Book I

I suppose it may be taken as admitted that self-control is a noble acquirement for a man.[1] If so, let us turn and consider whether by language like the following he was likely to lead his listeners onwards[2] to the attainment of this virtue. "Sirs," he would say, "if a war came upon us and we wished to choose a man who would best help us to save ourselves and to subdue our enemy, I suppose we should scarcely select one whom we knew to be a slave to his belly, to wine, or lust, and prone to succumb to toil or sleep. Could we expect such an one to save us or to master our foes? Or if one of us were nearing the end of his days, and he wished to discover some one to whom he might entrust his sons for education, his maiden daughters for protection, and his property in general for preservation, would he deem a libertine worthy of such offices? Why, no one would dream of entrusting his flocks and herds, his storehouses and barns, or the superintendence of his works to the tender mercies of an intemperate slave. If a butler or an errand boy with such a character were offered to us we would not take him as a free gift. And if he would not accept an intemperate slave, what pains should the master himself take to avoid that imputation.[3] For with the incontinent man it is not as with the self-seeker and the covetous. These may at any rate be held to enrich themselves in depriving others. But the intemperate man cannot claim in like fashion to be a blessing to himself if a curse to his neighbours; nay, the mischief which he may cause to others is nothing by comparison with that which redounds against himself, since it is the height of mischief to ruin--I do not say one's own house and property--but one's own body and one's own soul. Or to take an example from social intercourse, no one cares for a guest who evidently takes more pleasure in the wine and the viands than in the friends beside him--who stints his comrades of the affection due to them to dote upon a mistress. Does it not come to this, that every honest man is bound to look upon self-restraint as the very corner-stone of virtue:[4] which he should seek to lay down as the basis and foundation of his soul? Without self-restraint who can lay any good lesson to heart or practise it when learnt in any degree worth speaking of? Or, to put it conversely, what slave of pleasure will not suffer degeneracy of soul and body? By Hera,[5] well may every free man pray to be saved from the service of such a slave; and well too may he who is in bondage to such pleasures supplicate Heaven to send him good masters, seeing that is the one hope of salvation left him."

Well-tempered words: yet his self-restraint shone forth even more in his acts than in his language. Not only was he master over the pleasures which flow from the body, but of those also which are fed by riches, his belief being that he who receives money from this or that chance donor sets up over himself a master, and binds himself to an abominable slavery.

[1] Lit. "a beautiful and brave possesion."

[2] {proubibaze}.

[3] Or, "how should the master himself beware lest he fall into that category."

[4] {krepida}. See Pind. "Pyth." iv. 138; ib. vii. 3; ib. fr. 93.

[5] See below, III. x. 9, xi. 5; IV. ii. 9, iv. 8; "Econ." x. 1; "Cyrop." I. iv. 12; Plat. "Phaedr." 230 B. Cf. Shakesp. "by'r Lakin."