Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Cicero, De Natura Deorum, Book 1

Here are some quotations I want to remember after reading the first book of Cicero's treatise On the Nature of the Gods (De Natura Deorum). The English translations are by Francis Brooks.

Is there anything, indeed, so discreditable as rashness, and is there anything rasher and more unworthy of the dignity and strength of character of a wise man than the holding of a false opinion, or the unhesitating defence of what has not been grasped and realised with proper thoroughness?

Quid est enim temeritate turpius? aut quid tam temerarium tamque indignum sapientis gravitate atque constantia quam aut falsum sentire aut quod non satis explorate perceptum sit et cognitum sine ulla dubitatione defendere?
In fact the authority of those who stand forward as teachers is generally an obstacle in the way of those who wish to learn, for the latter cease to apply their own judgment, and take for granted the conclusions which they find arrived at by the teacher whom they approve.

Quin etiam obest plerumque iis qui discere volunt auctoritas eorum qui se docere profitentur; desinunt enim suum iudicium adhibere, id habent ratum quod ab eo quem probant iudicatum vident.
If you were to ask me what God is, or of what nature, I should plead the authority of Simonides, who, when this same question was put to him by the tyrant Hiero, asked for one day's deliberation; when the question was repeated on the morrow, he begged for two, and when Hiero, upon his constantly doubling the number of days, inquired wonderingly why he did so, Because, he replied, the longer I reflect, the more obscure does the matter seem to me.

Roges me quid aut quale sit deus, auctore utar Simonide, de quo cum quaesivisset hoc idem tyrannus Hiero, deliberandi sibi unum diem postulavit; cum idem ex eo postridie quaereret, biduum petivit; cum saepius duplicaret numerum dierum admiransque Hiero requireret cur ita faceret, 'Quia quanto diutius considero,' inquit 'tanto mihi res videtur obscurior.'
It seems marvellous that one soothsayer should not laugh at the sight of another.

Mirabile videtur quod non rideat haruspex cum haruspicem viderit.
There are as many names of the gods as there are languages among men.

Quot hominum linguae, tot nomina deorum.
I wish I could find the discovery of truth as easy as the exposure of error.

Utinam tam facile vera invenire possem quam falsa convincere.

There is a good example of chiasmus at 1.3.5 (letters in square brackets added by me):
Well, upon these counts I can [A] pacify friendly objectors and [B] confute malignant fault-finders in a way which will make [B] the latter repent of having taken me to task, and [A] the former glad that they have learnt the truth, for [A] those who admonish in a friendly spirit deserve to be instructed, while [B] those who assail in an unfriendly spirit deserve to meet with a repulse.

Qua quidem in causa et [A] benivolos obiurgatores placare et [B] invidos vituperatores confutare possumus, ut [B] alteros reprehendisse paeniteat, [A] alteri didicisse se gaudeant; nam [A] qui admonent amice docendi sunt, [B] qui inimice insectantur repellendi.

There is a typographical error in the Latin of the Loeb Classical Library text (1933; rpt. 1994) at 1.20.55:
What is to be thought of a philosophy that holds the ignorant old crone's belief that everything happens by destiny?

Quanti autem haec philosophia aestimanda est cui tamquam aniculis, et iis quidem indoctis, fato fieri videantur omnis?
For omnis read omnia.

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