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[77] When I was a boy, I used to hear my father tell that Gaius Fimbria, an ex-consul, was judge in a case of Marcus Lutatius Pinthia, a Roman knight of irreproachable character. On that occasion Pinthia had laid a wager to be forfeited “if he did not prove in court that he was a good man.” Fimbria declared that he would never render a decision in such a case, for fear that he might either rob a reputable man of his good name, if he decided against him, or be thought to have pronounced someone a good man, when such a character is, as he said, established by the performance of countless duties and the possession of praiseworthy qualities without number.

To this type of good man, then, known not only1 to a Socrates but even to a Fimbria, nothing can possibly seem expedient that is not morally right. Such a man, therefore, will never venture to think —to say nothing of doing—anything that he would not dare openly to proclaim. Is it not a shame that philosophers should be in doubt about moral questions on which even peasants have no doubts at all? For it is with peasants that the proverb, already trite with age, originated: when they praise a man's honour and honesty, they say, “He is a man with whom you can safely play at odd and even2 in the dark.” What is the point of the proverb but this—that what is not proper brings no advantage, even if you can gain your [p. 351] end without anyone's being able to convict you of wrong?

1 To a good man moral wrong is never expedient.

2 Lit. flash with the fingers'; shoot out some fingers, the number of which had to be guessed.

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