LXXIII. Seneca Lvcilio svo salvtem
1Errare mihi videntur, qui existimant philosophiae fideliter deditos contumaces esse ac refractarios, contemptores magistratuum aut regum eorumve, per quos publica administrantur. Ex contrario enim nulli adversus illos gratiores sunt; nec inmerito. Nullis enim plus praestant quam quibus frui tranquillo 2otio licet. Itaque ii, quibus multum1 ad propositum bene vivendi confert securitas publica, necesse est auctorem huius boni ut parentem colant, multo quidem magis quam illi inquieti et in medio positi, qui multa principibus debent, sed multa et inputant, quibus numquam tam plene occurrere ulla liberalitas potest, ut cupiditates illorum, quae crescunt, dum implentur, exsatiet. Quisquis autem de accipiendo cogitat, oblitus accepti est; nec ullum habet malum 3cupiditas maius, quam quod ingrata est. Adice nunc, quod nemo eorum, qui in re publica versantur, quot vincat, sed a quibus vincatur, aspicit. Et illis non tam iucundum est multos post se videre quam grave aliquem ante se. Habet hoc vitium omnis ambitio; non respicit. Nec ambitio tantum instabilis est, verum cupiditas omnis, quia incipit semper a fine.
4At ille vir sincerus ac purus, qui reliquit et curiam et forum et omnem administrationem rei publicae,
LXXIII. On Philosophers and Kingsa
It seems to me erroneous to believe that those who have loyally dedicated themselves to philosophy are stubborn and rebellious, scorners of magistrates or kings or of those who control the administration of public affairs. For, on the contrary, no class of man is so popular with the philosopher as the ruler is; and rightly so, because rulers bestow upon no men a greater privilege than upon those who are allowed to enjoy peace and leisure. Hence, those who are greatly profited, as regards their purpose of right living, by the security of the State, must needs cherish as a father the author of this good; much more so, at any rate, than those restless persons who are always in the public eye, who owe much to the ruler, but also expect much from him, and are never so generously loaded with favours that their cravings, which grow by being supplied, are thoroughly satisfied. And yet he whose thoughts are of benefits to come has forgotten the benefits received; and there is no greater evil in covetousness than its ingratitude. Besides, no man in public life thinks of the many whom he has outstripped; he thinks rather of those by whom he is outstripped. And these men find it less pleasing to see many behind them than annoying to see anyone ahead of them.b That is the trouble with every sort of ambition; it does not look back. Nor is it ambition alone that is fickle, but also every sort of craving, because it always begins where it ought to end.
But that other man, upright and pure, who has left the senate and the bar and all affairs of state, that
- aThis letter is especially interesting because of its autobiographical hints, and its relation to Seneca’s own efforts to be rid of court life and seek the leisure of the sage. See the Introduction to Vol. I. pp. viii f.
- bCf. Horace, Sat. i. 1. 115 f,—
Instat equis auriga suos vincentibus, illum Praeteritum temnens extremos inter euntem.