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But some will say, Do you not see rich men live splendidly and spend high? To whom we answer: Dost thou not hear what Aristotle says, that some there are that do not use wealth, and some that abuse it? For neither sort do what is fit and becoming; but what the one sort possess does neither advantage nor adorn them, and what the other sort have does both hurt and dishonor them.

But let us further consider, What is the use of riches, for which men so much admire theme? Is it the enjoyment of what suffices nature? Alas! in this respect the [p. 303] wealthy have no advantage of those that are of a meaner fortune; but wealth (as Theophrastus says) is really no wealth and need not be coveted, if Callias, the richest man of Athens, and Ismenias, the wealthiest of Thebes, made use but of the same things that Socrates and Epaminondas did. For as Agathon sent away the music from the room where he feasted to the women's apartment, contenting himself with the discourses of his guests, so you would reject and send away the purple beds and the high prized tables and all other superfluous things, should you see that the rich make use of the same things with the poor.

I do not mean thou shouldst presently

Hang up the rudder in the smoke at ease,
And let the mules' and oxen's labor cease;

but much rather the impertinent labor of goldsmiths, turners, perfumers, and cooks, when thou resolvest wisely and soberly to banish all useless things.

But if the things that suffice nature lie in common among those that have and those that want riches,—if rich men pride themselves only in things superfluous, and thou art ready to praise Scopas of Thessaly, who, when one begged somewhat of him he had in his house, as a superfluous thing he had no use for, made answer, ‘But we rich men count our felicity and happiness to lie in these superfluities, and not in those necessary things,’—if your case be thus, have a care you do not seem like one that magnifies and prefers a pomp and public show at a festival before life itself.

Our country's feast of Bacchus was in old time celebrated in a more homely manner, though with great mirth and jollity. One carried in procession a vessel of wine and a branch of a vine, afterwards followed one leading a goat, another followed him bearing a basket of dried figs, and after all came a phallus. But all these are now despised [p. 304] and out of date, the procession being made with golden vessels and costly garments, driving of chariots and persons in masquerade. And just thus the things that are necessary and useful in riches are swallowed up by those that are unprofitable and superfluous.

1 Hesiod, Works and Days, 45.

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