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[3] The idea of noble birth refers to excellence of race, that of noble character to not degenerating from the family type, a quality not as a rule found in those of noble birth, most of whom are good for nothing. For in the generations of men there is a kind of crop as in the fruits of the field; sometimes, if the race is good, for a certain period men out of the common are born in it, and then it deteriorates. Highly gifted families often degenerate into maniacs, as, for example, the descendants of Alcibiades and the elder Dionysius; those that are stable into fools and dullards, like the descendants of Cimon, Pericles, and Socrates.

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load focus Notes (E. M. Cope, 1877)
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