Seneca, Moral Epistle 60
“I make a complaint, I sue, I am enraged. Do you still want what your nurse, your tutor, or your mommy have prayed for you. Don’t you know how much evil they begged? How harmful are the wishes of our loved ones! And the more successful they are, the more hostile they turn out to be. This is why I am not amazed that all these bad things plague us from youth. We’ve grown up among our parents’ curses! May they gods listen to our voice too, since it asks for nothing.
How long will we keep begging the gods as if we can’t take care of ourselves? How long will we fill the markets of our cities with goof. How long will people fill the city? How long will so many vessels carry the supplies for a single meal from many seas? The bull gets full by feeding on just a few acres; a single forest is good enough for many elephants. Yet a human being snacks on earth and sea.
What? Did nature make our gut so insatiable when we got these small bodies that we should outstrip the greed of the largest and hungriest animals? Nope. How little is enough for us naturally? Just a little bit. It is not our bellies’ hunger that costs us so much, but our envy.
So, those who, as Sallust says, “are obedient to their bellies” should be counted among the animals, not people. And some of them shouldn’t be ranked with the animals, but consigned instead to the dead. Whoever makes use of many is alive; whoever makes use of themselves, lives too. But those who hide away and grow overfull live in homes like tombs. We should inscribe their names in marble above their doors, since they’re dead before they died.”
Queror, litigo, irascor. Etiamnunc optas, quod tibi optavit nutrix tua aut paedagogus aut mater? Nondum intellegis, quantum mali optaverint? O quam inimica nobis sunt vota nostrorum! Eo quidem inimiciora quo cessere felicius. Iam non admiror, si omnia nos a prima pueritia mala secuntur; inter execrationes parentum crevimus. Exaudiant di nostram quoque1 pro nobis vocem gratuitam.
Quousque poscemus aliquid deos ita quasi nondum ipsi alere nos possimus? Quamdiu sationibus inplebimus magnarum urbium campos? Quamdiu nobis populus metet? Quamdiu unius mensae instrumentum multa navigia et quidem non ex uno mari subvehent? Taurus paucissimorum iugerum pascuo impletur; una silva elephantis pluribus sufficit; homo et terra et mari pascitur. Quid ergo? Tam insatiabilem nobis natura alvum dedit, cum tam modica corpora dedisset, ut vastissimorum edacissimorumque animalium aviditatem vinceremus? Minime. Quantulum est enim, quod naturae datur?
Parvo illa dimittitur. Non fames nobis ventris nostri magno constat, sed ambitio. Hos itaque, ut ait Sallustius, “ventri oboedientes” animalium loco numeremus, non hominum, quosdam vero ne animalium quidem, sed mortuorum. Vivit is, qui multis usui est, vivit is, qui se utitur; qui vero latitant et torpent, sic in domo sunt, quomodo in conditivo. Horum licet in limine ipso nomen marmori inscribas, mortem suam antecesserunt. Vale.