Intellect is Like Fine Wine

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Educatione Liberorum XXIV-XXV:

“In this matter, I want to persuade you that people possess nothing on earth more valuable than intelligence. Indeed, all the other goods of human life, which we pursue with so many labors, are trifling and unworthy. Nobility is a fine thing, but alien to us; riches are precious, but they are the possession of Fortune; glory is pleasant, but inconstant; physical beauty is attractive, but fleeting, and lasts but a brief time; health is to be wished for, but is harmed by change; strength is desirable, but languishes in sickness and old age.

Nothing is better than intellect and reason. No assault of Fortune, no calumny can take away from it. Though all other things are diminished by time, old age increases our knowledge and reason. War, though it drags away each and every thing, is unable to take away virtue. When Demetrius had captured Megara and leveled it to the ground, he asked the philosopher Stilpo, who came from Megara, whether he had lost anything of his own. Stilpo responded, ‘Indeed, I have not; war can plunder no spoils from virtue.’”

In qua re persuasum te volumus nihil esse quod homines in terra possideant pretiosius intellectu, cetera quidem humanae vitae bona pusilla atque indigna, quae multis laboribus insectemur. Pulchra nobilitas, sed alienum bonum; preciosae divitiae, sed fortunae possessio; venusta gloria, sed inconstans; forma decens, sed caduca parvoque durans tempore; optanda sanitas, sed permutationi prorsus obnoxia; concupitae vires, sed aegritudine aut senectute facile contabescunt.

Nil praestantius intellectu et ratione. Haec nullus fortunae tollet incursus, nulla calumnia distrahet. Cumque reliqua omnia tempore minuantur, scientiam et rationem senectus auget. Bellum, singula trahens atque omnia ferens, solam doctrinam nequit eripere. Megaram cum Demetrius captam solo aequasset, Stilponem philosophum, illinc oriundum interrogavit, num suorum quicquam amisisset. Cui Stilpon, ‘haud equidem,’ inquit, ‘bellum enim nulla ex virtute spolia ducit.’

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