‘What shall we do then?’

Pyrrhus was preparing to launch an invasion of the Italian peninsula at great cost to both gold and life. Over a philosophical dinner Cineas asked the king, “Once you have beaten the Romans what shall we do?”

“Once the Romans are conquered we shall have all the riches of Italy at our disposal,” Pyrrhus answered.

Cineas paused, probably sipped from his wine and asked, “And what will we do then?”

Sicily is near! It will be an easy victory.”

Cineas thought a moment more. ”And then what shall we do?”

“Then we will take Libya and Carthage,” the king replied.

“What will we do after that?”

“We will secure all of the Greek world under my rule,” the king nodded at the thought.

“But what will we do then?” Cineas asked.

“Ah, my friend,” said Pyrrhus, ”then we shall rest. We will drink wine, and talk philosophy, and enjoy the fruits of our friendship.”

Cineas looked around. They had wine. They had friendship. They were talking. “Can’t we do what you wish now without harming anyone with war or causing pain to ourselves?”

Pyrrhus’s reply is not recorded. The war went ahead. He died in one of his battles when a tile was thrown from a roof by an enemy woman, smashing his skull. Such accidents rarely happen in dining rooms, so the king would probably have done well to listen to his Epicurean friend and perhaps enjoyed the quieter life of the contemplative thinker.

– “The Philosopher and the King”, from Plutarch, in his Life of Pyrrhus, as narrated in Why Epicurus Matters Today

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014) and 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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2 Responses to ‘What shall we do then?’

  1. makagutu says:

    Interesting dialogue. I know of another that must have been borrowed from this one.
    A guy finds a fisherman who does small time fishing to feed his family and he is told to get a bigger vessel, do large scale fishing, become rich and live well, then he retorts he is doing that already. Wisdom, and contentment I call it

    Liked by 1 person

  2. nightman1 says:

    From reading history since I retired, I’ve come to have a good deal of pity for humanity as a group. These kings and financeers have forever been stirring stuff, killing and making miserable countless underlings who have no choice but to follow them.

    Their ego gets swollen. We suffer.


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