Friday, May 11, 2007

Modus Operandi: Plutarch's Lives

But Aristides, who was the principal man of Greece, through extreme poverty reduced some of his to get their living by jugglers' tricks, others, for want, to hold out their hands for public alms; leaving none means to perform any noble action, or worthy his dignity.

Yet, why should this needs follow? since poverty is dishonourable not in itself, but when it is proof of laziness, intemperance, luxury, and carelessness; whereas in a person that is temperate, industrious, just, and valiant, and who uses all his virtues for the public good, it shows a great and lofty mind. For he has no time for great matters who concerns himself with petty ones; nor can he relieve many needs of others, who himself has many needs of his own. What most of all enables a man to serve the public is not wealth, but content and independence; which, requring no superfluity at home, distracts not the mind from the common good. God alone is entirely exempt from all want: of human virtues, that which needs least is the most absolute and most divine...

[Plutarch's Lives, The Comparison of Aristides with Marcus Cato]

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