Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.66-77
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[1.66] It was said in the Summa rhetorica from which topics the arguments of praise or vituperation are derived,1 but yet something should be touched on briefly here. Thus, since we often compose commendatory letters which contain praise of a particular person, it should be considered how many classes are there of things sought.

[1.67] There are three classes of all things which are sought. Some things are located in the body, others in the soul, others are located externally.2

[1.68] I call goods of the soul 'virtues'. Virtue is an enduring habit of a well constituted mind moderately consenting to the ratio of nature. An enduring habit is an almost immobile quality. Thus there are four virtues: namely prudence, which is called phronesis in Greek and is also called sophia, which is called wisdom; justice, fortitude, temperance. All the others are derived from these four, as sources.

[1.69] Corporal goods are beauty, grace, quickness of limb, strength etc.

[1.70] They are called external goods which do not belong to the nature of the soul or the body, as are riches, nobility, office and glory.

[1.71] It should thus be known that other arguments of praise are derived from the four virtues and their attendants and accessories, because the enduring habit of virtue shows him to be absolutely laudable, who has these virtues. I have said 'absolutely' because corporal goods and external goods are indifferent, that is containing neither praise nor blame. Wherefore no one may be shown to be either worthy of praise or blame because of an enduring habit of these things. What then? Moderate use of these things shows someone laudable and immoderate use proves someone worthy of censure.

[1.72] Such a rule may be prescribed. If you would praise someone for his habit of virtues, praise him. If you intend to praise the same person for other goods, you should show his usage moderate and temperate.

[1.73] If you propose to vituperate someone, you will show or proclaim he lacking in all virtues and abundant in all vices; and you will designate his use of externally located corporal goods, which are good as well as bad, as immoderate and intemperate and thus you will stain his person by all means. If he is learned, show that he was slothful in study and luxurious in leisure, and try to demonstrate that he was not implacable to enemies and inexorable to friends.

[1.74] Whomever you wish to accuse, diligently consider which duty he should fulfill, so that when you wish to censure his person, you show that he strays from his duty. For he who deserts his duty should be removed from office, which is the companion of duty. For example: The duty of a magistrate is to understand how he can represent the person3 of the city and he should direct not only words but also deeds and counsel to its welfare. Thus if he deserts his duty, that is if he neglects the care and welfare of the city for which he should provide, he should also be divested of the magistracy itself which he neglected to execute. The same should be understood concerning other duties.

[1.75] For duty is the appropriate action of each person according to the morals and institutions of the country or city and this is a civil definition. But division precedes definition in moral philosophy. One <type of> duty is absolute, the other <type> mediate. An absolute duty is an honorable deed, a mediate duty is that concerning which a rational cause can be rendered.

[1.76] If you wish to praise someone, you shall say that he observes both of these two duties. If it is agreeable to vituperate someone, insinuate that he has strayed away from both duties and has set upon the contrary.

[1.77] So that you may fully understand this faculty, you will train yourself in the Summa rhetorica.4 For the way of virtue is arduous and he who applies himself to knowledge, applies himself to labor and to anguish. But those things which are bitter and arduous to experience, become beautiful and joyful to knowledge. Thus if glory, the companion of virtue, is sweet, do not wish to shrink from labor, whose fruit never shrivels, never admits senility, but flowers joyfully in the unfolding of age. Thus while you are in the flower of youth, seize the path of virtue, so that, when the warmth of youth cools, you joyfully and tranquilly embrace the lot of the aged, which many curse, so much that they would prefer to die rather than be afflicted by its malady. For adolescence makes senescence undeservedly hateful and burdensome. Are we not born for play and for mirth? Not for either, but sometimes one should use these, like food and drink and sleep, for the rejuvenation of the mind as well as body. For the body itself is reinvigorated by moderate rest and the mind is nourished by it. But thus far suffices concerning this subject.


1 Cicero De inventione 2.59 (topical armament for the epideictic oration). See also Rethorica ad Herennium 3.6-8 and above, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.51. For other references to a Summa rhetorice, see above Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.10,52, below 1.77.

2 Cicero De inventione 2.59: Laudes autem et vituperationes ex eis locis sumentur qui locis personis sunt attributi, de quibus ante dictum est. Sin distributius tractare qui volet, partiatur in animum et corpus et extraneas res licebit.

3 The duty of an official to represent person of a corporate body also appears below, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 2.38, 2.43 (also 3a.6,9,19,20,23,24). cf. De officiis 1.115. Personality comprises a significant aspect of the theoretical discussion of privilege, below, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 2.22-27.

4 Cicero De inventione 2.59. The Summe Rhetorice are also cited above, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.10,52,66.

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© Steven M. Wight, Los Angeles 1998
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