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This webpage reproduces the essay
An vitiositas ad infelicitatem sufficiat


as published in Vol. VI
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1939

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!

(Vol. VI) Plutarch, Moralia

 p361  Whether Vice be Sufficient to Cause Unhappiness


The work appears in pp361‑375 of Vol. VI of the Loeb Classical Library's edition of the Moralia, first published in 1939. The Greek text and the English translation (by W. C. Helmbold) are now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright expired in 1967 and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been that year or the year before. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)

Loeb Edition Introduction

Again we have a fragment, mutilated at the beginning and the end.​1 The attribution to Plutarch has been questioned by Dübner, Hense,​2 Naber, and Hartman,​3 but on insufficient grounds, which have, in the main, been explained away by Siefert,​4 who has also analysed the structure of the work and the Plutarchean parallels. Wilamowitz,​5 on the other hand, believed this and the following fragment to be scraps of the same dialogue: I follow Pohlenz in rejecting this view.​6

The text is not good, and the work is not mentioned in the Lamprias catalogue.

 p363  (498) 1 1   [link to original Greek text] . . . .​7 He will not submit to (such a marriage)​8a

His body bartered for the dower's sake,

as Euripides​9 says; but he has only a slight and precarious reason for being envied. bFor this man (it were better)​8b to make his journey, not "through heaps of hot cinders," but "through a royal conflagration," as it were, and surrounded by flames, panting and full of terror and drenched with sweat, and so to perish, though (his mother)​8c had offered to him such a wealth as Tantalus had, which he was too busy to enjoy. For while that Sicyonian horse-breeder was a wise man, who gave to the king  p365 of the Achaeans, Agamemnon, a swift mare as a gift,

That he might not follow him to wind-swept Troy,

But stay at home and take his pleasure,​10

surrendering himself to the enjoyment of deep riches and to unmolested ease; yet modern courtiers who are looked upon as men of affairs, cthough no one summons them, of their own accord push their way headlong into courts and official escorts and toilsome bivouacs that they may get a horse or a brooch or some such piece of good fortune.

His wife, rending both cheeks, was left behind

In Phylacê, and his half-finished home,​11

while he himself is swept about and wanders afar, worn out by one hope after another and constantly insulted; and even if he obtains any of his desires, yet, whirled about and made giddy by Fortune's rope-dance, he seeks to make his descent and considers happy those who live in obscurity and safety, whereas they so regard him as they look up at him soaring above their heads.

2 1   [link to original Greek text] Vice makes all men completely miserable, dsince as a creator of unhappiness it is clothed with absolute power, for it has no need of either instruments or ministers. But whereas despots, when they desire to make miserable those whom they punish, maintain executioners and torturers, or devise branding-irons  p367 and wedges;​12 vice, without any apparatus, when it has joined itself to the soul, crushes and overthrows it, and fills the man with grief and lamentation, dejection and remorse. And this is the proof: many are silent under mutilation and endure scourging and being tortured by the wedge at the hands of masters or tyrants without uttering a cry, ewhenever by the application of reason the soul abates the pain and by main force, as it were, checks and represses it;​13 but you cannot order anger to be quiet nor grief to be silent, nor can you persuade a man possessed by fear to stand his ground, nor one suffering from remorse not to cry out or tear his hair or smite his thigh. So much more violent is vice than either fire or sword.

3 1   [link to original Greek text] Cities, as we know, when they give public notice of intent to let contracts for the bidding of temples or colossal statues, listen to the proposals of artists competing for the commission and bringing in their estimates and models,​14 and then choose the man who will do the same work with the least expense and better than the others and more quickly. Come, then, let us suppose that we also give public proclamation of intent to contract for making life wretched, fand that Fortune and Vice come to get the commission in a rival spirit. Fortune is provided with all manner of instruments and costly apparatus to render a life miserable and wretched; she brings in her train frightful robberies and wars, the foul bloodthirstiness  p369 of tyrants, and storms at sea and thunder from the sky; 499she compounds hemlock, she carries swords, she levies informers, she kindles fevers, she claps on fetters, and builds prison enclosures (and yet the greater part of these belong to Vice rather than to Fortune, but let us suppose them all Fortune's). And let Vice stand by quite unarmed, needing no external aid against the man, and let her ask Fortune how she intends to make man wretched and dejected:


Do you threaten poverty? Metrocles laughs at you,​15

Metrocles, who in winter slept among the sheep and in summer in the gateways of sacred precincts, yet challenged to vie with him in happiness bthe king of the Persians who winters in Babylon and summers in Media.​16 Do you bring on slavery and chains and the auction block? Diogenes​17 despises you, for when he was being sold by pirates, he cried out with the voice of an auctioneer, 'Who wants to buy a master?' Do you mix a cup of poison? Did you not present this to Socrates​18 also? And cheerfully and calmly, without trembling or changing either colour or posture, he drained it with great cheerfulness; and as he died the living esteemed him happy,​19 believing that 'not even in Hades would he be without some god-given portion.'​20 And as for your fire, Decius​21 the Roman general anticipated it, cwhen he built a  p371 funeral pyre between the camps and, to fulfil a vow, sacrificed himself to Saturn on behalf of Rome's supremacy. And among the Indians, loving and chaste wives strive and contend with one another for the fire, and the wife who wins the honour of being consumed together with her dead husband is hymned as happy by the others.​22 And of the wise men in that part of the world, not one is considered enviable or happy, if, while he yet lives and is sane and healthy, he does not separate by fire his soul from his body and emerge pure from the flesh, with the mortal part washed away. Or will you reduce a man from splendid wealth and house and table and lavish living to a threadbare cloak and wallet and begging of his daily bread? dThese things were the beginning of happiness for Diogenes, of freedom and repute for Crates. But will you nail him to a cross or impale him on a stake? And what does Theodorus​23 care whether he rots above ground or beneath? Among the Scythians​24 such is the manner of happy burial; and among the Hyrcanians​25 dogs, among the Bactrians birds, devour, in accordance with the laws, the bodies of men, when these have met a happy end."

4 1   [link to original Greek text] Whom, then, do these things make wretched? The unmanly and irrational, the unpracticed and untrained, those who retain from childhood their notions unchanged. Therefore Fortune is not a producer of  p373 perfect unhappiness if she does not have Vice to co-operate with her. eFor as a thread saws through the bone that has been soaked in ashes and vinegar, and as men bend and fashion ivory when it has been made soft and pliable by beer, but cannot do so otherwise, so Fortune, falling upon that which is of itself ill-affected and soft as the result of Vice, gouges it out and injures it. And just as the Parthian poison,​26 though harmful to no one else nor injurious to those who touch it and carry it about, if it is merely brought into the presence of wounded men, it straightway destroys them, since they receive its effluence because of their previous susceptibility; fso he who is liable to have his soul crushed by Fortune must have within himself some festering wound of his own in order that it may make whatever befalls him from without pitiful and lamentable.

5 1   [link to original Greek text] Is, then, Vice such a thing that it needs Fortune's help to produce unhappiness? How can that be? Vice does not raise up a rough and stormy sea, she does not gird the skirts of lonely mountains with ambushes of robbers along the way, she does not make clouds of hail to burst on fruitful plains, she does not bring in a Meletus or an Anytus​27 or a Callixenus​28 as accusers, she does not take away wealth, she does not debar from the praetor­ship, 500in order to make men unhappy. Yet she dismays men  p375 who are rich, prosperous, and heirs to fortunes; on land and on sea she insinuates herself into them and clings to them, sinking deep into them through evil lusts, firing them with anger, crushing them with superstitious fears, shattering them with the eyes . . .29

The Editor's Notes:

1 There may, in addition, be a lacuna between chapters 1 and 2.

2 Teletea, p. lxxxix, note.

3 De Plutarcho, pp249‑253.

4 Commentationes Ienenses, 1896, pp110‑119.

5 Hermes, XL.161‑165.

6 Similarly Usener, Fleckeisens Jahrb., CXXXIX.381, believed this treatise to be a fragment of the work mentioned in the Lamprias catalogue as No. 84: Ἀμμώνιος ἢ περὶ τοῦ μὴ ἡδέως τῇ κακίᾳ συνεῖναι.

7 This passage is tantalizing, not only because so much is lost of the text, and because the text is so corrupt, but chiefly because since the discovery of the Claremont fragments of Euripides' Phaëthon we may perceive that this play, of whose ingenious plot we now know a good deal, colours the whole of the opening passage. In the play Phaëthon, declining to accept marriage with the goddess to whom his mother Clymenê wished to marry him, speaks the first verse quoted; and there are probably further quotations from the play in the second sentence (πολλῆς διὰ τέφρας, ἀλλὰ πυρκαϊᾶς τινος). It is quite possible that Phaëthon himself swears that he will go through "heaps of cinders" rather than marry the goddess; and in the play there is in fact a "royal conflagration" when the Sun's treasure-house burns (see Nauck, p601). But it cannot be too strongly insisted that the text is very corrupt and that the restorations here adopted can claim only an approximation to the truth.

8a 8b 8c Conjecturally supplied.

9 Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag.2, p606, Frag. 775, from the Phaëthon; cf. Moralia, 13F; Plautus, Asinaria, 87.

10 Adapted from Homer, Il., XXIII.297‑298; Echepolus is the Sicyonian referred to. Cf. Moralia, 32F.

11 Homer, Il.II.700‑701.

12 Cf. Aeschylus, Prometheus, 64‑65:

ἀδαμαντίνου νῦν σφηνὸς αὐθάδη γνάθον

στέρνων διαμπὰξ πασσάλευ’ ἐρρωμένως.

13 Cf. Cicero, Tusc. Disp., II.22.53 ff.

14 Cf., for example, Richter, Greek Sculptors, p230: "A model of the pediment figures must have preceded the beginning of their execution."

15 H. Richards has seen that this is probably a verse from comedy.

16 Cf. Moralia, 604C; Xenophon, Cyropaedia, VIII.6.22.

17 Cf. Diogenes Laertius, VI.2.74;º Epictetus, IV.1.116.

18 Cf. Plato, Phaedo, 117B‑C.

19 Cf. Moralia, 607F.

20 Cf. Plato, Phaedo, 58E; Xenophon, Apology, 32.

21 Cf. Moralia, 310A‑B.

22 This reference to Suttee is of great interest. It is probably derived ultimately from Megasthenes' account of the Maurya Empire of the 3rd century B.C. See, for example, Rawlinson, India and the Western World (Cambridge University Press, 1916), p59.

Thayer's Note: For the locus classicus on the practice, see the chapter and a half in Diodorus (XIX.33‑34.6).

23 The Cyrenaic, called "The Atheist," philosopher of the late 4th century B.C.; cf. Moralia, 606B; Teles ed. Hense, p31; Cicero, Tusc. Disp., I.43.102; Valerius Maximus, VI.2, Ext. 3; Seneca, De Tranquillitate, XIV.3; Wien. Stud., IX.204.

24 Cf. Herodotus, IV.71‑72.

25 Cf. Porphyry, De Abstinentia, IV.21; Sextus Empiricus, Hypotyposes, III.227; Cicero, Tusc. Disp., I.45.108.

26 Nothing is known about either a Parthian juice (ὀπός), or a Parthian poison (ἰός).

27 Cf. 475E, supra.

28 Cf. Xenophon, Hellenica, I.7.8 ff.

29 The interpretation of this last phrase is quite uncertain: perhaps "tearing them to pieces with envy," or "making them ridiculous with envy."

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