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

Now let us examine, most excellent Liberalis, what still remains from the first part of the subject - the question of the way in which a benefit should be given. And in this matter I think that I can point out a very easy course - let us give in the manner that would have been acceptable if we were receiving. Above all let us give willingly, promptly, and without hesitation. No gratitude is felt for a, benefit when it has lingered long {haero_stick+} in the hands of him who gives it, or when the giver has seemed sorry to let it go, and has given it with the air of one who was robbing himself. Even though some delay should intervene, let us avoid in every way the appearance of having deliberately delayed; hesitation is the next thing to refusing, and gains no gratitude. For, since in the case of a benefit the chief pleasure of it comes from the intention of the bestower, he who by his very hesitation has shown that he made his bestowal unwillingly has not "given," but has failed to withstand the effort to extract it; there are many indeed who become generous only from a lack of courage. The benefits that stir most gratitude are those which are readily and easily obtainable and rush to our hands, where, if there is any delay, it has come only from the delicacy of the recipient. The best course is to anticipate each one's desire; the next best, to indulge it. The first is the better - to forestall the request before it is put; for, since a respectable man seals his lips and is covered with blushes if he has to beg, he who spares him this torture multiplies the value of his gift. The man who receives a benefit because he asked for it, does not get it for nothing, since in truth, as our forefathers, those most venerable men, discerned, no other thing costs so dear as the one that entreaty buys. If men had to make their vows to the gods openly, they would be more sparing of them; so true is it that even to the gods, to whom we most rightly make supplication, we would rather pray in silence and in the secrecy of our hearts. xxxIt is unpleasant and burdensome to have to say, "I ask," and as a man utters the words he is forced to lower his eyes. {Bassanio+} A friend and every one whom you hope to make a friend by doing him a service must be excused from saying them; though a man gives promptly, his benefit has been given too late if it has been given upon request. Therefore we ought to divine each man's desire, and, when we have discovered it, he ought to be freed from the grievous necessity of making a request; the benefit that takes the initiative, you may be sure, will be one that is agreeable and destined to live in the heart. If we are not so fortunate as to anticipate the asker, let us cut him off from using many words; {Antonio+} in order that we may appear to have been, not asked, but merely informed, let us promise at once and prove by our very haste that we were about to act even before we were solicited. Just as in the case of the sick suitability of food aids recovery, and plain water given at the right time serves as a remedy, so a benefit, no matter how trivial and commonplace it may be, if it has been, given promptly, if not an hour has been wasted, gains much in value and wins more gratitude than a gift that, though costly, has been laggard and long considered. One who acts thus readily leaves no doubt that he acts willingly; and so he acts gladly, and his face is clothed with the joy he feels.

Some who bestow immense benefits spoil them by their silence or reluctant words, which give the impression of austerity and sternness, and, though they promise a gift, have the air of refusing it. How much better to add kindly words to kindly actions, and grace the gifts you bestow with humane and generous speech! In order that the recipient may reproach himself because he was slow to ask, you might add the familiar rebuke I am angry with you because, when you needed something, you were not willing to let me know long ago, because you took so much pains in putting your request, because you invited a witness to the transaction. Truly I congratulate myself because you were moved to put my friendliness to the test; next time you will demand by your own right whatever need - this once I pardon your bashfulness. The result of this will be that he will value your friendliness more than your gift, no matter what it was that he had come to seek. The bestower attains the highest degree of merit, the highest degree of generosity, only when it will be possible for the man who has left him to say: "Great is the gain that I have made today; but I would rather have found the giver to be the sort of man he was than to have had many times the amount that we were talking about come to me in some other way; for the spirit he has shown I can never return enough gratitude.

Yet there are very many who by the harshness of their words and by their arrogance make their benefits hateful, so that, after being subjected to such language and such disdain, we regret that we have obtained them. And then, after the matter has been promised, a series of delays ensues; but nothing is more painful than when you have to beg even for what you have been promised. Benefits should be bestowed on the spot, but there are some from whom it is more difficult to get them than to get the promise of them. You have to beg one man to act as a reminder, another to finish the transaction; so a single gift is worn down by passing through many men s hands, and as a result very little gratitude is left for the giver of the promise, for every later person whose help must be asked reduces the sum due to him. And so, if you wish the benefactions that you bestow to be rewarded with gratitude, you will be concerned to have them come undiminished to those to whom they were promised, to have them come entire and, as the saying is, "without deduction." Let no one intercept them, let no one retard them; for in the case of a benefit that you are going to give, no one can appropriate gratitude to himself without reducing what is due to you.

Nothing is so bitter as long suspense; some can endure more calmly to have their expectation cut off than deferred. Yet very many are led into this fault of postponing promised benefits by a perverted ambition to keep the crowd of their petitioners from becoming smaller; such are the tools of royal power, who delight in prolonging a display of arrogance, and deem themselves to be robbed of power unless they show long and often, to one after another, how, much power they have. They do nothing promptly, nothing once for all; their injuries are swift, their benefits slow. And therefore the words of the comic poet, you are to believe, are absolutely true, Know you not this - the more delay you make,

The less of gratitude from me you take? And so a man cries out in an outburst of noble anger: "If you are going to do anything, do it;" and: "Nothing is worth such a price; I would rather have you say no at once." When the mind has been, reduced to a state of weariness, and, while waiting for a benefit, begins loathe it, can one possibly feel grateful for it? Just as the sharpest cruelty is that which prolongs punishment, and there is a sort of mercy in killing swiftly because the supreme torture brings with it its own end, whereas the worst part of the execution that is sure to come is the interval that precedes it, so, in the case of a gift, gratitude for it will be the greater, the less long it has hung in the balance. For it is disquieting to have to wait even for blessings, and, since most benefits afford relief from some trouble, if a man leaves another to long torture when he might release him at once, or to tardy rejoicing, he has done violence to the benefit he confers. All generosity moves swiftly. and he who acts willingly is prone to act quickly; if a man gives help tardily, deferring it from day to day, he has not given it heartily. Thus he has lost two valuable things - time and the proof of his friendly intent; tardy goodwill smacks of ill-will.

In every transaction, Liberalis, not the least important part is the manner in which things are either said or done. Much is gained by swiftness, much is lost by delay. Just as, in the case of javelins, while all may have the same weight of iron, it makes an infinite difference whether they are hurled with a swing of the arm, or slip from a slackened hand, and just as the same sword will both scratch and deeply wound - the tightness of the grasp which directs it makes the difference - so, while the thing that is given may be just the same, the manner of the giving is all important. How sweet, how precious is a gift, for which the giver will not suffer us to pay even our thanks, which he forgot that he had given even while he was giving it! For to reprimand a man at the very moment that you are bestowing something upon him is madness, it is grafting insult upon an act of kindness. Benefits, therefore, must not be made irritating, they must not be accompanied by anything that is unpleasant, even if there should be something upon which you would like to offer advice, choose a different time.

Fabius Verrucosus used to say that a benefit rudely given by a hard-hearted man is like a loaf of gritty bread, which a starving man needs must accept, but which is bitter to eat.

When Marius Nepos, a praetorian, being in debt, asked Tiberius Caesar to come to his rescue, Tiberius ordered him to supply him with the names of his creditors; but this is really, not making a gift, but assembling creditors. When the names had been supplied, he wrote to Nepos that he had ordered the money to be paid, adding at the same time some offensive admonition. The result was that Nepos had neither a debt nor, a true benefit; Tiberius freed him from his creditors, but failed to attach him to himself. Yet Tiberius had his purpose; he wished to prevent others, I suppose, from rushing to him in order to make the same request. That, perhaps, may have been an effective way to check, through a sense of shame, the extravagant desires of men, but a wholly different method must be followed by one who is giving a benefit. In order that what you give may become the more acceptable, you should enhance its value by every. possible means. Tiberius was really not giving a benefit - he was finding fault. And - to say in passing what I think about this other point - it is not quite proper even for a prince to bestow a gift in order to humiliate. "Yet," it may be said, "Tiberius was not able even in this way to escape what he was trying to avoid; for after this a goodly number were found to make the same request, and he ordered them all to explain to the senate why they were in debt, and under this condition he granted to them specific sums." But liberality that is not, it is censorship; I get succour, I get a subsidy from the prince - that is no benefit which I am not able to think of without a blush. It was a judge before whom I was summoned; I had to plead a case in order to obtain my request. And so all moralists are united upon the principle that it is necessary to give certain benefits openly, others without witnesses - openly, those that it is glorious to obtain, such as military decorations or official honours and any other distinction that becomes more attractive by reason of publicity; on the other hand, those that do not give promotion or prestige, yet come to the rescue of bodily infirmity, of poverty, of disgrace - these should be given quietly, so that they will be known only to those who receive the benefit.

Sometimes, too, the very man who is helped must even be deceived in order that he may have assistance, and yet not know from whom he has received it. There is a story that Arcesilaus had a friend who, though he was poor, concealed his poverty; when, however, the man fell ill and, being unwilling to reveal even this, lacked money for the necessities of life, Arcesilaus decided that he must assist him in secret; and so, without the other's knowledge, he slipped a purse under his pillow in order that the fellow who was so uselessly reserved might find, rather than receive, what he needed. "What, then? - shall a man not know from whom he has received?" In the first place, he must not know, if an element of the benefit is just that fact; then, again, I shall do much else for him I shall bestow upon him many gifts, and from these he may guess the author of the first one; lastly, while he will not know that he has received a gift, I shall know that I have given one. "That is not enough," you say. That is not enough if you are thinking of making an investment; but if a gift, you will give in the manner that will bring most advantage to the recipient. You will be content to have yourself your witness; otherwise your pleasure comes, not from doing a favour, but from being seen to do a favour. "I want the man at least to know!" Then it is a debtor that you are looking for. " I want the man at least to know!" What? if it is more to his advantage, more to his honour, more to his pleasure not to know, will you not shift your position? "I want him to know!" So, then, you will not save a man's life in the dark? I do not deny that, whenever circumstances permit, we should have regard for the pleasure we get from the willingness of the recipient; but, if he needs, and yet is ashamed, to be helped, if what we bestow gives offence unless it is concealed - then I do not put my good deed into the gazette! Of course I am careful not to reveal to him that the gift came from me, since it is a first and indispensable requirement, never to reproach a man with a benefit, nay, even to remind him of it. For, in the case of a benefit, this is a binding rule for the two who are concerned - the one should straightway forget that it was given, the other should never forget that it was received.

Repeated reference to our services wounds and crushes the spirit of the other. He wants to cry out like the man who, after being saved from the proscription of the triumvirs by one of Caesar's friends, because he could not endure his benefactor's arrogance, cried "Give me back to Caesar!" How long will you keep repeating: "It is I who saved you, it is I who snatched you from death"? Your service, if I remember it of my own will, is truly life; if I remember it at yours, it is death. I owe nothing to you if you saved me in order that you might have someone to exhibit. How long will you parade me? How long will you refuse to let me forget my misfortune? In a triumph, I should have had to march but once! No mention should be made of what we have bestowed; to remind a man of it is to ask him to return it. It must not be dwelt upon, it must not be recalled to memory - the only way to remind a man of an carlier gift is to give him another. And we must not tell others of it, either. Let the giver of a benefit hold his tongue; let the recipient talk. For the same thing that was said to another man when he was boasting of a benefit he had conferred will be said to you. "You will not deny," said the beneficiary, "that you have had full return." "When?" inquired the other. "Many times," was the reply, "and in many places -that is, every time and in every where that you have told of it!" But what need is there to speak of a benefit, what need to preempt the right that belongs to another? There is someone else who can do more creditably what you are doing, someone who in telling of your deed will laud even your part in not telling of it. You must adjudge me ungrateful if you suppose that no one will know of your deed if you yourself are silent! But so far from its being permissible for us to speak of it, even if anyone tells of our benefits in our presence, it is our duty to reply: "While this man is in the highest degree worthy to receive even greater benefits, yet I am more conscious of being willing to bestow all possible benefits upon him than of having actually bestowed them hitherto." And in saying even this there must be no show of currying favour, nor of that air with which some reject the compliments that they would rather appropriate. Besides, we must add to generosity every possible kindness. The farmer will lose all that he has sown if he ends his labours with putting in the seed; it is only after much care that crops are brought to their yield; nothing that is not encouraged by constant cultivation from the first day to the last ever reaches the stage of fruit. In the case of benefits the same rule holds. Can there possibly be any greater benefits than those that a father bestows upon his children? Yet they are all in vain if they are discontinued in the child's infancy - unless longlasting devotion nurses its first gift. And the same rule holds for all other benefits you will lose them unless you assist them; it is not enough that they were given, they must be tended. If you wish to have gratitude from those whom you lay under an obligation, you must, not merely give, but love, your benefits. Above all, as I have said, let us spare the ears; a reminder stirs annoyance, a reproach hatred. In giving a benefit nothing ought to be avoided so much as haughtiness. Why need your face show disdain, your words assumption? The act itself exalts you. Empty boasting must be banished; our deeds will speak even if we are silent. The benefit that is haughtily bestowed wins, not only ingratitude, but ill-will.

Gaius Caesar granted life to Pompeius Pennus, that is, if failure to take it away is granting it; then, when Pompeius after his acquittal was expressing his thanks, Caesar extended his left foot to be kissed. Those who excuse the action, and say that it was not meant to be insolent, declare that he wanted to display his gilded, - no, his golden - slipper studded with pearls. Yes, precisely - what insult to the consular if he kissed gold and pearls, since otherwise he could have found no spot on Caesar's person that would be less defiling to kiss? But this creature, born for the express purpose of changing the manners of a free state into a servitude like Persia's, thought it was not enough if a senator, an old man, a man who had held the highest public offices, bent the knee and prostrated himself before brim in full sight of the nobles, just as the conquered prostrate themselves before their conquerors; he found a way of thrusting Liberty down even lower than the knees! Is not this a trampling upon the commonwealth, and too although the detail may not seem to some of any importance - with the left foot? For he would have made too little display of shameful and crazy insolence in wearing slippers a when he was trying a consular for his life unless he had thrust his imperial hobnails in the face of a senator!

O Pride, the bane of great fortune and its highest folly! How glad we are to receive nothing from thee! How thou dost turn every sort of benefit into an injury! How will all thy acts become thee! The higher thou hast lifted thyself, the lower thou dost sink, and provest that thou hast no right to lay claim to those blessings that cause thee to be so greatly puffed up; thou dost spoil all that thou givest. And so I like to ask her why she is so fond of swelling out her chest, of marring her expression and the appearance of her face to the extent of actually preferring to wear a mask instead of human visage. The gifts that please are those that are bestowed by one who wears the countenance of a human being, all gentle and kindly, by one who, though he was my superior when he gave them, did not exalt himself above me, but, with all the generosity in his power, descended to my own level, and banished all display from his giving, who thus watched for the suitable moment for the purpose of coming to my rescue with timely, rather than with necessary, aid. The only way in which we shall ever convince these arrogant creatures that they are ruining their benefits by their insolence is to show them that benefits do not appear more important simply because they were given with much noise; and, too, that they themselves do not appear more important in anyone's eyes because of that; that the importance of pride is an illusion, and tends to cause hatred for actions that ought to be loved.

There are certain gifts that are likely to harm those who obtain them, and, in the case of these, the benefit consists, not in giving, but in withholding, them; we shall therefore consider the advantage rather than the desire of the petitioner. For we often crave things that are harmful, and we are not able to discern how destructive they are because our judgement is hampered by passion; but, when the desire has subsided, when that frenzied impulse, which puts prudence to rout, has passed, we loathe the givers of the evil gifts for the destruction they have wrought. As we withhold cold water from the sick, and the sword from those who are stricken with grief and the rage of self- destruction, as we withhold from the insane everything that they could use against themselves in a fit of frenzy, so, in general, to those who petition for gifts that will be harmful we shall persistently refuse them although they make earnest and humble, sometimes even piteous, request. It is right to keep in view, not merely the first effects, but the outcome, of our benefits, and to give those that it is a pleasure, not merely to receive, but to have received. For there are many who say, "I know that this will not be to his advantage, but what can I do? He begs for it, and I cannot resist his entreaties. It is his own look- out - he will blame himself, not me." No, you are wrong - you are the one he will blame, and rightly so. When he comes to his right mind, when the frenzy that inflamed his soul has subsided, how can he help hating the one who helped to put him in the way of harm and danger? It is cruel kindness to yield to requests that work the destruction of those who make them. Just as it is a very noble act to save the life of a man, even against his will and desire, so to lavish upon him what is harmful, even though he begs for it, is but hatred cloaked by courtesy and civility. Let the benefit that we give be one that will become more and more satisfying by use, one that will never change into an evil. I will not give a man money if I know that it will be handed over to an adulteress, nor will I allow myself to become a partner in dishonour, actual or planned; if I can, I will restrain crime, if not, I will not aid it. Whether a man is being driven by anger in a direction that he ought not to take, or is being turned from the safe course by a burning ambition, I shall not permit him to draw from me myself the power to work any harm, nor allow it to be possible for him to act at any future time: "That man has ruined me by his love." Often there is no difference between the favours of our friends and the prayers of our enemies; into the ills that the latter desire may befall us, the former by their inopportune kindness drive us, and provide the means. Yet, often as it happens, what can be more disgraceful than that there should be no difference between benificence and hatred? Let us never bestow benefits that can redound to our shame. Since the sum total of friendship consists in putting a friend on an equality with ourselves, consideration must be given at the same time to the interests of both. I shall give to him if he is in need, yet not to the extent of bringing need upon myself; I shall come to his aid if he is at the point of ruin, yet not to the extent of bringing ruin upon my self, unless by so doing I shall purchase the safety of a great man or a great cause. I shall never give a benefit which I should be ashamed to ask for. I shall neither magnify the value of a small service, nor allow a great service to pass as a small one; for, just as he who takes credit for what he gives destroys all feeling of gratitude, so he who makes clear the value of what he gives recommends his gift, does not make it a reproach. Each one of us should consider his own means and resources in order that we may not bestow either a larger or a smaller amount than we are able to give. We should take into account, too, the character of the person to whom we are giving; for some gifts are too small to come fittingly from the hands of a great man, and some are too. large for the other to take. Do you therefore compare the characters of the two concerned, and over against these weigh the gift itself in order to determine whether, in the case of the giver, it will be either too onerous or too small, and whether, on the other hand, the one who is going to receive it will either disdain it or find it too large. Alexander - madman that he was, and incapable of conceiving any plan that was not grandiose - once presented somebody with a whole city. When the man to whom he was presenting it had taken his own measure, and shrank from incurring the jealousy that so great a gift would arouse, Alexander's reply was: "I am concerned, not in what is becoming for you to receive, but in what is becoming for me to give." This seems a spirited and regal speech, but in reality it is most stupid. No, nothing, in itself, makes a becoming gift for any man; it all depends upon who gives it and who receives it - the when, wherefore, and where of the gift, and all the other items without which there can be no true reckoning of the value of the deed. You puffed-up creature! If it is not becoming fox the man to accept the gift, neither is it becoming for you to give it; the relation of the two in point of character and rank is taken into account, and, since virtue is everywhere a mean, excess and defect are equally an error. Granted that you have such power, and that Fortune has lifted you to such a height that you can fling whole cities as largesses (but how much more magnanimous it would have been not to take, than to squander, them!), yet it is possible that there is someone who is too small to put a whole city in his pocket!

A certain Cynic once asked Antigonus for a talent his reply was that this was more than a Cynic had a right to ask for. After this rebuff the cynic asked for a denarius; here the reply was that this was less than a king could becomingly give. "Such sophistry," it may be said, "is most unseemly; the king found a way of not giving either. In the matter of the denarius he thought only of the king, in the matter of the talent only of the Cynic, although he might well have given the denarius on the score that the man was a Cynic, or the talent on the score that he himself was a king. Grant that there may be some gift that is too large for a Cynic to receive, none is too small for a king to bestow with honour if it is given out of kindness." If you ask my opinion, I think the king was right; for the situation is intolerable that a man should ask for money when he despises it. Your Cynic has a declared hatred of money; he has published this sentiment, he has chosen this role - now he must play it. It is most unfair for him to obtain money while he boasts of poverty. It is, then, every man's duty to consider not less his own character than the character of the man to whom he is planning to give assistance.

I wish to make use of an illustration that our Chrysippus once drew from the playing of ball. If the ball falls to the ground, it is undoubtedly the fault either of the thrower or the catcher; it maintains its course only so long as it does not escape from the hands of the two players by reason of their skill in catching and throwing it. The good player, however, must of necessity use one method of hurling the ball to a partner who is a long way off, and another to one who is near at hand. The same condition applies to a benefit. Unless this is suited to the character of both, the one who gives and the one who receives, it will neither leave the hands of the one, nor reach the hands of the other in the proper manner. If we are playing with a practised and skilled partner, we shall be bolder in throwing the ball, for no matter how it comes his ready and quick hand will promptly drive it back; if with an unskilled novice, we shall not throw it with so much tension and so much violence, but play more gently, and run slowly forward guiding the ball into his very hand. The same course must be followed in the case of benefits; some men need to be taught, and we should show that we are satisfied if they try, if they dare, if they are willing. But we ourselves are most often the cause of ingratitude in others, and we encourage them, to be ungrateful, just as if our benefits could be great only when it was impossible to return gratitude for them! It is as if some spiteful player should purposely try to discomfit his fellow-player, to the detriment of the game, of course, which can be carried on only in a spirit of cooperation. {Gift_spirit+} There are many, too, who are naturally so perverse that they would rather lose what they have bestowed than appear to have had any return - arrogant, purse-proud men. But how much better, how much more kindly would it be to aim at having the recipients also do regularly their part, to encourage a belief in the possibility of repaying with gratitude, to put a kindly interpretation upon all that they do, to listen to words of thanks as if they were an actual return, to show oneself complaisant to the extent of wishing that the one upon whom the obligation was laid should also be freed from it. A money-lender usually gets a bad name if he is harsh in his demands, likewise too, if he is reluctant to accept payment, and obstinately seeks to defer it. But in the ease of a benefit it is as right to accept a return as it is wrong to demand it. The best man is he who gives readily, never demands any return, rejoices if a return is made, who in all sincerity forgets what he has bestowed, and accepts a return in the spirit of one accepting a benefit. Some men are arrogant, not only in giving, but even in receiving, benefits, a mistake which is never excusable. For let me now pass to the other side of the subject in order to consider how men ought to conduct themselves in accepting a benefit. Every obligation that involves two people makes an equal demand upon both. When you have considered the sort of person a father ought to be, you will find that there remains the not less great task of discovering the sort that a son should be; it is true that a husband has certain duties, yet those of the wife are not less great. In the exchange of obligations each in turn renders to the other the service that he requires, and they desire that the same rule of action should apply to both, but this rule, as Hecaton says, is a difficult matter; for it is always hard to attain to Virtue, even to approach Virtue; for there must be, not merely achievement, but achievement through reason. Along the whole path of life Reason+ must be our guide, all our acts, from the smallest to the greatest, must follow her counsel; as she prompts, so also must we give.

Now her first precept will be that it is not necessary for us to receive from everybody. From whom, then, shall we receive? To answer you briefly, from those to whom we could have given. Let us see, in fact, whether it does not require even greater discernment to find a man to whom we ought to owe, than one on whom we ought to bestow, a benefit. For, even though there should be no unfortunate consequences (and there are very many of them), yet it is grievous torture to he under obligation to someone whom you object to; on the other hand, it is a very great pleasure to have received a benefit from one whom you could love even after an injury, when his action has shown a friendship that was in any case agreeable to be also justified. Surely, an unassuming and honest man will be in a most unhappy plight if it becomes his duty to love someone when it gives him no pleasure. But I must remind you, again and again, that I am not speaking of the ideal wise man to whom every duty is also a pleasure, who rules over his own spirit, and imposes upon himself any law that he pleases, and always observes any that he has imposed, but of the man who with all his imperfections desires to follow the perfect path, yet has passions that often are reluctant to obey. And so it is necessary for me to choose the person from whom I wish to receive a benefit; and, in truth, I must be far more careful in selecting my creditor for a benefit than a creditor for a loan. For to the latter I shall have to return the same amount that I have received, and, when I have returned it, I have paid all my debt and am free; but to the other I must make an additional payment, and, even after I have paid my debt of gratitude, the bond between us still holds; for, just when I have finished paying it, I am obliged to begin again, and friendship endures; and, as I would not admit an unworthy man to my friendship, so neither would I admit one who is unworthy to the most sacred privilege of benefits, from which friendship springs. "But," you reply, "I am not always permitted to say, 'I refuse'; sometimes I must accept a benefit even against my wish. If the giver is a cruel and hot-tempered tyrant, who will deem the spurning of his gift an affront, shall I not accept it? Imagine in a like situation a brigand or a pirate or a king with the temper of a brigand or a pirate. What shall I do? Is such a man altogether unworthy of my being indebted to him?" When I say that you must choose the person to whom you would become indebted, I except the contingency of superior force or of fear, for, when these are applied, all choice is destroyed. But, if you are free, if it is for you to decide whether you are willing or not, you will weigh the matter thoroughly in your mind; if necessity removes any possibility of choice, you will realize that it is for you, not to accept, but to obey. No man contracts an obligation by accepting something that he had no power to reject; if you wish to discover whether I am willing, make it possible for me to be unwilling. "Yet suppose it was life that he gave you!" It makes no difference what the gift is if it is not given willingly to one who accepts willingly; though you have saved my life, you are not for that reason my saviour. Poison at times serves as a remedy, but it is not for that reason counted as a wholesome medicine. Some things are beneficial, and yet impose no obligation. A man, who had approached a tyrant for the purpose of killing him, lanced a tumour for him by the blow of his sword; he did not, however, for that reason receive the thanks of the tyrant, though by doing him injury he cured him of the disorder to which the surgeons had not had the courage to apply the knife.

You see that the act itself is of no great consequence, since it appears that the man who from evil intent actually renders a service has not given a benefit; for chance designs the benefit, the man designs injury. We have seen in the amphitheatre a lion, who, having recognized one of the beast- fighters as the man who had formerly been his keeper, protected him from the attack of the other beasts. Is, then, the assistance of the wild beast to be counted a benefit? By no means, for it neither willed to do one, nor actually did one with the purpose of doing it. In the same category, in which I have placed the wild beast, do you place your tyrant - the one as well as the other has given life, neither the one or the other a benefit. For, since that which I am forced to receive is not a benefit, that also which puts me under obligation to someone against my will is not a benefit. You ought to give me first the right to choose for myself, then the benefit.

It is an oft-debated question whether Marcus Brutus ought to have received his life from the hands of the deified Julius when in his opinion it was his duty to kill him. The reason that led him to kill Caesar I shall discuss elsewhere, for, although in other respects he was a great man in this particular he seems to me to have acted very wrongly, and to have failed to conduct himself in accordance with Stoic teaching. Either he was frightened by the name of king, though a state reaches its best condition under the rule of a just king, or he still hoped that liberty could exist where the rewards both of supreme power and of servitude were so great, or that the earlier constitution of the state could be restored after the ancient manners had all been lost, that equality of civil rights might still exist and laws maintain their rightful place there where he had seen so many thousands of men fighting to decided, not whether, but to which of the two masters, they would be slaves! How forgetful, in truth, he was, either of the law of nature or of the history of his own city, in supposing that, after one man had been murdered, no other would be found who would have the same aims - although a Tarquin had been discovered after so many of the kings had been slain by the sword or lightning! But Brutus ought to have received his life, yet without regarding Caesar in the light of a father, for the good reason that Caesar had gained the right to give a benefit by doing violence to right; for he who has not killed has not given life, and has given, not a benefit, but quarter.

A question that offers more opportunity for debate is what should be the course of a captive if the price of his ransom is offered to him by a man who prostitutes his body and dishonours his mouth. Shall I permit a filthy wretch to save me? Then, if I have been saved, how shall I return my gratitude? Shall I live with a lewd fellow? Shall I not live with my deliverer? I shall tell you what in that case would be my course. Even from such a man I shall receive the money that will buy my freedom. I shall, however, receive it, not as a benefit, but as a loan; then I shall repay the money to him, and, if I ever have an opportunity to save him from a perilous situation, I shall save him as for friendship, which is a bond between equals, I shall not condescend to that, and I shall regard him, not as a preserver, but as a banker, to whom I am well aware that I must return the amount that I have received.

It is possible that, while a man may be a worthy person for me to receive a benefit from, it will injure him to give it; this I shall not accept for the very reason that he is ready to do me a service with inconvenience, or even with risk, to himself. Suppose that he is willing to defend me in a trial, but by his defence of me will make an enemy of the king; I am his enemy if, since he is willing to run a risk for my sake, I do not do the easier thing - run my risk without him.

A foolish and silly example of this is a case that Hecaton cites. Arcesilaus, he says, refused to accept a sum of money that was offered to him by a man who was not yet his own master a for fear that the giver might offend his miserly father. But what was praiseworthy in his act of refusing to come into possession of stolen property, of preferring not to receive it than to restore it? For what self-restraint is there in refusing to accept the gift of another man's property? If there is need of an example of a noble spirit, let us take the case of Julius Graccinus' a rare soul, whom Gaius Caesar killed simply because he was a better man than a tyrant found it profitable for anyone to be. This man, when he was receiving contributions from his friends to meet the expense of the public games, refused to accept a large sum of money that Fabius Persicus had sent; and, when those who were thinking, not of the senders, but of what was sent, reproached him because he had rejected the contribution, he replied: "Am I to accept a benefit from a man from whom I would not accept a toast to my health?" And, when a consular named Rebilus, a man of an equally bad reputation, had sent an even larger sum and insisted that he should order it to be accepted, he replied: "I beg your pardon; but I have already refused to accept money from Persicus." Is this accepting a present or is it picking a senate?

When we have decided that we ought to accept, let us accept cheerfully, professing our pleasure and letting the giver have proof of it in order that he may reap instant reward; for, as it is a legitimate source of happiness to see a friend happy, it is a more legitimate one to have made him so. Let us show how grateful we are for the blessing that has come to us by pouring forth our feelings, and let us bear witness to them, not merely in the hearing of the giver, but everywhere. He who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first instalment on his debt.

There are some who are not willing to receive a benefit unless it is privately bestowed; they dislike having a witness to the fact or anyone aware of it. But these, you may be sure, take a wrong view. As the giver should add to his gift only that measure of publicity which will please the one to whom he gives it, so the recipient should invite the whole city to witness it; a debt that you are ashamed to acknowledge you should not accept. Some return their thanks stealthily, in a corner, in one's ear; this is not discretion, but, in a manner, repudiation; the man who returns his thanks only when witnesses have been removed shows himself un-grateful. Some men object to having any record made of their indebtedness, to the employment of factors, to the summoning of witnesses to seal the contract, to giving their bond. These are in the same class with those who take pains to keep as secret as possible the fact that they have had a benefit bestowed upon them. They shrink from taking it openly for fear that they may be said to owe their success to the assistance of another rather than to their own merit; they are only rarely found paying their respects to those a to whom they owe their living or their position, and, while they fear the reputation of being a dependent, they incur the more painful one of being an ingrate. Others speak worst of those who have treated them best. It is safer to offend some men than to have done them a service; for, in order to prove that they owe nothing, they have recourse to hatred. And yet nothing ought to be made more manifest than that services rendered to us linger in our memory, but the memory must constantly be renewed; for only the man who remembers is able to repay gratitude, and he who remembers does thereby repay it. In receiving a benefit we should appear neither fastidious nor yet submissive and humble; for, if anyone shows indifference in the act of receiving it, when the whole benefit is freshly revealed, what will he do when the first pleasure in it has cooled ? One man receives it disdainfully, as if to say: "I really do not need it, but since you so much wish it, I will surrender my will to yours"; another accepts listlessly,so that he leaves the bestower doubtful about his being conscious of the benefit; still another barely opens his lips, and shows himself more ungrateful than if he had kept silent.

The greater the favour, the more earnestly must we express ourselves, resorting to such compliments as: "You have laid more, people under obligation than you think" (for every one rejoices to know that a benefit of his extends farther than he thought); "you do not know what it is that you have bestowed upon me, but you have a right to know how much more it is than you think" (he who is overwhelmed shows gratitude forthwith); "I shall never be able to repay to you my gratitude, but, at any rate, I shall not cease from declaring everywhere that I am unable to repay it."

No single fact more earned the goodwill of Augustus Caesar, and made it easy for Furnius to obtain from him other favours than his saying, when Augustus at his request had granted pardon to his father, who had supported the side of Antony. "The only injury, Caesar, that I have ever received from you is this -you have forced me both to live and to die without expressing my gratitude!" For what so much proves a grateful heart as the impossibility of ever satisfying oneself, or of even attaining the hope of ever being able to make adequate return for a benefit? By these and similar utterances, instead of concealing, let us try to reveal clearly our wishes. Though words should fail, yet, if we have the feelings we ought to have, the consciousness of them will show in our face. The man who intends to be grateful, immediately, while he is receiving, should turn his thought to repaying. Such a man, declares Chrysippus, like a racer, who is all set for the struggle and remains shut up within the barriers, must await the proper moment to leap forth when, as it were, the signal has been given; and, truly, he will need to show great energy, great swiftness, if he is to overtake the other who has the start of him.

And now we must consider what are the principal causes of ingratitude. The cause will be either a too high opinion of oneself and the weakness implanted in mortals of admiring oneself and one's deeds, or greed, or jealousy. Let us begin with the first. Every man is a generous judge of himself. {Shylock+} The result is that he thinks he has deserved all that he gets, and receives it as given in payment, yet considers that he has not been appraised at nearly his own value. "He has given me this," he says, "but how late, and after how much trouble! How much more I might have accomplished if I had chosen to court So- and-so or So-and-so - or myself! I had not expected this - I have been-classed with the herd. Was I worth so little in his eyes? It would have been more complimentary if he had passed me by!" xxx Gnaeus Lentulus, the augur, who, before his freedmen reduced him to poverty, was the most conspicuous example of wealth - this man, who saw his four hundred millions (I have spoken with strict accuracy, for he did no more than " see" them!), was destitute of intelligence, as contemptible in intellect as he was in heart. Though he was the greatest miser, it was easier for him to disgorge coins than words - so great was his poverty when it came to talking. Though he owed all his advancement to the deified Augustus, to whom he had come with nothing but the poverty that was struggling under the burden of a noble name, yet, when he had now become the chief citizen of the state, both in wealth and influence, he used to make constant complaint, saying that Augustus had enticed him away from his studies; that he had not heaped upon him nearly so much as he had lost by surrendering the practice of eloquence. Yet the deified Augustus besides loading him with other benefits, had also rescued him from ridicule and vain endeavour!

Nor does greed suffer any man to be grateful; for incontinent hope is never satisfied with what is given and, the more we get, the more we covet; and just as the greater the conflagration from which the flame springs, the fiercer and more unbounded is its fury, so greed becomes much more active when it is employed in accumulating great riches,

And just as little does ambition suffer any man to rest content with the measure of public honours that was once his shameless prayer. No one renders thanks for a tribuneship, but grumbles because he has not yet been advanced to the praetorship; nor is he grateful for this if he is still short of the consulship; and even this does not satisfy him if it is a single one. His greed ever reaches to what is beyond, and he does not perceive his own happiness because he regards, not whence he came, but what he would reach. But more powerful and insistent than all these is the evil of jealousy, which disquiets us by making comparisons. It argues: "He who bestowed this on me, but more on So-and-so, and an carlier gift upon So-and-so"; and, too, it pleads no man's case, it is for itself against everybody. But how much simpler, how much more sensible it is to magnify the benefit received, to be convinced that no one is as highly esteemed by another as he is by himself!" I ought to have received more, but it was not easy for him to give more; he had to portion out his liberality amongst many others; this is simply the beginning, let us take it in good part and attract his notice by accepting it gratefully; he has done too little, but he will do something oftener; he preferred So-and-so to me, and me to many others; So-and-so is not my equal either in virtue or in services, but he has a charm of his own; by complaining I shall show, not that I am deserving of greater favours, but that I am undeserving of those that have been given. More favours have been given to the basest of men, but what does it matter? How rarely is Fortune judicious! Every day we complain that the wicked are prosperous; often the hail-storm that has passed over the fields of the greatest sinners smites the corn of the most upright men; each one must endure his lot, in friendship as well as in everything else." No benefit is so ample that it will not be possible for malice to belittle it, none is so scanty that it cannot be enlarged by kindly interpretation. Reasons for complaint will never be lacking if you view benefits on their unfavourable side.

See how unjust men are in appraising the gifts of the gods, even those who profess to be philosophers. {Epicureans+} They grumble because we are inferior to elephants in size of body, to stags in swiftness, to birds in lightness, to bulls in energy; because the skin of beasts is tough, that of deer more comely, of bears thicker, of beavers softer than ours; because dogs surpass us in keenness of scent, eagles in sharpness of vision, crows in length of life, and many creatures in the ability to swim. And, though Nature does not suffer certain qualities, as for instance speed of body and strength, even to meet in the same creature, yet they call it an injustice that man has not been compounded of various good qualities that are incompatible, and say that the gods are neglectful of us because we have not been given the good health that can withstand even the assaults of vice, because we have not been gifted with a knowledge of the future. Scarcely can they restrain themselves from mounting to such a pitch of impertinence as actually to hate Nature because we mortals are inferior to the gods, because we are not placed, on an equality with them. But how much better would it be to turn to the contemplation of our many great blessings, and to render thanks to the gods because they were pleased to allot to us a position second only to their own in this most beautiful dwelling-place, because they have appointed us to be the lords of earth! Will anyone compare us with the creatures over whom we have absolute power? Nothing has been denied us that could possibly have been granted to us.{Bestofall_possible+} Accordingly, whoever thou art, thou unfair critic of the lot of mankind, consider what great blessings, our Father has bestowed upon us, how much more powerful than ourselves are the creatures we have forced to wear the yoke, how much swifter those that we are able to catch, how nothing that dies has been placed beyond the reach of our weapons. So many, virtues have we received, so many arts, in fine, the human mind, to which nothing is inaccessible the moment it makes the effort, which is swifter than the stars whose future courses through many ages it anticipates; then, too, all the products of the field, all the store of wealth, and all the other blessings that are piled one upon the other. Though you should range through all creation, and, because you will fail to find there nothing which as a whole you would rather have been, should select from all creatures the particular qualities that you could wish had been given to you, yet any right estimate of the kindliness of Nature will force you to acknowledge that you have been her darling. The fact is, the immortal gods have held - still hold - us most dear, and in giving us a place next to themselves have bestowed upon us the greatest honour that was possible. Great things have we received, for greater we had no room. {EssayonMan_I+}

These considerations, my dear Liberalis, I have thought necessary because, on the one hand, when speaking of insignificant benefits, I was forced to speak also of those that are supreme, and because, on the other, the abominable presumptuousness of the vice under consideration extends from these to all benefits. For, if a man scorns the highest benefits, to whom will he respond with gratitude, what gift will he deem either great or worthy of being returned? If a man denies that he has received from the gods the gift of life that he begs from them every day, to whom will he be indebted for his preservation, to whom for the breath that he draws? Whoever, therefore, teaches men to be grateful, pleads the cause both of men and of the gods, to whom, although there is no thing that they have need of since they have been placed beyond all desire; we can nevertheless offer our gratitude. No one is justified in making his weakness and his poverty an excuse for ingratitude, in saying: "What am I to do, and how begin? When can I ever repay to my superiors, who are the lords of creation, the gratitude that is due?" It is easy to repay it - without expenditure if you are miserly, without labour if you are lazy. In fact, the very moment you have been placed under obligation, you can match favour for favour with any man if you wish to do so; for he who receives a benefit gladly has already returned it.

This, in my opinion, is the least surprising or least incredible of the paradox of the Stoic school: that he who receives a benefit gladly has already returned it. For, since we Stoics refer every action to the mind, a man acts only as he wills; and, since devotion, good faith, justice, since, in short, every virtue is complete within itself even if it has not been permitted to put out a hand, a man can also have gratitude by the mere act of will. Again, whenever anyone attains what he aimed at, he receives the reward of his effort. When a man bestows a benefit, what does he aim at? To be of service and to give pleasure to the one to whom he gives. If he accomplishes what he wished, if his intention is conveyed to me and stirs in me a joyful response, he gets what he sought. For he had no wish that I should give him anything in exchange. Otherwise, it would have been, not a benefaction, but a bargaining. A man has had a successful voyage if he reaches the port for which he set out; a dart hurled by a sure hand performs its duty if it strikes the mark; he who gives a benefit wishes it to be gratefully accepted; if it is cheerfully received he gets what he wanted. "But," you say, "he wished to gain something besides!" Then it was not a benefit, for the chief mark of one is that it carries no thought of a return. {Gift+} That which I have received I received in the same spirit in which it was given thus I have made return. Otherwise, this best of things is subjected to the worst possible condition in order to show gratitude, I must turn to Fortune! If I can make no other response because she is adverse, the answer from heart to heart is enough. "What, then," you say, "shall I make no effort to return whatever I can, shall I not hunt for the right time and opportunity, and be eager to fill the pocket of the one from whom I have received?" Yes, but truly benefaction is in a sorry state if a man may not have gratitude even if his hands are empty!

"He who has received a benefit," you say, although he may have received it in the most generous spirit, has not yet fulfilled his whole duty, for the part of returning it still remains; just as in playing ball there is some merit in catching the ball with adroitness and accuracy, yet a man is not said to be a really good player unless he is clever and prompt in sending back the ball that he has received." But your example is not well taken; and why? Because success in the game depends, not upon the mind of the player, but upon the motion and the agility of his body, and so an exhibition of which the eye is to be the judge must be shown in its entirety. Yet, for all that, I am not willing to say that a man who caught the ball as he ought was not a good player if, through no fault of his own, he was prevented from sending it back. "But," you say, "although the player may not be lacking in skill since, while he did only half of his duty, the half that he did not do he is able to do, yet the placing itself remains imperfect, for its perfection lies in the interchange of throwing backwards and forwards." I do not wish to refute the point further; let us agree to this, that, not the player, but the playing, lacks something; so also in this matter which we are now discussing, the object given lacks something, for another corresponding to it is still due, but the spirit of the gift lacks nothing, for it has discovered on the other side a corresponding spirit, and, so far as the purpose of the giver is concerned, it has accomplished all that it wished.

A benefit has been bestowed upon me; I have received it in precisely the spirit in which the giver wished it to be received: he consequently has the reward he seeks, and the only reward he seeks therefore I show myself grateful. There remain after this his use of me and some advantage from having a person grateful; but this comes, not as the remainder of a duty only partially fulfilled, but as an addition consequent to its fulfillment. Phidias makes a statue; the fruit of his art is one thing, that of the artistic product another; that of his art lies in his having made what he wished to make, that of the artistic product in his having made it to some profit; the work of Phidias was completed even if it was not sold. The fruit of his work he finds is threefold: the first is the consciousness of it; this he experiences, after the completion of his work; another is the glory of it; a third is the benefit which he will gain either from recognition or from the sale of it or from some other advantage. In the same way the first fruit of a benefaction is the consciousness of it a man experiences this from carrying out his gift as he wished; the second and the third are, respectively, the glory of it and the things which may be bestowed in exchange. And so, when a benefit has been graciously received, the giver has forthwith received gratitude in return, but not yet his full reward; my indebtedness, therefore, is for something apart from the benefit, for the benefit itself I have repaid in full by cheerfully accepting it. xxx "What, then?" you say, "does a man repay gratitude by doing nothing?" But he has done the chief thing - by showing a good spirit he has conferred a good, and - what is the mark of friendship - in equal measure. Then, in the second place, a benefit is paid in one way, a loan in another; there is no reason why you should expect me to flourish the payment before your eyes - the transaction is performed in our minds!

You will come to see that what I am saying is not too bold, although at first it may not accord with your own ideas, if only you will give me your attention, and reflect that there are many things for which there are no words. There is a vast number of things that have no name, and the terms by which we designate them, instead of being their own, belong to other things from which they are borrowed. We say that we ourselves, a couch, a sail, and a poem, have a "foot," and we apply the word "dog" to a hound, to a creature of the sea, and to a constellation; since there are not enough words to make it possible for us to assign a separate one to each separate thing, we borrow whenever it becomes necessary. Bravery is the virtue that scorns legitimate dangers, or knowing how to ward off, to meet, and to court dangers; yet we call both a gladiator and the worthless slave whose rashness has forced him into scorn of death a "brave" man. Frugality is knowing how to avoid unnecessary expenditure, or the art of applying moderation to the use of private means; yet we call a petty-minded and close-fisted man a very "frugal" person although there is an infinite difference between moderation and meanness. These are essentially different things, yet our poverty of language leads us to call each of the two types a "frugal" person, and likewise to say that both the man who by the exercise of reason scorns the blows of Fortune and the one who rushes into dangers unreasoningly are "brave." So a "benefit," as we have said, is both a beneficent act and likewise the object itself which is given by means of the aforesaid act, as money, a house, the robe of office; the two things bear the same name, but they are very different in their import and operation.

Attend, therefore, and you will soon understand that I am advancing nothing that your own conviction will reject. For the benefit that is accomplished by an act has been repaid by our gratitude if we give it friendly welcome; the other, which consists of some object, we have not yet returned, but we shall have the desire to return it. Goodwill we have repaid with goodwill; for the object we still owe an object. And so, although we say that he who receives a benefit gladly has repaid it, we, nevertheless, also bid him return some gift similar to the one he received.

Some of the utterances that we Stoics make avoid the ordinary meaning of the terms, and then by a different line of thought are restored to their ordinary meaning. We deny that the wise man can receive injury, yet the man who strikes him with his fist will be sentenced on the charge of doing him an injury; we deny that a fool possesses anything, and yet a man who steals some object from a fool will be punished for theft; we declare that all men are mad, and yet we do not dose all men with hellebore; and to the very men whom we call mad we entrust the right of suffrage and the jurisdiction of judge. {Swift+} So we declare that he who receives a benefit in a kindly spirit has repaid it by gratitude, yet, nevertheless, we leave him in debt - still bound to repay gratitude even after he has repaid it. The aim of this is, not to forbid beneficence, but to encourage us not to be fearful of benefits, not to faint under them as if we were weighed down by an intolerable burden. "Good things," you exclaim, "have been given to me, my reputation has been protected, my ignominy has been removed, my life has been preserved, and my liberty that is dearer than life. And how shall I ever be able to repay my gratitude? When will there come the day on which I can show to my benefactor my heart?" This is the very day - the day on which he is showing his own heart! Accept the benefit, embrace it, rejoice, not because you are receiving it, but because you are returning it and yet will still be in debt; you will then avoid the risk of the great mishap that some chance may cause you to be ungrateful. No difficult terms will I set before you for fear that you may be discouraged, that you may faint at the prospect of long labour and servitude. I do not put you off - you may pay with what you have! Never will you be grateful if you are not so at this moment. What, then, shall you do? There is no need for you to take up arms - perhaps some day there will be. There is no need for you to traverse the seas - perhaps some day you will ret sail even when storm-winds are threatening. Do you wish to return a benefit? Accept it with pleasure; you have repaid it by gratitude - not so fully that you may feel that you have freed yourself from debt, yet so that you may be less concerned about what you still owe!