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ON COURAGE

I. (1) Having previously said all that appeared to be necessary about justice, and those precepts which are closely connected with it, I now proceed in regular order to speak of courage, not meaning by courage that warlike and frantic delirium, under the influence of passion as its counsellor, which the generality of men take for it, but knowledge; {1}{this seems to be an imitation of what Plato says in the Protagoras. “We must not look upon all bold (tharraleous) men as courageous (andreious), for boldness is derived from human skill, or from anger, or from madness; but courage arises only from nature, and from a good disposition of the soul.”–P. 350.} (2) for some persons, being elated by boldness when they have bodily strength to assist them, array themselves in the ranks of war, in complete armour, and slay innumerable hosts of the enemy to a man, gaining by their exploits the unseemly but fine sounding name of preeminent valour, being accounted by the multitude which judges of such matters exceedingly glorious in their victory, though in fact they have been savage and brutal both in nature and practice, having thirsted for human blood. (3) But then as some men who, always remaining in their own houses, while their bodies have been worn away either by long sickness or by painful old age, still being healthy and vigorous in the better part of their soul, and being full of high thoughts, and inspired with a braver and happier fortitude, never, not even in their dreams, meddling with warlike weapons, nevertheless by their exposition and advocacy of wise counsels for the common advantage, have often re-established both the private affairs of individuals, and the common prosperity of their country when it was in danger, putting forth unyielding and inflexible reasonings concerning what has been really expedient. (4) These men, then, are they who practise real courage, being studiers and practisers of wisdom; but those other men have only what does not deserve to be so called though it assumes the name, as they live in that incurable disease, ignorance, which one may very fitly and properly call audacity, just as people say that in coins base metal often bears the same impression as the real stamp and money.

II. (5) Moreover, there is also no small number of other things in human life which are confessed to be very difficult to endure, such as poverty, and want of reputation, and mutilation, and various kinds of diseases, by which weak spirited men are broken down, not being able to raise themselves at all through their want of courage; but those men who are full of high thoughts and noble spirits, rise up to struggle against these things, and contend against them with fortitude and exceeding vigour, ridiculing and greatly despising their threats and attacks against their poverty; arraying wealth, not that wealth which is blind, but that which sees acutely, whose images and treasures the soul is naturally proud to treasure up; (6) for poverty has overthrown innumerable multitudes of men, who, like wearied athletes, have fainted and fallen, being reduced to a state of prostration by their want of real courage. And if truth is to be the judge, then no one whatever is really poor, who has the indestructible and inalienable riches of nature for his purveyor, the air, that first and most necessary and incessant support of life, being continually inhaled night and day, and besides that the numberless fountains, and the inexhaustible supply not only of winter torrents but of regular rivers, furnishing everlasting streams for drink, and besides this the abundance of all kinds of food to eat, and all descriptions of trees which are continually bearing their yearly fruits; for these are treasures of which no one is destitute, but all men in every quarter of the globe enjoy them in the greatest abundance. (7) But if any persons, utterly disregarding the true wealth of nature, pursue instead the riches of vain opinions, relying on those riches which are blind instead of on those which are gifted with acute sight, and taking a guide for their road who is himself crippled, such men must of necessity fall down.