Seneca Moral Essays Translation

Seneca's Essays Volume II

Source: Lucius Annasus Seneca. Moral Essays. Translated by John W. Basore. The Loeb Classical Library. London: W. Heinemann,1928-1935. 3 vols.: Volume II. Before using any portion of this text in any theme, essay, research paper, thesis, or dissertation, please read the disclaimer.

Transcription conventions: Page numbers in angle brackets refer to the edition cited as the source. The Latin text, which appears on even-numbered pages, is not included here. Words or phrases singled out for indexing are marked by plus signs. In the index, numbers in parentheses indicate how many times the item appears. A slash followed by a small letter or a number indicates a footnote at the bottom of the page. Only notes of historical, philosophical, or literary interest to a general reader have been included. I have allowed Greek passages to stand as the scanner read them, in unintelligible strings of characters.

  adfectus+(1) | anger+(1) | benefactions+(1) | Caliban+(1) | chance+(1) | cheer+(1) | common+(7) | common_property+(1) | commonwealths+(1) | constantia_integrity+(1) | courageous+(1) | courtesy+(1) | cupidatium+(1) | desire+(1) | Donne_death+(1) | effeminacy+(2) | Emerson+(1) | Eve_evil+(1) | fallen+(1) | Fate+(1) | Faust+(1) | feminism+(1) | flesh+(1) | flies+(1) | fop+(3) | Fop+(1) |  Fortune+(3) | free+(1) | freedom+(2) | friendship+(1) | Frost_R+(1) | future+(1) | giving+(2) | glory+(1) | good_die_young+(1) | goods+(1) | greed+(1) | Hamlet+(1) | hand_of_heaven+(1) | herd+(1) | hesitation+(2) | honour+(1) | invictus+(2) | Jesus+(1) | Job+(1) | king's_burden+(1) | Kubla_Khan+(1) | Lear+(2) | Liberal_Arts+(1) | liberal_studies+(2) | liberality+(3) | liberty+(1) | lust+(2) | Luxury+(1) | magnificentia+(1) | manly+(1) | mansuetudine+(1) | merry_making+(1) | mob+(1) | moderation+(2) | modesty+(2) | money+(1) | mortality+(1) | Murphy+(1) | nature+(1) | noblesse_oblige+(1) | outward_show+(1) | pardon+(1) | passions+(1) | patience+(1) | pietas+(1) | PlainDealer+(8) | poor+(1) | Pope+(2) | Pope_frailty+(1) | poverty+(1) | public+(1) | rabble+(1) | reason+(1) | Regulus+(1) | riches+(4) | self_reliance+(1) | sentimentality+(1) | service+(5) | servitude+(1) | Sidney+(1) | simplicitas_PlainDealer+(1) | simplicity+(2) | slavery+(2) | slaves+(1) | Sophocles+(1) | soul+(1) | sport+(2) | stars_from_wrong+(1) | studies+(5) | Swift_dusty_shoes+(1) | tears+(1) | Thoreau+(1) | Timon+(1) | trust+(1) | Tyranny_of_majority+(1) | Ulysses+(1) | virilius+(1) | virtues+(1) |  Wdswth+(1) | woman+(3) | womanish+(1) | womanly+(1) | women+(2)


     If I did not know, Marcia,\a that you were as far removed from womanish weakness of mind {effeminacy+} as from all other vices, and that your character was looked upon as a model of ancient virtue, I should not dare to assail your grief - the grief that even men are prone to nurse and brood upon - nor should I have conceived the hope of being able to induce you to acquit Fortune of your complaint, at a time so unfavourable, with her judge so hostile, after a charge so hateful. But your strength of mind has been already so tested and your courage, after a severe trial, so approved that they have given me confidence.  How you bore yourself in relation to your father is common knowledge; for you loved him not less dearly than your children, save only that you did not wish him to outlive you.  And yet I am not sure that you did not wish even that; for great affection sometimes ventures to break the natural law. The death of your


father, Aulus Cremutius Cordus, you delayed as long as you could; after it became clear that, surrounded as he was by the minions of Sejanus, he had no other way of escape from servitude, favour his plan you did not, but you acknowledged defeat, and you routed\a your tears in public and choked down your sobs, yet in spite of your cheerful face you did not conceal them - and these things in an age when the supremely filial was simply not to be unfilial!\b When, however, changed times gave you an opportunity, you recovered for the benefit of men that genius of your father which had brought him to his end, and thus saved him from the only real death, and the books which that bravest hero had written with his own blood you restored to their place among the memorials of the nation.  You have done a very great service to Roman scholarship, for a large part of his writings had been burned; a very great service to posterity, for history will come to them as an uncorrupted record whose honesty cost its author dear and a very great service to the man himself, whose memory now lives and will ever live so long as it shall be worth while to learn the facts of Roman history - so long as there shall be anyone who will wish to hark back to the deeds of our ancestors, so long as there shall be anyone who will wish to know what it is to be a Roman hero, what it is to be unconquered when all necks are bowed and forced to bear the yoke of a Sejanus, what it is to be free in thought, in purpose, and in act.  A great loss, in very truth, the state had suffered, had you not rescued this man who had been thrust into oblivion for the sake of two of the noblest things - eloquence and freedom.  But he is now read, he lives, and ensconced in the hands and


hearts of men he fears no passing of the years; but, those cutthroats - even their crimes, by which alone they deserved to be remembered, will soon be heard of no more.  This evidence of the greatness of your mind forbade me to pay heed to your sex, forbade me to pay heed to your face, which, since sorrow once clouded it, unbroken sadness holds for all these years. And see! - I am not stealing upon you with stealth, nor am I planning to filch from you any of your sufferings.  I have recalled to your memory old misfortunes, and, that you may know that even this deep-cut wound will surely heal, I have shown you the scar of an old wound that was not less severe.  And so let others deal with you gently and ply soft words.  I myself have determined to battle with your grief, and your eyes that are wearied and worn - weeping now, if I may speak the truth, more from habit than from sorrow - shall be checked by measures that, if so it may be, you welcome, if not, even against your will, even though you hug and embrace the sorrow that you have kept alive in place of your son.  Else what end shall it have? Every means has been tried in vain.  The consolations of your friends, the influence of great men who were your relatives have been exhausted.  Books, your love for which was a boon bequeathed by your father, now void of comfort and scarcely serving for brief distraction, make their appeal to unheeding ears.  Even time, Nature's great healer, that lays even our most grievous sorrows, in your case only has lost its power.  Three whole years have now passed, and yet the first violence of your sorrow has in no way abated. Your grief is renewed and grows stronger every day - by lingering


it has established its right to stay, and has now reached the point that it is ashamed to make an end, just as all vices become deep-rooted unless they are crushed when they spring up, so, too, such a state of sadness and wretchedness, with its self afflicted torture, feeds at last upon its very bitterness, and the grief of an unhappy mind becomes a morbid pleasure. And so I should have liked to approach your cure in the first stages of your sorrow.  While it was still young, a gentler remedy might have been used to check its violence; against inveterate evils the fight must be more vehement.  This is likewise true of wounds - they are easy to heal while they are still fresh and bloody.  When they have festered and turned into a wicked sore, then they must be cauterized and, opened up to the very bottom, must submit to probing fingers.  As it is, I cannot possibly be a match for such hardened grief by being considerate and gentle; it must be crushed.  I am aware that all those who wish to give anyone admonition commonly begin with precepts, and end with examples.   But it is desirable at times to alter this practice; for different people must be dealt with differently.  Some are guided by reason, some must be confronted with famous names and an authority that does not leave a man's mind free, dazzled as he is by showy deeds.  I shall place before your eyes but two examples - the greatest of your sex and century -one, of a woman who allowed herself to be swept away by grief, the other, of a woman who, though she suffered a like misfortune and even greater loss, yet did not permit her ills to have the mastery long, but quickly restored her mind to its accustomed state.  Octavia and Livia, the one the


sister of Augustus, the other his wife, had lost their sons - both of them young men with the well-assured hope of becoming emperor.
      Octavia lost\a Marcellus, upon whom Augustus, at once his uncle and his father-in-law, had begun to lean, upon whom he had begun to rest the burden of empire - a young man of keen mind, of commanding ability, yet withal marked by a frugality and self- restraint that, for one of his years and wealth, commanded the highest admiration, patient under hardships, averse to pleasures, and ready to bear whatever his uncle might wish to place or, so to speak, to build upon him:  well had he chosen a foundation that would not sink beneath any weight.  Through all the rest of her life Octavia set no bounds to her tears and moans, and closed her ears to all words that offered wholesome advice; with her whole mind fixed and centred upon one single thing, she did not allow herself even to relax. Such she remained during her whole life as she was at the funeral - I do not say lacking the courage to rise, but refusing to be uplifted, counting any loss of tears a second bereavement. Not a single portrait would she have of her darling son, not one mention of his name in her hearing.  She hated all mothers, and was inflamed nost of all against Livia, because it seemed that the happiness which had once been held out to herself had passed to the other woman's son.\b Companioned ever by darkness and solitude, giving no thought even to her brother, she spurned the poems\c that were written to glorify the memory of Marcellus and all other literary honours, and closed her ears to every form of consolation.   Withdrawing from all her accustomed duties and hating


even the good fortune that her brother's greatness shed all too brightly around her, she buried herself in deep seclusion.  Surrounded by children and grandchildren, she would not lay aside her garb of mourning, and, putting a slight on all her nearest, accounted herself utterly bereft though they still lived.
      And Livia lost her son Drusus, who would have made a great emperor, and had already shown himself a great leader. For he had penetrated far into Germany, and had planted the Roman standards in a region where it was scarcely known that any Romans existed.  He had died on the campaign, and his very foes had reverently honoured his sick-bed by maintaining peace along with us; nor did they dare to desire what their interests demanded.  And to these circumstances of his death, which he had met in the service of his country, there was added the unbounded sorrow of his fellow-citizens, of the provinces, and of all Italy, through the length of which crowds poured forth from the towns and colonies, and, escorting the funeral train all the way to the city, made it seem more like a triumph. His mother had not been permitted to receive her son's last kisses and drink in the fond words of his dying lips.  On the long journey a through which she accompanied the remains of her dear Drusus, her heart was harrowed by the countless pyres that flamed throughout all Italy - for on each she seemed to be losing her son afresh -, yet as soon as she had placed him in the tomb, along with her son she laid away her sorrow, and grieved no more than was respectful to Caesar or fair to Tiberius, seeing, that they were alive.  And lastly, she never ceased from proclaiming the name of her


dear Drusus.  She had him pictured everywhere, in private and in public places, and it was her greatest pleasure to talk about him and to listen to the talk of others - she lived with his memory.  But no one can cherish and cling to a memory that he has rendered an affliction to himself.
      Do you choose, therefore, which of these two examples you think the more laudable.  If you prefer to follow the former, you will remove yourself from the number of the living; you will turn away your eyes both from other people's children and from your own, even from him whom you mourn; mothers will regard you as an unhappy omen; honourable and permissible pleasures you will renounce as ill-becoming to your plight; hating the light of day, you will linger in it, and your deepest offence will be your age, because the years do not hurry you on and make an end of you as soon as possible; you will show that you are unwilling to live and unable to die - a condition that is most disgraceful and foreign, too, to your character, which is conspicuous for its leaning toward the better course.  If, on the other hand, you appropriate the example of the other most exalted lady, showing thus a more restrained and more gentle spirit, you will not dwell in sorrow, nor rack yourself with anguish.  For what madness it is -how monstrous! - to punish one's self for misfortune and add new ill to present ills!  That correctness of character and self- restraint which you have maintained all your life, you will exhibit in this matter also; for there is such a thing as moderation even in grieving.  And as to the youth himself, who so richly deserved that the mention of his name and your thought of him should always bring you joy, you will set him in a more fitting place, if he


comes before his mother as the same merry and joyous son that he used to be when he was alive.
      Nor shall I direct your mind to precepts of the sterner sort,\a so as to bid you bear a human fortune in inhuman fashion, so as to dry a mother's eyes on the very day of burial.  But I shall come with you before an arbiter, and this will be the question at issue between us - whether grief ought to be deep or neverending.  I doubt not that the example of Julia Augusta,\b whom you regarded as an intimate friend, will seem more to your taste than the other; she summons you to follow her.  She, during the first passion of grief, when its victims are most unsubmissive and most violent, made herself accessible to the philosopher Areus, the friend of her husband, and later confessed that she had gained much help from that source - more than from the Roman people, whom she was unwilling to sadden with this sadness of hers; more than from Augustus, who was staggering under the loss of one of his main supports, and was in no condition to be further bowed down by the grief of his dear ones; more than from her son Tiberius, whose devotion at that untimely funeral that made the nations weep kept her from feeling that she had suffered any loss except in the number of her sons.  It was thus, I fancy, that Areus approached her, it was thus he commenced to address a woman who clung most tenaciously to her own opinion: "Up to this day, Julia, at least so far as I am aware - and, as the constant companion of your husband, I have known not only everything that was given forth to the public, but all the more secret thoughts of your minds - you have taken pains that no one should find anything at all in you to criticize; and not only in the


larger matters, but in the smallest trifles, you have been on your guard not to do anything that you could wish public opinion, that most frank judge of princes, to excuse.  And nothing, I think, is more admirable than the rule that those who have been placed in high position should bestow pardon for many things, should seek pardon for none. {noblesse_oblige+} And so in this matter also you must still hold to your practice of doing nothing that you could wish undone, or done otherwise.
      "Furthermore, I beg and beseech of you, do not make yourself unapproachable and difficult to your friends.  For surely you must be aware that none of them know how to conduct themselves - whether they should speak of Drusus in your presence or not - wishing neither to wrong so distinguished a youth by forgetting him, or to hurt you by mentioning him.  When we have withdrawn from your company and are gathered together, we extol his deeds and words with all the veneration he deserved; in your presence there is deep silence about him.  And so you are missing a very great pleasure in not hearing the praises of your son, which I doubt not, you would be glad, if you should be given the opportunity, to prolong to all time even at the cost of your life.   Wherefore submit to conversation about your son, nay encourage it, and let your ears be open to his name and memory; and do not consider this burdensome, after the fashion of some others, who in a calamity of this sort count it an added misfortune to have to listen to words of comfort.   As it is, you have tended wholly to the other extreme, and, forgetting the better aspects of your fortune, you gaze only upon its worse side.   You do not turn your thought to the pleasant intercourse and the meetings you had with


your son, nor to his fond and boyish caresses, nor to the progress of his studies; you dwell only on that last appearance of fortune, and just as if it were not horrible enough in itself, you add to it all the horror you can.  Do not, I pray you, covet that most perverse distinction - that of being considered the most unhappy of women!  Reflect, too, that it is no great thing to show one's self brave in the midst of prosperity, when life glides on in a tranquil course; a quiet sea and a favouring wind do not show the skill of a pilot either - some hardship must be encountered that will test his soul.  Accordingly, do not be bowed down - nay, on the contrary, plant your feet firmly, and, terrified only at first by the din, support whatever burden may fall from above.  Nothing casts so much contempt on Fortune as an unruffled spirit." After this he directed her to the son that was still alive, he directed her to the children of the son she had lost.
      It was your trouble, Marcia, that was dealt with there, it was at your side that Areus sat; change the role - it was you that he tried to comfort.  But suppose, Marcia, more was snatched from you than any mother has ever lost - I am not trying to soothe you or to minimize your calamity.  If tears can vanquish fate, let us marshal tears; let every day be passed in grief, let every night be sleepless and consumed with sorrow; let hands rain blows on a bleeding breast, nor spare even the face from their assault; if sorrow will help, let us vent it in every kind of cruelty.  But if no wailing can recall the dead, if no distress can alter a destiny that is immutable and fixed for all eternity, and if death holds fast whatever it has once carried off, then let grief, which is futile, cease.  Wherefore let us steer our own ship,


and not allow this power to sweep us from the course!  He is a sorry steersman who lets the waves tear the helm from his hands, who has left the sails to the mercy of the winds, and abandoned the ship to the storm; but he deserves praise, even amid shipwreck, whom the sea overwhelms still gripping the rudder and unyielding.
      "But," you say, "Nature bids us grieve for our dear ones."  Who denies it, so long as grief is tempered?   For not only the loss of those who are dearest to us, but a mere parting, brings an inevitable pang and wrings even the stoutest heart.   But false opinion has added something more to our grief than Nature has prescribed.  Observe how passionate and yet how brief is the sorrow of dumb animals.  The lowing of cows is heard, for one or two days only, and that wild and frantic running about of mares lasts no longer; wild beasts, after following the tracks of their stolen cubs, after wandering through the forests and returning over and over to their plundered lairs, within a short space of time quench their rage; birds, making a great outcry, rage about their empty nests, yet in a trice become quiet and resume their ordinary flight; nor does any creature sorrow long for its offspring except man - he nurses his grief, and the measure of his affliction is not what he feels, but what he wills to feel.
    Moreover, in order that you may know that it is not by the will of Nature that we are crushed by sorrow, observe, in the first place, that, though they suffer the same bereavement, women are wounded more deeply than men, savage peoples more deeply than the peaceful and civilized, the uneducated, than the educated.  But the passions that derive their


power from Nature maintain the same hold upon all; therefore it is clear that a passion of variable power is not ordered by Nature.  Fire will burn alike people of all ages and of all nationalities, men as well as women; steel will display its cutting force upon every sort of flesh.   And why? Because each derives its power from Nature, which makes no distinction of persons.  But poverty, grief, and ambition\a are felt differently by different people according as their minds are coloured by habit, and a false presumption, which arouses a fear of things that are not to be feared, makes a man weak and unresisting.  In the second place, whatever proceeds from Nature is not diminished by its continuance.   But grief is effaced by the long lapse of time.  However stubborn it may be, mounting higher every day and bursting forth in spite of efforts to allay it, nevertheless the most powerful agent to calm its fierceness is time -time will weaken it.  There remains with you even now, Marcia, an immense sorrow; it seems already to have grown calloused - no longer the passionate sorrow it was at first, but still persistent and stubborn; yet this also little by little time will remove.  Whenever you engage in something else, your mind will be relieved.  As it is now, you keep watch on yourself; but there is a wide difference between permitting and commanding yourself to mourn.  How much better would it accord with the distinction of your character to force, and not merely to foresee, an end to your grief, and not to wait for that distant day on which, even against your will, your distress will cease! Do you of your own will renounce it! "Why then," you ask, "do we all so persist in


lamenting what was ours, if it is not Nature's will that we should?" Because we never anticipate any evil before it actually arrives, but, imagining that we ourselves are exempt and are travelling a less exposed path, we refuse to be taught by the mishaps of others that such are the lot of all. So many funerals pass our doors, yet we never think of death!  So many deaths are untimely, yet we make plans for our own infants - how they will don the toga, serve in the army, and succeed to their father's property!   So many rich men are stricken before our eyes with sudden poverty, yet it never occurs to us that our own wealth also rests on just as slippery a footing!  Of necessity, therefore, we are more prone to collapse; we are struck, as it were, off our guard; blows that are long foreseen fall less violently.  And you wish to be told that you stand exposed to blows of every sort, and that the darts that have transfixed others have quivered around you!  Just as if you were assaulting some city wall, or were mounting, only half-armed, against some lofty position manned by a host of the enemy, expect to be wounded, and be sure that the missiles that whirl above your head, the stones and the arrows and the javelins, were all aimed at your own person.  Whenever anyone falls at your side or behind you, cry out: "Fortune, you will not deceive me, you will not fall upon me confident and heedless.  I know what you are planning; it is true you struck someone else, but you aimed at me." Who of us ever looked upon his possessions with the thought that he would die?" Who of us ever ventured to think upon exile, upon want, upon grief?  Who, if he were urged to reflect upon these things, would not reject the idea as an unlucky omen, and demand that those curses


pass over to the head of an enemy or even to that of his untimely adviser? You say: "I did not think it would happen." Do you think there is anything that will not happen, when you know that it is possible to happen, when you see that it has already happened to many?  A striking verse this - too good to have come from the stage:

Whatever can one man befall can happen just as well to all!\a

That man lost his children; you also may lose yours.  That man was condemned to death; your innocence also is in imminent peril.
     Such is the delusion that deceives and weakens us while we suffer misfortunes which we never foresaw that we ourselves could possibly suffer.  He robs present ills of their power who has perceived their coming beforehand.
      All these fortuitous things, Marcia, that glitter about us - children, honours, wealth, spacious halls and vestibules packed with a throng of unadmitted, clients, a famous name, a high-born or beautiful wife, and all else that depends upon uncertain and fickle chance - these are not our own but borrowed trappings; not one of them is given to us outright.  The properties that adorn life's stage have been lent, and must go back to their owners; some of them will be returned on the first day, others on the second, only a few will endure until the end. We have, therefore, no reason to be puffed up as if we were surrounded with the things that belong to us; we have received them nerely as a loan.{common_property+} The use and the enjoyment are ours, but the dispenser of the gift determines the length of our tenure.  On our part we ought always to keep in readiness the gifts that have been granted


for a time not fixed, and, when called upon, to restore them without complaint; it is a very mean debtor that reviles his creditor.  And so we should love all of our dear ones, both those whom, by the condition of birth, we hope will survive us, and those whose own most just prayer is to pass on before us, but always with the thought that we have no promise that we may keep them forever -nay, no promise even that we may keep them for long.  Often must the heart be reminded - it must remember that loved objects will surely leave, nay, are already leaving.  Take whatever Fortune gives, remembering that it has no voucher.\a Snatch the pleasures your children bring, let your children in turn find delight in you, and drain joy to the dregs without delay; no promise has been given you for this night - nay, I have offered too long a respite! - no promise has been given even for this hour.  We must hurry, the enemy presses upon our rear.  Soon these companions will all be scattered, soon the battle-cry will be raised, and these comrade ties sundered.  Nothing escapes the pillage; poor wretches, amid the rout ye know not how to live!\b If you grieve for the death of your son, the blame must go back to the time when he was born; for his death was proclaimed at his birth; into this condition was he begotten, this fate attended him straightway from the womb.  We have come into the realm of Fortune, and harsh and invincible is her power; things deserved and undeserved must we suffer just as she wills.  With violence, insult, and cruelty she will maltreat our bodies.  Some she will burn with fire, applied, it may be, to punish, it may be, to heal; some she will bind with chains, committing the power now to an enemy, now to a fellow-countryman; some


she will toss naked upon the fickle sea, and, when their struggle with the waves is over, she will not even cast them up on the sand or the shore, but will hide them away in the maw of some huge monster; others, when she has worn them down with divers diseases, she will long keep suspended between life and death.  Like a mistress that is changeable and passionate and neglectful of her slaves, she will be capricious in both her rewards and her punishments. What need is there to weep over parts of life?
     The whole of it calls for tears+.  New ills will press on before you have done with the old.  Therefore you women especially must observe moderation, you who are immoderate in your grief, and against your many sorrows the power of the human breast must be arrayed.  Again, why this forgetfulness of what is the individual and the general lot?  Mortal have you been born, to mortals have you given birth.  You, who are a crumbling and perishable body and oft assailed by the agents of disease, - can you have hoped that from such frail matter you gave birth to anything durable and imperishable?  Your son is dead; that is, he has finished his course and reached that goal toward which all those whom you count more fortunate than your child are even now hastening.  Toward this, at different paces, moves all this throng that now squabbles in the forum, that looks on at the theatres, that prays in the temples; both those whom you love and revere and those whom you despise one heap of ashes will make equal.  This, clearly, is the meaning of that famous utterance ascribed to the Pythian oracle:


I'V@Ot CrEaVT6p!   And is this the prime
And heaven-sprung adage of the olden time?



is man?  A vessel that the slightest shaking, the slightest toss will break.  No mighty wind is needed to scatter you abroad; whatever you strike against, will be your undoing.  What is man?  A body weak and fragile, naked,\a in its natural state defenceless, dependent upon another's help, and exposed to all the affronts of Fortune; when it has practised well its muscles, it then becomes the food of every wild beast, of everyone the prey; a fabric of weak and attractive only in its outer features, unable to bear cold, heat, and toil, yet from mere rust and idleness doomed to decay; fearful of the foods that feed it, it dies now from the lack of these, and now is burst open by their excess; filled with anxiety and concern for its safety, it draws its very breath on sufferance, keeping but a feeble hold upon it - for sudden fear or a loud noise that falls unexpectedly upon the cars will drive it forth and fosters ever its own unrest, a morbid and a useless thing.  Do we wonder that in this thing is death, which needs but a single sigh?  Is it such a mighty undertakinlg to compass its destruction? For it, smell and taste, weariness and loss of sleep, drink and food, and the things without which it cannot live are charged with death.  Whithersoever it moves it straightway becomes conscious of its frailty; unable to endure all climates, from strange waters, a blast of unfamiliar air, the most trifling causes and complaints, it sickens and rots with disease - having {Pope_frailty+{Donne_death+}
a Cf.  Lucretius, v. 222 sqq.  um porro puer, ut saevis proiectus ab undis
      navita, nudus humi iacet, infans, indigos omnni
      vitali auxilio, cum primun in luminis oras
      nixibus ex alvo matris natura profudit.


started life with tears, what a mighty pother all the while does this despicable creature make!  Forgetting his inevitable lot, to what mighty thoughts does man aspire!  He ponders upon everlasting and eternal things, and makes plans for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, while meantime, amid his far-reaching schemes, death overtakes him, and even this, which we call old age, is but the passing round of a pitifully few years.
      But your sorrow - granting that there is any reason in it - tell me, does it have in view your own ills or the ills of him who is gone?  In the loss of your son are you stirred by the thought that you have received no pleasures from him, or is it that you milyht have experienced greater pleasures if he had lived longer?  If you answer that you have experienced none, you will render your loss more bearable; for the things from which men have experienced no joy and gladness are always less missed.  If you confess that you have experienced great pleasures from him, then it is your duty not to complain about what has been withdrawn, but to give thanks for what you have had.  Surely his rearing alone has yielded you ample reward for all your toil, unless perhaps it happens that those who spare no pains in raising pups and birds and other silly pets derive some slight pleasure from the sight and touch and fawning caresses of these dumb creatures, while those who raise children miss the rearer's reward that comes from the mere act of rearing them.   And so although his industry may have gained you nothing, although his carefulness may have saved you nothing, although his wisdom may have taught you nothing, yet in having had him, in having loved him, lies your reward.


"But," you say, "it might have lasted longer, might have been greater." True, but you have been better dealt with than if you had never had a son; for if we should be given the choice - whether it is better to be happy for a short time only or never at all - it is better for us to have blessings that will flee than none at all.  Would you rather have had a son who was a disgrace, someone who has possessed merely the place and the name of a son, or one with the fine qualities your son had, a youth who was early discerning, early dutiful, early a husband, early a father, who was early diligent in every public duty, early a priest, as though he were always hastening?  Great and at the same time long-lasting blessings fall to scarcely any man's lot; it is only the good fortune which comes slowly that lasts and goes with us to the end.  The immortal gods, not purposing to give him to you for a long time, gave to you from the first a son such as length of time is able to produce.  And you cannot say even this -that the gods picked you out in order to deprive you of th enjoyment of your son.  Cast your eyes upon the great company of people you know, or do not know - everywhere you will find those who have suffered greater losses than yours.  Great generals have experienced such as yours, princes have experienced them; story has left not even the gods a exempt, in order, I fancy, that the knowledge that even divinities can perish may lighten our grief for the dead.  Look about you, I say, at everyone; you will not mention a single home so wretched that it could not take comfort from knowing one more wretched. But I do not think so ill of your character - Heaven forbid! - as to believe that you would be able to bear your


own misfortune more lightly if I should bring before you a mighty number of mourners.  The solace that comes from having company in misery smacks of ill-will.  Nevertheless, I shall cite some others, not so much to show you that this calamity often befalls mankind - for it would be absurd to collect the examples of man's mortality - as to show you that there have been many who sweetened bitter fortune by enduring it calmly.   I shall begin with a man who was most fortunate.
      Lucius Sulla lost a son, but that circumstance neither blunted his malice and the great energy of his prowess against his enemies and his fellow-countrymen nor made it appear that he had wrongly used his famous title\a; for he assumed it after the death of his son, fearing neither the hatred of men, by whose misfortune that excessive prosperity of his was purchased, nor the envy of the gods, whose reproach it was that Sulla was so truly "the Fortunate." The question, however, of Sulla's character may be left among the matters not yet decided - that he took up arms honourably\b and honourably laid them aside even his enemies will admit.  But the point at present involved will be clear - that an evil which reaches even the most fortunate men is not the greatest of evils.  Greece had a famous father,\c who, having received news of the death of his son while he was in the very act of offering sacrifice, merely bade the flutist be silent, withdrew the chaplet from his head, and finished duly the rest of the ceremony; but, thanks to Pulvillus, a Roman priest, Greece cannot give ljim too much glory.  He was dedicating the temple on the Capitoline, and was still grasping the door-post when he received news of the death of his son.  But


he pretended not to hear it, and repeated the words of the pontifical ritual in the appointed manner; not a single moan interrupted the course of his Prayer, and he entreated the favour of Jove with the name of his son ringing in his ears.  Do you not think that such grief must have an end, when even the first day of it and its first fury failed to divert him, father though he was, from his duty at the public altar and from an auspicious delivery of his solemn proclarnation?  Worthy, in truth, was he of the notable dedication, worthy was he to hold the most exalted priesthood - a man who did not desist from the worship of the gods even when they were angry!  Yet when he had returned to his home, this man's eyes were flooded with tears and he indulged in a few tearful laments, then, having completed the rites that custom prescribed for the dead, he resumed the expression he had worn at the Capitol.
      Paulus, about the time of his most glorious triumph, in which he drove Perses,\a that king of high renown, in chains before his car, gave over two of his sons\b to be adopted by others, and the two whom he had kept for himself he buried.  What manner of men, think you, were those whom he retained when Scipio was one of those whom he bestowed on others!  Not without emotion did the Roman people gaze upon the car of Paulus that now was empty.\c Nevertheless he made a public address, and gave thanks to the gods for having granted his prayer; for he had prayed that, if he should be required to make some payment to Envy on account of his mighty victory, the debt might be discharged by a loss to himself rather than to the state.  Do you see with how noble a spirit he bore himself? He con-


gratulated himself on the loss of his children!  And who would have had a better right to be deeply moved by so great a shift of forturne?   He lost at the same time both his comfort and his stay.  Yet Perses never had the pleasure of seeing Paulus sad!
      But why should I now drag you through the countless examples of great men, and search for those who were unhappy just as though it were not more difficult to find those who were happy? For how few families have endured even to the end with all members intact? What one is there that has not known trouble?  Take any one year you please and call for its magistrates.  Take, if you like, Lucius\a Bibulus and Gaius Caesar; you will see that, though these colleagues were the bitterest foes, their fortunes agreed.
      Lucius Bibulus, a good, rather than a strong, man, had two sons murdered at the same time, and that, too, by Egyptian soldiery, who had subjected them to insult, so that not less than the bereavement itself the source of it was a matter that called for tears. Yet Bibulus, who, during the whole year of his consulship, on account of his jealousy of his colleague, had stayed at home in retirement,\b on the day after he had heard of the twofold murder came forth and performed the routine duties of his office.\c Who can devote less than one day to mourning for two sons?  So quickly did he end his grief for his children - he who had grieved for the consulship a year.
      Gaius Caesar, when he was traversing Britain, and could not endure that even the ocean should set bounds to his success, heard that his daughter\d had departed; and with her went the fate of the republic.
      d\ Julia, the wife of Pompey, whose sudden death in 64 B.C.  precipitated the estrangement of Caesar and Pompey.


It was alredy plain to his eyes that Gnaeus Pompeius would not endure with calmness that any other should become "great" in the commonwealth, and would place a check upon his own advancement, which seemed to cause him offence even when it was increasing to their common interest.  Yet within three days he returned to his duties as a general, and conquered his grief as quickly as he was wont to conquer everything.  Why should I recall to you the bereavements of the other Caesars, whom Fortune seems to me at times deliberately to outrage in order that so also they may benefit the human race by showing that not even they who are said to be born from gods, and to be destined to give birth to gods,\a can have the same power over their own fortune that they have over the fortune of others.
     The deified Augustus, when he had lost his children and his grandchildren, and the supply of Caesars had been exhausted, bolstered his depleted house by adoption; nevertheless he bore his lot with the bravery of one who was already counting it a personal affair\b and his deepest concern that no man should make complaint of the gods.   Tiberius Caesar lost both the son he had begotten and the son he had adopted\c; nevertheless he himself delivered a panegyric upon his own son\d from the Rostra, and he stood there beside the corpse, which lay in plain view, with but a veil intervening, so that the eyes of a high-priest\e might not look upon a corpse, and, while the Roman people wept, he did not even change countenance. To Sejanus, standing by his side, he offered an example of how patiently he could endure the loss of his dear ones!\f
      You see how long is the list of men who were most


eminent and yet were not exempted from this misfortune that lays everything low - men, too, upon whom so many gifts of mind had been heaped, so many distinctions in public and private life!  But it is very plain that this storm of disaster moves upon its round, lays waste everything without distinction, and drives everything before it as its prey.  Order all men one by one to compare their accounts; no man has escaped paying the penalty for being born.  I know what you are saying: "You forget that you are giving comfort to a woman; the examples you cite are of men."
     But who has asserted that Nature has dealt grudgingly with women's natures and has narrowly restricted their virtues?   Believe me, they have just as much force, just as much capacity, if they like, for virtuous action; they are just as able to endure suffering and toil when they are accustomed to them.  In what city, good heavens, are we thus talking?  In the city where Lucretia and Brutus\a tore the yoke of a king from the heads of the Romans - to Brutus we owe liberty, to Lucretia we owe Brutus.
     In the city where Cloelia,\b who braved both the enemy and the river has been almost transferred by us, on account of her signal courage, to the list of heroes:  the statue of Cloelia, mounted upon a horse, stands on the Sacred Way in the city's busiest quarter, and, as our young coxcombs mount to their cushioned seats, she taunts them with journeying in such a fashion in a city in which even women have been presented with a horse! {feminism+} But if you wish me to cite examples of women who have bravely suffered the loss of dear ones, I shall not go from door to door to find them.  From one family I shall present


to you the two Cornelias - the first one, the daughter of Scipio and mother of the Gracchi.  Twelve births did she recall by as many deaths. The rest whom the state never knew as either born or lost matter little; as for Tiberius and Gaius, who even the man who denies that they were good will admit were great men, she saw them not only murdered but left unburied. Yet to those who tried to comfort her and called her unfortunate she said: "Never shall I admit that I am not fortunate, I who have borne the Gracchi." Cornelia, the wife of Livius Drusus, had lost a son, a young man\a of distinguished ability and very great renown, who, while following in the footsteps of the Gracchi, was killed at his own hearth by an unknown murderer, just when he had so many measures pending and was at the height of his fame. Yet she showed as much courage in supporting the death of her son, untimely and unavenged as it was, as he had shown in supporting his laws.
      If Fortune, Marcia, has pierced the Scipios and the mothers and daughters of the Scipios with her darts, if with them she has assailed the Caesars, will you not now pardon her if she has not held them back even from you?  Life is beset with full many and varied misfortunes; they grant to no one long-extended peace, scarcely even a truce.  Four children, Marcia, you had borne.  Not a single dart, they say, that is hurled into the thick of the line falls without a victim - is it surprising that such a company as yours has not been able to get by without incurring envy and harm?  But Fortune was all the more unfair because she not only carried off your sons but chose them out!  Yet you should never call it an in-


justice to be forced to share equally with one more powerful; she has left you two daughters and the children of these.  And even the son whom you, forgetful of an earlier loss, mourn so deeply has not been utterly taken from you; you still have the two daughters he left - great burdens if you are weak, great comforts if you are brave.  Do bring yourself to this - whenever you see them, let them remind you of your son and not of your grief!  When the farmer sees his fruit-trees all ruined - completely uprooted by the wind, or twisted and broken by the sudden fury of a cyclone - he nurses the young stock they have left, and immediately plants seeds and cuttings to replace the trees that were lost; and in a moment (for if time causes speedy and swift destruction, it likewise causes swift and speedy growth) more flourishing trees grow up than those he lost.   Do you no now put these daughters of your son Metilius in his stead, and fill the vacant place, and lighten your sorrow for one by drawing comfort from two!  Yet such is the nature of mortals that they find nothing so pleasing as what they have lost; yearning for what is taken away makes us too unfair towards what is left.  But if you are willing to count up how very merciful Fortune has been to you even when she was angry, you will find that she has left you much beside consolations; look at all your grandchildren, your two daughters.  And, Marcia, say this also to yourself: "I might indeed be disturbed, if everyone's lot accorded with his conduct, and if evils never pursued the good; as it is, I see that there is no distinction and that the good and the bad are tossed to and fro after the same fashion. {Job+}
      "Nevertheless it is hard," you reply, "to lose a


son whom you have reared to young manhood just when his mother, just when his father was finding him their stay and pride." Who will deny that it is hard?  But it is the common+ lot.  To this end were you born - to lose, to perish, to hope, to fear, to disquiet yourself and others, both to fear death and to long for it, and, worst of all, never to know the real terms of your existence.  Suppose a man should be planning a visit to Syracuse and someone should say to him: "First inform yourself of all the disagreeable and all the pleasurable features of your future journey, and then set sail. The things that may fill you with wonder are these.  First, you will see the island itself, cut off from Italy by a narrow strait, but once evidently joined to the mainland; there the sea suddenly broke through, and

Severed Sicily from Hesperia's side.\a

Next, you will see Charybdis - for it will be possible for you to skirt this greediest of whirlpools, so famous in story - resting quietly so long as there is no wind from the south, but whenever a gale blows from that quarter, sucking down ships into its huge and deep maw.  You will see the fountain of Arethusa, oft famed in song, with its bright gleaming pool, transparent to the very bottom, and pouring forth its icy waters - whether it found them there where they first had birth, or yielded up a river that had plunged beneath the earth\b and, gliding intact beneath so many seas, had been kept from the contamination of less pure water.{Kubla_Khan+} You will see a harbour,\c of all havensthe most peaceful - whether those that Nature has set to give shelter to ships or that man's hand has improved - and so safe that not even the fury of


the most violent storms can have access there.  You will see where the might of Athens was broken, where so many thousands of captives were confined in that natural prison,\a hewn out of solid rock to immeasurable depth - you will see the great city itself, occupying a broader extent of territory than many a metropolis can boast, where the winters are the balmiest, and not a single day passes without the appearance of the sun.   But, having learned of all these things, you will discover that the blessings of its winter climate are ruined by oppressive and unwholesome summers.  You will find there the tyrant Dionysius, that destroyer of freedom, justice, and law, greedy of power, even after knowing Plato, and of even after exile!\b Some he will burn, some he will flog, some for a slight offence he will order to be beheaded, he will call for males and females to satisfy his lust, and to enjoy two at one time of his shameful victims will will suffice for his royal excesses.  You have now heard what may attract, what repel you - now, then, either set sail or stay at home!  If after such a warning anyone should declare that he desired to enter Syracuse, against whom but himself could he find just cause for complaint, since he would not have stumbled upon those conditions, but have come into them purposely and with full knowledge?
      To all of us Nature says: "I deceive no one.  If you bear sons, it may be that they will be handsome, it may be that they will be ugly; perchance they will be born dumb.  Some one of them, it may be, will be the saviour of his country, or as likely its betrayer. It is not beyond hope that they will win so much esteem that out of regard for them none will venture to speak evil of you; yet bear in mind, too, that they may sink

TO MARCIA, CONSOLATION, xvii. 7-xviii. 3

to such great infamy that they themselves will become your curse.
     There is nothing to forbid that they should perform the last sad rites for you, and that those who deliver your panegyric should be your children, but, too, hold yourself ready to place your son upon the pyre, be he lad or man or graybeard; for years have nothing to do with the matter, since every funeral is untimely at which a parent follows the bier." If, after these conditions have been set forth, you bring forth children, you must free the gods from all blame; for they have made you no promises.
      Come now, apply this picture to your entrance into life as a whole.  I have set forth what could there delight you, what offend you, if you were debating whether you should visit Syracuse; consider that I am coming now to give you advice at your birth: "You are about to enter a city," I should say, "shared by gods and men - a city that embraces the universe, that is bound by fixed and eternal laws, that holds the celestial bodies aas they whirl through their unwearied rounds. {stars_from_wrong+} You will see there the gleaming of countless stars, you will see one star flooding everything with his light - the sun that marks off the spaces of day and night in his daily course, and in his annual course distributes even more equably the periods of summer and winter. You will see the moon taking his place by night, who as she meets her brother borrows from him a pale, reflected light, now quite hidden, now overhanging the earth with her whole face exposed, ever changing as she waxes and wanes, ever different from her last appearance.  You will see the five planets a pursuing their different courses and


striving to stem the headlong whirl\a of heaven; on even the slightest motions of these hang the fortunes of nations, and the greatest and smallest happenings are shaped to accord with the progress of a kindly or unkindly star. {Wdswth+} You will wonder at the piled-up clouds and the falling waters and the zigzag lightning and the roar of heaven.  When your eyes are sated with the spectacle of things above and you lower them to earth, another aspect of things, and otherwise wonderful, will meet your gaze. On this side you will see level plains stretching out their boundless expanse, on the other, mountains rising in great, snowclad ridges and lifting their peaks to heaven; descending streams and rivers that rise from one source flowing both to the east and to the west, and waving trees on the topmost summits and vast forests with the creatures that people them, and birds blending into harmony the discord of their songs.  You will see cities in diverse places, and the nations fenced off by natural barriers, some of them withdrawn to mountain heights, and others in their fear hugging the river-banks, lakes, and valleys; corn- fields assisted by cultivation and orchards that need none to tend their wildness; and brooks flowing gently through the meadows, lovely bays, and shores curving inwards to form a harbour; the countless islands that are scattered over the deep and, breaking up its expanse, stud the seas.  And what of the gleaming of precious stones and jewels, and the gold that rolls down amid the sands of rushing streams, and the flaming torches that soar from the midst of the land and at times even from the midst of the sea, and the ocean that encircles the lands, severing the continu-


ity of the nations by its three gulfs\a and boiling up in mighty rage? Here you will see its waters troubled and rising up in billows, stirred not by the wind but by swimming monsters that surpass in size all creatures of the land, some of them sluggish and moving under the guidance\b of another, others nimble and more swift than rowers at full speed, and still others that drink in the waters of the sea and blow them out to the great peril of those who are sailing by.  You will see here ships searching for lands that they do not know; you will see man in his audacity leaving nothing untried, and you will yourself be both a spectator and a partner of mighty enterprises; {Ulysses+{Faust+} you will learn and will teach the arts, of which some serve to maintain life, some to adorn it, and others to regulate it.  But there, too, will be found a thousand plagues, banes of the body as well as of the mind, wars, robberies, poisons, shipwreeks, distempers of climate and of the body, untimely grief for those most dear, and death - whether an easy one or only after pain and torture no one can tell. {Liberal_Arts+} Now take counsel of yourself and weigh carefully the choice you make; if you would reach these wonders, you must pass through these perils." Will your answer be that you choose to live?  Of course it will - nay, perhaps, on second thought, you will not enter upon a state in which to suffer any loss causes you pain!  Live, then, upon the terms you have accepted. "But,"you say, "no one has consulted us." Yet our psarents have been consulted about us, and they, knowing the terms of life, have reared us to accept them. But, to come back now to the subject of consolation, let us consider, first, what wound must be healed, and, second, in what way.  One source of grief is the


longing we have for one that we have lost.  But it is evident that this in itself is bearable; for, so long as they are alive, we do not shed tears for those who are absent or will soon be absent, although along with the sight of them we are robbed of all enjoyment of them.  What tortures us, therefore, is an opinion, and every evil is only as great as we have reckoned it to be.  In our own hands we have the remedy.   Let us consider that the dead are merely absent, and let us deceive ourselves; we have sent them on their way - nay, we have sent them ahead and shall soon follow.
      Another source of grief is the thought: "I shall have no one to protect me, no one to keep me from being despised." If I may employ a consolation by no means creditable but true, in this city of ours childlessness bestows more influence than it takes away, and the loneliness that used to be a detriment to old age, now leads to so much power that some old men pretend to hate their sons and disown their children, and by their own act make themselves childless.\a Yet I know what you will say: "My own losses do not stir me; for no parent is worthy of consolation who sorrows over the loss of a son just as he would over the loss of a slave, who in the case of a son has room to consider anything except the son himself." What then, Marcia, is it that troubles you? - the fact that your son has died, or that he did not live long?  If it is that he has died, then you had always reason to grieve; for you always knew that he would have to die.
      Reflect that there are no ills to be suffered after death, that the reports that make the Lower World terrible to us are mere tales, that no darkness is in store for the dead, no prison, no blazing streams of


fire, no river of Lethe, that no judgement-seats are there, nor culprits, nor in that freedom so unfettered are there a second time any tyrants. All these things are the fancies of the poets, who have harrowed us with groundless terrors.  Death is a release from all suffering, a boundary beyond which our ills cannot pass - it restores us to that peaceful state in which we lay before we were born.  If anyone pities the dead, he must also pity those who have not been born.  Death is neither a good nor an evil; for that only which is something is able to be a good or an evil.  But that which is itself nothing and reduces all things to nothingness consigns us to neither sphere of fortune for evils and goods must operate upon ,something material.  Fortune cannot maintain a hold upon that which Nature has let go, nor can he be wretched who is non-existent.   Your son has passed beyond those boundaries within which there is servitude; a great and everlasting peace has welcomed him.  No fear of want assails him, no anxicty from riches, no stings of lust+ that through the pleasure of the body rends the soul; envy of another's prosperity touches him not, envy of his own afflicts him not, no reproaches ever assail his unoffending ears; no disaster either to his country or to himself does he descry, nor does he, in suspense about the future, hang upon the distant outcome that ever repays with ever more uncertainty.  At last he has an abiding-place from which nothing can drive him, where nothing can affright him.
      O ignorant are they of their ills, who do not laud death and look forward to it as the most precious discovery of Nature!  Whether it shuts off prosperity, or repels calamity, or terminates the satiety and


weariness of the old man, or leads off the youth in the bloom of life while he still hopes for happier things, or calls back the boy before the harsher stages of life are reached, it is to all the end, to many a relief, to some an answer to prayer, and to none does it show more favour than to those to whom it comes before it is asked for!  Death frees the slave though his master is unwilling; it lightens the captive's chains; from the dungeon it leads forth those whom unbridled power\a had forbidden to leave it; to exiles, whose eyes and minds are ever turning to their native land, death shows that it makes no difference beneath whose soil a man may lie.  If Fortune has apportioned unjustly the common goods+, and has given over one man to another though they were born with equal rights, death levels all things; this it is, after whose coming no one any more does the will of another; this it is, under whose sway no one is aware of his lowly estate; this it is, that lies open to everyone this it is, Marcia, that your father eagerly desired; this it is, I say, that keeps my birth from being a punishment, that keeps me from falling in the face of threatening misfortunes, that makes it possible to keep my soul unharmed and master of itself {invictus+}:  I have a last appeal.   Yonder I see instruments of torture, not indeed of a single kind, but differently contrived by different peoples; some hang their victims with head toward the ground, some impale their private parts, others stretch out their arms on a fork-shaped gibbet; I see cords, I see scourges, and for each separate limb and each joint there is a separate engine of torture!   But I see also Death.  There, too, are bloodthirsty enemies and proud fellow-countrymen; but yonder, too, I see Death.  Slavery is no hardship when, if a


man wearies of the yoke, by a single step he may pass to freedom.

O Life, by the favour of Death I hold thee dear!

      Think how great a boon a timely death offers, how many have been harmed by living too long!  If Gnaeus Pompeius, that glory and stay of the realm, had been carried off by his illness at Naples,\a he would have departed the unchallenged head of the Roman people. But as it was, a very brief extension of time cast him down from his pinnacle. He saw his legions slaughtered before his eyes, and from that battle where the first line was the senate,\b he saw - what a melancholy remnant\c - the commander himself left alive!  He saw an Egyptian his executioner, and yielded to a slave a body that was sacrosanct to the victors,\d though even had he been unharmed, he would have repented of his escape; for what were haser than that a Pompey should live by the bounty of a king!  If Marcus Cicero had fallen at the moment when he escaped the daggers of Catiline, which were aimed not less at him than at his country, if he had fallen as the saviour of the commonwealth which he had freed, if his death had followed close upon that of his daughter,\e even then he might have died happy.  He would not have seen swords drawn to take the lives of Roman citizens, nor assassins parcelling out the goods of their victims in order that these might even be murdered at their own cost, nor the spoils of a consul\f put up at
      e Tullia, who died in 45 B.C.
      f Cf.  Cicero, Phil.  ii. 64: "hasta posita pro aede Iovis Statoris bona Cn.  Pompei (miserum me!  consumptis enim lacrimis tamen infixus haeret animo dolor), bona, inquam, Cn.  Poinpei Magni voci acerbissimae subiecta praeconis!"


public auction, nor murders contracted for officially, nor brigandage and war and pillage - so many new Catilines!
      If the sea had swallowed up Marcus Cato as he was returning from Cyprus and his stewardship of the royal legacy,\a and along with him even the money which he was bringing to defray the expense of the Civil War, would it not then - the conviction that no one would have the effrontery to do wrong in the presence of Cato!  As it was, having gained the respite of a very few years, that hero, who was born no less for personal than for political freedom, was forced to flee from Caesar and to submit to Pompey.
      To your son, therefore, though his death was premature, it brought no ill; rather has it released him from suffering ills of every sort. "Yet," you say, "he perished too soon and before his time." In the first place, suppose he had survived - grant him the very longest life a man can have - how many years are there after all?  Born as we are for the briefest space, and destined soon to yield place to another coming into his lease of time, we view our life as a sojourn at an inn. "Our" life do I say, when Time hurries it on with such ineredible swiftness? Count the centuries of cities; you will see how even those that boast of their great age have not existed long.  All things human are short-lived and perishable, and fill no part at all of infinite time.  This earth with its cities and peoples, its rivers and the girdle of the sea, if measured by the universe, we may count a mere dot; our life, if compared with all time, is relatively even less than a dot; for the com-


pass of eternity is greater than that of the world, since the world renews\a itself over and over within the bounds of time.  What, then, is to be gained by lengthening out that which, however much shall be added on to it, will still not be far from nothing?  The time we live is much in only one way - if it is enough!  You may name to me men who were long-lived and attained an age that has become proverbial, and you may count up a hundred and ten years for each, yet when you turn your thought upon eternal time, if you compare the space that you discover a man has lived with the space that he has not lived, not a whit of difference will you find between the shortest and the longest life.  Again, your son himself was ripe for death; for he lived as long as he needed to live -nothing further was left for him to do.  There is no uniform time for old age in the case of men, nor indeed of animals either.  Some animals are exhausted within the space of fourteen years, and their longest life is no more than the first stage of a man's; to each has been given a different capacity for living.  No man dies too soon, because he lives only as long as he was destined to live.  For each the boundary-line is marked; where it has been once placed, it will always remain, and no endeavour or favour will move it farther on.  Look at the matter thus - you lost your son in accordance with a fixed plan.  He had his day

And reached the goal of his allotted years.\b

And so you must not burden yourself with the thought: "He might have lived longer." His life has not been cut short, nor does Chance ever thrust itself into the years.  What has been promised to each man, is paid; the Fates go their way, and neither add any


thing to what has once been promised, nor subtract from it.  Prayers and struggles are all in vain; each one will get just the amount that was placed to his credit on the first day of his existence.  That day on which he first saw the light, he entered upon the path to death and drew ever nearer to his doom, and the very years that were added to his youth were subtracted from his life.  We all fall into the error of thinking that only those who are old and already on the downward path are tending toward death, whereas earliest infancy, middle age, every period of life indeed leads in that direction.  The Fates ply their work; they keep us from being conscious that we are dying, and, to have it steal upon us the more easily, death lurks beneath the very name of life; infancy changes into boyhood, boyhood into adolescence, and old age steals away the age of maturity.  Our very gains, if you reckon them properly, are losses.  Do you complain, Marcia, that your son did not live as long as he might have lived?  For how do you know whether it was advisable for him to live longer?  whether his interest was served by such a death?  Can you this day find anyone whose fortunes are so happily placed and so firmly grounded that he has nothing to fear from the advance of time?  Human affairs are unstable and fleeting, and no part of our life is so frail and perishable as that which gives most pleasure, and therefore at the height of good fortune we ought to pray for death, since in all the inconstancy and turmoil of life we can feel sure of nothing except the past.  And your son who was so handsome in body and under the eyes of a dissolute city had been kept pure by his strict regard for chastity -


what assurance have you that he could have escaped the many diseases there are, and so have preserved the unimpaired beauty of his person down to old age?  And think of the thousand taints of the soul!  For even noble natures do not support continuously into old age the expectations they had stirred in their youth, but are often turned aside; they either fall into dissipation, which coming late is for that reason the more disgraceful, and begins to tarnish the brilliance of their first years, or they sink wholly to the level of the eating-house and the belly, and what they shall eat and what they shall drink become their chief concern.  To this add fires and falling houses, and shipwrecks and the agonies from surgeons as they pluck bones from the living body, and thrust their whole hands deep into the bowels, and treat the private parts at the cost of infinite pain.  And besides all these there is exile -surely your son was not more blameless than Rutilius\a! - and the prison -surely he was not wiser than Socrates! - and the suicide's dagger, piercing the heart - surely he was not more holy than Cato!  If you will consider all these possibilities, you will learn that those who are treated most kindly by Nature are those whom she removes early to a place of safety, because life had in store some such penalty as this.  Yes, nothing is so deceptive as human life, nothing is so treacherous.  Heaven knows!  not one of us would have accepted it as a gift, were it not given to us without our knowledge.  If, therefore, the happiest lot is not to be born, {Sophocles+} the next best, I think, is to have a brief life and by death to be restored quicky to the original state.\b
      Recall that time, so bitter for you, when Sejanus handed over your father to his client, Satrius


Secundus, as a largess.  He was angry because your father, not being able to endure in silence that a Sejanus should be set upon our necks, much less climb there, had spoken out once or twice rather boldly.  Sejanus was being voted the honour of a statue, which was to be set up in the theatre of Pompey, just then being restored by Tiberius after a fire.  Whereupon Cordus exclaimed: "Now the theatre is ruined indeed!" What!  Was it not to burst with rage to think of a Sejanus planted upon the ashes of Gnaeus Pompeius, a disloyal soldier hallowed by a statue in a memorial to one of the greatest generals?  Hallowed, too, was the signature of Sejanus! and those fiercest of dogs\,b which, savage toward all others, he kept friendly only to himself by feeding them on human blood, began to bark around that great man,\c who was already caught in a trap.  What was he to do?  If he wished to live, he had to make his plea to Sejanus; if he wished to die, to his own daughter, and both were inexorable.  So he determined to deceive his daughter.  Therefore, having taken a bath and seeking to reduce his strength still further, he retired to his bedchamber, giving out that he would have luncheon there; then, having dismissed the slaves, he threw part of the food out of the window in order to have it appear that he had eaten it; later he refused dinner on the pretext that he had already eaten enough in his room.  He did the same thing also on the second day and the third day; on the fourth, the very weakness of his body revealed the truth.  And so, taking you into his arms, he said: "My dearest daughter, nothing in my whole life have
      b The delators, or unscrupulous political accusers, who were the tools of Sejanus.  c Cordus.

TO MARCIA, CONSOLATION, xxii. 6-xxiii. 2

I ever concealed from you but this, but I have entered upon the road to death, and am now almost half-way there; you cannot and you ought not to call me back." And so, having ordered all light to be shut out, he buried himself in deep darkness.  When his purpose was recognized, there was general rejoicing, because the jaws of the ravening wolves were being cheated of their prey.  At the instigation of Sejanus, accusers of Cordus appeared before the tribunal of the consuls, complained that their victim was dying, and begged them to prevent the very thing they had forced upon him; so strongly did they feel that Cordus was escaping them!  The great question in dispute was whether an accused man lost his right to die; while the matter was being debated, while his accusers were making their plea a second time, he had already gained his freedom.  Do you not see, Marcia, what great vicissitudes of fortune assail us unexpectedly when the times are evil? Weep you because one of your dear ones was required to die?  One was very nearly not allowed.
      Besides the fact that all the future is uncertain, and more certain to be worse than otherwise, it is true that the souls that are quickly released from intercourse with men find the journey to the gods above most easy; for they carry less weight of earthly dross.  Set free before they become hardened, before they are too deeply contaminated by the things of earth, they fly back more lightly to the source of their being, and more easily wash away all defilement and stain. And souls that are great find no joy in lingering in the body; they yearn to go forth and burst their bonds, and they chafe against these narrow bounds, accustomed as they are to range far

TO MARCIA, CONSOLATION, xxiii. 2-xxiv. 1.

aloft throughout the universe, and from on high to look down in scorn upon the affairs of men.  Hence it is that Plato\a cries out that the wise man reaches out with all his mind toward death, longs for it, thinks upon it, and because of this passion moves through life striving ever for the things beyond.  Tell me, Marcia, when you saw in your son, youth that he was, the wisdom of an old man, a mind victorious over all sensual pleasures, unblemished, faultless, seeking riches without greed, honours without ostentation, pleasures without excess, did you think that you could long have the good fortune to keep him safe and unharmed?  Whatever has reached perfection, is near its end.  Ideal Virtue hurries away and is snatched from our eyes, and the fruits that ripen in their first days do not wait long for their last.  The brighter a fire glows, the more quickly it dies; the fire that is kindled with tough and stubborn wood, and, shrouded in smoke, shines with a murky light is longer lived; for the same condition keeps it alive that provides it grudging food.  So with men - the brighter their spirits, the briefer their day; for when there is no room for increase, destruction is near.  Fabianus relates - our parents also actually saw him - that there was at Rome a boy who was as tall as a very tall man; but he soon died, and every sensible person said beforehand that he would promptly die, for he could not be expected to reach an age that he had already forestalled. And so it is - ripe maturity is the sign of impending destruction; when growth stops, the end approaches.

Seneca's Essays Volume III

Source: Lucius Annasus Seneca. Moral Essays. Translated by John W. Basore. The Loeb Classical Library. London: W. Heinemann,1928-1935. 3 vols.: Volume III. Before using any portion of this text in any theme, essay, research paper, thesis, or dissertation, please read the disclaimer.

Transcription conventions: Page numbers in Angle brackets refer to the edition cited as the source. The Latin text, which appears on even-numbered pages, is not included here. Words or phrases singled out for indexing are marked by plus signs. In the index, numbers in parentheses indicate how many times the item appears. A slash followed by a small letter or a number indicates a footnote at the bottom of the page. Only notes of historical, philosophical, or literary interest to a general reader have been included. I have allowed Greek passages to stand as the scanner read them, in unintelligible strings of characters.

Table of Contents: De Beneficiis
Index:   Aeneid+(1) | Akumal+(1) Antonio+(1) | Antony+(2) | Bassanio+(2) | benefits+(1) | Best_of_all_possible+(1) | boast+(1) | motives_list+(1) | business+(1) | Castiglione+(1) | charisma+(1) | Civic_Duty+(1) | common_bond+(2) | Common_Humanity+(1) | common_property+(1) | Coriolanus?+(1) | Divine_Right+(1) | duty+(2) | Epicureans+(1) | Essay_on_Man_I+(1) | evil_as_good+(1) | faith+(1) | flattery+(1) | fool+(1) |  Foresight+(1) | forgive+(1) | freedom+(1) | Freedom+(2) | Friend+(1) | Gift+(1) | GIFT+(1) | gift_as_link+(1) | Gift_spirit+(1) | gifts+(1) | give_freely+(1) | given+(1) | giving_motive+(1) | onourable+(1) | God+(1) | goodwill+(1) | Granville+(1) | Graces+(1) | gratia+(1) | gratum+(1) | great_soul+(1) | haero_stick+(1) | Hal+(1) | honestum+(2) | hopes+(1) | Hotspur+(1) | Iago+(2) | integrum+(1) | judge_not+(2) | Kent+(3) | law+(1) | Lear+(2) | Lear_disgust+(1) | Lear_whole_plot+(1) | magnitudo_animi+(1) | memorem+(1) | Nature+(2) | no_strings+(1) | nobody's_perfect+(1) | Ode_to_Duty+(1) | Paris+(1) | PlainDealer+(1) | Plutarch's_Fortune+(1) | Polonius+(1) | poor_is_rich+(1) | Pope+(1) | promise+(2) | promises+(1) | Prospero+(1) | Reason+(1) | Satan+(1) | Shylock+(3) | simplicem+(1) | social_animal+(1) | social_glue+(1) | Stoicism_basic+(1) | Swift+(1) | Timon+(3) | 11trustee+(1) | virtue_in_peasants+(1) | Wdswth+(1) | Wordsworth+(2) | Wyf_of_Bath+(3) | 



AMONG the many and diverse errors of those who live reckless and thoughtless lives, almost nothing that I can mention, excellent Liberalis, is more disgraceful than the fact that we do not know how either to give or to receive benefits.  For it follows that, if they are ill placed, they are ill acknowledged, and, when we complain of their not being returned, it is too late for they were lost at the time they were given.  Nor is it surprising that among all our many and great vices, none is so common as ingratitude. This I observe results from several causes.
     The first is, that we do not pick out those who are worthy of receiving our gifts.  Yet when we are about to open an account with anyone, we are careful to inquire into the means and manner of life of our debtor; we do not sow seed in worn-out and unproductive soil; but our benefits we give, or rather throw, away without any discrimination.
     Nor would it be easy to say whether it is more shameful to repudiate a benefit, or to ask the repayment of it; for from the nature of such a trust, we

ON BENEFITS, I. 1. 3-8

have a right to receive back only what is voluntarily returned.  To plead bankruptcy is, surely, most disgraceful, just for the reason that, in order to perform the promised payment, what is needed is, not wealth, but the desire; for, if a benefit is acknowledged, it is returned.  But, while those who do not even profess to be grateful are blameworthy, so also are we. Many men we find ungrateful, but more we make so, because at one time we are harsh in our reproaches and demands, at another, are fickle and repent of our gift as soon as we have made it, at another, are fault - finding and misrepresent the importance of trifles.  Thus we destroy all sense of gratitude, not only after we have given our benefits, but even while we are in the act of giving them.  Who of us has been content to have a request made lightly, or but once?  Who, when he suspected that something was being sought from him, has not knit his brows, turned away his face, pretended to be busy, by long-drawn conversation, which he purposely kept from ending, deprived another of the opportunity of making a request, and by various tricks baffled his pressing needs?  Who, when actually caught in a corner, has not either deferred the favor, that is, been too cowardly to refuse it, or promised it with ungraciousness, with frowning brows, and with grudging words that were scarcely audible?  Yet no one is glad to be indebted for what he had, not received, but extorted.  Can anyone be grateful to another for a benefit that has been haughtily flung to him, or thrust at him in anger, or given out of sheer weariness in order to save further trouble? Whoever expects that a man whom he has wearied by delay and tortured by hope will feel any indebtedness

ON BENEFITS, I. i. 8-10

deceives himself.  A benefit is acknowledged in the same spirit in which it is bestowed, and for that reason it ought not to be bestowed carelessly; for a man thanks only himself for what he receives from an unwitting giver. Nor should it be given tardily, since, seeing that in every service the willingness of the giver counts for much, he who acts tardily has for a long time been unwilling.  And, above all, it should not be given insultingly; for, since human nature is so constituted that injuries sink deeper than kindnesses, and that, while the latter pass quickly from the mind, the former are kept persistently in memory, what can he expect who, while doing a favor, offers an affront?  If you pardon such a man for giving a benefit, you show gratitude enough, There is no reason, however, why the multitude of ingrates should make us more reluctant to be generous.  For, in the first place, as I have said, we ourselves increase their number; and, in the second place, not even the mortal gods are deterred from showing lavish and unceasing kindness to those who are sacrilegious and indifferent to them.  For they follow their own nature, and in their universal bounty {great_soul+} include even those who are ill interpreters of their gifts.  Let us follow these as our guides in so far as human weakness permits; let us make our benefits, not investments, but gifts+.  The man who, when he gives, has any thought of repayment deserves to be deceived.  But suppose it has turned out ill.  Both children and wives have disappointed our hopes, yet we marry and rear children, and so persistent are we in the face of experience that, after being conquered, we go back to war and, after being shipwrecked, we go back to sea.  How much more fitting


to persevere in bestowing benefits!  For if a man stops giving them because they were not returned, his purpose in giving them was to have them returned, and he supplies a just excuse to the in ingrate, whose disgrace lies in not making a return, it is permissible. {GIFT+} How many are unworthy of seeing the light!  Yet the day dawns.  How many complain because they have been born!  Yet Nature begets new progeny, and even those who would rather not have been, she suffers to be.  To seek, not the fruit of benefits, but the mere doing of them, and to search for a good man even after the discovery of bad men - this is the mark of a soul that is truly great and good.  What glory would there be in doing good to many if none ever deceived you?  But as it is, it is a virtue to give benefits that have no surety of being returned, whose fruit is at once enjoyed by the noble mind.  So true is it that we ought not to allow such a consideration to rout us from our purpose and make us less prone to do a very beautiful thing, that, even were I deprived of the hope of finding a grateful man, I should prefer not recovering benefits to not giving them, because he who does not give them merely forestalls the fault of the ungrateful man.  I will explain what I mean.  He who does not return a benefit, sins more, he who does not give one, sins earlier.

 To shower bounties on the mob should you delight, xxx Full many must you lose, for one you place aright./a
In the first verse two points are open to criticism for, on the one hand, benefits ought not to be showered upon the mob, and, on the other, it is not right to be wasteful of any thing, least of all of benefits; for, if you eliminate discernment in giving them, they cease

to be benefits, and will fall under any other name you please.  The sentiment of the second is admirable, for it allows a solitary benefit that is well placed to compensate for the loss of many that have been wasted.  But consider, I beg of you, whether it may not be truer doctrine and more in accord with the generous spirit of the benefactor to urge him to give even though not one of his benefits is likely to be well placed.  For "many must you lose" is a false sentiment; not one is lost, because a loser is one who had kept an account.  In benefits the book- keeping is simple - so much is paid out; if anything comes back, it is gain, if nothing comes back, there is no loss.  I made the gift for the sake of giving.  No one enters his benefactions in his account-book, or like a greedy tax-collector calls for payment upon a set day, at a set hour.  The good man never thinks of them unless he is reminded of them by having them returned; otherwise, they transform themselves into a loan.  To regard a benefit as an amount advanced is putting it out at shameful interest.  No matter what the issue of former benefits has been, still persist in conferring them upon others; this will be better even if they fall unheeded into the hands of the ungrateful, for it may be that either shame or opportunity or example will some day make these grateful. Do not falter, finish your task, and complete the role of the good man. Help one man with money, another with credit, another with influence, another with advice, another with sound precepts.  Even wild beasts are sensible of good offices, and no creature is so savage that it will not be softened by kindness and made to love the hand that gives it.  The lion will let a keeper handle his mouth with impunity,

ON BENEFITS, I. ii. 5-iii. 4

the elephant, for all his fierceness, is reduced to the docility of a slave by food; so true is it that even creatures whose condition excludes the comprehension and appraisement of a benefit, are nevertheless won over by persistent and steadfast kindness.  Is a man ungrateful for one benefit? Perhaps he will not be so for a second.  Has he forgotten two benefits? Perhaps a third will recall to memory the others also that have dropped from his mind.  That man will waste his benefits who is quick to believe that he has wasted them; but he who presses on, and heaps new benefits upon the old, draws forth gratitude even from a heart that is hard and unmindful.  In the presence of multiplied benefits the ingrate will not dare to lift his eyes; wherever he turns, fleeing his memory of them, there let him see you - encircle him with your benefits.
     Of the nature and property of these I shall speak later if you will permit me first to digress upon questions that are foreign to the subject - why the Graces+/a {gratia+} are three in number and why they are sisters, why they have their hands interlocked, and why they are smiling and youthful and virginal, and are clad in loose and transparent garb.  Some would have it appear that there is one for bestowing a benefit, another for receiving it, and a third for returning it; others hold that there are three classes of benefactors - those who earn benefits,/b those who return them, those who receive and return them at the same time.  But of the two explanations do you accept as true whichever you like; yet what profit is there in such knowledge?  Why do the sisters hand in hand dance in a ring which returns upon itself?  For the reason that a benefit passing

ON BENEFITS, I. iii 4-7

in its course from hand to hand returns nevertheless to the giver; the beauty of the whole is destroyed if the course is anywhere broken, and it has most beauty if it is continuous and maintains an uninterrupted succession.{gift_as_link+} In the dance, nevertheless, an older sister has especial honour, as do those who earn benefits.  Their faces are cheerful, as are ordinarily the faces of those who bestow or receive benefits.  They are young because the memory of benefits ought not to grow old.  They are maidens because benefits are pure and undefiled and holy in the eyes of all; and it is fitting that there should be nothing to bind or restrict them, and so the maidens wear flowing robes, and these, too, are transparent because benefits desire to be seen.
     There may be someone who follows the Greeks so slavishly as to say that considerations of this sort are necessary; but surely no one will believe; also that the names which Hesiod assigned to the Graces have any bearing upon the subject.  He called the eldest Aglaia, the next younger Euphrosyne, the third Thalia.  Each one twists the significance of these names to suit himself, and tries to make them fit some theory although Hesiod simply bestowed on the maidens the name that suited his fancy.  And so Homer changed the name of one of them, calling her Pasithea, and promised her in marriage in order that it might be dear that, if they were maidens, they were not Vestals./a I could find another poet in whose writings they are girdled and appear in robes of thick texture or of Phryxian wool./b And the reason that Mercury stands with them is, not that argument or eloquence commends benefits, but simply that the painter chose to picture them so.

ON BENEFITS, I. iii. 8-iv. 1

       Chrysippus, too, whose famous acumen is so keen and pierces to the very core of truth, who speaks in order to accomplish results, and uses no more words than are necessary to make himself intelligible - he fills the whole of his book with these puerilities, insomuch that he has very little to say about the duty itself of giving, receiving, and returning a benefit; and his fictions are not grafted upon his teachings, but his teachings upon his fictions.  For, not to mention what Hecaton copies from him, Chrysippus says that the three Graces are daughters of Jupiter and Eurynome, also that, while they are younger than the Hours, they are somewhat more beautiful, and therefore have been assigned as companions to Venus.  In his opinion, too, the name of their mother has some significance, for he says that she was called Eurynome/a <daughter of Ocean, "wide spreading"> because the distribution of benefits is the mark of an extensive fortune; just as if a mother usually received her name after her daughters, or as if the names that poets bestow were genuine!  As a nomenclator lets audacity supply the place of memory, and every time that he is unable to call anyone by his true name, he invents one, so poets do not think that it is of any importance to speak the truth, but, either forced by necessity or beguiled by beauty.  They impose upon each person the name that works neatly into the verse.  Nor is it counted against them if they introduce a new name into the list; for the next poet orders the maidens to take the name that he devises.  And to prove to you that this is so, observe that Thalia, with whom we are especially concerned, appears in Hesiod as Charis,/b {charisma+} in Homer as a Muse.
     But for fear that I shall be guilty of the fault that

ON BENEFITS, I. iv. 1-5

I am criticizing, I shall abandon all these questions, which are so remote that they do not even touch the subject.  Only do you defend me if anyone shall blame me for having put Chrysippus in his place - a great man, no doubt, but yet a Greek, one whose acumen is so finely pointed that it gets blunted and often folds back upon itself; even when it seems to be accomplishing something, it does not pierce, but only pricks.  But what has acumen to do here?  What we need is a discussion of benefits and the rules for a practice that constitutes the chief bond of human society;{Granville+} we need to be given a law of conduct in order that we may not be inclined to the thoughtless indulgence that masquerades as generosity, in order, too, that this very vigilance, while it tempers, may not check our liberality, of which there ought to be neither any lack nor any excess; we need to be taught to give willingly, to receive willingly, to return willingly, and to set before us the high aim of striving, not merely to equal, but to surpass in deed and spirit those who have placed us under obligation, for he who has a debt of gratitude to pay never catches up with the favor unless he outstrips it; the one should be taught to make no record of the amount, the other to feel indebted for more than the amount. To this most honourable rivalry in outdoing benefits by benefits Chrysippus urges us by saying that, in view of the fact that the Graces are the daughters of Jupiter, we should fear that by showing a lack of gratitude we might become guilty of sacrilege and do an injustice to such beautiful maidens! But teach thou me the secret of becoming more beneficent and more grateful to those who do me a service, the secret of the rivalry that is born in the hearts of the obligers

ON BENEFITS, I. iv. 5-v. 3

and the obliged so that those who have bestowed forget, those who owe persistently remember.  As for those absurdities, let them be left to the poets, whose purpose it is to charm the car and to weave a pleasing tale. But those who wish to heal the human soul, to maintain faith in the dealings of men, and to engrave upon their minds the memory of services let these speak with earnestness and plead with all their power; unless, perchance, you think that by light talk and fables and old wives' reasonings it is possible to prevent a most disastrous thing - the abolishment of benefits.
     But, just as I am forced to touch lightly upon irrelevant questions, so I must now explain that the first thing we have to learn is what it is that we owe when a benefit has been received. For one man says that he owes the money which he has received, another the consulship, another the priesthood, another the administration of a province.  But these things are the marks of services rendered, not the services themselves.  A benefit cannot possibly be touched by the hand; its province is the mind.  There is a great difference between the matter of a benefit and the benefit itself; and so it is neither gold nor silver nor any of the gifts which are held to be most valuable that constitutes a benefit, but merely the goodwill+ of him who bestows it.  But the ignorant regard only that which meets the eye, that which passes from hand to hand and is laid hold of, while they attach little value to that which is really rare and precious.  The gifts that we take in our hands, that we gaze upon, that in our covetousness we cling to, are perishable; for fortune or injustice may take them from us.  But a benefit endures even after that through which it

ON BENEFITS, I. v. 3-vi. 2

was manifested has been lost; for it is a virtuous act, and no power can undo it.
     If I have rescued a friend from pirates, and afterwards a different enemy seized him and shut him up in prison, he has been robbed, not of my benefit, but of the enjoyment of my benefit.  If I have saved a man's children from shipwreck or a fire and restored them to him, and afterwards they were snatched from him either by sickness or some injustice of fortune, yet, even when they are no more, the benefit that was manifested in their persons endures.  All those things, therefore, which falsely assume the name of benefits, are but the services through which the goodwill of a friend reveals itself.  The same thing is true also of other bestowals - the form of the bestowal is one thing, the bestowal itself another.  The general presents a soldier with a breast-chain or with a mural and civic crown.  But what value has the crown in itself?  What the purple-bordered robe?  What the fasces?  What the tribunal and the chariot? No one of these things is an honour, they are the badges of honour.  In like manner that which falls beneath the eye is not a benefit - it is but the trace and mark of a benefit.
     What then is a benefit?  It is the act of a wellwisher who bestows joy and derives joy from the bestowal of it, and is inclined to do what he does from the prompting of his own will.  And so what counts is, not what is done or what is given, but the spirit of the action, because a benefit consists, not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.  The great distinction that exists between these things, moreover, may be grasped from the simple statement that a benefit is un-

ON BENEFITS, I. vi. 2-vii. 2

doubtedly a good, while what is done or given is neither a good nor an evil.  It is the intention that exalts small gifts, gives lustre to those that are mean, and discredits those that are great and considered of value; the things themselves that men desire have a neutral nature, which is neither good nor evil/a; all depends upon the end toward which these are directed by the Ruling Principle/b {God+} that gives to things their form.  The benefit itself is not something that is counted out and handed over, just as, likewise, the honour that is paid to the gods lies, not in the victims for sacrifice, though they be fat and glitter with gold, but in the upright and holy desire of the worshippers.  Good men, therefore, are pleasing to the gods with an offering of meal and gruel; the bad, on the other hand, do not escape impiety although they dye the altars with streams of blood.
     If benefits consisted, not in the very desire to benefit, but in things, then the greater the gifts are which we have received, the greater would be the benefits.  But this is not true; for sometimes we feel under greater obligations to one who has given small gifts out of a great heart, who "by his spirit matched the wealth of kings,"/c who bestowed his little, but gave it gladly, who beholding my poverty forgot his own, who had, not merely the willingness, but a desire to help, who counted a benefit given as a benefit received, who gave it with no thought of having it returned, who, when it was returned, had no thought of having given it, who not only sought, but seized, the opportunity of being useful. On the other hand, as I have said before, those benefits win no thanks, which, though they seem great

ON BENEFITS, I. vii. 2-ix. 1

from their substance and show, are either forced from the giver or are carelessly dropped, and that comes much more gratefully which is given by a willing rather than by a full hand.  The benefit which one man bestowed upon me is small, but he was not able to give more; that which another gave me is great, but he hesitated, he put it off, he grumbled when he gave it, he gave it haughtily, he, published it abroad, and the person he tried to please was not the one on whom he bestowed his gift - he made an offering, not to me, but to his pride.
     Once when many gifts were being presented to Socrates by his pupils, each one bringing according to his means, Aeschines, who was poor, said to him:  "Nothing that I am able to give to you do I find worthy of you, and only in this way do I discover that am a poor man. And so I give to you the only thing that I possess - myself.  This gift, such as it is, I beg you to take in good part, and bear in mind that the others, though they gave to you much, have left more for themselves." "And how," said Socrates, "could it have been anything but a great gift - unless maybe you set small value upon yourself?  And so I shall make it my care to return you to yourself a better man than when I received you." By this present Aeschines surpassed Alcibiades, whose heart matched his riches,/a and the wealthy youths with all their splendid gifts.  You see how even in pinching poverty the heart finds the means for generosity.  These, it seems to me, were the words of Aeschines:  "You, O Fortune, have accomplished nothing by wishing to make me poor; I shall none the less find for this great man a

ON BENEFITS, I. ix. 1-4

gift that is worthy of him, and, since I cannot give to him from your store, I shall give from my own." Nor is there any reason for you to supposethat he counted himself cheap: the value he set upon himself was himself.  And so clever a young man was he that he discovered a way of giving to himself -Socrates!  It is not the size of our respective benefits, but the character of the one from whom they come that should be our concern.
     a/A man is shrewd if he does not make himself difficult of access to those who come with immoderate desires, and encourages their wild expectations by his words although in reality he intends to give them no help; but his reputation suffers if he is sharp of tongue, stern in countenance, and arouses their jealousy by flaunting his own good fortune.  For they court, and yet loathe, the prosperous man, and they hate him for doing the same things that they would do if they could.
     They make a laughing-stock of other men's wives, not even secretly, but openly, and then surrender their own wives to others.  If a man forbids his wife to appear in public in a sedan-chair and to ride exposed on every side to the view of observers who everywhere approach her, he is boorish and unmannerly and guilty of bad form, and the married women count his demands detestable.  If a man makes himself conspicuous by not having a mistress, and does not supply an allowance to another man's wife, the married women say that he is a poor sort and is addicted to low pleasures and affairs with maidservants.  The result of this is that adultery has become the most seemly sort of betrothal, and the bachelor is in accord with the widower, since

ON BENEFITS, I. ix. 5-x. 2

the only man who takes a wife is one who takes away a wife.  Now men vie in squandering what they have stolen and then in regaining by fierce and sharp greed what they have squandered; they have no scruples; they esteem lightly the poverty of others and fear poverty for themselves more than any other evil; they upset peace with their injustices, and hard press the weaker with violence and fear.  That the provinces are plundered, that the judgement-seat is for sale, and, when two bids have been made, is knocked down to one of the bidders is of course not surprising, since it is the law of nations that you can sell what you have bought!
     But, because the subject is alluring, my ardour has carried me too far; and so let me close by showing that it is not our generation only that is beset by this fault.  The complaint our ancestors made, the complaint we make, the complaint our posterity will make, is that morality is overturned, that wickedness holds sway, and that human affairs and every sin are tending toward the worse.  Yet these things remain and will continue to remain in the same position, with only a slight movement now in this direction, now in that, like that of the waves, which a rising tide carries far inland, and a receding tide restrains within the limits of the shoreline.  Now adultery will be more common than other sins, and chastity will tear off its reins; now a furore for feasting and the most shameful scourge that assails fortunes, the kitchen, will prevail, and now excessive adornment of the body and the concern for its beauty that displays an unbeauteous mind; now ill-controlled liberty will burst forth into wantonness and presumption; and now the progress will be toward

ON BENEFITS, I. x. 2-5

cruelty, on the part both of the state and of the individual, and to the insanity of civil war, which desecrates all that is holy and sacred; sometimes it will be drunkenness on which honour is bestowed, and he who can hold the most wine will be a hero.
     Vices do not wait expectantly in just one spot, but are always in movement and, being at variance with each other, are in constant turmoil, they rout and in turn are routed; but the verdict we are obliged to pronounce upon ourselves will always be the same: wicked we are, wicked we have been, and, I regret to add, always shall be.  Homicides, tyrants, thieves, adulterers, robbers, sacrilegious men, and traitors there always will be; but worse than all these is the crime of ingratitude, unless it be that all these spring from ingratitude, without which hardly any sin has grown to great size.
     Do you beware of committing this crime as being the greatest there is; if another commits it, pardon it as being the most trivial.  For the sum of your injury is this - you have wasted a benefit.  For you have the best part of it still unharmed - the fact that you gave it.  But, although we ought to be careful to confer benefits by preference upon those who will be likely to respond with gratitude, yet there are some that we shall do even if we expect from them poor results, and we shall bestow benefits upon those who, we not only think will be, but we know have been, ungrateful.  For example, if I shall be able to restore to someone his sons by rescuing them from great danger without any risk to myself, I shall not hesitate to do so.  If a man is a worthy one, I shall defend him even at the cost of my own blood, and share his peril; if he is unworthy, and I shall be able

ON BENEFITS, I. x. 5-xi. 4

to rescue him from robbers by raising an outcry, I shall not be slow to utter the cry that will save a human being.
     I pass next to the discussion of what benefits ought to be given and the manner of their bestowal.  Let us give what is necessary first, then what is useful, then what is pleasurable, particularly things that will endure.  But we should begin with necessities; for that which supports life impresses the mind in one way, that which adorns or equips life, in quite another.  It is possible for a man to be scornful in his estimate of a gift which he can easily do without, of which he may say:  "Take it back, I do not want it; I am content with what I have." Sometimes it is a pleasure, not merely to give back, but to hurl from you, what you have received.
     Of the benefits that are necessary, some, those without which we are not able to live, have the first place, others, those without which we ought not to live, the second, and still others, those without which we are not willing to live, the third.  The first are of this stamp - to be snatched from the hands of the enemy, from the wrath of a tyrant, from proscription, and the other perils which in diverse and uncertain forms beset human life.  The greater and the more formidable the danger from any one of these, the greater will be the gratitude that we shall receive when we have banishes it; for the thought of the greatness of the ills from which they have been freed will linger in men's minds, and their earlier fear will enhance the value of our service.  And yet we ought not to be slower in saving a man than we might be, solely in order that his fear may add weight to our service.  Next to these come the blessings without

ON BENEFITS, I. xi. 4-6

which, indeed, we are able to live, yet death becomes preferable, such as liberty and chastity and a good conscience.  After these will be the objects that we hold dear by reason of kinship and blood and experience and long habit, such as children, wives, household gods, and all the other things to which the mind becomes so attached that to be robbed of them seems to it more serious than to be robbed of life.
     Next in order are the useful benefits, the matter of which is wide and varied; here will be money, not in excess, but enough to provide for a reasonable standard of living; here will be public office and advancement for those who are striving for the higher positions, for nothing is more useful than to be made useful to oneself.
     All benefits beyond these come as superfluities and tend to pamper a man.  In the case of these, our aim shall he to make them acceptable by reason of their timeliness, to keep them from being commonplace, and to give the sort of things that either few or few in our own time or in this fashion, have possessed, the sort of things that, even if they are not intrinsically valuable, may become valuable by reason of the time and place.  Let us consider what will be likely to give the greatest pleasure after it has been bestowed, what is likely to meet the eyes of the owner ov.y case we shall be careful not to send gifts that are superfluous, for example, the arms of the chase to a woman or to an old man, books to a bumpkin, or nets/a to one who is devoted to study and letters.  On, the other hand we shall be equally careful, while wishing to

ON BENEFITS, I. xi. 6-xii. 3

send what will be acceptable, not to send gifts that will reproach a man with his weakness, as for example wines to a drunkard and medicines to a valetudinarian.  For a gift that recognizes a vice of the recipient tends to be, not a boon, but a bane.
     If the choice of what is to be given is in our own hands, we shall seek especially for things that will last, in order that our gift may be as imperishable as possible.  For they are few indeed who are so grateful that they think of what they have received even if they do not see it.  Yet even the ungrateful have their memory aroused when they encounter the gift itself, when it is actually before their eyes and does not let them forget it, but instead brings up the thought of its giver and impresses it upon their mind.  And let us all the more seek to make gifts that will endure because we ought never to remind anyone of them; let the object itself revive the memory that is fading.  I shall be more willing to give wrought than coined silver; more willing to give statues than clothing or something that will wear out after brief usage.  Few there are whose gratitude survives longer than the object given; there are more who keep gifts in mind only so long as they are in use.  For my part, if it is possible, I do not want my gift to perish; let it survive, let it cling fast to my friend, let it live with him.
     No one is so stupid as to need the warning that he should not send gladiators or wild beasts to a man who has just given a public spectacle, or send a present of summer clothing in midwinter and winter clothing in midsummer.  Common sense should be used in bestowing a benefit; there must be regard

ON BENEFITS, I. xii. 3-xiii. 2

for time, place, and the person, for some gifts are acceptable or unacceptable according to circumstances.  How much more welcome the gift will be if we give something that a man does not have, rather than something with which he is abundantly supplied, something that he has long searched for and has not yet found, rather than something which he is likely to see everywhere! Presents should be, not so much costly, as rare and choice - the sort which even a rich man will make a place for; just as the common fruits, of which we shall grow tired after a few days, give us pleasure if they have ripened out of season.  And, too, people will not fail to appreciate the gifts which either no one else has given to them, or which we have given to no one else.
     When Alexander of Macedonia, being victorious over the East, was puffed up with more than human pride, the Corinthians sent their congratulations by an embassy, and bestowed upon him the right of citizenship in their state.  This sort of courtesy made Alexander smile, whereupon one of the ambassadors said to him:  "To no one besides Hercules and yourself have we ever given the right of citizenship." Alexander gladly accepted so marked an honour, and bestowed hospitality and other courtesy upon the ambassadors, reflecting, not who they were who had given him the privilege of citizenship, but to whom they had given it; and, slave as he was to glory, {Hotspur+} of which he knew neither the true nature nor the limitations, following the footsteps of Hercules and of Bacchus, and not even halting his course where they ceased, he turned his eyes from the givers of the honour to his partner in it, just as if heaven, to which in supreme vanity he aspired, were now his because

     ON BENEFITS, I. xiii. 3-xiv. 2

he was put on a level with Hercules!  Yet what resemblance to him had that mad youth who instead of virtue showed fortunate/a {Plutarch's_Fortune+} rashness?  Hercules conquered nothing for himself; he traversed the world, not in coveting, but in deciding what to conquer, a foe of the wicked, a defender of the good, a peacemaker on land and sea.  But this other was from his boyhood a robber and a plunderer of nations, a scourge alike to his friends and to his foes, one who found his highest happiness in terrorizing all mortals, forgetting that it is not merely the fiercest creatures, but also the most cowardly, that are feared on account of their deadly venom. {Iago+}
     But let me return now to my subject.  Whoever gives a benefit to anyone you please, gives acceptably to no one; in an inn or a hotel no one regards himself as the guest of the landlord, or at a public feast as the intimate friend of the man who is giving it, for one may well say:  "What favor, pray, has he conferred upon me?  The same, to be sure, that he has conferred onhat other fellow, whom he scarcely knows, and on that one over there, who is his enemy and a most disreputable man.  Did he consider that I was worthy of it?  He merely indulged a personal weakness/b!" If you want to give what will be acceptable, make the gift a rare one - anyone can endure being indebted for that!  Let no one gather from my words that I desire to restrain liberality, to bridle it in with tighter reins; let it indeed go forth as far as it likes, but let it go by a path, and not wander.  It is possible to distribute bounty in such a way that each person, even if he has received his gift in company with others, will

ON BENEFITS, I. xiv. 3-xv. 2

think that he is simply one of a crowd.  Let everyone have some mark of intimacy which permits him to hope that he has been admitted to greater favor than others.  He may say:  "I received the same thing that So-and-so did, but without asking for it.  I received the same thing that So-and-so did, but at the end of a short time, whereas he had long since earned it. There are those who have the same thing, but it was not given to them with the same words, with the same, friendliness, on the part of the bestower. So-and-so received his gift after he had asked for it; I did not ask for mine.  So-and-so received a gift, but he could easily make return, but his old age and his irresponsible childlessness/a afforded great expectation, to me more was given although the same thing was given, because it was given without expectation of any return." A courtesan will distribute her favours among her many lovers in such a way that each one of them will get some sign of her intimate regard; just so the man who wishes his benefactions to be appreciated should contrive both to place many under obligation, and yet to see that each one of them gets something that will make him think he is preferred above all the others.
     In truth, I place no obstacles in the way of benefits; the more there are and the greater they are, the more honour will they have.  But let judgement be used; for what is given in a haphazard and thoughtless manner will be prized by no one.  Wherefore, if anyone supposes that in laying down these rules we mean to narrow the bounds of liberality, and to open to it a less extensive field, he really has heard my admonitions incorrectly.  For what virtue do we

ON BENEFITS, I. xv, 2-6

Stoics venerate more?  What virtue do we try more to encourage?  Who are so fitted to give such admonition as ourselves - we who would establish the fellowship of the whole human race?  What, then, is the case?  Since no effort of the mind is praiseworthy even if it springs from right desire, unless moderation turns it into some virtue, I protest against the squandering of liberality.  The benefit that it is a delight to have received, yea, with outstretched hands, is the one that reason delivers to those who are worthy, not the one that chance and irrational impulse carry no matter where - one that it is a pleasure to display and to claim as one's own. Do you give the name of benefits to the gifts whose author you are ashamed to admit?  But how much more acceptable are benefits, how much deeper do they sink into the mind, never to leave it, when the pleasure of them comes from thinking, not so much of what has been received, as of him from whom it was received!
     Crispus Passienus used often to say that from some men he would rather have their esteem than their bounty, and that from others he would rather have their bounty than their esteem; and he would add examples.  "In the case of the deified Augustus," he would say, "I prefer his esteem, in the case of Claudius, his bounty." I, for my part, think that we should never seek a benefit from a man whose esteem is not valued.  What, then, is the case?  Should not the gift that was offered by Claudius have been accepted?  It should, but as it would have been accepted from Fortune, who you were well aware might the next moment become unkind. And why do we differentiate the two cases that thus have


merged?  A gift is not a benefit if the best part of it is lacking - the fact that it was given as a mark of esteem.  Moreover the gift of a huge sum of money, if neither reason nor rightness of choice has prompted it, is no more a benefit than is a treasure trove.  There are many gifts that ought to be accepted, and yet impose no obligation.



Now let us examine, most excellent Liberalis, what still remains from the first part of the subject - the question of the way in which a benefit should be given.  And in this matter I think that I can point out a very easy course - let us give in the manner that would have been acceptable if we were receiving.  Above all let us give willingly, promptly, and without hesitation.  No gratitude is felt for a, benefit when it has lingered long {haero_stick+} in the hands of him who gives it, or when the giver has seemed sorry to let it go, and has given it with the air of one who was robbing himself.  Even though some delay should intervene, let us avoid in every way the appearance of having deliberately delayed; hesitation is the next thing to refusing, and gains no gratitude.  For, since in the case of a benefit the chief pleasure of it comes from the intention of the bestower, he who by his very hesitation has shown that he made his bestowal unwillingly has not "given," but has failed to withstand the effort to extract it; there are many indeed who become generous only from a lack of courage.  The benefits that stir most gratitude are those which are readily and easily obtainable and rush to our hands, where, if there is any delay, it has come only from the delicacy of the

ON BENEFITS, II. 1. 3-ii. 2

recipient.  The best course is to anticipate each one's desire; the next best, to indulge it.  The first is the better - to forestall the request before it is put; for, since a respectable man seals his lips and is covered with blushes if he has to beg, he who spares him this torture multiplies the value of his gift.  The man who receives a benefit because he asked for it, does not get it for nothing, since in truth, as our forefathers, those most venerable men, discerned, no other thing costs so dear as the one that entreaty buys.  If men had to make their vows to the gods openly, they would be more sparing of them; so true is it that even to the gods, to whom we most rightly make supplication, we would rather pray in silence and in the secrecy of our hearts. xxxIt is unpleasant and burdensome to have to say, "I ask," and as a man utters the words he is forced to lower his eyes. {Bassanio+} A friend and every one whom you hope to make a friend by doing him a service must be excused from saying them; though a man gives promptly, his benefit has been given too late if it has been given upon request.  Therefore we ought to divine each man's desire, and, when we have discovered it, he ought to be freed from the grievous necessity of making a request; the benefit that takes the initiative, you may be sure, will be one that is agreeable and destined to live in the heart.  If we are not so fortunate as to anticipate the asker, let us cut him off from using many words; {Antonio+} in order that we may appear to have been, not asked, but merely informed, let us promise at once and prove by our very haste that we were about to act even before we were solicited.  Just as in the case of the sick suitability of food aids recovery, and plain water given at the

ON BENEFITS, II. ii. 2-iii. 3

right time serves as a remedy, so a benefit, no matter how trivial and commonplace it may be, if it has been, given promptly, if not an hour has been wasted, gains much in value and wins more gratitude than a gift that, though costly, has been laggard and long considered.  One who acts thus readily leaves no doubt that he acts willingly; and so he acts gladly, and his face is clothed with the joy he feels.
     Some who bestow immense benefits spoil them by their silence or reluctant words, which give the impression of austerity and sternness, and, though they promise a gift, have the air of refusing it.  How much better to add kindly words to kindly actions, and grace the gifts you bestow with humane and generous speech!  In order that the recipient may reproach himself because he was slow to ask, you might add the familiar rebuke I am angry with you because, when you needed something, you were not willing to let me know long ago, because you took so much pains in putting your request, because you invited a witness to the transaction. Truly I congratulate myself because you were moved to put my friendliness to the test; next time you will demand by your own right whatever need - this once I pardon your bashfulness.  The result of this will be that he will value your friendliness more than your gift, no matter what it was that he had come to seek.  The bestower attains the highest degree of merit, the highest degree of generosity, only when it will be possible for the man who has left him to say:  "Great is the gain that I have made today; but I would rather have found the giver to be the sort of man he was than to have had many times the amount that

ON BENEFITS, II. iii. 3-v. i

we were talking about come to me in some other way; for the spirit he has shown I can never return enough gratitude.
     Yet there are very many who by the harshness of their words and by their arrogance make their benefits hateful, so that, after being subjected to such language and such disdain, we regret that we have obtained them.  And then, after the matter has been promised, a series of delays ensues; but nothing is more painful than when you have to beg even for what you have been promised.  Benefits should be bestowed on the spot, but there are some from whom it is more difficult to get them than to get the promise of them.  You have to beg one man to act as a reminder, another to finish the transaction; so a single gift is worn down by passing through many men s hands, and as a result very little gratitude is left for the giver of the promise, for every later person whose help must be asked reduces the sum due to him.  And so, if you wish the benefactions that you bestow to be rewarded with gratitude, you will be concerned to have them come undiminished to those to whom they were promised, to have them come entire and, as the saying is, "without deduction." Let no one intercept them, let no one retard them; for in the case of a benefit that you are going to give, no one can appropriate gratitude to himself without reducing what is due to you.
     Nothing is so bitter as long suspense; some can endure more calmly to have their expectation cut off than deferred. Yet very many are led into this fault of postponing promised benefits by a perverted ambition to keep the crowd of their petitioners from becoming smaller; such are the tools of royal power,


who delight in prolonging a display of arrogance, and deem themselves to be robbed of power unless they show long and often, to one after another, how, much power they have.  They do nothing promptly, nothing once for all; their injuries are swift, their benefits slow.  And therefore the words of the comic poet, you are to believe, are absolutely true,

 Know you not this - the more delay you make,
     The less of gratitude from me you take?/a
And so a man cries out in an outburst of noble anger:  "If you are going to do anything, do it;" and:  "Nothing is worth such a price; I would rather have you say no at once." When the mind has been, reduced to a state of weariness, and, while waiting for a benefit, begins loathe it, can one possibly feel grateful for it?  Just as the sharpest cruelty is that which prolongs punishment, and there is a sort of mercy in killing swiftly because the supreme torture brings with it its own end, whereas the worst part of the execution that is sure to come is the interval that precedes it, so, in the case of a gift, gratitude for it will be the greater, the less long it has hung in the balance.  For it is disquieting to have to wait even for blessings, and, since most benefits afford relief from some trouble, if a man leaves another to long torture when he might release him at once, or to tardy rejoicing, he has done violence to the benefit he confers. All generosity moves swiftly. and he who acts willingly is prone to act quickly; if a man gives help tardily, deferring it from day to day, he has not given it heartily.  Thus he has lost two valuable things - time and the proof of his friendly intent; tardy goodwill smacks of ill-will.
ON BENEFITS, II. vi. 1-vii. 2
       In every transaction, Liberalis, not the least important part is the manner in which things are either said or done.  Much is gained by swiftness, much is lost by delay.  Just as, in the case of javelins, while all may have the same weight of iron, it makes an infinite difference whether they are hurled with a swing of the arm, or slip from a slackened hand, and just as the same sword will both scratch and deeply wound - the tightness of the grasp which directs it makes the difference - so, while the thing that is given may be just the same, the manner of the giving is all important.  How sweet, how precious is a gift, for which the giver will not suffer us to pay even our thanks, which he forgot that he had given even while he was giving it!  For to reprimand a man at the very moment that you are bestowing something upon him is madness, it is grafting insult upon an act of kindness.  Benefits, therefore, must not be made irritating, they must not be accompanied by anything that is unpleasant, even if there should be something upon which you would like to offer advice, choose a different time.
     Fabius Verrucosus used to say that a benefit rudely given by a hard-hearted man is like a loaf of gritty bread, which a starving man needs must accept, but which is bitter to eat.
     When Marius Nepos, a praetorian, being in debt, asked Tiberius Caesar to come to his rescue, Tiberius ordered him to supply him with the names of his creditors; but this is really, not making a gift, but assembling creditors.  When the names had been supplied, he wrote to Nepos that he had ordered the money to be paid, adding at the same time some offensive admonition.  The result was that Nepos had
ON BENEFITS, 11. vii. 2-ix. 2

neither a debt nor, a true benefit; Tiberius freed him from his creditors, but failed to attach him to himself.  Yet Tiberius had his purpose; he wished to prevent others, I suppose, from rushing to him in order to make the same request.  That, perhaps, may have been an effective way to check, through a sense of shame, the extravagant desires of men, but a wholly different method must be followed by one who is giving a benefit.  In order that what you give may become the more acceptable, you should enhance its value by every. possible means.  Tiberius was really not giving a benefit - he was finding fault.  And - to say in passing what I think about this other point - it is not quite proper even for a prince to bestow a gift in order to humiliate.  "Yet," it may be said, "Tiberius was not able even in this way to escape what he was trying to avoid; for after this a goodly number were found to make the same request, and he ordered them all to explain to the senate why they were in debt, and under this condition he granted to them specific sums." But liberality that is not, it is censorship; I get succour, I get a subsidy from the prince - that is no benefit which I am not able to think of without a blush.  It was a judge before whom I was summoned; I had to plead a case in order to obtain my request.  And so all moralists are united upon the principle that it is necessary to give certain benefits openly, others without witnesses - openly, those that it is glorious to obtain, such as military decorations or official honours and any other distinction that becomes more attractive by reason of publicity; on the other hand, those that do not give promotion or prestige, yet come to the rescue of bodily infirmity,

ON BENEFITS, II. ix. 2-x. a

of poverty, of disgrace - these should be given quietly, so that they will be known only to those who receive the benefit.
     Sometimes, too, the very man who is helped must even be deceived in order that he may have assistance, and yet not know from whom he has received it.  There is a story that Arcesilaus had a friend who, though he was poor, concealed his poverty; when, however, the man fell ill and, being unwilling to reveal even this, lacked money for the necessities of life, Arcesilaus decided that he must assist him in secret; and so, without the other's knowledge, he slipped a purse under his pillow in order that the fellow who was so uselessly reserved might find, rather than receive, what he needed.  "What, then? - shall a man not know from whom he has received?" In the first place, he must not know, if an element of the benefit is just that fact; then, again, I shall do much else for him I shall bestow upon him many gifts, and from these he may guess the author of the first one; lastly, while he will not know that he has received a gift, I shall know that I have given one.  "That is not enough," you say.  That is not enough if you are thinking of making an investment; but if a gift, you will give in the manner that will bring most advantage to the recipient.  You will be content to have yourself your witness; otherwise your pleasure comes, not from doing a favour, but from being seen to do a favour.  "I want the man at least to know!" Then it is a debtor that you are looking for.  " I want the man at least to know!" What? if it is more to his advantage, more to his honour, more to his pleasure not to know, will you not shift your position?  "I want him to know!" So, then,

ON BENEFITS, II.  X. 4-xi. 2

you will not save a man's life in the dark?  I do not deny that, whenever circumstances permit, we should have regard for the pleasure we get from the willingness of the recipient; but, if he needs, and yet is ashamed, to be helped, if what we bestow gives offence unless it is concealed - then I do not put my good deed into the gazette/a!  Of course I am careful not to reveal to him that the gift came from me, since it is a first and indispensable requirement, never to reproach a man with a benefit, nay, even to remind him of it.  For, in the case of a benefit, this is a binding rule for the two who are concerned - the one should straightway forget that it was given, the other should never forget that it was received.
     Repeated reference to our services wounds and crushes the spirit of the other.  He wants to cry out like the man who, after being saved from the proscription of the triumvirs by one of Caesar's friends, because he could not endure his benefactor's arrogance, cried "Give me back to Caesar!" How long will you keep repeating:  "It is I who saved you, it is I who snatched you from death"?  Your service, if I remember it of my own will, is truly life; if I remember it at yours, it is death. I owe nothing to you if you saved me in order that you might have someone to exhibit.  How long will you parade me?  How long will you refuse to let me forget my misfortune?  In a triumph, I should have had to march but once! No mention should be made of what we have bestowed; to remind a man of it is to ask him to return it.  It must not be dwelt upon, it must not be recalled to memory - the only way to remind a man of an carlier gift is to give him another.

ON BENEFITS, II. xi. 2-5

 And we must not tell others of it, either.  Let the giver of a benefit hold his tongue; let the recipient talk.  For the same thing that was said to another man when he was boasting of a benefit he had conferred will be said to you.  "You will not deny," said the beneficiary, "that you have had full return." "When?" inquired the other.  "Many times," was the reply, "and in many places -that is, every time and in every where that you have told of it!" But what need is there to speak of a benefit, what need to preempt the right that belongs to another?  There is someone else who can do more creditably what you are doing, someone who in telling of your deed will laud even your part in not telling of it.  You must adjudge me ungrateful if you suppose that no one will know of your deed if you yourself are silent!  But so far from its being permissible for us to speak of it, even if anyone tells of our benefits in our presence, it is our duty to reply:  "While this man is in the highest degree worthy to receive even greater benefits, yet I am more conscious of being willing to bestow all possible benefits upon him than of having actually bestowed them hitherto." And in saying even this there must be no show of currying favour, nor of that air with which some reject the compliments that they would rather appropriate.  Besides, we must add to generosity every possible kindness. The farmer will lose all that he has sown if he ends his labours with putting in the seed; it is only after much care that crops are brought to their yield; nothing that is not encouraged by constant cultivation from the first day to the last ever reaches the stage of fruit.  In the case of benefits the same rule holds.  Can there possibly be any greater

ON BENEFITS, II. xi. 5-xii. 2

benefits than those that a father bestows upon his children?  Yet they are all in vain if they are discontinued in the child's infancy - unless longlasting devotion nurses its first gift.  And the same rule holds for all other benefits - you will lose them unless you assist them; it is not enough that they were given, they must be tended.  If you wish to have gratitude from those whom you lay under an obligation, you must, not merely give, but love, your benefits.  Above all, as I have said, let us spare the ears; a reminder stirs annoyance, a reproach hatred.  In giving a benefit nothing ought to be avoided so much as haughtiness.  Why need your face show disdain, your words assumption?  The act itself exalts you.  Empty boasting must be banished; our deeds will speak even if we are silent.  The benefit that is haughtily bestowed wins, not only ingratitude, but ill-will.
     Gaius Caesar granted life to Pompeius Pennus, that is, if failure to take it away is granting it; then, when Pompeius after his acquittal was expressing his thanks, Caesar extended his left foot to be kissed.  Those who excuse the action, and say that it was not meant to be insolent, declare that he wanted to display his gilded, - no, his golden - slipper studded with pearls./a Yes, precisely - what insult to the consular if he kissed gold and pearls, since otherwise he could have found no spot on Caesar's person that would be less defiling to kiss? But this creature, born for the express purpose of changing the manners of a free state into a servitude like Persia's, thought it was not enough if a senator, an old man, a man who had held the highest public offices, bent the knee and prostrated himself before brim in full sight of the

ON BENEFITS, II. xii. 2-xiii. 3

nobles, just as the conquered prostrate themselves before their conquerors; he found a way of thrusting Liberty down even lower than the knees!  Is not this a trampling upon the commonwealth, and too although the detail may not seem to some of any importance - with the left foot?  For he would have made too little display of shameful and crazy insolence in wearing slippers a when he was trying a consular for his life unless he had thrust his imperial hobnails/b in the face of a senator!
     O Pride, the bane of great fortune and its highest folly!  How glad we are to receive nothing from thee!  How thou dost turn every sort of benefit into an injury!  How will all thy acts become thee!  The higher thou hast lifted thyself, the lower thou dost sink, and provest that thou hast no right to lay claim to those blessings that cause thee to be so greatly puffed up; thou dost spoil all that thou givest. And so I like to ask her why she is so fond of swelling out her chest, of marring her expression and the appearance of her face to the extent of actually preferring to wear a mask instead of human visage.  The gifts that please are those that are bestowed by one who wears the countenance of a human being, all gentle and kindly, by one who, though he was my superior when he gave them, did not exalt himself above me, but, with all the generosity in his power, descended to my own level, and banished all display from his giving, who thus watched for the suitable moment for the purpose of coming to my rescue with timely, rather than with necessary, aid.  The only way in which we shall ever convince these arrogant creatures that they are ruining their benefits by their insolence is to show them that benefits do not appear more important

ON BENEFITS, II. xiii. 3-xiv. 3

simply because they were given with much noise; and, too, that they themselves do not appear more important in anyone's eyes because of that; that the importance of pride is an illusion, and tends to cause hatred for actions that ought to be loved.
     There are certain gifts that are likely to harm those who obtain them, and, in the case of these, the benefit consists, not in giving, but in withholding, them; we shall therefore consider the advantage rather than the desire of the petitioner.  For we often crave things that are harmful, and we are not able to discern how destructive they are because our judgement is hampered by passion; but, when the desire has subsided, when that frenzied impulse, which puts prudence to rout, has passed, we loathe the givers of the evil gifts for the destruction they have wrought.  As we withhold cold water from the sick, and the sword from those who are stricken with grief and the rage of self- destruction, as we withhold from the insane everything that they could use against themselves in a fit of frenzy, so, in general, to those who petition for gifts that will be harmful we shall persistently refuse them although they make earnest and humble, sometimes even piteous, request.  It is right to keep in view, not merely the first effects, but the outcome, of our benefits, and to give those that it is a pleasure, not merely to receive, but to have received. For there are many who say, "I know that this will not be to his advantage, but what can I do?  He begs for it, and I cannot resist his entreaties. It is his own look- out - he will blame himself, not me." No, you are wrong - you are the one he will blame, and rightly so.  When he comes to his right mind, when the frenzy that inflamed his soul has subsided,

ON BENEFITS, II. xiv. 3-xv. 1

how can he help hating the one who helped to put him in the way of harm and danger?  It is cruel kindness to yield to requests that work the destruction of those who make them.  Just as it is a very noble act to save the life of a man, even against his will and desire, so to lavish upon him what is harmful, even though he begs for it, is but hatred cloaked by courtesy and civility.  Let the benefit that we give be one that will become more and more satisfying by use, one that will never change into an evil.  I will not give a man money if I know that it will be handed over to an adulteress, nor will I allow myself to become a partner in dishonour, actual or planned; if I can, I will restrain crime, if not, I will not aid it.  Whether a man is being driven by anger in a direction that he ought not to take, or is being turned from the safe course by a burning ambition, I shall not permit him to draw from me myself the power to work any harm, nor allow it to be possible for him to act at any future time:  "That man has ruined me by his love." Often there is no difference between the favours of our friends and the prayers of our enemies; into the ills that the latter desire may befall us, the former by their inopportune kindness drive us, and provide the means.  Yet, often as it happens, what can be more disgraceful than that there should be no difference between benificence and hatred?  Let us never bestow benefits that can redound to our shame.  Since the sum total of friendship consists in putting a friend on an equality with ourselves, consideration must be given at the same time to the interests of both. I shall give to him if he is in need, yet not to the extent of bringing need upon myself; I shall come to his aid if he is at the point of ruin, yet

ON BENEFITS, II. xv. i-xvi. 1

not to the extent of bringing ruin upon my self, unless by so doing I shall purchase the safety of a great man or a great cause.  I shall never give a benefit which I should be ashamed to ask for.  I shall neither magnify the value of a small service, nor allow a great service to pass as a small one; for, just as he who takes credit for what he gives destroys all feeling of gratitude, so he who makes clear the value of what he gives recommends his gift, does not make it a reproach.  Each one of us should consider his own means and resources in order that we may not bestow either a larger or a smaller amount than we are able to give.  We should take into account, too, the character of the person to whom we are giving; for some gifts are too small to come fittingly from the hands of a great man, and some are too. large for the other to take.  Do you therefore compare the characters of the two concerned, and over against these weigh the gift itself in order to determine whether, in the case of the giver, it will be either too onerous or too small, and whether, on the other hand, the one who is going to receive it will either disdain it or find it too large.  Alexander - madman that he was, and incapable of conceiving any plan that was not grandiose - once presented somebody with a whole city.  When the man to whom he was presenting it had taken his own measure, and shrank from incurring the jealousy that so great a gift would arouse, Alexander's reply was:  "I am concerned, not in what is becoming for you to receive, but in what is becoming for me to give." This seems a spirited and regal speech, but in reality it is most stupid.  No, nothing, in itself, makes a becoming gift for any man; it all depends upon who gives it and who receives it - the when, wherefore,

ON BENEFITS, II. xvi. 2-xvii. 2

and where of the gift, and all the other items without which there can be no true reckoning of the value of the deed.  You puffed-up creature! If it is not becoming fox the man to accept the gift, neither is it becoming for you to give it; the relation of the two in point of character and rank is taken into account, and, since virtue is everywhere a mean,/a excess and defect are equally an error.  Granted that you have such power, and that Fortune has lifted you to such a height that you can fling whole cities as largesses (but how much more magnanimous it would have been not to take, than to squander, them!), yet it is possible that there is someone who is too small to put a whole city in his pocket!
     A certain Cynic once asked Antigonus for a talent his reply was that this was more than a Cynic had a right to ask for.  After this rebuff the cynic asked for a denarius; here the reply was that this was less than a king could becomingly give.  "Such sophistry," it may be said, "is most unseemly; the king found a way of not giving either. In the matter of the denarius he thought only of the king, in the matter of the talent only of the Cynic, although he might well have given the denarius on the score that the man was a Cynic, or the talent on the score that he himself was a king.  Grant that there may be some gift that is too large for a Cynic to receive, none is too small for a king to bestow with honour if it is given out of kindness." If you ask my opinion, I think the king was right; for the situation is intolerable that a man should ask for money when he despises it.  Your Cynic has a declared hatred of money; he has published this sentiment, he has chosen this role - now he must play it.  It is most unfair for him to obtain money while he

ON BENEFITS, II. xvii. 2-5) |

boasts of poverty.  It is, then, every man's duty to consider not less his own character than the character of the man to whom he is planning to give assistance.
     I wish to make use of an illustration that our Chrysippus once drew from the playing of ball.  If the ball falls to the ground, it is undoubtedly the fault either of the thrower or the catcher; it maintains its course only so long as it does not escape from the hands of the two players by reason of their skill in catching and throwing it. The good player, however, must of necessity use one method of hurling the ball to a partner who is a long way off, and another to one who is near at hand.  The same condition applies to a benefit.  Unless this is suited to the character of both, the one who gives and the one who receives, it will neither leave the hands of the one, nor reach the hands of the other in the proper manner.  If we are playing with a practised and skilled partner, we shall be bolder in throwing the ball, for no matter how it comes his ready and quick hand will promptly drive it back; if with an unskilled novice, we shall not throw it with so much tension and so much violence, but play more gently, and run slowly forward guiding the ball into his very hand.  The same course must be followed in the case of benefits; some men need to be taught, and we should show that we are satisfied if they try, if they dare, if they are willing.  But we ourselves are most often the cause of ingratitude in others, and we encourage them, to be ungrateful, just as if our benefits could be great only when it was impossible to return gratitude for them!  It is as if some spiteful player should purposely try to discomfit his fellow-player, to the detriment of the game, of course, which can be carried on only in a

ON BENEFITS, II. xvii. 6-xviii. 2

spirit of cooperation. {Gift_spirit+} There are many, too, who are naturally so perverse that they would rather lose what they have bestowed than appear to have had any return - arrogant, purse-proud men.  But how much better, how much more kindly would it be to aim at having the recipients also do regularly their part, to encourage a belief in the possibility of repaying with gratitude, to put a kindly interpretation upon all that they do, to listen to words of thanks as if they were an actual return, to show oneself complaisant to the extent of wishing that the one upon whom the obligation was laid should also be freed from it.  A money-lender usually gets a bad name if he is harsh in his demands, likewise too, if he is reluctant to accept payment, and obstinately seeks to defer it.  But in the ease of a benefit it is as right to accept a return as it is wrong to demand it. The best man is he who gives readily, never demands any return, rejoices if a return is made, who in all sincerity forgets what he has bestowed, and accepts a return in the spirit of one accepting a benefit.  Some men are arrogant, not only in giving, but even in receiving, benefits, a mistake which is never excusable.  For let me now pass to the other side of the subject in order to consider how men ought to conduct themselves in accepting a benefit.  Every obligation that involves two people makes an equal demand upon both.  When you have considered the sort of person a father ought to be, you will find that there remains the not less great task of discovering the sort that a son should be; it is true that a husband has certain duties, yet those of the wife are not less great.  In the exchange of

ON BENEFITS, II. xviii, 2-4

obligations each in turn renders to the other the service that he requires, and they desire that the same rule of action should apply to both, but this rule, as Hecaton says, is a difficult matter; for it is always hard to attain to Virtue, even to approach Virtue; for there must be, not merely achievement, but achievement through reason.  Along the whole path of life Reason+ must be our guide, all our acts, from the smallest to the greatest, must follow her counsel; as she prompts, so also must we give.
     Now her first precept will be that it is not necessary for us to receive from everybody.  From whom, then, shall we receive? To answer you briefly, from those to whom we could have given.  Let us see, in fact, whether it does not require even greater discernment to find a man to whom we ought to owe, than one on whom we ought to bestow, a benefit. For, even though there should be no unfortunate consequences (and there are very many of them), yet it is grievous torture to he under obligation to someone whom you object to; on the other hand, it is a very great pleasure to have received a benefit from one whom you could love even after an injury, when his action has shown a friendship that was in any case agreeable to be also justified.  Surely, an unassuming and honest man will be in a most unhappy plight if it becomes his duty to love someone when it gives him no pleasure.  But I must remind you, again and again, that I am not speaking of the ideal wise man to whom every duty is also a pleasure, who rules over his own spirit, and imposes upon himself any law that he pleases, and always observes any that he has imposed, but of the man who with all his imperfections desires to follow the perfect path, yet has passions

ON BENEFITS, II. xviii. 5-7

that often are reluctant to obey.  And so it is necessary for me to choose the person from whom I wish to receive a benefit; and, in truth, I must be far more careful in selecting my creditor for a benefit than a creditor for a loan.  For to the latter I shall have to return the same amount that I have received, and, when I have returned it, I have paid all my debt and am free; but to the other I must make an additional payment, and, even after I have paid my debt of gratitude, the bond between us still holds; for, just when I have finished paying it, I am obliged to begin again, and friendship endures/a; and, as I would not admit an unworthy man to my friendship, so neither would I admit one who is unworthy to the most sacred privilege of benefits, from which friendship springs.  "But," you reply, "I am not always permitted to say, 'I refuse'; sometimes I must accept a benefit even against my wish.  If the giver is a cruel and hot-tempered tyrant, who will deem the spurning of his gift an affront, shall I not accept it?  Imagine in a like situation a brigand or a pirate or a king with the temper of a brigand or a pirate.  What shall I do?  Is such a man altogether unworthy of my being indebted to him?" When I say that you must choose the person to whom you would become indebted, I except the contingency of superior force or of fear, for, when these are applied, all choice is destroyed.  But, if you are free, if it is for you to decide whether you are willing or not, you will weigh the matter thoroughly in your mind; if necessity removes any possibility of choice, you will realize that it is for you, not to accept, but to obey.  No man contracts an obligation by accepting something that he had no power to reject; if you wish to

ON BENEFITS, II, xviii. 7-xix. 2

discover whether I am willing, make it possible for me to be unwilling. "Yet suppose it was life that he gave you!" It makes no difference what the gift is if it is not given willingly to one who accepts willingly; though you have saved my life, you are not for that reason my saviour. Poison at times serves as a remedy, but it is not for that reason counted as a wholesome medicine.  Some things are beneficial, and yet impose no obligation.  A man, who had approached a tyrant for the purpose of killing him, lanced a tumour for him by the blow of his sword; he did not, however, for that reason receive the thanks of the tyrant, though by doing him injury he cured him of the disorder to which the surgeons had not had the courage to apply the knife.
     You see that the act itself is of no great consequence, since it appears that the man who from evil intent actually renders a service has not given a benefit; for chance designs the benefit, the man designs injury.  We have seen in the amphitheatre a lion, who, having recognized one of the beast- fighters as the man who had formerly been his keeper, protected him from the attack of the other beasts.  Is, then, the assistance of the wild beast to be counted a benefit?  By no means, for it neither willed to do one, nor actually did one with the purpose of doing it.  In the same category, in which I have placed the wild beast, do you place your tyrant - the one as well as the other has given life, neither the one or the other a benefit.  For, since that which I am forced to receive is not a benefit, that also which puts me under obligation to someone against my will is not a benefit.  You ought to give me first the right to choose for myself, then the benefit.

ON BENEFITS, II. xx.  I-xxi. 1

   It is an oft-debated question whether Marcus Brutus ought to have received his life from the hands of the deified Julius when in his opinion it was his duty to kill him.  The reason that led him to kill Caesar I shall discuss elsewhere, for, although in other respects he was a great man in this particular he seems to me to have acted very wrongly, and to have failed to conduct himself in accordance with Stoic teaching. Either he was frightened by the name of king, though a state reaches its best condition under the rule of a just king, or he still hoped that liberty could exist where the rewards both of supreme power and of servitude were so great, or that the earlier constitution of the state could be restored after the ancient manners had all been lost, that equality of civil rights might still exist and laws maintain their rightful place there where he had seen so many thousands of men fighting to decided, not whether, but to which of the two masters, they would be slaves!  How forgetful, in truth, he was, either of the law of nature or of the history of his own city, in supposing that, after one man had been murdered, no other would be found who would have the same aims - although a Tarquin had been discovered after so many of the kings had been slain by the sword or lightning!  But Brutus ought to have received his life, yet without regarding Caesar in the light of a father, for the good reason that Caesar had gained the right to give a benefit by doing violence to right; for he who has not killed has not given life, and has given, not a benefit, but quarter.
     A question that offers more opportunity for debate is what should be the course of a captive if the price of his ransom is offered to him by a man who prostitutes his body and dishonours his mouth.  Shall I permit a

ON BENEFITS, II. xxi. 1-5

filthy wretch to save me?  Then, if I have been saved, how shall I return my gratitude?  Shall I live with a lewd fellow?  Shall I not live with my deliverer?  I shall tell you what in that case would be my course.  Even from such a man I shall receive the money that will buy my freedom.  I shall, however, receive it, not as a benefit, but as a loan; then I shall repay the money to him, and, if I ever have an opportunity to save him from a perilous situation, I shall save him as for friendship, which is a bond between equals, I shall not condescend to that, and I shall regard him, not as a preserver, but as a banker, to whom I am well aware that I must return the amount that I have received.
     It is possible that, while a man may be a worthy person for me to receive a benefit from, it will injure him to give it; this I shall not accept for the very reason that he is ready to do me a service with inconvenience, or even with risk, to himself.  Suppose that he is willing to defend me in a trial, but by his defence of me will make an enemy of the king; I am his enemy if, since he is willing to run a risk for my sake, I do not do the easier thing - run my risk without him.
     A foolish and silly example of this is a case that Hecaton cites.  Arcesilaus, he says, refused to accept a sum of money that was offered to him by a man who was not yet his own master a for fear that the giver might offend his miserly father.  But what was praiseworthy in his act of refusing to come into possession of stolen property, of preferring not to receive it than to restore it?  For what self-restraint is there in refusing to accept the gift of another man's property?
     If there is need of an example of a noble spirit, let

ON BENEFITS, II. xxi. 5-xxiii, i


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