Periculosior

Andrea_del_Castagno_-_Niccolò_Acciauoli
Andrea del Castagno, fresco of Niccolò Acciaiuoli

Vidimus te adversae fortunae magnificentissime reluctantem; iam cernimus te victorem; sed en totiens victa revertitur aspectu mitior et auratae cassidis, ut ita dixerim, fulgore suavior. vicisti adversam; prospera redit in proelium: quid putas? mutata sunt arma, non hostis, et tibi quoque novo armorum genere est opus; nolo enim extimes minus esse negotii quoniam hostis est blandior; nullum insidiosius bellum est quam ubi blanditiis credulitas oppugnatur. in arcto quidem egregie rem gessisti; qualem te in aperto exhibeas expectamus. multos in angustiis indefessos campestris pugna lassavit, multos in adversitatibus fortes viros fortuna prosperior stravit; Hanibal Cannis victor, victus est Capuae et ardorem, quem Trebia glacialis accenderat, tepor Baianus extinxit; saepe pax periculosior bello fuit, multis nocuit adversario caruisse. quorundam virtus otio latuit; quorundam vero prorsus emarcuit, locum submoti hostis occupante luxuria. nulla homini pertinacior lis quam cum animo moribusque suis; nusquam minus indutiarum; intra murum pugna est; hoc genus hostium bello languidum pace fervidum experimur et sub toga plus ausurum quam sub galea.
(Petrarca, Epist. Fam. 12.2.4-6)

We have watched you wrestling most magnificently with opposing fortune, and already behold you as victor, but see! though so often defeated, Fortune is returning milder in appearance and sweeter, so to speak, in the gleam of her gilded helmet. You conquered her in adversity, but in success she is returning to battle. What do you think? Her weapons have changed, but not the enemy, and you too need a new kind of weaponry, since I do not want you to think there is less trouble because the enemy is more beguiling: no war is more treacherous than when the credulity is attacked by compliments. In difficult straits you handled the task brilliantly, and we are now waiting to see how you handle yourself in open combat. A pitched battle has exhausted many warriors unwearied in times of hardship and a favoring fortune has laid low many men gallant in adverse circumstances: Hannibal, victor of Cannae, was overcome by Capua, and the ardor of battle which icy Trebia has kindled was extinguished by the warmth of Baiae; often peace was more dangerous than war, and it harmed many fighters to be without an adversary. Some heroes’ valor went unnoticed in idle peace, and other men’s utterly withered way, as indulgence took the place of the ousted enemy. There is no more obstinate conflict for any man than with his own character and behavior, nowhere is there less chance of armistice, for the battle is inside the fortifications; we are experiencing this kind of enemy, idle in war but passionate in peace: one who will dare more in the toga than in his helmet. (tr. Elaine Fantham)

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