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Book Title: Saber Envelhecer e A Amizade|
The author of the book: Marcus Tullius Cicero
ISBN 13: 9788525407177
Date of issue: 1997
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 3.58 MB
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Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE)
For not only is Fortune herself blind; often, too, she makes blind men of those whom she has taken to her bosom. In the end they are virtually driven out of their minds by pride and arrogance - and nothing in creation is more unbearable than an imbecile blessed by Fortune.()
Cato Maior de Senectute (literally, something like Cato the Elder on Old Age) - usually just referred to as On Old Age - and De Amicitia (On Friendship) are two of the philosophical dialogues Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote during his final forced retirement from public life, after the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar and during the rule of the Second Triumvirate of Octavian, Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.(*) In the tradition of Plato's Socratic dialogues, Cicero places his own words into the mouth of a famous historical figure who has a very one-sided conversation with an small audience. In these late and digressive essays he takes deliberate aim at a much larger public than he did in earlier, philosophically more technical texts such as the Academica.
In On Old Age, apparently written in 44 BCE, Cicero's puppet is Cato the Elder (the Censor) - a famous figure from the Republic of over a century earlier - who addresses the young Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus (better known to history as Scipio Africanus the Younger) and Gaius Laelius Sapiens (a somewhat less famous figure who was Scipio's closest friend and would be consul in 140 BCE). With such a cast Cicero was certain that his readers would pay attention! But unlike Plato, Cicero clearly signals in a prologue that he was coming to word, not Cato.
Scipio and Laelius ask Cato how it is that old age does not seem to be a burden to him, and in response Cicero has Cato identify four charges against old age:
...the first, because it takes us away from life's activities, the second, because it diminishes physical vigor, the third, because it deprives us of almost all pleasures, and the fourth, because it is only a short distance from death.
He then argues against these points primarily by recalling eminent counterexamples, which, of course, is at best a pep talk, not an argument. For the first two charges Cicero advises a moderate lifestyle, physical exercise, displacing the emphasis from the physical to the mental and standing up for one's rights even if aged. For the third he argues, as a good Stoic, that one should count one's blessings when physical pleasures lose their attraction in old age, that
if we should prove unable to rise above pleasure through the use of philosophic reasoning, we should be very grateful to old age, which causes us to no longer want what we ought never to have wanted.
Instead, he advises mental pleasures and, in accord with the historical character of his puppet but also because Cicero's exiles on his estates had perhaps been revelatory, he waxes truly rhapsodic about the pleasures of farming.
The fourth point - the fear of death - is pooh-poohed with:
There are only two possible views: either death is the total extinction of ourselves, in which case it is of no importance whatever [this is the position taken by Lucretius in De Rerum Natura], or it conducts us to a place where we shall live forever, in which case it is something to be desired. (**)
Then he gets to the point - death is faced by us all, not just by the old.
Still you say, the young man has the hope of long life - a hope which the old cannot have. That hope is sheer wishful thinking...But the old man has nothing to look forward to at all. Even so, he is in better sort than the young, for he has obtained what the young only hope for: the young want to live a long life; the old have lived it.
Cicero closes with a series of arguments in support of the notion that each of us has an immortal soul and eloquently welcomes the opportunity, after a long and full life, to rejoin or meet for the first time the souls of the Great and the Good after death.
In De Amicitia, written shortly after On Old Age and explicitly referring to it, the puppet is an older Gaius Laelius shortly after the death of his bosom friend Scipio, and he is addressing his sons-in-law, Gaius Fannius Strabo and Quintus Mucius Scaevola, who have asked him how he is taking the death of his friend and then how he would define the principles of friendship.
Curiously enough, directly after appealing to the popular mind by dismissing the highly idealized notions of wisdom and goodness in the Stoic tradition (where they are goals to be approached asymptotically, at best) as "productive of nothing but ill-will and misunderstanding," Cicero has Laelius paint an equally idealized picture of friendship in which
nature has established social contact between countless numbers of men; yet friendship is so concentrated and restricted a thing that all the true affection in the world is shared by no more than a handful of individuals.
After again scoffing at the distance between the mentioned Stoic ideals and ordinary life, he then writes:
And I am not now speaking of the friendships of everyday folk, or of ordinary people - although even these are a source of pleasure and profit - but of true and perfect friendship, the kind that was possessed by those few friends who have gained names for themselves as friends. (!)
Cicero continues his panegyric of perfect friendship and then looks closely at some aspects of the ethics of friendship. But as this review is already lengthy, let me close with two observations.
As evidenced multiple times even in these essays having apparently nothing to do with the subject, Cicero was completely in favor of Rome's imperialist project, and, in a manner familiar from much more recent history, derides Hannibal as "bloodthirsty" but praises the Romans responsible for massacres in southern Italy, Greece and Carthage.(***)
Second, I am struck in these texts once again by the high value placed on social esteem in the Greco-Roman world by even its leading lights; one could even say particularly by its leading lights. Despite all the talk of wisdom, virtue and goodness, Cicero's powerful desire for the acclaim of the people and the admiring recognition of the great and mighty surfaces again and again in these essays. Has anyone examined the relative roles of lust for power, greed and desire for social esteem in the lives and careers of public figures through history?
() Donald, please take note.
(*) Which ended for Cicero - due to the enmity of Mark Antony - when his head and hands were removed from his body (according to Plutarch, at least this was done after he was slain by the soldiers sent to eliminate him) and nailed to the rostrum in the Roman Forum. Perhaps it was karmatic payback for the people he had executed without trial (but on the order of the Roman Senate) during his consulship because of their supposed involvement in the Cataline conspiracy.
(**) Cicero had not been exposed to the bizarre nightmare that is the Christian Hell.
(***) Ah, the ever relevant King James version:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
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Read information about the authorMarcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. Cicero is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.
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