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This is the use that may be lawfully made of censuring and judging our enemies; that we may be sure we are not culpable for the same misdemeanors which we condemn in them. On the contrary, we may reap no less advantage from our being judged and censured by our enemies. In this case Antisthenes spake incomparably well, that if a man would lead a secure and blameless life, it was necessary that he should have either very ingenuous and honest friends, or very furious enemies, because the first would keep him from sinning by their kind admonitions, the latter by their evil words and vehement invectives.

But for as much as in these times friendship is grown almost speechless, and hath left off that freedom it did once use, since it is loquacious in flattery and dumb in admonition, therefore we must expect to hear truth only from the mouths of enemies. As Telephus, when he could find no physician that he could confide in as his friend, thought his adversary's lance would most probably heal his wound; so he that hath no friend to give him advice and to reprove him in what he acts amiss must bear patiently the rebukes of an enemy, and thereby learn to amend the errors of his ways; considering seriously the object which these severe censures aim at, and not what the person is who makes them. For as he who designed the death of Prometheus the Thessalian, instead of giving the fatal blow, only lanced a swelling that he had, which did really preserve his life and free him from the hazard of approaching death; just so may the harsh reprehensions of enemies cure some distempers of the mind that were before either unknown or neglected, though these angry speeches do origi nally proceed from malice and ill-will. But many, when they are accused of a crime, do not consider whether they are guilty of the matter alleged against them, but are rather [p. 290] solicitous whether the accuser hath nothing that may be laid to his charge; like the combatants in a match at wrestling, they take no care to wipe off the dirt that sticks upon them, but they go on to besmear one another, and in their mutual strugglings they wallow and tumble into more dirt and filthiness.

It is a matter of greater importance and concern to a man when he is lashed by the slanders of an enemy, by living virtuously to prevent and avert all objections that may be made against his life, than it is to scour the spots out of his clothes when they are shown him. And even if any man with opprobrious language object to you crimes you know nothing of, you ought to enquire into the causes and reasons of such false accusations, that you may learn to take heed for the future and be very wary, lest unwittingly you should commit those offences that are unjustly attributed to you, or something that comes near them. Lacydes, king of the Argives, was abused as an effeminate person, because he wore his hair long, used to dress himself neatly, and his mien was finical. So Pompey, though he was very far from any effeminate softness, yet was reflected upon and jeered for being used to scratch his head with one of his fingers. Crassus also suffered much in the like kind, because sometimes he visited a vestal virgin and showed great attention to her, having a design to purchase of her a little farm that lay conveniently for him. So Postumia was suspected of unchaste actions, and was even brought to trial, because she would often be very cheerful and discourse freely in men's company. But she was found clear of all manner of guilt in that nature. Nevertheless at her dismission, Spurius Minucius the Pontifex Maximus gave her this good admonition, that her words should be always as pure, chaste, and modest as her life was. Themistocles, though he had offended in nothing, yet was suspected of treachery with Pausanias, because he [p. 291] corresponded familiarly with him, and used every day to send him letters and messengers.

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load focus English (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1928)
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