11 Jan ON FORTUNE (PLUTARCH)
Why, no one ever yet wetted earth with water and then left it, thinking it would become bricks by fortune and spontaneously, or procured wool and leather, and sat down and prayed Fortune that it might become clothes and shoes; nor does anyone getting together much gold and silver and a quantity of slaves, and living in a spacious hall with many doors, and making a display of costly couches and tables, believe that these things will constitute his happiness, and give him a painless happy life secure from changes, unless he be wise also.
A certain person asked the general Iphicrates in a scolding way who he was, as he seemed neither a heavy-armed soldier, nor a bowman, nor a targeteer, and he replied,
“I am the person who rule and make use of all these.”
So wisdom is neither gold, nor silver, nor fame, nor wealth, nor health, nor strength, nor beauty.
What is it then?
It is what can use all these well, and that by means of which each of these things becomes pleasant and esteemed and useful, and without which they are useless; and unprofitable and injurious, and a burden and disgrace to their possessor.
So Hesiod’s Prometheus gives very good advice to Epimetheus,
“not to receive gifts from Olympian Zeus but to send them back,”
meaning external things and things of fortune. For as if he urged one who knew nothing of music not to play on the pipe, or one who knew nothing of letters not to read, or one who was not used to horses not to ride, so he advised him not to take office if he were foolish, nor to grow rich if he were illiberal, nor to marry if likely to be ruled by his wife.
For success beyond their merit is to foolish persons a cause of folly, as Demosthenes said, and good fortune beyond their merit is to those who are not sensible a cause of misfortune.