Are you Moved by Fear of Death or Love of Life?

Plutarch De Tranquilitate Animi, 476b-c


“Fear of death rather than desire to live makes the foolish man depend on his body, grasping at it the way Odysseus did the fig-branch when he feared the looming Charybdis “where the wind allowed him neither to remain nor leave” (Aesch. Fr. 250), making him unhappy at this and frightened of that. But someone who has some kind of understanding of the nature of the soul and considers its change at death into something better or at least not worse has no small encouragement in life—being completely fearless of death.

For the one who can live well during the pleasant and familiar part of life, but can also move on without fear when events turn alien or become unnatural, and can say “the god himself will free me when I am ready” (Bacch. 498)—well what might we imagine could happen to make him troubled, angry or upset? For the man who says “I have expected you, Fortune, and I have deprived you of every angle of attack” (Metrodorus, fr. 49) has strengthened himself not with bolts, locks and walls, but with beliefs and reason which everyone who wants to can share.”

Τὸν μὲν γὰρ ἀνόητον ὁ τοῦ θανάτου φόβος οὐχ ὁ τοῦ ζῆν πόθος ἐκκρέμασθαι τοῦ σώματος ποιεῖ, περιπεπλεγμένον ὥσπερ τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα τῷ ἐρινεῷ (μ 432), δεδοικότα τὴν Χάρυβδιν ὑποκειμένην,    ‘ἔνθ’ οὔτε μίμνειν ἄνεμος οὔτε πλεῖν ἐᾷ’ (Aisch. fr. 250), καὶ πρὸς ταῦτα δυσαρέστως καὶ πρὸς ἐκεῖνα περιδεῶς ἔχοντα. ὁ δὲ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς φύσιν ἁμωσγέπως ὑπονοῶν καὶ τὴν εἰς τὸ βέλτιον αὐτῆς ἢ μηθὲν κάκιον ἐν τῇ τελευτῇ μεταβολὴν ἐπιλογιζόμενος οὐ μικρὸν ἔχει τῆς πρὸς τὸν βίον εὐθυμίας ἐφόδιον τὴν πρὸς τὸν θάνατον ἀφοβίαν. ᾧ γὰρ ἔξεστι τῆς μὲν ἀρεστῆς καὶ οἰκείας μερίδος ἐπικρατούσης ἡδέως ζῆν, τῶν δ’ ἀλλοτρίων καὶ παρὰ φύσιν ὑπερβαλλόντων ἀδεῶς ἀπελθεῖν εἰπόντα (Eur. Bacch. 498)  ‘λύσει μ’ ὁ δαίμων αὐτός, ὅταν ἐγὼ θέλω,’ τί ἂν τούτῳ χαλεπὸν ἢ δύσκολον ἢ ταραχῶδες ἐμπίπτον ἐπινοήσαιμεν; ὁ γὰρ εἰπών ‘προκατείλημμαί σ’, ὦ τύχη, καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν σὴν ἀφῄρημαι παρείσδυσιν’ (Metrodorus Ep. fr. 49) οὐ μοχλοῖς οὐδὲ κλεισὶν οὐδὲ τείχεσιν ἐθάρρυνεν ἑαυτόν, ἀλλὰ δόγμασι καὶ λόγοις ὧν πᾶσι μέτεστι τοῖς βουλομένοις

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