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DXXVII (F V, 16)

Though of all the world I am by far the least fitted to offer you1 consolation, because your sorrow has caused me so much pain that I needed consolation myself; yet since my sorrow was farther removed from the acuteness of the deepest grief than your own, I have resolved that our close connexion and my warm feelings for you make it incumbent on me not to be so long silent in what causes you such deep mourning, but to offer some reasonable consolation such as may suffice to lighten, if it could not wholly heal your sorrow. Now there is a source of consolation-hackneyed indeed to the last degree—which we ought ever to have on our lips and in our hearts: we should remember that we are men, born under the conditions which expose our life to all the missiles of fortune; and we must not decline life on the conditions under which we were born, nor rebel so violently under mischances which we are unable to avoid by any precautions; and by recalling what has happened to others we should reflect that nothing strange has betided us. But neither these, nor other sources of consolation, which have been employed by the greatest philosophers and have been recorded in literature, ought, it seems, to be of so much avail, as the position of the state itself and the disruption of these evil times, which make those the happiest who have never had children, and those who have lost them at such a crisis less miserable than if they had done so when the Republic was in a good state, or indeed had any existence at all. But if your own loss affects you, or if you mourn at the thought of your own position, I do not think that you will find that grief easy to remove in its entirety. If on the other hand what wrings your heart is grief for the miserable fate of those who have fallen—a thought more natural to an affectionate heart—to say nothing of what I have repeatedly read and heard, that there is no evil in death, after which if any sensation remains it is to be regarded as immortality rather than death, while if it is all lost, it follows that nothing must be regarded as misery which is not felt-yet this much I can assert, that confusions are brewing, disasters preparing and threatening the Republic, such that whoever has left them cannot possibly, as it seems to me, be in the wrong. For what place is there now, I don't say for conscience, uprightness, virtue, right feeling, and good qualities, but for bare freedom and safety? By Heaven, I have never been told of any young man or boy having died in this most unhealthy and pestilent year, who did not seem to me to be rescued by the immortal gods from the miseries of this world and from a most intolerable condition of life. Wherefore, if this one idea can be removed from your mind, so as to convince you that no evil has happened to those you loved, your grief will have been very much lessened. For there will then only be left that single strain of sorrow which will not be concerned with them, but will have reference to yourself alone: in regard to which it is not consonant with a high character and wisdom such as you have displayed from boyhood, to show excessive sorrow for a misfortune that has befallen you, when it does not at all involve misery or evil to those whom you have loved. In fact, the qualities you have displayed both in private and public business entail the necessity of preserving your dignity and supporting your character for consistency. For that which length of time is sure to bring us of itself—which removes the bitterest sorrows by the natural process of decay—we ought to anticipate by reflexion and wisdom. Why, if there never was a woman so weak-minded on the death of her children, as not sooner or later to put a period to her mourning, certainly we men ought to anticipate by reflexion what lapse of time is sure to bring, and not to wait for a cure from time, when we can have it on the spot from reason. If I have done you any good by this letter, I think that I have accomplished a desirable object: but if by chance it has been of no avail, I hold that I have done the duty of one who wishes you all that is best and loves you very dearly. Such a one I would have you think that I have been, and believe that I shall be to you in the future.

1 We cannot tell which of the Titii, of whom several occur in the correspondence, this is, nor when the letter was written. The mention of the pestilential year might tempt us to put it in B.C. 43 (Dio, 45, 17); but then pestilences were frequent in Rome, and the general tone in regard to public affairs seems rather in unison with the other letters of B.C. 46, and one would have expected some allusion to his own loss if it had been written after Tullia's death. The letter has the air of a"commonplace," a sort of model of ordinary condolence: "One writes that 'other friends remain': That 'loss is common to the race': And common is the commonplace, And vacant chaff well meant for grain."

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