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How A Man May Be Benefited By His Enemies
by [?]

Sec. V. Whenever Plato was in company with people who behaved in an unseemly manner, he used to say to himself, “Am I such a person as this?”[514] So he that censures another man’s life, if he straightway examines and mends his own, directing and turning it into the contrary direction, will get some advantage from his censure, which will be otherwise idle and unprofitable. Most people laugh if a bald-pate or hump-back jeer and mock at others who are so too: it is quite as ridiculous to jeer and mock if one lies open to retort oneself, as Leo of Byzantium showed in his answer to the hump-back who jeered at him for weakness of eyes, “You twit me with an infirmity natural to man, while you yourself carry your Nemesis on your back.”[515] And so do not abuse another as an adulterer, if you yourself are mad after boys: nor as a spendthrift, if you yourself are niggardly. Alcmaeon said to Adrastus, “You are near kinsman to a woman that slew her husband.” What was his reply? He retaliated on him with the appropriate retort, “But you killed with your own hand the mother that bore you.”[516] And Domitius said to Crassus, “Did you not weep for the lamprey that was bred in your fishpond, and died?” To which Crassus replied, “Did you weep, when you buried your three wives?” He therefore that intends to abuse others must not be witty and noisy and impudent, but a man that does not lie open to counter-abuse and retort, for the god seems to have enjoined upon no one the precept “Know thyself” so much as on the person who is censorious, to prevent people saying just what they please, and hearing what don’t please them. For such a one is wont, as Sophocles[517] says, “idly letting his tongue flow, to hear against his will, what he willingly says ill of others.”

Sec. VI. This use and advantage then there is in abusing one’s enemy, and no less arises from being abused and ill-spoken of oneself by one’s enemies. And so Antisthenes[518] said well that those who wish to lead a good life ought to have genuine friends or red-hot enemies; for the former deterred you from what was wrong by reproof, the latter by abuse. But since friendship has nowadays become very mealy-mouthed in freedom of speech, voluble in flattery and silent in rebuke, we can only hear the truth from our enemies. For as Telephus[519] having no surgeon of his own, submitted his wound to be cured by his enemy’s spear, so those who cannot procure friendly rebuke must content themselves with the censure of an enemy that hates them, reprehending and castigating their vices, and regard not the animus of the person, but only his matter. For as he who intended to kill the Thessalian Prometheus[520] only stabbed a tumour, and so lanced it that the man’s life was saved, and he was rid of the tumour by its bursting, so oftentimes abuse, suddenly thrust on a man in anger or hatred, has cured some disease in his soul which he was ignorant of or neglected. But most people when they are abused do not consider whether the abuse really belongs to them properly, but look round to see what abuse they can heap on the abuser, and, as wrestlers get smothered with the dust of the arena, do not wipe off the abuse hurled at themselves, but bespatter others, and at last get on both sides grimy and discoloured. But if anyone gets a bad name from an enemy, he ought to clear himself of the imputation even more than he would remove any stain on his clothes that was pointed out to him; and if it be wholly untrue, yet he ought to investigate what originated the charge, and to be on his guard and be afraid lest he had unawares done something very near akin to what was imputed to him. As Lacydes, the king of the Argives, by the way he wore his hair and by his mincing walk got charged with effeminacy: and Pompey’s scratching his head with one finger was construed in the same way, though both these men were very far from effeminacy or wantonness. And Crassus was accused of an intrigue with one of the Vestal Virgins, because he wished to purchase from her a pleasant estate, and therefore frequently visited her and waited upon her. And Postumia, from her readiness to laugh and talk somewhat freely with men, got accused and even had to stand her trial for incest,[521] but was, however, acquitted of that charge: but Spurius Minucius the Pontif ex Maximus, when he pronounced her innocent, urged her not to be freer in her words than she was in her life. And though Themistocles[522] was guiltless of treason, his intimacy with Pausanias, and the letters and messages that frequently passed between them, laid him under suspicion.