Demonax | Hellenic Library
Buy me a cup of coffee
Let us pass now to the matter of fortunes, which are the greatest source of human sorrow; for if you compare all the other ills from which we suffer deaths, sicknesses, fears, longings, the endurance of pains and labours - with the evils which our money brings, this portion will far outweigh the other. And so we must reflect how much lighter is the sorrow of not having money than of losing it; and we shall understand that, the less poverty has to lose, the less chance it has to torment us. For you are wrong if you think that the rich suffer losses more cheerfully; the pain of a wound is the same in the largest and smallest bodies. Bion says neatly that it hurts, the bald-head just as much as the thatched - head to have his hairs plucked. You may be sure that the same thing holds for the poor and the rich, that their suffering is just the same; for their money has a fast grip on both, and cannot be torn away without their feeling it. But, as I have said, it is more endurable and easier not to acquire it than to lose it, and therefore you will see that those whom Fortune has never regarded are more cheerful than those whom she has forsaken. Diogenes, that high-souled man, saw this, and made it impossible for anything to be snatched from him. Do you call such a state poverty, want, need, give this security any disgraceful name you please. I shall not count the man happy, if you can find anyone else who has nothing to lose! Either I am deceived, or it is a regal thing to be the only one amid all the misers, the sharpers, the robbers, and plunderers who cannot be harmed. If anyone has any doubt about the happiness of Diogenes, he may likewise have doubt about the condition of the immortal gods is well - whether they are living quite unhappily because they have neither manors nor gardens nor costly estates farmed by a foreign tenant, nor a huge yield of interest in the forum. All ye who bow down to riches, where is your shame? Come, turn your eyes upon heaven; you will see the gods quite needy, giving all and having nothing. Do you think that he who stripped himself of all the gilds of Fortune is a poor man or simply like the immortal gods? Would you say that Demetrius, the freedman of Pompeii who was not ashamed to be richer than Pompey, was a happier man? He, to whom two underlings and a roomier cell would once have been wealth, used to have the number of his slaves reported to him every day as if he were the general of an army! But the only slave Diogenes had ran away from him once, and, when he was pointed out to him, he did not think it worth while to fetch him back. “It would be a shame,” he said, “if Diogenes is not able to live without Manes, when Manes is able to live without Diogenes.” But he seems to me to have cried: “Fortune, mind your own business; Diogenes has now nothing of yours. My slave has run away - nay, it is I that have got away free!” A household of slaves requires clothes and food so any bellies of creatures that are always hungry have to be filled, we have to buy clothing for them, and watch their most thievish hands, and use the services of people weeping and cursing. How much happier is he whose only obligation is to one whom he can most easily refuse himself! Since, however, we do not have such strength of character, we ought at least to reduce our possessions, so as to be less exposed to the injuries of Fortune.
Source: Lucius Annasus Seneca. Moral Essays. Translated by John W. Basore. The Loeb Classical Library. London: W. Heinemann,1928-1935.