-=  Facta & Verba  =-

Translation Cons. Phil. Book 1 Prosa 4

Prosa 4

1 `Are such your experiences, and do they sink into your soul?' she asked. `Do you listen only as the dull ass to the lyre? Why do you weep? Wherefore flow your tears? Speak, nor keep secret in thine heart. If you expect a physician to help you, you must lay bare your wound.' 2 Then did I rally my spirit till it was strong again, and answered, `Does the savage bitterness of my fortune still need recounting? Does it not stand forth plainly enough of itself? Does not the very aspect of this place strike you? 3 Is this the library which you had chosen for yourself as your sure resting-place in my house ? Is this the room in which you would so often tarry with me expounding the philosophy of things human and divine? 4 Was my condition like this, or my countenance, when I probed with your aid the secrets of nature, when you marked out with a wand the courses of the stars, when you shaped our habits and the rule of all our life by the pattern of the universe? Are these the rewards we reap by yielding ourselves to you? 5 Nay, you yourself have established this saying by the mouth of Plato, that commonwealths would be blessed if they were guided by those who made wisdom their study, or if those who guided them would make wisdom their study. 6 By the mouth of that same great man did you teach that this was the binding reason why a commonwealth should be governed by philosophers, namely that the helm of government should not be left to unscrupulous or criminal citizens lest they should bring corruption and ruin upon the good citizens. 7 Since, then, I had learned from you in quiet and inaction of this view, I followed it further, for I desired to practise it in public government. 8 You and God Himself, who has grafted you in the minds of philosophers, are my witnesses that never have I applied myself to any office of state except that I might work for the common welfare of all good men. 9 Thence followed bitter quarrels with evil men which could not be appeased, and, for the sake of preserving justice, contempt of the enmity of those in power, for this is the result of a free and fearless conscience.

10 How often have I withstood Conigastus to his face, whenever he has attacked a weak man's fortune! How often have I turned by force Trigulla, the overseer of the Emperor's household, from an unjust act that he had begun or even carried out! How many times have I put my own authority in danger by protecting those wretched people who were harried with unending false charges by the greed of barbarian Goths which ever went unpunished! Never, I say, has any man depraved me from justice to injustice. 11 My heart has ached as bitterly as those of the sufferers when I have seen the fortunes of our subjects ruined both by the rapacity of persons and the taxes of the state. 12 Again, in a time of severe famine, a grievous, intolerable sale by compulsion was decreed in Campania, and devastation threatened that province. Then I undertook for the sake of the common welfare a struggle against the commander of the Imperial guard; though the king was aware of it, I fought against the enforcement of the sale, and fought successfully. 13 Paulinus was a man who had been consul: the jackals of the court had in their own hopes and desires already swallowed up his possessions, but I snatched him from their very gaping jaws. 14 I exposed myself to the hatred of the treacherous informer Cyprian, that I might prevent Albinus, also a former consul, being overwhelmed by the penalty of a trumped-up charge. 15 Think you that I have raised up against myself bitter and great quarrels enough? But I ought to have been safer among those whom I helped; for, from my love of justice, I laid up for myself among the courtiers no resource to which I might turn for safety. Who, further, were the informers upon whose evidence I was banished? 16 One was Basilius: he was formerly expelled from the royal service, and was driven by debt to inform against me. 17 Again, Opilio and Gaudentius had been condemned to exile by the king for many unjust acts and crimes: this decree they would not obey, and they sought sanctuary in sacred buildings, but when the king was aware of it, he declared that if they departed not from Ravenna before a certain day, they should be driven forth branded upon their foreheads. 18 What could be more stringent than this? Yet upon that very day information against me was laid by these same men and accepted. 19 Why so? Did my character deserve this treatment? Or did my prearranged condemnation give credit and justification to my accusers ? Did Fortune feel no shame for this? If not for innocence calumniated, at any rate for the baseness of the calumniators?

20 Would you learn the sum of the charges against me? It was said that "I had desired the safety of the Senate." 21 You would learn in what way? I was charged with "having hindered an informer from producing papers by which the Senate could be accused of treason." 22 What think you, my mistress ? Shall I deny it lest it shame you? Nay, I did desire the safety of the Senate, nor shall ever cease to desire it. Shall I confess it? 23 Then there would have been no need to hinder an informer. Shall I call it a crime to have wished for the safety of that order? By its own decrees concerning myself it has established that this is a crime. 24 Though want of foresight often deceives itself, it cannot alter the merits of facts, and, in obedience to the Senate's command, I cannot think it right to hide the truth or to assent to falsehood. 25 However, I leave it to your judgment and that of philosophers to decide how the justice of this may be; but I have committed to writing for history the true course of events, that posterity may not be ignorant thereof. 26 I think it unnecessary to speak of the forged letters through which I am accused of "hoping for the freedom of Rome." Their falsity would have been apparent if I had been free to question the evidence of the informers themselves, for their confessions have much force in all such business. 27 But what avails it? No liberty is left to hope for. Would there were any! I would answer in the words of Canius, who was accused by Gaius C‘sar, Germanicus's son, of being cognisant of a plot against himself: "If I had known of it, you would not have." 28 And in this matter grief has not so blunted my powers that I should complain of wicked men making impious attacks upon virtue: but at this I do wonder, that they should hope to succeed. 29 Evil desires are, it may be, due to our natural failings, but that the conceptions of any wicked mind should prevail against innocence while God watches over us, seems to me unnatural. 30 Wherefore not without cause has one of your own followers asked, "If God is, whence come evil things? If He is not, whence come good ?" 31 Again, let impious men, who thirst for the blood of the whole Senate and of all good citizens, be allowed to wish for the ruin of us too whom they recognise as champions of the Senate and all good citizens: 32 but surely such as I have not deserved the same hatred from the members of the Senate too? Since you were always present to guide me in my words and my deeds, I think you remember what happened at Verona. When King Theodoric, desiring the common ruin of the Senate, was for extending to the whole order the charge of treason laid against Albinus, you remember how I laboured to defend the innocence of the order without any care for my own danger? 33 You know that I declare this truthfully and with no boasting praise of self. For the secret value of a conscience, that approves its own action, is lessened somewhat each time that it receives the reward of fame by displaying its deeds. 34 But you see what end has fallen upon my innocency. In the place of the rewards of honest virtue, I am suffering the punishments of an ill deed that was not mine. 35 And did ever any direct confession of a crime find its judges so well agreed upon exercising harshness, that neither the liability of the human heart to err, nor the changeableness of the fortune of all mankind, could yield one dissentient voice? 36 If it had been said that I had wished to burn down temples, to murder with sacrilegious sword their priests, that I had planned the massacre of all good citizens, even so I should have been present to plead guilty or to be convicted, before the sentence was executed. But here am I, nearly five hundred miles away, without the opportunity of defending myself, condemned to death and the confiscation of my property because of my too great zeal for the Senate. Ah! well have they deserved that none should ever be liable to be convicted on such a charge! 37 Even those who laid information have seen the honour of this accusation, for, that they might blacken it with some criminal ingredient, they had need to lie, saying that I had violated my conscience by using unholy means to obtain offices corruptly. 38 But you, by being planted within me, dispelled from the chamber of my soul all craving for that which perishes, and where your eyes were looking there could be no place for any such sacrilege. For you instilled into my ears, and thus into my daily thoughts, that saying of Pythagoras, Follow after God. 39 Nor was it seemly that I, whom you had built up to such excellence that you made me as a god, should seek the support of the basest wills of men. 40 Yet, further, the innocent life within my home, my gathering of most honourable friends, my father-in-law Symmachus, a man esteemed no less in his public life than for his private conscientiousness, these all put far from me all suspicion of this crime. 41 But--O the shame of it!--it is from you that they think they derive the warrant for such a charge, and we seem to them to be allied to ill-doing from this very fact that we are steeped in the principles of your teaching, and trained in your manners of life. 42 Thus it is not enough that my deep respect for you has profited me nothing, but you yourself have received wanton contumely from the hatred that had rather fallen on me. 43 Yet besides this, is another load added to my heap of woes: the judgment of the world looks not to the deserts of the case, but to the evolution of chance, and holds that only this has been intended which good fortune may chance to foster: whence it comes that the good opinion of the world is the first to desert the unfortunate. 44 It is wearisome to recall what were the tales by people told, or how little their many various opinions agreed. This alone I would fain say: it is the last burden laid upon us by unkind fortune, that when any charge is invented to be fastened upon unhappy men, they are believed to have deserved all they have to bear. 45 For kindness I have received persecutions; I have been driven from all my possessions, stripped of my honours, and stained for ever in my reputation. 46 I think I see the intoxication of joy in the sin-steeped dens of criminals: I see the most abandoned of men intent upon new and evil schemes of spying: I see honest men lying crushed with the fear which smites them after the result of my perilous case: wicked men one and all encouraged to dare every crime without fear of punishment, nay, with hope of rewards for the accomplishment thereof: the innocent I see robbed not merely of their peace and safety, but even of all chance of defending themselves. So then I may cry aloud:

-=  Facta & Verba  =-