Selections from


Cicero, The Republic Book 6.

Engl. Tr. C. W. Keyes, Loeb vol 11, pp. 261-283

Marcus Tullius Cicero:Jan. 3, 106 BC - Dec. 7, 43 BC.
Executed on orders of Mark Antony, whom Cicero had denounced following the death of Julius Caesar.  Although Cicero had supported Octavian,  Octavian, who later became the Emperor Augustus, consented to Cicero's execution.

 THEMES: The Night Sky a reminder of: a) Judgment after Death; b) The quest for Virtue and service to one’s Nation; c) The insignificance of earthly empire and glory; d) The Music of the Spheres: audible sometimes in earthly song



9. [ Scipio meets  King Masinissa ]  ...  

THEN I questioned him about his kingdom, while he inquired of me about our commonwealth, and we spent the whole day in an extended discussion of both.

6.9 ... Deinde ego illum de suo regno, ille me de nostra re publica percontatus est, multisque verbis ultro citroque habitis ille nobis consumptus est dies.

10. ...  When we separated to take our rest, I fell immediately into a deeper sleep than usual, as I was weary from my journey and the hour was late. The following dream came to me ...[Scipio sees the heroes in heaven, especially his grandfather, Scipio Africanus, hero of the Republic]

6.10  ... Deinde, ut cubitum discessimus, me et de via fessum, et qui ad multam noctem vigilassem, artior quam solebat somnus complexus est.  ...

 Ancestral Honor


Scipio Africanus the Younger,
      c. 185-129 BC.
Famous Roman general and hero of the Republic, who ended the Third Punic War in 147 BC with the destruction of Carthage.  In 134 he ended the Spanish rebellion with the destruction of Numantia.



[Eager Suicide Forbidden]

15. When my first transports subsided, and I regained the liberty of speech, I addressed my father thus: You best and most venerable of parents, since this, as I am informed by Africanus, is the only substantial life, why do I linger on earth, and not rather hasten to come hither where you are? That, replied he, is impossible; unless that God, whose temples is all that vast expanse you behold, shall free you from the fetters of the body, you can have no admission into this place. Mankind have received their being on this very condition, that they should labor for the preservation of that globe, which is situated, as you see, in the midst of this temple, and is called earth. (15) Atque ut ego primum fletu represso loqui posse coepi: ‘Quaeso’, inquam, ‘pater sanctissime atque optime, quoniam haec est vita, ut Africanum audio dicere, quid moror in terris? Quin huc ad vos venire propero?’ ‘Non est ita,’ inquit ille. ‘Nisi enim deus is, cuius hoc templum est omne, quod conspicis, istis te corporis custodiis liberaverit, huc tibi aditus patere non potest. Homines enim sunt hac lege generati, qui tuerentur illum globum, quem in hoc templo medium vides, quae terra dicitur,

Men are likewise endowed with a soul, which is a portion of the eternal fires, which you call stars and constellations; and which, being round, spherical bodies, animated by divine intelligence, perform their cycles and revolutions with amazing rapidity. It is your duty, there fore, my Publius, and that of all who have any veneration for the gods, to preserve this wonderful union of soul and body; nor without the express command of him who gave you a soul, should the least thought be entertained of quitting human life, lest you seem to desert the post assigned to you by God himself.

iisque animus datus est ex illis sempiternis ignibus, quae sidera et stellas vocatis, quae globosae et rotundae, divinis animatae mentibus, circulos suos orbesque conficiunt celeritate mirabili. Quare et tibi, Publi, et piis omnibus retinendus animus est in custodia corporis nec iniussu eius, a quo ille est vobis datus, ex hominum vita migrandum est, ne munus humanum assignatum a deo defugisse videamini.
16. But, Scipio, imitate your grandfather here ; imitate me, your father; love justice and duty, which are indeed strictly due to parents and kinsmen, but most of all to the fatherland. Such a life is the road to the skies, to that gathering of those who have completed their earthly lives and been relieved of the body, and who live in yonder place which you now see,  (it was the circle of light which blazed most brightly among the other fires),  and which you on earth, borrowing a Greek term, call the Milky Way [lit. circle]. 
Lowly Earth
6.16 Sed sic, Scipio, ut avus hic tuus, ut ego, qui te genui, iustitiam cole et pietatem, quae cum magna in parentibus et propinquis, tum in patria maxima est; ea vita via est in caelum et in hunc coetum eorum, qui iam vixerunt et corpore laxati illum incolunt locum, quem vides, (erat autem is splendidissimo candore inter flammas circus elucens) quem vos, ut a Graiis accepistis, orbem lacteum nuncupatis; 

When I gazed in every direction from that point, all else appeared wonderfully beautiful. There were stars which’ we never see from the earth, and they were all larger than we have ever imagined. The smallest of them was that farthest from heaven and nearest the earth which shone with a borrowed light. The starry spheres were much larger than the earth ; indeed the earth itself seemed to me so small that I was scornful of our empire, which covers only a single point, as it were, upon its surface.

ex quo omnia mihi contemplanti praeclara cetera et mirabilia videbantur. Erant autem eae stellae, quas numquam ex hoc loco vidimus, et eae magnitudines omnium, quas esse numquam suspicati sumus, ex quibus erat ea minima, quae ultima a caelo, citima <a> terris luce lucebat aliena. Stellarum autem globi terrae magnitudinem facile vincebant. Iam ipsa terra ita mihi parva visa est, ut me imperii nostri, quo quasi punctum eius attingimus, paeniteret.






17. As I gazed still more fixedly at the earth, Africanus said: “ How long will your thoughts be fixed upon the lowly earth? Do you not see what lofty regions you have entered? ‘ These are the nine circles, or rather spheres, by which the whole is joined. 6.17 Quam cum magis intuerer, Quaeso, inquit Africanus, quousque humi defixa tua mens erit? Nonne aspicis, quae in templa veneris? Novem tibi orbibus vel potius globis conexa sunt omnia,

Heaven is identified with God  =

summus Deus

One of them, the outermost, is that of Heaven; it’ contains all the rest, and is itself the supreme God, holding and embracing within itself all the other spheres; in it are fixed the eternal revolving courses of the stars. Beneath it are seven other spheres which revolve in the opposite direction to that of heaven. quorum unus est caelestis, extumus, qui reliquos omnes complectitur,  summus ipse deus arcens et continens ceteros; in quo sunt infixi illi, qui volvuntur, stellarum cursus sempiterni; cui subiecti sunt septem, qui versantur retro contrario motu atque caelum; 

       One of these globes is that light which on earth is called Saturn’s.  Next comes the star called Jupiter, which brings fortune and health to mankind. 

     Beneath it is that star, red and terrible to the dwellings of man, which you assign to Mars.

ex quibus unum globum possidet illa, quam in terris Saturniam nominant. Deinde est hominum generi prosperus et salutaris ille fulgor, qui dicitur Iovis;

tum rutilus horribilisque terris, quem Martium dicitis; 

Below it and almost midway of the distance’ is the Sun, the lord, chief, and ruler of the other lights, the mind and guiding principle of the universe, of such magnitude that he reveals and fills-all things with his light. He is accompanied by, his companions, as it were Venus and Mercury in their orbits, and in the lowest sphere revolves the Moon, set on fire by the rays of the Sun.  deinde subter mediam fere regionem sol obtinet, dux et princeps et moderator luminum reliquorum, mens mundi et temperatio, tanta magnitudine, ut cuncta sua luce lustret et compleat. Hunc ut comites consequuntur Veneris alter, alter Mercurii cursus, in infimoque orbe luna radiis solis accensa convertitur. 

But below the Moon there is nothing except what is mortal and doomed to decay, save only the souls given to the human race by the bounty of the gods, while above the Moon all things are eternal.  Infra autem iam nihil est nisi mortale et caducum praeter animos munere deorum hominum generi datos, supra lunam sunt aeterna omnia.
For the ninth and central sphere, which is the earth, is immovable and the lowest of all, and, toward it all ponderable bodies are drawn by their own natural tendency downward.” Nam ea, quae est media et nona, tellus, neque movetur et infima est, et in eam feruntur omnia nutu suo pondera.

 The Music of the Spheres






18. After recovering from the astonishment with which I viewed these wonders, I said: “ What is this loud and agreeable sound that fills my ears ?

6.18 Quae cum intuerer stupens, ut me recepi, Quid? hic, inquam, quis est, qui conplet aures meas tantus et tam dulcis sonus?

“That is produced,” he replied, “by the onward rush and motion of the spheres themselves; the intervals between them, though unequal, being exactly arranged in a fixed proportion, by an agreeable blending of high and low tones  various harmonies are produced; Hic est, inquit, ille, qui intervallis disiunctus inparibus, sed tamen pro rata parte ratione distinctis inpulsu et motu ipsorum orbium efficitur et acuta cum gravibus temperans varios aequabiliter concentus efficit;
 for such mighty motions cannot be carried on so swiftly in silence; and Nature has provided that one extreme shall produce low tones while the other gives forth high. nec enim silentio tanti motus incitari possunt, et natura fert, ut extrema ex altera parte graviter, ex altera autem acute sonent. 

Therefore this uppermost sphere of heaven, which bears the stars, as it revolves more rapidly, produces a high, shrill tone, whereas the lowest revolving sphere, that of the Moon, gives forth the lowest tone ; for the earthly sphere, the ninth, remains ever motion. less and stationary in its position in the centre of the universe. But the other eight spheres, two of which move with the same velocity, produce seven different sounds,-a  number which is the key of almost everything. Quam ob causam summus ille caeli stellifer cursus, cuius conversio est concitatior, acuto et excitato movetur sono, gravissimo autem hic lunaris atque infimus; nam terra nona inmobilis manens una sede semper haeret complexa medium mundi locum. Illi autem octo cursus, in quibus eadem vis est duorum, septem efficiunt distinctos intervallis sonos, qui numerus rerum omnium fere nodus est; 

Learned men, by imitating this harmony on stringed instruments and in song, have gained for themselves a return to this region, as others have obtained the same reward by devoting their brilliant intellects to divine pursuits during their earthly lives

quod docti homines nervis imitati atque cantibus aperuerunt sibi reditum in hunc locum, sicut alii, qui praestantibus 6.19 ingeniis in vita humana divina studia coluerunt. 

      Men’s ears, ever filled with this sound, have become deaf to it; for you have no duller sense than that of hearing. We find a -similar phenomenon where the Nile rushes down from those lofty mountains at the place called Catadupa; the people who live near by have lost their sense of hearing on account of the loudness of the sound. But this mighty music, produced by the revolution of the whole universe at the highest speed, cannot be perceived by human ears, any more than you can look straight at the Sun, your sense of sight being overpowered by its radiance.” 

Hoc sonitu oppletae aures hominum obsurduerunt; nec est ullus hebetior sensus in vobis, sicut, ubi Nilus ad illa, quae Catadupa nominantur, praecipitat ex altissimis montibus, ea gens, quae illum locum adcolit, propter magnitudinem sonitus sensu audiendi caret.. Hic vero tantus est totius mundi incitatissima conversione so nitus, ut eum aures hominum capere non possint, 6.19 sicut intueri solem adversum nequitis, eiusque radiis acies vestra sensusque vincitur. 


    Or, as Shakespeare would put it fifteen hundred years later:

... look, how the floor of heaven Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold;
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins; Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
       — The Merchant of Venice, Act V, scene I.



 While gazing at these wonders, I was repeatedly turning my eyes back to earth

Haec ego admirans referebam tamen oculos ad terram identidem.

    Insignificant Empire










19. Then Africanus resumed “ I see that you are still directing your gaze upon the habitation and abode of men. If it seems small to you, as it actually is, keep your gaze fixed upon these heavenly things, and scorn the earthly. For what fame can you gain from the speech of men, or what glory that is worth the seeking? 

6.20 Tum Africanus: Sentio, inquit, te sedem etiam nunc hominum ac domum contemplari; quae si tibi parva, ut est, ita videtur, haec caelestia semper spectato, illa humana contemnito. Tu enim quam celebritatem sermonis hominum aut quam expetendam consequi gloriam potes?



20.  . . . What inhabitants of those distant lands of the rising or setting sun, or the extreme North or  South, will ever hear your name? Leave out all these and you cannot fail to see what a narrow territory it is over which your glory is so eager to spread. And how long will even those who do talk of us now continue so to do?

6.21 Quis in reliquis orientis aut obeuntis solis ultimis aut aquilonis austrive partibus tuum nomen audiet? quibus amputatis cernis profecto quantis in angustiis vestra se gloria dilatari velit. Ipsi autem, qui de nobis loquuntur, quam loquentur diu?



23. “ Consequently, if you despair of ever returning to this place, where eminent and excellent men find their true reward, of how little value, indeed, is your fame among men, which can hardly endure for the small part of a single year? Therefore, if you will only look on high and contemplate this eternal home, and resting place, you will no longer attend to the gossip of the vulgar herd or put your trust in human rewards for your exploits. Virtue herself, by her own charms, should lead you on to true glory. Let what others say of you be their own concern; whatever it is, they will say it in any case. But all their talk is limited to those narrow regions which you look upon, nor will any man’s reputation endure very long, for what men say ‘dies with them and is blotted out with the forgetfulness of posterity.”

6.25 Quocirca si reditum in hunc locum desperaveris, in quo omnia sunt magnis et praestantibus viris, quanti tandem est ista hominum gloria, quae pertinere vix ad unius anni partem exiguam potest? Igitur alte spectare si voles atque hanc sedem et aeternam domum contueri, neque te sermonibus vulgi dedideris nec in praemiis humanis spem posueris rerum tuarum; suis te oportet inlecebris ipsa virtus trahat ad verum decus, quid de te alii loquantur, ipsi videant, sed loquentur tamen. Sermo autem omnis ille et angustiis cingitur iis regionum, quas vides, nec umquam de ullo perennis fuit et obruitur hominum interitu et oblivione posteritatis extinguitur.



26. When he had spoken thus, I said: “ If indeed a path to heaven, as it were, is open to those who have served their country well, henceforth I will redouble my efforts, spurred on by so splendid a reward; though even from my boyhood I have followed in the footsteps of my father and yourself, and have not failed to emulate your glory.” 

6.26 Quae cum dixisset, Ego vero, inquam, Africane, siquidem bene meritis de patria quasi limes ad caeli aditum patet, quamquam a pueritia vestigiis ingressus patris et tuis decori vestro non defui, nunc tamen tanto praemio exposito enitar multo vigilantius. 

  Immortal Soul and Virtue


The soul is immortal: true glory lies in the persuit and attainment of (immortal) virtue


He answered: “Strive on indeed, and be sure that it is not you that is mortal, but only your body. For that man whom your outward form reveals is not yourself; the spirit is the true self, not that physical figure which can be pointed out by the finger. Know, then, that you are a god, if a god is that which lives; feels, remembers, and foresees, and which rules, governs, and moves the body over which it is set, just as the supreme God above us rules this universe. And just as the eternal God moves the universe, which is partly mortal, so an immortal spirit moves the frail body.

Et ille: Tu vero enitere et sic habeto, non esse te mortalem, sed corpus hoc; nec enim tu is es, quem forma ista declarat, sed mens cuiusque is est quisque, non ea figura, quae digito demonstrari potest. Deum te igitur scito esse, siquidem est deus, qui viget, qui sentit, qui meminit, qui providet, qui tam regit et moderatur et movet id corpus, cui praepositus est, quam hunc mundum ille princeps deus; et ut mundum ex quadam parte mortalem ipse deus aeternus, sic fragile corpus animus sempiternus movet.



27. For that which is always in motion is eternal, but that which communicates motion to something, else, but is itself moved by another force, necessarily ceases to live when this motion ends. Therefore only that which moves itself never ceases its motion, because it never abandons itself; nay, it is the source and first cause of motion in all other things that are moved. But this first cause has itself no beginning, for everything originates from the first cause, while it can never originate from anything else;. for that would not be  a first cause which owed its origin to anything else.  And since it never had a beginning, it will never have an end. For if a first cause were destroyed, it could never be reborn from anything else, nor could it bring anything else into being; since everything must originate from a first cause. Thus it follows that motion begins with that which is moved of itself; but this  can neither be born nor die, or else all the heavens must fall and all nature perish, possessing no force from which they can receive the first impulse to motion.

6.27 Nam quod semper movetur, aeternum est; quod autem motum adfert alicui, quodque ipsum agitatur aliunde, quando finem habet motus, vivendi finem habeat necesse est. Solum igitur, quod sese movet, quia numquam deseritur a se, numquam ne moveri quidem desinit; quin etiam ceteris, quae moventur, hic fons, hoc principium est movendi. Principii autem nulla est origo; nam ex principio oriuntur omnia, ipsum autem nulla ex re alia nasci potest; nec enim esset id principium, quod gigneretur aliunde; quodsi numquam oritur, ne occidit quidem umquam. Nam principium exstinctum nec ipsum ab alio renascetur nec ex se aliud creabit, siquidem necesse est a principio oriri omnia. Ita fit, ut motus principium ex eo sit, quod ipsum a se movetur; id autem nec nasci potest nec mori; vel concidat omne caelum omnisque natura et consistat necesse est nec vim ullam nanciscatur, qua a primo inpulsa moveatur.



28. Therefore,  now that it is clear that what moves of itself is eternal, who can deny that this is the nature of spirits? For whatever is moved by an external impulse is spiritless; but whatever possesses a spirit is moved by an inner impulse of its own; for that is the peculiar nature and property of a spirit And as a spirit is the, only force that moves itself, it surely has no beginning and is immortal. Use it, therefore, in the best pursuits And the best tasks are those undertaken in defence of your native land; a spirit occupied and trained in such activities will have a swifter flight to this, its proper home and permanent abode. And this flight will be still more rapid if, while still confined in the body, it looks abroad, and, by contemplating what lies outside itself, detaches itself as much as may be from the body. 

6.28 Cum pateat igitur aeternum id esse, quod a se ipso moveatur, quis est, qui hanc naturam animis esse tributam neget? Inanimum est enim omne, quod pulsu agitatur externo; quod autem est animal, id motu cietur interiore et suo; nam haec est propria natura animi atque vis; quae si est una ex omnibus, quae sese moveat, neque nata certe est et aeterna est. 6.29Hanc tu exerce optimis in rebus! sunt autem optimae curae de salute patriae, quibus agitatus et exercitatus animus velocius in hanc sedem et domum suam pervolabit; idque ocius faciet, si iam tum, cum erit inclusus in corpore, eminebit foras et ea, quae extra erunt, contemplans quam maxime se a corpore abstrahet. 

For the spirits of those who are given over to sensual pleasures and have become their slaves, as it were, and who violate the laws of gods and men at the instigation of those desires which are subservient to pleasure - their spirits, after leaving their bodies, fly about close to the earth, and do not return to this place except after many ages of torture.” Namque eorum animi, qui se corporis voluptatibus dediderunt earumque se quasi ministros praebuerunt inpulsuque libidinum voluptatibus oboedientium deorum et hominum iura violaverunt, corporibus elapsi circum terram ipsam volutantur nec hunc in locum nisi multis exagitati saeculis revertuntur. 
He departed, and I awoke from my sleep. Ille discessit; ego somno solutus sum.





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