Τίς οὖν ἡ τοῦ πολέμου τοῦ ἀκηρύκτου ἐν ζῴοις καὶ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἀνάγκη; ἢ ἀλληλοφαγίαι μὲν ἀναγκαῖαι, ἀμοιβαὶ ζῴων οὖσαι οὐ δυναμένων, οὐδ’ εἴ τις μὴ κτιννύοι αὐτά, οὕτω μένειν εἰς ἀεί. εἰ δὲ ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ δεῖ ἀπελθεῖν οὕτως ἀπελθεῖν ἔδει, ὡς ἄλλοις γενέσθαι χρείαν παρ’ αὐτῶν, τί φθονεῖν ἔδει; τί δ’ εἰ βρωθέντα ἄλλα ἐφύετο; οἷον εἰ ἐπὶ σκηνῆς τῶν ὑποκριτῶν ὁ πεφονευμένος ἀλλαξάμενος τὸ σχῆμα ἀναλαβὼν πάλιν εἰσίοι ἄλλου πρόσωπον. ἀλλὰ τέθνηκεν ἀληθῶς οὗτος. εἰ οὖν καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν ἀλλαγή ἐστι σώματος, ὥσπερ ἐσθῆτος ἐκεῖ, ἢ καί τισιν ἀποθέσεις σώματος, ὥσπερ ἐκεῖ ἔξοδος ἐκ τῆς σκηνῆς παντελὴς τότε, εἰσύστερον πάλιν ἥξοντος ἐναγωνίσασθαι, τί ἂν δεινὸν εἴη ἡ τοιαύτη τῶν ζῴων εἰς ἄλληλα μεταβολὴ πολὺ βελτίων οὖσα τοῦ μηδὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν αὐτὰ γενέσθαι; ἐκείνως μὲν γὰρ ἐρημία ζωῆς καὶ τῆς ἐν ἄλλῳ οὔσης ἀδυναμία· νῦν δὲ πολλὴ οὖσα ἐν τῷ παντὶ ζωὴ πάντα ποιεῖ καὶ ποικίλλει ἐν τῷ ζῆν καὶ οὐκ ἀνέχεται μὴ ποιοῦσα ἀεὶ καλὰ καὶ εὐειδῆ ζῶντα παίγνια. ἀνθρώπων δὲ ἐπ’ ἀλλήλους ὅπλα θνητῶν ὄντων ἐν τάξει εὐσχήμονι μαχομένων, οἷα ἐν πυρρίχαις παίζοντες ἐργάζονται, δηλοῦσι τάς τε ἀνθρωπίνας σπουδὰς ἁπάσας παιδιὰς οὔσας τούς τε θανάτους μηνύουσιν οὐδὲν δεινὸν εἶναι, ἀποθνῄσκειν δ’ ἐν πολέμοις καὶ ἐν μάχαις ὀλίγον προλαβόντας τοῦ γινομένου ἐν γήρᾳ θᾶττον ἀπιόντας καὶ πάλιν ἰόντας. εἰ δ’ ἀφαιροῖντο ζῶντες χρημάτων, γινώσκοιεν ἂν μηδὲ πρότερον αὐτῶν εἶναι καὶ τοῖς ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτοῖς γελοίαν εἶναι τὴν κτῆσιν ἀφαιρουμένων αὐτοὺς ἄλλων· ἐπεὶ καὶ τοῖς μὴ ἀφαιρεθεῖσι χεῖρον γίνεσθαι τῆς ἀφαιρέσεως τὴν κτῆσιν. ὥσπερ δ’ ἐπὶ τῶν θεάτρων ταῖς σκηναῖς, οὕτω χρὴ καὶ τοὺς φόνους θεᾶσθαι καὶ πάντας θανάτους καὶ πόλεων ἁλώσεις καὶ ἁρπαγάς, μεταθέσεις πάντα καὶ μετασχηματίσεις καὶ θρήνων καὶ οἰμωγῶν ὑποκρίσεις. καὶ γὰρ ἐνταῦθα ἐπὶ τῶν ἐν τῷ βίῳ ἑκάστων οὐχ ἡ ἔνδον ψυχή, ἀλλ’ ἡ ἔξω ἀνθρώπου σκιὰ καὶ οἰμώζει καὶ ὀδύρεται καὶ πάντα ποιεῖ ἐν σκηνῇ τῇ ὅλῃ γῇ πολλαχοῦ σκηνὰς ποιησαμένων. τοιαῦτα γὰρ ἔργα ἀνθρώπου τὰ κάτω καὶ τὰ ἔξω μόνα ζῆν εἰδότος καὶ ἐν δακρύοις καὶ σπουδαίοις ὅτι παίζων ἐστὶν ἠγνοηκότος. μόνῳ γὰρ τῷ σπουδαίῳ σπουδαστέον ἐν σπουδαίοις τοῖς ἔργοις, ὁ δ’ ἄλλος ἄνθρωπος παίγνιον. σπουδάζεται δὲ καὶ τὰ παίγνια τοῖς σπουδάζειν οὐκ εἰδόσι καὶ τοῖς αὐτοῖς οὖσι παιγνίοις. εἰ δέ τις συμπαίζων αὐτοῖς τὰ τοιαῦτα πάθοι, ἴστω παραπεσὼν παίδων παιδιᾷ τὸ περὶ αὐτὸν ἀποθέμενος παίγνιον.
(Plotinus, Enn. 3.2.15)
What, then, is the necessity of the undeclared war among animals and among men? It is necessary that animals should eat each other; these eatings are transformations into each other of animals which could not stay as they are for ever, even if no one killed them. And if, at the time when they had to depart, they had to depart in such a way that they were useful to others, why do we have to make a grievance out of their usefulness? And what does it matter if, when they are eaten, they come alive again as different animals? It is like on the stage, when the actor who has been murdered changes his costume and comes on again in another character. But [in real life, not on the stage,] the man is really dead. If, then, death is a changing of body, like changing of clothes on the stage, or, for some of us, a putting off of body, like in the theatre the final exit, in that performance, of an actor who will on a later occasion come in again to play, what would there be that is terrible in a change of this kind, of living beings into each other? It is far better than if they had never come into existence at all. For that way there would be a barren absence of life and no possibility of a life which exists in something else; but as it is a manifold life exists in something else; but as it is a manifold life exists in the All and makes all things, and in its living embroiders a rich variety and does not rest from ceaselessly making beautiful and shapely living toys. And when men, mortal as they are, direct their weapons against each other, fighting in orderly ranks, doing what they do in sport in their war-dances, their battles show that all human concerns are children’s games, and tell us that deaths are nothing terrible, and that those who die in wars and battles anticipate only a little death which comes in old age – they go away and come back quicker. But if their property is taken away while they are still alive, they may recognise that it was not theirs before either, and that its possession is a mockery to the robbers themselves when others take it away from them; for even to those who do not have it taken away, to have it is worse than being deprived of it. We should be spectators of murders, and all deaths, and takings and sackings of cities, as if they were on the stages of theatres, all changes of scenery and costume and acted wailings and weepings. For really here in the events of our life it is not the soul within but the outside shadow of man which cries and moans and carries on in every sort of way on a stage which is the whole earth where men have in many places set up their stages. Doings like these belong to a man who knows how to live only the lower and external life and is not aware that he is playing in his tears, even when they are serious tears. For only the seriously good part of man is capable of taking serious doing seriously; the rest of man is a toy. But toys, too, are taken seriously by those who do not know how to be serious and are toys themselves. But if anyone joins in their play and suffers their sort of sufferings, he must know that he has tumbled into a children’s game and put off the play-costume in which he was dressed. (tr. Arthur Hilary Armstrong)