To Polybius, on Consolation V

It will also be no small assistance to you to consider that there is no one to whom your grief is more offensive than he upon whom it is nominally bestowed: he either does not wish you to suffer or does not understand why you suffer.

There is, therefore, no reason for a service which is useless if it is not felt by him who is the object of it, and which is displeasing to him if it is.

I can boldly affirm that there is no one in the whole world who derives any pleasure from your tears.

What then? do you suppose that your brother has a feeling against you which no one else has, that he wishes you to be injured by your self-torture, that he desires to separate you from the business of your life, that is, from philosophy and from Caesar? that is not likely: for he always gave way to you as a brother, respected you as a parent, courted you as a superior.

He wishes to be fondly remembered by you, but not to be a source of agony to you.

Why, then, should you insist upon pining away with a grief which, if the dead have any feelings, your brother wishes to bring to an end?

If it were any other brother about whose affection there could be any question, I should put all this vaguely, and say, “If your brother wishes you to be tortured with endless mourning, he does not deserve such affection: if he does not wish it, dismiss the grief which affects you both: an unnatural brother ought not, a good brother would not wish to be so mourned for,” but with one whose brotherly love has been so clearly proved, we may be quite sure that nothing could hurt him more than that you should be hurt by his loss, that it should agonize you, that your eyes, most undeserving as they are of such a fate, should be by the same cause continually filled and drained of never-ceasing tears.

Nothing however will restrain your loving nature from these useless tears so effectually as the reflection that you ought to show your brothers an example by bearing this outrage of fortune bravely.

You ought to imitate great generals in times of disaster, when they are careful to affect a cheerful demeanour, and conceal misfortunes by a counterfeited joyousness, lest, if the soldiers saw their leader cast down, they should themselves become dispirited.

This must now be done by you also. Put on a countenance that does not reflect your feelings, and if you possibly can, cast out completely all of your grief; if not, conceal it within you and hide it away so that it may not be seen, and take care that your brothers, who will think everything honourable that they see you doing, imitate you in this and take courage from the sight of your looks.

It is your duty to be both their comfort and their consoler; but you will have no power to check their grief if you humour your own.