Valerius Maximus

-   Book 3 , chapters 4-8

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

Previous chapters (1-3)

IV.   Of those who though humbly born, have advanced to great honours

Therefore it happens many times, that men born of humble parentage reach the highest places of honour and preferment; and on the contrary, that men of most noble extraction, falling into some disgrace, change that splendour which they received from their ancestors into darkness. This will appear more apparent by the examples. I shall begin with those whose change, from a low to a high position, provides a pleasing subject for narration.

[4.1] L   A poor country hut held the infancy of Tullus Hostilius. His youth was employed in keeping sheep, his riper years governed the Roman empire, and doubled  it in size; his old age, embellished with most splendid honours, stood at the highest pinnacle of majesty.

[4.2] L   Though Tullus was a  great man, and admirable in his growing great, yet he was only a local example. But Tarquinius Priscus was brought by Fortune to our city to possess the kingdom of Rome. He was a foreigner, because he was born at Corinth; to be scorned, because he was the son of a merchant; and one to be ashamed of, because his father Demaratus was an exile. But his vigour made the prosperous outcome of his condition glorious rather than invidious. For he extended the bounds of the empire, and reformed the worship of the gods with new priesthoods. He increased the number of senators, and amplified the order of knights. And - what was the perfection of his praises - his most eminent virtues were such, that the city had no cause to repent that it had rather borrowed a king from her neighbours, than chosen one of its own.

[4.3] L   But in Servius Tullius Fortune showed her greatest power, by giving a slave-born king to this city; who happened to rule for many years, to appoint a lustrum four times, and to triumph thrice. In brief, whence he came, and how far he proceeded, is sufficiently demonstrated by the inscription of his statue, which contains a servile surname and a royal title.

[4.4] L   By a remarkable rise Varro ascended to the consulship, from his father's butcher stall. Yet Fortune thought it not enough to bestow the twelve fasces upon one brought up by the gains of the most sordid merchandise, unless she had given him L. Aemilius Paullus to be his colleague. And he so insinuated himself into her favour, that when by his rashness he had ruined the power of Rome at the battle of Cannae, yet she suffered Aemilius - who had opposed giving battle - to be slain, but brought Varro safe back to Rome. What is more, she brought forth the senate to meet him outside the gates, to give him thanks that he was willing to return; and so advanced him, that the dictatorship was awarded to the author of their greatest calamity.

[4.5] L   M. Perperna was no small disgrace to the consulship, because he  was made consul before he was a citizen; but in war he was more a profitable general for the commonwealth than Varro. For he captured king Aristonicus, and avenged the slaughter of Crassus and his army. Yet though in life he had triumphed, in death he was condemned by the Papian Law: for his father, who was not able to claim the privileges of a Roman citizen, was prosecuted therefore by the Sabelli, and compelled to return to his original station. Thus was the name of Perperna hidden in shadows, his consulship a foggy kind of authority, and his fading triumph like an interloper in a city where he did not belong.

[4.6] L   But the advancement of Porcius Cato should have been sought with public vows. He rendered his name most famous at Rome, although it was scarcely known in Tusculum. By him the lasting monuments of the Latin language were adorned, military discipline reformed, the majesty of the senate increased, and his family established - to which the last Cato was no small honour.


[4e.1] L   But to join foreign examples to the Romans: Socrates, who was not only by common consent of all persons, but also by the oracle of Apollo judged to be the wisest among men, was born of Phaenarete a midwife, and Sophroniscus a stone-cutter; yet he came to be one of the most resplendent lights of glory, and deservedly so. For when the wits of most learned men were busied in pointless disputations - who endeavoured to set forth the measurements of the sun, moon, and the rest of the stars, rather by multiplicity of words, than certain arguments, for they undertook to tell the dimensions of the whole world - he diverted men from these unlearned errors, and taught them to dive into the nature of man, and the secret thoughts that lay hidden in his breast. So that if virtue should be esteemed for itself, he was the master who best taught the rules of life.

[4e.2] L   What father Euripides had, or what mother Demosthenes had, was unknown even to the age in which they lived in. Yet the most certain opinion of the learned is, that the mother of the one sold vegetables, and the father of the other dealt in knives. However, what can be more famous than the tragedies of the one, and the orations of the other?

V.   Of those who have degenerated, being born of noble ancestors

Here follows the second part of a double promise, to be made good by relating the stains on the families of illustrious men. Because we are about to relate the stories of those that have degenerated from the glory of their ancestors - noble portents steeped in the filth of sloth and iniquity.

[5.1] L   For what could be more monstrous than the son of the elder Scipio Africanus? He, who took his origin from so illustrious a family, could endure to allow himself to be captured by a small detachment of king Antiochus. It would have been better for him to have died a voluntary death, than between two of the most famous surnames - the one obtained by the defeat of Africa, and the other about to be got by the conquest of Asia, which had already been mostly achieved - to suffer his hands to be bound by the enemy, and for a pitiful life to depend on the mercy of a king, over whom L. Scipio was soon to obtain a triumph, most glorious in the sight of gods and men. 

Coming to claim the praetorship, the same man appeared in the Campus with a white toga so stained by his depravity, that had it not been for the favour of Cicereius, who was his father's secretary, he would not have obtained the honour. But it made no great difference whether he was rejected or gained the praetorship in such a way; for when the bystanders saw what dishonour he brought on the praetorship, they made sure that would not dare to set down his chair, nor to hear legal cases. Moreover, they took a ring off his finger, upon which the head of Africanus was engraved. Good gods! From what lightning did you suffer so much darkness to be born!

[5.2] L   Again, Q. Fabius Maximus, the son of Q. Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus - an illustrious citizen and general - what a luxurious and dissolute life he led! To ignore his other vices, yet might his character be seen by one act of disgrace, that Q. Pompeius, the city praetor, would not allow him to possess his father's goods. Neither was there any person in so great a city, that would speak against this decree. For men grieved to see that that money, which ought to maintain the splendour of the Fabian family, should be spent in debauchery and excess. Thus the one whom his father's indulgence left as heir, the state's severity disinherited.

[5.3] L   Clodius Pulcher was in great favour with the people; yet his wife Fulvia, who wore a dagger, showed that he allowed military honour to be subject to the commands of a woman. Their son, called also by the name of Pulcher, as well as leading a slothful and effeminate life in his youth, was also infamous for his vile love of the most common whores, and died a most shameful death. For his belly being eaten up, he surrendered his life to the greedy appetite of his own intemperance.

[5.4] L   Hortensius Corbio also, the grandson of Quintus Hortensius - who among a great crowd of gifted and illustrious citizens, attained the highest degree of eloquence and authority - led a life more obscure and sordid, than all the strumpets put together. At length his tongue was as ready for the pleasure and lust of everyone in the brothel, as his father's oratory was diligently employed in the forum for the good of his fellow-citizens.

VI.   {Of illustrious men, who used some license in dressing themselves differently from ancestral customs}

I am not ignorant what a dangerous path I have taken. Therefore I will recall myself, lest while I continue to pursue the remaining shipwrecks and abominations of the same nature, I should involve myself in useless narratives. I will therefore retreat, and suffer those deformed shadows to lie hid in the deep abyss of their own shame. I think it is more apt to tell which illustrious personages have given themselves some liberty in their appearance and clothing, introducing new fashions.

[6.1] L   P. Scipio, when he was in Sicily, there intent upon reinforcing and transporting his army into Africa, with the sole purpose of destroying Carthage, was at the same time accustomed to use the gymnasium, and wore a pallium and sandals. Yet he did not in any way handle the Carthaginians the more softly for that. For his recreation made him more eager, seeing that strong and active wits, the more they use relaxation, the more vehement they are in command. Thereby perhaps he also thought to win the favour of the allies, while he followed their habitual clothing and pastimes. For to those exercises he applied himself, when he had much and long tired himself, and had constrained his other limbs to prove their strength by military labours. He was wearied by the one, and refreshed by the other.

[6.2] L   We likewise behold the statue of L. Scipio on the Capitol, wearing a chlamys and sandals. Clearly he would have wished his image be made in an outfit that he used to wear.

[6.3] L   L. Sulla also, when he was general, thought it no disgrace to walk the streets of Neapolis wearing a chlamys and sandals.

[6.4] L   C. Duilius also, who first celebrated a naval triumph over the Carthaginians, when he had been feasting, used to return home with burning torches and a flute-player and a lyre-player going before him, causing his noble success in war to be celebrated by his nocturnal revelling.

[6.5] L   Papirius Masso also, not being able to obtain a triumph, though he conducted a successful campaign, began a new way of triumphing on the Alban Mount, and set a precedent for others to follow afterwards. When he was present at any show, he wore a myrtle instead of a laurel crown.

[6.6] L   Unusual also was the act of C. Marius, who having triumphed over Jugurtha, the Cimbri, and the Teutones, was always accustomed to drink out of a cup called a cantharus, because father Liber, returning out of Asia in triumph from India, was said to have used that sort of cup - so that while he drank, he might seem to compare his victories with those of the god.

[6.7] L   Marcus Cato also, when he was  praetor, conducted the trials of Scaurus and the other defendants, without his tunic, wearing only his toga praetexta.

VII.   Of Self-Confidence

These, and other examples like them, are marks of a virtue assuming something to itself, by a new form of liberty. But by the examples that follow, it shall appear how confident virtue is of itself.

[7.1] L   When P. and Cn. Scipio with the greatest part of their army were destroyed by the Punic forces, and all the people of that province sided with the Carthaginians, no other of our generals dared to venture thither. Publius Scipio, being then in his twenty-fourth year, proffered himself. This confidence of his afforded both security and victory to the Romans. 

The same confidence which he had at home, he used in Spain. For when he was besieging the city of Badia, he caused all those that came to his tribunal, on matters of law, to put in sureties to appear at a certain temple within the walls of the town on the next day; and promptly taking the city, at the same time and place that he had appointed, he caused his chair to be set down, and there he sat in judgement. Nothing could be more heroic than such confidence, nothing more true than such a prediction, nothing more effective than such rapidity, nothing more worthy than such authority. 

Not less courageous, nor less prosperous was his crossing into Africa: into which he transported his whole army, contrary to the command of the senate. If he had not trusted more to his own opinion, than to the counsel of the conscript fathers in this matter, there would have been no end of the Second Punic War.  

Equal to this was that confidence of his, when after he landed in Africa, he captured several of the scouts of Hannibal's army; he neither put them to death, nor in prison, nor enquired anything into the state and condition of the enemy; but he caused them to be led through all parts of his army. And then, after he had asked them whether they had taken a sufficient view of what they were commanded to observe, he ordered provisions to be given to them and their horses, and freely dismissed them in safety. By this confidence of mind he dampened the spirits of the enemy, before he had vanquished them in combat. 

But let us come to the acts of his sublime confidence as a private citizen. When he was called to provide an account of forty million sesterces of the money received from Antiochus, he took the book wherein his expenses were wrote down, and by which he might have cleared himself from the accusation of his enemies, and tore it publicly; disdaining that any doubt should be made of how he had acted, when he was acting as legate. He defended himself in this manner: "I shall not give an account of forty million sesterces to your treasury, conscript fathers, as the servant of another authority, when by my command and auspices, I have made the treasury richer by two hundred million sesterces. Neither do I think that you are come to such a height of malice, as to doubt of my innocence. For when I had brought Africa completely under your jurisdiction, I took away nothing thence that I could call mine own, except a surname. I was nor rendered covetous by the Punic treasure, nor was my brother by the Asiatic treasure; seeing that we are both more wealthy in reputation, than in money." This stout defence of Scipio was approved by the whole senate.

Like this was another act of his. When he found that the urgent needs of the commonwealth required money to be taken out of the public treasury, but the quaestors were reluctant to open it, because it seemed to be something against the law; although he was  a private citizen, he demanded the keys, and compelled the law to yield to necessity. This confidence grew from the assurance which he had, that all the laws had been preserved by him. 

G  I will not tire of relating his actions of this nature, seeing that he himself never wearied of doing them. M. Naevius, tribune of the plebs, or as some relate, the two Petillii, had summoned him to appear on trial before the people. When the people had appeared in great multitudes in the forum, he ascended the rostra, and putting a triumphal crown upon his head, he said: "On this day, citizens, I compelled Carthage, though hoping great things, to submit to your laws. And therefore I hold it just that you go with me to the Capitol, to give thanks to the gods." This most splendid speech of his had an equally impressive success. For immediately the whole senate, the whole order of knights, and all the people followed him to the temple of Jupiter the Best and Greatest. The tribune remained alone to address the people after the people had left, being deserted in the forum through their great contempt of his calumny. At length, to avoid the shame, he went also to the Capitol himself; and instead of an accuser, he became a great admirer of Scipio.

[7.2] L   Scipio Aemilianus, the famous heir of his father's courage and magnanimity, when he was besieging a strong city, was advised by some to place round about the walls of the city sharp iron spikes, and to block all the open passages with planks covered with lead, and topped with spikes, in order to hinder the sudden sallies of the enemy. He replied, that it was not fitting for him to fear those whom he sought to capture.

[7.3] L   Wherever I turn among the memorable examples me, I am forced, in any case, to remain in the family of the Scipios. For how can we in this place pass over Scipio Nasica, illustrious for his magnanimous spirit and speech? When the price of corn was rising, Curiatius the tribune of the plebs compelled the consuls to appear in a public assembly, where he urged them to propose a motion in the senate about the buying of corn, and sending out ambassadors for that purpose. In order to hinder this proposal, which would be of little profit, Nasica began to speak in opposition; upon which a great clamour arose among the people, but he said, "Romans, be quiet, for I understand much better than you do, what the necessities of the commonwealth require." These words of his, as soon as they were heard, caused a silence full of veneration, and they made it clear, how much respect they had for his authority, which was greater than their own lack of nourishment.

[7.4] L   The brave spirit also of Livius Salinator is to be consigned to eternal memory; who, when he had defeated Hasdrubal and the army of the Carthaginians in Umbria, and he was told that the Gauls and Ligurians were disordered - they had lost their leaders and were scattered away from their standards - and could easily be defeated by a small detachment; he replied that they should be spared, so that the enemy would have some messengers to take home the news of their great defeat.

[7.5] L   The courage that Furius Philus showed in the senate, though in a person of the toga, was no less praiseworthy than courage in war. For he compelled Q. Metellus, and Q. Pompeius, men of consular rank, who were his professed enemies, and censured him because he was so eager to go into Spain, the province which he had been allotted, to go thither with him as legates, and upon his departure from Rome to march along with him. This confidence was not only courageous, but almost rash, that dared to have so close to him two of his greatest adversaries; and to trust the management of affairs to his opponents, which was scarcely to be entrusted to his friends.

[7.6] L   Anyone who approves the  act of that person,  must surely approve the conduct of L. Crassus, who was the most eloquent among our ancestors. He obtained the province of Gaul after his consulship, into which province came Carbo, whose father he had convicted, with the intention of inspecting his actions. He not only did not send him away, but he assigned to him a place on the tribunal, and made no decision without his presence in council. So that sharp and vehement Carbo achieved nothing by his Gallic expedition, but only learnt that his guilty father had been banished by a just and honest man.

[7.7] L   The elder Cato was often called to plead for himself, but never convicted of any crime, and at length reposed so much confidence in his innocence, that when he was summoned to a public court, he asked for Gracchus as his judge, who was his particular enemy in public affairs. Thus by his outstanding courage he abated the hostility of his prosecutors.

[7.8] L   M. Scaurus had the same fortune, the same length of years, the same courage of mind. When he was accused from the rostra of taking money from Mithridates to betray the commonwealth, he made his defence in this manner: "It is unjust, O Romans, that I who have lived among one sort of people, should come to give an account of my actions among another; yet I will dare to ask you all, the greatest part of whom could not possibly be present at the deeds which I have done, and the honours which I have attained. Varius Severus of Sucro says that Aemilius Scaurus was bribed by the king, and has betrayed the commonwealth. Aemilius Scaurus says that he is not guilty of this. Whom of the two do you believe?" The people were moved with admiration at his saying, and with their loud cries forced Varius to desist from his wild and insane prosecution.

[7.9] L   M. Antonius, the orator, did the opposite. For he, not by refusing, but by embracing his own defence, testified how innocent he was. When he was going as quaestor to Asia, he went on his journey as far as Brundisium, where being informed by letters that he was accused of incest before the praetor L. Cassius, whose tribunal, because of his severity, was called the rock of the guilty. Though he might have avoided it by the benefit of the Memmian Law, which forbids prosecutions to be made against those who are absent on public business, yet he returned to the city. By this display of good confidence, he not only obtained a quick acquittal, but a more honourable departure.

[7.10] L   These that follow, are also splendid examples of public confidence. For in the war which was undertaken against Pyrrhus, when the Carthaginians had sent a fleet of an hundred and thirty ships to Ostia, to assist the Romans, the senate decided to send messengers with instructions to tell their admiral, that the Romans did not enter into wars which they were unable to carry on without the help of foreigners ; and that therefore he might return with his fleet to Carthage. 

The same senate some few years later, when the Roman power was almost broken by the defeat at Cannae, sent reinforcements to the army in Spain; and, when Hannibal was with his army at the Capene Gate, they ensured that the site of his camp should sell for no less, than if the Carthaginians were not occupying it. By acting thus in adversity, what else did they do, but compel Fortune, overcome with shame, to return to their side?

[7.11] L   It is a great jump to descend from the senate to the poet Accius. But that we may pass from him more reasonably to foreign examples, let us produce him. When Julius Caesar, a great and powerful man, came into the college of poets, he would not so much as rise. He was  not forgetful of Caesar's  authority, but he believed himself superior in comparison of their literary studies. And therefore he was not guilty of the crime of insolence, seeing the contest was about books, not statues.


[7e.1] L   Nor was Euripides to be accounted insolent at Athens, who, when the people required him to remove a sentence from a certain tragedy, appeared upon the stage, and told them that he composed plays to teach them, not by them to be taught. Such confidence is certainly to be praised, which weighing a man's worth, arrogates so much to itself, as to keep distant from contempt and insolence.

Thus his answer can be approved, which he gave to Alcestis the tragic poet, who taunted him, because he had not been able to compose more than three verses in the last three days, and that with a great deal of labour too, while the other boasted that he had easily written a hundred lines. "The reason is," said Euripides, "because yours are only to last three days, and mine are to last for eternity." For the fluent writing of the one, perished within the first bounds of memory; but the polished and constant style of the other will be carried through all ages upon the wings of time.

[7e.2] L   I will add another example from the stage. Antigenidas the musician in everyone's hearing said to one of his pupils, who was  outstanding in his art but not approved by the people, "Sing to me and the Muses. " For perfect art, even if it lacks the flattery of Fortune, should not therefore lack a just confidence in itself. Because it knows that it deserves praise, if it does not receive it from others, it should be content with its own opinion.

[7e.3] L   But Zeuxis having painted Helen, did not think it fitting to await what men would say of his work, but presently added to it these verses: "I cannot blame the man that for her strives, Like an immortal god she is - " { Homer, Iliad, 3.156 } So did not the painter claim so much for his art, that he had drawn such beauty, as Leda might assume through her celestial birth, or Homer express by his divine wit?

[7e.4] L   Phidias also alluded to the verses of Homer in a notable saying. For having finished the statue of Olympian Jupiter, the most outstanding and famous thing that ever human hand did make, he was asked by his friend, where he received his inspiration when he formed the ivory face of Jupiter, because he seemed to fetch it from heaven; he replied that he made use of these following verses: " - With his black brows he to her nodded, Wherewith displayed were his locks divine; 1+Olympus shook at the stirring of his Godhead." { Homer, Iliad, 1.528 }

[7e.5] L   But now the most renowned generals will no longer permit me to linger upon lesser examples. For Epaminondas, when his fellow-citizens in anger commanded him in contempt to take care of paving the streets in the city (which was one of the lowest offices they had) without any hesitation took it upon him, promising in a short time to make the city most beautiful. By his wonderful exertions he made the most humble office to be admired as a great honour.

[7e.6] L   But Hannibal, while he was staying in exile with king Prusias, urged the king to give battle; when the other told him that the entrails portended no good success; he made this reply: "Would you rather, then, believe a little calf's flesh, than an old general?" A brief and concise answer, considering the number of the words; considering the sense, a copious reply, and of great authority. For he that had wrung out of the hands of the Romans both Spains, and having reduced the forces of Gaul and Liguria under his subjection, had opened a new passage through the Alps, laying at the king's feet the dire memory of Lake Trasimene, the famous monument of the Punic victory at Cannae, Capua taken, and all Italy ravaged, could not endure that his glory, witnessed by long experiment, should be put in competition with the liver of one sacrifice. And certainly, as to what concerned the exploring of military sacrifices, and giving advice on warlike actions, the breast of Hannibal was far above all the little fires, all the altars of Bithynia, in the judgment of Mars himself.

[7e.7] L   That saying also of King Cotys, was the mark of a most noble spirit, who so soon as he understood that the Athenians had given him citizenship, made answer, that he would give them the rights of his nation. Thereby he equalled Thrace to Athens, lest by accounting himself unable to reciprocate such a benefit, he should have been considered to have thought too meanly of his origin.

[7e.8] L   Nobly also was it said by both these Spartans. One of them, being blamed because he went to battle although he was lame, replied that it was his intention to fight, and not to run. The other, being told that the sun would be obscured with the darts of the Persians, said: "That is good, for we shall fight better in the shade." Another man, of the same city and the same courage, answered to his host, who was showing him the high and broad walls of his city: "If you made them for your women, you did well; but if they are for your men, it was an ignominious thing to do."

VIII.   Of Pertinacity

After describing an open and courageous breast endued with good confidence, there remains the necessary task, as it were, of dealing with pertinacity. For Nature has provided that whoever believes himself to have understood anything rightly and justly in his mind, should resolutely defend it, and put it into action against any opposition; or if it is not done, should bring it to effect without delay despite all resistance.

[8.1] L   But while I seek for an example of what I propound, looking all around me, before all the rest, the pertinacity of Fulvius Flaccus offers itself. He at that time had captured Capua, which through the false promises of Hannibal, had resolved by their vile revolt to put the rule of Italy into the conqueror's hands. Having therefore made a true estimate of the enemies' crime, he decided wholly to exterminate the Campanian senate, who were the authors of that wicked plan. To this intent he sent them all in chains to Teanum and Cales, into two separate prisons, with the intention of carrying out his purpose, when he had done some other things which were more urgent. In the meantime a rumour was spreading that the senate intended a more lenient treatment of them. Lest they should escape their deserved punishment, he took horse in the night-time, directly to Teanum, where he put to death all that were in custody there; and thence he hastened to Cales, where he finished carrying out his severe decision. For though while the Campanians were still bound to the stake, he had received a letter from the conscript fathers instructing him to spare them, he notwithstanding held the letter unopened in his left hand, and commanded the lictor to do his duty; nor would he open the letter, till he knew it was too late to obey it. By this pertinacity he surpassed the glory of his victory. For if we make an estimate of him by dividing up his praise, we shall find him greater in punishing Capua, than in capturing Capua.

[8.2] L   This was a pertinacity is severity. That which follows is a most admirable pertinacity in patriotism, which Fabius Maximus rendered indefatigably for the good of his country. He paid out the money to Hannibal for the captives; and then, being publicly defrauded of it, he said nothing. When the senate made Minucius, the master of the horse, equal in authority to him as dictator, he held his tongue. And although provoked with many other injuries, he persisted in the same habit of mind; nor would ever give his passion liberty to be angry with the commonwealth, so steadfast was the love he bore for his fellow-citizens. In his managing the war, was not his pertinacity the same? The Roman empire was broken by the defeat at Cannae, and seemed scarcely able to provide another army. Therefore, believing it to be better to delay and weary the force of the Carthaginians, than to come to battle with all his power, though provoked by the frequent taunts of Hannibal, though he had many times a fair opportunity of success offered, yet he would never abandon from his own wholesome intention, not so much as to hazard a skirmish; and, what is most difficult, he everywhere appeared to be above both anger and hope. And therefore, he relieved his country by not fighting,  just as Scipio did by fighting. For the latter destroyed Carthage by his swiftness, the former by his delay took care that Rome should not be destroyed.

[8.3] L   From the following story it will also appear, that C. Piso, who was consul at a time of much turbulence and uproar in the commonwealth, conducted himself with a wonderful pertinacity. The fury of the people who had been highly moved by the false promises of M. Palicanus, a seditious person, endeavoured to commit a most foul act at the elections for choosing consuls; they intended to give into his hands the highest power, although his vile actions required rather the utmost severity of punishment, than any mark of honour. Nor was the furious flame of the tribune's authority lacking in anything to inflame the passions of the multitude. When the city was in this miserable and shameful condition, Piso was placed on the rostra, almost by the hands of the tribunes. Everyone flocked around him; and demanded that he should declare Palicanus as consul, who had now been chosen by the votes of the people. He answered, firstly, that he did not believe the  commonwealth had been overwhelmed with so much darkness, as to do something so unworthy. And when the people still urged him to declare the result of the election, crying out, "Come, what if it has been done?" he replied, "I will not declare it." With this short answer he took the consulship away from Palicanus, before he had obtained it. Thus Piso ignored many terrible hazards, as he disdained to renounce the splendid rigour of his mind.

[8.4] L   Metellus Numidicus, from perseverance of the same nature, endured a storm most unworthy of his majesty and noble conduct. For when he perceived what Saturninus in his designs of mischief was aiming at, and what ruin they would bring to the commonwealth, if they were not soon prevented, he rather chose banishment, than to submit to the laws of Saturninus. Could any person be thought more constant than this man? Rather than act contrary to his judgment, he suffered to be deprived of his own country, where he had reached the highest ranks of dignity.

[8.5] L   However, though I prefer no-one before him, yet may I not undeservedly compare with him Scaevola the augur. Sulla, after scattering and completely defeating his opponents, got possession of the city. Armed as he was, he compelled the senate to accomplish his most eager desire, that Marius should be declared by them a  public enemy. No-one dared to resist him, except Scaevola alone, who, when he was asked, refused to give his opinion on the motion. And when Sulla began with a frowning look to threaten him, he said: "Though you may show me the bands of soldiers with which you have surrounded the senate, though you may constantly threaten death, you shall never make me yield, just to for the sake of my little and aged blood, to declare Marius an enemy, by whom this city and all Italy has been preserved."

[8.6] L   What has a woman to do with public assemblies? If the custom of our country be observed, nothing. But when domestic peace and quiet is tossed upon the waves of sedition, the authority of ancient custom gives way. And that which violence compels avails more than what modesty persuades and directs. And therefore, O Sempronia, sister of Ti. and C. Gracchus, wife of Scipio Aemilianus, I would not involve you in a malicious narrative, as if incongruously inserting you among the most weighty examples of virtue. But because when you were brought to answer before the people by a tribune of the plebs, you did not degenerate from the greatness of your ancestors in such a confusion, I will commemorate you. You were forced to stand in that place, where the most important persons in the city used to be confronted. The leaders in authority poured out their threats against you with a severe and cruel countenance, backed by the cries of the rude mob. The whole forum eagerly sought that you should acknowledge with a kiss Equitius, whom they unjustly attempted to impose upon the Sempronian family, as being the son of Tiberius your brother. Yet you thrust him away from you, a monster brought out of I know not what pit of darkness, approaching with an execrable boldness, to usurp a position of kinship, where he had no connection whatsoever.

[8.7] L   The great luminaries of our city will not take it amiss, if in the number of their shining stars the virtue of centurions also make bold to show itself. For as humble rank ought to reverence greatness, so ancient nobility ought rather to cherish than despise those who are but newly advanced, by their own acts of virtue. Therefore Titius ought not to be driven out of the company of these examples, who while acting as a sentinel in Caesar's army, was surprised by a detachment of Scipio's army. There was only one way left for him to save himself, if he would serve under Cn. Pompeius, Scipio's son in-law, but he fearlessly made this answer: "Scipio, I thank you for your kindness, but I have no desire to hold my life upon any such condition." A noble spirit, even without a distinguished family!

[8.8] L   Mevius, a centurion of the divine Augustus, observed the same pertinacity of resolution, having distinguished himself by many personal acts of valour in the war with Antony. At length he was captured in an ambush by the enemy, and brought before Antony in Alexandria. When he was asked what punishment he deserved, he said: "Command me to be killed, for neither the benefit of pardon, nor present death shall compel me to cease to serve as a soldier of Caesar, nor now to begin to serve on your side." But the more constantly he disregarded his life, the more easily he obtained it. For Antony immediately set him free on account of his virtue.


[8e.1] L   There are many other Roman examples of this nature; but I must avoid tediousness, and therefore allow my pen to move on to foreign examples. At the front of them let Blassius appear, than whose pertinacity nothing could be more steadfast. He planned to restore Salapia, where he was born, to the Roman empire, when at that time it was garrisoned by the Carthaginians. To this end, with more desire to carry out his plan, than hope of obtaining his goal, he boldly ventured to draw in Dasius, who most fiercely disagreed with him in the administration of affairs and was wholly devoted to Hannibal, but without whose assistance he could not succeed in his plan. This man presently reported to Hannibal all that had passed between him and Blassius, adding of his own what he thought would increase his own commendation, and render his enemy more odious. Hannibal called them both before him; the one to propound, the other to defend what he stood accused of. Now it happened that the matter was brought before the tribunal, while other matters of more moment were being discussed. Blassius with a fair face and low voice earnestly admonished Dasius, to favour and assist the Romans: whereupon Dasius cried out, that he was impudently solicited in the very presence of the general by the prisoner. Because this seemed incredible, and was heard by no-one else, and was spoken by an opponent, the truth was not believed. But not long after the wonderful pertinacity of Blassius drew Dasius to his side, by which means he delivered up Salapia to Marcellus, with five hundred Numidians who were in garrison there.

[8e.2] L   Phocion the Athenian, when the Athenians had had prosperous success in the management of an affair contrary to his advice, even so obstinately defended his own opinion, and he told them in his speech, that though he rejoiced in their success, yet his advice was much the better, if they had followed it. For he did not condemn what he saw he had done rightly, when what they undertook by poor advice had turned out successfully; he accounted the one course fortunate, the other wisely advised. Fortune makes rashness to be approved when it prospers on bad advice, and as the good it brings is the unexpected, so also as it causes more vehement damage,. The character of Phocion, pleasing, liberal and endued with all sweetness, was the cause that he was by the consent of all men honoured with the surname of Good. And therefore pertinacity, which by nature seems rather rigid, flowed more gently out of his mild breast.

[8e.3] L   But the mind of Socrates, clad with the strength of virility, produced a more rugged example of firm resolution. The whole city of Athens, being carried away by a most wicked and barbarous error, had pronounced a dire sentence against the ten generals, who had defeated the fleet of the Lacedemonians at Arginusae. It happened that Socrates was then in such a position of authority, that it was at his discretion that the people made their public edicts. He, thinking it an unworthy thing, that so many and so well deserving persons should unworthily be dispatched by the violence of envy, opposed his own pertinacity to the rashness of the mob. Nor could he be compelled by the clamours and violent threats of the people, to give his consent to their public madness. Being thus by his opposition hindered from raging in a lawful manner, they persevered unjustly to drench their hands in the innocent blood of the generals. Yet Socrates was not moved by fear that his own death would make an eleventh victim of his country's fury.

[8e.4] L   The next example, though not of the same splendour, yet is to be accounted as an equal proof of pertinacity. Ephialtes, an effective speaker of known integrity, at Athens was commanded to accuse several persons, and among the rest to set down the name of Demostratus, whose son was Democrates, a youth of great  beauty, who was ardently loved by him. The accuser therefore was cruel by reason of his duty, but considering his private affection miserable and guilty. When the boy came to entreat for mitigation of his father's punishment, prostrating himself at his lover's feet, Ephialtes could not endure to behold him; but with his head covered, weeping and lamenting, he allowed him to pour forth his prayers in vain. Yet nevertheless he secured the conviction of Demostratus, whom he had accused with true integrity. He got this victory, I cannot say whether with greater praise or torment, because before he inflicted punishment upon the guilty, he vanquished himself.

[8e.5] L   Dion of Syracuse outdoes him in the weight of his example. He  was advised by certain persons to be more wary of Heraclides and Callippus - in whom he had placed great confidence - as they were now plotting against him. He made answer, that he would rather lose his life, than out of fear of a violent death, make no distinction between his friends and his enemies.

[8e.6] L   The story which follows is not only remarkable for the thing itself, but also illustrious, when we consider the author. Alexander, king of the Macedonians, having in a very great battle routed the forces of Darius, being in Cilicia almost roasted by the heat of the weather and his exertions, threw himself into the Cydnus, a river running through Tarsus, eminent for the excellence of the water. Upon a sudden, with drinking over-much, his nerves became numb and his arteries were deadened. He was carried in that condition into the town, close by his camp, to the great consternation of the whole army. While he lay ill at Tarsus, suffering from this sickness, the hopes arising from the recent victory became uncertain. And therefore he called his physicians, and they sought for all remedies that might restore his health. They all decided upon one potion, which was made and given to him by the hands of Philippus, his friend and companion. At the same time he received a letter from Parmenion, advising him to beware of the treachery of Philippus, whom Darius had certainly corrupted. Nevertheless, after he had read the letter he drank off the potion, and then gave the letter to Philippus for him to read. For this unswerving opinion of the loyalty of his friend, he received a most worthy reward from the immortal gods, because he would not permit the remedy for his health to be hindered by any false suspicion of treachery in the delivery of it.

Book 4

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