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II.1‑43

This webpage reproduces part of the
De Officiis

by
Cicero

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1913

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


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III.1‑34

(Vol. XXI) Cicero
De Officiis

Book II
(end)

p213 (13) 44 But, although the very essence of the problem is that we actually be what we wish to be thought to be, still some rules may be laid down to enable us most easily to secure the reputation of being what we are. For, if anyone in his early youth has the responsibility of living up to a distinguished name acquired either by inheritance from his father (as, I think, my dear Cicero, is your good fortune) or by some chance or happy combination of circumstances, the eyes of the world are turned upon him; his life and character are scrutinized; and, as if he moved in a blaze of light, not a word and not a deed of his can be kept a secret. 45 Those, on the other hand, whose humble and obscure origin has kept them unknown to the world in their early years ought, as soon as they approach young manhood, to set a high ideal before their eyes and to strive with unswerving zeal towards its realization. This they will do with the better heart, because that time of life is p215accustomed to find favour rather than to meet with opposition.

Well, then, the first thing to recommend to a young man in his quest for glory is that he try to win it, if he can, in a military career. Among our forefathers many distinguished themselves as soldiers; for warfare was almost continuous then. The period of your own youth, however, has coincided with that war in which the one side was too prolific in crime, the other in failure. And yet, when Pompey placed you in command of a cavalry squadron in this war, you won the applause of that great man and of the army for your skill in riding and spear-throwing and for endurance of all the hardships of the soldier's life. But that credit accorded to you came to nothing along with the fall of the republic.

The subject of this discussion, however, is not your personal history, but the general theme. Let us, therefore, proceed to the sequel.

46 As, then, in everything else brain-work is far more important than mere hand-work, so those objects which we strive to attain through intellect and reason gain for us a higher degree of gratitude than those which we strive to gain by physical strength. The best recommendation, then, that a young man can have to popular esteem proceeds from self-restraint, filial affection, and devotion to kinsfolk. Next to that, young men win recognition most easily and most favourably, if they attach themselves to men who are at once wise and renowned as well as patriotic counsellors in public affairs. And if they associate constantly with such men, they inspire in the public the expectation that they will be like them, seeing that they have themselves selected them p217for imitation. 47 His frequent visits to the home of Publius Mucius assisted young Publius Rutilius to gain a reputation for integrity of character and for ability as a jurisconsult. Not so, however, Lucius Crassus; for, though he was a mere boy, he looked to no one else for assistance, but by his own unaided ability he won for himself in that brilliant and famous prosecution1 a splendid reputation as an orator. And at an age when young men are accustomed with their school exercises to win applause as students of oratory, this Roman Demosthenes, Lucius Crassus, was already proving himself in the law-courts a master of the art which he might even then have been studying at home with credit to himself.

14 48 But as the classification of discourse is a twofold one — conversation, on the one side; oratory, on the other — there can be no doubt that of the two this debating power (for that is what we mean by eloquence) counts for more toward the attainment of glory; and yet, it is not easy to say how far an affable and courteous manner in conversation may go toward winning the affections. We have, for instance, the letters of Philip to Alexander, of Antipater to Cassander, and of Antigonus to Philip the Younger. The authors of these letters were, as we are informed, three of the wisest men in history; and in them they instruct their sons to woo the hearts of the populace to affection by words of kindness and to keep their soldiers loyal by a winning address. But the speech that is delivered in a debate before an assembly often stirs the hearts of thousands at once; for the eloquent and judicious speaker is received with high admiration, and his hearers think p219him understanding and wise beyond all others. And, if his speech have also dignity combined with moderation, he will be admired beyond all measure, especially if these qualities are found in a young man.

49 But while there are occasions of many kinds that call for eloquence, and while many young men in our republic have obtained distinction by their speeches in the courts, in the popular assemblies, and in the senate, yet it is the speeches before our courts that excite the highest admiration.

The classification of forensic speeches also is a twofold one: they are divided into arguments for the prosecution and arguments for the defence. And while the side of the defence is more honourable, still that of the prosecution also has very often established a reputation. I spoke of Crassus a moment ago; Marcus Antonius, when a youth, had the same success. A prosecution brought the eloquence of Publius Sulpicius into favourable notice, when he brought an action against Gaius Norbanus, a seditious and dangerous citizen. 50 But this should not be done often — never, in fact, except in the interest of the state (as in the cases of those above mentioned) or to avenge wrongs (as the two Luculli, for example, did) or for the protection of our provincials (as I did in the defence of the Sicilians, or Julius in the prosecution of Albucius in behalf of the Sardinians). The activity of Lucius Fufius in the impeachment of Manius Aquilius is likewise famous. This sort of work, then, may be done once in a lifetime, or at all events not often. But if it shall be required of anyone to conduct more frequent prosecutions, let him do it as a service to his country; for it is no disgrace to be often employed in the prosecution of her p221enemies. And yet a limit should be set even to that. For it requires a heartless man, it seems, or rather one who is well-nigh inhuman, to be arraigning one person after another on capital charges.2 It is not only fraught with danger to the prosecutor himself, but is damaging to his reputation, to allow himself to be called a prosecutor. Such was the effect of this epithet upon Marcus Brutus, the scion of a very noble family and the son of that Brutus who was an eminent authority in the civil law.

51 Again, the following rule of duty is to be carefully observed: never prefer a capital charge against any person who may be innocent. For that cannot possibly be done without making oneself a criminal. For what is so unnatural as to turn to the ruin and destruction of good men the eloquence bestowed by Nature for the safety and protection of our fellowmen? And yet, while we should never prosecute the innocent, we need not have scruples against undertaking on occasion the defence of a guilty person, provided he be not infamously depraved and wicked. For people expect it; custom sanctions it; humanity also accepts it. It is always the business of the judge in a trial to find out the truth; it is sometimes the business of the advocate to maintain what is plausible, even if it be not strictly true, though I should not venture to say this, especially in an ethical treatise, if it were not also the position of Panaetius, that strictest of Stoics.a Then, too, briefs for the defence are most likely to bring glory and popularity to the pleader, and all the more so, if ever it falls to him to lend his aid to one who seems to be oppressed and persecuted by the influence of someone in power. This I have done on many other occasions; and once p223in particular, in my younger days, I defended Sextus Roscius of Ameria against the power of Lucius Sulla when he was acting the tyrant. The speech is published, as you know.

15 52 Now that I have set forth the moral duties of a young man, in so far as they may be exerted for the attainment of glory, I must next in order discuss kindness and generosity. The manner of showing it is twofold: kindness is shown to the needy either by personal service, or by gifts of money. The latter way is the easier, especially for a rich man; but the former is nobler and more dignified and more becoming to a strong and eminent man. For, although both ways alike betray a generous wish to oblige, still in the one case the favour makes a draft upon one's bank account, in the other upon one's personal energy; and the bounty which is drawn from one's material substance tends to exhaust the very fountain of liberality. Liberality is thus forestalled by liberality: for the more people one has helped with gifts of money, the fewer one can help. 53 But if people are generous and kind in the way of personal service — that is, with their ability and personal effort — various advantages arise: first, the more people they assist, the more helpers they will have in works of kindness; and second, by acquiring the habit of kindness they are better prepared and in better training, as it were, for bestowing favours upon many.

In one of his letters Philip takes his son Alexander sharply to task for trying by gifts of money to secure the good-will of the Macedonians: "What in the mischief induced you to entertain such a hope," he says, "as that those men would be loyal subjects to p225you whom you had corrupted with money? Or are you trying to do what you can to lead the Macedonians to expect that you will be not their king but their steward and purveyor?"

"Steward and purveyor" was well said, because it was degrading for a prince; better still, when he called the gift of money "corruption." For the recipient goes from bad to worse and is made all the more ready to be constantly looking for one bribe after another.b

54 It was to his son that Philip gave this lesson; but let us all take it diligently to heart.

That liberality, therefore, which consists in personal service and effort is more honourable, has wider application, and can benefit more people. There can be no doubt about that. Nevertheless, we should sometimes make gifts of money; and this kind of liberality is not to be discouraged altogether. We must often distribute from our purse to the worthy poor, but we must do so with discretion and moderation. For many3 have squandered their patrimony by indiscriminate giving. But what is worse folly than to do the thing you like in such a way that you can no longer do it at all? Then, too, lavish giving leads to robbery;4 for when through over-giving men begin to be impoverished, they are constrained to lay their hands on the property of others. And so, when men aim to be kind for the sake of winning good-will, the affection they gain from the object of their gifts is not so great as the hatred they incur from those whom they despoil.

55 One's purse, then, should not be closed so tightly that a generous impulse cannot open it, nor yet so loosely held as to be open to everybody. A limit p227should be observed and that limit should be determined by our means. We ought, in a word, to remember the phrase, which, through being repeated so very often by our countrymen, has come to be a common proverb: "Bounty has no bottom." For indeed what limit can there be, when those who have been accustomed to receive gifts claim what they have been in the habit of getting, and those who have not wish for the same bounty?

16 There are, in general, two classes of those who give largely: the one class is the lavish, the other the generous. The lavish are those who squander their money on public banquets, doles of meat among the people, gladiatorial shows, magnificent games, and wild-beast fights — vanities of which but a brief recollection will remain, or none at all. 56 The generous, on the other hand, are those who employ their own means to ransom captives from brigands, or who assume their friends' debts or help in providing dowries for their daughters, or assist them in acquiring property or increasing what they have. (56) And so I wonder what Theophrastus could have been thinking about when he wrote his book on "Wealth." It contains much that is fine; but his position is absurd, when he praises at great length the magnificent appointments of the popular games, and it is in the means for indulging in such expenditures that he finds the highest privilege of wealth. But to me the privilege it gives for the exercise of generosity, of which I have given a few illustrations, seems far higher and far more certain.

How much more true and pertinent are Aristotle's words, as he rebukes us for not being amazed at this extravagant waste of money, all to win the favour of p229the populace. "If people in time of siege," he says, "are required to pay a mina for a pint of water, this seems to us at first beyond belief, and all are amazed; but, when they think about it, they make allowances for it on the plea of necessity. But in the matter of this enormous waste and unlimited expenditure we are not very greatly astonished, and that, too, though by it no extreme need is relieved, no dignity is enhanced, and the very gratification of the populace is but for a brief, passing moment; such pleasure as it is, too, is confined to the most frivolous, and even in these the very memory of their enjoyment dies as soon as the moment of gratification is past." 57 His conclusion, too, is excellent: "This sort of amusement pleases children, silly women, slaves, and the servile free; but a serious-minded man who weighs such matters with sound judgment cannot possibly approve of them."

And yet I realize that in our country, even in the good old times, it had become a settled custom to expect magnificent entertainments from the very best men in their year of aedileship. So both Publius Crassus, who was not merely surnamed "The Rich" but was rich in fact, gave splendid games in his aedileship; and a little later Lucius Crassus (with Quintus Mucius, the most unpretentious man in the world, as his colleague) gave most magnificent entertainments in his aedileship. Then came Gaius Claudius, the son of Appius, and, after him, many others — the Luculli, Hortensius, and Silanus. Publius Lentulus, however, in the year of my consulship, eclipsed all that had gone before him, and Scaurus emulated him. And my friend Pompey's exhibitions in his second consulship were the most magnificent p231of all. And so you see what I think about all this sort of thing.

17 58 Still we should avoid any suspicion of penuriousness. Mamercus was a very wealthy man, and his refusal of the aedileship was the cause of his defeat for the consulship. If, therefore, such entertainment is demanded by the people, men of right judgment must at least consent to furnish it, even if they do not like the idea. But in so doing they should keep within their means, as I myself did. They should likewise afford such entertainment, if gifts of money to the people are to be the means of securing on some occasion some more important or more useful object. Thus Orestes recently won great honour by his public dinners given in the streets, on the pretext of their being a tithe-offering. Neither did anybody find fault with Marcus Seius for supplying grain to the people at an as5 the peck at a time when the market-price was prohibitive; for he thus succeeded in disarming the bitter and deep-seated prejudice of the people against him at an outlay neither very great nor discreditable to him in view of the fact that he was aedile at the time. But the highest honour recently fell to my friend Milo, who bought a band of gladiators for the sake of the country, whose preservation then depended upon my recall from exile, and with them put down the desperate schemes, the reign of terror, of Publius Clodius.

The justification for gifts of money, therefore, is either necessity or expediency. 59 And, in making them even in such cases, the rule of the golden mean is best. To be sure, Lucius Philippus, the son of Quintus, a man of great ability and unusual renown, used to p233make it his boast that without giving any entertainments he had risen to all the positions looked upon as the highest within the gift of the state. Cotta could say the same, and Curio. I, too, may make this boast my own — to a certain extent;6 for in comparison with the eminence of the offices to which I was unanimously elected at the earliest legal age — and this was not the good fortune of any one of those just mentioned — the outlay in my aedileship was very inconsiderable.

60 Again, the expenditure of money is better justified when it is made for walls, docks, harbours, aqueducts, and all those works which are of service to the community. There is, to be sure, more of present satisfaction in what is handed out, like cash down; nevertheless public improvements win us greater gratitude with posterity. Out of respect for Pompey's memory I am rather diffident about expressing any criticism of theatres, colonnades, and new temples; and yet the greatest philosophers do not approve of them — our Panaetius himself, for example, whom I am following, not slavishly translating, in these books; so, too, Demetrius of Phalerum, who denounces Pericles, the foremost man of Greece, for throwing away so much money on the magnificent, far-famed Propylaea. But this whole theme is discussed at length in my books on "The Republic."

To conclude, the whole system of public bounties in such extravagant amount is intrinsically wrong; but it may under certain circumstances be necessary to make them; even then they must be proportioned to our ability and regulated by the golden mean.

18 61 Now, as touching that second division of p235gifts of money, those which are prompted by a spirit of generosity, we ought to look at different cases differently. The case of the man who is overwhelmed by misfortune is different from that of the one who is seeking to better his condition, though he suffers from no actual distress. 62 It will be the duty of charity to incline more to the unfortunate, unless, perchance, they deserve their misfortune. But of course we ought by no means to withhold our assistance altogether from those who wish for aid, not to save them from utter ruin but to enable them to reach a higher degree of fortune. But, in selecting worthy cases, we ought to use judgment and discretion. For, as Ennius says so admirably,

"Good deeds misplaced, methinks, are evil deeds."

63 Furthermore, the favour conferred upon a man who is good and grateful finds its reward, in such a case, not only in his own good-will but in that of others. For, when generosity is not indiscriminate giving, it wins most gratitude and people praise it with more enthusiasm, because goodness of heart in a man of high station becomes the common refuge of everybody. Pains must, therefore, be taken to benefit as many as possible with such kindnesses that the memory of them shall be handed down to children and to children's children, so that they too may not be ungrateful. For all men detest ingratitude and look upon the sin of it as a wrong committed against themselves also, because it discourages generosity; and they regard the ingrate as the common foe of all the poor.

Ransoming prisoners from servitude and relieving the poor is a form of charity that is a service to the p237state as well as to the individual. And we find in one of Crassus's orations the full proof given that such beneficence used to be the common practice of our order. This form of charity, then, I much prefer to the lavish expenditure of money for public exhibitions. The former is suited to men of worth and dignity, the latter to those shallow flatterers, if I may call them so, who tickle with idle pleasure, so to speak, the fickle fancy of the rabble.

64 It will, moreover, befit a gentleman to be at the same time liberal in giving and not inconsiderate in exacting his dues, but in every business relation — in buying or selling, in hiring or letting, in relations arising out of adjoining houses and lands — to be fair, reasonable, often freely yielding much of his own right, and keeping out of litigation as far as his interests will permit and perhaps even a little farther. For it is not only generous occasionally to abate a little of one's rightful claims, but it is sometimes even advantageous. We should, however, have a care for our personal property, for it is discreditable to let it run through our fingers; but we must guard it in such a way that there shall be no suspicion of meanness or avarice. For the greatest privilege of wealth is, beyond all peradventure, the opportunity it affords for doing good, without sacrificing one's fortune.

Hospitality also is a theme of Theophrastus's praise, and rightly so. For, as it seems to me at least, it is most proper that the homes of distinguished men should be open to distinguished guests. And it is to the credit of our country also that men from abroad do not fail to find hospitable entertainment of this kind in our city. It is, moreover, a very p239great advantage, too, for those who wish to obtain a powerful political influence by honourable means to be able through their social relations with their guests to enjoy popularity and to exert influence abroad. For an instance of extraordinary hospitality, Theophrastus writes that at Athens Cimon was hospitable even to the Laciads, the people of his own deme; for he instructed his bailiffs to that end and gave them orders that every attention should be shown to any Laciad who should ever call at his country home.

19 65 Again, the kindnesses shown not by gifts of money but by personal service7 are bestowed sometimes upon the community at large, sometimes upon individual citizens. To protect a man in his legal rights [, to assist him with counsel,] and to serve as many as possible with that sort of knowledge tends greatly to increase one's influence and popularity.

Thus, among the many admirable ideas of our ancestors was the high respect they always accorded to the study and interpretation of the excellent body of our civil law. And down to the present unsettled times the foremost men of the state have kept this profession exclusively in their own hands; but now the prestige of legal learning has departed along with offices of honour and positions of dignity; and this is the more deplorable, because it has come to pass in the lifetime of a man8 who in knowledge of the law would easily have surpassed all his predecessors, while in honour he is their peer. Service such as this, then, finds many to appreciate it and is calculated to bind people closely to us by our good services.

p241 66 Closely connected with this profession, furthermore, is the gift of eloquence; it is at once more popular and more distinguished. For what is better than eloquence to awaken the admiration of one's hearers or the hopes of the distressed or the gratitude of those whom it has protected? It was to eloquence, therefore, that our fathers assigned the foremost rank among the civil professions. The door of opportunity for generous patronage to others, then, is wide open to the orator whose heart is in his work and who follows the custom of our forefathers in undertaking the defence of many clients without reluctance and without compensation.

67 My subject suggests that at this point I express once more my regret at the decadence, not to say the utter extinction, of eloquence; and I should do so, did I not fear that people would think that I were complaining on my own account. We see, nevertheless, what orators have lost their lives and how few of any promise are left, how far fewer there are who have ability, and how many there are who have nothing but presumption. But though not all — no, not even many — can be learned in the law or, eloquent as pleaders, still anybody may be of service to many by canvassing in their support for appointments, by witnessing to their character before juries and magistrates, by looking out for the interests of one and another, and by soliciting for them the aid of jurisconsults or of advocates. Those who perform such services win the most gratitude and find a most extensive sphere for their activities.

68 Of course, those who pursue such a course do not need to be warned (for the point is self-evident) to be careful when they seek to oblige some, not to p243offend others. For oftentimes they hurt those whom they ought not or those whom it is inexpedient to offend. If they do it inadvertently, it is carelessness; if designedly, inconsiderateness. A man must apologize also, to the best of his ability, if he has involuntarily hurt anyone's feelings, and explain why what he has done was unavoidable and why he could not have done otherwise; and he must by future services and kind offices atone for the apparent offence.

20 69 Now in rendering helpful service to people, we usually consider either their character or their circumstances. And so it is an easy remark, and one commonly made, to say that in investing kindnesses we look not to people's outward circumstances, but to their character. The phrase is admirable! But who is there, pray, that does not in performing a service set the favour of a rich and influential man above the cause of a poor, though most worthy, person? For, as a rule, our will is more inclined to the one from whom we expect a prompter and speedier return. But we should observe more carefully how the matter really stands: the poor man of whom we spoke cannot return a favour in kind, of course, but if he is a good man he can do it at least in thankfulness of heart. As someone has happily said, "A man has not repaid money, if he still has it; if he has repaid it, he has ceased to have it. But a man still has the sense of favour, if he has returned the favour; and if he has the sense of the favour, he has repaid it."

On the other hand, they who consider themselves wealthy, honoured, the favourites of fortune, do not wish even to be put under obligations by our kind services. Why, they actually think that they have p245conferred a favour by accepting one, however great; and they even suspect that a claim is thereby set up against them or that something is expected in return. Nay more, it is bitter as death to them to have accepted a patron or to be called clients. 70 Your man of slender means, on the other hand, feels that whatever is done for him is done out of regard for himself and not for his outward circumstances. Hence he strives to show himself grateful not only to the one who has obliged him in the past but also to those from whom he expects similar favours in the future — and he needs the help of many; and his own service, if he happens to render any in return, he does not exaggerate, but he actually depreciates it. This fact, furthermore, should not be overlooked — that, if one defends a wealthy favourite of fortune, the favour does not extend further than to the man himself or, possibly, to his children. But, if one defends a man who is poor but honest and upright, all the lowly who are not dishonest — and there is a large proportion of that sort among the people — look upon such an advocate as a tower of defence raised up for them. 71 I think, therefore, that kindness to the good is a better investment than kindness to the favourites of fortune.

We must, of course, put forth every effort to oblige all sorts and conditions of men, if we can. But if it comes to a conflict of duty on this point, we must, I should say, follow the advice of Themistocles: when someone asked his advice whether he should give his daughter in marriage to a man who was poor but honest or to one who was rich but less esteemed, he said: "For my part, I prefer a man without money to money without a man." But the moral sense of p247to‑day is demoralized and depraved by our worship of wealth. Of what concern to any one of us is the size of another man's fortune? It is, perhaps, an advantage to its possessor; but not always even that. But suppose it is; he may, to be sure, have more money to spend; but how is he any the better man for that? Still, if he is a good man, as well as a rich one, let not his riches be a hindrance to his being aided, if only they are not the motive to it; but in conferring favours our decision should depend entirely upon a man's character, not on his wealth.

The supreme rule, then, in the matter of kindnesses to be rendered by personal service is never to take up a case in opposition to the right nor in defence of the wrong. For the foundation of enduring reputation and fame is justice, and without justice there can be nothing worthy of praise.

21 72 Now, since we have finished the discussion of that kind of helpful services which concern individuals, we must next take up those which touch the whole body politic and the state. Of these public services, some are of such a nature that they concern the whole body of citizens; others, that they affect individuals only. And these latter are the more productive of gratitude. If possible, we should by all means attend to both kinds of service; but we must take care in protecting the interests of individuals that what we do for them shall be beneficial, or at least not prejudicial, to the state. Gaius Gracchus inaugurated largesses of grain on an extensive scale; this had a tendency to exhaust the exchequer. Marcus Octavius inaugurated a moderate dole; this was both practicable for the state and necessary for p249the commons; it was, therefore, a blessing both to the citizens and to the state.

73 The man in an administrative office, however, must make it his first care that everyone shall have what belongs to him and that private citizens suffer no invasion of their property rights by act of the state. It was a ruinous policy that Philippus proposed when in his tribuneship he introduced his agrarian bill. However, when his law was rejected, he took his defeat with good grace and displayed extraordinary moderation. But in his public speeches on the measure he often played the demagogue, and that time viciously, when he said that "there were not in the state two thousand people who owned any property." That speech deserves unqualified condemnation, for it favoured an equal distribution of property; and what more ruinous policy than that could be conceived? For the chief purpose in the establishment of constitutional state and municipal governments was that individual property rights might be secured. For, although it was by Nature's guidance that men were drawn together into communities, it was in the hope of safeguarding their possessions that they sought the protection of cities.

74 The administration should also put forth every effort to prevent the levying of a property tax, and to this end precautions should be taken long in advance. Such a tax was often levied in the times of our forefathers on account of the depleted state of their treasury and their incessant wars. But, if any state (I say "any," for I would rather speak in general terms than forebode evils to our own; however, I am not discussing our own state but states in general) — if any state ever has to face a crisis requiring the p251imposition of such a burden, every effort must be made to let all the people realize that they must bow to the inevitable, if they wish to be saved. And it will also be the duty of those who direct the affairs of the state to take measures that there shall be an abundance of the necessities of life. It is needless to discuss the ordinary ways and means; for the duty is self-evident; it is necessary only to mention the matter.

75 But the chief thing in all public administration and public service is to avoid even the slightest suspicion of self-seeking. "I would," says Gaius Pontius, the Samnite, "that fortune had withheld my appearance until a time when the Romans began to accept bribes, and that I had been born in those days! I should then have suffered them to hold their supremacy no longer." Aye, but he would have had many generations to wait; for this plague has only recently infected our nation. And so I rejoice that Pontius lived then instead of now, seeing that he was so mighty a man! It is not yet a hundred and ten years since the enactment of Lucius Piso's bill to punish extortion; there had been no such law before. But afterward came so many laws, each more stringent than the other, so many men were accused and so many convicted, so horrible a war9 was stirred up on account of the fear of what our courts would do to still others, so frightful was the pillaging and plundering of the allies when the laws and courts were suppressed,10 that now we find ourselves strong not in our own strength but in the weakness of others.

22 76 Panaetius praises Africanus for his integrity in public life. Why should he not? But Africanus p253had other and greater virtues. The boast of official integrity belongs not to that man alone but also to his times. When Paulus got possession of all the wealth of Macedon — and it was enormous — he brought into our treasury so much money11 that the spoils of a single general did away with the need for a tax on property in Rome for all time to come. But to his own house he brought nothing save the glory of an immortal name. Africanus emulated his father's example and was none the richer for his overthrow of Carthage. And what shall we say of Lucius Mummius, his colleague in the censorship? Was he one penny the richer when he had destroyed to its foundations the richest of cities? He preferred to adorn Italy rather than his own house. And yet by the adornment of Italy his own house was, as it seems to me, still more splendidly adorned.

77 There is, then, to bring the discussion back to the point from which it digressed, no vice more offensive than avarice, especially in men who stand foremost and hold the helm of state. For to exploit the state for selfish profit is not only immoral; it is criminal, infamous. And so the oracle, which the Pythian Apollo uttered, that "Sparta should not fall from any other cause than avarice," seems to be a prophecy not to the Lacedaemonians alone, but to all wealthy nations as well. They who direct the affairs of state, then, can win the good-will of the masses by no other means more easily than by self-restraint and self-denial.

78 But they who pose as friends of the people, and who for that reason either attempt to have agrarian laws passed, in order that the occupants may be driven out of their homes, or propose that money p255loaned should be remitted to the borrowers, are undermining the foundations of the commonwealth: first of all, they are destroying harmony, which cannot exist when money is taken away from one party and bestowed upon another; and second, they do away with equity, which is utterly subverted, if the rights of property are not respected. For, as I said above, it is the peculiar function of the state and the city to guarantee to every man the free and undisturbed control of his own particular property. 79 And yet, when it comes to measures so ruinous to public welfare, they do not gain even that popularity which they anticipate. For he who has been robbed of his property is their enemy; he to whom it has been turned over actually pretends that he had no wish to take it; and most of all, when his debts are cancelled, the debtor conceals his joy, for fear that he may be thought to have been insolvent; whereas the victim of the wrong both remembers it and shows his resentment openly. Thus even though they to whom property has been wrongfully awarded be more in number than they from whom it has been unjustly taken, they do not for that reason have more influence; for in such matters influence is measured not by numbers but by weight. And how is it fair that a man who never had any property should take possession of lands that had been occupied for many years or even generations, and that he who had them before should lose possession of them?

23 80 Now, it was on account of just this sort of wrong-doing that the Spartans banished their ephor Lysander, and put their king Agis to death — an act without precedent in the history of Sparta. From that time on — and for the same reason — dissensions p257so serious ensued that tyrants arose, the nobles were sent into exile, and the state, though most admirably constituted, crumbled to pieces. Nor did it fall alone, but by the contagion of the ills that starting in Lacedaemon, spread widely and more widely, it dragged the rest of Greece down to ruin. What shall we say of our own Gracchi, the sons of that famous Tiberius Gracchus and grandsons of Africanus? Was it not strife over the agrarian issue that caused their downfall and death?

81 Aratus of Sicyon, on the other hand, is justly praised. When his city had been kept for fifty years in the power of its tyrants, he came over from Argos to Sicyon, secretly entered the city and took it by surprise; he fell suddenly upon the tyrant Nicocles, recalled from banishment six hundred exiles who had been the wealthiest men of the city, and by his coming made his country free. But he found great difficulty in the matter of property and its occupancy; for he considered it most unjust, on the one hand, that those men should be left in want whom he had restored and of whose property others had taken possession; and he thought it hardly fair, on the other hand, that tenure of fifty years' standing should be disturbed. For in the course of that long period many of those estates had passed into innocent hands by right of inheritance, many by purchase, many by dower. He therefore decided that it would be wrong either to take the property away from the present incumbents or to let them keep it without compensation to its former possessors. 82 So, when he had come to the conclusion that he must have money to meet the situation, he announced that he meant to make a trip to Alexandria and gave p259orders that matters should remain as they were until his return. And so he went in haste to his friend Ptolemy, then upon the throne, the second king after the founding of Alexandria. To him he explained that he wished to restore constitutional liberty to his country and presented his case to him. And, being a man of the highest standing, he easily secured from that wealthy king assistance in the form of a large sum of money. And, when he had returned with this to Sicyon, he called into counsel with him fifteen of the foremost men of the city. With them he investigated the cases both of those who were holding possession of other people's property and of those who had lost theirs. And he managed by a valuation of the properties to persuade some that it was more desirable to accept money and surrender their present holdings; others he convinced that it was more to their interest to take a fair price in cash for their lost estates than to try to recover possession of what had been their own. As a result, harmony was preserved, and all parties went their way without a word of complaint.

83 A great statesman, and worthy to have been born in our commonwealth! That is the right way to deal with one's fellow-citizens, and not, as we have already witnessed on two occasions, to plant the spear in the forum and knock down the property of citizens under the auctioneer's hammer. But yon Greek, like a wise and excellent man, thought that he must look out for the welfare of all. And this is the highest statesmanship and the soundest wisdom on the part of a good citizen, not to divide the interests of the citizens but to unite all on the basis of impartial justice. "Let them live in their neighbour's p261house rent-free."12 Why so? In order that, when I have bought, built, kept up, and spent my money upon a place, you may without my consent enjoy what belongs to me? What else is that but to rob one man of what belongs to him and to give to another what does not belong to him? 84 And what is the meaning of an abolition of debts, except that you buy a farm with my money; that you have the farm, and I have not my money?

24 We must, therefore, take measures that there shall be no indebtedness of a nature to endanger the public safety. It is a menace that can be averted in many ways; but should a serious debt be incurred, we are not to allow the rich to lose their property, while the debtors profit by what is their neighbour's. For there is nothing that upholds a government more powerfully than its credit; and it can have no credit, unless the payment of debts is enforced by law. Never were measures for the repudiation of debts more strenuously agitated than in my consulship. Men of every sort and rank attempted with arms and armies to force the project through. But I opposed them with such energy that this plague was wholly eradicated from the body politic. Indebtedness was never greater; debts were never liquidated more easily or more fully; for the hope of defrauding the creditor was cut off and payment was enforced by law. But the present victor, though vanquished then, still carried out his old design, when it was no longer of any personal advantage to him.13 So great was his passion for wrongdoing that the very doing of wrong was a joy to him for its own sake even when there was no motive for it.

p263 85 Those, then, whose office it is to look after the interests of the state will refrain from that form of liberality which robs one man to enrich another. Above all, they will use their best endeavours that everyone shall be protected in the possession of his own property by the fair administration of the law and the courts, that the poorer classes shall not be oppressed because of their helplessness, and that envy shall not stand in the way of the rich, to prevent them from keeping or recovering possession of what justly belongs to them; they must strive, too, by whatever means they can, in peace or in war, to advance the state in power, in territory, and in revenues.

Such service calls for great men; it was commonly rendered in the days of our ancestors; if men will perform duties such as these, they will win popularity and glory for themselves and at the same time render eminent service to the state.

86 Now, in this list of rules touching expediency, Antipater of Tyre, a Stoic philosopher who recently died at Athens, claims that two points were overlooked by Panaetius — the care of health and of property. I presume that the eminent philosopher overlooked these two items because they present no difficulty. At all events they are expedient. Although they are a matter of course, I will still say a few words on the subject. Individual health is preserved by studying one's own constitution, by observing what is good or bad for one, by constant self-control in supplying physical wants and comforts (but only to the extent necessary to self-preservation), by forgoing sensual pleasures, and finally, by the professional skill of those to whose science these matters belong.

p265 87 As for property, it is a duty to make money, but only by honourable means; it is a duty also to save it and increase it by care and thrift. These principles Xenophon, a pupil of Socrates, has set forth most happily in his book entitled "Oeconomicus." When I was about your present age, I translated it from the Greek into Latin.

But this whole subject of acquiring money, investing money (I wish I could include also spending money), is more profitably discussed by certain worthy gentlemen on "Change"c than could be done by any philosophers of any school. For all that, we must take cognizance of them for they come fitly under the head of expediency, and that is the subject of the present book.

25 88 But it is often necessary to weigh one expediency against another; — for this, as I stated, is a fourth point overlooked by Panaetius. For not only are physical advantages regularly compared with outward advantages [and outward, with physical], but physical advantages are compared with one another, and outward with outward. Physical advantages are compared with outward advantages in some such way as this: one may ask whether it is more desirable to have health than wealth; [external advantages with physical, thus: whether it is better to have wealth than extraordinary bodily strength;] while the physical advantages may be weighed against one another, so that good health is preferred to sensual pleasure, strength to agility. Outward advantages also may be weighed against one another: glory, for example, may be preferred to riches, an income derived from city property to one derived from the farm. 89 To this class of comparisons belongs that p267famous saying of old Cato's: when he was asked what was the most profitable feature of an estate, he replied: "Raising cattle successfully." What next to that? "Raising cattle with fair success." And next? "Raising cattle with but slight success." And fourth? "Raising crops." And when his questioner said, "How about money-lending?" Cato replied: "How about murder?" From this as well as from many other incidents we ought to realize that expediencies have often to be weighed against one another and that it is proper for us to add this fourth division in the discussion of moral duty. Let us now pass on to the remaining problem.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 At the age of 21 Crassus conducted the case against Gaius Papirius Carbo, a former supporter of the Gracchi. The prosecution was so ably conducted that Carbo committed suicide to escape certain condemnation.

2 A "capital charge" meant to the Roman a charge endangering a person's caput, or civil status. A conviction on such a charge resulted in his civil degradation and the loss of his privileges as a Roman citizen.

3 Julius Caesar was a striking example of this.

4 Cicero evidently had in mind such instances as Sulla, Caesar, Antony, and Catiline — alieni appetens, sui profusus (Sall., Cat. V).

5 The as was a copper coin worth somewhat less than a penny. Selling grain to the people at such a price was practically giving it away to purchase their good-will.

6 The saving clause is added, because Cicero never filled the office of Censor.

7 Acts of kindness and personal service mean to Cicero throughout this discussion the services of the lawyer, which were voluntary and gratis.

8 This eminent jurist was Servius Sulpicius Lemonia Rufus, a close friend of Cicero, author of the well-known letter of condolence to Cicero on the death of his daughter Tullia.

9 The Italian or Social War, B.C. 100‑88.

10 During the dictatorships of Sulla and Caesar.

11 Nearly two million pounds sterling.

Thayer's Note: Currency conversions are notoriously uncertain; the most that can be said here is that the translator felt in 1913 that the amount in question was something like $175,000,000 in 2010.

12 An assumed appeal to one of Caesar's edicts.

13 Caesar, it seems, had had some part in the scheme of Catiline in B.C. 63 and possiblly in the plot of B.C. 66‑65. When his conquests in Gaul had freed him from his debts and made him rich, his party, with his consent, passed (B.C. 49) the obnoxious legislation here referred to — that all interest in arrears should be remitted, and that that which had been paid should be deducted from the principal.


Thayer's Notes:

a This slope is a slippery one; and sure enough, about a century later, we read the honest and virtuous Quintilian telling us to lie to a judge if it'll get our client off the hook.

b This, in a nutshell, is the cynical theory behind government "entitlements", by the ever-increasing corruption of which in the 21c we are all being led to surrender an equally increasing number of rights. Since this great grab-bag of gifts comes to us from our own taxes, also spiralling upward, at some point no doubt what Cicero says a few lines further on will come to pass — "the affection they gain from the object of their gifts is not so great as the hatred they incur from those whom they despoil"; and the longer it takes, like an earthquake delayed, the more virulent the reaction: I hope I'm no longer around when it happens. (Après moi, le Déluge.)

c The translator's expression "on 'Change' " doesn't mean at all what might come to most of our minds. In modern English, what the Latin says is "sitting on the stock exchange": a quibusdam optimis viris ad Ianum medium sedentibus; for Ianus medius (literally, "the middle Janus"), see the explanation in the article Ianus in Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.


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