On Benefits Book II, XXI

It seems to offer more opportunity for debate to consider what a captive ought to do, if a man of abominable vices offers him the price of his ransom?

Shall I permit myself to be saved by a wretch?

When safe, what recompense can I make to him?

Am I to live with an infamous person?

Yet, am I not to live with my preserver? I will tell you my opinion.

I would accept money, even from such a person, if it were to save my life; yet I would only accept it as a loan, not as a benefit.

I would repay him the money, and if I were ever able to preserve him from danger I would do so.

As for friendship, which can only exist between equals, I would not condescend to be such a man’s friend; nor would I regard him as my preserver, but merely as a moneylender, to whom I am only bound to repay what I borrowed from him.

A man may be a worthy person for me to receive a benefit from, but it will hurt him to give it.

For this reason I will not receive it, because he is ready to help me to his own prejudice, or even danger.

Suppose that he is willing to plead for me in court, but by so doing will make the king his enemy.

I should be his enemy, if, when he is willing to risk himself for me, if I were not to risk myself without him, which moreover is easier for me to do.

As an instance of this, Hecaton calls the case of Arcesilaus silly, and not to the purpose.

Arcesilaus, he says, refused to receive a large sum of money which was offered to him by a son, lest the son should offend his penurious father.

What did he do deserving of praise, in not receiving stolen goods, in choosing not to receive them, instead of returning them?

What proof of self-restraint is there in refusing to receive another man’s property?

If you want an instance of magnanimity, take the case of Julius Graecinus, whom Caius Caesar put to death merely on the ground that he was a better man than it suited a tyrant for anyone to be.

This man, when he was receiving subscriptions from many of his friends to cover his expenses in exhibiting public games, would not receive a large sum which was sent him by Fabius Persicus; and when he was blamed for rejecting it by those who think more of what is given than of who gives it, he answered, “Am I to accept a present from a man when I would not accept his offer to drink a glass of wine with him?”

A consular named Rebilius, a man of equally bad character, sent a yet larger sum to Graecinus, and pressed him to receive it.

“I must beg,” answered he, “that you will excuse me. I did not take money from Persicus either.”

Ought we to call this receiving presents, or rather taking one’s pick of the senate?