What do men profit by age when their mind has all the faults of childhood and their defects are intensified by time?
When they differ from children only in the size and appearance of their bodies, and are just as unsteady and capricious, eager for pleasure without discrimination, timorous and quiet through fear rather than through natural disposition?
One cannot say that such men differ from children because the latter are greedy for knuckle-bones and nuts and coppers, while the former are greedy for gold and silver and cities; because the latter play amongst themselves at being magistrates, and imitate the purple-edged robe of
State, the lictors’ axes, and the judgment-seat, while the former play with the same things in earnest in the Campus Martius and the courts of justice; because the latter pile up the sand on the seashore into the likeness of houses, and the former, with an air of being engaged in important business, employ themselves in piling up stones and walls and roofs until they have turned what was intended for the protection of the body into a danger to it?
Children and those more advanced in age both make the same mistake, but the latter deal with different and more important things; the wise man, therefore, is quite justified in treating the affronts which he receives from such men as jokes: and sometimes he corrects them, as he would children, by pain and punishment, not because he has received an injury, but because they have done one and in order that they may do so no more.
Thus we break in animals with stripes, yet we are not angry with them when they refuse to carry their rider, but curb them in order that pain may overcome their obstinacy.
Now, therefore, you know the answer to the question which was put to us, “Why, if the wise man receives neither injury nor insult, he punishes those who do these things?”
He does not revenge himself, but corrects them.