Flavii Vopisci Syracusii
I. Certum est quod Sallustius Crispus quodque Marcus Cato et Gellius historici sententiae modo in litteras rettulerunt, omnes omnium virtutes tantas esse quantas videri eas voluerint eorum ingenia qui unius 2cuiusque1 facta descripserint. inde est quod Alexander Magnus Macedo, cum ad Achillis sepulchrum venisset, graviter ingemescens “Felicem te,” inquit, “iuvenis, qui talem praeconem tuarum virtutum repperisti,” Homerum intellegi volens, qui Achillem tantum in virtutum studio fecit2 quantum ipse valebat ingenio.
3Quorsum haec pertineant, mi Celsine, fortassis requiris.
By Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse
I. It is true—as Sallustius Crispus and the historians Marcus Cato and Gellius1 have put into their writings as a sort of maxim—that all the virtues of all men are as great as they have been made to appear by the genius of those who related their deeds. Hence it was that Alexander the Great of Macedonia, as he stood at the tomb of Achilles, said with a mighty groan, “Happy are you, young man, in that you found such a herald of your virtues,”2 making allusion to Homer, who made Achilles outstanding in the pursuit of virtue in proportion as he himself was outstanding in genius.
“But to what does all this apply,” you may perhaps
- 1What follows is not a quotation, but a reflection based on Sallust, Catil., 8, 4 and Cato’s Origines quoted by Aulus Gellius, iii. 7,19. The actual words of Sallust are cited by Jerome in his Vita Hilarionis, 1, in immediate connection with the anecdote related in § 2, though without the reference to Cato. The coincidence and the exactness of Jerome’s quotation from Sallsut have suggested the possibility that the biographer has taken this passage from the Vita Hilarionis (written about 390), and that, accordingly, the Probus was not composed before the end of the fourth century; see B. Schmiedler in Phil. Woch., 1927, p. 955 f.
- 2Related also by Plutarch, Alexander, 15, 4; Arrian, Anab. Alex., i. 12, 1; Cicero, pro Archia, 24, and referred to by Cicero in Epist. ad Familiares, v. 12, 7.