Tempore quo primis auspiciis in mundanum fulgorem surgeret victura dum erunt homines Roma, ut augeretur sublimibus incrementis, foedere pacis aeternae Virtus convenit atque Fortuna plerumque dissidentes, quarum si altera defuisset, ad perfectam non venerat summitatem. eius populus ab incunabulis primis ad usque pueritiae tempus extremum, quod annis circumcluditur fere trecentis, circummurana pertulit bella, deinde aetatem ingressus adultam post multiplices bellorum aerumnas Alpes transcendit et fretum, in iuvenem erectus et virum ex omni plaga quam orbis ambit immensus, reportavit laureas et triumphos, iamque vergens in senium et nomine solo aliquotiens vincens ad tranquilliora vitae discessit. ideo urbs venerabilis post superbas efferatarum gentium cervices oppressas latasque leges fundamenta libertatis et retinacula sempiterna velut frugi parens et prudens et dives Caesaribus tamquam liberis suis regenda patrimonii iura permisit. et olim licet otiosae sint tribus pacataeque centuriae et nulla suffragiorum certamina set Pompiliani redierit securitas temporis, per omnes tamen quotquot sunt partes terrarum, ut domina suscipitur et regina et ubique patrum reverenda cum auctoritate canities populique Romani nomen circumspectum et verecundum. sed laeditur hic coetuum magnificus splendor levitate paucorum incondita, ubi nati sunt non reputantium, sed tamquam indulta licentia vitiis ad errores lapsorum ac lasciviam. ut enim Simonides lyricus docet, beate perfecta ratione victuro ante alia patriam esse convenit gloriosam. ex his quidam aeternitati se commendari posse per statuas aestimantes eas ardenter adfectant quasi plus praemii de figmentis aereis sensu carentibus adepturi, quam ex conscientia honeste recteque factorum, easque auro curant imbratteari, quod Acilio Glabrioni delatum est primo, cum consiliis armisque regem superasset Antiochum. quam autem sit pulchrum exigua haec spernentem et minima ad ascensus verae gloriae tendere longos et arduos, ut memorat vates Ascraeus, Censorius Cato monstravit. Qui interrogatus quam ob rem inter multos ipse statuam non haberet, “malo” inquit “ambigere bonos quam ob rem id non meruerim, quam (quod est gravius) cur impetraverim mussitare.”
(Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 14.6.3-8)

At the time when Rome first began to rise into a position of world-wide splendour, destined to live so long as men shall exist, in order that she might grow to a towering stature, Virtue and Fortune, ordinarily at variance, formed a pact of eternal peace; for if either one of them had failed her, Rome had not come to complete supremacy. Her people, from the very cradle to the end of their childhood, a period of about three hundred years, carried on wars about her walls. Then, entering upon adult life, after many toilsome wars, they crossed the Alps and the sea. Grown to youth and manhood, from every region which the vast globe includes, they brought back laurels and triumphs. And now, declining into old age, and often owing victory to its name alone, it has come to a quieter period of life. Thus the venerable city, after humbling the proud necks of savage nations, and making laws, the everlasting foundations and moorings of liberty, like a thrifty parent, wise and wealthy, has entrusted the management of her inheritance to the Caesars, as to her children. And although for some time the tribes have been inactive and the centuries at peace, and there are no contests for votes but the tranquillity of Numa’s time has returned, yet throughout all regions and parts of the earth she is accepted as mistress and queen; everywhere the white hair of the senators and their authority are revered and the name of the Roman people is respected and honoured. But this magnificence and splendour of the assemblies is marred by the rude worthlessness of a few, who do not consider where they were born, but, as if licence were granted to vice, descend to sin and wantonness. For as the lyric poet Simonides tells us, one who is going to live happy and in accord with perfect reason ought above all else to have a glorious fatherland. Some of these men eagerly strive for statues, thinking that by them they can be made immortal, as if they would gain a greater reward from senseless brazen images than from the consciousness of honourable and virtuous conduct. And they take pains to have them overlaid with gold, a fashion first introduced by Acilius Glabrio, after his skill and his arms had overcome King Antiochus. But how noble it is, scorning these slight and trivial honours, to aim to tread the long and steep ascent to true glory, as the bard of Ascra expresses it, is made clear by Cato the Censor. For when he was asked why he alone among many did not have a statue, he replied: “I would rather that good men should wonder why I did not deserve one than (which is much worse) should mutter ‘Why was he given one?'” (tr. John C. Rolfe)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: