previous next
Rutilius that rich Roman, coming one day to Musonius the philosopher, whispered him thus in his ear: Musonius, Jupiter the Savior, whom you philosophers profess to imitate and follow, takes not up money at interest. Musonius smiling presently answered him: Nor yet does he lend for use. For this Rutilius, who was himself an usurer, upbraided the other with borrowing upon use. Now what a foolish stoical arrogance was this. For what need was there of bringing here Jupiter the Savior, when he might have given him the same admonition by things that were familiar and before his eyes? Swallows run not themselves into debt, ants borrow not upon interest; and yet Nature has given them neither reason, hands, nor art. But she has endued men with such abundance of understanding, that they maintain not only themselves, but also horses, dogs, partridges, hares, and jays. Why then dost thou condemn thyself, as if thou wert less able to persuade than a jay, more dumb than a partridge, and more ungenerous than a dog, in that thou couldst not oblige any man to be assistant to thee, either by serving him, charming him, guarding him, or fighting in his defence? Dost thou not see how many occasions the land, and how many the sea affords thee for thy maintenance? Hear also what Crates says:
Here I saw Miccylus the wool to card,
Whilst his wife spun, that they by labor hard
In these hard times might 'scape the hungry jaws
Of famine.

King Antigonus, when he had not for a long time seen [p. 420] Cleanthes the philosopher, said to him, Dost thou yet, O Cleanthes, continue to grind Yes, sir, replied Cleanthes, I still grind, and that I do to gain my living and not to depart from philosophy. How great and generous was the courage of this man, who; coming from the mill and the kneading-trough, did with the same hand which had been employed in turning the stone and moulding the dough, write of the nature of the Gods, moon, stars, and sun! And yet we think these to be servile works.

Therefore, forsooth, that we may be free, we take up money at interest, and to this purpose flatter base and servile persons, wait on them, treat them, make them presents, and pay them pensions; and this we do, not being compelled by poverty (for no usurer will lend a poor man money) but to gratify our prodigality. For if we would be content with such things as are necessary for human life, usurers would be no less rare in the world than Centaurs and Gorgons. But luxury and excess, as it produced goldsmiths, silversmiths, perfumers, and dyers of curious colors, so has it also brought forth usurers. For we run not into debt for bread and wine, but for the purchasing of stately seats, numerous slaves, fine mules, costly banqueting halls, rich tables, and for all those foolish and superfluous expenses to which we frequently put ourselves for the exhibiting of plays to the people, or some such vain ambition, from which we frequently reap no other fruit but ingratitude. Now he that is once entangled in usury remains a debtor all his life, not unlike in this to the horse, who, having once taken the bridle into his mouth and the saddle on his back, receives one rider after another. Nor is there any means for these debtors to make their escape into those fair pastures and meadows which once they enjoyed, but they wander about, like those Daemons mentioned by Empedocles to have been driven out of heaven by the offended Gods: [p. 421]

By the sky's force they're thrust into the main,
Which to the earth soon spews them back again.
Thence to bright Titan's orb they're forced to fly,
And Titan soon remits them to the sky.

In like manner do such men fall from the hand of one usurer or banker to another, sometimes of a Corinthian, sometimes of a Patrian, sometimes of an Athenian, till, having been deceived and cheated by all, they finally find themselves dissipated and torn in pieces by usury. For as he who is fallen into the dirt must either rise up and get out of it, or else lie still in the place into which he first fell, for that by tumbling, turning, and rolling about, he does but still more and more bemire himself; so also those who do but change their creditor, and cause their names to be transcribed from one usurer's book to another's, do by loading and embroiling themselves with new usuries become more and more oppressed. Now in this they properly resemble persons distempered with cholera, who cannot receive any medicine sufficient to work a perfect cure, but continually vomit up all that is given them, and so make way for the choleric humor to gather more and more. For in the same manner these men are not willing to be cleansed at once, but do with grievous anguish and sorrow pay their use at every season of the year, and no sooner have they discharged one, but another drops and stills immediately after, which causes them both aching hearts and heads; whereas they should have taken care to get wholly clear, that they might remain free and at liberty.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus English (Harold North Fowler, 1936)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: