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On Those Who Are Punished By The Deity Late
by [?]

A discussion between Patrocleas, Plutarch, Timon, and Olympicus.

Sec. I. When Epicurus had made these remarks, Quintus, and before any of us who were at the end of the porch[806] could reply, he went off abruptly. And we, marvelling somewhat at his rudeness, stood still silently but looked at one another, and then turned and pursued our walk as before. And Patrocleas was the first to speak. “Are we,” said he, “to leave the question unanswered, or are we to reply to his argument in his absence as if he were present?” Then said Timon, “Because he went off the moment he had thrown his missile at us, it would not be good surely to leave it sticking in us; for we are told that Brasidas plucked the javelin that had been thrown at him out of his body, and with it killed the hurler of it; but there is of course no need for us to avenge ourselves so on those that have launched on us an absurd or false argument, it will be enough to dislodge the notion before it gets fixed in us.” Then said I, “Which of his words has moved you most? For the fellow seemed to rampage about, in his anger and abusive language, with a long disconnected and rambling rhapsody drawn from all sources, and at the same time inveighed against Providence.”

Sec. II. Then said Patrocleas, “The slowness and delay of the deity in punishing the wicked used to seem[807] to me a very dreadful thing, but now in consequence of his speech I come as it were new and fresh to the notion. Yet long ago I was vexed when I heard that line of Euripides,

“He does delay, such is the Deity
In nature.”[808]

For indeed it is not fitting that the deity should be slow in anything, and least of all in the punishment of the wicked, seeing that they are not slow or sluggish in doing evil, but are hurried by their passions into crime at headlong speed. Moreover, as Thucydides[809] says, when punishment follows as closely as possible upon wrong-doing, it blocks up the road at once for those who would follow up their villainy if it were successful. For no debt so much as that of justice paid behind time damps the hopes and dejects the mind of the wronged person, and aggravates the audacity and daring of the wrong-doer; whereas the punishment that follows crime immediately not only checks future outbreaks but is also the greatest possible comfort to the injured. And so I am often troubled when I consider that remark of Bias, who told, it seems, a bad man that he was not afraid that he would escape punishment, but that he would not live to see it. For how did the Messenians who were killed long before derive any benefit from the punishment of Aristocrates? For he had been guilty of treason at the battle of The Great Trench, but had reigned over the Arcadians for more than twenty years without being found out, but afterwards was detected and paid the penalty, but they were no longer alive.[810] Or what consolation was brought to the people of Orchomenus, who lost their sons and friends and relatives in consequence of the treason of Lyciscus, by the disease which settled upon him long afterwards and spread all over his body? For he used to go and dip and soak his feet in the river, and uttered imprecations and prayed that they might rot off if he was guilty of treason or crime. Nor was it permitted to the children’s children of those that were slain to see at Athens the tearing out of their graves the bodies of those atrocious criminals that had killed them, and the carrying them beyond their borders. And so it seems strange in Euripides using the following argument to deter people from vice: