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29.

I, O Cato, do not venture to find fault with your intentions, by reason of my extraordinarily high opinion of your virtue; but in some particulars I may perhaps be able slightly to amend and reform them. “You are not very wrong,” said an aged tutor to a very brave man; “but if you are wrong, I can set you right.” But I can say with the greatest truth that you never do wrong, and that your conduct is never such in any point as to need correction, but only such as occasionally to require being guided a little. For nature has herself formed you for honesty, and gravity, and moderation, and magnanimity, and justice; and for all the virtues required to make a great and noble man. To all these qualities are added an education not moderate, nor mild, but as it seems to me, a little harsh and severe, more so than either truth or nature would permit. [61] And since we are not to address this speech either to an ignorant multitude, or to any assembly of rustics, I will speak a little boldly about the pursuits of educated men, which are both well known and agreeable to you, O judges, and to me. Learn then, O judges, that all these good qualities, divine and splendid as they are, which we behold in Marcus Cato, are his own peculiar attributes. The qualities which we sometimes wish for in him, are not all those which are implanted in a man by nature, but some of them are such as are derived from education. For there was once a man of the greatest genius, whose name was Zeno, the imitators of whose example are called Stoics. His opinions and precepts are of this sort: that a wise man is never influenced by interest; never pardons any man's fault; that no one is merciful except a fool and a trifler; that it is not the part of a man to be moved or pacified by entreaties; that wise men, let them be ever so deformed, are the only beautiful men; if they be ever such beggars, they are the only rich men; if they be in slavery, they are kings. And as for all of us who are not wise men, they call away slaves, exiles, enemies, lunatics. They say that all offenses are equal; that every sin is an unpardonable crime; and that he does not commit a less crime who kills a cock if there was no need to do so, than the man who strangles his father. They say that a wise man never feels uncertain on any point never repents of anything, is never deceived in anything, and never alters his opinion.


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