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Virtue and Fortune, who have often engaged in many great contests, are now engaging each other in the present contest, which is the greatest of all; for in this they are striving for a decision regarding the hegemony of Rome, to determine whose work it is and which of them created such a mighty power. For to her who is victorious this will be no slight testimonial, but rather a defence against accusation. For Virtue is accused of being a fair thing, but unprofitable; Fortune of being a thing inconstant, but good. Virtue's labours, they say, are fruitless. Fortune's gifts untrustworthy. Who, then, will not declare, when Rome shall have been added to the achievements of one of the contestants, either that Virtue is a most profitable thing if she has done such good to good men, or that Good Fortune is a thing most steadfast if she has already preserved for so long a time that which she has bestowed?

The poet Ion1 in his prose works observes that Fortune is a thing very dissimilar to Wisdom, and yet she becomes the creator of things very similar : they both bring increase and added honours to men, they lead them on to high repute, to power, to dominion. What need to be tedious by enumerating the many examples? Even Nature herself, who creates and [p. 325] produces all things for us, some think to be Fortune, others Wisdom. Wherefore our present discourse does, in a measure, bestow a fair and enviable dignity upon Rome, if we raise the question over her, even as we do over earth and sea, heaven and stars, whether she has come to her present state by Fortune or by Forethought.2

1 Cf. Moralia, 717 b.

2 That is, Wisdom.

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