Sunday, August 2, 2020

Cicero's view on "ominous" births: Cicero, de Div. 2.xxviii.60

XXVIII 60 An vero illa nos terrent, si quando aliqua portentosa aut ex pecude aut ex homine nata dicuntur? Quorum omnium, ne sim longior, una ratio est. Quicquid enim oritur, qualecumque est, causam habeat a natura necesse est, ut, etiamsi praeter consuetudinem exstiterit, praeter naturam tamen non possit exsistere. Causam igitur investigato in re nova atque admirabili, si poteris; si nullam reperies, illud tamen exploratum habeto, nihil fieri potuisse sine causa, eumque terrorem, quem tibi rei novitas adtulerit, naturae ratione depellito. Ita te nec terrae fremitus nec caeli discessus nec lapideus aut sanguineus imber nec traiectio stellae nec faces visae terrebunt. 

--Cicero, de Divinatione II.xxviii.60

 Are you really frightened by “omens” of unusual animal or human births? Long story short: all of these occur for one reason, and one reason only. Anything that is born, whatever it is, is caused naturally; even if it happens to be unusual (praeter consuetudinem), it cannot occur “unnaturally” (praeter naturam). Whenever something new and rare occurs, go ahead and investigate the cause, if you can. Even if you analyze the facts and still cannot find the reason, remember that nothing can occur without reason, and put aside the kneejerk panic that the novelty of the occurrence gave you.  Once you do this, nothing will frighten you: not earthquakes, not weather patterns, not rain showers of blood or stones, not falling stars, nor will-‘o-the-wisps.

Name:  Marcus Tullius Cicero
Date:  106 BCE – 43 BCE
Works: de Amicitia
               de Divinatione*
               In Catilinam
              Pro Archiam, etc.

Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans

 Cicero was an Italian-born Roman statesman and author who lived during the complexities of Rome’s transition from Republic to monarchy. Cicero spent most of his life in service of his country, serving as both a lawyer, senator, and even consul [Roman equivalent of president]. He is known for his suppression of the failed governmental coup in 63 BCE known as the Catilinarian conspiracy that occurred during his consulship. After the rise of Octavian [later known as the first Roman emperor Augustus], his views fell out of favor and he was eventually put to death during the proscriptions under the Second Triumvirate (Octavian, Marc Antony and Lepidus). He was a prolific author with a wide range in genres, and his literary style was adopted by Petrarch as the default model for the Latin language.
Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine: after 410 CE

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