Xenophon, Symposium (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Xen. Symp.].
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4.36Again, I am told of certain despots, also, who have such a greedy appetite for riches that they commit much more dreadful crimes than they who are afflicted with the direst poverty. For it is of course their want that makes some people steal, others commit burglary, others follow the slave trade; but there are some despots who destroy whole families, kill men wholesale, oftentimes enslave even entire cities, for the sake of money. 4.37As for such men, I pity them deeply for their malignant disease; for in my eyes their malady resembles that of a person who possessed abundance but though continually eating could never be satisfied. For my own part, my possessions are so great that I can hardly find them myself; yet I have enough so that I can eat until I reach a point where I no longer feel hungry and drink until I do not feel thirsty and have enough clothing so that when out of doors I do not feel the cold any more than my superlatively wealthy friend Callias here; 4.38and when I get into the house I look on my walls as exceedingly warm tunics and the roofs as exceptionally thick mantles; and the bedding that I own is so satisfactory that it is actually a hard task to get me awake in the morning. If I ever feel a natural desire for converse with women, I am so well satisfied with whatever chance puts in my way that those to whom I make my addresses are more than glad to welcome me because they have no one else who wants to consort with them. 4.39In a word, all these items appeal to me as being so conducive to enjoyment that I could not pray for greater pleasure in performing any one of them, but could pray rather for less—so much more pleasurable do I regard some of them than is good for one. 4.40But the most valuable parcel of my wealth I reckon to be this, that even though some one were to rob me of what I now possess, I see no occupation so humble that it would not give me adequate fare. 4.41For whenever I feel an inclination to indulge my appetite, I do not buy fancy articles at the market (for they come high), but I draw on the store-house of my soul. And it goes a long way farther toward producing enjoyment when I take food only after awaiting the craving for it than when I partake of one of these fancy dishes, like this fine Thasian wine that fortune has put in my way and I am drinking without the promptings of thirst. 4.42Yes, and it is natural that those whose eyes are set on frugality should be more honest than those whose eyes are fixed on money-making. For those who are most contented with what they have are least likely to covet what belongs to others. 4.43And it is worth noting that wealth of this kind makes people generous, also. My friend Socrates here and I are examples. For Socrates, from whom I acquired this wealth of mine, did not come to my relief with limitation of number and weight, but made over to me all that I could carry. And as for me, I am now niggardly to no one, but both make an open display of my abundance to all my friends and share my spiritual wealth with any one of them that desires it. 4.44But—most exquisite possession of all!—you observe that I always have leisure, with the result that I can go and see whatever is worth seeing, and hear whatever is worth hearing and—what I prize highest—pass the whole day, untroubled by business, in Socrates' company. Like me, he does not bestow his admiration on those who count the most gold, but spends his time with those who are congenial to him.”

4.45Such was the thesis maintained by Antisthenes. “So help me Hera,” commented Callias, “among the numerous reasons I find for congratulating you on your wealth, one is that the government does not lay its commands on you and treat you as a slave, another is that people do not feel resentful at your not making them a loan.”

“Do not be congratulating him,” said Niceratus; “because I am about to go and get him to make me a loan—of his contentment with his lot, schooled as I am by Homer to countSeven pots unfired, ten talents' weight of gold, A score of gleaming cauldrons, chargers twelve,Hom. Iliad 9.122 f., 264 f. weighing and calculating until I am never done with yearning for vast riches; as a result, some people perhaps regard me as just a bit fond of lucre.”

A burst of laughter from the whole company greeted this admission; for they considered that he had told nothing more than the truth.

4.46“Hermogenes, it devolves on you,” some one now remarked, “to mention who your friends are and to demonstrate their great power and their solicitude for you, so that your pride in them may appear justified.”

4.47“Very well; in the first place, it is clear as day that both Greeks and barbarians believe that the gods know everything both present and to come; at any rate, all cities and all races ask the gods, by the diviner's art, for advice as to what to do and what to avoid. Second, it is likewise manifest that we consider them able to work us good or ill; at all events, every one prays the gods to avert evil and grant blessings. 4.48Well, these gods, omniscient and omnipotent, feel so friendly toward me that their watchfulness over me never lets me out of their ken night or day, no matter where I am going or what business I have in view. They know the results also that will follow any act; and so they send me as messengers omens of sounds, dreams, and birds, and thus indicate what I ought to do and what I ought not to do. And when I do their bidding, I never regret it; on the other hand, I have before now disregarded them and have been punished for it.”



Xenophon, Symposium (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Xen. Symp.].
<<Xen. Symp. 4.29 Xen. Symp. 4.41 (Greek) >>Xen. Symp. 4.53

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