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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



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Seneca The Younger, De Beneficiis, 1.2.3
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1. Cicero, On Duties, 1.42-1.45, 1.47, 1.49, 2.69-2.71 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.42. Deinceps, ut erat propositum, de beneficentia ae de liberalitate dicatur, qua quidem nihil est naturae hominis accommodatius, sed habet multas cautiones. Videndum est enim, primum ne obsit benignitas et iis ipsis, quibus benigne videbitur fieri et ceteris, deinde ne maior benignitas sit quam facultates, tum ut pro dignitate cuique tribuatur; id enim est iustitiae fundamentum, ad quam haec referenda sunt omnia. Nam et qui gratificantur cuipiam, quod obsit illi, cui prodesse velle videantur, non benefici neque liberales, sed perniciosi assentatores iudicandi sunt, et qui aliis nocent, ut in alios liberales sint, in eadem sunt iniustitia, ut si in suam rem aliena convertant. 1.43. Sunt autem multi, et quidem cupidi splendoris et gloriae, qui eripiunt aliis, quod aliis largiantur, iique arbitrantur se beneficos in suos amicos visum iri, si locupletent eos quacumque ratione. Id autem tantum abest ab officio, ut nihil magis officio possit esse contrarium. Videndum est igitur, ut ea liberalitate utamur, quae prosit amicis, noceat nemini. Quare L. Sullae, C. Caesaris pecuniarum translatio a iustis dominis ad alienos non debet liberalis videri; nihil est enim liberale, quod non idem iustum. 1.44. Alter locus erat cautionis, ne benignitas maior esset quam facultates, quod, qui benigniores volunt esse, quam res patitur, primum in eo peccant, quod iniuriosi sunt in proximos; quas enim copias his et suppeditari aequius est et relinqui, eas transferunt ad alienos. Inest autem in tali liberalitate cupiditas plerumque rapiendi et auferendi per iniuriam, ut ad largiendum suppetant copiae. Videre etiam licet plerosque non tam natura liberales quam quadam gloria ductos, ut benefici videantur, facere multa, quae proficisci ab ostentatione magis quam a voluntate videantur. Talis autem sinulatio vanitati est coniunctior quam aut liberalitati aut honestati. 1.45. Tertium est propositum, ut in beneficentia dilectus esset dignitatis; in quo et mores eius erunt spectandi, in quem beneficium conferetur, et animus erga nos et communitas ac societas vitae et ad nostras utilitates officia ante collata; quae ut concurrant omnia, optabile est; si minus, plures causae maioresque ponderis plus habebunt. 1.47. De benivolentia autem, quam quisque habeat erga nos, primum illud est in officio, ut ei plurimum tribuamus, a quo plurimum diligamur, sed benivolentiam non adulescentulorum more ardore quodam amoris, sed stabilitate potius et constantia iudicemus. Sin erunt merita, ut non ineunda, sed referenda sit gratia, maior quaedam cura adhibenda est; nullum enim officium referenda gratia magis necessarium est. 1.49. Acceptorum autem beneficiorum sunt dilectus habendi, nec dubium, quin maximo cuique plurimum debeatur. In quo tamen in primis, quo quisque animo, studio, benivolentia fecerit, ponderandum est. Multi enim faciunt multa temeritate quadam sine iudicio vel morbo in omnes vel repentino quodam quasi vento impetu animi incitati; quae beneficia aeque magna non sunt habenda atque ea, quae iudicio, considerate constanterque delata sunt. Sed in collocando beneficio et in referenda gratia, si cetera paria sunt, hoc maxime officii est, ut quisque maxime opis indigeat, ita ei potissimum opitulari; quod contra fit a plerisque; a quo enim plurimum sperant, etiamsi ille iis non eget, tamen ei potissimum inserviunt. 2.69. Sed cum in hominibus iuvandis aut mores spectari aut fortuna soleat, dictu quidem est proclive, itaque volgo loquuntur, se in beneficiis collocandis mores hominum, non fortunam sequi. Honesta oratio est; sed quis est tandem, qui inopis et optimi viri causae non anteponat in opera danda gratiam fortunati et potentis? a quo enim expeditior et celerior remuneratio fore videtur, in eum fere est voluntas nostra propensior. Sed animadvertendum est diligentius, quae natura rerum sit. Nimirum enim inops ille, si bonus est vir, etiamsi referre gratiam non potest, habere certe potest. Commode autem, quicumque dixit, pecuniam qui habeat, non reddidisse, qui reddiderit, non habere, gratiam autem et, qui rettulerit, habere et, qui habeat, rettulisse. At qui se locupletes, honoratos, beatos putant, ii ne obligari quidem beneficio volunt; quin etiam beneficium se dedisse arbitrantur, cum ipsi quamvis magnum aliquod acceperint, atque etiam a se aut postulari aut exspectari aliquid suspicantur, patrocinio vero se usos aut clientes appellari mortis instar putant. 2.70. At vero ille tenuis, cum, quicquid factum sit, se spectatum, non fortunam putet, non modo illi, qui est meritus, sed etiam illis, a quibus exspectat (eget enim multis), gratum se videri studet neque vero verbis auget suum munus, si quo forte fungitur, sed etiam extenuat. Videndumque illud est, quod, si opulentum fortunatumque defenderis, in uno illo aut, si forte, in liberis eius manet gratia; sin autem inopem, probum tamen et modestum, omnes non improbi humiles, quae magna in populo multitudo est, praesidium sibi paratum vident. 2.71. Quam ob rem melius apud bonos quam apud fortunatos beneficium collocari puto. Danda omnino opera est, ut omni generi satis facere possimus; sed si res in contentionem veniet, nimirum Themistocles est auctor adhibendus; qui cum consuleretur, utrum bono viro pauperi an minus probato diviti filiam collocaret: Ego vero, inquit, malo virum, qui pecunia egeat, quam pecuniam, quae viro. Sed corrupti mores depravatique sunt admiratione divitiarum; quarum magnitudo quid ad unum quemque nostrum pertinet? Illum fortasse adiuvat, qui habet. Ne id quidem semper; sed fac iuvare; utentior sane sit, honestior vero quo modo? Quodsi etiam bonus erit vir, ne impediant divitiae, quo minus iuvetur, modo ne adiuvent, sitque omne iudicium, non quam locuples, sed qualis quisque sit! Extremum autem praeceptum in beneficiis operaque danda, ne quid contra aequitatem contendas, ne quid pro iniuria; fundamentum enim est perpetuae commendationis et famae iustitia, sine qua nihil potest esse laudabile. 1.42.  Next in order, as outlined above, let us speak of kindness and generosity. Nothing appeals more to the best in human nature than this, but it calls for the exercise of caution in many particulars; we must, in the first place, see to it that our act of kindness shall not prove an injury either to the object of our beneficence or to others; in the second place, that it shall not be beyond our means; and finally, that it shall be proportioned to the worthiness of the recipient; for this is the corner-stone of justice; and by the standard of justice all acts of kindness must be measured. For those who confer a harmful favour upon someone whom they seemingly wish to help are to be accounted not generous benefactors but dangerous sycophants; and likewise those who injure one man, in order to be generous to another, are guilty of the same injustice as if they diverted to their own accounts the property of their neighbours. 1.43.  Now, there are many — and especially those who are ambitious for eminence and glory — who rob one to enrich another; and they expect to be thought generous towards their friends, if they put them in the way of getting rich, no matter by what means. Such conduct, however, is so remote from moral duty that nothing can be more completely opposed to duty. We must, therefore, take care to indulge only in such liberality as will help our friends and hurt no one. The conveyance of property by Lucius Sulla and Gaius Caesar from its rightful owners to the hands of strangers should, for that reason, not be regarded as generosity; for nothing is generous if it is not at the same time just. 1.44.  The second point for the exercise of caution was that our beneficence should not exceed our means; for those who wish to be more open-handed than their circumstances permit are guilty of two faults: first they do wrong to their next of kin; for they transfer to strangers property which would more justly be placed at their service or bequeathed to them. And second, such generosity too often engenders a passion for plundering and misappropriating property, in order to supply the means for making large gifts. We may also observe that a great many people do many things that seem to be inspired more by a spirit of ostentation than by heart-felt kindness; for such people are not really generous but are rather influenced by a sort of ambition to make a show of being open-handed. Such a pose is nearer akin to hypocrisy than to generosity or moral goodness. 1.45.  The third rule laid down was that in acts of kindness we should weigh with discrimination the worthiness of the object of our benevolence; we should take into consideration his moral character, his attitude toward us, the intimacy of his relation to us, and our common social ties, as well as the services he has hitherto rendered in our interest. It is to be desired that all these considerations should be combined in the same person; if they are not, then the more numerous and the more important considerations must have the greater weight. 1.47.  But as to the affection which anyone may have for us, it is the first demand of duty that we do most for him who loves us most; but we should measure affection, not like youngsters, by the ardour of its passion, but rather by its strength and constancy. But if there shall be obligations already incurred, so that kindness is not to begin with us, but to be requited, still greater diligence, it seems, is called for; for no duty is more imperative that that of proving one's gratitude. 1.49.  Furthermore, we must make some discrimination between favours received; for, as a matter of course the greater the favour, the greater is the obligation. But in deciding this we must above all give due weight to the spirit, the devotion, the affection that prompted the favour. For many people often do favours impulsively for everybody without discrimination, prompted by a morbid sort of benevolence or by a sudden impulse of the heart, shifting the wind. Such acts of generosity are not to be so highly esteemed as those which are performed with judgment, deliberation, and mature consideration. But in bestowing a kindness, as well as in making a requital, the first rule of duty requires us — other things being equal — to lend assistance preferably to people in proportion to their individual need. Most people adopt the contrary course: they put themselves most eagerly at the service of the one from whom they hope to receive the greatest favours even though he has no need of their help. 2.69.  Now in rendering helpful service to people, we usually consider either their character or their circumstances. And so it is an easy remark, and one commonly made, to say that in investing kindnesses we look not to people's outward circumstances, but to their character. The phrase is admirable! But who is there, pray, that does not in performing a service set the favour of a rich and influential man above the cause of a poor, though most worthy, person? For, as a rule, our will is more inclined to the one from whom we expect a prompter and speedier return. But we should observe more carefully how the matter really stands: the poor man of whom we spoke cannot return a favour in kind, of course, but if he is a good man he can do it at least in thankfulness of heart. As someone has happily said, "A man has not repaid money, if he still has it; if he has repaid it, he has ceased to have it. But a man still has the sense of favour, if he has returned the favour; and if he has the sense of the favour, he has repaid it." On the other hand, they who consider themselves wealthy, honoured, the favourites of fortune, do not wish even to be put under obligations by our kind services. Why, they actually think that they have conferred a favour by accepting one, however great; and they even suspect that a claim is thereby set up against them or that something is expected in return. Nay more, it is bitter as death to them to have accepted a patron or to be called clients. 2.70.  Your man of slender means, on the other hand, feels that whatever is done for him is done out of regard for himself and not for his outward circumstances. Hence he strives to show himself grateful not only to the one who has obliged him in the past but also to those from whom he expects similar favours in the future — and he needs the help of many; and his own service, if he happens to render any in return, he does not exaggerate, but he actually depreciates it. This fact, furthermore, should not be overlooked — that, if one defends a wealthy favourite of fortune, the favour does not extend further than to the man himself or, possibly, to his children. But, if one defends a man who is poor but honest and upright, all the lowly who are not dishonest — and there is a large proportion of that sort among the people — look upon such an advocate as a tower of defence raised up for them. 2.71.  I think, therefore, that kindness to the good is a better investment than kindness to the favourites of fortune. We must, of course, put forth every effort to oblige all sorts and conditions of men, if we can. But if it comes to a conflict of duty on this point, we must, I should say, follow the advice of Themistocles: when someone asked his advice whether he should give his daughter in marriage to a man who was poor but honest or to one who was rich but less esteemed, he said: "For my part, I prefer a man without money to money without a man." But the moral sense of to‑day is demoralized and depraved by our worship of wealth. of what concern to any one of us is the size of another man's fortune? It is, perhaps, an advantage to its possessor; but not always even that. But suppose it is; he may, to be sure, have more money to spend; but how is he any the better man for that? Still, if he is a good man, as well as a rich one, let not his riches be a hindrance to his being aided, if only they are not the motive to it; but in conferring favours our decision should depend entirely upon a man's character, not on his wealth. The supreme rule, then, in the matter of kindnesses to be rendered by personal service is never to take up a case in opposition to the right nor in defence of the wrong. For the foundation of enduring reputation and fame is justice, and without justice there can be nothing worthy of praise.
2. Horace, Sermones, 1.1 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.1. 1. I suppose that, by my books of the Antiquities of the Jews, most excellent Epaphroditus, I have made it evident to those who peruse them, that our Jewish nation is of very great antiquity, and had a distinct subsistence of its own originally; as also I have therein declared how we came to inhabit this country wherein we now live. Those Antiquities contain the history of five thousand years, and are taken out of our sacred books; but are translated by me into the Greek tongue. 1.1. but as for the place where the Grecians inhabit, ten thousand destructions have overtaken it, and blotted out the memory of former actions; so that they were ever beginning a new way of living, and supposed that every one of them was the origin of their new state. It was also late, and with difficulty, that they came to know the letters they now use; for those who would advance their use of these letters to the greatest antiquity pretend that they learned them from the Phoenicians and from Cadmus; 1.1. but after some considerable time, Armais, who was left in Egypt, did all those very things, by way of opposition, which his brother had forbidden him to do, without fear; for he used violence to the queen, and continued to make use of the rest of the concubines, without sparing any of them; nay, at the persuasion of his friends he put on the diadem, and set up to oppose his brother;
3. New Testament, 1 Timothy, 6.3-6.19 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

6.3. If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn't consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness 6.4. he is conceited, knowing nothing, but obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions 6.5. constant friction of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such. 6.6. But godliness with contentment is great gain. 6.7. For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can't carry anything out. 6.8. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. 6.9. But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 6.10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 6.11. But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 6.12. Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. 6.13. I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession 6.14. that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; 6.15. which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 6.16. who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen. 6.17. Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; 6.18. that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 6.19. laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.
4. Seneca The Younger, De Vita Beata (Dialogorum Liber Vii), 22.4-22.5, 23.5, 24.2-24.3 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

5. Tacitus, Annals, 1.2 (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

1.2.  When the killing of Brutus and Cassius had disarmed the Republic; when Pompey had been crushed in Sicily, and, with Lepidus thrown aside and Antony slain, even the Julian party was leaderless but for the Caesar; after laying down his triumviral title and proclaiming himself a simple consul content with tribunician authority to safeguard the commons, he first conciliated the army by gratuities, the populace by cheapened corn, the world by the amenities of peace, then step by step began to make his ascent and to unite in his own person the functions of the senate, the magistracy, and the legislature. Opposition there was none: the boldest spirits had succumbed on stricken fields or by proscription-lists; while the rest of the nobility found a cheerful acceptance of slavery the smoothest road to wealth and office, and, as they had thriven on revolution, stood now for the new order and safety in preference to the old order and adventure. Nor was the state of affairs unpopular in the provinces, where administration by the Senate and People had been discredited by the feuds of the magnates and the greed of the officials, against which there was but frail protection in a legal system for ever deranged by force, by favouritism, or (in the last resort) by gold.


Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
augustus, and euergetism Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
caesar, onduties (de officiis) Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
covetousness Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
cynics/cynicism Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
demetrius, the cynic Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
duty Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
economy, embedded Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
epistle, pastorals Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
euergetism Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
friendship Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
gift economy, and patronage Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
golden rule Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
imperative Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
indifferentia Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
liberality Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
menander Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
metaphor Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
panaetius Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
pastoral epistles Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
pastorals Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
patronage, as gift economy Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
patronage, ideology of Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
poverty Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
republic, the, and political expenditure Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
rhetoric, of sacrifice Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
seneca, on benefits (de beneficiis) Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
seneca Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
status, monetary criteria of ordines Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
stoicism, adiaphora Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
stoicism, wise man Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
stoicism Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541
symbolic capital\n Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
veyne, paul Bowditch, Cicero on the Philosophy of Religion: On the Nature of the Gods and On Divination (2001) 43
wealth' Malherbe et al., Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity: Collected Essays of Abraham J (2014) 541