12 Jun Whatever can one man befall can happen just as well to all.
If a man lets this sink deep into his heart, and, when he looks upon the evils of others, of which there is a huge supply every day, remembers that they are free to come to him also, he will arm himself against them long before they attack him. It is too late to equip the soul to endure dangers after the dangers have arisen. You say: “I did not think this would happen,” and “Would you have believed that this would happen?” But why not? Where are the riches that do not have poverty and hunger and beggary following close behind? What rank is there whose bordered robe and augur’s wand and patrician boot-laces do not carry in their train rags and branded disgrace — a thousand stigmas and utter disrepute?
What kingdom is there for which ruin and a trampling underfoot and the tyrant and the hangman are not in store? Nor are such things cut off by long intervals, but between the throne and bending at another’s knees there is but an hour’s space. Know, then, that every lot in life is changeable, and that whatever befalls, any man can befall you also. You are rich: but are you any richer than Pompey? Yet he lacked even bread and water when Gaius, an old kinsman but a new sort of host, had opened to him the house of Caesar in order that he might have a chance to close his own! Though he owned so many rivers that had their source within his own lands and their mouth within his own lands, he had to beg for drops of water. In the palace of his kinsman he perished from hunger and thirst, and, while he was starving, his heir was arranging to give him a state funeral!
You have held the highest offices; but have you held any as great, as unlooked for, as comprehensive as those of Sejanus? Yet on the day on which the senate played the escort the people tore him to pieces! Of the man who had had heaped upon him all that gods and men were able to bestow nothing was left for the executioner to drag to the river! You are a king: it will not be Croesus to whom I shall direct you, who lived to see his own pyre both lighted and extinguished, who was forced to survive, not his kingdom only, but even his own death, nor Jugurtha, whom the Roman people gazed upon as a captive in less than a year after he had made them afraid. We ourselves have seen Ptolemy, king of Africa, and Mithridates, king of Armenia, under the charge of Gaius’s guards; the one was sent into exile, the other was anxious to be sent there in better faith!
In view of this great mutability of fortune, that moves now upward, now downward, unless you consider that whatever can happen is likely to happen to you, you surrender yourself into the power of adversity, which any man can crush if he sees her first.
On Tranquility of Mind