previous next

Upon the whole,1 forasmuch as the vice anger, as well as others inherent in foolish [mortals], can not be totally eradicated, why does not human reason make use of its own weights and measures; and so punish faults, as the nature of the thing demands? If any man should punish with the cross a slave, who being ordered to take away the dish should gorge the half-eaten fish and warm sauce;2 he would, among people in their senses, be called a madder man than Labeo.3 How much more irrational and heinous a crime is this! Your friend has been guilty of a small error (which, unless you forgive, you ought to be reckoned a sour, ill-natured fellow), you hate and avoid him, as a debtor does Ruso;4 who, when the woeful calends come upon the unfortunate man, unless he lrocures the interest or capital by hook or by crook, is compelled to hear his miserable stories with his neck stretched out like a slave. [Should my friend] in his liquor water my couch, or has he thrown down a jar carved by the hands of Evander:5 shall he for this [trifling] affair, or because in his hunger he has taken a chicken before me out of my part of the dish, be the less agreeable friend to me? [If so], what could I do if he was guilty of theft, or had betrayed things committed to him in confidence, or broken his word. They who are pleased [to rank all] faults nearly on an equality, are troubled when they come to the truth of the matter: sense and morality are against them, and utility itself,6 the mother almost of right and of equity.

When [rude] animals, they crawled7 forth upon the firstformed earth, the mute and dirty herd fought with their nails and fists for their acorn and caves, afterward with clubs, and finally with arms which experience had forged: till they found out words and names, by which they ascertained their language and sensations: thenceforward they began to abstain from war, to fortify towns, and establish laws: that no person should be a thief, a robber, or an adulterer. For before Helen's time there existed [many] a woman who was the dismal cause of war: but those fell by unknown deaths, whom pursuing uncertain venery, as the bull in the herd, the strongest slew. It must of necessity be acknowledged, if you have a mind to turn over the aeras and annals of the world, that laws were invented from an apprehension of the natural injustice [of mankind]. Nor can nature separate what is unjust from what is just, in the same manner as she distinguishes what is good from its reverse, and what is to be avoided from that which is to be sought: nor will reason persuade men to this, that he who breaks down the cabbage-stalk of his neighbor, sins in as great a measure, and in the same manner, as he who steals by night things consecrated to the gods. Let there be a settled standard, that may inflict adequate punishments upon crimes; lest you should persecute any one with the horrible thong, who is only deserving of a slight whipping. For I am not apprehensive, that you should correct with the rod one that deserves to suffer severer stripes; since you assert that pilfering is an equal crime with highway robbery, and threaten that you would prune off with an undistinguishing hook little and great vices, if mankind were to give you the sovereignty over them. If he be rich, who is wise, and a good shoemaker, and alone handsome, and a king, why do you wish for that which you are possessed of? You do not understand what Chrysippus,8 the father [of your sect], says: "The wise man never made himself shoes nor slippers: nevertheless, the wise man is a shoemaker." How so? In the same manner, though Hermogenes be silent, he is a fine singer, notwithstanding, and an excellent musician: as the subtle [lawyer] Alfenus,9 after every instrument of his calling was thrown aside, and his shop shut up, was [still] a barber; thus is the wise man of all trades, thus is he a king. O greatest of great kings, the waggish boys pluck you by the beard; whom unless you restrain with your staff, you will be jostled by a mob all about you, and you may wretchedly bark and burst your lungs in vain. Not to be tedious: while you, my king, shall go to the farthing bath, and no guard shall attend you, except the absurd Crispinus; my dear friends will both pardon me in any matter in which I shall foolishly offend, and I in turn will cheerfully put up with their faults; and, though a private man, I shall live more happily than you, a king.

1 The second part of the satire begins here. The Stoics called all vicious people fools, stultos. Quatenus is frequently used by our poet for quoniam, since that.

2Tepidumque ligurrierit ius . Horace, to excuse the slave, says, that the sauce was yet warm, tepidum, and therefore more tempting. For the same reason, he says, the fish was half eaten.

3Labeone insanior . The Scholiasts, commentators, and interpreters tell us, that Horace means Marcus Antistius Labeo, who, in the spirit of liberty, frequently opposed Augustus in the senate, when he attempted any alterations in the state. “Agitabat eum libertas nimia et vecors”, says Seneca; which might justly render him odious to Augustus. But whatever respect our poet had for his emperor, yet we never find that he treats the patrons of liberty with outrage. Nor can we well imagine that he dare thus cruelly brand a man of Labeo's abilities, riches, power, and employments in the state; to whom Augustus himself offered the consulship. Probably the person here intended was publicly known to have been guilty of some folly not unlike what our poet mentions. Dr. Bentley hath found a Labienus in the time of Augustus, whose character fits this passage extremely well; and whom he therefore recommends to a place in the text.

4 The alternative with Ruso was either ruin from extortion, or misery from listening to his writings. If his wretched creditors could not pay him, then they were condemned to hear him read his works. Perhaps some might prefer considering historias used in the sense of "tedious narration," and refer it to the long schedule of the items in his account. Audit. Asinius Pollio first introduced the custom of reciting one's own compositions at Rome.

5Evandri manibus tritum . — Tornatum, caelatum, fabricatum. “Hinc radios trivere rotis”, Virgil. “Vitrum aliud flatu figuratur, aliud torno teritur”, Pliny. But as the Latins used the word toreumata to signify any works, either turned or wrought by the chisel, because they were made by the same workmen, Sanadon thinks the poet probably means, that this plate was engraved with an instrument. The Scholiast tells us, that this Evander was carried from Athens to Rome by Mark Antony, and that he excelled in sculpture and engraving. They who believe that Horace means king Evander, would not only persuade us that this plate must have been preserved so many ages by some uncommon good fortune, but have unluckily placed a vessel so valuable on a monarch's table, whose palace was a cottage, his throne a chair of ordinary wood, his beds made of leaves or rushes, and his tapestry the skins of beasts. Res inopes Evandrus habebat. Dr. Bentley denies that the Latins ever used tritum to signify caelatum, perfectum, and he therefore recommends tortum to us, on the authority of an ancient manuscript.

6 Horace endeavors to prove, according to the doctrine of Epicurus, that justice and injustice arise only from laws, and that laws have no other foundation than public utility, by which he means the happiness of civil society. On the contrary, the Stoics asserted, that justice and injustice have their first principles in nature itself, and the first appearance of reason in the mind of man.

7Cum prorepserunt . This expression is extremely proper for the system of Epicurus, who believed that the first race of men rose out of the earth, in which they were formed by a mixture of heat and moisture.

8 Chrysippus is here pleasantly called father, because he was the first who explained, in this absurd manner, these excellent precepts of Zeno which teach us, that wisdom sets above kings; and that the throne she offers to us is preferable to that of the greatest monarchs.

9 Alfenus Varus, a shoemaker of Cremona, who, growing out of conceit with his employment, quitted it, and came to Rome; where attending the lectures of Servius Sulpicius, a celebrated professor of law, he made so great proficience in that science, that he soon came to be esteemed one of the ablest lawyers of his time, and his name often occurs in the Pandects. He was afterward advanced to the highest honors of the empire; for we find him consul in the year of the city 755.

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.

hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 354
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: