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On Fortune
by [?]

“Presenting us with bulls, horses, and asses,
To ease us of our toil, and serve instead,”

as AEschylus says.[950] For as to fortune and natural condition, most of the beasts are better off than we are. For some are armed with horns and tusks and stings, and as for the hedgehog, as Empedocles says, it has its back all rough with sharp bristles, and some are shod and protected by scales and fur and talons and hoofs worn smooth by use, whereas man alone, as Plato says, is left by nature naked, unarmed, unshod, and uncovered. But by one gift, that of reason and painstaking and forethought, nature compensates for all these deficiencies. “Small indeed is the strength of man, but by the versatility of his intellect he can tame the inhabitants of the sea, earth, and air.”[951] Nothing is more agile and swift than horses, yet they run for man; the dog is a courageous and high-spirited creature, yet it guards man; fish is most pleasant to the taste, the pig the fattest of all animals, yet both are food and delicacies for man. What is huger or more formidable in appearance than the elephant? Yet it is man’s plaything, and a spectacle at public shows, and learns to dance and kneel. And all these things are not idly introduced, but to the end that they may teach us to what heights reason raises man, and what things it sets him above, and how it makes him master of everything.

“For we are not good boxers, nor good wrestlers,
Nor yet swift runners,”[952]

for in all these points we are less fortunate than the beasts. But by our experience and memory and wisdom and cunning, as Anaxagoras says, we make use of them, and get their honey and milk, and catch them, and drive and lead them about at our will. And there is nothing of fortune in this, it is all the result of wisdom and forethought.

Sec. IV. Moreover the labours of carpenters and coppersmiths and house-builders and statue-makers are affairs of mortals, and we see that no success in such trades is got by fortune or chance. For that fortune plays a very small part in the life of a wise man, whether coppersmith or house-builder, and that the greatest works are wrought by art alone, is shown by the poet in the following lines:–

“All handicraftsmen go into the street,
Ye that with fan-shaped baskets worship Ergane,
Zeus’ fierce-eyed daughter;”[953]

for Ergane[954] and Athene, and not Fortune, do the trades regard as their patrons. They do indeed say that Nealces,[955] on one occasion painting a horse, was quite satisfied with his painting in all other respects, but that some foam on the bridle from the horse’s breath did not please him, so that he frequently tried to rub it out; at last in his anger he threw his sponge (just as it was, full of colours) at the picture, and this very wonderfully produced exactly the effect he desired. This is the only fortunate accident in art that history records. Artificers everywhere use rules and weights and measures, that none of their work may be done at random and anyhow. And indeed the arts may be considered as wisdom on a small scale, or rather as emanations from and fragments of wisdom scattered about among the necessities of life; as the fire of Prometheus is riddled to have been divided and scattered about in all quarters of the world. For thus small particles and fragments of wisdom, breaking up as it were and getting divided into pieces, have formed into order.

Sec. V. It is strange then that the arts do not require fortune to attain to their ends, and yet that the most important and complete of all the arts, the sum total of man’s glory and merit, should be so completely powerless. Why, there is a kind of wisdom even in the tightening or slackening of chords, which people call music, and in the dressing of food, which we call the art of cooking, and in cleaning clothes, which we call the art of the fuller, and we teach boys how to put on their shoes and clothes generally, and to take their meat in the right hand and their bread in the left, since none of these things come by fortune, but require attention and care. And are we to suppose that the most important things which make so much for happiness do not call for wisdom, and have nothing to do with reason and forethought? Why, no one ever yet wetted earth with water and then left it, thinking it would become bricks by fortune and spontaneously, or procured wool and leather, and sat down and prayed Fortune that it might become clothes and shoes; nor does anyone getting together much gold and silver and a quantity of slaves, and living in a spacious hall with many doors, and making a display of costly couches and tables, believe that these things will constitute his happiness, and give him a painless happy life secure from changes, unless he be wise also. A certain person asked the general Iphicrates in a scolding way who he was, as he seemed neither a heavy-armed soldier, nor a bowman, nor a targeteer, and he replied, “I am the person who rule and make use of all these.”