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Since a natural consequence of much learning is to have much to say (and for this reason Pythagoras1 enjoined upon the young a five years' silence which he called a ‘Truce to Speech’), a necessary concomitant of inquisitiveness is to speak evil.2 For what the curious delight to hear they delight to tell, and what they zealously collect from others they joyously reveal to everyone else. Consequently, in addition to its other evils, their disease actually impedes the fulfilment of their desires.3 For everyone is on his guard to hide things from them and is reluctant to do anything while a busybody is looking, or to say anything while one is listening, but defers consultation and postpones the consideration of business until such an inquisitive person is out of [p. 497] the way. And if, when either some secret matter is under discussion or some important business is being transacted, a busybody comes on the scene, men drop the matter from the discussion and conceal it, as one does a tidbit when a cat runs by. Consequently these persons are often the only ones to whom those matters are not told or shown which everyone else may hear and see.

For the same reason the busybody is deprived of everybody's confidence4: we should prefer, on any account, to entrust our letters and papers and seals to slaves and strangers rather than to inquisitive friends and relatives. That noble Bellerophon5 did not break the seal even on a letter accusing himself which he was carrying, but kept his hands from the king's letter by reason of that same continence which kept him from the king's wife. Inquisitiveness, in fact, is indicative of incontinence no less than is adultery, and in addition, it is indicative of terrible folly and fatuity. For to pass by so many women who are public property open to all and then to be drawn toward a woman who is kept under lock and key and is expensive, and often, if it so happens, quite ugly, is the very height of madness and insanity. And it is this same thing which busybodies do : they pass by much that is beautiful to see and to hear, many matters excellent for relaxation and amusement, and spend their time digging into other men's trifling correspondence, gluing their ears to their neighbours' walls, whispering with slaves and women of the streets, and often incurring danger, and always infamy.

1 Cf. Life of Numa, viii. (65 b); De Vita et Poesi Homeri, 149 (Bernardakis, vol. vii. p. 420); Lucian, Vitarum Auctio, 3.

2 Cf. 508 c, supra.

3 Cf. 502 e-f, supra.

4 Cf. 503 c-d, supra.

5 Cf. Il., vi. 168.

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