previous next
Therefore, if nothing befalls the soul after the expiration of this life, but death is the end of all reward and punishment, I might infer from thence rather that the Deity is remiss and indulgent in swiftly punishing the wicked and depriving them of life. For if a man shall assert that in the space of this life the wicked are no otherwise affected than by the convincement that crime is a fruitless and barren thing, that produces nothing of good, nothing worthy of esteem, from the many great and terrible combats and agonies of the mind, the consideration of these things altogether subverts the soul. As it is related that Lysimachus, being under the violent constraint of a parching thirst, surrendered up his person and his dominions to the Getae for a little drink; but after he had quenched his draught and found himself a captive, Shame of this wickedness of mine, cried he, that for so small a pleasure have [p. 158] lost so great a kingdom. But it is a difficult thing for a man to resist the natural necessity of mortal passions. Yet when a man, either out of avarice, or ambition of civil honor and power, or to gratify his venereal desires, commits any enormous and heinous crime, after which, the thirst and rage of his passion being allayed, he comes to set before his eyes the ignominious and horrible passions tending to injustice still remaining, but sees nothing useful, nothing necessary, nothing conducible to make his life happy; may it not be probably conjectured that such a person is frequently solicited by these reflections to consider how rashly, either prompted by vain-glory, or for the sake of a lawless and barren pleasure, he has overthrown the noblest and greatest maxims of justice among men, and overflowed his life with shame and trouble? As Simonides jesting was wont to say, that the chest which he kept for money he found always full, but that which he kept for gratitude he found always empty; thus wicked men, contemplating their own wickedness, find it always void altogether and destitute of hope (since pleasure gives but a short and empty delight), but ever weighed down with fears and sorrows, ungrateful remembrances, suspicions of futurity, and distrusts of present accidents. Thus we hear Ino complaining upon the theatre, after her repentance of what she had done:
Dear women, tell me, with what face
Shall I return to dwell with Athamas,
As if it ne'er had been my luckless fate
The worst of foul misdeeds to perpetrate?

Thus is it not reason to believe, that the soul of every wicked man revolves and reasons within itself, how by burying in oblivion former transgressions, and casting from itself the consciousness and the guilt of hitherto committed crimes, to fit frail mortality under her conduct for a new course of life? For there is nothing for a man to confide in, nothing [p. 159] but what vanishes like smoke, nothing durable or constant in whatever impiety proposes to itself,—unless, by Jove, we will allow the unjust and vicious to be sage philosophers,—but wherever eager avarice and voluptuousness, inexorable hatred, enmity, and improbity associate together, there you shall also be sure to find superstition nestling and herding with effeminacy and terror of death, a swift change of the most violent passions, and an arrogant ambition after undeserved honor. Such men as these stand in continual dread of their contemners and backbiters, they fear their applauders, believing themselves injured by their flatteries; and more especially, they are at enmity with bad men, because they are so free to extol those that seem good. However, that which hardens men to mischief soon cankers, grows brittle, and shivers in pieces like bad iron. So that in process of time, coming to understand themselves better and to be more sensible of their miscarriages, they disdain, abhor, and utterly disclaim their former course of life. And when we see how a wicked man who restores a trust or becomes security for his friend, or ambitious of honor contributes more largely to the benefits of his country, is immediately in a condition of repentance and sorry for what he has just done, by reason of the natural inclination of his mind to ramble and change; and how some men, being clapped and hummed upon the theatre, presently fall a weeping, their desire of glory relapsing into covetousness; we surely cannot believe that those which sacrificed the lives of men to the success of their tyrannies and conspiracies, as Apollodorus, or plundered their friends of their treasure and deprived them of their estates, as Glaucus the son of Epicydes, did not repent and abhor themselves, or that they were not sorry for the perpetration of such foul enormities. For my part, if it may be lawful for me to deliver my opinion, I believe there is no occasion either for the [p. 160] Gods or men to inflict their punishment upon the most wicked and sacrilegious offenders; seeing that the course of their own lives is sufficient to chastise their crimes, while they remain under the consternations and torments attending their impiety.

1 From the Ino of Euripides, Frag. 403.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 1891)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: