On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance
(De Sera Numinis Vindicta)

By Plutarch


This is perhaps the most admired of Plutarch’s philosophical writings. Proclus1 transcribed and adapted large portions of it in antiquity. In modern times it has received high praise from Christians as diverse in belief as Joseph de Maistre2 and A. P. Peabody.3 In an American edition we find this note:4 |171|

It is within the knowledge of the writer that the reading of this very treatise of Plutarch, which we are about to examine, had a salutary effect on the mind of Professor Tholuck, at a time when he was inclined to scepticism, and was among the providential means of leading him to find the best solution of his doubts in the teachings of the Bible.

To the translations listed in the Preface may be added, apart from others that we have not seen,5 those of Bilibaldus Pirckheymerus,6 Joseph de Maistre,7 Charles W. Super,8 and Georges Meautis.9

Quietus,10 to whom the dialogue is addressed, is presumably the same as the Quietus of the De Fraterno Amore (478 b), where a brother Nigrinus is mentioned, and of the Quaestiones Convivales (632 a), where it is implied that he had administered a province. |172| Perhaps he is the T. Avidius Quietus, senator and sometime proconsul of Achaia,11 mentioned by the younger Pliny in a letter assigned to the year 102 (Ep. vi. 29. 1)12 in language that implies he was no longer living. If the letter is correctly dated, and if this identification of Quietus is right, we could infer that the dialogue was written before 103. There was, however, a second T. Avidius Quietus, who was consul in 111 and proconsul of Asia shortly before 127.13 Pohlenz14 identifies Plutarch’s friend with this younger man on the ground that the essay De Fraterno Amore is subsequent to the essays De Amicorum Multitudine and De Adulatore et Amico; but the date of none of the three essays is known,15 and the friendship of Plutarch’s addressee with Sosius Senecio is chronologically more appropriate to the older man.16 Plutarch’s mention of a brother named Nigrinus also favours this identification. There appear to have been an older and a younger Avidius Nigrinus, generally taken to be father and son. The father was |173| probably the brother of the elder Quietus, the son the cousin of the younger.17

Thespesius, the hero of the myth, is doubtless a fiction of Plutarch’s. The name was chosen for its meaning, thespesios being often used of things divine and strange.18 “Aridaeus,” the name borne by Thespesius before his vision, may be none other than the Ardiaeus of Plato.19 His people, the Cilicians, enjoyed no favourable reputation, and to a Greek ear the very name of his city, Soli, suggested perversity.20

The scene of the dialogue is Delphi (cf. 552f, 553e, 556f, 560c), where Plutarch was for many years one of the two priests of Apollo.21 The speakers are Plutarch himself, his son-in-law Patrocleas, his brother Timon, and Olympichus.

The dialogue was evidently not written before A.D. 81. In the myth the Sibyl foretells the eruption of Vesuvius (24-26 August 79) and speaks of a “good” emperor “of those days” who is to relinquish his |174| imperial power by dying of disease (566e).22 At the time of Thespesius’ vision Nero was already dead (567f). “Those days” must then refer to some time between Nero’s death and the eruption. Of the five emperors who reigned in this interval only Vespasian and Titus23 died a natural death. It is not likely that Vespasian is intended, as he expelled from Rome all the philosophers except Musonius (Dio Cassius, lxvi. 13), and revoked Nero’s grant of freedom to Greece (Philostratus, Vit, Ap, v. 41; Pausanias, vii. 17. 4), acts which might well have kept Plutarch from believing he could be called “good.”24 Titus, who died 13 September 81, was much beloved.25 The dramatic date of the vision of Thespesius would fall between 24 June, the date of Titus’ accession, and 24-26 August, when the eruption of Vesuvius took place, in A.D. 79.

The dialogue itself has two parts, the logos or argument, and the myth (563e ff.). |175|

When the conversation opens, “Epicurus,” a who had inveighed against divine providence, has just disappeared. Plutarch is left with his brother, his son-in-law, and Olympichus, all firm believers in the gods. The ensuing discussion is confined to one of the many objections raised by “Epicurus”: the late punishment of the wicked.

Plutarch’s three interlocutors present each a difficulty involved in such delay; and the logos ends with Plutarch’s reply to Bion’s objection that it is as absurd for God to punish the children for their fathers’ sins as for a physician to treat a descendant for the diseases of an ancestor.

Patrocleas finds that late punishment fails to check further crimes or to comfort the victim (548d). Olympichus adds that the delay promotes disbelief in providence and makes the punishment of no profit to the culprit. Timon is ready with a third objection, but is diverted for the moment (549d-e).

In reply Plutarch disclaims any dogmatism; he pretends to do no more than establish a probability or likelihood (549e). Four reasons are first given for God’s delay:

(1) God is our model; he is slow to punish so that we may imitate his slowness and thus escape error (550c).

(2) God allows the offender who is not incurable a certain period in which to recover; incurables he does away with at once (551c).

(3) Some offenders are capable of eventually producing great benefits. It is better that their punishment |176| should wait until the benefits have been received (552d).

(4) The manner and time of punishment should be appropriate; hence punishment is often deferred (553d).

At this point Plutarch indicates that heretofore the company has assumed that punishment is postponed; but it can be argued that punishment is actually contemporary with the crime, and consists in the anguish of the guilty soul (553f).

Timon now comes forward with the third objection: it is unjust to punish a descendant for an ancestor’s crime (556e).26

The answer falls into two parts, separated by a discussion of the survival of the soul. In the first three points are made:

(1) Many of Timon’s stories of late punishment are fabulous (557e; Plutarch as much as admits that this answer is made merely to gain time).

(2) Timon approves the rewarding of descendants for services rendered by their ancestors; he must also approve the punishment of descendants for their ancestors’ crimes (557f).

(3) A city counts as an individual, and has the same sort of continuity; it is right, then, that it should suffer for its past misdeeds (558f). What holds for a city holds for a family as well (559c).

Olympichus interrupts to point out that Plutarchassumes the survival of the soul (560a). Plutarch justifies the assumption, and says that punishments |177| are inflicted after death through the medium of descendants for two reasons: that the living may see them and be deterred, and because such punishment is especially ignominious and painful (561a).

Bion had said that God was more ridiculous in punishing a descendant for the crimes of an ancestor than a physician who treats a descendant for an ancestor’s disease (561c). Plutarch’s reply is that the analogy holds when the punishment is preventive, and saves a descendant from succumbing to an inherited vicious bent.

The myth now follows (563b). The “intelligent part” (τὸ XXXX) 27 of the soul of a certain Aridaeus (who is renamed Thespesius in the course of his adventure) leaves his body (563e), the rest of the soul remaining behind as an anchor (564c), and preventing it from ascending very far (566d). Four different scenes are visited: the place of emergence, where Thespesius sees the pure and impure souls, the latter showing certain colours due to the passions, and receives an explanation of the three kinds of punishment; the chasm of Lethe; the crater of dreams; and the place of punishment.28

The scene of the emergence is at the confines of the sublunary region, where the atmosphere of air gives way to one of fire or aether. Thus the souls of the dead “make a flamelike bubble as the air is displaced” (563f) and the stars appear larger and more distant from one another than when seen from the earth. Thespesius is next taken to a vast chasm (565e) extending clear through to the earth. This |178| “place of Lethe” is doubtless the earth’s shadow, ending at the upper limit of the sublunary region (cf. Moralia 591a and note). It represents the pleasures of the body which cause the soul to lose its buoyancy and sink down to another birth. A second journey, of equal length with the first, takes him to a mirage-like crater, which turns out on closer view to be a chasm in the ambient. Here he is close enough to the moon to be caught in its wash, but cannot rise high enough to behold the oracle of Apollo. Presumably, then, the crater is also at the confines of the sublunary region and of the empyrean; it is probably the shadow of the moon. Next he views the punishments of wicked souls, including that of his own father. The punishment of ancestors whose crimes have been visited on their descendants is especially noted, as is the punishment that would have awaited him if he had persisted in his covetous way of life. No journey to this scene is mentioned, nor is its situation indicated; perhaps it was thought to be in the southern hemisphere of the earth29 or of the sublunary region. The final spectacle, which doubtless makes part of this scene, is that of the souls being reshaped for birth in the forms of lower animals (567e). The Platonic doctrine of reincarnation is here assumed.30

As Thespesius is about to turn back, he is snapped |179| back to his body in a great rush of wind, opening his eyes again, like Er in Plato, at his grave.

The essay is No. 91 in the catalogue of Lamprias.

1^ In “The Ten Objections Brought Against Providence,” (GREEK XXXX) preserved in the translation of William of Moerbeke, and published in Victor Cousin, Procli Philosophi Platonici Opera Inedita… (Paris, 1864), second edition, coll. 76-145. The borrowings, confined to the eighth and ninth “objections,” were apparently first pointed out by A. Chassang in the Nouvelle Biographie générale edited by Dr. Hoefer, Paris, Didot, vol. xl, p. 509, s.v. “Plutarque.”

2^ Cf. Joseph de Maistre, Sur les délais de la justice divine … (Paris, 1858), pp. ii-iii: “Enfin je ne vois pas trop ce qu’on pourrait opposer à cet Ouvrage, parmi ceux des anciens philosophies. On trouvera sans doute çà et là, et dans Platon surtout, des traits admirables, de superbes éclairs de vérité; mais nulle part, je crois, rien d’aussisuivi, d’aussi sagement raisonné, d’aussi fini dans l’ensemble.”

3^ A. P. Peabody, Plutarch on the Delay of the Divine Justice (Boston, 1885), p. xxvi: “The most remarkable of all Plutarch’s writings, the most valuable equally in a philosophical and an ethical point of view, and the most redolent of what we almost involuntarily call Christian sentiment, is that ‘On the Delay of the Divine Justice.’”

4^ Plutarch on the Delay of the Deity in Punishing the Wicked, Revised Edition, with Notes, by Professors H. B. Hackett and W. S. Tyler, New York, 1868, p. 66, note.

5^ J. G. Berndt, Zwei Abhandlungen, 1) Axiochus. 2) Vom Verzuge der göttlichen Strafen. Stendal, 1784.
  Dialogo di Plutarco del tardo gastigo della Divinità, tradotto dall’ Ab. Sebastiano Ciampi. Florence, 1805. Plutarchus over het Verwyl der goddelyke straffe: uit het Grieksch vertaald, met aanteekeningen door C. Groen, Dordrecht, 1826.

6^ Plutarchi … de his qui tarde a Numine corripiuntur libellus. Nuremberg, 1513.

7^ Sur les délais de la justice divine dans la punition des coupables; ouvrage de Plutarque, nouvellement traduit, avec des additions et des notes … Lyons and Paris, 1816.

8^ Between Heathenism and Christianity: Being a translation of Seneca’s De Providentia, and Plutarch’s De Sera Numinis Vindicta, together with Notes, Chicago, New York, Toronto, 1899.

9^ Des délais de la justice divine par Plutarque. Traduction nouvelle, précédée d’une introduction et accompagnée de notes explicatives. Lausanne, 1935.

10^ Here and in the De Fraterno Amore the restoration of the name is due to Patzig. In our dialogue the archetype had GREEK XXXX; in the De Fraterno Amore, XXXX.

11^ Cf. Groag and Stein, Prosop. Imp. Rom. Saec. I. II. III. Pars I2 (1933), no. 1410, pp. 288 f.

12^ Cf. A. von Premerstein, “C. Julius Quadratus Bassus,” in Szb. d. bayr. Ak. Phil.-hist. Kl., no. 3 (Munich, 1934), p. 84, note 4.

13^ Cf. Groag and Stein, op. cit. no. 1409, pp. 287 f.; Groag in Pauly-Wissowa, Suppl. vi, col. 18, s.v. “Avidius” 7a; J. and L. Robert, Hellenika, vol. vi (Paris, 1948), pp. 82 f.

14^ Plutarchi Moralia, vol. iii recc. et emendd. W. R. Paton, M. Pohlenz, W. Sieveking (Leipzig, 1929), p. 221. Pohlenz accepts Brokate’s view of the chronological relation of the three essays involved: cf. K. Brokate, De Aliquot Plut. Libellis (Göttingen, 1913), pp. 17 if.

15^ Cf. G. Hein. Quaestiones Plut. (Berlin, 1916).

16^ Cf. Moralia 478b, 632a. Sosius Senecio was consul in 99: cf. Groag in Pauly-Wissowa, vol. iii A, coll. 1180 ff., s.v. “Q. Sosius Senecio.”

16^ Cf. Groag and Stein, op. cit. nos. 1407 and 1408.

17^ Cf. G. Soury, La Démonologie de Plutarque (Paris, 1942), p. 213, note 2: “Ce mot [that is, thespesios] qui signifie divin, merveilleux, s’applique bien à celui qui par une vraie faveur divine, une ‘grâce,’ a pu’ se convertir.’”

18^ Cf. Wyttenbach’s note on 564c. In quoting Republic 615e f., Justin Martyr (Coh. ad Gent. chap, xxvii, 25d), Clement (Strom. v. 14. 90), and Eusebius (Praep. Ev. xiii. 5, 669d) give the form Aridaeus.

19^ Cf. the use of GREEK XXXX in Moralia 817b.

20^ Cf. K. Ziegler in Pauly-Wissowa, vol. xxi. 1 (1951), col. 660. 3-39, who argues with Pomtow that Plutarch became priest in the middle or late nineties. It is perhaps not too fanciful to suppose that Plutarch refers at 559b to his own experience of seeing Athens after a lapse of thirty years. As he was a student there in 66/7 (Moralia 385b), we might feel justified in dating the dialogue at least thirty years later.

21^ In Moralia 398 e, Plutarch mentions the recent disasters in Cumae and Dicaearcheia” and the “bursting forth of mountain fire” as foretold long before the event in the Sibylline verses. There is no other evidence that Dicaearcheia (Pozzuoli) and Cumae were destroyed in the eruption (cf. R. Flaceliere, Plutarque Sur les Oracles de la Pythie, Paris, 1937, p. 8, note 3). Some Sibylline verses doubtless mentioned such a disaster — catastrophes were a favourite subject with prophets — and the prediction came close enough to the truth to satisfy Plutarch.

22^ It is clear from Moralia 123d that Plutarch did not accept the rumour that Titus was poisoned.

23^ In Moralia 771c, Plutarch expresses his abhorrence of Vespasian’s execution of the faithful Emponê, and says he was punished by the extinction of his line.

24^ Cf. Suetonius, Divus Titus, chap. i. A reference to Titus would be particularly apt as he had begun his career with many violent and vicious acts (cf. Suetonius, ibid. chapters vi-vii; Dio Cassius, lxvi. (3)

25^ Cf. Cherniss in Moralia xii, p. 6. The name may hint that a book of Epicurus (the Περὶ θεῶν?) has just been read aloud.

26^ Contrast the explanations of Hermias (Hermiae Alexandrini in Platonis Phaedrum Scholia, pp. 96-97, ed. Couvreur).

27^ For Plutarch’s views on the relation of the rational and emotional parts of the soul cf. Moralia 1025d-e, 1026c-d. 5

28^ Cf. Norden, P. Vergilius Maro Aeneis Buck VI3, pp. 43 f.

29^ Cf. Axiochus, 371a-b, and Cumont, “Les Enfers selon l’Axiochos” in Comptes-Rendus, Académie des Inscriptions & Belles-Lettres, 1920, pp. 272-285.

30^ Cf. Plato, Republic, 617d. It had been objected that the souls of men could not be incarnated in lower animals, as the bodies of brutes could not provide the proper organs for a human soul (cf. Aristotle, De Anima, i. 3 [407b 20-26], and Nemesius, chap, ii [pp. 119 f. Matthaei]). Plutarch meets this objection by letting artisans reshape the souls.

On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance

§1 When he had made this speech, my dear Quietus, Epicurus did not even wait for an answer, but made off on our reaching the end of the colonnade. The rest of us, pausing only long enough to exchange mute glances of astonishment at the fellow’s singularity, turned about and resumed our walk.

Patrocleas was the first to speak. “Well, what shall we do?” he asked. “Shall we drop the question, or answer the arguments of the speaker in his absence as we should have done in his presence?”

Timon replied: “Why, if he had escaped after striking us with a real shaft,1 we could not have left it sticking in us. We are told, indeed, that Brasidas plucked the spear from his body and with that very weapon struck and killed the thrower.2 It is, however, |183| no business of ours to strike back at those who have let fly at us an absurd or false argument; for us it is enough to get rid of the doctrine before it becomes lodged in us.”

“What did you find most disturbing in his speech?” I asked. “For it was with a jumble of disordered remarks, picked up here and there, that the fellow pelted providence, lashing out at it the while as if in an outburst of scurrilous fury.…”

1^ Cf. the proverbial expression GREEK XXXX (do you, having cast your weapon, think to get off scot-free?), Leutsch and Schneidewin, Paroem. Gr. i, p. 52, ii, p. 18, and Plato, Symposium, 189b.

2^ Cf. Moralia 190b and 219c.

§2 Patrocleas replied: “The delay and procrastination of the Deity in punishing the wicked appears to me the most telling argument by far, and at this moment these words of his have made me fresh and new, as it were, in my old feeling of exasperation. Yet that feeling dates from long ago, when it would chafe me to hear Euripides1 say:

Apollo lags; such is the way of Heaven.

But God should be indolent in nothing;2 least of all does it become him to be so in dealing with the wicked, who are not indolent themselves or ‘postpones of their work’3 of doing wrong; nay, their passions drive them headlong to their crimes. Furthermore, as Thucydides4 says, when ‘requital follows closest on the injury’ it at once blocks the path of those who are carried farthest by their successful facility in vice. For no debt as it falls overdue so weakens the cheated victim in his hopes and breaks |185| his spirit, and so strengthens the wrongdoer in confidence and boldness, as the debt of merited punishment;5 whereas the chastisement that at once confronts audacious acts both serves as a check to future crimes and is of greatest comfort to the injured. Hence, as I consider the argument, I am repeatedly plagued by the saying of Bias. We are told that he remarked to a certain scoundrel: ‘I do not fear that you will fail to get your deserts, but that I shall not live to see it.’ For what did the punishment of Aristocrates profit those Messenians who were already slain, when, after betraying them in the battle at the Cairn of the Boar6 and escaping detection for over twenty years (during all which time he was king of the Arcadians), he was later found out and paid the penalty — but his victims were no more? Or what comfort did those Orchomenians who had lost children, friends, and kin through the treason of Lyciscus derive from the disease that attacked him long after and spread over his body, when he was always dipping and wetting it in the river, and with an oath called down a curse that it should rot — after he had betrayed them and done the wrong?7 As for the casting out at Athens of the polluted dead and banishment of corpses beyond the borders, these were acts that not even the children’s children of the slaughtered victims lived to see.8 And so Euripides9 is absurd |187| when he would deter us from evil with thoughts like these:

Not to thy face, fear not, nor any villain’s,
Will Justice deal the fatal blow; but soft
And slow of tread, she will, in her own season,
Stalking the wicked, seize them unawares.

Why, these and none other are the very thoughts with which the wicked are likely to encourage and incite one another when they set out to do wrong — that injustice yields at once a timely and certain harvest, while punishment comes tardily and far too late to prevent the enjoyment.”

1^ Orestes 420.

2^ Cf. Plato, Laws 901e.

3^ Hesiod, Works and Days, 413.

4^ iii. 38. 1.

5^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 126. 12-16 (ed. Cousin 2).

6^ Plutarch has apparently confused the treason of Aristocrates at the “trench” (for which cf. Polybius, iv. 33. 5-6, and Pausanias, iv. 17. 2, viii. 5. 13) with the victory of Aristomenes at the Cairn of the Boar (for which cf. Pausanias, iv. 19. 3).

7^ Lyciscus and his fate are otherwise unknown; both text and translation are doubtful. Perhaps the destruction of Minyan Orchomenus in 364 B.C. is meant, for which cf. Diodorus, xv. 79. 5.

8^ Cf. Life of Solon, chap. xii. 3-4 (84 c), and Thucydides, i. 126. 12.

9^ Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Eur. 979.

§3 When Patrocleas had done Olympichus added: “But there is another absurdity, Patrocleas — and how great it is! — involved in all this procrastination and delay of the Deity: that his slowness destroys belief in providence, and the wicked, accounting the ill that does not follow close upon each separate misdeed, but comes later, ill luck, and naming it not punishment, but mischance, derive no profit: they are to be sure distressed by the consequences, but feel no regret for the act. For just as the blow or prick that at once follows a misstep or fault serves to correct a horse and put him in the right path, whereas if you belabour the animal, pull at the reins, and crack the whip later, when time has elapsed, such action, being felt to have some other purpose than that of training, torments without instructing, in like manner |189| a viciousness that at every stumble and plunge is whipped and pulled up by punishment might at last become circumspect and humble and fearful of God as one who in his government of the affairs and passions of men is no procrastinating justicer; whereas the Justice that falls upon the wicked with soft tread and slow and in her own season, as Euripides1 says, resembles the fortuitous rather than the providential in the want of certainty, of timeliness, and of order. I accordingly fail to see the good in that proverbial slow grinding of the mills of the gods,2 which obscures the fact of punishment and allows the fear of wickedness to fade.”

1^ Cf. 549b, supra.

2^ A reference to the Greek proverb “The mills of the gods are slow in grinding, but grind fine,” or in Longfellow’s version of Friedrich von Logau: “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all.”

§4 I was pondering these remarks when Timon said: “Shall I now speak in my turn and burden the argument with the crowning difficulty, or shall I first allow it to fight it out with these objections?” “Why bring on the ‘third wave,’”1 said I, “and swamp the argument further, if it proves unable to repel or escape the first charges?” “First, then, beginning as from our ancestral hearth d with the scrupulous reverence of the philosophers |191| of the Academy for the Deity, we shall disavow any pretension to speak about these matters from knowledge. For it is presumptuous enough for those untrained in music to speak about things musical, and for those of no military experience about war; but it is more presumptuous for mere human beings like ourselves to inquire into the concerns of gods and daemons, where we are like laymen seeking to follow the thought of experts by the guesswork of opinion and imputation. It cannot be that while it is hard for a layman to conjecture the reasoning of a doctor — why he used the knife later and not before, and cauterized not yesterday but today — it should be easy or safe for a mortal to say anything else about God than this: that he knows full well the right moment for healing vice, and administers punishment to each patient as a medicine, a punishment neither given in the same amount in every case nor after the same interval for all.2 For that the cure of the soul, which goes by the name of chastisement and justice,3 is the greatest of all arts,4 Pindar5 has attested with countless others, when he invokes the god who is ruler and sovereign of the world as him ‘of noblest art,’ intimating that he is artificer of justice, which has the task of determining for each evil-doer the time, the manner, and the measure of his punishment. And of this art Minos son of Zeus |193| became a student, as Plato6 says, who suggests by this that it is impossible to succeed in questions of justice or to recognize success in another if one has not studied and mastered the science. For even in the laws set up by man the reasonableness is not immediately and at all times apparent; indeed, some human ordinances appear downright absurd. Thus in Lacedaemon, as soon as they take office, the ephors make a proclamation forbidding the wearing of moustaches and enjoining men to obey the laws, that the laws may not be harsh with them;7 while the Romans on emancipating a slave touch him with a light stalk,8 and again, when they write their wills, appoint one set of persons as heirs but sell their property to another, a procedure which appears absurd.9 Most absurd of all is Solon’s law, that anyone who does not take sides and join in the quarrel when the city is rent by factions shall be disfranchised. And in general, many oddities in laws could be brought up by one who did not know the principle that guided the lawgiver and did not see the cause of each enactment. What wonder, then, when we find it so hard to account for human rules, that it should be no easy matter to tell in the case of the gods on what principle they punish some wrongdoers later and others earlier? |195|

1^ The “first wave” is the speech of Patrocleas, the “second” that of Olympichus, and the “third” the speech of Timon (556e-557e, infra). For the expression “third wave” cf. Plato, Republic, 472a; the personification of the argument is also Platonic.

2^ GREEK XXXX (“beginning with the hearth”) is a proverbial expression for beginning with first things first. Cf. Moralia 93e, 948b, 1074e, and Leutsch and Schneidewin, Paroem. Gr. i, pp. 14. 9, 385. 14, ii, pp. 62. 3, 321. 5.

3^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 128. 8-14; 127. 16-20; 132. 7-19 (ed. Cousin 2).

4^ Perhaps an allusion to Plato, Gorgias, 464 b.

5^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 127. 38-40 (ed. Cousin 2).

6^ Frag. 57 (ed. Schroeder), quoted also in Moralia 618b, 807c, 927b, and 1065e. The god is Zeus.

7^ Cf. Pseudo-Plato, Minos, 319b-e, and Plato, Laws, 624a-b; cf. also Moralia 776e.

8^ Cf. Aristotle, Frag. 539 (ed. Rose), and Plutarch, Lives of Agis and Cleomenes, chap. xxx. 3 (808d) and Comm, on Hesiod, Frag. 72 (vol. vii, p. 88 f. Bern.).

9^ The stalk is the festuca, for which cf. Gaius, Inst. iv. 16.

10^ Gaius (Inst. ii. 102 f.) explains that in one kind of Roman will the testator designated in addition to the heirs an emptor or purchaser, who by a fictitious sale received the estate as his own property (mancipio), with full authority to dispose of it according to the wishes of the deceased. The “purchaser” would therefore act as an executor, protecting the interest of the heirs, and deriving his legal authority from the “sale.”

11^ Cf. Life of Solon, chap. xx. 1 (89a-b), and Moralia 823f, 965 d.

§5 “These remarks are not a pretext for evasion, but a plea for indulgence, that the argument, as though with a haven and refuge in view, may the more boldly in its bark of plausibility keep head against the difficulty.

“Consider first that God, as Plato1 says, offers himself to all as a pattern of every excellence, thus rendering human virtue, which is in some sort an assimilation to himself,2 accessible to all who can ’follow God.’3 Indeed this was the origin of the change whereby universal nature, disordered before, became a ’cosmos ’:4 it came to resemble after a fashion and participate in the form and excellence of God.5 The same philosopher says further that nature kindled vision in us6 so that the soul, beholding the heavenly motions and wondering at the sight, should grow to accept and cherish all that moves in stateliness and order, and thus come to hate discordant and errant passions and to shun the aimless and haphazard as source of all vice and jarring error;7 for man is fitted to derive from God no greater blessing than to become settled in virtue through copying and aspiring to the beauty and the goodness that are his.

“Hence it is that he is slow and leisurely in his |197| punishment of the wicked: not that he fears for himself, that by punishing in haste, he may be involved in error or remorse, but because he would remove from us all brutishness and violence in the infliction of punishment, and would teach us not to strike out in anger at those who have caused us pain, or when in its fiercest fever and convulsion

Our rage o’erleaps our wits,8

as if we were appeasing thirst or hunger, but to imitate his mildness and delay and resort to chastisement with all due order and propriety, with Time as our counseller, who will be least likely to involve us in regret.9 For to precipitate ourselves upon troubled water and from lack of self-control to drink it, is less of an evil, as Socrates10 said, than while we are turbid and clouded in our judgement with rage and fury, before becoming settled and clear, to glut ourselves with vengeance on a being of our own kindred and race.11 For it is not true, as Thucydides12 said, that ‘when requital follows closest on the injury’ it then receives its due; it rather does so when farthest ‘removed.’ For as anger, in the words of Melanthius.13

Drives prudence from her seat, then does his worst,

so reason likewise acts with justice and moderation only after putting rage and anger out of the way.14 For this reason even human patterns and examples |199| serve to make men gentle, when they hear that on raising his staff to strike his slave, Plato long remained motionless, ‘chastening’ his anger, as he said himself,15 and that Archytas, finding the servants on his farm guilty of misconduct and insubordination, and thereupon becoming conscious that his feeling toward them was unduly passionate and savage, did no more than say on leaving: ‘It is your good fortune that I am furious with you.16 If, then, the recollection of human sayings and narration of human acts can allay the harshness and intensity of anger, it is far more likely that when we see that God, who knows no fear or regret in anything, yet reserves his penalties for the future and awaits the lapse of time, we should become cautious in such matters, and hold the gentleness and magnanimity displayed by God a part of virtue that is divine, which by punishment amends a few, while it profits and admonishes many by the delay.17

1^ Cf. Theaetetus, 176e.

2^ Republic, 613a-b, Theaetetus, 176b.

3^ The maxim “follow God” was attributed to Pythagoras (cf. Stobaeus, vol. ii, p. 29. 16 Wachsmuth); cf. also Plato, Laws, 716b, and Phaedrus, 248a.

4^ That is, “order.” Cf. Life of Dion, chap. x. 2 (962b), and Plato, Politicus, 273b.

5^ Cf. Plato, Timaeus, 29e-30a, and Plutarch, Moralia 1014b-c.

6^ Cf. Moralia 958e. Plato does not use the word “kindled” (for which cf. Timaeus Locrus, chap, xi) in describing the framing of the eyes (Timaeus, 45 b; cf. 39b); further, he assigns the framing of the eyes to the lesser gods and not to nature.

7^ Cf. Plato, Timaeus, 39b, 47a-c, and Proclus, On Providence, col. 130. 27-36 (ed. Cousin 2).

8^ Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Adespota, 390.

9^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, coll. 130. 34-131. 7 (ed. Cousin 2), and the Life of Pericles, chap, xviii. 2 (163b).

10^ The source has not been identified.

11^ All men are akin: cf. Moralia 601b, and note.

12^ iii. 38. 1; quoted 548d-e, supra.

13^ Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Melanthius, I; quoted also in Moralia 453e.

14^ Cf. Frag. On Anger (vol. vii, p. 138. 4-6 Bern.).

15^ Cf. Seneca, De Ira, iii. 12. 5. In Moralia 10d and 1108a Plato turns the slave over to Speusippus for punishment; Diogenes Laert. (iii. 38) has the same story, but substitutes Xenocrates for Speusippus. Cf. also Gnomologium Vaticanum 436 ab, ed. Sternbach (Wiener Studien, xi, 1889, p. 201), E. Zeller, Gesch. d. gr. Phil., vol. ii. I5, p. 434, note 1; Galen, De Affectuum Dignotione, v. 21, and Proclus, On Providence, col. 131. 16-20 (ed. Cousin 2).

16^ Cf. Moralia 10 d; Cicero, Tusc. Disput. iv. 36 (78), De Re P. i. 38 (59); Valerius Maximus, iv. 1, ext. 1; Lactantius, De Ira Dei, chap, xviii. 4; Iamblichus, De Vita Pythagorica, chap. xxxi. 197; St. Jerome, Ep. lxxix. 9; Proclus, On Providence, col. 131. 20-25 (ed. Cousin 2).

17^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, coll. 131, 29-132. 4 (ed. Cousin 2).

§6 “In the second place, let us reflect that chastisements proceeding from man do no more than requite pain with pain, and stop in consequence when the suffering has been returned upon the doer, but go no farther, and hence, like curs, bark at the heels of the |201| offender and set out at once in pursuit of the offence; whereas God, we must presume, distinguishes whether the passions of the sick soul to which he administers his justice will in any way yield and make room for repentance, and for those in whose nature vice is not unrelieved or intractable, he fixes a period of grace.1 For inasmuch as he knows what rich endowment of virtue the souls carry away from him when they proceed to birth, and how strong and indelible is their innate nobility — that it breaks out into vice against its nature,2 corrupted by poor nurture and evil company, but on receiving careful treatment is in some restored to its rightful condition — he does not expedite punishment for all alike, but at once removes from life and amputates what is incurable, as constant association with wickedness is certainly harmful to others, and most harmful of all to the sufferer himself;3 whereas to those whose sinfulness is likely to have sprung from ignorance of good rather than from preference of evil, he grants time for reform, but if they persist, these too he visits with condign punishment;4 for he need hardly fear they will escape.

“Consider how many changes have occurred in the characters and lives of men; this explains why the changeable part of a man’s life was termed his ‘bent’ (tropos) and again his >ethosethos)5 sinks very deep, and taking firm hold, wields power that is very great. I fancy indeed that the |203| ancients called Cecrops twy-formed6 {sic} not, as some say, because from a good king he changed into a savage and snakelike tyrant, but on the contrary because he began with devious and fearsome courses and ended by ruling with mildness and humanity. Yet if this is uncertain, we at all events have knowledge of Gelon and Hieron the Siceliots, and Peisistratus, son of Hippocrates; we know that after coming to tyrannical power by foul means, they used that power nobly,7 and after defying the laws to obtain sovereignty, turned out to be sovereigns that were mild and beneficent to their subjects. Thus Hieron and Peisistratus maintained good order everywhere, promoted husbandry, and created in the people themselves a new sobriety and industry in place of their old derisive and loquacious ways, while Gelon was furthermore a stout champion of his country, and after defeating the Carthaginians in a great battle refused their suit for peace until he had added to the treaty the provision that they should no longer sacrifice their children to Cronus.8 In Megalopolis Lydiadas ruled as tyrant, and it was in the midst of his tyrannical rule that the change in him occurred. Finding that he had no stomach for injustice, he restored their legal government to his countrymen, and while defending his native land against the enemy fell gloriously in battle.9 If someone had killed Miltiades earlier, when he was tyrant in the Chersonese, or had prosecuted and convicted |205| Cimon for incest with his sister,10 or had indicted Themistocles and driven him from Athens, as was later done to Alcibiades, for his insolent revelling in the market-place,11 should we not have lost our Marathons, our Eurymedons, and glorious Artemisium,

Where Athens’ sons laid freedom’s bright foundation?13

For great natures bring forth nothing trivial, and the vigour and enterprise in them is too keen to remain inert; nay, they drift about on heavy seas before coming to rest in their abiding and settled character.14 And so, as one ignorant of agriculture, on seeing a piece of ground overgrown with dense thickets and weeds, overrun with wild animals and water-courses, and covered with mud,15 would not find it to his liking, while to him who has learned to discriminate and judge these very circumstances reveal the vigour, depth, and looseness of the soil, so great natures put forth at first many strange and villainous shoots, and we, at once impatient of their rough and thorny quality, fancy that we should clear them away and cut them short; whereas the better judge discerns even in this their good and noble strain, and waits for them to reach the maturity that lends support to reason and virtue and the season when their nature yields her proper fruit.

1^ Cf. Philo, De Prov. ii, p. 54 (ed. Aucher), quoted by Eusebius, Praep. Ev. viii. 14. 386.

2^ Cf. Life of Pompey, chap, xxviii. 5 (633d).

3^ Cf. Plato, Laws, 862e.

4^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 131. 7-12 (ed. Cousin 2).

5^ This etymology of ethos is also found in Moralia 3a and 443c. Cf. Aristotle, Eth. Nic. ii. 1. 1 (1103 a 17 f.).

6^ Cecrops, the first king of Attica, was half man and half serpent: cf, Eusebius, Chronicon, ii, p. 24. 27 (ed. Schoene), and Apollodorus, iii. 14. 1, with Frazer’s note (in the L.C.L.).

7^ Much the same point is also made in Moralia 175a.

8^ Cf. Moralia 175a; Theophrastus quoted in the scholia on Pindar, Pythian Odes, ii. 2; Porphyry, De Abstinentia, ii. 56.

9^ Cf. Lives of Agis and Cleomenes, chap, xxviii. 4 (807d), and Life of Aratus, chap. xxx. 1-8 (1041a-d).

10^ Cf. Life of Cimon, chap. iv. 6 (480f).

11^ Cf. Athenaeus, 533d and 576c.

12^ Pindar, Frag. 77 (ed. Schroeder); cf. also Moralia 350b and note.

13^ Cf. Life of Themistocles, chap. ii. 7 (112 e); Life of Demetrius, chap. i. 7-8 (889c); Plato, Republic, 491e.

14^ The same comparison occurs in Moralia 528c-d.

§7 “Let us pass to another point. Do you not think that certain Greeks did well to copy the Egyptian law which provides that a pregnant woman under sentence of death shall be kept in prison until she has borne her child?”1

“Assuredly,” they replied.

“If a person,” I continued, “instead of having children to bring into the world, should be capable of eventually bringing forth to the light of day some hidden action or plan and of publishing it for all to see, reporting some unnoticed evil or imparting salutary advice or making some discovery of general use, is not he who waits for the benefit before punishing such a person better than he who kills him first? I for one think so,” I said.

“And so do we,” Patrocleas replied.

“And you are right,” I said. “Consider: if Dionysius had met with his deserts when his tyranny began, no Greek would now be living in Sicily, which the Carthaginians would have laid waste;2 so, too, no Greeks would now be living in Apollonia, in Anactorium, or on the peninsula of Leucas, if the punishment of Periander had not been long deferred.3 Cassander too, I think, was reprieved so that Thebes might become a city again.4 Of the mercenaries who helped to seize this temple5 the greater part, crossing over to Sicily with Timoleon6 defeated the Carthaginians and overthrew the tyrants before |209| perishing miserably in their turn. Indeed the Deity has actually made use of some of the wicked as chastisers of others — public executioners, one might say — and then blasted them; this is true, I believe, of most tyrants.7 For as the gall of the hyena8 and rennet of the seal9 — animals unclean in all else — have a certain efficacy in disease, so God has fastened on certain peoples in need of an irritant and of chastening the bitter application of a tyrant’s unyielding harshness and a ruler’s cruel anger, and has not removed the pain and distress until he has expelled the disorder and purged it away. Such a medicine was Phalaris for the Agrigentines and Marius for the Romans. To the Sicyonians the god even declared in plain terms that the city needed ‘pliers of the lash’10 when, claiming the boy Teletias as their own countryman while he was receiving the crown at the Pythian games, in their attempt to wrest him from the Cleonaeans they tore him to pieces.11 But the Sicyonians, when Orthagoras became tyrant and after him Myron and Cleisthenes, were checked in their wantonness; whereas the Cleonaeans, who were not granted such a cure, have come to nothing. You doubtless all recall the words of Homer:12

From that far baser sire a better son
In every excellence was sprung.

Yet that son of Copreus accomplished no splendid |211| or remarkable deed, while the stock of Sisyphus,13 of Autolycus,14 and of Phlegyas15 came to flower in the glories and virtues of great kings. And at Athens Pericles came of a family that lay under a curse;16 at Rome Pompey the Great was son of Strabo, whose corpse the Roman people in its hate cast out and trampled under foot.17 Where then is the absurdity, if, as a farmer does not cut away the prickly plant18 until he has culled its edible shoots, and the Libyans do not set fire to their shrub until they have gathered from it the gum ladanum, so God too does not destroy the rank and thorny root of a glorious and royal race until it has borne its proper fruit? Better for the Phocians to have lost ten thousand cows and mares of Iphitus,19 and for still more gold and silver to have vanished from Delphi, than that Odysseus and Asclepius should never have been born or those others who, sprung of a base and wicked line, turned out to be men of virtue and authors of great benefits.

1^ Cf. Diodorus, i. 77. 9-10; Aelian, Var. Hist. v. 18; Philo, De Virtutibus, 139; Clement, Strom. ii. 18. 93. 2; Quintilian, Decl. cclxxvii. For a similar provision in Roman law cf. Julius Paulus, Sent. I tit. 12. 5, and Ulpian in the Digesta Iustiniani Augusti, xlviii. 19. 3.

2^ Cf. the eighth Platonic Epistle, 353a-b.

3^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 134. 7-29 (ed. Cousin 2).

4^ Cassander restored Thebes (which had been destroyed by Alexander) in 316.

5^ The temple of Apollo at Delphi: cf. 560c, infra.

6^ Cf. Life of Timoleon, chap. xxx. 6-9 (251a-c).

7^ Cf. Philo, De Prov. quoted by Eusebius, Praep. Ev. viii. 39 (pp. 70 f. ed. Aucher).

8^ Cf. Moralia 1065b.

9^ Cf. Moralia 1029f. It was used against epilepsy: cf. Aristotle, Frag. 370 (ed. Rose), and Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. ix. 11. 3, and Frag. 175 (ed. Wimmer).

10^ Cf. Diodorus, viii. 24.

11^ The story is not found elsewhere.

12^ Iliad xv. 641f.

13^ Sisyphus, “wiliest of men” (Homer, Iliad xv. 153), was grandfather of Bellerophon (vi. 155), who in turn was grandfather of Glaucus and Sarpedon (vi. 199, 206). In later literature Sisyphus was held to have been the real father of Odysseus (cf. Moralia 301d with the note in the L.C.L. and 992e).

14^ Autolycus, who “excelled all men in thievery and perjury” (Homer, Od. xix. 394-396), was the maternal grandfather of Odysseus (xix. 395).

15^ Phlegyas burned the temple of Apollo at Delphi (cf. a scholium on Statius, Thebaid, i. 713; Servius on Aeneid, vi. 618; Eusebius, Chronicorum Canonum Liber, pp. 32 f. Schoene). He was the maternal grandfather of Asclepius.

16^ Cf. Thucydides, i. 127.

17^ Cf. Life of Pompey, chap. i. 2 (619b).

18^ Asparagus acutifolius: cf. Moralia 138d and Theophrastus, Caus. Plant. vi. 12. 9, Hist. Plant. vi. 4. 1-2.

19^ According to a scholium on Homer, Od. xii. 22, Autolycus stole the twelve mares of Iphitus with their mule foals. Plutarch identifies this Iphitus, son of Eurytus, with Iphitus the Phocian (Homer, Iliad. ii. 518, xvii. 306).

§8 “Do you not think it better that punishments should take place at a fitting time and in a fitting |213| manner rather than speedily and at once? That Callippus, for example, should have been murdered by his friends with the very dagger with which, a seeming friend, he murdered Dion,1 and that the bronze statue of Mitys the Argive, who had met his death in a factious quarrel, should in the course of a spectacle in the market-place have fallen on his slayer and killed him?2 I presume you also know, Patrocleas, the stories of Bessus the Paeonian and Ariston of Oeta, the captain of mercenaries.”

“Indeed I do not,” he replied. “But I should like to hear them.”

“Ariston,” I said, “with the tyrants’3 leave, took down the jewels of Eriphyle, which had been dedicated here,4 and carried them off as a present to his wife. His son, incensed at his mother for some reason, set fire to the house, and all who were in it perished in the conflagration.5 As for Bessus, the story goes that he killed his father and long went unsuspected. At last, when he had come to dine at a certain house, he prodded a swallow’s nest with his spear, knocked it down, and killed the nestlings. The rest naturally asked: ‘What is wrong with you, man? What is the meaning of such strange behaviour?’ To this he answered: ‘Why, haven’t they all along accused me falsely and denounced me for killing my father?’ The company was astonished |215| at these words and reported them to the king. The truth was discovered, and Bessus suffered the penalty.

1^ Cf. Life of Dion, chap, lviii. 6-7 (983d).

2^ Cf. Aristotle, Poetics, chap, ix (1452 a 7-10), and Pseudo-Aristotle, De Mir. Ausc. chap, clvi (846a 22-24).

3^ The Phocian leaders who seized and plundered Delphi in the Third Sacred War.

4^ At Delphi.

5^ Cf. Diodorus, xvi. 64. 2, and Parthenius, chap. xxv. Ariston’s wife, like Eriphylê, met death at the hands of her son.

§9 “But hitherto,” I said, “the arguments have been our own, and rest on an assumption that the punishment of the wicked is deferred; what remains to be said we must imagine we hear from Hesiod, who does not say with Plato1 that punishment is a suffering following upon injustice, but holds it to be coeval with injustice, springing up with it from the selfsame soil and root. Thus he says that

The evil plan is worst for him that planned it2


He that devises ill for other men
For his own vitals does the ill devise.3

For whereas the blister beetle4 is reported to contain, mixed within itself, its own remedy, which operates by a sort of counteraction, wickedness engenders with itself its pain and punishment, and thus pays the penalty of its wrongdoing not later, but at the very moment of commission; and whereas every criminal who goes to execution must carry his own cross on his back,5 vice frames out of itself each instrument of its own punishment, cunning artisan6 that it is of a life of wretchedness containing with |217| infamy a host of terrors, regrets, cruel passions, and never-ending anxieties. Yet some there are no wiser than little children, who see criminals in the amphitheatre, clad often in tunics of cloth of gold and purple mantles, wearing chaplets and dancing Pyrrhic measures, and struck with awe and wonderment suppose them supremely happy, till the moment when before their eyes the criminals are stabbed and scourged and that gay and sumptuous apparel bursts into flame.7 For in most cases it is not suspected that the wicked, when arrayed in greatness of family and office and in positions of splendid power, are suffering punishment, until, before we know it, they are slaughtered or hurled down a precipice, and this one would not call punishment, but the end and consummation of punishment. For as Herodicus of Selymbria, who had fallen ill of phthisis, an incurable disease, and was the first to combine gymnastics with medicine, devised for himself and for others similarly afflicted, as Plato8 says, a ‘lingering death,’ so likewise those of the wicked who appear to have escaped the immediate blow, pay not after, but during, a longer period9 a penalty more lasting, not more delayed, and have not been punished on growing old, but have grown old in punishment. When I speak of a long period I mean it relatively to ourselves, as for the gods any length of human life is but nothing,10 and to put the evildoer on the rack or hang |219| him now, and not thirty years ago, is like doing it in the evening and not in the morning, especially as he is shut up in his life as in a prison-house affording no removal or escape, although it allows in the interval much feasting a and transaction of business, much conferring and receiving of favours, and indeed many pastimes, as when prisoners play at dice or draughts with the rope hanging overhead.

1^ Laws, 728c; cf. Plutarch, Comm. on Hesiod, 25 (vol. vii, p. 63. 14 f. Bern.).

2^ Hesiod, Works and Days, 266; quoted also in Moralia 36a.

3^ Instead of Works and Days, 265, Plutarch by a slip of memory quotes a similar verse found in Lucillius (Anth. Pal. xi. 183. 5); cf. Callimachus, Aetia, i, frag. 2. 5 (ed. Pfeiffer, Oxford, 1949).

4^ Cantharis vesicatoria, L. The beetle, used as a medicament, was poisonous when taken internally. Cf. Moralia 22a-b and Galen, De Simpl. Med. Temp, ac Fac. iii. 23 (vol. xi, p. 609 Kuhn).

5^ Cf. John xix. 17 and Artemidorus, On the Interpretation of Dreams i ii. 56.

6^ Cf. Moralia 498c-d.

7^ The apparel is the tunica molesta: cf. L. Friedlaender, Darstellungen aus der Sittengeschichte Roms. 9 (Leipzig, 1920), ii, p. 91. b Republic, 406a-b.

8^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 130. 8-10 (ed. Cousin 2).

9^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 135. 10-19 (ed. Cousin 2).

10^ Cf. Plato, Phaedo, 116e.

§10 “And yet what is to keep us from denying that even prisoners under sentence of death are punished until their necks are severed, or that one who has drunk the hemlock and is walking about, waiting for his legs to become heavy,1 is punished until he is overtaken by the chill and rigor that immediately precede the loss of all sensation, if we account as punishment only the final moment of punishment and ignore the intervening sufferings, terrors, forebodings, and pangs of remorse to which every wicked man, once he has done evil, is prey, as if we denied that a fish which has swallowed the hook is caught until we see it set to broil or cut in pieces by the cook? For every man, on doing wrong, is held fast in the toils of justice; he has snapped up in an instant the sweetness of his iniquity, like a bait,2 but with the barbs of conscience embedded in his vitals and paying for his crime,

He, like a stricken tunny, churns the sea.3

For the proverbial aggressiveness and boldness of |221| vice is strong and ready to hand until the evil deed is done, but thereafter, as the gale of passion dies away, it falls a weak and abject prey to terrors and superstitions; so that Stesichorus a is modelling the dream of Clytemnestra on life and reality when he speaks in this sort:

She thought a serpent came to her, its head
Smeared on the crown with blood; when lo! it changed
Into the royal Pleisthenid.4

For visions in dreams, apparitions by day,5 oracles, the fall of thunderbolts, and all else that gets ascribed to the agency of God bring agonies of terror to those in this state. Thus Apollodorus,6 it is said, in a dream once saw himself flayed and then boiled by Scythians, when his heart spoke from the cauldron in muffled tones and said: ‘It was I that brought you to this’; and another time saw his daughters run about him with bodies glowing like coals and all aflame. And Hipparchus, son of Peisistratus, is said shortly before his death to have seen Aphrodite dashing blood into his face from a cup.7 When the friends of Ptolemy |223| Ceraunus were called to his presence, they beheld him suffering from the delusion that he was being called to judgement himself a by Seleucus before a tribunal of vultures and wolves, and was serving his enemies great portions of meat.8 When Pausanias was at Byzantium, he had in his insolent lust sent for Cleonice, a maiden of free birth, intending to keep her for the night. As she drew near, he was seized by some wild suspicion and killed her. Thereafter he often saw her in his dreams, saying to him:

Come meet thy doom; by pride are men undone.

As the apparition did not cease, he sailed (we hear) to the Passage of the Dead at Heracleia and with certain propitiatory rites and libations evoked the maiden’s ghost; it appeared to him and said that his troubles would be over when he went to Lacedaemon. On going there he presently died.9

1^ Cf. Plato, Phaedo, 117e.

2^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 135. 29-33 (ed. Cousin 2).

3^ Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Adespota, 391; also quoted in the Life of Lucullus, chap. i. 5 (491f).

4^ Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. iii, Stesichorus, 42.

5^ Interpreters differ whether this is Agamemnon, the husband she had murdered (so Jebb in his introduction to the Electra of Sophocles, p. xix), or Orestes, the son who avenged him (so Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry, pp. 131 f.).

6^ Of. Proclus, On Providence, col. 135. 21 f. (ed. Cousin 2).

7^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 135. 37-44 (ed. Cousin 2). Apollodorus, tyrant of Cassandreia from about 279 to 276 B.C., was a byword for ferocity. The dream of being flayed and boiled is doubtless connected with the killing and eating of Callimeles (cf. 556d infra and note), while that of the blazing daughters may be connected with the incident told in Polyaenus, vi. 7. 1.

8^ This dream is not mentioned elsewhere; it is easily interpreted.

9^ The text is corrupt and the translation conjectural. Proclus says: “And Ptolemy Ceraunus, when he summoned his friends, thought in his dreams that he was himself summoned to judgement by Seleucus.”

10^ Ptolemy Ceraunus murdered Seleucus in 280 b.c. Possibly the dream was suggested by the proverb tov (XXXX) GREEK XXXX (cf. Moralia 1087 b), in its fuller form GREEK XXXX “the hare runs for her meat,” for which see Leutsch and Schneidewin, Paroem. Or. i, pp. 108, 270, 336 f., ii, pp. 37, 121, 496. But cf. also Prov. Coisl. 324: GREEK XXXX.

11^ The story of Cleonice is told in greater detail in the Life of Cimon, chap. vi. 4-7 (482 b-d); cf. also Frag. 1 of the GREEK XXXX (vol. vii, p. 99 Bern.), Aristodemus, 8. 1 (F. Jacoby, Die Frag. d. gr. Hist., Zweiter Teil, a, p. 498. 11-20), and Pausanias, iii. 17. 8-9.

§11 “And so, if nothing exists for the soul when life is done, and death is the bourne of all reward and punishment, it is rather in its dealing with those |225| offenders who meet an early punishment and death that one would call the Divinity lax and negligent.1

“For even if one should deny any other misery in the lives and existence of the wicked, yet, surely, when their iniquity is put to the proof and found a barren and thankless thing, yielding for all their great and anxious efforts no solid or valuable return, this realization overwhelms the soul. Thus it is recorded, you will recall, that Lysimachus, compelled by thirst to surrender his person and army to the Getae, said, when he had come into their power and had his drink: ’Alas! How base am I, who for so brief a pleasure have lost so great a kingdom!’2 Yet a feeling enforced by nature3 is very hard to resist; but when it is for the sake of ill-gotten gain, or from envy of political prestige and power, or to gratify some lustful pleasure, that a man has done a lawless and dreadful deed, and then, as he loses the thirst and madness of his passion, sees at last that the shame and terror of his crime endure, but nothing useful or necessary or profitable, must it not be brought home to him again and again that, misled by vain opinion or lured on by an unworthy and thankless pleasure, he has subverted the noblest and greatest laws of mankind and poisoned his life with |227| shame and anxiety? For as Simonides4 used to jest that he found his coffer of money always full, but his coffer of thanks empty, so, when evil men see through the wickedness within them, they find it bare of plea- sure, which allures for a moment with delusive hope, but always full of terrors, sorrows, dismal memories, misgiving for the future, and mistrust of the present. Hence, as we hear Ino say in the theatres, regretting her deed:

Oh, dearest women, would that once again
Within the halls of Athamas I dwelt
As one that had done nought of what is done!5

so the thought that the soul of every wicked man revolves within itself and dwells upon is this: how it might escape from the memory of its iniquities, drive out of itself the consciousness of guilt, regain its purity, and begin life anew. For wickedness is not confident or clear-headed or constant and steadfast in its chosen course — unless, by Heaven, we are to call evildoers wise men of a sort — but wherever the frantic pursuit of wealth and pleasure, and wherever unmitigated envy, in the company of |229| ill will or malice, take up their abode, there, on closer view, you will discover superstition lurking, with shrinking from effort, cowardice in the face of death, sudden shifting of purpose, and an empty conceit of the opinion of the world that springs from swollen vanity. Such men not only fear those who censure them, but are in terror of those who applaud them, feeling that these are wronged by them in the deception, and that they are besides the bitterest enemies of evildoers because they freely praise such as appear to be good men. For the toughness of evil, like that of defective iron, is brittle, and its hardness easily shattered.6 Hence, as in the fullness of time they come to better knowledge of their condition, they fret and repine and condemn their own way of life. For if the man of little worth, when he has returned money left to his keeping or gone surety for a friend or bestowed a free gift and contribution on his native city with honour and distinction, is at once filled with regret and distressed at his act from the erratic mobility and unsteadiness of his judgement; and if certain men on receiving applause in the theatre suddenly give a sigh, as their appetite for glory subsides, leaving behind mere love of wealth; surely those who have butchered human victims, like Apollodorus,7 in conspiracies to seize tyrannical power, or who, like Glaucus,8 son of Epicydes, have withheld sums entrusted them by friends, cannot have failed to feel remorse, to hate themselves, and |231| to be distressed at what they had done. For my part, if it is not impious to say so, I hold that the perpetrators of unholy deeds need neither god nor man to punish them: their life suffices for that office, as their wickedness has wholly ruined it and plunged it into turmoil.

1^ Cf. Plato, Phaedo, 107c.

2^ Cf. Moralia 126e and 183e.

3^ For the distinction between innate and adventitious desires cf. Moralia 584e and note.

4^ Cf. Moralia 520a and Stobaeus, vol. iii, pp. 417 f. (ed. Hense): “A man once requested Simonides to compose an encomium for him, promising thanks, but offering no money. ‘I have two chests,’ the poet replied, ‘one for thanks, the other for money. When need arises I open the chest of thanks to find it empty, and only the other of any use.’” Cf. also a scholium on Aristophanes, Peace, 697, a scholium on Theocritus, xvi, Tzetzes, Chiliades, viii. 814-830, and Gnomologium Vaticanum 513, ed. Sternbach (Wiener Studien xi, 1889, p. 227).

5^ From the Ino of Euripides: Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Eur. 399.

6^ Cf. Moralia 458e.

7^ Polyaenus (vi. 7. 2) records that Apollodorus butchered a youth called Callimeles and served the flesh and blood (the last mixed in a dark wine) to his fellow-conspirators. By making them partners to the crime he secured their loyalty, and with their help became tyrant. Cf. also Diodorus, xxii. 5. 1.

8^ Cf. Herodotus, vi. 86.

§12 “But consider,” I said, “whether my speech is not exceeding the proper limits.”

“Perhaps it is,” replied Timon, “in view of all that still remains for it to answer; for I am now sending the last problem into the field, like an athlete who has been waiting to engage the winner, since your discourse has done well in its bouts with the earlier problems.1

“Euripides’2 outspoken arraignment of the gods for visiting

The sins of parents on the children

you must suppose is also endorsed by those of us who keep silence. For either the actual offenders have been made to pay, and there is no further need to punish the innocent, since even the guilty may not in justice be twice punished for the same offence, or the gods have indolently allowed the punishment of the guilty to lapse, and then, at a late date, exact payment from the innocent, in which case it is not well done to retrieve the tardiness of their punishment by its injustice.3 You will recall, for example, the story that Aesop came here with a sum of gold |233| from Croesus, intending to offer a splendid sacrifice to the god and distribute four minas apiece to every Delphian; but falling into an angry dispute (the story goes) with the inhabitants of this place, he performed the sacrifice but sent the money back to Sardis, considering the people unworthy of the bounty. They thereupon trumped up a charge of temple robbery and put him to death, casting him down from the cliff over there called Hyampeia.4 The angry Godhead then visited them, it is said, with failure of crops and all manner of strange diseases, so that they went from one public festival of the Greeks to another and kept inviting by proclamation anyone who so wished to come and receive atonement at their hands for the wrong they had done Aesop. In the third generation Idmon5 of Samos came, no kinsman of Aesop, but a descendant of his purchasers at Samos; and on making him certain amends, the Delphians were delivered from their troubles. It is said that in consequence the place of execution for sacrilege was transferred from Hyampeia to Aulia.6 Again, not even the greatest admirers of Alexander, among whom I count myself, approve his wiping out the city of Branchidae and |235| his general massacre of young and old because their great-grandfathers had betrayed the temple near Miletus.7 Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse, even turned the notion into a derisive taunt in his reply to the Corcyreans, who asked why he ravaged their island: ‘because, by Zeus, your forebears harboured Odysseus.’8 And when the Ithacans made a similar complaint, saying that his troops were taking their sheep, he answered: ‘When your king came to my country he blinded the shepherd9 to boot.’ Is not Apollo still more absurd than these if he ruins the Pheneates of the present day, obstructing their underground channel and putting their whole territory under water,10 because Heracles is said to have pulled up the tripod of prophecy and made off with it to Pheneus a thousand years ago?11 And again, in telling the Sybarites that their troubles will be over when they have appeased the wrath of Leucadian |237| Hera by being thrice destroyed?12 Again, it is not long since the Locrians gave up sending their maidens to Troy

Who cloakless, bare of foot, like slaves, at dawn
Swept clean the space about Athena’s altar
With head uncovered, even in weary age13

all for the wantonness of Ajax.14 Where is the logic or justice of this? Nor yet do we commend the Thracians for tattooing their own wives to this day in revenge for Orpheus,15 nor the barbarians on the Po for wearing black in mourning for Phaethon, as the story goes;16 and the absurdity, I think, would be all the greater if at the time of Phaethon’s death men had neglected any observance, while those born five or ten generations after the disaster had introduced this change of attire in his honour and gone into mourning. In this, however, there is mere folly, nothing grave or irreparable; but for what reason should the wrath of the gods at first sink out of sight, like certain rivers, only to resurge later against17 others, leading in the end to the direst calamities?”

1^ Cf. 549e, supra.

2^ Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Eur. 980.

3^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 136. 8-22 (ed. Cousin 2).

4^ Cf. Herodotus, ii. 134, and a scholium on Aristophanes, Wasps, 1446: “(Aesop) is said to have come to Delphi and derided the inhabitants for having no land to cultivate for their livelihood but living off the sacrifices offered to the god. The Delphians were angered at this and secretly placed a sacred cup among Aesop’s effects. Aesop, unaware of this, set out on the road to Phocis. But the Delphians ran after, discovered the cup, and charged him with sacrilege.” Cf. also Plutarch, Moralia 401a.

5^ Cf. Herodotus, ii. 134.

6^ The name is uncertain, and the place not elsewhere mentioned.

7^ Cf. Quintus Curtius, vii. 5. 28, and Suidas, s.v. GREEK XXXX (Aelian, Frag. 54 Hercher): “The men of Dindyma in the territory of Miletus, to gratify Xerxes, betrayed the temple of the local Apollo to the barbarians, and the dedications, which were extremely numerous, were pillaged. The traitors, fearing the vengeance of the laws and of the Milesians, begged Xerxes to reward that detestable treason by removing them to some place in Asia. He consented, and in return for his wicked and impious plunder, allowed them to dwell in a place from which they would no longer be able to set foot in Greece, and where they and their progeny would be relieved of the fear that possessed them. Having thus obtained the land under by no means happy auspices, they raised a city, gave it the name Branchidae, and fancied themselves secure not only from the Milesians but from Justice herself. But the providence of God did not sleep; for when Alexander had defeated Darius and taken possession of the Persian empire, he heard of their evil deed. In his abhorrence for their posterity he slew them all, judging that of the wicked the offspring are wicked, and razed the falsely named city, and its people vanished from the earth.”

8^ Cf. Moralia 176f.

9^ The shepherd was the Cyclops Polyphemus: cf. Homer, Od. ix. 375 ff.

10^ The territory of Pheneüs was surrounded by an unbroken chain of mountains and drained by underground passages said to have been dug by Heracles. When these were obstructed a lake was formed. Cf. Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. iii. 1. 2, v. 4. 6, and Pausanias, viii. 14, with Frazer’s notes.

11^ For Heracles and the tripod cf. Moralia 387d, 413a; Cicero, De Natura Deorum, iii. 16 (42); Hyginus, Fab. xxxii; Apollodorus, ii. 6. 2, with Frazer’s note in the L.C.L.; Pausanias, iii. 21. 8, x, 13. 7.

12^ The oracle is otherwise unknown, and whether the third destruction refers to that of 448 or to some later date is uncertain.

13^ The verses are attributed to Euphorion: cf. J. U. Powell, Collectanea Alexandrina, pp. 40 f., Euphorion, 53.

14^As the lesser Ajax had violated Cassandra, the priestess of Athena, at the sack of Troy, the Locrians were instructed by an oracle to make atonement by sending maidens to the temple for a thousand years. Cf. Lycophron, Alexandra, 1141-1173, with the scholia; Strabo, xiii. 1. 40 (600 f.); Aelian, Frag. 47 (ed. Hercher); Iamblichus, De Vita Pythagorica, chap. viii. 42; A. Wilhelm, “Die lokrische Mādcheninschrift” in Jahreshefte des oster. arch. Inst., xiv (1911), pp. 163-256; Wilamowitz, Die Ilias und Homer, pp. 383-394.

15^ Cf. Phanocles, GREEK XXXX, Frag. 1 (J. U. Powell, Collectanea Alexandrina, pp. 106-108). Incorrigible slaves were tattooed on the forehead.

16^ Cf. Polybius, ii. 16. 13.

17^ Plutarch plays on the double sense of XXXX anapheromai, which can mean “come up from underground” or “be brought into relation with.”

§13 At his first pause, fearing that he would bring up a new and longer series of still more formidable absurdities, I at once put a question to him: “Well, |239| well”; I said, “so you take all those stories to be true?”

“Even if not all, but only some, are true,” he replied, “do you not think the difficulty for your argument is the same?”

“Perhaps,” said I, “the case is like that of persons with a raging fever, who feel much the same heat, whether they are wrapped in one cloak or in many, and yet are relieved when the additional cloaks are removed. But if you would rather not insist, then let it pass — though most of your stories look very much like fables and fictions — and recollect instead how impressive and pleasing you found the proceeding at the recent festival of the Theoxenia when that noble portion of the sacrifice was set aside and presented by public proclamation to the descendants of Pindar.”

“Who could fail to be delighted and charmed,” he said, “with honour thus shown, so Greek in its old-fashioned simplicity, save one whose

Black heart was forged with frozen flame

in Pindar’s1 own words?”

“In that case,” I replied, “I pass over a similar proclamation at Sparta, ‘after the singer from Lesbos’2 made in honour and commemoration of Terpander of old; for the point is the same. This, however, I will say: you and your family, I take it, feel entitled to greater consideration than others in Boeotia |241| as descendants of Opheltas, and again in Phocis from your connexion with Daiphantus;3 you moreover lent me your presence and support the other day when I helped the Lycormae and Satilaei to recover the hereditary honour of the Heracleidae, the right of wearing a crown. I said at the time that the posterity of Heracles should particularly be maintained in possession of the honours and rewards he had earned by his services to the Greeks, for which he had received no adequate thanks or compensation himself.”

“You call to my mind a noble debate,” he said, “and one well worthy of philosophy.”

“Then lay aside, my friend,” said I, “this hotness of denunciation, and do not take it ill that some who come of a bad or wicked line are punished, or else you must withhold your delight and approval when noble birth is honoured. For if we preserve in the descendants our gratitude for virtue, we must in reason expect that neither should the punishment of crime flag or falter in its course, but that it should keep pace with gratitude, matching it in requiting men as they deserve. He that delights to see the descendants of Cimon honoured at Athens, but is displeased and offended at the expulsion of the descendants of Lachares4 or Aristion,5 is much too |243| lax and indulgent, or rather he is downright captious and quarrelsome with heaven, reproaching it if the children’s children of an unjust and wicked man appear to prosper, reproaching it again if the progeny of the base is thwarted and wiped out, and finding God alike at fault whether it goes hard with the children of a good or of an evil father.

1^ Frag. 123 (ed. Schroeder), or Sandys, p. 584 (in the L.C.L.).

2^ Cf. Aristotle, Frag. 545 (ed. Rose): “And Aristotle says in the Constitution of the Lacedaemonians that the expression’ after the singer from Lesbos’ refers to Terpander. It was in honour of Terpander (he says) that in later times his descendants were first invited to perform, while next came any other man of Lesbos who chanced to be present, and finally the rest ‘after the singer from Lesbos,’ that is, after men from Lesbos in general.”

3^ For Opheltas cf. Life of Cimon, chap. i. 1 (478e); for Daiphantus, of whom Plutarch composed a Life, now lost, cf. Moralia 244b and 1099e. If Timon was Plutarch’s brother-german, we have here an account of Plutarch’s own descent.

4^ Lachares became tyrant of Athens and allied himself with Cassander. He escaped from the city shortly before its capture by Demetrius in 294.

5^ Aristion became tyrant of Athens in 88 B.C.

§14 “These remarks,” I said, “you are to view as a sort of barricade to hold off those excessively bitter and denunciatory critics. Let us now take up again the beginning of a clue, as it were, in the argument about God, obscure as it is and abounding in intricacy and error, and pick our way cautiously and calmly to a probable and credible issue, since not even in what we human beings do ourselves can we safely speak of certainty and truth. Why, for example, do we tell children whose parents have died of phthisis or the dropsy to sit with their feet in water until the corpse is consumed, the disease (it is thought) being thus kept from passing over or coming near them? Or again, when a goat takes the sea-holly1 in its mouth, what makes the whole herd stand by until the goatherd comes and removes it? And there are other forces, with a capacity for contagion and transmission incredible in its rapidity and the great intervals covered, that reach one object by passing through another. We, however, are amazed at the intervals |245| in time, not those in space. And yet it is more amazing that a disease which had its origin in Ethiopia should have raged at Athens, killed Pericles, and attacked Thucydides,2 than that justice, after the crimes of the Delphians and Sybarites, should have found her way to their children. For forces have a way of reverting from their farthest points to their origins and effecting a connexion; and although the cause of this may be unknown to us, it silently achieves its proper effect.

1^ For this story cf. Moralia 700d, 776f; Aristotle, Hist. Animal, ix. 3 (610 b 29); Theophrastus, Frag. 174 (ed. Wimmer); Pliny, N.H. viii. 203 f.; Antigonus, Hist. Mir. chap, cvii (115); and a scholium on Nicander, Theriaca, 645.

2^ Cf. Thucydides, ii. 48. 3.

§15 “Nevertheless, the visitations of entire cities by divine wrath are readily justified. 1 A city, like a living thing, is a united and continuous whole. This does not cease to be itself as it changes in growing older, nor does it become one thing after another with the lapse of time, but is always at one with its former self in feeling and identity, and must take all blame or credit for what it does or has done in its public character, so long as the association that creates it and binds it together with interwoven strands preserves it as a unity. To create a multiplicity, or rather an infinity, of cities by chronological distinctions is like creating many men out of one because the man is now old, but was in his prime before, and yet earlier was a lad. Or rather this procedure altogether resembles the passage of Epicharmus2 that gave rise to the sophists’ fallacy of the ‘grower’: the man who received the loan in the |247| past is no debtor now, having become a different person, and he who was yesterday invited to dinner comes an unbidden guest today, since he is now another man.

“Yet growing older brings about greater alterations in each of us severally than in a city collectively. For one would recognize Athens on seeing it after a lapse of thirty years, and the present traits and moods of its people, their amusements and graver concerns, their displays of partiality and anger, are very similar to those of long ago.3 But with a man, a kinsman or friend who should meet him after any length of time would find it hard to recognize his appearance, whereas the shifts in his character, responding lightly to every sort of argument, difficulty, passion, and law, are so strange and novel as to astound even a constant companion. Yet a man is called one and the same from birth to death; and we deem it only proper that a city, in like manner retaining its identity, should be involved in the disgraces of its forbears by the same title as it inherits their glory and power; else we shall find that we have unawares cast the whole of existence into the river of Heracleitus,4 into which he asserts no man can step twice, as nature in its changes shifts and alters everything.

1^ On the topic of this chapter cf. De E Apud Delphos, chap. 18. Proclus (On Providence, col. 136. 31-35 Cousin 2) summarizes the argument of this chapter and the next.

2^ Frag. 170 (ed. Kaibel), translated by Hicks in Diogenes Laert. iii. 11 (in the L.C.L.); cf. Moralia 473d, 1083a, Life of Theseus, chap, xxiii. 1 (10b-c).

3^ Cf. Life of Aristeides, chap, xxvii. 7 (335e).

4^ Diels and Kranz, Frag, der Vorsokratiker9 i, p. 171, Heracleitus, b 91, or Frag. 91 (ed. Bywater); cf also Moralia 392b and 912a.

§16 “If a city is a single and continuous whole, surely a family is so too, attached as it is to a single origin which reproduces in the members a certain force and common quality pervading them all; and |249| what has been begotten is not severed from the begetter, as if it were some product of his art;1 it has been created out of him, not by him, and thus not only contains within itself a portion of what is his, but receives a portion of his due when rightly punished or honoured.2 If you would not take it for a joke, I would say that a statue of Cassander was more unjustly treated when the Athenians hammered it into scrap,3 and the body of Dionysius, when after his death the Syracusans cast it beyond their borders,4 than were their descendants when they paid the price. For in the statue there is nothing of Cassander’s nature, and the corpse of Dionysius has been deserted by his soul, whereas in Nysaeus and Apollocrates,5 in Antipater and Philip,6 and similarly in the other children of the wicked, the father’s principal part is inherent and innate, not quiescent or inert, but by it they live, thrive, are governed, and think; and there is nothing shocking or absurd that they, who are their fathers’ children, receive their fathers’ due.

“To put it generally, as in medicine what is helpful is also just, and he is ridiculous who calls it unjust || to cauterize the thumb of a patient whose hip is diseased,” to scarify the epigastric region for a suppurating liver,7 and when cattle get soft hooves, to anoint the tip of the horns,8 so too, whoever thinks that in punishments there is any other justice than to heal the vice, and is shocked when some persons are used as intermediaries in treating others, as when ophthalmia9 is relieved by opening a vein, appears to see no farther than the reach of sense, and not to remember that a schoolmaster who strikes one boy admonishes others, that a general who executes one man in ten1 inspires his whole army with respect, and that in this way certain dispositions, afflictions, and corrections are transmitted not only to one part through another, but also to one soul through another, and indeed more readily than to the body through the body. For when the transmission is through the body, the same affection and change, it appears, must take place in both parts; whereas the nature of the soul is such that it is guided by imagination to feel assurance or terror, and thus fare better or worse.”

1^ Cf. Moralia 1001c.

2^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 137. 32-39 (ed. Cousin 2).

3^ Not mentioned elsewhere; it doubtless occurred when Demetrius took Athens in 307.

4^ Cf. Life of Timoleon, chap. xxii. 2 (246f).

5^ Athenaeus (435e-f) calls these the sons of the elder Dionysius. Nysaeus was banished after a short reign; the fate of Apollocrates is unknown. As Apollocrates was the name of the eldest son of the younger Dionysius, it has been thought that Athenaeus is mistaken in assigning to the elder Dionysius a son of that name. If so, Plutarch appears to share the error.

6^ The sons of Cassander. Philip died of consumption after a few months’ reign; Antipater was murdered.

7^ For what follows cf. Proclus, On Providence, col. 138. 7-15 (ed. Cousin 2).

8^ Cf. Caelius Aurelianus, Morb. Chron. v. 1. 21.

9^ Cf. Caelius Aurelianus, Morb. Chron. iii. 4. 57, 66, and Paul of Aegina, vi. 47.

10^ Cf. Aristotle, Hist. Animal, viii. 7 and 23 (595b 13-15, 604a 14-17); Cato, De Agri Cultura, lxxii; Pliny, N.H. xxviii. 266; Columella, vi. 15. 2; Geoponica, xvii. 9. It is conjectured that the word “horn” originally meant “hoof.”

11^ Cf. Hippocrates, Epidem. ii. 6. 12; Galen, De Cur. Rat. per Venae Sect. chap, xvii (vol. xi, pp. 299-301 Kühn).

12^ This is the Roman punishment of decimation: cf. Livy, ii. 59; Suetonius, Augustus, 24.

§17 I was still speaking when Olympichus broke in: “You appear,” he said, “to rest your case on a very considerable assumption: the survival of the soul.”1

“I do,” I said, “and you concede or rather have conceded it; for our discussion has proceeded from the outset on the assumption that God allots us our deserts.”

“Why, do you think,” he said, “that if the gods attend to us and mete out every particular of our lives, it follows that our souls are either altogether imperishable or survive for some time after death?”2

“It doesn’t follow, my good friend?” I asked. “Is God instead so petty and so absorbed in trifles that if we had nothing divine in us or in some sort resembling him and enduring and constant, but like leaves, as Homer3 said, withered quite away and perished after a brief space, he would make so much of us, and like the women who nurse and tend their ‘gardens of Adonis’4 in pots of earthenware, would tend souls of a day grown in a frail vessel of flesh that admits no strong root of life, only to be presently extinguished on the slightest occasion? But if you will, leave the other gods aside, and consider whether in your opinion our own god of this place, knowing that when men die their souls perish immediately, exhaled from the body like vapour or smoke, nevertheless prescribes many appeasements of the dead and demands for them great honours and consideration, deluding and cheating those who put faith in |255| him. For my part, I will never give up the survival of the soul until some second Heracles makes off with the tripod of the Pythia and abolishes and destroys the oracle; but so long as many responses are delivered even in our day of the kind that the Naxian Corax

5^ is said to have received, it would be impious to pass sentence of death upon the soul.”

“What response was given?” Patrocleas inquired. “And what manner of creature was this corax?’6 I know neither the story nor what is meant by the word.”

“Not so,” said I; “the fault is mine for using a sobriquet instead of the name. The slayer of Archilochus in the battle was called Callondes, we are told; ‘Corax’ was his nickname. At first the Pythia drove him away as one who had killed a man sacred to the Muses; but on resorting to certain prayers and entreaties, and pleading his cause, he was bidden to proceed to the dwelling of Tettix and appease the soul of Archilochus. (The place was Taenarus; Tettix the Cretan is said to have come there with a fleet and founded a city, settling at the Passage of Souls.) In like manner the Spartans were directed by an oracle to appease the soul of Pausanias; they then sent to Italy for evocators who performed a sacrifice and drew the shade away from the temple.7

1^ The wicked, if punished through their descendants, must somehow survive if the punishment is to reach them.

2^ Cf. Moralia 1107b.

3^ Iliad, vi. 146; cf. Moralia 1090b.

4^ These were pots or baskets in which wheat, barley, lettuce, and fennel were sown. When the plants sprouted, the “gardens” were taken out at the funeral of the god and cast into springs. Cf. Leutsch and Schneidewin, Paroem. Gr. i, p. 19, with the note.

5^ Cf. Life of Numa, chap. iv. 9 (62c). The fullest version of the story is in Aelian, Frag. 80 (ed. Hercher): “Not even in death do the gods forget the good. Thus Archilochus, a noble poet, if you take away his indecency and abusiveness and rub it out like a stain, was pitied by the Pythian Apollo, though killed in war, where the chance is equal. When his slayer, Calondas by name, but nicknamed Corax, came to make certain requests to the god, the Pythia refused him entrance as one polluted, and spoke the well-known words [that is, XXXX, GREEK XXXX, “The Muses’ servant hast thou slain: begone!” Cf. Galen, Protrepticus, ix. 1]. He pleaded the fortune of war, said that he had either to kill or be killed, begged the god not to regard him as an enemy if he was victim of his fate, and cursed himself for not preferring death to killing. The god took pity on him for this and bade him go to Taenarus, where Tettix is buried, and appease the soul of Telesicles’ son [that is, Archilochus] and deprecate its anger with libations. He obeyed, and was delivered from the god’s wrath.”

6^ That is, “crow.”

7^ The temple was that of Athena Chalcioecus at Sparta, where Pausanias starved to death. Cf. GREEK XXXX, Frag. 1 (vol. vii, p. 99 Bern.), and Thucydides, i. 134.

§18 “It is one and the same argument, then,” I pursued, “that establishes both the providence of God and the survival of the human soul, and it is impossible to upset the one contention and let the other stand. But if the soul survives, we must expect that its due in honour and in punishment is awarded after death rather than before; for its life is like an athlete’s contest, and only when it has fought that contest to the end does it receive its deserts.1 But the rewards and penalties (as the case may be) for its past life that the soul receives in the other world, in its separate existence, are for us, the living, as if they did not exist — they are disbelieved and escape us — whereas the rewards and penalties that reach such souls through children and descendants are rendered visible to the inhabitants of this world and thus deter and discourage many of the wicked. That no punishment, we may presume, is more shameful or galling than to see one’s progeny suffer on one’s own account, and that the soul of an impious and lawless man who should behold after death not statues or honours subverted, but children or friends |259| or his own kindred involved in terrible calamities through his own fault and paying the price, could never be induced, for all the honours rendered to Zeus,2 once more to become unjust and licentious, is shown by an account I recently heard; but I fear you would take it for a myth.3 I confine myself accordingly to probabilities.”

“By no means do so,” said Olympichus, “but let us have it too.”

As the others made the same request, I said: “First let me complete my account of the probabilities; later, if you decide, let us venture upon the myth — if myth it is.

1^ Cf. Moralia 1105c.

2^ Cf. Moralia 760b.

3^ Cf. Moralia 589f. For the contrast between logos (“account” or “argument”) and mythos (“myth”) cf. Plato, Gorgias, 523a.

§19 “Bion1 says that in punishing the children of the wicked God is more ludicrous than a physician administering medicine to a grandson or son for a grandfather’s or father’s disorder. The two procedures, it is true, are in one way dissimilar: the treatment of one person cannot arrest the disease of another, and no victim of ophthalmia or fever ever improved on seeing another treated by salve or poultice; whereas the reason for making a public spectacle of the punishment of evildoers is that the function of justice, when rightly administered, is to restrain some men by punishing others. But on the other hand Bion failed to notice where his comparison of the physician really resembles the point under discussion. It has been known to happen that a man has fallen ill of a serious but not incurable disease |261| and from weakness of will and lack of fortitude has yielded his body up to it and succumbed, while a physician, kinsman, trainer, or kindly master, understanding the situation, has taken that man’s son, who to all appearance is not ill, but merely predisposed to the same disease, and by subjecting him to a severe diet, depriving him of relishes, pastry, drink, and women, administering medicine without interruption, and keeping him busy with hard exercise, has dissipated and dispelled the tiny seed of a great disorder by not allowing it to grow to any size. Is this not indeed the advice we press upon the children of a sickly father or mother — to take care of themselves and use precaution and not be negligent, but expel from the start the incipient disease inherent in their constitution, catching it in time when it is still readily dislodged and has as yet but a precarious hold?”

“Certainly,” they said.

“Our action, then,” said I, “is not absurd, but necessary, and not ridiculous, but salutary, when we prescribe exercise and diet and medicine to the children of epileptics, of melancholiacs, and of sufferers from the gout, not because they have the disease, but to keep them from getting it; for the body born of a vitiated body deserves not punishment, but medical treatment and preventive care; and if anyone is coward and weakling enough to stigmatize such treatment as punishment, we must not let him detain us. If, then, a body that comes of a vitiated body is deserving of treatment and care, is it right to do nothing about a family resemblance in vice as |263| it germinates and shoots up in a youthful character, and to delay and hold off until, spreading far and wide, it conies to light in the passions and

Shows the malignant harvest of the soul,

as Pindar2 says?

1^ Frag. 42 (ed. Mullach); cf. Philo, De Providentia, ii. 7 (p. 49 Aucher).

2^ Frag. 211 (ed. Schroeder).

§20 “Or in this is God no wiser than Hesiod,1 who offers this exhortation and advice:

Nor yet returning from a burial,
That thing of evil omen, sow thine offspring,
But from a feast of the immortal gods

bringing men to procreation in a mood of gaiety and pleasure and cheerfulness, because their progeny receive from them not only vice or virtue, but sorrow, joy, and every kind of mood? There is another matter, however, no longer within Hesiod’s capacity, nor a task for human wisdom, but rather for God: to discriminate and distinguish between similar and dissimilar propensities before the actual passions bring them to light by involving them in great acts of wrong. For whereas the young of bears and wolves and apes reveal their congenital character from the outset, undisguised and unfalsified, man has a nature that can enter into customs and doctrines and codes of conduct and thereby often conceal its failings and imitate a virtuous course, with the result that it either wipes out and escapes altogether an inherited stain |265| of vice, or else eludes detection for a long time by enveloping itself in duplicity as in a cover, eludes detection by ourselves, I say, who stung or bitten, as it were, by the particular vicious act, come at last to be aware of the vice,2 nay rather, who believe in general that men become unjust when they commit injustice, licentious when they gratify their lust, and cowards when they run away. One might as well fancy that scorpions grow their dart when they sting, and vipers generate their venom when they strike — a foolish notion, for the various kinds of wicked men do not at the same time become wicked and show themselves wicked; rather, the thief and the tyrant possess their vice from the outset, but put their thievery and lawlessness into effect when they find the occasion and the power. But God is surely neither ignorant of the disposition and nature of each individual, as he is naturally better aware of the soul than of the body, nor does he wait for violence to show itself in the hands, impudence in the voice, and lewdness in the parts of shame before inflicting punishment. For he has not been wronged that he should retaliate upon the wrongdoer, nor suffered violence that he should be angry with the robber, nor been injured that he should hate the adulterer; when, as he often does, he punishes those of an adulterous, a rapacious, and a lawless tendency, his purpose is to cure them, removing the vice, like an epilepsy, before the seizure.3

1^ Works and Days, 735f.; cf. Moralia 158b.

2^ Cf. Proclus, On Providence, coll. 139. 34-140. 25 (ed. Cousin 2).

3^ Cf. Comm. on Hesiod, Frag. 18 (vol. vii, p. 59 Bern.); Caelius Aurelianus, Morb. Chron. i. 4. 95.

§21 “As for ourselves, we were a moment ago resentful that the wicked should be punished late and |267| with delay; we now complain that even before the wrong is done God chastens the mere state and disposition of some. This we do, little knowing that threatened evil is often worse and more to be dreaded than actual, and hidden than manifest, and unable to make out the reasons why it is better to leave some alone, even though they have done wrong, but to forestall the mere intentions of others, exactly as medicine may be unsuitable for some, though ill, but beneficial to others, who although not ill, are in a more precarious condition. Hence comes it that not all

The sins of parents on the children
The gods do visit,”

but where a good man is born of a bad, as a healthy child may come of a sickly parent, the penalty attached to the family is remitted, and he becomes, as it were, adopted out of vice; whereas if a man’s disorder reproduces the traits of a vicious ancestry, it is surely fitting that he should succeed to the punishment of that viciousness as to the debts of an estate. For Antigonus paid no penalty for Demetrius,1 nor yet, to go back farther, did Phyleus pay for Augeas2 or Nestor for Neleus3 (for the sons |269| were men of virtue, though sprung from wicked fathers), but only to those whose nature acquiesced in and espoused the family trait, did punishment, pursuing the vicious resemblance, make its way. For as the warts, birthmarks, and moles of the fathers disappear in the children to reappear later in the children of sons and daughters, and as a certain Greek woman, on bearing a black child and being charged with adultery, discovered that she was fourth in descent from a negro,4 and as among the children of Python of Thisbe, who died the other day, and was said to be akin to the Sown Men,5 there was one that reproduced on his body the tracing of a spear, the family likeness reappearing and emerging after so many ages as if from the depths of the earth, so too the first generations often conceal and submerge traits and passions of the soul, while later and in the persons of others the family nature breaks out and restores the inherited bent for vice or virtue.”

“First generations often conceal and submerge traits and passions of the soul, while later and in the persons of others the family nature breaks out and restores the inherited bent for vice or virtue.”

1^ Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Eur. 980: cf. 556e, supra.

2^ Demetrius Poliorcetes, father of Antigonus Gonatas.

3^ Cf. a scholium on Iliad xi. 700 quoted in Callimachus (ed. Pfeiffer), vol. i, p. 85: “At the command of Eurystheus Heracles cleaned the stables of Augeas, who refused the payment demanded, asserting that Heracles had acted under orders. Phyleus, son of Augeas, was made judge in the affair and decided against his father, who in his resentment drove him from the country. Heracles came with an army and plundered Elis, and sending to Dulichium for Phyleus made him king.” Cf. also Apollodorus, ii. 5. 5, 7. 2, and Pausanias, v. 3. 1.

4^ As Nestor had not joined his father and brothers in the theft of Heracles’ cattle, he was spared and given his father’s kingdom: cf. Philostratus, Heroicus, p. 696, and Socraticorum Epist. xxxviii. 6.

5^ Cf. Aristotle, Hist, Animal, vii. 6 (586 a 2-4), Gen. Animal, i. 18 (722 a 8-11), Antigonus, Hist. Mir. chap, cxii (122), Aristophanes, Hist. Animal. Epit. ii. 272, Pliny, N.H. vii. 51.

6^ The “Sown Men” claimed descent from the warriors that sprang from the earth when Cadmus sowed the dragon’s teeth. For the spear cf. Dio Chrysostom, Or. iv. 23.

§22 With this I fell silent. Olympichus smiled. “We do not applaud,” he said, “lest you imagine we are letting you off from the myth, on the ground that your argument suffices to prove your case. No; we shall pass judgement only when we have heard that further recital.”

And so I went on to say that a man of Soli — a kinsman |271| and friend of that Protogenes1 who was once with us here — had spent his early life in great dissipation, and then, soon running through his estate, had for some time practised a further villainy brought on by his straitened circumstances. Reversing his attitude toward wealth, he now courted it, acting like the libertines who when they have a wife do not keep her, but let her go, and then turn round and wrongfully solicit her favours after she has married another. Abstaining, then, from no shameful act conducive to gratification or gain, he accumulated no very considerable fortune, but in a brief space a prodigious reputation for knavery. But the greatest blow to his good name was a response conveyed to him from the oracle of Amphilochus.2 He had sent (it appears) to ask the god whether the remainder of his life would be better spent. The god answered that he would do better when he died.

In a sense this actually happened to him not long after. He had fallen from a height and struck his neck,3 and although there had been no wound, but only a concussion, he died away. On the third day, at the very time of his funeral, he revived.4 Soon recovering his strength and senses, he instituted a change in his way of life that could hardly be believed; for the Cilicians know of no one in those times more honest in his engagements, more pious toward heaven, or more grievous to his enemies and faithful to his friends; so that all who met him longed |273| to hear the reason for the difference, supposing nothing ordinary could have caused so great a reformation in character. Such indeed was the case, as appears from the story as told by himself to Protogenes and other worthy friends.

1^ Protogenes of Tarsus is mentioned in Moralia 749b.

2^ A celebrated oracle at Mallos in Cilicia: cf. Moralia 434d.

3^ The neck is the “isthmus and boundary” between the head, the abode of the divine part of the soul, and the body, the abode of its mortal part: cf. Plato, Timaeus, 69c-e.

4^ Cf. Plato, Republic, 614b.

§23 He said that when his intelligence was driven from his body, the change made him feel as a pilot1 might at first on being flung into the depths of the sea; his next impression was that he had risen somewhat2 and was breathing3 with his whole being and seeing on all sides, his soul having opened wide as if it were a single eye.4 But nothing that he saw was familiar except the stars, which appeared very great in size and at vast distances apart, sending forth a marvellously coloured radiance possessed of a certain cohesion, so that his soul, riding smoothly in the light like a ship on a calm sea, could move easily and rapidly in all directions.

Passing over most of the spectacle, he said that as the souls of those who die came up from below they made a flamelike bubble as the air was displaced,5 |275| and then, as the bubble gently burst, came forth, human in form, but slight6 in bulk, and moving with dissimilar motions. Some leapt forth with amazing lightness and darted about aloft in a straight line, while others, like spindles, revolved upon themselves and at the same time swung now downward, now upward, moving in a complex and disordered spiral that barely grew steady after a very long time.

Most of the souls indeed he failed to recognize, but seeing two or three of his acquaintance, he endeavoured to join them and speak to them. These, however, would not hear him and were not in their right mind, but in their frenzy and panic avoiding all sight and contact, they at first strayed about singly;7 later, meeting many others in the same condition, they clung to them and moved about indistinguishably in all manner of aimless motions and uttered inarticulate sounds, mingled with outcries as of lamentation and terror.8 Other souls, above, in a pure region of the ambient9 were joyful in aspect and out of friendliness often approached one another, but shunned the other, tumultuous souls, indicating their distaste, he said, by contracting into themselves, |277| but their delight and welcome by expansion and diffusion.10

1^ For the comparison of the soul or intellect to a pilot or sailor (implied here and in Moralia 586a) cf. Plato, Phaedrus, 247c, Aristotle, De Anima, ii. 1 (413a 8 f.), and Alexander, De Anima, chap. xv. 9. Cf. also Moralia 1008a.

2^ His intelligence has risen from the bottom of the air to the enclosing sphere of fire, and this appears to him a short distance. On leaving the body the soul moves upwards: cf. Cicero, Tusc. Disput. i. 17-18 (40-43).

3^ Cf. Moralia 590c.

4^ Intelligence is the eye of the soul: cf. Plato, Republic, 519b, with Shorey’s note in the L.C.L. The disembodied soul now sees without the intervention of corporeal “openings” or “windows,” for which cf. Cicero, Tusc. Disput. i. 20 (46), with Pohlenz’s note, and Lucretius, iii. 360.

5^ A film of air from the sublunary region envelops the soul — which, for the purposes of the myth, is fiery — as it rises into the empyrean.

6^ Cf. Moralia 1105d.

7^ For the isolation of impure souls after death cf. Plato, Phaedo, 108b-c, and the Pythagorean doctrine in Diogenes Laert. viii. 31. Cf. also Plutarch, Frag. Inc. 146 (vol. vii, pp. 174. 20-175. 1 Bern.).

8^Cf. Moralia 610c.

9^ In Moralia 943c good souls are said to dwell for a fixed period in the “mildest part of the air” (GREEK XXXX). Cf. also Plato, Republic, 520d.

10^ Cf. Moralia 590c.

§24 Here, he said, he recognized one soul, that of a kinsman, though not distinctly, as he was but a child when the kinsman died; but it drew near and said: “Greetings, Thespesius.”1 He was taken aback and said he was not Thespesius but Aridaeus. “You were that before,” was the reply, “but henceforth you are Thespesius. For you must further know you are not dead, but through a divine dispensation are present here in your intelligence, having left the rest of your soul, like an anchor, behind in your body. Now and hereafter know it by this token: the souls of the dead neither cast a shadow nor blink their eyes.”2 At this Thespesius, by an effort of thought, became more collected, and looking steadily, saw a certain faint and shadowy line3 floating along with him, while the rest were enveloped all around with light and translucent within, although not all to the same degree. But some were like the full moon at her clearest, shining evenly with a single smooth and unbroken hue; others were shot through with scales, as it were, or faint bruises; others quite mottled and odd in appearance, covered with black tattoo-marks, like |279| speckled vipers; and still others bore the faded traces of what looked like scratches.

1^ In Or. xxvi (i. 53 Keil) Aristeides dreams that Asclepius addresses him as Theodorus.

2^ Cf. Moralia 300c, where this belief is attributed to the Pythagoreans.

3^ It is the shadow of the “cable”: cf. 566d, infra.

§25 Thespesius’ kinsman — nothing need keep us from thus referring to a man’s soul — proceeded to explain. Adrasteia,1 he said, daughter of Necessity and Zeus, is the supreme requiter; all crimes are under her cognizance, and none of the wicked is so high or low as to escape her either by force or by stealth. There are three others, and each is warden and executioner of a different punishment: those who are punished at once in the body and through it are dealt with by swift Poine in a comparatively gentle manner that passes over many of the faults requiring purgation; those whose viciousness is harder to heal are delivered up to Dike by their daemon2 after death; while those past all healing, when rejected by Dike, are pursued by the third and fiercest of the ministers of Adrasteia, Erinys, as they stray about and scatter in flight, who makes away with them, each after a different fashion, butall piteously and cruelly, imprisoning them in the Nameless and Unseen.3

“Of the other forms of chastisement,” he said, “that visited in life by Poine resembles those in use among the barbarians; for as in Persia the cloaks and head-dresses of the sufferers are plucked and |281| scourged4 as the tearful owners beg for mercy, so punishment that operates through external possessions and the body establishes no smarting contact and does not fasten upon the viciousness itself, but is for the most part addressed to opinion and the senses. (26.) But whoever comes here from the world below unpunished and unpurged, is fastened upon5 by Dike, exposed to view and naked in his soul,6 having nothing in which to sink out of sight and hide himself and cloak his baseness, but on all sides plainly visible to all in all his shame. In this state she first shows him to his good parents and ancestors — if such they are — as one execrable and unworthy of them, while if they are wicked, he sees them punished and is seen by them; he then undergoes prolonged chastisement,7 each of his passions being removed with pains and torments that in magnitude and intensity as far transcend those that pass through the flesh as the reality would be more vivid than a dream.

“The scars and welts8 left by the different passions are more persistent in some, less so in others. Observe,” he said, “in the souls that mixture and variety of colours: one is drab brown, the stain that comes of meanness and greed; another a fiery blood-red, which comes of cruelty and savagery; where you see |283| the blue-grey, some form of incontinence in pleasure has barely been rubbed out; while if spite and envy are present they give out this livid green, as ink is ejected by the squid.9 For in the world below viciousness puts forth the colours, as the soul is altered by the passions and alters the body in turn, while here the end of purgation and punishment is reached when the passions are quite smoothed away and the soul becomes luminous in consequence and uniform in colour; but so long as the passions remain within there are relapses, attended by throbbings and a convulsive motion which in some souls is faint and soon subsides, but in others produces a vehement tension. Some of these, after repeated punishment, recover their proper state and disposition, while others are once more carried off into the bodies of living things by the violence of ignorance and the “image”10 of the love of pleasure. For one soul, from weakness of reason and neglect of contemplation, is borne down by its practical proclivity to birth, while another, needing an instrument for its licentiousness, yearns to knit its appetites to their fruition |285| and gratify them through the body, for here there is nothing but an imperfect shadow and dream of never consummated pleasure.”

1^ Cf. Plato, Phaedrus, 248c. Adrasteia means “the inescapable.”

2^ Cf. Plato, Phaedo, 107d, 113d. A religious and personified way of speaking of a man’s “lot” is to call it his “daemon.”

3^ That is, they are seen and heard of no more: cf. Moralia 1130e. Hades is etymologized “unseen.”

4^ Cf. Moralia 35e and 173 d; Pseudo-Dio, Or. xxxvii. 45; Ammianus Marcellinus, xxx. 8.

5^ Cf. Plato, Republic, 615e.

6^ Cf. Plato, Gorgias, 523d-e.

7^ In Plato, Republic, 615a-b, everyone must pay for his crime tenfold in a time ten times as long as the span of human life, which is set at a hundred years.

8^ Cf. Plato, Gorgias, 524e, and Arrian, Epict. ii. 18. 11.

9^ Cf. Moralia 978a.

10^ Eidos (“form”), in the Greek, a doubtful word. In Moralia 945a the soul is said to receive an impress from the intellect and give one to the body, at the same time enveloping it on all sides and taking on its eidos or form. The soul is thus called an eidolon (“phantom”), when, on being separated from the intellect or the body, it long retains the eidos of either.

{Section 26 is missing from the printed text.}

§27 After this explanation Thespesius was swiftly taken by the guide over what appeared an immense distance, traversing it easily and unerringly, buoyed up by the beams of the light as by wings, until he came to a great chasm extending all the way down and was deserted by the power that sustained him. The other souls too, he observed, were thus affected there, for they drew themselves in like birds and alighted and walked around the circuit of the chasm, not venturing to pass directly across. Within, it had the appearance of a Bacchic grotto1: it was gaily diversified with tender leafage and all the hues of flowers. From it was wafted a soft and gentle breeze that carried up fragrant scents, arousing wondrous pleasures and such a mood as wine induces in those who are becoming tipsy;2 for as the souls regaled themselves on the sweet odours they grew expansive and friendly with one another; and the place all about was full of bacchic revelry and laughter and the various strains of festivity and merry-making. This was the route, the guide said, that Dionysus had |287| taken in his ascent and later when he brought up Semele;3 and the region was called the place of Lethe.4 On this account, although Thespesius wished to linger, the guide would not allow it, but pulled him away by main force, informing him as he did so that the intelligent part of the soul is dissolved away and liquefied5 by pleasure, while the irrational and carnal part is fed by its flow and puts on flesh and thus induces memory of the body; and that from such memory arises a yearning and desire that draws the soul toward birth (genesis), so named as being an earthward (epi gēn) inclination (neusis)6 of the soul grown heavy with liquefaction.7

1^ For “bacchic grottoes” cf. Philodamus, Paean to Dionysus, 140 (in Powell, Collectanea Alexandrina, p. 169); Socrates of Rhodes in Athenaeus, 148b; Philostratus, Imagines, i. 14. 3, and Macrobius, Sat. i. 18. 3.

2^ Cf. Moralia 437e and Macrobius, Comm. in Som. Scip. i. 12. 17; cf. also Moralia 362a-b.

3^ Dionysus brought his mortal mother, Semele, up from Hades and made her immortal: cf. Diodorus, iv. 25. 4; Pausanias, ii. 31. 2, 37. 5; and Apollodorus, iii. 5. 3, with Frazer’s note in the L.C.L. The later Platonists regarded Dionysus, son of Semele, as the god who presided over rebirth: cf. Hermeias, In Plat. Phaedr. Schol. chap, xxiv, p. 32. 11-14, chap. lh, p. 55. 21 (ed. Couvreur); Proclus, In Tim. vol. iii, p. 421. 29 f. (ed. Diehl); Olympiodorus, In Phaed. p. 208. 1 f. (ed. Norvin).

4^ That is, “oblivion.”

5^ For the image of dissolving away cf. Plato, Republic, 411b; for liquefaction cf. Moralia 1053b-c.

6^ Cf. the fragment On the Soul, chap, ii (vol. vii, p. 22. 9 Bern.).

7^ Thus, when fire or air changes to water, it becomes liquid and heavy.

§28 Proceeding as far again, he saw in the distance what he took to be a large crater1 with streams pouring into it, one whiter than sea-foam or snow, another like the violet of the rainbow, and others of different tints, each having from afar a lustre of its own. On their approach the crater turned out to be a deep chasm in the ambient, and as the colours faded, the brightness, except for the white, disappeared. He |289| beheld three daemons seated together in the form of a triangle,2 combining the streams in certain proportions. The guide of Thespesius’ soul said that Orpheus3 had advanced thus far in his quest for the soul of his wife, and from faulty memory had published among men a false report that at Delphi there was an oracle held in common by Apollo and Night,4 — false, as Night has partnership in nothing with Apollo.” This is instead,” he pursued, “an oracle shared by Night and the Moon; it has no outlet anywhere on earth nor any single seat,5 but roves everywhere throughout mankind in dreams and visions; for this is the source from which dreams derive and disseminate the unadorned and true, commingled, as you see, with the colourful and deceptive.6

1^ Literally “mixing-bowl.”

2^ Cf. Plato, Republic, 617b.

3^ There is doubtless a polemic here against an interpretation of the Delphic oracle attributed to Orpheus. Cf. Dieterich, Nekyia 2, p. 147, who points out that an Orphic poem was called “Crater.” The mixture of truth and falsehood in the crater may have a certain polemical point.

4^ Night presided over the Delphic oracle before Themis and Apollo: cf. a scholium on Pindar, Pythian Odes (vol. ii, p. 2. 6 Drachmann).

5^ Cf. Orphicorum Fragmenta, Pars Posterior, no. 294 (ed. Kern). For the notion that an oracle in this region can have an outlet on earth cf. 566d, infra, where the light from Apollo’s tripod is said to rest on Parnassus, the seat of the Delphic oracle.

6^ The white corresponds to the truth in dreams, the varied colours to their deceptiveness; at a distance (that is, when one does not examine closely) the deceptive and many-coloured is more prominent; close at hand the white predominates. Cf. Moralia 53d and the Life of Alcibiades, chap, xxiii. 5 (203 c).

§29 “As for Apollo’s oracle,” he said, “I hardly know whether you will be able to catch sight of it; |291| for the cable1 of your soul gives no further upward play and does not grow slack, but holds taut, being made fast to the body.” At the same time he endeavoured to draw Thespesius near and show him the light that came (he said) from the tripod,2 and passing through the bosom of Themis,3 rested on Parnassus, but it was so bright that Thespesius, for all his eagerness, did not see it. But he did hear, as he passed by, a woman’s high voice foretelling in verse among other things the time (it appears) of his own death.4 The voice was the Sibyl’s, the daemon said, who sang of the future as she was carried about on the face of the moon.5 He accordingly desired to hear more, but was thrust back, as in an eddy, by the onrush of the moon, and caught but little. Among this was a prophecy about Mt. Vesuvius and the surge of flame that would pass over Dicaearcheia.6 and a fragment of verse about the emperor7 of those days:

… good, he will through sickness leave the throne.

1^ Cf. the image of the anchor (564c, supra), the shadowy line (564d, supra), and the syndesmos or “tie” of the De Genio Socratis, 591f-592b.

2^ This celestial tripod is evidently connected with the Delphic; it may symbolize the sun: cf. Cornutus, De Nat. Deorum, chap, xxxii.

3^ Themis preceded Apollo at Delphi.

4^ In such visions the seer’s own death is often foretold: cf. Moralia 592e and Homer, Od. xi. 134-137.

5^ Cf. Moralia 398c and Clement, Strom. i. 15. 70. 4.

6^ Cf. Moralia 398e; Dicaearcheia is the modern Pozzuoli. With Reiske’s conjecture the text would mean: “the impending destruction of Dicaearcheia by fire.” But there is no real evidence that the town was burnt.

7^ Titus: cf. Introduction, p. 174.

§30 They now turned to view those who were |293| suffering punishment. At first these presented only a disagreeable and piteous spectacle; but as Thespesius kept meeting friends, kinsmen, and comrades who were being punished, a thing he never would have looked for, and these lamented to him and raised a cry of wailing as they underwent fearful torments and ignominious and excruciating chastisements, and when he at last caught sight of his own father emerging from a pit, covered with brands and scars, stretching out his arms to him, and not allowed by those in charge of the punishments to keep silent, but compelled to confess1 his foul wickedness to certain guests he had poisoned for their gold, a crime detected by no one in the lower world, but here brought to light, for which he had suffered in part and was now being taken away to suffer more, Thespesius in his consternation and terror did not dare to resort to supplication or intercede for his father, but wishing to turn back and escape, saw no longer that kindly kinsman who had been his guide, but certain others of frightful aspect, who thrust him forward, giving him to understand that he was under compulsion to pass that way. He observed that while the torment of those who had been recognized in their wickedness and punished on the spot was not so harsh or so prolonged in the other world, as it now dealt only with the irrational and passionate part of the soul, those who on the contrary had cloaked themselves in the pretence and repute of virtue and passed their lives in undetected vice were surrounded |295| by a different set of officers who compelled them laboriously and painfully to turn the inward parts of their souls outward, writhing unnaturally and curving back upon themselves, as the sea-scolopendras turn themselves inside out when they have swallowed the hook;2 and some of them were skinned and laid open and shown to be ulcered and blotched, their wickedness being in their rational and sovereign part. He told of seeing other souls coiled like vipers around each other in twos and threes and yet greater number, devouring one another in rancour and bitterness for what they had endured or done in life; moreover (he said) there were lakes lying side by side, one a seething lake of gold, a second, piercing cold, of lead, and a third of rugged iron, with certain daemons in charge, who, like smiths, were using tongs to raise and lower alternately the souls of those whose wickedness was due to insatiable and overreaching avarice. Thus, when the souls had grown red hot in the gold from the blazing heat, the daemons plunged them into the lake of lead; when they had there been chilled and hardened, like hailstones, they were removed to the lake of iron. Here they turned an intense black and were altered in appearance, as their hardness caused them to become chipped and crushed; and after this they were once more taken to the gold, enduring, as he said, the most fearful agonies in the course of each change.

1^ For confession as a form of punishment cf. Norden, P. Vergilius Maro Aeneis Buch VI 3 p. 275.

2^ Cf. Moralia 977b (where Aristotle’s account of the fox-shark [Hist. Animal, ix. 37, 621a 12-16] is confused with that of the sea-scolopendra); Aristotle, Hist. Animal, ix. 37 (621a 6-9); Aelian, De Nat. Animal, vii. 35; Oppian, Halieutica, ii. 424; Dioscorides, ii. 16; Pliny, N.H. ix. 145.

§31 Most piteous of all, he said, was the suffering of the souls who thought that they were already released from their sentence,1 and then were apprehended again; these were the souls whose punishment2 had passed over to descendants or children. For whenever the soul of such a child or descendant arrived and found them, it flew at them in fury and raised a clamour against them and showed the marks of its sufferings, berating and pursuing the soul of the other, which desired to escape and hide, but could not. For they were swiftly overtaken by the tormentors and hastened back once more to serve their sentence, lamenting from foreknowledge of the penalty that awaited them. To some, he said, great clusters of the souls of descendants were attached, clinging to them like veritable swarms of bees or bats, and gibbering shrilly3 in angry memory of what they had suffered through their fault.

1^ In the Greek dikê.

2^ In the Greek poinê.

3^ Cf. Homer, Od. xxiv. 5 ff.

§32 He was viewing the final spectacle of his vision, the souls returning to a second birth, as they were forcibly bent to fit all manner of living things and altered in shape by the framers of these, who with blows from certain tools were welding and hammering together one set of members, wrenching another apart, and polishing away and quite obliterating a third, to adapt them to new characters and lives, when among them appeared the soul of Nero, already in a sorry plight and pierced with incandescent rivets.1

For his soul too the framers had made ready a form, that of Nicander’s2 viper, in which it was to live on eating its way out of its pregnant mother,3 when suddenly (he said) a great light shot through and a voice came out of the light commanding them to transfer it to a milder kind of brute and frame instead a vocal creature,4 frequenter of marshes and lakes, as he had paid the penalty for his crimes, and a piece of kindness too was owing him from the gods, since to the nation which among his subjects was noblest and most beloved of Heaven he had granted freedom.5

1^ Cf Moralia 718d and Plato, Phaedo, 83d.

2^ Nicander, Theriaca, 133 f. For the story that the young of vipers eat their way out of the womb cf. Herodotus, iii. 109; Aelian, Nat. Animal, xv. 16; Antigonus, Hist. Mir. chap, xxi; Pliny, N.H. x. 170; Hierax in Stobaeus, vol. iii, p. 428. 20-22 Hense (of the muraena).

3^ Nero had his mother murdered in A.D. 59.

4^ That is, a frog (cf. M. P. Nilsson, Gesch. d. gr. Rel. vol. ii, p. 529); Nero was a vocalist.

5^ Nero emancipated Greece in A.D. 67; cf. Life of Flamininus, chap. xii. 13 (376c).

§33 Thus much he beheld. He was about to turn back, when he was driven frantic with terror, for a woman marvellously beautiful and tall took hold of him and said: “Come hither, sirrah, the better to remember everything,” and was about to apply to him a red hot rod, such as painters use;1 but another woman interposed, and he was suddenly pulled away as by a cord2 and cast in a strong and violent gust of wind upon his body, opening his eyes again almost from his very grave.

1^ In encaustic painting: cf. the Life of Cato the Younger, chap. i. 7 (760a).

2^ Cf. 566d, supra, and note.

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Plutarch of Chaeronea
(46 A.D.–died after 119 A.D.)
A notable Greek Platonist philosopher, Plutarch was also an historian, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo. He is known primarily for his Parallel Lives, a series of biographies of illustrious Greeks and Romans, and Moralia, a collection of essays and speeches.


Plutarch. Plutarch’s Moralia, vol. 7, 523c—612b, pp. 167-605. Phillip H. De Lacy and Benedict Einarson, trans. Loeb Classical Library edition, Harvard University Press, 1959. This text is in the public domain.