Friday, May 22, 2015


In Doubt

Tacitus, Annals 6.22 (tr. John Jackson):
For myself, when I listen to this and similar narratives, my judgement wavers. Is the revolution of human things governed by fate and changeless necessity, or by accident? You will find the wisest of the ancients, and the disciples attached to their tenets, at complete variance; in many of them a fixed belief that Heaven concerns itself neither with our origins, nor with our ending, nor, in fine, with mankind, and that so adversity continually assails the good, while prosperity dwells among the evil.

Others hold, on the contrary, that, though there is certainly a fate in harmony with events, it does not emanate from wandering stars, but must be sought in the principles and processes of natural causation. Still, they leave us free to choose our life: that choice made, however, the order of the future is certain. Nor, they maintain, are evil and good what the crowd imagines: many who appear to be the sport of adverse circumstances are happy; numbers are wholly wretched though in the midst of great possessions—provided only that the former endure the strokes of fortunes with firmness, while the latter employ her favours with unwisdom.

sed mihi haec ac talia audienti in incerto iudicium est, fatone res mortalium et necessitate immutabili an forte volvantur. quippe sapientissimos veterum quique sectas eorum aemulantur diversos reperies, ac multis insitam opinionem non initia nostri, non finem, non denique homines dis curae; ideo creberrime tristia in bonos, laeta apud deteriores esse.

contra alii fatum quidem congruere rebus putant, sed non e vagis stellis, verum apud principia et nexus naturalium causarum; ac tamen electionem vitae nobis relinquunt, quam ubi elegeris, certum imminentium ordinem. neque mala vel bona, quae vulgus putet: multos, qui conflictari adversis videantur, beatos, at plerosque quamquam magnas per opes miserrimos. si illi gravem fortunam constanter tolerent, hi prospera inconsulte utantur.

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