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The school and sect of Chrysippus1 deem every man mad, whom vicious folly or the ignorance of truth drives blindly forward. This definition takes in whole nations, this even great kings, the wise man [alone] excepted. Now learn, why all those, who have fixed the name of madman upon you, are as senseless as yourself. As in the woods, where a mistake makes people wander about from the proper path; one goes out of the way to the right; another to the left; there is the same blunder on both sides, only the illusion is in different directions: in this manner imagine yourself mad; so that he, who derides you, hangs his tail,2 not one jot wiser than yourself. There is one species of folly, that dreads things not in the least formidable; insomuch that it will complain of fires, and rocks, and rivers opposing it in the open plain; there is another different from this, but not a whit more approaching to wisdom, that runs headlong through the midst of flames and floods. Let the loving mother, the virtuous sister, the father, the wife, together with all the relations [of a man possessed with this latter folly], cry out: "Here is a deep ditch; here is a prodigious rock; take care of yourself:" he would give no more attention, than did the drunken Fufius3 some time ago, when he overslept the character of Ilione, twelve hundred Catieni at the same time roaring out, O mother, I call you to my aid. I will demonstrate to you, that the generality of all mankind are mad in the commission of some folly similar to this. Damasippus is mad for purchasing antique statues: but is Damasippus' creditor in his senses? Well, suppose I should say to you: receive this,4 which you can never repay: will you be a madman, if you receive it; or would you be more absurd for rejecting a booty, which propitious Mercury offers? Take bond,5 like the banker Nerius, for ten thousand sesterces; it will not signify: add the forms of Cicuta,6 so versed in the knotty points of law: add a thousand obligations: yet this wicked Proteus will evade all these ties. When you shall drag him to justice, laughing as if his cheeks were none of his own;7 he will be transformed into a boar, sometimes into a bird, sometimes into a stone, and when he pleases into a tree. If to conduct one's affairs badly be the part of a the madman; and the reverse, that of a man well in his senses; brain of Perillius (believe me), who orders you [that sum of money], which you can never repay, is much more unsound [than yours].
Fufius was an actor who, playing the character of Ilione, was supposed to be asleep, when
the ghost of her son Polydore called to her, "Dear mother, hear me." Fufius, having drunk
too much, fell really asleep; and Catienus, who played Polydore, having called to him,
without waking him, the whole house, as if each of them was a Catienus, cried out, "Dear
mother, hear me," The number of twelve hundred is a pleasant exaggeration. Accius or
Pacuvius wrote a tragedy on the story of Ilione, and the whole passage is preserved to us in
Mater, te adpello, tu quae somno curam suspensam levas,
Neque te mei miseret, surge et sepeli natum
Priusquam ferae volucresque.
4 Stertinius goes on to prove, not only that Damasippus is not a fool, in buying statues, since he does not pay for them, but that he would be a fool indeed, to refuse the favor which Mercury offers him, in the credulity of Perillius.
5 Scribere is sometimes used in the sense "to acknowledge the receipt of a sum borrowed"; hence some have supposed that the meaning here is scribe te decem sestertia accepisse a Nerio, as said by Damasippus' creditor. Thus, Nerius is a banker, with whom Damasippus' creditor (Perillius) had lodged his money, and in whose books Damasippus, when drawing the ten sestertia, was required to acknowledge (scribere) the receipt of so much money. But I prefer Gesner's interpretation, scribe decem tabulas a Nerio, i.e. "draw out ten bonds with all the niceties of Nerius," a usurer, well known for his care in wording the bonds, so that there could be no evasion.
6 Cicuta was an old notary, who knew too well the practice of bonds, to neglect any clauses or forms, capable of finding these engagements. Such is the force of “nodosus” . Tabulae are the bonds or contracts, from whence notaries were called tabularii.
7 People are not usually too careful of what belongs to others, from whence this kind of proverbial expression, "laughing with another man's cheeks." Dacier very well observes, that our poet hath translated it from Homer, when he says of Penelope's lovers, “Οἴ δ᾽ ἤδη γναθμοῖσι γελώων ἀλλορίοισι” ODYSS. lib. xx. v. 346.
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