Of all the matters which we have discussed, Aebutius Liberalis, there is none more essential, or which, as Sallust says, ought to be stated with more care than that which is now before us: whether the bestowal of benefits and the return of gratitude for them are desirable objects in themselves.
Some men are found who act honourably from commercial motives, and who do not care for unrewarded virtue, though it can confer no glory if it brings any profit.
What can be more base than for a man to consider what it costs him to be a good man, when virtue neither allures by gain nor deters by loss, and is so far from bribing anyone with hopes and promises, that on the other hand she bids them spend money upon herself, and often consists in voluntary gifts?
We must go to her, trampling what is merely useful under our feet: whithersoever she may call us or send us we must go, without any regard for our private fortunes, sometimes without sparing even our own blood, nor must we ever refuse to obey any of her commands. “What shall I gain,” says my opponent, “if I do this bravely and gratefully?”
You will gain the doing of it—the deed itself is your gain.
Nothing beyond this is promised.
If any advantage chances to accrue to you, count it as something extra.
The reward of honourable dealings lies in themselves.
If honour is to be sought after for itself, since a benefit is honourable, it follows that because both of these are of the same nature, their conditions must also be the same.
Now it has frequently and satisfactorily been proved, that honour ought to be sought after for itself alone.