A Tyrant’s Advice for a Grieving Father

Epistles of Phalaris, X: To Lacritus

“My every sympathy goes to you, grieved by the weight of your child’s death. I myself, sympathizing greatly and taking it as though it were a loss from my own family, am distressed even more, though my nature is usually more resolute against such things, since I see that there is no benefit in excessive grief. Let it be a great encouragement to you in this misfortune first that he died striving in war for on behalf of his fatherland with distinguished excellence, and second that in victory he was deemed worthy of the most noble end of all, and finally that by never erring in his life, he ratified his personal virtue with death. For, in life, it is unclear whether a good man may not become worse. Fortune, and not our intentions, holds the most sway in our lives. But since he died having been faulted by no one, he is established in reputation’s noblest position. Therefore, considering it ample favor for his birth and education that he lived nobly and beautifully until his death, give him this as recompense, and bear your grief for him with easy moderation.”

᾿Αχθομένῳ σοι βαρέως ἐπὶ τῇ τοῦ παιδὸς τελευτῇ πᾶσα συγγνώμη, κἀγὼ δὲ σφόδρα συμπαθῶν, ὡσεὶ τῶν οἰκείων τὸ συμβεβηκὸς ἡγούμενος, μεῖζον ἄχθομαι, καίτοι στερροτέρᾳ φύσει πρὸς τὰ τοιαῦτα χρώμενος διὰ τὸ μηδὲν ὄφελος ὁρᾶν μηδὲ τοῖς ἀμέτρως ἀνιωμένοις. παραμυθία δέ σοι ἔστω μεγάλη τῆς ἐπ’ αὐτῷ συμφορᾶς πρῶτον μέν, ὅτι ὑπὲρ πατρίδος ἀγωνιζόμενος ἐν πολέμῳ σὺν ἀριστείᾳ τέθνηκεν, εἶθ’ ὅτι νικῶν καλλίστου τέλους ὑπὸ τῆς εἱμαρμένης ἠξίωται, τὸ δὲ τελευταῖον ὅτι μηδὲν ἁμαρτὼν παρὰ τὸν βίον ἐπεσφράγισται τὴν ἰδίαν ἀρετὴν θανάτῳ. ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐν τῷ ζῆν ἀγαθὸς ἄδηλον εἰ μὴ μεταβαλεῖ πρὸς τὸ χεῖρον· αἱ τύχαι γὰρ ἀνθρώπων τὸ πλεῖστον, οὐχ αἱ γνῶμαι κρατοῦσιν· ὁ δὲ τελευτήσας ἀκατηγόρητος ἐν τῷ καλλίστῳ σχήματι τῆς δόξης καθίδρυται. νομίσας οὖν ἀξίας παρ’ αὐτοῦ χάριτας ἀπειληφέναι γενέσεως καὶ ἀνατροφῆς τὸ καλὸν κἀγαθὸν μέχρι τέλους αὐτὸν γεγονέναι, ταύτην αὐτῷ τὴν ἀμοιβὴν ἀντίδος, τὸ πράως καὶ μετρίως τὴν ἐπ’ αὐτῷ λύπην ἐνεγκεῖν.

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