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Sometime Scholar of Trinity College, Ca^nhridgc,
Translator of Pausanias.

I must think we are more deeply indebted to Plutarch than
to all the ancient writers." — R. W, Emerson.




i hi X^lfa Kfippi^

Ei5trcArit)"n* riftpT.




PLUTARCH, who was born at Chasronea in Boeotia,
probably about a.d. 50, and was a contemporary of
Tacitus and Pliny, has written two works still extant,
the well-known Lives, and the less-known Moralia. The
Lives have often been translated, and have always been a
popular work. Great indeed was their power at the period
of the French Revolution. The Moralia, on the other hand,
consisting of various Essays on various subjects (only
twenty-six of which are directly ethical, though they have
given their name to the Moralia), are declared by Mr, Paley
" to be practically almost unknown to most persons in
Britain, even to those who call themselves scholars." '
Hahent etiam sua fata lihelli.

In older days the Moralia were more valued. Montaigne,
who was a great lover of Plutarch, and who observes in
one passage of his Essays that " Plutarch and Seneca were
the only two books of solid learning he seriously settled
himself to read," quotes as much from the Moralia as from
the Lives. And in the seventeenth century I cannot but
think the Moralia were largely read at our Universities, at
ieast at the University of Cambridge. For, not to mention
^jhe wonderful way in which the famous Jeremy Taylor has
taken the cream of " Conjugal Precepts " in his Sermon
called " The Marriage Ring," or the large and copious use

^ See article Plutarch, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Ninth Edition.


he has made in his " Holy Living " of three other Essays
in this volume, namely, those " On Curiosity," " On Re-
straining Anger," and " On Contentedness of Mind," prov-
ing conclusively what a storehouse he found the Moralia,
we have evidence that that most delightful poet, Robert
Herrick, read the Moralia, too, when at Cambridge, so that
one cannot but think it was a work read in the University
course generally in those days. For in a letter to his uncle
written from Cambridge, asking for books or money for
books, he makes the following remark : " How kind Arcisi-
laus the philosopher was unto Apelles the painter, Plutark
in his Morals will tell you."^

In 1882 the Reverend C. W. King, Senior Fellow of
Trinity College, Cambridge, translated the six " Theosophi-
cal Essays " of the Moralia, forming a volume in Bohn's
Classical Library. The present volume consists of the
twenty-six " Ethical Essays," which are, in my opinion,
the cream of the Moralia, and constitute a highly interesting
series of treatises on what might be called " The Ethics of
the Hearth and Home." I have grouped these Essays in
such a manner as to enable the reader to read together
such as touch on the same or on kindred subjects.

As is well known, the text of the Moralia is very corrupt,
and the reading very doubtful, in many places. In eight
of the twenty-six Essays in this volume I have had the
invaluable help of the text of Rudolf Hercher ; help so
invaluable that one cannot but sadly regret that only one
volume of the Moralia has yet appeared in the Bihliotheca
Teuhneriana. Wyttenbach's text and notes I have always
used when available, and when not so have fallen back
upon Reiske. Reiske is always ingenious, but too fond of
correcting a text, and the criticism of him by Wyttenbach

^ Grosart's Herrick, vol. i. p. liii. See in this volume, p. 180, and
also note to p. 28S. Kichard Baxter again is always quoting the



is perhaps substantially correct. " In nullo anctore babita-
bat ; vagabatur per omnes : nee apud quemquam tamdiu
divertebat, ut in paulo interiorem ejus consuetudinem se
insinuaret." I have also had constantly before me the
Didot Edition of the Moralia, edited by Frederic Diibner.

Let any reader who wishes to know more about Plutarch ^
consult the article on Plutarch, in the Ninth Edition of the
Encyclopaedia Britannica, by the well-known scholar F. A.
Paley. He will also do well to read an Essay on Plutarch
by R. W. Emerson, reprinted in Volume III. of the Bohn's-
Standard Library Edition of Emerson's Works, and Five
Lectures on Plutarch by the late Archbishop Trench, pub-
lished by Messrs. Macmillan and Co. in 1874 All these
contain much of interest, and will repay perusal.

In conclusion, I hope this little volume will be the means
of making popular some of the best thoughts of one of the
most interesting and thoughtful of the ancients, ^\'ho often
seems indeed almost a modern.


March, 1888.



ON Education 1

On Love to one's Offspring 21

On Love 29

Conjugal Precepts 70

Consolatory Letter to his Wife 85

That Virtue may be taught 92

On Virtue and Vice 95

On moral Virtue 98


Whether Vice is sufficient to cause Unhappiness , 138

Whether the disorders of mind or body are worse 142

On Abundance of Friends 145

How one may discern a Flatterer from a Friend . 153


On Talkativeness 214

On Curiosity 238

On Shyness . 252

On Restraining Anger 267

On Contentedness of Mind 289

On Envy and Hatred 312



Against borrowing Money 365

Whether "Live Unknown" be a wise precept . . 373

On Exile 378

On Fortune 394



§ I. Come let ns consider what one miglit say on the
education of free children, andby what training they would
become good citizens.

§ II. It is perhaps best to begin with birth : I would
therefore warn those who desire to be fathers of notable
sons, not to form connections with any kind of women,
such as courtesans or mistresses : for those who either on
the father or mother's side are ill-born have the disgrace
of their origin all their life long irretrievably present with
them, and oft'er a ready handle to abuse and vituperation.
So that the poet was wise, who said, " Unless the founda-
tion of a house be well laid, the descendants must of neces-
sity be unfortunate."^ Grood birth indeed brings with it a
store of assurance, which ought to bo greatly valued by
all who desire legitimate offspring. For the spirit of those
who are a spurious and bastard breed is apt to be mean and
abject: for as the poet truly says, "It makes a man even
of noble spirit servile, when he is conscious of the ill fame
of either his father or mother." ^ On the other hand
the sons of illustrious parents are full of pride and arro-
gance. As an instance of this it is recorded of Diophantus,'
the son of Themistocles, that he often used to say to various
people " that he could do what he pleased with the Athe-
nian people, for what he wished his mother wished, and
what she wished Themistocles wished, and what Themis-

' Euripides, "Here. Fur." 1261, 1262.

2 Euripides, " Hippol." 424, 425.

* Cleophantus is the name given to this lad by other writers.

[^\^< I \ ,c . ', y PLUTARCH S MOEALS.

tocles wished all the Athenians wished." All praise also
ought we to bestow on the Lacedaemonians for their loftiness
of soul in fining their king Archidamus for venturing to
marry a small woman, for they charged him with intending
to furnish them not with kings but kinglets.

§ III. Next must we mention, what was not overlooked
even by those who handled this subject before us, that
those who approach their wives for procreation must do so
either without having drunk any wine or at least very little.
For those children, that their parents begot in drink, are
wont to be fond of wine and apt to turn out drunkards.
And so Diogenes, seeing a youth out of his mind and
crazy, said, " Young man, your father was drunk when
he begot you." Let this hint serve as to procreation :
now let us discuss education.

§ IV. To speak generally, what we are wont to say about
the arts and sciences is also true of moral excellence, for to
its perfect development three things must meet together,
natural ability, theory, and practice. By theory I mean
training, and by practice working at one's craft. Now the
foundation must be laid in training, and practice gives
facility, but perfection is attained only by the junction of
all three. For if any one of these elements be wanting,
excellence must be so far deficient. For natural ability with-
out training is blind : and training without natural ability
is defective, and practice without both natural ability
and training is imperfect. For just as in farming the first
requisite is good soil, next a good farmer, next good seed,
so also here : the soil corresponds to natural ability, the
training to the farmer, the seed to precepts and instruction.
I should therefore maintain stoutly that these three ele-
ments were found combined in the souls of such universally
famous men as Pythagoras, and Socrates, and Plato, and
of all who have won undying fame. Happy at any rate
and dear to the gods is he to whom any deity has vouch-
safed all these elements ! But if anyone thinks that those
who have not good natural ability cannot to some extent
make up for the deficiencies of nature by right training
and practice, let such a one know that he is very wide of
the mark, if not out of it altogether. For good natural
parts are impaired by sloth ; while inferior ability is


mended by training : and while simple things escape the
eyes of the careless, difficult things are reached by pains-
taking. The wonderful efficacy and power of long and
continuous labour you may see indeed every day in the
world around yon.^ Thus water continually dropping
wears away rocks : and iron and steel are moulded by the
hands of the artificer : and chariot wheels bent by some
strain can never recover their original symmetry : and the
crooked staves of actors can never be made straight. But
by toil what is contrary to nature becomes stronger than
even nature itself. And are these the only things that
teach the power of diligence ? Not so : ten thousand
things teach the same truth. A soil naturally good be-
comes by neglect barren, and the better its original con-
dition, the worse its nltimate state if uncared for. On the
other hand a soil exceedingly rough and sterile by being
farmed well produces excellent crops. And what trees do
not by neglect become gnarled and unfruitful, whereas by
pruning they become fruitful and productive? And what
constitution so good but it is marred and impaired by sloth,
luxury, and too full habit ? And what weak constitution
has not derived benefit from exercise and athletics ? And
what horses broken in young are not docile to their riders ?
while if they are not broken in till late they become hard-
mouthed and unmanageable. And why should we be sur-
prised at similar cases, seeing that we find many of the
savagest animals docile and tame by training ? Rightly
answered the Thessalian, who was asked who the mildest
Thessalians were, "Those who have done with fig-htingf."^
But why pursue the line of argument further ? For the
Greek name for moral virtue is only habit : and if anyone
defines moral virtues as habitual virtues, he will not be beside
the mark. But I will employ only one more illustration,
and dwell no longer on this topic. Lycurgus, the Lace-
dcemonian legislator, took two puppies of the same parents,
and brought them up in an entirely different way : the one
he pampered and cosseted up, while he taught the other to
hunt and be a retriever. Then on one occasion, when the

* Compare Sophocles, " CEdipus Tyrannus," 112, 113.
^ The Thessalians were very pugnacious. Cf. Isocrates, '' Oratio de
Pace," p. 316. o'l ^tv (QerraXol) acphiv avroXg del Ttoktfiovaiv.


Lacedaemonians were convened in assembly, lie said,
"Mighty, Lacedaemonians, is the influence on moral
excellence of habit, and education, and training, and modes
of life, as I will prove to you at once." So saying he pro-
duced the two puppies, and set before them a platter and a
hare : the one darted on the hare, while the other made
for the platter. And when the Lacedasmonians could not
guess what his meaning was, or with what intent he had
produced the puppies, he said, " These puppies are of the
same parents, but by virtue of a different bringing up the one
is pampered, and the other a good hound." Let so much
suffice for habit and modes of life.

§ Y. The next point to discuss will be nutrition. In my
opinion mothers ought to nurse and suckle their own chil-
dren. For they will bring them up with more sympathy
and care, if they love them so intimately and, as the pro-
verb puts it, "from their first growing their nails." ^
Whereas the affection of wet or dry nurses is spurious and
counterfeit, being merely for pay. And nature itself teaches
that mothers ought themselves to suckle and rear those
they have given birth to. And for that purpose she has
supplied every female parent with milk. And providence
has wisely provided women with two breasts, so that if they
should bear twins, they would have a breast for each. And
besides this, as is natural enough, they would feel more
affection and love for their children by suckling them.
For this supplying them with food is as it were a tightener
of love, for even the brute creation, if taken away from
their young, pine away, as we constantly see. Mothers
must therefore, as I said, certainly try to suckle their own
children : but if they are unable to do so either through
physical weakness (for this contingency sometimes occurs),
or in haste to have other children, they must select wet
and dry nurses with the greatest care, and not introduce
into their houses any kind of women. First and foremost
they must be Greeks in their habits. For just as it is
necessary immediately after birth to shapen the limbs of
children, so that they may grow straight and not crooked,
so from the beginning must their habits be carefully

^ A proverbial expression among the ancients for earliest childhood.
See Erasmus, " Adajria."


attended to. For infancy is supple and easily moulded, and
what children learn sinks deeply into their souls while they
are young and tender, whereas everything hard is softened
only with great difhculty. For just as seals are impressed
on soft wax, so instruction leaves its permanent mark on
the minds of those still young. And divine Plato seems to
me to give excellent advice to nurses not to tell their
children nny kind of fables, that their souls may not in
the very dawn of existence be full of folly or corruption.^
Phocylides the poet also seems to give admirable advice
when he says, " We must teach good habits while the
pupil is still a boy."

§ VI. Attention also must be given to this point, that
the lads that are to wait upon and be with young people
must be first and foremost of good morals, and able to
speak Greek distinctly and idiomatically, that they may not
by contact with foreigners of loose morals contract any of
their viciousness. For as those who are fond of quoting
proverbs say not amiss, " If you live with a lame man, you
w^ill learn to halt."^

§ VII. Next, when our boys are old enough to be put into
the hands of tutors,^ great care must be taken that we do
not hand them over to slaves, or foreigners, or flighty per-
sons. For what happens nowadays in many cases is highly
ridiculous : good slaves are made farmers, or sailors, or
merchants, or stewards, or money-lenders ; but if they find
a winebibbing, greedy, and utterly useless slave, to him
parents commit the charge of their sons, whereas the good
tutor ought to be such a one as was Phcenix, the tutor of
Achilles. The point also which I am now going to speak
about is of the utmost importance. The schoolmasters we
ought to select for our boys should be of blameless life, of
pure character, and of great experience. For a good
training is the source and root of gentlemanly behaviour.
And just as farmers prop up their trees, so good school-
masters prop up the young by good advice and suggestions,

1 Plato, " Eepiiblic," ii. p. 429, E. ^ ggg Erasmus, " Adagia."

^ It is difficult to know how to render the word Traidayojyug'm English.

He was the slave who took the boy to school, and generally looked

after him from his seventh year upward. Tutor or governor seems the

lest rendering. He iiad great power over the boy entrusted to him.


that they may become upright. How one must despise,
therefore, some fathers, wlio, whether from ignorance or
inexperience, before putting the intended teachers to the
test, commit their sons to the charge of untried and un-
tested men. If they act so through inexperience it is not
so ridiculous ; but it is to the remotest degree absurd when,
though perfectly aware of both the inexperience and worth-
lessness of some schoolmasters, they yet entrust their sons
to them : some overcome by flattery, others to gratify
friends who solicit their favours ; acting just as if any-
body ill in body, passing over the experienced physician,
should, to gratify his friend, call him in, and so throw
away his life ; or as if to gratify one's friend one should
reject the best pilot and choose him instead. Zeus and all
the gods ! can anyone bearing the sacred name of father
put obliging a petitioner before obtaining the best education
for his sons ? Were they not then wise w^ords that the
time-honoured Socrates used to utter, and say that lie
would proclaim, if he could, climbing up to the highest
part of the city, "Men, w^hat can you be thinking of, who
move heaven and earth to make money, while you bestow
next to no attention on the sons you are going to leave
that money to ? " ^ I would add to this that such fathers
act very similarly to a person who should be very careful
about his shoe but care nothing about his foot. Many
persons also are so niggardly about their children, and in-
different to their interests, that for the sake of a paltry
saving, they prefer worthless teachers for their children,
practising a vile economy at the expense of their children's
ignorance. Apropos of this, Aristippus on one occasion
rebuked an empty-headed parent neatly and wittily. For
being asked how much money a parent ought to pay for
his son's education, he answered, " A thousand drachmae."
And he replying, " Hercules, what a price ! I could buy a
slave for as much ; " Aristippus answered, " You shall
have two slaves then, your son and the slave you buy." ^
And is it not altogether strange that you accustom your
son to take his food in his right hand, and chide him if he

1 Plato, " Clitophon," p. 255, D.
* Compare Diogenes Laertius, ii. 72.


offers his left, whereas you care very little aboat his hearing
good and sound discourses ? I will tell you what happens
to such admirable fathers, when they have educated and
brought up their sons so badly : when the sons grow to
man's estate, they disregard a sober and well-ordered life,
and rush headlong into disorderly and low vices ; then at
the last the parents are sorry they have neglected their
education, bemoaning bitterly when it is too late their sons'
debasement. For some of them keep flatterers and para-
sites in their retinue — an accursed set of wretches, the
defilers and pest of youth; others keep mistresses and
common prostitutes, wanton and costly ; others waste their
money in eating ; others come to grief through dice and
revelling ; some even go in for bolder profligacy, being
whoremongers and defilers of the marriage bed,^ who would
madly pursue their darling vice if it cost them their lives.
Had they associated with some philosopher, they would
not have lowered themselves by such practices, but would
have remembered the precept of Diogenes, whose advice
sounds rather low, but is really of excellent moral intent,^
*' Go into a brothel, my lad, that you may see the little
difference between vice and virtue."

§ VIII. I say, then, to speak comprehensively (and I
might be justly considered in so saying to speak as an
oracle, not to be delivering a mere precept), that a good
education and sound bringing-up is of the first and middle
and last importance ; and I declare it to be most instru-
mental and conducive to virtue and happiness. For all
other human blessings compared to this are petty and in-
significant. For noble birth is a great honour, but it is an
advantage from our forefathers. And wealth is valuable,
but it is the acquisition of fortune, who has often taken it
away from those who had it, and brought it to those who
little expected it ; and much wealth is a sort of mark for
villanous slaves and informers to shoot at to fill their own

"^ Reading KoirofOopovvTsg, the excellent emendation of Wyttenbach.

^ From the heathen standpoint of course, not from the Cliristian.
Compare the advice of Cato in Horace's " Satires," Book i. Sat. ii. 31-
35. It is a little difficult to know what Diogenes' pi-ecept really means.
Is it that vice is universal ? Like Shakespeare's " Measure for Measure,"
Act ii. Sc. ii. 5. " All sectsy all ages smack of this vice."

8 Plutarch's morals.

purses ; and, what is a most important point, even the
greatest villains have money sometimes. And glory is
noble, but insecure. And beauty is highly desirable, but
shortlived. And health is highly valuable, but soon im-
paired. And strength is desirable, but illness or age soon
make sad inroads into it. And generally speaking, if any-
one prides himself on his bodily strength, let him know
that he is deficient in judgment. For how much inferior
is the strength of a man to that of animals, as elephants,
bulls, and lions ! But education is of all our advantages
the only one immortal and divine. And two of the most
powerful agencies in man's nature are mind and reason.
And mind governs reason, and reason obeys mind ; and
mind is irremovable by fortune, cannot be taken away by in-
formers, cannot be destroyed by disease, cannot have inroads
made into it by old age. For the mind alone flourishes in
age ; and while time takes away everything else, it adds
wisdom to old age. Even war, that sweeps away every-
thing else like a winter torrent, cannot take away education.
And Stilpo, the Megarian, seems to me to have made a
memorable answer when Demetrius enslaved Megara and
rased it to the ground. On his asking whether Stilpo had
lost anything, he replied, " Certainly not, for war can
make no havoc of virtue." Corresponding and consonant
to this is the answer of Socrates, who when asked, I think
by Gorgias,^ if he had any conception as to the happiness of
the King of Persia, replied, " I do not know his position in
regard to virtue and education : for happiness lies in these,
and not in adventitious advantages."

§ IX. And as I advise parents to think nothing more
important than the education of their children, so I main-
tain that it must be a sound and healthy education, and
that our sons must be kept as far as possible from vulgar
twaddle. For v/hat pleases the vulgar displeases the wise.
I am borne out by the lines of Euripides, " Unskilled am I
in the oratory that pleases the mob ; but amongst the few
that are my equals I am reckoned rather wise. For those
who are little thought of by the wise, seem to hit the taste

* He was asked by Polus, see Plato, *' Gorgias," p. 290, F.


of the vulgar." ' And I have myself noticed that those
w^ho practise to speak acceptably and to the gratification
of the masses promiscuously, for the most part become
also profligate and lovers of pleasure in their lives. Natu-
rally enough. For if in giving pleasure to others they
neglect the noble, they would be hardly likely to put the
lofty and sound above a life of luxury and pleasure, and
to prefer moderation to delights. Yet what better advice
could we give our sons than to follow this ? or to what
could we better exhort them to accustom themselves ? For
perfection is only attained by neither speaking nor acting
at random — as the proverb says. Perfection is only attained

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