XXIV. (107) Moses, therefore, represents the serpent that appeared to Eve as planning the death of man, for he records, that God says in his curses, “He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” But he represents the serpent of Dan, which is the one which we are now discussing, as biting the heel of the horse and not of the man, (108) for the serpent of Eve, being the symbol of pleasure, as has been already shown, attacks man, that is to say, the reasoning power which is in every one of us; for the enjoyment and free use of excessive pleasure is the destruction of the mind; (109) and the serpent of Dan being a sort of image of vigorous virtue and of patient endurance, will bite the horse, who is the emblem of passion and wickedness, because temperance is occupied about the over throw and destruction of these things. Accordingly, when they are bitten and when they have fallen, “the horseman also,” says Moses, “will fall;” (110) and the meaning which he conceals under this enigmatical expression is such as this, that we must think it an excellent thing and an object worthy of all labour, that our mind shall not be mounted upon any one of the passions or vices, but that whenever an attempt is made by force to put it upon one of them, we must endeavour to leap off and fall, for such falls produce the most glorious victories. On which account one of the ancients, when challenged to a contest of abuse, said, “I will never engage in such a contest as that in which he who wins is more dishonoured than he who is defeated.”
XXV. (111) Do you, therefore, my friend, never enter into a contest of evil, and never contend for the pre-eminence in such practices, but rather exert yourself with all your might to escape from them. And if ever, being under the compulsion of some power which is mightier than yourself, you are compelled to engage in such a strife, take care to be without delay defeated; (112) for then you, being defeated, will be a glorious conqueror, and those who have gained the victory will have got the worst. And do not ever entrust it to a herald to proclaim the victory of your rival or to the judge to crown; but do you go yourself and offer to him the acknowledgment of victory and the palm, and crown him, if he will, and bind him with wreaths of triumph, and proclaim him as conqueror yourself, pronouncing with a loud and piercing voice such a proclamation as this: “O ye spectators, and ye who have offered prizes at these games! In this contest which you have proposed to us of appetite, and passion, and intemperance, and folly, and injustice, I have been defeated, and this man whom ye behold has gained the victory. And he has gained it by such a superabundance of excellence, that even we, who might very naturally have envied our conquerors, do not grudge him the triumph.” (113) Therefore, in all these unholy contests, surrender the prizes to others; but, as for those which are really holy, study yourself to gain the crown in them. And think not those contests holy which the different cities propose in their triennial festivals, when they build theatres and receive many myriads of people; for in those he who has overthrown any one in wrestling, or who has cast him on his back or on his face upon the ground, or he who is very skilful in wrestling or in the pancratium, carries off the first prize, though he may be a man who has never abstained from any act of violence or of injustice.