Illud unum intellegi volumus, illius liberalitatem neque temporariam neque callidam fuisse. id ex ipsis rebus ac temporibus iudicari potest, quod non florentibus se venditavit, sed afflictis semper succurrit; qui quidem Serviliam, Bruti matrem, non minus post mortem eius quam florentem coluerit. sic liberalitate utens nullas inimicitias gessit, quod neque laedebat quemquam neque, si quam iniuriam acceperat, non malebat oblivisci quam ulcisci. Idem immortali memoria percepta retinebat beneficia; quae autem ipse tribuerat, tamdiu meminerat, quoad ille gratus erat, qui acceperat. itaque hic fecit, ut vere dictum videatur “sui cuique mores fingunt fortunam hominibus”. neque tamen ille prius fortunam quam se ipse finxit, qui cavit, ne qua in re iure plecteretur.
(Cornelius Nepos, Vita Attici 11.3-6)

I want one point to be understood, that his generosity did not depend on circumstances or on calculation. It may be concluded from the facts and circumstances themselves that he did not sell himself to the successful but always helped those in trouble. He even took care of Servilia, Brutus’ mother, no less after his death than while she prospered. He was magnanimous and pursued no feuds, since he harmed no one, and if he had received some injury, certainly preferred to forget, not to avenge. He likewise retained the kindnesses he had received in an unfading memory, while those he had himself bestowed he remembered for as long as the recipient was grateful. He so acted as to bear out the truth of the saying ‘each man’s character moulds his own fortune’. Nor did he mould his fortune before he moulded himself, and took care not to be blamed with justification in any matter. (tr. Nicholas Horsfall)


Titus Pomponius Atticus, © Seian92

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)


Death of Hannibal

Patres conscripti, qui Hannibale vivo numquam se sine insidiis futuros existimarent, legatos in Bithyniam miserunt, in eis Flamininum, qui ab rege peterent, ne inimicissimum suum secum haberet sibique dederet. his Prusia negare ausus non est; illud recusavit, ne id a se fieri postularent, quod adversus ius hospitii esset: ipsi, si possent, comprehenderent: locum, ubi esset, facile inventuros. Hannibal enim uno loco se tenebat, in castello quod ei a rege datum erat muneri, idque sic aedificarat, ut in omnibus partibus aedificii exitus haberet, scilicet verens ne usu veniret, quod accidit. huc cum legati Romanorum venissent ac multitudine domum eius circumdedissent, puer ab ianua prospiciens Hannibali dixit plures praeter consuetudinem armatos apparere. qui imperavit ei, ut omnes fores aedificii circumiret ac propere sibi nuutiaret, num eodem modo undique obsideretur. puer cum celeriter, quid vidisset, renuntiasset omnesque exitus occupatos ostendisset, sensit id non fortuito factum, sed se peti neque sibi diutius vitam esse retinendam. quam ne alieno arbitrio dimitteret, memor pristinarum virtutum venenum, quod semper secum habere consuerat, sumpsit. sic vir fortissimus, multis variisque perfunctus laboribus, anno acquievit septuagesimo.
(Cornelius Nepos, Hannibal 12.2-13.1)

The conscript fathers, who thought that they would never be free from plots as long as Hannibal was alive, sent ambassadors to Bithynia, and among them Flamininus, to request the king not to keep their bitterest enemy with him, but to deliver him up to them. To this embassy Prusias did not dare to give a refusal; he made some opposition, however, to one point, begging them not to require of him what was contrary to the rights of hospitality, saying that they themselves might make Hannibal prisoner, if they could, as they would easily find out the place where he was. Hannibal indeed confined himself to one place, living in a fortress which had been given him by the king; and this he had so constructed that it had outlets on every side of the building, always fearing lest that should happen which eventually came to pass. When the Roman ambassadors had gone thither, and had surrounded his house with a number of men, a slave, looking out at a gate, told Hannibal that several armed men were to be seen, contrary to what was usual. Hannibal desired him to go round to all the gates of the castle, and bring him word immediately whether it was beset in the same way on all sides. The slave having soon reported how it was, and informed him, that all the passages were secured, he felt certain that it was no accidental occurrence, but that his person was menaced, and that his life was no longer to be preserved. That he might not part with it, however, at the pleasure of another, and dwelling on the remembrance of his past honours, he took poison, which he had been accustomed always to carry with him. Thus this bravest of men, after having gone through many and various labours, found repose in the seventieth year of his age. (tr. John Selby Watson)


Jules Cavelier, Cornélie, mère des Gracques, 1861

Verbis conceptis deierare ausim, praeterquam qui Tiberium Gracchum necarunt, neminem inimicum tantum molestiae tantumque laboris quantum te ob has res mihi tradidisse, quem oportebat omnium eorum, quos antehac habui liberos partis tolerare, atque curare ut quam minimum sollicitudinis in senecta haberem, utique quaecumque ageres, ea velles maxume mihi placere, atque uti nefas haberes rerum maiorum adversum meam sententiam quicquam facere, praesertim mihi quoi parva pars vitae superest. ne id quidem tam breve spatium potest opitulari quin et mihi adversere et rem publicam profliges? denique quae pausa erit? ecquando desinet familia nostra insanire? ecquando modus ei rei haberi poterit? ecquando desinemus et habentes et praebentes molestiis insistere? ecquando perpudescet miscenda atque perturbanda re publica? sed si omnino id fieri non potest, ubi ego mortua ero, petito tribunatum: per me facito quod lubebit, cum ego non sentiam. ubi mortua ero, parentabis mihi et invocabis deum parentem. in eo tempore non pudebit te eorum deum preces expetere, quos vivos atque praesentes relictos atque desertos habueris? ne ille sirit Iuppiter te ea perseverare nec tibi tantam dementiam venire in animum! et si perseveras, vereor ne in omnem vitam tantum laboris culpa tua recipias, uti nullo tempore tute tibi placere possis.
(Cornelius Nepos, De Viris Illustribus fr. 2 Winstedt)

I would take a solemn oath that apart from those who killed Tiberius Gracchus no enemy has given me so much trouble and so much pain as you in this matter, who ought to undertake the part of all the children I have ever had, and to make sure that I should have as little worry as possible in my old age, and that, whatever your schemes might be, you should wish them to be agreeable to me, and that you should count it a sin to take any major step against my wishes, especially considering I have only a little part of life left. Cannot even that brief span of time aid me in preventing you from opposing me and ruining our country? Where will it all end? Will our family ever cease from madness? Will bounds ever be set to it? Shall we ever cease to dwell on affronts, both causing and suffering them? Shall we ever begin to feel true shame for confounding and harassing our country? But if that is quite impossible, when I am dead, then seek the Tribunate. Do what you like as far as I am concerned, when I am not there to know it. When I am dead, you will offer funerary sacrifices in my honour and invoke me as your hallowed parent At that time will you not be ashamed to seek the intercession of those hallowed ones whom, when they were alive and present, you abandoned and deserted? May Jove above not let you persist in this nor let such lunacy enter your mind! But if you do persist, I fear that through your own fault you will encounter so much trouble throughout your whole life that at no time you will be able to rest content. (tr. Edward J. Kenney, adapted by Emily Hemelrijk)