I[1arg] A discussion of the question why Sallust said that avarice rendered effeminate, not only a manly soul, but also the very body itself.
WHEN winter was already waning, we were walking with the philosopher Favorinus in the court of the Titian baths, 1 enjoying the mild warmth of the sun; and there, as we walked, Sallust's Catiline was being read, a book which Favorinus had seen in the hands of a friend and had asked him to read. The following passage from that book had been recited: 2 “Avarice implies a desire for money, which no wise man covets; steeped as it were with noxious poisons, it renders the most manly body and soul effeminate; it is ever unbounded, nor can either plenty or want make it less.” Then Favorinus looked at me and said: “How does avarice make a man's body effeminate? For I seem to grasp in general the meaning of his statement that it has that effect on a manly soul, but how it also makes his body effeminate I do not yet comprehend.” “I too,” said I, “have for a long time been putting myself that question, and if you had not anticipated me, I should of my own accord have asked you to answer it.” Scarcely had I said this with some hesitation, when one of the disciples of Favorinus, who seemed [p. 237] to be an old hand in the study of literature, broke in: “I once heard Valerius Probus say that Sallust here used a kind of poetic circumlocution, and meaning to say that a man was corrupted by avarice, spoke of his body and soul, the two factors which indicate a man; for man is made up of body and soul.” “Never,” replied Favorinus, “at least, so far as I know, was our Probus guilty of such impertinent and bold subtlety as to say that Sallust, a most skilful artist in conciseness, used poetic paraphrases.” There was with us at the time in the same promenade a man of considerable learning. He too, on being asked by Favorinus whether he had anything to say on the subject, answered to this effect: “We observe that almost all those whose minds are possessed and corrupted by avarice and who have devoted themselves to the acquisition of money from any and every source, so regulate their lives, that compared with money they neglect manly toil and attention to bodily exercise, as they do everything else. For they are commonly intent upon indoor and sedentary pursuits, in which all their vigour of mind and body is enfeebled and, as Sallust says, 'rendered effeminate.'” Then Favorinus asked to have the same words of Sallust read again, and when they had been read, he said: “How then are we to explain the fact, that it is possible to find many men who are greedy for money, but nevertheless have strong and active bodies?” To this the man replied thus: “Your answer is certainly to the point. Whoever,” said he, “is greedy for money, but nevertheless has a body that is strong and in good condition, must necessarily be possessed either by an interest in, or devotion to, [p. 239] other things as well, and cannot be equally niggardly in his care of himself. For if extreme avarice, to the exclusion of everything else, lay hold upon all a man's actions and desires, and if it extend even to neglect of his body, so that because of that one passion he has regard neither for virtue nor physical strength, nor body, nor soul—then, and then only, can that vice truly be said to cause effeminacy both of body and of soul, since such men care neither for themselves nor for anything else except money.” Then said Favorinus: “Either what you have said is reasonable, or Sallust, through hatred of avarice, brought against it a heavier charge than he could justify.” 3