previous next
[1232b] [1] for example, courage makes a man disdainful of dangers, for he thinks that to consider danger a great matter is a disgraceful thing, and that numbers are not always formidable; and the sober-minded man disdains great and numerous pleasures, and the liberal man wealth. But the reason why this is thought characteristic of the great-spirited man is because of his caring about few things and those great ones, and not about whatever somebody else thinks. And a great-spirited man would consider more what one virtuous man thinks than what many ordinary people think, as Antiphon after his condemnation said to Agathon when he praised his speech for his defence.1 And a feeling thought to be specially characteristic of the great-spirited man is disdain. On the other hand, as to the accepted objects of human interest, honor, life, wealth, he is thought to care nothing about any of them except honor; it would grieve him to be dishonored and ruled by someone unworthy, and his greatest joy is to obtain honor.

Thus he might therefore be thought inconsistent, on the ground that to be specially concerned about honor and to be disdainful of the multitude and of reputation do not go together. But in saying this we must distinguish. Honor is small or great in two ways: it differs in being conferred either by many ordinary people or by persons of consideration, and again it differs in what it is conferred for, [20] since its greatness does not depend only on the number or the quality of those who confer it, but also on its being honorable; and in reality those offices and other good things are honorable and worthy of serious pursuit that are truly great, so that there is no goodness without greatness; owing to which each of the virtues seems to make men great-spirited in regard to the things with which that virtue is concerned, as we said.2 But nevertheless there is a single virtue of greatness of spirit side by side with the other virtues, so that the possessor of this virtue must be termed great-spirited in a special sense. And since there are certain goods which are in some cases honorable and in others not, according to the distinction made before,3 and of goods of this sort some are truly great and others small, and some men deserve and claim the former, it is among these men that the great-spirited man must be looked for. And there are necessarily four varieties of claim: it is possible to deserve great things and to claim them as one's desert; and there are small things and a man may deserve and claim things of that size; and as regards each of these two classes of things the reverse is possible—one man may be of such a character that although deserving small things he claims great ones—the goods held in high honor, and another man though deserving great things may claim small ones. Now the man worthy of small things but claiming great ones is blameworthy, for it is foolish and not fine to obtain what does not correspond to one's deserts. And he also is blameworthy who though worthy of such things does not deem himself worthy to partake of them although they are available for him.

1 A variant reading gives 'as A. said to A. when he insincerely praised his defence.' For Antiphon's indictment as a leader in the revolution of the Four Hundred at Athens see Thuc. 8.68. Agathon is presumably the tragic poet, see Plato's Symposium. The anecdote is not recorded elsewhere.

2 See 39.

3 i.e. ll. 17 ff.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1884)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Athens (Greece) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.68
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: