Saturday, 2 June 2018

The Nature of the Gods by Cicero.

The Nature of the Gods is the first work by Cicero that I've read, and I'm happy, given that I've got four others I want to read, that I enjoyed it, however it was particularly difficult. Marcus Tullius Cicero was a politician and a very prolific speaker and writer - reading just five of his works is a mere fraction, but one has to start somewhere! This will have to be a brief post, however - though I enjoyed it, there was a little too much for my small brain to take in. Here, roughly, is what it's about.

The Nature of the Gods (De Natura Deorum) was written in 45 B.C. and in it Cicero writes on the theology of three different schools of thought: Stoic, Epicurean, and skeptical. It's divided into three books with each book focused on each of the schools of thought. Like Plato's dialogues, there are three people in the work that represent a particular school. In Cicero's case, Quintus Lucilius Balbus represents the Stoics, Gaius Velleius the Epicurean, and Gaius Cotta the skeptics. In Book I Cicero, with Velleius as the mouthpiece, discusses Epicurean theology. He criticises the Platonic and Stoic perspective and considers the idea of a 'blessed' god being intrinsically linked to the notion of what is is to be 'divine'. He goes on to question the idea that God created the universe, and argues that God eternal, reasonable, and happy, and thus there is no need to fear him. He also argues that man was made in God's form. In Book II Balbus, arguing from the Stoics' point of view, questions this, and goes on to argue that God is active within the world, and that God did create it: a world as perfect and as harmonious as this could only have been designed and created by a god. He goes on to discuss the beauty of nature, and order and reason with which it operates. Furthermore people sometimes have God-like qualities: the ability to predict the future, and an innate fear of natural phenomena. A large part of Book III has sadly been lost, but the idea is that the skeptic Cotta refutes both Velleius and Balbus' arguments, and essentially argues that mythology is simply a human creation.

It is a great book and one I would benefit from with a slow and careful study, but for now let's just say it was a very challenging and good introduction to Cicero. Soon, next week I hope, I plan on reading his Republic and Laws (I'm waiting for them to be delivered, so I'm in the hands of the Post Office). Until then, apologies for such a brief post: I do try with these books, but sometimes I fail them.

5 comments:

  1. even the Romans thought C was a tough row to hoe: he did get assassinated, after all... but he was purportedly a brilliant orator; he must have had a lot of charisma...

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    1. I must read some of his speeches...

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  2. Try Cicero's Defence Speeches, you would love him. I liked to read his speeches while imagining him eloquently addressing the Senate. :)

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    1. tx... i'll look for them...

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    2. Thanks Fanda, I'll check them out :)

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