all these take from wrong
sources, and more than their due. 1.
The common characteristic of all these seems to be sordid greed, since
they all endure reproach for gain, and for a small gain. 1.
Those who make improper gains from improper sources
on a great scale, for instance princes who sack cities and rob temples, are not termed
mean, but rather wicked or impious or unjust. 1.
But the dicer and the foot-pad or brigand are to be classed as
mean, as showing sordid greed, for both ply their trade and endure reproach for gain, the
robber risking his life for plunder, and the dicer making gain out of his friends, to whom
one ought to give; hence both are guilty of sordid greed, trying as they do to get gain
from wrong sources. And all similar modes of getting wealth are mean for the same
Meanness is naturally spoken of as the opposite of Liberality; for not only is it a
greater evil than Prodigality, but also men more often err on the side of Meanness than on
that of Prodigality as we defined it.1
Let this suffice as an account of Liberality and of the vices which are opposed to
Next it would seem proper to discuss Magnificence,2
also appears to be a virtue concerned with wealth.
It does not however, like Liberality, extend to all actions dealing with wealth, but only
refers to the spending of wealth; and in this sphere it surpasses Liberality in point of
magnitude, for, as its name itself implies, it consists in suitable expenditure on a great
But this greatness of scale is relative. An amount of outlay that would be great for a
person fitting out a galley for the navy would not be great for one equipping a state
suitability of the expenditure therefore is relative to the spender himself, and to the
occasion or object. At the same time the term magnificent is not applied to one who spends
adequate sums on objects of only small or moderate importance, like the man who said
‘Oft gave I alms to homeless wayfarers’3
; it denotes someone who
spends suitably on great objects. For though the magnificent man is liberal, the liberal
man is not necessarily magnificent.2.
The defect corresponding to the magnificent disposition is called Paltriness, and the
excess Vulgarity, Want of Taste or the like. The latter vices do not exceed by spending
too great an amount on proper objects, but by making a great display on the wrong
occasions and in the wrong way. We will however speak of them later.4
The magnificent man is an artist in expenditure: he can discern what is suitable, and
spend great sums with good taste.