Bartolomeo Scala, Praefatio in Collectiones Cosmianas, (8)
But how much more humanely and intelligently act those who, having from their earliest youth embraced the brevity of human life in mind and thought, do not, in an effort to excuse their own idleness and lack of care, ‘accuse nature because life is short and age is weak’, as Sallust says. Rather, they think about how they can best compensate for the disadvantages of that brevity with zeal, care, and diligence.
Both antiquity and our own age have seen such people, who became famous in various pursuits. For, as far as this goes, there is not only one way in which the mind can overcome the brevity of life and commend itself to immortality. Philosophers are praised, orators are praised, generals are praised – even the administrators and helmsmen of republics and the moderators of the public have stood forth in the highest glory.
So far is it from being the case that human life is not sufficient to attain singular praise that we have read and heard of many people who have excelled in several or even in all pursuits at the same time, and we have seen some of them become famous. Wasn’t Julius Caesar – the one whose arms all nations feared – the greatest orator and the most elegant writer? Didn’t Cicero – about whose learning and elegance enough could not be said – accomplish things as consul which no general, however outstanding, could have deliberated about more gravely or accomplished more industriously, and for which he could not undeservedly boast of, ‘Rome, fortunate to be born in my consulship’?
Quanto vero humanius prudentiusque hi faciunt qui iam tum ab ineunte aetate brevitatem humanae vitae mente ac cogitatione complexi, non quemadmodum ignaviae socordiaeque suae causas excusantes, naturam, quod aevi sit brevis, quod imbecilla aetas, ut ait Crispus,’ criminentur, cogitant; verum quo pacto magis brevitatis ipsius damna compensare possint, summo studio, cura et diligentia perscrutantur! Quales et prisca et nostra aetas multos vidit,qui alius alia in laude claruere. Non enim una dumtaxat res est in qua possit animus aevi brevitatem superans sese immortalitati commendare. Laudantur enim philosophi, laudantur oratores, laudantur imperatores. Rerum quoque publicarum administratores rectoresque et temperatores populorum summa semper in gloria extiterunt; tantumque abest ut singulis consequendis laudibus humana vita non sufficiat, ut vel in plerisque vel in omnibus simul complures legerimus et audiverimus, [et] viderimus ipsi nonnullos claruisse. C. quidem Caesar, is cuius arma gentes omnes timuerunt, nonne summus orator fuit scriptorque elegantissimus? M. vero Tullius, cuius de doctrina elegantiaque dici non potest satis, nonne consul ea gessit quae nullus quantumvis egregius imperator vel consultasse gravius vel gessisse gnavius potuisset, quibusque, ut solebat, possit neque immerito gloriari, ‘O fortunatam natam me consule Romam’*— quanquam exemplis nobis extraneis non est opus?