Seneca the Younger, Epistles

LCL 75: 34-35

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The Epistles Of Seneca

8Utrumque autem devitandum est; neve similis malis fias, quia multi sunt, neve inimicus multis, quia dissimiles sunt. Recede in te ipsum, quantum potes. Cum his versare, qui te meliorem facturi sunt. Illos admitte, quos tu potes facere meliores. Mutuo ista 9fiunt, et homines, dum docent, discunt. Non est quod te gloria publicandi ingenii producat in medium, ut recitare istis velis aut disputare; quod facere te vellem, si haberes isti populo idoneam mercem; nemo est, qui intellegere te possit. Aliquis fortasse, unus aut alter incidet, et hic ipse formandus tibi erit instituendusque ad intellectum tui. “Cui ergo ista didici? “Non est quod timeas, ne operam perdideris; tibi1 didicisti.

10Sed ne soli mihi hodie didicerim, communicabo tecum, quae occurrerunt mihi egregie dicta circa eundem fere sensum tria; ex quibus unum haec epistula in debitum solvet, duo in antecessum accipe. Democritus ait: “Unus mihi pro populo est, et populus 11pro uno.” Bene et ille, quisquis fuit, ambigitur enim de auctore, cum quaereretur ab illo, quo tanta diligentia artis spectaret ad paucissimos perventurae, “Satis sunt,” inquit, “mihi pauci, satis est unus, satis est nullus.” Egregie hoc tertium Epicurus, cum uni


Epistle VII.

But both courses are to be avoided; you should not copy the bad simply because they are many, nor should you hate the many because they are unlike you. Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for men learn while they teach. There is no reason why pride in advertising your abilities should lure you into publicity, so that you should desire to recite or harangue before the general public. Of course I should be willing for you to do so if you had a stock-in-trade that suited such a mob; as it is, there is not a man of them who can understand you. One or two individuals will perhaps come in your way, but even these will have to be moulded and trained by you so that they will understand you. You may say: “For what purpose did I learn all these things?” But you need not fear that you have wasted your efforts; it was for yourself that you learned them.

In order, however, that 1 may not to-day have learned exclusively for myself, I shall share with you three excellent sayings, of the same general purport, which have come to my attention. This letter will give you one of them as payment of my debt; the other two you may accept as a contribution in advance. Democritusa says: “One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man.” The following also was nobly spoken by someone or other, for it is doubtful who the author was; they asked him what was the object of all this study applied to an art that would reach but very few. He replied: “I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all.” The third saying—and a noteworthy one, too—is by Epicurus,b

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-epistles.1917