II[2arg] That the word elegantia in earlier days was not used of a more refined nature, but of excessive fastidiousness in dress and mode of life, and was a term of reproach.
IT was not customary to call a man elegans, or “elegant,” by way of praise, but up to the time of Marcus Cato that word as a rule was a reproach, not a compliment. And this we may observe both in some other writers, and also in the work of Cato entitled Carmen de Moribus. In this book is the following passage: 1 “They thought that avarice included all the vices; whoever was considered extravagant, ambitious, elegant, vicious or good-fornothing received praise.” 2 It is evident from these words that in days of old the “elegant” man was so called, not because of refinement of character, but because he was excessively particular and extravagant in his attire and mode of life. Later, the “elegant” man ceased indeed to be reproached, but he was deemed worthy of no commendation, unless his elegance was very moderate. Thus Marcus Tullius commended Lucius Crassus and Quintus Scaevola, not for mere elegance, but for elegance combined with great frugality. “Crassus,” he says, 3 “was the most frugal of elegant men; Scaevola the most elegant of the frugal.” Besides this, in the same work of Cato, I recall also these scattered and cursory remarks: 4 “It was [p. 305] the custom,” says he, “to dress becomingly in the forum, at home to cover their nakedness. They paid more for horses than for cooks. The poetic art was not esteemed. If anyone devoted himself to it, or frequented banquets, he was called a 'ruffian.'” This sentiment too, of conspicuous truthfulness, is to be found in the same work: 5 “Indeed, human life is very like iron. If you use it, it wears out; if you do not, it is nevertheless consumed by rust. In the same way we see men worn out by toil; if you toil not, sluggishness and torpor are more injurious than toil.”