Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online


Home | Prev | Next | Contents


  1. What is temperance?

  1. It is a regular use of our faculties, which makes us never exceed in our sensations the end of nature to preserve us; it is the moderation of the passions.

  1. Which is the vice contrary to temperance?

  1. The disorder of the passions, the avidity of all kind of enjoyments, in a word, cupidity.

  1. Which are the principal branches of temperance?

  1. Sobriety, and continence or chastity.

  1. How does the law of nature prescribe sobriety?

  1. By its powerful influence over our health. The sober man digests with comfort; he is not overpowered by the weight of aliments; his ideas are clear and easy; he fulfills all his functions properly; he conducts his business with intelligence; his old age is exempt from infirmity; he does not spend his money in remedies, and he enjoys, in mirth and gladness, the wealth which chance and his own prudence have procured him. Thus, from one virtue alone, generous nature derives innumerable recompenses.

  1. How does it prohibit gluttony?

  1. By the numerous evils that are attached to it. The glutton, oppressed with aliments, digests with anxiety; his head, troubled by the fumes of indigestion, is incapable of conceiving clear and distinct ideas; he abandons himself with violence to the disorderly impulse of lust and anger, which impair his health; his body becomes bloated, heavy, and unfit for labor; he endures painful and expensive distempers; he seldom lives to be old; and his age is replete with infirmities and sorrow.

  1. Should abstinence and fasting be considered as virtuous actions?

  1. Yes, when one has eaten too much; for then abstinence and fasting are simple and efficacious remedies; but when the body is in want of aliment, to refuse it any, and let it suffer from hunger or thirst, is delirium and a real sin against the law of nature.

  1. How is drunkenness considered in the law of nature?

  1. As a most vile and pernicious vice. The drunkard, deprived of the sense and reason given us by God, profanes the donations of the divinity: he debases himself to the condition of brutes; unable even to guide his steps, he staggers and falls as if he were epileptic; he hurts and even risks killing himself; his debility in this state exposes him to the ridicule and contempt of every person that sees him; he makes in his drunkenness, prejudicial and ruinous bargains, and injures his fortune; he makes use of opprobrious language, which creates him enemies and repentance; he fills his house with trouble and sorrow, and ends by a premature death or by a cacochymical old age.

  1. Does the law of nature interdict absolutely the use of wine?

  1. No; it only forbids the abuse; but as the transition from the use to the abuse is easy and prompt among the generality of men, perhaps the legislators, who have proscribed the use of wine, have rendered a service to humanity.

  1. Does the law of nature forbid the use of certain kinds of meat, or of certain vegetables, on particular days, during certain seasons?

  1. No; it absolutely forbids only whatever is injurious to health; its precepts, in this respect, vary according to persons, and even constitute a very delicate and important science for the quality, the quantity, and the combination of aliments have the greatest influence, not only over the momentary affections of the soul, but even over its habitual disposition. A man is not the same when fasting as after a meal, even if he were sober. A glass of spirituous liquor, or a dish of coffee, gives degrees of vivacity, of mobility, of disposition to anger, sadness, or gaiety; such a meat, because it lies heavy on the stomach, engenders moroseness and melancholy; such another, because it facilitates digestion, creates sprightliness, and an inclination to oblige and to love. The use of vegetables, because they have little nourishment, enfeebles the body, and gives a disposition to repose, indolence, and ease; the use of meat, because it is full of nourishment, and of spirituous liquors, because they stimulate the nerves, creates vivacity, uneasiness, and audacity. Now from those habitudes of aliment result habits of constitution and of the organs, which form afterwards different kinds of temperaments, each of which is distinguished by a peculiar characteristic. And it is for this reason that, in hot countries especially, legislators have made laws respecting regimen or food. The ancients were taught by long experience that the dietetic science constituted a considerable part of morality; among the Egyptians, the ancient Persians, and even among the Greeks, at the Areopagus, important affairs were examined fasting; and it has been remarked that, among those people, where public affairs were discussed during the heat of meals, and the fumes of digestion, deliberations were hasty and violent, and the results of them frequently unreasonable, and productive of turbulence and confusion.

Prev | Next | Contents

Links: - - - - -