Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.52-60
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[1.52] But because nearly all the topics of complaint have been treated and sufficiently enumerated in the Summa rhetorica,1 the topics of consolation should now be handled, whose doctrine, although it may be unknown to nearly all, is absolutely necessary and should be gathered together under a set number of points.2 Indeed because a consolation is a certain mitigation of anguish supported by the benefit of reason, just as there are various species of anguish, so there should be various species of consolation, because the type of medicament should be applied according to the type of wound.

[1.53] Thus the first type of consolation is when we show that what has happened to one and inflicts anguish on one, is neither new nor unusual, but has befallen the most elevated and wise men. And one should pose examples: So in Ovid's Fasti Carmentis will console Evander, bearing exile impatiently, in this manner: 'Do not mourn these sufferings, as if you were the first to suffer, such storms have overwhelmed the mighty...Tydeus endured the same and Jason, Pegasus etc.'3 For just as every good thing shines beautifully when it is brought into the communion of many; so on the other hand, an evil may be easily tolerated when it is shared by many. For since man is a social animal, the possession of no good is joyful without a partner. Also: The burden of adversity would be intolerable to him, unless common to him with many.

[1.54] The second topic of consolation is when we show that calamity which has brought us to grief should not be ascribed to the temerity of fortune, but rather to the common infirmity of men, such as from the death of our friends or from grave illness, which are not subject to fortune, but to nature.

[1.55] The third topic of consolation is when the trouble which is tolerated is either shown not to be grave as if complaint is excluded; or if it were grave, is declared to be brief and transitory and therefore is proved to be tolerable, because "All brief things are tolerable," just as Cicero said.4 Thus a certain tyrant was consoled, saying "My suffering is either light and insufficient to bring on death; even if it is grave, it will not last more than the space of two or three days."5

[1.56] The fourth topic of consolation is when the adversity, which weighs us down and which inflicts damage on us, is shown to be given to us not for our downfall but for the exercise of virtue and therefore should be attributed not to us but to divine providence.

[1.57] The fifth topic of consolation is when everything which is sought, and in which felicity is constituted, is proven to be vain and fleeting and that which would be promised cannot have effect and therefore one should neither rejoice at their attainment nor grieve at their loss, because what is possessed with desire is not lost without anguish.6 In the book De consolatione Philosophy employs this type of consolation.7

[1.58] The sixth topic of consolation is when we prove from the most evident reason and by posing examples that the labors and adversities which someone suffers do not beget ignominy for him, but glory, just as for Jason, Aeneas, Ulysses, Hercules and Cadmus. Continuous labors and a manliness exercised in dire and harsh affairs, albeit indefatigable, engendered glory for all these men. Exile was more fortunate for them than their native country, as Ovid showed in his book De Ponto.8

[1.59] The seventh topic of consolation is when we show that fortune is mutable and can easily relapse to the opposing side. This type of consolation fits under the heading 'imperfect'.9

[1.60] Arguments for consolation can be derived from these seven topics, as if from proper seats, by which arguments the mind of a man consumed by grief is led into a better hope and is reformed to its prior and proper state. But on the other hand, you can induce any sort of despair by using these same topics. How this may be done shall be left to your own genius. For we cannot explain everything, but we may sow a seed, just as Cicero, when he diligently listed the topics of praise, said "Arguments of vituperation are derived from topics of praise, if one employs them by opposition."10


1 Cicero De inventione 1.55 (106-109) listing 14 topics of complaint. In Cicero's scheme, complaint is one of three species of conclusion. See above, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.10, below 1.66, 1.77.

2 This discussion of the topics of consolation is not treated by PETER VON MOOS Consolatio. Studien zur mittellateinischen Trostliteratur ber den Tod und zum Problem der Christlichen Trauer (Munich 1971).

3 Ovid Fasti 487-88, 491. The lines skipped mention the exile Cadmus. According to Isidore of Seville (Etymologiae 1.4, 5.39), the nymph Carmentis invented the Latin alphabet.

4 Cicero Laelius de amicitia 104.

5 Not identified.

6 A variant of this phrase appears also above, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.47.

7 Boethius De consolatione philosophiae Book II.

8 Epistulae ex Ponto ed. W. WILLIGE (1964). Jason: 1.4.24, 36, 46; Aeneas: 1.1.33, 3.3.62; Ulysses: 3.1.53, 3.6.19, 4.10.9, 566, 615, 4.14.35, 4.16.13; Hercules: 4.13.11, 4.16.7; Cadmus: 1.3.77, 4.10.55.

9 See below Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.75, for perfect and mediate duty.

10 Cicero De inventione 2.59. See also Rethorica ad Herennium 3.6-8 and below, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.66-76.

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Steven M. Wight, Los Angeles 1998
Scrineum Universit di Pavia 1999