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Of true nobility.

NOT Maecenas, though of all the Lydians1 that ever inhabited the Tuscan territories, no one is of a nobler family than yourself; and though you have ancestors both on father's and mother's side, that in times past have had the command of mighty legions; do you, as the generality are wont, toss up your nose at obscure people, such as me, who had [only] a freed-man2 for my father: since you affirm that it is of no consequence of what parents any man is born, so that he be a man of merit. You persuade yourself, with truth, that before the dominions of Tullius, and the reign of one born a slave, frequently numbers of men descended from ancestors of no rank, have both lived as men of merit, and have been distinguished by the greatest honors: [while] on the other hand Laevinus, the descendant of that famous Valerius, by whose means Tarquinius Superbus was expelled from his kingdom, was not a farthing more esteemed3 [on account of his family, even] in the judgment of the people, with whose disposition you are well acquainted; who often foolishly bestow honors on the unworthy, and are from their stupidity slaves to a name: who are struck with admiration by inscriptions and statues. What is it fitting for us to do, who are far, very far removed from the vulgar [in our sentiments]? For grant it, that the people had rather confer a dignity on Laevinus than on Decius, who is a new man; and the censor Appius would expel me [the senate-house], because I was not sprung from a sire of distinction: and that too deservedly, inasmuch as I rested not content in in my own condition. But glory drags in her dazzling car the obscure as closely fettered as those of nobler birth. What did it profit you, O Tullius, to resume the robe that you [were forced] to lay aside, and. become a tribune [again] Envy increased upon you, which had been less, if you had remained in a private station. For when any crazy fellow has laced the middle of his leg with the sable buskins,4 and has let flow the purple robe from his breast, he immediately hears: "Who is this man? Whose son is he?" Just as if there be any one, who labors under the same distemper as Barrus does, so that he is ambitious of being reckoned handsome; let him go where he will, he excites curiosity among the girls of inquiring into particulars; as what sort of face, leg, foot, teeth, hair, he has. Thus he who engages5 to his citizens to take care of the city, the empire, and Italy, and the sanctuaries of the gods, forces every mortal to be solicitous, and to ask from what sire he is descended, or whether he is base by the obscurity of his mother. What? do you, the son of a Syrus,6 a Dama, or a Dionysius, dare to cast down the citizens of Rome from the [Tarpeian] rock, or deliver them up to Cadmus [the executioner]? But, [you may say,] my colleague Novius sits7 below me by one degree: for he is only what my father was. And therefore do you esteem yourself a Paulus or a Messala? But he (Novius), if two hundred carriages and three funerals were to meet in the forum, could make noise enough8 to drown all their horns and trumpets:9 this [kind of merit] at least has its weight with us.

Now I return to myself, who am descended from a freedman; whom every body nibbles at, as being descended from a freed-man. Now, because, Maecenas, I am a constant guest of yours; but formerly, because a Roman legion was under my command, as being a military tribune. This latter case is different from the former: for, though any person perhaps might justly envy me that post of honor, yet could he not do so with regard to your being my friend! especially as you are cautious to admit such as are worthy; and are far from having any sinister ambitious views. I can not reckon myself a lucky fellow on this account, as if it were by accident that I got you for my friend; for no kind of accident threw you in my way. That best of men, Virgil, long ago, and after him, Varius, told you what I was. When first I came into your presence, I spoke a few words in a broken manner (for childish bashfulness hindered me from speaking more); I did not tell you that I was the issue of an illustrious father: I did not [pretend] that I rode about the country on a Satureian horse, but plainly what I really was; you answer (as your custom is) a few words: I depart: and you re-invite me after the ninth month, and command me to be in the number of your friends. I esteem it a great thing that I pleased you, who distinguish probity from baseness, not by the illustriousness of a father, but by the purity of heart and feelings.

And yet if my disposition be culpable for a few faults, and those small ones, otherwise perfect (as if you should condemn moles scattered over a beautiful skin), if no one can justly lay to my charge avarice, nor sordidness, nor impure haunts; if, in fine (to speak in my own praise), I live undefiled, and innocent, and dear to my friends; my father was the cause of all this: who though a poor man on a lean farm, was unwilling to send me to a school under [the pedant] Flavius, where great boys, sprung from great centurions, having their satchels and tablets swung over their left arm, used to go with money in their hands the very day it was due;10 but had the spirit to bring me a child to Rome, to be taught those arts which any Roman knight and senator can teach his own children. So that, if any person had considered my dress, and the slaves who attended me in so populous a city, he would have concluded that those expenses were supplied to me out of some hereditary estate. He himself, of all others the most faithful guardian, was constantly about every one of my prcceptors. Why should I multiply words? He preserved me chaste (which is the first honor of virtue) not only from every actual guilt, but likewise from [every] foul imputation, nor was he afraid lest any should turn it to his reproach, if I should come to follow a business attended with small profits, in capacity of an auctioneer, or (what he was himself) a taxgatherer. Nor [had that been the case] should I have complained. On this account the more praise is due to him, and from me a greater degree of gratitude. As long as I am in my senses, I can never be ashamed of such a father as this, and therefore shall not apologize [for my birth], in the manner that numbers do, by affirming it to be no fault of theirs. My language and way of thinking is far different from such persons. For if nature were to make us from a certain term of years to go over our past time again, and [suffer us] to choose other parents, such as every man for ostentation's sake would wish for himself; I, content with my own, would not assume those that are honored with the ensigns and seats of state; [for which I should seem] a madman in the opinion of the mob, but in yours, I hope a man of sense; because I should be unwilling to sustain a troublesome burden, being by no means used to it. For I must [then] immediately set about acquiring a larger fortune, and more people must be complimented; and this and that companion must be taken along, so that I could neither take a jaunt into the country, or a journey by myself; more attendants and more horses must be fed; coaches must be drawn. Now, if I please, I can go as far as Tarentum on my bob-tailed mule, whose loins the portmanteau galls with his weight, as does the horseman his shoulders. No one will lay to my charge such sordidness as he may, Tullius, to you, when five slaves follow you, a praetor, along the Tiburtian way, carrying a traveling kitchen, and a vessel of wine. Thus I live more comfortably, O illustrious senator, than you, and than thousands of others. Wherever I have a fancy, I walk by myself: I inquire the price of herbs and bread: I traverse the tricking circus,11 and the forum often in the evening: I stand listening among the fortune-tellers: thence I take myself home to a plate of onions, pulse, and pancakes. My supper is served up by three slaves; and a white stone slab supports two cups and a brimmer: near the salt-cellar stands a homely cruet12 with a little bowl, earthen-ware from Campania. Then I go to rest; by no means concerned that I must rise in the morning, and pay a visit to the statue of Marsyas,13 who denies that he is able to bear the look of the younger Novius. I lie a-bed to the fourth hour; after that I take a ramble, or having read or written what may amuse me in my privacy, I am anointed with oil, but not with such as the nasty Nacca, when he robs the lamps.

But when the sun, become more violent, has reminded me to go to baths, I avoid the Campus Martius14 and the game of hand-ball. Having dined in a temperate manner, just enough to hinder me from having an empty stomach, during the rest of the day I trifle in my own house. This is the life of those who are free from wretched and burthensome ambition: with such things as these I comfort myself, in a way to live more delightfully than if my grandfather had been a quaestor, and father and uncle too.

1Lydorum quicquid Etruscos. Mr. Dacier, upon the single authority of Dionysius Halicarnassensis, asserts that the Tuscans were not descended from the Lydians. Yet Horace had a poetical right to the tradition, as it was generally believed, although it might possibly be false. But it is supported by Herodotus, Tully, Virgil, Strabo, Servius, Pliny, Tacitus, Velleius, Seneca, Plutarch, Valerius Maximus, Silius, and Statius.

2 In the first ages of the republic libertinus and liberti filius had the same signification; but some time before Cicero, as we are informed by Suetonius, the manner of speaking was changed, and from thence libertus and libertinus were used as synonymous terms to signify a man who was made free.

3Licuisse. Laevinus is here pleasantly set up to auction, for licere was the term used to signify raising the sale.

4 The buskins worn by senators were black, and sometimes white; those of the curule magistrates were red.

5Sic qui promittit. This was the form of a senator's and a magistrate's oath.

6Syri, Damae, aut Dionysi. These three names are the names of slaves. Damas or Dama is a contraction of Demetrius; Syrus is frequently the slave in comedy.

7 Sedet is a law word, properly applied to senators, praetors, and other judges when seated on the bench, in execution of their office.

8Magna sonabit. Funerals usually passed through the forum, and Novius could pronounce an oration with a voice of thunder. Horace laughs at his being made a senator for an accomplishment which could only entitle him to the office of a crier.

9 Trumpets were used at the funerals of men, and flutes at those of children. The twelve tables confined them to ten in number. “"Decem tibicines adhibeto, hoc plus ne facito."

10Octonis referentes idibus aera. The Romans had many stated times of paying their schoolmasters. Some imagine it was at the beginning, others at the end of the year, or at the grand festival of Minerva, called quinquatrus, or quinquatria, which began the 19th of March. But the Minerval then given to the master was not a salary, but a voluntary present. This word has no particular force here. It merely means that the Ides were eight days from the Nones. With regard to idibus comp. Sat. i. 3, 87. It appears from a passage of Martial that the Roman youths had full four months' vacation; hence Octonis idibus denote the period of tuition: trans, "bringing the money for eight months' instruction."

11 He calls the circus fallacem, deceiving, because diviners, fortunetellers, interpreters of dreams, astrologers, and impostors of all sorts usually assemble there.

12Echino vilis. We can not precisely determine what the guttus and echinus were. Mr. Dacier thinks the first was a little urn, out of which they poured water into a basin, echinus, to wash their hands.

13 Marsyas, a satyr, who, challenging Apollo to a trial of skill in music, was overcome and flayed alive by the god. A statue was erected to him in the forum, opposite to the rostra where the judges determined causes, and the poet pleasantly says, it stood in such an attitude as showed its indignation to behold a man who had been a slave, now sitting among the magistrates of Rome. The satyr forgets, in his resentment of such a sight, the pain of being flayed alive.

14Fugio campum, lusumque trigonem. Campus is the Campus Martius, and lusus trigon was a game played with a ball, otherwise called lusus trigonalis, because the players stood in a triangle. Martial speaks of it in more than one place

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