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

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chicanery or by prayer, unless it be that by prayer you raise up
more powerful enemies to him than by the other means? You cannot
say "Why, what harm do I do him?" your prayer is either futile or
harmful, indeed it is harmful even though nothing comes of it. You
do your friend wrong by wishing him harm: you must thank the gods
that you do him no harm. The fact of your wishing it is enough: we
ought to be just as angry with you as if you had effected it.

XXVIII. "If," argues our adversary, "my prayers had any efficacy,
they would also have been efficacious to save him from danger." In
the first place, I reply, the danger into which you wish me to fall
is certain, the help which I should receive is uncertain. Or call
them both certain; it is that which injures me that comes first.
Besides, YOU understand the terms of your wish; _I_ shall be tossed
by the storm without being sure that I have a haven of rest at

Think what torture it must have been to me, even if I receive your
help, to have stood in need of it: if I escape safely, to have
trembled for myself; if I be acquitted, to have had to plead my
cause. To escape from fear, however great it may be, can never be
so pleasant as to live in sound unassailable safety. Pray that you
may return my kindnesses when I need their return, but do not pray
that I may need them. You would have done what you prayed for, had
it been in your power.

XXIX. How far more honourable would a prayer of this sort be: "I
pray that he may remain in such a position as that he may always
bestow benefits and never need them: may he be attended by the
means of giving and helping, of which he makes such a bountiful
use; may he never want benefits to bestow, or be sorry for any
which he has bestowed; may his nature, fitted as it is for acts of
pity, goodness, and clemency, be stimulated and brought out by
numbers of grateful persons, whom I trust he will find without
needing to make trial of their gratitude; may he refuse to be
reconciled to no one, and may no one require to be reconciled to
him: may fortune so uniformly continue to favour him that no one
may be able to return his kindness in any way except by feeling
grateful to him."

How far more proper are such prayers as these, which do not put you
off to some distant opportunity, but express your gratitude at
once? What is there to prevent your returning your benefactor's
kindness, even while he is in prosperity? How many ways are there
by which we can repay what we owe even to the affluent--for
instance, by honest advice, by constant intercourse, by courteous
conversation, pleasing him without flattering him, by listening
attentively to any subject which he may wish to discuss, by keeping
safe any secret that he may impart to us, and by social
intercourse. There is no one so highly placed by fortune as not to
want a friend all the more because he wants nothing.

XXX. The other is a melancholy opportunity, and one which we ought
always to pray may be kept far from us: must the gods be angry with
a man in order that you may prove your gratitude to him? Do you not
perceive that you are doing wrong, from the very fact that those to
whom you are ungrateful fare better? Call up before your mind
dungeons, chains, wretchedness, slavery, war, poverty: these are
the opportunities for which you pray; if any one has any dealings
with you, it is by means of these that you square your account. Why
not rather wish that he to whom you owe most may be powerful and
happy? for, as I have just said, what is there to prevent your
returning the kindness even of those who enjoy the greatest
prosperity? to do which, ample and various opportunities will
present themselves to you, What! do you not know that a debt can be
paid even to a rich man? Nor will I trouble you with many instances
of what you may do. Though a man's riches and prosperity may
prevent your making him any other repayment, I will show you what
the highest in the land stand in need of, what is wanting to those
who possess everything. They want a man to speak the truth, to save
them from the organized mass of falsehood by which they are beset,
which so bewilders them with lies that the habit of hearing only
what is pleasant instead of what is true, prevents their knowing
what truth really is. Do you not see how such persons are driven to
ruin by the want of candour among their friends, whose loyalty has
degenerated into slavish obsequiousness? No one, when giving them
his advice, tells them what he really thinks, but each vies with
the other in flattery; and while the man's friends make it their
only object to see who can most pleasantly deceive him, he himself
is ignorant of his real powers, and, believing himself to be as
great a man as he is told that he is, plunges the State in useless
wars, which bring disasters upon it, breaks off a useful and
necessary peace, and, through a passion of anger which no one
checks, spills the blood of numbers of people, and at last sheds
his own. Such persons assert what has never been investigated as
certain facts, consider that to modify their opinion is as
dishonourable as to be conquered, believe that institutions which
are just flickering out of existence will last for ever, and, thus
overturn great States, to the destruction of themselves and all who
are connected with them. Living as they do in a fool's paradise,
resplendent with unreal and short-lived advantages, they forget
that, as soon as they put it out of their power to hear the truth,
there is no limit to the misfortunes which they may expect.

XXXI. When Xerxes declared war against Greece, all his courtiers
encouraged his boastful temper, which forgot how unsubstantial his
grounds for confidence were. One declared that the Greeks would not
endure to hear the news of the declaration of war, and would take
to flight at the first rumour of his approach; another, that with
such a vast army Greece could not only be conquered, but utterly
overwhelmed, and that it was rather to be feared that they would
find the Greek cities empty and abandoned, and that the panic
flight of the enemy would leave them only vast deserts, where no
use could be made of their enormous forces. Another told him that
the world was hardly large enough to contain him, that the seas
were too narrow for his fleets, the camps would not take in his
armies, the plains were not wide enough to deploy his cavalry in,
and that the sky itself was scarcely large enough to enable all his
troops to hurl their darts at once. While much boasting of this
sort was going on around him, raising his already overweening self-
confidence to a frantic pitch, Demaratus, the Lacedaemonian, alone
told him that the disorganized and unwieldy multitude in which he
trusted, was in itself a danger to its chief, because it possessed
only weight without strength; for an army which is too large cannot
be governed, and one which cannot be governed, cannot long exist.
"The Lacedaemonians," said he, "will meet you upon the first
mountain in Greece, and will give you a taste of their quality. All
these thousands of nations of yours will be held in check by three
hundred men: they will stand firm at their posts, they will defend
the passes entrusted to them with their weapons, and block them up
with their bodies: all Asia will not force them to give way; few as
they are, they will stop all this terrible invasion, attempted
though it be by nearly the whole human race. Though the laws of
nature may give way to you, and enable you to pass from Europe to
Asia, yet you will stop short in a bypath; consider what your
losses will be afterwards, when you have reckoned up the price
which you have to pay for the pass of Thermopylae; when you learn
that your march can be stayed, you will discover that you may be
put to flight. The Greeks will yield up many parts of their country
to you, as if they were swept out of them by the first terrible
rush of a mountain torrent; afterwards they will rise against you
from all quarters and will crush you by means of your own strength.
What people say, that your warlike preparations are too great to be
contained in the countries which you intend to attack, is quite
true; but this is to our disadvantage. Greece will conquer you for
this very reason, that she cannot contain you; you cannot make use
of the whole of your force. Besides this, you will not be able to
do what is essential to victory--that is, to meet the manoeuvres of
the enemy at once, to support your own men if they give way, or to
confirm and strengthen them when their ranks are wavering; long
before you know it, you will be defeated. Moreover, you should not
think that because your army is so large that its own chief does
not know its numbers, it is therefore irresistible; there is
nothing so great that it cannot perish; nay, without any other
cause, its own excessive size may prove its ruin." What Demaratus
predicted came to pass. He whose power gods and men obeyed, and who
swept away all that opposed him, was bidden to halt by three
hundred men, and the Persians, defeated in every part of Greece,
learned how great a difference there is between a mob and an army.
Thus it came to pass that Xerxes, who suffered more from the shame
of his failure than from the losses which he sustained, thanked
Demaratus for having been the only man who told him the truth, and
permitted him to ask what boon he pleased. He asked to be allowed
to drive a chariot into Sardis, the largest city in Asia, wearing a
tiara erect upon his head, a privilege which was enjoyed by kings
alone. He deserved his reward before he asked for it, but how
wretched must the nation have been, in which there was no one who
would speak the truth to the king except one man. who did not speak
it to himself.

XXXII. The late Emperor Augustus banished his daughter, whose
conduct went beyond the shame of ordinary immodesty, and made
public the scandals of the imperial house

Led away by his passion, he divulged all these crimes which, as
emperor, he ought to have kept secret with as much care as he
punished them, because the shame of some deeds asperses even him
who avenges them. Afterwards, when by lapse of time shame took the
place of anger in his mind, he lamented that he had not kept
silence about matters which he had not learned until it was
disgraceful to speak of them, and often used to exclaim, "None of
these things would have happened to me, if either Agrippa or
Maecenas had lived!" So hard was it for the master of so many
thousands of men to repair the loss of two. When his legions were
slaughtered, new ones were at once enrolled; when his fleet was
wrecked, within a few days another was afloat; when the public
buildings were consumed by fire, finer ones arose in their stead;
but the places of Agrippa and Maecenas remained unfilled throughout
his life. What am I to imagine? that there were not any men like
these, who could take their place, or that it was the fault of
Augustus himself, who preferred mourning for them to seeking for
their likes? We have no reason for supposing that it was the habit
of Agrippa or Maecenas to speak the truth to him; indeed, if they
had lived they would have been as great dissemblers as the rest. It
is one of the habits of kings to insult their present servants by
praising those whom they have lost, and to attribute the virtue of
truthful speaking to those from whom there is no further risk of
hearing it.

XXXIII. However, to return to my subject, you see how easy it is to
return the kindness of the prosperous, and even of those who occupy
the highest places of all mankind. Tell them, not what they wish to
hear, but what they will wish that they always had heard; though
their ears be stopped by flatteries, yet sometimes truth may
penetrate them; give them useful advice. Do you ask what service
you can render to a prosperous man? Teach him not to rely upon his
prosperity, and to understand that it ought to be supported by the
hands of many trusty friends. Will you not have done much for him,
if you take away his foolish belief that his influence will endure
for ever, and teach him that what we gain by chance passes away
soon, and at a quicker rate than it came; that we cannot fall by
the same stages by which we rose to the height of good fortune, but
that frequently between it and ruin there is but one step? You do
not know how great is the value of friendship, if you do not
understand how much you give to him to whom you give a friend, a
commodity which is scarce not only in men's houses, but in whole
centuries, and which is nowhere scarcer than in the places where it
is thought to be most plentiful. Pray, do you suppose that those
books of names, which your nomenclator [Footnote: The nomenclator
was a slave who attended his master in canvassing and on similar
occasions, for the purpose of telling him the names of whom he met
in the street.] can hardly carry or remember, are those of friends?
It is not your friends who crowd to knock at your door, and who are
admitted to your greater or lesser levees.

XXXIV. To divide one's friends into classes is an old trick of
kings and their imitators; it shows great arrogance to think that
to touch or to pass one's threshold can be a valuable privilege, or
to grant as an honour that you should sit nearer one's front door
than others, or enter house before them, although within the house
there are many more doors, which shut out even those who have been
admitted so far. With us Gaius Gracchus, and shortly after him
Livius Drusus, were the first to keep themselves apart from the
mass of their adherents, and to admit some to their privacy, some
to their more select, and others to their general receptions. These
men consequently had friends of the first and second rank, and so
on, but in none had they true friends. Can you apply the name of
friend to one who is admitted in his regular order to pay his
respects to you? or can you expect perfect loyalty from one who is
forced to slip into your presence through a grudgingly-opened door?
How can a man arrive at using bold freedom of speech with you, if
he is only allowed in his proper turn to make use of the common
phrase, "Hail to you," which is used by perfect strangers? Whenever
you go to any of these great men, whose levees interest the whole
city, though you find all the streets beset with throngs of people,
and the passers-by hardly able to make their way through the crowd,
you may be sure that you have come to a place where there are many
men, but no friends of their patron. We must not seek our friends
in our entrance hall, but in our own breast; it is there that he
ought to be received, there retained, and hoarded up in our minds.
Teach this, and you will have repaid your debt of gratitude.

XXXV. If you are useful to your friend only when he is in distress,
and are superfluous when all goes well with him, you form a mean
estimate of your own value. As you can bear yourself wisely both in
doubtful, in prosperous, and in adverse circumstances, by showing
prudence in doubtful cases, courage in misfortune, and self-
restraint in good fortune, so in all circumstances you can make
yourself useful to your friend. Do not desert him in adversity, but
do not wish that it may befall him: the various incidents of human
life will afford you many opportunities of proving your loyalty to
him without wishing him evil. He who prays that another may become
rich, in order that he may share his riches, really has a view to
his own advantage, although his prayers are ostensibly offered in
behalf of his friend; and similarly he who wishes that his friend
may get into some trouble from which his own friendly assistance
may extricate him--a most ungrateful wish--prefers himself to his
friend, and thinks it worthwhile that his friend should be unhappy,
in order that he may prove his gratitude. This very wish makes him
ungrateful, for he wishes to rid himself of his gratitude as though
it were a heavy burden. In returning a kindness it makes a great
difference whether you are eager to bestow a benefit, or merely to
free yourself from a debt. He who wishes to return a benefit will
study his friend's interests, and will hope that a suitable
occasion will arise; he who only wishes to free himself from an
obligation will be eager to do so by any means whatever, which
shows very bad feeling. "Do you say," we may be asked, "that
eagerness to repay kindness belongs to a morbid feeling of
gratitude?" I cannot explain my meaning more clearly than by
repeating what I have already said. You do not want to repay, but
to escape from the benefit which you. have received. You seem to
say, "When shall I get free from this obligation? I must strive by
any means in my power to extinguish my debt to him." You would be
thought to be far from grateful, if you wished to pay a debt to him
with his own money; yet this wish of yours is even more unjust; for
you invoke curses upon him, and call down terrible imprecations
upon the head of one who ought to be held sacred by you. No one, I
suppose, would have any doubt of your wickedness if you were openly
to pray that he might suffer poverty, captivity, hunger, or fear;
yet what is the difference between openly praying for some of these
things, and silently wishing for them? for you do wish for some of
these. Go, and enjoy your belief that this is gratitude, to do what
not even an ungrateful man would do, supposing he confined himself
to repudiating the benefit, and did not go so far as to hate his

XXXVI. Who would call Aeneas pious, if he wished that his native
city might be captured, in order that he might save his father from
captivity? Who would point to the Sicilian youths as good examples
for his children, if they had prayed that Aetna might flame with
unusual heat and pour forth a vast mass of fire in order to afford
them an opportunity of displaying their filial affection by
rescuing their parents from the midst of the conflagration? Rome
owes Scipio nothing if he kept the Punic War alive in order that he
might have the glory of finishing it; she owes nothing to the Decii
if they prayed for public disasters, to give themselves an
opportunity of displaying their brave self-devotion. It is the
greatest scandal for a physician to make work for himself; and many
who have aggravated the diseases of their patients that they may
have the greater credit for curing them, have either failed to cure
them, at all or have done so at the cost of the most terrible
suffering to their victims.

XXXVII. It is said (at any rate Hecaton tells us) that when
Callistratus with many others was driven into exile by his factious
and licentiously free country, some one prayed that such trouble
might befall the Athenians that they would be forced to recall the
exiles, on hearing which, he prayed that God might forbid his
return upon such terms. When some one tried to console our own
countryman, Rutilius, for his exile, pointing out that civil war
was at hand, and that all exiles would soon be restored to Rome, he
answered with even greater spirit, "What harm have I done you, that
you should wish that I may return to my country more unhappily than
I quit it? My wish is, that my country should blush at my being
banished, rather than that she should mourn at my having returned."
An exile, of which every one is more ashamed than the sufferer, is
not exile at all. These two persons, who did not wish to be
restored to their homes at the cost of a public disaster, but
preferred that two should suffer unjustly than that all should
suffer alike, are thought to have acted like good citizens; and in
like manner it does not accord with the character of a grateful
man, to wish that his benefactor may fall into troubles which he
may dispel; because, even though he may mean well to him, yet he
wishes him evil. To put out a fire which you yourself have lighted,
will not even gain acquittal for you, let alone credit.

XXXVIII. In some states an evil wish was regarded as a crime. It is
certain that at Athens Demades obtained a verdict against one who
sold furniture for funerals, by proving that he had prayed for
great gains, which he could not obtain without the death of many
persons. Yet it is a stock question whether he was rightly found
guilty. Perhaps he prayed, not that he might sell his wares to many
persons, but that he might sell them dear, or that he might procure
what he was going to sell, cheaply. Since his business consisted of
buying and selling, why should you consider his prayer to apply to
one branch of it only, although he made profit from both? Besides
this, you might find every one of his trade guilty, for they all
wish, that is, secretly pray, as he did. You might, moreover, find
a great part of the human race guilty, for who is there who does
not profit by his neighbour's wants? A soldier, if he wishes for
glory, must wish for war; the farmer profits by corn being dear; a
large number of litigants raises the price of forensic eloquence;
physicians make money by a sickly season; dealers in luxuries are
made rich by the effeminacy of youth; suppose that no storms and no
conflagrations injured our dwellings, the builder's trade would be
at a standstill. The prayer of one man was detected, but it was
just like the prayers of all other men. Do you imagine that
Arruntius and Haterius, and all other professional legacy-hunters
do not put up the same prayers as undertakers and grave-diggers?
though the latter know not whose death it is that they wish for,
while the former wish for the death of their dearest friends, from
whom, on account of their intimacy, they have most hopes of
inheriting a fortune. No one's life does the undertaker any harm,
whereas these men starve if their friends are long about dying;
they do not, therefore, merely wish for their deaths in order that
they may receive what they have earned by a disgraceful servitude,
but in order that they may be set free from a heavy tax. There can,
therefore, be no doubt that such persons repeat with even greater
earnestness the prayer for which the undertaker was condemned, for
whoever is likely to profit such men by dying, does them an injury
by living. Yet the wishes of all these are alike well known and
unpunished. Lastly, let every man examine his own self, let him
look into the secret thoughts of his heart and consider what it is
that he silently hopes for; how many of his prayers he would blush
to acknowledge, even to himself; how few there are which we could
repeat in the presence of witnesses!

XXXIX. Yet we must not condemn every thing which we find worthy of
blame, as, for instance, this wish about our friends which we have
been discussing, arises from a misdirected feeling of affection,
and falls into the very error which it strives to avoid, for the
man is ungrateful at the very time when he hurries to prove his
gratitude. He prays aloud, "May he fall into my power, may he need
my influence, may not be able to be safe and respectable without my
aid, may he be so unfortunate that whatever return I make to him
may be regarded as a benefit." To the gods alone he adds, "May
domestic treasons encompass him, which can be quelled by me alone;
may some powerful and virulent enemy, some excited and armed mob,
assail him; may he be set upon by a creditor or an informer."

XL. See, how just you are; you would never have wished any of these
misfortunes to befall him, if he had not bestowed a benefit upon
you. Not to speak of the graver guilt which you incur by returning
evil for good, you distinctly do wrong in not waiting for the
fitting time for each action, for it is as wrong to anticipate this
as it is not to take it when it comes. A benefit ought not always
to be accepted, and ought not in all cases to be returned. If you
were to return it to me against my will, you would be ungrateful,
how much more ungrateful are you, if you force me to wish for it?
Wait patiently; why are you unwilling to let my bounty abide with
you? Why do you chafe at being laid under an obligation? why, as
though you were dealing with a harsh usurer, are you in such a
hurry to sign and seal an equivalent bond? Why do you wish me to
get into trouble? Why do you call upon the gods to ruin me? If this
is your way of returning a kindness, what would you do if you were
exacting repayment of a debt?

XLI. Above all, therefore, my Liberalis, let us learn to live
calmly under an obligation to others, and watch for opportunities
of repaying our debt without manufacturing them. Let us remember
that this anxiety to seize the first opportunity of setting
ourselves free shows ingratitude; for no one repays with good will
that which he is unwilling to owe, and his eagerness to get it out
of his hands shows that he regards it as a burden rather than as a
favour. How much better and more righteous is it to bear in mind
what we owe to our friends, and to offer repayment, not to obtrude
it, nor to think ourselves too much indebted; because a benefit is
a common bond which connects two persons. Say "I do not delay to
repay your kindness to me; I hope that you will accept my gratitude
cheerfully. If irresistible fate hangs over either of us, and
destiny rules either that you must receive your benefit back again,
or that I must receive a second benefit, why then, of us two, let
him give that was wont to give. I am ready to receive it.

"'Tis not the part of Turnus to delay."

That is the spirit which I shall show whenever the time comes; in
the meanwhile the gods shall be my witnesses.

XLII. I have noted in you, my Liberalis, and as it were touched
with my hand a feeling of fussy anxiety not to be behindhand in
doing what is your duty. This anxiety is not suitable to a grateful
mind, which, on the contrary, produces the utmost confidence in
oneself, and which drives away all trouble by the consciousness of
real affection towards one's benefactor. To say "Take back what you
gave me," is no less a reproach than to say "You are in my debt."
Let this be the first privilege of a benefit, that he who bestowed
it may choose the time when he will have it returned. "But I fear
that men may speak ill of me." You do wrong if you are grateful
only for the sake of your reputation, and not to satisfy your
conscience. You have in this matter two judges, your benefactor,
whom you ought not, and yourself, whom you cannot deceive. "But,"
say you, "if no occasion of repayment offers, am I always to remain
in his debt?" Yes; but you should do so openly, and willingly, and
should view with great pleasure what he has entrusted to you. If
you are vexed at not having yet returned a benefit, you must be
sorry that you ever received it; but if he deserved that you should
receive a benefit from him, why should he not deserve that you
should long remain in his debt?

XLIII. Those persons are much mistaken who regard it as a proof of
a great mind to make offers to give, and to fill many men's pockets
and houses with their presents, for sometimes these are due not to
a great mind, but to a great fortune; they do not know how far more
great and more difficult it sometimes is to receive than to lavish
gifts. I must disparage neither act; it is as proper to a noble
heart to owe as to receive, for both are of equal value when done
virtuously; indeed, to owe is the more difficult, because it
requires more pains to keep a thing safe than to give it away. We
ought not therefore to be in a hurry to repay, nor need we seek to
do so out of due season, for to hasten to make repayment at the
wrong time is as bad as to be slow to do so at the right time. My
benefactor has entrusted his bounty to me: I ought not to have any
fears either on his behalf or on my own. He has a sufficient
security; he cannot lose it except he loses me--nay, not even if he
loses me. I have returned thanks to him for it--that is, I have
requited him. He who thinks too much about repaying a benefit must
suppose that his friend thinks too much about receiving repayment.
Make no difficulty about either course. If he wishes to receive his
benefit back again, let us return it cheerfully; if he prefers to
leave it in our hands, why should we dig up his treasure? why
should we decline to be its guardians? he deserves to be allowed to
do whichever he pleases. As for fame and reputation, let us regard
them as matters which ought to accompany, but which ought not to
direct our actions.



Be of good cheer, my Liberalis:

"Our port is close, and I will not delay,
Nor by digressions wander from the way."

This book collects together all that has been omitted, and in it,
having exhausted my subject, I shall consider not what I am to say,
but what there is which I have not yet said. If there be anything
superfluous in it, I pray you take it in good part, since it is for
you that it is superfluous. Had I wished to set off my work to the
best advantage, I ought to have added to it by degrees, and to have
kept for the last that part which would be eagerly perused even by
a sated reader. However, instead of this, I have collected together
all that was essential in the beginning; I am now collecting
together whatever then escaped me; nor, by Hercules, if you ask me,
do I think that, after the rules which govern our conduct have been
stated, it is very much to the purpose to discuss the other
questions which have been raised more for the exercise of our
intellects than for the health of our minds. The cynic Demetrius,
who in my opinion was a great man even if compared with the
greatest philosophers, had an admirable saying about this, that one
gained more by having a few wise precepts ready and in common use
than by learning many without having them at hand. "The best
wrestler," he would say, "is not he who has learned thoroughly all
the tricks and twists of the art, which are seldom met with in
actual wrestling, but he who has well and carefully trained himself
in one or two of them, and watches keenly for an opportunity of
practising them. It does not matter how many of them he knows, if
he knows enough to give him the victory; and so in this subject of
ours there are many points of interest, but few of importance. You
need not know what is the system of the ocean tides, why each
seventh year leaves its mark upon the human body, why the more
distant parts of a long portico do not keep their true proportion,
but seem to approach one another until at last the spaces between
the columns disappear, how it can be that twins are conceived
separately, though they are born together, whether both result from
one, or each from a separate act, why those whose birth was the
same should have such different fates in life, and dwell at the
greatest possible distance from one another, although they were
born touching one another; it will not do you much harm to pass
over matters which we are not permitted to know, and which we
should not profit by knowing. Truths so obscure may be neglected
with impunity. [Footnote: The old saying, 'Truth lurks deep in a
well (or abyss).'] Nor can we complain that nature deals hardly
with us, for there is nothing which is hard to discover except
those things by which we gain nothing beyond the credit of having
discovered them; whatever things tend to make us better or happier
are either obvious or easily discovered. Your mind can rise
superior to the accidents of life, if it can raise itself above
fears and not greedily covet boundless wealth, but has learned to
seek for riches within itself; if it has cast out the fear of men
and gods, and has learned that it has not much to fear from man,
and nothing to fear from God; if by scorning all those things which
make life miserable while they adorn it, the mind can soar to such
a height as to see clearly that death cannot be the beginning of
any trouble, though it is the end of many; if it can dedicate
itself to righteousness and think any path easy which leads to it;
if, being a gregarious creature, and born for the common good, it
regards the world as the universal home, if it keeps its conscience
clear towards God and lives always as though in public, fearing
itself more than other men, then it avoids all storms, it stands on
firm ground in fair daylight, and has brought to perfection its
knowledge of all that is useful and essential. All that remains
serves merely to amuse our leisure; yet, when once anchored in
safety, the mind may consider these matters also, though it can
derive no strength, but only culture from their discussion."

II. The above are the rules which my friend Demetrius bids him who
would make progress in philosophy to clutch with both hands, never
to let go, but to cling to them, and make them a part of himself,
and by daily meditation upon them to bring himself into such a
state of mind, that these wholesome maxims occur to him of their
own accord, that wherever he may be, they may straightway be ready
for use when required, and that the criterion of right and wrong
may present itself to him without delay. Let him know that nothing
is evil except what is base, and nothing good except what is
honourable: let him guide his life by this rule: let him both act
and expect others to act in accordance with this law, and let him
regard those whose minds are steeped in indolence, and who are
given up to lust and gluttony, as the most pitiable of mankind, no
matter how splendid their fortunes may be. Let him say to himself,
"Pleasure is uncertain, short, apt to pall upon us, and the more
eagerly we indulge in it, the sooner we bring on a reaction of
feeling against it; we must necessarily afterwards blush for it, or
be sorry for it, there is nothing grand about it, nothing worthy of
man's nature, little lower as it is than that of the gods; pleasure
is a low act, brought about by the agency of our inferior and baser
members, and shameful in its result. True pleasure, worthy of a
human being and of a man, is, not to stuff or swell his body with
food and drink, nor to excite lusts which are least hurtful when
they are most quiet, but to be free from all forms of mental
disturbance, both those which arise from men's ambitious struggles
with one another, and those which come from on high and are more
difficult to deal with, which flow from our taking the traditional
view of the gods, and estimating them by the analogy of our own
vices." This equable, secure, uncloying pleasure is enjoyed by the
man now described; a man skilled, so to say, in the laws of gods
and men alike. Such a man enjoys the present without anxiety for
the future: for he who depends upon what is uncertain can rely
confidently upon nothing. Thus he is free from all those great
troubles which unhinge the mind, he neither hopes for, nor covets
anything, and engages in no uncertain adventures, being satisfied
with what he has. Do not suppose that he is satisfied with a
little; for everything is his, and that not in the sense in which
all was Alexander's, who, though he reached the shore of the Red
Sea, yet wanted more territory than that through which he had come.
He did not even own those countries which he held or had conquered,
while Onesicritus, whom he had sent on before him to discover new
countries, was wandering about the ocean and engaging in war in
unknown seas. Is it clear that he who pushed his armies beyond the
bounds of the universe, who with reckless greed dashed headlong
into a boundless and unexplored sea, must in reality have been full
of wants? It matters not how many kingdoms he may have seized or
given away, or how great a part of the world may pay him tribute;
such a man must be in need of as much as he desires.

III. This was not the vice of Alexander alone, who followed with a
fortunate audacity in the footsteps of Bacchus and Hercules, but it
is common to all those whose covetousness is whetted rather than
appeased by good fortune. Look at Cyrus and Cambyses and all the
royal house of Persia: can you find one among them who thought his
empire large enough, or was not at the last gasp still aspiring
after further conquests? We need not wonder at this, for whatever
is obtained by covetousness is simply swallowed up and lost, nor
does it matter how much is poured into its insatiable maw. Only the
wise man possesses everything without having to struggle to retain
it; he alone does not need to send ambassadors across the seas,
measure out camps upon hostile shores, place garrisons in
commanding forts, or manoeuvre legions and squadrons of cavalry.
Like the immortal gods, who govern their realm without recourse to
arms, and from their serene and lofty heights protect their own, so
the wise man fulfils his duties, however far-reaching they may be,
without disorder, and looks down upon the whole human race, because
he himself is the greatest and most powerful member thereof. You
may laugh at him, but if you in your mind survey the east and the
west, reaching even to the regions separated from us by vast
wildernesses, if you think of all the creatures of the earth, all
the riches which the bounty of nature lavishes, it shows a great
spirit to be able to say, as though you were a god, "All these are
mine." Thus it is that he covets nothing, for there is nothing
which is not contained in everything, and everything is his.

IV. "This," say you, "is the very thing that I wanted! I have
caught you! I shall be glad to see how you will extricate yourself
from the toils into which you have fallen of your own accord. Tell
me, if the wise man possesses everything, how can one give anything
to a wise man? for even what you give him is his already. It is
impossible, therefore, to bestow a benefit upon a wise man, if
whatever is given him comes from his own store; yet you Stoics
declare that it is possible to give to a wise man. I make the same
inquiry about friends as well: for you say that friends own
everything in common, and if so, no one can give anything to his
friend, for he gives what his friend owned already in common with

There is nothing to prevent a thing belonging to a wise man, and
yet being the property of its legal owner. According to law
everything in a state belongs to the king, yet all that property
over which the king has rights of possession is parcelled out among
individual owners, and each separate thing belongs to somebody: and
so one can give the king a house, a slave, or a sum of money
without being said to give him what was his already; for the king
has rights over all these things, while each citizen has the
ownership of them. We speak of the country of the Athenians, or of
the Campanians, though the inhabitants divide them amongst
themselves into separate estates; the whole region belongs to one
state or another, but each part of it belongs to its own individual
proprietor; so that we are able to give our lands to the state,
although they are reckoned as belonging to the state, because we
and the state own them in different ways. Can there be any doubt
that all the private savings of a slave belong to his master as
well as he himself? yet he makes his master presents. The slave
does not therefore possess nothing, because if his master chose he
might possess nothing; nor does what he gives of his own free will
cease to be a present, because it might have been wrung from him
against his will. As for how we are to prove that the wise man
possesses all things, we shall see afterwards; for the present we
are both agreed to regard this as true; we must gather together
something to answer the question before us, which is, how any means
remain of acting generously towards one who already possesses all
things? All things that a son has belong to his father, yet who
does not know that in spite of this a son can make presents to his
father? All things belong to the gods; yet we make presents and
bestow alms even upon the gods. What I have is not necessarily not
mine because it belongs to you; for the same thing may belong both
to me and to you.

"He to whom courtezans belong," argues our adversary, "must be a
procurer: now courtezans are included in all things, therefore
courtezans belong to the wise man. But he to whom courtezans belong
is a procurer; therefore the wise man is a procurer." Yes! by the
same reasoning, our opponents would forbid him to buy anything,
arguing, "No man buys his own property. Now all things are the
property of the wise man; therefore the wise man buys nothing." By
the same reasoning they object to his borrowing, because no one
pays interest for the use of his own money. They raise endless
quibbles, although they perfectly well understand what we say.

V. For, when I say that the wise man possesses everything, I mean
that he does so without thereby impairing each man's individual
rights in his own property, in the same way as in a country ruled
by a good king, everything belongs to the king, by the right of his
authority, and to the people by their several rights of ownership.
This I shall prove in its proper place; in the mean time it is a
sufficient answer to the question to declare that I am able to give
to the wise man that which is in one way mine, and in another way
his. Nor is it strange that I should be able to give anything to
one who possesses everything. Suppose I have hired a house from
you: some part of that house is mine, some is yours; the house
itself is yours, the use of your house belongs to me. Crops may
ripen upon your land, but you cannot touch them against the will of
your tenant; and if corn be dear, or at famine price, you will

"In vain another's mighty store behold,"

grown upon your land, lying upon your land, and to be deposited in
your own barns. Though you be the landlord, you must not enter my
hired house, nor may you take away your own slave from me if I have
contracted for his services; nay, if I hire a carriage from you, I
bestow a benefit by allowing you to take your seat in it, although
it is your own. You see, therefore, that it is possible for a man
to receive a present by accepting what is his own.

VI. In all the cases which I have mentioned, each party is the
owner of the same thing. How is this? It is because the one owns
the thing, the other owns the use of the thing. We speak of the
books of Cicero. Dorus, the bookseller, calls these same books his
own; the one claims them because he wrote them, the other because
he bought them; so that they may quite correctly be spoken of as
belonging to either of the two, for they do belong to each, though
in a different manner. Thus Titus Livius may receive as a present,
or may buy his own books from Dorus. Although the wise man
possesses everything, yet I can give him what I individually
possess; for though, king-like, he in his mind possesses
everything, yet the ownership of all things is divided among
various individuals, so that he can both receive a present and owe
one; can buy, or hire things. Everything belongs to Caesar; yet he
has no private property beyond his own privy purse; as Emperor all
things are his, but nothing is his own except what he inherits. It
is possible, without treason, to discuss what is and what is not
his; for even what the court may decide not to be his, from another
point of view is his. In the same way the wise man in his mind
possesses everything, in actual right and ownership he possesses
only his own property.

VII. Bion is able to prove by argument at one time that everyone is
sacrilegious, at another that no one is. When he is in a mood for
casting all men down the Tarpeian rock, he says, "Whosoever touches
that which belongs to the gods, and consumes it or converts it to
his own uses, is sacrilegious; but all things belong to the gods,
so that whatever thing any one touches belongs to them to whom all
belongs; whoever, therefore, touches anything is sacrilegious."
Again, when he bids men break open temples and pillage the Capitol
without fear of the wrath of heaven, he declares that no one can be
sacrilegious; because, whatever a man takes away, he takes from one
place which belongs to the gods into another place which belongs to
the gods. The answer to this is that all places do indeed belong to
the gods, but all are not consecrated to them, and that sacrilege
can only be done in places solemnly dedicated to heaven. Thus,
also, the whole world is a temple of the immortal gods, and,
indeed, the only one worthy of their greatness and splendour, and
yet there is a distinction between things sacred and profane; all
things which it is lawful to do under the sky and the stars are not
lawful to do within consecrated walls. The sacrilegious man cannot
do God any harm, for He is placed beyond his reach by His divine
nature; yet he is punished because he seems to have done Him harm:
his punishment is demanded by our feeling on the matter, and even
by his own. In the same way, therefore, as he who carries off any
sacred things is regarded as sacrilegious, although that which he
stole is nevertheless within the limits of the world, so it is
possible to steal from a wise man: for in that case it will be
some, not of that universe which he possesses, but some of those
things of which he is the acknowledged owner, and which are
severally his own property, which will be stolen from him. The
former of these possessions he will recognize as his own, the
latter he will be unwilling, even if he be able to possess; he will
say, as that Roman commander said, when, to reward his courage and
good service to the state, he was assigned as much land as he could
inclose in one day's ploughing. "You do not," said he, "want a
citizen who wants more than is enough for one citizen." Do you not
think that it required a much greater man to refuse this reward
than to earn it? for many have taken away the landmarks of other
men's property, but no one sets up limits to his own.

VIII. When, then, we consider that the mind of the truly wise man
has power over all things and pervades all things, we cannot help
declaring that everything is his, although, in the estimation of
our common law, it may chance that he may be rated as possessing no
property whatever. It makes a great difference whether we estimate
what he owns by the greatness of his mind, or by the public
register. He would pray to be delivered from that possession of
everything of which you speak. I will not remind you of Socrates,
Chrysippus, Zeno, and other great men, all the greater, however,
because envy prevents no one from praising the ancients. But a
short time ago I mentioned Demetrius, who seems to have been placed
by nature in our times that he might prove that we could neither
corrupt him nor be corrected by him; a man of consummate wisdom,
though he himself disclaimed it, constant to the principles which
he professed, of an eloquence worthy to deal with the mightiest
subjects, scorning mere prettinesses and verbal niceties, but
expressing with infinite spirit, the ideas which inspired it. I
doubt not that he was endowed by divine providence with so pure a
life and such power of speech in order that our age might neither
be without a model nor a reproach. Had some god wished to give all
our wealth to Demetrius on the fixed condition that he should not
be permitted to give it away, I am sure that he would have refused
to accept it, and would have said,

IX. "I do not intend to fasten upon my back a burden like this, of
which I never can rid myself, nor do I, nimble and lightly equipped
as I am, mean to hinder my progress by plunging into the deep
morass of business transactions. Why do you offer to me what is the
bane of all nations? I would not accept it even if I meant to give
it away, for I see many things which it would not become me to
give. I should like to place before my eyes the things which
fascinate both kings and peoples, I wish to behold the price of
your blood and your lives. First bring before me the trophies of
Luxury, exhibiting them as you please, either in succession, or,
which is better, in one mass. I see the shell of the tortoise, a
foul and slothful brute, bought for immense sums and ornamented
with the most elaborate care, the contrast of colours which is
admired in it being obtained by the use of dyes resembling the
natural tints. I see tables and pieces of wood valued at the price
of a senator's estate, which are all the more precious, the more
knots the tree has been twisted into by disease. I see crystal
vessels, whose price is enhanced by their fragility, for among the
ignorant the risk of losing things increases their value instead of
lowering it, as it ought. I see murrhine cups, for luxury would be
too cheap if men did not drink to one another out of hollow gems
the wine to be afterwards thrown up again. I see more than one
large pearl placed in each ear; for now our ears are trained to
carry burdens, pearls are hung from them in pairs, and each pair
has other single ones fastened above it. This womanish folly is not
exaggerated enough for the men of our time, unless they hang two or
three estates upon each ear. I see ladies' silk dresses, if those
deserve to be called dresses which can neither cover their body or
their shame; when wearing which, they can scarcely with a good
conscience, swear that they are not naked. These are imported at a
vast expense from nations unknown even to trade, in order that our
matrons may show as much of their persons in public as they do to
their lovers in private."

X. What are you doing, Avarice? see how many things there are whose
price exceeds that of your beloved gold: all those which I have
mentioned are more highly esteemed and valued. I now wish to
review your wealth, those plates of gold and silver which dazzle
our covetousness. By Hercules, the very earth, while she brings
forth upon the surface every thing that is of use to us, has buried
these, sunk them deep, and rests upon them with her whole weight,
regarding them as pernicious substances, and likely to prove the
ruin of mankind if brought into the light of day. I see that iron
is brought out of the same dark pits as gold and silver, in order
that we may lack neither the means nor the reward of murder. Thus
far we have dealt with actual substances; but some forms of wealth
deceive our eyes and minds alike. I see there letters of credit,
promissory notes, and bonds, empty phantoms of property, ghosts of
sick Avarice, with which she deceives our minds, which delight in
unreal fancies; for what are these things, and what are interest,
and account books, and usury, except the names of unnatural
developments of human covetousness? I might complain of nature for
not having hidden gold and silver deeper, for not having laid over
it a weight too heavy to be removed: but what are your documents,
your sale of time, your blood-sucking twelve per cent. interest?
these are evils which we owe to our own will, which flow merely
from our perverted habit, having nothing about them which can be
seen or handled, mere dreams of empty avarice. Wretched is he who
can take pleasure in the size of the audit book of his estate, in
great tracts of land cultivated by slaves in chains, in huge flocks
and herds which require provinces and kingdoms for their pasture
ground, in a household of servants, more in number than some of the
most warlike nations, or in a private house whose extent surpasses
that of a large city! After he has carefully reviewed all his
wealth, in what it is invested, and on what it is spent, and has
rendered himself proud by the thoughts of it, let him compare what
he has with what he wants: he becomes a poor man at once. Let me
go: restore me to those riches of mine. I know the kingdom of
wisdom, which is great and stable: I possess every thing, and in
such a manner that it belongs to all men nevertheless."

XI. When, therefore, Gaius Csesar offered him two hundred thousand
sesterces, he laughingly refused it, thinking it unworthy of
himself to boast of having refused so small a sum. Ye gods and
goddesses, what a mean mind must the emperor have had, if he hoped
either to honour or to corrupt him. I must here repeat a proof of
his magnanimity. I have heard that when he was expressing his
wonder at the folly of Gaius at supposing that he could be
influenced by such a bribe, he said, "If he meant to tempt me, he
ought to have tried to do so by offering his entire kingdom."

XII. It is possible, then, to give something to the wise man,
although all things belong to the wise man. Similarly, though we
declare that friends have all things in common, it is nevertheless
possible to give something to a friend: for I have not everything
in common with a friend in the same manner as with a partner, where
one part belongs to him, and another to me, but rather as a father
and a mother possess their children in common when they have two,
not each parent possessing one child, but each possessing both.
First of all I will prove that any chance would-be partner of mine
has nothing in common with me: and why? Because this community of
goods can only exist between wise men, who are alone capable of
friendship: other men can neither be friends nor partners one to
another. In the next place, things may be owned in common in
various ways. The knights' seats in the theatre belong to all the
Roman knights; yet of these the seat which I occupy becomes my own,
and if I yield it up to any one, although I only yield him a thing
which we own in common, still I appear to have given him something.
Some things belong to certain persons under particular conditions.
I have a place among the knights, not to sell, or to let, or to
dwell in, but simply to see the spectacle from, wherefore I do not
tell an untruth when I say that I have a place among the knights'
seats. Yet if, when I come into the theatre, the knights' seats are
full, I both have a seat there by right, because I have the
privilege of sitting there, and I have not a seat there, because my
seat is occupied by those who share my right to those places.
Suppose that the same thing takes place between friends; whatever
our friend possesses, is common to us, but is the property of him
who owns it; I cannot make use of it against his will. "You are
laughing at me," say you; "if what belongs to my friend is mine, I
am able to sell it." You are not able; for you are not able to sell
your place among the knights' seats, and yet they are in common
between you and the other knights. Consequently, the fact that you
cannot sell a thing, or consume it, or exchange it for the better
or the worse does not prove that it is not yours; for that which is
yours under certain conditions is yours nevertheless.

XIII. I have received, but certainly not less. Not to detain you
longer than is necessary, a benefit can be no more than a benefit;
but the means employed to convey benefits may be both greater and
more numerous. I mean those things by which kindness expresses and
gives vent to itself, like lovers, whose many kisses and close
embraces do not increase their love but give it play.

XIV. The next question which arises has been thoroughly threshed out
in the former books, so here it shall only be touched on shortly;
for the arguments which have been used for other cases can be
transferred to it.

The question is, whether one who has done everything in his power
to return a benefit, has returned it. "You may know," says our
adversary, "that he has not returned it, because he did everything
in his power to return it; it is evident, therefore, that he did
not not do that which he did not have an opportunity of doing. A
man who searches everywhere for his creditor without finding him
does not thereby pay him what he owes." Some are in such a position
that it is their duty to effect something material; in the case of
others to have done all in their power to effect it is as good as
effecting it. If a physician has done all in his power to heal his
patient he has performed his duty; an advocate who employs his
whole powers of eloquence on his client's behalf, performs his duty
even though his client be convicted; the generalship even of a
beaten commander is praised if he has prudently, laboriously, and
courageously exercised his functions. Your friend has done all in
his power to return your kindness, but your good fortune stood in
his way; no adversity befell you in which he could prove the truth
of his friendship; he could not give you money when you were rich,
or nurse you when you were in health, or help you when you were
succeeding; yet he repaid your kindness, even though you did not
receive a benefit from him. Moreover, this man, being always eager,
and on the watch for an opportunity of doing this, as he has
expended much anxiety and much trouble upon it, has really done
more than he who quickly had an opportunity of repaying your
kindness. The case of a debtor is not the same, for it is not
enough for him to have tried to find the money unless he pays it;
in his case a harsh creditor stands over him who will not let a
single day pass without charging him interest; in yours there is a
most kind friend, who seeing you busy, troubled, and anxious would

"'Dismiss this trouble from thy breast;'

leave off disturbing yourself; I have received from you all that I
wish; you wrong me, if you suppose that I want anything further;
you have fully repaid me in intention."

"Tell me," says our adversary, "if he had repaid the benefit you
would say that he had returned your kindness: is, then, he who
repays it in the same position as he who does not repay it?"

On the other hand, consider this: if he had forgotten the benefit
which he had received, if he had not even attempted to be grateful,
you would say that he had not returned the kindness; but this man
has laboured day and night to the neglect of all his other duties
in his devoted care to let no opportunity of proving his gratitude
escape him; is then he who took no pains to return a kindness to be
classed with this man who never ceased to take pains? you are
unjust, if you require a material payment from me when you see that
I am not wanting in intention.

XV. In short, suppose that when you are taken captive, I have
borrowed money, made over my property as security to my creditor,
that I have sailed in a stormy winter season along coasts swarming
with pirates, that I have braved all the perils which necessarily
attend a voyage even on a peaceful sea, that I have wandered
through all wildernesses seeking for those men whom all others flee
from, and that when I have at length reached the pirates, someone
else has already ransomed you: will you say that I have not
returned your kindness? Even if during this voyage I have lost by
shipwreck the money that I had raised to save you, even if I myself
have fallen into the prison from which I sought to release you,
will you say that I have not returned your kindness? No, by
Hercules! the Athenians call Harmodius and Aristogiton,
tyrannicides; the hand of Mucius which he left on the enemy's altar
was equivalent to the death of Porsena, and valour struggling
against fortune is always illustrious, even if it falls short of
accomplishing its design. He who watches each opportunity as it
passes, and tries to avail himself of one after another, does more
to show his gratitude than he whom the first opportunity enabled to
be grateful without any trouble whatever. "But," says our
adversary, "he gave you two things, material help and kindly
feeling; you, therefore, owe him two." You might justly say this to
one who returns your kindly feeling without troubling himself
further; this man is really in your debt; but you cannot say so of
one who wishes to repay you, who struggles and leaves no stone
unturned to do so; for, as far as in him lies, he repays you in
both kinds; in the next place, counting is not always a true test,
sometimes one thing is equivalent to two; consequently so intense
and ardent a wish to repay takes the place of a material repayment.
Indeed, if a feeling of gratitude has no value in repaying a
kindness without giving something material, then no one can be
grateful to the gods, whom we can repay by gratitude alone. "We
cannot," says our adversary, "give the gods anything else." Well,
but if I am not able to give this man, whose kindness I am bound to
return, anything beside my gratitude, why should that which is all
that I can bestow on a god be insufficient to prove my gratitude
towards a man?

XVI. If, however, you ask me what I really think, and wish me to
give a definite answer, I should say that the one party ought to
consider his benefit to have been returned, while the other ought
to feel that he has not returned it; the one should release his
friend from the debt, the other should hold himself bound to pay
it; the one should say, "I have received;" the other should answer,
"I owe." In our whole investigation, we ought to look entirely to
the public good; we ought to prevent the ungrateful having any
excuses in which they can take refuge, and under cover of which
they can disown their debts. "I have done all in my power," say
you. Well, keep on doing so still. Do you suppose that our
ancestors were so foolish, as not to understand that it is most
unjust that the man who has wasted the money which he received from
his creditor on debauchery, or gambling, should be classed with one
who has lost his own property as well as that of others in a fire,
by robbery, or some sadder mischance? They would take no excuse,
that men might understand that they were always bound to keep their
word; it was thought better that even a good excuse should not be
accepted from a few persons, than that all men should be led to try
to make excuses. You say that you have done all in your power to
repay your debt; this ought to be enough for your friend, but not
enough for you. He to whom you owe a kindness, is unworthy of
gratitude if he lets all your anxious care and trouble to repay it
go for nothing; and so, too, if your friend takes your good will as
a repayment, you are ungrateful if you are not all the more eager
to feel the obligation of the debt which he has forgiven you. Do
not snap up his receipt, or call witnesses to prove it; rather seek
opportunities for repaying not less than before; repay the one man
because he asks for repayment, the other because he forgives you
your debt; the one because he is good, the other because he is bad.
You, need not, therefore, think that you have anything to do with
the question whether a man be bound to repay the benefit which he
has received from a wise man, if that man has ceased to be wise and
has turned into a bad man. You would return a deposit which you had
received from a wise man; you would return a loan even to a bad
man; what grounds have you for not returning a benefit also?
Because he has changed, ought he to change you? What? if you had
received anything from a man when healthy, would you not return it
to him when he was sick, though we always are more bound to treat
our friends with more kindness when they are ailing? So, too, this
man is sick in his mind; we ought to help him, and bear with him;
folly is a disease of the mind.

XVII. I think here we ought to make a distinction, in order to
render this point more intelligible. Benefits are of two kinds:
one, the perfect and true benefit, which can only be bestowed by
one wise man upon another; the other, the common vulgar form which
ignorant men like ourselves interchange. With regard to the latter,
there is no doubt that it is my duty to repay it whether my friend
turns out to be a murderer, a thief, or an adulterer. Crimes have
laws to punish them; criminals are better reformed by judges than
by ingratitude; a man ought not to make you bad by being so
himself. I will fling a benefit back to a bad man, I will return it
to a good man; I do so to the latter, because I owe it to him; to
the former, that I may not be in his debt.

XVIII. With regard to the other class of benefit, the question
arises whether if I was not able to take it without being a wise
man, I am able to return it, except to a wise man. For suppose I do
return it to him, he cannot receive it, he is not any longer able
to receive such a thing, he has lost the knowledge of how to use
it. You would not bid me throw back [Footnote: i.e. in the game of
ball.] a ball to a man who has lost his hand; it is folly to give
any one what he cannot receive. If I am to begin to reply to the
last argument, I say that I should not give him what he is unable
to take; but I would return it, even though he is not able to
receive it. I cannot lay him under an obligation unless he takes my
bounty; but by returning it I can free myself from my obligations
to him. You say, "he will not be able to use it." Let him see to
that; the fault will lie with him, not with me.

XIX. "To return a thing," says our adversary, "is to hand it over
to one who can receive it. Why, if you owed some wine to any man,
and he bade you pour it into a net or a sieve, would you say that
you had returned it? or would you be willing to return it in such a
way that in the act of returning it was lost between you?" To
return is to give that which you owe back to its owner when he
wishes for it. It is not my duty to perform more than this; that he
should possess what he has received from me is a matter for further
consideration; I do not owe him the safe-keeping of his property,
but the honourable payment of my debt, and it is much better that
he should not have it, than that I should not return it to him. I
would repay my creditor, even though he would at once take what I
paid him to the market; even if he deputed an adulteress to receive
the money from me, I would pay it to her; even if he were to pour
the coins which he receives into a loose fold of his cloak, I would
pay it. It is my business to return it to him, not to keep it and
save it for him after I have returned it; I am bound to take care
of his bounty when I have received it, but not when I have returned
it to him. While it remains with me, it must be kept safe; but when
he asks for it again I must give it to him, even though it slips
out of his hands as he takes it. I will repay a good man when it is
convenient; I will repay a bad man when he asks me to do so.

"You cannot," argues our adversary, "return him a benefit of the
same kind as that which you received; for you received it from a
wise man, and you are returning it to a fool." Do I not return to
him such a benefit, as he is now able to receive? It is not my
fault if I return it to him worse than I received it, the fault
lies with him, and so, unless he regains his former wisdom, I shall
return it in such a form as he in his fallen condition is able to
receive. "But what," asks he, "if he become not only bad, but
savage and ferocious, like Apollodorus or Phalaris, would you
return even to such a man as this a benefit which you had received
from him?" I answer, Nature does not admit of so great a change in
a wise man. Men do not change from the best to the worst; even in
becoming bad, he would necessarily retain some traces of goodness;
virtue is never so utterly quenched as not to imprint on the mind
marks which no degradation can efface. If wild animals bred in
captivity escape into the woods, they still retain something of
their original tameness, and are as remote from the gentlest in the
one extreme as they are in the other from those which have always
been wild, and have never endured to be touched by man's hand. No
one who has ever applied himself to philosophy ever becomes
completely wicked; his mind becomes so deeply coloured with it,
that its tints can never be entirely spoiled and blackened. In the
next place, I ask whether this man of yours be ferocious merely in
intent, or whether he breaks out into actual outrages upon mankind?
You have instanced the tyrants Apollodorus and Phalaris; if the bad
man restrains their evil likeness within himself, why should I not
return his benefit to him, in order to set myself free from any
further dealings with him? If, however, he not only delights in
human blood, but feeds upon it; if he exercises his insatiable
cruelty in the torture of persons of all ages, and his fury is not
prompted by anger, but by a sort of delight in cruelty, if he cuts
the throats of children before the eyes of their parents; if, not
satisfied with merely killing his victims, he tortures them, and
not only burns but actually roasts them; if his castle is always
wet with freshly shed blood; then it is not enough not to return
his benefits. All connexion between me and such a man has been
broken off by his destruction of the bonds of human society. If he
had bestowed something upon me, but were to invade my native
country, he would have lost all claim to my gratitude, and it would
be counted a crime to make him any return; if he does not attack my
country, but is the scourge of his own; if he has nothing to do
with my nation, but torments and cuts to pieces his own, then in
the same manner such depravity, though it does not render him my
personal enemy, yet renders him hateful to me, and the duty which I
owe to the human race is anterior to and more important than that
which I owe to him as an individual.

XX. However, although this be so, and although I am freed from all
obligation towards him, from the moment when, by outraging all
laws, he rendered it impossible for any man to do him a wrong,
nevertheless, I think I ought to make the following distinction in
dealing with him. If my repayment of his benefit will neither
increase nor maintain his powers of doing mischief to mankind, and
is of such a character that I can return it to him without
disadvantage to the public, I would return it: for instance, I
would save the life of his infant child; for what harm can this
benefit do to any of those who suffer from his cruelty? But I would
not furnish him with money to pay his bodyguard. If he wishes for
marbles, or fine clothes, the trappings of his luxury will harm no
one; but with soldiers and arms I would not furnish him. If he
demands, as a great boon, actors and courtesans and such things as
will soften his savage nature, I would willingly bestow them upon
him. I would not furnish him with triremes and brass-beaked ships
of war, but I would send him fast sailing and luxuriously-fitted
vessels, and all the toys of kings who take their pleasure on the
sea. If his health was altogether despaired of, I would by the same
act bestow a benefit on all men and return one to him; seeing that
for such characters death is the only remedy, and that he who never
will return to himself, had best leave himself. However, such
wickedness as this is uncommon, and is always regarded as a
portent, as when the earth opens, or when fires break forth from
caves under the sea; so let us leave it, and speak of those vices
which we can hate without shuddering at them. As for the ordinary
bad man, whom I can find in the marketplace of any town, who is
feared only by individuals, I would return to him a benefit which I
had received from him. It is not right that I should profit by his
wickedness; let me return what is not mine to its owner. Whether he
be good or bad makes no difference; but I would consider the matter
most carefully, if I were not returning but bestowing it.

XXI. This point requires to be illustrated by a story. A certain
Pythagoraean bought a fine pair of shoes from a shoemaker; and as
they were an expensive piece of work, he did not pay ready money
for them. Some time afterwards he came to the shop to pay for them,
and after he had long been knocking at the closed door, some one
said to him, "Why do you waste your time? The shoemaker whom you
seek has been carried out of his house and buried; this is a grief
to us who lose our friends for ever, but by no means so to you, who
know that he will be born again," jeering at the Pythagoraean. Upon
this our philosopher not unwillingly carried his three or four
denarii home again, shaking them every now and then; afterwards,
blaming himself for the pleasure which he had secretly felt at not
paying his debt, and perceiving that he enjoyed having made this
trifling gain, he returned to the shop, and saying, "the man lives
for you, pay him what you owe," he passed four denarii into the
shop through the crack of the closed door, and let them fall
inside, punishing himself for his unconscionable greediness that he
might not form the habit of appropriating that which is not his

XXII. If you owe anything, seek for some one to whom you may repay
it, and if no one demands it, dun your own self; whether the man be
good or bad is no concern of yours; repay him, and then blame him.
You have forgotten, how your several duties are divided: it is
right for him to forget it, but we have bidden you bear it in mind.
When, however, we say that he who bestows a benefit ought to forget
it, it is a mistake to suppose that we rob him of all recollection
of the business, though it is most creditable to him; some of our
precepts are stated over strictly in order to reduce them to their
true proportions. When we say that he ought not to remember it, we
mean he ought not to speak publicly, or boast of it offensively.
There are some, who, when they have bestowed a benefit, tell it in
all societies, talk of it when sober, cannot be silent about it
when drunk, force it upon strangers, and communicate it to friends;
it is to quell this excessive and reproachful consciousness that we
bid him who gave it forget it, and by commanding him to do this,
which is more than he is able, encourage him to keep silence.

XXIII. When you distrust those whom you order to do anything, you
ought to command them to do more than enough in order that they may
do what is enough. The purpose of all exaggeration is to arrive at
the truth by falsehood. Consequently, he who spoke of horses as

"Whiter than snows and swifter than the winds,"

said what could not possibly be in order that they might be thought
to be as much so as possible. And he who said:

"More firm than crags, more headlong than the stream,"

did not suppose that he should make any one believe that a man
could ever be as firm as a crag. Exaggeration never hopes all its
daring flights to be believed, but affirms what is incredible, that
thereby it may convey what is credible. When we say, "let the man
who has bestowed a benefit, forget it," what we mean is, "let him
be as though he had forgotten it; let not his remembrance of it
appear or be seen." When we say that repayment of a benefit ought
not to be demanded, we do not utterly forbid its being demanded;
for repayment must often be extorted from bad men, and even good
men require to be reminded of it. Am I not to point out a means of
repayment to one who does not perceive it? Am I not to explain my
wants to one does not know them? Why should he (if a bad man) have
the excuse, or (if a good man) have the sorrow of not knowing them?
Men ought sometimes to be reminded of their debts, though with
modesty, not in the tone of one demanding a legal right.

XXIV. Socrates once said in the hearing of his friends: "I would
have bought a cloak, if I had had the money for it." He asked no
one for money, but he reminded them all to give it. There was a
rivalry between them, as to who should give it; and how should
there not be? Was it not a small thing which Socrates received?
Yes, but it was a great thing to be the man from whom Socrates
received it. Could he blame them more gently? "I would," said he,
"have bought a cloak if I had had the money for it." After this,
however eager any one was to give, he gave too late; for he had
already been wanting in his duty to Socrates. Because some men
harshly demand repayment of debts, we forbid it, not in order that
it may never be done, but that it may be done sparingly.

XXV. Aristippus once, when enjoying a perfume, said: "Bad luck to
those effeminate persons who have brought so nice a thing into
disrepute." We also may say, "Bad luck to those base extortioners
who pester us for a fourfold return of their benefits, and have
brought into disrepute so nice a thing as reminding our friends of
their duty." I shall nevertheless make use of this right of
friendship, and I shall demand the return of a benefit from any man
from whom I would not have scrupled to ask for one, such a man as
would regard the power of returning a benefit as equivalent to
receiving a second one. Never, not even when complaining of him,
would I say,

"A wretch forlorn upon the shore he lay,
His ship, his comrades, all were swept away;
Fool that I was, I pitied his despair,
And even gave him of my realm a share."

This is not to remind, but to reproach; this is to make one's
benefits odious to enable him, or even to make him wish to be
ungrateful. It is enough, and more than enough, to remind him of it
gently and familiarly:

"If aught of mine hath e'er deserved thy thanks."

To this his answer would be, "Of course you have deserved my
thanks; you took me up, 'a wretch forlorn upon the shore.'"

XXVI. "But," says our adversary, "suppose that we gain nothing by
this; suppose that he pretends that he has forgotten it, what ought
I to do?" You now ask a very necessary question, and one which
fitly concludes this branch of the subject, how, namely, one ought
to bear with the ungrateful. I answer, calmly, gently,
magnanimously. Never let any one's discourtesy, forgetfulness, or
ingratitude, enrage you so much that you do not feel any pleasure
at having bestowed a benefit upon him; never let your wrongs drive
you into saying, "I wish I had not done it." You ought to take
pleasure even in the ill-success of your benefit; he will always be
sorry for it, even though you are not even now sorry for it. You
ought not to be indignant, as if something strange had happened;
you ought rather to be surprised if it had not happened. Some are
prevented by difficulties, some by expense, and some by danger from
returning your bounty; some are hindered by a false shame, because
by returning it, they would confess that they had received it; with
others ignorance of their duty, indolence, or excess of business,
stands in the way. Reflect upon the insatiability of men's desires.
You need not be surprised if no one repays you in a world in which
no one ever gains enough. What man is there of so firm and
trustworthy a mind that you can safely invest your benefits in him?
One man is crazed with lust, another is the slave of his belly,
another gives his whole soul to gain, caring nothing for the means
by which he amasses it; some men's minds are disturbed by envy,
some blinded by ambition till they are ready to fling themselves on
the sword's point. In addition to this, one must reckon
sluggishness of mind and old age; and also the opposites of these,
restlessness and disturbance of mind, also excessive self-esteem
and pride in the very things for which a man ought to be despised.
I need not mention obstinate persistence in wrong-doing, or
frivolity which cannot remain constant to one point; besides all
this, there is headlong rashness, there is timidity which never
gives us trustworthy counsel, and the numberless errors with which
we struggle, the rashness of the most cowardly, the quarrels of our
best friends, and that most common evil of trusting in what is most
uncertain, and of undervaluing, when we have obtained it, that
which we once never hoped to possess. Amidst all these restless
passions, how can you hope to find a thing so full of rest as good

XXVII. If a true picture of our life were to rise before your
mental vision, you would, I think, behold a scene like that of a
town just taken by storm, where decency and righteousness were no
longer regarded, and no advice is heard but that of force, as if
universal confusion were the word of command. Neither fire nor
sword are spared; crime is unpunished by the laws; even religion,
which saves the lives of suppliants in the very midst of armed
enemies, does not check those who are rushing to secure plunder.
Some men rob private houses, some public buildings; all places,
sacred or profane, are alike stripped; some burst their way in,
others climb over; some open a wider path for themselves by
overthrowing the walls that keep them out, and make their way to
their booty over ruins; some ravage without murdering, others
brandish spoils dripping with their owner's blood; everyone carries
off his neighbours' goods. In this greedy struggle of the human
race surely you forget the common lot of all mankind, if you seek
among these robbers for one who will return what he has got. If you
are indignant at men being ungrateful, you ought also to be
indignant at their being luxurious, avaricious and lustful; you
might as well be indignant with sick men for being ugly, or with
old men for being pale. It is, indeed, a serious vice, it is not to
be borne, and sets men at variance with one another; nay, it rends
and destroys that union by which alone our human weakness can be
supported; yet it is so absolutely universal, that even those who
complain of it most are not themselves free from it.

XXVIII. Consider within yourself, whether you have always shown
gratitude to those to whom you owe it, whether no one's kindness
has ever been wasted upon you, whether you constantly bear in mind
all the benefits which you have received. You will find that those
which you received as a boy were forgotten before you became a man;
that those bestowed upon you as a young man slipped from your
memory when you became an old one. Some we have lost, some we have
thrown away, some have by degrees passed out of our sight, to some
we have wilfully shut our eyes. If I am to make excuses for your
weakness, I must say in the first place that human memory is a
frail vessel, and is not large enough to contain the mass of things
placed in it; the more it receives, the more it must necessarily
lose; the oldest things in it give way to the newest. Thus it comes
to pass that your nurse has hardly any influence with you, because
the lapse of time has set the kindness which you received from her
at so great a distance; thus it is that you no longer look upon
your teacher with respect; and that now when you are busy about
your candidature for the consulate or the priesthood, you forget
those who supported you in your election to the quaestorship. If
you carefully examine yourself, perhaps you will find the vice of
which you complain in your own bosom; you are wrong in being angry
with a universal failing, and foolish also, for it is your own as
well; you must pardon others, that you may yourself be acquitted.
You will make your friend a better man by bearing with him, you
will in all cases make him a worse one by reproaching him. You can
have no reason for rendering him shameless; let him preserve any
remnants of modesty which he may have. Too loud reproaches have
often dispelled a modesty which might have borne good fruit. No man
fears to be that which all men see that he is; when his fault is
made public, he loses his sense of shame.

XXIX. You say, "I have lost the benefit which I bestowed." Yet do
we say that we have lost what we consecrate to heaven, and a
benefit well bestowed, even though we get an ill return for it, is
to be reckoned among things consecrated. Our friend is not such a
man as we hoped he was; still, let us, unlike him, remain the same
as we were. The loss did not take place when he proved himself so;
his ingratitude cannot be made public without reflecting some shame
upon us, since to complain of the loss of a benefit is a sign that
it was not well bestowed. As far as we are able we ought to plead
with ourselves on his behalf: "Perhaps he was not able to return
it, perhaps he did not know of it, perhaps he will still do so." A
wise and forbearing creditor prevents the loss of some debts by
encouraging his debtor and giving him time. We ought to do the
same, we ought to deal tenderly with a weakly sense of honour.

XXX. "I have lost," say you, "the benefit which I bestowed." You
are a fool, and do not understand when your loss took place; you
have indeed lost it, but you did so when you gave it, the fact has
only now come to light. Even in the case of those benefits which
appear to be lost, gentleness will do much good; the wounds of the
mind ought to be handled as tenderly as those of the body. The
string, which might be disentangled by patience, is often broken by
a rough pull. What is the use of abuse, or of complaints? why do
you overwhelm him with reproaches? why do you set him free from his
obligation? even if he be ungrateful he owes you nothing after
this. What sense is there in exasperating a man on whom you have
conferred great favours, so as out of a doubtful friend to make a
certain enemy, and one, too, who will seek to support his own cause
by defaming you, or to make men say, "I do not know what the reason
is that he cannot endure a man to whom he owes so much; there must
be something in the background?" Any man can asperse, even if he
does not permanently stain the reputation of his betters by
complaining of them; nor will any one be satisfied with imputing
small crimes to them, when it is only by the enormity of his
falsehood that he can hope to be believed.

XXXI. What a much better way is that by which the semblance of
friendship, and, indeed, if the other regains to his right mind,
friendship itself is preserved! Bad men are overcome by unwearying
goodness, nor does any one receive kindness in so harsh and hostile
a spirit as not to love good men even while he does them wrong,
when they lay him under the additional obligation of requiring no
return for their kindness. Reflect, then, upon this: you say, "My
kindness has met with no return, what am I to do? I ought to
imitate the gods, those noblest disposers of all events, who begin
to bestow their benefits on those who know them not, and persist in
bestowing them on those who are ungrateful for them. Some reproach
them with neglect of us, some with injustice towards us; others
place them outside of their own world, in sloth and indifference,
without light, and without any functions; others declare that the
sun itself, to whom we owe the division of our times of labour and
of rest, by whose means we are saved from being plunged in the
darkness of eternal night; who, by his circuit, orders the seasons
of the year, gives strength to our bodies, brings forth our crops
and ripens our fruits, is merely a mass of stone, or a fortuitous
collection of fiery particles, or anything rather than a god. Yet,
nevertheless, like the kindest of parents, who only smile at the
spiteful words of their children, the gods do not cease to heap
benefits upon those who doubt from what source their benefits are
derived, but continue impartially distributing their bounty among
all the peoples and nations of the earth. Possessing only the power
of doing good, they moisten the land with seasonable showers, they
put the seas in movement by the winds, they mark time by the course
of the constellations, they temper the extremes of heat and cold,
of summer and winter, by breathing a milder air upon us; and they
graciously and serenely bear with the faults of our erring spirits.
Let us follow their example; let us give, even if much be given to
no purpose, let us, in spite of this, give to others; nay, even to
those upon whom our bounty has been wasted. No one is prevented by
the fall of a house from building another; when one home has been
destroyed by fire, we lay the foundations of another before the
site has had time to cool; we rebuild ruined cities more than once
upon the same spots, so untiring are our hopes of success. Men
would undertake no works either on land or sea if they were not
willing to try again what they have failed in once.

XXXII. Suppose a man is ungrateful, he does not injure me, but
himself; I had the enjoyment of my benefit when I bestowed it upon
him. Because he is ungrateful, I shall not be slower to give but
more careful; what I have lost with him, I shall receive back from
others. But I will bestow a second benefit upon this man himself,
and will overcome him even as a good husbandman overcomes the
sterility of the soil by care and culture; if I do not do so my
benefit is lost to me, and he is lost to mankind. It is no proof of
a great mind to give and to throw away one's bounty; the true test
of a great mind is to throw away one's bounty and still to give."

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