Mutuamur

Quod dico, non videbitur durum, quamvis primo contra opinionem tuam pugnet, si te commodaveris mihi et cogitaveris plures esse res quam verba. ingens copia est rerum sine nomine, quas non propriis appellationibus notamus, sed alienis commodatisque: pedem et nostrum dicimus et lecti et veli et carminis, canem et venaticum et marinum et sidus; quia non sufficimus, ut singulis singula adsignemus, quotiens opus est, mutuamur. fortitudo est virtus pericula iusta contemnens aut scientia periculorum repellendorum, excipiendorum, provocandorum; dicimus tamen et gladiatorem fortem virum et servum nequam, quem in contemptum mortis temeritas impulit. parsimonia est scientia vitandi sumptus supervacuos aut ars re familiari moderate utendi; parcissimum tamen hominem vocamus pusilli animi et contracti, cum infinitum intersit inter modum et angustias. haec alia sunt natura, sed efficit inopia sermonis, ut et hunc et illum parcum vocemus, ut et ille fortis dicatur cum ratione fortuita despiciens et hic sine ratione in pericula excurrens. sic beneficium est et actio, ut diximus, benefica et ipsum, quod datur per illam actionem, ut pecunia, ut domus, ut praetexta; unum utrique nomen est, vis quidem ac potestas longe alia. (Seneca Minor, De Beneficiis 2.34)

You will come to see that what I am saying is not too bold, although at first it may not accord with your own ideas, if only you will give me your attention, and reflect that there are many things for which there are no words. There is a vast number of things that have no name, and the terms by which we designate them, instead of being their own, belong to other things from which they are borrowed. We say that we ourselves, a couch, a sail, and a poem, have a “foot,” and we apply the word “dog” to a hound, to a creature of the sea, and to a constellation; since there are not enough words to make it possible for us to assign a separate one to each separate thing, we borrow whenever it becomes necessary. Bravery is the virtue that scorns legitimate dangers, or knowing how to ward off, to meet, and to court dangers; yet we call both a gladiator and the worthless slave whose rashness has forced him into scorn of death a “brave” man. Frugality is knowing how to avoid unnecessary expenditure, or the art of applying moderation to the use of private means; yet we call a petty-minded and close-fisted man a very “frugal” person although there is an infinite difference between moderation and meanness. These are essentially different things, yet our poverty of language leads us to call each of the two types a “frugal” person, and likewise to say that both the man who by the exercise of reason scorns the blows of Fortune and the one who rushes into dangers unreasoningly are “brave.” So a “benefit,” as we have said, is both a beneficent act and likewise the object itself which is given by means of the aforesaid act, as money, a house, the robe of office; the two things bear the same name, but they are very different in their import and operation. (tr. John W. Basore)

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