Ennobling Poverty

Aelian, Varia Historia 11.8:

The noblest of the Greeks lived in poverty for their whole lives. Some people can go ahead and praise wealth after the best of the Greeks, for whom poverty was allotted for all of life. These are people like Aristides, son of Lysimachus, a man who set a lot of things right in war and imposed taxes on the Greeks.    

Phocion, too, was poor. When Alexander set him a hundred talents, he asked, ‘For what reason does he give them to me?’ When they responded that Alexander thought that Phocion alone of the Athenians was noble, he responded, ‘Then he should let me stay that way.’

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Οἱ τῶν ῾Ελλήνων ἄριστοι πενίᾳ διέζων παρὰ πάντα τὸν βίον. ἐπαινείτωσαν οὖν πλοῦτόν τινες ἔτι μετὰ τοὺς τῶν ῾Ελλήνων ἀρίστους, οἷς ἡ πενία παρὰ  πάντα τὸν βίον συνεκληρώθη. εἰσὶ δὲ οὗτοι, οἷον ᾿Αριστείδης ὁ Λυσιμάχου, ἀνὴρ πολλὰ μὲν ἐν πολέμῳ κατορθώσας, καὶ τοὺς φόρους δὲ τοῖς ῞Ελλησι τάξας. ἀλλ’ οὗτός γε ὁ τοιοῦτος οὐδὲ ἐντάφια ἑαυτῷ κατέλιπεν ἱκανά.

Καὶ Φωκίων δὲ πένης ἦν. ᾿Αλεξάνδρου δὲ πέμψαντος αὐτῷ τάλαντα ἑκατὸν ἠρώτα ‘διὰ τίνα αἰτίαν μοι δίδωσιν;’ ὡς δ’ εἶπον ὅτι μόνον αὐτὸν ᾿Αθηναίων

ἡγεῖται καλὸν καὶ ἀγαθόν, ‘οὐκοῦν’ ἔφη ‘ἐασάτω με τοιοῦτον εἶναι.’

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