The Stoics Library
Essays Volume 3
On Benefits Book I
by Seneca
Translated by John W. Basore

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 have a right to receive back only what is voluntarily returned. To plead bankruptcy is, surely, most disgraceful, just for the reason that, in order to perform the promised payment, what is needed is, not wealth, but the desire; for, if a benefit is acknowledged, it is returned. But, while those who do not even profess to be grateful are blameworthy, so also are we. Many men we find ungrateful, but more we make so, because at one time we are harsh in our reproaches and demands, at another, are fickle and repent of our gift as soon as we have made it, at another, are fault - finding and misrepresent the importance of trifles. Thus we destroy all sense of gratitude, not only after we have given our benefits, but even while we are in the act of giving them. Who of us has been content to have a request made lightly, or but once? Who, when he suspected that something was being sought from him, has not knit his brows, turned away his face, pretended to be busy, by long-drawn conversation, which he purposely kept from ending, deprived another of the opportunity of making a request, and by various tricks baffled his pressing needs? Who, when actually caught in a corner, has not either deferred the favor, that is, been too cowardly to refuse it, or promised it with ungraciousness, with frowning brows, and with grudging words that were scarcely audible? Yet no one is glad to be indebted for what he had, not received, but extorted. Can anyone be grateful to another for a benefit that has been haughtily flung to him, or thrust at him in anger, or given out of sheer weariness in order to save further trouble? Whoever expects that a man whom he has wearied by delay and tortured by hope will feel any indebtedness deceives himself. A benefit is acknowledged in the same spirit in which it is bestowed, and for that reason it ought not to be bestowed carelessly; for a man thanks only himself for what he receives from an unwitting giver. Nor should it be given tardily, since, seeing that in every service the willingness of the giver counts for much, he who acts tardily has for a long time been unwilling. And, above all, it should not be given insultingly; for, since human nature is so constituted that injuries sink deeper than kindnesses, and that, while the latter pass quickly from the mind, the former are kept persistently in memory, what can he expect who, while doing a favor, offers an affront? If you pardon such a man for giving a benefit, you show gratitude enough, There is no reason, however, why the multitude of ingrates should make us more reluctant to be generous. For, in the first place, as I have said, we ourselves increase their number; and, in the second place, not even the mortal gods are deterred from showing lavish and unceasing kindness to those who are sacrilegious and indifferent to them. For they follow their own nature, and in their universal bounty {great_soul+} include even those who are ill interpreters of their gifts. Let us follow these as our guides in so far as human weakness permits; let us make our benefits, not investments, but gifts+. The man who, when he gives, has any thought of repayment deserves to be deceived. But suppose it has turned out ill. Both children and wives have disappointed our hopes, yet we marry and rear children, and so persistent are we in the face of experience that, after being conquered, we go back to war and, after being shipwrecked, we go back to sea. How much more fitting to persevere in bestowing benefits! For if a man stops giving them because they were not returned, his purpose in giving them was to have them returned, and he supplies a just excuse to the in ingrate, whose disgrace lies in not making a return, it is permissible. {GIFT+} How many are unworthy of seeing the light! Yet the day dawns. How many complain because they have been born! Yet Nature begets new progeny, and even those who would rather not have been, she suffers to be. To seek, not the fruit of benefits, but the mere doing of them, and to search for a good man even after the discovery of bad men - this is the mark of a soul that is truly great and good. What glory would there be in doing good to many if none ever deceived you? But as it is, it is a virtue to give benefits that have no surety of being returned, whose fruit is at once enjoyed by the noble mind. So true is it that we ought not to allow such a consideration to rout us from our purpose and make us less prone to do a very beautiful thing, that, even were I deprived of the hope of finding a grateful man, I should prefer not recovering benefits to not giving them, because he who does not give them merely forestalls the fault of the ungrateful man. I will explain what I mean. He who does not return a benefit, sins more, he who does not give one, sins earlier.

To shower bounties on the mob should you delight, xxx Full many must you lose, for one you place aright. In the first verse two points are open to criticism for, on the one hand, benefits ought not to be showered upon the mob, and, on the other, it is not right to be wasteful of any thing, least of all of benefits; for, if you eliminate discernment in giving them, they cease to be benefits, and will fall under any other name you please. The sentiment of the second is admirable, for it allows a solitary benefit that is well placed to compensate for the loss of many that have been wasted. But consider, I beg of you, whether it may not be truer doctrine and more in accord with the generous spirit of the benefactor to urge him to give even though not one of his benefits is likely to be well placed. For "many must you lose" is a false sentiment; not one is lost, because a loser is one who had kept an account. In benefits the book- keeping is simple - so much is paid out; if anything comes back, it is gain, if nothing comes back, there is no loss. I made the gift for the sake of giving. No one enters his benefactions in his account-book, or like a greedy tax-collector calls for payment upon a set day, at a set hour. The good man never thinks of them unless he is reminded of them by having them returned; otherwise, they transform themselves into a loan. To regard a benefit as an amount advanced is putting it out at shameful interest. No matter what the issue of former benefits has been, still persist in conferring them upon others; this will be better even if they fall unheeded into the hands of the ungrateful, for it may be that either shame or opportunity or example will some day make these grateful. Do not falter, finish your task, and complete the role of the good man. Help one man with money, another with credit, another with influence, another with advice, another with sound precepts. Even wild beasts are sensible of good offices, and no creature is so savage that it will not be softened by kindness and made to love the hand that gives it. The lion will let a keeper handle his mouth with impunity, the elephant, for all his fierceness, is reduced to the docility of a slave by food; so true is it that even creatures whose condition excludes the comprehension and appraisement of a benefit, are nevertheless won over by persistent and steadfast kindness. Is a man ungrateful for one benefit? Perhaps he will not be so for a second. Has he forgotten two benefits? Perhaps a third will recall to memory the others also that have dropped from his mind. That man will waste his benefits who is quick to believe that he has wasted them; but he who presses on, and heaps new benefits upon the old, draws forth gratitude even from a heart that is hard and unmindful. In the presence of multiplied benefits the ingrate will not dare to lift his eyes; wherever he turns, fleeing his memory of them, there let him see you - encircle him with your benefits.

Of the nature and property of these I shall speak later if you will permit me first to digress upon questions that are foreign to the subject - why the Graces+ {gratia+} are three in number and why they are sisters, why they have their hands interlocked, and why they are smiling and youthful and virginal, and are clad in loose and transparent garb. Some would have it appear that there is one for bestowing a benefit, another for receiving it, and a third for returning it; others hold that there are three classes of benefactors those who earn benefits, those who return them, those who receive and return them at the same time. But of the two explanations do you accept as true whichever you like; yet what profit is there in such knowledge? Why do the sisters hand in hand dance in a ring which returns upon itself? For the reason that a benefit passing in its course from hand to hand returns nevertheless to the giver; the beauty of the whole is destroyed if the course is anywhere broken, and it has most beauty if it is continuous and maintains an uninterrupted succession.{giftaslink+} In the dance, nevertheless, an older sister has especial honour, as do those who earn benefits. Their faces are cheerful, as are ordinarily the faces of those who bestow or receive benefits. They are young because the memory of benefits ought not to grow old. They are maidens because benefits are pure and undefiled and holy in the eyes of all; and it is fitting that there should be nothing to bind or restrict them, and so the maidens wear flowing robes, and these, too, are transparent because benefits desire to be seen.

There may be someone who follows the Greeks so slavishly as to say that considerations of this sort are necessary; but surely no one will believe; also that the names which Hesiod assigned to the Graces have any bearing upon the subject. He called the eldest Aglaia, the next younger Euphrosyne, the third Thalia. Each one twists the significance of these names to suit himself, and tries to make them fit some theory although Hesiod simply bestowed on the maidens the name that suited his fancy. And so Homer changed the name of one of them, calling her Pasithea, and promised her in marriage in order that it might be dear that, if they were maidens, they were not Vestals. I could find another poet in whose writings they are girdled and appear in robes of thick texture or of Phryxian wool. And the reason that Mercury stands with them is, not that argument or eloquence commends benefits, but simply that the painter chose to picture them so.

Chrysippus, too, whose famous acumen is so keen and pierces to the very core of truth, who speaks in order to accomplish results, and uses no more words than are necessary to make himself intelligible - he fills the whole of his book with these puerilities, insomuch that he has very little to say about the duty itself of giving, receiving, and returning a benefit; and his fictions are not grafted upon his teachings, but his teachings upon his fictions. For, not to mention what Hecaton copies from him, Chrysippus says that the three Graces are daughters of Jupiter and Eurynome, also that, while they are younger than the Hours, they are somewhat more beautiful, and therefore have been assigned as companions to Venus. In his opinion, too, the name of their mother has some significance, for he says that she was called Eurynome because the distribution of benefits is the mark of an extensive fortune; just as if a mother usually received her name after her daughters, or as if the names that poets bestow were genuine! As a nomenclator lets audacity supply the place of memory, and every time that he is unable to call anyone by his true name, he invents one, so poets do not think that it is of any importance to speak the truth, but, either forced by necessity or beguiled by beauty. They impose upon each person the name that works neatly into the verse. Nor is it counted against them if they introduce a new name into the list; for the next poet orders the maidens to take the name that he devises. And to prove to you that this is so, observe that Thalia, with whom we are especially concerned, appears in Hesiod as Charis, {charisma+} in Homer as a Muse.

But for fear that I shall be guilty of the fault that I am criticizing, I shall abandon all these questions, which are so remote that they do not even touch the subject. Only do you defend me if anyone shall blame me for having put Chrysippus in his place - a great man, no doubt, but yet a Greek, one whose acumen is so finely pointed that it gets blunted and often folds back upon itself; even when it seems to be accomplishing something, it does not pierce, but only pricks. But what has acumen to do here? What we need is a discussion of benefits and the rules for a practice that constitutes the chief bond of human society;{Granville+} we need to be given a law of conduct in order that we may not be inclined to the thoughtless indulgence that masquerades as generosity, in order, too, that this very vigilance, while it tempers, may not check our liberality, of which there ought to be neither any lack nor any excess; we need to be taught to give willingly, to receive willingly, to return willingly, and to set before us the high aim of striving, not merely to equal, but to surpass in deed and spirit those who have placed us under obligation, for he who has a debt of gratitude to pay never catches up with the favor unless he outstrips it; the one should be taught to make no record of the amount, the other to feel indebted for more than the amount. To this most honourable rivalry in outdoing benefits by benefits Chrysippus urges us by saying that, in view of the fact that the Graces are the daughters of Jupiter, we should fear that by showing a lack of gratitude we might become guilty of sacrilege and do an injustice to such beautiful maidens! But teach thou me the secret of becoming more beneficent and more grateful to those who do me a service, the secret of the rivalry that is born in the hearts of the obligers and the obliged so that those who have bestowed forget, those who owe persistently remember. As for those absurdities, let them be left to the poets, whose purpose it is to charm the car and to weave a pleasing tale. But those who wish to heal the human soul, to maintain faith in the dealings of men, and to engrave upon their minds the memory of services let these speak with earnestness and plead with all their power; unless, perchance, you think that by light talk and fables and old wives' reasonings it is possible to prevent a most disastrous thing - the abolishment of benefits.

But, just as I am forced to touch lightly upon irrelevant questions, so I must now explain that the first thing we have to learn is what it is that we owe when a benefit has been received. For one man says that he owes the money which he has received, another the consulship, another the priesthood, another the administration of a province. But these things are the marks of services rendered, not the services themselves. A benefit cannot possibly be touched by the hand; its province is the mind. There is a great difference between the matter of a benefit and the benefit itself; and so it is neither gold nor silver nor any of the gifts which are held to be most valuable that constitutes a benefit, but merely the goodwill+ of him who bestows it. But the ignorant regard only that which meets the eye, that which passes from hand to hand and is laid hold of, while they attach little value to that which is really rare and precious. The gifts that we take in our hands, that we gaze upon, that in our covetousness we cling to, are perishable; for fortune or injustice may take them from us. But a benefit endures even after that through which it was manifested has been lost; for it is a virtuous act, and no power can undo it.

If I have rescued a friend from pirates, and afterwards a different enemy seized him and shut him up in prison, he has been robbed, not of my benefit, but of the enjoyment of my benefit. If I have saved a man's children from shipwreck or a fire and restored them to him, and afterwards they were snatched from him either by sickness or some injustice of fortune, yet, even when they are no more, the benefit that was manifested in their persons endures. All those things, therefore, which falsely assume the name of benefits, are but the services through which the goodwill of a friend reveals itself. The same thing is true also of other bestowals - the form of the bestowal is one thing, the bestowal itself another. The general presents a soldier with a breast-chain or with a mural and civic crown. But what value has the crown in itself? What the purple-bordered robe? What the fasces? What the tribunal and the chariot? No one of these things is an honour, they are the badges of honour. In like manner that which falls beneath the eye is not a benefit - it is but the trace and mark of a benefit.

What then is a benefit? It is the act of a wellwisher who bestows joy and derives joy from the bestowal of it, and is inclined to do what he does from the prompting of his own will. And so what counts is, not what is done or what is given, but the spirit of the action, because a benefit consists, not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer. The great distinction that exists between these things, moreover, may be grasped from the simple statement that a benefit is un- doubtedly a good, while what is done or given is neither a good nor an evil. It is the intention that exalts small gifts, gives lustre to those that are mean, and discredits those that are great and considered of value; the things themselves that men desire have a neutral nature, which is neither good nor evil; all depends upon the end toward which these are directed by the Ruling Principle {God+} that gives to things their form. The benefit itself is not something that is counted out and handed over, just as, likewise, the honour that is paid to the gods lies, not in the victims for sacrifice, though they be fat and glitter with gold, but in the upright and holy desire of the worshippers. Good men, therefore, are pleasing to the gods with an offering of meal and gruel; the bad, on the other hand, do not escape impiety although they dye the altars with streams of blood.

If benefits consisted, not in the very desire to benefit, but in things, then the greater the gifts are which we have received, the greater would be the benefits. But this is not true; for sometimes we feel under greater obligations to one who has given small gifts out of a great heart, who "by his spirit matched the wealth of kings," who bestowed his little, but gave it gladly, who beholding my poverty forgot his own, who had, not merely the willingness, but a desire to help, who counted a benefit given as a benefit received, who gave it with no thought of having it returned, who, when it was returned, had no thought of having given it, who not only sought, but seized, the opportunity of being useful. On the other hand, as I have said before, those benefits win no thanks, which, though they seem great from their substance and show, are either forced from the giver or are carelessly dropped, and that comes much more gratefully which is given by a willing rather than by a full hand. The benefit which one man bestowed upon me is small, but he was not able to give more; that which another gave me is great, but he hesitated, he put it off, he grumbled when he gave it, he gave it haughtily, he, published it abroad, and the person he tried to please was not the one on whom he bestowed his gift - he made an offering, not to me, but to his pride.

Once when many gifts were being presented to Socrates by his pupils, each one bringing according to his means, Aeschines, who was poor, said to him: "Nothing that I am able to give to you do I find worthy of you, and only in this way do I discover that am a poor man. And so I give to you the only thing that I possess - myself. This gift, such as it is, I beg you to take in good part, and bear in mind that the others, though they gave to you much, have left more for themselves." "And how," said Socrates, "could it have been anything but a great gift - unless maybe you set small value upon yourself? And so I shall make it my care to return you to yourself a better man than when I received you." By this present Aeschines surpassed Alcibiades, whose heart matched his riches, and the wealthy youths with all their splendid gifts. You see how even in pinching poverty the heart finds the means for generosity. These, it seems to me, were the words of Aeschines: "You, O Fortune, have accomplished nothing by wishing to make me poor; I shall none the less find for this great man a gift that is worthy of him, and, since I cannot give to him from your store, I shall give from my own." Nor is there any reason for you to supposethat he counted himself cheap: the value he set upon himself was himself. And so clever a young man was he that he discovered a way of giving to himself -Socrates! It is not the size of our respective benefits, but the character of the one from whom they come that should be our concern.

a man is shrewd if he does not make himself difficult of access to those who come with immoderate desires, and encourages their wild expectations by his words although in reality he intends to give them no help; but his reputation suffers if he is sharp of tongue, stern in countenance, and arouses their jealousy by flaunting his own good fortune. For they court, and yet loathe, the prosperous man, and they hate him for doing the same things that they would do if they could.

They make a laughing-stock of other men's wives, not even secretly, but openly, and then surrender their own wives to others. If a man forbids his wife to appear in public in a sedan-chair and to ride exposed on every side to the view of observers who everywhere approach her, he is boorish and unmannerly and guilty of bad form, and the married women count his demands detestable. If a man makes himself conspicuous by not having a mistress, and does not supply an allowance to another man's wife, the married women say that he is a poor sort and is addicted to low pleasures and affairs with maidservants. The result of this is that adultery has become the most seemly sort of betrothal, and the bachelor is in accord with the widower, since the only man who takes a wife is one who takes away a wife. Now men vie in squandering what they have stolen and then in regaining by fierce and sharp greed what they have squandered; they have no scruples; they esteem lightly the poverty of others and fear poverty for themselves more than any other evil; they upset peace with their injustices, and hard press the weaker with violence and fear. That the provinces are plundered, that the judgement-seat is for sale, and, when two bids have been made, is knocked down to one of the bidders is of course not surprising, since it is the law of nations that you can sell what you have bought!

But, because the subject is alluring, my ardour has carried me too far; and so let me close by showing that it is not our generation only that is beset by this fault. The complaint our ancestors made, the complaint we make, the complaint our posterity will make, is that morality is overturned, that wickedness holds sway, and that human affairs and every sin are tending toward the worse. Yet these things remain and will continue to remain in the same position, with only a slight movement now in this direction, now in that, like that of the waves, which a rising tide carries far inland, and a receding tide restrains within the limits of the shoreline. Now adultery will be more common than other sins, and chastity will tear off its reins; now a furore for feasting and the most shameful scourge that assails fortunes, the kitchen, will prevail, and now excessive adornment of the body and the concern for its beauty that displays an unbeauteous mind; now ill-controlled liberty will burst forth into wantonness and presumption; and now the progress will be toward cruelty, on the part both of the state and of the individual, and to the insanity of civil war, which desecrates all that is holy and sacred; sometimes it will be drunkenness on which honour is bestowed, and he who can hold the most wine will be a hero.

Vices do not wait expectantly in just one spot, but are always in movement and, being at variance with each other, are in constant turmoil, they rout and in turn are routed; but the verdict we are obliged to pronounce upon ourselves will always be the same: wicked we are, wicked we have been, and, I regret to add, always shall be. Homicides, tyrants, thieves, adulterers, robbers, sacrilegious men, and traitors there always will be; but worse than all these is the crime of ingratitude, unless it be that all these spring from ingratitude, without which hardly any sin has grown to great size.

Do you beware of committing this crime as being the greatest there is; if another commits it, pardon it as being the most trivial. For the sum of your injury is this - you have wasted a benefit. For you have the best part of it still unharmed - the fact that you gave it. But, although we ought to be careful to confer benefits by preference upon those who will be likely to respond with gratitude, yet there are some that we shall do even if we expect from them poor results, and we shall bestow benefits upon those who, we not only think will be, but we know have been, ungrateful. For example, if I shall be able to restore to someone his sons by rescuing them from great danger without any risk to myself, I shall not hesitate to do so. If a man is a worthy one, I shall defend him even at the cost of my own blood, and share his peril; if he is unworthy, and I shall be able to rescue him from robbers by raising an outcry, I shall not be slow to utter the cry that will save a human being.

I pass next to the discussion of what benefits ought to be given and the manner of their bestowal. Let us give what is necessary first, then what is useful, then what is pleasurable, particularly things that will endure. But we should begin with necessities; for that which supports life impresses the mind in one way, that which adorns or equips life, in quite another. It is possible for a man to be scornful in his estimate of a gift which he can easily do without, of which he may say: "Take it back, I do not want it; I am content with what I have." Sometimes it is a pleasure, not merely to give back, but to hurl from you, what you have received.

Of the benefits that are necessary, some, those without which we are not able to live, have the first place, others, those without which we ought not to live, the second, and still others, those without which we are not willing to live, the third. The first are of this stamp - to be snatched from the hands of the enemy, from the wrath of a tyrant, from proscription, and the other perils which in diverse and uncertain forms beset human life. The greater and the more formidable the danger from any one of these, the greater will be the gratitude that we shall receive when we have banishes it; for the thought of the greatness of the ills from which they have been freed will linger in men's minds, and their earlier fear will enhance the value of our service. And yet we ought not to be slower in saving a man than we might be, solely in order that his fear may add weight to our service. Next to these come the blessings without which, indeed, we are able to live, yet death becomes preferable, such as liberty and chastity and a good conscience. After these will be the objects that we hold dear by reason of kinship and blood and experience and long habit, such as children, wives, household gods, and all the other things to which the mind becomes so attached that to be robbed of them seems to it more serious than to be robbed of life.

Next in order are the useful benefits, the matter of which is wide and varied; here will be money, not in excess, but enough to provide for a reasonable standard of living; here will be public office and advancement for those who are striving for the higher positions, for nothing is more useful than to be made useful to oneself.

All benefits beyond these come as superfluities and tend to pamper a man. In the case of these, our aim shall he to make them acceptable by reason of their timeliness, to keep them from being commonplace, and to give the sort of things that either few or few in our own time or in this fashion, have possessed, the sort of things that, even if they are not intrinsically valuable, may become valuable by reason of the time and place. Let us consider what will be likely to give the greatest pleasure after it has been bestowed, what is likely to meet the eyes of the owner ov.y case we shall be careful not to send gifts that are superfluous, for example, the arms of the chase to a woman or to an old man, books to a bumpkin, or nets to one who is devoted to study and letters. On, the other hand we shall be equally careful, while wishing to send what will be acceptable, not to send gifts that will reproach a man with his weakness, as for example wines to a drunkard and medicines to a valetudinarian. For a gift that recognizes a vice of the recipient tends to be, not a boon, but a bane.

If the choice of what is to be given is in our own hands, we shall seek especially for things that will last, in order that our gift may be as imperishable as possible. For they are few indeed who are so grateful that they think of what they have received even if they do not see it. Yet even the ungrateful have their memory aroused when they encounter the gift itself, when it is actually before their eyes and does not let them forget it, but instead brings up the thought of its giver and impresses it upon their mind. And let us all the more seek to make gifts that will endure because we ought never to remind anyone of them; let the object itself revive the memory that is fading. I shall be more willing to give wrought than coined silver; more willing to give statues than clothing or something that will wear out after brief usage. Few there are whose gratitude survives longer than the object given; there are more who keep gifts in mind only so long as they are in use. For my part, if it is possible, I do not want my gift to perish; let it survive, let it cling fast to my friend, let it live with him.

No one is so stupid as to need the warning that he should not send gladiators or wild beasts to a man who has just given a public spectacle, or send a present of summer clothing in midwinter and winter clothing in midsummer. Common sense should be used in bestowing a benefit; there must be regard for time, place, and the person, for some gifts are acceptable or unacceptable according to circumstances. How much more welcome the gift will be if we give something that a man does not have, rather than something with which he is abundantly supplied, something that he has long searched for and has not yet found, rather than something which he is likely to see everywhere! Presents should be, not so much costly, as rare and choice the sort which even a rich man will make a place for; just as the common fruits, of which we shall grow tired after a few days, give us pleasure if they have ripened out of season. And, too, people will not fail to appreciate the gifts which either no one else has given to them, or which we have given to no one else.

When Alexander of Macedonia, being victorious over the East, was puffed up with more than human pride, the Corinthians sent their congratulations by an embassy, and bestowed upon him the right of citizenship in their state. This sort of courtesy made Alexander smile, whereupon one of the ambassadors said to him: "To no one besides Hercules and yourself have we ever given the right of citizenship." Alexander gladly accepted so marked an honour, and bestowed hospitality and other courtesy upon the ambassadors, reflecting, not who they were who had given him the privilege of citizenship, but to whom they had given it; and, slave as he was to glory, {Hotspur+} of which he knew neither the true nature nor the limitations, following the footsteps of Hercules and of Bacchus, and not even halting his course where they ceased, he turned his eyes from the givers of the honour to his partner in it, just as if heaven, to which in supreme vanity he aspired, were now his because he was put on a level with Hercules! Yet what resemblance to him had that mad youth who instead of virtue showed fortunate {Plutarch's_Fortune+} rashness? Hercules conquered nothing for himself; he traversed the world, not in coveting, but in deciding what to conquer, a foe of the wicked, a defender of the good, a peacemaker on land and sea. But this other was from his boyhood a robber and a plunderer of nations, a scourge alike to his friends and to his foes, one who found his highest happiness in terrorizing all mortals, forgetting that it is not merely the fiercest creatures, but also the most cowardly, that are feared on account of their deadly venom. {Iago+}

But let me return now to my subject. Whoever gives a benefit to anyone you please, gives acceptably to no one; in an inn or a hotel no one regards himself as the guest of the landlord, or at a public feast as the intimate friend of the man who is giving it, for one may well say: "What favor, pray, has he conferred upon me? The same, to be sure, that he has conferred onhat other fellow, whom he scarcely knows, and on that one over there, who is his enemy and a most disreputable man. Did he consider that I was worthy of it? He merely indulged a personal weakness!" If you want to give what will be acceptable, make the gift a rare one - anyone can endure being indebted for that! Let no one gather from my words that I desire to restrain liberality, to bridle it in with tighter reins; let it indeed go forth as far as it likes, but let it go by a path, and not wander. It is possible to distribute bounty in such a way that each person, even if he has received his gift in company with others, will think that he is simply one of a crowd. Let everyone have some mark of intimacy which permits him to hope that he has been admitted to greater favor than others. He may say: "I received the same thing that So-and-so did, but without asking for it. I received the same thing that So-and-so did, but at the end of a short time, whereas he had long since earned it. There are those who have the same thing, but it was not given to them with the same words, with the same, friendliness, on the part of the bestower. So-and-so received his gift after he had asked for it; I did not ask for mine. So-and-so received a gift, but he could easily make return, but his old age and his irresponsible childlessness afforded great expectation, to me more was given although the same thing was given, because it was given without expectation of any return." A courtesan will distribute her favours among her many lovers in such a way that each one of them will get some sign of her intimate regard; just so the man who wishes his benefactions to be appreciated should contrive both to place many under obligation, and yet to see that each one of them gets something that will make him think he is preferred above all the others.

In truth, I place no obstacles in the way of benefits; the more there are and the greater they are, the more honour will they have. But let judgement be used; for what is given in a haphazard and thoughtless manner will be prized by no one. Wherefore, if anyone supposes that in laying down these rules we mean to narrow the bounds of liberality, and to open to it a less extensive field, he really has heard my admonitions incorrectly. For what virtue do we Stoics venerate more? What virtue do we try more to encourage? Who are so fitted to give such admonition as ourselves - we who would establish the fellowship of the whole human race? What, then, is the case? Since no effort of the mind is praiseworthy even if it springs from right desire, unless moderation turns it into some virtue, I protest against the squandering of liberality. The benefit that it is a delight to have received, yea, with outstretched hands, is the one that reason delivers to those who are worthy, not the one that chance and irrational impulse carry no matter where - one that it is a pleasure to display and to claim as one's own. Do you give the name of benefits to the gifts whose author you are ashamed to admit? But how much more acceptable are benefits, how much deeper do they sink into the mind, never to leave it, when the pleasure of them comes from thinking, not so much of what has been received, as of him from whom it was received!

Crispus Passienus used often to say that from some men he would rather have their esteem than their bounty, and that from others he would rather have their bounty than their esteem; and he would add examples. "In the case of the deified Augustus," he would say, "I prefer his esteem, in the case of Claudius, his bounty." I, for my part, think that we should never seek a benefit from a man whose esteem is not valued. What, then, is the case? Should not the gift that was offered by Claudius have been accepted? It should, but as it would have been accepted from Fortune, who you were well aware might the next moment become unkind. And why do we differentiate the two cases that thus have merged? A gift is not a benefit if the best part of it is lacking - the fact that it was given as a mark of esteem. Moreover the gift of a huge sum of money, if neither reason nor rightness of choice has prompted it, is no more a benefit than is a treasure trove. There are many gifts that ought to be accepted, and yet impose no obligation.