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Whether Vice Is Sufficient To Cause Unhappiness
by [?]


Sec. I. … He who gets a dowry with his wife sells himself for it, as Euripides says,[2] but his gains are few and uncertain; but he who does not go all on fire through many a funeral pile, but through a regal pyre, full of panting and fear and sweat got from travelling over the sea as a merchant, has the wealth of Tantalus, but cannot enjoy it owing to his want of leisure. For that Sicyonian horse-breeder was wise, who gave Agamemnon as a present a swift mare, “that he should not follow him to wind-swept Ilium, but delight himself at home,”[3] in the quiet enjoyment of his abundant riches and painless leisure. But nowadays courtiers, and people who think they have a turn for affairs, thrust themselves forward of their own accord uninvited into courts and toilsome escorts and bivouacs, that they may get a horse, or brooch, or some such piece of good luck. “But his wife is left behind in Phylace, and tears her cheeks in her sorrow, and his house is only half complete without him,”[4] while he is dragged about, and wanders about, and wastes his time in idle hopes, and has to put up with much insult. And even if he gets any of those things he desires, giddy and dizzy at Fortune’s rope-dance, he seeks retirement, and deems those happy who live obscure and in security, while they again look up admiringly at him who soars so high above their heads.[5]

Sec. II. Vice has universally an ill effect on everybody, being in itself a sufficient producer of infelicity, needing no instruments nor ministers. For tyrants, anxious to make those whom they punish wretched, keep executioners and torturers, and contrive branding-irons and other instruments of torture to inspire fear[6] in the brute soul, whereas vice attacks the soul without any such apparatus, and crushes and dejects it, and fills a man with sorrow, and lamentation, and melancholy, and remorse. Here is a proof of what I say. Many are silent under mutilation, and endure scourging or torture at the hand of despots or tyrants without uttering a word, whenever their soul, abating the pain by reason, forcibly as it were checks and represses them: but you can never quiet anger or smother grief, or persuade a timid person not to run away, or one suffering from remorse not to cry out, nor tear his hair, nor smite his thigh. Thus vice is stronger than fire and sword.

Sec. III. You know of course that cities, when they desire to publicly contract for the building of temples or colossuses, listen to the estimates of the contractors who compete for the job, and bring their plans and charges, and finally select the contractor who will do the work at least expense, and best, and quickest. Let us suppose then that we publicly contract to make the life of man miserable, and take the estimates of Fortune and Vice for this object. Fortune shall come forward, provided with all sorts of instruments and costly apparatus to make life miserable and wretched. She shall come with robberies and wars, and the blood-guiltiness of tyrants, and storms at sea, and lightning drawn down from the sky, she shall compound hemlock, she shall bring swords, she shall levy an army of informers, she shall cause fevers to break out, she shall rattle fetters and build prisons. It is true that most of these things are owing to Vice rather than Fortune, but let us suppose them all to come from Fortune. And let Vice stand by naked, without any external things against man, and let her ask Fortune how she will make man unhappy and dejected. Fortune, dost thou threaten poverty? Metrocles laughs at thee, who sleeps during winter among the sheep, in summer in the vestibules of temples, and challenges the king of the Persians,[7] who winters at Babylon, and summers in Media, to vie with him in happiness. Dost thou bring slavery, and bondage, and sale? Diogenes despises thee, who cried out, as he was being sold by some robbers, “Who will buy a master?” Dost thou mix a cup of poison? Didst not thou offer such a one to Socrates? And cheerfully, and mildly, without fear, without changing colour or countenance, he calmly drank it up: and when he was dead, all who survived deemed him happy, as sure to have a divine lot in Hades. And as to thy fire, did not Decius, the general of the Romans, anticipate it for himself, having piled up a funeral pyre between the two armies, and sacrificed himself to Cronos, dedicating himself for the supremacy of his country? And the chaste and loving wives of the Indians strive and contend with one another for the fire, and she that wins the day and gets burnt with the body of her husband, is pronounced happy by the rest, and her praises sung. And of the wise men in that part of the world no one is esteemed or pronounced happy, who does not in his lifetime, in good health and in full possession of all his faculties, separate soul from body by fire, and emerge pure from flesh, having purged away his mortal part. Or wilt thou reduce a man from a splendid property, and house, and table, and sumptuous living, to a threadbare coat and wallet, and begging of daily bread? Such was the beginning of happiness to Diogenes, of freedom and glory to Crates. Or wilt thou nail a man on a cross, or impale him on a stake? What cares Theodorus whether he rots above ground or below? Such was the happy mode of burial amongst the Scythians,[8] and among the Hyrcanians dogs, among the Bactrians birds, devour according to the laws the dead bodies of those who have made a happy end.