Translation Cons. Phil. Book 2 Prosa 6
1 `What am I to say of power and of honours of office, which you raise to heaven because you know not true honoured power? What fires belched forth from Etna's flames, what overwhelming flood could deal such ruin as these when they fall into the hands of evil men?
2 I am sure you remember how your forefathers wished to do away with the consular power, which had been the very foundation of liberty, because of the overbearing pride of the consuls, just as your ancestors had too in earlier times expunged from the state the name of king on account of the same pride.
3 But if, as rarely happens, places of honour are granted to honest men, what else is delightful in them but the honesty they practise thereby? Wherefore honour comes not to virtue from holding office, but comes to office from virtues there practised.
4 But what is the power which you seek and esteem so highly? O creatures of the earth, can you not think over whom you are set? If you saw in a community of mice, one mouse asserting his rights and his power over the others, with what mirth you would greet the sight!
5 Yet if you consider the body, what can you find weaker than humanity? Cannot a tiny gnat by its bite, or by creeping into the inmost parts, kill that body?
6 How can any exercise right upon any other except upon the body alone, or that which is below the body, whereby I mean the fortunes?
7 Can you ever impose any law upon a free spirit? Can you ever disturb the peculiar restfulness which is the property of a mind that hangs together upon the firm basis of its reason?
8 When a certain tyrant thought that by tortures he would compel a free man to betray the conspirators in a plot against his life, the philosopher bit through his tongue and spat it out in the tyrant's face. Thus were the tortures, which the tyrant intended to have cruel results, turned by the philosopher into subjects of high courage.
9 Is there aught that one man can do to another, which he may not suffer from another in his turn?
10 We have heard how Busiris, who used to kill strangers, was killed by Hercules when he came to Egypt.
11 Regulus, who had cast into chains many a Carthaginian captive, soon yielded himself a prisoner to their chains.
12 Do you think that power to be any power, whose possessor cannot ensure his own escape from suffering at another's hands what he inflicts upon some other?
13 `Further, if there were any intrinsic good in the nature of honours and powers themselves, they could never crowd upon the basest men. For opposites will not be bound together. Nature refuses to allow contraries to be linked to each other.
14 Wherefore, while it is undoubted that for the most part offices of honour are enjoyed by bad men, it is also manifest that those things are not by nature good, which allow themselves to cling to evil men.
15 And this indeed may worthily be held of all the gifts of fortune which come with the greatest success to the most unscrupulous.
16 And in this matter we must also think on this fact, that no one doubts a man to be brave in whom he has found by examination that bravery is implanted: and whoever has the quality of swiftness is plainly swift.
17 So also music makes men musical, medicine makes men physicians, oratory makes men orators. The nature of each quality acts as is peculiar to itself: it is not confused with the results of contrary qualities, but goes so far as to drive out those qualities which are opposed to it.
18 Wealth cannot quench the insatiable thirst of avarice: nor can power ever make master of himself the man whom vicious passions hold fast in unbreakable chains. Honours, when joined to dishonest men, so far from making them honourable, betray them rather, and show them to be dishonourable. Why is this so?
19 It is because you rejoice to call things by false names which belong not to them - their names are refuted by the reality of their qualities: wherefore neither riches, nor that kind of power, nor these honours, can justly so be called.
20 Lastly, we may come to the same conclusion concerning all the aspects of Fortune: nothing is to be sought in her, and it is plain she has no innate good, for she is not always joined with good men, nor does she make good those with whom she is joined.'