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17. [39]

Some one will say, “Is this then the discipline which you enforce? Is this the way you train up young men? Was this the object with which a parent recommended his son to you and delivered him to you, that he might devote his youth to love and pleasure, and that you might defend this manner of life and these pursuits?”

If, O judges, any one was of such vigour of mind, and of a natural disposition so formed for virtue and continence as to reject all pleasures, and to dedicate the whole course of his life to labour of body and to wholesome training of his mind, a man who took no delight in rest or relaxation, or the pursuits of those of his own age, or games, or banquets, who thought nothing in life worth wishing for, except what was connected with glory and with dignity, that man I consider furnished and endowed with good qualities which may be called godlike. Of this class I consider were those great men, the Camilli, the Fabricii, the Curii and all those men who have achieved such mighty exploits with inadequate means. But these examples of virtue are not only not found in our practice, but they occur but rarely, even in books. [40] The very records which used to contain accounts of that old fashioned strictness of morals, are worn out and that not only among us, who have adopted this school and system of life in reality more than in words, but also among the Greeks most learned men, who, though they could not act in such a manner were nevertheless at liberty to speak and write honourably and magnificently; when the habits of Greece became changed other precepts arose and prevailed.

Therefore some of their wise men said that they did everything for the sake of pleasure; and even learned men were not ashamed of the degradation of uttering such a sentiment. [41] Others thought that dignity ought to be united with pleasure, so as by their neatness of expression to unite things as inconsistent with one another as possible. Those who still think that the only direct road to glory is combined with toil, are left now almost solitary in their schools. For nature herself has supplied us with numerous allurements, by which virtue may be lulled asleep, and at which, she may be induced to connive; nature herself has at times pointed out to youth many slippery ways, on which it is hardly possible for it to stand, or along which it can hardly advance without some slip or downfall, and has supplied also an infinite variety of exquisite delights, by which not only that tender age, but even one which is more strongly fortified, may be caught.

[42] Wherefore, if by chance you find any one whose eyes are so well tutored as to look with scorn on the outward beauty of things; who is not captivated by any fragrance, or touch, or flavour, and who stops his ears against all the allurements of sound; I, and perhaps a few others, may think that the gods have been propitious to this man, but most people will consider that he has been treated by them as an object of their anger.


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