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12. Let us now describe the nature of the characters of men according to their emotions, habits, ages, and fortunes. [2] By the emotions I mean anger, desire, and the like, of which we have already spoken; by habits virtues and vices, of which also we have previously spoken, as well as the kind of things men individually and deliberately choose and practise. The ages are youth, the prime of life, and old age.
By fortune I mean noble birth, wealth, power, and their contraries, and, in general, good or bad fortune.1

[3] The young, as to character, are ready to desire and to carry out what they desire. Of the bodily desires they chiefly obey those of sensual pleasure and these they are unable to control. [4] Changeable in their desires and soon tiring of them, they desire with extreme ardor, but soon cool; for their will, like the hunger and thirst of the sick, is keen rather than strong. [5] They are passionate, hot-tempered, and carried away by impulse, and unable to control their passion; for owing to their ambition they cannot endure to be slighted, and become indignant when they think they are being wronged. [6] They are ambitious of honor, but more so of victory; for youth desires superiority, and victory is a kind of superiority. And their desire for both these is greater than their desire for money, to which they attach only the slightest value, because they have never yet experienced want, as Pittacus2 said in his pithy remark on Amphiaraus. [7] They are not ill-natured but simple-natured,3 because they have never yet witnessed much depravity; confiding, because they have as yet not been often deceived; [8] full of hope, for they are naturally as hot-blooded as those who are drunken with wine, and besides they have
not yet experienced many failures. For the most part they live in hope, for hope is concerned with the future as memory is with the past. For the young the future is long, the past short; for in the morning of life it is not possible for them to remember anything, but they have everything to hope; which makes them easy to deceive, for they readily hope. [9] And they are more courageous, for they are full of passion and hope, and the former of these prevents them fearing, while the latter inspires them with confidence, for no one fears when angry, and hope of some advantage inspires confidence. [10] And they are bashful, for as yet they fail to conceive of other things that are noble, but have been educated solely by convention.4 [11] They are high-minded, for they have not yet been humbled by life nor have they experienced the force of necessity; further, there is high-mindedness in thinking oneself worthy of great things, a feeling which belongs to one who is full of hope.

[12] In their actions, they prefer the noble to the useful; their life is guided by their character5 rather than by calculation, for the latter aims at the useful, virtue at the noble. [13] At this age more than any other they are fond of their friends and companions
because they take pleasure in living in company and as yet judge nothing by expediency, not even their friends. [14] All their errors are due to excess and vehemence and their neglect of the maxim of Chilon,6 for they do everything to excess, love, hate, and everything else. And they think they know everything, and confidently affirm it, and this is the cause of their excess in everything. [15] If they do wrong, it is due to insolence, not to wickedness. And they are inclined to pity, because they think all men are virtuous and better than themselves7; for they measure their neighbors by their own inoffensiveness, so that they think that they suffer undeservedly. [16] And they are fond of laughter, and therefore witty; for wit is cultured insolence. Such then is the character of the young.

1 The πίστις ἠθική is resumed from 2.1.8. As the πάθη and ἕξεις have been discussed already, only the ages and their character remain.

2 One of the Seven Wise Men of Greece.

3 Or, “they do not look at things in a bad light, but in a good,” i.e., they are not always ready to suspect.

4 Social convention is the only law that they know, and they are ashamed if they violate it, because as yet they have no idea of higher laws which may command them to do so.

5 ἦθος “in the widest sense, includes all that is habitual and characteristic; in a limited sense, it expresses the habitual temper or disposition” (Twining).

6 One of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. The maxim was Μηδὲν ἄγαν, Ne quid nimis, Never go to extremes.

7 Or, “better than they really are.”

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