"The philosopher has a mirror! The philosopher has a mirror!"
Ok. Yes. Absolutely.
(If I were to deny it, you might think you'd scored a point against me.)
But you can't conclude, even from this, that I'm in the habit of primping myself in front of it. Just think! If I owned a stage wardrobe, then from this you would deduce that I'm also accustomed to wearing
a tragic robe, the saffron garb of a pantomime, the multicolored robe of a mime?
I don't think so.
On the contrary, there are many things which I don't own but enjoy using. Now, IF owning something isn't proof of using it, and not owning something isn't proof of never using it, and IF it's not so much owning the mirror as looking into it that's faulted, this is what should be asked: when and in whose presence I might have peered into the mirror. As it stands, you think that it's more sinful for a philosopher to stare at a mirror than for someone ignorant to look upon the sacred emblems of Ceres.
 So I yield, and if I confess that I've looked into a mirror, what crime is it to know your own image, when it's not fixed in one place but toted about handily in a small mirror? Or are you unaware that there's nothing nicer for a man to look upon than his own image? I know that children who resemble their parents are more beloved, and that a likeness might be set up for someone at public expense as a favor for his services, and so that he can see himself.
Or why else would men want statues and images of themselves formed by artists? Unless it's thought that the results of crafts are praiseworthy, while what nature produces must be judged faulty, since the mimicry and artistry of the former is marvellous to more people.
Of course, the work of creating images by hand takes time, and even so,
there's no resemblance to match the mirror's. For
vigor is lacking in those representations made from potter's clay,
color is lacking in stone,
solidity is missing from paintings,
and motion is missing from them all,
and motion is what represents an image most faithfully when an image is seen, reflected marvelously in the mirror, with likeness and motion responding to each nod of the man it portrays.
And furthermore, the image is always of equal age to the one contemplating it, from the time of early childhood to that of final old age, so many times of life it takes on, such various conditions of the body it shares, so many expressions of the same man it copies, whether he's happy or sad. Truly something that has been shaped from clay, cast in bronze, carved in stone, imprinted in wax, or daubed with pigment, or made similar by any other human craft, will again quickly become dissimilar, and like a cadaver will have but one immobile face. So greatly does that smart, smooth mirror, that marvelous artisan, outstrip the crafts in portraying a likeness.
 Then we either have to follow the sentiment of the Spartan Agesilaus, who never let himself be depicted because he despised his own appearance, or, if we should retain the custom of everyone else and not distance ourselves from representations in statues, why would you consider someone's image to be more worth viewing in stone than in silver -- on a tablet more than in a mirror?
Or do you think it's wrong to constantly examine one's form in a mirror? But isn't it said that the philosopher Socrates actually recommended to his disciples that they should often contemplate themselves in a mirror? In this way, those who'd attend to themselves would be quite pleased by their beauty, and wouldn't disgrace the dignity of their bodies with destructive habits. And those who thought themselves less commendable in appearance could take special care to hide their ugliness with laudable virtue.
That's how much the wisest of all men relied on mirrors to teach good character. Furthermore, who doesn't know that Demosthenes, first among rhetorical artists, always practised his lawsuits in front of a mirror as if he were in front of a teacher? You see that the most distinguished orator, who derived his eloquence from Plato the philosopher, and learned his argumentation from Eubulides the dialectician, used the mirror for strictest consistency in declaiming.
So, who do you think is more concerned about dignity when a speech has to be delivered -- the quarreling rhetorician or the moralizing philosopher? The one who debates for just a short time in front of random jurors, or the one who is always lecturing before everyone? The one who goes to law over the boundaries of fields or the one who teaches about the boundaries of right and wrong?
Why, these aren't the only reasons that a philosopher should look into a mirror; for it's often fitting for him to contemplate not only his reflection but also the explanation for his reflection:
Are images, as Epicurus asserts, sent forth by us like a kind of slough which drops from our bodies in a continual flow? When they hit something smooth and solid, having struck against it, are they bent back? And do they correspond, formed in the reverse?
Or, as other philosophers reckon, when our rays fall upon any dense, shiny, and smooth body, do they rebound at angles equal to those at which they'd fallen, bringing them back to their own appearance so that which they view and touch outside the mirror is depicted in it?
Do those rays flow forth from the middle of our eyes and, joined to an external light source, unite with it, as Plato concludes? Or do they arise from the eyes without any outside support, as Archytas thinks? Or are they set in motion by the stretching of the atmosphere, as the Stoics suppose?
 Don't you thing that philosophy is obligated to trace all these things -- to pry into them -- to look at all kinds of mirrors, whether wet or dry?
About such things, in addition to the ones which I've just mentioned, this should be pondered -- why do the gazer and the images seem nearly equal in flat mirrors, while in convex and spherical mirrors, everything is diminished, and by contrast, everything is enlarged in concave mirrors? When and why are things on the left exchanged with things on the right? When does an image sometimes hide itself deep within but, at other times, thrust itself outside the same mirror? Why do concave mirrors, if they are held facing the sun, ignite tinder placed nearby? How does it happen that rainbows of different colors or two rivalling suns are seen in the clouds ?
Archimedes of Syracuse, a man certainly to be admired much beyond others for his acuteness in geometry, treats many other things of the same type besides these in a large volume, but I don't rightly know whether he's most worth mentioning on account of this . . .
. . . or because he looked into a mirror often and conscientiously.
If you knew this book, Aemilianus, and had devoted yourself not only to field and sod but also to abacus and powder, believe me, although your terribly offensive face ain't so different from the tragic Thyestes, you'd still look into a mirror with a desire for knowledge. And, sometimes, when you'd leave your plow aside, you'd wonder at the many wrinkles furrowed in your face.
But I wouldn't be surprised if you were glad that I'm speaking about your incredibly misshapen countenance but keeping silent about your character, which is far worse. Here's why: aside from the fact that I don't pick petty fights, it wasn't too long ago that I quite cheerfully did not know you -- even if only to say whether you were black or white -- and, by Hercules, even now I don't know enough to say . Thus far, you've been hidden by your country living and I am occupied by my learning. And so a shadow of obscurity has kept you from anyone putting you to the test, while I've never been eager to learn someone else's misdeeds. But I've always thought it better to cover my own shortcomings than to root out someone else's.
And therefore, it's turned out rather badly for me. You have the upper hand, because one of us is stuck in the spotlight and the other guy looks at him from the shade. Certainly, you pass judgment quite easily from the shadows on what I'm doing in an open and crowded place, while you yourself, because you're hidden and flee the light, aren't striking in the same way to me.
 For example, I don't know (nor do I want to know) whether you have slaves to till your field or if you yourself trade services with your neighbors. But you know that I freed three slaves on one day at Oea, and your lawyer has hurled that against me (among other things you divulged to him), even though he'd said not long ago that I came to Oea accompanied by one servant. Maybe you could tell me how I was able to free three slaves from a single one?
(Unless, of course, this too is magic.)
Should I mention how great your blindness and habit of lying is? "Apuleius came to Oea with one slave"; then you babble (with a few words between), "Apuleius set free three in one day." Not exactly believable, that I came with three and freed all of them, you know?
And even if I had done that , why would you rather consider three slaves as a sign of poverty than three freed slaves as a sign of opulence? Obviously, you don't know -- you really don't know -- how to accuse a philosopher, Aemilianus. You reproach my lack of attendants. But that's something which I even would have faked for the sake of my reputation. I know that not only philosophers, among whom I number myself, but also Roman generals have prided themselves on a small number of slaves. Haven't your lawyers even read these things: that, as consul, M. Antonius had only eight slaves at home, and Carbo, in fact, a man who acquired political power, had one less, but Manius Curius -- the one who's famous for so many victory prizes, who in fact conducted a triple triumph at a single gate -- indeed, Manius Curius had only two army-servants in camp? That man, then, a victor over the Sabines, the Samnitii, and Pyrrhus, had fewer servants than victory celebrations.
M. Cato, though, didn't wait for others to speak about him. He himself left it written in his own oration that when he set out as consul for Spain, he had brought along only three slaves from the city. Once he arrived at a public villa, though, this seemed too few and he ordered two slave boys to be purchased in the forum for table-service, and he brought those five into Spain. If Pudens had read these things, I imagine, he would either have refrained altogether from this abuse or he would have preferred to criticize the three slaves as a great number of servants for a philosopher, not a small number.
 And he even reproached me for poverty, which is a welcome charge to a philosopher and, moreover, something that ought to be declared openly. For poverty is ever the handmaiden of philosophy,
useful, temperate, strong with little help, striving after praise, held against wealth, untroubled in character, simple in refinement, well-advising in counsel, it has never puffed anyone up with arrogance, it has perverted no one by violence, it has made no one savage by tyranny, it does not want and cannot want the delights of food and sex.
Of course, children raised by wealth are used to these delights and other disgraceful things. If you were to count up the greatest crimes in human memory, you wouldn't find a single poor man involved in them, just as the rich wouldn't be visible among distinguished men. No, whoever we admire and praise, that person has been raised by poverty from infancy.
I say that poverty in ancient times was the founder of all cities, the uncoverer of all skills, free of all faults, bountiful in all glory, the object of all praise among all nations. Indeed, the same poverty among the Greeks was
just in Aristides, kind in Phocio, vigorous in Epaminondas, wise in Socrates, eloquent in Homer.
Yes, that same poverty laid the foundation of the Roman empire from its beginning and makes sacrifices for its sake even today to the immortal gods with a little ladle and a clay bowl. And therefore if the presiding judges in this sorry case were C. Fabricius, Gn. Scipio, and Manius Curius, whose daughters were given away with dowries from the public treasury because of their poverty and went to their husbands carrying the fame of their family and public funds, or if Publicola who expelled of kings and Agrippa who reconciled the people, whose funeral rites were prepared by the Roman people because of their scant resources, if Atilius Regulus, whose little field, was harvested with public money for the same reason, if, at last, all those ancient families of consular, censorial and triumphal dignity were brought back to life for this ridiculous trial and were here listening, would you dare reproach the philosopher for poverty before so many poor consuls?
 But maybe you figure that Claudius Maximus is an appropriate audience for this mocking of poverty, because he himself has been allotted a rich and far-reaching estate? You're wrong, Aemilianus, if you measure him by the kindness of fortune and not by his philosophical criticism, if you don't think that a man with such a severe manner and with such long military service is friendlier to restrained moderation than to pampered opulence. He looks at fortune as if it were a tunic -- better neat than long. If it's not worn but dragged, hanging down, fortune hinders and trips up a person just as much as a garment. See, in all things used for the tasks of life, whatever exceeds fitting moderation yields burdens rather than usefulness.
Thus, just like huge and unwieldly rudders, excessive wealth can sink a boat more easily than guide it, because its abundance is useless, its excess is harmful. Instead, I can tell you that those from the wealthier classes who live modestly with no fuss deserve the most praise. They don't display their possessions and they manage their wealth without show or excessive pride. They're like poor people in their moderate appearances. And so, if rich people aim at some appearance of poverty as evidence of their modesty, why it should it cause shame for someone poorer, who doesn't experience an imitation of poverty but the real thing?
 I can even make an argument about the title "poor." No one is poor if he has the few needful things but doesn't want unnecessary extras. The person who will have the most is the one who desires the least -- because he who wants very little will have as much as he wants. And for this reason, it's wiser to appraise riches not in terms of estates and profit, but in terms of a person's very soul. See, if he feels destitute because he's greedy and never satisfied by profit, mountains of gold won't make him happy. No, he'll always beg for something, so that he can add to the stuff he acquired previously. Now, this is the true acknowledgement of poverty, since wanting to acquire stems from a notion of need. It doesn't matter how much you gain because it's still too little for you:
Thus, even though he surpassed everyone, he himself was surpassed by his own greed. He seemed rich to everyone else, rather than to himself.
But now, these philosophers I've mentioned didn't want anything more than they had. Their desires were suited to their means and they were deservedly rich and blessed. For the need to lay hold of things makes you poor, and the satisfaction of not needing anything makes you rich, since poverty is marked by appetite, and wealth by disdain. And so, Aemilianus, if you want me to be considered poor, first you'll have to show that I'm greedy. Because if there's nothing lacking in my mind, I don't care how much is lacking in external things, which indicate neither honor in abundance nor fault in lack.
 But let's imagine that things are different and that I'm poor because fortune begrudged me riches and, as it usually happens, either a guardian decreased them, an enemy stole them or my father did not leave them behind. Would you reproach a man for this? For his humble means, which not even animals, not the eagle, not the bull, not the lion -- consider a fault?
 But pretend that things are different and that I'm poor because fortune
begrudged me riches and, as it usually happens, either a guardian diminished
them or an enemy stole them or my father did not leave them; are you reproaching
a man for this, for his humble means, which is not considered a fault in any
animal, not eagle, bull, or lion? If a horse has appropriate strengths, so that
it's steady to ride and quick to race, no one complains about the poor quality
of its fodder. So do you find fault with me, not because of any depravity of
word or deed,
but because the god of my house is too skinny,
because I own fewer slaves,
because I eat more sparingly,
because my dress is humbler,
because I feast less?
And yet however scanty these things seem to you, I consider them excessive, and want to restrict myself to even less. The more restrictions I put on myself, the happier I am. For the health of the mind is just like that of the body: trim, while weakness is decked out. In short, life is like a long swim: the fewer burdens you have, the better off you are. For in this sea storm of human life the light things act as buoys, the heavy as a weight that drags one under. I've learned well that the gods are most superior to men in this: they require nothing to assist them. And so it is with us: he who needs the least is most like the gods.
 So I welcomed it, when you said --as an insult-- that the pouch and
beggar's staff were my usual get-up. I wish I were a man of such spirit that I
needed no other equipment, but wore with dignity the outfit that Crates chose
after he cast away his riches. Believe me, Aemelianus, Crates was a rich and
noble man at home among the elite of Thebes, but for the love of the very habit
of dress that you scorn,
he donated his household belongings to the people,
chose solitude far from his many slaves,
spurned his many fruit trees in favor of a single walking stick,
and exchanged the fanciest vacation homes for one small pouch.
After he discovered its usefulness, he even praised it with a song, by adapting some verses which Homer had previously used to exalt Crete. Let me recite its beginning, so you don't think I made this up for my defense:
There is a city named 'pouch' in the middle of the wine-dark mist.[LINK]
And then more things follow, so marvelous, that if you had read them, you would envy me more for my pouch than for my marriage to Pudentilla.
Since you rebuke philosophers for their pouch and their beggar's staff, would
you also rebuke horsemen for their cavalry armor, infantry men for their
shields, standard bearers for their banners, and even triumphant generals for
their white horses and their toga palmata? These are not, as a matter of fact,
things worn among Platonists, but rather the marks of the Cynics. What is
true, however, is that the pouch and the walking stick were to Diogenes and
what the crown is to kings,
the military cloak to generals,
the high cap to priests,
and the staff to the auger.
Diogenes the Cynic, when interrogated by Alexander the Great about the truth regarding his kingdom, praised his walking stick over and above the scepter. And last but not least, invincible Hercules himself (since you despise these others as if they were tramps), Hercules, the world traveler, the beast-slayer, the race-conqueror, he, though he was a god, when he was roaming far-away lands shortly before he was swept into the sky in reward for his many virtues, was wearing no more than a pelt, nor did he have more than a single beggar's staff.
 But if you make nothing of these examples, and you called me here not to argue a case, but for an audit of my finances, I confess that my father left to me and my brother around 2,000,000 sesterces, just so that you won't be unaware of any of my business, if you really are unaware. This amount is now slightly less, due to my wide travels and frequent acts of generosity. For I've helped the great majority of my friends and I showed my gratitude to a great many teachers, and even added to their daughters' dowries. And I wouldn't have hesitated to pay out my entire patrimony, in order to acquire something greater than a patrimony, which is a just trifle to me. But you, Aemelianus, and the kind of men as unrefined and coarse as you are, if the truth be told, you are worth only as much as you own --like a tree that is sterile, unproductive, and bears no fruit, worth only as much as the value of the wood in its trunk.
So give up your accusations of poverty, Aemelianus! you who recently for three straight days during the rainy season were plowing your Zarat field (the only one your father left you)--alone with your ox. And it hasn't been long now, since the rapid succession of deaths among your relations propped you up with undeserved inheritance. It's because of this, not your disgusting face, that your name is Charon.
 About my homeland: it's situated on the border of Numidia and Gaetulia. You proved that on the evidence of my writings, in which I testified that I would state publicly, in the presence of the honorable Lollianus Avitus, that I am both part Numidian and part Gaetulian -- I don't see why I should be ashamed of this. For it was no different for Cyrus, a man of mixed blood, part Mede and part Persian.
After all, it's not a man's origins but his habits that ought to be inspected, not in what region but in what fashion he chooses to live his life. It's the habit of the vegetable-grower and the inn-keeper to praise vegetables and wine on the basis of the excellence of their native soil -- hence 'Thasian' wine and the 'Phliasian' vegetables. The flavor of this fruit of the earth is much improved by the fertility of the region, the rainy sky, the gentle wind, the warm sun and moist soil.
And yet, since the mind moves into the home of the body from without, how can one of these earthly aspects enhance or diminish malice or virtue? Don't you find differing dispositions among all peoples, though some may have a reputation for dullness or cleverness? Wise Anacharsis was born among the idiot Scythians, the shrewd Athenians produced the block-head Meletides. And I don't say this out of shame for my country. For even though we were once a city belonging to the king Scyfax, when he was overthrown we were given as a gift of the Roman people to the king Masinissa, and now, with the recent arrival of resettled veteran soldiers, we have become a magnificent colony. In this colony my father was duumvir, the equivalent of a princeps, who held every office of honor. Now I uphold his rank in that republic with an honor and a respect, I hope, in no way inferior, and have done so since I began to take part in public affairs. Why did I offer this information? So that from now on, Aemelianus, you may be less offended by me, and so that you may extend your good will and forgiveness, if by some negligence I didn't select your Attic Zarat as my birthplace.
 Aren't you ashamed, in the presence of such a man, to plead these charges so vehemently, making frivolous and mutually contradictory accusations and then prosecuting them both simultaneously? Aren't you making contradictory claims, faulting the pouch and the beggar's staff for their austerity, but poems and a mirror for their frivolity? One slave as evidence of poverty, but three as evidence of opulence? and again Greek grandiloquence but barbarian birthplace? Wake up and consider the fact that you speak before Claudius Maximus, before a stern man occupied with the business of the entire Province.
Why don't you withdraw these empty abuses?
Why don't you prove your charge, the extreme crimes and forbidden evils and unspeakable arts?
(Why does your oration fail in substance while it thrives on racket?)
I proceed, then, to the actual charge of magic, which blazed forth with a great uproar of hatred against me, only to peter out, to the disappointment of all, ending up as just a bunch of old-wives' tales. Maximus, have you ever seen a flame rise in a sharp crackle, in a tall blaze, spreading swiftly but with no real fuel, the fire from straw that burns itself out, leaving nothing behind? There's your accusation, risen out of quarrels and increased with words but devoid of reasoned argument, an accusation whose slander won't outlive your verdict.