A Reading Suggestion for the President-Elect

Plutarch, On Praising Yourself Without Inciting Envy 544a-b

“Considered and charming is the man who explains some mistake he made either through ignorance or ambition or an error made in a a subject to be learned or some incapacity in speech as when Odysseus says (12.192-194): “But my heart wanted to listen, and I ordered my companions to unbind me by nodding my brows”. Or again, in another passage (9.228-229): “I did not assent to them, and it would have been far better, but I wanted to see the man and whether he would give me a gift of hospitality.”

Thus, when mistakes which are not completely ignoble or shameful are juxtaposed with praise, they undermine envy. Many also take the edge off possible envy by adding into their praise poverty, loss or even low-birth.”

ἐμμελὴς δὲ καὶ χαρίεις ὁ λήθην τινὰ καθ’ αὑτοῦ λέγων ἢ ἄγνοιαν ἢ φιλοτιμίαν ἢ πρός τινα μαθήματα καὶ λόγους ἀκρασίαν ὡς ὁ ᾿Οδυσσεύς (μ 192)

‘….αὐτὰρ ἐμὸν κῆρ
ἤθελ’ ἀκουέμεναι, λῦσαι δ’ ἐκέλευον ἑταίρους
ὀφρύσι νευστάζων,’

καὶ πάλιν (ι 228)

‘ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ οὐ πιθόμην—ἦ τ’ ἂν πολὺ κέρδιον ἦεν—,
ὄφρ’ αὐτόν τε ἴδοιμι, καὶ εἴ μοι ξείνια δοίη.’

καὶ ὅλως ὅσαι μὴ παντάπασιν αἰσχραὶ μηδ’ ἀγεννεῖς ἁμαρτίαι, παρατιθέμεναι τοῖς ἐπαίνοις τὸν φθόνον ἀφαιροῦσι. πολλοὶ δὲ καὶ πενίας καὶ ἀπορίας καὶ νὴ Δία δυσγενείας ἐξομολόγησιν ἔστιν ὅτε τοῖς ἐγκωμίοις παρεμβάλλοντες ἀμβλυτέρῳ τῷ φθόνῳ χρῶνται.

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