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L. Annaeus Seneca On Benefits by Aubrey Stewart, M. A.

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Seneca, the favourite classic of the early fathers of the church
and of the Middle Ages, whom Jerome, Tertullian, and Augustine
speak of as "Seneca noster," who was believed to have corresponded
with St. Paul, and upon whom [Footnote: On the "De Clementia," an
odd subject for the man who burned Servetus alive for differing
with him.] Calvin wrote a commentary, seems almost forgotten in
modern times. Perhaps some of his popularity may have been due to
his being supposed to be the author of those tragedies which the
world has long ceased to read, but which delighted a period that
preferred Euripides to Aeschylus: while casuists must have found
congenial matter in an author whose fantastic cases of conscience
are often worthy of Sanchez or Escobar. Yet Seneca's morality is
always pure, and from him we gain, albeit at second hand, an
insight into the doctrines of the Greek philosophers, Zeno,
Epicurus, Chrysippus, &c., whose precepts and system of religious
thought had in cultivated Roman society taken the place of the old
worship of Jupiter and Quirinus.

Since Lodge's edition (fol. 1614), no complete translation of
Seneca has been published in England, though Sir Roger L'Estrange
wrote paraphrases of several Dialogues, which seem to have been
enormously popular, running through more than sixteen editions. I
think we may conjecture that Shakespeare had seen Lodge's
translation, from several allusions to philosophy, to that
impossible conception "the wise man," and especially from a passage
in "All's Well that ends Well," which seems to breathe the very
spirit of "De Beneficiis."

"'Tis pity--
That wishing well had not a body in it
Which might be felt: that we, the poorer born,
Whose baser stars do shut us up in wishes,
Might with effects of them follow our friends
And show what we alone must think; which never
Returns us thanks."

All's Well that ends Well," Act i. sc. 1.

Though, if this will not fit the supposed date of that play, he may
have taken the idea from "The Woorke of Lucius Annaeus Seneca
concerning Benefyting, that is too say, the dooing, receyving, and
requyting of good turnes, translated out of Latin by A. Golding. J.
Day, London, 1578." And even during the Restoration, Pepys's ideal
of virtuous and lettered seclusion is a country house in whose
garden he might sit on summer afternoons with his friend, Sir W.
Coventry, "it maybe, to read a chapter of Seneca." In sharp
contrast to this is Vahlen's preface to the minor Dialogues, which
he edited after the death of his friend Koch, who had begun that
work, in which he remarks that "he has read much of this writer, in
order to perfect his knowledge of Latin, for otherwise he neither
admires his artificial subtleties of thought, nor his childish
mannerisms of style" (Vahlen, preface, p. v., ed. 1879, Jena).

Yet by the student of the history of Rome under the Caesars, Seneca
is not to be neglected, because, whatever may be thought of the
intrinsic merit of his speculations, he represents, more perhaps
even than Tacitus, the intellectual characteristics of his age, and
the tone of society in Rome--nor could we well spare the gossiping
stories which we find imbedded in his graver dissertations. The
following extract from Dean Merivale's "History of the Romans under
the Empire" will show the estimate of him which has been formed by
that accomplished writer:--

"At Rome, we, have no reason, to suppose that Christianity was only
the refuge of the afflicted and miserable; rather, if we may lay
any stress on the documents above referred to, it was first
embraced by persons in a certain grade of comfort and
respectability; by persons approaching to what we should call the
MIDDLE CLASSES in their condition, their education, and their moral
views. Of this class Seneca himself was the idol, the oracle; he
was, so to speak, the favourite preacher of the more intelligent
and humane disciples of nature and virtue. Now the writings of
Seneca show, in their way, a real anxiety among this class to raise
the moral tone of mankind around them; a spirit of reform, a zeal
for the conversion of souls, which, though it never rose, indeed,
under the teaching of the philosophers, to boiling heat, still
simmered with genial warmth on the surface of society. Far
different as was their social standing-point, far different as were
the foundations and the presumed sanctions of their teaching
respectively, Seneca and St. Paul were both moral reformers; both,
be it said with reverence, were fellow-workers in the cause of
humanity, though the Christian could look beyond the proximate aims
of morality and prepare men for a final development on which the
Stoic could not venture to gaze. Hence there is so much in their
principles, so much even in their language, which agrees together,
so that the one has been thought, though it must be allowed without
adequate reason, to have borrowed directly from the other.
[Footnote: It is hardly necessary to refer to the pretended letters
between St. Paul and Seneca. Besides the evidence from style, some
of the dates they contain are quite sufficient to condemn them as
clumsy forgeries. They are mentioned, but with no expression of
belief in their genuineness, by Jerome and Augustine. See Jones,
"On the Canon," ii. 80.]

But the philosopher, be it remembered, discoursed to a large and
not inattentive audience, and surely the soil was not all
unfruitful on which his seed was scattered when he proclaimed that
God dwells not in temples of wood and stone, nor wants the
ministrations of human hands;[Footnote: Sen., Ep. 95, and in
Lactantius, Inst. vi.] that He has no delight in the blood of
victims:[Footnote: Ep. 116: "Colitur Deus non tauris sed pia et
recta voluntate."] that He is near to all His creatures:[Footnote:
Ep. 41, 73.] that His Spirit resides in men's hearts:[Footnote: Ep.
46: "Sacer intra nos spiritus sedet."] that all men are truly His
offspring:[Footnote: "De Prov," i.] that we are members of one
body, which is God or Nature;[Footnote: Ep. 93, 95: "Membra sumus
magni corporis."] that men must believe in God before they can
approach Him:[Footnote: Ep. 95: "Primus Deorum cultus est Deos
credere."] that the true service of God is to be like unto
Him:[Footnote: Ep. 95: "Satis coluit quisquis imitatus est."] that
all men have sinned, and none performed all the works of the
law:[Footnote: Sen. de Ira. i. 14; ii. 27: "Quis est iste qui se
profitetur omnibus legibus innocentem?"] that God is no respecter
of nations, ranks, or conditions, but all, barbarian and Roman,
bond and free, are alike under His all-seeing Providence.[Footnote:
"De Benef.," iii. 18: "Virtus omnes admittit, libertinos, servos,
reges." These and many other passages are collected by Champagny,
ii. 546, after Fabricius and others, and compared with well-known
texts of Scripture. The version of the Vulgate shows a great deal
of verbal correspondence. M. Troplong remarks, after De Maistre,
that Seneca has written a fine book on Providence, for which there
was not even a name at Rome in the time of Cicero.--"L'Influence du
Christianisme," &c., i., ch. 4.]

"St. Paul enjoined submission and obedience even to the tyranny of
Nero, and Seneca fosters no ideas subversive of political
subjection. Endurance is the paramount virtue of the Stoic. To
forms of government the wise man was wholly indifferent; they were
among the external circumstances above which his spirit soared in
serene self-contemplation. We trace in Seneca no yearning for a
restoration of political freedom, nor does he even point to the
senate, after the manner of the patriots of the day, as a
legitimate check to the autocracy of the despot. The only mode, in
his view, of tempering tyranny is to educate the tyrant himself in
virtue. His was the self-denial of the Christians, but without
their anticipated compensation. It seems impossible to doubt that
in his highest flights of rhetoric--and no man ever recommended the
unattainable with a finer grace--Seneca must have felt that he was
labouring to build up a house without foundations; that his system,
as Caius said of his style, was sand without lime. He was surely
not unconscious of the inconsistency of his own position, as a
public man and a minister, with the theories to which he had wedded
himself; and of the impossibility of preserving in it the purity of
his character as a philosopher or a man. He was aware that in the
existing state of society at Rome, wealth was necessary to men high
in station; wealth alone could retain influence, and a poor
minister became at once contemptible. The distributor of the
Imperial favours must have his banquets, his receptions, his slaves
and freedmen; he must possess the means of attracting if not of
bribing; he must not seem too virtuous, too austere, among an evil
generation; in order to do good at all he must swim with the
stream, however polluted it might be. All this inconsistency Seneca
must have contemplated without blenching; and there is something
touching in the serenity he preserved amidst the conflict that must
have perpetually raged between his natural sense and his acquired
principles. Both Cicero and Seneca were men of many weaknesses, and
we remark them the more because both were pretenders to unusual
strength of character; but while Cicero lapsed into political
errors, Seneca cannot be absolved of actual crime. Nevertheless, if
we may compare the greatest masters of Roman wisdom together, the
Stoic will appear, I think, the more earnest of the two, the more
anxious to do his duty for its own sake, the more sensible of the
claims of mankind upon him for such precepts of virtuous living as
he had to give. In an age of unbelief and compromise he taught that
Truth was positive and Virtue objective. He conceived, what never
entered Cicero's mind, the idea of improving his fellow-creatures;
he had, what Cicero had not, a heart for conversion to

To this eloquent account of Seneca's position and of the tendency
of his writings I have nothing to add. The main particulars of his
life, his Spanish extraction (like that of Lacan and Martial), his
father's treatises on Rhetoric, his mother Helvia, his brothers,
his wealth, his exile in Corsica, his outrageous flattery of
Claudius and his satiric poem on his death--"The Vision of
Judgment," Merivale calls it, after Lord Byron--his position as
Nero's tutor, and his death, worthy at once of a Roman and a Stoic,
by the orders of that tyrant, may be read of in "The History of the
Romans under the Empire," or in the article "Seneca" in the
"Dictionary of Classical Biography," and need not be reproduced
here: but I cannot resist pointing out how entirely Grote's view of
the "Sophists" as a sort of established clergy, and Seneca's
account of the various sects of philosophers as representing the
religious thought of the time, is illustrated by his anecdote of
Julia Augusta, the mother of Tiberius, better known to English
readers as Livia the wife of Augustus, who in her first agony of
grief at the loss of her first husband applied to his Greek
philosopher, Areus, as to a kind of domestic chaplain, for
spiritual consolation. ("Ad Marciam de Consolatione," ch. iv.)

I take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the Rev. J.
E. B. Mayor, Professor of Latin in the University of Cambridge, for
his kindness in finding time among his many and important literary
labours for reading and correcting the proofs of this work.

The text which I have followed for De Beneficiis is that of Gertz,
Berlin (1876.).


London, March, 1887.


BOOK I. The prevalence of ingratitude--How a benefit ought to be
bestowed--The three Graces--Benefits are the chief bond of human
society--What we owe in return for a benefit received--A benefit
consists not of a thing but of the wish to do good--Socrates and
Aeschines--What kinds of benefits should be bestowed, and in what
manner--Alexander and the franchise of Corinth.

BOOK II. Many men give through weakness of character--We ought to
give before our friends ask--Many benefits are spoiled by the
manner of the giver--Marius Nepos and Tiberius--Some benefits
should be given secretly--We must not give what would harm the
receiver--Alexander's gift of a city--Interchange of benefits like
a game of ball--From whom ought one to receive a benefit?--
Examples--How to receive a benefit--Ingratitude caused by self-
love, by greed, or by jealousy--Gratitude and repayment not the
same thing--Phidias and the statue

BOOK III. Ingratitude--Is it worse to be ungrateful for kindness or
not even to remember it?--Should ingratitude be punished by law?--
Can a slave bestow a benefit?--Can a son bestow a benefit upon his

BOOK IV. Whether the bestowal of benefits and the return of
gratitude for them are desirable objects in themselves? Does God
bestow benefits?--How to choose the man to be benefited--We ought
not to look for any return--True gratitude--Of keeping one's
promise--Philip and the soldier--Zeno

BOOK V. Of being worsted in a contest of benefits--Socrates and
Archelaus--Whether a man can be grateful to himself, or can bestow
a benefit upon himself--Examples of ingratitude--Dialogue on
ingratitude--Whether one should remind one's friends of what one
has done for them--Caesar and the soldier--Tiberius.

BOOK VI. Whether a benefit can be taken from one by force--
Benefits depend upon thought--We are not grateful for the
advantages which we receive from inanimate Nature, or from dumb
animals--In order to lay me under an obligation you must benefit me
intentionally--Cleanthes's story of the two slaves--Of benefits
given in a mercenary spirit--Physicians and teachers bestow
enormous benefits, yet are sufficiently paid by a moderate fee--
Plato and the ferryman--Are we under an obligation to the sun and
moon?--Ought we to wish that evil may befall our benefactors, in
order that we may show our gratitude by helping them?

BOOK VII. The cynic Demetrius--his rules of conduct--Of the truly
wise man--Whether one who has done everything in his power to
return a benefit has returned it--Ought one to return a benefit to
a bad man?--The Pythagorean, and the shoemaker--How one ought to
bear with the ungrateful.







Among the numerous faults of those who pass their lives recklessly
and without due reflexion, my good friend Liberalis, I should say
that there is hardly any one so hurtful to society as this, that we
neither know how to bestow or how to receive a benefit. It follows
from this that benefits are badly invested, and become bad debts:
in these cases it is too late to complain of their not being
returned, for they were thrown away when we bestowed them. Nor need
we wonder that while the greatest vices are common, none is more
common than ingratitude: for this I see is brought about by various
causes. The first of these is, that we do not choose worthy persons
upon whom to bestow our bounty, but although when we are about to
lend money we first make a careful enquiry into the means and
habits of life of our debtor, and avoid sowing seed in a worn-out
or unfruitful soil, yet without any discrimination we scatter our
benefits at random rather than bestow them. It is hard to say
whether it is more dishonourable for the receiver to disown a
benefit, or for the giver to demand a return of it: for a benefit
is a loan, the repayment of which depends merely upon the good
feeling of the debtor. To misuse a benefit like a spendthrift is
most shameful, because we do not need our wealth but only our
intention to set us free from the obligation of it; for a benefit
is repaid by being acknowledged. Yet while they are to blame who do
not even show so much gratitude as to acknowledge their debt, we
ourselves are to blame no less. We find many men ungrateful, yet we
make more men so, because at one time we harshly and reproachfully
demand some return for our bounty, at another we are fickle and
regret what we have given, at another we are peevish and apt to
find fault with trifles. By acting thus we destroy all sense of
gratitude, not only after we have given anything, but while we are
in the act of giving it. Who has ever thought it enough to be asked
for anything in an off-hand manner, or to be asked only once? Who,
when he suspected that he was going to be asked for any thing, has
not frowned, turned away his face, pretended to be busy, or
purposely talked without ceasing, in order not to give his suitor a
chance of preferring his request, and avoided by various tricks
having to help his friend in his pressing need? and when driven
into a corner, has not either put the matter off, that is, given a
cowardly refusal, or promised his help ungraciously, with a wry
face, and with unkind words, of which he seemed to grudge the
utterance. Yet no one is glad to owe what he has not so much
received from his benefactor, as wrung out of him. Who can be
grateful for what has been disdainfully flung to him, or angrily
cast at him, or been given him out of weariness, to avoid further
trouble? No one need expect any return from those whom he has tired
out with delays, or sickened with expectation. A benefit is
received in the same temper in which it is given, and ought not,
therefore, to be given carelessly, for a man thanks himself for
that which he receives without the knowledge of the giver. Neither
ought we to give after long delay, because in all good offices the
will of the giver counts for much, and he who gives tardily must
long have been unwilling to give at all. Nor, assuredly, ought we
to give in offensive manner, because human nature is so constituted
that insults sink deeper than kindnesses; the remembrance of the
latter soon passes away, while that of the former is treasured in
the memory; so what can a man expect who insults while he obliges?
All the gratitude which he deserves is to be forgiven for helping
us. On the other hand, the number of the ungrateful ought not to
deter us from earning men's gratitude; for, in the first place,
their number is increased by our own acts. Secondly, the sacrilege
and indifference to religion of some men does not prevent even the
immortal gods from continuing to shower their benefits upon us: for
they act according to their divine nature and help all alike, among
them even those who so ill appreciate their bounty. Let us take
them for our guides as far as the weakness of our mortal nature
permits; let us bestow benefits, not put them out at interest. The
man who while he gives thinks of what he will get in return,
deserves to be deceived. But what if the benefit turns out ill?
Why, our wives and our children often disappoint our hopes, yet we
marry--and bring up children, and are so obstinate in the face of
experience that we fight after we have been beaten, and put to sea
after we have been shipwrecked. How much more constancy ought we to
show in bestowing benefits! If a man does not bestow benefits
because he has not received any, he must have bestowed them in
order to receive them in return, and he justifies ingratitude,
whose disgrace lies in not returning benefits when able to do so.
How many are there who are unworthy of the light of day? and
nevertheless the sun rises. How many complain because they have
been born? yet Nature is ever renewing our race, and even suffers
men to live who wish that they had never lived. It is the property
of a great and good mind to covet, not the fruit of good deeds, but
good deeds themselves, and to seek for a good man even after having
met with bad men. If there were no rogues, what glory would there
be in doing good to many? As it is, virtue consists in bestowing
benefits for which we are not certain of meeting with any return,
but whose fruit is at once enjoyed by noble minds. So little
influence ought this to have in restraining us from doing good
actions, that even though I were denied the hope of meeting with a
grateful man, yet the fear of not having my benefits returned would
not prevent my bestowing them, because he who does not give,
forestalls the vice of him who is ungrateful. I will explain what I
mean. He who does not repay a benefit, sins more, but he who does
not bestow one, sins earlier.

"If thou at random dost thy bounties waste,
Much must be lost, for one that's rightly placed."

II. In the former verse you may blame two things, for one should
not cast them at random, and it is not right to waste anything,
much less benefits; for unless they be given with judgement, they
cease to be benefits, and, may be called by any other name you
please. The meaning of the latter verse is admirable, that one
benefit rightly bestowed makes amends for the loss of many that
have been lost. See, I pray you, whether it be not truer and more
worthy of the glory of the giver, that we should encourage him to
give, even though none of his gifts should be worthily placed.
"Much must be lost." Nothing is lost because he who loses had
counted the cost before. The book-keeping of benefits is simple: it
is all expenditure; if any one returns it, that is clear gain; if
he does not return it, it is not lost, I gave it for the sake of
giving. No one writes down his gifts in a ledger, or like a
grasping creditor demands repayment to the day and hour. A good man
never thinks of such matters, unless reminded of them by some one
returning his gifts; otherwise they become like debts owing to him.
It is a base usury to regard a benefit as an investment. Whatever
may have been the result of your former benefits, persevere in
bestowing others upon other men; they will be all the better placed
in the hands of the ungrateful, whom shame, or a favourable
opportunity, or imitation of others may some day cause to be
grateful. Do not grow weary, perform your duty, and act as becomes
a good man. Help one man with money, another with credit, another
with your favour; this man with good advice, that one with sound
maxims. Even wild beasts feel kindness, nor is there any animal so
savage that good treatment will not tame it and win love from it.
The mouths of lions are handled by their keepers with impunity; to
obtain their food fierce elephants become as docile as slaves: so
that constant unceasing kindness wins the hearts even of creatures
who, by their nature, cannot comprehend or weigh the value of a
benefit. Is a man ungrateful for one benefit? perhaps he will not
be so after receiving a second. Has he forgotten two kindnesses?
perhaps by a third he may be brought to remember the former ones

III. He who is quick to believe that he has thrown away his
benefits, does really throw them away; but he who presses on and
adds new benefits to his former ones, forces out gratitude even
from a hard and forgetful breast. In the face of many kindnesses,
your friend will not dare to raise his eyes; let him see you
whithersoever he turns himself to escape from his remembrance of
you; encircle him with your benefits. As for the power and property
of these, I will explain it to you if first you will allow me to
glance at a matter which does not belong to our subject, as to why
the Graces are three in number, why they are sisters, why hand in
hand, and why they are smiling and young, with a loose and
transparent dress. Some writers think that there is one who bestows
a benefit, one who receives it, and a third who returns it; others
say that they represent the three sorts of benefactors, those who
bestow, those who repay, and those who both receive and repay them.
But take whichever you please to be true; what will this knowledge
profit us? What is the meaning of this dance of sisters in a
circle, hand in hand? It means that the course of a benefit is from
hand to hand, back to the giver; that the beauty of the whole chain
is lost if a single link fails, and that it is fairest when it
proceeds in unbroken regular order. In the dance there is one.
esteemed beyond the others, who represents the givers of benefits.
Their faces are cheerful, as those of men who give or receive
benefits are wont to be. They are young, because the memory of
benefits ought not to grow old. They are virgins, because benefits
are pure and untainted, and held holy by all; in benefits there
should be no strict or binding conditions, therefore the Graces
wear loose flowing tunics, which are transparent, because benefits
love to be seen. People who are not under the influence of Greek
literature may say that all this is a matter of course; but there
can be no one who would think that the names which Hesiod has given
them bear upon our subject. He named the eldest Aglaia, the middle
one Euphrosyne, the third Thalia. Every one, according to his own
ideas, twists the meaning of these names, trying to reconcile them
with some system, though Hesiod merely gave his maidens their names
from his own fancy. So Homer altered the name of one of them,
naming her Pasithea, and betrothed her to a husband, in order that
you may know that they are not vestal virgins. [Footnote: i.e. not
vowed to chastity.]

I could find another poet, in whose writings they are girded, and
wear thick or embroidered Phrygian robes. Mercury stands with them
for the same reason, not because argument or eloquence commends
benefits, but because the painter chose to do so. Also Chrysippus,
that man of piercing intellect who saw to the very bottom of truth,
who speaks only to the point, and makes use of no more words than
are necessary to express his meaning, fills his whole treatise with
these puerilities, insomuch that he says but very little about the
duties of giving, receiving, and returning a benefit, and has not
so much inserted fables among these subjects, as he has inserted
these subjects among a mass of fables. For, not to mention what
Hecaton borrows from him, Chrysippus tells us that the three Graces
are the daughters of Jupiter and Eurynome, that they are younger
than the Hours, and rather more beautiful, and that on that account
they are assigned as companions to Venus. He also thinks that the
name of their mother bears upon the subject, and that she is named
Eurynome because to distribute benefits requires a wide
inheritance; as if the mother usually received her name after her
daughters, or as if the names given by poets were true. In truth,
just as with a 'nomenclator' audacity supplies the place of memory,
and he invents a name for every one whose name he cannot recollect,
so the poets think that it is of no importance to speak the truth,
but are either forced by the exigencies of metre, or attracted by
sweetness of sound, into calling every one by whatever name runs
neatly into verse. Nor do they suffer for it if they introduce
another name into the list, for the next poet makes them bear what
name he pleases. That you may know that this is so, for instance
Thalia, our present subject of discourse, is one of the Graces in
Hesiod's poems, while in those of Homer she is one of the Muses.

IV. But lest I should do the very thing which I am blaming, I will
pass over all these matters, which are so far from the subject that
they are not even connected with it. Only do you protect me, if any
one attacks me for putting down Chrysippus, who, by Hercules, was a
great man, but yet a Greek, whose intellect, too sharply pointed,
is often bent and turned back upon itself; even when it seems to be
in earnest it only pricks, but does not pierce. Here, however, what
occasion is there for subtlety? We are to speak of benefits, and to
define a matter which is the chief bond of human society; we are to
lay down a rule of life, such that neither careless openhandedness
may commend itself to us under the guise of goodness of heart, and
yet that our circumspection, while it moderates, may not quench our
generosity, a quality in which we ought neither to exceed nor to
fall short. Men must be taught to be willing to give, willing to
receive, willing to return; and to place before themselves the high
aim, not merely of equalling, but even of surpassing those to whom
they are indebted, both in good offices and in good feeling;
because the man whose duty it is to repay, can never do so unless
he out-does his benefactor; [Footnote: That is, he never comes up
to his benefactor unless he leaves him behind: he can only make a
dead heat of it by getting a start.] the one class must be taught
to look for no return, the other to feel deeper gratitude. In this
noblest of contests to outdo benefits by benefits, Chrysippus
encourages us by bidding us beware lest, as the Graces are the
daughters of Jupiter, to act ungratefully may not be a sin against
them, and may not wrong those beauteous maidens. Do thou teach me
how I may bestow more good things, and be more grateful to those
who have earned my gratitude, and how the minds of both parties may
vie with one another, the giver in forgetting, the receiver in
remembering his debt. As for those other follies, let them be left
to the poets, whose purpose is merely to charm the ear and to weave
a pleasing story; but let those who wish to purify men's minds, to
retain honour in their dealings, and to imprint on their minds
gratitude for kindnesses, let them speak in sober earnest and act
with all their strength; unless you imagine, perchance, that by
such flippant and mythical talk, and such old wives' reasoning, it
is possible for us to prevent that most ruinous consummation, the
repudiation of benefits.

V. However, while I pass over what is futile and irrelevant I must
point out that the first thing which we have to learn is, what we
owe in return for a benefit received. One man says that he owes the
money which he has received, another that he owes a consulship, a
priesthood, a province, and so on. These, however, are but the
outward signs of kindnesses, not the kindnesses themselves. A
benefit is not to be felt and handled, it is a thing which exists
only in the mind. There is a great difference between the subject-
matter of a benefit, and the benefit itself. Wherefore neither
gold, nor silver, nor any of those things which are most highly
esteemed, are benefits, but the benefit lies in the goodwill of him
who gives them. The ignorant take notice only of that which comes
before their eyes, and which can be owned and passed from hand to
hand, while they disregard that which gives these things their
value. The things which we hold in our hands, which we see with our
eyes, and which our avarice hugs, are transitory, they may be taken
from us by ill luck or by violence; but a kindness lasts even after
the loss of that by means of which it was bestowed; for it is a
good deed, which no violence can undo. For instance, suppose that I
ransomed a friend from pirates, but another pirate has caught him
and thrown him into prison. The pirate has not robbed him of my
benefit, but has only robbed him of the enjoyment of it. Or suppose
that I have saved a man's children from a shipwreck or a fire, and
that afterwards disease or accident has carried them off; even when
they are no more, the kindness which was done by means of them
remains. All those things, therefore, which improperly assume the
name of benefits, are means by which kindly feeling manifests
itself. In other cases also, we find a distinction between the
visible symbol and the matter itself, as when a general bestows
collars of gold, or civic or mural crowns upon any one. What value
has the crown in itself? or the purple-bordered robe? or the
fasces? or the judgment-seat and car of triumph? None of these
things is in itself an honour, but is an emblem of honour. In like
manner, that which is seen is not a benefit--it is but the trace
and mark of a benefit.

VI. What, then, is a benefit? It is the art of doing a kindness
which both bestows pleasure and gains it by bestowing it, and which
does its office by natural and spontaneous impulse. It is not,
therefore, the thing which is done or given, but the spirit in
which it is done or given, that must be considered, because a
benefit exists, not in that which is done or given, but in the mind
of the doer or giver. How great the distinction between them is,
you may perceive from this, that while a benefit is necessarily
good, yet that which is done or given is neither good nor bad. The
spirit in which they are given can exalt small things, can glorify
mean ones, and can discredit great and precious ones; the objects
themselves which are sought after have a neutral nature, neither
good nor bad; all depends upon the direction given them by the
guiding spirit from which things receive their shape. That which is
paid or handed over is not the benefit itself, just as the honour
which we pay to the gods lies not in the victims themselves,
although they be fat and glittering with gold, [Footnote: Alluding
to the practice of gilding the horns of the victims.] but in the
pure and holy feelings of the worshippers.

Thus good men are religious, though their offering be meal and
their vessels of earthenware; whilst bad men will not escape from
their impiety, though they pour the blood of many victims upon the

VII. If benefits consisted of things, and not of the wish to
benefit, then the more things we received the greater the benefit
would be. But this is not true, for sometimes we feel more
gratitude to one who gives us trifles nobly, who, like Virgil's
poor old soldier, "holds himself as rich as kings," if he has given
us ever so little with a good will a man who forgets his own need
when he sees mine, who has not only a wish but a longing to help,
who thinks that he receives a benefit when he bestows one, who
gives as though he would receive no return, receives a repayment as
though he had originally given nothing, and who watches for and
seizes an opportunity of being useful. On the other hand, as I said
before, those gifts which are hardly wrung from the giver, or which
drop unheeded from his hands, claim no gratitude from us, however
great they may appear and may be. We prize much more what comes
from a willing hand, than what comes from a full one. This man has
given me but little, yet more he could not afford, while what that
one has given is much indeed, but he hesitated, he put it off, he
grumbled when he gave it, he gave it haughtily, or he proclaimed it
aloud, and did it to please others, not to please the person to
whom he gave it; he offered it to his own pride, not to me.

VIII. As the pupils of Socrates, each in proportion to his means,
gave him large presents, Aeschines, a poor pupil, said, "I can find
nothing to give you which is worthy of you; I feel my poverty in
this respect alone. Therefore I present you with the only thing I
possess, myself. I pray that you may take this my present, such as
it is, in good part, and may remember that the others, although
they gave you much, yet left for themselves more than they gave."
Socrates answered, "Surely you have bestowed a great present upon
me, unless perchance you set a small value upon yourself. I will
accordingly take pains to restore you to yourself a better man than
when I received you." By this present Aeschines outdid Alcibiades,
whose mind was as great as his Wealth, and all the splendour of the
most wealthy youths of Athens.

IX. You see how the mind even in the straitest circumstances finds
the means of generosity. Aeschines seems to me to have said,
"Fortune, it is in vain that you have made me poor; in spite of
this I will find a worthy present for this man. Since I can give
him nothing of yours, I will give him something of my own." Nor
need you suppose that he held himself cheap; he made himself his
own price. By a stroke of genius this youth discovered a means of
presenting Socrates to himself. We must not consider how great
presents are, but in what spirit they are given.

A rich man is well spoken of if he is clever enough to render
himself easy of access to men of immoderate ambition, and although
he intends to do nothing to help them, yet encourages their
unconscionable hopes; but he is thought the worse of if he be sharp
of tongue, sour in appearance, and displays his wealth in an
invidious fashion. For men respect and yet loathe a fortunate man,
and hate him for doing what, if they had the chance, they would do

* * * * * * *

Men nowadays no longer secretly, but openly outrage the wives of
others, and allow to others access to their own wives. A match is
thought countrified, uncivilized, in bad style, and to be protested
against by all matrons, if the husband should forbid his wife to
appear in public in a litter, and to be carried about exposed to
the gaze of all observers. If a man has not made himself notorious
by a LIAISON with some mistress, if he does not pay an annuity to
some one else's wife, married women speak of him as a poor-spirited
creature, a man given to low vice, a lover of servant girls. Soon
adultery becomes the most respectable form of marriage, and
widowhood and celibacy are commonly practised. No one takes a wife
unless he takes her away from some one else. Now men vie with one
another in wasting what they have stolen, and in collecting
together what they have wasted with the keenest avarice; they
become utterly reckless, scorn poverty in others, fear personal
injury more than anything else, break the peace by their riots, and
by violence and terror domineer over those who are weaker than
themselves. No wonder that they plunder provinces and offer the
seat of judgment for sale, knocking it down after an auction to the
highest bidder, since it is the law of nations that you may sell
what you have bought.

X. However, my enthusiasm has carried me further than I intended,
the subject being an inviting one. Let me, then, end by pointing
out that the disgrace of these crimes does not belong especially to
our own time. Our ancestors before us have lamented, and our
children after us will lament, as we do, the ruin, of morality, the
prevalence of vice, and the gradual deterioration of mankind; yet
these things are really stationary, only moved slightly to and fro
like the waves which at one time a rising tide washes further over
the land, and at another an ebbing one restrains within a lower
water mark. At one time the chief vice will be adultery, and
licentiousness will exceed all bounds; at another time a rage for
feasting will be in vogue, and men will waste their inheritance in
the most shameful of all ways, by the kitchen; at another,
excessive care for the body, and a devotion to personal beauty
which implies ugliness of mind; at another time, injudiciously
granted liberty will show itself in wanton recklessness and
defiance of authority; sometimes there will be a reign of cruelty
both in public and private, and the madness of the civil wars will
come upon us, which destroy all that is holy and inviolable.
Sometimes even drunkenness will be held in honour, and it will be a
virtue to swallow most wine. Vices do not lie in wait for us in one
place alone, but hover around us in changeful forms, sometimes even
at variance one with another, so that in turn they win and lose the
field; yet we shall always be obliged to pronounce the same verdict
upon ourselves, that we are and always were evil, and, I
unwillingly add, that we always shall be. There always will be
homicides, tyrants, thieves, adulterers, ravishers, sacrilegious,
traitors: worse than all these is the ungrateful man, except we
consider that all these crimes flow from ingratitude, without which
hardly any great wickedness has ever grown to full stature. Be sure
that you guard against this as the greatest of crimes in yourself,
but pardon it as the least of crimes in another. For all the injury
which you suffer is this: you have lost the subject-matter of a
benefit, not the benefit itself, for you possess unimpaired the
best part of it, in that you have given it. Though we ought to be
careful to bestow our benefits by preference upon those who are
likely to show us gratitude for them, yet we must sometimes do what
we have little hope will turn out well, and bestow benefits upon
those who we not only think will prove ungrateful, but who we know
have been so. For instance, if I should be able to save a man's
children from a great danger with no risk to myself, I should not
hesitate to do so. If a man be worthy I would defend him even with
my blood, and would share his perils; if he be unworthy, and yet by
merely crying for help I can rescue him from robbers, I would
without reluctance raise the shout which would save a fellow-

XI. The next point to be defined is, what kind of benefits are to
be given, and in what manner. First let us give what is necessary,
next what is useful, and then what is pleasant, provided that they
be lasting. We must begin with what is necessary, for those things
which support life affect the mind very differently from, those
which adorn and improve it. A man may be nice, and hard to please,
in things which he can easily do without, of which he can say,
"Take them back; I do not want them, I am satisfied with what I
have." Sometimes, we wish not only to, return what we have
received, but even to throw it away. Of necessary things, the first
class consists of things without which we cannot live; the second,
of things without which we ought not to live; and the third, of
things without which we should not care to live. The first class
are, to be saved from the hands of the enemy, from the anger of
tyrants, from proscription, and the various other perils which
beset human life. By averting any one of these, we shall earn
gratitude proportionate to the greatness of the danger, for when
men think of the greatness of the misery from which they have been
saved, the terror which they have gone through enhances the value
of our services. Yet we ought not to delay rescuing any one longer
than we are obliged, solely in order to make his fears add weight
to our services. Next come those things without which we can indeed
live, but in such a manner that it would be better to die, such as
liberty, chastity, or a good conscience. After these are what we
have come to hold dear by connexion and relationship and long use
and custom, such as our wives and children, our household gods, and
so on, to which the mind so firmly attaches itself that separation
from them seems worse than death.

After these come useful things, which form a very wide and varied
class; in which will be money, not in excess, but enough for living
in a moderate style; public office, and, for the ambitious, due
advancement to higher posts; for nothing can be more useful to a
man than to be placed in a position in which he can benefit
himself. All benefits beyond these are superfluous, and are likely
to spoil those who receive them. In giving these we must be careful
to make them acceptable by giving them at the appropriate time, or
by giving things which are not common, but such as few people
possess, or at any rate few possess in our times; or again, by
giving things in such a manner, that though not naturally valuable,
they become so by the time and place at which they are given. We
must reflect what present will produce the most pleasure, what will
most frequently come under the notice of the possessor of it, so
that whenever he is with it he may be with us also; and in all
cases we must be careful not to send useless presents, such as
hunting weapons to a woman or old man, or books to a rustic, or
nets to catch wild animals to a quiet literary man. On the other
hand, we ought to be careful, while we wish to send what will
please, that we do not send what will insultingly remind our
friends of their failings, as, for example, if we send wine to a
hard drinker or drugs to an invalid, for a present which contains
an allusion to the shortcomings of the receiver, becomes an

XII. If we have a free choice as to what to give, we should above
all choose lasting presents, in order that our gift may endure as
long as possible; for few are so grateful as to think of what they
have received, even when they do not see it. Even the ungrateful
remember us by our gifts, when they are always in their sight and
do not allow themselves to be forgotten, but constantly obtrude and
stamp upon the mind the memory of the giver. As we never ought to
remind men of what we have given them, we ought all the more to
choose presents that will be permanent; for the things themselves
will prevent the remembrance of the giver from fading away. I would
more willingly give a present of plate than of coined money, and
would more willingly give statues than clothes or other things
which are soon worn out. Few remain grateful after the present is
gone: many more remember their presents only while they make use of
them. If possible, I should like my present not to be consumed; let
it remain in existence, let it stick to my friend and share his
life. No one is so foolish as to need to be told not to send
gladiators or wild beasts to one who has just given a public show,
or not to send summer clothing in winter time, or winter clothing
in summer. Common sense must guide our benefits; we must consider
the time and the place, and the character of the receiver, which
are the weights in the scale, which cause our gifts to be well or
ill received. How far more acceptable a present is, if we give a
man what he has not, than if we give him what he has plenty of! if
we give him what he has long been searching for in vain, rather
than what he sees everywhere! Let us make presents of things which
are rare and scarce rather than costly, things which even a rich
man will be glad of, just as common fruits, such as we tire of
after a few days, please us if they have ripened before the usual
season. People will also esteem things which no one else has given
to them, or which we have given to no one else.

XIII. When the
conquest of the East had flattered Alexander of Macedon into
believing himself to be more than man, the people of Corinth sent
an embassy to congratulate him, and presented him with the
franchise of their city. When Alexander smiled at this form of
courtesy, one of the ambassadors said, "We have never enrolled any
stranger among our citizens except Hercules and yourself."
Alexander willingly accepted the proffered honour, invited the
ambassadors to his table, and showed them other courtesies. He did
not think of who offered the citizenship, but to whom they had
granted it; and being altogether the slave of glory, though he knew
neither its true nature or its limits, had followed in the
footsteps of Hercules and Bacchus, and had not even stayed his
march where they ceased; so that he glanced aside from the givers
of this honour to him with whom he shared it, and fancied that the
heaven to which his vanity aspired was indeed opening before him
when he was made equal to Hercules. In what indeed did that frantic
youth, whose only merit was his lucky audacity, resemble Hercules?
Hercules conquered nothing for himself; he travelled throughout the
world, not coveting for himself but liberating the countries which
he conquered, an enemy to bad men, a defender of the good, a
peacemaker both by sea and land; whereas the other was from his
boyhood a brigand and desolator of nations, a pest to his friends
and enemies alike, whose greatest joy was to be the terror of all
mankind, forgetting that men fear not only the fiercest but also
the most cowardly animals, because of their evil and venomous

XIV. Let us now return to our subject. He who bestows a benefit
without discrimination, gives what pleases no one; no one considers
himself to be under any obligation to the landlord of a tavern, or
to be the guest of any one with whom he dines in such company as to
be able to say, "What civility has he shown to me? no more than he
has shown to that man, whom he scarcely knows, or to that other,
who is both his personal enemy and a man of infamous character. Do
you suppose that he wished to do me any honour? not so, he merely
wished to indulge his own vice of profusion." If you wish men to be
grateful for anything, give it but seldom; no one can bear to
receive what you give to all the world. Yet let no one gather from
this that I wish to impose any bonds upon generosity; let her go to
what lengths she will, so that she go a steady course, not at
random. It is possible to bestow gifts in such a manner that each
of those who receive them, although he shares them with many
others, may yet feel himself to be distinguished from the common
herd. Let each man have some peculiarity about his gift which may
make him consider himself more highly favoured than the rest. He
may say, "I received the same present that he did, but I never
asked for it." "I received the same present, but mine was given me
after a few days, whereas he had earned it by long service."
"Others have the same present, but it was not given to them with
the same courtesy and gracious words with which it was given to
me." "That man got it because he asked for it; I did not ask."
"That man received it as well as I, but then he could easily return
it; one has great expectations from a rich man, old and childless,
as he is; whereas in giving the same present to me he really gave
more, because he gave it without the hope of receiving any return
for it." Just as a courtesan divides her favours among many men, so
that no one of her friends is without some proof of her affection,
so let him who wishes his benefits to be prized consider how he may
at the same time gratify many men, and nevertheless give each one
of them some especial mark of favour to distinguish him from the

XV. I am no advocate of slackness in giving benefits: the more and
the greater they are, the more praise they will bring to the giver.
Yet let them be given with discretion; for what is given carelessly
and recklessly can please no one. Whoever, therefore, supposes that
in giving this advice I wish to restrict benevolence and to confine
it to narrower limits, entirely mistakes the object of my warning.
What virtue do we admire more than benevolence? Which do we
encourage more? Who ought to applaud it more than we Stoics, who
preach the brotherhood of the human race? What then is it? Since no
impulse of the human mind can be approved of, even though it
springs from a right feeling, unless it be made into a virtue by
discretion, I forbid generosity to degenerate into extravagance. It
is, indeed, pleasant to receive a benefit with open arms, when
reason bestows it upon the worthy, not when it is flung hither or
thither thoughtlessly and at random; this alone we care to display
and claim as our own. Can you call anything a benefit, if you feel
ashamed to mention the person who gave it you? How far more
grateful is a benefit, how far more deeply does it impress itself
upon the mind, never to be forgotten, when we rejoice to think not
so much of what it is, as from whom we have received it! Crispus
Passienus was wont to say that some men's advice was to be
preferred to their presents, some men's presents to their advice;
and he added as an example, "I would rather have received advice
from Augustus than a present; I would rather receive a present from
Claudius than advice." I, however, think that one ought not to wish
for a benefit from any man whose judgement is worthless. What then?
Ought we not to receive what Claudius gives? We ought; but we ought
to regard it as obtained from fortune, which may at any moment turn
against us. Why do we separate this which naturally is connected?
That is not a benefit, to which the best part of a benefit, that it
be bestowed with judgment, is wanting: a really great sum of money,
if it be given neither with discernment nor with good will, is no
more a benefit than if it remained hoarded. There are, however,
many things which we ought not to reject, yet for which we cannot
feel indebted.



Let us consider, most excellent Liberalis, what still remains of
the earlier part of the subject; in what way a benefit should be
bestowed. I think that I can point out the shortest way to this;
let us give in the way in which we ourselves should like to
receive. Above all we should give willingly, quickly, and without
any hesitation; a benefit commands no gratitude if it has hung for
a long time in the hands of the giver, if he seems unwilling to
part with it, and gives it as though he were being robbed of it.
Even though some delay should intervene, let us by all means in our
power strive not to seem to have been in two minds about giving it
at all. To hesitate is the next thing to refusing to give, and
destroys all claim to gratitude. For just as the sweetest part of a
benefit is the kindly feeling of the giver, it follows that one who
has by his very delay proved that he gives unwillingly, must be
regarded not as having given anything, but as having been unable to
keep it from an importunate suitor. Indeed, many men are made
generous by want of firmness. The most acceptable benefits are
those which are waiting for us to take them, which are easy to be
received, and offer themselves to us, so that the only delay is
caused by the modesty of the receiver. The best thing of all is to
anticipate a person's wishes; the next, to follow them; the former
is the better course, to be beforehand with our friends by giving
them what they want before they ask us for it, for the value of a
gift is much enhanced by sparing an honest man the misery of asking
for it with confusion and blushes. He who gets what he asked for
does not get it for nothing, for indeed, as our austere ancestors
thought, nothing is so dear as that which is bought by prayers. Men
would be much more modest in their petitions to heaven, if these
had to be made publicly; so that even when addressing the gods,
before whom we can with all honour bend our knees, we prefer to
pray silently and within ourselves.

II. It is unpleasant, burdensome, and covers one with shame to have
to say, "Give me." You should spare your friends, and those whom
you wish to make your friends, from having to do this; however
quick he may be, a man gives too late who gives what he has been
asked for. We ought, therefore, to divine every man's wishes, and
when we have discovered them, to set him free from the hard
necessity of asking; you may be sure that a benefit which comes
unasked will be delightful and will not be forgotten. If we do not
succeed in anticipating our friends, let us at any rate cut them
short when they ask us for anything, so that we may appear to be
reminded of what we meant to do, rather than to have been asked to
do it. Let us assent at once, and by our promptness make it appear
that we meant to do so even before we were solicited. As in dealing
with sick persons much depends upon when food is given, and plain
water given at the right moment sometimes acts as a remedy, so a
benefit, however slight and commonplace it may be, if it be
promptly given without losing a moment of time, gains enormously in
importance, and wins our gratitude more than a far more valuable
present given after long waiting and deliberation. One who gives so
readily must needs give with good will; he therefore gives
cheerfully and shows his disposition in his countenance.

III. Many who bestow immense benefits spoil them by their silence
or slowness of speech, which gives them an air of moroseness, as
they say "yes" with a face which seems to say "no." How much better
is it to join kind words to kind actions, and to enhance the value
of our gifts by a civil and gracious commendation of them! To cure
your friend of being slow to ask a favour of you, you may join to
your gift the familiar rebuke, "I am angry with you for not having
long ago let me know what you wanted, for having asked for it so
formally, or for having made interest with a third party." "I
congratulate myself that you have been pleased to make trial of me;
hereafter, if you want anything, ask for it as your right; however,
for this time I pardon your want of manners." By so doing you will
cause him to value your friendship more highly than that, whatever
it may have been, which he came to ask of you. The goodness and
kindness of a benefactor never appears so great as when on leaving
him one says, "I have to-day gained much; I am more pleased at
finding him so kind than if I had obtained many times more of this,
of which I was speaking, by some other means; I never can make any
adequate return to this man for his goodness."

IV. Many, however, there are who, by harsh words and contemptuous
manner, make their very kindnesses odious, for by speaking and
acting disdainfully they make us sorry that they have granted our
requests. Various delays also take place after we have obtained a
promise; and nothing is more heartbreaking than to be forced to beg
for the very thing which you already have been promised. Benefits
ought to be bestowed at once, but from some persons it is easier to
obtain the promise of them than to get them. One man has to be
asked to remind our benefactor of his purpose; another, to bring it
into effect; and thus a single present is worn away in passing
through many hands, until hardly any gratitude is left for the
original promiser, since whoever we are forced to solicit after the
giving of the promise receives some of the gratitude which we owe
to the giver. Take care, therefore, if you wish your gifts to be
esteemed, that they reach those to whom they are promised entire,
and, as the saying is, without any deduction. Let no one intercept
them or delay them; for no one can take any share of the gratitude
due for your gifts without robbing you of it.

V. Nothing is more bitter than long uncertainty; some can bear to
have their hopes extinguished better than to have them deferred. Yet
many men are led by an unworthy vanity into this fault of putting
off the accomplishment of their promises, merely in order to swell
the crowd of their suitors, like the ministers of royalty, who
delight in prolonging the display of their own arrogance, hardly
thinking themselves possessed of power unless they let each man see
for a long time how powerful they are. They do nothing promptly, or
at one sitting; they are indeed swift to do mischief, but slow to do
good. Be sure that the comic poet speaks the most absolute truth in
the verses:--

"Know you not this? If you your gifts delay,
You take thereby my gratitude away."

And the following lines, the expression of virtuous pain--a high-
spirited man's misery,--

"What thou doest, do quickly;"


"Nothing in the world
Is worth this trouble; I had rather you
Refused it to me now."

When the mind begins through weariness to hate the promised
benefit, or while it is wavering in expectation of it, how can it
feel grateful for it? As the most refined cruelty is that which
prolongs the torture, while to kill the victim at once is a kind of
mercy, since the extremity of torture brings its own end with it--
the interval is the worst part of the execution--so the shorter
time a benefit hangs in the balance, the more grateful it is to the
receiver. It is possible to look forward with anxious disquietude
even to good things, and, seeing that most benefits consist in a
release from some form of misery, a man destroys the value of the
benefit which he confers, if he has the power to relieve us, and
yet allows us to suffer or to lack pleasure longer than we need.
Kindness always eager to do good, and one who acts by love
naturally acts at once; he who does us good, but does it tardily
and with long delays, does not do so from the heart. Thus he loses
two most important things: time, and the proof of his good will to
us; for a lingering consent is but a form of denial.

VI. The manner in which things are said or done, my Liberalis,
forms a very important part of every transaction. We gain much by
quickness, and lose much by slowness. Just as in darts, the
strength of the iron head remains the same, but there is an
immeasureable difference between the blow of one hurled with the
full swing of the arm and one which merely drops from the hand, and
the same sword either grazes or pierces according as the blow is
delivered; so, in like manner, that which is given is the same, but
the manner in which it is given makes the difference. How sweet,
how precious is a gift, when he who gives does not permit himself
to be thanked, and when while he gives he forgets that he has
given! To reproach a man at the very moment that you are doing him
a service is sheer madness; it is to mix insult with your favours.
We ought not to make our benefits burdensome, or to add any
bitterness to them. Even if there be some subject upon which you
wish to warn your friend, choose some other time for doing so.

VII. Fabius Verrucosus used to compare a benefit bestowed by a
harsh man in an offensive manner to a gritty loaf of bread, which a
hungry man is obliged to receive, but which is painful to eat. When
Marius Nepos of the praetorian guard asked Tiberius Caesar for help
to pay his debts, Tiberius asked him for a list of his creditors;
this is calling a meeting of creditors, not paying debts. When the
list was made out, Tiberius wrote to Nepos telling him that he had
ordered the money to be paid, and adding some offensive reproaches.
The result of this was that Nepos owed no debts, yet received no
kindness; Tiberius, indeed, relieved him from his creditors, but
laid him under no obligation. Tiberius, however, had some design in
doing so; I imagine he did not wish more of his friends to come to
him with the same request. His mode of proceeding was, perhaps,
successful in restraining men's extravagant desires by shame, but
he who wishes to confer benefits must follow quite a different
path. In all ways you should make your benefit as acceptable as
possible by presenting it in the most attractive form; but the
method of Tiberius is not to confer benefits, but to reproach.

VIII. Moreover, if incidentally I should say what I think of this
part of the subject, I do not consider that it is becoming even to
an emperor to give merely in order to cover a man with shame. "And
yet," we are told, "Tiberius did not even by this means attain his
object; for after this a good many persons were found to make the
same request. He ordered all of them to explain the reasons of
their indebtedness before the senate, and when they did so, granted
them certain definite sums of money." This is not an act of
generosity, but a reprimand. You may call it a subsidy, or an
imperial contribution; it is not a benefit, for the receiver cannot
think of it without shame. I was summoned before a judge, and had
to be tried at bar before I obtained what I asked for.

IX. Accordingly, all writers on ethical philosophy tell us that
some benefits ought to be given in secret, others in public. Those
things which it is glorious to receive, such as military
decorations or public offices, and whatever else gains in value the
more widely it is known, should be conferred in public; on the
other hand, when they do not promote a man or add to his social
standing, but help him when in weakness, in want, or in disgrace,
they should be given silently, and so as to be known only to those
who profit by them.

X. Sometimes even the person who is assisted must be deceived, in
order that he may receive our bounty without knowing the source
from whence it flows. It is said that Arcesilaus had a friend who
was poor, but concealed his poverty; who was ill, yet tried to hide
his disorder, and who had not money for the necessary expenses of
existence. Without his knowledge, Arcesilaus placed a bag of money
under his pillow, in order that this victim of false shame might
rather seem to find what he wanted than to receive. "What," say
you, "ought he not to know from whom he received it?" Yes; let him
not know it at first, if it be essential to your kindness that he
should not; afterwards I will do so much for him, and give him so
much that he will perceive who was the giver of the former benefit;
or, better still, let him not know that he has received any thing,
provided I know that I have given it. "This," you say, "is to get
too little return for one's goodness." True, if it be an investment
of which you are thinking; but if a gift, it should be given in the
way which will be of most service to the receiver. You should be
satisfied with the approval of your own conscience; if not, you do
not really delight in doing good, but in being seen to do good.
"For all that," say you, "I wish him to know it." Is it a debtor
that you seek for? "For all that, I wish him to know it." What!
though it be more useful, more creditable, more pleasant for him
not to know his benefactor, will you not consent to stand aside? "I
wish him to know." So, then, you would not save a man's life in the
dark? I do not deny that, whenever the matter admits of it, one
ought to take into consideration the pleasure which we receive from
the joy of the receiver of our kindness; but if he ought to have
help and is ashamed to receive it--if what we bestow upon him pains
him unless it be concealed--I forbear to make my benefits public.
Why should I not refrain from hinting at my having given him
anything, when the first and most essential rule is, never to
reproach a man with what you have done for him, and not even to
remind him of it. The rule for the giver and receiver of a benefit
is, that the one should straightway forget that he has given, the
other should never forget that he has received it.

XI. A constant reference to one's own services wounds our friend's
feelings. Like the man who was saved from the proscription under
the triumvirate by one of Caesar's friends, and afterwards found it
impossible to endure his preserver's arrogance, they wish to cry,
"Give me back to Caesar." How long will you go on saying, "I saved
you, I snatched you from the jaws of death?" This is indeed life,
if I remember it by my own will, but death if I remember it at
yours; I owe you nothing, if you saved me merely in order to have
some one to point at. How long do you mean to lead me about? how
long do you mean to forbid me to forget my adventure? If I had been
a defeated enemy, I should have been led in triumph but once. We
ought not to speak of the benefits which we have conferred; to
remind men of them is to ask them to return them. We should not
obtrude them, or recall the memory of them; you should only remind
a man of what you have given him by giving him something else. We
ought not even to tell others of our good deeds. He who confers a
benefit should be silent, it should be told by the receiver; for
otherwise you may receive the retort which was made to one who was
everywhere boasting of the benefit which he had conferred: "You
will not deny," said his victim, "that you have received a return
for it?" "When?" asked he. "Often," said the other, "and in many
places, that is, wherever and whenever you have told the story."
What need is there for you to speak, and to take the place which
belongs to another? There is a man who can tell the story in a way
much more to your credit, and thus you will gain glory for not
telling it your self. You would think me ungrateful if, through
your own silence, no one is to know of your benefit. So far from
doing this, even if any one tells the story in our presence, we
ought to make answer, "He does indeed deserve much more than this,
and I am aware that I have not hitherto done any great things for
him, although I wish to do so." This should not be said jokingly,
nor yet with that air by which some persons repel those whom they
especially wish to attract. In addition to this, we ought to act
with the greatest politeness towards such persons. If the farmer
ceases his labours after he has put in the seed, he will lose what
he has sown; it is only by great pains that seeds are brought to
yield a crop; no plant will bear fruit unless it be tended with
equal care from first to last, and the same rule is true of
benefits. Can any benefits be greater than those which children
receive from their parents? Yet these benefits are useless if they
be deserted while young, if the pious care of the parents does not
for a long time watch over the gift which they have bestowed. So it
is with other benefits; unless you help them, you will lose them;
to give is not enough, you must foster what you have given. If you
wish those whom you lay under an obligation to be grateful to you,
you must not merely confer benefits upon them, but you must also
love them. Above all, as I said before, spare their ears; you will
weary them if you remind them of your goodness, if you reproach
them with it you will make them hate you. Pride ought above all
things to be avoided when you confer a benefit. What need have you
for disdainful airs, or swelling phrases? the act itself will exalt
you. Let us shun vain boasting: let us be silent, and let our deeds
speak for us. A benefit conferred with haughtiness not only wins no
gratitude, but causes dislike.

XII. Gaius Caesar granted Pompeius Pennus his life, that is, if not
to take away life be to grant it; then, when Pompeius was set free
and returning thanks to him, he stretched out his left foot to be
kissed. Those who excuse this action, and say that it was not done
through arrogance, say that he wished to show him a gilded, nay a
golden slipper studded with pearls. "Well," say they, "what
disgrace can there be in a man of consular rank kissing gold and
pearls, and what part of Caesar's whole body was it less pollution
to kiss?" So, then, that man, the object of whose life was to
change a free state into a Persian despotism, was not satisfied
when a senator, an aged man, a man who had filled the highest
offices in the state, prostrated himself before him in the presence
of all the nobles, just as the vanquished prostrate themselves
before their conqueror! He discovered a place below his knees down
to which he might thrust liberty. What is this but trampling upon
the commonwealth, and that, too, with the left foot, though you may
say that this point does not signify? It was not a sufficiently
foul and frantic outrage for the emperor to sit at the trial of a
consular for his life wearing slippers, he must needs push his
shoes into a senator's face.

XIII. O pride, the silliest fault of great good fortune! how
pleasant it is to take nothing from thee! how dost thou turn all
benefits into outrages! how dost thou delight in all excess! how
ill all things become thee! The higher thou risest the lower thou
art, and provest that the good things by which thou art so puffed
up profit thee not; thou spoilest all that thou givest. It is worth
while to inquire why it is that pride thus swaggers and changes the
form and appearance of her countenance, so that she prefers a mask
to her own face. It is pleasant to receive gifts when they are
conferred in a kindly and gentle manner, when a superior in giving
them does not exalt himself over me, but shows as much good feeling
as possible, placing himself on a level with me, giving without
parade, and choosing a time when I am glad of his help, rather than
waiting till I am in the bitterest need. The only way by which you
can prevail upon proud men not to spoil their gifts by their
arrogance is by proving to them that benefits do not appear greater
because they are bestowed with great pomp and circumstance; that no
one will think them greater men for so doing, and that excessive
pride is a mere delusion which leads men to hate even what they
ought to love.

XIV. There are some things which injure those who receive them,
things which it is not a benefit to give but to withhold; we should
therefore consider the usefulness of our gift rather than the wish
of the petitioner to receive it; for we often long for hurtful
things, and are unable to discern how ruinous they are, because our
judgment is biassed by our feelings; when, however, the longing is
past, when that frenzied impulse which masters our good sense has
passed away, we abhor those who have given us hurtful gifts. As we
refuse cold water to the sick, or swords to the grief-stricken or
remorseful, and take from the insane whatever they might in their
delirium use to their own destruction, so must we persist in
refusing to give anything whatever that is hurtful, although our
friends earnestly and humbly, nay, sometimes even most piteously
beg for it. We ought to look at the end of our benefits as well
as the beginning, and not merely to give what men are glad to
receive, but what they will hereafter be glad to have received.
There are many who say, "I know that this will do him no good, but
what am I to do? he begs for it, I cannot withstand his entreaties.
Let him see to it; he will blame himself, not me." Not so: you he
will blame, and deservedly; when he comes to his right mind, when
the frenzy which now excites him has left him, how can he help
hating the man who has assisted him to harm and to endanger
himself? It is a cruel kindness to allow one's self to be won over
into granting that which injures those who beg for it. Just as it
is the noblest of acts to save men from harm against their will, so
it is but hatred, under the mask of civility, to grant what is
harmful to those who ask for it. Let us confer benefits of such a
kind, that the more they are made use of the better they please,
and which never can turn into injuries. I never will give money to
a man if I know that he will pay it to an adulteress, nor will I be
found in connexion with any wicked act or plan; if possible, I will
restrain men from crime; if not, at least I will never assist them
in it. Whether my friend be driven into doing wrong by anger, or
seduced from the path of safety by the heat of ambition, he shall
never gain the means of doing mischief except from himself, nor
will I enable him one day to say, "He ruined me out of love for
me." Our friends often give us what our enemies wish us to receive;
we are driven by the unseasonable fondness of the former into the
ruin which the latter hope will befall us. Yet, often as it is the
case, what can be more shameful than that there should be no
difference between a benefit and hatred?

XV. Let us never bestow gifts which may recoil upon us to our
shame. As the sum total of friendship consists in making our
friends equal to ourselves, we ought to consider the interests of
both parties; I must give to him that wants, yet so that I do not
want myself; I must help him who is perishing, yet so that I do not
perish myself, unless by so doing I can save a great man or a great
cause. I must give no benefit which it would disgrace me to ask
for. I ought not to make a small benefit appear a great one, nor
allow great benefits to be regarded as small; for although it
destroys all feeling of gratitude to treat what you give like a
creditor, yet you do not reproach a man, but merely set off your
gift to the best advantage by letting him know what it is worth.
Every man must consider what his resources and powers are, so that
we may not give either more or less than we are able. We must also
consider the character and position of the person to whom we give,
for some men are too great to give small gifts, while others are
too small to receive great ones. Compare, therefore, the character
both of the giver and the receiver, and weigh that which you give
between the two, taking care that what is given be neither too
burdensome nor too trivial for the one to give, nor yet such as the
receiver will either treat with disdain as too small, or think too
great for him to deal with.

XVI. Alexander, who was of unsound mind, and always full of
magnificent ideas, presented somebody with a city. When the man to
whom he gave it had reflected upon the scope of his own powers, he
wished to avoid the jealousy which so great a present would excite,
saying that the gift did not suit a man of his position. "I do not
ask," replied Alexander, "what is becoming for you to receive, but
what is becoming for me to give." This seems a spirited and kingly
speech, yet really it is a most foolish one. Nothing is by itself a
becoming gift for any one: all depends upon who gives it, to whom
he gives it, when, for what reason, where, and so forth, without
which details it is impossible to argue about it. Inflated
creature! if it did not become him to receive this gift, it could
not become thee to give it. There should be a proportion between
men's characters and the offices which they fill; and as virtue in
all cases should be our measure, he who gives too much acts as
wrongly as he who gives too little. Even granting that fortune has
raised you so high, that, where other men give cups, you give
cities (which it would show a greater mind in you not to take than
to take and squander), still there must be some of your friends who
are not strong enough to put a city in their pockets.

XVII. A certain cynic asked Antigonus for a talent. Antigonus
answered that this was too much for a cynic to ask for. After this
rebuff he asked for a penny. Antigonus answered that this was too
little for a king to give. "This kind of hair-splitting" (you say)
"is contemptible: he found the means of giving neither. In the
matter of the penny he thought of the king, in that of the talent
he thought of the cynic, whereas with respect to the cynic it would
have been right to receive the penny, with respect to the king it
would have been right to give the talent. Though there may be
things which are too great for a cynic to receive, yet nothing is
so small, that it does not become a gracious king to bestow it." If
you ask me, I applaud Antigonus; for it is not to be endured that a
man who despises money should ask for it. Your cynic has publicly
proclaimed his hatred of money, and assumed the character of one
who despises it: let him act up to his professions. It is most
inconsistent for him to earn money by glorifying his poverty. I
wish to use Chrysippus's simile of the game of ball, in which the
ball must certainly fall by the fault either of the thrower or of
the catcher; it only holds its course when it passes between the
hands of two persons who each throw it and catch it suitably. It is
necessary, however, for a good player to send the ball in one way
to a comrade at a long distance, and in another to one at a short
distance. So it is with a benefit: unless it be suitable both for
the giver and the receiver, it will neither leave the one nor reach
the other as it ought. If we have to do with a practised and
skilled player, we shall throw the ball more recklessly, for
however it may come, that quick and agile hand will send it back
again; if we are playing with an unskilled novice, we shall not
throw it so hard, but far more gently, guiding it straight into his
very hands, and we shall run to meet it when it returns to us. This
is just what we ought to do in conferring benefits; let us teach
some men how to do so, and be satisfied if they attempt it, if they
have the courage and the will to do so. For the most part, however,
we make men ungrateful, and encourage them, to be so, as if our
benefits were only great when we cannot receive any gratitude for
them; just as some spiteful ball-players purposely put out their
companion, of course to the ruin of the game, which cannot be
carried on without entire agreement Many men are of so depraved a
nature that they had rather lose the presents which they make than
be thought to have received a return for them, because they are
proud, and like to lay people under obligations: yet how much
better and more kindly would it be if they tried to enable the
others also to perform their parts, if they encouraged them in
returning gratitude, put the best construction upon all their acts,
received one who wished to thank them just as cordially as if he
came to repay what he had received, and easily lent themselves to
the belief that those whom they have laid under an obligation wish
to repay it. We blame usurers equally when they press harshly for
payment, and when they delay and make difficulties about taking
back the money which they have lent; in the same way, it is just as
right that a benefit should be returned, as it is wrong to ask any
one to return it. The best man is he who gives readily, never asks
for any return, and is delighted when the return is made, because,
having really and truly forgotten what he gave, he receives it as
though it were a present.

XVIII. Some men not only give, but even receive benefit haughtily, a
mistake into which we ought not to fall: for now let us cross over
to the other side of the subject, and consider how men should behave
when they receive benefits. Every function which is performed by two
persons makes equal demands upon both: after you have considered
what a father ought to be, you will perceive that there remains an
equal task, that of considering what a son ought to be: a husband
has certain duties, but those of a wife are no less important. Each
of these give and take equally, and each require a similar rule of
life, which, as Hecaton observes, is hard to follow: indeed, it is
difficult for us to attain to virtue, or even to anything that comes
near virtue: for we ought not only to act virtuously but to do so
upon principle. We ought to follow this guide throughout our lives,
and to do everything great and small according to its dictates:
according as virtue prompts us we ought both to give and to
receive. Now she will declare at the outset that we ought not to
receive benefits from every man. "From whom, then, ought we to
receive them?" To answer you briefly, I should say, from those to
whom we have given them. Let us consider whether we ought not to be
even more careful in choosing to whom we should owe than to whom we
should give. For even supposing that no unpleasantness should
result (and very much always does), still it is a great misery to
be indebted to a man to whom you do not wish to be under an
obligation; whereas it is most delightful to receive a benefit from
one whom you can love even after he has wronged you, and when the
pleasure which you feel in his friendship is justified by the
grounds on which it is based. Nothing is more wretched for a modest
and honourable man than to feel it to be his duty to love one whom
it does not please him to love. I must constantly remind you that I
do not speak of wise men, who take pleasure in everything that is
their duty, who have their feelings under command, and are able to
lay down whatever law they please to themselves and keep it, but
that I speak of imperfect beings struggling to follow the right
path, who often have trouble in bending their passions to their
will. I must therefore choose the man from whom I will accept a
benefit; indeed, I ought to be more careful in the choice of my
creditor for a benefit than for money; for I have only to pay the
latter as much as I received of him, land when I have paid it I am
free from all obligation; but to the other I must both repay more,
and even when I have repaid his kindness we remain connected, for
when I have paid my debt I ought again to renew it, while our
friendship endures unbroken. Thus, as I ought not to make an
unworthy man my friend, so I ought not to admit an unworthy man
into that most holy bond of gratitude for benefits, from which
friendship arises. You reply, "I cannot always say 'No': sometimes
I must receive a benefit even against my will. Suppose I were given
something by a cruel and easily offended tyrant, who would take it
as an affront if his bounty were slighted? am I not to accept it?
Suppose it were offered by a pirate, or a brigand, or a king of the
temper of a pirate or brigand. What ought I to do? Such a man is
not a worthy object for me to owe a benefit to." When I say that
you ought to choose, I except vis major and fear, which destroy all
power of choice. If you are free, if it lies with you to decide
whether you will or not, then you will turn over in your own mind
whether you will take a gift from a man or not; but if your
position makes it impossible for you to choose, then be assured
that you do not receive a gift, you merely obey orders. No one
incurs any obligation by receiving what it was not in his power to
refuse; if you want to know whether I wish to take it, arrange
matters so that I have the power of saying 'No.' "Yet suppose he
gave you your life." It does not matter what the gift was, unless
it be given and received with good will: you are not my preserver
because you have saved my life. Poison sometimes acts as a
medicine, yet it is not on that account regarded as wholesome. Some
things benefit us but put us under no obligation: for instance a
man who intended to kill a tyrant, cut with his sword a tumour from
which he suffered: yet the tyrant did not show him gratitude
because by wounding him he had healed a disease which surgeons had
feared to meddle with.

XIX. You see that the actual thing itself is not of much
importance, because it is not regarded as a benefit at all, if you
do good when you intended to do evil; in such a case the benefit is
done by chance, the man did harm. I have seen a lion in the
amphitheatre, who recognized one of the men who fought with wild
beasts, who once had been his keeper, and protected him against the
attacks of the other animals. Are we, then, to say that this
assistance of the brute was a benefit? By no means, because it did
not intend to do it, and did not do it with kindly intentions. You
may class the lion and your tyrant together: each of them saved a
man's life, yet neither conferred a benefit. Because it is not a
benefit to be forced to receive one, neither is it a benefit to be
under an obligation to a man to whom we do not wish to be indebted.
You must first give me personal freedom of decision, and then your

XX. The question has been raised, whether Marcus Brutus ought to
have received his life from the hands of Julius Caesar, who, he had
decided, ought to be put to death.

As to the grounds upon which he put him to death, I shall discuss
them elsewhere; for to my mind, though he was in other respects a
great man, in this he seems to have been entirely wrong, and not to
have followed the maxims of the Stoic philosophy. He must either
have feared the name of "King," although a state thrives best under
a good king, or he must have hoped that liberty could exist in a
state where some had so much to gain by reigning, and others had so
much to gain by becoming slaves. Or, again, he must have supposed
that it would be possible to restore the ancient constitution after
all the ancient manners had been lost, and that citizens could
continue to possess equal rights, or laws remain inviolate, in a
state in which he had seen so many thousands of men fighting to
decide, not whether they should be slaves or free, but which master
they should serve. How forgetful he seems to have been, both of
human nature and of the history of his own country, in supposing
that when one despot was destroyed another of the same temper would
not take his place, though, after so many kings had perished by
lightning and the sword, a Tarquin was found to reign! Yet Brutus
did right in receiving his life from Caesar, though he was not
bound thereby to regard Caesar as his father, since it was by a
wrong that Caesar had come to be in a position to bestow this
benefit. A man does not save your life who does not kill you; nor
does he confer a benefit, but merely gives you your discharge. [The
'discharge' alluded to is that which was granted to the beaten one
of a pair of gladiators, when their duel was not to the death.]

XXI. It seems to offer more opportunity for debate to consider what
a captive ought to do, if a man of abominable vices offers him the
price of his ransom? Shall I permit myself to be saved by a wretch?
When safe, what recompense can I make to him? Am I to live with an
infamous person? Yet, am I not to live with my preserver? I will
tell you my opinion. I would accept money, even from such a person,
if it were to save my life; yet I would only accept it as a loan,
not as a benefit. I would repay him the money, and if I were ever
able to preserve him from danger I would do so. As for friendship,
which can only exist between equals, I would not condescend to be
such a man's friend; nor would I regard him as my preserver, but
merely as a money-lender, to whom I am only bound to repay what I
borrowed from him.

A man may be a worthy person for me to receive a benefit from, but
it will hurt him to give it. For this reason I will not receive it,
because he is ready to help me to his own prejudice, or even
danger. Suppose that he is willing to plead for me in court, but by
so doing will make the king his enemy. I should be his enemy, if,
when he is willing to risk himself for me, if I were not to risk
myself without him, which moreover is easier for me to do.

As an instance of this, Hecaton calls the case of Arcesilaus silly,
and not to the purpose. Arcesilaus, he says, refused to receive a
large sum of money which was offered to him by a son, lest the son
should offend his penurious father. What did he do deserving of
praise, in not receiving stolen goods, in choosing not to receive
them, instead of returning them? What proof of self-restraint is
there in refusing to receive another man's property. If you want an
instance of magnanimity, take the case of Julius Graecinus, whom
Caius Caesar put to death merely on the ground that he was a better
man than it suited a tyrant for anyone to be. This man, when he was
receiving subscriptions from many of his friends to cover his
expenses in exhibiting public games, would not receive a large sum
which was sent him by Fabius Persicus; and when he was blamed for
rejecting it by those who think more of what is given than of who
gives it, he answered, "Am I to accept a present from a man when I
would not accept his offer to drink a glass of wine with him?"

When a consular named Rebilius, a man of equally bad character,
sent a yet larger sum to Graecinus, and pressed him to receive it.
"I must beg," answered he, "that you will excuse me. I did not take
money from Persicus either." Ought we to call this receiving
presents, or rather taking one's pick of the senate?

XXII. When we have decided to accept, let us accept with
cheerfulness, showing pleasure, and letting the giver see it, so
that he may at once receive some return for his goodness: for as it
is a good reason for rejoicing to see our friend happy, it is a
better one to have made him so. Let us, therefore, show how
acceptable a gift is by loudly expressing our gratitude for it; and
let us do so, not only in the hearing of the giver, but everywhere.
He who receives a benefit with gratitude, repays the first
instalment of it.

XXIII. There are some, who only like to receive benefits privately:
they dislike having any witnesses and confidants. Such men, we may
believe, have no good intentions. As a giver is justified in
dwelling upon those qualities of his gift which will please the
receiver, so a man, when he receives, should do so publicly; you
should not take from a man what you are ashamed to owe him. Some
return thanks to one stealthily, in a corner, in a whisper. This is
not modesty, but a kind of denying of the debt: it is the part of
an ungrateful man not to express his gratitude before witnesses.
Some object to any accounts being kept between them and their
benefactors, and wish no brokers to be employed or witnesses to be
called, but merely to give their own signature to a receipt. Those
men do the like, who take care to let as few persons as possible
know of the benefits which they have received. They fear to receive
them in public, in order that their success may be attributed
rather to their own talents than to the help of others: they are
very seldom to be found in attendance upon those to whom they owe
their lives and their fortunes, and thus, while avoiding the
imputation of servility, they incur that of ingratitude.

XXIV. Some men speak in the most offensive terms of those to whom
they owe most. There are men whom it is safer to affront than to
serve, for their dislike leads them to assume the airs of persons
who are not indebted to us: although nothing more is expected of
them than that they should remember what they owe us, refreshing
their memory from time to time, because no one can be grateful who
forgets a kindness, and he who remembers it, by so doing proves his
gratitude. We ought neither to receive benefits with a fastidious
air, nor yet with a slavish humility: for if a man does not care
for a benefit when it is freshly bestowed--a time at which all
presents please us most--what will he do when its first charms have
gone off? Others receive with an air of disdain, as much as to say.
"I do not want it; but as you wish it so very much, I will allow
you to give it to me." Others take benefits languidly, and leave
the giver in doubt as to whether they know that they have received
them; others barely open their lips in thanks, and would be less
offensive if they said nothing. One ought to proportion one's
thanks to the importance of the benefit received, and to use the
phrases, "You have laid more of us than you think under an
obligation," for everyone likes to find his good actions extend
further than he expected. "You do not know what it is that you have
done for me; but you ought to know how much more important it is
than you imagine." It is in itself an expression of gratitude to
speak of one's self as overwhelmed by kindness; or "I shall never
be able to thank you sufficiently; but, at any rate, I will never
cease to express everywhere my inability to thank you."

XXV. By nothing did Furnius gain greater credit with Augustus, and
make it easy for him to obtain anything else for which he might
ask, than by merely saying, when at his request Augustus pardoned
his father for having taken Antonius's side, "One wrong alone I
have received at your hands, Caesar; you have forced me to live and
to die owing you a greater debt of gratitude than I can ever
repay." What can prove gratitude so well as that a man should never
be satisfied, should never even entertain the hope of making any
adequate return for what he has received? By these and similar
expressions we must try not to conceal our gratitude, but to
display it as clearly as possible. No words need be used; if we
only feel as we ought, our thankfulness will be shown in our
countenances. He who intends to be grateful, let him think how he
shall repay a kindness while he is receiving it. Chrysippus says
that such a man must watch for his opportunity, and spring forward
whenever it offers, like one who has been entered for a race, and
who stands at the starting-point waiting for the barriers to be
thrown open; and even then he must use great exertions and great
swiftness to catch the other, who has a start of him.

XXVI. We must now consider what is the main cause of ingratitude.
It is caused by excessive self-esteem, by that fault innate in all
mortals, of taking a partial view of ourselves and our own acts, by
greed, or by jealousy.

Let us begin with the first of these. Every one is prejudiced in
his own favour, from which it follows that he believes himself to
have earned all that he receives, regards it as payment for his
services, and does not think that he has been appraised at a
valuation sufficiently near his own. "He has given me this," says
he, "but how late, after how much toil? how much more might I have
earned if I had attached myself to So and so, or to So and so? I
did not expect this; I have been treated like one of the herd; did
he really think that I only deserved so little? why, it would have
been less insulting to have passed me over altogether."

XXVII. The augur Cnaeus Lentulus, who, before his freedmen reduced
him to poverty, was one of the richest of men, who saw himself in
possession of a fortune of four hundred millions--I say advisedly,
"saw," for he never did more than see it--was as barren and
contemptible in intellect as he was in spirit. Though very
avaricious, yet he was so poor a speaker that he found it easier to
give men coins than words. This man, who owed all his prosperity to
the late Emperor Augustus, to whom he had brought only poverty,
encumbered with a noble name, when he had risen to be the chief man
in Rome, both in wealth and influence, used sometimes to complain
that Augustus had interrupted his legal studies, observing that he
had not received anything like what he had lost by giving up the
study of eloquence. Yet the truth was that Augustus, besides
loading him with other gifts, had set him free from the necessity
of making himself ridiculous by labouring at a profession in which
he never could succeed.

Greed does not permit any one to be grateful; for what is given is
never equal to its base desires, and the more we receive the more
we covet, for avarice is much more eager when it has to deal with
great accumulations of wealth, just as the power of a flame is
enormously greater in proportion to the size of the conflagration
from which it springs. Ambition in like manner suffers no man to
rest satisfied with that measure of public honours, to gain which
was once the limit of his wildest hope; no one is thankful for
becoming tribune, but grumbles at not being at once promoted to the
post of praetor; nor is he grateful for this if the consulship does
not follow; and even this does not satisfy him if he be consul but
once. His greed ever stretches itself out further, and he does not
understand the greatness of his success because he always looks
forward to the point at which he aims, and never back towards that
from which he started.

XXVIII. A more violent and distressing vice than any of these is
jealousy which disturbs us by suggesting comparisons. "He gave me
this, but he gave more to that man, and he gave it to him before
me;" after which he sympathises with no one, but pushes his own
claims to the prejudice of every one else. How much more
straightforward and modest is it to make the most of what we have
received, knowing that no man is valued so highly by any one else
as by his own, self! "I ought to have received more, but it was not
easy for him to give more; he was obliged to distribute his
liberality among many persons. This is only the beginning; let me
be contented, and by my gratitude encourage him to show me more
favour; he has not done as much as he ought, but he will do so the
more frequently; he certainly preferred that man to me, but he has
preferred me before many others; that man is not my equal either in
virtue or in services, but he has some charm of his own: by
complaining I shall not make myself deserve to receive more, but
shall become unworthy of what I have received. More has been given
to those most villainous men than has been given to me; well, what
is that to the purpose? how seldom does Fortune show judgment in
her choice? We complain every day of the success of bad men; very
often the hail passes over the estates of the greatest villains and
strikes down the crops of the best of men; every man has to take
his chance, in friendship as well as in everything else." There is
no benefit so great that spitefulness can pick no holes in it, none
so paltry that it cannot be made more of by friendly
interpretation. We shall never want a subject for complaint if we
look at benefits on their wrong side.

XXIX. See how unjustly the gifts of heaven are valued even by some
who profess themselves philosophers, who complain that we are not
as big as elephants, as swift as stags, as light as birds, as
strong as bulls; that the skins of seals are stronger, of hinds
prettier, of bears thicker, of beavers softer than ours; that dogs
excel us in delicacy of scent, eagles in keenness of sight, crows
in length of days, and many beasts in ease of swimming. And
although nature itself does not allow some qualities, as for
example strength and swiftness, to be combined in the same person,
yet they call it a monstrous thing that men are not compounded of
different and inconsistent good qualities, and call the gods
neglectful of us because we have not been given health which even
our vices cannot destroy, or knowledge of the future. They scarcely
refrain from rising to such a pitch of impudence as to hate nature
because we are below the gods, and not on an equality with them.
How much better is it to turn to the contemplation of so many great
blessings, and to be thankful that the gods have been pleased to
give us a place second only to themselves in this most beautiful
abode, and that they have appointed us to be the lords of the
earth! Can any one compare us with the animals over whom we rule?
Nothing has been denied us except what could not have been granted.
In like manner, thou that takest an unfair view of the lot of
mankind, think what blessings our Father has bestowed upon us, how
far more powerful animals than ourselves we have broken to harness,
how we catch those which are far swifter, how nothing that has life
is placed beyond the reach of our weapons! We have received so many
excellencies, so many crafts, above all our mind, which can pierce
at once whatever it is directed against, which is swifter than the
stars in their courses, for it arrives before them at the place
which they will reach after many ages; and besides this, so many
fruits of the earth, so much treasure, such masses of various
things piled one upon another. You may go through the whole order
of nature, and since you find no entire creature which you would
prefer to be, you may choose from each, the special qualities which
you would like to be given to yourself; then, if you rightly
appreciate the partiality of nature for you, you cannot but confess
yourself to be her spoiled child. So it is; the immortal gods have
unto this day always held us most dear, and have bestowed upon us
the greatest possible honour, a place nearest to themselves. We
have indeed received great things, yet not too great.

XXX. I have thought it necessary, my friend Liberalis, to state
these facts, both because when speaking of small benefits one ought
to make some mention of the greatest, and because also this
shameless and hateful vice (of ingratitude), starting with these,
transfers itself from them to all the rest. If a man scorn these,
the greatest of all benefits, to whom will he feel gratitude, what
gift will he regard as valuable or deserving to be returned: to
whom will he be grateful for his safety or his life, if he denies
that he has received from the gods that existence which he begs
from them daily? He, therefore, who teaches men to be grateful,
pleads the cause not only of men, but even of the gods, for though
they, being placed above all desires, cannot be in want of
anything, yet we can nevertheless offer them our gratitude.

No one is justified in seeking an excuse for ingratitude in his own
weakness or poverty, or in saying, "What am I to do, and how? When
can I repay my debt to my superiors the lords of heaven and earth?"
Avaricious as you are, it is easy for you to give them thanks,
without expense; lazy though you be, you can do it without labour.
At the same instant at which you received your debt towards them,
if you wish to repay it, you have done as much as any one can do,
for he returns a benefit who receives it with good will.

XXXI. This paradox of the Stoic philosophy, that he returns a
benefit who receives it with good will, is, in my opinion, either
far from admirable, or else it is incredible. For if we look at
everything merely from the point of view of our intentions, every
man has done as much as he chose to do; and since filial piety,
good faith, justice, and in short every virtue is complete within
itself, a man may be grateful in intention even though he may not
be able to lift a hand to prove his gratitude. Whenever a man
obtains what he aimed at, he receives the fruit of his labour. When
a man bestows a benefit, at what does he aim? clearly to be of
service and afford pleasure to him upon whom he bestows it. If he
does what he wishes, if his purpose reaches me and fills us each
with joy, he has gained his object. He does not wish anything to be
given to him in return, or else it becomes an exchange of
commodities, not a bestowal of benefits. A man steers well who
reaches the port for which he started: a dart hurled by a steady
hand performs its duty if it hits the mark; one who bestows a
benefit wishes it to be received with gratitude; he gets what he
wanted if it be well received. "But," you say, "he hoped for some
profit also." Then it was not a benefit, the property of which is
to think nothing of any repayment. I receive what was given me in
the same spirit in which it was given: then I have repaid it. If
this be not true, then this best of deeds has this worst of
conditions attached to it, that it depends entirely upon fortune
whether I am grateful or not, for if my fortune is adverse I can
make no repayment. The intention is enough. "What then? am I not to
do whatever I may be able to repay it, and ought I not ever to be
on the watch for an opportunity of filling the bosom [Footnote:
Sinus, the fold of the toga over the breast, used as a pocket by
the Romans. The great French actor Talma, when dressed for the
first time in correct classical costume, indignantly asked where he
was to put his snuff-box.] of him from whom I have received any
kindness? True; but a benefit is in an evil plight if we cannot be
grateful for it even when we are empty-handed.

XXXII. "A man," it is argued, "who has received a benefit, however
gratefully he may have received it, has not yet accomplished all
his duty, for there remains the part of repayment; just as in
playing at ball it is something to catch the ball cleverly and
carefully, but a man is not called a good player unless he can
handily and quickly send back the ball which he has caught." This
analogy is imperfect; and why? Because to do this creditably
depends upon the movement and activity of the body, and not upon
the mind: and an act of which we judge entirely by the eye, ought
to be all clearly displayed. But if a man caught the ball as he
ought to do, I should not call him a bad player for not returning
it, if his delay in returning it was not caused by his own fault.
"Yet," say you, "although the player is not wanting in skill,
because he did one part of his duty, and was able to do the other
part, yet in such a case the game is imperfect, for its perfection
lies in sending the ball backwards and forwards." I am unwilling to
expose this fallacy further; let us think that it is the game, not
the player that is imperfect: so likewise in the subject which we
are discussing, the thing which is given lacks something, because
another equal thing ought to be returned for it, but the mind of
the giver lacks nothing, because it has found another mind equal to
itself, and as far as intentions go, has effected what it wished.

XXXIII. A man bestows a benefit upon me: I receive it just as he
wished it to be received: then he gets at once what he wanted, and
the only thing which he wanted, and therefore I have proved myself
grateful. After this it remains for me to enjoy my own resources,
with the addition of an advantage conferred upon me by one whom I
have obliged; this advantage is not the remainder of an imperfect
service, but an addition to a perfected service. [Footnote: Nothing
is wanted to make a benefit, conferred from good motives, perfect:
if it is returned, the gratitude is to be counted as net profit.]
For example, Phidias makes a statue. Now the product of an art is
one thing, and that of a trade is another. It is the business of
the art to make the thing which he wished to make, and that of the
trade to make it with a profit. Phidias has completed his work,
even though he does not sell it. The product, therefore, of his
work is threefold: there is the consciousness of having made it,
which he receives when his work is completed; there is the fame
which he receives; and thirdly, the advantage which he obtains by
it, in influence, or by selling it, or otherwise. In like manner
the first fruit of a benefit is the consciousness of it, which we
feel when we have bestowed it upon the person whom we chose;
secondly and thirdly there is the credit which we gain by doing so,
and there are those things which we may receive in exchange for it.
So when a benefit has been graciously received, the giver has
already received gratitude, but has not yet received recompense for
it: that which we owe in return is therefore something apart from
the benefit itself, for we have paid for the benefit itself when we
accept it in a grateful spirit.

XXXIV. "What," say you, "can a man repay a benefit, though he does
nothing?" He has taken the first step, he has offered you a good
thing with good feeling, and, which is the characteristic of
friendship, has placed you both on the same footing. In the next
place, a benefit is not repaid in the same manner as a loan: you
have no reason for expecting me to offer you any payment; the
account between us depends upon the feelings alone. What I say will
not appear difficult, although it may not at first accord with your
ideas, if you will do me the favour to remember that there are more
things than there are words to express them. There is an enormous
mass of things without names, which we do not speak of under
distinctive names of their own, but by the names of other things
transferred to them. We speak of our own foot, of the foot of a
couch, of a sail, or of a poem; we apply the word 'dog' to a hound,
a fish, and a star. Because we have not enough words to assign a
separate name to each thing, we borrow a name whenever we want one.
Bravery is the virtue which rightly despises danger, or the science
of repelling, sustaining, or inviting dangers: yet we call a brave
man a gladiator, and we use the same word for a good-for-nothing
slave, who is led by rashness to defy death. Economy is the science
of avoiding unnecessary expenditure, or the art of using one's
income with moderation: yet we call a man of mean and narrow mind,
most economical, although there is an immeasurable distance between
moderation and meanness. These things are naturally distinct, yet
the poverty of our language compels us to call both these men
economical, just as he who views slight accidents with rational
contempt, and he who without reason runs into danger are alike
called brave. Thus a benefit is both a beneficent action, and also
is that which is bestowed by that action, such as money, a house,
an office in the state: there is but one name for them both, though
their force and power are widely different.

XXXV. Wherefore, give me your attention, and you will soon perceive
that I say nothing to which you can object. That benefit which
consists of the action is repaid when we receive it graciously;
that other, which consists of something material, we have not then
repaid, but we hope to do so. The debt of goodwill has been
discharged by a return of goodwill; the material debt demands a
material return. Thus, although we may declare that he who has
received a benefit with good-will has returned the favour, yet we
counsel him to return to the giver something of the same kind as
that which he has received. Some part of what we have said departs
from the conventional line of thought, and then rejoins it by
another path. We declare that a wise man cannot receive an injury;
yet, if a man hits him with his fist, that man will be found guilty
of doing him an injury. We declare that a fool can possess nothing;
yet if a man stole anything from a fool, we should find that man
guilty of theft. We declare that all men are mad, yet we do not
dose all men with hellebore; but we put into the hands of these
very persons, whom we call madmen, both the right of voting and of
pronouncing judgment. Similarly, we say that a man who has received
a benefit with good-will has returned the favour, yet we leave him
in debt nevertheless--bound to repay it even though he has repaid
it. This is not to disown benefits, but is an encouragement to us
neither to fear to receive benefits, nor to faint under the too
great burden of them. "Good things have been given to me; I have
been preserved from starving; I have been saved from the misery of
abject poverty; my life, and what is dearer than life, my liberty,
has been preserved. How shall I be able to repay these favours?
When will the day come upon which I can prove my gratitude to him?"
When a man speaks thus, the day has already come. Receive a
benefit, embrace it, rejoice, not that you have received it, but
that you have to owe it and return it; then you will never be in
peril of the great sin of being rendered ungrateful by mischance. I
will not enumerate any difficulties to you, lest you should
despair, and faint at the prospect of a long and laborious
servitude. I do not refer you to the future; do it with what means
you have at hand. You never will be grateful unless you are so
straightway. What, then, will you do? You need not take up arms,
yet perhaps you may have to do so; you need not cross the seas, yet
it may be that you will pay your debt, even when the wind threatens
to blow a gale. Do you wish to return the benefit? Then receive it
graciously; you have then returned the favour--not, indeed, so that
you can think yourself to have repaid it, but so that you can owe
it with a quieter conscience.



Not to return gratitude for benefits, my AEbutius Liberalis, is
both base in itself, and is thought base by all men; wherefore even
ungrateful men complain of ingratitude, and yet what all condemn is
at the same time rooted in all; and so far do men sometimes run
into the other extreme that some of them become our bitterest
enemies, not merely after receiving benefits from us, but because
they have received them. I cannot deny that some do this out of
sheer badness of nature; but more do so because lapse of time
destroys their remembrance, for time gradually effaces what they
felt vividly at the moment. I remember having had an argument with
you about this class of persons, whom you wished to call forgetful
rather than ungrateful, as if that which caused a man to be
ungrateful was any excuse for his being so, or as if the fact of
this happening to a man prevented his being ungrateful, when we
know that it only happens to ungrateful men. There are many classes
of the ungrateful, as there are of thieves or of homicides, who all
have the same fault, though there is a great variety in its various
forms. The man is ungrateful who denies that he has received a
benefit; who pretends that he has not received it; who does not
return it. The most ungrateful man of all is he who forgets it. The
others, though they do not repay it, yet feel their debt, and
possess some traces of worth, though obstructed by their bad
conscience. They may by some means and at some time be brought to
show their gratitude, if, for instance, they be pricked by shame,
if they conceive some noble ambition such as occasionally rises
even in the breasts of the wicked, if some easy opportunity of
doing so offers; but the man from whom all recollection of the
benefit has passed away can never become grateful. Which of the two
do you call the worse--he who is ungrateful for kindness, or he who
does not even remember it? The eyes which fear to look at the light
are diseased, but those which cannot see it are blind. It is filial
impiety not to love one's parents, but not to recognise them is

II. Who is so ungrateful as he who has so completely laid aside and
cast away that which ought to be in the forefront of his mind and
ever before him, that he knows it not? It is clear that if
forgetfulness of a benefit steals over a man, he cannot have often
thought about repaying it.

In short, repayment requires gratitude, time, opportunity, and the
help of fortune; whereas, he who remembers a benefit is grateful
for it, and that too without expenditure. Since gratitude demands
neither labour, wealth, nor good fortune, he who fails to render it
has no excuse behind which to shelter himself; for he who places a
benefit so far away that it is out of his sight, never could have
meant to be grateful for it. Just as those tools which are kept in
use, and are daily touched by the hand, are never in danger of
growing rusty, while those which are not brought before our eyes,
and lie as if superfluous, not being required for common use,
collect dirt by the mere lapse of time, so likewise that which our
thoughts frequently turn over and renew never passes from our
memory, which only loses those things to which it seldom directs
its eyes.

III. Besides this, there are other causes which at times erase the

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