To Polybius, on Consolation II

It will also be no small assistance to you to reflect that grief can do no good either to him whom you have lost or to yourself, and you would not wish to protract what is useless: for if we could gain anything by sorrow, I should not refuse to bestow upon your misfortunes whatever tears my own have left at my disposal: I would force some drops to flow from these eyes, exhausted as they are with weeping over my own domestic afflictions, were it likely to be of any service to you.

Why do you hesitate? let us lament together, and I will even make this quarrel my own:⁠—“Fortune, whom everyone thinks most unjust, you seemed hitherto to have restrained yourself from attacking one who by your favour had become the object of such universal respect that⁠—rare distinction for anyone⁠—his prosperity had excited no jealousy: but now, behold! you have dealt him the cruelest wound which, while Caesar lives, he could receive, and after reconnoitering him from all sides you have discovered that on this point alone he was exposed to your strokes.

What else indeed could you have done to him? should you take away his wealth? he never was its slave: now he has even as far as possible put it away from him, and the chief thing that he has gained by his unrivalled facilities for amassing money has been to despise it.

Should you take away his friends? you knew that he was of so loveable a disposition that he could easily gain others to replace those whom he might lose: for of all the powerful officers of the Imperial household he seems to me to be the only one whom all men wish to have for their friend without considering how advantageous his friendship would be.

Should you take away his reputation? it is so firmly established, that even you could not shake it. Should you take away his health? you knew that his mind was so grounded on philosophical studies, in whose schools he was born as well as bred, that it would rise superior to any sufferings of the body.

Should you take away his breath? how small an injury would that be to him? fame promised his genius one of the longest of lives: he himself has taken care that his better part should remain alive, and has guarded himself against death by the composition of his admirable works of eloquence: as long as literature shall be held in any honour, as long as the vigour of the Latin or the grace of the Greek language shall endure, he will flourish together with their greatest writers, with whose genius he has measured, or, if his modesty will not let me say this, has connected his own.

This, then, was the only means you could devise of doing him a great injury.

The better a man is, the more frequently he is wont to suffer from your indiscriminate rage, you who are to be feared even when you are bestowing benefits upon one.

How little it would have cost you to avert this blow from one upon whom your favours seemed to be conferred according to some regular plan, and not to be flung at random in your wonted fashion!”