Neque vero ille minus bonus pater familias habitus est quam civis. nam cum esset pecuniosus, nemo illo minus fuit emax, minus aedificator. neque tamen non imprimis bene habitavit omnibusque optimis rebus usus est. nam domum habuit in colle Quirinali Tamphilianam, ab avunculo hereditate relictam, cuius amoenitas non aedificio, sed silva constabat: ipsum enim tectum antiquitus constitutum plus salis quam sumptus habebat: in quo nihil commutavit, nisi si quid vetustate coactus est. usus est familia, si utilitate iudicandum est, optima, si forma, vix mediocri. namque in ea erant pueri litteratissimi, anagnostae optimi et plurimi librarii, ut ne pedisequus quidem quisquam esset, qui non utrumque horum pulchre facere posset, pari modo artifices ceteri, quos cultus domesticus desiderat, apprime boni. neque tamen horum quemquam nisi domi natum domique factum habuit: quod est signum non solum continentiae, sed etiam diligentiae. nam et non intemperanter concupiscere, quod a plurimis videas, continentis debet duci, et potius industria quam pretio parare non mediocris est diligentiae. elegans, non magnificus, splendidus, non sumptuosus: omnisque diligentia munditiam, non affluentiam affectabat. supellex modica, non multa, ut in neutram partem conspici posset. nec praeteribo, quamquam nonnullis leve visum iri putem, cum imprimis lautus esset eques Romanus et non parum liberaliter domum suam omnium ordinum homines invitaret, non amplius quam terna milia peraeque in singulos menses ex ephemeride eum expensum sumptui ferre solitum. atque hoc non auditum, sed cognitum praedicamus: saepe enim propter familiaritatem domesticis rebus interfuimus.
(Cornelius Nepos, Vita Attici 13)
But he was regarded as no less good a head of a household than he was a citizen. For though he was wealthy, no man was less partial to buying and to building. However, he did live extremely well and everything he used was of the best. For his house, once Tamphilus’, was on the Quirinal hill; it had been bequeathed to him by his uncle, and its charm lay not in the building but in the grounds, for the structure itself was built long ago and had more character than luxury. In it he changed nothing except in cases when he was forced to by its age. His slave household, to judge by its practical qualities, was outstanding; to judge by its beauty, barely adequate. For among it there were highly educated slaves, excellent readers, and numerous copyists, so there was not even a single footman who could not both read and copy finely. Likewise, the other specialists required by domestic comfort were particularly good. Every one of them was born and trained in the household; this is a sign not only of his restraint but also of his industry, for, first, not to have immoderate desires, such as you would very frequently see, should be thought the sign of a self-restrained man, and, second, to procure by effort rather than by outlay is a sign of considerable determination. He was of good taste, not lordly, splendid not lavish, and with all his efforts aimed not at affluence but at elegance. His furnishings were moderate not copious, to be noted for neither excess. Nor shall I omit, though I think some may judge it trivial, that though he was an exceptionally substantial Roman knight and invited to his home very generously men of all ranks, he used to allow 3,000 sesterces a month on average for domestic expenses from his accounts. This I assert as a matter not reported but observed, for I often joined in his life at home on account of our relations. (tr. Nicholas Horsfall)