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Of all nations of the earth, the Romans have, without doubt, excelled every other in the display of valour.1 The human judgment cannot, however, possibly decide what man has enjoyed the highest degree of happiness, seeing that every one defines a state of prosperity in a way different from another, and entirely in conformity with his own notions. If we wish to form a true judgment and come to a decision, casting aside all the allurements and illusions of fortune, we are bound to say that no mortal is happy. Fortune has dealt well, and, indeed, indulgently, to him who feels that he has a right to say that he is not unhappy. For if there is nothing else, at all events, there is the fear lest fortune should fail at last; which fear itself, when it has once fastened upon us, our happiness is no longer unalloyed. And then, too, is it not the case that there is no mortal who is always wise? Would that there were many to be found, who could feel a conviction that this is false, and that it had not been enunciated by an oracle itself, as it were! Mortals, vain as they are, and ingenious in deceiving themselves, calculate in the same way as the Thracians, who, according to their experience of each day, deposit in an urn a black or a white pebble; at the close of their life, these pebbles are separated, and from the relative number of each kind, they form their conclusions.2 But really, may not that very day that has been complimented with a white pebble, have contained in itself the germ of some misfortune? How many a man has got into trouble by the very power which has been bestowed upon him? How many have been brought to ruin and plunged into the deepest misery by their own blessings? or rather, by what have been looked upon too fondly as blessings, for the hour during which they were in the full enjoyment of them. But most true it is, that it is the day after, that is the judge of the day before; and after all, it is only the last day that is to set its stamp on the whole; the consequence is, that we can put our trust in none of them. And then, too, is it not the fact that the blessings of life would not be equal to its evils, even though they were equal in number? For what pleasure is there that can compensate for the slightest grief? Alas! what a vain and unreasonable task we impose upon ourselves! We trouble ourselves with counting the number of days, when it is their weight3 that ought to be taken into consideration.

1 "Virtus"—"manliness," that being esteemed by the Romans the ideal of true virtue.

2 It appears that a similar custom prevailed among the Scythians, according to Phylarchus, from whom Pliny probably took his account of it; Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 151.

3 As being fraught with an intensity of pain, which no number of days passed in pleasure can compensate.

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