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This webpage reproduces the essay
De vitioso pudore

by
Plutarch

as published in Vol. VII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1959

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. VII) Plutarch, Moralia

p41 On Compliancy

Copyright

The work appears in pp41‑89 of Vol. VII of the Loeb Classical Library's edition of the Moralia, first published in 1959. It is now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright expired in 1987 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.)

p42 Loeb Edition Introduction

Dysōpia (with the related verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) has no exact equivalent in English, or apparently in Latin, French, Italian, or German.1 It indicates the embarrassment that compels us to grant an unjustified request. In the Life of Brutus (chap. vi.9, 986E) it is described as a "defeat at the hands of the shamelessly insistent."2 The word in this expressive (but unclassical) sense was condemned by the Atticists,3 as Plutarch was well aware.4

Plutarch equates dysōpia with Aristotle's excess of shame (528E). His use of a Peripatetic source is p43shown by two passages in the Nicomachean Ethics (II.7.14, 1108 A30‑35 and IV.9.1‑3, 1128 B10‑21). The first runs as follows:

There are means also in the passions and concerned with the passions; thus while shame (aidōs) is not a virtue, yet the modest man (aidēmōn) also receives praise. For here too one man is called intermediate, another excessive — as the shamefaced man (kataplēx) who is awed at everything —; while the man who is deficient or totally lacking is shameless, and the intermediate man is modest.

So too in Plutarch: dysōpia is a passion (528D) and one of the extremes between which is found the disposition desired (529A). The mean is never called a virtue, nor are the extremes called vices.5 We continue with the second passage:

It is not proper to speak of shame as a virtue, for it rather resembles a passion than a habit. Thus it is defined as a fear of ill-repute, and is brought to pass in a way similar to the fear of danger; for those who feel shame blush, while those who fear death turn pale. Thus both appear to be in some way connected with the body, and this is held to belong rather to a passion than to a habit. The passion does not befit all ages, but only youth. For we think that people of this age should be modest because they commit many faults through living by passion, but are prevented by shame; and we praise the modest among the young, but no one would praise an older man for being bashful (aischyntēlos), for we think that he should do nothing to which shame (aischynē) is attached.6

Like Aristotle and Plato (Laws, I.647A), Plutarch p44treats aidōs and aischynē as virtual synonyms (529D).7 He implies that shame is the fear of ill-repute (529A and 532D);8 and his citation of Cato (528F) is doubtless due to the desire to find some parallel to Aristotle's remarks about the bodily manifestations of shame and fear.9 Cato surely had no such subtleties in mind; he was merely expressing his preference for the outdoors type of young man. With Aristotle's views about shame and youth we may compare Plutarch's references to the young (528F, 529B, 529C, and 530A).

After a short description of dysōpia (528C‑529D) Plutarch passes to the two great divisions of the essay: the proof that the disorder is injurious, and the methods of its cure.10 The cure lies in a course of training (530E‑532D) and in making certain reflexions. The training is presented at 532B‑C, the reflexions (preceded by a discussion of the use of silence and of quotations in answering importunities) are presented at 533D‑F.11 Next come precepts for handling suitors: meet shamelessness with shamelessness p45(533F‑534B); with suitors of humble station use wit (534B‑C); with powerful suitors appeal to their sense of artistry, their pride, or their claims to virtue (534C‑535B); with suitors of baser character make use of their vices (535B‑D). The essay concludes with an exhortation to resist the bait of praise and the threat of blame, and the suggestion of a procedure useful against all the passions: to keep fresh in the memory the disgrace and damage suffered from the passion before.

The essay cannot be dated by the mention of any contemporary event. The topic (apparently original) would naturally have occurred to Plutarch in his maturer years, when his influence and reputation were established, and when he had friends of great wealth and power.

A translation by Erasmus appeared at Basle in 1526; there are also translations that we have not seen, into Latin by J. Caesarius,12 and into French by François Le Grand.13 The essay is No. 96 in the catalogue of Lamprias.

The text is based on LC G Xυ I W Dzab RnySs hki JK N M vw Ylfq. Occasionally αAE are cited for conjectures.

p47 (528) 1 1 Certain plants are in themselves wild and unproductive, Dand when allowed to grow are harmful to cultivated grain and vines and trees; yet the farmer takes them as signs of a soil not unfertile, but generous and rich. So too with the affections of the mind; some that are bad are nevertheless the outgrowths, as it were, of an excellent nature well able to respond to the cultivation of reason. Among these I count what is called "compliancy," — no unfavourable sign, though it leads to bad conduct. For men who feel shame often show the same faults as those who feel none, with this difference, however: they are grieved and distressed at their errors, unlike the shameless, who take pleasure in theirs. EFor the shameless feel no pain in doing what is base, whereas the mere semblance of baseness dismays the compliant. For compliancy is excess of shame. Hence the name (dysōpeomai),14 the face (prosōpon) being somehow involved in the embarrassment and discomposure of the mind. For as dejection (katēpheia) is defined as pain that makes us look down (katō),15 so when modesty yields to suitors to the point where one does not even p49look them in the face, it is termed "compliancy." FAnd so, as the orator16 said that the shameless man had harlots, not maidens,17 in his eyes, so the compliant man in his turn betrays only too clearly in his countenance the effeminacy and flabbiness of his spirit, giving his surrender to the shameless the fair name of "modesty." Cato18 indeed said that in the young he preferred the flush of colour to pallor, rightly training and teaching us to dread censure more than labour, and disapproval more than peril. Nevertheless we must also do away with the excess of timidity and apprehension at the prospect of censure, for instances are frequently found of men who, 529 in terror no less of a bad name than of bodily hurt, have played the coward and failed in the good fight, not having the firmness to submit to ill fame.

2 1 Neither then should we be unmindful of these, who suffer from so great an infirmity, nor again should we approve the other unyielding and stern set of character;19 we should rather contrive an harmonious blend of both qualities, one that removes the ruthlessness of extreme severity and the infirmity of excessive courtesy. BThus the cure is difficult, and the correction of such excesses is not without risk. For as the farmer in weeding out some wild and worthless growth thrusts his spade in roughly with no further ado and p51turns up the root, or applies fire to the weed and blasts it, but when he comes to a vine in need of pruning or deals with an apple tree or olive, he handles it gently, fearing to strip the buds from some healthy part, so the philosopher, when he removes envy from a young man's soul, a worthless and incorrigible growth, or cuts off an early appearance of avarice20 or self-indulgence running riot, draws blood, bears down hard, and makes an incision deep enough to leave a scar; Cbut when he applies the knife of chastening discourse to a soft and delicate part of the soul — a description that applies to the part that suffers from compliancy and shyness — he takes heed lest unawares he amputate with these all feeling of respect. For nurses too, when they scour infants too often, sometimes wound the flesh and do them hurt. It follows that we must not scour too close in removing from the young the fear to disoblige, and thus make them inconsiderate and unyielding to a fault, but as those who pull down houses adjoining a temple let the connected and neighbouring portions stand and shore them up, in the same way we must deal with compliancy, taking care not to remove with it the adjacent portions of respect and courtesy and gentleness where it hides and clings, Dwhile it bestows on the man who yields to pressure easily the flattering epithets of "friendly," "civil," and "considerate of others," not "rigid" or "blunt." Hence the Stoics21 distinguish from the outset the very words, separating "shame" and compliancy from "respect," so as to p53leave the disorder not even the ambiguity of its name as an occasion of doing harm. But by their leave we shall not quibble about the names, but rather follow Homer,22 who says

Respect, the bane and blessing of mankind.

And he did well to put first its harmfulness. For it becomes helpful only when reason removes the overplus and leaves us with the right amount.

3 1 EOne who feels a strong compulsion to be facile must first be convinced of this: that he suffers from a harmful disorder, and that nothing harmful is admirable; and he should refuse to be beguiled by plaudits into preferring the epithets "civilized" and "gracious" to the terms "grave" and "great" and "just," or like Pegasus in Euripides,23 who

Cringed and yielded as the rider willed

(the rider being Bellerophon), surrender to suitors and descend to their level Ffor fear of the remark "Truly a cold, harsh man." Now To Bocchoris the Egyptian, a man naturally cruel, Isis (they say) sent the asp, which coiled around his head and shadowed him from above,24 to make him observe justice in his verdicts; whereas false courtesy, pressing down upon those who are flabby and unmanly, and incapable of p55denying or refusing anything, turns them aside from justice in their verdicts, silences them in the council, and compels them to say and do many things that go against their will. 530The most unreasonable person is always master of such a man and controls him, coercing with his effrontery the other's shyness. And so, like a low-lying and loose terrain, a compliant disposition, being unable to fend off or repulse any appeal, is exposed to the most degrading experiences and deeds. For it is a poor guardian of the years of boyhood (thus Brutus25 said that he thought one who denied nothing had made no good disposal of his youthful grace), and a poor custodian of the nuptial chamber and the women's apartments, as she who repels in Sophocles26 says to the adulterer,

You coaxed and wheedled me to ruin.

BThus complaisance further corrupts the profligate mind and delivers everything up to the attacker: the position has no defences, no bars, and is commanded on all sides. And whereas it is with gifts that the vilest women are taken, argument and a bold address often prevail even over the good. I pass over the losses in money for which compliancy is responsible, when men lend to persons they distrust and go bail against their will, and though they approve the proverb "he that is surety is never sure,"27 are unable to follow it in practice.

p57 4 1 The lives that this disorder has cost would not be easy to number. Thus when Creon said to Medea,

CBetter for me to have thy hatred now

Than yield to rue it bitterly thereafter,28

he expressed a maxim for others to use, but succumbed to pressure himself, and by granting her request for a day's respite brought ruin on his house. Even some who suspected assassination and poison have given way to the feeling. Thus Dion was lost, not from ignorance of Callippus' plot, but because he was ashamed to take precautions against one who was his friend and guest.29 Thus when Antipater, son of Cassander, after inviting Demetrius to dinner, was invited by him the following day, he was ashamed to distrust one who had trusted him, went, and was murdered after the meal.30 Polyperchon agreed with Cassander for a hundred talents to do away with Heracles, DAlexander's son by Barsinê, and proceeded to invite him to dinner. When the youth, suspecting and dreading the invitation, alleged an indisposition, Polyperchon called on him and said: "Young man, the first quality of your father you should imitate is his readiness to oblige and attachment to his friends,31 unless indeed you fear me as a plotter." The youth was shamed into going; and they gave him his dinner and strangled him. The advice of Hesiod32 is p59therefore not absurd or silly, as some assert, but wise:

Your friend invite to dinner, not your foe.

EDo not let your enemy embarrass you, nor fawn on him when he appears to trust you. For after you invite him he will invite you, and after he dines with you you will dine with him,33 once you have let the mistrust that was your preservation lose its keen edge under the influence of shame.

5 1 This malady therefore, as cause of many evils, we must endeavour to expel by a course of training, beginning first (as tiros elsewhere) with what is trivial and not too hard to face. FThus a man drinks to you at dinner when you have had your fill. Do not yield or force yourself to comply, but set the cup down. Another again invites you to play at dice over the wine: do not yield or let his scoffing daunt you, but like Xenophanes,34 when Lasus of Hermionê called him coward for not wanting to throw the dice with him, confess in your turn that you are a great coward indeed and too faint-hearted to risk disgrace. Again: you meet a bore who lays hold of you and clings. Do not yield but break his hold and make haste to complete what you have to do. 531For such escapes and rebuffs as these, where we practise firmness at the cost of but slight dissatisfaction, condition us to meet more difficult occasions. In this connexion it is also well to bear Demosthenes' words in mind. The Athenians were set on joining Harpalus and were p61girding themselves against Alexander when Alexander's admiral Philoxenus suddenly sailed in view. To the assembly, which its fear had rendered mute, Demosthenes said: "What will they do on seeing the sun who are dazzled by a lamp?" For what will you do in great affairs, in the presence of a king or when the assembled people put you out of countenance, Bif you want the strength to reject a cup held out by a friend or to escape the clutches of a bore, but allow a driveller to have his will with you because you lack the firmness to say, "I'll see you another time; just now I am busy"?

6 1 So too with the bestowal of praise: to practise and train ourselves not to be daunted in trivial and easy things is not without its use. Thus at a friend's banquet a citharode sings badly or a comic actor got for a great price murders Menander, and the crowd applauds and admires. CHere I think it no hard or grievous matter to listen in silence and refrain from insincere and unmanly applause. For if you are not your own master here, what will you do when a friend reads a wretched poem or declaims a silly and preposterous speech? You will of course praise him and join the flatterers in their applause. How then will you correct him when he errs in the affairs of life? How admonish him when he is misguided in the case of some office, marriage, or policy of state? For my part I cannot even approve Pericles'35 answer to the friend who asked him to give false testimony under p63oath, "As far as the altar I am your friend." DFor this was getting much too close. Whereas he who keeps his distance by making it a practice never to praise a speech or applaud a song insincerely or laugh at a pointless joke, will call a halt long before there is any question of presuming so far or of saying to one who is independent in these ways "take an oath for me and give false testimony" or "pronounce an unjust verdict."

7 1 The same method is to be used in opposing requests for money: we must first school ourselves in situations that are of no great moment, and where refusal is not difficult. Thus Archelaüs, king of the Macedonians, when asked at dinner for a golden cup by one whose only notion of propriety was that it is proper to receive, Eordered the servant to give it to Euripides, and looking the fellow in the face remarked: "You are just the man to ask and not receive; he to receive even when he does not ask," wisely letting his judgement, and not any feeling of embarrassment, govern the disposal of his gifts and favours; we, on the other hand, often pass over honest men, kinsmen, and those in need, to confer our gifts on others who are persistent and pressing in their demands, not that we consent to make the gift, but that we are too weak to refuse. Thus, repeatedly pestered by Bion, the aged Antigonus said: "Give Violence36 and Coercion a talent." Yet he was the most adroit and plausible of kings Fat brushing such importunities aside. On one occasion, asked by a Cynic for a drachma, he answered: "Kings do not p65give so little"; and when the other countered, "Then give me a talent," he replied, "Or Cynics take so much."37 Now Diogenes went about the Cerameicus soliciting the statues, and said to the astonished spectators that he was getting in condition to meet refusals; we, however, must first practise on the vulgar and train ourselves in trivial matters to rebuff those who present unfitting requests, 532that we may have the means to succour those on whom our bounty will be fittingly bestowed. For no one, says Demosthenes,38 after spending what he has on what he should not, will be able to spend what he has not on what he should. And our disgrace39 is rendered many times greater when we are short of funds for worthy ends because we were lavish in expenditures that were not called for.

8 1 Since compliancy is not only a wasteful and injudicious manager of an estate, but in graver concerns as well deprives us of the fruits of understanding — when in illness, for example, we do not call in the expert in the disease, fearing to offend our family practitioner; or when to instruct our children Bwe choose not those who are competent but those who beg for the employment;40 or when in a lawsuit, as we often do, we do not commit our case to one who can help us from his familiarity with the courts, but in order to oblige a friend's or kinsman's son allow him to practice declamation at our expense; and when to crown it all we can see many so‑called philanthropists who are Epicureans or Stoics not from choice or judgement, but because they acceded to importunate relations or p67friends — let us keep a wide berth and train ourselves for these situations too on ordinary people and in trivial occasions, accustoming ourselves not to patronize a barber or fuller from fear of giving offence or to put up at a bad inn when a better can be had because the innkeeper has often greeted us, Cbut instead, for the habit's sake, to choose the better, though the odds be small, as the Pythagoreans always took care never to cross the left leg over the right or to take the even number instead of the odd, when otherwise there was no difference. We must also form the habit when celebrating a sacrifice or marriage or giving some other entertainment of not inviting a person who has greeted us or run up to welcome us in preference to a friend and honest man; for one who has this habit and training will in greater matters be no easy victim, or rather will be quite proof against assault.

9 1 DSo much for training. To pass to useful reflexions: the first is that which teaches and reminds us that all passions and disorders involve us in what we think we are avoiding by their means:41 ambition leads to disgrace, love of pleasure to pain, indolence to toil, contentiousness to discomfiture and defeat at law; and it turns out that compliancy, in its dread of getting a bad name, escapes the smoke to fall into the fire.42 For when men are too embarrassed to refuse unreasonable petitioners they later must incur the embarrassment of just reproaches; and from dread of trifling censure they must often put up with out-and‑out disgrace. EThus having been too shy to refuse a friend's request for money that they do not p69have, they presently cut a sorry figure when the truth comes out; and having agreed to support one of the parties to a lawsuit, they then are so put out of countenance by the others that they hide and runaway. And many, reduced by this feeling to consenting to disadvantageous terms for a daughter's or a sister's marriage, are then driven by it in turn to break their word by making new arrangements.

10 1 Now he who said that the entire population of Asia were one man's slaves because they could not say the one syllable "no," Fwas not serious but jesting. Yet those who are importuned need not say anything: merely by raising the brows or dropping the eyes they can avoid rendering many reluctant and uncalled-for services. For while Euripides43 asserts that silence is an answer to the wise, we are much more likely to need it in dealing with the inconsiderate, for reasonable men are open to persuasion.

Yes, and we must also have in readiness a stock of sayings of illustrious and virtuous men and quote them to the importunate, as Phocion's reply to Antipater: 533 "You cannot use me both as a friend and flatterer,"44 and his answer to the Athenians who applauded him at a festival, clamouring for a special gift to the city: "I should be ashamed to give the money away to you and not back to him," pointing to Callicles the money lender.45 For as Thucydides46 p71says, "the confession of poverty is no disgrace; what is disgraceful is the failure to avoid the reality." But he who in his silly spinelessness is too meek to say to a suitor

But sir, no silver shines within my caves47

and then proceeds to surrender his promise, as a pledge,

Lies bound in honour's gyves, unforged by man.48

BLending money to one of his followers Persaeus drew up a contract in the market-place with a banker, evidently remembering Hesiod:49

Be he your brother, laugh and call a witness.

The other was surprised and said: "So legal, Persaeus?" "Yes," he answered, "that the sum may be repaid in the way of friendship, not reclaimed by way of law." For many who start out by waiving security for fear of giving offence later go to law and lose their friend. 11 Again, giving Helicon of Cyzicus a letter to Dionysius, CPlato commended the bearer as good and estimable, but added at the close: "I write this to you about a mortal man, a creature naturally unstable."50 But Xenocrates despite the rigour of his character gave in to pressure and wrote to Polyperchon a letter of introduction for a worthless fellow, as appeared from the event. When the Macedonian welcomed him and inquired if he needed anything, the man asked for a talent. Polyperchon gave p73it but wrote to Xenocrates advising him in future to scrutinize more carefully the persons he recommended. Now Xenocrates acted in ignorance; we, however, although often well aware that a man is a scoundrel, yet part with letters and money, Dinjuring ourselves without the pleasure got by those who indulge courtesans and flatterers, but loathing and resenting the brazen importunity that overthrows and masters our reason. For to no one more aptly than to those who wring concessions from us by their importunity can we say

I know the evil I set out to do51 —

in giving false testimony, rendering an unjust verdict, voting for an inexpedient measure, or borrowing for one who will never repay.

12 1 Thus it is facility, more than in any other disorder, that regret is not subsequent to the act, but present from the first: when we give, we chafe; when we testify, we are ashamed; Ewhen we act as partners, we are disgraced; — and when we fail to perform, the sorry truth comes out. For being too weak to refuse we promise persistent suitors many things beyond our power, such as presentation at court or introduction to a governor, for want of the will and the firmness to say: "I am unknown to the king; you must apply elsewhere," as Lysander, who after the break with Agesilaüs Fwas still supposed from his celebrity to stand high in his favour, was not p75ashamed to turn suitors away, directing them to others, and telling them to resort to those who had more influence with the king.52 For there is no disgrace in not being omnipotent; whereas to undertake such services and to force matters when we have not the power or the talent required, is not only ignominious but mortifying in the extreme.

13 1 There is another point of view. Reasonable and proper services we must render gladly to those that ask them, not in helpless submission, but because we choose to. 534But when the service is harmful and unjustified we must always be ready with the saying of Zeno.53 Meeting a young man of his acquaintance pacing slowly by the city wall, and learning that he was avoiding a friend who expected him to give false testimony in his behalf, Zeno said: "Fool! This man, who is dealing unfairly and unjustly, has no fear or respect for you; and you, to defend the right, dare not stand up to him?" For he who said

A handy arm with knaves is knavery54

Brecommends to us the bad habit of resisting vice by resorting to it; whereas to rid ourselves of brazen and unabashed suitors by being unabashed ourselves, and not, by giving in to shame, to render shameful favours to the shameless, is what is rightly and justly done by men of sense.

14 1 Again when suitors are obscure, of humble station, and of little worth, it is no great trouble to p77resist them; some indeed put them off with an amusing jest. Thus when two men in a bath-house wanted to borrow Theocritus'55 scraper,a the one a stranger, the other a thieving acquaintance, he evaded both with a quip, "You I don't know, you I do." At Athens Lysimachê, Cpriestess of Athenê Polias, when asked for a drink by the muleteers who had brought the sacred vessels, replied: "I fear it will get into the ritual." And Antigonus answered when a certain youth whose father was a distinguished captain, but who lacked resolution and courage himself, asked for advancement: "At my court, boy, it is man's valour and not his father's that is rewarded."56

15 1 But if the petitioner is a man of prominence and power — and these are the hardest to refuse and shake off when they appeal to us about a verdict or an appointment — the course indeed that was taken by Cato, while still a young man, Din dealing with Catulus, would hardly, I think, commend itself as easy or necessary. Catulus, of all the Romans the most highly regarded, held the office of censor at the time. He had gone up57 to see Cato, who was in charge of the public treasury,58 to intercede for one of the p79persons he had fined, and urged his appeal with great insistence. Cato at last lost patience and said: "It is unseemly, Catulus, that you, the censor, since you won't take yourself off, should be thrown out by my staff."59 Catulus was abashed and left in anger. EBut consider whether the conduct of Agesilaüs and Themistocles was not more courteous and moderate. Told by his father to render an illegal verdict in a certain case, Agesilaüs said: "But it was you, father, that taught me from childhood to obey the laws; I am therefore obeying you when I do nothing unlawful." When Simonides asked an unjustified favour Themistocles answered: "You would not be a good poet if in your singing you failed to observe the music, nor I a proper officer if in my judgements I failed to observe the law."60 16 Yet, as Plato61 said, it is not discord of measure and music that sets city against city and friend against friend and lead them to inflict Fand undergo the greatest calamities, but jarring errors in law and justice. Nevertheless some, themselves sticklers for propriety in music, words, and metre, expect others who hold office, render verdicts, and are engaged in public affairs to disregard what is proper. This therefore is the very point that we must chiefly use against them. A pleader appeals to you p81when you are hearing a case, or a party-leader when you hold a seat in the council: give your consent if he will commit a solecism in his proem or a barbarism in his narration. For this he will not do because it appears unseemly — indeed we see that some cannot even abide the collision of one vowel with another in making a speech. 535Another shameless petitioner is an eminent and reputable personage: tell him to dance62 or make a face as he passes through the market-place. If he refuses, it is your cue to speak and inquire which is unseemly — to commit a solecism and make a face, or to break the law, to perjure yourself, and unjustly to favour a scoundrel at the expense of an upright man? Furthermore, as Nicostratus the Argive,63 when offered by Archidamus a great sum and his choice of the Spartan women in marriage if he would betray Crommyon, called Archidamus no true Heraclid, since Heracles had gone about killing malefactors, Bwhile Archidamus was making malefactors of honest men, in the same way we must say to one that claims the name of gentleman, if he forces matters and presses an impudent request, that his conduct is unseemly and unworthy of his birth and character.

17 1 With men who have vices you must consider and reflect whether you could bully the miser into lending a talent without a bond, the proud man into resigning his post of honour, or the ambitious politician into giving up his candidacy when expected to p83win. For it would appear strange indeed Cthat these in their disorders and passions should remain undaunted, firm, and steadfast, while we, who desire and profess to be partisans of honesty and justice, should so fail in control that we are overthrown and abandon our character for virtue. Indeed, if the suitor's aim is glory and power, it is absurd to enhance the lustre and greatness of another by cutting a sorry figure ourselves and getting a bad name, just as umpires who cheat at the games or officials who make corrupt appointments, while awarding to others offices, crowns, and glory not theirs to bestow, lose their own reputation and honour; whereas if money is his object, Dcan we fail to observe that it is a strange bargain to squander our own repute and character in order to increase the weight of so‑and‑so's purse?

Yet such thoughts do occur to most people, and they know well that they are making a mistake. They are like men compelled to down a large beaker, who barely manage, moaning and with a wry face, to carry out the order. 18 1 But infirmity of the mind resembles a bodily constitution intolerant of either heat or cold. For when praised by the importunate such men go utterly soft and limp; while in face of p85the complaint and disapproval of rejected suitors they are timorous and fearful. EWe should make a bold stand on both fronts, yielding neither to intimidation nor to flattery. Thucydides,64 indeed, holding that power necessarily attracts envy, says "He does wisely who incurs envy for the greatest prize," but we, who though we consider envy difficult to avoid, yet observe the utter impossibility of escaping reproach or avoiding offence Fto some of those who will have just cause to complain if we do injustice to oblige the others. Furthermore, the praise that comes from suitors is false coin: we must be thoroughly on our guard against it and not behave like swine, because of our itch to be scratched and tickled allowing the suitor to handle us as he pleases, and sinking to the ground in subservience to him. For he who gives ear to flatterers is no better than he who allows a leghold to one who would throw him; nay, the toss and fall is in his case more disgraceful. 536Some, to get a name as merciful, humane, and compassionate, release wrongdoers from enmity and punishment; others on the contrary are persuaded to undertake quarrels and prosecutions that are neither compulsory nor free from risk, when they are praised as alone deserving to be called "men" and alone incapable of subservience — yes, and the flatterers even call them "mouths" and "voices." Consequently Bion compared men of this sort to pitchers easily carried away by the ears.65 p87Thus it is reported that Alexinus the sophist was roundly abusing Stilpon of Megara in the Promenade Bwhen one of the audience said: "But he was praising you the other day." "Exactly," said Alexinus, "he is the most honest and outspoken of men." Menedemus said on the contrary, on hearing that Alexinus often praised him, "For my part I have never a good word for him. The fellow is therefore a knave, as he either praises a knave or is censured by an honest man." So steadfast was he and secure against the likes of these, and so firmly did he hold to the advice that Heracles in Antisthenes66 gave his sons, to thank no man for his praise, which came exactly to this: not to let themselves be prevailed upon by those who praised them and not to flatter them in return. CPindar's answer is enough, I fancy. To one who said that he praised him everywhere and to everyone he replied: "And I return the courtesy; it is my doing that you tell the truth."

19 1 Now the same remedy that helps to cure all disorders of the mind is especially indicated for those who yield easily to pressure: when forced by the disorder to err against their judgement and succumb to embarrassment, they must keep it firmly in the memory and store up reminders of their remorse and regret and rehearse them and preserve them for a very long time. For as wayfarers who have stumbled over a stone,67 or skippers who have capsized off a headland, Dif they retain the circumstances in their p89memory, henceforth never fail to avoid with a shudder not only the occasion of their misadventure, but everything resembling it, so those who constantly hold up to their repentance and remorse the shame and loss involved in compliancy will in similar circumstances resist the feeling and not easily allow it to carry them away.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Philemon Holland renders it "naughtie bashfulnesse" and "foolish and rusticall shamefastnes"; Thomas Hoy "bashfulness"; and A. R. Shilleto "shyness." Erasmus calls it "vitiosa verecundia," Xylander "vitiosus pudor," H. Cruserius "immodica verecundia." Amyot has "fausse honte," Bétolaud "mauvaise honte"; while the best Antonio Massa can do is "quella erubescenza, che è vitiosa, & dannosa." J. F. S. Kaltwasser has "die falsche Schamhaftigkeit" and in a note "die Bauernscham"; J. C. Bähr "die falsche Scham."

2 Cf. 528F below.

3 Cf. Phrynichus, p190 (ed. Lobeck) with the note and H. Erbse, Untersuchungen zu den attizistichen Lexika, Abh. d. deutschen Ak. d. Wiss. zu Berlin, Phil.-hist. Kl. (1949), p116.

4 Cf. the expressions "which some call δυσωπεῖσθαι" (Life of Brutus, loc. cit.) and "what is called δυσωπία" (528D below).

5 Plutarch departs from Aristotle in using "shamelessness" of one who harshly refuses another's request (529A). In the same passage he speaks of the extremes in terms that Aristotle would not have used of a passion (asthenōs echontes and diathesis). The word "passion" (pathos) itself has in Plutarch another connotation.

6 A criticism of Plato (Laws, V.729 B5‑7).

7 Here the words καὶ δυσωπεῖσθαι are Plutarch's own addition: compare the explanation added to Zeno's remark in Mor. 603D below.

8 Cf. also Plato, Laws, I.646F‑657A, Euthyphro, 12B‑C, and von Arnim, Stoicorum Vet. Frag. III.416 (p101.37). In Plutarch the fear of ill-repute is really a fear of reproach or resentment.

9 Cf. also Aristotle, Frag. 243 (ed. Rose) and von Arnim, Stoicorum Vet. Frag. III.410 (p99.15‑18).

10 Cf. Mor. 510C‑D.

11 Elsewhere training comes last. From its unusual order here Pohlenz ("Ueber Plutarchs Schrift περὶ ἀοργησίας" Hermes, XXXI, 1896, p329, note 1) infers that the De Vitioso Pudore is later than the De Se Ipsum Citra Invidiam Laudando, "da die Einschaltung der ἄσκησις am besten aus dem Streben nach Abwechslung zu erklären ist."

12 Plutarchi opusculum de immoderata verecundia a J. Caesario Latine redditum, Rome, 1565.

13 De la Honte vicieuse, traité composé par Plutarque de Chéronée, et traduit en notre langue par François Le Grand, Paris, 1554. This version also appeared in the same year at Rouen.

14 Dysōpeomai (to be embarrassed into compliance by importunity) no doubt originally meant "to be affected by hard or unpleasant looks." Plutarch takes the etymological sense to be "to be affected in one's looks," "to become incapable of facing someone."

15 Cf. the Townleyan scholiast on Homer, Il. XVII.556: κατηφείη· ἀπὸ τοῦ κάτω ἔχειν τὰ φάη (dejection: from keeping the eyes downcast).

16 Timaeus, Frag. 122 (ed. Jacoby).

17 The Greek for pupil is korē, "maiden." Shame resides in the eyes: cf. Aristotle, Rhetoric, II.6.18 (1384 A36).

18 Cf. Life of Cato the Elder, chap. ix.5 (341C); Mor. 29E, 198E.

19 One group of MSS. has here an interpolation from Mor. 446B‑C (Timon, frag. 58, Diels, Poet. Philos. Frag. p199).

20 Illiberality is characteristic of old age: cf. Aristotle, Eth. Nic. IV.1.37 (1121 B13 f.) and Rhetoric, II.13.6 (1389 B28).

21 Cf. von Arnim, Stoicorum Vet. Frag. III.439 (Mor. 449A) and 440 (p107).

22 The line is actually Hesiod's (Works and Days, 318), but Plutarch held that Hesiod had it from Homer (cf. Il. XXIV.44‑45); see Proclus, ad loc.

23 From the Bellerophon of Euripides: Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Eur. 309; quoted also in Mor. 807E.

24 An explanation of the uraeus: cf. Alexandre Moret, De Bocchori Rege, Paris, 1903, p87.

25 Cf. Life of Brutus, chap. vi.9 (986E).

26 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Sophocles, no. 773 (no. 857 Pearson).

27 For the proverb cf. Mor. 164B, 511B.

28 Euripides, Medea, 290‑291.

29 Cf. Life of Dion, chap. lvi.3 (982E).

30 Cf. Life of Demetrius, chap. xxxvi.9‑12 (906C‑D).

31 Cf. Life of Alexander, chap. xlviii.1 (692A).

32 Works and Days, 342; also quoted in Mor. 707C.

33 Cf. Comm. in Hesiodum, 27 (vol. VII, pp65 f. Bern.).

34 Diels and Kranz, Frag. d. Vorsokratiker6, Xenophanes, A 16.

35 Cf. Mor. 186C, 808A; Aulus Gellius, I.3.20; Leutsch and Schneidewin, Paroem. Gr. II, p523.

36 Bia in the Greek.

37 Cf. Seneca, On Benefits, II.17.1.

38 Or. 3.19.

39 Cf. Mor. 90E: "For it is not so honourable to do a good turn to a friend as it is disgraceful not to do it when he is in need; . . ."

40 Cf. Mor. 4D.

41 Cf. Mor. 502E, 519D, and Seneca, De Ira, I.12.5.

42 The Greek for "out of the frying-pan into the fire": cf. Leutsch and Schneidewin, Paroem. Gr. I, pp314, 374; II, pp220, 474, 684.

43 Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p675, Eur. Frag. 977.

44 Cf. Life of Phocion, chap. xxx.3 (755B); Lives of Agis and Cleomenes, chap. ii.4 (795E); Mor. 64C, 142B, 188F.

45 Cf. Life of Phocion, chap. ix.1 (745D); Mor. 188A, 822E.

46 II.40.1.

47 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Adespota, no. 389.

48 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Eur. Peirithus, no. 595; quoted also in Mor. 96C, ' 482A, 763F.

49 Works and Days, 371.

50 Ep. xiii.360C‑D, cited from memory; also quoted in Mor. 463C and 474E.

51 Euripides, Medea, 1078.

52 Cf. Xenophon, Hell. III.4.8, also referred to in the Life of Agesilaüs, chap. vii.8 (599E).

53 Von Arnim, Stoicorum Vet. Frag. I.313 (p69).

54 Kaibel, Comicorum Graec. Frag. I, p142, Epicharmus, no. 275; quoted also in Mor. 21E.

55 Theocritus of Chios, historian and wit of the fourth century. For the story cf. the Philogelos, no. 150 (p34 Eberhard).

56 Cf. Mor. 183D and Stobaeus, Anth. IV.29b 39 (pp717 f. Hense).

57 Cato was in the treasury, on the slope of the Capitoline.

58 Catulus was censor in 65 B.C.; cf. T. R. S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. II (New York, 1952), p157. Broughton (ibid. pp168 and note 5) assigns Cato's quaestorship to 64.

59 Cf. Life of Cato the Younger, chap. xvi.6‑8 (755D); Mor. 808E.

60 Cf. Life of Themistocles, chap. v.6 (114C); Mor. 185D, 807B.

61 Clitophon, 407C‑D; quoted also in Mor. 439C.

62 For this as disgraceful cf. Cicero, De Officiis, III.19 (75) and III.24 (93).

63 Cf. Mor. 192A.

64 II.64.5; also quoted in Mor. 73A.

65 Cf. Mor. 705E and Frag. incert. 101 Bern.

66 Antisthenes, Heracles, Frag. 6 (ed. Dittmar).

67 Cf. the proverb (Leutsch and Schneidewin, Paroem. Gr. I, p65) δὶς πρὸς τὸν αὐτὸν αἰσχρὰ (nos: αἰσχρὸν) προσκρούειν λίθον "to stumble twice against the same stone is shameful."


Thayer's Note:

a If this puzzles you, see this section of the article Balneae in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, which has pictures of them, too.


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