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CICERO'S VISION OF SCIPIO.
Translated by Cyrus R. Edmonds.
When I had arrived in Africa as happens that our thoughts and convermilitary tribune of the fourth legion, sations beget something analogous in as you know, under the Consul Lucius our sleep, just as Ennius writes about Manlius, nothing was more delightful Homer, of whom assuredly he was acto me than having an interview with customed most frequently to think and Massinissa, a prince who, for good rea- talk when awake,) Africanus presented sons, was most friendly to our family. himself to me in that form which was When I arrived, the old man shed tears more known from his statue than from as he embraced me. Soon after, he his own person. raised his eyes up to heaven and said, No sooner did I know him than I I thank thee, most glorious sun, and ye shuddered. “Draw near,” said he, the other inhabitants of heaven, that “with confidence, lay aside your dread, before I depart from this life I see in and commit what I say to your memory. my kingdom, and under this roof, Pub. You see that city, which by me was lius Cornelius Scipio, by whose very forced to submit to the people of Rome, name I am refreshed, for never does but is now renewing its former wars, the memory of that greatest, that most and cannot remain at peace,” (he spoke invincible of men vanish from my these words pointing to Carthage from mind. After this I informed myself an eminence that was full of stars, bright from him about his kingdom, and he and glorious,) “ which you are now from me about our government; and come, before you are a complete soldier, that day was consumed in much con- to attack. Within two years you shall versation on both sides.
be Consul, and shall overthrow it; and Afterward, having been entertained you shall acquire for yourself that surwith royal magnificence, we prolonged name that you now wear, as bequeathed our conversation to a late hour of the by me. After you have destroyed Carnight; while the old man talked of thage, performed a triumph, and been nothing but of Africanus, and remem- censor; after, in the capacity of legate, bered not only all his actions, but all you have visited Egypt, Syria, Asia, his sayings. Then, when we departed and Greece, you shall, in your absence, to bed, owing to my journey and my be chosen a second time Consul; then sitting up to a late hour, a sleep sounder you shall finish a most dreadful war, than ordinary came over me. In this, and utterly destroy Numantia. But (I suppose from the subject on which when you shall be borne into the capiwe had been talking, for it commonly tol in your triumphal chariot, you shall find the government thrown into con- cils and assemblies of men bound tofusion by the machinations of my grand- gether by law, which are termed states; son; and here, my Africanus, you must the governors and preservers of these display to your country the lustre of go from hence, and hither do they reyour spirit, genius, and wisdom. turn." Here, frightened as I was, not
“ But at this period I perceive that so much from the dread of death as of the path of your destiny is a doubtful the treachery of my friends, I neverone ; for when your life has passed theless asked him whether my father through seven times eight oblique jour. Paulus, and others, whom we thought neys and returns of the sun, and when to be dead, were yet alive? “To be these two numbers (each of which is sure they are alive,” replied Africanus, regarded as a complete one - one on “for they have escaped from the fetters one account and the other on another) of the body as from a prison ; that shall, in their natural circuit, have which is called your life is really death. brought you to the crisis of your fate, But behold your father Paulus approachthen will the whole state turn itself ing you.” No sooner did I see him, toward you and your glory; the Sen- than I poured forth a food of tears ; ate, all virtuous men, our allies, and the but he, embracing and kissing me, forLatins, shall look up to you. Upon bade me to weep. And when, having your single person the preservation of suppressed my tears, I began first to be your country will depend ; and, in able to speak, “ Why,” said I, “thou short, it is your part, as dictator, to most sacred and excellent father, since settle the government, if you can but this is life, as I hear Africanus affirm, escape the impious hands of your kins. why do I tarry on earth, and not hasten men.” (Here, when Lælius uttered an to come to you ? " exclamation, and the rest groaned with “Not so, my son,” he replied; “ungreat excitement, Scipio said, with a less that God, whose temple is all this gentle smile, “ I beg that you will not which you behold, shall free you from waken me out of my dream, give a little this imprisonment in the body, you can time and listen to the sequel.") have no admission to this place ; for
“ But that you may be more earnest men have been created under this conin the defence of your country, know dition, that they should keep that globe from me, that a certain place in heaven which you see in the middle of this is assigned to all who have preserved, temple, and which is called the earth. or assisted, or improved their country, And a soul has been supplied to them where they are to enjoy an endless du- from those eternal fires which you call ration of happiness. For there is noth- constellations and stars, and which, being which takes place on earth more ing globular and round, are animated acceptable to that Supreme Deity who with divine spirit, and complete their governs all this world, than those coun- cycles and revolutions with amazing rapidity. Therefore you, my Publius, your attention be fixed upon the earth? and all good men, must preserve your Do you not see into what temples you souls in the keeping of your bodies; have entered? All things are connectnor are you, without the order of that ed by nine circles, or rather spheres ; Being who bestowed them upon you, one of which (which is the outermost) to depart from mundane life, lest you is heaven, and comprehends all the rest, seem to desert the duty of a man, inhabited by that all-powerful God, which has been assigned you by God. who bounds and controls the others; Therefore, Scipio, like your grand- and in this sphere reside the original father here, and me who begot you, principles of those endless revolutions cultivate justice and piety ; which, which the planets perform. Within while it should be great toward your this are contained seven other spheres, parents and relations, should be greatest that turn round backward, that is, in a toward your country. Such a life is contrary direction to that of the heaven. the path to heaven and the assembly of these, that planet which on earth of those who have lived before, and you call Saturn occupies one sphere. who, having been released from their That shining body which you see next bodies, inhabit that place which thou is called Jupiter, and is friendly and beholdest.”
salutary to mankind. Next the lucid Now the place my father spoke of one, terrible to the earth, which you was a radiant circle of dazzling bright- call Mars. The Sun holds the next ness amid the flaming bodies, which place, almost under the middle region ; you, as you have learned from the he is the chief, the leader, and the diGreeks, term the Milky Way; from rector of the other luminaries ; he is which position all other objects seemed the soul and guide of the world, and to me, as I surveyed them, marvellous of such immense bulk, that he illuand glorious. There were stars which minates and fills all other objects with we never saw from this place, and their his light. He is followed by the orbit magnitudes were such as we never im- of Venus, and that of Mercury, as atagined; the smallest of which was that tendants; and the Moon rolls in the which, placed upon the extremity of lowest sphere, enlightened by the rays the heavens, but nearest to the earth, of the Sun. Below this there is nothshone with borrowed light. But the ing but what is mortal and transitory, globular bodies of the stars greatly ex- excepting those souls which are given ceeded the magnitude of the earth, to the human race by the goodness of which now to me appeared so small, the gods. Whatever lies above the that I was grieved to see our empire con- Moon is eternal. For the earth, which tracted, as it were, into a very point is the ninth sphere, and is placed in
Which, while I was too eagerly gaz- the centre of the whole system, is iming on, Africanus said, “How long will movable and below all the rest; and
all bodies, by their natural gravitzion, tend toward it."
Which as I was gazing at in amazement I said, as I recovered mysel, Prom whence proceed these sends, so strong and yet so sweet, that Ell my ears? “ The melody," repies he, “which you hear, and which, th sogh composed in unequal time, is nevertheless divided into regular harmony, is effected by the impulse and motion of the spheres themselves, which, by a happy temper of sharp and grave notes, regularly produces various harmonic effects. Now it is impossible that such prodigious movements should pass in silence; and nature teaches that the sounds which the spheres at one extremity utter must be sharp, and those on the other extremity must be grave; on which account, that highest revolution of the star-studded heaven, whose motion is more rapid, is carried on with a sharp and quick sound; where as this of the moon, which is situated the lowest, and at the other extremity, moves with the gravest sound. For the earth, the ninth sphere, remaining motionless, abides invariably in the innermost position, occupying the cen. tral spot in the universe.
“Now these eight directions, two of which have the same powers, effect seven sounds, differing in their modulations, which number is the connecting principle of almost all things. Some learned men, by imitating this harmony with strings and vocal melo
dies, have opened a way for their re· turn to this place; as all others have
done, who, endeed with preeminent qualities, have calvated in their mortake the perseits of heaven.
« The ears of mankind, Elled with these sounds, have become deaf, for of all your senses it is the most blunted. Thos, the people who live near the place where the Nile rushes down from very high mountains to the parts which are called Catadapa, are destiture of the sense of hearing, by reason of the greatness of the noise. Now this sound, which is effected by the rapid rotation of the whole system of nature, is so powerful that human hearing cannot comprehend it, just as you cannot look directly upon the sun, because your sight and sense are overcome by his beams.”
Though admiring these scenes, yet I still continued directing my eyes in the same direction toward the earth. On this Africanus said, “I perceive that even now you are contemplating the abode and home of the human race. And as this appears to you di. minutive, as it really is, fix your regard upon these celestial scenes, and despise those abodes of men. What celebrity are you able to attain to in the discourse of men, or what glory that ought to be desired? You perceive that men dwell on but few and scanty portions of the earth, and that amid these spots, as it were, vast solitudes are interposed. As to those who ishabit the earth, not only are they so separated that no communication can circulate among them from the one to the other, but part lie upon one side, part upon another, and part are diametrically opposite to you, from whom you assuredly can expect no glory.
“ You are now to observe that the same earth is encircled and encompassed as it were by certain zones, of which the two that are most distant from one another, and lie as it were toward the vortexes of the heavens in both directions, are rigid as you see with frost, while the middle and the largest zone is burned up with the heat of the sun. Two of these are habit able ; of which the southern, whose inhabitants imprint their footsteps in an opposite direction to you, have no relation to your race. As to this other, lying toward the north, which you inhabit, observe what a small portion of it falls to your share ; for all that part of the earth which is inhabited by you, which narrows toward the south and north, but widens from east to west, is no other than a little island surrounded by that sea which on earth you call the Atlantic, sometimes the great sea, and sometimes the ocean; and yet, with so grand a name, you see how diminutive it is! Now do you think it possible for your renown, or that of any one of us, to move from those cultivated and inhabited spots of ground, and pass beyond that Caucasus, or swim across yonder Ganges? What inhabitant of the other parts of the east, or of the extreme regions of the setting sun, of those tracts that run toward the south or toward the north, shall ever hear of your name ? Now, supposing them cut off, you see at once
within what narrow limits your glory would fain expand itself. As to those who speak of you, how long will they speak ?
“ Let me even suppose that a future race of men shall be desirous of transmitting to their posterity your renown or mine, as they received it from their fathers; yet when we consider the convulsions and conflagrations that must necessarily happen at some definite period, we are unable to attain not only to an eternal, but even to a lasting fame. Now of what consequence is it to you to be talked of by those who are born after you, and not by those who were born before you, who certainly were as numerous and more virtuous, especially as among the very men who are thus to celebrate our renown not a single one can preserve the recollections of a single year? For mankind ordinarily measure their year by the revolution of the sun, that is, of a single heavenly body. But when all the planets shall return to the same position which they once had, and bring back after a long rotation the same aspect of the entire heavens, then the year may be said to be truly completed ; in which I do not venture to say how many ages of mankind will be contained. For, as of old, when the spirit of Romulus entered these temples, the sun disappeared to mortals and seemed to be extinguished ; so whenever the sun be eclipsed at the same time with all the stars and constellations, brought back to the same starting-point, shall again disappear,