I said at the end of the last lecture that ideas about the Divine might be discussed at Rome by philosophers, as the Romans began to read and in some degree to think. At the era we have now reached, the latter half of the second century B.C., this process actually began, and I propose in this lecture to deal with it briefly. But my subject is the Roman religious experience, and I can only find room for philosophy so far as the philosophy introduced at Rome had a really religious side. Another reason forbidding me to give much space to it is that it was at Rome entirely exotic, did not spring from an indigenous root in Roman life and thought, and never seriously affected the minds of the lower and less educated population. And I must add that the types of Greek philosophy which concern us at all have been fully and ably dealt with, the one in vol. ii. of Dr. Caird's lectures on this foundation on The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers, a work from which I have learnt much, and the other by Dr. Masson in his most instructive work on the great Epicurean poet Lucretius.
We have seen in the two last lectures that in that second century B.C. the Roman was fast becoming religiously destitute—a castaway without consolation, and without the sense that he needed it. He was destitute, first, in regard to his idea of God and of his relation to God; for if we take our old definition of religion, which seems to me to be continually useful, we can hardly say of that age that it showed any effective desire to be in right relation with the Power manifesting itself in the universe. The old idea of the manifestation of the Power in the various numina had no longer any relation to Roman life; the kind of life in which it germinated and grew the life of agriculture and warlike self-defence, had passed away with the growth of the great city, the decay of the small farmer, and the extension of the empire; and no new informing and inspiring principle had taken its place. Secondly, he was destitute in regard to his sense of duty, which had been largely dependent on religion, both in the family and in the State. No new force had come in to create and maintain conscience. In public life, indeed, the religious oath was still powerful, and continued to be so, though there are some signs that its binding force was less strong than of yore, especially in the army.1 But in a society so complex as that of Rome in the last two centuries B.C. much more was wanted than a bond sanctioned by civil and religious law; there was needed a sense of duty to the family, the slave, the provincials, the poor and unfortunate. There was no spring of moral action, no religious consecration of morality, no stimulus to moral endeavour. The individual was rapidly developing, emancipating himself from the State and the group-system of society; but he was developing in a wrong direction. The importance of self, when realised in high and low alike, was becoming self-seeking, indifference to all but self. We have now to see whether philosophy could do anything to relieve this destitution of the Romans in regard both to God and duty.
The first system of philosophy actually to make its appearance at Rome was that of Epicurus2; but it speedily disappeared for the time, and only became popular in the last century B.C., and then in its most repulsive form. It was indeed destined to inspire the noblest mind among all Roman thinkers with some of the greatest poetry ever written; but I need say little of it, for it was never really a part of Roman religious experience. Though capable of doing men much good in a turbulent and individualistic age, it did not and could not do this by establishing a religious sanction for conduct. The Epicurean gods were altogether out of reach of the conscience of the individual. They were superfluous even for the atomic theory on which the whole system was pivoted;3 and what Epicurus himself understood by them, or any of his followers down to Lucretius, is matter of subtle and perplexing disputation.4 One point is clear, that they had no interest in human beings;5 and the natural inference would be that human beings had no call to worship them; yet, strange to say, Epicurus himself took part in worship, and in the worship of the national religion of his native city. Philodemus, the contemporary of Lucretius, expressly asserts this,6 and even insists that Epicurism gave a religious sanction to morality which was absent in Stoicism.7 Lucretius himself clearly thought that worship was natural and possible. ‘If you do not clear your mind of false notions,” he says, “nec delubra deum placido cum pectore adibis.”8 Man might go on with his ancestral worship, but entirely without fear, and as with “placid mind” he took part in the rites of his fathers, a mysterious divine influence might enter his mind; “the images of a Zeus, a Heracles, an Athene, might pass in and impress on him the aspect and character of each deity, and carry with them suggestions of virtue, of courage, of wise counsel in difficulty.”9 Evidently both Epicurus and his followers had felt the difficulty and the peril of breaking entirely with the religious habits of the mass of the people, and had conscientiously done their best to reconcile their own belief with popular practice—an attempt which has its parallel in the religious speculation of the present day.
But for the Roman follower of Epicurus, wholly unused to such subtle ideas as the passage of divine influence into the mind by means of religious contemplation, this lame attempt to bring apathetic gods into relation with human life must have been quite meaningless. Cicero well expresses the common sense of a Roman at the very beginning of his treatise on the Nature of the Gods.10 “If they are right who deny that the gods have any interest in human affairs, where is there room for pietas, for sanctitas, for religio?” What, he adds, is the use of worship, of honour, of prayer? If these are simply make-believes, pietas cannot exist, and with it we may almost assume that fides and iustitia, and the social virtues generally, which hold society together, must vanish too. Such criticism is characteristically Roman, and we may take it as representing accurately the feeling of the old-fashioned Roman of Cicero's day, as well as of the Stoic or Academic critic of Epicurism. On the other hand, the believing Epicurean at Rome was not more likely to accept the compromise; he had done with his own gods and their worship, and such a “ficta simulatio” was not likely to attract him. Even Lucretius, whose mind was in a sense really religious, does no more in the passage I quoted just now than allude to actual worship of the gods, and he makes it quite clear that the tranquillity and happiness coming from contemplation, and the punishment that follows misdoing, are both purely subjective; the gods are not active in influencing man's life, but man influences that life himself by opening his mind to the contemplation of the gods. This passage of Lucretius (vi. 68 foll.) is, if I am not mistaken, the nearest approach to real religion that we find in the history of Roman Epicurism; yet so far as we know it bore no fruit. It seems to me to express a genuine feeling, a religio, but the expression is blurred by a consciousness of inconsistency.
The fact is that in the system of Epicurus the Power manifesting itself in the universe is not a divine Power, but a mechanical one; the gods have nothing to do with it, they cannot be active, their perfection is found in repose; they are an adjunct, an after-thought in the system. Thus all attempts to reconcile the Power with the popular religion must inevitably be failures, and more especially so in the Roman world. At best the Epicurean gods could but set an example of quietism which could not possibly be a force for good in that active world of business and government.11 The real force of Epicurism, for the Roman at least, if I am not mistaken, was analogous to a religious force, though far indeed from being one in reality—I mean the profound and touching belief in the Founder himself as a saviour, which is so familiar to all readers of Lucretius.12 And the real legacy of Lucretius himself to Roman religion is only indirectly a religious one—I mean the wholesome contempt for “superstitio” and all the baser side of religious belief and practice, old and new.13 If his devotion to the Master had been rooted more in the love of goodness and less in the admiration for his speculations, and if his contempt for superstitio had been less harshly dogmatic, had he been more sympathetic and generous in his attitude to the Italian ideas of the divine—the power of Lucretius might possibly have been strong and permanent. Thus for the Roman's destitution in regard to God Epicurism could find no remedy, and as a consequence it could provide no religious sanction for his conduct in life. What power it had upon conduct as a system of ethics is a question outside the range of my subject. No doubt a certain type of mind, naturally pure and good, and apt to retire upon itself, might find in Epicurism not only no harm but even positive help; perhaps the best way to appreciate this fact, too often overlooked, is to read the defence of the Epicurean ethics put into the mouth of Torquatus, in the first book of the de Finibus,14 by one who was far from being in sympathy with the creed. But for the Roman of that age, when ideas of duty and discipline were losing strength, this enticing faith, with pleasure as its summum bonum, and with quietism as its ideal of human life,15 could hardly be a real stimulus to active virtue; the Roman needed bracing, and this was not a tonic, but a sedative. Far more valuable in every way, and far better suited to the best instincts of the Roman character, was the rival creed of Stoicism, and I must devote the rest of this lecture to the consideration of its religious aspect.
It was most fortunate for Rome that her best and ablest men in the second century B.C. fell into the hands not of Epicureans, but of Stoics—into the hands, too, of a single Stoic of high standing, fine character, and good sense. For destitute as the Roman was both in regard to God and to Duty, he found in Stoicism an explanation of man's place in the universe,—an explanation relating him directly to the Power manifesting itself therein, and deriving from that relation a binding principle of conduct and duty. This should make the religious character of Stoicism at once apparent. It is perfectly true, as the late Mr. Lecky said long ago,16 that “Stoicism, taught by Panaetius of Rhodes, and soon after by the Syrian Posidonius, became the true religion of the educated classes. It furnished the principles of virtue, coloured the noblest literature of the time, and guided all the developments of moral enthusiasm.” To this I only need to add that it woke in the mind an entirely new idea of Deity, far transcending that of Roman numina and of Greek polytheism, and yet not incapable of being reconciled with these; so that it might be taken as an inpouring of sudden light upon old conceptions of the Power, glorifying and transfiguring them, rather than, like the Epicurean faith, a bitter and contemptuous negation of man's inherited religious instincts. But before we go on to consider this illumination more closely, let me say a few words about Panaetius the Stoic missionary, and Scipio Aemilianus, his most famous disciple.
Scipio, born 184, was a happy combination of the best Roman aristocratic character and the receptive intelligence which for a Roman was the chief result of a Greek liberal education. He had been educated by his famous father, Aemilius Paulus, in a thoroughly healthy way; he was no mere book-student, but a practical courageous Roman, with a solid mental foundation of moral rectitude (pietas) fixed firmly in the traditions and instincts of his own family. On this foundation, as has been well said,17 a superstructure of intellectual culture might be built securely without destroying it, and this was exactly what did take place, both for Scipio and for that circle of friends of his which has become so famous in Roman history. In very early life he became the intimate friend of Polybius, whose account of their first unreserved intercourse is one of the most delightful passages in all ancient literature;18 and from Polybius he doubtless learnt to think. He must have learnt to understand the real nature of the Roman empire, to appreciate the forces which had called it into being,19 the qualities which had preserved it through the fearful struggle with Hannibal, and the duty of a noble Roman in regard to it. From Polybius, indeed, it is not likely that he gained much light on matters either of religion or morality; but that statesman and historian must inevitably have accustomed him, in the course of their long intercourse, to think more deeply than Roman had ever yet thought, about the world in which he lived and was to act for many years the leading part. Thus he was well prepared for the friendship of a more spiritual guide.
Panaetius, who was probably about the same age as Scipio, had the advantage, as a visitor at Rome, of being a Rhodian, i.e. a citizen of the one Greek State which had been almost continuously on good terms with Rome, and of great value to her. He was also a scion of an old and honoured family in that city, and was thus in every way a fit friend and companion for a great Roman noble. When their friendship began we do not know for certain; but it is a fact that he lived for some two years, together with Polybius, in the house of Scipio, and these years were probably between 144 and 141 B.C., after Scipio's return from the conquest of Carthage.20 When Scipio in 141 was commissioned by the Senate to go and set things in order in the eastern Mediterranean, he took Panaetius with him,21 and brought him home to live with him again as a guest, perhaps until he left for the Numantine war in 134, after which it is not likely that they met again before Scipio's sudden death in 129. I am particular about the extent of their intimacy, because I wish to make it clear that this was no ordinary or fleeting friendship between a commonplace Greek philosopher and an average Roman statesman. Both statesman and philosopher were far above the usual level of their kind, and in the course of this long intimacy must have had full opportunity of learning from each other. From Scipio Panaetius would learn the secrets of the Roman temperament, and divine the right methods of dealing with it, and the result of this was a happy modification of the old rigidity of the Stoic principles—an adaptation of them to the Roman character which had far-reaching consequences. From Panaetius Scipio and his friends would learn a new and illuminating conception of man's place in the universe, and of his relation to the Power manifested in it. To understand the power of Stoicism on the mind of these Romans and their intellectual successors, it is necessary to have a clear idea of this illumination.
Hitherto there had been nothing in the religion of Rome, or of any other city-state, to make it inevitable, reasonable, that man should worship the Power, except tradition and self-interest, involved in the tradition and self-interest of the family and the city. The gods belonged, as we saw, to family or city as divine inhabitants, and if you neglected them they would show their anger against you. Originally it was religio, the feeling of awe for something distinct from man and unknown to him, which forced him to propitiate that which he might fear, but had no reason, except the instinct of self-preservation, to reverence; and later on, as he came to know his numina better, to make them, so to speak, his own, and to formulate the methods of propitiating them, he gradually came also to take them for granted, and to worship them as a matter of traditional duty. The idea of conforming his life to the will of any of these numina would, of course, be absolutely strange to him—the expression would have no meaning whatever for him. The help which he sought from them was not moral help, but material.22 But now, when the religio has been hypnotised and soothed away, and when the tradition of ceremonial observance was growing dim and weak, when he is left alone with his fellow-men, and without any binding reason for right conduct towards them, he may learn from Stoicism that there is a Power above and beyond all his numina, yet involving and embracing them all, to which, and by the help of which, as a man endowed with reason, he must conform his life.
The theology held and taught by Panaetius, in common with all Stoics at all periods, was based upon two leading thoughts, in the correlation of which lay the kernel of the Stoic ethical system. The first of these thoughts is this: the whole universe, in all its forms and manifestations, shows unmistakably the work of Reason, of Mind; without mind, reason, spiritus, as Cicero calls it,23 the universe could not exist. I need not go here into the origin and history of this thought; what is important for us is to make clear the theological consequences of it. Obviously it was natural that the Stoic should be led on to the conviction that this universe endowed with Reason—with a Reason far transcending all human capacity—must itself be God. The Stoic arguments in support of this further step are indeed lame, as they inevitably must be; they are well set forth at the beginning of Book ii. of Cicero's work de Natura Deorum (based upon one by Posidonius, the successor and disciple of Panaetius), where they seem to us rather cold and formal. That step is indeed incapable of being made convincing by any syllogism; it is only when we try to think with the minds of those old thinkers, living in a world of unmeaning worship, that we begin to realise the nobility of a conviction which they tried in vain to reduce to a syllogism. Sapiens a principio mundus, et deus habendus est;24 these words, which sound like an article of a creed, suffice for us without the laborious arguments of Cleanthes and Chrysippus which we may read in the fifth and sixth chapters of Cicero's book. Cicero has added to these a characteristic illustration from city life, which I may quote as more useful for us. “If a man enters a house or a gymnasium or a forum, and sees reason, method, and discipline reigning there, he cannot suppose that these came about without a cause, but perceives that there is someone there who rules and is obeyed: how much more, when he contemplates the motions and revolutions to be seen in the universe (e.g., in the heavenly bodies), must he conclude that they are all governed by a conscious Mind!” And this Mind can be nothing else but God.
This sounds like the Deism of the eighteenth century, and might be described as “natural religion”; but the Stoics took yet another step, and developed their thought into Pantheism. The idea of a personal Deity, distinct from the universe and its Creator, was obnoxious to them; it would have committed them to a dualism of Mind and Matter which, from the very outset of their history, they emphatically repudiated; their conviction was of a Unity in all things, and to this they consistently held in spite of constant and damaging criticism. The theological result of this conviction has lately been well expressed by Dr. Bussell.25 He is speaking of Seneca in particular, but what he says applies to all Stoics equally well: “Though he yearns to see God in ‘the moral order of the Universe,‘ he is forced in the interests of Unity to identify Him with every other known force. As He is everything, so any name will suit Him. He is the sum of existence: or the secret and abstract law which guides it: He is Nature or Fate. The partial names of special deities are all His, and together they make up the fulness of the divine title; but they disappear in the immense nothingness, rather than colour or qualify it.” This is a point of immense importance for the study of Stoicism at Rome; it was fully developed by Posidonius, and copied from him both by Cicero and Varro. “God,” says Cicero in the book I have been quoting, “pervading all nature (pertinens per naturam cuiusque rei), can be understood as Ceres on the land, as Neptune on the sea, and so on, and may be and should be worshipped in all these different forms;” not in superstitious fear and grovelling spirit—the mental attitude which Lucretius had condemned years before this treatise was written—but with pure heart and mind, following the one and true God in all his various manifestations.26 Thus the Stoic Pantheism, in spite of its weak points, could find room for the deities of the city-state, and put new illuminating life into them. To us it may seem, as it seems to Dr. Bussell, that they would disappear in an immense nothingness; but to the Roman mind of Scipio's age, if I am not mistaken, they might, on the contrary, save the great Pantheistic idea from so itself disappearing. I cannot but think that the Roman's idea of divinity, the force or will-power which he called numen,27 would find here a means of reviving its former hold on the Roman mind, and enabling it to grasp as a concrete fact, and not merely as an abstract idea, the “deus pertinens per naturam cuiusque rei.” In particular the Roman conception of the great Jupiter, the father of heaven, might gain new life for the people who had so long been used to call him “the Best and Greatest.” Almost from the very beginning of Stoicism the school had seized upon Zeus to convey, under the guise of a personality and a name, some idea of the Reason in the universe;28 and the same use might just as well, perhaps even better, be made of the great deity of the Capitoline temple, whom his people recognised as the open heaven with all its manifestations, the celestial representative of good faith and righteous dealing, and the special protector of the destinies of Rome and her empire.
The second thought which lies at the base of the religion or theology of Stoicism, is this: that Man himself, alone in all the Universe, shares with God the full possession of Reason. In other words, Man alone, besides God, is strictly individual, self-conscious, capable of realising an end and of working towards it; he is so utterly different from the animals, so far above them (or if we call him an animal, he is, in Cicero's language,29 animal providum, sagax, multiplex, acutum, memor, plenum rationis et consilii), that he must surely be of the same nature as God. And this is what, in strict conformity with all Stoic teaching, Cicero in this same passage expressly says—man is generatus a deo. So too in the famous hymn of Cleanthes,30 quoted by St. Paul at Athens (“For we are also his offspring,”):—
Chiefest glory of deathless Gods, Almighty for ever, Sovereign of Nature that rulest by law, what name shall we give thee? Blessed be Thou, for on Thee should call all things that are mortal. For that we are Thy offspring: nay, all that in myriad motion Lives for its day on the earth bears one impress, Thy likeness, upon it; Wherefore my song is of Thee, and I hymn Thy power for ever.
In these splendid lines it is plain that not Man only is thought of, but all living things, animals included with Man; and this is in accordance with the true Stoic Pantheism. But none the less on this account did the Stoics believe Man to be the one living thing in the universe comparable with God, and capable of communion with him by virtue of the possession of Reason. As Cicero says, a few lines farther on in the work I am quoting, “virtus eadem in homine ac deo est, neque ullo alio ingenio praeterea.” And since every creature seeks to maintain and augment its own being, to bring it to perfection, to express it fully, by an innate law of its nature, Man being endowed with Reason above all other creatures, strives, or should strive, to bring himself to a perfect expression, by identifying himself with the divine principle which he shares with God. As Dr. Caird puts it,31 “the ruling power of Reason so dominates his nature that he cannot be described as anything but a self-conscious ego (i.e. in contrast with other animals); and just because of this, all his impulses become concentrated in one great effort after self-realisation.” But the self that he tries to realise must be his true self, not his irrational impulses: the self which is a part of the divine principle. He must desire to realise himself as having Reason, and so to come into close communion with God, the Reason of the universe. Those who are at all familiar with the later Roman Stoics, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus, if we may include him among them, will recognise in this inspiring thought, vague and impalpable as it may seem, the germ of many beautiful expressions of the relation of Man to God, which seem to bring Stoicism into closer spiritual connection with Christianity than any other doctrine of the ancient world.
The work of Cicero from which I have been quoting, the first book of his treatise on the Laws, i.e. the Roman constitution, is very probably based on one by Panaetius himself,32 of whom we are expressly told that he used to discuss that constitution together with Polybius and cipio in the days of their happy intimacy at Rome.33 In any case we may find it helpful, taken together with the earlier fragmentary work de Republica, in trying to form some idea of the effect of this second leading Stoic thought on the best Roman minds of the last ages of the Republic. We find, as we might expect, that it is not on Man simply as individual that stress is here laid. Man is not thought of as hoping to realise his own Reason in isolation; the Stoics, though, like their rivals, they represent a reaction of the individual against the State, were all along perfectly clear that man in isolation would be helpless, and that his own reason bade him realise himself in association with his fellow-men.34 It is the position of Man, as associated, 1, with God, 2, with other men, that is here made prominent; and the bond of connection is in each case Law, which is indeed only one name for the Supreme Reason and the highest Good. I must say a word about these two aspects of Man's position in the world, in order to explain what I believe to have been the effect of this teaching on the Roman mind.
1. In explaining the relation of Man to God Cicero uses an expression which some years before he had developed in a fine passage in the Republic: true law, he says, is right reason.35 In the Laws he takes it up again, and argues that as both God and Man have reason, there must be a direct relation between them.36 And as Law and right reason are identical, we may say that Law is the binding force of that relation. And again, this means that the universe may be looked on as one great State (civitas), of which both God and Man (or gods and men) are citizens, or in another way as a State of which the constitution is itself the Reason, or God's law, which all reasonable beings must obey. Such obedience is itself the effort by which Man realises his own reason: he is a part of a reasonable universe, and he cannot rebel against its law without violating his own highest instinct. It is not hard to see how this way of expressing the Stoic theological principle would appeal to the Roman mind. That mind was wholly incapable of metaphysical thinking; but it could without effort understand, with the help of its social and political principles and experience, the idea of supreme intelligent rule—a supreme imperium, as it were, to rebel against which would be a moral perduellio, high treason against a supreme Law, unwritten like his own, and resting, as he thought of his own as resting, on the best instincts, tradition, reason, of his community; from his own constitution and laws he could lift his mind without much difficulty to the constitution and law of the communis deorum et hominum civitas. The idea of God in any such sense as this was indeed new to him; but he could grasp it under the expression “universal law of right reason” when he would have utterly failed, for example, to conceive of it as “the Absolute.” He can feel himself the citizen of a State whose maker and ruler is God, and whose law is the inevitable force of Reason; he can realise his relationship to God as a part of the same State, gifted with the same power of discerning its legal basis, nay, even helping to administer its law by rational obedience.
2. Reason as thus ruling the universe can also provide a basis for Man's reasonable association with his fellow-men, and a religious basis if conceived as God; for Man's recognition of the divine law, the recta ratio, as binding on him, is followed quite naturally by his recognition of the application of that law to the world he lives in. “Human law comes into existence,” says Zeller explaining this point,37 “when man becomes aware of the divine law, and recognises its claim on him.” Here, again, it is easy to see how illuminating would be this conception of law for the Roman of Scipio's time. So far the Roman idea and study of law (as I have elsewhere expressed it)38 had been of a crabbed, practical character, wanting in breadth of treatment, destitute of any philosophical conception of the moral principles which lie behind all law and government. The new doctrine called up life in these dry bones, and started Roman lawyers, many of whom were Stoics more or less pronounced, on a career of enlightened legal study which has left one of the most valuable legacies inherited by the modern world from ancient civilisation. In another way too it had, I think, an immediate effect on Scipio himself and his circle, and on their mental descendants, of whom Cicero was the most brilliant: it made them look on the law and constitution of their State as eminently reasonable, and on rebellion against it as unreason, or as the Romans call it, lascivia, wanton disregard of principle. So far as I know, no great Roman lawyer was ever a revolutionary like Catiline or Clodius, nor yet an obstinate conservative like Cato, whose Stoicism was of the older and less Romanised type; the two of whom we know most in the century following the arrival of Panaetius were both wise, just, and moderate men, Mucius Scaevola and Servius Sulpicius, of whom it may be truly said they contributed as much to civilisation as the great military and political leaders of the same period.
There now remains the question whether this noble Stoic religion, as we may fairly call it, with its ideas of the relation of Man to God and to his fellow-men, had after all, sufficient definiteness for a Roman to act as a grip on his conscience and his conduct in his daily dealings with others. It could deduce the existence and beauty of the social virtues from its own principles; if Man partakes of the eternal Reason, or, as they otherwise put it; if he is through his Reason a part of God himself in the highest sense, and if God and Reason are in the highest sense good, then in realising his own Reason, in obeying the voice of the God within him,39 he must be himself good by the natural instinct of his own being. Accordingly, these social virtues, duties, officia, as the Romans called them, were set forth by Panaetius in two books, which in a Latinised form we still fortunately possess,—the first two of Cicero's work de Officiis,—and without the uncompromising rigidity which characterised the original Stoic ethical doctrine inherited from the Cynics.40 In the first book he treated of the good simply (honestum), in the second of the useful (utile), and in a third, which it was left for Cicero to execute, of the cases of conflict between these two. In this charming work there is much to admire, and even much to learn: the social virtues—benevolence, justice, liberality, self-restraint, and so on, are enlarged upon and illustrated by historical examples41 in perfect Latin by Cicero; and as we read it we cannot but feel that the influence of Panaetius upon his educated Roman pupils must have been eminently wholesome.
But at the same time we inevitably feel that there is something wanting. What power could such a discussion really have to constrain an ordinary man to right action? The constraint, such as it is, seems purely an intellectual process, and this is indeed noticeable in the Stoic ethics of all periods. No Stoic brought his doctrine nearer to a religious system than Epictetus; yet this is how Epictetus puts the matter:42 “If a man could be thoroughly penetrated, as he ought to be, with this thought, that we are all in an especial manner sprung from God, and that God is the Father of men as well as gods, full sure he would never conceive aught ignoble or base of himself.... Those few who hold that they are born for fidelity, modesty, and unerring Tightness in dealing with the things of sense, never conceive aught base or ignoble of themselves.” He means that, for the real Stoic, self-respect is the necessary consequence of his intellectual conception of his place in the universe, and that self-respect must as inevitably result in virtue. Can this intellectual attitude really act as a constraining force on the will of the average man? This is far too complicated a question for me to enter upon here, and I can but suggest the study of it for anyone who would wish to test the actual life-giving moral power of this philosophy. Suffice it to say that their idea of the universe as Reason and God naturally led the Stoics into a kind of Fatalism, a destined order in the world which nothing could effectually oppose;43 and they were naturally in some difficulty in reconciling this with the freedom of Man's will. That freedom they constantly and consistently asserted; but it comes after all to this, that Man is free to bring his will into conformity, through knowledge, with the Power and the universal Reason; or, as Dr. Caird puts it,44 Man has the choice whether he will be a willing or an unwilling servant (of the universal Reason): unwilling, if he makes it his aim to satisfy his particular self, an aim which he can only attain so far as the general system of things allows him; willing, if he identifies himself with the divine reason which is manifested in that system.” But that identification of himself with the divine Reason is again an intellectual process; it can only be realised by minds highly trained in thinking; it could not have the smallest grip on the conduct of the ordinary ignorant man, or on the minds of women and children.
And here we come upon another weak point in Stoicism as presented to the Roman world in this last century b. C. It was an age in which gentleness, tenderness, pity, and the philanthropic spirit were most sadly needed, and it cannot be said of Stoicism that it had any mission to encourage their growth. The Stoics looked on the mass of men as ignorant and wicked,45 and it never occurred to them that it was a duty of the Good Man to teach and redeem them,—to sacrifice his life, if need be, in the work of enlightenment. They seem to have thought even of women and children as hardly partaking of Reason; their ideally good man was virtuous in a strictly virile way,46 and it never occurred to them that training in goodness must begin from the earliest years, and be gradually developed with infinite sympathy and tenderness. If a man is to learn that there is something within him which partakes of God, and which should naturally lead him to right conduct, he must begin to learn this truth in his infancy.47 But the absence of a place for emotion and sympathy in the Stoic system, resulting from the purely intellectual nature of their central doctrine of Reason, meant also the absence of any spirit of enthusiastic propaganda. Their notion that emotion or passion is “a movement of mind contrary to reason and nature,”48 lamed their whole system as a progressive force in the world of that day. Such religious power as it could exercise worked simply through the radiating influence of a few wise and good men, by nature pure and unselfish, who gradually familiarised the educated part of society with a nobler idea of God than the old religion had ever been able to supply, and with that other inspiring idea of the near relation of Man to God as partaking of His nature. But the active enthusiasm of a real religion—the effective desire to be in right relation with the Power—was strange to Stoicism. In one way or another it had many excellent results; it cleared the ground, for example, for a new and universal religion by putting into the shade, if not altogether out of the way, the old local cults with their narrow and limited civic force: it glorified the idea of law and order in an age when the Roman world seemed to be forgetting what these sacred words meant; hut a real active enthusiasm of humanity was wanting in it. Hence there is a certain hopelessness about Stoicism, which increased rather than diminished as the world went on, and such as is seen in a kind of sad grandeur in Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic emperor. Of him it may be said, both as emperor and philosopher, as has been said of the Stoic in general, that “he was essentially a soldier left to hold a fort surrounded by overpowering hosts of the enemy. He could not conquer or drive them away, but he could hold out to the last and die at his post.”
See, e.g. Livy iii. 20: “Sed nondum haec, quae nunc tenet saeculum, neglegentia deum venerat; nee interpretando sibi quisque iusiurandum et leges aptas faciebat, sed suos potius mores ad ea accommodabat.” Cp. Cic. de Off. iii. 111.
Two Epicureans were expelled from Rome in 173 (probably), Athenaeus, p. 547. Cicero, Tusc. iv. 3, 7, gives some idea of the later popularity of the school in the first half of the last century B.C.
So Masson, Lucretius, i. 263, 271.
See Masson i. ch. xii. and ii. p. 141 foll.; Mayor's Cicero de Nat. Deor. vol. i. xlviii. and 138 foll.; Guyau, La Morale d'Epicure (ed. 4), p. 171 foll.
Cic. N.D. i. 19, 49 foll., and many other passages; Diog. Laert. x. 55; Zeller, Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics, p. 441 foll.; Masson i. 292, who aptly quotes Cotta the academic critic in Cicero's dialogue: “When Epicurus takes away from the gods the power ot helping and doing good, he extirpates the very roots of religion from the minds of men” (Cic. N.D. i. 45. 121). One may add with Dr. Masson (i. 416 foll.) that a machine cannot command worship; the Natura of Lucretius, i.e., was really a machine.
Masson i. p. 284, and citations of Philodemus there given.
Mayor's Cic. N.D. vol. i. p. xlix.
Lucr. vi. 68 foll.
Masson i. p. 285.
Cic. N.D. i. 2. 3.
Cic. N.D. i. 37. 102; to believe the gods idle “etiam homines inertes efficit.”
For this profound reverence for Epicurus see also Cic. N.D. i. 8. 18. It amounted to a faith. In this passage the Epicurean is described as “nihil tarn verens quam ne dubitare aliqua de re videretur, tanquam modo ex deorum concilio et ex Epicuri intermundiis descendisset.” See also sec. 43 and Mayor's note; Cic. de Finibus, i. 5. 14: Masson i. 354–5, who quotes the most striking passages from Lucretius, e.g. v. 8–10: deus ille fuit, deus, inclyte Memmi, qui princeps vitae rationem invenit earn quae nunc appellatur sapientia, etc. In a paper entitled “Die Bekehrung (conversion) im klassischen Altertum,” by W. A. Heidel (Zeitschrift fur Religionspsychologie, vol. iii. Heft 2), the author, an American disciple of W. James argues that the exordium of Bk. iii. indicates a psychological conversion of Lucretius.
See Masson's chapter (p. 399 foll.) on the teaching and personality of Lucretius. Social Life at Rome in the Age of Cicero p. 327 foll., and references there given. I may note here that the power of Epicurism as a faith depended also largely on the directness, downrightness, and audacity of its system, working on minds weary of philosophers' disputations and political quarrels.
Cic. de Finibus, i. viii. to end (translation by J. S. Reid, Camb. Univ. Press). The following sentence in ch. 18, sec. 57, puts the Epicurean ethics in a nutshell: “Clamat Epicurus, is quern vos nimis voluptatibus esse deditum dicitis, non posse iucunde vivi nisi sapienter, honeste, iusteque vivatur, nec sapienter, honeste, iuste, nisi iucunde.”
What this quietism might mean for a Roman may be gathered from the following passage in Cic de Finibus, i. 13. 43, in which sapientia is practical wisdom, the Aristotelian φρονησις, or the ars vivendi, as Cicero has explained it just before: “Sapientia est adhibenda, quae, et terroribus cupiditatibusque detractis et omnium falsarum opinionum temeritate derepta, certissimam se ducem praebeat ad voluptatem. Sapientia enim est una, quae maestitiam pellat ex animis, quae nos exhorrescere metu non sinat; qua praeceptrice in tranquillitate vivi potest, omnium cupiditatum ardore restincto. Cupiditates enim sunt insatiabiles, quae non modo singulos homines, sed universas familias evertunt, totam etiam labefactant saepe rempublicam. Ex cupiditatibus odia discidia discordiae seditiones bella nascuntur.” And so on to the end of the chapter. The message of Lucretius to the Roman was practically the same. The remedy was the wrong one in that age; though it does not necessarily entail withdrawal from public life with all its enticements and risks, it must inevitably have a strong tendency to suggest it; and such withdrawal had, as a matter of fact, been one of the characteristics of the Epicurean life. See Zeller, Stoics, etc, ch. xx.; Guyau, La Morale d'Epicure, p. 141 foll.
History of European Morals (1899), vol. i. p. 225. The treatment of Stoicism in this work, though not, strictly speaking, philosophical, is in many ways most instructive.
F. Leo, Die griechische und lateinische Literatur, p. 037. Seethe author's Social Life at Rome in the Age of Cicero, p. 105.
Polybius xxxii. 9–16
See a discussion by the author of the meaning of τυχη in Polybius, Classical Review, vol. xvii. p. 445, and the passages there quoted relating to the growth of the Roman dominion.
See Schmekel, Die mittlere Stoa, p. 3 foll.
Ib. p. 6, note 3.
See above, p. 251.
Cic. N.D. ii., end of sec. 19. He is translating the Greek πνευμα, which in Stoicism is not a spiritual conception, but a material one, in harmony with their theory of the universe as being itself material, including reason and the soul. This is one of the weak points of the Stoic idea of Unity. For the meaning of spiritus see Mayor's note on the passage; it is “the ether or warm air which penetrates and gives life to all things, and connects them together in one organic whole.”
Cic. N.D. ii. xiii. 36 ad fin. On all this department of the Stoic teaching see Zeller, Stoics, etc, p. 135 foll.; Caird, Gifford Lectures, vol. ii., Lectures 16 and 17.
Marcus Aurelius and the Later Stoics, by F. W. Bussell p. 42.
Cic. N.D. ii. ch. 28 (sees. 70–72), with Mayor's commentary; Zeller, op. cit. p. 327 foll.; Mayor, introduction to vol. ii. of his edition of Cic N.D. xi. foll.; Social Life at Rome in the Age of Cicero, p. 334 foll. It is important to note the distinction drawn by Cicero between religion and superstition; what Lucretius called religio as a whole Cicero (and Varro too, cf. Aug. Civ. Dei, vi. 9) thus divided. See Mayor's valuable note, vol. ii. p. 183. Some interesting remarks on the Stoic way of dealing with popular mythology will be found in Oakesmith's Religion of Plutarch, p. 68 foll.
See above, p. 118 foll.
See Mayor's note on Cic. N.D. ii. 15. 39 (vol. i. p. 130), with quotation from Philodemus. Zeller, Stoics, etc., p. 337 foll.
Cic. de Legibus, i. 7. 22.
Fragmenta Philosophorum Graecorum, Paris, 1883. I have borrowed the beautiful translation of my friend Hastings Crossley, printed p. 183 foll, of his Golden Sayings of Epictetus, in Macmillan's Golden Treasury Series.
Gifford Lectures, ii. p. 94.
So Schmekel, Die mittlere Stoa, p. 61 foll. The evidence is not conclusive, and the process of argument is one of elimination but it raises a fairly strong probability.
Cic. de Rep. i. 21, 34.
See Zeller, Stoics, etc., p. 294 foll.
Cic. de Rep. iii. 22. 33.
Cic. de Legibus, i. 7. 22 foll.: “Est igitur, quoniam nihil est ratione melius, eaque in homine et in deo, prima homini cum deo rationis societas. Inter quos autem ratio, inter eosdem etiam recta ratio communis est,” etc.
Zeller, Stoics, etc., p. 226 foll.
Social Life at Rome, p. 117.
I may take this opportunity of noting that a Roman might better understand this notion of his Reason as the voice of God within him, or conscience, from his own idea of his “other soul,” or genius; see above, p. 75. But we do not know for certain that it was presented to him in this way by Panaetius, though Posidonius (ap. Galenum, 469) used the word δαιμων in this sense, as did the later Stoics; see Mulder, de Conscientiae notione, p. 71. Seneca, Ep. 41. 2, uses the word spiritus: “Sacer intra nos spiritus sedet... in unoquoque virorum bonorum, quis deus incertum est, habitat deus” (from Virg. Aen. viii. 352). Cp. Marcus Aurelius iii. 3. Seneca uses the word genius clearly in this sense in Ep. 110 foll. On the Stoic daemon consult Zeller, Stoics, etc., p. 332 foll.; Oakesmith, Religion of Plutarch, ch. vi.
See, e.g., Zeller, p. 268.
This habit of illustrating by historical examples had an educational value of its own, but serves well to show how comparatively feeble was the appeal of Stoicism to the conscience. It may be seen well in Valerius Maximus, whose work, compiled of fact and fiction for educational purposes, is far indeed from being an inspiring one. See Social Life at Rome, p. 189.
Arrian, Discourses, i. 3. 1–6 (Golden Sayings of Epictetus, No. 9).
Schmekel, Die mittlere Stoa, p. 190 foll. (Panaetius), and 244 foll. (Posidonius), Zeller 160 foll. This is the Fate or Providence on which the moral lesson of the Aencid is based; see below, p. 409 foll. Aeneas is the servant of Destiny. If he had persisted in rebelling against it by remaining at Carthage with Dido, that would not have changed the inevitable course of things, but it would have ruined him.
Gifford Lectures, ii. 96.
Zeller, Stoics, etc., p. 255. This, of course, did not diminish the duty of general benevolence, ib. p. 310 and references, where fine passages of Cicero and Seneca are quoted about duties to one's inferiors. But an enthusiasm of humanity was none the less wanting in Stoicism, and this was largely owing no doubt to their hard and fast distinction between virtue and vice, and their want of perception of a growth or evolution in society. See Caird, op. cit. ii. 99; Lecky, Hist. of European Morals, i. 192 foll.; Zeller 251 foll.
See some excellent remarks in Lecky, op. cit. 1. p. 242 foll.
See above, note 40.
Zeller, Stoics, etc., p. 229. Cic. de Finibus, 111. 10, 35. fuse. Disp. iv. 28, 60.