The More You Have, The More You Want — Aulus Gellius and Favorinus on the Logic of Wealth

Attic Nights, IX, 7

“On the fact that it is necessary that a man who has much requires much and a brief, elegant saying on the subject from the philosopher Favorinus.

Absolutely true is the fact which wise men have recited from both observation and experience, namely that a man who has much has great needs and that these needs come not from an overwhelming poverty but from great abundance—many things are required to maintain the many things you have. Whoever, then, has much and wishes to be on guard or to plan that he may not lose or lack anything, must not acquire more, but must instead possess less so that he may lose less. I remember this line from Favorinus, obscured among a great applause and expressed in these fewest words:

“It is impossible for someone who has fifteen thousand cloaks not to want more. Should I desire more in addition to what I have, once I have lost some of it, I will be satisfied with what I retain.” [Favorinus fr. 104]

Necessum esse, qui multa habeat, multis indigere; deque ea re Favorini philosophi cum brevitate eleganti sententia.

1 Verum est profecto, quod observato rerum usu sapientes viri dixere, multis egere, qui multa habeat, magnamque indigentiam nasci non ex inopia magna, sed ex magna copia: multa enim desiderari ad multa, quae habeas, tuenda. 2 Quisquis igitur multa habens cavere atque prospicere velit, ne quid egeat neve quid desit, iactura opus esse, non quaestu, et minus habendum esse, ut minus desit. 3 Hanc sententiam memini a Favorino inter ingentes omnium clamores detornatam inclusamque verbis his paucissimis: τὸν γὰρ μυρίων καὶ πεντακισχιλίων χλαμύδων δεόμενον οὐκ ἔστι μὴ πλειόνων δεῖσθαι· οἷς γὰρ ἔχω προσδεόμενος, ἀφελὼν ὧν ἔχω, ἀρκοῦμαι οἷς ἔχω.

The sentiment is not identical, but it is not altogether that different either:

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