Life Without a Nemesis

Seneca, de providentia 1.4.3

 “I congratulate you not so much as a brave person but as if you had won the consulship or a praetorship: you have leveled up in honor! Similarly I would say to a good person if no misfortune had given them the change to demonstrate their spirit’s strength, “I think you’re unlucky because you have never been unlucky. You have made it through life without a nemesis. No one will know what you’re capable of, not even you!”

For someone to really know themselves, they need to be tested. No one discovers what they can do without trying! This is why some people have intentionally given themselves to misfortune and have searched for some way to make their true value shine bright when it might instead pass into the unknown.

Great men, I say, often delight in facing trouble, as brave soldiers do when they face war. I once heard a gladiator named Triumphus in the reign of Tiberius Caesar complaining about how few competitions there were: “How beautiful an age has slipped away!”

Non gratulor tamquam viro forti, sed tanquam consulatum praeturamve adepto; honore auctus es. Item dicere et bono viro possum, si illi nullam occasionem difficilior casus dedit in qua una1 vim animi sui ostenderet: “Miserum te iudico, quod numquam fuisti miser. Transisti sine adversario vitam; nemo sciet quid potueris, ne tu quidem ipse.” Opus est enim ad notitiam sui experimento; quid quisque posset nisi temptando non didicit. Itaque quidam ipsi ultro se cessantibus malis obtulerunt et virtuti iturae in obscurum occasionem per quam 4enitesceret quaesierunt. Gaudent, inquam, magni viri aliquando rebus adversis, non aliter quam fortes milites bello. Triumphum ego murmillonem sub Tib. Caesare de raritate munerum audivi querentem: “Quam bella,” inquit, “aetas perit!”


Gnomologium Vaticanum, 518

“Sophokles the tragic poet, after he heard that Euripides died in Macedonia, said “The whetstone of my poetry is gone.”

Σοφοκλῆς, ὁ τῶν τραγῳδιῶν ποιητής, ἀκούσας Εὐριπίδην ἐν Μακεδονίᾳ τεθνηκέναι εἶπεν· „ἀπώλετο ἡ τῶν ἐμῶν ποιημάτων ἀκόνη.”

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