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21. [47]

No doubt the wicked would have been defeated. Still they would have been citizens and they would have been defeated by that man as a private individual, who as consul, without any appeal to arms, had preserved the republic. But suppose the good men had been defeated, what would have remained? Do not you see that the state would have fallen into the hands of the slaves? Was even I myself as some people think to encounter death with entire equanimity? What? Was I at that time seeking to avoid death? or was there anything which I could think more desirable for myself, or at the very time that I was accomplishing these great exploits amid that multitude of wicked men, were not death and exile constantly present to my eyes? Were not these very events, even at the moment of my performance of those exploits, prophesied as it were by me as parts of my destiny? Or was life worth preserving at a time when all my family and friends were in such grief when there was such confusion such misery such destruction of everything which either nature or fortune had given me? Was I so stupid? so ignorant of affairs? so destitute of all sense and all ability? Had I heard nothing? Had I seen nothing? Had I learnt nothing myself by reading or by inquiry? Was I ignorant that the duration of life is brief, that of glory everlasting? that, as death was appointed for all men, it was desirable that life, which must some day or other be given up to necessity, should appear to have been made a present of to one's country rather than reserved for the claim of nature? Was I ignorant that there had been this dispute between the wisest men? that some said that the souls and senses of men were extinguished by death; but that others thought that the minds of wise and brave men were then in the greatest degree sensible and vigorous when they had departed from the body? And one of these alternatives would seem to show, that to be deprived of feeling was not a thing to be avoided; the other alternative must evidently be very desirable, to become possessed of a more perfect sensation. [48]

Lastly, as I had always considered everything with reference to what was becoming, and had never thought anything in life desirable if unaccompanied by propriety, was I, a man of consular rank, who had performed such great deeds, likely to be afraid of death, which even Athenian maidens, daughters I fancy of king Erectheus, are said to have despised in the cause of their country? Especially when I was a member of that city from which Mucius went forth when he penetrated,—by himself, into the camp of king Porsena, and endeavoured to slay him, at the imminent risk of his own life; from which, in the first instance, Decius the father, and many years afterwards his son, endowed with his father's virtue, went forth when, while their armies were drawn up in battle array, they devoted themselves and their own lives to ensure the safety and victory of the Roman army; from which a countless host of others besides have gone forth, and with the greatest equanimity have encountered death, some for the sake of gaining glory, and some with the object of encountering disgrace; and while I, myself, remember that in this city the father of this Marcus Crassus, a most gallant man, put himself to death with that same hand with which he had often scattered death among the enemy, that he might not live to see his enemy victorious.

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