The endeavour is not to be without sin, but to be a God . That is, to be a God according to a similitude to divinity itself. For through this similitude, good men are also called by Plato Gods. Hence, too, Empedocles says of himself, «Farewell, no mortal , but a God am I.»
From this magnificent conception of human nature by the Pythagoreans and Plato, considered according to its true condition, the lofty language of the Stoics about their wise man was doubtless derived. For they assert of him that he possesses continual hilarity, and sublime joy; that he is blessed even in torments; that he is without perturbation, because he is stable and remote from error; that he does not opine, because he does not assent to anything false; that nothing happens to him contrary to his expectation; and that he is sufficient to himself, or is contented with himself alone, so far as pertains to living blessedly, and not to merely living; for to the latter many things are necessary, but to the former nothing is requisite but a sane and erect mind which looks down upon fortune with contempt. They farther add, that all things are the «property of the wise man, and that he alone is to be considered rich, because he uses all things in the way which they ought to be used, and because he alone possesses the virtues, which are more precious than all treasures. That he alone is free, but that all bad men are slaves: for he neither fears any thing, nor does any thing cause him to grieve, nor is he subservient to any subordinate nature. That he alone is a king; for he governs both himself, and others. Hence Seneca,» Are you willing to have great honour, I will give you a great empire: obtain dominion over yourself.«And lastly they add, that the wise man is obnoxious to no injury. For, as Seneca says in his treatise» De Constantia Sapientis,«» Fortune takes away nothing except that which she gave ; but she does not give virtue, and therefore does not take it away. Virtue is free, inviolable, unmoved, unshaken, and so hardened against casualties, that she cannot even be made to incline, much less can she be vanquished. Hence the wise man loses nothing of which he will perceive the loss; for he is in the possession of virtue, from which he can never be driven, and he uses every thing else as something different from his proper good. If, therefore, an injury cannot hurt any of those things which are the property of a wise man, because they are safe through virtue, an injury cannot be done to a wise man.«And afterwards, speaking of Stilpo the philosopher, who on being asked by Demetrius-whether he had lost any thing by the capture of Megarar answered that he had lost nothing; for, said he, all that is mine is with me ; and yet his patrimony was a part of the plunder, and the enemy had ravished his daughters, and conquered his country; speaking of this very extraordinary man, he observes as follows,» Stilpo shook off victory from the conqueror, and testified that though the city was taken, he himself was not only unconquered but without loss; for he had with him true goods, upon which no hand can be laid. Whatever may be dissipated and plundered,, he did not consider as his own, but as a thing adventitious, and which follows the nod of fortune, and hence he did not love it as his proper good. It must therefore be admitted that this perfect man, who was full of human and divine virtues, lost nothing. His goods were begirt with solid and insurmountable fortifications. You must not compare with these the walls of Babylon, which Alexander entered ; nor the walls of Carthage or Numantia, which were captured by one hand; nor the Capitol, or the citadel; for these possess an hostile vestige. But the walls which defend the wise man are safe from flames and incursion; they afford no entrance, are unconquerable, and so lofty that they reach even to the Gods.«Agreeably to this, also, the great Socrates said with a magnanimity which has seldom been equalled, and never surpassed,» Anytus and Melitus may indeed put me to death, but they cannot injure me."
These magnificent conceptions, and this elevated language arising from the cultivation of true virtue and wisdom, were no longer to be found when the hand of barbaric despotism abolished the schools of the philosophers. For then, as a necessary consequence, a night of ignorance succeeded, which is without a parallel in the history of any period; and Philosophy, accompanied by all the great virtues, retired from the Cimmerian darkness into the splendid and dignified solitude in which the Genius of antiquity resides.