De Natura Deorum

The Nature of the Gods

M. Tullius Cicero

II. 150

How truly apt and how helpful a hand of many skills has nature given man!  For the easy contraction and extension of the fingers takes pain in no motion because of the soft connections and joints.  The hand is apt through the application of the fingers for painting, forming, carving, and enticing sounds from bows and flutes.  I The previous for necessity, the following for pleasure, I mean the cultivations of fields and the building of houses, the covering of the bodies, whether woven or sewn, and every craft of brass and iron; from which it is known that we have obtained everything with craftsmen’s hands applied to the things invented by the soul and perceived by the senses, so that we could be protected, clothed, saved, that we might have cities, walls, homes, and shrines.

II. 151

Moreover, by the works of man, that is by the hands, the variety of food is also discovered, and abundance too.  For both the fields bring forth great gains by the hand, that they may be either immediately consumed, or stored and entrusted to time, and furthermore we feed upon terrestrial, aquatic, and aerial beasts, some by capture, others by rearing.  We also bring about transport by our taming quadrupeds, whose speed and strength produce strength and speed in our very selves.  We impose a burden, a yoke, on certain beasts; we use the most acute senses of elephants, the keenness of dogs to our advantage; we coax iron from depths of the earth, a necessary material for fields to be cultivated, we find ores of copper, silver, and gold hidden inside, both apt for use and appropriate for furniture.  We utilize the materials and the cuttings of trees both from cultivated and wild trees, partly for heating the body by applied fire and for softening bread, partly for construction, that surrounded by houses we may banish the cold and the heat;

II. 152

Truly, lumber brings about great advantages for making ships; by which voyages all supplies for life are furnished from everywhere; of those violent things which nature begets, we alone have moderation of the seas and the winds, we enjoy and we use maritime things through skill in nautical affairs.  Likewise, everything of earthly benefit is dominated in man:  we delight in plains and mountains, ours are rivers and lakes, we sow crops and trees; we produce fruitfulness by the application of water to land, we ward, direct, and avert streams; in short, by our hands we attempt to produce in the nature of things a sort of second nature.

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