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16. [37]

I come now again to you, O Caelius, in your turn; and I take upon myself the authority and strictness of a father; but I doubt which father's character I shall select to assume. Shall I not the part of some one of Caecilius's1 fathers, harsh and vehement? “ “For now, in truth, at length my bosom glows,
My heart with passion rages;”
” or that other father?— “ “Oh thou unhappy, worthless son.”
” Those are very hard-hearted fathers; “ “What shall I say, what wishes dare I form,
When your base actions frustrate all my prayers;”
” Such a father as that would say things which you would find it difficult to bear. He would say, “Why did you betake yourself to the neighbourhood of a harlot? Why did you not shun her notorious blandishments? Why did you form a connection with a woman who was nothing to you? Squander your money, throw it away; I give you leave. If you come to want, it is you yourself who will suffer for it. I shall be satisfied if I am able to spend pleasantly the small portion of my life that remains to me.” [38] To this morose and severe old man Caelius would reply, that he had not departed from the right path from being led away by any passion. What proof could he give? That he had been at no expense, at no loss; that he had not borrowed any money. But it was said that he had. How few people are there who can avoid such a report, in a city so prone to evil speaking! Do you wonder that the neighbour of that woman was spoken of unfavourably, when her own brother could not escape being made the subject of conversation by profligate men? But to a gentle and considerate father such as his is, whose language would be, “Has he broken the doors? they shall be mended; has he torn his garments? they shall be repaired;”the cause of his son is easily explained. For what circumstances could there be in which he would not be able easily to defend himself? I am not saying anything now against that woman: but if there were a woman totally unlike her, who made herself common to everybody; who had always some one or other openly avowed as her lover; to whose gardens, to whose house, to whose baths the lusts of every one had free access as of their own right; a woman who even kept young men, and made up for the parsimony of their fathers by her liberality; if she lived, being a widow, with freedom, being a lascivious woman, with wantonness, being a rich woman, extravagantly, and being a lustful woman, after the fashion of prostitutes; am I to think any one an adulterer who might happen to salute her with a little too much freedom?


1 Caecilius, one of the old Roman comic writers, from one of whose plays these lines are taken.

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