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for instance, a wedding or the like, and which arouse the interest of the general public, or of people of position; and also in welcoming foreign guests and in celebrating their departure, and in the complimentary interchange of presents; for the magnificent man does not spend money on himself but on public objects, and his gifts have some resemblance to votive offerings. 2. [16] It is also characteristic of the magnificent man to furnish his house in a manner suitable to his wealth, since a fine house is a sort of distinction; and to prefer spending on permanent objects, because these are the most noble; 2. [17] and to spend an amount that is appropriate to the particular occasion, for the same gifts are not suitable for the gods and for men, and the same expenditure is not appropriate to a sacrifice and a funeral. In fact, inasmuch as the greatness of any form of expenditure varies with its particular kind, and, although the most magnificent expenditure absolutely is great expenditure on a great object, the most magnificent in a particular case is the amount that is great in that case, 2. [18] and since the greatness of the result achieved is not the same as the greatness of the expenditure (for the finest ball or oil-flask does not cost much or involve a very liberal outlay, though it makes a magnificent present in the case of a child), 2. [19] it follows that it is the mark of the magnificent man, in expenditure of whatever kind, to produce a magnificent result (for that is a standard not easily exceeded), and a result proportionate to the cost.2. [20]

Such then is the character of the magnificent man. His counterpart on the side of excess, the vulgar man, exceeds, as has been said, by spending beyond what is right. He spends a great deal and makes a tasteless display on unimportant occasions: for instance, he gives a dinner to his club on the scale of a wedding banquet, and when equipping a chorus at the comedies he brings it on in purple at its first entrance, as is done at Megara.1 Moreover, he does all this not from a noble motive but to show off his wealth, and with the idea that this sort of thing makes people admire him; and he spends little where he ought to spend much and much where he ought to spend little. 2. [21] The paltry man on the other hand will err on the side of deficiency in everything; even when he is spending a great deal, he will spoil the effect for a trifle, and by hesitating at every stage and considering how he can spend least, and even so grudging what he spends and always thinking he is doing things on a greater scale than is necessary. 2. [22] These dispositions then are vices, but they do not bring serious discredit, since they are not injurious to others, nor are they excessively unseemly.3.

Greatness of Soul,2 as the word itself implies, seems to be related to great objects; let us first ascertain what sort of objects these are.

1 In the earlier scenes of the comedies of Aristophanes, the chorus appear in character as charcoal-burners, cavalrymen, wasps, clouds, etc., and take part in the action of the play as such. They seem to have stripped off their outer dress for the Parabasis, or interlude, in which they address the audience on behalf of the author (Aristoph. Ach. 627,Aristoph. Peace 730). In the later scenes they tend to fall more into the position of spectators, like the chorus of tragedy; and the play usually ends with something in the nature of a triumphal procession, when purple robes (like the scarlet worn by the chorus at the end of the Eumenides of Aeschylus) would not be inappropriate, as they would be in the opening scenes. Megarian comedy is elsewhere associated with coarse buffoonery.

2 μεγαλοψυχία, magnanimitas, means lofty pride and self-esteem rather than magnanimity or high-mindedness (in the modern sense of the word).

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus, 1-150
    • W. Walter Merry, James Riddell, D. B. Monro, Commentary on the Odyssey (1886), 1.226
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