Psychopomp Magazine Summer 2015 - Page 34

34 | Psychopomp Magazine

Anton Ivanov

In Articulo Mortis

When the rooster crowed, maybe at sunset, Carneades was walking, or not, from the Senate to the room where he’d spend the night. Lying in the lectica carried through the darkening streets, he reconsidered the events of the day. With Diogenes the Stoic and Critolaus the Paripatetic he was sent as an ambassador to Rome, to dispute a fine brought upon Athens for the destruction of one city or another. That morning, in front of the convened senators, he clearly stated the question at hand as that of Rome’s justice. He proceeded to give two speeches: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the morning he praised Rome’s virtue. It was a power justified both by might and justice. He declared admiration for the peace the republic brought to the world and the fairness with which it treated its friends. Eloquently he showed how Rome was founded not just on human law, but on a natural, or certainly divine, law. Carneades concluded that it was exactly because of this natural justice that Rome sanctioned Athens, and that Athens’ duty was to pay the Talents in order to uphold this justice. All the senators stood up to applaud the Athenian, moved by his words.

Once the sun moved across the meridian, Carneades asked to make one more speech. He raised his left hand and lowered his right and one by one refuted all of his previous points. Rome was just, first of all, because it was powerful, and justice is anything the strong decide it to be. Its peace came at the price of constant wars with enemies at the borders. And while fair to its friends, to be Rome’s friend one had to be its subject. Yet to be a friend, so the Philosophers argued, is to hold another as an equal and not as an inferior. In that sense, Carneades insisted, Rome had no friends, and thus Rome was never fair in its dealings with others. For if Rome wanted to be fair to others that would mean Rome should return every territory it conquered, and only then demand Athens make amends. Thus Carneades concluded with a gesture of his hands, which hadn’t moved until then, that the existence of Rome was not in