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(Speakers in the Dialogue: Sulla and Fundanus)

Sulla.1 A good plan, as it seems to me, Fundanus,2 is that which painters follow : they scrutinize their productions from time to time before they finish them. They do this because, by withdrawing their gaze and by inspecting their work often, they are able to form a fresh judgement, and one which is more likely to seize upon any slight discrepancy, such as the familiarity of uninterrupted contemplation will conceal. Since, therefore, it is impossible for a man to contemplate himself from time to time by getting apart from himself and interrupting his consciousness of himself by breaking its continuity (and this is what, more than anything else, makes every man a poorer judge of himself than of others), the next best course would be for him to inspect his friends from time to time and likewise to offer himself to them, not to see if he is grown old suddenly or if his body is better or worse, but for them to examine both his behaviour and his character to learn whether time has added some excellence or taken away some vice. As for me, since I have returned to Rome after a year's absence and this is now the fifth month that I have been with you constantly, I do not [p. 95] find it altogether surprising that, of the virtues which were already yours by gift of Nature, there has been so great an increment and increase ; but when I see that that violent and fiery tendency of yours toward anger has become so gentle and submissive to reason, it occurs to me to say with reference to your temper

O wonder, how much milder has it grown!3
Yet this mildness has brought about no inactivity or feebleness in you, but, like the earth when it has been subdued by cultivation, it has received a smoothness and depth conducive to fruitful action in place of that impetuousness of yours and quickness of temper. For that reason it is evident that the spirited part of your soul is not withering away through any abatement of vigour caused by age, nor yet spontaneously, but that it is receiving the skilful treatment of some excellent precepts. And yet - for I shall tell you the plain truth - when our friend Eros4 told me all this, I suspected that he was bearing witness, by reason of his goodwill, to qualities that were not actually present in you, yet should be so in men of breeding, although, as you know, he is by no means the sort of man to surrender his own opinion as a favour to anyone. But as things are, Eros stands acquitted of the charge of bearing false witness, and do you, since our journey5 gives us leisure for conversation, tell me, as though you were recounting some medical treatment, what remedy you used that you have made your temper so obedient to the rein and tender-mouthed, so mild and subservient to reason.

Fundanus. Well, what about you, my generous friend Sulla? Are you careful not to let your [p. 97] goodwill and friendship for me make you overlook some of my real qualities? For since on many occasions not even Eros himself can keep his temper in its place in that Homeric6 obedience, but when it becomes too exasperated through hatred of evil, it is reasonable to suppose that I appear more gentle to him, just as in changes of key certain high notes assume the position of low notes in contrast with other high notes.

Sulla. Neither of these suppositions is true, Fundanus. Please do as I ask.

1 Sextius Sulla, a friend of Plutarch (cf. Moralia, 636 a, and Prosopographia Imperii Romani, iii. p. 239).

2 C. Minicius Fundanus, a friend of Pliny (Epp., v. 16); cf. Pros. Imp. Rom., ii. p. 377.

3 Homer, Il., xxii. 373.

4 This friend of Plutarch is mentioned again in connexion with Fundanus in 464 e, infra.

5 See Hirzel, Der Dialog, ii. p. 168, note 4.

6 Od., xx. 23, cited in full 506 b, infra.

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