent opus DND. This discussion sets in motion the rest of Div.. By this trick, Cicero signals not only that Div. is a continuation of the project of DND, but also that Div.’s characters might intend to respond to the earlier text which they have read, just as we have. Sure enough, Quintus is explicit that his speech will be a reaction to an inadequacy in the treatment of divination in Books  and  of DND. He says, eius rationi non sane desidero quid respondeam; satis enim defensa religio est in secundo libro a Lucilio, cuius disputatio tibi ipsi, ut in extremo tertio scribis, ad veritatem est visa propensior. Sed, quod praetermissum est in illis libris (credo, quia commodius arbitratus es separatim id quaeri deque eo disseri), id est de divinatione, quae est earum rerum, quae fortuitae putantur, praedictio atque praesensio, id, si placet, videamus quam habeat vim et quale sit. But certainly I am not lost for an answer to [Cotta’s] argument. For Balbus gave religion a sufficient defence in the second book. To you yourself his speech seemed closer to the truth, as you write at the end of the third book. But if you like let’s see what the question of divination is like, and what power there is in it. Divination is the prediction and foreknowledge of states of affairs that are thought to be by chance. This question was passed over in those books [in DND], I believe, because you decided it was more convenient to investigate and to write about it separately. (Div. .)

At first sight Quintus’ proposal is surprising. Divination is not obviously “passed over” in DND. It features prominently in Balbus’ arguments for 

It is possible that illis libris, “those books” in which divination was passed over, refers to all three books of DND. But Quintus has just said that he read through Book . He is reassured by Balbus’ defense of religion in Book . At no point has he referred to Book . (Div. .–)


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

two of the four heads of his speech: part [], that there are gods (DND .–), and part [], that they care about us (DND .–, –). (Cf. DND ., p.  above.) The latter head is, of course, crucial for the Central Question. To see where the people of DND really do skip over divination, we must look to Cotta’s arguments against it in Book  of that dialogue. Two of Cotta’s arguments survive. One asks whether divination would not be useless, or even unkind to us, in an inexorably fated world like the Stoics’. (DND .) Cotta’s second objection will be at issue in the rest of this chapter: unde porro ista divinatio, quis invenit fissum iecoris, quis cornicis cantum notavit, quis sortis? quibus ego credo, nec possum Atti Navi quem commemorabas lituum contemnere, sed qui ista intellecta sint a philosophis debeo discere, praesertim cum plurimis de rebus divini isti mentiantur. ‘at medici quoque’ (ita enim dicebas) ‘saepe falluntur.’ quid simile medicina, cuius ego rationem video, et divinatio, quae unde oriatur non intellego? Moreover, where does this divination of yours come from? Who discovered the cleft in the liver, who marked down the song of the crow, who marked the lots? I myself trust these things, nor can I despise the staff of Attus Navius whom you mentioned. But from philosophers I must learn how these things were understood, especially when these diviners mislead in many matters. ‘But doctors too are often mistaken’ for so you were saying. But how are medicine (whose rationale I see myself ) and divination (I don’t understand whence it springs) similar? (DND .)

A few sections later Balbus interrupts to complain that Cotta has not (as was promised) allowed Balbus to defend himself on each point. Cotta keeps changing the subject just when Balbus is about to jump in. Says Balbus: itaque maximae res tacitae praeterierunt, de divinatione de fato, quibus de quaestionibus tu quidem strictim nostri autem multa solent dicere, sed ab hac ea quaestione quae nunc in manibus est separantur; quare si videtur noli agere confuse, ut hoc explicemus, hac disputatione quod quaeritur. For that reason, matters of great import have passed by in silence: on divination and on fate. You treat these questions in brief, but our Stoics have much to say. Yet these subjects are distinct from the inquiry now at hand. Therefore, if you please, stop going on in this mixed up way, so that we can make plain the matter under investigation in this discussion. (DND .)

Here is the skipping of divination to which Quintus refers.

. Chrysippus and his Critics on Divination


Why does Quintus want to fill this gap? It is because of the “power” (vim) he thinks may lie in answers to the question of divination. (Div. .) He says first that he reckons that if there are gods, then there is divination, and that if there is divination, then there are gods. (Div. .) This, we will agree, would be a remarkably powerful pair of conditionals, if they were true. Marcus calls it an arx Stoicorum, “citadel of the Stoics.” (Div. .) But Marcus also points out that the arx would be hard to establish: why could there not be gods who allow us no divination, or why not prediction of “events thought to be by chance” without any gods? (Div. .) Quintus retreats to this: mihi vero, inquit, satis est argumenti et esse deos et eos consulere rebus humanis, quod esse clara et perspicua divinationis genera iudico. For me there is sufficient evidence that there are gods, and that they care about human affairs, because I judge that the well known and obvious kinds of divination are real. (Div. .)

It is important to see that Quintus has been reading Balbus carefully. For his more modest position is that if there is divination, then there are gods and they care for us. These are precisely the heads for which Balbus recruited divination: that there are gods and that they care about us. Quintus’ speech will fill in what the Stoics have to say for divination with those theses, and with Cotta’s unanswered objections, in mind. How precisely Quintus’ goal is only to continue the project of DND becomes clear many pages later, when in section  of the second book of Div., the startled reader learns that Quintus personally does not fully agree with the Stoic position he has defended. For himself, Quintus accepts what he calls “natural” divination, divination in dreams and by oracles, but he does not accept “artificial” divination by augury, haruspicy, and the like. Much of the speech, then, is a for-the-sake-of-argument defence of Balbus’ general position in DND, and not precisely of Quintus’ own ideas. But, in my view, Quintus defends Balbus’ general position by moving away from Chrysippus’ position on divination. Let us first see what Chrysippus’ position was.

. Chrysippus and his Critics on Divination Consider DL’s brief report of Stoic views on divination: καὶ μὴν καὶ μαντικὴν ὑφεστάναι πᾶσάν φασιν, εἰ καὶ πρόνοιαν εἶναι· καὶ αὐτὴν καὶ τέχνην ἀποφαίνουσι διά τινας ἐκβάσεις, ὥς φησι Ζήνων τε καὶ Χρύσιππος ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ Περὶ μαντικῆς καὶ Ἀθηνόδωρος καὶ Ποσειδώνιος


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination ἐν τῷ δυοδεκάτῳ τοῦ Φυσικοῦ λόγου καὶ ἐν τῷ πέμπτῳ Περὶ μαντικῆς. ὁ μὲν γὰρ Παναίτιος ἀνυπόστατον αὐτήν φησιν. Moreover, they say that every [sort of] divination is real, if providence too exists; and they even declare that it is an art, on account of some outcomes, as Zeno says, and Chrysippus in book  of his On Divination, and Athenodorus, and Posidonius in book  of his Account of Physics, and in book  of his On Divination. Panaetius, though, denies the reality of divination. (., translation adapted from Inwood and Gerson () p. )

From this we can extract two claims. C: If there is providence, every sort of divination is real. C: We can see from some “outcomes” that divination is an art. We should immediately note two distinctions between C and C. First, C is a conditional, whereas C reports some looser form of inference. Second, the conclusions are importantly different: in C, that divination is real, in C, that it is an art. Since “providence” here must mean divine providence, C seems to be a step towards establishing half of Quintus’ “Stoic citadel”: if there are gods, there is divination. But it is C that I shall first take up here. What is the point of showing that divination is an art by means of these “outcomes”? When it comes to Chrysippus’ arguments for divination, we are in luck. When in the fourth century the Christian Eusebius mounted his assault on oracles in his Preparation for the Gospel, he turned the pagans against one another by quoting at length the remarks against Chrysippus of a certain Diogenianus. Diogenianus evidently launched a polemical attack on Chrysippus’ On fate. In the passage at Preparation for the Gospel ., Diogenianus discusses a proof of fate from Chrysippus, “stuffed with much imbecility.” (πολλῆς εὐηθείας μεστόν, ..) Chrysippus, says 

Who, and what, was Diogenianus? He is known to us only through Eusebius’ quotations, and even the attribution of these sometimes depends only on the chapter headings surviving in the manuscripts of the Preparation. On the question of what he was, see Gercke () –, –, who first argued that Diogenianus was an Epicurean and not (as Zeller had thought) a Peripatetic or the same Diogenianus we find in Plutarch’s On the Pythian oracle and Convivial questions; Gottschalk ()  n.  with Mras () , for the argument that the chapter heading to Preparation ., and Diogenianus’ willingness to countenance some idea of fate, suggest that he was a Peripatetic and not an Epicurean; Hammerstaedt ()  n.  for a reply to Gottschalk on behalf of the Epicurean identification. On balance, given his advocacy of Epicurus’ arguments about divination (Preparation .), his superior and abrasive tone in argument, and his methodological remarks, it seems probable that Diogenianus was an Epicurean. His date is equally unresolved. The (plausible) consensus is that he is of the second century AD, on the grounds of parallels with Plutarch and Alexander (e.g. Hammerstaedt ()  n. ).

. Chrysippus and his Critics on Divination


Diogenianus, put forward the following proof: “he says that the predictions of diviners would not be true, if everything were not bound by fate.” (..) The proof, evidently, rested on the falsity of the consequent – it is not the case that the predictions of diviners are not true, so neither is it the case that everything is not bound by fate. Diogenianus finds this risible because, he says, it assumes that the truth of diviners’ predictions is either evident or at any rate more likely to secure agreement than is the reality of fate. So, how did Chrysippus support his silent premise, that “the predictions of diviners are true”? Again, Diogenianus is scathing: Chrysippus could only prove the reality of divination from the reality of fate. But what manner of demonstration could be less sound than that? (..–) Diogenianus insinuates with this that Chrysippus could not demonstrate both fate from divination and divination from fate, because such demonstrations advanced together would be circular, and viciously so. Thus Chrysippus had reason to find some method to convince his opponents, or at least those like Diogenianus, that there are relatively evident reasons to grant the reality of divination. Luckily for us, Diogenianus immediately proceeds to rubbish such a method – comparing predictions with outcomes – and by doing so strongly implies that this was Chrysippus’ own method: τὸ γὰρ ἀποβαίνειν τινὰ κατὰ τὴν ἐνάργειαν, ὧν προλέγουσιν οἱ μάντεις, οὐ τοῦ μαντικὴν ἐπιστήμην εἶναι σημεῖον ἂν εἴη ἀλλὰ τοῦ τυχικῶς συμ πίπτειν ταῖς προαγορεύσεσι συμφώνους τὰς ἐκβάσεις, ὅπερ οὐδεμίαν ἡμῖν ἐπιστήμην ὑποδείκνυσιν. For that some things evidently come true according to what the diviners foretell is a sign, not of the existence of a divinatory science, but of the chance concurrence of the outcomes with the predictions a thing which gives us no indication of any science. (Eusebius Preparation for the Gospel .. = Diogenianus fr.  Gercke, translation based on Gifford ())

  

μὴ . . . ἂν τὰς τῶν μάντεων προρρήσεις ἀληθεῖς εἶναί φησιν, εἰ μὴ πάντα ὑπὸ τῆς εἱμαρμένης περιείχοντο. See Bobzien () – for a similar reading of this passage. The argument from divination to providence at Sextus, Adversus mathematicos . has the same structure. I take Diogenianus’ γάρ in line  to refer not to the immediately preceding question, but to his claim that Chrysippus’ only available proof of divination would be from fate (–). What follows is then intended to explain why another mode of support for divination, comparing predictions and outcomes, is not legitimate. This suggests to me, as seems likely from the other evidence, that Chrysippus employed this second mode. “Us” here could be the Epicureans, or just people in general. An Epicurean point of comparison for this passage as a whole could be Diogenes of Oenoanda fr.  Smith, but the text of the latter is mostly conjectural.


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

So here we see criticized a demonstration of the sort that Diogenes Laërtius called “on account of some outcomes” (., see pp. –). Nor need we rely on Diogenes’ and Diogenianus’ mere implications that Chrysippus proceeded in this way. For we know from Div. that he collected two volumes of divinatory predictions, respectively from oracles and from dreams. Nowhere in Div. is it explicit that Chrysippus systematically recorded outcomes along with the oracles and dreams, but it seems very likely. For he provided the interpretations of the dreams, the most likely use for which would be comparing prediction with outcome. Moreover, at Div. . Marcus tells us a story: defert ad coniectorem quidam somniasse se ovum pendere ex fascea lecti sui cubicularis (est hoc in Chrysippi libro somnium); respondit coniector thensaurum defossum esse sub lecto. fodit, invenit auri aliquantum, idque circumdatum argento, misit coniectori, quantulum visum est de argento. tum ille: ‘nihilne’, inquit, ‘de vitello?’ Somebody told an interpreter that he had dreamt that an egg was suspended from the upholstery of his bed (this is in Chrysippus’ book of dreams). The interpreter responded that treasure was buried under the bed. The dreamer dug, he found a certain amount of gold, and the gold was surrounded by silver. He sent the interpreter what modicum of silver seemed right. The interpreter said, “None of the yolk?”

The attribution of this story to Chrysippus is confirmed in a probably independent source: Photius’ Byzantine Lexicon s.v. νεοττός, “yolk.” Furthermore, Marcus will attack the worth of Chrysippus’ collection of oracles in terms similar to Diogenianus’: tuis enim oraculis Chrysippus totum volumen implevit partim falsis, ut ego opinor, partim casu veris, ut fit in omni oratione saepissime. For Chrysippus filled a whole roll with your oracles some of them false, I myself think, some true by chance, as happens very often in every kind of speech. (Div. .) 


Div. .: Chrysippus, qui totam de divinatione duobus libris explicavit sententiam, uno praeterea de oraculis, uno de somnis, “Chrysippus, who set out his whole view on divination in two books, with an additional one on oracles, and another on dreams.” Div. .: collegit innumerabilia oracula Chrysippus nec ullum sine locuplete auctore atque teste, “Chrysippus collected countless oracles, not one of which lacked a trustworthy source or witness.” Cf. Div. .. I suggest that the two supplementary volumes on dreams and oracles which Cicero mentions in Div. . (uno praeterea . . . uno) consisted of Chrysippus’ collections of dreams and oracles with their interpretations and outcomes. Marcus says that Chrysippus’ collection of oracles filled a totum volumen (Div. .) so if the supplementary volumes were not these collections, we would have to suppose that there was yet another volume of collected oracles which Cicero does not mention in Div. .. The sentence continues: partim flexiloquis et obscuris, ut interpres eget interprete, et sors ipsa ad sortes referenda sit; partim ambiguis, et quae ad dialecticum deferenda sit, “some of them are equivocal and

. Chrysippus and his Critics on Divination


This also implies that Chrysippus gave the outcomes of the predictions in his volume of oracles – why else would Marcus say that some were only true by chance? Now, these testimonia from Div. do not refer to Chrysippus’ On fate, which is Diogenianus’ target. But we may assume that Chrysippus’ procedure in On fate was consistent with his dedicated works on divination. So it seems likely that in On fate Chrysippus presented some predictions and their outcomes as empirical evidence for the reality of divination, from which he then inferred the reality of fate. But how could comparing some predictions and their outcomes give Chrysippus his proof of the reality of fate? The premise he needs to secure is that “the predictions of diviners are true.” If this is to be evidence for Chrysippus’ all-encompassing determinism, the premise must in fact mean that “all the predictions of diviners (qua diviners) are true.” How can exhibiting some true predictions make the case, especially when it was true (one would imagine) that in practice much divination went astray? To see the answer, we must pay careful attention to what the outcomes were supposed to establish. DL was explicit about this: Chrysippus intended them to establish that divination is an art (pp. –). Diogenianus is less helpful. He has already suggested two possible conclusions in favor of divination, that the predictions are true and also that there is divination, both of which lack DL’s precision. But I think this is just carelessness on Diogenianus’ part. For he goes on to say that we do not consider an archer “knowledgeable” or “scientific” (ἐπιστήμονα) when he often misses but hits once, nor would we consider a doctor such if he kills all but one of his patients, and that in general nothing is scientific that fails in most of its proper tasks. (Eusebius, Preparation, ..) He goes on, of course, to say that everyday life proves that divination mostly fails, and that good evidence for this is the fact that those who “profess divination as an art (τέχνην)” do not run their everyday lives on the advice of diviners.



opaque, so that the interpreter needs an interpreter; some of them are ambiguous, of the sort that we should take to a logician.” The point is presumably that the alleged link, forged by interpretation from an obscure oracle to an outcome, was suspicious. This would help to explain why Marcus seems to think here that the truth of the predictions cited by Chrysippus was a matter of personal opinion. Bobzien ()  understands this to be Chrysippus’ commitment, and sees support for this interpretation in the arguments around the necessity of divinatory theorems at Cicero, On fate –. There must have been more to Chrysippus’ argument that divination entails fate than has survived. Even if all the predictions of diviners are true, that does not show that everything about the future is fated now. It could just entail a very wide fatalism, whereby very many things but not everything are fated beforehand. Presumably the argument was that this sort of divinatory fatalism implied a degree of divine control of the future that could only be true if god in fact fated everything.


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

(Eusebius, Preparation, ..) These comments strongly suggest that Chrysippus’ own claim was precisely that divination is an art or a science, because what they imply against Chrysippus is that divination is not an art or a science. I agree with Bobzien () p. , that “we can assume that Chrysippus, if asked, would have explicated his claim [that the predictions of diviners are true] as follows: the theorems and predictions of the seers are true provided that they master their science and have not made interpretational mistakes in the individual instances of prognostication.” That is, all predictions successfully made by the science of divination will be true. Pointing to unsuccessful predictions does not show that divination is not a science, because in real life those who apply the science are fallible. A prediction produced by an unsuccessful application of divinatory science, or of a poorly constructed “divinatory” art, is not really a prediction of divinatory science. So in this sense it is plausible that “all the predictions of diviners qua diviners are true,” since those that are false are not properly predictions of practitioners of divinatory science. Chrysippus catalogs his outcomes, then, to show that there is a science of divination, even if a science that is fallibly researched and applied. Note that Diogenianus’ reply is neatly targeted against this argument. He not only points out that diviners sometimes go astray, he claims that they go wrong in the overwhelming majority of cases. If their performance were indeed “no better than chance” then Chrysippus would not even have a plausible empirical case for the reality of his art. There is further, positive evidence that Chrysippus considered divination in general an art in his definition of divination. I think that we have three sources for definitions attributable to Chrysippus, although two do not explicitly attribute their definitions to him. Marcus gives the earliest version in Div. .: Stoici autem tui negant quemquam nisi sapientem divinum esse posse. Chrysippus quidem divinationem definit his verbis: vim cognoscentem et videntem et explicantem signa, quae a dis hominibus portendantur; officium autem esse eius praenoscere, dei erga homines mente qua sint quidque significant, quem ad modumque ea procurentur atque expientur. idemque somniorum coniectionem definit hoc modo: esse vim cernentem et explanantem, quae a dis significentur in somnis. Your Stoics deny that anyone other than the sage is able to have the capacity to divine. Chrysippus, indeed, defined divination with these words: a power both recognizing, and seeing, and interpreting signs which are portended by gods to humans; but he said that its role is to foresee how the gods are disposed towards humans and what they are signifying, and how the things

. Chrysippus and his Critics on Divination


signified should be attended to and expiated. The same Chrysippus defined the interpretation of dreams this way: that it is a power discerning and making clear things signified by gods in dreams.

A very similar definition appears in two Greek sources but is not attributed to Chrysippus in particular. First Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos .: εἰ μὴ εἰσὶ θεοί, οὐδὲ μαντικὴ ὑπάρχει, ἐπιστήμη οὖσα θεωρητικὴ καὶ ἐξηγητικὴ τῶν ὑπὸ θεῶν ἀνθρώποις διδομένων σημείων, οὐδὲ μὴν θεοληπτικὴ καὶ ἀστρομαντική, οὐ λογική, οὐχ ἡ δι’ ὀνείρων πρόρρησις. [According to the Stoics:] If there are not gods, divination is not real either (divination is a science which can observe and interpret signs that are given by gods to men), nor is [divination by] divine possession, or divination by the stars, or by words, nor prediction from dreams.

Stobaeus gives two slightly different versions of a similar (but not identical) definition: εἶναι δὲ τὴν μαντικήν φασιν ἐπιστήμην θεωρητικὴν σημείων τῶν ἀπὸ θεῶν ἢ δαιμόνων πρὸς ἀνθρώπινον βίον συντεινόντων· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ τὰ εἴδη τῆς μαντικῆς. [The Stoics say that only the sage is a good diviner, orator, etc..] And they say that divination is a science which can observe signs from gods or daimones, which contribute to human life (and similarly for the kinds of divination). (Stobaeus ..b = SVF .. ) Καὶ μαντικὸν δὲ μόνον εἶναι τὸν σπουδαῖον, ὡς ἂν ἐπιστήμην ἔχοντα διαγνωστικὴν σημείων τῶν ἐκ θεῶν ἢ δαιμόνων πρὸς ἀνθρώπινον βίον τεινόντων. Δι’ ὃ καὶ τὰ εἴδη τῆς μαντικῆς εἶναι περὶ αὐτόν, τό τε ὀνειρ οκριτικὸν καὶ τὸ οἰωνοσκοπικὸν καὶ θυτικὸν καὶ εἴ τινα ἄλλα τούτοις ἐστὶ παραπλήσια. And [the Stoics say] that only the virtuous man has the capacity to divine, in as much as he has a science which can distinguish signs reaching from 


At first sight we might take procurentur and expientur to be two opposite reactions to whatever is signified, the first referring to the promotion of welcome outcomes, the second to the expiation of unwelcome ones. But in haruspicy procuro seems to be the term for the management of the right reaction to prodigia, cf. Div. . with Pease (–) ad loc. Prodigia generally signal a negative religious development requiring remedial action. So I think procurentur atque expientur both describe the reaction to divine messages generally, and if anything to messages demanding action to avoid a negative consequence. coniectio is a puzzle. It must mean something like “interpretation,” but this use is unique (Pease (–) ad loc.). It more often means “summary” or “summarizing” (see OLD or Lewis and Short () s.v. coniectio). It presumably had some connection in Cicero’s mind with coniectura (see pp. –), but what and how close this connection was is hard to estimate.


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination gods or daimones to human life. Hence also that the kinds of divination concern him, the dream interpretative kind, and the augural, and the extispicine, and any others which there are in addition to these. (Stobaeus ..s = SVF .)

On the basis of Cicero’s explicit attribution to him, I think that all these definitions are due ultimately to Chrysippus. The obstacle to tracing the Greek definitions to Chrysippus is a key difference between Marcus’ version in Div. Book  and those of Sextus and Stobaeus. Marcus has Chrysippus call divination a vis, which should gloss Greek δύναμις, “power” or “capacity,” while the Greek authors have “the Stoics” call it an ἐπιστήμη, a “science.” But this is not so great a difficulty as it at first appears. The point of Marcus’ passage is to ask Chrysippus whether this “power” demands a sage or could be held by a fool. “What then?” he asks, “Is there a need here for ordinary prudence, or for both outstanding talent and perfect education?” (Div. .) Chrysippus, I think, would be happy to take the latter option – that the only truly successful, infallible diviner, possessor of the right science, would be a sage. Marcus’ point is indeed that the real divinatory “power,” for Chrysippus, is a science. So when Marcus has Chrysippus call divination a “power,” this does not mean that for Marcus Chrysippus defined divination as a “power” rather than a science. Rather, he called it a power and a science. Next, why does Chrysippus define divination as a science, when in other places we have seen him call it an art? For Chrysippus, the answer is that in an ideal case, when it is known by the sage, the art (ars, τέχνη) will amount to a science, a stable body of scientific knowledge (scientia, ἐπιστήμη). But in the case of ordinary, fallible people, who have not achieved ideal scientific knowledge, the same body of beliefs amounts only to what Chrysippus would call an art. The art of divination, then, is what is relevant in practice, and what might be established by its documented outcomes. One consequence of Chrysippus’ definition is that divination is not only an art of prediction. For it is concerned with any sign portended from the gods, not only signs that predict the future. Indeed the egg dream turned out to be a sign not of the future, but about the present: the diviner’s reply was simply that was there treasure under the bed (see p.  above). Quintus even gives an example, which I suggest is likely owed to Chrysippus, in which Sophocles solved the mystery of a theft from Hercules’  

quid ergo? ad haec mediocri opus est prudentia an et ingenio praestanti et eruditione perfecta? In thinking that we do not have to choose between a definition with power or one with science I agree with Lévy () –, and Bobzien ()  n. .

. Chrysippus and his Critics on Divination


temple when the god himself appeared in a dream and named the guilty party. (Div. .) Sophocles had divinatory information about the past theft. For Chrysippus, the purpose of divination is a sort of conditional prescience (praenoscere, Div. ., pp. –). We need it to see how the gods are disposed towards us now, so that we know how to attend to their wishes. What we are to foresee is presumably what will happen if we do, or do not do, what the gods wish. But in order to achieve this purpose, divination is such that it can deliver news about the present and past as well as about the future. We know something about what Chrysippus’ ideal divinatory science would have looked like. This is thanks to an argument in Cicero’s On fate, sections –. For Chrysippus it was important that some future-tense truths be true but possibly false, else we would lose responsibility for our actions. For he thought that if I am contemplating, for example, a donation to charity, my future decision on the matter is physically determined now. But he also thought that if it were not even possibly true that I shall do otherwise than I shall do, then I would not be responsible for my donation or refusal. But Chrysippus thought I am responsible for this future choice. Thus, despite his physical determinism, he concluded that true claims about our future actions could be false. The Marcus of On fate tells us that Chrysippus fought with an opponent, Diodorus Cronus, over whether divinatory arts threatened this intricate position on fate and future contingency. For, says Marcus, a theorem of a divinatory art looks like this: If somebody was born at the rising of the dog-star, he will not die at sea.

But this implies: If Fabius was born at the rising of the dog-star, Fabius will not die at sea.

But Chrysippus allowed that all past truths were necessary. Therefore the antecedent of the “Fabius” conditional was necessarily true. Now, says Marcus, Chrysippus also thought that necessity was “transmitted” across a conditional: if the antecedent is necessarily true, it follows for him that the 

  

In making no reference to prediction of the future, Chrysippus’ definition of μαντική or divinatio might seem oddly different from Cicero’s own working definition in the preface to Div. (.) as well as Quintus’ own definition (see pp. –). But Santangelo ()  points out that although the verb divinare is older, the noun divinatio itself does not appear before Cicero. See Santangelo () – and () –, for more on the history of the term. Thus for Cicero the Latin term may have been a flexible one. For this argument, see Bobzien () Chapter . Si quis oriente Canicula natus est, in mari non morietur. Si Fabius oriente Canicula natus est, Fabius in mari non morietur.


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

consequent is necessarily true. So it follows for Chrysippus that it is necessarily true that Fabius will not die at sea. Therefore Diodorus was able to claim that, according to Chrysippus’ principles, it is not possibly false that Fabius will not die at sea, which Chrysippus cannot accept. Chrysippus’ solution, it appears, was to insist that the conditional of a divinatory theorem was not, by his standards, a proper conditional. That is, it should not (so to speak) transmit necessity from antecedent to consequent. Rather the divinatory theorem should be analyzed as a negated conjunction, which elucidates the interrelation of the truth and falsity of the two claims, but does not transmit necessity from one to the other. Thus rewritten, the general conditional above would become: It is not true both that a given person was born at the rising of the dog-star, and that that person will die at sea.

Chrysippus’ analysis here would allow the truth of the proposition about the time of his birth to be necessary, but also that the proposition about his safety is both true and possibly false. Thus Diodorus could not use divination against Chrysippus’ view that future truths could be false. Presumably Chrysippus did not mean that real-life diviners ought to rephrase their handbooks in his convoluted terms. Rather, he meant that a wise diviner would understand that this, and not Chrysippan conditionals, is what true divinatory theorems amount to. This rather technical discussion gives us a window onto what the practical use of Chrysippus’ ideal divinatory science would look like. We saw that Chrysippus called divination a science for discerning and interpreting “signs” portended from gods to men. Now we can add that according to the Stoics “signs” are “assertibles” – propositions with truth value – like the one about Fabius’ birth at the rising of the dog-star. So in the Fabius example, the astrologer can artfully tell that it is true that “Fabius was born at the rising of the dog star” – that is, he discerns the sign. Next, he finds a relevant general theorem. However this may be phrased in practice, Chrysippus thinks that strictly speaking the theorem amounts to, “It is not true both that a given person was born at the rising of the dog-star, and that that person will die at sea.” From the combination of the sign and the general theorem the diviner draws a sound inference, that is, he interprets the sign. In Fabius’ case, our ideal diviner infers a prediction: “it is not true that Fabius will die at sea.”


Non et natus est quis oriente Canicula, et is in mari morietur.

. Chrysippus and his Critics on Divination


In sum, then, Chrysippus had reasons to make the limited claim that divination was a successful science or art. First, he claimed that from the reality of divination should follow two key Stoic theses: that everything happens by fate, and that there are providential gods. Second, he could avoid dialectically vicious circularities if he supported the claim that divination is real with empirical evidence, rather than by theoretical arguments. Accordingly, he collected this evidence, pairs of divinatory interpretations and their outcomes. He argued that this empirical evidence supported the limited thesis that divination was an art. By this he meant that diviners can assemble collections of theorems connecting kinds of signs and kinds of outcomes, of the form “Not both sign and not outcome,” such that when the diviner observes that some such sign is true, he may infer that a correlated outcome is true. Chrysippus then concluded that divination is real, and thus that there is fate and there are providential gods. It is against some such strategy as this that Diogenianus seems to inveigh. Diogenianus was not the only one. Along with a wider attack on Chrysippus’ divinatory views (Div. .), in the century after Chrysippus Carneades seems to have attacked the notion that divination was a science or art. He pressed the objection “why do these things happen and by what art can they be grasped”? (cur haec ita fiant aut qua arte perspici possint?, Div. ..) Does Jupiter order that crows and ravens should croak on the right or the left? (Div. .) Here Carneades demands that there be more to Chrysippus’ defence of the divinatory art than the outcomes. For the outcomes can show, at best, that the regularities specified by the predictive theorems obtain. They cannot show anything about why these theorems are true (“why do these things happen?”) or, epistemologically, how they came to be cognised (“by what art can they be grasped?”). Carneades’ implicit premise seems to be that if divination were a real art or science it should be able to supply higher-order theorems about the causes that explain the truth of its general predictive theorems, and why those predictive theorems may be grasped cognitively and admitted to the art. Marcus attributes to Carneades a second and more elaborate objection to Chrysippus. (Div. .–) This asks what the subject matter of divination might be (quarumne rerum divinatio esset). I shall deal with this objection in detail in my next chapter, when I study Marcus’ speech (pp. –). In DND, Cotta’s further question of where divination comes from is an amplification of these sorts of objections. He asks who discovered the defects of the liver that the haruspices used, who marked augural signs and how these things were understood, especially when diviners tend to


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

mislead. (DND ., p.  above.) What he demands is not, like Carneades, causal explanation for the predictive theorems. Instead he asks for a developmental history of the divinatory art. This seems a telling objection to divination in a way that it would not be against an art like medicine. For divination, at least at Rome, was arcane. It is obvious why somebody who cares for the sick might start to note correlations between treatments and cures. But why on earth would anybody think that she should attend to what follows upon the flight of birds, or to the condition of the offal of a sacrifice? Further, how could such oddities come to be understood precisely enough for the right divinatory theorems to be adopted, especially in the absence of an undergirding causal theory? We are now equipped with some helpful background to Quintus’ speech. The Stoics, of whom Balbus is an example, thought that they could use empirically plausible divination as evidence (among other things) for the existence of gods, and for divine providence over human affairs. They typically supported the claim that divination was an art by appeal to “outcomes,” that is, by collections of divinatory predictions that came true. In DND, Balbus gestures at, but does not give, this sort of support in his two arguments from divination. Cotta in return poses a challenge that was well rehearsed: why should he accept an art that can give no theoretical explanantions of its subject, and what history could be given for such an “art” – unde oriatur?, “where does it spring from?” – that would warrant thinking it an art at all? (DND .) Balbus says that there remain extensive Stoic answers to these questions (DND .), and it is some of these answers which Quintus will give. Quintus’ answers represent, I think, not a rehearsal of Chrysippus’ views as I have interpreted them. Rather, they reflect a new approach, intended to reply to, or to avoid, the objections laid against Chrysippus by critics like Carneades and Cotta. It is to this I turn next.

. Quintus’ New Stoic Case for Divination In Div. at large there are two sorts of reason why one might believe in divination. In speaking in his preface of the ancient acceptance of divination, Cicero says, “as I myself think, the ancients approved [divination] more because they had been moved by the outcomes (eventis) than because they had been informed by theory (ratione).” (Div. .) These two 

atque haec, ut ego arbitror, veteres rerum magis eventis moniti quam ratione docti probaverunt. At least for the case of divination, Cicero does not accept Balbus’ contention that the founders of Roman cults worked from some understanding of physics (Chapter  section .).

. Quintus’ New Stoic Case for Divination


modes of persuasion form one of the two main structuring principles for Quintus’ speech. He makes grand claims at the outset that he need only analyze outcomes to make the case for divination. (Div. .–) What he does not need to analyze are the causes involved, and it is clear that analyzing the causes would be a paradigm case of giving a theory. quarum rerum eventa magis arbitror quam causas quaeri oportere. est enim vis et natura quaedam, quae tum observatis longo tempore significationibus, tum aliquo instinctu inflatuque divino futura praenuntiat. I think it is more helpful to investigate the outcomes of this business [i.e. the various kinds of divination] than the causes. For there is, at any rate, some natural power that predicts the future, both by signs observed over a long period of time, and by a sort of divine stimulation and inspiration. (Div. .)

In the last sentence we see Quintus decline to give a causal explanation of divination. If he is right, there must be some factor or factors in the natural world that produce the connections between the future and today’s birdsong, or last night’s dream, from which divinatory predictions are made. If there were not, divination would not work as (according to him) it evidently does. Given that Quintus thinks that the reality of divination entails the reality of the gods, these factors in the natural world must either be, or require, the gods. But it does not matter to Quintus whether the Stoics know what those factors are. Quintus explains how outcomes are to convince us of the reality of divination, by appeal to analogies with the testing of herbal remedies, and with prognostication of the weather. mirari licet quae sint animadversa a medicis herbarum genera, quae radicum ad morsus bestiarum, ad oculorum morbos, ad vulnera, quorum vim atque naturam ratio numquam explicavit, utilitate et ars est et inventor probatus. We may wonder at the variety of herbs that doctors have observed: which roots are helpful for animal bites, which for diseases of the eyes, which for 


eventa or “outcomes” is probably a translation of ἐκβάσεις – compare DL . (see pp. –) with Diogenianius ap. Eusebius Preparation for the Gospel .. (see p.  above). It is Quintus’ term of art for the state of affairs which the divinatory prediction predicts. The careful use of this term is intended to avoid the implication that the sign, prediction, and outcome are causally related to one another. Quintus is explicit that prognostication is not divination (ex alio genere, “of another kind”, Div. .). This might seem puzzling, especially as he seems to think that prognostication is almost equally hard to explain. The answer is that prognostic theorems are in principle explicable without invoking the divine, even though in many cases we cannot see these explanations. For Boethus made some progress in this regard, Quintus says. (Div. .)


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination wounds? Reason has never explained the power or nature of these plants. Rather, their usefulness has proved each discoverer, and his art. (Div. .)

Or again: ne hoc quidem quaero, cur haec arbor una ter floreat aut cur arandi maturitatem ad signum floris accommodet; hoc sum contentus, quod, etiamsi, cur quidque fiat, ignorem, quid fiat, intellego. pro omni igitur divinatione idem, quod pro rebus iis, quas commemoravi, respondebo. Nor do I inquire even about this: why one tree flowers three times, or why it adjusts its flowering as a sign of the right season to plough. I am content with this: that, even if I do not know why each thing happens, I understand what happens. So I shall give the same answer on behalf of every kind of divination, as I have given on behalf of the facts I have just mentioned. (Div. .)

Thus Quintus will follow something like the latter of the two strategies that DL gives the Stoics on divination (see pp. –): he will support divination with its outcomes, not by trying to give an explanatory theory. Thus far, Quintus resembles Chrysippus. But what has not been noticed, I think, is that, in other respects, Quintus’ argument for divination is substantially different than Chrysippus’. Quintus begins his speech with the distinction, on which he will insist as the other structuring principle for the rest of his discussion, between two kinds of divination: duo sunt. . . divinandi genera, quorum alterum artis est, alterum naturae, “[t]here are two kinds of divining, of which one is artificial, the other natural.” (Div. .) He gives examples of each kind: the artificial kind includes the predictions of “entrail diviners or of those who interpret prodigies or lightning [i.e. the haruspices], or of augurs, or of astrologers, or of lots.” The natural kind, meanwhile, includes the predictions of “dreams or oracles.” (aut somniorum aut vaticinationum, Div. .) Now, this distinction is at odds with Chrysippus’ case for divination. For Chrysippus argued that divination in general was an art. But Quintus will argue that only one kind of divination is, or rather uses, an art, and that the other is not and does not.  


The word order of this clause is difficult, and the text may be corrupt (see Schultz  ad loc.). I have translated to give what seems to be the intended sense. The mastic tree, which was considered to flower at three times of year when ploughing was desirable. For the evidence, see Pease (–) ad loc. Aratus included this prognostic sign in his classic collection (ll. –), and Quintus has just quoted Cicero’s translation of Aratus’ lines. aut extispicum aut monstra aut fulgora interpretantium aut augurum aut astrologorum aut sortium.

. Quintus’ New Stoic Case for Divination


It does not appear that Cicero invented this Stoic distinction into two kinds of divination. For confirmation that there was a Stoic view that some, “natural” divination requires no art, and thus that this was a Stoic view distinct from Chrysippus’ own, comes from what appears to be an independent source. This is the Essay on the life and poetry of Homer spuriously attributed to Plutarch, a work “largely impossible to date” according to its editors, but probably of about the third century AD. The author of this text would have us think that Homer displays encyclopedic learning on all subjects, to include divination, and remarks: ταύτης μέντοι τὸ μὲν τεχνικόν φασιν εἶναι οἱ Στωικοί, οἷον ἱεροσκοπίαν καὶ οἰωνοὺς καὶ τὸ περὶ φήμας καὶ κληδόνας καὶ σύμβολα, ἅπερ συλλήβδην ὄτταν καλοῦμεν, τὸ δὲ ἄτεχνον καὶ ἀδίδακτον, τουτέστιν ἐνύπνια καὶ ἐνθουσιασμούς. The Stoics say that of [divination] there is on the one hand the artificial [kind], for example extispicy, and birds, and that concerned with sayings and proverbs and tokens, which together we call ‘voice omens[?],’ and on the other there is the non artificial and unteachable [kind], i.e. dreams and ecstasies. (Ps. Plutarch Essay on the life and poetry of Homer, )

“The Stoics” called “non-artificial and unteachable” the kinds of divination that Quintus calls “natural” as opposed to “artificial.” But for Chrysippus all species of divination were artificial. Thus the Stoics whom pseudoPlutarch claims to record seem to agree with Quintus, but they cannot have included Chrysippus.




Div. . also gives a richer context for the distinction between artificial and natural divination in earlier Stoic discussions, specifically in discussion of causal explanations of divination, in a way that strongly suggests that Cicero took the distinction from some post-Chrysippan Stoic theory. The Stoic(s) who made the distinction were not the first or only philosophers to see a difference between artificial and inspired divination. Thus even in his own day, Chrysippus may have been unusual in looking to provide a single account of all forms of divination. In his Phaedrus passage on μανία, mania, “madness,” and μαντική, mantikē, “divination,” Plato distinguishes inspired divination from some artificial kinds. (b–d) From Div. it seems that the Peripatetics supported natural but not artificial divination, and thus invoked the distinction. From Aristotle’s own texts it is not quite clear what his line was. Some sort of veridical dreaming is the only “divination” that receives his explicit attention, and he hardly endorses it ringingly (see his On divination in dreams, cf. p.  above). But he never condemns other sorts of divination out of hand, and when discussing the nose in the History of animals he remarks that a sneeze is “the only breath that is a sacred and augural sign.” (σημεῖον οἰονιστικὸν καὶ ἱερὸν μόνον τῶν πνευμάτων, b–) Keaney and Lamberton () . It is of course possible that the author of the Essay owes this account of Stoic divinatory theory to Cicero, whether directly or indirectly. The real Plutarch, after all, must have read plenty of Cicero’s writings. ὄτταν is an odd word in the MS which Keaney and Lamberton () leave untranslated. They suggest, p.  n. , that it is related to ὄττεία, divination from sonic omens (cf. ὄσσα, “voice”).


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

At first sight the distinction between artificial and natural divination is very puzzling. In what sense is divination by dreams more “natural” than watching the flight of birds? Divinely inspired dreams might seem somewhat supernatural, while augury involves looking closely at the natural world. Again, why would augury and the rest be more “artificial” than divination by dreams? Divination by dreams often involved skilled interpretation, as Chrysippus maintained and as we see, two centuries after Cicero, in Artemidorus’ detailed manual, the Oneirocritica or Interpretation of dreams. Further, what does Quintus mean when he makes “conjecture” part of artificial divination? “Conjecture” appears by definition to be the result of extempore guesswork and not of an art. And finally, in making this distinction, does not Quintus start to give an explanation of the mechanisms of divination, something he claims repeatedly to eschew in the first part of his speech? To find a satisfying answer to these puzzles we need to reflect on what notion of an “art” Quintus has in mind. Although he disagrees with Chrysippus about what a Stoic should say that divination is, Quintus seems to share Chrysippus’ idea of what a divinatory art will look like when written down. It will be a collection of theorems correlating kinds of sign with kinds of outcome. Collections of such theorems indeed survive from antiquity, like Artemidorus’ Interpretation, or the handbooks due to the astrologers Dorotheus of Sidon and Vettius Valens. Dorotheus’ poem (which survives in Arabic) consists predominantly of conditionals relating astrological circumstances at a relevant hour to outcomes. Vetteius too gives many passages of correlative theorems. These examples, admittedly, are not part of Roman state divinatory practices, like augury or haruspicy. But in fact Quintus mentions books associated both with the haruspices and with the augurs, and these could easily have included such collections of theorems, or something close enough for Quintus to make his point. (Div. .) Thus I think Quintus distinguishes between a kind of divination that consists in the use of an “art” of this sort, and a kind of divination that does not consist in the use of such an art, and another kind which is “natural.” I suggest that the most satisfying way to understand this distinction is that it is based on where predictive meaning is first encountered in the respective kinds of divination. By “predictive meaning” I mean roughly “propositional content about a future event.” In Stoic terms, this will be a futuretense “assertible” (ἀξίωμα), on which more in a moment. Straightforward, 

Pingree () passim.


Pingree () passim.

. Quintus’ New Stoic Case for Divination


spoken or written, future-tense language will be the most obvious example, as in a prediction given by an augur, but many other kinds are possible, like meaningful images experienced in a dream, or found figuratively in the ravings of a frenzied prophet. Consider how predictive meaning is found in artificial divination. An event occurs, like the croak of a raven to your right when you are watching for augural signs. This event has no intrinsic predictive content. There is nothing in an ordinary bird singing that means anything about what will happen to you tomorrow, no matter how closely you scrutinize it. But (in principle) a true divinatory art might have a theorem that says “if a raven croaks on the augur’s right, the city will lose the war,” or, analyzed more precisely as Chrysippus would prefer, “not both a raven croaks on the augur’s right and the city will not lose the war.” A diviner can take this theorem, “plug in” the sign of the calling bird, and conclude that the negation of the right-hand side of the theorem is true, too. Now she has generated some predictive content – “the city will lose the war” – where before there was none. The predictive content is first and only found once the diviner has referred, literally or metaphorically, to her book, that is to say, to the appropriate theorem of her art. The content is found artificially because it is encountered first not in the sign, but on the right-hand side of the relevant theorem of the art, which informs the prediction of the outcome that the diviner should infer from the conjunction of the true sign with the true theorem. What about natural divination? In the natural case, natural phenomena like dreams and the visions of the frenzied already contain the predictive content. So to speak, they already mean the prediction. Sometimes, in the case of dreams that require no interpretation, this is obvious. An example in Div. is the dream of Gaius Gracchus, in which he was simply told by his dead brother Tiberius that he (Gaius) must die the same death as him (Tiberius). (Div. .) Now Chrysippus will say, why then do dreams and oracles so often need expert interpreters? Quintus’ reply will be that often the predictive meaning of dreams and oracles is obscure or ambiguous. On these occasions, 

On signs, see Allen () and (). In this account of the artificial divination I agree approximately with Denyer’s assignment of “non-natural meaning” to artificial divinatory signs, although I disagree with him that signs (qua signs) are outside the normal causal order of nature. On the other hand, I do not agree that dreams and oracles also have non-natural meaning, as he seems to think, since he does not limit his account to artificial divination (Denyer () –). I think the point of calling natural divinatory events “natural” is that they have something like “natural meaning.”


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

interpretation is needed. Quintus is happy to admit that this interpretation is, or can be, artificial: haec somniantis est divinatio. hic magna quaedam exoritur, neque ea naturalis, sed artificiosa somniorum interpretatio eodemque modo et oraculorum et vaticinationum. sunt enim explanatores, ut grammatici poëtarum. nam ut aurum et argentum, aes, ferrum frustra natura divina genuisset, nisi eadem docuisset, quem ad modum ad eorum venas perveniretur, nec fruges terrae bacasve arborum cum utilitate ulla generi humano dedisset, nisi earum cultus et conditiones tradidisset, materiave quicquam iuvaret, nisi consectionis eius fabricam haberemus, sic cum omni utilitate, quam di hominibus dederunt, ars aliqua con iuncta est, per quam illa utilitas percipi possit. item igitur somniis, vaticinationibus, oraclis, quod erant multa obscura, multa ambigua, explanationes adhibitae sunt interpretum. [The soul in sleep sees everything in nature.] This is the dreamer’s divin ation. At this point something important arises: interpretation that is not natural but rather artificial, in the same way as interpretation of oracles and prophecies. For there are explicators [of dreams and oracles] in the same way as there are commentators on the poets. For just as divine nature would have made gold and silver, copper or iron in vain, if she had not taught us how we might come at the veins of these metals, nor would it have been any use for her to have given the crops from the soil, or the timber of trees, to the human race, unless she had handed down how to plant and look after them . . . just so there was joined with every useful thing that the gods gave to humans an art by which its utility could be grasped. In the same way, the explications of interpreters are consulted for dreams, prophecies, and oracles, many of which are opaque or ambiguous. (Div. .)

Obscure dreams or prophetic visions, then, are like a foreign language or a difficult poem. They already mean something, just as metals have useful 


Some editors have thought that this sentence (sunt. . . poëtarum) is an intrusive gloss. But this is not convincing (see Schultz  ad loc.), and the sentence seems to me to be a particularly apt comparison with the artificial interpretation of natural divinatory experiences, where the latter already have meaning, even if difficult or “poetic” meaning. Compare here some of Aristotle’s remarks. For him the most artful interpreter of dreams is one who can “discern likenesses.” (On divination in dreams b–) Aristotle’s metaphor is the perception of reflections in disturbed water. (b–, cf. On dreams a–) This suggests that he thinks that dream-interpretation is a matter of discovering and making sense of confused content, not generating predictive content on the basis of signs with no predictive content. Cf. further Allen () : “[Dreams, frenzied pronouncements and certain kinds of oracles] differ from lightning bolts, fissured livers, and stellar configurations studied by long observation, as well as the sweating statues and hungry mice that occupy conjectural divination, by directly representing the events they forecast. Someone carried away by divine afflatus predicts that an event will occur more or less by saying that it will, a dream either by allowing a god to appear and tell the dreamer that it will or by depicting its occurrence.” I agree with this sketch, except in that I disagree about the scope of coniectura, see pp. –.

. Quintus’ New Stoic Case for Divination


properties even before they are mined. If a dream or a vision needs interpretation, the role of the interpreter is not to generate from the dream or vision content it did not already contain. Rather, interpretation’s role is to extract or to clarify the content that is already there. Thus the fact that divinatory dreams and oracles often need an interpreter is no barrier to Quintus’ distinction. For Quintus natural divination is natural because it occurs when, without the intervention of human art, content predictive of future chance events arises through natural processes in the soul of a dreamer or of one in frenzy, even if that predictive content requires an interpreter or, so to speak, a translator, in order to be understood. Why would just these divinatory phenomena, dreams and the visions of oracles and the frenzied, carry meaning? If they can, why could not the flight of a bird? The distinction rests, I suggest, on the connection the Stoics draw between reason and language. To become rational gives one the ability to say “sayables,” the meaning or content of utterances. Among sayables are “assertibles,” to include predictive propositions. Once we are rational, all of our sense- and imaginative impressions have “sayable” content (see p.  n. ). Thus our dream and frenzy visions naturally “say” things too: they are images in a rational mind. But a bird, or its flight, is not rational, and neither is nor produces speech or meaningful images. It cannot say anything. Now if I have interpreted Quintus’ distinction between artificial and natural divination correctly, it is at odds with Chrysippus’ case for divination in such a way that Quintus needs a different definition of divination. For Chrysippus defined divination as an art or (when the art is in the hands of a sage) a science (see pp. –), while Quintus describes only part of divination as scientific or artificial. Neatly, it turns out that Quintus does indeed have a different definition of divination. Although we find other versions of this definition in Div., the most careful version and Quintus’ own is at .: [divinatio], quae est earum rerum quae fortuitae putantur praedictio atque praesensio, “[divination], which is the prediction and foreseeing of those states of affairs that are thought to be by chance.”  

Repici () – also distinguishes these two definitions of divination. The other versions are given in Cicero’s authorial voice at Div. . and by Marcus at Div. .. At .: . . . praesensionem et scientiam rerum futurarum, “the foreseeing and knowledge of future matters”; the differences from Quintus’ version are easily explained by the place of this definition in the first sentence of the treatise, where we would expect the subject to be defined loosely. At Div. .: quam dicebas praesensionem esse rerum fortuitarum, “which you [Quintus] were saying was the foreseeing of chance states-of-affairs.” In this context Marcus looks to put pressure on the Stoic account of divination by pointing out that they thought nothing happened by chance.


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

There is no mention of an art or a science in this definition. Rather, divination consists in a kind of praedictio atque praesensio, in “prediction and foreseeing.” In the case of artificial divination, “prediction” happens when the diviner derives his prediction from his art, but in the case of natural divination, it occurs when the dreamer or seer forms predictive content in his or her own dream or prophetic utterances. Artificial interpretation is necessary for us to understand obscure content in divinatory dreams or oracles. But under the new definition it is not part of divination proper. It is the interpretation of some content already generated by a completed divinatory event, the “foreseeing.” It is divination defined in this new way that Quintus must show to be real. In the next two sections, I shall examine Quintus’ arguments for the reality of artificial (section .) and natural (section .) divination.

. Quintus’ Case from the Outcomes for Artificial Divination In this section we shall see how Quintus argues for artificial divination, while in the next I shall turn to the natural kind. When Quintus defends his divinatory arts, he faces Cotta’s question – where did divination spring from? So Quintus not only subjects Marcus to a deluge of examples of predictions and outcomes. (Div. .–, –, –) He also gives an idealized history of the divinatory arts. This is not a “theory” in the sense of higher-order causal theorems that explain the if-then first-order theorems of the arts. Instead, it is a plausible story of how the predictive theorems came to be adopted. It is in the context of this ideal history that we will understand the role of Quintus’ apparently extra kind of divination, from coniectura, as a necessary part of the practice of artificial divination. Now it seems to me that we can understand Quintus’ strategy here more clearly if we take a hint from many of our sources and draw the following analogy with ancient debates about the theory of medicine. Contemporary with Chrysippus in the second half of the third century BC there began a long-running theoretical schism in medicine between the Empiricist and the Rationalist doctors. Broadly speaking, the Empiricists criticized medical theorists who claimed to be able to reason from observations to the underlying physical causes of medical problems and to propose treatments on that basis. The Empiricists claimed that the medical 

Date from Walzer and Frede () xx–xxii. For the comparison between Quintus’ artificial divination and Empiricist medicine, see Hankinson ().

. Quintus’ Case from the Outcomes for Artificial Divination


art could, and should, be derived purely from experience. Rationalists, in turn, fought back on behalf of the use of reason and the construction thereby of general causal theorems. Our primary source for the debate is Galen. Chapter  of his On the sects for beginners (pp. – Helmreich) is an introduction to the Empiricist view of medicine, and is, in effect, an idealized history of an Empirical art. Let us examine this parallel, since it will help to explain Quintus’ idealized history of divinatory arts (see pp. – below). According to Galen, in Empiricist medicine, there are three kinds of “experience” in view: the “incidental kind,” the “extempore” kind, and the “imitative” kind. (Sects p.  ll. –) Under the “incidental kind” fall “natural” and “chance” experience, where an affection that harms or heals the body comes about by obscure but natural causes (like an unexplained nosebleed) or by chance (like an accidental cut), and is then observed. (Sects .–) In neither case is the affection voluntary. Under the extempore kind fall instances where something that harms or helps the body is tried out for some less than scientific reason, for example, thanks to a dream. (Sects .–) The imitative kind is the key to Empiricism. (Sects .–) Under it, affections observed in experience of the other two kinds are imitated in an effort to produce like effects. If such affections imitated in this way prove helpful for the most part over many imitations, then a theorem is added to the medical art. (Sects .–) It is easy to imagine simple theorems of this sort – “when patients with a headache took an aspirin, for the most part they reported less pain” – although most theorems of a fully qualified doctor will doubtless be more complex. The art itself simply consists of an “aggregation” or “heap” (ἄθροισμα) of such theorems. (Sects .–) Rationalists, by contrast, would presumably require that such theorems connecting treatment and outcome be properly linked, by a rational structure, to higher-order theorems, that explained why the treatments would work. The simple “heap” structure of the Empiricists’ art therefore reflected their distinctive methods. For our purposes, two further details of Empiricism are important. First, Empiricists relied not only on direct personal experience, but also on the recorded experiences of other doctors. The recording and passing on of experiences was called ἱστορία, “history.” (Sects .–) History was   

Galen On the sects for beginners Chapters I–IV with Frede’s introduction to Walzer and Frede () xx–xxxi. Here and in what follows I rely on the translation in Walzer and Frede (). Translation from Walzer and Frede ().


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

presumably the source of most of an individual doctor’s theorems, although Galen does not say this. Second, where an Empiricist doctor faces a situation for which he has no experience or history to draw upon, he can use the method of “transition to the similar” in which he evolves a new theorem from experiences similar in many respects to his current case, but not every respect. (Sects .–.) If a treatment devised in this way should succeed, the respective new candidate theorem will of course be subject to the full testing process, like any candidate theorem stumbled upon by chance. This conception of a medical art and its idealized history drew criticism from the Rationalists. This was not, as Galen points out, because it led Empiricist doctors to treat patients any differently than did their rivals. (Sects .–) The dispute was over whether an art based on experience, imitation, and transition to the similar could successfully generate all the right theorems and the right treatments, or in the strongest form of Rationalist objection, over whether such an “art” was an art at all. (Sects .) To be properly comprehensive, perhaps an art should be able deductively to generate new theorems for unprecedented situations, as an art can if equipped with a theoretical account of the causes of its subject matter, for example about the biochemistry of headaches and aspirin. The structural analogy of this medical debate, as reported by Galen, with the debate over divination should be clear, as should some differences between the two. A key difference is that the opponents of divination did not, as Rationalists did for medicine, posit their own explanatory theory for divination. They believed there is none. But a key similarity is that these same opponents demand an explanatory theory (λόγος, ratio) from those who claim that divination is an art, just as Rationalists insist that medicine must have higher-order explanatory theory. Thus Rationalists and the opponents of divination suppose the same constraints on what counts as an art. This is what Cotta’s demand for a ratio or “theory” of divination seems to amount to. We supposed that Carneades similarly demanded to know why divination works (see p. ). Quintus’ Stoic case for artificial divination seems to be designed with such a debate in mind. By declining to define divination itself as an art, he evades many of Carneades’ and Cotta’s strictures, which were targeted at Chrysippus’ definition. Quintus claims that divination is the foreseeing and prediction of states-of-affairs thought to be by chance. Whether or not foresight or prediction really happens seems to be amenable to merely empirical confirmation. Thus Quintus insists that he owes no theory, despite Cotta’s demand. Whether his so-called divinatory “arts” are really

. Quintus’ Case from the Outcomes for Artificial Divination


arts, by some substantial criterion of what counts as an art, does not matter to him, nor does he need to equip them with higher-order theorems about causes. All that matters is that their use seems to work. Now Carneades might still try to press his more elaborate “subjectmatter” objection. Granted that Carneades can no longer demand a clear subject matter or goal from divination on the grounds that it is an art, he might ask now whether Quintus’ definition leaves us with any clear concept of divination at all. Why do we need to propose a special kind of prediction and foresight that comes from the gods? Sure enough, we shall see Marcus press this objection in my next chapter (pp. –). The second part of Quintus definition, “of states-of-affairs thought to be by chance,” helps to answer this evolution of the subject-matter objection. The Stoics held an epistemic view of chance: chance is “a cause unclear to human reasoning.” (See SVF .–.) Furthermore, they held that it is a cause unclear not just to some humans but rather simply to humans, and that divination is a way of getting to know things that seem to be unclear in this way. So the point of Quintus’ definition is that divination gives us information about things that no human could predict by conventional reasoning from causes about which he or she knows. God knows all current causes and can predict their effects, so he is in a position to tell us about them. Again, since Quintus’ definition (unlike Chrysippus’) restricts divination to foreseeing (praesensio) and prediction (praedictio), the information we get from divination in particular is always about the future. The function of the various sorts of divination, then, is to be a means by which a god tells us about some aspect of the future that we think we cannot predict. What, then, is Quintus’ ideal history of the divinatory arts? Broadly speaking, Quintus says that the established divinatory arts of the Ciceros’ time were formed by recording the careful observation of signs and outcomes over very long periods of time, just as Empiricist medics would imitate an experience many times before a theorem was derived from it. The process of making of these records he calls “observation,” observatio. He says that observation works because,  

See Alexander of Aphrodisias, Mantissa .. Although Quintus defines divination as prediction of the future, many of his examples include divination that is not precisely this – warnings (to Simonides in his dream, Div. .) or information about the present or the past (Sophocles’ dreams about the identity of a notorious thief, Div. .). I suggest that these examples come down from Chrysippus, for whom divination was not necessarily prediction of the future.


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination observata sunt haec tempore immenso et in significatione eventis animadversa et notata. nihil enim est autem quod non longinquitas temporum excipiente memoria prodendis monumentis efficere atque assequi possit. These things [= the crow calling on the left, the raven on the right] have been observed over a vast length of time, and noticed because of their outcomes, and then marked for what they signify. For there is nothing that sheer length of time cannot bring about and carry through, when memory collects and records are handed down. (Div. .)

This immediately precedes the Quintus’ own analogy with the medical art that is probably an allusion to Empiricist medicine (see p. ). The parallels are obvious. Signs and their correlated events are first of all noticed (animadversa) and then marked down (notata). Over a sufficiently great length of time, memory will collect these experiences. It will take many lifetimes to build up these arts, so in addition to the use of memory records must be kept. Quintus thinks that this process is capable of producing any successful empirical art – no matter how complex, bizarre, or seemingly unlikely. Astrology certainly depended, or claimed to depend, on such long and painstakingly kept records. Cicero in his preface himself remarks on the “daily observation” of the Egyptians who have pursued the same art “by duration of time over almost uncountable ages.” (longinquitate temporum innumerabilibus paene saeculis, Div. .) Quintus goes one better and puts a figure on the amount of time the Babylonians have been involved in astrology. He says that we should not accuse of falsehood those “who have , years encompassed in their records, as they themselves say.” With augury and haruspicy, there seems no reason to doubt that 


All but one of the MSS have in significatione eventus, a crux for many editors, although Pease (– ) prints it untouched and hazards “in regard to the significance of their outcome.” Many solutions are proposed, but Giomini prints eventis, the reading of H, a later MS. Giomini and Pease both point to Div. ., eventis animadversa ac notata sunt, as a parallel in support of H. Giomini notes with “fortasse rectius” the editions of Sturm () and Lambinus () who omit in. This is indeed attractive, yielding a simple “noticed and recorded by their signification and their outcomes.” At any rate, the approximate meaning is clear. This is an overestimate, although not as great as that found in some other Greco-Roman treatments of Babylon (see Wardle  ad loc.). But as a matter of fact the Babylonians did keep records correlating celestial signs and earthly outcomes, with increasing detail and sophistication, for well over a millennium down to the Hellenistic period. See the relevant part of the Enuma Anu Enlil for the long older collection of astrological theorems, including material of many dates back into the second millenium BC. (Reiner and Pingree –) The Enuma contains similar collections for other forms of divination. For the later “astronomical diaries” see Sachs and Hunger (–). Ptolemy claimed to have access to some of these records, going back to the reign of Nabonassar in the eighth century BC (Almagest ..–). This is plausible, since Ptolemy cites records of lunar eclipses at Babylon with some accuracy (Almagest IV.). Jacobs () makes an argument that Cicero, directly or indirectly, was aware of some ancient near eastern divinatory signs, principally

. Quintus’ Case from the Outcomes for Artificial Divination


the material in their books would have reflected a long tradition. So Quintus concludes that the length of time over which the divinatory arts have been tried and tested helps to answer Cotta’s challenge. Over very long periods, it is plausible that somebody, for whatever reason, silly or profound, with or without divine prompting, would start to examine the predictive capacities of birds or offal, and that useful theorems could result from many observations of such data. Where, then, does coniectura, “conjecture,” come in? I suggest that for Quintus, artificial diviners conjecture when they make a divinatory prediction from what they guess is a sign, but a sign for which there is no existing theorem in their art. They might do this, for example, if some new phenomenon that seems to be within their purview arises: for the haruspex, a prodigy or a deformity of the liver never before seen, an unprecedented bird for the augur. If the resultant prediction is successful, then new instances of the same type of sign can be examined over time, to see if they have the same outcome. A special case of this would be at the foundation of a new art, that is to say, when there is as yet no theorem of the future art. In that instance an insightful soul guesses, for whatever reason, that some event is a sign, and conjectures a prediction from it. When this prediction is successful, he starts to look out for more instances correlating the same sort of sign with the same sort of prediction, and a candidate theorem is set on its way to confirmation by long observation. In this way coniectura is a part of the practice of artificial diviners: not divination by established theorems, but the process whereby artificial diviners predict without a theorem and thus suggest a candidate theorem. There is evidence that Quintus indeed considers that coniectura is a part of the practice of artifical divination in the way I have suggested. When he has finished his first catalog of outcomes for artificial divination, Quintus says again that he agrees with those who say there are two types of divination, “For there is art in people who pursue new matters by conjecture,

that which correlated the birth of lion to a woman with the fall and capture of the king (Jacobs pp. –, cf. Div. .). The argument is plausible, but I am not yet convinced. While it is plausible that the fall of the king became in Cicero the fall of a republic (res publica), it is also plausible that for Cicero the fall of a republic would mean the rise of a king, and thus that Cicero has in mind an outcome opposed to the near eastern example Jacobs cites. If Cicero derived this example from the birth of Pericles, then indeed a dream of the birth of a lion would seem to presage the birth of a politician of dangerous ability. In addition, if we suppose that Cicero’s example ultimately derives from Jacobs’ near eastern text, it is sufficiently likely that this derivation would be indirect, that it seems hasty to speak of Cicero’s “knowledge” of older near-eastern divinatory tradition (p. ).


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

but have learnt old ones by observation.” (Div. .) In Quintus’ latter situation, the diviner has learned theorems produced by past observation, and can apply these. But when he comes to new matters, the diviner must turn to conjecture. This strongly suggests that conjecture is part of the same project as the established divinatory arts. Quintus later returns to this theme: quae vero aut coniectura explicantur aut eventis animadversa ac notata sunt, ea genera divinandi, ut supra dixi, non naturalia, sed artificiosa dicuntur. But, as I said above, those kinds of divining which are worked out by conjecture or are noticed and marked down from the outcomes are not called natural, but artificial. (Div. .)

Again, some part of the activity of these arts functions by “records and doctrine” (monumentis et disciplina) as found in the books of the haruspices and the augurs. (Div. .) But other aspects are worked out “suddenly and ex tempore.” There follows from Div. . to . a litany of examples of divination by sudden conjecture, predictions as ever correlated with outcomes. Some of these examples of coniectura are primordial, like Calchas who predicted the length of the war at Troy from seeing a number of sparrows. (Div. ., cf. Iliad .–) Some are historical instances of divination by haruspices or augurs. It is not always easy to see why the diviner made the conjecture – why Calchas, for example, connected sparrows and years of war as he did. But as I understand Quintus’ story, this does not matter too much. A diviner’s reasoning can be loose, or hard to understand, since before any resulting candidate theorem is taken up with confidence, it will be subject to much more testing. A comprehensible example of conjecture from Quintus’ list is the following. Just before the battle of Leuctra, some soon-to-be victorious Boetians at distant Lebadia heard their cocks crowing insistently, which their “augurs” interpreted as a sign of victory, since cocks crow when victorious. (Div. .) Here we have some insight into a conjectural process. The Boetian bird-diviners made their prediction by association with a well-known behavioral fact about cocks. But it was not a prediction from any established theorem of their art as such. Thus it constituted a coniectura. Perhaps, after long enough study of the correlation between assiduous crowing and victory, the conjecture would be confirmed as a theorem. 

est enim ars in iis, qui novas res coniectura persequuntur, veteres observatione didicerunt.

. Quintus’ Case from the Outcomes for Artificial Divination


Now Quintus’ idea seems to be that the Boetian augurs’ conjecture was right by something more reliable than chance, that conjecture is something that expert or naturally talented diviners do. How can he square this with the claim that he is not offering any “theories” underlying the predictive theorems of artificial divination? His reply here might be similar to what he said about the artificial interpretation of dreams. The heuristics which seasoned augurs or haruspices might develop to guess at new theorems do not have to reflect any (true) causal theory about why any divinatory theorem is true. They are simply tentative interpretations of how we might extrapolate the arbitrary relationships between already known signs and outcomes. Since the gods want us to develop divinatory arts, it is plausible that they might sometimes plan their signs and outcomes so as to provoke the right conjectural prediction or to sustain a new candidate theorem. For example, the gods behind the events of Lebadia might have chosen the crowing of cocks as a sign because they knew that the people there associated the crowing of cocks with victory. If the Lebadians then proposed an associated candidate theorem (“if the cocks crow in such-andsuch a way, there will be victory”) the gods could choose to observe that rule, so that it will eventually be confirmed as a theorem in Lebadian augury. The word coniectura features prominently in another part of Cicero’s writing, on rhetorical theory. There it means argument over the facts in, for example, a court case: did the accused do it or did he not? For example, suppose that the evidence in court is that reliable witnesses report the following: “Sextus was found dying from a dagger wound. Titus was standing over the body, holding a bloody dagger.” The prosecution argues that the jury should infer that Titus stabbed Sextus to death. The defence argues that the jury should infer that Titus found Sextus stabbed and drew the dagger from the wound in an effort to save Titus. Both conclusions are consistent with the evidence. Neither is entailed by it in the way that a conclusion in philosophy or mathematics might be entailed by the 


A special category of coniectura emerges in Div. .–: fiunt certae divinationum coniecturae a peritis, “sure conjectures in divining come about made by experts.” It does not seem likely that certae here is to mean “certain,” rather “very reliable,” nor is it clear who the relevant peritis are since in two of three examples they go unremarked and in the third they are simply haruspices. But the predictions are all notably good: that Midas would be rich, that Plato would have sweetness of speech, and that Roscius would be famous. So these predictions seem intended as examples of spectacularly successful predictions from signs where no art can help, with the suggestion that such spectacular success is achieved with the aid of plenty of practice in divining. These suggestions serve as extra evidence that coniectura can sometimes be successful other than by mere chance. See On invention ., .–; On the parts of rhetoric, –.


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

premises of a deduction. Thus a “conjectural” situation like this requires the orator to draw on what the jury finds plausible in order to lead them to one inference or the other. That sense of coniectura in rhetorical theory is a parallel to the way Quintus uses coniectura in Div. As I interpret him, Quintus thinks that artificial diviners usually take a sign, then deduce a prediction by the combination of the sign with a relevant general theorem. But in coniectura there is no relevant theorem. Rather, diviners take what seems to be a sign, and try to find a plausible inference to a prediction. In his reply to Quintus, Marcus will make a similar comparison between divinatory and forensic coniectura. He says: ut enim in causis iudicialibus alia coniectura est accusatoris, alia defensoris et tamen utriusque credibilis, sic in omnibus iis rebus, quae coniectura investigari videntur, anceps reperitur oratio. For just as in cases at trial the accuser has one coniectura, the defender another, and both coniecturae are believable, so in all of those matters that seem right to investigate by coniectura we find two sided rhetoric. (Div. .)

We should conclude that coniectura plays a role in divination straddling the respective roles in Empiricist medicine of extempore experience and “transition to the similar.” It allows new arts to get underway and new candidate theorems to be found for established arts. In this way it also allows the practitioners of existing arts to deal with unprecedented situations. The examples Quintus gives show that coniectura can sometimes produce true predictions, which is all that is necessary for his argument. Of course, conjecture is not infallible, and perhaps not even reliable, and this leaves arts whose theorems stem from conjectures fallible in principle, even with the control of very long periods of observation. Quintus admits this. In Div. .–, he considers the obvious objection that divination often gets its predictions wrong. His first reply is to say that medicine, navigation, and politics get things wrong too, but are still considered arts. He goes on: similis est haruspicum responsio omnisque opinabilis divinatio; coniectura enim nititur, ultra quam progredi non potest. ea fallit fortasse non numquam, sed tamen ad veritatem saepe derigit; est enim ab omni aeternitate repetita, in qua cum paene innumerabiliter res eodem modo evenirent isdem signis antegressis, ars est effecta eadem saepe animadvertendo ac notando. The advice of haruspices and all [merely] opinable divination is similar [to arts like medicine and navigation], for it is founded on conjecture, beyond which it cannot progress. Perhaps it plays us false sometimes, but on the

. Quintus’ Case from the Outcomes for Artificial Divination


other hand it often directs us to the truth. For it has been derived from all eternity, and it was made into an art, since over that eternity the same events have come out preceded by the same signs an almost countless number of times. (Div. . )

This, I think, is Quintus’ account of the idealized history of artificial divination in a nutshell (it immediately precedes his main catalog of examples of successful artificial divination). It puts together the elements we have discussed above, that divinatory arts are begun by conjecture and confirmed by long observation. It makes clear that this process gives rise to fallible, but reliable, arts. Here we see another difference between Quintus and Chrysippus. Chrysippus seems to have thought that all the predictions of diviners qua diviners are true (see pp. –), but Quintus thinks that since artificial divination is fallible, even if practiced perfectly it will not always produce true predictions. You might object that this approach to artificial divination cannot be Stoic. For, you might say, the Stoic sage is supposed to be infallible, in that she is supposed not to form, or even to risk forming, false opinions. But if she uses a fallible art, sometimes she will form, or risk forming, false opinions. Thus, on this view, sages would not be diviners. Indeed, according to the Stoics, nobody would be justified in divining, because of the risk of false opinions. Thus (you would conclude) the Stoics, who endorse divination both in principle and in practice, would not take the position I have described. The answer to this objection is to deny that a sage who knowingly uses a fallible art must risk false opinions. For a sage may adjust the beliefs she forms to fit her circumstances. To use artificial divination, she need not believe that the theorems of the divinatory art are true. Rather, she need believe only that it is reasonable to proceed as though they were true, but that they might be false. Similarly, she will not believe simply that a particular prediction made by use of the art is true. Rather, she will believe that it is reasonable to suppose that the prediction is true, but that it might not be.


If Quintus, although a Peripatetic at heart, assumes here the Stoic doctrine of the conflagration, through which humans could not pass on their arts, then “all eternity” seems to be hyperbole. Quintus seems to concede this with his paene innumerabiliter, “almost innumerable.” Alternatively, perhaps he reflects that divinatory arts must be known to the Stoic god, in which case they do survive eternally, and do reflect conjunctions of sign and outcome that this god has eternally sustained.



Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination

Quintus’ Case from the Outcomes for Natural Divination

Finally, we must see how Quintus hopes to show from outcomes alone that natural divination is real. Here, of course, his strategy is not to argue that there is any art that first arrives at predictive content. Instead, he tries to show that the predictive content in divinatory dreams and in oracles itself can be shown to be true by the outcomes. He gives his many examples of such conjunctions of prediction and outcome at Div. .–. Here Quintus faces the same obvious challenge that he faced in arguing for artificial divination, that predictions drawn from dreams sometimes seem to be wrong. But now he is without the same defensive option, namely, he cannot argue that divination from dreams has proved to be a fallible, but valuable, art. Quintus squares up to this challenge (at multa falsa!, “But many are false!”) in Div. .. His immediate answer is, “Rather, perhaps, obscure to us!” (immo obscura fortasse nobis.) For if the predictive content in dreams and oracles is obscure, then to understand this content will take interpretation. This interpretation can be fallible. Thus in cases where a predictive but obscure dream was interpreted, but the interpreter’s version of the prediction turned out false, the error can always be attributed to the interpreter and not to the content of the dream. Of course, there could also be cases where a predictive dream appears so clear as not to need interpretation, and where its apparently clear prediction turns out false. But even this case could be given the same defence. For perhaps the dream’s predictive content seemed clear, but was in fact obscure, so that it predicted obscurely something other than what it seemed to predict clearly. Nevertheless, it seems that the very content of a predictive dream could itself be false. Quintus concedes this point, and therefore goes on to consider such cases. Here he has a theory to suggest, with elements borrowed from numerous philosophical and literary sources, which gives reason to think that although dreams are not always predictive, they are potentially reliable on occasion. What he argues is that humans have an innate power to have dreams which are “veridical,” (veracia) (Div. .), to “divine,” (divinare) (Div. .), to “presage,” (praesagire) (Div. .), and the like. This power will yield true content in dreams and frenzies when the soul is in the right state, for example when one dreams after living temperately (Div. .–), or is close to death (Div. .–), or is in frenzy (Div. .). For this reason dreams and frenzied predictions can be reliable. But we can also see why they will often be unreliable. For we are rarely in these states of exalted temperance or proximity to death.

. Quintus’ Case from the Outcomes for Natural Divination


Now strictly speaking, this appeal to the states of soul appropriate to natural divination may exceed Quintus’ rubric of arguing for divination from outcomes and without causal explanation. But if so, it is not a serious infraction. The theory is extremely abstract, and depends on no particular account of body or soul. All Quintus aims to sketch is a world in which we have some power that allows us to get at these truths, that sometimes is able to work, and sometimes is not. He says nothing about what such a power might be, or why proximity to death (and so on) might allow it to be active. But to do this is hardly more than to make explicit some of the assumptions behind the notion of “natural divination” itself. We can see how abstract is Quintus’ theorizing here precisely from the eclectic range of authorities he appeals to in its support: Plato (Div. .–), Posidonius (Div. .), Plautus, wise old women (Div. .), tragic drama (Div. .). We may compare the more usual role of an old woman in the dialogues, as the paradigmatic victim of superstition (e.g. DND ., ., Div. ., .). In short, Quintus’ claims here about the circumstances in which natural divination is reliable are based on common sense, rather than on technical theory. Thus, more precisely stated, what Quintus hopes to show about natural divination using the outcomes is this: we are sometimes able to have reliably true predictive dreams or waking delusions, even if the predictive content of these dreams or delusions is sometimes obscure. At Div. .–, as he finishes his long catalog of examples of successful natural divination, Quintus sums up this approach in what Schofield called “one of the very rare philosophical arguments” in the speech ( p. ). For this purpose, he follows Cratippus of Pergamon, a Peripatetic who gave credence only to what Quintus calls natural divination. Cratippus compares the ability to have veridical dreams and frenzies to the sensory power of the eyes. Although eyes do not always function, if someone has seen real things (vera) at least once, it follows that his eyes can see. item igitur, si sine divinatione non potest officium et munus divinationis exstare, potest autem quis, cum divinationem habeat, errare aliquando nec vera cernere, satis est ad confirmandum divinationem semel aliquid esse ita divinatum ut nihil fortuito cecidisse videatur; sunt autem eius generis innumerabilia; esse igitur divinationem confitendum est. In the same way, then, if it is not possible for the purpose and function of divination to come about without the [power of] divination, but if it is possible that someone who has the [power of] divination to err sometimes and not to perceive real things, then it is enough to support the [power of] divination that something should once be divined in such a way that it


Quintus’ Stoic Case for Divination appears to have fallen out not at all by chance. But there are countless examples of this sort. Therefore, it must be admitted that there is divin ation. (Div. .)

The argument makes two assumptions. The first is that the activity of natural divination could not happen unless the human soul has some power or means by which it is able to divine, just as seeing could not happen without eyes’ ability to see. The second is that sometimes someone whose soul has this means to divine can go wrong, just as someone with eyes can sometimes fail to see. If there has been one incontrovertible instance of natural divination, then there must be the power of divination in the soul, since the function of divination could not be fulfilled without the power, and since it is possible for a power to be used rarely or just once. Meanwhile, any number of failures to predict, no matter how many, can be explained as the person with the power to divine going wrong. So, just one incontrovertible instance of divination would prove that the power to divine exists, even in the face of very many false predictions. But Quintus hopes to have shown us in the preceding sections of his speech that there are many incontrovertible instances of natural divination. Now this argument has a strongly Peripatetic flavor. The Stoics do not seem to have posited some specific power or means of natural divination in the soul, analogous to the eyes and their ability to see, as Cratippus does here. But in this Stoic context, Quintus does not need to put too much weight on whatever specific aspect of the soul Cratippus intended when he compared our natural divinatory capabilities to the eyes, since, as I have said, Quintus means only to argue that in the most general sense, we can have reliably predictive dreams. On this basis, Quintus claims he can appeal simply to the outcomes in order to prove the reality of natural divination.

. Conclusion I hope that this chapter has helped to clarify some of what seems so messy about Quintus’ speech, or more specifically his main argument down to 

There are numerous questions about what precisely Quintus thinks Cratippus means by the sensus oculorum, or by what I have loosely called the “power” of divination. For in the hands of one or another philosopher, there are substantial differences between (for example) technical notions of potentialities, powers, or faculties, or again between the eyes’ sensitivity to light and the soul’s sense of sight. But I do not think Quintus needs to specify his, or Cratippus’, point very precisely here, since all Quintus requires is that there is some fact about the soul according to which it can sometimes reliably produce predictive divinatory content.

. Conclusion


Div. .. I have suggested that many of these problems are solved when we see that Div. is written, at least in part, for learned readers, and features characters who carry on the project of DND rather than start a discussion of divination from scratch. Quintus replies to the brief exchanges on divination between Balbus and Cotta in DND, and he does so by explaining a new Stoic defense of divination that can evade Cotta’s charges against Chrysippus’ position on the topic. In Chapter , I shall take up the next stage in this back and forth, Marcus’ rebuttal to Quintus, in Div. Book . In Chapter  section ., we saw Balbus’ world as a place of beauty, redolent of the care lavished on us by a god who made everything else in the cosmos for us rational creatures. Quintus’ arguments pursue his formal goal of shoring up Balbus’ conclusion. If Quintus were to convince us that divination were real, we would eo ipso concede that there are gods who care for us. So in effect, Quintus cites empirical evidence for Balbus’ emphatic “yes” to the Central Question. But we should also notice how Quintus’ speech enriches and makes more urgent Balbus’ portrait of humanity’s life with the gods. It is not just that god fated a world for us and keeps it and its parts in motion. He also communicates with us, both with societies and with individuals. First, he says things to us in the most intimate way, welling up from inside our souls at times, in dreams and delusions, when our rational control of our imaginations is weakened. Second, he cooperates with institutions, cities, and diviners, who can record the conjectures and observations that make divinatory arts, through which the events of the natural world can be made to yield messages, so that religion is not a one way communication, from us to the gods, but rather a conversation. God’s care for us is all the more lavishly apparent. This perspective is not absent from Quintus’ speech. He quotes (and Cicero proudly translates with precision) a long, complex Stoic syllogism proving the reality of divination, used not only by Chrysippus, but also by later Stoic authors on divination, Diogenes of Babylon and Antipater of Tarsus. As ever, Quintus is at pains to point out that such arguments are not the basis of his case. But even if the argument might not be convincing to non-Stoics, the many premises exhibit how deeply divination was implicated in the Stoics’ beliefs about their caring gods: the gods love us, they are our benefactors and friends, they know the future, it makes a difference to us to know the future, and they have the means to tell us about it. (Div. .– cf. .–) By paying attention to their divinatory signs and messages, we pay attention to the loving divine friends who surround us.

 

Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

In Book  of DND, Cotta the pontifex undertook to face down Stoic theology, on behalf of the skeptical Academy. In Book  of Div., Marcus the augur takes on the Stoic theory of divination in the same cause. The role of Marcus’ arguments in the overall project of DND and Div. is to offer reasons why a Roman, even an augur like Cicero himself, need not think that the gods hedge us about with messages and divinatory signs. According to these arguments, Cicero need not worry that news from the gods obtrudes in his auguries, or hounds him in his dreams. (Div. .) Now Marcus’ speech presents some puzzles for my argument in this book. For I have argued that Cicero’s dialogues are unified wholes (see p. ), and also that Quintus’ speech is an idiosyncratic Stoic defense of divination (see Chapter  section .). These two claims together entail a prediction about Marcus’ arguments: he should respond to Quintus’ Stoic defense of divination in particular, not to Stoic views about divination in general. But Marcus’ argument has seemed to some readers to fly wide of Quintus’ mark. If it did, then I should have to give up at least one of the claims just mentioned. In interpreting Marcus’ arguments in this chapter, I shall argue that, for the most part, he sticks to the point and takes on Quintus’ speech in particular, not divination in general. Quintus countered Cotta’s challenge to the Chrysippan account, “where does this divination of yours come from?” with his division into artificial and natural divination. Marcus, a good servant of his own project as the author of DND, reasserts the challenge against, in particular, this Stoic account of divination, which I hope to show in this chapter. But in section ., I shall first discuss some of the charges of unfairness to Quintus that scholars have laid against Marcus.

. Is Marcus’ Speech Suspiciously Unfair to Quintus? The argument of Marcus’ speech has a clear and clearly sign-posted structure. This draws admiration, especially as it follows Quintus’ messier 

. Is Marcus’ Speech Suspiciously Unfair to Quintus?


effort. “Nothing could be more straightforward than the structure of Book II: any table of contents drawn up for Book I would be a fairly optimistic and arbitrary construct.” (Schofield () ) The straightforward structure is as follows. Marcus first makes a preliminary “sally” (excursio, Div. .), a sustained argument designed to tempt Stoics into a dilemma that does for divination with a single blow. (Div. .–) Then he pursues another, grand strategy (to “rout the wings” of Quintus’ position, cornua commovere, Div. .), in which he runs through first the kinds of artificial divination, and then those of natural divination, attacking the reality of each in turn. (Div. .–) But this clear structure masks some problems. As we shall see, the dilemma of the preliminary “sally” is not finally compelling, least of all to a Stoic. Marcus suggests some lack of confidence in it when he admits that it was made “lightly armed.” (levis armaturae, Div. .) Thus much of the heavy work of refutation must be done in the longer section that is structured by type of divination. Marcus’ disciplined adherence to this structure means that at no point does he set out what view (if any) he advocates of Quintus’ position as a whole. But, as I have just pointed out, if I am right in my general interpretation of DND and Div., then Marcus ought to have in mind a strategy to dispose of Quintus’ Stoic defense of divination in particular. I will suggest later (sections .–. of this chapter) that Marcus does, in fact, have a general approach for attacking Quintus. This is represented by certain patterns of argument that recur in many of his respective criticisms of the kinds of divination. But in this section, I first wish to make some remarks about Marcus’ strategy, and in particular the following three features of it. First, as Malcolm Schofield notes, Marcus’ approach is often “rhetorical,” at least in the straightforward sense of employing the techniques of forensic rhetoric. (Schofield () –) Marcus sometimes calls attention to his use of rhetoric by using the language of the courtroom, and indeed Schofield provides some parallels between arguments in Div.  and those of Cicero’s real-life defence speech Pro Roscio Amerino. (Schofield () App. II, p. .) Second, Marcus routinely makes arguments against the Stoics that at least appear to misinterpret to a significant degree some salient part of the Stoic doctrine behind Quintus’ speech. As  

testibus uti (Div. .), magnam iacturam causae (Div. .), omissis testibus (Div. .), quasi quadam praevaricatione (Div. .). Although I do not ultimately agree with his diagnosis that Marcus’ speech as a whole systematically commits an ignoratio elenchi, Denyer () documents a number of possible straw men in the


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

I shall suggest, Marcus seems to argue against straw men, theories about divination that his opponents, the Stoics, would not accept. Third, in addition to his apparent misinterpretations, Marcus seems to depart from the sort of strictly targeted arguments we might expect of him. That is, he makes arguments founded on premises that Stoics will not welcome, and that they may feel no pressure to accept. From these three features it would be easy to form a negative opinion of Marcus’ speech, if what we expect (as I do) is a philosophically rigorous reply to Quintus’ speech in particular. Why, then, might Cicero have given Marcus such a speech? Three possible answers to that question would threaten my project. One answer would be that in fact Quintus has no systematic position in Book . On that answer my reading of Quintus’ argument is ruled out of the text of Book  by the text of Book . A second answer would be to say that the mismatch is good reason to revisit the single-source hypothesis (see section . of my introduction). One might favor this answer if one thought that a mismatch suggests that Cicero used a source, or souces, for Book  which argued against a different position than that held by the sources for Book , and that he either did not spot the mismatch or made no sufficient effort to correct it. If Cicero’s sources could dominate the parts of his text to that extent then my thesis that he shaped the dialogues as literary unities would look dubious. A third answer would be that Cicero was well aware of the flaws he wrote into Marcus’ understanding of Book . He might have written them so that (for example) some readers would see through Marcus’ arguments and thus light on the stronger points of Quintus’ case. Such a gambit is not out of the question for an author of Cicero’s sophistication, but does not seem in keeping with his earnest use of dialogue form to further his skeptical agenda, as I painted it in section . of my introduction. But I shall now offer another interpretation of the relationship between Marcus’ and Quintus’ speeches, one consistent with my general position in this book. First, on the issue of “rhetorical” tactics, we may note that in fact Cicero would say that rhetoric is in theory the appropriate means by which to reply to the sort of case Quintus has made on behalf of the Stoics. As we saw in Chapter , Quintus carefully limited his case so that – he

speech. Hankinson ()  accepts Denyer’s conclusion, Timpanaro () – does not. See also Repici (). See e.g. Pease (–) on Div. . and the inconsistent definitions of divination between Books  and : “This inconsistency is probably due to the use of different and unrelated sources for the two books . . .” Schofield () himself makes a similar point, pp. ,  n. , –.

. Is Marcus’ Speech Suspiciously Unfair to Quintus?


claims – the burden of proof fell entirely on the empirical evidence of his examples and to no extent on any physical explanation of divination. Marcus certainly apprehends this aspect of Quintus’ defence. At a key programmatic point in his speech – the outset of the main arguments following his “sally” – he criticizes and thus implicitly acknowledges what Quintus claimed was the only basis of his argument: duxisti autem divinationem omnem a tribus rebus, a deo, a fato, a natura. sed tamen cum explicare nihil posses, pugnasti commenticiorum exemplorum mirifica copia. de quo primum hoc libet dicere: Hoc ego philosophi non esse arbitror, testibus uti, qui aut casu veri aut malitia falsi fictique esse possunt; argumentis et rationibus oportet, quare quidque ita sit, docere, non eventis, iis praesertim, quibus mihi liceat non credere. But you derived every sort of divination from three things, from god, from fate, and from nature. [This is a reference to the physical theories Quintus gave at Div. . , cf. p.  above.] But since you were unable to explain anything you went to battle using a wondrous host of confected examples. About that I first want to say this: I do not think this appropriate for a philosopher, to use pieces of evidence [lit. ‘witnesses’, testibus] that can be true by chance, or can be false and concocted through ill will. A philosopher should show why each thing is as it is by proofs and arguments, not by outcomes, especially not by outcomes that I may dis trust. (Div. .)

Thus, on his own understanding of Quintus’ speech, Marcus’ goal in refuting Quintus’ case for divination should be to show that the “host of examples” is unable to establish what Quintus thinks it can. Let us see why this makes the dispute a “rhetorical” one for Cicero. Quintus asked that the question under examination be not why divination happens, but whether it happens. Marcus is well aware of this: “[you, Quintus, said that] what happens, not why it happens, is what’s relevant.” (quid fieret, non cur fieret, ad rem pertinere, Div. ..) To argue that divination happens, Quintus advanced anecdotal examples of outcomes that matched predictions. With a few exceptions, Marcus will not question the truth of these anecdotes. In some cases he cannot question the anecdote because he himself was its source. So what he will argue is that Quintus was wrong to argue from the truth of the anecdotes to the reality of divination. Thus, to be precise about what is at issue in Marcus’ speech, he must dispute an inductive inference that was made from a fund of evidence that the two sides mostly share. This evidence consists in particular examples, not general truths. As we saw in another context in my last chapter (pp. –), from the perspective of Cicero’s rhetorical training


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

the question at issue is therefore a constitutio coniecturalis, that is to say, an issue (constitutio) subject to “conjecture,” to arguments about the plausibility of inductive inferences from agreed evidence to disputed facts. The textbook advice on conjectural argument the young Cicero presented in On invention .– makes it clear that a great variety of tactics was considered standard practice in the competition for plausibility at a trial. In the case of actions done or not done, an orator will typically appeal to a jury’s sense of character, passions, and normal behavior: would such a person have done such a thing? By building a case on induction from reputable anecdotes Quintus has invited a counter-argument analogous to those forensic tactics. Marcus is not required by this sort of refutation to dispute general theories or arguments (although he does, just as Quintus in fact presents such theories and arguments alongside his formal case). Instead, he is required to show Quintus (and us, the readers) that Quintus’ inferences from particular facts were less plausible, or at least no more plausible, than some alternative inferences. To Cicero’s way of thinking, this sort of dispute is rhetorical territory more than philosophical. Now, by that I do not mean that the rhetorical arguments are disconnected from, or ineffectual in, their philosophical context. The point is rather that faced with the strategy of supporting a philosophically important thesis, that “there is divination,” with particular pieces of empirical evidence, the appropriate argumentative response for Cicero is to apply the tools of rhetoric devised precisely for disputing inferences from that sort of evidence. That is a philosophically legitimate response that, if successful, would yield the philosophically important conclusion that there is no sufficient set of empirical evidence for the reality of divination. Thus Schofield is right to say that Cicero gives Marcus a forensic rhetorical bent in Div. because that is what the subject matter demands: “a situation in which full-blown rhetoric was exactly the right philosophical strategy—where philosophy could with perfect propriety be rhetoric.” (Schofield () ) Second, I will now address the degree to which Marcus seems to misinterpret, or does not argue against, Quintus’ specific position. In the next two sections of this chapter (section . and .), we shall see cases where Marcus proceeds on the basis of what we might call straw men, claims that a Stoic supporter of Quintus’ speech would not accept, or which seem to interpret Quintus’ arguments unsympathetically. For now, 

There may be a pun to suggest this invitation in Marcus’ comment on Quintus’ “whether it happens, not why it happens” tactic: sed te mirificam in latebram coniecisti, “you threw yourself [or, ‘conjectured yourself’] into a surprising refuge”, Div. ..

. Is Marcus’ Speech Suspiciously Unfair to Quintus?


let us consider what we ought to conclude from these straw men about Marcus’ general response to Quintus. Do they suggest that Marcus has missed important features of Quintus’ speech, or of Stoicism more widely? I think that such a conclusion would require another premise, that is, we should have to suppose that in order to deliver a successful skeptical response, Marcus ought to argue against Quintus’ position using only claims Quintus has made, or that a Stoic supporter of the speech would accept. Should we expect this? One reason to expect it might be that Marcus is an Academic skeptic and some historians have thought that the Academics tended to argue using their opponent’s premises. “[The Academics’] style of philosophising was ad hominem. Typically, they would take hold of one of the doctrines of a dogmatic philosopher (the Stoics were their usual target) and attempt to reduce it to absurdity. ‘If you Stoics are right’, they would argue, ‘and such and such is the case, then we cannot know the truth about so and so. You Stoics are committed by your own principles to scepticism.’” (Annas and Barnes () ) “[O]ne possibility is that he [i.e. a sceptic] take his premises from a dogmatic opponent. Then his arguments will have the following form: supposing that something which the dogmatists assert is true, it can then be shown that nothing can be known. . . . This is the typical strategy of the Academics.” (Striker (c) )

That the Academics would argue in such a way might be important to understanding an important question about the school, namely whether they endorse their conclusions, for example the conclusion no wise person should form opinions, or whether they merely aim to reduce their dogmatic opponents to such an impasse. So, if these scholars are right about this “typical strategy,” perhaps we should expect Marcus to pursue it. In which case, his failure to do so properly would lead to the sort of conclusions about Book  of Div. that I seek to avoid. But that expectation would be mistaken. The importance of the ad hominem strategy (as Annas and Barnes call it) to the Academics is strongest in their famous argument addressed to the Stoics against cataleptic cognition and in favor of suspension of judgment. (Academica .– cf. Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos .–) This argument is 

Marcus’ Academic skepticism (for which see section . of my introduction) in Div. specifically is clear from his remarks at . and . and can also be inferred from the continuity of his character with the one “he” wrote for himself in DND. Cicero’s own Academic preferences are gestured at in the preface, at Div. ..


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

meant to use premises all but one of which are welcome to the Stoics, and another that is supposed to be evidently plausible (although the Stoics will resist it). It is certainly an argument of central importance to the Academics, first because the Stoics were their major opponents, and second because the argument, if successful, undermined all other Stoic claims to epistemic success. But even if they thought they had succeeded in this quick, epistemological way against Stoicism, the Academics still took it upon themselves to argue against all dogmatic positions on nonepistemological questions, in order to induce doubt on all the questions that dogmatic thinkers claimed to have settled. This is the point of the many speeches in Cicero’s dialogues. Of course, these refutations are ultimately in the service of an epistemological outlook – skepticism – but their immediate purpose is not to refute an explicitly anti-skeptical claim (e.g., “knowledge is possible”) but rather to undermine some other dogmatically held proposition (e.g. “the cosmos is rational”). A worthwhile focus on the central, epistemological argument should not lead us overly to limit our expectations of how the Academics will argue in other contexts. Let us consider an example, from Marcus’ speech, of this sort of freestyle approach to skeptical counter-argument. This is Marcus’ refutation of the bare syllogistic argument for divination that Quintus attributed to Chrysippus, Diogenes of Babylon, and Antipater of Tarsus (Div. .– cf. .–, p.  above). Marcus’ approach is to call on a principle that a compelling syllogism concludes something that was doubted from premises that are not. (Div. .) This principle is probably Stoic, or welcome to the Stoics. But the ways that Marcus goes about rendering each premise doubtful certainly are not welcome to the Stoics. (Div. .–) He says that two premises are doubtful because Epicurus, the poet Ennius, or the Peripatetic Dicaearchus asserted their contraries, and that another premise is doubtful because “very learned men” assert the contrary. He doubts still another premise because of the implausibility of making gods look into every house; another, because the gods might give us signs but no way to interpret those signs, just as they gave the Romans themselves no way to interpret the signs used in Etruscan 

Striker is clear about this. Her essays on skeptical strategies (c and d) explicitly focus on epistemological strategies, and hence portray the Academics arguing against the Stoics. (Note that my quotation of her above is her analysis of how the Academics show that “nothing can be known.”) Cf. Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism .: “A proof, they say, is an argument which, by way of agreed assumptions and in virtue of yielding a conclusion, reveals an unclear consequence.” ἡ ἀπόδειξις λόγος δι’ ὁμολογουμένων λημμάτων κατὰ συναγωγὴν ἐπιφορὰν ἐκκαλύπτων ἄδηλον. Translation from Annas and Barnes ().

. Is Marcus’ Speech Suspiciously Unfair to Quintus?


haruspicy; and so he continues. Consequently, Marcus says, the argument is not sound because its premises are doubted, in the sense that while Stoics believe them, others do not believe them, or believe that they are false, or that common sense finds them implausible. There is nothing illegitimate about this procedure, even though none of Marcus’ reasons for doubting the premises would not be appealing to a convinced Stoic who does believe the premises. What he has shown is that the Stoic syllogism cannot establish its conclusion to the satisfaction of somebody who is not already a Stoic, because its premises are subject to counter-arguments that seem as reasonable as the Stoic arguments in their favor. Similarly, we might say, Marcus’ arguments against Quintus aim to question the plausibility of Quintus’ inference from the outcomes that divination exists. There is no reason to think that Marcus is obliged as an Academic to question that plausibility in Stoic terms. He can use the more freestyle approach and appeal to any source of plausibility that he can oppose to Quintus’ appeals to plausibility. Thus when Marcus makes arguments from premises that a Stoic would rubbish, perhaps rather than misunderstanding Quintus, or introducing a straw man to gain an easy victory, Cicero wants us to see the equal, or greater, plausibility of the alternative Marcus offers. Is it not a problem that Marcus will fail to persuade any convinced Stoics? It is a problem, so far as it goes. But it raises a question of audience: is Marcus aiming to argue many convinced Stoics out of their position? I think not, or at least not primarily. From Cicero’s point of view there are two obvious “audiences” for Marcus’ speech. One audience is the readers, most of whom were and are not Stoics (although of course some Roman readers were, and some even might be today). What about Quintus? It turns out that he is not a Stoic either, but rather a non-Stoic attracted to Balbus’ position in DND and impressed by the possibility that the Stoics have rich resources to support their claims about divination. (Div. ., cf. p.  below.) As we saw in section . of my introduction, Cicero paid close attention to how the choice of interlocutors in a dialogue would allow him to modulate the drama. In DND he gave the Stoic speech to Balbus, almost a cypher for “convinced Stoic.” In Div. he made a non-Stoic defend the Stoic view, and his refutation perhaps proceeds accordingly. In the next sections, we shall examine in detail Marcus’ arguments against Quintus. I shall follow the highest-level structure of his speech: 

In fact, I expect the Stoics were well aware of this fact when it comes to the syllogism in question. Quintus puts no weight on it in his argument that there is divination. The syllogism probably gives the structure of the Stoics’ own reasons for believing in divination, not a proof offered to outsiders.


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

I will discuss first the excursio, the “sally” by which he hopes to knock out divination at a single blow (section .), and then his main set of arguments that are directed at each kind of divination in turn (sections .–.). But in the latter case I will depart from Marcus’ kind-by-kind structure, and instead present two patterns of argument I think we can detect across the arguments against the various kinds of divination.

. The “Sally”: Div. .– The “sally” moves in three stages. First, Marcus attributes a question to Carneades that tries to show that divination has no subject matter of its own. (Div. .–) Second, a Stoic reply is worked out, whereby divination is said to be of future chance events. (Div. .–). Third, Marcus confronts divination of future chance events with a dilemma, that claims to conclude that there can be no divination of the sort Quintus described. (Div. .–) The three stages of the sally seem to me to form one long argument. The first two stages show why a Stoic must take a certain position on divination, which is then shown to be vulnerable to the dilemma of the third stage. Now the three-state argument of the sally is of particular interest to me because, although I think the final dilemma is not very compelling, it responds precisely to Quintus’ speech as I have interpreted it in Chapter . In Chapter  sections . and ., I proposed that Chrysippus defined divination as the “science of observing and explaining signs portended by gods to men.” (Div. ., cf. Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos .) I pointed out that Quintus’ definition – “the prediction and foreseeing of future events thought to be by chance” – is different. In the sally Marcus represents Quintus’ definition as though it had been provoked by an attack on divination that he attributes to Carneades. For following his account of Carneades’ subject matter objection to divination Marcus says, “But I noticed, Quintus . . . that you defined divination as ‘the prediction and foreseeing of those states of affairs that are by chance.’” (Div. . cf. p.  above.) Thus Marcus’ reaction, and the structure of the sally in general, lends more support to the history I proposed in my last chapter: Carneades (and others) criticized Chrysippus’ version of divination, and the new Stoic definition that Quintus adopts was worked out at least in part in


sed animadverti, Quinte, te . . . [sc. divinationem] ita definire: divinationem esse earum rerum praedictionem et praesensionem, quae essent fortuitae.

. The “Sally”: Div. .–


response to Carneades. Now, Cicero’s text does not tell this story explicitly. Marcus talks as though he is attacking one Stoic position, not two successively. He does not present the “chance” definition of the second stage as a development that responded to criticisms of the first. Further, Marcus tells us where Carneades’ arguments begin, but not where they end. So it is possible that the whole “sally” is owed to Carneades. Nevertheless, I think that the first two parts of Cicero’s “sally” represent the historical exchange between Chrysippus, Carneades, and Chrysippus’ successors, for which I argued in my last chatper. Carneades’ question about the subject matter of divination, which Marcus seems to think helped to provoke Quintus’ definition, and with which Marcus opens the “sally,” asks quarum rerum divinatio esset, “what subjects is divination of?” (Div. .) Marcus then lists some subjects that we know about by various means: those for which we use the senses (Div. .), or arts like medicine, music, or astronomy (Div. .–), or philosophy, to include ethics, logic, and physics (Div. .–), or matters of politics and law (Div. .–). For each subject on the list, he shows by example that we would prefer to discover the truth by the means he mentions rather than by divination. Blind Tiresias could not tell black from white by divination; we would go to an astronomer for facts on the sun and moon rather than to a diviner; divination will be of less help in deciding what behavior is just than will ethical philosophy; we would go to a statesman for advice on political issues rather than to a diviner. So (if we suppose that the list is exhaustive) there is no type of state of affairs of which divination is the preferable method of investigation. At last to this survey is added a premise: nam aut omnium debet esse, aut aliqua ei materia danda est, in qua versari possit. For either [divination] ought to be about all states of affairs, or it must be given some subject matter with which it can be concerned. (Div. .) 



Timpanaro () also speculates that the new definition was prompted by Carneadean criticism (lxiii). He proposes Antipater as the source of the version of the definition that Marcus gives (., .) – praedictio et praesensio rerum futurarum quae fortuitae [sunt] – and Posidonius as the source of Quintus’ version, where putantur replaces sunt. Reason to think that Carneades was responsible for the whole argument of the sally is that part of the ultimate dilemma (the discussion of divine foreknowledge, Div. .) resembles explicitly Carneadean material at On fate . But note that the dilemma also contains a relative of the Lazy Argument that Carneades may have avoided, On fate . As Hannibal said to his host who, warned off by extispicy, dared not take Hannibal’s advice and go to war, An tu . . . carunculae vitulinae mavis quam imperatori veteri credere? (Div. .), “You would rather trust some cutlets of veal, than a seasoned general?”


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

Since the survey is supposed to have shown that divination meets neither of these criteria, there is probably no divination. In one way, I think this is an incisive challenge. It gets at a sense we may have that it is hard to pin down exactly what divination is. Of course, we know roughly what its goal is – to receive communications from the gods – but it is still hard to say what it consists in. The relationship between astrology and astronomy illustrates the problem. In many ways the two arts are concerned with the same subject, the movements of the heavens. But one (astronomy) is the art whereby those movements are understood, modeled, and predicted. The other (astrology) uses some of the results of astronomy to produce analyses of events on earth. Even astrology’s advocates could admit that its methods were less certain and exact than those of astronomy. (Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos .) Marcus even says that astrology ignores important astronomical results. (Div. .) Thus astrology looks like an ersatz art, parasitic on astronomy. One could say something similar about the relationships between augury and ornithology, haruspicy and anatomy, and so on. Nowadays we might say that divination looks like a pseudo-science. Carneades’ problem gets at this intuition quite precisely: is there any type of question we would sooner settle by divination? But it is harder to make out a compellingly rigorous version of Marcus’ argument. Why should we grant him his premise that divination must have some type of state of affairs as its peculiar subject matter? It seems to me that we can make the best sense of this premise if we think that Carneades commented specifically on divination as defined by Chrysippus, and that Marcus (although he does not say as much) repeats this criticism in order to motivate the later Stoic view used by Quintus. One reason to think so is that Marcus’ examples in pursuit of Carneades’ subject matter objection are not especially concerned with the future. He challenges divination to tell black from white, to teach us about music, to explain the Liar Paradox, and to predict celestial events. This would be perverse in reaction to Quintus’ definition of divination, in which divination is a certain sort of prediction or foreseeing of the future. But on Chrysippus’ definition divination artfully observes and interprets signs from the gods whether they be signs of the future, present, or past. As we saw in my last chapter (p. ), Chrysippus captures the importance of prediction in divination by making it divination’s “duty” (officium, Div. .), not by making it the only thing divination could do. I now turn to the second part of the “sally,” in which Marcus offers to the Stoics a carefully supported version of Quintus’ definition of divination. (Div. .–) Marcus says that, according to Quintus, divination is

. The “Sally”: Div. .–


earum rerum praedictionem et praesensionem quae essent fortuitae, “the prediction and foreseeing of those states of affairs that are by chance.” (Div. .) As we have seen, Marcus presents this new definition as a noteworthy reaction by Quintus to the sort of problem he pointed to in part one of the “sally.” But he has more to say about why Quintus may have chosen the definition he did. He remarks that, in doing so, Quintus kept divination away from “those conjectures that possess art or wisdom, and from those states of affairs that are grasped by the senses or by the arts.” (Div. .) Thus Marcus interprets the “chance events” definition of divination as an attempt to mark off a set of states of affairs of which we do not have a better method of investigation. Marcus immediately points out a problem with this attempt: some other arts, like navigation or weather forecasting, aim at “chance” outcomes. Even a perfect navigator might be overtaken by a storm that nobody could have predicted, so that there is a degree of chance either in the ship reaching port or in its failure to do so. Thus perhaps the Stoics have failed to escape Carneades’ problem with the “chance events” definition. Perhaps there will be other, preferable arts to predict future chance events, as indeed we would rather watch a weather forecast than consult a diviner on whether it will rain tomorrow. But Marcus also supplies the Stoics with an answer to this challenge: the sort of “chance” future events predicted by divination are those that none of the non-divinatory arts could predict, even those that deal with chance events like the weather. In fact, they are events no human art could predict. “So it remains that those matters of chance can be divined which neither any art nor any wisdom can foresee.” (Div. .) Marcus’ suggestion is that there are some future events that not even a learned sage, equipped with wisdom and with the most complete and pertinent of the other arts, could predict other than by those arts associated with divination. For the Stoics, that would be to say that no human, even in principle, could reliably predict these events without help from something inhuman, namely, from the gods. These future states of affairs, then, would be a subject matter all divination’s own. This, then, is how Marcus suggests the Stoics should understand the “chance events” definition of divination that Quintus advanced.   

Here we encounter an important problem when Marcus substitutes “are by chance” for Quintus’ “are thought to be by chance” in Div. .. I shall discuss this below, pp. –. . . . ab iis coniecturis, quae haberent artem atque prudentiam, et ab iis rebus, quae sensibus aut artificiis perciperentur . . . reliquitur, ut ea fortuita divinari possint, quae nulla nec arte nec sapientia provideri possint.


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

Why might Marcus connect the “chance events” definition with an attempt to elude all the predictive capabilities of the senses and the arts? We think of chance events as unpredictable in one sense – nobody can be sure whether a chance event will happen – but not in another – we may well feel that we can assess how likely a chance event is, and sometimes even that we can say with confidence, albeit not with certainty, what will transpire. But Marcus’ interpretation of the “chance events” definition makes better sense if he has in mind the Stoic notion of chance. The Stoics defined chance epistemically. For them, chance is a “cause unclear to human reasoning.” Thus defined, chance had a place in the Stoics’ determinist world. Of course, no cause was unclear absolutely, but only to human reasoning. God, determining all things, was aware of all causes, so in this sense “chance” could be called “divine.” Thus for a Stoic “chance states of affairs” will be states of which we do not know the cause. In one sense the sorts of events predicted by arts like navigation and weather forecasting are Stoic chance events – we cannot assess the causes of tomorrow’s weather competently enough to make very precise predictions about it. We use the evidence of today’s weather to assess the current causes of tomorrow’s weather, and thus whether it will rain. We might get this prediction wrong, because it is hard to know all the relevant causes and to make the right inferences from those we do know. Nevertheless, with an art like meteorology, we try to use signs that are part of the causal system leading up to the future outcome. If we suppose that all arts other than divination in one way or another predict future events through such of their causes as we can now make out, then absolutely chance events, those absolutely whose causes are absolutely obscure to human reasoning, will not be predictable by humans without divine help even by the other arts. In this second part of the “sally,” Marcus indeed seems to read Quintus’ “states of affairs which are by chance” this way, because Marcus himself suggests that chance states of affairs are supposed to be by chance not in the sense that they require the meteorological or navigational sort of art to predict them, but in the sense that no merely human art can predict them, even in principle. In the second stage of the sally – but not subsequently – Marcus works with a notion of chance as something relative to different observers and predictors can know, that is, an epistemic notion. I think he does this because he understands that the Stoic notion of chance is   

Alexander, Mantissa . Bruns SVF ., Aëtius, Placita .. SVF .. Simplicius, In physica, . Diels SVF .. Alexander of Aphrodisias, at his Mantissa .–, criticizes just this feature of Stoic chance.

. The “Sally”: Div. .–


epistemic and because in this passage he is trying to “tempt” the Stoics into a certain version of their view of divination. Such, then, is the interpretation of Quintus’ definition that Marcus offers the Stoics because (he implies) it marks off a subject matter that is all divination’s own, and thus it is safe from Carneades’ criticism. In the third part of the “sally” he tries to subject this “future chance events” account of the subject matter of divination to a dilemma. The structure of the dilemma is as follows. Either future chance events are fated beforehand, or they are not. If they are not fated beforehand, they are not predictable, even by the gods, and thus there is no divination. If they are fated beforehand, then divination is neither useful nor advantageous, and therefore there is no divination. Therefore there is no divination. I shall consider each horn of the dilemma in turn. The first horn of the dilemma (Div. .–) aims to show that future chance events are in principle unpredictable, even by god, and hence that they are not amenable to divination. It is here that we encounter the first notable straw man in Marcus’ speech. Marcus asserts that chance outcomes are those that could have happened otherwise: “For what is fortune, what is luck, what is chance, what is accident, except a case that falls out such that, or happens such that, it could have fallen out or happened otherwise?” (Div. .) Now, you might say that this is not clearly a straw man, since Chrysippus was careful to leave room for the contingent in the fated world he described, that is, for what is possible but not necessary. So there is a sense in which a Stoic can agree that some events that will happen could happen otherwise. She would say that the proposition “John can choose toast over porridge tomorrow morning” was true yesterday, although it was also true, and causally predetermined, that I would choose porridge this morning, which I did. Hence you might think that what Marcus describes as “by chance” is what a Stoic would call “contingent”: what will happen, but might not happen. But in fact Marcus’ notion of chance is not consistent with a Chrysippan notion of what is possible but not necessary. For Marcus concludes from it that god himself does not know whether a future chance event will happen:

 

quid est enim aliud fors, quid fortuna, quid casus, quid eventus, nisi cum sic aliquid cecidit, sic evenit, ut vel aliter cadere atque evenire potuerit? On fate –, DL ., cf. Bobzien () –.


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination nihil enim est tam contrarium rationi et constantiae quam fortuna, ut mihi ne in deum quidem cadere videatur, ut sciat, quid casu et fortuito futurum sit. si enim scit, certe illud eveniet; sin certe eveniet, nulla fortuna est; est autem fortuna; rerum igitur fortuitarum nulla praesensio est. For there is nothing so contrary to reason and regularity as chance, so that it seems to me that it does not fall even to god to know what will be by chance and fortune. For if he knows, it will certainly happen. But if it will certainly happen, there is no chance; but there is chance; therefore there is no foreseeing of chance events. (Div. .)

A Stoic will not concede that there is chance of the sort implied by this argument, nor that we could make the argument sound by substituting “contingent” for “by chance.” A Stoic views contingency such that even if god knows that some event will happen, and even if the event is determined now, it might still be contingent. So in On fate  Marcus addresses Chrysippus: tu, et quae non sint futura, posse fieri dicis . . . neque necesse fuisse Cypselum regnare Corinthi, quamquam id millensimo ante anno Apollinis oraculo editum esset. You say that things which will not happen, too, can happen . . . and that it was not necessary that Cypselus reign in Corinth, although this had been declared by the oracle of Apollo a thousand years before. (Translation from Sharples ())

Chrysippus says that an event can be foreseen by god but still be contingent, but Marcus (in Div .) says that what is foreseen by god cannot be by chance. Thus Marcus’ version of chance in Div. . is not compatible with Stoic contingency. As a result, a Stoic will not accept that a contingent event which “could have happened otherwise” is a chance event in Marcus’ sense of “chance.” Furthermore, if we assume that Marcus uses “certainly” (certe) to mean “necessarily,” then a Stoic will deny the second conditional premise of Marcus’ argument in Div. . (quoted above), that if something will certainly happen, then it will not happen by chance. For a Stoic, if an event necessarily will happen it might still happen by chance, because an event that necessarily happens might be obscure to human prediction. For example, we might be ignorant of all or some of its antecedent causes, even if they now obtain and somebody who knew about them could 

The Stoic will also deny the first conditional premise, that if god knows that something will happen, then it will certainly happen. Chrysippus’ views imply that god knows many future contingents.

. The “Sally”: Div. .–


predict their effect. Marcus ought to know that this is the Stoic position. Indeed it seemed in the immediately preceding section that he was aware that for the Stoics chance is an epistemic notion. Admittedly, when he offered the epistemic formulation in Div. . he did not explicitly include the human element: “it remains that those chance things can be divined which can be foreseen neither by art nor by wisdom.” But that these “chance things” can be divined, according to the Stoic position he recommended in Div. ., implies that the gods can foresee them though humans cannot. Thus, in that passage, he implies that chance things cannot be foreseen by human art or wisdom, but can be foreseen by the gods. In sum, Marcus appears in Div. .– to flout what he understood in Div. .–. Even more seriously, Marcus implies that a chance event is one without a cause: qui potest provideri quicquam futurum esse, quod neque causam habet ullam neque notam, cur futurum sit? Who can foresee something that will be, which has neither any cause nor mark of why it will be? (Div. .)

But for the Stoics, every event has antecedent causes. In the case of chance events those causes are obscure to humans, but they are certainly not obscure to god. Marcus says here that chance events are without causes, and thus concludes that even a god cannot predict future chance events. Thus, because of the notion of chance it requires, the final dilemma of the “sally” attacks a straw man, that is to say, although Marcus purports to argue against Quintus’ Stoic defence of divination, in fact he argues against another position altogether, that no Stoic could endorse. For it introduces a notion of chance foreign to the Stoics and concludes from it that there cannot be divination of chance events. Yet, as we have seen, earlier in the “sally” Marcus seemed to understand the Stoic idea of chance. What should we make of this? First, it is instructive to compare the later Aristotelian Alexander of Aphrodisias’ approach to the Stoic definition of chance. Alexander contends that the Stoics wished to keep the term τύχη, “chance,” in their lexicon despite their determinism. He says that in order to do so, they redefined the term in a way incompatible with any common concept of chance. 

Alexander, On fate .–, Mantissa .–.


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination τί γὰρ ἄλλο ποιοῦσιν οἱ τὴν τύχην καὶ τὸ αὐτόματον ὁριζόμενοι αἰτίαν ἄδηλον ἀνθρωπίνῳ λογισμῷ, ἢ τύχης τι σημαινόμενον ἴδιον εἰσάγουσίν τε καὶ νομοθετοῦσιν; For what else do they do who define luck and chance as ‘a cause obscure to human reasoning,’ than introduce by this decree some private signification of ‘luck’? (Alexander, On fate .  Bruns, translation from Sharples (), modified)

Alexander develops this point in various ways, but he seems inclined to rule the Stoic definition out of court while he supposes that his own is founded on “common and natural conceptions.” (On fate .) Marcus lacks a developed alternative view of chance like Alexander’s, but perhaps we can make best sense of Marcus’ decision to argue against a straw man if we suppose that he takes a similar line. That is, Marcus opts to insist on a “common sense” notion of fors, fortuna, casus, or eventus – all words for something like “chance” or “luck” – whatever we want to call it. (Div. .) This “common sense” notion regards a chance event as one that might have happened otherwise, in the sense that it was not determined beforehand. Marcus then argues against the Stoic account of divination using this, non-Stoic notion of chance. The result is that Marcus argues against a straw man so far as the Stoics are concerned, but in a way that might appeal to the rest of us who rely on unreconstructed common sense: if the Stoics wish to escape from the subject matter objection with the “chance events” definition of divination, he says to us, they must use a notion of chance the rest of us cannot accept. If Marcus’ task is to give the most convincing answer to Quintus’ speech, why would he proceed in this way? I do not claim that there is a smooth answer to this question. In particular, that Cicero writes the first horn of the dilemma of the sally in this way without advertising the fact to the reader must count, I think, as a failure of my principle of literary unity (see p. ). But I would invoke section . of this chapter, where I argued that an Academic skeptic, seeking to balance the plausibility of the Stoic case rather than to refute it on its own terms, might give an argument against the Stoics, targeted at least at the non-Stoic parts of his audience, on a basis that no true blue Stoic could accept. Thus, perhaps a


Of course, this failure, or a few failures, on Cicero’s part to live up to this principle do not imply that I am wrong to see it at work in the dialogues at large.

. The “Sally”: Div. .–


non-Stoic audience, as Alexander did, will accept that we should find fault with the Stoic notion of chance. Let us turn now to the second horn of the ultimate dilemma of the “sally” (Div. .–). In the first horn, Marcus tried to show that if the events predicted by divination (i.e., future chance events on Quintus’ definition) are not determined beforehand, then they cannot be predicted. In the second horn he tries to draw unfavorable consequences from the premise that they are determined. Now, since he considers chance events to be those not determined beforehand, he says, as he must: aut si negas esse fortunam et omnia, quae fiunt quaeque futura sunt, ex omni aeternitate definita dicis esse fataliter, muta definitionem divinationis, quam dicebas praesensionem esse rerum fortuitarum. But if you deny that there is chance, and you say that everything that is happening, and which will be, was decided by fate from all eternity, change your definition of divination, which you said was the foreseeing of chance events. (Div. .)

This sentence presents an often remarked problem. For Marcus asks Quintus to “change his definition,” yet Marcus has already misquoted Quintus’ definition from Div. .. At Div. . Quintus defined divination to be of future events which fortuitae putantur, “are thought to be by chance” (see p.  above). But here in Div. ., Marcus says that Quintus defined divination as of events that are by chance. The misquotation looks significant. Marcus, in effect, accuses Quintus of asserting contradictory claims on the Stoics’ behalf, both that there is divination of events that are not fated and that all events are fated. But what Quintus said is that divination is of events that are thought not to be fated. What Quintus said is perfectly consistent with those events being fated, so that Marcus’ accusation is flatly false. Or so say those who think this misquotation amounts to another problematic straw man.



We should also recall that Marcus’ speech was not Cicero’s last word on the Stoic doctrine of fate. That was still to come in On fate, as Marcus himself hints in Div.: “the Stoics say a lot of things about this fate of theirs, about which, [more] elsewhere. For now, [let’s stick to] what we need.” (sed tamen apud Stoicos de isto fato multa dicuntur; de quo alias; nunc quod necesse est. Div. ..) So perhaps we are to suppose that Marcus can give more reasons to deny Stoic position on fate and chance, but that such reasons would only be elucidated by the homonymous character in On fate. But I would not put any weight on this, since it is my view that, at the time he wrote Div., Cicero was not sure that he would have time to write On fate (see pp. –). See Denyer () , Timpanaro () xciii–xciv, Schultz () , cf. Pease (–) ,  n. , and on Div. . and ..


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

On the one hand, I am not much troubled by Marcus’ change to the wording of the definition. For one thing, who is to say that Quintus has the carefully worded version of the definition and Marcus the deviant one? For another, according to me, the different wording of the definition is not much of a distortion from Quintus’ point of view. When Quintus gave the definition, I interpreted him to mean that divination is of states of affairs whose causes are thought to be obscure to human reasoning, so that we cannot predict them. This, I argued, was Quintus’ way of giving divinatory prediction its own subject matter (see p. ). If that interpretation was correct, whether divination is of events that are thought to be unpredictable by human beings, or is of those that simply are unpredictable by human beings, is not a crucial difference. On the other hand, Marcus does set up another, more serious straw man in his criticism of Quintus’ definition. This is that his criticism depends on the same problematic alteration to the meaning of “chance” that I have just explored in the first horn of the sally’s dilemma, since it requires that “by chance” does not mean what Quintus meant by the term, but rather that it means “not fated.” Let us then return to Marcus’ argument for the second horn of the dilemma. He presents two problems for divination in a fated world. These are, first, that the Stoics cannot coherently claim that divination is of any use (Div. .–) and second that divination is, if anything, disadvantageous for mortals in a Stoic world. (Div. .–) The former objection turns on divination’s role as a way for the gods to give us advice. Augury is a natural source of examples since it purports to give divine endorsement or veto of proposed courses of action. Take the destruction of the Roman fleets in the First Punic War (Div. .) that Quintus attributed to a vitium, that is, to a contravention of auspices (Div. .). Marcus presumes that this means that had the auspices been obeyed, the fleets would not have been lost. But, he says, if this conditional is true, then it was not fated that the fleets should be destroyed. On the other hand, if it was fated that the fleets should be destroyed, then they would have been destroyed whether or not the auspices had been obeyed. In which case, the auspices gave no useful information about the future (in whatever sense augury gives information about the future) and hence there was no divination. So, either the outcome was fated, or there was divination of it, but not both.


Cf. Balbus’ description of divination in DND .. From Quintus’ point of view, Balbus is certainly careless with his formulation praedictiones et praesensiones rerum futurarum, “predictions and foreseeing of future events,” since he makes no reference to chance.

. The “Sally”: Div. .–


Marcus thinks that this result can be generalized to dispose of divination entirely. (Div. .) Here Marcus has made a very weak objection, and one with which the Stoics had no trouble. Admittedly, it was important to the Stoics that at least some divination could alter our behavior. In the argument Quintus attributed to Chrysippus, Diogenes of Babylon, and Antipater of Tarsus (Div. .–, cf. p.  above) the gods ought to tell us the future if they can because it makes a difference to us, “for we will be more careful if we know [what will happen].” But Marcus’ argument gets no purchase on fate and divination as the Stoics understand them. The Stoics do not take a view of fate whereby the destruction of the fleets is fated regardless of what happened beforehand. This is clear in general because they hold that everything is fated, and in particular because they were not troubled by the Lazy Argument. The Lazy Argument aimed to reduce fate to an absurdity, by alleging that, for example, if it is fated that you will recover from your illness, you do not need to bother going to the doctor to be treated, since you will recover in any case. (On fate –) But Chrysippus’ claim is not that it was fated that Oedipus would be born to Laius whether or not Laius slept with a woman, but rather that it was fated both that Laius would sleep with Oedipus’ mother and that Oedipus would be born as a result. According to Chrysippus, even though it was fated that Oedipus was born it is also true that had Laius not slept with a woman, then Oedipus would not have been born. This presumably applies to courses of action advised by divination, too. It was fated that the fleets be destroyed because it was fated that the auspices would be contravened, but it is also true that had the auspices been obeyed, they would not have been destroyed. Thus to claim that the auspices gave useful information about the future is consistent with Stoic determinism. Marcus’ second problem for divination in a Stoic fated world is that it would not be a benefit to us. Implicitly, this argument relies on the Stoics’ belief in divine providence. Since they hold that the gods arrange everything in the cosmos to our advantage, they could not accept that the gods would arrange for divination to work if it were not to our advantage. Marcus illustrates his point with some examples, specifically the bad ends that met all of the First Triumvirate. Would it have benefited Caesar to know that he would be murdered by his own associates, and that his body would lie unattended in front of a statue of Pompey? (Div. .) We should recall that this example was extremely visceral for Cicero. When he wrote these lines, he had seen Caesar stabbed to death no more than a few weeks before. In a Stoic world Caesar’s wretched end was ineluctably fated


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

to happen so, says Marcus, surely it would have been a trouble to Caesar to know about it. Now, a Stoic might reply that if Caesar fulfilled his duty to become a sage, and thus developed appropriate attitudes to the gods, fate, and death, then he would find that such foreknowledge was not troubling. But Marcus resourcefully quotes Zeus’ grief at the fated death of his son, Sarpedon. If Zeus himself can be grieved at a fated death, surely the Stoics are wrong to think that we could bear our own fated misfortunes lightly? (Div. . cf. Iliad .–) A reply to this argument is that it seems to ignore all the future except death and disaster. Should we not weigh against the bad news the uplifting, or just useful, information we would receive? But perhaps this reply is too hasty. Imagine that we all received many accurate predictions about good and bad aspects of our future, including the time and manner of our death. It is at least plausible for Marcus to charge that this last fact would be the one that weighed on our minds. Although the Stoics claim that divination will make us “more careful” (cautiores, Div. ., cf. ., .), not all divinatory predictions seem to work that way. Some of them foretell simply that a given event will happen, and not necessarily a welcome one. Phalaris’ mother learnt in a dream that her son would show “brutal . . . cruelty,” Cyrus that he would reign for thirty years. (Div. .) Perhaps in some cases such information might allow us to plan well. Cyrus could plan his program in government neatly. But at other times the news is simply distressing, and does not seem to open any avenue to improve ourselves or our circumstances that we would not have had anyhow. One thinks of characters in tragedy who struggle to void outcomes they believe to be fated. We might well agree that it was better for Cicero as he wrote Div. to be ignorant of the fate that awaited him in turn, less than two years later. 


 

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar has given us the image of a Caesar who shrugs off endless portents of doom. Shakespeare was no doubt inspired by the material in Plutarch, Life of Caesar . But already in Div. Cicero left some evidence that the run up to Caesar’s death was “a strange disposèd time,” as “he” calls it in Shakespeare’s play (Act , scene ), and suggested that Caesar ignored these warnings. Compare Div. . with Div. ., .–. I take this to be the strongest reading of the Stoic reply that Marcus gives at Div. .: omnia levius casura rebus divinis procuratis, “everything that will befall us is easier to bear when we attend to divine matters,” although rebus divinis procuratis also connotes “when the divine is rightly propitiated.” According to my reading of Balbus on religion, a Stoic will attend to traditional religious rites precisely to express the right attitude to the divine. The Stoics, of course, would read this passage allegorically. Their gods do not grieve. Or was he? Among the prodigies for  BC recorded in the text of Julius Obsequens we find that, “an image that Marcus Cicero had set up in front of the shrine of Minerva the day before he went into exile through a decree of the people was cast prone by the force of a whirlwind, its upper and

. The “Sally”: Div. .–


But ultimately, this second argument against divination in a fated world is not successful either. For, as Marcus admits, it too depends on the success of the previous argument, that aimed to rule out conditional predictions in divination. (Div. .–) Since the Stoics think that divination can give conditional predictions, there is a way that divination can give us obviously beneficial information even about death and disasters, namely, how to avoid them: if you do this, you will avoid disaster. For this reason, I think, the argument is not finally persuasive to a general audience. In addition, a Stoic will not be moved by Homer’s attribution of grief to Zeus. Which is to say, a Stoic sage could receive no accurate prediction about the future that she would think bad or find emotionally troubling, and therefore any Stoic would resist the urge to think any news about the future was bad for him. As a whole, then, the “sally” is not compelling. Marcus is right to say that it is fought “lightly armed.” (Div. .) The first horn of the final dilemma attacks a straw man in that it uses an anti-determinist view of chance instead of an epistemic one. I have said that the appearance of such straw men should not necessarily lead us to think that Marcus, or Cicero, misunderstood Quintus’ speech in Book . There are ways in which they can make for an effective reply from a skeptic. But the skeptic must finger as rebarbitatively implausible only those Stoic views that might indeed be rebarbitatively implausible. An epistemic notion of chance does not seem to me to be one such. The second horn is ineffective, too. For the Stoic theory of fate leaves room for contingency and thus for divination to be helpful, but is not “fatalism” because it does not say that certain events are fated while others are not. Yet even if the final dilemma falls flat, because the “sally” tries to corner the Stoics in exactly the position that Quintus took on their behalf, it shows that Marcus’ aim is to engage with divination exactly as Quintus, as opposed to the Stoics in general, presented it. Cicero is wrestling with two carefully chosen sides of the divination puzzle, not slapping together unrelated speeches.

lower arms and head broken. It portended evil for Cicero himself.” (turbinis vi simulacrum, quod M. Cicero ante cellam Minervae pridie, quam plebiscito in exilium iret, posuerat, dissipatum membris pronum iacuit, fractis humeris bracchiis capite: dirum ipsi Ciceroni portendit. Prodigiorum Liber , Rossbach () .) It seems that Obsequens took his data from Livy, who could easily have had reliable information about so recent a year. But the dire portent seems rather too perfect – the story went that Antony had Cicero’s head and hands cut off and displayed on the rostra. (Plutarch, Life of Cicero, .–.)


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

. The Main Strategy: Div. .– Quintus’ case for the reality of divination was based on his many examples and anecdotes, where outcomes followed successful predictions. Marcus indeed takes on Quintus’ argument from the examples. There are a few cases where Marcus doubts or denies the truth of Quintus’ anecdote: he doubts Calchas’ conjecture from the sparrows as described by Odysseus at Iliad .– (“were I to trust it,” si crederem, Div. ., cf. p.  above); he doubts the stories of prodigies attendant on Plato’s and Midas’ boyhoods (Div. .); he denies that alleged rains of blood, or sweat on statues, can consist of blood or sweat (Div. .); he describes the legends of Romulus and Attus Navius as “confected myths”; he doubts the Delphic oracles reported by Herodotus, whom he considers no more reliable than Ennius (Div. .). But for the most part he is as committed to the truth of the anecdotes, both prediction and outcome, as Quintus is. Marcus’ strategy, then, is not to reject the evidence. It is to reject the inferences from the evidence to divination’s reality. Now, Marcus does not state in one place his strategy against Quintus’ inferences. But we can discern patterns of argument. Against natural divination Marcus argues that the apparent correlations between prediction and outcome that Quintus cites could, and furthermore did, come about just by chance, and that they should not convince us that there is any underlying divinatory connection between predictions and outcomes. In modern terms, he argues that the apparent correlations that Quintus can exhibit are statistically insignificant, and hence not really correlations in the sense of evidence for a connection. In the case of artificial divination, Marcus uses the same general tactics as he uses against natural divination, but adds another. This responds to an important part of Quintus’ answer to Cotta’s challenge, in which Quintus gives an ideal history of divinatory arts. Marcus tries to discredit every stage of that ideal history. I shall cover 

Moatti ()  says that the difference between Quintus and Marcus is that between “two forms of thought.” Quintus’ form of thought “lumps all domains of reality together and considers prodigies as facts just as much as natural events,” such that “the discourse of the ancient records is . . . held to be true, as if it actually created reality.” Marcus’ form of thought “picks out whatever can be explained and rejects everything else as fiction.” I do not agree that the Stoicism that Quintus represents in Div. was insensitive to the usual preference for rationally explicable facts, or that Marcus in Div. argues from different assumptions about fact, fiction, and explanation than Quintus does. Quintus has carefully limited his main argument to empirical evidence rather than causal explanation because of the nature of the debate about divination in particular. Marcus chooses largely to respond to this argument in kind, even if he also points out that philosophers like the Stoics themselves usually demand explanations (e.g. Div. .).

. Marcus on the History of the Divinatory Arts


Marcus’ treatment of the history of the divinatory arts first (section .). Then I shall turn to Marcus’ arguments about chance (section .).

. Marcus on the History of the Divinatory Arts Quintus’ ideal history of divinatory arts (on which see pp. –) was summarized at Div. .–. According to Quintus’ history, theorems must originally be formulated by coniectura, “conjecture,” induction of predictions from single signs. In this sense artificial divination is “founded” (nititur) on conjecture and can never produce a theorem that is, at bottom, rationally justified by anything better than induction. (Div. .) But its theorems are empirically tested by observation over a very long period, which is reason to rate highly the probability of the theorems. (Div. .) Meanwhile, new conjectures are made as new candidate signs are encountered (as Quintus makes explicit in Div. .), which may result in a theorem that is eventually accepted into the divinatory art. I suggested that this history was an answer to Cotta’s unde oriatur, “where does it spring from?” that need make no appeal to a causal theory of divination (see p. ). Since this ideal history was thus an important part of Quintus’ response to DND, we should expect Marcus to take it seriously. He does, as we see in his pattern of efforts to undermine every aspect of the Quintus’ story. Cotta’s unde oriatur put the spotlight in particular on the origins of the divinatory arts. How could anyone in the first place have supposed that such arcane practices delivered truth from the gods? One role of conjecture in Quintus’ history was to answer to that question. Let us therefore begin with conjecture, since it was the first stage in his history. Marcus takes on conjecture primarily in the section of his speech devoted to the haruspices’ responses on prodigies. (Div. .–) He approaches prodigies as claimed miracles, like the birth of a foal to a mule (Div. .) or rains of blood (Div. .), or as startling events like the bees on Plato’s lips (Div. .) or the crowing of the cocks at Lebadia (Div. .). In Div., we see that the haruspices would (at least sometimes) respond to these events by conjecture about the “meaning” of the remarkable event rather than by the application of theorems – no doubt some of the events in question were unique and as such could not satisfy an established theorem of haruspicy. Quintus gives a small example of a conjecture in haruspicy, where a snake appeared from under an altar where the general Sulla was sacrificing. A haruspex conjectured that the sign meant that Sulla should immediately march his army. Sulla takes the


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

advice, with good success. (Div. .) Sulla’s haruspex may have looked for inspiration in similar signs about snakes theorems already on the books, but, this being a conjecture, he must not have had a precisely relevant theorem to work with, so that such conjectures are at best skilled inductions that lack long empirical confirmation. Marcus says: iam vero coniectura omnis, in qua nititur divinatio, ingeniis hominum in multas aut diversas aut etiam contrarias partis saepe diducitur. ut enim in causis iudicialibus alia coniectura est accusatoris, alia defensoris et tamen utriusque credibilis, sic in omnibus iis rebus, quae coniectura investigari videntur, anceps reperitur oratio. But now, every conjecture and divination is founded on conjecture is led by people’s wits [to conclusions] in many different or even contrary directions. For just as in cases at trial the accuser has one conjecture, the defender another, and both conjectures are believable, so in all of those matters that seem right to investigate by conjecture we find that rhetoric can go either way. (Div. .)

The point must have carried particular weight with an audience used to pleading in court. In court, induction from limited evidence was often obviously not sufficient to tell the true conclusion apart from other possible inductions, so that the rhetorical skill of those pleading to the jury could be decisive. Marcus points out new divinatory conjectures from remarkable events have no more certitude than the forensic version. Now, this point is certainly a score for Marcus against divinatory conjecture. It is also a disquieting reminder that this sort of conjecture was the ultimate origin of artificial divination, according to Quintus. But that reminder does not critically weaken Quintus’ general defence of artificial divination. For a key strength of Quintus’ ideal history is that he concedes that divinatory arts might stem from some baffling or shabby original conjectures about livers, lightning, and so on, and it is to this basis that he adds “long observation,” the empirical testing that could fallibly, but reliably, sort the true theorems from the false. In criticizing their origins in conjecture, then, Marcus must give us further reasons to think that it is a problem that the divinatory arts did not begin in the way Quintus suggested. This he does, by rubbishing all stories of the early beginnings of the arts, be they Quintus’ version of the introduction and testing of theorems, or traditional myths about the founding of the arts, or a mixture of the two. In each case, Marcus suggests not merely that there was something problematic about the way that the early theorems of an art were conjectured, which Quintus’ theory could

. Marcus on the History of the Divinatory Arts


accommodate, but that the problem in question undermines, or threatens to undermine, the whole history of the art. Here Marcus’ methods often look “rhetorical” in that they amount to “is it really plausible that . . .?” This is precisely appropriate in a philosophical context where Marcus tries to persuade Quintus (and us) of what happened historically, on the basis of little or no evidence (cf. pp. –). Let us examine three examples of this pattern of argument. First, in one version of the tactic, Marcus suggests that a divinatory art was begun for inappropriate reasons. The clearest case is in Marcus’ discussion of divination by lot: “the whole thing was invented by trickery, either with monetary gain in mind, or superstition, or error.” (Div. .) For Quintus assumes that the inventors of divinatory arts aimed to produce true theorems, and started from some inductive conjecture about a sign. Marcus suggests that the art does not have its roots in conjecture at true predictive theorems, but rather was dreamed up in order to extract money from the gullible, or to promote superstition. Now, even supposing that this were right, Quintus might still be able to defend the usefulness of the art. For again, in his model it may not matter why the theorems of arts were proposed so long as they were then tested empirically by long observation. But by casting doubt on the origins of the process Marcus calls into question the commitment of diviners by lot to finding usefully predictive theorems at all. Suppose that a significant proportion of diviners by lot, not merely the founders of the field, were charlatans. That certainly would undermine Quintus’ ideal history, since theorems would not gain admission to art because long testing made them seem true. Rather, they would be chosen because guesswork and experience suggested that they could part fools from their money. A second version of this pattern of argument is Marcus’ suggestion about the origin of lightning as a divinatory sign in both haruspicy and augury: nonne perspicuum est ex prima admiratione hominum, quod tonitrua iactusque fulminum extimuissent, credidisse ea efficere rerum omnium praepotentem Iovem? Surely it’s transparent that, as a result of people’s early wonder, because they had been been terrified of thunder and lightning strikes, they [the first haruspices] came to believe that Jupiter, mighty in all matters, made these things happen? (Div. .) 

tota res est inventa fallaciis aut ad quaestum aut ad superstitionem aut ad errorem.


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

Here the criticism is not that primitive lightning diviners were disingenuous like the inventors of the lots. Rather, terror is proposed as their motivation. In DND, such terror is connected with superstition, falsely believing that the gods threaten more harm to us than in fact they do. (DND ., ., ., .) That seems to be the situation Marcus describes here: faced with thunder and lightning, the early lightning diviners were scared of Jupiter. Once again, this suggestion alone is not a threat to Quintus. Superstition might lead one to pursue earnestly the “real” predictive power of lightning and to propose and test successful theorems. The problem with a whole divinatory art that is motivated by superstition is more insidious. For all parties to the debate in DND and Div., superstition and excessive fear of the gods is to be excluded from religion. To put the point in Stoic terms, diviners motivated by superstition are certainly fools and prone to error, especially (one presumes) in matters to do with the divine. As a mechanism for generating successfully predictive theorems Quintus’ ideal history survives these criticisms of its early stages, but again Marcus insinuates that the real answer to “where does it come from?” may be discreditable in ways that undermine the whole process suggested in Quintus’ ideal history. The third example of this pattern of argument is refreshingly different, and finds its basis in a divinatory art that came attached to a myth of its own founding. Marcus says that according to the Etruscans, a being called Tages with the appearance of a boy was ploughed up from a field and dictated the elementary set of theorems (disciplina) of haruspicy to a large crowd. (Div. .) “It [the disciplina] has since grown as new things are learnt and related to those same principles [i.e. what Tages dictated].” Although Marcus does not say so, this is a history of divination importantly different from Quintus’. The original theorems were not conjectured, but rather revealed by the mysterious Tages and thus, it seems, they required no empirical testing. New theorems were added to this base by some process of comparison with the existing theorems – presumably by the same process of coniectura that the haruspices could call on in their responses on Roman prodigies. Although different from his own account, even if true, the myth of Tages need not worry Quintus. If the original theorems of an art were revealed rather than conjectured, so much the better. On the other hand, there is no mention in this mythical history of long observation. The new theorems seem to be admitted to the art by comparison with the old, and 

eam postea crevisse rebus novis cognoscendis et ad eadem illa principia referendis.

. Marcus on the History of the Divinatory Arts


not by empirical confirmation. Again, perhaps this would be acceptable where the original theorems were indeed revealed, if there were some reliable process of comparison. But Marcus, understandably, thinks the story altogether absurd: “Is there anyone so mentally deficient that he believes that there was ploughed up – shall I say a god, or a human?” (Div. .) The problem for Quintus here is that the myth is what the haruspices themselves report. “This is what we hear from them, they keep this in written records, this is the source of their discipline.” (.) Thus the haruspices themselves do not claim that their foundational theorems were conjectured or confirmed by long observation, and the basis they do claim, revelation, seems absurd. If the foundational theorems are untrustworthy in this way, the art as a whole seems open to question. Marcus says, “We don’t need Carneades to refute this, do we?” (num ergo opus est ad haec refellenda Carneade?, .) This concludes our examination of Marcus’ pattern of argument against conjecture at the origins of the divinatory arts. We now turn to the second stage of Quintus’ ideal history, where theorems were confirmed by observation over very long periods, while further candidate theorems could still be proposed by conjecture. Marcus also denies that this process happened as Quintus described. On astrology, where Quintus’ claim of antiquity was especially spectacular (Div. .), he says: nam quod aiunt quadringenta septuaginta milia annorum in periclitandis experiendisque pueris, quicumque essent nati, Babylonios posuisse, fallunt; si enim esset factitatum, non esset desitum; neminem autem habemus auctorem, qui id aut fieri dicat aut factum sciat. For in that they say that the Babylonians had done trials and checks on [the horoscope of] every child born for , years, they are deceived. For if that had been [the Babylonians’] habit, they would not have ceased from it, but we have no authority who either says that it goes on, or knows that it was done. (Div. .)

Again, this is a “rhetorical” argument about plausibility. It is implausible (Marcus claims) that the Babylonians would ever have lost the habit of testing horoscopes. Thus, if they ever did so, they ought to do so now. But there is no good evidence that they do so (or ever did so). Therefore, it seems they never did. This is a tissue of probabilities and an argument from silence, albeit a principled one. But how else can Marcus argue  

estne quisquam ita desipiens, qui credat exaratum esse, deum dicam an hominem? haec accepimus ab ipsis, haec scripta conservant, hunc fontem habent disciplinae.


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

against Quintus’ proposed history of Babylonian astrology? So far as the Ciceros know, there is no good historical evidence about the matter, and all they can do is scrap about plausibility. Now, as a matter of fact the Babylonians did keep some astrological records. But certainly they did not do so for hundreds of thousands of years, and probably not even for long enough that we should find it plausible that they had any insight into predictive horoscopy of individual lives (see p.  n. ). So we should agree with Marcus, not Quintus. Elsewhere, Marcus has more theoretical objections to “long observation.” At Div. ., in arguing against haruspicy, he compares the sort of observation possible in the case of prognostication, that is, in activities like weather forecasting (see pp. –), with that possible in divination. The Stoics Posidonius and Boethus, he says, investigated the causal links between prognostic signs and outcomes. Even if they could not understand the causes linking the two, at least they could observe regularities of sign and outcome. But with divination, “what does the statue of Natta have, or the bronze tablets of the laws struck by lightning, that has [previously] been observed or is ancient?” (Div. .) For the prognostic theorem that “if herons fly inland vocalising, a storm is coming” (Div. .) one can objectively mark down when the sign or the outcome have occurred. It is thus possible to observe the relevant facts to test the theorem. But the lightning strike on Natta’s statue was a unique event. What are the pertinent facts about it to which a theorem should be applied, or by which a theorem can be tested, or from which a coniectura can be made? The best ways to generalize from it (Marcus suggests that the Nattae were nobles and so danger was to be expected from the noble class, Div. .) seems arbitrary and obscure – “How cunningly Jupiter thought that up!” says Marcus, snidely. (hoc tam callide Iuppiter cogitavit!, Div. .) So, if we suppose that divinatory signs and outcomes in general need this sort of rather arbitrary interpretation in order to be related to theorems, then the process of building up divinatory arts looks unamanageable. 


Nattae vero statua aut aera legum de caelo tacta quid habent observatum ac vetustum? Lightning strikes on Natta’s statue and the law tablets were endorsed by Cicero as a portent of Catiline’s conspiracy in his De consulatu suo, cf. Div. ., .–. Denyer () – criticizes Marcus’ “arbitrariness” objections on the grounds that with the Stoic model signs can be arbitrarily connected with their correlated outcomes in the same way that words can be arbitrarily connected to their meanings (he has in mind parts of Marcus’ speech – Div. . and Div. . – that I discuss below and above, respectively). It is an important insight that signs and outcomes can be arbitrarily connected in the Stoic model. But I do not think that Marcus misunderstands the point. In the passages I am discussing here, he complains about necessary arbitrariness in deciding which aspects of which events are significant and suggests that it is a barrier

. Marcus on the History of the Divinatory Arts


Marcus chose a rather hard case, a lightning strike on a portrait statue, to illustrate his point. In extispicy or augury it seems that the signs – flights of birds, anatomical features on particular parts of the liver – would be easier to mark down objectively. But elsewhere Marcus suggests that even such apparently objective signs suffer from a subjective element, in that the parameters for isolating them would originally have been arbitrary. On the more objective aspects of the haruspices’ divination by lighting, where the direction of the lightning was studied, he says: valet autem in fulguribus observatio diuturna, in ostentis ratio plerumque coniecturaque adhibetur. quid est igitur, quod observatum sit in fulgure? caelum in sedecim partis diviserunt Etrusci. facile id quidem fuit, quattuor, quas nos habemus, duplicare, post idem iterum facere, ut ex eo dicerent, fulmen qua ex parte venisset. primum id quid interest? deinde quid significat? But long continued observation is effective with lightning, while with prodigies reason for the most part and coniectura are used. So what is there that has been observed with lightning? The Etruscans divided the sky into sixteen parts. It was an easy thing to double the quarters we have, and then to do the same again, so that they could say thereby from what direction the bolt came. First, what difference does that [i.e. the direction] make? Next, what does it signify? (Div. .)

These rhetorical questions are not answered. Marcus’ point seems to be that the division of the sky adopted by the haruspices is based on the cardinal points and thus, in a sense, is arbitrary. It was chosen before there was any evidence that it was the right way to divide up the sky to find useful divinatory theorems. Perhaps the gods use a system where the sky is divided into sevenths, or pinwheeled nine degrees from the cardinal orientation? If so, then the Etruscan system might help in some cases, but in general will be misleading.


to the formation of successful divinatory arts. This involves no criticism of the arbitrary relation of signs and outcomes. A defender of Quintus’ outlook might be able to dispose of this and similar objections to early diviners, using Denyer’s metaphor of the divinatory system as a “language” for communication between gods and people. If the haruspices adopt a certain division of the sky, however arbitrary or even perverse, could not the gods then adapt their signs to that division? If communication is the goal it would make sense to change their “language” to suit the “listeners.” (Cf. Denyer ()  on Marcus’ objection that there are local differences in the art of extispicy – Denyer argues that the gods might use a different “language” to suit each locale, just as people do.) This is a reasonable reply to Marcus, although I do not strictly agree with Denyer that artificial divination is susceptible to the “language” analysis in the way that natural divination is, because I do not think the signs of artificial divination (e.g. a crow croaking) “mean” the prediction derived from them (non-naturally or otherwise).


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

Marcus’ most systematic attack on long observation is reserved for Quintus’ ideal history of augury, in place of which Marcus offers an ingenious history of his own. It is ingenious because in it Marcus walks the tightrope between his position as an augur and his role as a debunker of Stoic divination. Of course, it would be consistent for Marcus to play his conversational role of Academic negative disputer while being personally committed as an augur, or even to the reality of augury (which, as it will turn out, he is not). Nevertheless, even while delivering his skeptical speech, Marcus chooses to signal from time to time his political support for the continuance of state divination even during his negative arguments (e.g. Div. .). This applies most of all to augury, where he says that those who disobey religion and ancestral custom by contravening the auspices deserve “every torture.” (omni supplicio, Div. .). Marcus’ alternative history of the discipline is consistent with this outlook. In it there are three periods, of which the second and third are described here: non enim sumus ii nos augures, qui avium reliquorumve signorum observatione futura dicamus. et tamen credo Romulum, qui urbem auspicato condidit, habuisse opinionem esse in providendis rebus augurandi scientiam (errabat enim multis in rebus antiquitas), quam vel usu iam vel doctrina vel vetustate immutatam videmus; retinetur autem et ad opinionem vulgi et ad magnas utilitates rei publicae mos, religio, disciplina, ius augurium, collegii auctoritas. For we [i.e. the Roman augural college] are not those augurs whose job is to tell the future by observation of birds or the other signs. And yet I believe that Romulus, who founded the city under auspices, had the opinion that the science of augury lay in foreseeing facts (for antiquity erred in many matters). We now see this science changed, whether by use, or by dogma, or by age. But the custom, the religious duty, the teaching, and the law of augury, and the authority of the college, were maintained with regard both to public opinion and to their great advantages to the commonwealth. (Div. .)

In Marcus’ second period of augural history, Romulus (and presumably other early Romans) believed that augury was divination in the sense at stake in Div., that is to say, they thought it really was a means by which the gods could communicate with the augurs. That is why they included it in the city’s institutions. But Marcus thinks they were mistaken about augury’s success as a divinatory art. He must think that the error became 

I interpret this passage differently than does Jerzy Linderski. He supposes that there were known to Cicero two theories of augury within the augural college, () that augury was limited to allowing the gods to warn against actions by particular magistrates on particular days, and that as such it did not amount to a means of predicting the future, or () that a divine warning amounted to a prediction

. Marcus on the History of the Divinatory Arts


known, because he says augury was retained other than for its divinatory success: in the third period of divinatory history, augury was retained for political reasons, not because it succeeded in divining the will of the gods. There were changes in the art since the time of Romulus, and these can be chalked up to changes of habit over time or to doctrinal changes in the college, but not, it seems, to an evolving empirical art. This alternative history already goes a long way to dispute Quintus’ ideal history in the case of augury. The augurs of the second period, including Romulus, were just mistaken about augury’s divinatory success. It follows that they were not witnesses to the development of successful theorems. Quintus might reply that, even if this were so, true candidate theorems dreamt up this second period could have been properly tested by long observation during the third period. But Marcus suggests that in the third period augury’s long history was not devoted to improving the success of the art. Augury was retained for reasons wholly other than the pursuit of successful divination. Thus false theorems may have been allowed to stand. The third period of Marcus’ history raises some obvious questions. First, if augury is not divination, what are its advantages to the body politic at Rome? It seems to me that an answer to this question is necessary for a full understanding of Marcus’ position, and that we are especially entitled to an answer when he says that those who frustrate these advantages should be subject to torture. But it also seems to me that we are given no answer to

of disaster if the auspice was contravened, and hence that divination can predict the future. Linderski says that in Div. . Marcus criticizes Romulus for taking augural view number (), that is, for thinking that augury predicts the future. (Linderski () –) He writes, “It is important to remember that here [i.e. in Div. .] Cicero speaks as an augur, and not as a sceptical philosopher.” (p. ) So Linderski thinks that Marcus prefers one of the two augural views, number (). I think that Marcus speaks as a skeptical philosopher and argues that augury is not divination at all, not even of warnings against action. After all, the purpose of his speech is to argue that there is no divination. If he were to concede that augury is divination, of any sort, then the speech would fail. Thus when Marcus says that Romulus erred in believing that augury lies in providendis rebus he just means that Romulus erred in believing that augury was divination. In the following paragraph Marcus says, etenim, ut sint auspicia, quae nulla sunt, haec certe quibus utimur, sive tripudio, sive de caelo, simulacra sunt auspiciorum, auspicia nullo modo (Div. .), “Anyhow, suppose that there are auspices – which there are not – the ones that we use, whether the tripudium, or in the sky, are certainly counterfeit auspices, and not auspices at all.” The clause underlined shows that Marcus rejects the divinatory power of the auspices wholesale. Even if the art were properly practiced, there would be no auspices, in the sense that there would be no real communication from the divine, neither in the form of warnings against particular actions nor in the form of predictions of the future. I think that Div. . is in the same vein. It says that there is no problem with a Roman augur arguing against the reality of augural divination, because it is not really the job of the augural college to divine anyway. (Santangelo  pp. – also says that Marus denies that augury is divination, but by this he means that Marcus denies that it is prediction of the future.)


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

this question in Div.. Second, what is the meaning of ad opinionem vulgi, “with regard to public opinion”? We might try to answer these questions in a way that is charitable to the honesty and intelligence of the augurs who began Marcus’ third period. Perhaps they conceived augury as a system of religious performance that could symbolize and foster a beneficial attitude to divine authority, namely that the republic hoped to act in such a way that it won divine approval. In this light, the system of consulting the sacred chickens before any state action, where the chickens always delivered a purely symbolic “yes,” would be just the sort of augural performance that was required. On this sort of reading, the opinion that augury was supposed to promote among the public was just this, that those in authority in the republic were concerned to act in a such a way that the gods would be pleased. But it seems to me that this is not the most natural reading of our passage. The most natural reading is that augury’s advantage to the republic simply was its effect on public opinion, namely, it convinced the public that the gods approved of the actions of the authorities, even if the augurs themselves were not convinced that this was so. Such an attitude on the part of the augurs of the third period would at best be thoughtless and cynical, and at worst amount to dishonest propaganda, especially if, like Marcus, these augurs were prepared to resort to torture to enforce their strictures. Does Marcus, or Cicero himself, stand convicted of these sorts of attitudes? In this passage, he (both character and author) certainly flirts with them to a degree that seems objectionable. But we should be careful. Public opinion in particular is a motivation for the practice of augury that Marcus attributes to others. He never endorses it himself, even in this passage where he speaks in the role of Quintus’ skeptical opponent. When he gives his own views on the matter at the end of Div. (see pp. –), he endorses traditional religious practices, but not with regard to public opinion. Indeed, in that passage his call for the rejection of belief in divination is to benefit et nobismet ipsis et nostris, “both ourselves and our countrymen,” by the removal of a weight of superstition that has oppressed nearly all human beings, both in Rome and elsewhere. (Div. .) It does not seem that Marcus wants to restrict this change in attitude towards divination to some class of priests, aristocrats, or intellectuals. It is instructive to compare this with the code of religious law that Marcus gives in the Laws, which has a preamble intended to encourage the people to put their religion in the context of just the sort of natural theology that Balbus recommended, and Marcus partially preferred, in DND. (Laws .–,

. Marcus on the History of the Divinatory Arts


cf. pp. –.) Thus although Cicero writes for a small class of educated Romans, Marcus is not an esotericist and seems to intend, in principle, that the change of attitudes resulting from his philosophical moderation of religion should be open to the Roman people at large. This is so even when, in practice, a plan of the sort that might occur to a modern “public intellectual,” like an energetic program of education for those parts of society beyond the readership of his books, seems alien to Cicero’s world. Now, the second and third periods of augury that Marcus describes do not include an account of its first origins. He says that Romulus dealt with a “science,” apparently a preexisting science, of divination. But he alleges that the traditional suggestions for an early, formative period are inconsistent or implausible. A philosopher, he says, must offer an account of augury’s inventio, the process of its discovery (Div. .): quo modo autem haec aut quando aut a quibus inventa dicemus? Etrusci tamen habent exaratum puerum auctorem disciplinae suae; nos quem? Attumne Navium? at aliquot annis antiquior Romulus et Remus, ambo augures, ut accepimus. an Pisidarum aut Cilicum aut Phrygum ista inventa dicemus? placet igitur humanitatis expertis habere divinitatis auctores? But how shall we say these things were discovered, and when, and by whom? The Etruscans, meanwhile, have the boy who was ploughed up as the author of their discipline who do we have? Attus Navius? But Rom ulus and Remus, both augurs according to tradition, were a few years older 


In DND ., Cotta says that in a contio, a speech before the people, it is difficult to deny that there are gods, but that in a private conversation like the one we see in DND, it is very easy to do so. One might interpret this as an esotericist remark, meaning that it is dangerous or disadvantageous to say before a religiously credulous public what one can say freely among the sophisticated, freethinking few. But I do not read the passage in this way. Rather, I think Cotta describes his experiences of his own convictions. These experiences vary from one social context to another, a phenomenon to which as a skeptic he may be especially attuned. When he, a priest and an aristocratic leader, speaks about political or religious matters in front of his fellow Romans, he finds it natural to believe in the gods. When he discusses philosophy with his friends, the arguments on all sides of the question come to mind, and it is easy for him to see why one would deny that there are gods. See Wynne (). Meanwhile, in Div. ., where Marcus embarks on arguments that haruspicy is not really divination, he carefully asserts that it should be performed for political reasons and in order to maintain the traditional religion. But he then seems to regret this reflex clarification and says, “But we are alone. We may inquire without attracting resentment, even against me, as I doubt about a number of points.” (sed soli sumus; licet verum exquirere sine invidia, mihi praesertim de plerisque dubitanti.) Here it is clear that Marcus thinks that to say in public that haruspicy is not really divination would attract a negative reaction, a reaction that would be relieved, or mitigated, by emphasizing that it nevertheless be practiced for reasons of politics and correct religious performance. But he does not say that in public he would argue that haruspicy is divination. Rasmussen () and Beard () defend Cicero from charges of hypocrisy, on the basis that ancient Romans were not concerned about religious belief. Cf. the similar traditions at Laws ., where Marcus argues that augury must have been successful among the Phrygians, Cilicians, and so forth.


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination than him. Or shall we say that these were discoveries of the Pisidians, or the Cilicians, or the Phrygians? So do we hold then that people ignorant of humane learning were authorities in divinity? (Div. .)

The result that Marcus draws from all this is shockingly strong, and worded to call to Quintus’ mind his reading of DND. The myths of Romulus and Attus Navius, ancestors who lend authority to augury, are touchstones in Cicero’s more positive writing on the subject. Romulus, of course, was said to have received auspices to found Rome by the observation of the flight of birds. (Livy ..–..) Attus Navius was said to be a diviner under Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of Rome. As Quintus tells the story, he came to prominence when, using his augural staff to invite signs from the flight of birds, he was given divine direction to find the biggest bunch of grapes in a vineyard. Tarquinius then consulted him as an augur. To prove his power, he was able to cut through a whetstone with a knife. (Div. .–) Romulus and Attus appear together in the Laws in support of augury (.). In DND Balbus challenges Cotta: “Should we despise the staff of Attus Navius?” (Atti Navi lituus ille. . . contemnendus est?, DND .) Cotta bridles: “I cannot despise the staff of Attus Navius.” (nec possumus Atti Navi. . . lituum contemnere, DND .) In Div., Quintus had reminded Marcus of Romulus’ augury (.) when he tells Attus’ story (Div. .–). But now Marcus flatly rejects these stories (“confected myths,” commenticiis fabellis, .) that all the other speakers in both dialogues have treated as inviolable: omitte igitur lituum Romuli, quem in maximo incendio negas potuisse comburi; contemne cotem Atti Navii. So get rid of Romulus’ staff, which you say the fiercest fire could not burn, despise the whetstone of Attus Navius. (Div. .)

From Marcus the augur, this condemnation comes as something of a shock. But it is consistent with his defence of his position as an augur. His use of the word “confected” (commenticiis) is significant. In DND Balbus, for example, used this term for regrettable aspects of the gods of traditional myth (DND. . cf. p. ). Similarly, Marcus wishes to retain the performances of augury, but to reject the notion that these performances achieve divination, and thus also to reject the myths that attribute successful divination, or miracles, to augurs like Romulus or Attus. Just as Balbus 

With this phrase, Marcus turns Balbus’ Stoic criticisms of poetic myth back against the Roman “history” used in the Stoic case for divination: Balbus said that the gods of poetic myth were commenticios (DND .), cf. p. .

. “Chance Can Imitate Truth”


would claim that he is pious to reject these myths, so Marcus would claim that he is respectful both of augury and of his early Roman ancestors, when (in this case unlike the Stoics) he rejects silly myths about them. In short, Marcus’ position is that it is not a problem for an augur to argue that there is no divination, because augury is not divination in the first place. Just as he has done with the other divinatory arts, then, Marcus systematically rubbishes every stage of Quintus’ ideal history in the case of augury, and offers as the real reason for its development either that it is a performance that confers political benefits on the state, or that at some times augurs may have mistakenly believed augury was divination. He claims that this rejection is consistent, in every sense, both with his defence of his practice as an augur, and with his philosophical arguments against divination.

. “Chance Can Imitate Truth” I said that against Quintus’ support for all divination Marcus deployed the argument that Quintus’ evidence could and did come about by chance, and a further tactic (the questioning of Quintus’ ideal history) against artificial divination specifically. Now I that I have surveyed the latter, I will turn to Marcus’ tactics to do with correlation and chance. The passage that comes closest to summarizing these tactics is Div. .–. It is here that Marcus deals with Quintus’ use of examples of prodigies for which Marcus himself is the source. In these cases it is most starkly obvious that Marcus cannot question the truth of the “evidence,” that is, the facts which Quintus cites as signs and outcomes. Instead, Marcus tells us how he will question the statistical correlation, and the divinatory connection, between these pairs of facts. He reminds us that Quintus asked not why divinatory predictions happen, but whether they happen, “As if I would either concede that [divination] happens or that it’s appropriate for a philosopher not to inquire about the cause because of which each thing happens.” (Div. .) Here, Marcus indicates first that 


We are left to guess at what these political benefits might be. My best guess is that Marcus thinks that augury is a system of gesture that expresses and reinforces Rome’s desire to act only in conformity with the divine will, so as to promote thoughtful and just political decisions. But perhaps he means that there are political benefits simply in obedience to ancestral authority as such. In Div. . he says that the wise man carries on ancestral religion in order to protect the maiorum instituta, “the institutions of his ancestors.” My thanks to an anonymous reader for the press for the latter observation. quasi ego aut fieri concederem aut esset philosophi causam, cur quidque fieret, non quaerere!


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

he denies that Quintus’ proposed correlations by sign and outcome amount to evidence of a connection (he will not concede that it happens) and second that, he will argue that in any case there could be no divinatory connection of the sort Quintus claims (he will not concede that Quintus can get away with not explaining why his signs and outcomes are correlated, and that he will even assert that there is no divinatory explanation). We find each of these two patterns of argument played out in many places in Marcus’ speech. I shall take each pattern in turn, first the argument that Quintus’ evidence from outcomes could have come about by chance, then the argument that it did come about by chance. Marcus elaborates the chance argument most fully in Div. .–. Now in making this argument, Marcus takes on a question that Quintus himself considered early in his speech. Quintus attributed it to Carneades. In a manner reminiscent of Balbus’ arguments from beauty (DND ., quoted p. ), Quintus recruited numerical probability to suggest that it is an unreasonable charge: quicquam potest casu esse factum, quod omnes habet in se numeros veritatis? quattuor tali iacti casu Venerium efficiunt; num etiam centum Venerios, si quadringentos talos ieceris, casu futuros putas? What can be done by chance that has all the detailed properties of truth? Four dice thrown make a Venus throw by chance; surely if you throw four hundred dice, you don’t think that there’ll be one hundred Venus throws by chance? (Div. .)

Quintus has a reasonable point. The theory of numerical probability is a modern discovery, so Cicero and his readers could not use it to assess what Quintus says. But, since we do not play ancient Roman dice games, we should use some calculations to get a feel for the odds of what Quintus describes. A talus was a “knucklebone,” in effect a die with four sides, with its sides numbered one to four. In a Venus throw, four such dice are thrown so that a different number appears on each die. (Pease (– ) ad loc.) If we assume fair and independent dice, the probability of this outcome is !/ = / = /. Thus Venus throws will often happen by chance. But the chance of one hundred consecutive Venus throws is then (/) = .. . . x -. Obviously, that is a negligible chance, the equivalent of  consecutive coin tosses coming up heads. 

There may be a play here on omnes numeros habere, meaning “have all the detailed properties” (cf. Pease (–) ad loc., On duties ., On ends ., DND .) and numerus meaning the result of a throw at dice (OLD s.v. numerus .e).

. “Chance Can Imitate Truth”


Therefore, as Quintus suggests, if one threw one hundred consecutive Venus throws, one could reasonably conclude that the dice were loaded. Quintus produces other examples that he says are like this: paint thrown on a board might yield a rough outline of a face, but one would not think Apelles’ Venus of Cos was the result of such a mess. A pig might by chance scratch the letter A in the turf with his snout, but not Ennius’ Andromache. Quintus, of course, supposes that the apparent successes of divination are in the Venus or Andromache category – one should conclude that there is a negligible probability that they have occurred by chance. Thus he thinks that they are evidence divination happens, even if we cannot say how or why it happens. In many ways, Quintus makes an argument that is conceptually recognizable from the point of view of modern statistics. He implies that the observable divinatory outcomes are like the rolling of many dice. In that sense he concedes that the divinatory outcomes can be analyzed as potentially the outcome of chance. But the probability that they would fall out as they did just by chance is so low that we can be reasonably certain that there is some non-chance bias in the system – that there is divination. On the other hand, Quintus runs the risk of drawing too strong a conclusion from his scratching pig and paint flinging examples: “Plainly, the fact is that chance never imitates truth perfectly.” (sic enim se profecto res habet, ut numquam perfecte veritatem casus imitetur, Div. .) Quintus avoids saying explicitly that chance cannot imitate truth perfectly, which would be too strong a conclusion. But he comes very close when he says that chance never imitates truth. A charitable reading would conclude that Quintus is making a good bet. “Fling paint at a board until the end of time, you’ll never reproduce Botticelli’s Venus.” But it is possible that the Venus could come about by chance. Something similar ought to be Quintus’ point about divination: “If you happen on the Venus, you would be deeply unreasonable to conclude that it was produced by flinging paint at a board.” Similarly, he could argue, the frequency and accuracy of the truth of divinatory predictions ought to defy an attribution to “mere chance” not because they cannot be the result of chance but because we would be very unreasonable to think that they are. This is why Quintus talks of chance imitating truth. The overall truth of the mass of divinatory predictions is improbable in the way that the order of a great work of art is improbable. But it is not clear that this charitable reading is the right 

It is clear that Quintus’ point in Div. . is about the mass of predictions rather than individual predictions because the immediate objection Quintus considers in Div. . is that divinatory


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

one. When Quintus says that chance never imitates truth he might mean that it cannot. There is another, clear problem with Quintus’ statistical argument. What he lacks is any rigorous way to show that the deliverances of divination are like the hundred Venus throws rather than the single Venus throw, or like the masterpiece rather than the rough outline of a face. For one thing, he lacks the sort of tools that modern statisticians have developed to analyze and compare sets of empirical data. For another, he lacks the sort of data that would be amenable to this analysis. His mass of cherry-picked anecdotes are unsuitable. In addition to this sort of general correlation between predictions and outcomes en masse, Quintus sometimes has another sort of correlation in mind. Perhaps, Quintus’ Peripatetic hero Cratippus argued, “it is enough to make sure of divination that something should once be divined in such a way that we think that it could in no way have fallen out by chance.” (Div. .) Here the match between just one prediction and its outcome would be so good that it seemed to be like an artistic masterpiece rather than the outline of a face. We can imagine, say, a dream, whose detailed and emotionally compelling adumbration of some distant event, whether through straightforward foresight or in some opaque way that required interpretation, is so overwhelming to the dreamer that she can only conclude that the dream was divinatory, just as one cannot look at the Venus without the overwhelming sense that some artist made it. Indeed, this is the sort of example that seems most amenable to comparison with the Venus or Andromache examples and thus to Quintus’ statistical argument. But this potentially promising line of argument faces a problem: there is not (or not obviously) any such case among the examples that Quintus gives. Such a case would presumably have to come from natural divination, since the predictions of artificial divination are short propositions, insufficiently rich to have the properties required. But Quintus describes none of his cases of natural divination in this way. How does Marcus reply to Quintus’ treatment of chance? In his explicit discussion of Div. . (see p. ), he does not object that Quintus failed to show that divination at large, or in specific instances,


predictions are sometimes false, which would be a fruitless objection if Quintus were making a point only about some particularly good predictions. satis est ad confirmandam divinationem semel aliquid esse ita divinatum, ut nihil fortuito cecidisse videatur.

. “Chance Can Imitate Truth”


is like his masterpiece cases. (Div. .–) Instead, he takes the uncharitable reading of Quintus’ conclusion. “You said that one hundred Venus throws cannot coincide by chance.” (dixisti. . . centum Venerios non posse casu consistere, Div. .) Marcus’ response, quite rightly, is to insist that they can, or that flung paint could produce the Venus. He concludes, “So chance can imitate truth, which you were just now denying.” (potest igitur, quod modo negabas, veritatem casus imitari, Div. .) The imperfect of “you were just now denying” is significant. With it Marcus refers not only to Div. . but also to Quintus’ whole speech, which depended in general on his empirical, and thus statistical, approach. Thus in Div. .– Marcus insists that even if the correlation between predictions and outcomes were statistically like the order in a Botticelli or in Dante’s Divine Comedy, that correlation could still be by chance. This is true. Yet it is a lame argument against Quintus’ defence of divination if we read the latter charitably, because we would still be unreasonable to attribute the Venus to chance, which seemed to be Quintus’ point when charitably understood. But elsewhere Marcus takes the next step and attributes divinatory successes to chance. That is, he denies that the successes of divination are even statistically like the masterpiece cases. At the start of his main arguments he accuses Quintus of using evidence “that can be either true by chance, or false and concocted through malice.” (qui aut casu veri aut malitia falsi fictique esse possunt, Div. .) In the case of artificial divination, he makes charges that follow this pattern against many pieces of evidence that Quintus cited. He suggests that the signs of Catiline’s planned coup that Quintus cited from Marcus’ poem De consulatu suo might as well have been appropriate by chance as by the will of the gods (Div. .). He says that many predictions of the haruspices are wrong (Div. .). Thus he asks “How many things predicted by them actually come out? Or, if something comes out, what can be said to show why it did not come out by chance?” (Div. .). In Div. . he accounts for a remarkably successful prediction of the haruspices with “nor is the haruspices’ misfortune so great that what they say will be so never happens, even by chance.”

 

quota enim quaeque res evenit praedicta ab istis? aut, si evenit quippiam, quid adferri potest, cur non casu id evenerit? neque enim tanta est infelicitas haruspicum, ut ne casu quidem umquam fiat, quod futurum illi esse dixerint.


Marcus’ Arguments against Divination

For natural divination, Marcus takes on Cratippus’ argument that there is some natural “power to divine” in humans: adsumit autem Cratippus hoc modo: ‘sunt autem innumerabiles praesensiones non fortuitae.’ At ego dico nullam (vide, quanta sit controversia); iam adsumptione non concessa nulla conclusio est. at impudentes sumus, qui, cum tam perspicuum sit, non concedamus. quid est perspicuum? ‘multa vera,’ inquit, ‘evadere.’ quid, quod multo plura falsa? Nonne ipsa varietas, quae est propria fortunae, fortunam esse causam, non naturam esse docet? Cratippus takes the following as a premise: ‘But there are innumerable instances of foresight that are not by chance.’ But I say there are none. See how great our dispute is: now that the premise is not granted the syllogism fails. ‘But we are shameless who will not grant this when it is so clear.’ What is clear? ‘Many things turn out true,’ he says. What about the fact that many more turn out false? Surely this diversity [of outcome], which is a property of chance, shows us that chance and not nature is the cause? (Div. .)

As with haruspicy, Marcus argues that the mass of outcomes of natural divination does not show a strong enough correlation to count as evidence for a divinatory connection. Now, Cratippus had argued that just one instance of successful divination was sufficient to show that we have the power to divine, just as, if a man sees just once, we can say he has the faculty of sight. Marcus joins Quintus in reporting this aspect of Cratippus’ argument. (Div. .). But Marcus later argues that there is no one instance that cannot be attributed to chance. (Div. .) We make innumerable conjectures from the impressions of the drunk or insane and, like a man who shoots all day, we sometimes hit the mark. quid est tam incertum quam talorum iactus? tamen nemo est, quin saepe iactans Venerium iaciat aliquando, non numquam etiam iterum ac tertium. num igitur, ut inepti, Veneris id inpulsu fieri malimus quam casu dicere? What is so uncertain as dice throws? Yet there is no one who, throwing many times, does not sometimes throw a Venus, and sometimes even twice and thrice in a row. So surely we don’t want to say, as silly people do, that it happens by the intervention of Venus rather than by chance? (Div. .)

In other words, the visions of madmen coupled with conjecture can occasionally produce striking results, but this is no evidence that anything other than a lucky prediction has happened. There is no need to appeal to divine agency, so there is no reason to think that there has been divination, or that we have in our soul any power to divine that expresses itself in

. Conclusion


dreams and frenzy. As with artificial divination, Marcus sees Quintus’ body of empirical data as insufficient evidence for the reality of natural divination as Quintus, specifically, argued for it.

. Conclusion In this and the preceding chapter, I have given an interpretation of Div. whereby Cicero planned a unified dialogue to respond to the challenge Cotta gave Balbus in Book  of DND, namely, where did divination come from, and how did it come to be understood? (See Chapter  section ..) The result is that Quintus defends a Stoic view (which he does not hold) that is not intended to be the Stoic view of divination, but rather an argument from empirical data, chosen to fit into Cicero’s overall project in DND and Div. Marcus’ arguments in Book  are mostly devised to reply to Quintus’ speech in particular. Much of what has seemed confusing about Div. is explained when we see the two speeches as parts of the sort of dialogues I described in my introduction, and as parts of the project I explored in Chapter . The upshot is the sort of skeptical “moderation” I suggested in Chapter  (see pp. –): avoiding superstition by the suspension of judgment in the face of dissension about the Central Question. It is tempting today to see Marcus’ reply as Cicero’s sensible stance against the absurdities, however subtly urged, of Quintus’ embrace of all divination. But we must resist this temptation. Cicero’s plain objective is to balance the case for divinatory phenomena as the decisive evidence for a “yes” to the Central Question, against the case that they offer no such evidence. But in my introduction I also suggested that even to a skeptic in Cicero’s mould, one side or other of the question might, at any time, seem more like the truth, and that, in addition to giving us the arguments pro and contra, when he writes his dialogues Cicero might model this sort of free reaction for us (see pp. –). I think that Cicero has Marcus take an overall stance of that sort at the respective endings of DND and Div.. It is to that stance I turn in my final chapter. 

Cf. also Div. . on the oracle at Delphi, of whose predictions Marcus says that some are false and some are true by chance. He thinks that still others are so obscure and ambiguous as to require interpretation not just by diviners but by also grammarians. He implies that such ambiguity increases the chance that a prediction will look true in the end.

 

Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question

I began Chapter  with the first sentence of DND, where Cicero called the philosophical “inquiry about the nature of the gods” “most beautiful for the mind to grasp and necessary for the moderation of religion.” Cicero then invited us to his tribunal, where those on each side of the Central Question speak, to make up our mind about how religion is made moderate. In this final chapter I address the question: but what does Cicero think? Now there is good reason to wonder whether we should look for an answer to this question at all. For in my opinion, as we saw in my introduction (section .), Cicero is a radical Academic skeptic. That is, he himself tries not to form dogmatic beliefs. Further, he writes dialogues in the way he does exactly to avoid putting his, or anybody’s, authority behind one answer or another. So why would he turn round and give us “his” answer? Thus I must say on what basis I think he gives “his” answer, and what he meant his readers to get out of it. In what follows, I first present the textual data for Marcus’ views (section .). Then I examine the skeptical basis on which Cicero might show us Marcus’ answer to the Central Question (section .). Last, I present that answer (section .).

. The Evidence Cicero shows the stance of each of his own characters – that is, of the characters I have called “Marcus” – in the final passages of DND and of Div.. First there is the last sentence of DND: haec cum essent dicta, ita discessimus, ut Velleio Cottae disputatio verior, mihi Balbi ad veritatis similitudinem videretur esse propensior. When all this had been said, we left, with the result that Cotta’s speech seemed more true to Velleius, but Balbus’ seemed to me to tilt closer to a likeness of the truth. 

. The Evidence


What seems to Marcus to tilt closer to a likeness of the truth includes Balbus’ argument that Stoic theology is adequate to render Roman religion pious, which I examined in Chapter  sections . and .. But this reaction is stated in a more than skeptical way. Consistent with his Academic principles, Cicero could have written that Cotta’s speech seemed veri similior, “more like the truth.” But he wrote that it “tilt[ed] closer to likeness of the truth,” adding another qualification that uses the metaphor of the movement of an arm of a balance. This suggests that Marcus does not follow Balbus all the way or on every point. Now we are not told Marcus’ views on Velleius’ speech, or on Cotta’s reply to it. But it is hard to see how Marcus could, first, prefer Balbus’ speech in Book  over Cotta’s speech in Book  but, second, also find much to like in Velleius’ arguments. Velleius’ own preference for Cotta over Balbus points to his divergence from Marcus’ tastes. Thus we leave DND with the sense that Marcus has a greater affinity for Balbus’ views than for Velleius’, or for what Cotta had to say. We also have the sense that this affinity is partial or qualified. But we are allowed no details. It seems to me that some of these details are supplied in Div.. As we enter the conversation of Div. Quintus presents Marcus as the author of DND. Quintus tells Marcus that Balbus’ speech “seemed to you to tilt closer to the truth,” ad veritatem est visa propensior. (Div. .) Marcus does not demur. Of course, Quintus is careful about the status of a skeptic’s views. He says it seemed to tilt towards truth, not that Marcus in Div. is still committed to his character’s view as found in DND. Nevertheless Quintus associates Marcus in Div., the author of DND, with Marcus his character in DND. Cicero thus licenses us to seek connections between the views of these two characters. The further evidence for these views comes from the closing paragraphs of Div. . I have divided this passage with Roman numerals for convenience: (i) explodatur haec quoque somniorum divinatio pariter cum ceteris. Nam, ut vere loquamur, superstitio fusa per gentis oppressit omnium fere animos atque hominum inbecillitatem occupavit. quod et in iis libris dictum est, qui sunt de natura deorum, et hac disputatione id maxume egimus. multum enim et nobismet ipsis et nostris profuturi videbamur, si eam funditus sustulissemus. nec vero (id enim diligenter intellegi volo) superstitione tollenda  

For some of the history of the interpretation of this sentence, see p.  n. . Pease (–) has loquatur in his main text. But this seems to be no more than a typo. Even the lemma in Pease’s own notes has loquamur.


Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question religio tollitur. nam et maiorum instituta tueri sacris caerimoniisque retinendis sapientis est, et esse praestantem aliquam aeternamque naturam, et eam suspiciendam admirandamque hominum generi pulchritudo mundi ordoque rerum caelestium cogit confiteri. (ii) quam ob rem, ut religio propaganda etiam est, quae est iuncta cum cognitione naturae, sic superstitionis stirpes omnes eligendae. instat enim et urget et, quo te cumque verteris, persequitur, sive tu vatem sive tu omen audieris, sive immolaris sive avem aspexeris, si Chaldaeum, si haruspicem videris, si fulserit, si tonuerit, si tactum aliquid erit de caelo, si ostenti simile natum factumve quippiam; quorum necesse est plerumque aliquid eveniat, ut numquam liceat quieta mente consistere. perfugium videtur omnium laborum et sollicitudinum esse somnus. at ex eo ipso plurumae curae metusque nascuntur; qui quidem ipsi per se minus valerent et magis contemnerentur, nisi somniorum patrocinium philosophi suscepissent, nec ii quidem contemptissimi, sed in primis acuti et consequentia et repugnantia videntes, qui prope iam absoluti et perfecti putantur. quorum licentiae nisi Carneades restitisset, haud scio an soli iam philosophi iudicarentur. Cum quibus omnis fere nobis disceptatio contentioque est, non quod eos maxime contemnamus, sed quod videntur acutissime sententias suas prudentissimeque defendere. (i) Then let us say ‘boo!’ to this sort of divination, from dreams, just as much as to the others. For, to speak frankly (ut vere loquamur), superstition had spread throughout the nations, and weighed down nearly everybody’s soul, and taken hold of people’s weakness. This was said in my books on the nature of the gods, and in this discussion we have been concerned with it especially. For I thought we would benefit ourselves and our countrymen if we could take it away down to the foundations. But it is not the case (for I want this to be understood carefully) that by taking away superstition we take away religion. For, on the one hand, it is characteristic of the sage to protect the institutions of his ancestors by maintenance of rites and cere monies. On the other, the beauty of the cosmos and the order of heavenly things compels one to admit that there is some outstanding and eternal nature, a nature that humans should look up to and wonder at. (ii) For that reason, just as religion that is joined to some grasp of nature should be propagated, in the same way every shoot of superstition should be uprooted. For it presses in on us, and drives us, and wherever you may turn it hounds us, whether you may make a sacrifice or look at a bird, whether you see an astrologer or a haruspex, if there’s been lightning, or if there’s been thunder, if something has been struck from heaven, if anything like a prodigy has occurred, or has been born. It is necessary that much of the time some one of these comes about, so that we are never permitted to

explodo ex-plaudo, “to clap away” or, according to the OLD, “to drive offstage by clapping.” But perhaps it has a sense of breaking the spell or driving away the bogeyman with a sudden clap. In either case, “to say ‘boo!’,” either the drawn out version of the theatre or so as to startle, seems an idiomatic equivalent.

. The Evidence


rest with a mind at peace. Sleep seems to be the refuge from all troubles and anxieties. But from sleep itself many cares and fears are born. These, at any rate, would have less force and would be the more despised, were it not that some philosophers had offered patronage to dreams, philosophers not to be despised, but rather those especially sharp at seeing implications and con tradictions, who now are thought almost perfect and complete philosophers. Had not Carneades [the Academic] stood against their licence, I think they might be thought the only philosophers today. Nearly all of our dispute and disagreement is with these Stoics, not because we especially despise them, but because they seem to defend their views most sharply and with great intellectual virtue. (Div. . )

Now a skeptic assumes a mask when he argues. We would be wrong to count his arguments as his own views. This is the end of a speech in which Marcus has argued from behind the mask. So am I entitled to see Marcus speaking his own mind in this passage? I take permission to do so from the phrase ut vere loquamur, “to speak frankly.” In Div. ., Quintus has said, mihi vero . . . placet; his enim, quae adhuc disputasti, prorsus adsentior, et, vere ut loquar, quamquam tua me oratio confirmavit, tamen etiam mea sponte nimis superstitiosam de divinatione Stoicorum sententiam iudicabam I agree, for I fully assent to what you have argued so far, and, to speak frankly (vere ut loquar), although your speech has made me more sure, still, even by my own choice, I judged the Stoic view of divination too superstitious.

He goes on to say that he endorses natural but not artificial divination, more as a result of Peritpatetic than Stoic arguments. The phrase “to speak frankly” marks the point where Quintus takes off the Stoic mask he assumed when he came to Balbus’ aid. Now Quintus will assert his own view. When Marcus uses almost the same phrase (loquamur plural for loquar singular) he signals that he, too, steps out of character to deliver his own conclusion. I therefore think that Marcus himself asserts everything

There is consensus that some part of the ending of Div. is spoken in earnest. This consensus emerged from Beard () and Schofield (). Wardle ()  n.  calls it the “‘Cambridge’ approach”. Some followers are Scheid (-) –, Douglas (Douglas () –,  n. ), Krostenko () , Leonhardt () –. This consensus looked to moderate earlier readings which supposed that Cicero was a heroic champion of rationalism for his demolition of Quintus in Div. Book  (Pease (–) –), or that the negative arguments in Div. Book  reveal Cicero’s “real views” and their political edge, see Momigliano () , Linderski () –. For this motivation, see Schofield ()  and Beard () –.


Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question

from the sentence of Div. . in which “to speak frankly” (ut vere loquamur) appears, to the end of his speech.

. The Epistemology of Marcus’ Stance Here I shall present the evidence for the relevant features of Cicero’s radical Academic skepticism, his general position described in my introduction, section .. For not only did Cicero try to avoid dogmatic beliefs, he also wanted to avoid the use of his authority to support any particular view (see pp. –). But I shall argue that there is still room for Cicero to show us the views of his characters, Marcus in DND and Marcus in Div.. Indeed Cicero has a reason to do exactly that. In the preface to DND, Cicero has the following to say: qui autem requirunt quid quaque de re ipsi sentiamus, curiosius id faciunt quam necesse est; non enim tam auctoritatis in disputando quam rationis momenta quaerenda sunt. But those who ask what is our own view on each matter (quid de quaque re sentiamus) do so more inquisitively than they need to. For the weight (momenta) of reason, not of authority, must be sought in debate. (DND .)

Compare this declaration with the skeptical end to Marcus’ speech in Div. . (see pp. –). Neither Cicero in DND . nor Marcus in Div. . denies that Cicero (or Marcus) has views (sententiae). Cicero tried not to have dogmatic opinions about the truth, although we were told in the Academica that he failed in this respect (Academica .). But even at his most skeptical, at any time, the answer to a question may seem to him one way rather than another. So the reason not to expect an answer from Cicero is not that he would never have a view he could report. It is rather, as DND . and Div. . show, that he has a problem with authority (see pp. –). The model of Academic teaching was to expose students to arguments against one another or against some students’ thesis, removing the teacher’s 

Among the members of the consensus there is disagreement over whether Marcus’ own thoughts begin at the start of Div. . (Schofield () ) or at . cum autem proprium (Beard () –). Beard’s view is that the skeptical procedures subsequently stated in Div. . itself do not allow Marcus to state the conclusions at Div. .– as his own assertions. But I would answer that the skeptical procedures in Div. . are described in the future tense, which would allow that the conclusions just stated did not follow these procedures – perhaps that is why the procedures need to be reasserted. I argue below that .–. does not break these rules of skeptical discourse in any case.

. The Epistemology of Marcus’ Stance


authority from any particular argument. The student would, it was expected, end up suspending judgment where in a dogmatic classroom he would be required to assent even to arguments he could not understand or did not really accept. But this procedure also leaves open how the matter seems to the student. Each student may follow how it seems to him at the time. This is how a radical skeptic may live. Who plays which of these roles in the dialogues? Note again that in the drama of Cicero’s dialogues there is no teacher. Professional Greek philosophers are conspicuous for their absence. Instead, for each side of each question, a Roman student will take up the case. Then each man present, and each reader, is free to make up his or her own mind. Now some of these characters have more philosophical expertise than others. Balbus, for example, is supposed to have expertise in Stoicism comparable with the leading Greeks (DND .). But even this expertise does not confer on Balbus decisive authority over the other characters. Cicero does not mean to confer authority over us, either. Thus if there is an analogy to the relationship between teacher and students, it is that between Cicero the author and his readers. Cicero orchestrated the topic, the characters, and their speeches. It is Cicero whose name has persuaded the reader to pick up the book. If so, then as an Academic he must be careful to withhold this authority from arguments and conclusions. Cicero accepts this danger in DND . (quoted on p. ). For he acknowledges that people might want to know his view on each point. He replies that they ought to use the weight of reason and not of authority. This implies that it is his authority that his philosophical public might want to follow. Of course, there is something conceited about this: was there really an appetite for Cicero’s personal answers? Nevertheless, in the epistemological scheme to which Cicero has dedicated himself, such authority as Cicero the author could claim was indeed to be abrogated. But I do not think that Cicero anywhere in DND or Div. interposes his authorial voice in such a way that his authority is given to any view. Thus he does not break his own rules in that way. The views I examine in this chapter come from the mouths of the characters I have called “Marcus” and not, so to speak, directly from Cicero’s pen. In each dialogue, it is of course obvious that “Marcus”  

The only exception is in the incomplete text we call Cicero’s Timaeus, the preface of which suggests that Cicero planned to feature Cratippus of Pergamon in a dialogue. At DND . Cotta remarks on Balbus’ auctoritas. Perhaps this is sarcastic, or perhaps he concedes that Balbus does indeed have authority as an exponent of Stoic thought. If the latter, Cotta’s subsequent speech shows that he is not influenced by such authority (cf. Academica .).


Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question

represents Cicero, but readers also know that the conversation is a fictional story about a particular occasion. Now, when Cicero tells us these stories about how a question seemed to “him” at a particular, and fictional, time, is that an infringement of the rule that he should not exert his authority? Let us take the dialogues in turn. Marcus in DND is not even a party to the debate in the dialogue. His view is merely the reaction of an attendee. It is phrased carefully in the skeptical jargon of the Academica. This is as carefully hedged a gesture as one could imagine. By contrast Marcus in Div. is a participant. Further, his final view agrees with the arguments he himself has just given, at length. He does not hedge it about with skeptical qualifiers like “it seems to me.” His endorsement of the view seems much more emphatic, and more like an infringement of Cicero’s rules. Thus perhaps it tempts the reader to see Cicero’s own authority behind the conclusion. Nevertheless, formally speaking, the reader would make a mistake if he were to do so. Marcus is a skeptic who reports how the question has seemed to him and in emphatic terms. But, as he immediately reminds us in Div. ., his view is no more than that. He thinks we would do well not to look for any authority in it. To sum up, Cicero wishes his readers to be like students in an Academic class. He wishes us to be able to judge freely without influence from authority, where to judge is to see how things seem to us. But he is aware that we can judge, and shows us how his characters use this freedom to form views. In order to leave our judgment free he the author, by analogy with an Academic teacher, withholds his authority from any argument or conclusion. But in order to encourage us to think for ourselves, he gives us models who do exactly that. In some cases we hear what other characters think, like Velleius (DND .), Cotta (DND .–, .–), or Quintus (Div. .). But sometimes it is his own character’s reactions of this sort that we are shown. Since the author remains silent, showing these reactions does not break Cicero’s rules. Cicero’s hedged language in the last sentence of DND is designed to assuage the worry of DND .. More obviously, Cicero contrasts Marcus’ criterion, what seems like the truth, with Velleius’, what seems true. This keeps Marcus’ Academic credentials in order. A Clitomachean Academic like Cicero does not take his beliefs to be true, but rather merely follows what is truth-like. But less obviously, Marcus’ reaction in the last sentence of DND is further qualified so as to recall DND .. Balbus’ speech seemed to “tilt closer” to a likeness of the truth. That is, it seemed propensior. This adjective is connected with the verb propendere, to hang down, often used of the inclination of the arm of the scales in weighing.

. The Epistemology of Marcus’ Stance


But in DND . Cicero used the same metaphor. For what is to be used in debate is the momenta of reason, not of authority. A momentum is a movement or an impulse, but the word is often used of the weight that turns the scales. Thus when Cicero says at the end of the dialogue that Balbus’ speech tipped the scales for Marcus more than did Cotta’s, he shows us that Marcus assesses the speeches just as was prescribed in the preface. We are to imagine that the weights that Marcus compares are those of reason and not of authority. Does Cicero risk the illusion that as an author he has given his authority to the eventual views of his own characters? He does. For all that he has warned us neither to look for his authority nor, if we do look, to find it in his characters’ reactions, some readers might do either or both. Evidently this is a risk that Cicero is willing to run. Now it would be silly to deny that Cicero allows us to see some themes in his characters’ views, and even in his own orchestration of the drama, across his many dialogues. On the whole, the Epicureans are not taken as seriously as the Stoics. Cicero’s own character, or a principal speaker like Laelius in On friendship, often seems broadly sympathetic to Stoic or Antiochean positions, but with qualifications, exceptions, or points of uncertainty. One has the impression that Cicero would be gratified if his readers’ thoughts tended to drift in the same directions as his own. So it is plausible that he hoped, or part of him hoped, that the readers of DND and Div. would broadly agree with Marcus. But what is certain is that Cicero tells us that it would be a misreading of the dialogues to agree with what Marcus happened to think because Marcus thought it. In what follows I consider what I call Marcus’ views as expressed in the last sentence of DND and especially in Div. .– as quoted above (pp. –). By this I mean only what seems most like the truth to him following the discussion in either dialogue. We should see in these views a model of how one can react skeptically to the dialogues, not a prescription of

For these meanings see OLD sv. propendere b and , propensus –, momentum b, , , TLL s.v. propendere .–, propensus .–, momentum .–. A similar metaphor is involved in the etymology of “pondering” in English. In On ends we are left with the impression that over the various conversations Marcus tended to find that both Stoic and Antiochean views are preferable to the Epicurean (and that they may or may not come to the same thing), although in the Tusculans, Cicero chooses the proposita against which Marcus argues so that a general picture of a Stoic-style approach to value and the emotions is built up, but subjected to searching criticism. In On duties, Cicero prescribes a modified version of Stoic ethics. In the remains of On fate, on the other hand, Marcus appears to argue against the Stoic view of fate, while Academica is of course opposed both to Stoic and to Antiochean epistemology.


Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question

what to think. Nevertheless, it is a coherent and distinctive perspective on the Central Question.

. Marcus’ Stance at the End of Div. I argued in Chapter  that Cicero’s project in DND and Div. was to moderate religion by philosophical inquiry into the Central Question about the nature of the gods: do they care for us? Religion I construed as the set of performances prescribed by the traditional religious authorities at Rome, like the pontifices. I said that such moderation was to impose two modi, two limits or constraints, on religion. It had to do principally with avoiding two sorts of false belief: that the gods care for us more than in fact they do (superstition) or that they care less than in fact they do (impiety). It could also involve reaching a view, however skeptical and qualified, on whether and how they care for us. Religion would be moderate when performed without the relevant false beliefs, and perhaps with carefully formed theological views in their place. Here I show that Marcus takes a stance on the outcome of this project at the end of Div.. At the end of DND Marcus broadly, but with some qualification, agrees with Balbus. In Div. .– Marcus disagrees with the Stoic view of divination. Again, there is no guarantee that things seem the same way to Marcus on the day of Div. as they do to his character in DND. Yet it is reasonable to suppose that when Marcus at the end of Div. rejects the Stoic view of divination, but welcomes some other Stoic views about the religion and the divine, we are shown one part of why he portrayed himself in qualified agreement with Stoic theology as he did at the end of DND. The agreement is qualified, at least in part, because Marcus does not agree with Balbus about divination. On what does Marcus agree with Balbus? I think this comes in what I have identified as part (i) of my quotation from Div. .– (pp. –). There Marcus says that his project, which he explicitly links to the project of DND, is to uproot superstition while leaving religion behind. He further says that the wise person will maintain the religious 


Santangelo () – argues that, despite Div.’s structure of arguments on either side, and despite Cicero’s avowed skepticism, Cicero intends the reader to see that Marcus’ arguments and conclusions in Book  are the message of the work. I have already given my reasons to disagree. Marcus does not mention impiety here because the specific threat in Div. is the Stoic view of divination, which is unlikely to have underestimated the degree of divine care. If the Stoic view of divination is wrong, then it is very likely superstitious, in that it would probably err in holding that the gods care for us more than in fact they do.

. Marcus’ Stance at the End of Div.


institutions of the ancestors. He says that the way to keep traditional religion but also to uproot superstition is to join religion with a “grasp of nature.” Balbus would agree with these key points. So far so good – but I have not yet shown that (i) represents qualified agreement with Balbus in particular. For Velleius would also accept the key points I have just picked out in (i). He, too, wanted to uproot superstition in favor of religion. In fact for him, impiety coincides with superstition in the view that the gods are so unhappy (Velleius would say) as to care about us. Not only that, but Marcus in (i) shares some terms with Velleius. Velleius’ gods are also eternal and also have a “most outstanding nature,” praestantissimam naturam (DND .). So whose side is Marcus on? The key to my reading of (i) is the sentence, “the beauty of the cosmos and the order of heavenly things compels one to admit (cogit confiteri) that there is some outstanding and eternal nature, a nature which humans should admire and wonder at.” This sentence is supposed to be part of the reason to preserve religion. Thus Marcus must mean that what we “should admire and wonder at” is entitled to worship. Now Velleius could concede, first, that the cosmos is beautiful (albeit not as beautiful as the gods, DND .–). Second, he does concede there are some beings whose eternal nature humans should admire and worship. But Velleius would not concede that the former point “compels one to admit” the latter. On the contrary, it is all-important to Velleius that the beauty of the cosmos results only from the chance collision of atoms and not from any aspect of the divine. By contrast, we saw in Chapter  section .. that Balbus puts weight on the movement of thought from the beauty of the cosmos to the existence and to the active and caring nature of the gods. He says that cosmic beauty and the order of the heavens help to give us our natural preconception of the gods. Beauty and order also supply a key premise in the second sort of argument Balbus gives for the thesis that “the cosmos is governed by the gods.” When Balbus moves to his proof of the same thesis from admiratione, “wondering” at the heavenly realm, this turns out to mean contemplating its beauty (contemplari pulchritudinem, DND ., .). Just so, in (i) it is the beauty and order of the cosmos that excites wonder (admirandam). Now in Chapter  section .., I further argued that beauty, for Balbus, is a feature god gives to the cosmos out of his concern for us, his fellow rational beings. Cosmic beauty is in part intended to help us to see that god cares about us. In sum, beauty was key to Balbus’ experience of the world as a place made for us by a rational


Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question

creator and thus to his affirmative answer to the Central Question. Marcus agrees about that. Now Marcus’ conclusion is circumscribed. He says only that “there is some outstanding and eternal nature, a nature which humans should admire and wonder at.” I should concede how much is not said explicitly. For a start, Marcus does not use the word “god.” But I think divinity is clearly implied. For the point of this conclusion is that we can have religion without superstition. Thus this nature to admire, and to wonder at, must be worthy of worship, that is to say, it must be a god. Both Velleius and Balbus use “N/nature” to mean “the divine nature” and thus god or the gods (e.g. DND ., .–). By calling this nature (a) eternal and (b) outstanding, Marcus describes it so as to fit both the Epicurean and the Stoic notions of the gods. (Cf. DND ., .–) Thus we may securely infer that Marcus means that this eternal “nature” is a god. Very well, but what is this god like? Marcus does not say, for example, that it is rational or that it cares about us. Perhaps he could mean by the admiration due to nature something like a modern atheist’s attitude to the natural world. An atheist today does not think the universe is rational, or that it cares about us, but she might find it a source of awe and wonder. Maybe in Cicero’s Rome such an atheist would have repurposed traditional religion to express that attitude to uncaring, mindless, but magnificent nature. Thus I think that although Marcus finds at the end of Div. that we should worship the god who made nature beautiful and orderly (he is not an atheist), a careful reader could conclude that he does not think that this god is rational, or that he does not think that it cares for us. But it seems to me that the balance of probabilities is against either of these conclusions. For Balbus there were two important consequences to the beauty of the world. The first was that some rational creator made the world. The second is that this creator made it for us, made it beautiful out of concern for the sorts of creatures who can appreciate beauty. These are important among the reasons for Balbus’ positive answer to the Central Question. Now, the Marcus of Div. is discussing DND, in which his own character found Balbus’ speech more congenial. He has also posed the Central Question in the preface to DND. Thus – on balance – I think the reader is led to the impression that Marcus here answers what he said was the Central Question of the inquiry begun in DND, and does so by pointing to the evidence offered by the speaker in DND with whom he tended to agree. It seems to him that the Romans should worship this god in the belief that it cares about us.

. Marcus’ Stance at the End of Div.


Consider Marcus’ sequence of thought in the latter half of (i) and the beginning of (ii). He insists that when superstition is uprooted, religion need not be. He then gives us two points by way of proof: first, that the wise man keeps the institutions of his ancestors and, second, that there is a divine nature. Then he says that the religion to be propagated is the kind that is joined with a grasp of nature. That is to say, for Romans, right religion is the kind that joins ancestral institutions with suitable reflections on natural science. This reiterates the project of DND and Div. for which I argued in Chapter . But it does so in a way more reminiscent of Balbus’ attitude to religion than of his opponent Cotta’s. As we saw in Chapter , Balbus’ wise person is the one who defends ancestral traditions by joining them with a grasp of nature. But Cotta wanted to defend ancestral traditions by rejecting the threat of just such Stoic reconsideration. Thus in this way, too, Marcus in Div. finds himself in agreement with Balbus. What about (ii)? Notice again that Marcus’ sequence of thought follows the project of DND and Div.. He adverts to a series of traditional religious performances: sacrifice (during which entrails would be examined), the augural inspection of a bird sign, consulting the haruspex, apparent prodigies that might have to be reported. But again he comments on what effect beliefs will have on these performances. If a Roman believes that the performances yield real divination, then these ever-present performances become superstitious and persecute him. But if he does not believe in divination, he can face them untroubled. The danger is that the dogmatic philosophers who seem the best, whose general theology Marcus himself has found plausible, argue for precisely the view that persecutes. But luckily Carneades and the Academy can provide the remedy. Thus a Roman who has read Div. should not believe that the Stoic view is true, even if she finds it probable on balance. She should suspend judgment. As for Marcus, he does not include the Stoic view of divination in his general acceptance of the Stoic reinterpretation of religion. Rather, the Stoic interpretation of divinatory performances, according to which the gods really do send us news in all these myriad ways, is to be uprooted as superstition. For by the Stoics’ own plausible rubric of re-interpreting religion in the light of natural science (which I explored in Chapter  section .), the Stoics’ own theory of divination (Chapter ) has seemed to Marcus implausible. This is why Marcus emphasizes the dangerous virtues of Stoic philosophy in (ii): what appears to be the well-earned “authority” of those whose general theology he finds persuasive might have led him into superstition about divinatory practices.


Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question

It is enlightening to read the first sentence of DND alongside the last sentence of (i) and the first sentence of (ii). In the first sentence of DND, Cicero advertised that the inquiry into the nature of the gods is not only “necessary for the moderation of religion” but is also “most beautiful for the mind to grasp (ad cognitionem animi pulcherrimam).” Thus in (ii) Marcus says “For that reason, just as religion which is joined to some grasp of nature (quae est iuncta cum cognitione naturae) should be cultivated, in the same way every shoot of superstition should be uprooted.” It is attention to the beauty of the cosmos that compels us to a grasp of the eternal nature behind it. That is why, properly done, the inquiry into the nature of the gods for the moderation of religion is most beautiful for the mind to grasp. It is the grasp of this eternal nature that makes religious performances into pious actions. That is how religion is moderated. Thus my interpretation of the view with which Marcus reports at the end of Div. is as follows. The answer to the Central Question that at that moment seems plausible to him is, “yes.” The beauty and order of the 


As an Academic skeptic, Cicero is not convinced of the possibility of a cognitio, a successful mental grasp in the technical sense used by his Stoics or Antiocheans. (Academica .) So he must mean cognitio in some weaker sense here, such as a view that results from careful weighing of the different arguments. Since it was my task in this book to interpret DND and Div., I here give the stance that Cicero constructs for “himself,” for Marcus, and for his narrator’s voice, in the dialogues. This stance was not necessarily Cicero’s own. Thus it is natural to ask, how might Marcus’ position relate to the historical Cicero’s religious or theological sentiments? In texts collected by Goar (), we find two patterns of religious remarks in Cicero’s corpus beyond the philosophica. First, in his speeches, Cicero refers often and extensively to the traditional religion. Some speeches, like De domo sua or De haruspicum responsis, are chiefly concerned with religion. There is religious material in speeches on other matters, too. (For some examples, see p.  n. .) But given their rhetorical context, these references are not much help in understanding Cicero’s private views. Second, in his private correspondence, Cicero makes references to the gods and to private religious performances like prayer. But these references are infrequent and lukewarm, surprisingly so to a reader familiar with the long attention to theology and religion in Cicero’s philosophical writings. Further, many of these references can be interpreted as merely conventional turns of speech (see Goar  pp. –). Most notable are two remarks that seem to indicate that Cicero’s wife Terentia paid cult to the gods over private matters like his day-to-day health, and that Cicero did not do so. The tone of these remarks may even be to mock Terentia’s pieties. (Letters to his friends .. SB and .. SB) I agree with Goar (p. ) that, “religious ideas did not penetrate [Cicero’s] private life very deeply, or have any great influence on it,” with perhaps two exceptions. One clear exception was his unconventionally religious reaction to Tullia’s death, for which see Goar p. , Treggiari () –. A second possible exception is the praise that Marcus gives to the Eleusinian mysteries as what we might call a “life experience” at Laws .. Clinton () , , – is cautious but concludes that Cicero was indeed an initiate. He writes that, “Cicero departed from the Mysteries cum spe meliore moriendi . . . Cicero . . ., in my opinion, show[s] signs of being interested in the Mysteries as a ‘religious’ act.” By contrast, the letters show that philosophy much more frequently played a part in Cicero’s friendships and inner life (see McConnell ). Yet perhaps my reading of DND and Div. suggests a possible way (no more) to find Marcus’ estimation of religion and the gods in the philosophica, and Cicero’s omission of

. Marcus’ Stance at the End of Div.


cosmos leads us to a “grasp” of nature, that it is eternal and admirable and cares for us, a god worth worshipping. Further, Roman religion can be reinterpreted as a set of performances expressing just such a view, as Balbus suggested. But one aspect of traditional religion does not do what Stoic interpretation purports: divination does not predict outcomes. Believing the Stoics on that point would make one superstitious when one sacrificed, or looked as an augur at a bird sign, and so on. Perhaps a Roman is to think that divinatory performance is a good way to dramatize attention to the wishes of the gods. But in order to avoid superstition, and thus to complete the moderation of his religion, a Roman must see that through these performances no divinatory signs or sayings will arrive. As I have argued, by closing DND and Div. with a sketch of this view, Cicero does not want to induce his readers to agree with Marcus. Marcus’ view of the moment is a model of how views by which to live can be reached, not a view to follow on Cicero’s authority. Cicero invites his fellow Romans to form their own, careful, and moderate views – as he will continue to form his own views and to withhold his own assent. He

 


religion in the letters, less discrepant. I have suggested that Marcus is attracted to Balbus’ view that Roman religion could be a way publicly to express philosophical admiration for a wise creator, but that he is not impressed by the Stoic advocacy of continual divine interaction with us through divination. Now Cicero does not express his philosophical, ethical, and political views in religious terms in private letters, even though the political activities and personal friendships that these views motivate could certainly have been justified in Balbus’ theological terms. But why should he? Balbus could agree that that was not religion’s job. In the letters Cicero expresses these views in Latin, in jokes, rhetoric, argument, and so on, the media that were indeed closer to his heart. But perhaps Cicero thought he could express the same ideas through public religious performances, a medium of gestures in some ways comprehensible to the public. Marcus’ theological reaction in DND was that those performances could earnestly be done, however skeptically and tentatively, for a provident divinity. Cicero’s discomfort with Terentia’s rituals need not have been that he found cult paid to caring gods to be risible. Rather, his objection, if he had an objection, could have been theological. For example, perhaps it seemed to him that a just god would not give advantages, like curing a bout of vomiting, to individuals in return for prayers or sacrifices. If so, then it would have seemed to him that Terentia’s religious actions were superstitious, if she believed (for example) that she owed a pinch of incense to some god who had cured Cicero. It is striking how consonant this part of Marcus’ view is with the one expressed by Marcus in Laws .–, , , and .–. In contrast to my last note, Marcus’ view of divination at the end of Div. cannot be reconciled with the one expressed at Laws .–. One can come closer to reconciliation than at first appears. In Div. . Marcus says that superstition spread through all peoples, implying there was a time when this was not so. He does not say how things were before the spread of superstition. Similarly, Marcus in the Laws implies that divination used to work properly, but no longer, because the disciplina and ars have been lost (.). But Marcus’ endorsement in the Laws of the thesis there is divination, and of a shortened version of the Stoic syllogism from Div. (Div. .–, .– cf. Laws .), remain irreconcilable with the end of Div.. For another interpretation of the last sentence of DND in the light of a unified purpose for DND and Div., see Lévy () –.


Marcus’ Stance on the Central Question

expects that if they have followed the inquiry he has staged attentively, they too will withhold the assent they would give to a proven truth from all the claims about the gods they have read. For they have also read good reasons why all the claims might be false. In this way, they avoid the decisive sort of impiety and superstition that would come from acting on rash and dogmatic but false beliefs about the gods. Nevertheless, on the model Cicero shows them, readers can see how the question seems to each of them for the moment. Perhaps it seems to Cicero that the content of carefully weighed views of the gods will tend to lead closer to piety. But I suggest that even if it does not, then he hopes that it will at least help each Roman to find theological meaning in the traditional religion. Either way, now that he has helped them critically to liberate the philosophical riches of the Greeks, Cicero hopes to be seen “to benefit our countrymen.” (nostris profuturi, Div. .) Like Varro in the Academica, he has helped to lead them home, when they were strangers in their own city (see pp. –). But in so doing in well-written dialogues in his classical revival style, he has brought philosophy itself to life. As he would say, he has illuminated it.

 

Terminology in DND and Div. for Religious Virtues and Vices, and Greek Equivalents

Part : Stoic Religious Terminology in Greek σοφία, wisdom Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos . (= SVF .) σοφία, ἐπιστήμη οὖσα θείων τε καὶ ἀνθρωπείων πραγμάτων, “wisdom, being knowledge of matters human and divine.” ὁσιότης, piety Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos . (= SVF .) ἡ ὁσιότης, δικαιοσύνη τις οὖσα πρὸς θεούς . . ., “piety, being a certain justice towards the gods.” Stobaeus, .. (= SVF .) τὴν γὰρ ὁσιότητα ὑπογράφεσθαι δικαιοσύνην πρὸς θεούς. “For piety is justice towards the gods.” [Andronicus], On Passions . (=SVF..) ὁσιότης δὲ ἐπιστήμη παρεχομένη πιστοὺς καὶ τηροῦντας τὰ πρὸς τὸ θεῖον δίκαια. “But piety is a science that produces people who are faithful and observant about what is just towards the divine.” εὐσέβεια, holiness Sextus Empiricus, Adversus mathematicos . (= SVF .) ἔστι γὰρ εὐσέβεια ἐπιστήμη θεῶν θεραπείας. “for holiness is science of the cult of the gods.” DL . (= SVF .) εἶναί τε τὴν εὐσέβειαν ἐπιστήμην θεῶν θεραπείας, “holiness is science of the cult of the gods.” [Andronicus], On Passions . (= SVF .) εὐσέβεια δὲ ἐπιστήμη θεῶν θεραπείας.. “holiness is science of the cult of the gods.” 


Terminology in DND and Div.

Stobaeus, .. (= SVF .) εὐσέβειαν δὲ ἐπιστήμην θεῶν θεραπείας “holiness is science of the cult of the gods.” δεισιδαιμονία, fear of the gods Stobaeus, . (= SVF .) δεισιδαιμονία δὲ φόβος θεῶν ἢ δαιμόνων, “deisidaimonia [lit. fearing daemons] is fear of gods or daemons.” Andronicus, On Passions  (=SVF .) δεισιδαιμονία δὲ φόβος τοῦ δαιμονίου. [ἢ ὑπερέκπτωσις τῆς πρὸς θεοὺς τιμῆς. Von Arnim deletes this phrase.] “deisidaimonia is fear of the daemonic, [or an excess of honor to the gods].” Clement, Stromateis . (= SVF .) ἡ γοῦν δεισιδαιμονία πάθος, φόβος δαιμόνων οὖσα “deisidaimonia is an emotion, being fear of the daemons.” (NB Clement’s Christian commitments lead him to call the gods “daemons.”) Stobaeus, .. (= SVF .) ὑπὸ δὲ τὸν φόβον . . . δεισιδαιμονίαι, “under the genus fear . . . are deisidaimoniai.”

Part : Religious Terminology in DND Religio and superstitio Balbus: et si conferre volumus nostra cum externis, ceteris rebus aut pares aut etiam inferiores reperiemur, religione, id est cultu deorum, multo superiores. (DND .) And if we wish to compare our affairs with those of outsiders, we shall find that we are equal or inferior in other matters, but much superior in religion, that is, in the cult of the gods. videtisne igitur ut a physicis rebus bene atque utiliter inventis tracta ratio sit ad commenticios et fictos deos. Quae res genuit falsas opiniones erroresque turbulentos et superstitiones paene aniles. (DND .) You see how, from physical facts whose discovery was good and useful, was wrenched a plan for confected and fictional gods. This state of affairs gave rise to false opinions, distressing errors, and superstitions almost like those of an old woman.

cf. Cotta versus Velleius: horum enim sententiae omnium non modo superstitionem tollunt, in qua inest timor inanis deorum, sed etiam religionem, quae deorum cultu pio continetur. (DND .)

Part : Religious Terminology in DND


For the views of all these not only take away superstition, in which we find empty fear of the gods, but also religion, which is comprised by pious cult of the gods.

Pietas and Sanctitas (as defined by Cotta speaking against Velleius DND .). est enim pietas iustitia adversum deos For piety is justice towards the gods. sanctitas autem est scientia colendorum deorum But holiness is knowledge of the cult of the gods. Cf. Balbus: cultus autem deorum est optumus idemque castissimus* atque sanctissimus plenissimusque pietatis . . . (DND .) But the cult of the gods is best and least polluted and again most holy and most full of piety . . . (*castus=ἁγνός? DL says that Stoic sages are ἁγνοί, ..)

Summary: Cicero’s General Philosophical Terminology about Religion in DND Cicero’s Latin

Stoic Greek


I translate



Virtues: justice towards the gods





cultus deorum religio

θεῶν θεραπεία

science of the cult of the gods Vices: excessive religiosity, gives rise to δεισιδαιμονία, excessive fear of the gods. Activities: cult of the gods


cult of the gods or sometimes the cult of the gods done virtuously.



cult (of the gods)

 

Velleius’ Strategies against his Opponents






S, F


Anaximander Anaximenes

The mind which made everything previously lacked sense, body. Gods not everlasting. Formless air which began cannot be a god, must be mortal. The infinite has no sensation. Mind must have a body. Heavenly bodies are mortal. The portion of god in man is unhappy. Mind must have a body, the infinite has no sensation. Ring of lights in sky wrong form, no sense; others not eternal. Elements not eternal, so sensation. Not clear whether the gods exist, thus has no view of their nature. Contradictory ideas; denies immutability, thus eternity. Air no sense, wrong form. Inconsistent; holds god is incorporeal. Inconsistent. Incoherent. Does away with our conception of god. Inconsistent; heavenly rotations not eternal and attack; incorporeal has no sense of happiness. Heavenly bodies have no sense of happiness. Inconsistent; makes gods senseless and changeable in form. Inconsistent. Nature has no sense or form. Law has no soul; aether has no sense, preconception. Form of the deity inconceivable, no sense, god not ensouled. Violates preconception on many counts. Dead discoverers of benefits we mourn and do not worship So against preconception as to be impossible to imagine. Ditto Make the gods vicious.

. . .

. . .

Anaxagoras Alcmaeon Pythagoras Xenophanes Parmenides Empedocles Protagoras Democritus Diogenes Ap. Plato Xenophon Antisthenes Speusippus Aristotle


Xenocrates Heraclides

. . .

Theophrastus Strato Zeno Citium Aristo


Cleanthes Persaeus

. . .

Chrysippus Diogenes Bab. Poets

*= Velleius alleges incoherence. For key to letters, see pp.  .


E F, E S, F E H F, S F, S, E E, S * *, E S, E *, F * * N *, E, S, H H *, S, H * S, F A, S, F F, S, A N ?E, N N N H

 

Balbus’ Classification of the Gods



What are they like?


. Paradigmatic. . (–) Ensouled, better The cosmos. than which nothing conceivable. . (–) Most beautiful in Sun, moon, the other five shape, helping planets, the fixed the cosmos, stars. exhibiting mind and reason. . Cultural. . (–) “Natures of gods” Fides, Mens, Honos, Ops, yielding great Salus, benefits to Concordia, humankind. Libertas, Victoria, Cupido, Venus Lubentina, Voluptas. Hercules, Castor . () The best and and Pollux, immortal Aesculapius, men, who Liber son of gave benefits. Semele, ? Romulus Quirinus. . (–) Physical entities. Apollo, Ceres, Diana, Dis, Janus, Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Minerva, Neptune, the Penates, Proserpina, Saturn, Venus, Vesta.

Origin in human culture?

Balbus’ qualified endorsement of divinity.

The wisest of the Greeks and the Roman ancestors named them for the benefits they bestow.

“They were established and named… not without cause.” ()

From human life and “They are rightly held as gods, custom, because since they are they excelled in eternal and benefits. the best.” () “You see how, “From physical from physical theory,” but then facts whose “dressed in human discovery was appearance, have good and supplied the poets useful, was with myths,” and wrenched a “have crammed plan for human life with confected and every fictional superstition.” () gods.” ()

Cf. pp. – above. Numbers in parentheses refer to sections of Book  of DND.



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General index

Academy, , , , ,  action,  Aeneas, ,  Aeschines the Socratic,  Aesculapius, , ,  afterlife. See heroes. agnosticism, , , see also skepticism. Alcmaeon of Croton,  Alexander of Aphrodisias .,  allegory, , , ,  altars, , ,  Amafinius, Gaius,  Amphiaraus,  Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, ,  Anaximander,  Anaximenes of Miletus, ,  anger, , ,  anthropomorphism, , , , , –,  Antiochus of Ascalon, , , ,  Sosus,  Antipater of Tarsus, , , ,  On superstition,  Antisthenes, ,  Apelles,  Apis,  apographa,  Apollo, , ,  apotheosis, – Appius Claudius Pulcher (Claudius  RE),  Ara Maxima,  Aratus of Soli,  Arcesilaus,  Archelaus (the philosopher),  Aristo of Chios,  Aristotle, , –, , , –, , ,  Arnim, Hans von, ,  art, ,  Artemidorus of Daldis,  artificial divination, , , , , 

assent,  astrology, , , , ,  ataraxia. See Epicureanism: happiness. Atargatis, ,  atheism, , , , , ,  Athenodorus of Tarsus,  Atlas,  Atticus, Titus Pomponius, , , ,  Attus Navius, , ,  auctoritas.  See authority. augury, , , , , , , –, , ,  auspices. See augury. authority, ,  Babylon, , ,  Balbus, Quintus Lucilius, ,  beauty, , , , , ,  belief, ,  Boethus of Sidon, ,  Brutus, Marcus Junius (Iunius  RE),  Brutus, Marcus Junius (the liberator), , , ,  Cacus,  Caelum,  Caesar, Gaius Julius, ,  Calchas, ,  Carneades, , , , , , , , ,  Castor, –, ,  catalepsis. See grasp. Cato the Younger, Marcus Porcius, ,  Catulus, Quintus Lutatius,  Central Question, the, , , –, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  Cepheus,  Ceres, , –,  Chaeremon of Alexandria,  chance, , , , 



General index

Chrysippus of Soli, , , , , , –, , , , , , , , , , –, ,  On fate, ,  Cicero junior, Marcus Tullius,  Cicero junior, Quintus Tullius,  Cicero, Marcus Tullius Academic books,  Academica, , , , , , , , ,  Consolation,  De consulatu suo, ,  De domo sua,  De haruspicum responsis,  Hortensius, , , ,  Laws, , ,  Letters to Atticus .,  ..,  Lucullus. See Academica. Oeconomicus, ,  On augury,  On divination,  On duties, , ,  On ends, , –, –, , –,  On fate,  On friendship, , ,  On old age, , , ,  On the nature of the gods,  On the orator,  Pro Roscio Amerino,  Protagoras,  religious views,  Republic, , ,  Timaeus, , , ,  Tusculans, , , , , –, –,  Cicero, Quintus Tullius, ,  classification of the gods, Balbus’, ,  cultural level,  paradigmatic level,  type , ,  type , ,  type ,  type ,  type , ,  Cleanthes, , , , ,  Clitomachus of Carthage, ,  Codrus,  community, , , , , ,  Concordia, , ,  conditionals, ,  coniectura. See conjecture. conjecture, , , , , , ,  consensus, arguments from, , ,  Cornutus, Lucius Annaeus, , , –, 

Coruncanius, Tiberius, ,  Cotta, Gaius Aurelius, , , , ,  Crassus, Marcus Licinius (the triumvir),  Cratippus of Pergamon, , , ,  cult images of the gods, , , ,  cultural gods. See classification of gods, Balbus’. Cupido, ,  Curio, Gaius Scribonius,  Cyrus the Great,  Dagon,  daimones. See heroes. definitions of divination, , ,  Delphic oracle, , , see also oracles; frenzy. Democritus,  Diagoras of Melos,  dialogue form, ,  Diana, , ,  Dicaearchus of Messana, ,  Diels, Hermann, , ,  Diodorus Cronus,  Diogenes of Apollonia,  Diogenes of Babylon, , , , ,  Diogenianus (philosophical critic of divination),  Dis, , , ,  Dorotheus of Sidon,  dreams, , , , , ,  Egyptian religion, , ,  Empedocles, ,  Empiricist and Rationalist doctors, ,  encyclopedia view of Late Sequence,  Ennius, Quintus, , , , ,  Enuma Anu Enlil,  Epicureanism canonics,  divination,  Epicurus’ authority,  happiness, , ,  Latin Epicurean authors, ,  piety, ,  religion, ,  theism,  theology, , , ,  view of rival theologies, ,  Epicurus, , , , ,  epistemology Epicurean,  Stoic and Academic, ,  Erechtheus,  Eros, , see also Cupido. eternity of the gods, , , ,  Etruscan religion, , ,  etymology, , , 

General index Euripides Hercules furens,  Eusebius of Caesarea Preparation for the Gospel,  Evander, ,  extispicy. See haruspicy. faith, good,  fatalism,  fate, , , , , ,  fear of the gods (δεισιδαιμονία),  fideism,  Fides, , , ,  fides. See faith, good. frenzy, , , , ,  Giants,  Gracchus, Gaius Sempronius,  Gracchus, Tiberius Sempronius,  grace, ,  grasp, , ,  Hades, ,  Hannibal Barca,  haruspicy, , , , , , , , ,  haste in writing Late Sequence, ,  Hera, ,  Heraclides of Pontus, –, , , ,  Hercules, , , ,  Herodotus of Halicarnassus,  heroes, , , , ,  Hestia, ,  Hirtius, Aulus,  history of divinatory arts, , –, ,  holiness, , ,  Homer, , ,  Honor, ,  Hortensius Hortalus, Quintus,  ignorance,  illumination (metaphor for writing of Late Sequence),  impiety, , , see also moderation of religion. in utramque partem form of dialogue, ,  interpretation of dreams or oracles, –, –,  Isis,  Janus, , , , ,  Judaism,  Juno, , , , , , ,  Jupiter, , –, , , , , –, , , ,  Juventas, 


Kronos,  Lactantius, Lucius Caelius Firmianus,  Laelius Sapiens, Gaius,  Laius,  Late Sequence, –, –,  Latin language, , ,  Latinus,  Lazy Argument, the, ,  learned reader principle, , , , , , ,  Lebadia, ,  Liber (god of wine), ,  Liber (son of Semele), ,  Libertas, ,  literary unity principle, , , , , ,  Livy (Titus Livius),  lots, divination by, , ,  Lucretius Carus, Titus, –, , ,  Lucullus, Lucius Licinius,  Luna, ,  Lysias,  madness.  see also frenzy. Marcellus, Gaius Claudius (Claudius  RE),  Marcellus, Marcus Claudius (Claudius  RE),  Marcus, , see also Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Mars, , ,  meaning,  Mens, , ,  Mercury,  Midas,  Minerva, , ,  Mnesarchus of Athens,  moderation of religion, , , , , , ,  Mommsen, Theodor,  moon, , –, , ,  myths, , , –, , , ,  natural divination, , , ,  Neptune, , ,  Nigidius Figulus, Publius, ,  Numa Pompilius, , , ,  oaths, , ,  Obsequens, Julius,  Odysseus,  Oedipus,  omens,  On piety, , , , , ,  Ops, , ,  oracles, , see also frenzy.


General index

orthodoxy,  orthopraxy, –,  Osiris,  outcomes, –, , , , 

Quellenforschung. See source criticism. Quintus, , , see also Cicero, Quintus Tullius. Quirinus, ,  Rabirius, 

Panaetius of Rhodes, , ,  Parmenides of Elea,  Penates, , , ,  performance, ,  Peripateticism, –, , , ,  Persaeus,  Persephone,  Phalaris,  Philo of Larissa, ,  Philodemus of Gadara. See On Piety. pietas. See piety. piety, , , , , , , see also moderation of religion. planets, , ,  Plato, , –, , , , , , ,  Phaedrus,  Timaeus, , ,  plausible, ,  Plautus, Titus Maccius,  Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus),  Pluto,  poets. See myths. political context for dialogues,  Pollux, –, ,  Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus),  pontifices, ,  portents. See prodigies. Poseidon,  Posidonius of Apamea, , , , , , , , ,  prayer, , , ,  preconceptions Epicurean, ,  Stoic,  probabile. See plausible. probability theory,  problem of evil, the,  prodigies, , , ,  prognostication, , ,  Prometheus,  propositional content. See meaning. propositum form of dialogue, , – Proserpina, ,  Protagoras, , ,  Ptolemy, Claudius, ,  Pyrrhonism. See skepticism. Pythagoras, , ,  Pythagoreanism, , 

ratio of divination. See theories of divination, causal. Rationalist doctors. See Empiricist and Rationalist doctors. reason in Epicurean theology,  in Stoic theology,  religio. See religion. religion, , , , , –, , – Remus,  revelation,  rhetoric, ,  rites, , ,  Romulus, , , , , , ,  Roscius, Quintus (the actor),  sacra. See altars; images, cult; rites; sacrifices; temple buildings. sacrifices, , , , , , ,  Sallustius author of Empedoclea,  Gnaius,  Salus, ,  sanctitas. See holiness. Sarpedon,  Saturn, , ,  sayables. See meaning. Scaevola, Publius Mucius (Mucius  RE), ,  Scaurus, Marcus Aemilius (Aemilius  RE),  skepticism Academic, , , , ,  and religion, , , ,  Pyrrhonist, ,  Radical and Mitigated, –, ,  science, ,  scientia. See science. Scipio Nasica Corculus, Publius Cornelius,  Scot, Alexander,  Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (the younger),  sensation, ,  Serapis,  Sextus Empiricus. See skepticism: Pyrrhonism. Sibylline books,  Simonides,  single source hypothesis,  societas. See community. Socrates, , , , 

General index Sol, ,  Sophocles, ,  sorites,  sortes. See lots, divination by. soul, , , , , , , , –, , , , , , ,  source criticism,  Speusippus,  stars, , , ,  Stoicism conflagration,  corporealism,  cosmopolitanism,  cosmos,  creationism,  determinism. See fate. epistemology,  ethics, ,  religion, ,  style of writing. See Stoicism: wisdom. superstition,  theology, ,  wisdom, , , , , , ,  Strato of Lampsacus, –,  straw men in Div.,  sun, , –, , ,  superstitio. See superstition. superstition, , , , , , –, see also moderation of religion. ‘Syrian’ religion, ,  Tages, ,  temple buildings, , , –, , –, , ,  Terentia,  Terminus,  Thales of Miletus,  theodicy. See problem of evil, the. Theodorus of Cyrene (‘the Atheist’),  Theophrastus, ,  theory of divination, causal, , –, , 


Titans,  Torquatus, Lucius Manlius,  tranquility. See Epicureanism: happiness. Trophonius,  Tullia, , ,  type , , , , or  gods. See classification of gods, Balbus’. Uranus,  Usener, Hermann,  Valens, Vettius,  Varro Reatinus, Marcus Terentius, , , , , , , , , ,  Velleius, Gaius,  and On piety,  Venus, , ,  Lubentina, ,  Venus (throw at dice),  veri simile. See plausible. Vesta, , , ,  vices, worship of,  Victoria, ,  Virgil Maro, Publius Aeneid,  virtue, , ,  Virtus, ,  Vitruvius Pollio, Marcus,  Voluptas, ,  weather forecasting. See prognostication. wonder, , ,  Xenocrates,  Xenophanes of Colophon,  Xenophon, ,  Xerxes I,  Zeno of Citium, , , , , , ,  Republic,  Zeus, , , , –

Index locorum antiquorum

Aeschines Aspasia,  Aëtius Placita ., ,  ..,  Alexander of Aphrodisias Mantissa ., ,  .–,  .–,  On fate . Bruns,  .–,  .–,  [Andronicus of Rhodes] On passions ,  .,  Aratus Phaenomena –,  Aristotle History of animals b–,  On divination in dreams b–,  b–,  b–,  On dreams a–,  Athenaeus Deipnosophistae .a,  Augustine City of God .,  .,  .,  .,  ., 

.,  .,  .,  De dialectica ,  Charisius Ars grammatica ed. Barwick ,  ,  Cicero, Marcus Tullius Academica .,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .–, ,  ., ,  .–,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .–, 


Index locorum antiquorum .,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  Brutus ,  De domo sua ,  ,  In Verrem ..–,  Laws .,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .,  ., ,  ., ,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  ., ,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .–, ,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .–, ,  ., – .,  Letters to Atticus ..,  ..,  .., – ., ,  .,  ..,  ..,  .,  ..,  ., 

.., ,  ..,  ..,  ..–,  ..–,  ..,  ..–,  .a,  .,  ..,  ., ,  .,  ..,  ..,  ..,  ..,  ..,  ..,  .,  ..,  Letters to his friends ..,  ..,  ..,  Letters to Quintus ..,  ..,  On divination ., ,  .,  .,  ., ,  ., ,  ., , , , , , ,  .–,  .–,  ., , , , , ,  ., ,  ., ,  .–,  .–,  ., , , –,  ., ,  .,  .,  .,  ., , – .,  .–, ,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .–,  .–, 



Index locorum antiquorum

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (cont.) .,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  ., ,  .–,  .,  .–,  .–,  .,  ., – ., – ., – ., ,  .–,  .,  ., , , , ,  .–, ,  .,  .–,  .–, , ,  .–,  .–,  .,  .–, ,  .,  .,  ., ,  .,  .,  .–,  .–,  ., , ,  .–,  ., , ,  .–,  .,  .–, ,  .–,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  ., ,  ., ,  .–,  .–, – .,  .,  ., ,  .–, 

., , ,  .,  .–,  ., ,  .,  .–,  .,  ., ,  .–,  .,  ., ,  .–, ,  .,  ., , – .,  ., ,  .,  .,  .,  ., – .,  .,  .,  ., – ., , – ., – .,  .,  ., – .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  ., , ,  ., , , , , ,  .–, ,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  ., ,  .,  .,  ., , –, ,  .,  ., , , – .–, , , , – ., , , , , ,  On duties .,  .,  .,  .,  ., 

Index locorum antiquorum .–,  .,  On ends .,  .–,  ., ,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  .–,  .,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  On fate , ,  ,  –,  –,  ,  –,  –,  ,  ,  –,  ,  –,  fr. ,  On friendship ,  –,  –, 

On invention .,  .–,  .–, ,  .–,  On the nature of the gods ., , , , ,  .–,  ., , ,  .–, , ,  ., ,  .–,  ., , – .,  .,  .–, ,  .,  ., , , ,  .–,  .,  ., , , , ,  ., ,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  ., ,  .–, ,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  ., – .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  ., , , , ,  .–, ,  ., ,  .–,  .,  .–,  ., ,  .,  .–,  .–,  .,  ., , ,  .,  ., ,  ., , 


 Cicero, Marcus Tullius (cont.) .,  .–,  .,  .–, ,  .,  .,  ., ,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  ., ,  .–, ,  .,  .–,  ., , ,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  ., –,  .–, ,  ., , –,  .–, ,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  ., ,  .,  .–,  .–, ,  .,  .–,  ., ,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  ., ,  .–, ,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–, – .–, , ,  ., ,  .,  ., , , 

Index locorum antiquorum .–, – ., , , – ., , –, ,  ., ,  .–,  ., , ,  .–, ,  .–, ,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  ., , , –, , , ,  .–,  ., ,  .–, , ,  .,  .–,  .–,  ., , , ,  .,  .–,  .–,  .,  ., ,  .,  .,  ., ,  .–,  .,  ., ,  .,  .–,  ., , –, ,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  ., –,  .–.,  .–,  .,  ., , , , ,  .–,  .,  ., ,  .,  .–,  ., , ,  ., 

Index locorum antiquorum ., ,  .–,  .–,  ., ,  .–,  ., – ., ,  .,  .,  .–,  ., ,  .–,  ., – .–,  .–,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  ., ,  .,  .,  .,  ., , , , , – On the orator .,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  .–,  ., ,  ., ,  On the parts of rhetoric –,  ,  Orator ,  Pro Cluentio ,  ,  Pro Murena –,  Pro Roscio Amerina ,  Republic .–,  .–,  Timaeus , ,  –,  Tusculans .–, 

.–, ,  .–,  .,  ., , – .,  .,  .,  .,  ., ,  .–,  .,  .–,  .,  ., ,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .–,  .–,  .,  ., – .,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  ., ,  .,  Cleanthes Hymn to Zeus –,  Clement of Alexandria Stromateis .,  Cornutus Theology  Lang,   Lang,   Lang,  – Lang,  Diogenes Laërtius Lives of the philosophers .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  .,  ., 



Index locorum antiquorum

Diogenes Laërtius (cont.) ., , ,  .,  ., , , ,  .,  .–,  Diogenes of Oenoanda Fr.  Smith,  Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman antiquities .–,  Donatus On Phormio ..,  Epictetus Dissertations .–,  Epicurus Letter to Herodotus ,  Letter to Menoeceus ,  Principal Doctrines , ,  ,  Eusebius Preparation for the Gospel ., ,  .,  .., ,  Galen On the doctrines of Plato and Hippocrates ..,  On the sects for beginners - Helmreich,  .–,  .,  Gellius, Aulus Noctes Atticae ..,  ..,  ..,  Homer Iliad .–, ,  .–,  Lactantius Divine institutes ..,  ..,  ..–, 

On the anger of God ,  Livy Ab urbe condita .–,  ..–..,  .,  .–,  .–,  .,  [Longinus] De sublimitate ,  Lucretius De rerum natura .–,  .–,  .–,  .,  .,  .–,  .,  .,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .–,  .,  Lydus, John De mensibus .,  De ostentis ,  ,  Macrobius Saturnalia ..,  Obsequens, Julius Prodigiorum liber ,  Origen Contra Celsum .,  Ovid Fasti .–,  .–,  Philodemus On Piety – Obbink, 

Index locorum antiquorum Photius Lexicon Ν  (νεοττός),  Plato Apology d,  Epinomis –,  Phaedrus b,  a,  c,  b–d,  Symposium –,  Timaeus e–b,  Pliny the Elder Natural history .,  [Plutarch] Essay on the life and poetry of Homer ,  Plutarch Life of Caesar ,  Life of Cicero .–.,  On common conceptions c,  On Stoic self-contradictions c,  c,  d,  Posidonius ed. Edelstein and Kidd FC,  F,  FA,  Fab,  F,  F–,  T,  Priscian Institutes ..,  ..,  ..,  Propertius Elegies .,  Ptolemy, Claudius Almagest ..–,  ., 


Tetrabiblos .,  Quintillian Institutes ..,  ..,  ..,  Seneca the younger De beneficiis ..,  De constantia ..,  Letters ,  .,  Servius In Aeneidem .,  Sextus Empiricus Adversus mathematicos .–,  .–,  .,  .,  .,  .,  ., , ,  .,  .,  .,  .,  Outlines of Pyrrhonism .,  Simplicius In physica . Diels,  Stobaeus, John ..b,  ..i,  ..s,  ..,  .., – ..,  ..,  .,  ..,  Suetonius Lives of the Caesars .,  Varro Antiquities human and divine ed. Cardauns Fr. a, 

 Varro (cont.) Fr. ,  Fr. ,  Fr. ,  Fr. , ,  Fr. ,  Fr. ,  Fr. ,  On the Latin language .–,  .,  ., 

Index locorum antiquorum Virgil Aeneid .–,  Vitruvius On architecture ..,  ..,  Xenophon Oeconomicus ., 