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

NOT to return gratitude for benefits is a disgrace, and the whole world counts it as such, Aebutius Liberalis. Therefore even the ungrateful complain of ingratitude, while the vice that all find so distasteful nevertheless continues its hold upon all, and we go so far to the opposite extreme that sometimes, not merely after having received benefits, but because we have received them, we consider the givers our worst enemies. I cannot deny that, while some fall into the vice from a natural perversity, more show it because remembrance disappears with the passing of time for benefits that at first lived fresh in their memory wither as the days go by. On the subject of such persons you and I, I am well aware, have already had a discussion, in which you said that they were, not ungrateful, but forgetful; just as if that which caused a man to be ungrateful could be any excuse for his being so, or as if the fact that a man had this misfortune kept him from being ungrateful, whereas it is only the ungrateful man who has this misfortune.

There are many sorts of ungrateful men, just as there are many sorts of thieves and of murderers - they all show the same sin, but their types the greatest diversity. The man is ungrateful who denies that he has received a benefit, which he has in fact received; he is ungrateful who pretends that he has not received one; he, too, is ungrateful who fails to return one; but the most ungrateful of all is the man who has forgotten a benefit. For the others, even if they do not pay, continue in debt, and reveal at least some trace of the services that they have locked in the depths of their evil hearts. These, it may be, for one reason or another, may some day turn to the expression of gratitude, whether urged to it by shame, or by the sudden impulse toward honourable action that is wont to spring up for a moment even in the hearts of bad men, or perhaps by the call of a favorable opportunity. But there is no possibility of a man's ever becoming grateful, if he has lost all memory of his benefit. And which of the two would you call the worse - the man whose heart is dead to gratitude for a benefit, or the one whose heart is dead even to the memory of a benefit? Eyes that shrink from the light are weak, those that cannot see are blind; and not to love one's parents is to be unfilial, not to recognize them is to be mad!

Who is so ungrateful as the man who has so completely excluded and cast from his mind the benefit that ought to have been kept uppermost in his thought and always before him, as to have lost all knowledge of it? It is evident that he has not thought very often about returning it if it has faded into oblivion. In short, the repaying of gratitude requires right desire and opportunity and means and the favour of Fortune; but he who remembers shows sufficient gratitude without any outlay. Since this duty demands neither effort nor wealth nor good fortune, he who fails to render it has no excuse in which he may find shelter; for he who has thrust a benefit so far from him that he has actually lost sight of it never could have wished to be grateful for it. Just as tools that are in use and are every day subjected to the contact of our hands never run any risk of becoming rusty, while those that are not brought before the eyes, and, not being required, have remained apart from constant use, gather rust from the mere passing of time, so anything that our thought repeatedly busies itself with and keeps fresh does not slip from the memory, which loses only that which it has over and over again failed to regard. xxx Besides this, there are still other causes that tend to uproot from our minds services that sometimes have been very great. The first and most powerful of all is the fact that, busied as we are with ever new desires, we turn our eyes, not to what we possess but to what we seek to possess. To those who are intent upon something they wish to gain all that they have already gained seems worthless. It follows too, that, when the desire of new benefits has diminished the value of one that has already been received, the author of them also is less esteemed. We love someone, and look up to him, and avow that he laid the foundation of our present position so long as we are satisfied with what we have attained; then the desirability of other things assails our mind, and we rush toward those, as is the way of mortals, who, having great things, always desire greater. And everything that we were formerly inclined to call a benefit straightway slips from our memory, and we turn our eyes, not to the things that have set us above others, but to the things that the good fortune of those who outstrip us displays. But it is possible for no man to show envy and gratitude at the same time, for envy goes with complaint and unhappiness, gratitude with rejoicing.

In the second place, because each one of us is actually aware of only the particular moment of time that is passing, only now and then do men turn their thought back to the past; so it happens that the memory of our teachers and of their benefits to us vanishes because we have left boyhood wholly behind; so, too, it happens that the benefits conferred upon us in youth are lost because youth itself is never relived. No one regards what has been as something that has passed, but as something that has perished, and so the memory of those who are intent upon a future benefit is weak.

At this point I must bear testimony to Epicurus, who constantly complains because we are ungrateful for past blessings, because we do not recall those that we have enjoyed, nor count them in the list of pleasures, while no pleasure exists more certainly than one that can no longer be snatched away. Present blessings are not yet wholly established upon a firm basis, it is still possible that some mischance may interrupt them; future blessings are still in the air and are uncertain; but what is past has been stored away in safety. How can a man who is wholly absorbed in the present and the future, who skips over all his past life, ever be grateful for benefits? It is memory that makes him grateful; the more time one gives to hope, the less one has for memory. There are some subjects, my dear Liberalis, that remain fixed in our memory when we have once grasped them, and others that, if they are to be known, require more than a first acquaintance provides (for knowledge of them is lost unless it is con- tinued) - l am thinking of the knowledge of geometry and of the motions of the heavenly bodies and of other similar subjects that, on account of their nicety, have a slippery hold. Just so, in the matter of benefits, there are some whose very magnitude will not allow them to slip from our mind, while others that are smaller, yet countless in number and bestowed at various times, escape from our memory because, as I have said, we do not repeatedly revert to them, and are not glad to recognize what we owe to each. Listen to the words of petitioners. No one of them fails to say that the memory of the benefit will live for ever in his heart; no one of them fails to declare himself your submissive and devoted slave, and, if he can find any more abject language in which to express his obligation, he uses it. But after a very little time these same men avoid their earlier utterances, counting them degrading and unworthy of a free man; and then they reach the state, to which, in my opinion, all the worst and the most ungrateful men come - they grow forgetful. For so surely is he ungrateful who has forgotten that a man is ungrateful when a benefit only "comes into his mind." xxxSome raise the question whether a vice so odious as this ought to go unpunished, or whether this law, by which, as it operates in the schools, the ungrateful man becomes liable to prosecution, ought to be applied also in the state; for it seems to everybody to be a just one. "Why not?" they say, "since even cities bring charges against cities for services rendered, and force later generations to pay for what had been bestowed upon their forefathers." But our forefathers, who were undoubtedly very great men, demanded restitution only from their enemies; benefactions they would bestow magnanimously, and lose them magnanimously. With the exception of the people of Macedonia, in no state has the ungrateful man become liable to prosecution. And ample proof that there ought not to have been any such liability is shown by the fact that we are in full accord in opposing all crime; the penalty for homicide, for poisoning, for parricide, and for the desecration of religion is different in different places, but they have some penalty everywhere, whereas this crime that is the commonest of all is nowhere punished, but is everywhere denounced. And yet we have not wholly acquitted it, but, because it is difficult to form an opinion of a thing so uncertain, we have only condemned it to hatred, and have left it among the sins that are referred to the gods for judgement.

But many reasons occur to me why this crime should not come under the law. First of all, the best part of a benefit is lost if it can become actionable, as is possible in the case of a fixed loan or of something rented or leased. For the most beautiful part of a benefit is that we gave it even when we were likely to lose it, that we left it wholly to the discretion of the one who received it. If I arrest him, if I summon him before a judge, it gets to be, not a benefit, but a loan.

In the second place, although to repay gratitude is a most praiseworthy act, it ceases to be praiseworthy if it is made obligatory; for in that case no one will any more praise a man for being grateful than he will praise one who has returned a deposit of money, or paid a debt without being summoned before a judge. So we spoil the two most beautiful things in human life - a man's gratitude and a man's benefit. For what nobility does either one show - the one if, instead of giving, he lends a benefit, the other if he makes return, not because he wishes, but because he is forced? There is no glory in being grateful unless it would have been safe to be ungrateful.

Add, too, the fact that for the application of this one law all the law-courts in the world would scarcely be enough! Where is the man who will not bring action? Where is the man against whom action will not be brought? For all exalt their own merits, all magnify the smallest services they have rendered to others.

Again, in all matters that become the basis of legal action it is possible to define the procedure and to prohibit the judge from unlimited liberty; it is clear, accordingly, that a just case is in a better position if it is brought before a judge than if it is brought before an "arbiter," because the judge is restricted by the formula of instructions, which sets definite bounds that he cannot exceed, whereas the other has entire liberty of conscience and is hampered by no bonds; he can lessen the value of some fact or augment it, and can regulate his opinion, not according to the dictates of law or justice, but according to the promptings of humanity or pity. But an action for ingratitude would not place any restriction on the judge, but would set him in a position of absolutely untrammeled authority. For it is not clearly determined what a benefit is, nor, too, how great it is; that depends upon how generously the judge may interpret it. No law shows what an ungrateful person is; often one who has returned what he received is ungrateful, and one who has not returned it is grateful, On certain matters even an inexperienced judge is able to give a verdict; for instance, when an opinion must be delivered on whether something has, or has not, been done, when the dispute is terminated by the giving of bonds, when common sense pronounces judgement between the litigants. When, however, a conjecture of motive has to be made, when a point concerning which wisdom alone can decide happens to be in dispute, it cannot be that for such purposes a judge is to be taken from the general crowd of jurors - a man whom income and the inheritance of equestrian fortune have placed upon the roll,

Therefore the truth is, not that this offence has appeared quite unfitted to be brought before a judge, but that no one has been found who was quite fitted to be its judge; and this will cause you no surprise if you will thresh out all the difficulties that anyone would have if he should appear against a man arraigned on a charge of this sort. A gift has been made by someone of a large sum of money, but the giver was rich, he was not likely to feel the sacrifice; the same gift was made by another, but the giver was likely to lose the whole of his patrimony. The sum given is the same, but the benefit is not the same. Take another case. Suppose a man paid out money for one who had been adjudged to his creditor, but in doing so drew from his own private means; another gave the same amount, but borrowed it or begged it, and in doing a great service was willing to burden himself with an obligation. Do you think that the one, for whom it was easy to bestow a benefit, and the other, who received in order that he might give a benefit, are both in the same class? The timeliness, not the size, of a gift makes some benefits great. It is a benefit to bestow the gift of an estate that by reason of its fertility may lower the price of grain, it is a benefit to bestow one loaf of bread in time of famine; it is a benefit to bestow lands that have large and navigable rivers flowing through them; it is a benefit to point out a spring of water to a man when he is parched with thirst and can scarcely draw breath through his dry throat. Who will match these one against another? Who will weigh them in the balance? The decision is difficult when it is concerned, not with the thing, but with the significance of the thing. Though the gifts are the same, if they are differently given their weight is not the same. A man may have bestowed on me a benefit, but suppose he did not do it willingly, suppose he complained about having bestowed it, suppose he regarded me more haughtily than was his wont, suppose he was so slow to give that he would have conferred a greater service if he had been quick to refuse. How will a judge set about appraising these benefits when the giver's words, his hesitation, and expression may destroy all gratitude for his favour? And what shall we say of some gifts that are called benefits because they are excessively coveted, while others, though they lack this common ear-mark, are really greater benefits even if the do not appear so? It is called a "benefit" if you have given someone the citizenship of a powerful people, if you have escorted him to the fourteen rows of the knights, if you have defended him when he was on trial for his life. But what of having given him useful advice? What of having kept him from plunging into crime? What of having struck the sword from his hands when he planned to die? What of having brought him effective consolation in sorrow, and of having restored in him a resolve to live when he was wishing to follow those for whom he grieved? What of having sat at his side when he was sick, and, when his health and recovery were a matter of moments, of having seized the right times to administer food, of having revived his failing pulse with wine, and brought in a physician when he was dying? Who will estimate the value of such services? Who will decree that benefits of one sort counterbalance benefits of another? "I gave you a house," you say. Yes, but I warned you that yours was tumbling down upon your head! "I gave you a fortune," you say. Yes, but I gave you a plank when you were shipwrecked! "I fought for you and received wounds for your sake," you say. Yes, but I by my silence gave you your life! Since benefits may be given in one form and repayed in another, it is difficult to establish their equality.

Besides, for the repayment of a benefit no date is set, as there is for a loan of money; and so it is possible that one who has not yet repaid may still repay. Pray tell me, at the expiration of what time is a man to be arrested for ingratitude? Of the greatest benefits there is no visible evidence; they often lie hidden in a silent consciousness that only two share. Or shall we introduce the rule of not giving a benefit without a witness?

And then what punishment shall we fix upon for the ungrateful? Shall there be the same one for all though their benefits are unequal? Or shall it be variable, a larger or smaller one according to the benefit each one has received? Very well, then, the standard of evaluation shall be money. But what of some benefits that have the value of life or are even greater than life? What punishment will be pro- nounced upon ingratitude for these? One smaller than the benefit? That would be unjust! One that is its equal - death? But what could be more inhuman than that benefits should end in bloodshed?

"Certain prerogatives," it is argued, "have been accorded to parents; and, in the same way in which the case of these has been considered to be exceptional, the case of other benefactors must also be considered to be so." But we have given sanctity to the position of parents because it was expedient that they should rear children; it was necessary to encourage them to the task because they were going to face an uncertain hazard. You could not say to them what you say to those who give benefits: "Choose the one to whom you will give; you have only yourself to blame if you have been deceived; help the deserving man." In the rearing of children nothing is left to the choice of those who rear them - it is wholly a matter of hope. And so, in order that parents might be more content to run the risk, it was necessary to give to them a certain authority.

Then, too, the situation of parents is very different for to those to whom they have already given they none the less give, and will continue to give, benefits, nor is there any danger of their making false claims about having given them. In the case of other benefactors there must be the question not only of whether they have received a return, but also of whether they have actually given, while in the case of parents their services are unquestionable, and, because it is expedient that the young should be controlled, we have placed over them household magistrates, as it were, under whose custody they may be held in check.

Again, the benefit from a parent was the same for all, and so it could be evaluated once for all. Benefits from others are diverse in character, are unrelated and separated from each by incalculable distances; and so they could not be brought under any fixed norm, since it was more equitable to leave all unclassified than to place them all in the same category.

Certain benefits cost the givers a great price, others have great value in the eyes of the recipients, but cost the bestowers of them nothing. Some are given to friends, some to strangers; although the same amount is given, it counts for more if it is given to one with whom the beginning of an acquaintance dates from the gift of your benefit. This one bestowed help, that other distinctions, another consolations. You will find the person who thinks that there is no greater pleasure, no greater boon than to have some breast on which he may find rest in misfortune; again, you will find another who would prefer to have concern shown for his prestige rather than for his security; there is the man, too, who will feel more indebted to one who adds to his safety than to his honour. Consequently, these benefits will assume greater or less value according as the temper of the judge leans in the one direction or the other. Moreover, while I myself choose my creditor, yet I often receive a benefit from one from whom I do not wish it, and sometimes even unwillingly I contract an obligation. What in this case will you do? Will you call a man ungrateful when, without his knowing it, a benefit has been forced upon him which had he known it, he would not have accepted? Will you not call him ungrateful if he does not repay it, no matter how he may have received it? Suppose that someone has bestowed upon me a benefit, and that the same man later has done me an injury. Am I bound to endure every sort of injury because of his one gift, or will it be the same as if I had repaid his favour because he himself cancelled the benefit by his later injury? And then how will you tell whether the benefit that he received or the injury was the greater? Time will fail me if I attempt to enumerate all the difficulties. "By not coming to the defence of benefits that have been given, and, by not inflicting punishment on those who deny them, we only make men more reluctant," you say, "to bestow others." But, on the other hand, remember, too, that men will be much more reluctant to accept benefits if they are going to run the risk of being forced to defend their case in court, and of having their integrity placed in a very dubious position. Then, too, we ourselves, because of this possibility, will be more reluctant to give; for no one gives willingly to the unwilling recipient, but every one, whose own goodness and the very beauty of his action has urged him to perform a generous deed, will give even more willingly to those who will incur no indebtedness except what they wish to feel. For a good deed that looks carefully to its own interests loses some of its glory.

Then, again, while benefits will become fewer, they will be more genuine; but what harm is there in checking the reckless giving of benefits? For the very aim of those who have designed no law for this matter has been that we should be more cautious in making gifts, more cautious in picking those upon whom we bestow our favours. Consider again and again to whom you are giving: you will have no recourse to law, no claim to restitution. You are mistaken if you think that some judge will come to your aid; no law will restore you to your original estate - look only to the good faith of the recipient. In this way benefits maintain their prestige and are lordly; you disgrace them if you make them the ground of litigation. "Pay what you owe" is a proverb most just and one that is stamped with the approval of all nations; but in the case of a benefit it becomes most shameful. "Pay!" But what? Shall a man pay the life that he owes? The position? The security? The sound health? All the greatest benefits are incapable of being repaid. "Yet make some return for them," you say, "that is of equal value." But this is just what I was saying, that, if we make merchandise of benefits, all the merit of so fine an action will perish. The mind does not need to be incited to greed, to accusations, and to discord; it tends to these by a natural impulse. But, as far as we can, let us oppose it, and cut it off from the opportunities that it seeks.

Would that I could persuade the lenders of money to accept payment only from those who are willing to pay! Would that no compact marked the obligation of buyer to seller, and that no covenants and agreements were safeguarded by the impress of seals, but that, instead, the keeping of them were left to good faith and a conscience that cherishes justice! But men have preferred what is necessary to what is best, and would rather compel good faith than expect it. Witnesses are summoned on both sides. One creditor, by having recourse to factors, causes the record to be made in the books of several people; another is not content with oral promises, but must also bind his victim by a written signature. O, what a shameful admission of the dishonesty and wickedness of the human race! More trust is placed in our sealrings than in our consciences. To what end have these notable men been summoned? To what end do they leave the impress of their signets? In order, forsooth, that the debtor may not deny that what he has received has been received! Think you that these men are incorruptible and champions of truth? Yet to these very men money will not be entrusted at this hour on any other terms. So would it not have been more desirable to allow some men to break their word than to cause all men to fear treachery? The only thing that avarice lacks now is that we should not even give benefits without a bondsman! To help, to be of service, is the part of a noble and chivalrous soul; he who gives benefits imitates the gods, he who seeks a return, money-lenders. Why, in wishing to protect benefactors, do we reduce them to the level of the most disreputable class? {Shylock+} xxx" More men," you say, "will become ungrateful if no action can be brought against ingratitude." No, fewer men, because benefits will be given with a greater discrimination. Then, too, it is not advisable that all men should know how many are ungrateful for the multitude of the offenders will remove the shame of the thing, and what is a general reproach will cease to be a disgrace. Is there any woman that blushes at divorce now that certain illustrious and noble ladies reckon their years, not by the number of consuls, but by the number of their husbands, and leave home in order to marry, and marry in order to be divorced? They shrank from this scandal as long as it was rare; now, since every gazette has a divorce case, they have learned to do what they used to hear so much about. Is there any shame at all for adultery now that matters have come to such a pass that no woman has any use for a husband except to inflame her paramour? Chastity is simply a proof of ugliness. Where will you find any woman so wretched, so unattractive, as to be content with a couple of paramours without having each hour assigned to a different one? And the day is not long enough for them all, but she must be carried in her litter to the house of one, and spend the night with another. She is simple and behind the times who is not aware that living with one paramour is called "marriage"! As the shame of these offences has disappeared now that their practice has spread more broadly, so you will make ingrates more numerous and increase their importance if once they begin to count their number.

"What, then," you say, "shall the ingrate go unpunished?" What, then, shall the undutiful man go unpunished? And the spiteful? And the greedy? And the overbearing? And the cruel? Do you imagine that qualities that are loathed do go unpunished, or that there is any greater punishment than public hate? The penalty of the ingrate is that he does not dare to accept a benefit-from any man, that he does not dare to give one to any man, that he is a mark, or at least thinks that he is a mark, for all eyes, that he has lost all perception of a most desirable and pleasant experience. Or do you call that man unhappy who has lost his sight, whose ears have been closed by some malady, and yet do not call him wretched who has lost all sense of benefits? He dwells in fear of the gods, who are the witnesses of all ingratitude, he is tortured and distressed by the consciousness of having thwarted a benefit. In short, this in itself is punishment great enough, the fact that he does not reap enjoyment from an experience that, as I just said, is the most delightful.

But he who is happy in having received a benefit tastes a constant and unfailing pleasure, and rejoices in viewing, not the gift, but the intention of him from whom he received it. The grateful man delights in a benefit over and over, the ungrateful man but once. But is it possible to compare the lives of these two? For the one, as a disclaimer of debts and a cheat are apt to be, is downcast and worried, he denies to his parents, to his protector, to his teachers, the consideration that is their due, while the other is joyous, cheerful, and, watching for an opportunity to repay his gratitude, derives great joy from this very sentiment, and seeks, not how he may default in his obligations, but how he may make very full and rich return, not only to his parents and friends, but also to persons of lower station. For, even if he has received a benefit from his slave, he considers, not from whom it came, but what he received. xxx And yet some raise the question, for example Hecaton, whether it is possible for a slave to give a benefit to his master. For there are those who distinguish some acts as benefits, some as duties, some as services, saying that a benefit is something that is given by a stranger (a stranger is one who, without incurring censure, might have done nothing); that a duty is performed by a son, or a wife, or by persons that are stirred by the ties of kinship, which impels them to bear aid; that a service is contributed by a slave, whose condition has placed him in such a position that nothing that he can bestow gives him a claim upon his superior. Moreover, he who denies that a slave can sometimes give a benefit to his master is ignorant of the rights of man; for, not the status, but the intention, of the one who bestows is what counts. Virtue closes the door to no man; it is open to all, admits all, invites all, the freeborn and the freedman, the slave and the king, and the exile; neither family nor fortune determines its choice -it is satisfied with the naked human being. For what protection would it find against sudden events, what great assurance would the human mind be able to hold out to itself if Fortune could rob it of unchangeable Virtue? If a slave cannot give a benefit to his master, no subject can give one to his king, no soldier to his general; for, if a man is restrained by supreme authority, what difference does it make what the nature of the authority is that restrains him? For, if the necessity of his lot and his fear of having to endure untold punishment prevent a slave from attaining the right to do a thankworthy act, the same condition will also prevent the man who is un er a king, and the man who is under a general; for these, under a different title, exercise equal authority. But a man can give a benefit to his king, a man can give a benefit to his general; therefore a slave also can give one to a master. It is possible for a slave to be just, it is possible for him to be brave, it is possible for him to be magnanimous; therefore it is possible also for him to give a benefit, for this also is one part of virtue. {WyfofBath+} So true is it that slaves are able to give benefits to their masters that they have often caused their benefit to be their masters themselves. There is no doubt that a slave is able to give a benefit to anyone he pleases; why not, therefore, also to his master? "Because," you say, "it is not possible for him to become his master's 'creditor ' if he has given him money. Otherwise, he makes his master in debt to him every day; he attends him when be travels, he nurses him when he is sick, he expends the greatest labour in cultivating his farm; nevertheless all these boons, which when supplied by another are called benefits, are merely I 'services ' when they are supplied by a slave. For a benefit is someting that some person has given when it was also within his power not to give it. But a slave does not have the right to refuse; thus he does not confer, but merely obeys, and he takes no credit for what he has done because it was not possible for him to fail to do it."

Even under these conditions I shall still win the day and promote a slave to such a position that he will, in many respects, be a free man. Meanwhile, tell me this - if I show to you one who fights for the safety of his master without any regard for his own, and, pierced with wounds, pours forth the last drops of his life-blood wn from his very vitals, who, in order to provide time for his master to escape, seeks to give him a respite at the cost of his own life, will you deny that this man has bestowed a benefit simply because he is a slave? If I show to you one who, refusing to betray to a tyrant the secrets of his master, was bribed by no promises, terrified by no threats, overcome by no tortures, and, as far as he was able, confounded - the suspicions of his questioner, and paid the penalty of good faith with his life, will you deny that this man bestowed a benefit on his master simply because he was his slave? Consider, rather, whether in the case of slaves, a manifestation of virtue {virtueinpeasants+} is not the more praiseworthy the rarer it is, and, too, whether it is not all the more gratifying that, despite their general aversion to domination and the irksomeness of constraint, some slave by his affection for his master has overcome the common hatred of being a slave. So, therefore, a benefit does not cease to be a benefit because it proceeded from a slave, but is all the greater on that account, because he could not be deterred from it even by being a slave. It is a mistake for anyone to believe that the condition of slavery penetrates into the whole being of a man. The better part of him is exempt. Only the body is at the mercy and disposition of a master; but the mind is its own master, and is so free and unshackled that not even this prison of the body, in which it is confined, can restrain it from using its own powers, following mighty aims, and escaping into the infinite to keep company with the stars. It is, therefore, the body that Fortune hands over to a master; it is this that he buys, it is this that he sells; that inner part cannot be delivered into bondage. All that issues from this is free; nor, indeed, are we able to command all things from slaves, nor are they compelled to obey us in all things; they will not carry out orders that are hostile to the state, and they will not lend their hands to any crime. {Freedom+}

There are certain acts that the law neither enjoins nor forbids; it is in these that a slave finds opportunity to perform a benefit. So long as what he supplies is only that which is ordinarily required of a slave, it is a "service"; when he supplies more than a slave need do, it is a "benefit"; it ceases to be called a service when it passes over into the domain of friendly affection. There are certain things, as for instance food and clothing, which the master must supply to the slave; no one calls these benefits. But suppose the master is indulgent, gives him the education of a gentleman, has him taught the branches in which the freeborn are schooled - all this will be a benefit. Conversely, the same is true in the case of the slave. All that he does in excess of what is prescribed as the duty of a slave, what he supplies, not from obedience to authority, but from his own desire, will be a benefit, provided that its importance, if another person were supplying it, would entitle it to that name.

A slave, according to the definition of Chrysippus, is a "hireling for life." And, just as a hireling gives a benefit if he supplies more than he contracted to do, so a slave - when he exceeds the bounds of his station in goodwill toward his master, and surpasses the expectation of his master by daring some lofty deed that would be an honour even to those more happily born, a benefit is found to exist inside the household. Or do you think it fair that those with whom we become angry if they do less than they ought should not draw our gratitude if they do more than they ought or are wont? Do you want to know when what a slave does is not a benefit? When one might say of it: "What if he had refused?" But when he has bestowed something that he had a right to refuse to bestow, the fact that he was willing deserves to be praised. Benefit and injury are the opposites of each other it is possible for a slave to give a benefit to his master if it is possible for him to receive an injury from his master. But cognizance of the injuries inflicted by masters upon their slaves has been committed to an official who restrains their cruelty and lust and their stinginess in supplying them with the necessities of life. What, then, is the case? Does a master receive a benefit from a slave? No, but a human being from a human being. After all, whatever was in his power, he did - he gave a benefit to his master; that you should not receive one from a slave is in your power. But who is so exalted that Fortune may not force him to have need of even the most lowly? I shall proceed now to cite a number of instances of benefits that differ from each other and are in some cases contradictory. One gave to his master life, one gave death, one saved him when he was about to perish, and, if this is not enough, one saved him by perishing himself; another helped his master to die, another baffled his desire.

Claudius Quadrigarius relates, in the eighteenth book of his Annals, that, during the siege of Grumentum, just when the city had reached its most desperate plight, two slaves deserted to the enemy and there did good service. Later, after the city had been captured, while the victors were rushing hither and thither, that the two ran ahead along the well-known streets to the house in which they had been slaves, and drove forth their mistress in front of them; that, if anyone asked who she was, they stated that she had been their mistress, and, indeed, a most cruel one, and that they were taking her off to punishment. But that afterwards, when they had brought her outside the walls, they concealed her with the utmost care until the fury of the enemy subsided, and later, when the soldiers, quickly glutted, returned to the normal conduct of Romans, that they, too, returned to theirs, and of their own accord gave themselves into the power of their mistress. She manumitted both on the spot, and did not think it beneath her to have received her life at the hands of those over whom she had once had the power of life and death. Instead, she might even have congratulated herself upon this fact; for, if she had been saved by other hands, she would have had the mere gift of well-known and common mercy, but, as it was, she became famous in story, and an example to two cities. In the great confusion of the city, at a time when every one was thinking of his own interest, she was deserted by all except these deserters; but they, playing the role of being her murderers, deserted from the victors to the captive lady in order to reveal the purpose that had led them to make their first desertion; and the crowning touch to their benefit was that, in order to save the life of their mistress, they thought it was worth the price of seeming to have put her to death. Believe me, it is not the act - I will not say of a "slavish," but - of a commonplace soul to purchase a noble deed at the cost of being thought a criminal!

When Vettius, the praetor of the Marsians, was being conducted to the Roman general, his slave snatched a sword from the very soldier who was dragging him along, and first slew his master. Then he said: "Now that I have given my master his freedom, the time has come for me to think also of myself," and so with one blow he stabbed himself. Name to me anyone who has saved his master more gloriously.

When Caesar was besieging Corfinium, Domitius, who was confined in the city by the blockade, ordered one of his slaves, who was likewise his physician, to give him poison. Observing his reluctance, he said: "Why do you hesitate, as though this matter were wholly in your own power; I am asking for death, but I have my sword." Whereupon the slave assented, and gave him a concoction to drink that was harmless. When Domitius had fallen asleep because of it, the slave went to his master's son, and said: "Have me put under guard until you discover from the outcome whether I have given your father poison." Domitius did not die, and Caesar saved his life but his life had first been saved by a slave.

During the Civil War, a slave hid away his master, who had been proscribed, and, having put on his rings and dressed himself in his clothes, presented himself to those searching for his master, and, saying that he asked for nothing better than that they should carry out their orders, forthwith offered his neck for their swords. What a hero! - to wish to die in place of a master in times when not to wish a master to die was a rare show of loyalty; to be found kind when the state was cruel, faithful when it was treacherous; to covet death as a reward for loyalty in face of the huge rewards that are offered for disloyalty! And I will not omit some example from our own age. Under Tiberius Caesar there was such a common and almost universal frenzy for bringing charges of treason, that it took a heavier toll of the lives of Roman citizens than the whole Civil War; it seized upon the talk of drunkards, the frank words of jesters; nothing was safe - anything served as an excuse to shed blood, and there was no need to wait to find out the fate of the accused since there was but one outcome. Paulus, a praetorian, while dining on a certain festive occasion, was wearing a ring with a conspicuous stone on which the portrait of Tiberius Caesar was engraved in relief. I should be acting in very silly fashion if I tried, at this point, to find a polite way of saying that he took in his hands a chamber-pot - an action that was noticed simultaneously by Maro, one of the notorious informers of that time, and by a slave of the victim for whom the trap was being set, who drew off the ring from the finger of his drunken master. And, when Maro called the company to witness that the emperor's portrait had been brought in contact with something foul, and was drawing up the indictment, the slave showed that the ring was on his own hand. Whoever calls such a man a slave, will also call Maro a boon companion!

Under the deified Augustus, it was not yet true that a man's utterances endangered his life, but they did cause him trouble. Rufus, a man of senatorial rank, once at a dinner expressed the hope that Caesar would not return safe from the journey that he was planning; and he added that all the bulls and the calves wished the same thing. Some of those who were present carefully noted these words. At the break of day, the slave who had stood at his feet when he was dining told him what he had said at dinner while he was drunk, and urged him to be the first to get Caesar's ear and volunteer charges against himself. Following this advice, Rufus met Caesar as he was going down to the forum, and, having sworn that he had been out of his mind the night before, expressed the hope that his words might recoil upon his own head and the head of his children, and begged Caesar to pardon him and restore him to favour. When Caesar had consented to do so, he said: "No one will believe that you have restored me to favour unless you bestow upon me a gift," and he asked for a sum that no favourite need have scorned, and actually obtained it. "For my own sake," said Caesar, "I shall take pains never to be angry with you!" Caesar acted nobly in pardoning him and in adding to his forgiveness liberality. Every one who hears of this incident must necessarily praise Caesar, but the first to be praised will be the slave! You need not wait for me to tell you that the slave who had done this was set free. Yet it was not a gratuitous act. Caesar had paid the price of his liberty! After so many instances can there be any doubt that a master may sometimes receive a benefit from a slave? Why should a man's condition lessen the value of a service, and the very value of the service not exalt the man's condition? We all spring from the same source, {WyfofBath+} have the same origin; no man is more noble than another except in so far as the nature of one man is more upright and more capable of good actions. Those who display ancestral busts in their halls, and place in the entrance of their houses the names of their family, arranged in a long row and entwined in the multiple ramifications of a genealogical tree - are these not notable rather than noble? Heaven is the one parent of us all, whether from his earliest origin each one arrives at his present degree by an illustrious or obscure line of ancestors. You must not be duped by those who, in making a review of their ancestors, wherever they find an illustrious name lacking, foist in the name of a god. Do not despise any man, even if he belongs with those whose names are forgotten, and have had too little favour from Fortune. {WyfofBath+} Whether your line before you holds freedmen or slaves or persons of foreign extraction, boldly lift up your head, and leap over the obscure names in your pedigree; great nobility awaits you at its source. Why are we raised by our pride to such a pitch of vanity that we scorn to receive benefits from slaves, and, forgetting their services, look only upon their lot? You who are a slave of lust, of gluttony, of a harlot - nay, who are the common property of harlots - do you call any other man a slave? You call any other man a slave? Whither, pray, are you being rushed by those bearers who carry around your cushioned litter? Whither are those fellows in cloaks, tricked out in remarkable livery to look like soldiers - whither, I say, are these conveying you? To some door-keeper's door, to the gardens of some slave whose duties are not even fixed; and then you deny that your own slave is. capable of giving you a benefit, when in your eyes it is a benefit to have from another man's slave a kiss? What great inconsistency is this? At the same time you both despise slaves and court them - inside your threshold you are imperious and violent, outside abject, and scorned as greatly as ever you scorn. For none are more prone to abase themselves than those who are presumptuously puffed up, and none are more ready to trample upon others than those who from receiving insults have learned how to give them. {Freedom+}

These things needed to be said in order to crush the arrogance of men who are themselves dependent upon Fortune, and to claim for slaves the right of bestowing benefits to the end that it may be claimed also for our sons. For the question is raised whether children can sometimes bestow on their parents greater benefits than they have received from them. It is granted me that there have been many examples of sons who were greater and more powerful than their parents, and just as freely, too, that they were better men. If this is true, it is quite possible that they bestowed on them better gifts, since they were endowed both with greater good fortune and with better intentions. "However that may be," you reply, "what a son gives to a father is, in any case, less, because he owes to his father this very power of giving. So a father is never surpassed in the matter of a benefit, for the very benefit in which he is surpassed is really his own."

But, in the first place, there are some things that derive their origin from others, and yet are greater than their origins; nor is it true that a thing cannot be greater than that from which it begins on the ground that it could not have advanced to its great size unless it had had a beginning. All things exceed by a great degree their origins. Seeds are the causes of all growing things, and yet are the tiniest parts of what they produce. Look at the Rhine, look at the Euphrates, in fact, at all the famous rivers. What are they if you judge of them from what they are at their source? Whatever makes them feared, whatever makes them renowned, has been acquired in their progress. Look at the trunks of trees - the tallest if you are considering their height, the broadest if you are considering their thickness and the reach of their branches; compared with all this, how small a compass the slender thread of the root embraces! Yet take away the root, and there will be no springing up of forests, and the mighty moun- tains will lack their vesture. The lofty temples of the city rise upon their foundations; yet all that was thrown down to support their whole structure lies out of sight. The same is true in the case of all other things; always their subsequent greatness will conceal their first beginnings. It would not have been possible for me to attain anything unless there had been the preceding benefit from my parents; but it does not follow that whatever I have attained is inferior to that without which I could not have attained it. Unless my nurse had suckled me when I was an infant, I should not have been able to do any of the things that I now perform by brain and hand nor should I have risen to the present distinction and fame that my civil and military labours have earned for me; yet, for all that, surely you will not set more value on the service of my nurse than on my very weighty achievements? But what difference is there, since it is just as true that I should not have been able to advance to my later accomplishments without the benefit from my nurse as without that from my father? But if I am indebted for all that I can now do to the source of my being, reflect that the source of my being is not my father, nor my grandfather, either; for there will always be something farther removed, from which the source of a succeeding source is derived. Yet no one will say that I am more indebted to ancestors that are unknown and have passed from memory than to my father; I am, however, more indebted, if the very fact that my father has begotten me is a debt that he owes to his ancestors.

"Whatever I have bestowed on my father," you say, "even if it is great, falls short of the value of my father's gift to me, for, if he had not begotten me there would be no gift." Then, too, by this manner of reasoning, if anyone healed my father when he was sick and about to die, I shall not be able to bestow on him any benefit that will not be less than his to me; for my father would not have begotten me if he had not been healed. But take thought whether it would not be nearer the truth to count both what I have been able to do, and what I have done, as something of my own - the product of my own powers and of my own will. Consider what the fact of my birth is in itself - a small matter of uncertain character, with a like potentiality of good and evil, without doubt the first step to everything else, but not greater than everything else simply because it comes first. I have saved the life of my father, and raised him to the highest position; I have made him the chief citizen of his city, and have not only made him famous by my own achievements, but also have provided him with a vast and easy opportunity, not less safe than it is glorious, of achieving something himself; I have loaded him with honours, with wealth, with everything that attracts the minds of men, and, although I had place above all others, I have taken a place below him. Let my father now say: "The very fact that you have been able to do these things is a gift from your father," and I shall reply: "Yes, undoubtedly, if, in order to do all these things, it is only necessary to be born; but, if the factor that contributes least to successful living is being alive, and, if you have bestowed on me merely that which I have in common with wild beasts and some of the tiniest, even some of the foulest, creatures, then do not take credit to yourself for something that does not arise out of your benefits, even if it does not arise without them.

Suppose that I have given back life for life. Even in this case I have surpassed your gift, since I gave to one who was conscious of the gift, and I was conscious that I was giving it; since, when I gave you your life, it was not to indulge my own pleasure, or, at any rate, by means of my own pleasure; since, as it is a lighter thing to die before one learns to fear death, so it is a greater thing to retain the breath of life than to receive it. I gave life to one who would straightway enjoy it, you gave it to one who would not know whether he was alive; I gave life to one who was afraid of death, you gave life to me, and made me subject to death; I gave to you life that was complete and perfect, when you begot me, I was a creature without reason and a burden to others. Do you wish to know how small a benefit it is to give life in this way? You should have exposed me to death as a child; of course by begetting me you did me a wrong! What, then, is my conclusion? That the fact of their coition constitutes a very small benefit on the part of a father and a mother unless they add others which will follow up this initial gift, and confirm it by still other services. It is not a blessing to live, but to live well. But you say I do live well. Yes, but I might also have lived ill; so the only thing that I have from you is that I am alive. If you claim credit for giving me mere life, life stripped bare and bereft of purpose, and boast of it as a great blessing, reflect that you are claiming credit for giving me a blessing that flies and worms possess. Finally, though I should mention no more than that I have applied myself to liberal studies, and have directed the course of my life along the path of rectitude, in the case of the very benefit I had from you, you have received in return a greater one than you gave; for you gave to me a self that was ignorant and inexperienced, and I have given to you a son such as you might be happy to have begotten.

True, my father has supported me. But, if I bestow the same on him, I return more than I got, for he has joy, not only from being supported, but from being supported by a son, and he derives greater pleasure from the spirit of my act than from the act itself, but the food he gave me reached only the needs of the body. Tell me, if a man has attained so much eminence as to be renowned throughout the world by reason either of his eloquence or of his justice or his military prowess, if he has been able to encompass his father also in the greatness of fame, and by the glory of his name to dispel the obscurity of his birth, has he not conferred upon his parents a benefit that is beyond all estimate? Or would anyone ever have heard of Aristo and Gryllus except for the fact that Xenophon and Plato were their sons? It is Socrates that does not allow the name of Sophroniscus to die. It would take too long to recount all the others whose names endure only because they have been handed down to posterity owing to the exceptional worth of their children. Which was the greater benefit - what Marcus Agrippa received from his father, who was unknown even after having had a son like Agrippa, or what the father received from Agrippa, who, by the glory of a naval crown, gained a distinction that was unique among the honours of war, who reared in the city so many mighty works that not only surpassed all former grandeur, but later could be surpassed by none? Which was the greater benefit - what Octavius bestowed on his son, or what the deified Augustus bestowed on his father, obscured as he was by the shadow of an adoptive father? What joy would Octavius have experienced if he had seen his son, after he had brought the Civil War to an end, watching over well-established peace: he would not have recognized the good that he had himself bestowed, and would scarcely have believed, whenever he turned his gaze backward to himself, that so great a hero could have been born in his house. Why continue now to mention all the others who would long have been buried in oblivion, had not the glory of their sons rescued them from darkness, and kept them in the light even to this day?

Moreover, since the question is, not what son bestowed greater benefits on his father than he received from his father, but whether it is possible for any son to bestow greater benefits, even if the instances that I have cited are not convincing, and the benefits of parents are not overtopped by those of their sons, nevertheless that which no age has as yet produced still lies within the bounds of nature, If single acts may not be able to surpass the magnitude of a father's services, yet several of them combined, together will exceed it. Scipio saved the life of his father in battle, and, lad as he was, spurred his horse into the midst of the enemy. Is it, then, too small a thing, if, in order to reach his father, he despised all the dangers, by which at that very time the greatest leaders were being hard pressed, despised all the difficulties that blocked his path, if, in order to make his way into the front of the fight, he, tiro that he was, galloped through the ranks of veterans, if in one bound he outstripped his years? Then add to this, that he also defended his father in court, and rescued him from a conspiracy of powerful enemies, that he heaped upon him a second and a third consulship and other honours that even consulars might covet, that, when his father was poor, he handed over to him the wealth that he had seized by right of war, and made him rich even with the spoils taken from the enemy, which to a military hero is his greatest glory. If this is still too little, add that he prolonged his father's extraordinary powers in his government of the provinces, add that, after having destroyed the mightiest cities, he, the defender and founder of the Roman Empire that was destined to reach without a rival from the rising to the setting sun, added to a hero already renowned the greater renown of being called the father of Scipio! Is there any doubt that the commonplace benefit of his birth was surpassed by his rare filial devotion and his valour, which brought to the city itself, I might almost say, greater glory than protection? Then, if this is still too little, imagine some son that rescued his father from tortures, imagine that he transferred them to himself. You may extend the benefits of a son to any length you please, whereas the gift of a father is of one sort only, easily given, and fraught with pleasure to the giver - one that he must necessarily have given to many others, even to some to whom he does not know that he gave it, one in which he has a partner, in which he has had regard for the law, his country, the rewards that accrue to fathers, the continuance of his house and family, for everything, in fact, but the recipient of his gift. Tell me, if a son has attained the wisdom of philosophy and has transmitted it to his father, shall we still be able to argue as to whether he gave something greater than he received, though the gift he returned to his father was the Happy life, and that which he received was merely life? xxx"But," you say, "whatever you do, whatever you are able to bestow on your father, is a part of his benefit to you." Yes, and the progress I have made in liberal studies is a benefit from my teacher; nevertheless we leave behind the very teachers who bave transmitted their knowledge, particularly those who have taught us the alphabet, and, although no one could have accomplished anything without them, it is, nevertheless, not true that, no matter how much anyone has accomplished, he is still their inferior. There is a great deal of difference between what is first in time and what is first in importance, and it does not follow that what is first in time is the equivalent of what is first in importance on the ground that without the first in time there could be no first in importance.

It is now time to produce something coined, so to speak, in the Stoic mint. He who has given a benefit that falls short of being the best faces the possibility of being outdone. A father has given life to his son, but there is something better than life; so the father can be outdone because he has given a benefit that falls short of being the best. Again, if a man who has given life to another has been freed, time and again, from the peril of death, he has received a greater benefit than he gave. Now, a father has given life; if, therefore, he should be repeatedly freed from the peril of death by his son, it is possible for him to receive a greater benefit than he gave. The more need a man has of a benefit, the greater is the benefit he receives. Now, one who is alive has more need of life than one who has not been born, since such a one can feel no need at all; consequently, if a father has received life from his son, he has received a greater benefit from the son than the son received from his father by being born. "Benefits from a father," you say, "canot be surpassed by benefits from a son. And why ? Because the son received life from his father, and, unless he had received it, he could not have given any benefits at all." But a father has this in common with all men who have at any time given life to others; for these would not have been able to return gratitude unless they had received the gift of their lives. Consequently, you cannot return too much gratitude to a physician (for physicians also habitually give life), nor to a sailor if he has rescued you from shipwreck. Yet the benefits of these and of others, who have in some fashion given us life, are capable of being surpassed; therefore those of a father also are capable of it. If anyone has given to me the sort of benefit that needs to be supplemented by benefits from many others, while I have given to him the benefit that needs a supplement from no man, then I have given a greater one than I have received. Now a father gave to his son a life which, unless it had had many accessories that preserved it, would have perished; whereas a son, if he has given life to his father, gave that which needed the help of no man to make it endure; therefore a father who received his life from a son received a greater benefit than he himself gave. These considerations do not destroy respect for parents, nor render children worse than their parents, but even better; for by its very nature Virtue loves to shine, and is eager to push ahead of any in front. Filial devotion will be all the more ardent if it approaches the repayment of benefits with the hope of surpassing them. And the fathers themselves will be willing and glad to have it happen since, in the case of a great many things, it is to our advantage to be surpassed. How else comes a rivalry so desirable? How else comes to parents a happiness so great that, in the matter of benefits, they acknowledge themselves to be no match for their children? Unless we adopt this view of the matter, we supply children with an excuse, and make them less ready to return gratitude, whereas we ought to spur them on and say to them:

"To your task, young heroes! A glorious contest is set before you - the contest between parents and children to decide whether they have given, or received, the greater benefits. Your fathers have not won the victory for the mere reason that they were first on the field. Only show the spirit that befits you, and do not lose courage - they desire to have you win. Nor, in this glorious struggle, will there be any lack of leaders to encourage you to do as they did, and bid you follow their footsteps to the victory that often ere now has been won from parents.

"Aeneas won the victory from his father; for, though he himself, in his infancy, had been but a light and safe burden to his father's arms, he bore his father, heavy with years, through the midst of the lines of the enemy, through the destruction of the city that was crashing around him, while the pious old man, clasping in his arms his sacred relics and household gods burdened his son's progress with more than his simple weight; he bore him through flames, and (what cannot filial love accomplish!) bore him out of danger, and placed him, for our worship, among the founders of the Roman Empire.

"Those young Sicilians won the victory; for, when Aetna, aroused to unusual fury, poured forth its fire upon cities, upon fields, upon a great part of the island, they conveyed their parents to safety. The fires parted, so it was believed, and, as the flames retired on either side, a path was opened up for the passage of the youths, who greatly deserved to perform their heroic tasks in safety.

"Antigonus won the victory; for, having vanquished the enemy in a mighty battle, he transferred to his father the prize of the war, and handed over to him the sovereignty of Cyprus. This is true kingship, to refuse to be king when you might have been.

"Manlius won the victory from his father, tyrant though he was; for, although his father had previously banished him for a time because of his dullness and stupidity as a youth, he went to the tribune of the people, who had appointed a day for his father's trial; having asked for an interview, which the tribune granted, expecting to find him a traitor to his detested father - he believed, too, that he had earned the gratitude of the young man, for, among other charges that he was bringing against Manlius, the gravest was his son's exile - the youth, when he had obtained his private audience, drew forth a sword, that he had had concealed beneath his robe, and cried: 'Unless you swear that you will remit the charges against my father, I shall run you through with this sword. It lies with you to decide which way my father shall have of escaping his accuser.' The tribune took the oath and did not break it, and he reported to the assembly his reason for abandoning the action. No other man was ever permitted to put a tribune in his place without being punished. "There are countless instances of others who have snatched their parents from dangers, who have advanced them from the lowest to the highest station, and, taking them from the nameless mass of commoners, have given them a name that will sound throughout the ages. No power of words, no wealth of genius can express how great, how laudable, how sure of living in the memory of men will be the achievement of being able to say: 'I obeyed my parents, I gave way to their authority, whether it was just or unjust and harsh, I showed myself humble and submissive; in only one thing was I stubborn - the resolve not to be outdone by them in benefits.' Struggle on, I beg of you, and, even though wearied, renew the fight. Happy they who shall conquer, happy they who shall be conquered. What can be more glorious than the youth who can say to himself (for to say it to another would be an impiety): 'I have surpassed my father in benefits'? What can be more fortunate than the old man who, to all ears and in all places, will declare that in benefits he has been surpassed by his son? But what can be happier than to lose that victory?