This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
But a great majority of mankind, misled by a wrong desire, cry, "No sum is enough; because you are esteemed in proportion to what you possess." What can one do to such a tribe as this? Why, bid them be wretched, since their inclination prompts them to it. As a certain person is recorded [to have lived] at Athens,  covetous and rich, who was wont to despise the talk of the people in this manner: "The crowd hiss me; but I applaud myself at home, as soon as I contemplate my money in my chest." The thirsty Tantalus catches at the streams, which elude his lips. Why do you laugh? The name changed, the tale is told of you.  You sleep upon your bags, heaped up on every side, gaping over them, and are obliged to abstain from them, as if they were consecrated things, or to amuse yourself with them as you would with pictures. Are you ignorant of what value money has, what use it can afford? Bread, herbs, a bottle of wine may be purchased; to which [necessaries],  add [such others], as, being withheld, human nature would be uneasy with itself. What, to watch half dead with terror, night and day, to dread profligate thieves, fire, and your slaves, lest they should run away and plunder you; is this delightful? I should always wish to be very poor in possessions held upon these terms.  But if your body should be disordered by being seized with a cold, or any other casualty should confine you to your bed, have you one that will abide by you, prepare medicines, entreat the physician that he would set you upon your feet, and restore you to your children and dear relations? Neither your wife, nor your son, desires your recovery;  all your neighbors, acquaintances, [nay the very] boys and girls hate you. Do you wonder that no one tenders you the affection which you do not merit, since you prefer your money to every thing else? If you think to retain, and preserve as friends, the relations which nature gives you, without taking any pains;  wretch that you are, you lose your labor equally, as if any one should train an ass to be obedient to the rein, and run in the Campus [Martius]. Finally, let there be some end to your search; and, as your riches increase, be in less dread of poverty; and begin to cease from your toil, that being acquired which you coveted:  nor do as did one Umidius (it is no tedious story), who was so rich that he measured his money, so sordid that he never clothed himself any better than a slave; and, even to his last moments, was in dread lest want of bread should oppress him: but his freed-woman,  the bravest of all the daughters of Tyndarus,1 cut him in two with a hatchet. "What therefore do you persuade me to? That I should lead the life of Naevius, or in such a manner as a Nomentanus?" You are going [now] to make things tally, that are contradictory in their natures.2 When I bid you not be a miser, I do not order you to become a debauchee or a prodigal.  There is some difference between the case of Tanais and his son-in-law Visellius: there is a mean in things; finally, there are certain boundaries, on either side of which moral rectitude can not exist. I return now whence I digressed. Does no one, after the miser's example, like his own station, but rather praise those who have different pursuits;  and pines, because his neighbor's she-goat bears a more distended udder; nor considers himself in relation to the greater multitude of poor; but labors to surpass, first one, and then another? Thus the richer man is always an obstacle to one that is hastening [to be rich]:  as when the courser whirls along the chariot, dismissed from the place of starting; the charioteer presses upon those horses which outstrip his own, despising him that is left behind coming on among the last. Hence it is, that we rarely find a man who can say he has lived happy, and content with his past life, can retire from the world like a satisfied guest.3  Enough for the present: nor will I add one word more, lest you should suspect that I have plundered the escrutoire of the blear-eyed Crispinus.
1 As if she had been another Clytemnestra, the daughter of Tyndarus, who cut off her husband's head with an ax. “Fortissima Tyndaridarum” , from the accusative of Tyndaris, viz. Tyndarida, comes the noun Tyndarida, Tyndaridae etc.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.