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5. Men, individually and in common, nearly all have some aim, in the attainment of which they choose or avoid certain things. This aim, briefly stated, is happiness and its component parts. [2] Therefore, for the sake of illustration, let us ascertain what happiness, generally speaking, is, and what its parts consist in; for all who exhort or dissuade discuss happiness and the things which conduce or are detrimental to it. For one should do the things which procure happiness or one of its parts, or increase instead of diminishing it, and avoid doing those things which destroy or hinder it or bring about what is contrary to it.

[3] Let us then define happiness as well-being combined with virtue, or independence of life, or the life that is most agreeable combined with security, or abundance of possessions and slaves,1 combined with power to protect and make use of them2; for nearly all men admit that one or more of these things constitutes happiness. [4] If, then, such is the nature of happiness, its component parts must necessarily be:
noble birth, numerous friends, good friends, wealth, good children, numerous children, a good old age; further, bodily excellences, such as health, beauty, strength, stature, fitness for athletic contests, a good reputation, honor, good luck, virtue. For a man would be entirely independent, provided he possessed all internal and external goods; for there are no others. Internal goods are those of mind and body; external goods are noble birth, friends, wealth, honor. To these we think should be added certain capacities3 and good luck; for on these conditions life will be perfectly secure. Let us now in the same way define each of these in detail.

[5] Noble birth, in the case of a nation or State, means that its members or inhabitants are sprung from the soil4, or of long standing; that its first members were famous as leaders, and that many of their descendants have been famous for qualities that are highly esteemed. In the case of private individuals, noble birth is derived from either the father's or the mother's side, and on both sides there must be legitimacy; and, as in the case of a State, it means that its founders were distinguished for virtue, or wealth, or any other of the things that men honor, and that a number of famous persons, both men and women, young and old, belong to the family.

[6] The blessing of good children and numerous children needs little explanation.
For the commonwealth it consists in a large number of good young men, good in bodily excellences, such as stature, beauty, strength, fitness for athletic contests; the moral excellences of a young man are self-control and courage. For the individual it consists in a number of good children of his own, both male and female, and such as we have described. Female bodily excellences are beauty and stature, their moral excellences self-control and industrious habits, free from servility.5 The object of both the individual and of the community should be to secure the existence of each of these qualities in both men and women; for all those States in which the character of women is unsatisfactory, as in Lacedaemon,6 may be considered only half-happy.

[7] Wealth consists in abundance of money, ownership of land and properties, and further of movables, cattle, and slaves, remarkable for number, size, and beauty, if they are all secure, liberal, and useful. Property that is productive is more useful, but that which has enjoyment for its object is more liberal. By productive I mean that which is a source of income, by enjoyable that which offers no advantage beyond the use of it—at least, none worth mentioning. Security may be defined
as possession of property in such places and on such conditions that the use of it is in our own hands; and ownership as the right of alienation or not7, by which I mean giving the property away or selling it. In a word, being wealthy consists rather in use than in possession; for the actualization8 and use of such things is wealth.

[8] A good reputation consists in being considered a man of worth by all, or in possessing something of such a nature that all or most men, or the good, or the men of practical wisdom desire it.

[9] Honor is a token of a reputation for doing good; and those who have already done good are justly and above all honored, not but that he who is capable of doing good is also honored. Doing good relates either to personal security and all the causes of existence; or to wealth; or to any other good things which are not easy to acquire, either in any conditions, or at such a place, or at such a time; for many obtain honor for things that appear trifling, but this depends upon place and time. The components of honor are sacrifices, memorials in verse and prose, privileges, grants of land, front seats, public burial, State maintenance, and among the barbarians, prostration and giving place, and all gifts which are highly prized in each country. For a gift is at once a giving of a possession and a token of honor; wherefore gifts are desired by the ambitious and by those who are fond of money,
since they are an acquisition for the latter and an honor for the former; so that they furnish both with what they want.

[10] Bodily excellence is health, and of such a kind that when exercising the body we are free from sickness; for many are healthy in the way Herodicus9 is said to have been, whom no one would consider happy in the matter of health, because they are obliged to abstain from all or nearly all human enjoyments.

[11] Beauty varies with each age. In a young man, it consists in possessing a body capable of enduring all efforts, either of the racecourse or of bodily strength, while he himself is pleasant to look upon and a sheer delight. This is why the athletes in the pentathlon10 are most beautiful, because they are naturally adapted for bodily exertion and for swiftness of foot. In a man who has reached his prime, beauty consists in being naturally adapted for the toils of war, in being pleasant to look upon and at the same time awe-inspiring. In an old man, beauty consists in being naturally adapted to contend with unavoidable labors and in not causing annoyance11 to others, thanks to the absence of the disagreeable accompaniments of old age.

[12] Strength consists in the power of moving another as one wills, for which purpose it is necessary to pull or push, to lift, to squeeze or crush, so that the strong man is strong by virtue of being able to do all or some of these things.

[13] Excellence of stature consists in being superior to most men in height, depth, and breadth,
but in such proportion as not to render the movements of the body slower as the result of excess.

[14] Bodily excellence in athletics consists in size, strength, and swiftness of foot; for to be swift is to be strong. For one who is able to throw his legs about in a certain way, to move them rapidly and with long strides, makes a good runner; one who can hug and grapple, a good wrestler; one who can thrust away by a blow of the fist, a good boxer; one who excels in boxing and wrestling is fit for the pancratium,12 he who excels in all for the pentathlon.

[15] A happy old age is one that comes slowly with freedom from pain; for neither one who rapidly grows old nor one who grows old insensibly but with pain enjoys a happy old age. This also depends upon bodily excellences and good fortune; for unless a man is free from illness and is strong, he will never be free from suffering, nor will he live long and painlessly without good fortune. Apart from health and strength, however, there is a power of vitality in certain cases; for many live long who are not endowed with bodily excellences. But a minute examination of such questions is needless for the present purpose.

[16] The meaning of numerous and worthy friends is easy to understand from the definition of a friend. A friend is one who exerts himself to do for the sake of another what he thinks is advantageous to him. A man to whom many persons are so disposed, has many friends; if they are virtuous, he has worthy friends.

[17] Good fortune consists in the acquisition or possession
of either all, or the most, or the most important of those goods of which fortune is the cause. Now fortune is the cause of some things with which the arts also are concerned, and also of many which have nothing to do with art, for instance, such as are due to nature (though it is possible that the results of fortune may be contrary to nature); for art is a cause of health, but nature of beauty and stature.13 Speaking generally, the goods which come from fortune are such as excite envy. Fortune is also a cause of those goods which are beyond calculation; for instance, a man's brothers are all ugly, while he is handsome; they did not see the treasure, while he found it; the arrow hit one who stood by and not the man aimed at; or, one who frequented a certain place was the only one who did not go there on a certain occasion, while those who went there then for the first time met their death. All such instances appear to be examples of good fortune.

[18] The definition of virtue, with which the topic of praise is most closely connected, must be left until we come to treat of the latter.

1 This is the usual rendering, although it is hardly satisfactory. Jebb translates “a flourishing state . . . of body.”

2 Or, “bring about,” “effect them.”

3 i.e. of mind and body; or δυνάμεις may mean “positions of authority and influence.”

4 This was a favorite boast of the Athenians.

5 ἀνελευθερία: literally, qualities unbecoming to a free man or woman, ungentlemanly, unladylike; hence, mean, servile, sordid.

6 A similar charge against the Spartan woman is made in Aristot. Pol. 2.9.5: “Further the looseness ( ἄνεσις) of the Spartan women is injurious both to the purpose of the constitution and the well-being of the State . . . their life is one of absolute luxury and intemperance” (compare Eur. Andr. 595-596 “even if she wished it, a Spartan girl could not be chaste”). The opinion of Xenophon and Plutarch is much more favorable.

7 μή: in the MS. readings these words follow τοῦ οἰκεῖα εἶναι: “ownership or non-ownership.” The alteration is Spengel's.

8 ἐνέργεια: realization in action or fact.

9 Of Selymbria, physician and teacher of hygienic gymnastics (c. 420 B.C.). He is said to have made his patients walk from Athens to Megara and back, about 70 miles. He was satirized by Plato and by his old pupil Hippocrates as one who killed those for whom he prescribed (cf. 2.23.29).

10 Five contests: jumping, running, discus-throwing, javelin-throwing, wrestling.

11 Or simply, “freedom from pain” (5.15).

12 A combination of wrestling and boxing.

13 The results of art and the results due to nature are often assisted (or hindered) by the interference of the irregular operations of fortune or chance. Health may be the result of fortune, as well as art (a sick man may be cured by a drug taken by chance, one not prescribed by the physician); beauty and strength, of fortune as well as nature. It is parenthetically remarked that fortune may also produce unnatural monstrosities. The removal of the brackets and the substitution of a comma for the colon after φύσις have been suggested. The meaning would then be: “for instance, such as are due to nature, but possibly may be also contrary to nature.”

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), ATHLE´TAE
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