The Book of Sallustius the Philosopher V–VIII

Translated from the original Greek by Ɔ. Martiana. This translation is in the public domain.

V

1. (θʹ) After this, one must learn about the First Cause and the orders of the gods after it; the nature of the cosmos; the essence of intellect and soul; providence, fate and fortune; virtue and vice; and consider the good and corrupt forms of government; and from where evils enter the cosmos. Each of these would require many and long discussions (lógoi), but lest people learn nothing about them at all, nothing seems to prevent us from discussing them more briefly.

2. As for the First Cause, it must necessarily be one, since unity rules over all multiplicity, and it surpasses all things in power and goodness. Consequently, all things must participate in it, since, on account of its power, nothing else will hinder it, and on account of its goodness, it will not keep itself back.

3. Now, if the First Cause were Soul, all things would be ensouled; if it were Intellect, all things would be intellective; if Essence, all things would participate in essence. Some people do believe that it is Essence, because they see that in all things. And if they were only beings, and not goods, the reasoning (lógos) would be true: but if they have being on account of goodness, and beings participate in the good, then the first thing must be Good, but beyond Being. There is a very great proof of this: for worthy souls are contemptuous of their own being when they choose to take risks for the sake of country, friends or virtue.

And after this very inexpressible power there follow the orders of the gods.

VI

1. (ιʹ) Of the gods, some are encosmic, others beyond the cosmos. I call those gods who create the cosmos encosmic, while of those beyond the cosmos, some create the essences of gods, others the intellect, others souls; and on this account they have three orders, and they are all to be found in dedicated treatises (lógoi).

2. (ιαʹ) Of the encosmic gods, some create the cosmos, others ensoul it, some bring things from divergence into harmony, others again guard what has been harmonized. And since these are four activities and each has a beginning, middle and end, those who govern them are necessarily twelve. 3. Τhose who create the cosmos are Zeus, Poseidon and Hephaestus; those who ensoul it are Demeter, Hera and Artemis; those who harmonize it are Apollon, Aphrodite and Hermes; those who guard it are Hestia, Athena and Ares. 4. And riddling indications of these things can be seen in their images: for Apollo harmonizes the lyre, Athena is armed, and Aphrodite is naked because harmony creates beauty, and beauty in the visible things is not hidden. These, then, are those who hold the cosmos in the first primarily, but other gods are to be considered to be within them; e.g., Dionysus is within Zeus, Asclepius in Apollon and the Graces in Aphrodite.

5. (ιβʹ) And the spheres can be concluded to be theirs: the earth belongs to Hestia, water to Poseidon, air to Hera, fire to Hephaestus, and the six above them belong to those gods it is customary to attribute them to; for we must also take sun and moon to refer to Apollon and Artemis. But Saturn (Krónou) must be assigned to Demeter, and the ether to Athena, while heaven is common to all.

Thus, the orders and powers and spheres of the twelve gods have been designated and celebrated.

VII

1. (ιγʹ) The cosmos itself must necessarily be imperishable and unoriginated. Imperishable because, if it perishes, it must produce something greater, something lesser, itself, or disorder (akosmía). But if lesser, the one who makes it from something greater into something lesser is evil; if greater, he is incapable to have made it greater from the beginning; if simply itself, he will work to no purpose; if disorder – but it is not licit to even consider to something like this.

2. These things are also enough to show that it is unoriginated: for if it does not perish, it also did not orginate, because everything that is originated perishes. And since the cosmos has its being through the goodness of the god, and the god is eternally good, it is necessary that the cosmos likewise subsists eternally – in the same way that light co-subsists with Sun and fire, and shadow with body.

3. Of the bodies in the cosmos, some imitate intellect and move circularly, others imitate soul and move rectilinearly (‘in a straight line’). And of those that move rectilinearly, fire and air move upwards, but earth and water downwards. Of those moving circularly, the fixed sphere moves from the East, but the seven spheres are carried from the West. The reasons for this are many and various, including to prevent that origination be incomplete because the revolution of the spheres is too rapid.

4. But since motion is diverse, the nature of bodies must necessarily also be diverse, and the celestial body cannot burn, cool, or do anything else which is a peculiar property of the four elements.

5. (ιδʹ) Since the cosmos is a sphere – as the zodiac shows –, and since in any sphere the low point is the center – because it is furthest from any point – and heavy things fall downwards, they sink down to the earth.

All these things are created by the gods, ordered by Intellect and moved by Soul; but we have already spoken about the gods.

VIII

1. (ιεʹ) Intellect is a power, secondary in relation to Essence, but primary in relation to Soul, which receives its being from Essence and perfects the Soul, as the sun perfects the eyes.

Of souls, some are rational and immortal, others irrational and mortal; and the former derive from the primary gods, the latter from the secondary gods.

2. First, it must be investigated what the soul is. Now, that by which animate (‘ensouled’) and inanimate (‘soulless’) beings differ is the soul, and they differ in terms of movement, perception, imagination and thinking. Therefore, an irrational soul is perceptive and imaginative life, and a rational soul controls perception and imagination and uses reason. And the irrational soul follows the bodily passions, because it thoughtlessly feels desire and anger, whereas the rational soul, through its use of reason, has little regard for the body and fights against the irrational soul; when it is victorius, it produces virtue, when it is bested, it produces evil.

3. (ιϛʹ) The soul must necessarily be immortal, because it knows the gods – and a mortal thing does not know anything immortal. It also despises human affairs as something foreign, and, being immortal, it has a disposition contrary to bodies; for the soul is erratic when bodies are beautiful and young, but it flourishes when they grow old. Further, every worthy soul uses intellect, but no body originates intellect; for how would unthinking things (anóēta) originate intellect (noûs)?

4. Although the soul uses the body as an instrument, it is not in it – in the same way that an engineer is not in the machines he has constructed, and nevertheless, many of these machines move without anyone touching them. Neither should we wonder if it is often deceived by the body, since the arts also cannot operate if their instruments are damaged.

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