On þe Gods and þe Woꝛld Saloustios the Philosopher, c. 360 CE / Ol. σπδʹ, translated by Arthur Nock in 1925, embellished a bit by me in 2023
Those who would learn about the Gods need to have been well educated fom childhood and must not be bred up among foolish ideas; they must also be good and intelligent by nature, in order that they may have something in common with the subject. Further, they must be acquainted with universal opinions, by which i mean those in which all men, if rightly questioned, would concur; such opinions are that every God is good and impassive and unchangeable (since whatever changes, changes for better or for worse; if for worse, it becomes bad, if for the better, it proves to have been bad in the first place).
Such must be the learner, and his instruction should be as follows. The essences of the Gods never came into being, for whatever always exists never comes into being, and all things that have first power and are by nature impassive do exist always; they are not formed of bodies, for even of bodies the powers are bodiless; they are not limited by space, for that certainly is an attribute of bodies; and they are never separated from the First Cause or from one another, any more than are thoughts from the mind, sciences from the soul, or the senses from a living creature.
It is worth our while to enquire why the ancients left the statement of these truths and employed myths, and so to obtain this first benefit from the myths, that we enquire and do not keep our intellects in idleness. Consideration of those who have employed myths justifies us in saying that myths are divine; for indeed the inspired among poets, and the best of philosophers, and the founders of solemn rites, and the Gods themselves in oracles, have employed myths.
Why myths are divine is a question belonging to philosophy. Since all things in existence rejoice in likeness and turn from unlikeness, it follows that our statements about the Gods ought to be like the Gods, in order that being worthy of their true nature they may find favour for their narrators (and such favour can by myths alone be won). So the myths represent the Gods in respect of that which is speakable and that which is unspeakable, of that which is obscure and that which is manifest, of that which is clear and that which is hidden, and represent the goodness of the Gods; just as the Gods have given to all alike the benefits to be drawn from objects perceptible to the senses while restricting to the wise the enjoyment of those received from objects perceptible to the intellect, so the myths proclaim to all that the Gods exist, telling who They are and of what sort to those able to know it.
Again, myths represent the active operations of the Gods. The universe itself can be called a myth, since bodies and material objects are apparent in it, while souls and intellects are concealed. Furthermore, to wish to teach all men the truth about the Gods causes the foolish to despise, because they cannot learn, and the good to be slothful, whereas to conceal the truth by myths prevents the former from despising philosophy and compels the latter to study it. Why, however, have the ancients told in their myths of adulteries and thefts and binding of fathers and other strange things? Is this also admirable, meant to teach the soul by the seeming strangeness at once to think the words a veil and the truth a mystery?
Of myths some are theological, some physical; there are also psychical myths and material myths and myths blended from these elements.
Theological myths are those which do not attach themselves to any material objects but regard the actual natures of the Gods. Such is the tale that Cronos swallowed his children; since the God is intellectual, and all intellect is directed towards itself, the myth hints at the God’s essential nature.
Again, it is possible to regard myths in a physical way when one describes the activities of the Gods in the universe; so some before now have thought Cronos to be Chronos or Time, and, calling the parts of Time children of the whole, say that the father swallows his children. The psychical interpretation lies in considering the activities of the soul itself: the thoughts of our souls, even if they go forth to others, still remain in their creators.
The worst explanation, the material, is that which the Egyptians because of their ignorance used most; they regarded and described material things as Gods, earth as Isis, moisture as Osiris, heat as Typhon, or water as Cronos, the fruits of the soil as Adonis, wine as Dionysos. To say that these things, as also plants and stones and animals, are sacred to the Gods, is the part of reasonable men, to call them Gods is the part of madmen, unless by a common figure of speech, as we call the sphere of the sun and the ray coming from that sphere the sun.
The blended kind of myths can be seen in numerous examples; one is the tale they tell that, at the banquet of the Gods, Eris threw a golden apple and the Goddesses; vying with one another for its possession, were sent by Zeus to Paris to be judged; Paris thought Aphrodite beautiful, and gave her the apple. Here the banquet signifies the supramundane powers of the Gods, and that is why they are together, the golden apple signifies the universe, which, as it is made of opposites, is rightly said to be thrown by Eris, and as the various Gods give various gifts to the universe they are thought to vie with one another for the possession of the apple; further, the soul that lives in accordance with sense-perception (for that. is Paris), seeing beauty alone and not the other powers in the universe, says that the apple is Aphrodite’s.
Theological myths suit philosophers, physical and psychical myths poets; blended myths suit solemn rites, since every rite seeks to give us union with the universe and with the Gods.
If i must relate another myth, it is said that the Mother of the Gods saw Attis lying by the river Gallos and became enamoured of Him, and took and set on his head the starry cap, and kept Him thereafter with Her, and He, becoming enamoured of a nymph, left the Mother of the Gods and consorted with the nymph. Wherefore the Mother of the Gods caused Attis to go mad and to cut off His genitals and leave them with the nymph and to return and dwell with Her again.
Well, the Mother of the Gods is a life-giving Goddess, and therefore She is called Mother, while Attis is Creator of things that come into being and perish, and therefore is He said to have been found by the river Gallos: for Gallos suggests the Galaxias Cyclos or Milky Way, which is the upper boundary of matter liable to change. So, as the first Gods perfect the second, the Mother loves Attis and gives Him heavenly powers (signified by the cap). Attis, however, loves the nymph, and the nymphs preside over coming into being, since whatever comes into being is in flux.
But since it was necessary that the process of coming into being should stop and that what was worse should not sink to the worst, the Creator who was making these things cast away generative powers into the world of becoming and was again united with the Gods. All this did not happen at any one time but always is so: the mind sees the whole process at once, words tell of part first, part second.
Since the myth is so intimately related to the universe we imitate the latter in its order (for in what way could we better order ourselves?) and keep a festival therefore. First, as having like Attis fallen from heaven and consorting with the nymph, we are dejected and abstain from bread and all other rich and coarse food (for both are unsuited to the soul). Then come the cutting of the tree and the fast, as though we also were cutting off the further progress of generation; after this we are fed on milk as though being reborn; that is followed by rejoicings and garlands and as it were a new ascent to the Gods.
This interpretation is supported also by the season at which the ceremonies are performed, for it is about the time of spring and the equinox, when things coming into being cease so to do, and day becomes longer than night, which suits souls rising to life. Certainly the rape of Core is said in the myth to have happened near the other equinox, and this signifies the descent of souls. To us who have spoken this concerning myths may the Gods themselves and the spirits of those who wrote the myths be kind.
Next, the learner should know the First Cause and the classes of the Gods subordinated to it and the nature of the universe, the essential characters of mind and soul, Providence too and Fate and Chance, virtue and vice, and should see the good and evil constitutions arising from them, and whence it was that evils came into the universe. Each of these topics requires many long discussions, but there is perhaps no reason why we should not treat them here in a summary way, to prevent readers from being completely ignorant of them.
The First Cause must be one, since the unit is superior to all other numbers, and surpasses all things in power and goodness, for which reason all things must partake of it; because of its power nothing else will bar it, and by reason of its goodness it will not keep itself aloof.
Now if the First Cause was soul, everything would be animated by soul, if intelligence, everything would be intellectual, if being, everything would share in being. Some in fact, seeing that all things possess being, have thought that the First Cause was being. This would be correct if things that were in being were in being only and were not good. If, however, things that are are by reason of their goodness and share in the good, then what is first must be higher than being and in fact good. A very clear indication of this is that fine souls for the sake of the good despise being, when they are willing to face danger for country or friends or virtue. After this unspeakable power come the orders of the Gods.
Of the Gods some are mundane, some supramundane. By mundane i mean the Gods who make the universe. Of the supramundane some make the essences of the Gods, some the intelligence, some the souls: They are therefore divided into three orders, all of which may be found in treatises on these matters. Of the mundane some cause the universe to exist, others animate it, others harmonise it out of its varied components, others guard it when so harmonised. These are four operations, and each has a beginning, a middle, and an end; their Superintendents, therefore, must be twelve in number. The Creators of the universe are Zeus, Poseidon, and Hephæestos, the Animators Demeter, Hera, and Artemis, the Harmonisers Apollon, Aphrodite, and Hermes, and the Guardians Hestia, Athena, and Ares. Hints of these functions may be seen in Their images: Apollon strings a lyre, Athena is armed, and Aphrodite is naked because harmony causes beauty, and beauty in things seen is not concealed. While these Gods possess the universe in a primary way, the other Gods must be supposed to be contained in Them, as for instance Dionysos in Zeus, Asclepios in Apollon, and the Graces in Aphrodite. Further, we can see their spheres, earth as Hestia’s, water as Poseidon’s, air as Hera’s, fire as that of Hephæstos, and six spheres, those higher, belonging to the Gods to whom they are usually assigned; for we must regard Apollon and Artemis as Sun and Moon. We must give the sphere of Saturn to Demeter, the æther again to Athena, while the firmament is common to Them all. So in this manner have the orders and powers and spheres of the twelve Gods been set forth and hymned.
The universe itself must be imperishable and uncreated, imperishable because if it perishes God must necessarily make either a better or a worse universe or the same or disorder: if he made a worse, then he is bad in that he makes what is worse from what is better; if he made a better, he must have been deficient in power not to have made the better thing in the first place; if the same, that will be a purposeless creation; if disorder… why, that will not bear hearing.
That it is uncreated even what i have said suffices to show, because if it does not perish, neither did it come into being, since what- ever comes into being perishes, coupled with the fact that, since the universe exists because of God’s goodness, it follows that God is ever good and the universe ever exists, as light accompanies the existence of sun and fire, and shadow that of body.
Of the bodies in the universe some imitate mind and have a circular motion, while others imitate soul and have a rectilinear motion. Of the latter, fire and air move upwards, earth and water downwards: of the former the sphere of the fixed stars moves from east to west, and the seven planetary spheres move from west to east: among the many reasons for this is the need of preventing the process of creation from being imperfect if the rotation of the spheres is rapid. This difference of motion implies a difference in the nature of the bodies; the heavenly body cannot scorch or chill or perform any other function of the four elements.
Since the universe is a sphere (as is shown by the zodiac), and the lowest part of a sphere, being furthest distant from all points on its circumference, is its centre, and heavy bodies move downwards and move towards the Earth, it follows that the Earth is the centre of the universe. All these things are made by the Gods, ordered by mind, and set in motion by soul. Concerning the Gods i have spoken earlier.
Mind is a power inferior to being and superior to soul, deriving existence from being and perfecting soul (as the sun perfects sight). Of souls some are rational and immortal, others irrational and mortal: the former are derived from the primary Gods, the latter from the secondary.
We must first investigate the nature of soul. It is that whereby animate differs from inanimate, and the difference lies in motion, perception, imagination, and intelligence. Irrational soul is life with perception and imagination; rational is life controlling perception and imagination and employing reason. Irrational soul is subject to the feelings of the body: it desires and is angered unreasonably. Rational soul despises the body reasonably and fights against the irrational; if it is successful, it produces virtue, if it is worsted, vice. Immortal it must be, because it knows the Gods (and nothing mortal knows what is immortal), and despises human affairs as not affecting itself, and, not being of the nature of body, has an experience which is the opposite of the body’s; when the body is beautiful and young, the soul errs, when the body is ageing, the soul is at its prime.
Again, every good soul has employed mind, and mind is created by no body; how indeed could things lacking in mind create mind? The soul uses the body as an instrument, but is not within it, just as the engineer is not within the engine, and in fact many engines move without any one touching them. If the soul is often caused by the body to err, we must not be surprised: even so the arts cannot do their work if their instruments are spoilt.
From hence also we may perceive the providence of the Gods; for how could order be inserted in the world if there be no one who distributes it in order? From whence too could all things be produced for the sake of something; as, for instance, the irrational soul that there might be sense; the rational, that the earth might be adorned? From natural effects likewise we may perceive the operations of providence: for it has constructed the eyes of a diaphanous nature for the purpose of seeing; but the nostrils above the mouth, that we might distinguish disagreeable smells: and of the teeth, the middle are fashioned sharp, for the purpose of cutting, but those situated in the more interior part of the mouth are broad, for the purpose of bruising the aliment in pieces. And thus we may perceive in all things, that nothing is constructed without reason and design. But since so much providence is displayed in the last of things, it is impossible that it should not subsist in such as are first: besides, divinations, and the healing of bodies, take place from the beneficent providence of the Gods. And it is necessary to believe that a similar concern about the world is exerted by the Gods, without either expecting reward, or enduring labour in the exertion; but that as bodies endued with power, produce essentially, or by their very essence, that which they produce; as the sun illuminates and heats by that which he is alone; so the providence of the Gods, by a much greater reason, without labour and difficulty to itself, confers good on the subjects of its providential exertions. So that by this means the objections of the Epicureans against providence are dissolved: for, say they, that which is divine is neither the cause of molestation to itself nor to others. And such is the incorporeal providence of the Gods about bodies and souls. But the beneficent exertion of the Gods resulting from, and subsisting in, bodies, is different from the former, and is called fate, because its series is more apparent in bodies; and for the sake of which also the mathematical art was invented. That human affairs therefore, and particularly a corporeal nature, are not only directed by the Gods, but from divine bodies also, is highly consonant to reason and truth; and hence reason dictates, that health and sickness, prosperous and adverse fortune, proceed from these according to every one’s particular deserts. But to refer injustice and crimes committed through lasciviousness and wantonness to fate, leaves us indeed good, but the Gods evil and base: unless some one should endeavour to remove this consequence, by replying, that every thing which the world contains, and whatever has a natural subsistence, is good, but that the nature which is badly nourished, or which is of a more imbecile condition, changes the good proceeding from fate into something worse; just as the sun, though it is good itself, becomes noxious to the blear-eyed and feverish. For on what account do the Massagetæ devour their parents, the Hebrews use circumcision, and the Persians preserve their nobility? But how can astrologers call Saturn and Mars noxious, and yet again celebrate these planets as beneficent, by asserting that philosophy, kingdoms, and military command, are their gifts? If they assign triangles and squares as the cause, it is absurd that human virtue should every where remain the same, but that the Gods should be subject to mutation from diversity of places. But that nobility or ignobility of parents may be predicted from the stars, shows that they do not produce all things, but only signify some, by their different situations and aspects; for how can things which subsisted prior to generation be produced from generation? As therefore providence and fate subsist about nations and cities, as likewise about every individual of human kind, so also fortune, about which it is now requisite to speak. Fortune, therefore, must be considered as a power of the Gods, disposing things differently from each other, and happening contrary to expectation, to beneficent purposes; and on this account it is proper that cities should celebrate this Goddess in common; since every city is composed from different particulars. But this Goddess holds her dominion in sublunary concerns, since every thing fortuitous is excluded from the regions above the moon. But if the evil enjoy prosperous fortune, and the worthy are oppressed with want, there is nothing wonderful in such a dispensation; for the former consider riches as all things, but they are despised by the latter. And besides this, prosperous events do not diminish the depravity of the evil; but virtue is alone sufficient to the good.
But in discoursing on the soul it is requisite to speak of virtue and vice; for while the irrational soul proceeding into bodies immediately produces anger and desire, the rational soul presiding over these, causes the whole soul to receive a tripartite division, viz. into reason, anger, and desire. But the virtue of reason is prudence; of anger, fortitude; of desire, temperance; and of the whole soul, justice. For it is requisite that reason should judge what is fit and becoming; that anger, listening to the persuasions of reason, should despise things apparently horrible; and that desire should pursue that which is attended with reason, and not that which is apparently pleasant. And when the parts of the soul are in this condition, a just life is the result: for justice respecting possessions is but a small part of virtue. Hence in well-educated men you will perceive all these in amicable conjunction; but in the uncultivated, one is bold and unjust; another prudent and intemperate; all which you cannot call virtues, because they are destitute of reason, imperfect, and belong to certain irrational animals. But vice is to be considered from contraries; for the vice of reason is folly; of anger, fear; of desire, intemperance; and of the whole soul, injustice. But virtues are produced from an upright polity, and from a well-ordered education and instruction; but vices from an opposite process.
But the forms of polities are produced according to the triple division of the soul; for the rulers are assimilated to reason, the soldiers to anger, and the common people to desire. Hence, when all things are administered according to reason, and he who is the best of all men possesses dominion, then a kingdom is produced: but when, from reason and anger in conjunction, more than one hold the reins of government, an aristocracy is produced: but where government is carried on through desire, and honours subsist with a view to possessions, such a polity is called a timocracy; and that polity which takes place in opposition to a kingdom is called a tyranny; for the former administers every thing, but the latter nothing, according to reason. But an oligarchy, or the dominion of the few, is contrary to an aristocracy; because in the former, not the best, but a few only, and those the worst, govern the city. And lastly, a democracy is opposed to a timocracy; because in the former, not such as abound in riches, but the multitude alone, is the ruler of all things.
But how came evil into the world, since the Gods are good, and the producing causes of all things? And, in the first place, we ought to assert that since the Gods are good, and the authors of all things, there is not any nature of evil, but that it is produced by the absence of good; just as darkness is of itself nothing, but is produced by the privation of light. But if evil has any subsistence, it must necessarily subsist either in the Gods or in intellects, in souls or in bodies: but it cannot subsist in the Gods, since every God is good. And if any one should say that intellect is evil, he must at the same time assert that intellect is deprived of intellect: but if soul, he must affirm that soul is worse that body; for every body, considered according to itself, is without evil. But if they assert that evil subsists from soul and body conjoined, it will certainly be absurd, that things which separately considered are not evil, should become evil from their conjunction with each other. But if any one should say that dæmons are evil, we reply, that if they possess their power from the Gods they will not be evil; but if from something else, then Gods will not be the authors of all things: and if the Gods do not produce all things, either they are willing but not able, or they are able but not willing; but neither of these can be ascribed with any propriety to a God. And from hence it is manifest that there is nothing in the world naturally evil; but about the energies of men, and of these not all, nor yet always, evil appears. Indeed, if men were guilty through evil itself, nature herself would be evil; but if he who commits adultery considers the adultery as evil, but the pleasure connected with it as good; if he who is guilty of homicide considers the slaughter as evil, but the riches resulting from the deed as good; and if he who brings destruction on his enemies considers the destruction as evil, but taking revenge on an enemy as good; and souls are by this means guilty; hence evils will be produced through goodness, just as while light is absent darkness is produced, which at the same time has no subsistence in the nature of things. The soul therefore becomes guilty because it desires good, but it wanders about good because it is not the first essence. But that it may not wander, and that when it does so, proper remedies may be applied, and it may be restored, many things have been produced by the Gods; for arts and sciences, virtues and prayers, sacrifices and initiations, laws and polities, judgements and punishments, were invented for the purpose of preventing souls from falling into guilt; and even when they depart from the present body, expiatory Gods and dæmons purify them from guilt.
Concerning the Gods therefore, the world, and human affairs, what has been said may be sufficient for such as are not able to be led upwards through the assistance of philosophy, and yet do not possess incurable souls. It now remains that we speak concerning natures which were never generated nor separated from one another; since we have already observed, that secondary are produced from primary natures. Every thing which is generated is either generated by art, or by nature, or according to power. It is necessary therefore that every thing operating according to nature or art should be prior to the things produced; but that things operating according to power, should have their productions co-existent with themselves; since they likewise possess an inseparable power: just as the sun produces light co-existent with itself; fire, heat; and snow, coldness. If therefore the Gods produced the world by art, they would not cause it simply to be, but to be in some particular manner; for all art produces form. From whence therefore does the world derive its being? If from nature, since nature in fabricating imparts something of itself to its productions and the Gods are incorporeal, it is necessary that the world (the offspring of the Gods) should be incorporeal. But if any one says that the Gods are corporeal, from whence does the power of incorporeals originate? And besides, if this be admitted, the world being corrupted, its artificer also must necessarily be corrupted, on the hypothesis that he operates according to nature. It remains therefore that the Gods produced the world by power alone; but every thing generated by power, subsists together with the cause containing this power: and hence productions of this kind cannot be destroyed unless the producing cause is deprived of power. So that those who subject the world to corruption, plainly deny that there are Gods; or if they assert that there are Gods, they deprive divinity of power. He therefore who produced all things through power, caused all things to be co-existent with himself. And since this power is the greatest possible, not only men and animals were produced, but also Gods and dæmons. And as much as the first God differs from our nature, by so much is it necessary that there should be more powers situated between us and him; for all natures which are much distant from each other possess a multitude of connecting mediums.
But if any one thinking agreeable to reason and truth, that the Gods are immutable, doubts how they rejoice in the good, but are averse from the evil; and how they become angry with the guilty, but are rendered propitious by proper cultivation; we reply, that divinity neither rejoices; for that which rejoices is also influenced by sorrow: nor is angry; for anger is a passion: nor is appeased with gifts; for then he would be influenced by delight. Nor is it lawful that a divine nature should be well or ill affected from human concerns; for the divinities are perpetually good and profitable, but are never noxious, and ever subsist in the same uniform mode of being. But we, when we are good, are conjoined with the Gods through similitude; but when evil, we are separated from them through dissimilitude. And while we live according to virtue, we partake of the Gods, but when we become evil we cause them to become our enemies; not that they are angry, but because guilt prevents us from receiving the illuminations of the Gods, and subjects us to the power of avenging dæmons. But if we obtain pardon of our guilt through prayers and sacrifices, we neither appease nor cause any mutation to take place in the Gods; but by methods of this kind, and by our conversion to a divine nature, we apply a remedy to our vices, and again become partakers of the goodness of the Gods. So that it is the same thing to assert that divinity is turned from the evil, as to say that the sum is concealed from those who are deprived of sight.
From hence we are presented with a solution of the doubts concerning sacrifices and other particulars relative to the cultivation of divinity; for that which is divine is not indigent of any thing. But the honours which we pay to the Gods, are performed for the sake of our advantage: and since the providence of the Gods is every where extended, a certain habitude, or fitness, is all that is requisite in order to receive their beneficent communications. But all habitude is produced through imitation and similitude; and hence temples imitate the heavens, but altars the earth; statues resemble life, and on this account they are similar to animals; and prayers imitate that which is intellectual; but characters, superior ineffable powers; herbs and stones resemble matter; and animals which are sacrificed, the irrational life of our souls. But from all these nothing happens to the Gods beyond what they already possess; for what accession can be made to a divine nature? But a conjunction with our souls and the Gods is by this means produced.
But I think it will be proper to add a few things concerning sacrifices. And, in the first place, since we possess every thing from the Gods, and it is but just to offer the first fruits of gifts to the givers; hence, of our possessions we offer the first fruits through consecrated gifts; of our bodies, through ornaments; and of our life, through sacrifices. Besides, without sacrifices prayers are words only; but accompanied with sacrifices they become animated words; and words indeed corroborating life, but life animating the words. Add too that the felicity of every thing is its proper perfection; but the proper perfection with its cause: and on this account we pray that we may be conjoined with the Gods. Since therefore life primarily subsists in the Gods, and there is also a certain human life, but the latter desires to be united with the former, a medium is required; for natures much distant from each other cannot be conjoined without a medium; and it is necessary that the medium should be similar to the connecting natures. Life therefore must necessarily by the medium of life; and hence men of the present day, that are happy, and all the ancients, have sacrificed animals; and this indeed not rashly, but in a manner accommodated to every God, with many other ceremonies respecting the cultivation of divinity. And thus much concerning sacrifices and the worship of the Gods.
That the Gods will never destroy the world has been already asserted; but the order of discourse requires that we should now prove that it is naturally incorruptible; for whatever is corrupted is either corrupted from itself or from some other nature. If therefore the world is corrupted from itself, fire must necessarily burn itself, and water consume itself by dryness: but if the world may be corrupted by another, it must either be from body or from that which is incorporeal. But it is impossible that this can be effected from that which is incorporeal; for incorporeals, such as nature and soul, preserve corporeal substances; and nothing is destroyed by that which naturally preserves. But if the world may be corrupted by body, it must either be from the bodies which exist at present, or from others. And if form the bodies existing at present, either those which move in a circle must destroy those moving in a right line, or those moving in a right ling, such as circularly revolve. But nothing moving in a circle has a corruptible nature; for why do we never see any thing of this kind corrupted? And things proceeding in a right ling cannot reach those revolving in an orb; for if this were possible, why have they never been able to accomplish this to the present day? But neither can the natures which are moved in a right line be destroyed by each other; for the corruption of one is the generation of the other; and this is not destruction, but mutation alone. But if the world may be corrupted by other bodies than those which it contains, it is impossible to tell from whence these bodies were generated, or in what place they at present exist. Besides, whatever is corrupted, is either corrupted in form or matter; but form is figure, and matter is body. And when forms are corrupted, but the matter remains, then we perceive that something else is generated: but if matter may be corrupted, how comes it to pass that it has not failed in so great a number of years? But if instead of the corrupted natures of others are produced, they are either generated from beings or from non-beings; and if from beings, since these remain perpetually, matter also must be eternal: but if beings (or the things which are) suffer corruption, the authors of this hypothesis must assert, that not only the world, but all things, will be corrupted. But if matter is generated from non-beings, in the first place, it is impossible that any thing can be generated from non-beings: and even if this were possible, and matter could be thus produced, as long as non-being subsists matter would continue in existence; and non-beings can never be destroyed. And if they say that matter is without form, in the first place, why does this happen not according to a part, but to the whole world? And in the next place, bodies themselves would no be destroyed, but only their beauty. Besides, whatever is corrupted is either dissolved into the natures from which it consists, or vanishes into non-entity; but if it be dissolved into the natures from which it is composed, other again will be produced: for on what account was it produced at first? But if beings pass into that which is not, what should hinder this from happening to divinity itself? If power prevents, it is not the property of power to preserve itself alone: and, by a similar reason, it is impossible that being should be generated from non-beings, and that they should vanish into non-entity. Likewise it is necessary that the world, if it may be corrupted, should either be corrupted according or contrary to nature. But if it may be corrupted according to nature, then, on account of its past and present continuance in being, it would possess that which is contrary, prior to that which is agreeable, to nature; but if contrary to nature, then it is requisite that there should be some other nature which may change the nature of the world; and which is no where apparent. Besides, whatever is capable of being naturally corrupted, we also are able to destroy; but no one has ever destroyed or changed the circular body of the world; while, on the other hand, we can change, but cannot destroy, an elementary body. And, lastly, whatever may be corrupted is changed and grows old by time; but through such an extended succession of ages, the world has remained without mutation. And having said thus much to those who require on this subject stronger demonstrations we earnestly supplicate the world to be propitious to our undertaking.
But impiety, which invades some places of the earth, and which will often subsist in future, ought not to give any disturbance to the worthy mind; for things of this kind do not affect, nor can religious honours be of any advantage to the Gods; and the soul, from its middle nature, is not always able to pursue that which is right. Nor can the whole world participate in a similar manner of the providence of the Gods; but some of its parts enjoy this eternally and others according to time; some possess this primarily and others in a secondary degree: just as the head perceives from all the senses, but the whole body from one alone. And on this account, as it appears to me, those who instituted festive days, appointed also such as are inauspicious; during which some particulars belonging to sacred rites are omitted, and other are shut up; but such things as expiate the imbecillity of our nature deprive certain particulars of their peculiar ornament. Besides it is not improbable that impiety is a species of punishment; for those who have known, and at the same time despised the Gods, we may reasonably suppose will, in another life, be deprived of the knowledge of their nature. And those who have honoured their proper sovereigns as Gods, shall be cut off from the divinities, as the punishment of their impiety.
Nor ought we to wonder if not only offenders of this kind, but likewise others, are not immediately punished for their guilt; for there are not only dæmons who punish offending souls, but souls also inflict punishment on themselves; and it is not proper that such as are calculated, through the enormity of their guild, to suffer for the whole of time, should be punished in a small part of time. Besides it is requisite that there should be such a thing as human virtue: but if the guilty were immediately punished, men, from being just through fear, would no longer be virtuous. But souls are punished on their departure from the present body; some by wandering about this part of the earth, others in certain of its hot and cold regions, and others are tormented by avenging dæmons. But universally the rational souls suffers punishment in conjunction with the irrational soul, the partner of its guilt; and through this that shadowy body derives it subsistence, which is beheld about sepulchres, and especially about the tombs of such as have lived an abandoned life.
But the transmigration of souls, if they take place into such as are rational, then they become the souls of particular bodies; if into such as are irrational, they follow externally, in the same manner as our presiding dæmons attend us in their beneficent operations; for the rational part never becomes the soul of the irrational nature. But the truth of transmigration is evinced by the circumstances which take place from the birth of individuals; for why are some born blind, others imbecil, and others with a vicious soul? And besides, since souls are naturally adapted to perform their peculiar employments in bodies, it is not proper that when they have once deserted them they should remain indolent for ever; for it souls did not return again into bodies, it is necessary that either they should be infinite in number, or that others should be continually produced by the divinity. But there can be nothing actually infinite in the world; for that which is infinite can never exist in that which is finite. But neither is it possible that others can be produced; for every thing in which something new may be generated is necessarily imperfect; but it is requisite that the world should be perfect, because it is produced from a perfect nature.
But souls that live according to virtue shall, in other respects, be happy; and when separated from the irrational nature, and purified from all body, shall be conjoined with the Gods, and govern the whole world, together with the deities by whom it was produced. And, indeed, though nothing of this kind should happen to the soul, yet virtue herself, and the pleasure and glory resulting from virtue, together with a life free from sorrow, and subjection to others, would be sufficient to produce felicity in those who chose, and are able to pursue, a life wholly conformable to virtue itself.