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)
That children are the greatest ornaments to married women, we find written by Pomponius Rufus in his book of Collections, as follows. When a Campanian lady staying at the house of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, showed her her jewels and other ornaments, which were the fairest of any at that time, Cornelia remained talking with her till her children returned from school. "And these," she said when they appeared, "are my ornaments." For he has everything that covets nothing, and much more certainly than he that possesses all things. For great possessions often fail, but a good habit of mind is above the storms of Fortune. And therefore why should we put riches in the highest part of happiness, or poverty in the lowest degree of misery? Especially when the chearful countenance of wealth is full of many concealed sorrows; and the more rugged and deformed aspect of poverty often abounds with many sure and solid pleasures. This will be better demonstrated by persons than by words.
[4.1] L After the pride of Tarquinius had led to the end of government by kings, Valerius Publicola with Junius Brutus as his colleague auspiciously instituted the office of consulship. The same person was subsequently consul on three occasions to the great content of the people, and by many and most renowned actions enlarged the glory of his reputation. And yet this great pillar of history died, not leaving a patrimony sufficient for the cost of his funeral, which were therefore defrayed at public expense. There is no need to make any further search into the poverty of so great a person, for it is apparent how little he possessed while he lived, when after his death he lacked both a bier and funeral-pyre.
[4.2] L We may well guess how high in dignity Agrippa Menenius was, whom the senate and people chose to be the arbitrator of their differences, and to make peace between them - that he was as great as he ought to be, who was judge of the public welfare. This man, if the people had not gathered among themselves one sextans each to make up the sum, could not have defrayed his simple funeral expenses, dying so poor that he could not afford a decent burial. Yet the state, rent by a pernicious sedition, was content to be reconciled by the hands of Agrippa, because it had observed that they were be pure, even though they were poor. Although he had nothing while he lived that could be publicly taxed, yet after his death he has as his patrimony, even today, the concord and unity of Rome.
[4.3] L I cannot deny that there was silver in the houses of C. Fabricius and Q. Aemilius Papus, the principal men of their times. Each of them had a dish for the worship of the gods and a salt-cellar. Fabricius seemed more opulent, because he had a base of horn to his dish. But Papus seemed more spirited, who having received his vessels as an inheritance, for religion's sake would not part with them,.
[4.4] L Those rich men who were called from the plough to be made consuls - did they plough the sandy and barren soil of Pupinia for pleasure's sake, and break those vast clods with continual sweat and labour for entertainment? No, those men, whom the perils of the commonwealth called to be generals, were compelled by their poverty at home to lead the the life of (for why should truth conceal the proper name?) ploughmen.
[4.5] L They who were sent by the senate to call Atilius to undertake the government of the Roman people, found him sowing seeds. But those hands, hardened with rustic labour, established the safety of the commonwealth, and defeated mighty armies of the enemies; and those hands that lately held the ox-plough, now held the reins of the triumphal chariot. Nor was he ashamed, when he had laid down his ivory sceptre, to return again to the plough-handle. Well may Atilius comfort the poor, but much more may instruct the rich, how unnecessary is the troublesome care of gathering wealth, for the sincere desire of purchasing solid honour.
[4.6] L Of the same name and blood, Atilius Regulus, the greatest glory and the greatest calamity of the Punic War, when in Africa he had destroyed the wealth of the most insolent Carthaginians by the success of his many victories, learnt that his authority was continued for the next year, on account of his worthy deeds. He wrote to the consuls, that the steward of his little farm of seven iugera that he had in the territory of Pupinia was dead, and that a man whom he had hired had run away with the farm equipment, and therefore he desired that a successor might be sent him, because if his land remained untilled, his wife and children would be without food. When the consuls had reported this to the senate, they caused his farm to be let, and provided sustenance for his wife and children, and ordered those things that he had lost to be publicly redeemed. Such was the cost to our treasury of Atilius's virtue, that every age will boast of among the Romans.
[4.7] L Equally large was the estate of L. Quinctius Cincinnatus. For he possessed only seven iugera of land, and of these he had lost three, which he had given to the treasury as surety for a friend, in payment of a fine. And with the rest of this little land he paid another fine for his son Caeso, who had not appeared when he was summoned to a lawsuit. And yet when he was ploughing only four iugera of this land, he not only upheld the dignity of his family, but had the dictatorship conferred upon him. He accounts himself to live splendidly now, whose house stands upon as much ground as all Cincinnatus' farm contained.
[4.8] L What shall I say of the Aelian family? How rich were they? There were sixteen of that name, whose little house stood where now the Marian monuments are located, and a small farm in the territory of Veii, that needed fewer men to till it than it had owners, and spectators' places in the Circus Maximus and Circus Flaminius; these places were publicly bestowed upon them on account of their virtue.
[4.9] L That family had not one scruple of silver, before Paulus, after he had utterly defeated Perseus, gave to Aelius Tubero, his son-in-law, five pounds of silver, out of the spoils that were taken. I omit, that the chief person of the city gave his daughter in marriage to one whose family and estate was so exceeding meagre. And he himself died so very poor, that if he had not sold the one farm which he had left, there would not been sufficient for his wife to recover her dowry. The minds of men and women were then most vigorous in the city, and the worth of every man was then in all things weighed against his good character. It was this that earned high offices, that brought together marriage alliances, that had the greatest influence in the forum and within the walls of a private home. For everyone made it his business to increase the prosperity of his country, not of himself; and they rather chose poverty in a rich empire, than riches in a poor empire. And to this noble resolution this reward was given, that it was not possible to buy any of those things which were earned by virtue; and the needs of illustrious men were supplied out of public funds.
[4.10] L And therefore, during the Second Punic War Cn. Scipio wrote from Spain to the senate, desiring that a successor might be sent to him, because he had a daughter now fit for marriage, and no dowry could be provided for her, unless he was present. The senate, lest the commonwealth should lose a good general, performed the duty of a father, and having with the advice of his wife and relatives agreed upon the dowry, caused it to be paid out of the public treasury. The dowry was (?) four thousand asses: from which not only the kindness of the conscript fathers is apparent, but the usual size of ancient estates may be guessed at. For they were so small, that Tuccia the daughter of Caeso was said to have brought her husband a large dowry, when she brought him ten thousand asses. And Megullia, who entered her husband's house with fifty thousand asses, was called for that reason, the girl with the dowry. And therefore the senate rescued the daughters of Fabricius Luscinusand Scipio, from lacking dowries, by their own liberality, seeing that their parents had nothing to give them but their abundant honours.
[4.11] L What inheritance M. Scaurus received from his father, he himself relates in the first book that he wrote concerning his life. For he says that he had only six slaves, and the whole value of his estate was only thirty five thousand sesterces. This is the wealth that nurtured the spirit of the man who later became the princeps senatus.
These examples therefore we ought to observe, and calm our minds with the consolation from them, when we are always complaining of the scantiness or our own fortunes. We find no silver, or a very small quantity, few slaves, seven iugera of barren land, domestic poverty, funeral expenses publicly defrayed, daughters without dowries. But we behold famous consulships, remarkable dictatorships, and innumerable triumphs. Why do we therefore with continual reproaches condemn a poor livelihood, as the chief evil of humankind? This is what, not with superfluously flowing, yet with faithful breasts, nourished the Publicolae, the Aemilii, the Fabricii, the Curii, the Scipios, the Scauri, and all the other pillars of virtue equal to these. Let us rather raise our spirits, and comfort our minds, which are debilitated by the sight of money, with the memory of former times. For I swear, by the hut of Romulus and the humble roofs of the ancient Capitol and the eternal flames of Vesta, which even now are content with earthenware utensils, no riches could possibly be preferred to the poverty of such men.
From this it seems appropriate to pass on to modesty; for this taught the most upright men to disregard their own private property, and to have concern only for the public. She is a virtue worthy to have temples built and consecrated to her, as to a celestial deity; as being the parent of all good counsel, the guardian of the most solemn offices, the mistress of innocence; dear to her own people, acceptable to strangers, and in all places, and at all times, carrying a favourable aspect.
[5.1] L But let us return from praises to actions. From the founding of the city, to the time that Africanus and T. Longus were consuls, the senate and people sat mixed together when they watched shows and games: yet not one of the people would venture to take a place in front of any of the senate. So circumspect was the modesty of our citizens; a most certain proof of this occurred on that day, when L. Flamininus, having been removed from the senate by the censors M. Cato and L. Flaccus, stood at the back of the theatre, though he had been consul and was the brother of T. Flamininus, the conqueror of Philip king of Macedonia. As soon as the people saw this, they compelled him to take that place which his dignity demanded.
[5.2] L Terentius Varro sorely wounded the commonwealth, by rashly giving battle at Cannae. Yet he refused to take upon himself the dictatorship, which had subsequently been decreed to him by the full consent of the senate and people. By his restrained modesty, he made amends for the fault of a most fatal defeat: and through his modest behavior, made them impute the public calamity, not to him, but to the anger of the gods. And the dictatorship refused can be inscribed on his statue with more renown than the dictatorship held by some others.
[5.3] L Let us now look at a splendid act of modesty. Fortune, not without some ill will, had brought Cn. Scipio, the son of the elder Africanus, together with C. Cicereius the scribe, into the Campus for the election of praetors; and he was very much reprehended by the common people for his insolent behaviour, because he had abused the family and patronage of such a great man, by appearing in the contest of the elections. But Cicereius turned Scipio's blame into his praise. For when he saw himself preferred by all the centuries above Scipio, he went down from the temple, and throwing off his candidate's white toga, he came in again and transferred his support to his rival Scipio. He was more willing to yield the praetorship to the memory of Africanus, than to claim it for himself. Nor was the reward of his modesty small; for though Scipio obtained the praetorship, yet Cicereius won all the praise.
[5.4] L And so that we may not immediately leave the subject of elections, when L. Crassus stood for the consulship, and was advised by everyone after the usual manner of candidates, to go around the forum and canvas the votes of the people, he could not by any means be induced to do it, while Q. Scaevola his father-in-law, a most wise and grave person, was present with him. He therefore asked Scaevola to depart, before he carried out such a foolish activity; he had more regard for the modesty due to Scaevola's dignity, than concern for his own white toga.
[5.5] L Pompey the Great, on the day after he was defeated at the battle of Pharsalia, when all the people came forth to greet him, as he was entering into the city of Larissa, said, "Go and perform this duty to the victor." He was not deserving to be defeated, had he not been vanquished by Caesar, for he was most gentle in misfortune. Because he could not now use his authority, he made use of his modesty.
[5.6] L This virtue often appeared very clearly in C. Caesar, and most remarkably at his death. For being attacked by the blades of many parricidal weapons, when his divine soul was separated from his mortal body, after he had received above twenty-three wounds, he could not be moved from his regard for modesty. For he let down the lower part of his toga with both hands, so that he might fall with the lower part of his body covered. In this manner men do not die, but the immortal gods return to their own habitations.
[5e.1] L That which follows, I will ascribe to foreigners, because it happened before citizenship was granted to Etruria. There was in that country one Spurinna, a young man of surpassing beauty, whose handsome appearance allured the eyes of the most illustrious ladies. He therefore believed himself to be suspected of unchastity by the husbands and parents of those women; and therefore with many wounds he spoiled the beauty of his face. He preferred deformity as the guardian of his fidelity, rather than that his beauty should be the incitement of others' lust.
[5e.2] L At Athens, when a very aged person came into the theatre to watch a show, there were none that would rise to give him a seat, until he came at length to where the ambassadors of the Lacedaemonians sat. They were moved by the age of the person, and showed their reverence for his aged years not only by rising up, but also by allowing him to sit in the most honourable place among them. When the people beheld this, with great applause they approved the modesty of a foreign city. And it is reported that one of the Lacedaemonians said that the Athenians knew what was well done, but neglected to do it themselves.
From a gentle and mild affection, I will proceed to another equally honourable, yet somewhat more fervent, and of a more vehement nature; and offer not without great veneration, as it were certain images of lawful love, for the contemplation of the reader, relating the actions of established and firm fidelity between married people, which are difficult to imitate, but profitable to be known; seeing that when a man knows the most excellent examples, it will be shameful for him to follow poorer ones.
[6.1] L When Ti. Gracchus caught two snakes in his own house, a male and female, he was told by the soothsayer, that if he let go the male, it portended the death of his wife; but that if he let go the female, he himself would suddenly die. Following that part of the prediction that portended his own death, rather than the death of his wife, he caused the female snake to be released; and was so resolute as to watch his own destruction when the snake was killed in his presence. And therefore I cannot determine whether Cornelia was more happy that she had such a husband, or more miserable in his loss. O Admetus, cruel king of Thessaly, and by a great judge condemned of an unpardonable crime! You were content to exchange your own life for the death of your wife, and could endure to enjoy the comfort of this light, after she had voluntarily submitted to die, only to prolong your days. And indeed you had previously tried to exploit the indulgence of your parents.
[6.2] L A humbler victim to misfortune than Ti. Gracchus, though of senatorial rank, was C. Plautius Numida - yet as to affection of this nature, his equal. For hearing news of the death of his wife, impatient of grief, he stabbed himself in the breast with his sword; but by the timely coming in of his servants, he was hindered from carrying out his purpose, and the wound was dressed and bound up. As soon as he found an oportunity, he cut off his bandages, and tearing open the wound again, with a determined right hand he dragged his spirit, oppressed with grief, out from his heart and his bowels. He testified by the violence of his death, how strong a conjugal flame he had shut up in his breast.
[6.3] L Of the same name, and endued with the same love, was M. Plautius. He was commanded by the senate to lead back the allied fleet of sixty ships to Asia, and he sailed into Tarentum. His wife Orestella came to visit him there, but fell sick and died. After she was laid upon her funeral pyre, amongst the last duties of anointing and kissing her, he fell upon his naked sword. His friends laid him, as he was in his toga and shoes, next to his wife, and then putting torches underneath they burnt both of them. Their monument is still to be seen at Tarentum, with this inscription: The Two Lovers' Tomb. And it is not to be doubted, if there is any sense left in departed souls, that Plautius and Orestilla entered the world of shades joyful in each other's company. And certainly, when love is so great and so honourable, it is better to be joined in death than to be separated by life.
[6.4] L The same affection was notable in Julia, the daughter of C. Caesar. When she saw the garment of her husband Pompey the Great brought home sprinkled with blood from the Campus during the elections for aediles, in her fear that Pompey had been the victim of violence, she swooned away, and from the suddenness of the fright and her severe bodily pain she had a miscarriage; this was a great loss for the whole world, whose tranquility would not been disturbed with so severe a fury of so many civil wars, if the friendship of Caesar and Pompey had been bound by the ties of a common family relationship.
[6.5] L All ages will also with due admiration revere your chaste fires, O Porcia, daughter of M. Cato. When you learnt that your husband Brutus was defeated and slain at the battle of Philippi, not having a weapon at hand, you swallowed burning coals; your feminine soul imitated the masculine death of your father; and perhaps your death was braver, because he chose a common method, but you chose a novel method of dying.
[6e.1] L There are some foreign loves, righteous and not obscured by the shadow of ignorance, of which it will be sufficient to touch upon a few. How much Artemisia queen of Caria mourned the death of her husband Mausolus, it would be frivolous to dispute, considering the most exquisite honours of all sorts which she did him, and the magnificence of that monument, which became one of the Seven Wonders. For why should you labour to recount all those honours, or insist upon the glory of that monument, when she herself would not be satisfied without being the living and breathing sepulchre of Mausolus, according to the testimony of those who report that she drank up his ashes mixed in a certain potion?
[6e.2] L Hypsicratea the queen also so entirely loved Mithridates her husband, that she gave full rein to her affections. For love of him she clothed her beauty in a man's costume and accustomed herself to virile exercises, cutting her hair, and using a horse and weapons, so that she might the more easily share in his labours and dangers; and not only that, but after he was defeated by Cn. Pompeius, she followed him with an indefatigable body and spirit in his flight through many rough and barbarous nations. Her faithful company was a great comfort and solace for Mithridates when he was distressed by misfortunes and calamities. For he seemed to have his home and family together with him wherever he wandered, while his wife shared in his exile.
[6e.3] L But why should I rummage though Asia, or the immense solitudes of barbarous countries, or the recesses of the Pontic Sea? Lacedaemon, the most splendid glory of Greece, lays before our eyes a foremost example of conjugal fidelity, a remarkable act to be compared with the greatest wonders of that city.
The Minyans settled in the island of Lemnos, deriving their origin from the ancient companions of Jason. Having stayed there for several centuries, eventually they were expelled by the Pelasgi, and lacking the help of others, they made their home as suppliants in the high Taygetan Mountains. The Spartans welcomed them as descendants of the Tyndaridae, because in that renowned ship the noble pair of brothers had displayed their splendour, which later was transferred to the stars. Thus the Minyans mingled with them, and enjoyed the same laws and privileges. But they responded to this good turn by plotting against the well-deserving city, and trying to seize the kingship. Therefore they were committed to the public prison, there to await capital punishment. When they were about to suffer their punishment, in the night-time as is the custom of the Lacedaemonians, their wives, of noble lineage, asked permission from the jailers to take leave of their husbands before their death. They entered the prison, and changing their clothes, gave their husbands the opportunity, having covered their faces as if in sorrow, to depart. Now what more need I add in this place, except that they were wives worthy to be married to the Minyans?
Let us now consider the bond of friendship, potent and mighty, and no way inferior to the strength and force of blood relations. In this it is more certain and demonstrable, that the one is a fortuitous occurrence, produced by the chance of birth; the other is contracted by the uncompelled mind, upon grounds and reasons of solid judgment. And therefore it is an easier thing, and less subject to reprehension, to spurn a family member than a friend. For while severance from the one is [not] a sign of an unjust disposition, the other betokens some levity of mind. For when the life of man lies as it were in solitude, if it does not have the guard of friendship, so necessary an assistance ought to be chosen carefully, but being once approved, ought not in any way to be despised. But the most sincere friendship always becomes clear in adversity, when whatever good acts are performed, proceed from a constant kindness and affection. The adulation of good fortune, which can be attributed more to flattery than love, is very suspect, and still desires more than it gives. For men of troubled fortunes have more need of friends, either for protection, or for consolation. For affairs that go well and prosperously, as being favoured with heavenly success, have less need of assistance from others. And therefore their names have lasted longer in the memory of posterity, who have not deserted their friends in adversity, rather than those who have only been the companions of prosperity. No man talks of the friends of Sardanapalus. Orestes is better known by his friend Pylades, than by Agamemnon his father. For the friendship of the one was consumed by participation in luxury and delight; but the companionship of the other, in a sad and hard condition, grew famous by the trial of their miseries. But why do I mention foreigners, having first to do with our own countrymen?
[7.1] L Ti. Gracchus was considered to be an enemy to his country: and not undeservedly so, because he valued his own authority above the welfare of his country. Yet in this evil design of his, how faithful a friend he had in C. Blosius of Cumae, it will be worth our while to relate. Though an adjudged enemy, suffering the greatest punishment, not permitted the honour of burial, he did not however lack kindness from Blosius. For when the senate commanded Rupilius and Laenas the consuls to proceed against all those that had been associates of Gracchus, Blosius presented himself before Laelius, on whose advice the consuls particularly relied, to beg pardon for himself, urging his familiarity with Gracchus as an excuse. Laelius asked him, "If Gracchus had commanded you to set fire to the temple of Jupiter, would you have obeyed him, from that friendship of which you boast?" That, said he, Gracchus would never have commanded. He had done enough and more, for he ventured to defend the behaviour of someone whom the whole senate had condemned. But that which followed was much more confident and more dangerous; for being still pressed by Laelius to make an answer to his question, he resolutely persisted, affirming, that if Gracchus had commanded him to burn the temple, he would have done it. Who could have thought he had been so wicked, had he held his peace? Who would not have accounted him wise, had he been less free in his speech, considering the necessity of the time? But Blosius neither with an honourable silence, nor with a prudent answer cared to preserve himself, lest he should be thought to have silenced the memory of his unhappy friendship.
[7.2] L In the same family equally powerful examples of friendship arise. For when the plots and enterprises of C. Gracchus were utterly defeated and all his conspiracy brought to light, he was deserted of all assistance, except for his two friends Pomponius and Laetorius, who by interposing their own bodies, protected him from the missiles that fell around him. And of these two, Pomponius, so that Gracchus might more easily escape, withstood a whole body of soldiers that eagerly pursued him at the Trigeminal Gate; nor could he be moved while he lived, till at length having received many wounds, he fell, and (though I am apt to believe unwillingly) was forced to permit them passage over his dead body. Laetorius made a stand upon the Sublician Bridge, and till Gracchus had passed over guarded it with the passion of his courage, till at length overpowered by the multitude, turning his sword upon himself, he made a nimble leap into Tiber, and so perished, showing that kindness to the friendship of one person by his voluntary death, which Horatius Cocles, in the same place, had shown to his whole country. What renowned soldiers might the Gracchi have had, if they had followed the courses which their father or mother's father had done! With what a courageous fury might Blosius, Pomponius and Laetorius have assisted them in the gaining trophies and triumphs, the brave associates of such wild enterprises! By taking part in an inauspicious friendship, as how much the more miserable, also so much are they the more certain examples of a generous loyalty.
[7.3] L If you examine L. Reginus as to his sincerity towards the public, he was much to be blamed by posterity; but if you look upon the faithful pledge of his loyalty, we are to leave him in the safe harbour of a praiseworthy conscience. When Caepio was thrown into prison, because it was through his fault that our army was defeated by the Cimbri and Teutones, Reginus as tribune of the plebs set him at liberty, remembering the ancient friendship between them; and not content to have shown himself so much a friend, he accompanied him also in his exile. O friendship, a great and most invincible deity! When the commonwealth laid hands on him on one side, on the other side you pulled him out with your right hand; and when the commonwealth required him to be sacrosanct, you impelled him into banishment. So gentle is your power, to make men prefer punishment before honour.
[7.4] L Wonderful was that work of yours, but more praiseworthy what follows. For call to mind, how you have celebrated the persistent love of Volumnius for his friend, without any damage to the commonwealth. By descent he belonged to the order of knights, and having a complete affection for M. Lucullus, whom M. Antony slew for siding with Brutus and Cassius, although he was at liberty to flee, he stuck close to his dead friend. He gave himself so much over to tears and lamentations, that by his extreme devotion to his friend, he was the cause of his own death. For by reason of his continued and constant sorrow, he was brought before Antony: and standing before him, "Command me," said he, "O general, to be carried back to the body of Lucullus, and there slain. For he being dead, I ought not to stay behind, being myself the cause of his unhappily going to war." What could be more faithful than so much love? He sought to make his his friend in death less odious to the enemy, by implicating himself in the guilt of persuading him; and in order to render him more pitiable, made himself more hated. Nor did Antony shut his ears: for being led where he desired, having kissed the dead body of Lucullus, and embraced his severed head, which he lifted up to his breast, he laid down his own neck to receive the victor's blow. Let Greece now boast of Theseus supporting the unlawful love of Pirithous, and for his sake entering into the dominions of Father Dis. They are liars that relate it, and fools that believe it. To see the mingled blood of friends, wounds sticking upon wounds, and death sticking upon death, these are the true signs of Roman friendship; those, the stories of a people accustomed to invent ridiculous falsehoods.
[7.5] L L. Petronius also righty claims to have a share in this praise; for as he was equally courageous in his friendship, he deserves an equal portion of glory. He by the favour of Caelius, being of a very humble extraction, came to be promoted into the order of knights, and had a very distinguished military career beside. For which, because he could not pay his thanks when Caelius was in prosperity, he showed himself nobly grateful to him in his adversity. Caelius was made governor of Placentia, by Octavius the consul. When the town was taken by Cinna's army, he, being old and sickly, and not wanting to fall into the hands of the enemy, resolved to die by Petronius's hand. When Petronius found that he could not persuade him to change his mind, according to his wish he killed him first, and then joined his own death to his; that he might not survive him, by whom he had attained to all his honour; and so magnanimity caused the death of the one, and loyalty the demise of the other.
[7.6] L We should join Ser. Terentius to Petronius, though it fell out that he did not die for his friend, as was his desire. A noble intention is not to be judged by the fruitless outcome; for he did as much as he could to ensure that he himself was slain, and D. Brutus escaped the danger. When Brutus was fleeing from Mutina, and learnt that certain horsemen had been sent by Antonius to kill him, he endeavoured in a certain place, by the benefit of the night, to take away that life of his which deserved just punishment. There, as the soldiers broke in, Terentius in a loyal deception, favoured by darkness itself, feigned himself to be Brutus, and offered his body to the fury of the soldiers. But being recognised by Furius, who had been commanded to perform the task of revenge, he could not hinder the punishment of his friend by his own death; and so against his will he was compelled by fortune to live.
[7.7] L From this dreadful and horrid face of friendship, let us pass on to the more serene and placid countenance of affection; and having brought it forth where all things are full of tears, lamentation and slaughter, let us now place it in a prosperous home, shining with beauty, honour, and abounding wealth. Come forth therefore from those seats that are believed to be consecrated to the shades of the blessed, here D. Laelius, there M. Agrippa, having wisely and prosperously chosen as friends the one the greatest of the gods, and the other the greatest of men; and bring along with you the whole company of those who under your leadership, laden with praises and rewards, have received the honourable rewards of sincere loyalty. For succeeding ages, beholding your resolute minds, your brave enterprises, your unassailable tact, your diligent and watchful care for the dignity and safety of your friends, the public testimonies of your mutual love, and lastly, its most plentiful fruits, the more willingly and the more religiously shall devote themselves to maintaining and respecting the laws of friendship.
[7e.1] L I would desire to continue still in the examples of my native country, but the generosity of the Roman city advises me to relate the gallantry of other nations. Damon and Phintias, instructed in the sacred rites of Pythagorean wisdom, had contracted such a faithful friendship between themselves, that when Dionysius of Syracuse intended to put one of them to death, and he that was to suffer had got leave to go home to his house, to settle his affairs, the other was not afraid to be surety to the tyrant for his return. So now he was free from the peril of death, who recently had his neck under the axe; and he was now in danger, who was free before. Therefore all people, and Dionysius especially, awaited the outcome of an occurrence so novel and unpredictable. When the ordained day came, the condemned man did not return; and therefore everyone accused him of folly, who had so rashly undertaken surety for the other; though he himself remained certain of the loyalty of his friend. At the very hour and minute which Dionysius had prefixed, the other appeared. The tyrant, admiring the courage of them both, gave a full pardon to such great loyalty; further he asked them to receive him into the society of their friendship, promising to maintain it most carefully. Such is the power of friendship, to beget contempt of death, take away the sweet desire of life, tame cruelty, turn hatred into love, and to balance punishment with kindness: to which there is almost as much reverence due, as to the ceremonies of the gods. For they are the bonds of public security, as friendship is of private security. And as the temples are sacred edifices of the gods, so the faithful breasts of men are temples filled with a certain holy spirit.
[7e.2] L King Alexander certainly believed this to be true. When he captured the camp of Darius, where all his family resided, he came with Hephaestion his dearest friend by his side, to speak to them. At his approach the mother of Darius took heart, and lifting up her head as she lay prostrate upon the ground, she saluted Hephaestion, flattering him after the manner of the Persians, mistaking him for Alexander, because he was more impressive for his stature and comeliness. When she was made aware of her error, in great fear she sought for words to excuse it. "There is no reason," replied Alexander, "to be troubled by this, for he is another Alexander also." Whom shall we congratulate - him that said it, or him that heard it? The king, endued with a great soul, having already grasped the whole world, either in his victories or in his thoughts, in so few words made an equal division of it with his companion. O the gift of a royal tongue, as fair to the receiver as to the giver!
I too as a private man revere friendship, having had the experience of the bounty of a most wise and renowned person toward myself. And I do not doubt that it may be fitting for me to think my Pompeius to be like Alexander, who would have his Hephestion to be another Alexander. And therefore I should be liable to a very great error, to pass over this example of constant and kind friendship, without any mention of him: in whose mind, as in the breast of most loving parents, my prosperous condition of life has flourished and my misfortunes have found comfort. From him I have received all increase in my welfare freely offered; by his support I have stood more firmly against mishap; by his own prosperous conduct and good omens, he has rendered our studies more pleasant and delightful. And therefore I nourished the envy of some with the loss of my best friend, just as no doubt I had tortured them with the benefits of our friendship - not that I deserved that, because I always shared my favour such as it was with anyone who wanted to make use of it. But there is no prosperity so modest, that it can escape the teeth of envy. By what retirement can you avoid them, or by what allurements of kindness can you restrain their hostility? There is no remedy, but they will rejoice and be merry at the misfortunes of others, as if it were at their own good fortune. They are rich in the losses, wealthy in the calamities, immortal in the funerals of other men. But while they crow over the miseries of others, as yet inexperienced in their own, let them beware of the best avenger of their insolence, the changeability of the human condition.
Let us recall our work, that has strayed into a pious digression by exposing our own grievances, to its former course, and now take liberality into consideration; which has two probable sources, true judgment, and honourable benevolence. For it is properly founded, only when it springs from these. A gift is acceptable by its size, but somewhat more efficacious, when it is opportune; for the inestimable force of the timing is added to its value.
[8.1] L Therefore the expense of a small sum of money has made Fabius Maximus highly praised through many ages until now. He had recovered the prisoners from Hannibal, for an agreed sum of money. When the senate would not pay it, he sent his son to the city to sell the only farm which he had in the world, and thereby sent Hannibal the money. If we consider the sum, it was but small, as being the price of only seven iugera of land, situated in Pupinia; but if we consider the spirit of the giver, it was a very great sum, far exceeding any money. For he would rather lack his patrimony, than that his country should fail to pay its debt. It is so much the more to be commended, because it is a more certain sign of real commitment, to stretch beyond ability, than to do the same act out of ease. For the one gives what he can, the other more than he is able.
[8.2] L Therefore a woman of the same time, Busa by name, the richest in the region of Apulia, won herself an ample reputation for liberality; though perhaps not so great, if we compare her abundant wealth to the poverty of Fabius. For though she sustained about ten thousand of our citizens, the remnants of the battle of Cannae, within the walls of Canusium, yet she showed herself munificent to the Romans, without impoverishing her estate. But Fabius for the good of his country exchanged poverty for destitution.
[8.3] L We find also in Quinctus Considius a most wholesome example of liberality, not without some profit to himself. When the fury of Catiline had brought all the commonwealth into such a tumult, that even the rich, with the price of property falling, were not able to pay their creditors; he having the sum of fifteen million sesterces lent out, would not allow any of his debtors to be called upon, either for principal or for interest: and as much as in him lay, lessened the bitterness of public upheaval by his personal tranquility. He thereby demonstrated that he made profit only from his money, not from civil blood. Now they who act with rigour in business of this nature, when they carry blood-soaked money home, may realise from him, with what an accursed and impious joy they rejoice, if they do not disdain to read the decree of the senate, which gave Considius public thanks.
[8.4] L The people of Rome seem to complain of me, that while I am reporting the munificence of particular persons, I am silent about theirs. For it is apposite to their great praise, that is should be reported, what noble minds they have borne towards kings, cities and countries, because the glory of all renowned acts flourishes and revives by often being remembered. After they had conquered Asia, they handed it over it as a gift for king Attalus to possess; believing the future empire of our city would be more exalted and splendid, if they should invest the richest and fairest part of the world, rather in the treasury of gratitude than in profit. This gift was more auspicious than the victory itself. For to possess much, might cause envy; to have given away so much, could never lack a glorious esteem.
[8.5] L It is impossible to praise sufficiently in writing the divine spirit of the Roman people in the following liberality. After Philip king of Macedon was defeated, when all Greece flocked to watch the Isthmian games, T. Quinctius Flamininus, having caused silence to be made by the sound of trumpets, commanded a herald to proclaim these words: "The senate and people of Rome, and T. Quinctius Flamininus their general, command that all the cities of Greece, which were under the jurisdiction of king Philip, shall be free and exempt from taxes." When they heard this, the people were at first struck with a sudden unexpected joy, and, not believing what they had heard, were for a while silent. But when the proclamation was repeated by the herald, they filled the sky with such a cheerful din, that it is certainly reported, that the birds, which at that moment were flying overhead, fell down astonished and terrified with the noise. The Roman people had great souls, to remove the yoke of servitude from the necks of so many prisoners, and to give liberty to so many noble and wealthy cities.
The majesty of the people requires, that not only what they freely gave, but also what they received by the generosity of others, should be commemorated for ever. In the former is the accolade of [liberality] bestowed, in the latter of [liberality] repaid.
[8e.1] L Hieron, king of Syracuse, when he learnt of the defeat which the Romans had suffered at the Lake Trasimene, sent to Rome three hundred thousand modii of wheat, two hundred thousand modii of barley, and two hundred and forty pounds of gold. Because he was aware of the restraint of the Romans in receiving such gifts, he presented it as an image of Victory, so that he might compel them, moved by religion, to accept his munificence. He was both liberal in his readiness to send, and prudent in taking care that it should not be sent back.
[8e.2] L I will add to him Gillias of Agrigentum, who may be thought to have had the very heart of liberality. He was extremely rich, but more wealthy in the generosity of his spirit than in his riches; and he was always more busily employed in spending and finding ways to bestow, than in gaining money; and so his house seemed to be a kind of store of munificence. For there all monuments fit for public use were erected, there all shows were set out for the delight of the people, there were all preparations made for feasting, and from there the scarcity of corn was alleviated. This he did for the community; privately also the sick were relieved, dowries provided to poor girls, and assistance given to those who were broken by misfortune; guests and foreigners were courteously received both in the city and the country, and given generous gifts when they departed. On one occasion, among the rest, he fed and clad five hundred Gelan horsemen, who by a tempest were forced into his territories. What more? You would have said he had no mortal breast, but the very bosom of propitious Fortune herself. For what Gillias possessed, seemed to be the common property of all men. Not only the city of Agrigentum, but all the neighbouring regions continually prayed for his prosperity and increase in wealth. Place on the other side the money-chests locked away by some, inexorable to all pity; do you not think his expenses far more laudable than their careful parsimony?
Book 5 →
Attalus' home page | 26.04.21 | Any comments?