Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online
OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES
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What is temperance?
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.
Which is the vice contrary to temperance?
The disorder of the passions, the avidity of all kind of
enjoyments, in a word, cupidity.
Which are the principal branches of temperance?
Sobriety, and continence or chastity.
How does the law of nature prescribe sobriety?
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.
How does it prohibit gluttony?
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.
Should abstinence and fasting be considered as virtuous
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.
How is drunkenness considered in the law of nature?
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.
Does the law of nature interdict absolutely the use of wine?
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.
Does the law of nature forbid the use of certain kinds of meat,
or of certain vegetables, on particular days, during certain
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.