hominem involutum aestimas? Mangones quicquid est, quod displiceat, aliquo lenocinio abscondunt, itaque ementibus ornamenta ipsa suspecta sunt. Sive crus alligatum sive brachium aspiceres, nudari iuberes 10et ipsum tibi corpus ostendi. Vides illum Scythiae Sarmatiaeve regem insigni capitis decorum? Si vis illum aestimare totumque scire, qualis sit, fasciam solve; multum mali sub illa latet. Quid de aliis loquor? Si perpendere te voles, sepone pecuniam, domum, dignitatem, intus te ipse considera. Nunc qualis sis, aliis credis. Vale
LXXXI. Seneca Lvcilio svo salvtem
1Quereris incidisse te in hominem ingratum. Si hoc nunc primum, age aut fortunae aut diligentiae tuae gratias. Sed nihil facere hoc loco diligentia potest nisi te malignum. Nam si hoc periculum vitare volueris, non dabis beneficia; ita ne apud alium pereant, apud te peribunt.
Non respondeant potius quam non dentur. Et post malam segetem serendum est; saepe quicquid perierat adsidua infelicis soli sterilitate, unius anni 2restituit ubertas. Est tanti, ut gratum invenias, experiri et ingratos. Nemo habet tam certam in
judge him when he is wrapped in a disguise? Slave-dealers hide under some sort of finery any defect which may give offence,a and for that reason the very trappings arouse the suspicion of the buyer. If you catch sight of a leg or an arm that is bound up in cloths, you demand that it be stripped and that the body itself be revealed to you. Do you see yonder Scythian or Sarmatian king, his head adorned with the badge of his office? If you wish to see what he amounts to, and to know his full worth, take off his diadem; much evil lurks beneath it. But why do I speak of others? If you wish to set a value on yourself, put away your money, your estates, your honours, and look into your own soul. At present, you are taking the word of others for what you are. Farewell.
LXXXI. On Benefits.b
You complain that you have met with an ungrateful person. If this is your first experience of that sort, you should offer thanks either to your good luck or to your caution. In this case, however, caution can effect nothing but to make you ungenerous. For if you wish to avoid such a danger, you will not confer benefits; and so, that benefits may not be lost with another man, they will be lost to yourself.
It is better, however, to get no return than to confer no benefits. Even after a poor crop one should sow again; for often losses due to continued barrenness of an unproductive soil have been made good by one year’s fertility. In order to discover one grateful person, it is worth while to make trial of many ungrateful ones. No man has so unerring
- aA favourite trick; cf. Quintil. ii. 15. 25 mangones, qui colorem fuco et verum robur inani sagina mentiuntur.
- bThe reader will be interested to compare this letter with the treatise (or essay) Of Benefits, translated by Thomas Lodge in 1614 from Seneca’s work De Beneficiis, which was dedicated to Aebutius Liberalis, the subject of Ep. xci.