previous next
Thus we may show a meek and gentle temper and a submissive bearing of evil in our enmities; and even integrity, magnanimity, and goodness of disposition are also more conspicuous here than in friendship. For it is not so honorable and virtuous to do a friend a kindness, as it is unworthy and base to omit this good office when he stands in need; but it is an eminent piece of humanity, and a manifest token of a nature truly generous, to put up with the affronts of an enemy when you have a fair opportunity to revenge them. For if any one sympathizes with his enemy in his affliction, relieves him in his necessities, and is ready to assist his sons and family if they desire it, any one that will not love this man for his compassion, and highly commend him for his charity, ‘must have a black heart made of adamant or iron,’ as Pindar says.

When Caesar made an edict that the statues of Pompey which were tumbled down should be rebuilt and restored to their former beauty and magnificence, Tully tells him that by setting up again Pompey's statues he has erected one for himself, an everlasting monument of praise and honor to after ages. So that we must give to every one his due, to an enemy such respect and honor as he truly deserves. Thus a man that praises his enemy for his real deserts shall himself obtain the more honor by it; and whenever he shall correct or censure him, he will be credited in what he does, because every one will believe that he does it out of a dislike and just abhorrence of his vice and not of his person.

By this practice we shall be brought at length to perform the most honorable and worthy actions; for he who is wont to praise and speak the best things of his enemies will never repine at the prosperity or success of his friends [p. 294] and acquaintance; he is never troubled, but rather rejoices, when they thrive and are happy. And what virtue can any man exercise that will be more profitable and delightful to him than this, which takes away from him the bitterness of malice, and doth not only break the teeth of envy, but, by teaching him to rejoice at another man's felicity, doth double his own enjoyment and satisfaction. As in war many things, although they are bad and evil in themselves, yet have become necessary, and by long custom and prescription have obtained the validity of a law, so that it is not easy to root them out, even by those who thereby suffer much harm; just so doth enmity usher in the mind a long train of vices, meagre envy coupled with grim hatred, restless jealousy and suspicion, unnatural joy at other men's miseries, and a long remembrance of injuries. Fraud, deceit, and snares, joined to these forces of wickedness, work infinite mischief in the world, yet they appear as no evils at all when they are exerted against an enemy. By this means they make a deep entrance into the mind; they get fast hold of it, and are hardly shaken off. So that, unless we forbear the practice of these ill qualities towards our enemies, they will by frequent acts become so habitual to us, that we shall be apt to make use of them to the manifest wrong and injury of our friends. Wherefore, if Pythagoras was highly esteemed for instructing his disciples to avoid all manner of cruelty against beasts themselves,—so that he himself would redeem them out of their captivity in either the fowler's or the fisherman's net, and forbade his followers to kill any creature,—it is surely much better and more manly in our differences with men to show ourselves generous, just, and detesters of all falsehood, and to moderate and correct all base, unworthy, and hurtful passions; that in all our conversation with our friends we may be open-hearted, and that we may not seek to overreach or deceive others in any of our dealings.

[p. 295] For Scaurus was a professed enemy and an open accuser of Domitius; whereupon a treacherous servant of Domitius comes to Scaurus before the cause was to be heard, and tells him that he has a secret to communicate to him in relation to the present suit, which he knows not of, and which may be very advantageous on his side. Yet Scaurus would not permit him to speak a word, but apprehended him, and sent him back to his master. And when Cato was prosecuting Murena for bribery, and was collecting evidence to support his charge, he was accompanied (according to custom) by certain persons in the interest of the defendant, who watched his transactions. These often asked him in the morning, whether he intended on that day to collect evidence or make other preparation for the trial; and so soon as he told them he should not, they put such trust in him that they went their way. This was a plain demonstration of the extraordinary deference and honor they paid to Cato; but a far greater testimony, and one surpassing all the rest, is it to prove that, if we accustom ourselves to deal justly and uprightly with our enemies, then we shall not fail to behave ourselves so towards our friends.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus English (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1928)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: