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[1arg] A somewhat careful inquiry into these words of Marcus Tullius in his first Oration against Antony: “But many things seem to threaten contrary even to nature and to fate”; and a discussion of the question whether the words “fate” and “nature” mean the same thing or something different.

MARCUS CICERO, in his first Oration against Antony, 1 has left us these words: “I hastened then to follow him whom those present did not follow; not that I might be of any service, for I had no hope of that nor could I promise it, but in order that if anything to which human nature is liable should happen to me (and many things seem to threaten contrary even to nature and contrary to fate) I might leave what I have said to-day as a witness to my country of my constant devotion to its interests.” Cicero says “contrary to nature and contrary to fate.” Whether he intended both words, “fate” and “nature,” to have the same meaning and has used two words to designate one thing, 2 or whether he so divided and separated them that nature seems to bring some casualties and fate others, I think ought to be investigated; and this question ought especially to be asked—how it is that he has said that many things to which humanity is liable can happen contrary to fate, when the plan and order and a kind of unconquerable necessity of fate are so ordained that [p. 417] all things must be included within the decrees of fate; unless perhaps he has followed Homer's saying:
Lest, spite of fate, you enter Hades' home.
But there is no doubt that Cicero referred to a violent and sudden death, which may properly seem to happen contrary to nature.

But why he has put just that kind of death outside the decrees of fate it is not the part of this work to investigate, nor is this the time. The point, however, must not be passed by, that Virgil too had that same opinion about fate which Cicero had, when in his fourth book he said of Elissa, who inflicted a violent death upon herself: 4

For since she perished not by fate's decree,
Nor earned her death;
just as if, in making an end of life, those deaths which are violent do not seem to come by fate's decree. Cicero, however, seems to have followed the words of Demosthenes, a man gifted with equal wisdom and eloquence, which express about the same idea concerning nature and fate. For Demosthenes in that splendid oration entitled On the Crown wrote as follows 5 : “He who thinks that he was born only for his parents, awaits the death appointed by fate, the natural death; but he who thinks that he was born also for his country, will be ready to die that he may not see his country enslaved.” What Cicero seems to have called “fate” and “nature,” Demosthenes long before termed “fate” and “the natural death.” For “a natural death” is one which comes in the course of fate and nature, as it were, and is caused by no force from without.

1 Phil. i. 10.

2 This is the recognized figure of speech known as hendiadys.

3 Iliad, xx. 336.

4 Aen. iv. 696.

5 205, p. 296.

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), BASIL´ICA
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SO´LEA
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (2):
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