because none of these is able to participate in noble activities.
For this cause also children cannot be happy, for they are not old
enough to be capable of noble acts; when children are spoken of as happy, it is in
compliment to their promise for the future. Happiness, as we said, requires both complete
goodness and a complete lifetime.
For many reverses and
vicissitudes of all sorts occur in the course of life, and it is possible that the most
prosperous man may encounter great disasters in his declining years, as the story is told
of Priam in the epics; but no one calls a man happy who meets with misfortunes like
Priam's, and comes to a miserable end.10.
Are we then to count no other human being happy either, as long as he is alive? Must we
obey Solon's warning,1
and ‘look to the end’?
And if we are indeed to lay down this rule, can a man really be happy
after he is dead? Surely that is an extremely strange notion, especially for us who define
happiness as a form of activity!
While if on the other
hand we refuse to speak of a dead man as happy, and Solon's words do not mean this, but
that only when a man is dead can one safely call him blessed as being now beyond the reach
of evil and misfortune, this also admits of some dispute; for it is believed that some
evil and also some good can befall the dead, just as much as they can happen to the living
without their being aware of it— for
instance honors, and disgraces, and the prosperity and misfortunes of their children and
their descendants in general.
But here too there is a
difficulty. For suppose a man to have lived in perfect happiness until old age, and to
have come to a correspondingly happy end: he may still have many vicissitudes befall his
descendants, some of whom may be good and meet with the fortune they deserve, and others
the opposite; and moreover these descendants may clearly stand in every possible degree of
remoteness from the ancestors in question. Now it would be a strange thing if the dead man
also were to change2
with the fortunes of his family,
and were to become a happy man at one time and then miserable at another;
yet on the other hand it would also be strange if ancestors were not
affected at all, even over a limited period, by the fortunes of their
But let us go back to our former difficulty,3
for perhaps it will throw light on the question4
we are now examining.
If we are to look to the end, and congratulate a man
when dead not as actually being blessed, but because he has been blessed in the past,
surely it is strange if at the actual time when a man is happy that fact cannot be truly
predicated of him,