(1) ἤδη μὲν καὶ πρότερον πολλάκις ἐπιστήσας τὴν διάνοιαν ἐθαύμασα, ἴσως δὲ οὐδὲ παύσομαι θαυμάζων, τί γὰρ δήποτε, τῆς Ἑλλάδος ὑπὸ τὸν αὐτὸν ἀέρα κειμένης καὶ πάντων τῶν Ἑλλήνων ὁμοίως παιδευομένων, συμβέβηκεν ἡμῖν οὐ τὴν αὐτὴν τάξιν τῶν τρόπων ἔχειν.
(2) ἐγὼ γάρ, ὦ Πολύκλεις, συνθεωρήσας ἐκ πολλοῦ χρόνου τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην φύσιν καὶ βεβιωκὼς ἔτη ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα, ἔτι δὲ ὡμιληκὼς πολλαῖς τε καὶ παντοδαπαῖς φύσεσι καὶ παρατεθεαμένος ἐξ ἀκριβείας πολλῆς τούς τε ἀγαθοὺς τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ τοὺς φαύλους ὑπέλαβον δεῖν συγγράψαι, ἃ ἑκάτεροι αὐτῶν ἐπιτηδεύουσιν ἐν τῷ βίῳ.
(3) ἐκθήσω δέ σοι κατὰ γένος ὅσα τε τυγχάνει γένη τρόπων τούτοις προσκείμενα2 καὶ ὃν τρόπον τῇ οἰκονομίᾳ χρῶνται· ὑπολαμβάνω γάρ, ὦ Πολύκλεις, τοὺς υἱεῖς ἡμῶν βελτίους ἔσεσθαι καταλειφθέντων αὐτοῖς ὑπομνημάτων τοιούτων, οἷς παραδείγμασι χρώμενοι αἱρήσονται τοῖς εὐσχημονεστάτοις συνεῖναί τε καὶ ὁμιλεῖν, ὅπως μὴ καταδεέστεροι ὦσιν αὐτῶν.
(1) Before now I’ve often wondered, when I thought about it, and perhaps will never cease to wonder why, even though Greece lies in the same climate and all Greeks are educated the same way, it happens that we do not have the same composition of character.
(2) After a life of ninety-nine years,2 long observation of human nature, and furthermore an acquaintance with many natures of all types and a detailed study of men both superior and inferior, I have come to believe, Polycles,3 that I ought to write about how both groups normally behave in their lives.
(3) I shall set forth for you one by one which classes of character are attached to these people and how they manage; for I believe, Polycles, that our sons will be better if such writings are bequeathed to them, which they can use as a guide in choosing to associate with and become close to the finest men, so as not to fall short of their standard.
- 1This fatuous and repetitive preface has long been recognized as a later addition to the Characters (see Introd. p. 30). Steinmetz (volume 2, p. 32) speculates it was composed outside Greece in the fifth century a.d.
- 2In fact, Theophrastus died at 85 (Diogenes Laertius 5.40), and the Characters was most likely composed ca. 325–315 b.c. when he was around 50.
- 3His identity is not known; there was a Macedonian general by this name (Diodorus Siculus 18.38.2).