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Whether "Live Unknown" Be A Wise Precept
by [?]

Sec. I. He who uttered this precept[895] certainly did not wish to live unknown, for he uttered it to let all the world know he was a superior thinker, and to get to himself unjust glory by exhorting others to shun glory.

“I hate the wise man for himself not wise.”[896]

They say that Philoxenus the son of Eryxis and Gnatho the Sicilian, being exceedingly greedy where good fare was going, would blow their nose in the dishes, to disgust all others at the table, that they alone might take their fill of the choicest dishes. So those that are insatiable pursuers of glory calumniate glory to others who are their rivals, that they may get it without antagonists. In this they resemble rowers, who face the stern of the vessel but propel it ahead, that by the recoil from the stroke of their oars they may reach port, so those that give vent to precepts like this pursue glory with their face turned in the opposite direction. For otherwise what need was there to utter a precept like this, or to write and hand it down to posterity, if he wished to live unknown to his own generation, who did not wish to live unknown to posterity?

Sec. II. Look at the matter in the following way.[897] Has not that “live unknown” a villainous ring, as though one had broken open graves? Is your life so disgraceful that we must all be ignorant of it? For my part I should say, Even if your life be bad do not live unknown, but be known, reform, repent; if you have virtue, be not utterly useless in life; if you are vicious, do not continue unreformed. Point out then and define to whom you recommend this precept. If to an ignorant or wicked or senseless person, you resemble one who should say to a person in a fever or delirium, “Be unknown. Don’t let the doctor know your condition. Go and throw yourself into some dark place, that you and your ailments may be unknown.” So you say to a vicious man, “Go off with your vice, and hide your deadly and irremediable disease from your friends, fearful to show your superstitious fears, palpitations as it were, to those who could admonish you and cure you.” Our remote ancestors paid public attention to the sick, and if any one had either had or cured a similar complaint, he communicated his experience to the patient, and so they say medical art became great by these contributions from experience. We ought also in the same way to expose to everyone diseased lives and the passions of the soul, and to handle them, and to examine the condition of each,[898] and say, Are you a passionate man? Be on your guard against anger. Are you of a jealous turn? Look to it. Are you in love? I myself was in love once, but I had to repent. But nowadays people deny and conceal and cloak their vices, and so fix them deeper in themselves.

Sec. III. Moreover if you advise men of worth to live unknown and in obscurity, you say to Epaminondas, Do not be a general; and to Lycurgus, Do not be a legislator; and to Thrasybulus, Do not be a tyrannicide; and to Pythagoras, Do not teach; and to Socrates, Do not discourse; and first and foremost you bid yourself, Epicurus, to refrain from writing letters to your friends in Asia, and from enrolling Egyptian strangers among your disciples, and from dancing attendance on the youths of Lampsacus, and sending books to all quarters to display your wisdom to all men and all women, and leaving directions in your will about your funeral. What is the meaning of those common tables of yours? what that crowd of friends and handsome youths? Why those many thousand lines written and composed so laboriously on Metrodorus, and Aristobulus, and Chaeredemus, that they may not be unknown even in death, if[899] you ordain for virtue oblivion, for art inactivity, for philosophy silence, and for success that it should be speedily forgotten?