L. ANNAEI SENECAE
ad aebutium liberalem
1. Inter multos ac varios errores temere inconsulteque viventium nihil propemodum indignius,1 vir optime Liberalis, dixerim, quam quod2 beneficia nec dare scimus nec accipere. Sequitur enim, ut male collocata male debeantur; de quibus non redditis sero querimur; ista enim perierunt, cum 2 darentur. Nec mirum est inter plurima maximaque vitia nullum esse frequentius quam ingrati animi. Id evenire ex causis pluribus video.
Prima illa est, quod non eligimus dignos, quibus tribuamus. Sed nomina facturi diligenter in patrimonium et vitam debitoris inquirimus, semina in solum effetum et sterile non spargimus; beneficia sine ullo dilectu magis proicimus quam damus.3
Nec facile dixerim, utrum turpius sit infitiari an repetere beneficium; id enim genus huius crediti
LUCIUS ANNAEUS SENECA
to aebutius liberalis
Among the many and diverse errors of those who live reckless and thoughtless lives, almost nothing that I can mention, excellent Liberalis, is more disgraceful than the fact that we do not know how either to give or to receive benefits. For it follows that, if they are ill placed, they are ill acknowledged, and, when we complain of their not being returned, it is too late; for they were lost at the time they were given. Nor is it surprising that among all our many and great vices, none is so common as ingratitude. This I observe results from several causes.
The first is, that we do not pick out those who are worthy of receiving our gifts. Yet when we are about to open an account with anyone, we are careful to inquire into the means and manner of life of our debtor; we do not sow seed in worn-out and unproductive soil; but our benefits we give, or rather throw, away without any discrimination.
Nor would it be easy to say whether it is more shameful to repudiate a benefit, or to ask the repayment of it; for from the nature of such a trust, we