But grant that so vast an undertaking should have been brought to perfection; is there any person living, do ye think, that would have believed such a figure, such a form, and so great a design, to be the spontaneous and accidental production of fantastic Nature? Certainly, not one. What may we think of the statue representing him grasping thunder, and that other with his spear in his hand? Is it possible that a Colossus of a statue should ever be made by Fortune without the help of art; nay, though she should profusely afford all the materials imaginable of gold, brass, ivory, or any other substance whatever? Much more, is it probable that so great a personage, and indeed the greatest of all who have ever lived, should be the workmanship of Fortune without the assistance of virtue? And all this, perhaps, because she has made him the potent master of arms, horses, money, and wealthy cities?—which he who knows not how to use shall rather find to be destructive and dangerous than aids to advance his power and magnificence, as affording proofs of his weakness and pusillanimity. Noble therefore was the saying of Antisthenes, that we ought to wish an enemy all things beneficial to mankind except fortitude; for so these blessings will belong not to their possessors but to the conqueror. Therefore it was, they say, that Nature provided for the hart, one of the most timorous of creatures, such large and branchy horns, to teach us that strength and weapons nothing avail where conduct and courage are wanting. In like manner, Fortune frequently bestowing wealth and empire upon princes simple and faint-hearted, who blemish their dignity by misgovernment, honors and more firmly establishes virtue, as being that which alone makes a man most truly beautiful and majestic. For indeed, according to Epicharmus,
'Tis the mind only sees, the mind[p. 497] For as for the senses, they seem only to have their proper opportunities to act. But that the mind alone is that which gives both assistance and ornament, the mind that overcomes, that excels, and acts the kingly part, while those other blind, deaf, and inanimate things do but hinder, depress, and disgrace the possessors void of virtue, is easily made manifest by experience. For Semiramis, but a woman, set forth great navies, raised mighty armies, built Babylon, coverd the Red Sea with her fleets and subdued the Ethiopians and Arabians. On the other side, Sardanapalus possessing the same power and dominion, though born a man, spent his time at home combing purple wool, lying among his harlots in a lascivious posture upon his back, with his heels higher than his head. After his decease, they made for him a statue of stone, resembling a woman dancing, who seemed to snap with her fingers as she held them over her head, with this inscription,—
That hears; the rest are deaf and blind.
Eat, drink, indulge thy lust; all other things are nothing.Whence it came to pass that Crates, seeing the golden statue of Phryne the courtesan standing in the temple of Delphi, cried out, There stands a trophy of the Grecian luxury. But had he viewed the life or rather burial (for I find but little difference) of Sardanapalus, would he have imagined that statue to have been a trophy of Fortune's indulgences? Shall we suffer the fortune of Alexander to be sullied by the touch of Sardanapalus, or endure that the latter should challenge the majesty and prowess of the former? For what did Sardanapalus enjoy through her favor, more than other princes receive at her hands—arms, horses, weapons, money, and guards of the body? Let Fortune, with all these assistances, make Aridaeus famous, if she can; let her, if she can, advance the renown of Ochus, Amasis, Oarses, Tigranes the Armenian, or Nicomedes [p. 498] the Bithynian. Of which last two, the one, casting his diadem at Pompey's feet, ignominiously surrendered up his kingdom a prey to the victor; and as for Nicomedes, he, after he had shaved his head and put on the cap of liberty, acknowledged himself no more than a freed vassal of the Roman people.