Roman Calendar

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"True Wealth" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:

"True Wealth

We shall condemn the treasures of Croesus and Cinyras as deepest poverty - One man alone is rich, the man who has acquired the ability to want nothing, always and everywhere.

Musonius asked for a thousand sesterces to be given to a beggar who was pretending to be a philosopher - when several people told him that the rascal was a bad, vicious fellow, who didn't deserve anything good, Musonius answered with a grin, 'Well, then, he deserves money.'

The notorius Rutilius, coming up to Musonius in Rome, said, 'Zeus the Saviour whom you imitate and emulate does not borrow money.' Musonius answered with a smile, 'He doesn't lend, either.' For Rutilius, while lending money himself, was telling off Musonius for borrowing.

. . .

Testimony to [the power of living a Spartan life] is the endurance of the Spartan adolescent men - antiquated with hunger, thirst, and cold - even with blows and other hardships. Trained in such noble and austere habits, the ancient Spartans were held up to be the best of the Greeks. Their poverty was envied more than the King's wealth! Thus I choose sickness over luxury, for sickness only harms the body, but luxury destroys body and soul - bringing with it weakness, a feeble body, and lack of self-control - cowardice in the soul."

Unsurprisingly, like all Stoics, Musonius Rufus declares that the only true wealth is virtue, and that, paradoxically, virtue is one thing the wealthy have difficulty obtaining, for not only can it not be purchased at any price, but acceptance of luxurious living makes one less willing to accept hardship.

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