Valerius Maximus

-   Book 3 , chapters 1-3

Adapted from the translation by S. Speed (1678). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section.   

Contents:   I. Of Natural Disposition
II. Of Courage
III. Of Endurance
IV. Of those who though humbly born, have advanced to great honours
V. Of those who have degenerated, being born of noble ancestors
VI. {Of illustrious men, who used some license in dressing themselves differently from ancestral customs}
VII. Of Self-Confidence
VIII.   Of Pertinacity

Book 2

I.   Of Natural Disposition

I will now touch upon the childhoods of some men and the elements of their virtue, and of a soul that in process of time would advance to the height of glory, relating the foretastes of it given by sure tests of natural disposition.

[1.1] L   Aemilius Lepidus, while yet a boy, went into battle, killed an enemy, and saved a citizen; in memory of which action there is on the Capitol a statue wearing a bulla and a toga praetexta, placed there by order of the senate , who esteemed it unjust that he should not be of age for honour, who was so adult in virtue. Lepidus preceded what was to age ordained, by his earliness in acting bravely; carrying away a double honour out of the battle, of which his years scarcely admitted him to be a spectator. For the arms of men preparing for combat, drawn swords, the flight of missiles, the noise of cavalry charging, and the furious violence of armies joining, strike terror even into young men. Among all this the childhood of the Aemilian family was able to earn a crown, and carry away the spoils of the enemy.

[1.2] L   Similar courage was not lacking in the childhood of M. Cato. For he was being brought up in the house of M. Drusus his uncle, the tribune of the plebs, when the Latins came to him, requesting citizenship. At this time the boy was asked by Q. Poppedius, the leader of the Latins, who was staying at Drusus' house, to speak on their behalf to his uncle, but with an unperturbed countenance he replied that he would not: and being called on again and again, he continued in his resolve. Then Poppaedius taking him up into the highest part of the house, threatened to throw him down headlong, unless he would yield to his request; but nothing could make him alter his mind. This made the man cry out, "Happy is it for us Latins, and allies, that this is but a youth, from whom, if he were a senator, it would be impossible for us to obtain citizenship." For in his tender years Cato attained the gravity of the whole senate-house, and by his perseverance frustrated the Latins, who wished to possess the rights of our state.

The same person, coming in his toga praetexta to kiss the hand of Sulla, and seeing the heads of the proscribed persons brought into the porch of his house, moved with the horridness of the spectacle, asked his tutor Sarpedon why there was nobody to be found who would kill so great a tyrant? He answered, that men did not lack the will, but the opportunity, because Sulla's person was so strongly guarded. The lad requested that he might be given a sword, affirming that he could easily kill him, as being accustomed to sit by his couch. His tutor perceived his courage, but would not allow of his intention; and afterwards he always searched Cato before bringing him to Sulla. Nothing could be more admirable than this. A lad, taken to the very workshop of cruelty, did not fear the victor, who at that time murdered consuls, whole towns, legions, and the greater part of the order of knights. Had Marius been there himself, he would have sooner consulted his own safety, than the death of Sulla.

[1.3] L   Sulla's  son Faustus had a good cuff on the ear given him by C. Cassius his school-fellow, for saying in support of his father's proscriptions, that he would do the same, when he became a man. Such a hand should never have soiled itself with a public parricide.


[1e.1] L   And to relate a story of the Greeks about Alcibiades, of whom whether his virtues or his vices were most pernicious to his  country, we cannot say -for with the one he deceived his citizens, with the other he oppressed them - when he was a youth, coming to his uncle Pericles, he saw him sitting gloomily in a secluded place, and asked him, why he showed so much trouble in his countenance. He replied that he had by command of the city built the Propylaea of Minerva - that is, the gateway to the citadel - and did not know how to give any account of the vast amount of money spent in the task, and that therefore he was troubled. "Rather should you endeavour," said the boy, "to find out a way, how you should give no account of it." Thus a most great and wise man, not able to counsel himself, followed the advice of a child, and so ordered it, that the Athenians, being engaged in a sharp war with their neighbours, had no time to look after accounts. But let the Athenians consider, whether they have most reason to lament or be glad for the birth of Alcibiades; since the mind hesitates in a doubt between admiration and detestation of the man.

II.   Of Courage

Having dealt with the beginnings and growth of virtue, we will now proceed to the thing itself, whose most weighty force and efficacious nerves consist in courage. Nor am I ignorant, great founder of our city, Romulus, that the first honour of this nature ought to be assigned to you. But first permit me, I pray you, to relate another example, to which you yourself owe something of admiration; seeing that without the benefit of it Rome itself, your own work, would not have survived to be famous.

[2.1] L   When the Etruscans made an incursion into the city over the Sublician Bridge, Horatius Cocles defended the further end of it, and with an indefatigable fight withstood the whole body and force of the enemy, till the bridge was broken behind him; and when he saw his country freed from imminent danger, he flung himself armed into the Tiber. The immortal gods, in admiration for his courage, rewarded him with a safe retreat, so that he was neither hurt with the height of the fall, nor pressed down by the weight of his armour, nor swept away by the current of the river, nor touched  by the missiles that flew upon every side of him. And thereby he drew the eyes of all his fellow-citizens and of all his enemies upon his own single person; the one struck with admiration, the other in a trance between joy and fear. And he alone separated two great armies that were closely engaged, repelling the one, and defending the other. And lastly, by his single strength he was as great a guard to our city with his shield, as the Tiber was with its stream. And therefore the Etruscans as they departed might well say that they had vanquished the Romans, but were defeated by Horatius alone.

[2.2] L   Cloelia makes me almost forgetful of my purpose; she dared a most noble enterprise at the same time, against the same enemy, and in the same Tiber. For being given as hostage among other maidens to Porsenna, she escaped the guards in the night-time, and getting a horse, she quickly reached the river which she swam over; freeing her country not only from a siege, but from fear of danger - a girl, holding out a light of virtue to men.

[2.3] L   I now return to Romulus, who being challenged to combat by Acro king of the Caeninenses, though he believed himself superior both in the number and the courage of his soldiers, and that it was safer for him to fight with his whole army than in single combat, yet preferred with his own right hand to  seize the omen of victory. Nor did fortune fail his undertaking; for having slain Acro, and vanquished his enemies, he brought away rich spoils and trophies, which he offered to Jupiter Feretrius. About this let these words suffice: for virtue consecrated by public religion, needs no private praise.

[2.4] L   Next to Romulus is Cornelius Cossus, who consecrated his spoils to the same deity, when being master of the horse, he had slain the general of the Fidenates in battle. Great was Romulus in the commencement of this glory: and much was gained by Cossus, because he wished to imitate Romulus.

[2.5] L   Nor ought we to separate the memory of M. Marcellus from these examples, who had so great a courage, that he attacked the king of the Gauls, who was surrounded by a great army near the river Po, with only a few horsemen; forthwith he cut off his head, and despoiled him of his arms, which he dedicated to Jupiter .

[2.6] L   The same virtue, and the same manner of combat was used by  T. Manlius Torquatus, Valerius Corvinus, and Aemilianus Scipio : for they voluntarily challenged the generals of the enemy, and slew them; but because they did those actions under the auspices of others, they did not dedicate their spoils to Jupiter Feretrius.

The same Scipio Aemilianus, being in Spain under the command of Lucullus, at the time when the strong town of Intercatia was besieged, was the first that got upon the walls. Neither was there any person in the whole army, considering his nobility, his hopeful youth, and future deeds, whose safety ought to have been more regarded and consulted. But in those days the most noble young men, in order to enlarge and defend their country, sustained the greatest pains and perils, deeming it below themselves to excel in dignity and not in virtue. Therefore Aemilianus chose a warlike life, which others avoided because of its dangers.

[2.7] L   To be added to these, antiquity offers a most famous example of courage. When the Romans were defeated by the army of the Gauls, and forced to withdraw into the Capitol and the citadel, well knowing that the walls of these hills were not able to receive their whole number, they took a necessary decision to leave their old people in the lower part of the city, so that the young men might be the better enabled to defend what was left. Yet at that most miserable and calamitous time, our city was not forgetful of their ancient virtue: for those who had served as magistrates sat with their doors open, on their curule chairs, with the emblems of their magistracy and priesthood, that in their night of sorrow they retained the splendour and ornaments of their past life, and might encourage the people more courageously to undergo the burden of their calamity. Their aspect was venerable in the sight of their enemies, who were not a little moved at the novelty of what they saw, considering the magnificence of their ornaments, and their strange kind of bravery. But who could doubt that the Gauls, now victors, would soon turn their admiration into laughter, and into all manner of insults? Therefore C. Atilius would not wait to endure that injury; for he fiercely struck his stick across the head of a Gaul who too familiarly stroked his beard, offering his body freely to the soldier that out of anger came rushing to kill him. Thus virtue knows not how to be captured, and scorns to suffer indignity. To yield to fortune it accounts sadder than any death; and it invents new and honourable ways of perishing, if he may be said to perish who comes to such an end.

[2.8] L   We must now give due honour and glory to the Roman youth, who when C. Sempronius Atratinus the consul had fought unsuccessfully at the battle of Verrugo against the Volsci, lest our army, just upon the point of fleeing, should be turned into a rout, dismounted from their horses, and formed themselves into centuries. After breaking through the enemy's ranks and forcing them to withdraw; they took possession of the next hills, and so brought it about that the Volsci turned all their force upon them, giving our legions in the meantime a respite to recover their courage. And thus while they hoped to obtain the trophies, the night separated both armies, uncertain whether they parted victors or vanquished.

[2.9] L   The noble flower of the order of knights were they also, by whose wonderful courage Fabius Maximus Rullianus, master of the horse, was released from the reproach which he was likely to have faced, of loosing a battle to the Samnites. For when Papirius Cursor had gone to the city to seek new auspices, he was left in command in his absence. And although he had been told not lead the army out to battle, yet at length he joined battle with the enemy, and fought not so unsuccessfully as rashly, for without question he had the worst of the battle. Then the young nobles pulled the bridles off their horses, and spurred them with all their might into the ranks of the enemy. By their obstinate gallantry they obtained a victory wrung out of the grasp of the enemy, and gave fresh hope to Rullianus, to be one of the greatest of our citizens.

[2.10] L   But of what a prodigious strength were those soldiers, who wading the slippery sea as they had been on firm land, hauled back the Punic fleet by main strength to the shore, though they were endeavouring to fly with the labour of all their oars?

[2.11] L   About the same time, and of the same great repute was that soldier, who at the battle of Cannae, where Hannibal rather broke the power than the courage of the Romans, when his wounded hands were unable to hold his weapons, grasping around the neck a Numidian that came to strip him, bit off his ears and his nose, expiring in the midst of that revenge. An odd kind of outcome in a fight, where the party killed is stronger than he that kills him! For the Carthaginian, vulnerable in victory, gave pleasure to the dying person, and the Roman was his own avenger at the very conclusion of his life.

[2.12] L   The outstanding and courageous spirit of that soldier in adversity is similar to the action of a general, which I am about to describe. Publius Crassus, while making war in Asia against Aristonicus, was trapped by the Thracians, of which Aristonicus had a great number as his allies, between Smyrna and Elea. Fearing that he would come into their power, he avoided the shame by resolving to die. For he thrust his riding crop into the eye of one of the barbarians, who enraged with the pain, pierced Crassus in the side with his sword; and while he avenged himself, freed the Roman general from the shame of losing his honour. Crassus showed Fortune that she intended to punish a person altogether unworthy of so great an indignity, as being one that not only wisely but courageously broke out of the snares which she had laid for his liberty, and restored his own dignity to himself, although now given over to Aristonicus.

[2.13] L   The same resolution was used by Scipio, who having unsuccessfully defended the cause of Pompey his son-in-law in Africa, endeavoured to escape into Spain. Understanding that the ship wherein he was sailing was about to be taken by the enemy, he ran himself through; and calling out upon the poop, when Caesar's soldiers asked where the commander was, he made answer, "The commander is well" - having power only to speak so much as to testify, to his eternal praise, the greatness of his mind.

[2.14] L   No less the monument of Utica was your last breath, mighty Cato; out of whose wounds flowed more glory than blood. For with a fierce resolution falling upon your sword, you were a most noble example of instruction, that to all good men dignity and honour without life, is far better than life without honour.

[2.15] L   His daughter had no womanish spirit: knowing the resolution that her husband Brutus had taken to kill Caesar, the night before the day when that most horrid act was committed, as soon as Brutus was gone out of the chamber, she called for a razor, pretending to pare her nails; and as if she had let it fall by chance, gave herself a wound with it. Upon the cry of her maids Brutus came in, and began to chide her that she had taken the barber's trade out of his hands. To whom she privately whispered, "This is no rash action of mine; but as things now stand, a most certain proof of my love towards you. For I was resolved to try, if your purpose should not succeed according to your desire, how bravely and patiently I could kill myself."

[2.16] L   More happy in his offspring was the elder Cato, out of whose loins sprang the Porcian family. When his son was in battle sorely pressed upon by his enemy, his sword fell out of the scabbard, which though he saw it was surrounded with such numbers of his enemies, yet such was his obstinacy to recover it, that he would not give up till he had it: so that at length he seemed not to have wrung it out of the hands of danger, but to pick it up in security. The sight of this so amazed his enemies, that the next day they came to him to sue for peace.

[2.17] L   The courage of the toga may be mixed in with warlike actions, deserving the same honour in courts of justice as in the camp. When Ti. Gracchus, having got the favour of the people by his generosity, endeavoured to oppress the commonwealth, he openly declared that the senate ought to be put to death, and all things be transacted by the people. The senate, being summoned into the temple of Public Faith by Mucius Scaevola the consul, began to consult what at such a time should be done: and all being of opinion, that the consul ought to protect the commonwealth by force of arms, Scaevola denied that he would do any thing by force. Then replied Scipio Nasica, "Because the consul, while he follows the course of law, does that which will bring both the law and all the Roman empire in jeopardy, I as a private person offer myself to take the lead according to the senate's will." Then wrapping his left hand in the upper part of his [2.18] L   Also when Saturninus, tribune of the plebs, the praetor Glaucia, and Equitius, designated tribune of the plebs, had raised a most terrible sedition in our city, and nobody dared to stand against the fury of the people, M. Aemilius Scaurus was the first that urged C. Marius, consul for the sixth time, that he should defend the laws and liberty by the sword. Presently he commanded arms to be brought, and when they arrived, put them upon his aged body, now almost quite wasted with age; and then leaning upon his spear, stood before the door of the senate-house. With the small remnants of his life, he kept the commonwealth from expiring. For the constancy of his mind encouraged the senate and the order of knights to take revenge.

[2.19] L   But as we have hitherto related the courage of arms and the toga, let us remember the divine Julius, the chief glory of all the stars, the truest pattern of virtue. When he saw his men almost giving way to the innumerable multitude and fury of the Nervii, taking a shield out of a soldier's hand, whom he beheld fighting but weakly, he began under its cover to behave with great vigour; by which act he infused courage into the whole army, and restored the tottering fortune of the battle. The same person seeing the eagle-bearer of the Martian legion with his back turned in a posture of flight, caught him by the throat and brought him back to his place again; and then stretching his right hand toward the enemy, he cried out, "Why do you go that way? There is the enemy that you should be fighting." Thus with his hands he corrected one soldier, but with that severe reprimand, he corrected the timorousness of all the legions, and taught them who were ready to be overcome, how to vanquish.

[2.20] L   But we may proceed to another act of human valour: when Hannibal besieged the Roman army in Capua, Vibius Acceus, prefect of a Paelignian cohort, threw a standard over the Carthaginian rampart, cursing himself and his fellow-soldiers if ever they let the enemy get possession of it. To recover it again, he was the first that made the assault, and the whole cohort followed him. When Valerius Flaccus, a tribune of the third legion, saw this, he turned to his own men and said, "I see we are come here to be spectators of other mens' virtue; but for be it from us to suffer the glory of the Romans to yield place to the valour of the Latins. For my own part, I desire either an honourable death, or a happy issue of my boldness; therefore I am resolved to charge ahead though I am alone." Hearing these words, Pedanius the centurion picked up the standard, and holding it in his right hand, "This," said he, "shall be with me within the enemy's rampart: let them follow that are unwilling it should be captured." With that he rushed into the Carthaginian camp, drawing the whole legion after him. Thus the courageous audacity of three men made Hannibal, who thought himself master of Capua, hardly able to be safe in his own camp.

[2.21] L   Neither was Q. Curius upon any way behind them in courage, who for his bravery was surnamed Achilles. For not to reckon up all his famous actions, we shall make it clear by two achievements only, how great a warrior he was. At the time when Metellus was consul, he was sent as a legate into Spain, to fight in the Celtiberian War under the command of consul. Hearing that he was challenged out to fight by a certain young man of that nation, though he were then just going to dinner, he caused his arms and his horse to be secretly conveyed out of the camp - lest the consul should forbid him, or otherwise hinder him - and following the Celtiberian, who was vauntingly riding to and fro about the field, slew him, and taking the spoils of his dead enemy, returned triumphant to the camp. He also compelled Pyresus, one of the most noble and brave among the Celtiberians, who also gave him a personal challenge, to yield to him. Nor was that noble youth ashamed to give him his own sword and soldier's cloak in full view of both armies; and he also requested that, as soon as there was peace between the Celtiberians and the Romans, there might be a strict bond of friendship between them.

[2.22] L   Nor must we pass over Acilius; who being a soldier of the tenth legion, and fighting on C. Caesar's behalf in a naval engagement, when they had cut off his right hand with which he held a ship of the Massilians took hold of the vessel with his left: nor did leave fighting till the ship was taken and sunk. This achievement is less well known that it deserves; but the valour of Cynegirus the Athenian, whose pertinacity in pursuit of the enemy was not unlike this, Greece, so fluent in extolling the praises of her own heroes, has sufficiently inculcated into the memory of posterity.

[2.23] L   After the naval glory of Acilius, we will relate the terrestrial praise of M. Caesius Scaeva, a centurion under the command of the same general. For in defending a fort which was committed to his charge, and which Justuleius, a prefect of Pompey, endeavoured to take with a great number of men, he slew all who ventured to come near; and fighting on foot without the least retreating, at length he fell upon a vast heap of men that he had slain. His head, shoulders, and thighs were cut and mangled, his eyes poked out, his shield pierced through in a hundred and twenty places. Such soldiers did the discipline of the divine Julius breed; of which the one with the loss of his right hand, the other with the loss of his eyes, terrified their enemies; the one after his loss a victor, the other a loser, yet not vanquished. But your invincible courage, O Scaevius, in both parts of nature, I know not how to extol with admiration enough, because by your excellent virtue you have left it doubtful, whether you made a more noble fight at sea, or spoke a braver speech by land. For in the war wherein Caesar, not content to limit his fame within the bounds of the Ocean, laid his celestial hands upon the island of Britain, he was carried with four of his soldiers, and set ashore upon a rock near the land, which the enemy had occupied with a very strong army. After the ebb tide, by the falling of the water, had made the passage easy from the island to the rock, which was separated before, he was assaulted by a very great number of the barbarians. The other Romans returned to the shore by ship, but Scaevius alone kept his position immoveable, the missiles flying about his ears, and the enemy every way endeavouring to assail him; he hurled at the bodies of his adversaries as many javelins with his single right hand, as would have served five soldiers for a whole day's battle: at length, drawing his sword and beating back his enemies, sometimes with his sword point, and sometimes with the shield boss, he became such a spectacle of wonder, not only to the Romans, but to the Britons also, that none but those that beheld it, could have imagined. At length, anger and shame forced them that were tired to do their utmost, while he, run through the thigh, his face battered with stones, his helmet broken in several places, committed himself to the sea, and laden with two coats of armour, escaped through the waves, which he had dyed with the blood of his enemies. Coming to his general, not having lost his arms, but having well employed them, although he deserved his praise, he begged his pardon - great in fight, but greater in the remembrance of military discipline. Therefore both his deeds and his words were rewarded, by the best estimator and judge of  virtue, with the honour of a centurion's command.

[2.24] L   But let us conclude all the examples of the courage of Roman warriors, by remembering L. Siccius Dentatus; whose deeds, and the rewards of his actions, may be thought to exceed the limits of belief, if it were not for the trustworthiness of the authors, among whom we find M. Varro, who attest the same in their accounts. They affirm that he was in an hundred and twenty pitched battles, being endued with such courage of  mind and strength of body, that he seemed to carry away the greatest share of the victory. Of these battles, there were eight wherein he fought in single combat, while both armies looked on. He is said to have saved fourteen citizens, to have received forty five wounds upon his breast, not having a single scar upon his back. He followed nine separate triumphal chariots of different generals, drawing the eyes of the whole city towards him by the number and glory of his rewards. For he had eight golden crowns, fourteen civic-crowns, and three mural-crowns, together with one siege garland, eighty-three collars, one hundred and sixty armlets, eighteen spears, twenty-five bosses, and decorations sufficient for a legion, rather than for the use of a single soldier.


[2e.1] L   Blood from many bodies was mingled together, casing great amazement, in the town of Cales, where Fulvius Flaccus had condemned the chief men of the city to be executed for their treachery in Campania, but he was by letters from the senate ordered to put an end to the executions. T. Vibellius Taurea a Campanian freely offered himself up, crying out as loud as he could, "Because, O Fulvius, you are so eager to shed blood, why do you delay to plunge your sword into my bowels, so that you may have an occasion to boast, that you once killed a man who was braver than yourself?" Fulvius replied that he would gladly do it, but that he had been ordered otherwise by the Senate. "Behold me, then," replied the other, "upon whom the conscript fathers have laid no commands - performing an action pleasing to your eyes, and with a greater spirit than yours." And immediately he killed his wife and children, and fell upon his own sword. What kind of person must we believe him to be, who was so willing with the slaughter of himself and his family to testify, that he would rather vilify the cruelty of Fulvius, than make use of the mercy of the Senate?

[2e.2] L   Again, how great was the courage of Darius, who, when he freed the Persians from the sordid and cruel tyranny of the Magi, having cast down one of the Magi in a secluded place, and pressing with all his weight upon him, perceived that one of his companions in this noble enterprise was afraid to strike the tyrant, for fear of hurting Darius. He cried out, "Do not use your sword at all timidly for my sake; rather thrust it through us both, that this fellow may die the more speedily."

[2e.3] L   In this place we meet with Leonidas, a noble Spartan - nothing could be more courageous than his resolution, enterprise and end. For being placed in the narrows of Thermopylae against the whole force of Asia, only with three hundred of his countrymen, through the obstinacy of his virtue, he drove Xerxes to despair, though a little before he was a burden both to sea and land, not only terrible to men, but one that threatened to chain the sea, and darken the heavens. But when Leonidas through the treachery of the local inhabitants was deprived of the advantage of the place, he resolved to die, rather than leave the position where his country had sent him. And therefore he exhorted his men with much cheerfulness to that battle, where they were sure to perish, crying out, "Fellow-soldiers, let us eat like those whose next meal will be in the other world." Death was all they could expect, yet fearlessly they obeyed their leader, as if sure of victory.

[2e.4] L   The glorious fight and death of Othryades, makes Thyreatis seem larger in renown than it is in extent. He deprived the enemy of victory, by letters written with his own blood; and after his own death,  as it were brought back into the bosom of his country the trophies inscribed in his blood.

[2e.5] L   But a sad outcome comes next, after those most excellent efforts of Spartan valour. Epaminondas, the chief glory of Thebes, and the foremost scourge of Lacedemonians, when he had broken the ancient glory and until then invincible public glory of that city, in the two battles of Mantinea and Leuctra, was run through with a spear, and grew faint for lack of blood and breath. He asked those who endeavoured to revive him, firstly, whether his shield were safe; and next, whether the enemy was completely defeated. When he heard the answers that he desired, "Fellow-soldiers," said he, "this is not the end of my life, but a fortunate and auspicious beginning. For your Epaminondas is now born, because he thus dies. I see Thebes by my conduct and command the head of all Greece. The strong and courageous city of Sparta submits, vanquished by our arms, and Greece is freed from its bitter tyranny. Not having children, yet I do not die without offspring; I leave Leuctra and Mantinea behind me." Then he commanded that the spear should be pulled out of his body, and expired. If the immortal gods had allowed him to enjoy his victories, a more glorious protector would never have entered the walls of any city.

[2e.6] L   Nor was the courage of Theramenes the Athenian inconsiderable; he was compelled to die in prison, where without any sign of fear he drank the poison prepared for him by the Thirty Tyrants; he jokingly splashed the remains of it on the ground, and smiling upon the public officer that brought it, "Tell Critias," he said, "I pledge to him, and therefore take care that you carry the cup to him, as soon as you can." Now this Critias was the cruellest of all the tyrants. Certainly,  to endure punishment so easily is to free oneself from punishment. And thus Theramenes, as if he had died in his bed, departed this life; by his enemies he was thought to have been punished, but in his own opinion he yielded only to common fate.

[2e.7] L   Theramenes received his courage from learning and education. But the untamed nature of his people taught Rhoetogenes the Numantine to take the same course. For when the affairs of Numantia were in a ruined and hopeless condition, he, who excelled all others of his people in wealth, honour and nobility, collected a great quantity of combustible matter and set fire to his own block of buildings, which was the fairest in the whole city. Laying a naked sword in the middle, he commanded the people to fight together two by two, so that the body of the loser, with his throat cut, might be cast upon the flames. And having by this bitter combat consumed everybody else, at length he threw himself into the fire.

[2e.8] L   And that I may relate the destruction of a city that had an equal enmity towards us: when Carthage was taken, the wife of Hasdrubal accused him of disloyalty because he begged only for his own life at Scipio's hands. Taking her children which she had by him in her right and left hand - they were willing to die - she flung herself into the flaming ruins of her city.

[2e.9] L   To this example of female valour, I will add the brave death of two maidens. When through the most virulent sedition of the Syracusans, the whole family of king Gelon, having been afflicted with endless calamities, was reduced to one daughter, a maiden named Harmonia, and the enemy made several attempts of violence upon her, then her nurse took a child somewhat like her, and having dressed her in royal apparel, exposed her to the fury of her enemies. Even when she was about to be slain, the child would not reveal her true identify. Harmonia admired her courage, and not willing to outlive so much loyalty, called back the murderers, and admitted who she was, by which she caused her own death. Thus a concealed deception was the doom of one maiden, and the open truth the destruction of the other.

III.   Of Endurance

Courage has been made apparent to the eyes of men by the famous deeds of both men and women: and by her incitement, endurance comes next, which is grounded upon similarly firm foundations, not being endued with a less generous soul, but so like the one to the other, that she seems to have received her birth either with her or from her.

[3.1] L   For what has a greater resemblance to what I have previously related, than the act of Mucius, who grieving to see our city vexed with a long and arduous war by Porsenna king of the Etruscans, secretly went armed into his camp, and attempted to slay him as he was sacrificing before the altar. But failing in that enterprise, and being arrested, he did not conceal the reason for his coming; and besides that, with a wonderful endurance showed how little he feared any torment they could put him to. For as it were out of an enmity to his right hand, because he could not use it in killing the king, he held it in the fire, enduring it to be burnt off. Certainly the immortal gods never beheld with more heedful eyes any offering made them. And it forced Porsenna himself, forgetful of the danger, to turn his vengeance into admiration. "Return," he said, "to your own friends, and tell them how I have given you your your life though you were seeking mine." Mucius, who in no way flattered the king's clemency, being more  sorry to see him still alive than grateful for his own life, returned to the city with a surname of eternal glory, being called Scaevola.

[3.2] L   Most commendable also is the virtue of Pompeius; who being sent upon an embassy, was captured on the way by king Gentius, and when he was commanded to reveal the intentions of the senate, instead he thrust his finger into a burning candle. His endurance  made the king not only despair of getting anything out of him by force, but also very desirous of the friendship of the Romans. But lest, in enumerating more domestic examples of this sort, I should be forced to embroil myself in the description of our civil discords, I shall be content with these two examples - which  bring glory to the most illustrious families, without causing any public grief -  and I shall pass on to those of foreign nations.


[3e.1] L   In accordance with the ancient custom of Macedonia, the sons of the most eminent noblemen always used to attend upon king Alexander when he sacrificed. Among them there was one who, while he stood before the king holding the censer, had a live coal fall upon his arm; and though this burnt his flesh so vehemently that the stink thereof offended the nostrils of all the bystanders by, yet the lad would by no means reveal his pain, fearing to disturb the sacrifice by dropping the censer, or to offend the king's ears by complaining. The king, well pleased with the endurance of the youth, and willing to test it further, prolonged the sacrifice beyond its usual time; yet nothing would alter the determination of the lad. Had Darius cast his eyes upon this marvel, he would have known that soldiers of such a race were not to be overcome, when in their tender age he beheld them endued with such a strength.

There is that vehement and constant discipline of the mind, I mean philosophy excelling in learning, ruler of the venerable mysteries of wisdom, which when it is received into the breast of men, they presently lay aside all dishonest and unworthy affections, and being armed with the true weapons of virtue, they rise above all fear and thought of pain.

[3e.2] L   I will begin from Zenon of Elea; who being a most wise observer of the nature of things, and most sedulous to kindle courage and vigour in the minds of youth, gave credit to his precepts by the example of his own virtue. For leaving his country, where he might have lived secure in liberty, he went to Agrigentum, then groaning under a most miserable servitude. He confided in his conversations that he was in good hopes to induce the tyrant, though he was Phalaris, to abandon the savagery of his rude nature. After some time, observing that the habit of despotism moved him more than wholesome counsels, he stirred up and inflamed the minds of the most noble youths with a desire of recovering their liberty. When this was revealed to the tyrant, he called the people into the market-place, and in their presence began to punish Zenon with most exquisite torments. But though the tyrant often asked him who were his associates in the conspiracy, Zenon would name none of them, but only those that were the tyrant's chief friends and supporters. Then, upbraiding the Agrigentines for their sloth and fearfulness, he raised such a sudden commotion in their minds, that they fell upon the tyrant and stoned him to death. This was not a suppliant voice, the miserable cries of an old man upon the rack, but a strong and serious exhortation, that changed the courage and fortune of the whole city.

[3e.3] L   A philosopher of the same name, being put upon the rack by Nearchus the tyrant, whom he had conspired to kill, not only appeared a conqueror of his pain and punishment in concealing his associates, but showed himself eager for revenge; and therefore telling the tyrant that he had something to declare, which it was fit that nobody else should hear, he was thereupon loosened from the rack, and pretending to whisper in the tyrant's ear, when he saw his opportunity, caught his ear in his teeth, nor would let go, till along with the loss of his life, the tyrant had lost a part of his body.

[3e.4] L   Anaxarchus imitating the same endurance, and being put upon the rack by Nicocreon, tyrant of Cyprus, could by no means be restrained from casting the most bitter taunts and reproaches imaginable against the tyrant. When at length the tyrant threatened to cut out his tongue, "This part of my body also," said he, "effeminate young man, shall be outside your power" - and presently biting it off with his teeth, when he had sufficiently chewed it, he spat it into the mouth of the tyrant, who was  gaping from anger. That tongue had wonderfully impressed the ears of many, especially of Alexander the king, as it previously so wisely and eloquently described the condition of the earth, the situation of the sea, the motion of the stars, and lastly the nature of the whole world. Yet he died more gloriously than he lived, seeing such a courageous conclusion confirmed the splendour of his profession, and adorned it with such a noble end. And his tongue not only embellished the life of Anaxarchus, but also rendered his death more glorious.

[3e.5] L   In vain did Hieronymus the tyrant weary the hands of the executioners with the tortures of Theodorus, a most eminent person. For the tyrant was forced to break his whips, loosen the strings, take him from the rack, and quench the burning plates, before he could make him confess any of his associates. At length, by accusing one of the tyrant's guards, upon whose shoulders as upon hinges the whole weight of the government hung, he remove one of the tyrant's most faithful friends. And by the benefit of his endurance he not only concealed the secrets of the conspiracy, but occasioned his own revenge. For Hieronymus, while he covetously tore his enemy's flesh, rashly lost his friend.

[3e.6] L   Among the Indians the exercise of endurance is reported to be so persistently observed, that are some who go naked all their days, hardening their bodies in the extreme cold of Mount Caucasus, sometimes walking through fire without any complaint. And by this contempt of pain, they gain no small honour, receiving from thence the title of wisdom.

[3e.7] L   Such things as those arise from minds high and full of knowledge: but this is no less to be admired in a slave. A barbarian slave, grieving at the killing of his master, forthwith set upon Hasdrubal, and slew him. And although after being arrested he was tormented in all manner of ways, yet he constantly retained in his mouth the joy which he had in his revenge. 

Virtue therefore, not fastidious in how it is attained, allows itself to be possessed by those who have vigorous spirits; nor does it afford a portion of itself large or thrifty according to the difference of the persons, but being open equally to all, it values the aspirations that you have more than your worth. And therefore it leaves you to determine the weight of its benefits, so that you may carry away with you just as much as your spirit is able to bear.  

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