previous next

But imagine, pray, that such a work had been completed and made evident to men's eyes. Is there anyone who could look upon it and suppose that the form, the arrangement, and the appearance were created by Fortune and Accident? No one, I think. What of Apelles' ‘Wielder of the Thunderbolt’?1 What of the statue which takes its name from the Spear?2 Shall we admit, then, that greatness in a statue cannot, without the help of Art,3 be created by Fortune's profuse provision of gold and bronze and ivory and much rich material, but is it possible that a great man, or rather the greatest man of all that have ever lived, without the help of Virtue, was perfected through Fortunes supplying him with arms and money, foot and horse? But for him who has not learned how to use these things they are a danger, not a strength and enrichment, but a means of proving his weakness and pettiness. For Antisthenes [p. 437] was right when he said,4 ‘We should pray that our enemies be provided with all good things, except courage ; for thus these good things will belong, not to their owners, but to those that conquer them.’ Therefore they say that Nature also for defence has caused horns, wonderful for their size and jagged points, to grow upon the deer, the most cowardly of all animals ; and therein does Nature teach us that strength and arms are of no benefit to such as have not the courage to stand their ground. Thus also Fortune, by frequently bestowing on cowards and fools military forces and dominions, in which they disgrace themselves, emblazons and commends Virtue as the one quality that constitutes the greatness and beauty of man. For if indeed, as Epicharmus5 says,
Mind has sight and Mind has hearing;
but
All things else are deaf and blind;
then it happens that these are really lacking in reason. For our perceptive faculties seem to respond to their own special stimuli; but the fact that it is mind which aids us and mind which emblazons our deeds, and it is mind that conquers and overpowers and plays the monarch, and that ‘all things else,’ since they are ‘blind and deaf’ and soulless, mislead and burden and disgrace their possessors, if Virtue be not present,6 is a truth which may be gleaned from history.

Now of the two monarchs Semiramis and Sardanapalus, in whose hands were placed the same power [p. 439] and dominion, Semiramis,7 though a woman, equipped great expeditions, armed her ranks, established the Babylonian Empire, and sailed about the Persian Gulf subduing the Ethiopians and Arabs. But Sardanapalus,8 though born a man, spent his days at home carding purple wool, sitting with his knees drawn up in front of him among his concubines ; and when he died, they made a stone statue of him dancing in a barbaric fashion and apparently snapping its fingers above its head. They engraved upon it : ‘Eat, drink, and sport with love ; all else is naught.’ 9

When Crates10 saw a golden statue of Phrynê the courtesan standing at Delphi, he cried out that it stood there as a monument to Greek licentiousness ; and thus if one examine either the life or the tomb of Sardanapalus (for I think there is no difference between them), one would say that they are a monument to the bounty of Fortune. But if this be so, shall we allow Fortune to lay hold upon Alexander after Sardanapalus, and to lay claim to Alexander's greatness and power? For what greater gift did she bestow on him than those which other monarchs received at her hands : arms, horses, missiles, money, guardsmen? Let Fortune endeavour to make an Aridaeus11 great by these, if she can, or an Ochus or Oarses12 or Tigranes the Armenian, or the Bithynian Nicomedes. Of these [p. 441] Tigranes13 cast down his crown before the feet of Pompey and ignominiously received back his kingdom, which had become the spoil of war. But Nicomedes14 shaved his head and put on the freedman's cap and proclaimed himself an emancipated slave of the Roman people.

1 Cf. 335 a, supra, Moralia 360 d.

2 Cf. 335 a, supra, Moralia, 360 d.

3 Cf. Moralia, 99 b-c.

4 Cf. Stobaeus, Florilegium, lix. 41 (Hense, vol. iv. p. 362).

5 An oft-quoted line. Cf. G. Kaibel, Comicorum Graec. Frag. i. 137, Epicharmus, no. 249; Moralia, 98 c, with the note; also Cicero, Tusculan Disp. i. 20 (46); Maximus Tyrius, xi. 10.

6 Cf. Plato, Menexenus, 246 e.

7 Cf. Diodorus, ii. 4-20; Justin, i. 2.

8 Cf. 326 f, supra; Diodorus, ii. 21. 8 ff; Athenaeus, 528 f; W. K. Prentice, in Trans. Amer. Phil. Assoc. liv. (1923) p. 79: but the theory rightly set forth, there, that this description comes from Ctesias's Persica, is as old as Hemsterhuys; see Wyttenbach's note on this passage.

9 See the note on 330 f, supra.

10 Cf. Moralia, 401 a; Athenaeus, 591 b; Stobaeus, Florilegium, vi. 39 (vol. iii. p. 296 Hense).

11 Cf. 337 d, infra.

12 Cf. 337 e, infra.

13 Cf. Life of Pompey, chap. xxxiii. (637 a); Comp. of Cimon and Lucullus, iii. (522 e); Velleius Paterculus, ii. 37; Valerius Maximus, v. 1. 10.

14 Plutarch has confused Nicomedes with his father Prusias; cf. Polybius, xxx. 19; Livy, xlv. 44; Diodorus, xxxi. 15; Appian, Mithridatica, 2.

load focus Greek (Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 1889)
load focus English (Goodwin, 1874)
load focus Greek (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1936)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: