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

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greatest services from our minds. The first and most powerful of
these is that, being always intent upon new objects of desire, we
think, not of what we have, but of what we are striving to obtain.
Those whose mind is fixed entirely upon what they hope to gain,
regard with contempt all that is their own already. It follows that
since men's eagerness for something new makes them undervalue
whatever they have received, they do not esteem those from whom
they have received it. As long as we are satisfied with the
position we have gained, we love our benefactor, we look up to him,
and declare that we owe our position entirely to him; then we begin
to entertain other aspirations, and hurry forward to attain them
after the manner of human beings, who when they have gained much
always covet more; straightway all that we used to regard as
benefits slip from our memory, and we no longer consider the
advantages which we enjoy over others, but only the insolent
prosperity of those who have outstripped us. Now no one can at the
same time be both jealous and grateful, because those who are
jealous are querulous and sad, while the grateful are joyous. In
the next place, since none of us think of any time but the present,
and but few turn back their thoughts to the past, it results that
we forget our teachers, and all the benefits which we have obtained
from them, because we have altogether left our childhood behind us:
thus, all that was done for us in our youth perishes unremembered,
because our youth itself is never reviewed. What has been is
regarded by every one, not only as past, but as gone; and for the
same reason, our memory is weak for what is about to happen in the

IV. Here I must do Epicurus the justice to say that he constantly
complains of our ingratitude for past benefits, because we cannot
bring back again, or count among our present pleasures, those good
things which we have received long ago, although no pleasures can
be more undeniable than those which cannot be taken from us.
Present good is not yet altogether complete, some mischance may
interrupt it; the future is in suspense, and uncertain; but what is
past is laid up in safety. How can any man feel gratitude for
benefits, if he skips through his whole life entirely engrossed
with the present and the future? It is remembrance that mates men
grateful; and the more men hope, the less they remember.

V. In the same way, my Liberalis, as some things remain in our
memory as soon as they are learned, while to know others it is not
enough to have learned them, for our knowledge slips away from us
unless it be kept up--I allude to geometry and astronomy, and such
other sciences as are Hard to remember because of their intricacy--
so the greatness of some benefits prevents their being forgotten,
while others, individually less, though many more in number, and
bestowed at different times, pass from our minds, because, as I
have stated above, we do not constantly think about them, and do
not willingly recognize how much we owe to each of our benefactors.
Listen to the words of those who ask for favours. There is not one
of them who does not declare that his remembrance will be eternal,
who does not vow himself your devoted servant and slave, or find,
if he can, some even greater expression of humility with which to
pledge himself. After a brief space of time these same men avoid
their former expressions, thinking them abject, and scarcely
befitting free-born men; afterwards they arrive at the same point
to which, as I suppose, the worst and most ungrateful of men come--
that is, they forget. So little does forgetfulness excuse
ingratitude, that even the remembrance of a benefit may leave us

VI. The question has been raised, whether this most odious vice
ought to go unpunished; and whether the law commonly made use of in
the schools, by which we can proceed against a man for ingratitude,
ought to be adopted by the State also, since all men agree that it
is just. "Why not?" you may say, "seeing that even cities cast in
each other's teeth the services which they have performed to one
another, and demand from the children some return for benefits
conferred upon their fathers?" On the other hand, our ancestors,
who were most admirable men, made demands upon their enemies alone,
and both gave and lost their benefits with magnanimity. With the
exception of Macedonia, no nation has ever established an action at
law for ingratitude. And this is a strong argument against its
being established, because all agree in blaming crime; and
homicide, poisoning, parricide, and sacrilege are visited with
different penalties in different countries, but everywhere with
some penalty; whereas this most common vice is nowhere punished,
though it is everywhere blamed. We do not acquit it; but as it
would be most difficult to reckon accurately the penalty for so
varying a matter, we condemn it only to be hated, and place it upon
the list of those crimes which we refer for judgment to the gods.

VII. Many arguments occur to me which prove that this vice ought
not to come under the action of the law. First of all, the best
part of a benefit is lost if the benefit can be sued for at law, as
in the case of a loan, or of letting and hiring. Indeed, the finest
part of a benefit is that we have given it without considering
whether we shall lose it or not, that we have left all this to the
free choice of him who receives it: if I call him before a judge,
it begins to be not a benefit, but a loan. Next, though it is a
most honourable thing to show gratitude, it ceases to be honourable
if it be forced, for in that case no one will praise a grateful man
any more than he praises him who restores the money which was
deposited in his keeping, or who pays what he borrowed without the
intervention of a judge. We should therefore spoil the two finest
things in human life,--a grateful man and a beneficent man; for
what is there admirable in one who does not give but merely lends a
benefit, or in one who repays it, not because he wishes, but
because he is forced to do so? There is no credit in being
grateful, unless it is safe to be ungrateful. Besides this, all the
courts would hardly be enough for the action of this one law. Who
would not plead under it? Who would not be pleaded against? for
every one exalts his own merits, every one magnifies even the
smallest matters which he has bestowed upon another. Besides this,
those things which form the subject of a judicial inquiry can be
distinctly defined, and cannot afford unlimited licence to the
judge; wherefore a good cause is in a better position if it before
a judge than before an arbitrator, because the words of the law tie
down a judge and define certain limits beyond which he may not
pass, whereas the conscience of an arbitrator is free and not
fettered by any rules, so that he can either give or take away,
and can arrange his decision, not according to the precepts of law
and justice, but just as his own kindly feeling or compassion may
prompt him. An action for ingratitude would not bind a judge, but
would place him in the position of an autocrat. It cannot be known
what or how great a benefit is; all that would be really important
would be, how indulgently the judge might interpret it. No law
defines an ungrateful person, often, indeed, one who repays what he
has received is ungrateful, and one who has not returned it is
grateful. Even an unpractised judge can give his vote upon some
matters; for instance, when the thing to be determined is whether
something has or has not been done, when a dispute is terminated by
the parties giving written bonds, or when the casting up of
accounts decides between the disputants. When, however, motives
have to be guessed at, when matters upon which wisdom alone can
decide, are brought into court, they cannot be tried by a judge
taken at random from the list of "select judges," [Footnote: See
Smith's "Dict. of Antiq.," s. v] whom property and the inheritance
of an equestrian fortune [Footnote: 400,000 sesterces] has placed
upon the roll.

VIII. Ingratitude, therefore, is not only matter unfit to be
brought into court, but no judge could be found fit to try it; and
this you will not be surprised at, if you examine the difficulties
of any one who should attempt to prosecute a man upon such a
charge. One man may have given a large sum of money, but he is rich
and would not feel it; another may have given it at the cost of his
entire inheritance. The sum given is the same in each case, but the
benefit conferred is not the same. Add another instance: suppose
that to redeem a debtor from slavery one man paid money from his
own private means, while another man paid the same sum, but had to
borrow it or beg for it, and allow himself to be laid under a great
obligation to some one; would you rank the man who so easily
bestowed his benefit on an equality with him who was obliged to
receive a benefit himself before he could bestow it? Some benefits
are great, not because of their amount, but because of the time at
which they are bestowed; it is a benefit to give an estate whose
fertility can bring down the price of corn, and it is a benefit to
give a loaf of bread in time of famine; it is a benefit to give
provinces through which flow vast navigable rivers, and it is a
benefit, when men are parched with thirst, and can scarcely draw
breath through their dry throats, to show them a spring of water.
Who will compare these cases with one another, or weigh one against
the other? It is hard to give a decision when it is not the thing
given, but its meaning, which has to be considered; though what is
given is the same, yet if it be given under different circumstances
it has a different value. A man may have bestowed a benefit upon
me, but unwillingly; he may have complained of having given it; he
may have looked at me with greater haughtiness than he was wont to
do; he may have been so slow in giving it, that he would have done
me a greater service if he had promptly refused it. How could a
judge estimate the value of these things, when words, hesitation,
or looks can destroy all their claim to gratitude?

IX. What, again, could he do, seeing that some things are called
benefits because they are unduly coveted, whilst others are not
benefits at all, according to this common valuation, yet are of
even greater value, though not so showy? You call it a benefit to
cause a man to be adopted as a member of a powerful city, to get
him enrolled among the knights, or to defend one who is being tried
for his life: what do you say of him who gives useful advice? of
him who holds you back when you would rush into crime? of him who
strikes the sword from the hands of the suicide? of him who by his
power of consolation brings back to the duties of life one who was
plunged in grief, and eager to follow those whom he had lost? of
him who sits at the bedside of the sick man, and who, when health
and recovery depend upon seizing the right moment, administers food
in due season, stimulates the failing veins with wine, or calls in
the physician to the dying man? Who can estimate the value of such
services as these? who can bid us weigh dissimilar benefits one
with another? "I gave you a house," says one. Yes, but I forewarned
you that your own house would come down upon your head. "I gave you
an estate," says he. True, but I gave a plank to you when
shipwrecked. "I fought for you and received wounds for you," says
another. But I saved your life by keeping silence. Since a benefit
is both given and returned differently by different people, it is
hard to make them balance.

X. Besides this, no day is appointed for repayment of a benefit, as
there is for borrowed money; consequently he who has not yet repaid
a benefit may do so hereafter: for tell me, pray, within what time
a man is to be declared ungrateful? The greatest benefits cannot be
proved by evidence; they often lurk in the silent consciousness of
two men only; are we to introduce the rule of not bestowing
benefits without witnesses? Next, what punishment are we to appoint
for the ungrateful? is there to be one only for all, though the
benefits which they have received are different? or should the
punishment be varying, greater or less according to the benefit
which each has received? Are our valuations to be restricted to
pecuniary fines? what are we to do, seeing that in some cases the
benefit conferred is life, and things dearer than life? What
punishment is to be assigned to ingratitude for these? One less
than the benefit? That would be unjust. One equal to it; death?
What could be more inhuman than to cause benefits to result in

XI. It may be argued, "Parents have certain privileges: these are
regarded as exempt from the action of ordinary rules, and so also
ought to be the case with other beneficent persons." Nay; mankind
has assigned a peculiar sanctity to the position of parents,
because it was advantageous that children should be reared, and
people had to be tempted into undergoing the toil of doing so,
because the issue of their experiment was doubtful. One cannot say
to them, as one does to others who bestow benefits, "Choose the man
to whom you give: you must only blame yourself if you are deceived;
help the deserving." In rearing children nothing depends upon the
judgment of those who rear them; it is a matter of hope: in order,
therefore, that people may be more willing to embark upon this
lottery, it was right that they should be given a certain
authority; and since it is useful for youth to be governed, we have
placed their parents in the position of domestic magistrates, under
whose guardianship their lives may be ruled. Moreover, the position
of parents differs from that of other benefactors, for their having
given formerly to their children does not stand in the way of their
giving now and hereafter; and also, there is no fear of their
falsely asserting that they have given: with others one has to
inquire not only whether they have received, but whether they have
given; but the good deeds of parents are placed beyond doubt. In
the next place, one benefit bestowed by parents is the same for
all, and might be counted once for all; while the others which they
bestow are of various kinds, unlike one to another, differing from
one another by the widest possible intervals; they can therefore
come under no regular rule, since it would be more just to leave
them all unrewarded than to give the same reward to all.

XII. Some benefits cost much to the givers, some are of much value
to the receivers but cost the givers nothing. Some are bestowed
upon friends, others on strangers: now although that which is given
be the same, yet it becomes more when it is given to one with whom
you are beginning to be acquainted through the benefits which you
have previously conferred upon him. One man may give us help,
another distinctions, a third consolation. You may find one who
thinks nothing pleasanter or more important than to have some one
to save him from distress; you may again find one who would rather
be helped to great place than to security; while some consider
themselves more indebted to those who save their lives than to
those who save their honour. Each of these services will be held
more or less important, according as the disposition of our judge
inclines to one or the other of them. Besides this, I choose my
creditors for myself, whereas I often receive benefits from those
from whom I would not, and sometimes I am laid under an obligation
without my knowledge. What will you do in such a case? When a man
has received a benefit unknown to himself, and which, had he known
of it, he would have refused to receive, will you call him
ungrateful if he does not repay it, however he may have received
it? Suppose that some one has bestowed a benefit upon me, and that
the same man has afterwards done me some wrong; am I to be bound by
his one bounty to endure with patience any wrong that he may do me,
or will it be the same as if I had repaid it, because he himself
has by the subsequent wrong cancelled his own benefit? How, in that
case, would you decide which was the greater; the present which the
man has received, or the injury which has been done him? Time would
fail me if I attempted to discuss all the difficulties which would

XIII. It may be argued that "we render men less willing to confer
benefits by not supporting the claim of those which have been
bestowed to meet with gratitude, and by not punishing those who
repudiate them." But you would find, on the other hand, that men
would be far less willing to receive benefits, if by so doing they
were likely to incur the danger of having to plead their cause in
court, and having more difficulty in proving their integrity. This
legislation would also render us less willing to give: for no one
is willing to give to those who are unwilling to receive, but one
who is urged to acts of kindness by his own good nature and by the
beauty of charity, will give all the more freely to those who need
make no return unless they choose. It impairs the credit of doing a
service, if in doing it we are carefully protected from loss.

XIV. "Benefits, then, will be fewer, but more genuine: well, what
harm is there in restricting people from giving recklessly?" Even
those who would have no legislation upon the subject follow this
rule, that we ought to be somewhat careful in giving, and in
choosing those upon whom we bestow favours. Reflect over and over
again to whom you are giving: you will have no remedy at law, no
means of enforcing repayment. You are mistaken if you suppose that
the judge will assist you: no law will make full restitution to
you, you must look only to the honour of the receiver. Thus only
can benefits retain their influence, and thus only are they
admirable: you dishonour them if you make them the grounds of
litigation, "Pay what you owe" is a most just proverb; and one
which carries with it the sanction of all nations; but in dealing
with benefits it is most shameful. "Pay!" How is a man to pay who
owes his life, his position, his safety, or his reason to another?
None of the greatest benefits can be repaid. "Yet," it is said,
"you ought to give in return for them something of equal value."
This is just what I have been saying, that the grandeur of the act
is ruined if we make our benefits commercial transactions. We ought
hot to encourage ourselves in avarice, in discontent, or in
quarrels; the human mind is prone enough to these by nature. As far
as we are able, let us check it, and cut off the opportunities for
which it seeks.

XV. Would that we could indeed persuade men to
receive back money which they have lent from those debtors only who
are willing to pay! would that no agreement ever bound the buyer to
the seller, and that their interests were not protected by sealed
covenants and agreements, but rather by honour and a sense of
justice! However, men prefer what is needful to what is truly best,
and choose rather to force their creditors to keep faith with them
than to trust that they will do so. Witnesses are called on both
sides; the one, by calling in brokers, makes several names appear
in his accounts as his debtors instead of one; the other is not
content with the legal forms of question and answer unless he holds
the other party by the hand. What a shameful admission of the
dishonesty and wickedness of mankind! men trust more to our signet-
rings than to our intentions. For what are these respectable men
summoned? for what do they impress their seals? it is in order that
the borrower may not deny that he has received what he has
received. You regard these men, I suppose, as above bribes, as
maintainers of the truth: well, these very men will not be
entrusted with money except on the same terms. Would it not, then,
be more honourable to be deceived by some than to suspect all men
of dishonesty? To fill up the measure of avarice one thing only is
lacking, that we should bestow no benefit without a surety. To
help, to be of service, is the part of a generous and noble mind;
he who gives acts like a god, he who demands repayment acts like a
money-lender. Why then, by trying to protect the rights of the
former class, should we reduce them to the level of the basest of

XVI. "More men," our opponent argues, "will be ungrateful, if no
legal remedy exists against ingratitude." Nay, fewer, because then
benefits will be bestowed with more discrimination, In the next
place, it is not advisable that it should be publicly known how
many ungrateful men there are: for the number of sinners will do
away with the disgrace of the sin, and a reproach which applies to
all men will cease to be dishonourable. Is any woman ashamed of
being divorced, now that some noble ladies reckon the years of
their lives, not by the number of the consuls, but by that of their
husbands, now that they leave their homes in order to marry others,
and marry only in order to be divorced? Divorce was only dreaded as
long as it was unusual; now that no gazette appears without it,
women learn to do what they hear so much about. Can any one feel
ashamed of adultery, now that things have come to such a pass that
no woman keeps a husband at all unless it be to pique her lover?
Chastity merely implies ugliness. Where will you find any woman so
abject, so repulsive, as to be satisfied with a single pair of
lovers, without having a different one for each hour of the day;
nor is the day long enough for all of them, unless she has taken
her airing in the grounds of one, and passes the night with
another. A woman is frumpish and old-fashioned if she does not know
that "adultery with one paramour is nick-named marriage." Just as
all shame at these vices has disappeared since the vice itself
became so widely spread, so if you made the ungrateful begin to
count their own numbers, you would both make them more numerous,
and enable them to be ungrateful with greater impunity.

XVII. "What then? shall the ungrateful man go unpunished?" What
then, I answer, shall we punish the undutiful, the malicious, the
avaricious, the headstrong, and the cruel? Do you imagine that
those things which are loathed are not punished, or do you suppose
that any punishment is greater than the hate of all men? It is a
punishment not to dare receive a benefit from anyone, not to dare
to bestow one, to be, or to fancy that you are a mark for all men's
eyes, and to lose all appreciation of so excellent and pleasant a
matter. Do you call a man unhappy who has lost his sight, or whose
hearing has been impaired by disease, and do you not call him
wretched who has lost the power of feeling benefits? He fears the
gods, the witnesses of all ingratitude; he is tortured by the
thought of the benefit which he has misapplied, and, in fine, he is
sufficiently punished by this great penalty, that, as I said
before, he cannot enjoy the fruits of this most delightful act. On
the other hand, he who takes pleasure in receiving a benefit,
enjoys an unvarying and continuous happiness, which he derives from
consideration, not of the thing given, but of the intention of the
giver. A benefit gives perpetual joy to a grateful man, but pleases
an ungrateful one only for a moment. Can the lives of such men be
compared, seeing that the one is sad and gloomy--as it is natural
that a denier of his debts and a defrauder should be, a man who
does not give his parents, his nurses, or his teachers the honour
which is their due--while the other is joyous, cheerful, on the
watch for an opportunity of proving his gratitude, and gaining much
pleasure from this frame of mind itself? Such a man has no wish to
become bankrupt, but only to make the fullest and most copious
return for benefits, and that not only to parents and friends, but
also to more humble persons; for even if he receives a benefit from
his own slave, he does not consider from whom he receives it, but
what he receives.

XVIII. It has, however, been doubted by Hecaton and some other
writers, whether a slave can bestow a benefit upon his master. Some
distinguish between benefits, duties, and services, calling those
things benefits which are bestowed by a stranger--that is, by one
who could discontinue them without blame--while duties are
performed by our children, our wives, and those whom relationship
prompts and orders to afford us help; and, thirdly, services are
performed by slaves, whose position is such that nothing which they
do for their master can give them any claim upon him. . . .

Besides this, he who affirms that a slave does not sometimes confer
a benefit upon his master is ignorant of the rights of man; for the
question is, not what the station in life of the giver may be, but
what his intentions are. The path of virtue is closed to no one, it
lies open to all; it admits and invites all, whether they be free-
born men, slaves or freed-men, kings or exiles; it requires no
qualifications of family or of property, it is satisfied with a
mere man. What, indeed, should we have to trust to for defence
against sudden misfortunes, what could--a noble mind promise to
itself to keep unshaken, if virtue could be lost together with
prosperity? If a slave cannot confer a benefit upon his master,
then no subject can confer a benefit upon his king, and no soldier
upon his general; for so long as the man is subject to supreme
authority, the form of authority can make no difference. If main
force, or the fear of death and torture, can prevent a slave from
gaining any title to his master's gratitude, they will also prevent
the subjects of a king, or the soldiers of a general from doing so,
for the same things may happen to either of these classes of men,
though under different names.

Yet men do bestow benefits upon their kings and their generals;
therefore slaves can bestow benefits upon their masters. A slave
can be just, brave, magnanimous; he can therefore bestow a benefit,
for this is also the part of a virtuous man. So true is it that
slaves can bestow benefits upon their masters, that the masters
have often owed their lives to them.

XIX. There is no doubt that a slave can bestow a benefit upon
anyone; why, then, not upon his master? "Because," it is argued,
"he cannot become his master's creditor if he gives him money. If
this be not so, he daily lays his master under an obligation to
him; he attends him when on a journey, he nurses him when sick, he
works most laboriously at the cultivation of his estate; yet all
these, which would be called benefits if done for us by anyone
else, are merely called service when done by a slave. A benefit is
that which some one bestows who has the option of withholding it:--
now a slave has no power to refuse, so that he does not afford us
his help, but obeys our orders, and cannot boast of having done
what he could not leave undone." Even under these conditions I
shall win the day, and will place a slave in such positions, that
for many purposes he will be free; in the meanwhile, tell me, if I
give you an instance of a slave fighting for his master's safety
without regard to himself, pierced through with wounds, yet
spending the last drops of his blood, and gaining time for his
master to escape by the sacrifice of his life, will you say that
this man did not bestow a benefit upon his master because he was a
slave? If I give an instance of one who could not be bribed to
betray his master's secrets by any of the offers of a tyrant, who
was not terrified by any threats, nor overpowered by any tortures,
but who, as far as he was able, placed his questioners upon a wrong
scent, and, paid for his loyalty with his life; will you say that
this man did not confer a benefit upon his master because he was a
slave? Consider, rather, whether an example of virtue in a slave be
not all the greater because it is rarer than in free men, and
whether it be not all the more gratifying that, although to be
commanded is odious, and all submission to authority is irksome,
yet in some particular cases love for a master has been more
powerful than men's general dislike to servitude. A benefit does
not, therefore, cease to be a benefit because it is bestowed by a
slave, but is all the greater on that account, because not even
slavery could restrain him from bestowing it.

XX. It is a mistake to imagine that slavery pervades a man's whole
being; the better part of him is exempt from it: the body indeed is
subjected and in the power of a master, but the mind is
independent, and indeed is so free and wild, that it cannot be
restrained even by this prison of the body, wherein it is confined,
from following its own impulses, dealing with gigantic designs, and
soaring into the infinite, accompanied by all the host of heaven.
It is, therefore, only the body which misfortune hands over to a
master, and which he buys and sells; this inward part cannot be
transferred as a chattel. Whatever comes from this, is free;
indeed, we are not allowed to order all things to be done, nor are
slaves compelled to obey us in all things; they will not carry out
treasonable orders, or lend their hands to an act of crime.

XXI. There are some things which the law neither enjoins nor
forbids; it is in these that a slave finds the means of bestowing
benefits. As long as we only receive what is generally demanded
from a slave, that is mere service; when more is given than a slave
need afford us, it is a benefit; as soon as what he does begins to
partake of the affection of a friend, it can no longer be called
service. There are certain things with which a master is bound to
provide his slave, such as food and clothing; no one calls this a
benefit; but supposing that he indulges his slave, educates him
above his station, teaches him arts which free-born men learn, that
is a benefit. The converse is true in the case of the slave;
anything which goes beyond the rules of a slave's duty, which is
done of his own free will, and not in obedience to orders, is a
benefit, provided it be of sufficient importance to be called by
such a name if bestowed by any other person.

XXII. It has pleased Chrysippus to define a slave as "a hireling
for life." Just as a hireling bestows a benefit when he does more
than he engaged himself to do, so when a slave's love for his
master raises him above his condition and urges him to do something
noble--something which would be a credit even to men more fortunate
by birth--he surpasses the hopes of his master, and is a benefit
found in the house. Do you think it is just that we should be angry
with our slaves when they do less than their duty, and that we
should not be grateful to them when they do more? Do you wish to
know when their service is not a benefit? When the question can be
asked, "What if he had refused to do it?" When he does that which
he might have refused to do, we must praise his good will. Benefits
and wrongs are opposites; a slave can bestow a benefit upon his
master, if he can receive a wrong from his master. Now an official
has been appointed to hear complaints of the wrongs done by masters
to their slaves, whose duty it is to restrain cruelty and lust, or
avarice in providing them with the necessaries of life. What
follows, then? Is it the master who receives a benefit from his
slave? nay, rather, it is one man who receives it from another.
Lastly, he did all that lay in his power; he bestowed a benefit
upon his master; it lies in your power to receive or not to receive
it from a slave. Yet who is so exalted, that fortune may not make
him need the aid even of the lowliest?

XXIII. I shall now quote a number of instances of benefits, not all
alike, some even contradictory. Some slaves have given their master
life, some death; have saved him when perishing, or, as if that
were not enough, have saved him by their own death; others have
helped their master to die, some have saved his life by stratagem.
Claudius Quadrigarius tells us in the eighteenth book of his
"Annals," that when Grumentum was being besieged, and had been
reduced to the greatest straits, two slaves deserted to the enemy,
and did valuable service. Afterwards, when the city was taken, and
the victors were rushing wildly in every direction, they ran before
every one else along the streets, which they well knew, to the
house in which they had been slaves, and drove their mistress
before them; when they were asked who she might be, they answered
that she was their mistress, and a most cruel one, and that they
were leading her away for punishment. They led her outside the
walls, and concealed her with the greatest care until the fighting
was over; then, as the soldiery, satisfied with the sack of the
city, quickly resumed the manners of Romans, they also returned to
their own countrymen, and themselves restored their mistress to
them. She manumitted each of them on the spot, and was not ashamed
to receive her life from men over whom she had held the power of
life and death. She might, indeed, especially congratulate herself
upon this; for had she been saved otherwise, she would merely have
received a common and hackneyed piece of kindness, whereas, by
being saved as she was, she became a glorious legend, and an
example to two cities. In the confusion of the captured city, when
every one was thinking only of his own safety, all deserted her
except these deserters; but they, that they might prove what had
been their intentions in effecting that desertion, deserted again
from the victors to the captive, wearing the masks of unnatural

They thought--and this was the greatest part of the service which
they rendered--they were content to seem to have murdered their
mistress, if thereby their mistress might be saved from murder.
Believe me, it is the mark of no slavish soul to purchase a noble
deed by the semblance of crime.

When Vettius, the praetor of the Marsi, was being led into the
presence of the Roman general, his slave snatched a sword from the
soldier who was dragging him along, and first slew his master. Then
he said, "It is now time for me to look to myself; I have already
set my master free," and with these words transfixed himself with
one blow. Can you tell me of anyone who saved his master more

XXIV. When Caesar was besieging Corfinium, Domitius, who was shut
up in the city, ordered a slave of his own, who was also a
physician, to give him poison. Observing the man's hesitation, he
said, "Why do you delay, as though the whole business was in your
power? I ask for death with arms in my hands." Then the slave
assented, and gave him a harmless drug to drink. When Domitius fell
asleep after drinking this, the slave went to his son, and said,
"Give orders for my being kept in custody until you learn from the
result whether I have given your father poison or no." Domitius
lived, and Caesar saved his life; but his slave had saved it

XXV. During the civil war, a slave hid his master, who had been
proscribed, put on his rings and clothes, met the soldiers who were
searching for him, and, after declaring that he would not stoop to
entreat them not to carry out their orders, offered his neck to
their swords. What a noble spirit it shows in a slave to have been
willing to die for his master, at a time when few were faithful
enough to wish their master to live! to be found kind when the
state was cruel, faithful when it was treacherous! to be eager for
the reward of fidelity, though it was death, at a time when such
rich rewards were offered for treachery!

XXVI. I will not pass over the instances which our own age affords.
In the reign of Tiberius Caesar, there was a common and almost
universal frenzy for informing, which was more ruinous to the
citizens of Rome than the whole civil war; the talk of drunkards,
the frankness of jesters, was alike reported to the government;
nothing was safe; every opportunity of ferocious punishment was
seized, and men no longer waited to hear the fate of accused
persons, since it was always the same. One Paulus, of the
Praetorian guard, was at an entertainment, wearing a portrait of
Tiberius Caesar engraved in relief upon a gem. It would be absurd
for me to beat about the bush for some delicate way of explaining
that he took up a chamber-pot, an action which was at once noticed
by Maro, one of the most notorious informers of that time, and the
slave of the man who was about to fall into the trap, who drew the
ring from the finger of his drunken master. When Maro called the
guests to witness that Paulus had dishonoured the portrait of the
emperor, and was already drawing up an act of accusation, the slave
showed the ring upon his own finger. Such a man no more deserves to
be called a slave, than Maro deserved to be called a guest.

XXVII. In the reign of Augustus men's own words were not yet able
to ruin them, yet they sometimes brought them into trouble. A
senator named Rufus, while at dinner, expressed a hope that Caesar
would not return safe from a journey for which he was preparing,
and added that all bulls and calves wished the same thing. Some of
those present carefully noted these words. At daybreak, the slave
who had stood at his feet during the dinner, told him what he had
said in his cups, and urged him to be the first to go to Caesar,
and denounce himself. Rufus followed this advice, met Caesar as he
was going down to the forum, and, swearing that he was out of his
mind the day before, prayed that what he had said might fall upon
his own head and that of his children; he then begged Caesar pardon
him, and to take him back into favour. When Caesar said that he
would do so, he added, "No one will believe that you have taken me
back into favour unless you make me a present of something;" and he
asked for and obtained a sum of money so large, that it would have
been a gift not to be slighted even if bestowed by an unoffended
prince. Caesar added: "In future I will take care never to quarrel
with you, for my own sake." Caesar acted honourably in pardoning
him, and in being liberal as well as forgiving; no one can hear
this anecdote without praising Caesar, but he must praise the slave
first. You need not wait for me to tell you that the slave who did
his master this service was set free; yet his master did not do
this for nothing, for Caesar had already paid him the price of the
slave's liberty.

XXVIII. After so many instances, can we doubt that a master may
sometimes receive a benefit from a slave? Why need the person of
the giver detract from the thing which he gives? why should not the
gift add rather to the glory of the giver. All men descend from the
same original stock; no one is better born than another, except in
so far as his disposition is nobler and better suited for the
performance of good actions. Those who display portraits of their
ancestors in their halls, and set up in the entrance to their
houses the pedigree of their family drawn out at length, with many
complicated collateral branches, are they not notorious rather than
noble? The universe is the one parent of all, whether they trace
their descent from this primary source through a glorious or a mean
line of ancestors. Be not deceived when men who are reckoning up
their genealogy, wherever an illustrious name is wanting, foist in
that of a god in its place. You need despise no one, even though he
bears a commonplace name, and owes little to fortune. Whether your
immediate ancestors were freedmen, or slaves, or foreigners, pluck
up your spirits boldly, and leap over any intervening disgraces of
your pedigree; at its source, a noble origin awaits you. Why should
our pride inflate us to such a degree that we think it beneath us
to receive benefits from slaves, and think only of their position,
forgetting their good deeds? You, the slave of lust, of gluttony,
of a harlot, nay, who are owned as a joint chattel by harlots, can
you call anyone else a slave? Call a man a slave? why, I pray you,
whither are you being hurried by those bearers who carry your
litter? whither are these men with their smart military-looking
cloaks carrying you? is it not to the door of some door-keeper, or
to the gardens of some one who has not even a subordinate office?
and then you, who regard the salute of another man's slave as a
benefit, declare that you cannot receive a benefit from your own
slave. What inconsistency is this? At the same time you despise and
fawn upon slaves, you are haughty and violent at home, while out of
doors you are meek, and as much despised as you despise your
slaves; for none abase themselves lower than those who
unconscionably give themselves airs, nor are anymore prepared to
trample upon others than those who have learned how to offer
insults by having endured them.

XXIX. I felt it my duty to say this, in order to crush the
arrogance of men who are themselves at the mercy of fortune, and to
claim the right of bestowing a benefit for slaves, in order that I
may claim it also for sons. The question arises, whether children
can ever bestow upon their parents greater benefits than those
which they have received from them.

It is granted that many sons become greater and more powerful than
their parents, and also that they are better men. If this be true,
they may give better gifts to their fathers than they have received
from them, seeing that their fortune and their good nature are
alike greater than that of their father. "Whatever a father
receives from his son," our opponent will urge, "must in any case
be lees than what the son received from him, because the son owes
to his father the very power of giving. Therefore the father can
never be surpassed in the bestowal of benefits, because the benefit
which surpasses his own is really his." I answer, that some things
derive their first origin from others, yet are greater than those
others; and a thing may be greater than that from which it took its
rise, although without that thing to start from it never could have
grown so great. All things greatly outgrow their beginnings. Seeds
are the causes of all things, and yet are the smallest part of the
things which they produce. Look at the Rhine, or the Euphrates, or
any other famous rivers; how small they are, if you only view them
at the place from whence they take their rise? they gain all that
makes them terrible and renowned as they flow along. Look at the
trees which are tallest if you consider their height, and the
broadest if you look at their thickness and the spread of their
branches; compared with all this, how small a part of them is
contained in the slender fibres of the root? Yet take away their
roots, and no more groves will arise, nor great mountains be
clothed with trees. Temples and cities are supported by their
foundations; yet what is built as the foundation of the entire
building lies out of sight. So it is in other matters; the
subsequent greatness of a thing ever eclipses its origin. I could
never have obtained anything without having previously received the
boon of existence from my parents; yet it does not follow from this
that whatever I obtain is less than that without which I could not
obtain it. If my nurse had not fed me when I was a child, I should
not have been able to conduct any of those enterprises which I now
carry on, both with my head and with my hand, nor should I ever
have obtained the fame which is due to my labours both in peace and
war; would you on that account argue that the services of a nurse
were more valuable than the most important undertakings? Yet is not
the nurse as important as the father, since without the benefits
which I have received from each of them alike, I should have been
alike unable to effect anything? If I owe all that I now can do to
my original beginning, I cannot regard my father or my grandfather
as being this original beginning; there always will be a spring
further back, from which the spring next below is derived. Yet no
one will argue that I owe more to unknown and forgotten ancestors
than to my father; though really I do owe them more, if I owe it to
my ancestors that my father begat me.

XXX. "Whatever I have bestowed upon my father," says my opponent,
"however great it may be, yet is less valuable than what my father
has bestowed upon me, because if he had not begotten me, it never
could have existed at all." By this mode of reasoning, if a man has
healed my father when ill, and at the point of death, I shall not
be able to bestow anything upon him equivalent to what I have
received from him; for had my father not been healed, he could not
have begotten me. Yet think whether it be not nearer the truth to
regard all that I can do, and all that I have done, as mine, due to
my own powers and my own will? Consider what the fact of my birth
is in itself; you will see that it is a small matter, the outcome
of which is dubious, and that it may lead equally to good or to
evil; no doubt it is the first step to everything, but because it
is the first, it is not on that account more important than all the
others. Suppose that I have saved my father's life, raised him to
the highest honours, and made him the chief man in his city, that I
have not merely made him illustrious by my own deeds, but have
furnished him himself with an opportunity of performing great
exploits, which is at once important, easy, and safe, as well as
glorious; that I have loaded him with appointments, wealth, and all
that attracts men's minds; still, even when I surpass all others, I
am inferior to him. Now if you say, "You owe to your father the
power of doing all this," I shall answer, "Quite true, if to do all
this it is only necessary to be born; but if life is merely an
unimportant factor in the art of living well, and if you have
bestowed upon me only that which I have in common with wild beasts
and the smallest, and some of the foulest of creatures, do not
claim for yourself what did not come into being in consequence of
the benefits which you bestowed, even though it could not have come
into being without them."

XXXI. Suppose, father, that I have saved your life, in return for
the life which I received from you: in this case also I have
outdone your benefit, because I have given life to one who
understands what I have done, and because I understood what I was
doing, since I gave you your life not for the sake of, or by the
means of my own pleasure; for just as it is less terrible to die
before one has time to fear death, so it is a much greater boon to
preserve one's life than to receive it. I have given life to one
who will at once enjoy it, you gave it to one who knew not if he
should ever live; I have given life to one who was in fear of
death, your gift of life merely enables me to die; I have given you
a life complete, perfect; you begat me without intelligence, a
burden upon others. Do you wish to know how far from a benefit it
was to give life under such conditions? You should have exposed me
as a child, for you did me a wrong in begetting me. What do I
gather from this? That the cohabitation of a father and mother is
the very least of benefits to their child, unless in addition this
beginning of kindnesses be followed up by others, and confirmed by
other services. It is not a good thing to live, but to live well.
"But," say you, "I do live well." True, but I might have lived ill;
so that your part in me is merely this, that I live. If you claim
merit to yourself for giving me mere life, bare and helpless, and
boast of it as a great boon, reflect that this you claim merit for
giving me is a boon which I possess in common with flies and worms.
In the next place, if I say no more than that I have applied myself
to honourable pursuits, and have guided the course of my life along
the path of rectitude, then you have received more from your
benefit than you gave; for you gave me to myself ignorant and
unlearned, and I have returned to you a son such as you would wish
to have begotten.

XXXII. My father supported me. If I repay this kindness, I give him
more than I received, because he has the pleasure, not only of
being supported, but of being supported by a son, and receives more
delight from my filial devotion than from the food itself, whereas
the food which he used to give me merely affected my body. What? if
any man rises so high as to become famous among nations for his
eloquence, his justice, or his military skill, if much of the
splendour of his renown is shed upon his father also, and by its
clear light dispels the obscurity of his birth, does not such a man
confer an inestimable benefit upon his parents? Would anyone have
heard of Aristo and Gryllus except through Xenophon and Plato,
their sons? Socrates keeps alive the memory of Sophroniscus. It
would take long to recount the other men whose names survive for no
other reason than that the admirable qualities of their sons have
handed them down to posterity. Did the father of Marcus Agrippa, of
whom nothing was known, even after Agrippa became famous, confer
the greater benefit upon his son, or was that greater which Agrippa
conferred upon his father when he gained the glory, unique in the
annals of war, of a naval crown, and when he raised so many vast
buildings in Rome, which not only surpassed all former grandeur,
but have been surpassed by none since? Did Octavius confer a
greater benefit upon his son, or the Emperor Augustus upon his
father, obscured as he was by the intervention of an adoptive
father? What joy would he have experienced, if, after the putting
down of the civil war, he had seen his son ruling the state in
peace and security? He would not have recognized the good which he
had himself bestowed, and would hardly have believed, when he
looked back upon himself, that so great a man could have been born
in his house. Why should I go on to speak of others who would now
be forgotten, if the glory of their sons had not raised them from
obscurity, and kept them in the light until this day? In the next
place, as we are not considering what son may have given back to
his father greater benefits than he received from him, but whether
a son can give back greater benefits, even if the examples which I
have quoted are not sufficient, and such benefits do not outweigh
the benefits bestowed by the parents, if no age has produced. an
actual example, still it is not in the nature of things impossible.
Though no solitary act can outweigh the deserts of a parent, yet
many such acts combined by one son may do so.

XXXIII. Scipio, while under seventeen years of age, rode among the
enemy in battle, and saved his father's life. Was it not enough,
that in order to reach his father he despised so many dangers when
they were pressing hardest upon the greatest generals, that he, a
novice in his first battle, made his way through so many obstacles,
over the bodies of so many veteran soldiers, and showed strength
and courage beyond his years? Add to this, that he also defended
his father in court, and saved him from a plot of his powerful
enemies, that he heaped upon him a second and a third consulship
and other posts which were coveted even by consulars, that when his
father was poor he bestowed upon him the plunder which he took by
military licence, and that he made him rich with the spoils of the
enemy, which is the greatest honour of a soldier. If even this did
not repay his debt, add to it that he caused him to be constantly
employed in the government of provinces and in special commands,
add, that after he had destroyed the greatest cities, and became
without a rival either in the east or in the west, the acknowledged
protector and second founder of the Roman Empire, he bestowed upon
one who was already of noble birth the higher title of "the father
of Scipio;" can we doubt that the commonplace benefit of his birth
was outdone by his exemplary conduct, and by the valour which was
at once the glory and the protection of his country? Next, if this
be not enough, suppose that a son were to rescue his father from
the torture, or to undergo it in his stead. You can suppose the
benefits returned by the son as great as you please, whereas the
gift he received from his father was of one sort only, was easily
performed, and was a pleasure to the giver; that he must
necessarily have given the same thing to many others, even to some
to whom he knows not that he has given it, that he had a partner in
doing so, and that he had in view the law, patriotism, the rewards
bestowed upon fathers of families by the state, the maintenance of
his house and family: everything rather than him to whom he was
giving life. What? supposing that any one were to learn philosophy
and teach it to his father, could it be any longer disputed that
the son had given him something greater than he had received from
him, having returned to his father a happy life, whereas he had
received from him merely life?

XXXIV. "But," says our opponent, "whatever you do, whatever you are
able to give to your father, is part of his benefit bestowed upon
you." So it is the benefit of my teacher that I have become
proficient in liberal studies; yet we pass on from those who taught
them to us, at any rate from those who taught us the alphabet; and
although no one can learn anything without them, yet it does not
follow that whatsoever success one subsequently obtains, one is
still inferior to those teachers. There is a great difference
between the beginning of a thing and its final development; the
beginning is not equal to the thing at its greatest, merely upon
the ground that, without the beginning, it could never have become
so great.

XXXV. It is now time for me to bring forth something, so to speak,
from my own mint. So long as there is something better than the
benefit which a man bestows, he may be outdone. A father gives life
to his son; there is something better than life; therefore a father
may be outdone, because there is something better than the benefit
which he has bestowed. Still further, he who has given any one his
life, if he be more than once saved from peril of death by him, has
received a greater benefit than he bestowed. Now, a father has
given life to his son: if, therefore, he be more than once saved
from peril by his son, he can receive a greater benefit than he
gave. A benefit becomes greater to the receiver in proportion to
his need of it. Now he who is alive needs life more than he who has
not been born, seeing that such a one can have no need at all;
consequently a father, if his life is saved by his son, receives a
greater benefit than his son received from him by being born. It is
said, "The benefits conferred by fathers cannot be outdone by those
returned by their sons." Why? "Because the son received life from
his father, and had he not received it, he could not have returned
any benefits at all." A father has this in common with all those
who have given any men their lives; it is impossible that these men
could repay the debt if they had not received their life. Then I
suppose one cannot overpay one's debt to a physician, for a
physician gives life as well as a father; or to a sailor who has
saved us when shipwrecked? Yet the benefits bestowed by these and
by all the others who give us life in whatever fashion, can be
outdone: consequently those of our fathers can be outdone. If any
one bestows upon me a benefit which requires the help of benefits
from many other persons, whereas I give him what requires no one to
help it out, I have given more than I have received; now a father
gave to his son a life which, without many accessories to preserve
it, would perish; whereas a son, if he gives life to his father,
gives him a life which requires no assistance to make it lasting;
therefore the father who receives life from his son, receives a
greater benefit than he himself bestowed upon his son.

XXXVI. These considerations do not destroy the respect due to
parents, or make their children behave worse to them, nay, better;
for virtue is naturally ambitious, and wishes to outstrip those who
are before it. Filial piety will be all the more eager, if, in
returning a father's benefits, it can hope to outdo them; nor will
this be against the will or the pleasure of the father, since in
many contests it is to our advantage to be outdone. How does this
contest become so desirable? How comes it to be such happiness to
parents that they should confess themselves outdone by the benefits
bestowed by their children? Unless we decide the matter thus, we
give children an excuse, and make them less eager to repay their
debt, whereas we ought to spur them on, saying, "Noble youths, give
your attention to this! You are invited to contend in an honourable
strife between parents and children, as to which party has received
more than it has given. Your fathers have not necessarily won the
day because they are first in the field: only take courage, as
befits you, and do not give up the contest; you will conquer if you
wish to do so. In this honourable warfare you will have no lack of
leaders who will encourage you to perform deeds like their own, and
bid you follow in their footsteps upon a path by which victory has
often before now been won over parents.

XXXVII. AEneas conquered his father in well doing, for he himself
had been but a light and a safe burden for him when he was a child,
yet he bore his father, when heavy with age, through the midst of
the. enemy's lines and the crash of the city which was falling
around him, albeit the devout old man, who bore the sacred images
and the household gods in his hands, pressed him with more than his
own weight; nevertheless (what cannot filial piety accomplish!)
AEneas bore him safe through the blazing city, and placed him in
safety, to be worshipped as one of the founders of the Roman
Empire. Those Sicilian youths outdid their parents whom they bore
away safe, when Aetna, roused to unusual fury, poured fire over
cities and fields throughout a great part of the island. It is
believed that the fires parted, and that the flames retired on
either side, so as to leave a passage for these youths to pass
through, who certainly deserved to perform their daring task in
safety. Antigonus outdid his father when, after having conquered
the enemy in a great battle, he transferred the fruits of it to
him, and handed over to him the empire of Cyprus. This is true
kingship, to choose not to be a king when you might. Manlius
conquered his father, imperious [Footnote: There is an allusion to
the surname of both the father and the son, "Imperiosus" given them
on account of their severity.] though he was, when, in spite of his
having previously been banished for a time by his father on,
account of his dulness and stupidity as a boy, he came to an
interview which he had demanded with the tribune of the people, who
had filed an action against his father. The tribune had granted him
the interview, hoping that he would betray his hated father, and
believed that he had earned the gratitude of the youth, having,
amongst other matters, reproached old Manlius with sending him into
exile, treating it as a very serious accusation; but the youth,
having caught him alone, drew a sword which he had hidden in his
robe, and said, "Unless you swear to give up your suit against my
father, I will run you through with this sword. It is in your power
to decide how my father shall be freed from his prosecutor." The
tribune swore, and kept his oath; he related the reason of his
abandonment of his action to an assembly at the Rostra. No other
man was ever permitted to put down a tribune with impunity.

XXXVIII. There are instances without number of men who have saved
their parents from danger, have raised them from the lowest to the
highest station, and, taking them from the nameless mass of the
lower classes, have given them a name glorious throughout all ages.
By no force of words, by no power of genius, can one rightly
express how desirable, how admirable, how never to be erased from
human memory it is to be able to say, "I obeyed my parents, I gave
way to them, I was submissive to their authority whether it was
just, or unjust and harsh; the only point in which I resisted them
was, not to be conquered by them in benefits." Continue this
struggle, I beg of you, and even though weary, yet re-form your
ranks. Happy are they who conquer, happy they who are conquered.
What can be more glorious than the youth who can say to himself--it
would not be right to say it to another--"I have conquered my
father with benefits"? What is more fortunate than that old man who
declares everywhere to everyone that he has been conquered in
benefits by his son? What, again, is more blissful than to be
overcome in such a contest?"



Of all the matters which we have discussed, Aebutius Liberalis,
there is none more essential, or which, as Sallust says, ought to
be stated with more care than that which is now before us: whether
the bestowal of benefits and the return of gratitude for them are
desirable objects in themselves. Some men are found who act
honourably from commercial motives, and who do not care for
unrewarded virtue, though it can confer no glory if it brings any
profit. What can be more base than for a man to consider what it
costs him to be a good man, when virtue neither allures by gain nor
deters by loss, and is so far from bribing any one with hopes and
promises, that on the other hand she bids them spend money upon
herself, and often consists in voluntary gifts? We must go to her,
trampling what is merely useful under our feet: whithersoever she
may call us or send us we must go, without any regard for our
private fortunes, sometimes without sparing even our own blood, nor
must we ever refuse to obey any of her commands. "What shall I
gain," says my opponent, "if I do this bravely and gratefully?" You
will gain the doing of it--the deed itself is your gain. Nothing
beyond this is promised. If any advantage chances to accrue to you,
count it as something extra. The reward of honourable dealings lies
in themselves. If honour is to be sought after for itself, since a
benefit is honourable, it follows that because both of these are of
the same nature, their conditions must also be the same. Now it has
frequently and satisfactorily been proved, that honour ought to be
sought after for itself alone.

II. In this part of the subject we oppose the Epicureans, an
effeminate and dreamy sect who philosophize in their own paradise,
amongst whom virtue is the handmaid of pleasures, obeys them, is
subject to them, and regards them as superior to itself. You say,
"there is no pleasure without virtue." But wherefore is it superior
to virtue? Do you imagine that the matter in dispute between them
is merely one of precedence? Nay, it is virtue itself and its
powers which are in question. It cannot be virtue if it can follow;
the place of virtue is first, she ought to lead, to command, to
stand in the highest rank; you bid her look for a cue to follow.
"What," asks our opponent, "does that matter to you? I also declare
that happiness is impossible without virtue. Without virtue I
disapprove of and condemn the very pleasures which I pursue, and to
which I have surrendered myself. The only matter in dispute is
this, whether virtue be the cause of the highest good, or whether
it be itself the highest good." Do you suppose, though this be the
only point in question, that it is a mere matter of precedence? It
is a confusion and obvious blindness to prefer the last to the
first. I am not angry at virtue being placed below pleasure, but at
her being mixed up at all with pleasure, which she despises, whose
enemy she is, and from which she separates herself as far as
possible, being more at home with labour and sorrow, which are
manly troubles, than with your womanish good things.

III. It was necessary to insert this argument, my Liberalis,
because it is the part of virtue to bestow those benefits which we
are now discussing, and it is most disgraceful to bestow benefits
for any other purpose than that they should be free gifts. If we
give with the hope of receiving a return, we should give to the
richest men, not to the most deserving: whereas we prefer a
virtuous poor man to an unmannerly rich one. That is not a benefit,
which takes into consideration the fortune of the receiver.
Moreover, if our only motive for benefiting others was our own
advantage, those who could most easily distribute benefits, such as
rich and powerful men, or kings, and persons who do not stand in
need of the help of others, ought never to do so at all; the gods
would not bestow upon us the countless blessings which they pour
upon us unceasingly by night and by day, for their own nature
suffices them in all respects, and renders them complete, safe, and
beyond the reach of harm; they will, therefore, never bestow a
benefit upon any one, if self and self interest be the only cause
for the bestowal of benefits. To take thought, not where your
benefit will be best bestowed, but where it may be most profitably
placed at interest, from whence you will most easily get it back,
is not bestowal of benefits, but usury. Now the gods have nothing
to do with usury; it follows, therefore, that they cannot be
liberal; for if the only reason for giving is the advantage of the
giver, since God cannot hope to receive any advantages from us,
there is no cause why God should give anything.

IV. I know what answer may be made to this. "True; therefore God
does not bestow benefits, but, free from care and unmindful of us,
He turns away from our world and either does something else, or
else does nothing, which Epicurus thought the greatest possible
happiness, and He is not affected either by benefits or by
injuries." The man who says this cannot surely hear the voices of
worshippers, and of those who all around him are raising their
hands to heaven and praying for the success both of their private
affairs and those of the state; which certainly would not be the
case, all men would not agree in this madness of appealing to deaf
and helpless gods, unless we knew that their benefits are sometimes
bestowed upon us unasked, sometimes in answer to our prayers, and
that they give us both great and seasonable gifts, which shield us
from the most terrible dangers. Who is there so poor, so uncared
for, born to sorrow by so unkind a fate, as never to have felt the
vast generosity of the Gods? Look even at those who complain and
are discontented with their lot; you will find that they are not
altogether without a share in the bounty of heaven, that there is
no one upon whom something has not been shed from that most
gracious fount. Is the gift which is bestowed upon all alike, at
their birth, not enough? However unequally the blessings of after
life may be dealt out to us, did nature give us too little when she
gave us herself?

V. It is said, "God does not bestow benefits." Whence, then, comes
all that you possess, that you give or refuse to give, that you
hoard or steal? whence come these innumerable delights of our eyes,
our ears, and our minds? whence the plenty which provides us even
with luxury--for it is not our bare necessities alone against which
provision is made; we are loved so much as actually to be pampered--
whence so many trees bearing various fruits, so many wholesome
herbs, so many different sorts of food distributed throughout the
year, so that even the slothful may find sustenance in the chance
produce of the earth? Then, too, whence come the living creatures
of all kinds, some inhabiting the dry land, others the waters,
others alighting from the sky, that every part of nature may pay us
some tribute; the rivers which encircle our meadows with most
beauteous bends, the others which afford a passage to merchant
fleets as they flow on, wide and navigable, some of which in summer
time are subject to extraordinary overflowings in order that lands
lying parched under a glowing sun may suddenly be watered by the
rush of a midsummer torrent?

What of the fountains of medicinal waters? What of the bursting
forth of warm waters upon the seashore itself? Shall I

"Tell of the seas round Italy that flow,
Which laves her shore above, and which below;
Or of her lakes, unrivalled Larius, thee,
Or thee, Benacus, roaring like a sea?"

VI. If any one gave you a few acres, you would say that you had
received a benefit; can you deny that the boundless extent of the
earth is a benefit? If any one gave you money, and filled your
chest, since you think that so important, you would call that a
benefit. God has buried countless mines in the earth, has poured
out from the earth countless rivers, rolling sands of gold; He has
concealed in every place huge masses of silver, copper and iron,
and has bestowed upon you the means of discovering them, placing
upon the surface of the earth signs of the treasures hidden below;
and yet do you say that you have received no benefit? If a house
were given you, bright with marble, its roof beautifully painted
with colours and gilding, you would call it no small benefit. God
has built for you a huge mansion that fears no fire or ruin, in
which you see no flimsy veneers, thinner than the very saw with
which they are cut, but vast blocks of most precious stone, all
composed of those various and different substances whose paltriest
fragments you admire so much; he has built a roof which glitters in
one fashion by day, and in another by night; and yet do you say
that you have received no benefit? When you so greatly prize what
you possess, do you act the part of an ungrateful man, and think
that there is no one to whom you are indebted for them? Whence
comes the breath which you draw? the light by which you arrange and
perform all the actions of your life? the blood by whose
circulation your vital warmth is maintained? those meats which
excite your palate by their delicate flavour after your hunger is
appeased? those provocatives which rouse you when wearied with
pleasure? that repose in which you are rotting and mouldering? Will
you not, if you are grateful, say--

"'Tis to a god that this repose I owe,
For him I worship, as a god below.
Oft on his altar shall my firstlings bleed,
See, by his bounty here with rustic reed
I play the airs I love the livelong day,
The while my oxen round about me stray."

The true God is he who has placed, not a few oxen, but all the
herds on their pastures throughout the world; who furnishes food to
the flocks wherever they wander; who has ordained the alternation
of summer and winter pasturage, and has taught us not merely to
play upon a reed, and to reduce to some order a rustic and artless
song, but who has invented so many arts and varieties of voice, so
many notes to make music, some with our own breath, some with
instruments. You cannot call our inventions our own any more than
you call our growth our own, or the various bodily functions which
correspond to each stage of our lives; at one time comes the loss
of childhood's teeth, at another, when our age is advancing and
growing into robuster manhood, puberty and the last wisdom-tooth
marks the end of our youth. "We have implanted in us the seeds of
all ages, of all arts, and God our master brings forth our
intellects from obscurity.

VII. "Nature," says my opponent, "gives me all this." Do you not
perceive when you say this that you merely speak of God under
another name? for what is nature but God and divine reason, which
pervades the universe and all its parts? You may address the author
of our world by as many different titles as you please; you may
rightly call him Jupiter, Best and Greatest, and the Thunderer, or
the Stayer, so called, not because, as the historians tell us, he
stayed the flight of the Roman army in answer to the prayer of
Romulus, but because all things continue in their stay through his
goodness. If you were to call this same personage Fate, you would
not lie; for since fate is nothing more than a connected chain of
causes, he is the first cause of all upon which all the rest
depend. You will also be right in applying to him any names that
you please which express supernatural strength and power: he may
have as many titles as he has attributes.

VIII. Our school regards him as Father Liber, and Hercules, and
Mercurius: he is Father Liber because he is the parent of all, who
first discovered the power of seed, and our being led by pleasure
to plant it; he is Hercules, because his might is unconquered, and
when it is wearied after completing its labours, will retire into
fire; he is Mercurius, because in him is reasoning, and numbers,
and system, and knowledge. Whither-soever you turn yourself you
will see him meeting you: nothing is void of him, he himself fills
his own work. Therefore, most ungrateful of mortals, it is in vain
that you declare yourself indebted, not to God, but to nature,
because there can be no God without nature, nor any nature without
God; they are both the same thing, differing only in their
functions. If you were to say that you owe to Annaeus or to Lucius
what you received from Seneca, you would not change your creditor,
but only his name, because he remains the same man whether you use
his first, second, or third name. So whether you speak of nature,
fate, or fortune, these are all names of the same God, using his
power in different ways. So likewise justice, honesty, discretion,
courage, frugality, are all the good qualities of one and the same
mind; if you are pleased with any one of these, you are pleased
with that mind.

IX. However, not to drift aside into a distinct controversy, God
bestows upon us very many and very great benefits without hope of
receiving any return; since he does not require any offering from
us, and we are not capable of bestowing anything upon him:
wherefore, a benefit is desirable in itself. In it the advantage of
the receiver is all that is taken into consideration: we study this
without regarding our own interests. "Yet," argues our opponent,
"you say that we ought to choose with care the persons upon whom we
bestow benefits, because neither do husbandmen sow seed in the
sand: now if this be true, we follow our own interest in bestowing
benefits, just as much as in ploughing and sowing: for sowing is
not desirable in itself. Besides this you inquire where and how you
ought to bestow a benefit, which would not need to be done if the
bestowal of a benefit was desirable in itself: because in whatever
place and whatever manner it might be bestowed, it still would be
a benefit." We seek to do honourable acts, solely because they are
honourable; yet even though we need think of nothing else, we
consider to whom we shall do them, and when, and how; for in these
points the act has its being. In like manner, when I choose upon
whom I shall bestow a benefit, and when I aim at making it a
benefit; because if it were bestowed upon a base person, it could
neither be a benefit nor an honourable action.

X. To restore what has been entrusted to one is desirable in
itself; yet I shall not always restore it, nor shall I do so in any
place or at any time you please. Sometimes it makes no difference
whether I deny that I have received it, or return it openly. I
shall consider the interests of the person to whom I am to return
it, and shall deny that I have received a deposit, which would
injure him if returned. I shall act in the same manner in bestowing
a benefit: I shall consider when to give it, to whom, in what
manner, and on what grounds. Nothing ought to be done without a
reason: a benefit is not truly so, if it be bestowed without a
reason, since reason accompanies all honorable action. How often do
we hear men reproaching themselves for some thoughtless gift, and
saying, "I had rather have thrown it away than have given it to
him!" What is thoughtlessly given away is lost in the most
discreditable manner, and it is much worse to have bestowed a
benefit badly than to have received no return for it; that we
receive no return is the fault of another; that we did not choose
upon whom we should bestow it, is our own. In choosing a fit
person, I shall not, as you expect, pay the least attention to
whether I am likely to get any return from him, for I choose one
who will be grateful, not one who will return my goodness, and it
often happens that the man who makes no return is grateful, while
he who returns a benefit is ungrateful for it. I value men by their
hearts alone, and, therefore, I shall pass over a rich man if he be
unworthy, and give to a good man though he be poor; for he will be
grateful however destitute he may be, since whatever he may lose,
his heart will still be left him.

XI. I do not fish for gain, for pleasure, or for credit, by
bestowing benefits: satisfied in doing so with pleasing one man
alone, I shall give in order to do my duty. Duty, however, leaves
one some choice; do you ask me, how I am to choose? I shall choose
an honest, plain, man, with a good memory, and grateful for
kindness; one who keeps his hands off other men's goods, yet does
not greedily hold to his own, and who is kind to others; when I
have chosen such a man, I shall have acted to my mind, although
fortune may have bestowed upon him no means of returning my
kindness. If my own advantage and mean calculation made me liberal,
if I did no one any service except in order that he might in turn
do a service to me, I should never bestow a benefit upon one who
was setting out for distant and foreign countries, never to return;
I should not bestow a benefit upon one who was so ill as to be past
hope of recovery, nor should I do so when I myself was failing,
because I should not live long enough to receive any return. Yet,
that you may know that to do good is desirable in itself, we afford
help to strangers who put into our harbour only to leave it
straightway; we give a ship and fit it out for a shipwrecked
stranger to sail back in to his own country. He leaves us hardly
knowing who it was who saved him, and, as he will never return to
our presence, he hands over his debt of gratitude to the gods, and
beseeches them to fulfil it for him: in the meanwhile we rejoice in
the barren knowledge that we have done a good action. What? when we
stand upon the extreme verge of life, and make our wills, do we not
assign to others benefits from which we ourselves shall receive no
advantage? How much time we waste, how long we consider in secret
how much property we are to leave, and to whom! What then? does it
make any difference to us to whom we leave our property, seeing
that we cannot expect any return from any one? Yet we never give
anything with more care, we never take such pains in deciding upon
our verdict, as when, without any views of personal advantage, we
think only of what is honourable, for we are bad judges of our duty
as long as our view of it is distorted by hope and fear, and that
most indolent of vices, pleasure: but when death has shut off all
these, and brought us as incorrupt judges to pronounce sentence, we
seek for the most worthy men to leave our property to, and we never
take more scrupulous care than in deciding what is to be done with
what does not concern us. Yet, by Hercules, then there steals over
us a great satisfaction as we think, "I shall make this man richer,
and by bestowing wealth upon that man I shall add lustre to his
high position." Indeed, if we never give without expecting some
return, we must all die without making our wills.

XII. It may be said, "You define a benefit as a loan which cannot
be repaid: now a loan is not a desirable thing in itself." When we
speak of a loan, we make use of a figure, or comparison, just as we
speak of law as; the standard of right and wrong, although a
standard is not a thing to be desired for its own sake. I have
adopted this phrase in order to illustrate my subject: when I speak
of a loan, I must be understood to mean something resembling a
loan. Do you wish to know how it differs from one? I add the words
"which cannot be repaid," whereas every loan both can and ought to
be repaid. It is so far from being right to bestow a benefit for
one's own advantage, that often, as I have explained, it is one's
duty to bestow it when it involves one's own loss and risk: for
instance, if I assist a man when beset by robbers, so that he gets
away from them safely, or help some victim of power, and bring upon
myself the party spite of a body of influential men, very, probably
incurring myself the same disgrace from which I saved him, although
I might have taken the other side, and looked on with safety at
struggles with which I have nothing to do: if I were to give bail
for one who has been condemned, and when my friend's goods were
advertised for sale I were to give a bond to the effect that I
would make restitution to the creditors, if, in order to save a
proscribed person I myself run the risk of being proscribed. No
one, when about to buy a villa at Tusculum or Tibur, for a summer
retreat, because of the health of the locality, considers how many
years' purchase he gives for it; this must be looked to by the man
who makes a profit by it. The same is true with benefits; when you
ask what return I get for them, I answer, the consciousness of a
good action. "What return does one get for benefits?" Pray tell me
what return one gets for righteousness, innocence, magnanimity,
chastity, temperance? If you wish for anything beyond these
virtues, you do not wish for the virtues themselves. For what does
the order of the universe bring round the seasons? for what does
the sun make the day now longer and now shorter? all these things
are benefits, for they take place for our good. As it is the duty
of the universe to maintain the round of the seasons, as it is the
duty of the sun to vary the points of his rising and setting, and
to do all these things by which we profit, without any reward, so
is it the duty of man, amongst other things, to bestow benefits.
Wherefore then does he give? He gives for fear that he should not
give, lest he might lose an opportunity of doing a good action.

XIII. You Epicureans take pleasure in making a study of dull
torpidity, in seeking for a repose which differs little from sound
sleep, in lurking beneath the thickest shade, in amusing with the
feeblest possible trains of thought that sluggish condition of your
languid minds which you term tranquil contemplation, and in
stuffing with food and drink, in the recesses of your gardens, your
bodies which are pallid with want of exercise; we Stoics, on the
other hand, take pleasure in bestowing benefits, even though they
cost us labour, provided that they lighten the labours of others;
though they lead us into danger, provided that they save others,
though they straiten our means, if they alleviate the poverty and
distresses of others. What difference does it make to me whether I
receive benefits or not? even if I receive them, it is still my
duty to bestow them. A benefit has in view the advantage of him
upon whom we bestow it, not our own; otherwise we merely bestow it
upon ourselves. Many things, therefore, which are of the greatest
possible use to others lose all claim to gratitude by being paid
for. Merchants are of use to cities, physicians to invalids,
dealers to slaves; yet all these have no claim to the gratitude of
those whom they benefit, because they seek their own advantage
through that of others. That which is bestowed with a view to
profit is not a benefit. "I will give this in order that I may get
a return for it" is the language of a broker.

XIV. I should not call a woman modest, if she rebuffed her lover in
order to increase his passion, or because she feared the law or her
husband; as Ovid says:

"She that denies, because she does not dare
To yield, in spirit grants her lover's prayer."

Indeed, the woman who owes her chastity, not to her own virtue, but
to fear, may rightly be classed as a sinner. In the same manner, he
who merely gave in order that he might receive, cannot be said to
have given. Pray, do we bestow benefits upon animals when we feed
them for our use or for our table? do we bestow benefits upon trees
when we tend them that they may not suffer from drought or from
hardness of ground? No one is moved by righteousness and goodness
of heart to cultivate an estate, or to do any act in which the
reward is something apart from the act itself; but he is moved to
bestow benefits, not by low and grasping motives, but by a kind and
generous mind, which even after it has given is willing to give
again, to renew its former bounties by fresh ones, which thinks
only of how much good it can do the man to whom it gives; whereas
to do any one a service because it is our interest to do so is a
mean action, which deserves no praise, no credit. What grandeur is
there in loving oneself, sparing oneself, gaining profit for
oneself? The true love of giving calls us away from all this,
forcibly leads us to put up with loss, and foregoes its own
interest, deriving its greatest pleasure from the mere act of doing

XV. Can we doubt that the converse of a benefit is an injury? As
the infliction of injuries is a thing to be avoided, so is the
bestowal of benefits to be desired for its own sake. In the former,
the disgrace of crime outweighs all the advantages which incite us
to commit it; while we are urged to the latter course by the
appearance of honour, in itself a powerful incentive to action,
which attends it.

I should not lie if I were to affirm that every one takes pleasure
in the benefits which he has bestowed, that everyone loves best to
see the man whom he has most largely benefited. Who does not thinks
that to have bestowed one benefit is a reason for bestowing a
second? and would this be so, if the act of giving did not itself
give us pleasure? How often you may hear a man say, "I cannot bear
to desert one whose life I have preserved, whom I have saved from
danger. True, he asks me to plead his cause against men of great
influence. I do not wish to do so, yet what am I to do? I have
already helped him once, nay twice." Do you not perceive how very
powerful this instinct must be, if it leads us to bestow benefits
first because it is right to do so, and afterwards because we have
already bestowed somewhat? Though at the outset a man may have had
no claim upon us, we yet continue to give to him because we have
already given to him. So untrue is it that we are urged to bestow
benefits by our own interest, that even when our benefits prove
failures we continue to nurse them and encourage them out of sheer
love of benefiting, which has a natural weakness even for what has
been ill-bestowed, like that which we feel for our vicious

XVI. These same adversaries of ours admit that they are grateful,
yet not because it is honourable, but because it is profitable to
be so. This can be proved to be untrue all the more easily, because
it can be established by the same arguments by which we have
established that to bestow a benefit is desirable for its own sake.
All our arguments start from this settled point, that honour is
pursued for no reason except because it is honour. Now, who will
venture to raise the question whether it be honourable to be
grateful? who does not loathe the ungrateful man, useless as he is
even to himself? How do you feel when any one is spoken of as being
ungrateful for great benefits conferred upon him by a friend? Is it
as though he had done something base, or had merely neglected to do
something useful and likely to be profitable to himself? I imagine
that you think him a bad man, and one who deserves punishment, not
one who needs a guardian; and this would not be the case, unless
gratitude were desirable in itself and honourable. Other qualities,
it may be, manifest their importance less clearly, and require an
explanation to prove whether they be honourable or no; this is
openly proved to be so in the sight of all, and is too beautiful
for anything to obscure or dim its glory. What is more
praiseworthy, upon what are all men more universally agreed, than
to return gratitude for good offices?

XVII. Pray tell me, what is it that urges us to do so? Is it
profit? Why, unless a man despises profit, he is not grateful. Is
it ambition? why, what is there to boast of in having paid what you
owe? Is it fear? The ungrateful man feels none, for against this
one crime we have provided no law, as though nature had taken
sufficient precautions against it. Just as there is no law which
bids parents love and indulge their children, seeing that it is
superfluous to force us into the path which we naturally take, just
as no one needs to be urged to love himself, since self-love begins
to act upon him as soon as he is born, so there is no law bidding
us to seek that which is honourable in itself; for such things
please us by their very nature, and so attractive is virtue that
the disposition even of bad men leads them to approve of good
rather than of evil. Who is there who does not wish to appear
beneficent, who does not even when steeped in crime and wrong-doing
strive after the appearance of goodness, does not put some show of
justice upon even his most intemperate acts, and endeavour to seem
to have conferred a benefit even upon those whom he has injured?
Consequently, men allow themselves to be thanked by those whom they
have ruined, and pretend to be good and generous, because they
cannot prove themselves so; and this they never would do were it
not that a love of honour for its own sake forces them to seek a
reputation quite at variance with their real character, and to
conceal their baseness, a quality whose fruits we covet, though we
regard it itself with dislike and shame. No one has ever so far
rebelled against the laws of nature and put off human feeling as to
act basely for mere amusement. Ask any of those who live by robbery
whether he would not rather obtain what he steals and plunders by
honest means; the man whose trade is highway robbery and the murder
of travellers would rather find his booty than take it by force;
you will find no one who would not prefer to enjoy the fruits of
wickedness without acting wickedly. Nature bestows upon us all this
immense advantage, that the light of virtue shines into the minds
of all alike; even those who do not follow her, behold her.

XVIII. A proof that gratitude is desirable for itself lies in the
fact that ingratitude is to be avoided for itself, because no vice
more powerfully rends asunder and destroys the union of the human
race. To what do we trust for safety, if not in mutual good offices
one to another? It is by the interchange of benefits alone that we
gain some measure of protection for our lives, and of safety
against sudden disasters. Taken singly, what should we be? a prey
and quarry for wild beasts, a luscious and easy banquet; for while
all other animals have sufficient strength to protect themselves,
and those which are born to a wandering solitary life are armed,
man is covered by a soft skin, has no powerful teeth or claws with
which to terrify other creatures, but weak and naked by himself is
made strong by union.

God has bestowed upon him two gifts, reason and union, which raise
him from weakness to the highest power; and so he, who if taken
alone would be inferior to every other creature, possesses supreme
dominion. Union has given him sovereignty over all animals; union
has enabled a being born upon the earth to assume power over a
foreign element, and bids him be lord of the sea also; it is union
which has checked the inroads of disease, provided supports for our
old age, and given us relief from pain; it is union which makes us
strong, and to which we look for protection against the caprices of
fortune. Take away union, and you will rend asunder the association
by which the human race preserves its existence; yet you will take
it away if you succeed in proving that ingratitude is not to be
avoided for itself, but because something is to be feared for it;
for how many are there who can with safety be ungrateful? In fine,
I call every man ungrateful who is merely made grateful by fear.

XIX. No sane man fears the gods; for it is madness to fear what is
beneficial, and no man loves those whom he fears. You, Epicurus,
ended by making God unarmed; you stripped him of all weapons, of
all power, and, lest anyone should fear him, you banished him out
of the world. There is no reason why you should fear this being,
cut off as he is, and separated from the sight and touch of mortals
by a vast and impassable wall; he has no power either of rewarding
or of injuring us; he dwells alone half-way between our heaven and
that of another world, without the society either of animals, of
men, or of matter, avoiding the crash of worlds as they fall in
ruins above and around him, but neither hearing our prayers nor
interested in us. Yet you wish to seem to worship this being just
as a father, with a mind, I suppose, full of gratitude; or, if you
do not wish to seem grateful, why should you worship him, since you
have received no benefit from him, but have been put together
entirely at random and by chance by those atoms and mites of yours?
"I worship him," you answer, "because of his glorious majesty and
his unique nature." Granting that you do this, you clearly do it
without the attraction of any reward, or any hope; there is
therefore something which is desirable for itself, whose own worth
attracts you, that is, honour. Now what is more honourable than
gratitude? the means of practising this virtue are as extensive as
life itself.

XX. "Yet," argues he, "there is also a certain amount of profit
inherent in this virtue." In what virtue is there not? But that
which we speak of as desirable for itself is such, that although it
may possess some attendant advantages, yet it would be desirable
even if stripped of all these. It is profitable to be grateful; yet
I will be grateful even though it harm me. What is the aim of the
grateful man? is it that his gratitude may win for him more friends
and more benefits? What then? If a man is likely to meet with
affronts by showing his gratitude, if he knows that far from
gaining anything by it, he must lose much even of what he has
already acquired, will he not cheerfully act to his own
disadvantage? That man is ungrateful who, in returning a kindness,
looks forward to a second gift--who hopes while he repays. I call
him ungrateful who sits at the bedside of a sick man because he is
about to make a will, when he is at leisure to think of
inheritances and legacies. Though he may do everything which a good
and dutiful friend ought to do, yet, if any hope of gain be
floating in his mind, he is a mere legacy-hunter, and is angling
for an inheritance. Like the birds which feed upon carcases, which
come close to animals weakened by disease, and watch till they
fall, so these men are attracted by death and hover around a

XXI. A grateful mind is attracted only by a sense of the beauty of
its purpose. Do you wish to know this to be so, and that it is not
bribed by ideas of profit? There are two classes of grateful men: a
man is called grateful who has made some return for what he
received; this man may very possibly display himself in this
character, he has something to boast of, to refer to. We also call
a man grateful who receives a benefit with goodwill, and owes it to
his benefactor with goodwill; yet this man's gratitude lies
concealed within his own mind. What profit can accrue to him from
this latent feeling? yet this man, even though he is not able to do
anything more than this, is grateful; he loves his benefactor, he
feels his debt to him, he longs to repay his kindness; whatever
else you may find wanting, there is nothing wanting in the man. He
is like a workman who has not the tools necessary for the practice
of his craft, or like a trained singer whose voice cannot be heard
through the noise of those who interrupt him. I wish to repay a
kindness: after this there still remains something for me to do,
not in order that I may become grateful, but that I may discharge
my debt; for, in many cases, he who returns a kindness is
ungrateful for it, and he who does not return it is grateful. Like
all other virtues, the whole value of gratitude lies in the spirit
in which it is done; so, if this man's purpose be loyal, any
shortcomings on his part are due not to himself, but to fortune. A
man who is silent may, nevertheless, be eloquent; his hands may be
folded or even bound, and he may yet be strong; just as a pilot is
a pilot even when upon dry land, because his knowledge is complete,
and there is nothing wanting to it, though there may be obstacles
which prevent his making use of it. In the same way, a man is
grateful who only wishes to be so, and who has no one but himself
who can bear witness to his frame of mind. I will go even further
than this: a man sometimes is grateful when he appears to be
ungrateful, when ill-judging report has declared him to be so. Such
a man can look to nothing but his own conscience, which can please
him even when overwhelmed by calumny, which contradicts the mob and
common rumour, relies only upon itself, and though it beholds a
vast crowd of the other way of thinking opposed to it, does not
count heads, but wins by its own vote alone. Should it see its own
good faith meet with the punishment due to treachery, it will not
descend from its pedestal, and will remain superior to its
punishment. "I have," it says, "what I wished, what I strove for. I
do not regret it, nor shall I do so; nor shall fortune, however
unjust she may be, ever hear me say, 'What did I want? What now is
the use of having meant well?'" A good conscience is of value on
the rack, or in the fire; though fire be applied to each of our
limbs, gradually encircle our living bodies, and burst our heart,
yet if our heart be filled with a good conscience, it will rejoice
in the fire which will make its good faith shine before the world.

XXII. Now let that question also which has been already stated be
again brought forward; Why is it that we should wish to be grateful
when we are dying, that we should carefully weigh the various
services rendered us by different individuals, and carefully review
our whole life, that we may not seem to have forgotten any
kindness? Nothing then remains for us to hope for; yet when on the
very threshold, we wish to depart from human life as full of
gratitude as possible. There is in truth an immense reward for this
thing merely in doing it, and what is honourable has great power to
attract men's minds, which are overwhelmed by its beauty and
carried off their balance, enchanted by its brilliancy and
splendour. "Yet," argues our adversary, "from it many advantages
take their rise, and good men obtain a safer life and love, and the
good opinion of the better class, while their days are spent in
greater security when accompanied by innocence and gratitude."

Indeed, nature would have been most unjust had she rendered this
great blessing miserable, uncertain, and fruitless. But consider
this point, whether you would make your way to that virtue, to
which it is generally safe and easy to attain, even though the path
lay over rocks and precipices, and were beset with fierce beasts
and venomous serpents. A virtue is none the less to be desired for
its own sake, because it has some adventitious profit connected
with it: indeed, in most cases the noblest virtues are accompanied
by many extraneous advantages, but it is the virtues that lead the
way, and these merely follow in their train.

XXIII. Can we doubt that the climate of this abode of the human
race is regulated by the motion of the sun and moon in their
orbits? that our bodies are sustained, the hard earth loosened,
excessive moisture reduced, and the surly bonds of winter broken by
the heat of the one, and that crops are brought to ripeness by the
effectual all-pervading warmth of the other? that the fertility of
the human race corresponds to the courses of the moon? that the sun
by its revolution marks out the year, and that the moon, moving in
a smaller orbit, marks out the months? Yet, setting aside all this,
would not the sun be a sight worthy to be contemplated and
worshipped, if he did no more than rise and set? would not the moon
be worth looking at, even if it passed uselessly through the
heavens? Whose attention is not arrested by the universe itself,
when by night it pours forth its fires and glitters with
innumerable stars? Who, while he admires them, thinks of their
being of use to him? Look at that great company gliding over our
heads, how they conceal their swift motion under the semblance of a
fixed and immovable work. How much takes place in that night which
you make use of merely to mark and count your days! What a mass of
events is being prepared in that silence! What a chain of destiny
their unerring path is forming! Those which you imagine to be
merely strewn about for ornament are really one and all at work.
Nor is there any ground for your belief that only seven stars
revolve, and that the rest remain still: we understand the orbits
of a few, but countless divinities, further removed from our sight,
come and go; while the greater part of those whom our sight reaches
move in a mysterious manner and by an unknown path.

XXIV. What then? would you not be captivated by the sight of such a
stupendous work, even though it did not cover you, protect you,
cherish you, bring you into existence and penetrate you with its
spirit? Though these heavenly bodies are of the very first
importance to us, and are, indeed, essential to our life, yet we
can think of nothing but their glorious majesty, and similarly all
virtue, especially that of gratitude, though it confers great
advantages upon us, does not wish to be loved for that reason; it
has something more in it than this, and he who merely reckons it
among useful things does not perfectly comprehend it. A man, you
say, is grateful because it is to his advantage to be so. If this
be the case, then his advantage will be the measure of his
gratitude. Virtue will not admit a covetous lover; men must
approach her with open purse. The ungrateful man thinks, "I did
wish to be grateful, but I fear the expense and danger and insults
to which I should expose myself: I will rather consult my own
interest." Men cannot be rendered grateful and ungrateful by the
same line of reasoning: their actions are as distinct as their
purposes. The one is ungrateful, although it is wrong, because it
is his interest; the other is grateful, although it is not his
interest, because it is right.

XXV. It is our aim to live in harmony with the scheme of the
universe, and to follow the example of the gods. Yet in all their
acts the gods have no object in view other than the act itself,
unless you suppose that they obtain a reward for their work in the
smoke of burnt sacrifices and the scent of incense. See what great
things they do every day, how much they divide amongst us, with how
great crops they fill the earth, how they move the seas with
convenient winds to carry us to all shores, how by the fall of
sudden showers they soften the ground, renew the dried-up springs
of fountains, and call them into new life by unseen supplies of
water. All this they do without reward, without any advantage
accruing to themselves. Let our line of conduct, if it would not
depart from its model, preserve this direction, and let us not act
honourably because we are hired to do so. We ought to feel ashamed
that any benefit should have a price: we pay nothing for the gods.

XXVI. "If," our adversary may say, "you wish to imitate the gods,
then bestow benefits upon the ungrateful as well as the grateful;
for the sun rises upon the wicked as well as the good, the seas are
open even to pirates." By this question he really asks whether a
good man would bestow a benefit upon an ungrateful person, knowing
him to be ungrateful. Allow me here to introduce a short
explanation, that we may not be taken in by a deceitful question.
Understand that according to the system of the Stoics there are two
classes of ungrateful persons. One man is ungrateful because he is
a fool; a fool is a bad man; a man who is bad possesses every vice:
therefore he is ungrateful. In the same way we speak of all bad men
as dissolute, avaricious, luxurious, and spiteful, not because each
man has all these vices in any great or remarkable degree, but
because he might have them; they are in him, even though they be
not seen. The second form of ungrateful person is he who is
commonly meant by the term, one who is inclined by nature to this
vice. In the case of him who has the vice of ingratitude just as he
has every other, a wise man will bestow a benefit, because if he
sets aside all such men there will be no one left for him to bestow
it on. As for the ungrateful man who habitually misapplies benefits
and acts so by choice, he will no more bestow a benefit upon him
than he would lend money to a spendthrift, or place a deposit in
the hands of one who had already often refused to many persons to
give up the property with which they had entrusted him.

XXVII. We call some men timid because they are fools: in this they
are like the bad men who are steeped in all vices without
distinction. Strictly speaking, we call those persons timid who are
alarmed even at unmeaning noises. A fool possesses all vices, but
he is not equally inclined by nature to all; one is prone to
avarice, another to luxury, and another to insolence. Those
persons, therefore, are mistaken, who ask the Stoics, "What do you
say, then? is Achilles timid? Aristides, who received a name for
justice, is he unjust? Fabius, who 'by delays retrieved the day,'
is he rash? Does Decius fear death? Is Mucius a traitor? Camillus a
betrayer?" We do not mean that all vices are inherent in all men in
the same way in which some especial ones are noticeable in certain
men, but we declare that the bad man and the fool possess all
vices; we do not even acquit them of fear when they are rash, or of
avarice when they are extravagant. Just as a man has all his
senses, yet all men have not on that account as keen a sight as
Lynceus, so a man that is a fool has not all vices in so active and
vigorous a form as some persons have spine of them, yet he has them
all. All vices exist in all of them, yet all are not prominent in
each individual. One man is naturally prone to avarice, another is
the slave of wine, a third of lust; or, if not yet enslaved by
these passions, he is so fashioned by nature that this is the
direction in which his character would probably lead him.
Therefore, to return to my original proposition, every bad man is
ungrateful, because he has the seeds of every villainy in him; but
he alone is rightly so called who is naturally inclined to this
vice. Upon such a person as this, therefore, I shall not bestow a
benefit. One who betrothed his daughter to an ill-tempered man from
whom many women had sought a divorce, would be held to have
neglected her interests; a man would be thought a bad father if he
entrusted the care of his patrimony to one who had lost his own
family estate, and it would be the act of a madman to make a will
naming as the guardian of one's son a man who had already defrauded
other wards. So will that man be said to bestow benefits as badly
as possible, who chooses ungrateful persons, in whose hands they
will perish.

XXVIII. "The gods," it may be said, "bestow much, even upon the
ungrateful." But what they bestow they had prepared for the good,
and the bad have their share as well, because they cannot be
separated. It is better to benefit the bad as well, for the sake of
benefiting the good, than to stint the good for fear of benefiting
the bad. Therefore the gods have created all that you speak of, the
day, the sun, the alternations of winter and summer, the
transitions through spring and autumn from one extreme to the
other, showers, drinking fountains, and regularly blowing winds for
the use of all alike; they could not except individuals from the
enjoyment of them. A king bestows honours upon those who deserve
them, but he gives largesse to the undeserving as well. The thief,
the bearer of false witness, and the adulterer, alike receive the
public grant of corn, and all are placed on the register without
any examination as to character; good and bad men share alike in
all the other privileges which a man receives, because he is a
citizen, not because he is a good man. God likewise has bestowed
certain gifts upon the entire human race, from which no one is shut
out. Indeed, it could not be arranged that the wind which was fair
for good men should be foul for bad ones, while it is for the good
of all men that the seas should be open for traffic and the kingdom
of mankind be enlarged; nor could any law be appointed for the
showers, so that they should not fall upon the fields of wicked and
evil men. Some things are given to all alike: cities are founded
for good and bad men alike; works of genius reach, by publication,
even unworthy men; medicine points out the means of health even to
the wicked; no one has checked the making up of wholesome remedies
for fear that the undeserving should be healed. You must seek for
examination and preference of individuals in such things as are
bestowed separately upon those who are thought to deserve them; not
in these, which admit the mob to share them without distinction.
There is a great difference between not shutting a man out and
choosing him. Even a thief receives justice; even murderers enjoy
the blessings of peace; even those who have plundered others can
recover their own property; assassins and private bravoes are
defended against the common enemy by the city wall; the laws
protect even those who have sinned most deeply against them. There
are some things which no man could obtain unless they were given to
all; you need not, therefore, cavil about those matters in which
all mankind is invited to share. As for things which men receive or
not at my discretion, I shall not bestow them upon one whom I know
to be ungrateful.

XXIX. "Shall we, then," argues he, "not give our advice to an
ungrateful man when he is at a loss, or refuse him a drink of water
when he is thirsty, or not show him the path when he has lost his
way? or would you do him these services and yet not give him
anything?" Here I will draw a distinction, or at any rate endeavour
to do so. A benefit is a useful service, yet all useful service is
not a benefit; for some are so trifling as not to claim the title
of benefits. To produce a benefit two conditions must concur.
First, the importance of the thing given; for some things fall
short of the dignity of a benefit. Who ever called a hunch of bread
a benefit, or a farthing dole tossed to a beggar, or the means of
lighting a fire? yet sometimes these are of more value than the
most costly benefits; still their cheapness detracts from their
value even when, by the exigency of time, they are rendered
essential. The next condition, which is the most important of all,
must necessarily be present, namely, that I should confer the
benefit for the sake of him whom I wish to receive it, that I
should judge him worthy of it, bestow it of my own free will, and
receive pleasure from my own gift, none of which conditions are
present in the cases of which we have just now spoken; for we do
not bestow such things as those upon these who are worthy of them,
but we give them carelessly, as trifles, and do not give them so
much to a man as to humanity.

XXX. I shall not deny that sometimes I would give even to the
unworthy, out of respect for others; as, for instance, in
competition for public offices, some of the basest of men are
preferred on account of their noble birth, to industrious men of no
family, and that for good reasons; for the memory of great virtues
is sacred, and more men will take pleasure in being good, if the
respect felt for good men does not cease with their lives. What
made Cicero's son a consul, except his father? What lately brought
Cinna [Footnote: See Seneca on "Clemency," book i., ch. ix.] out of
the camp of the enemy and raised him to the consulate? What made
Sextus Pompeius and the other Pompeii consuls, unless it was the
greatness of one man, who once was raised so high that, by his very
fall, he sufficiently exalted all his relatives. What lately made
Fabius Persicus a member of more than one college of priests,
though even profligates avoided his kiss? Was it not Verrucosus,
and Allobrogicus, and the three hundred who to serve their country
blocked the invader's path with the force of a single family? It is
our duty to respect the virtuous, not only when present with us,
but also when removed from our sight: as they have made it their
study not to bestow their benefits upon one age alone, but to leave
them existing after they themselves have passed away, so let us not
confine our gratitude to a single age. If a man has begotten great
men, he deserves to receive benefits, whatever he himself may be:
he has given us worthy men. If a man descends from glorious
ancestors, whatever he himself may be, let him find refuge under
the shadow of his ancestry. As mean places are lighted up by the
rays of the sun, so let the degenerate shine in the light of their

XXXI. In this place, my Liberalis, I wish to speak in defence of
the gods. We sometimes say, "What could Providence mean by placing
an Arrhidaeus upon the throne?" Do you suppose that the crown was
given to Arrhidaeus? nay, it was given to his father and his
brother. Why did Heaven bestow the empire of the world upon Caius
Caesar, the most bloodthirsty of mankind, who was wont to order
blood to be shed in his presence as freely as if he wished to drink
of it? Why, do you suppose that it was given to him? It was given
to his father, Germanicus, to his grandfather, his great
grandfather, and to others before them, no less illustrious men,
though they lived as private citizens on a footing of equality with
others. Why, when you yourself were making Mamercus Scaurus consul,
were you ignorant of his vices? did he himself conceal them? did he
wish to appear decent?

Did you admit a man who was so openly filthy to the fasces and the
tribunal? Yes, it was because you were thinking of the great old
Scaurus, the chief of the Senate, and were unwilling that his
descendant should be despised.

XXXII. It is probable that the gods act in the same manner, that
they show greater indulgence to some for the sake of their parents
and their ancestry, and to others for the sake of their children
and grandchildren, and a long line of descendants beyond them; for
they know the whole course of their works, and have constant access
to the knowledge of all that shall hereafter pass through their
hands. These things come upon us from the unknown future, and the
gods have foreseen and are familiar with the events by which we are
startled. "Let these men," says Providence, "be kings, because
their ancestors were good kings, because they regarded
righteousness and temperance as the highest rule of life, because
they did not devote the state to themselves, but devoted themselves
to the state. Let these others reign, because some one of their
ancestors before them was a good man, who bore a soul superior to
fortune, who preferred to be conquered rather than to conquer in
civil strife, because it was more to the advantage of the state.
[Footnote: Gertz, "Stud. Crit," p. 159, note.] It was not possible
to make a sufficient return to him for this during so long a time;
let this other, therefore, out of regard for him, be chief of the
people, not because he knows how, or is capable, but because the
other has earned it for him. This man is misshapen, loathsome to
look upon, and will disgrace the insignia of his office. Men will
presently blame me, calling me blind and reckless, not knowing upon
whom I am conferring what ought to be given to the greatest and
noblest of men; but I know that, in giving this dignity to one man,
I am paying an old debt to another. How should the men of to-day
know that ancient hero, who so resolutely avoided the glory which
pressed upon him, who went into danger with the same look which
other men wear when they have escaped from danger, who never
regarded his own interest as apart from that of the commonwealth?"
"Where," you ask, "or who is he? whence does he come?" "You know
him not; it lies with me to balance the debit and credit account in
such cases as these; I know how much I owe to each man; I repay
some after a long interval, others beforehand, according as my
opportunities and the exigencies of my social system permit." I
shall, therefore, sometimes bestow somewhat upon an ungrateful man,
though not for his own sake.

XXXIII. "What," argues he, "if you do not know whether your man be
ungrateful or grateful--will you wait until you know, or will you
not lose the opportunity of bestowing a benefit? To wait is a long
business--for, as Plato says, it is hard to form an opinion about
the human mind,--not to wait, is rash." To this objector we shall
answer, that we never should wait for absolute knowledge of the
whole case, since the discovery of truth is an arduous task, but
should proceed in the direction in which truth appeared to direct
us. All our actions proceed in this direction: it is thus that we
sow seed, that we sail upon the sea, that we serve in the army,
marry, and bring up children. The result of all these actions is
uncertain, so we take that course from which we believe that good
results may be hoped for. Who can guarantee a harvest to the sower,
a harbour to the sailor, victory to the soldier, a modest wife to
the husband, dutiful children to the father? We proceed in the way
in which reason, not absolute truth, directs us. Wait, do nothing
that will not turn out well, form no opinion until you have
searched but the truth, and your life will pass in absolute in
action. Since it is only the appearance of truth, not truth itself,
which leads me hither or thither, I shall confer benefits upon the
man who apparently will be grateful.

XXXIV. "Many circumstances," argues he, "may arise which may enable
a bad man to steal into the place of a good one, or may cause a
good man to be disliked as though he were a bad one; for
appearances, to which we trust, are deceptive." Who denies it? Yet
I can find nothing else by which to guide my opinion. I must follow
these tracks in my search after truth, for I have none more
trustworthy than these; I will take pains to weigh the value of
these with all possible care, and will not hastily give my assent
to them. For instance, in a battle, it may happen that my hand may
be deceived by some mistake into turning my weapon against my
comrade, and sparing my enemy as though he were on my side; but
this will not often take place, and will not take place through any
fault of mine, for my object is to strike the enemy, and defend my
countryman. If I know a man to be ungrateful, I shall not bestow a
benefit upon him. But the man has passed himself off as a good man
by some trick, and has imposed upon me. Well, this is not at all
the fault of the giver, who gave under the impression that his
friend was grateful. "Suppose," asks he, "that you were to promise
to bestow a benefit, and afterwards were to learn that your man was
ungrateful, would you bestow it or not? If you do, you do wrong
knowingly, for you give to one to whom you ought not; if you
refuse, you do wrong likewise, for you do not give to him to whom
you promised to give. This case upsets your consistency, and that
proud assurance of yours that the wise man never regrets his
actions, or amends what he has done, or alters his plans." The wise
man never changes his plans while the conditions under which he
formed them remain the same; therefore, he never feels regret,
because at the time nothing better than what he did could have been
done, nor could any better decision have been arrived at than that
which was made; yet he begins everything with the saving clause,
"If nothing shall occur to the contrary." This is the reason why we
say that all goes well with him, and that nothing happens contrary
to his expectation, because he bears in mind the possibility of
something happening to prevent the realization of his projects. It
is an imprudent confidence to trust that fortune will be on our
side. The wise man considers both sides: he knows how great is the
power of errors, how uncertain human affairs are, how many
obstacles there are to the success of plans. Without committing
himself, he awaits the doubtful and capricious issue of events, and
weighs certainty of purpose against uncertainty of result. Here
also, however, he is protected by that saving clause, without which
he decides upon nothing, and begins nothing.

XXXV. When I promise to bestow a benefit, I promise it, unless
something occurs which makes it my duty not to do so. What if, for
example, my country orders me to give to her what I had promised to
my friend? or if a law be passed forbidding any one to do what I
had promised to do for him? Suppose that I have promised you my
daughter in marriage, that then you turn out to be a foreigner, and
that I have no right of intermarriage with foreigners; in this
case, the law, by which I am forbidden to fulfil my promise, forms
my defence. I shall be treacherous, and hear myself blamed for
inconsistency, only if I do not fulfil, my promise when all

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