Throw some knucklebones? Or crack some knuckles?

Basil of Caesarea, Letter to the Young, on how to profit from reading the pagan classics:

τὰ μὲν ἄλλα τῶν κτημάτων, οὐ μᾶλλον τῶν ἐχόντων ἢ καὶ οὑτινοσοῦν τῶν ἐπιτυχόντων ἐστὶν ὥσπερ ἐν παιδιᾷ κύβων τῇδε κἀκεῖσε μεταβαλλόμενα· μόνη δὲ κτημάτων ἡ ἀρετὴ ἀναφαίρετον καὶ ζῶντι καὶ τελευτήσαντι παραμένουσα. ὅθεν δὴ καὶ Σόλων μοι δοκεῖ πρὸς τοὺς εὐπόρους εἰπεῖν τό·

Ἀλλ‘ ἡμεῖς αὐτοῖς οὐ διαμειψόμεθα

Τῆς ἀρετῆς τὸν πλοῦτον, ἐπεὶ τὸ μὲν ἔμπεδον αἰεί,

Χρήματα δ‘ ἀνθρώπων ἄλλοτε ἄλλος ἔχει.

Παραπλήσια δὲ τούτοις καὶ τὰ Θεόγνιδος, ἐν οἷς φησι τὸν θεόν, ὅντινα δὴ καί φησι, τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὸ τάλαντον ἐπιρρέπειν ἄλλοτε ἄλλως· ἄλλοτε μὲν πλουτεῖν, ἄλλοτε δὲ μηδὲν ἔχειν.

Now other possessions belong no more to the one possessing them than to whomever happens to get them, as in a game of dice when they roll now here now there; but virtue alone of possessions is unable to be stripped away and lasts as a possession for a man both while he lives and when he dies.

Whence of course also Solon seems to me to say to those who are well off:

But we shall not trade with them

Virtue for wealth, since the one is always permanent,

But money now one man and now another holds.

And similar to these are also the words of Theognis, in which he says that god, whomever he means by that, tips the scales for men now one way, now another; sometimes toward prosperity, sometimes toward having nothing.


Saint Basil of Caesarea lived in the fourth century, Solon and Theognis in the sixth B.C.


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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