Was another the guest of honor at a party? Was another asked for expert counsel? Was another on the cover of Time or People this week? If these are good things, rejoice for the people who got them. If they’re not good things, you shouldn’t mind missing them. Remember that if you don’t do the things others do in chasing after what we can’t control, you’ve got no claim to a piece of that action. If you don’t kowtow to the powerful and flatter them, you can’t expect to get the same rewards as someone who does. You’re unfair and impossible to please if you won’t pay the going price for advantages and think you should get them for nothing.
What’s the price of a hamburger? A dollar, say. If someone else pays her dollar and gets her hamburger, and you don’t, she’s no better off than you – she has her hamburger, and you still have the dollar you didn’t give.
There’s no free dinner, either. If you weren’t asked to a dinner party, you didn’t buy your invitation with the currency the host sells them for: attention and praise. Pay the price, if it serves a purpose for you. But if you want to withhold the praise and still get the invitation, you’re a fool. If you don’t buy, what do you have? The pleasure of not having flattered, and exemption from having to endure the airs that the host puts on.
Has someone been honoured above you at a dinner-party, or in salutation, or in being called in to give advice? Now if these matters are good, you ought to be happy that he got them; but if evil, be not distressed because you did not get them; and bear in mind that, if you do not act the same way that others do, with a view to getting things which are not under our control, you cannot be considered worthy to receive an equal share with others. Why, how is it possible for a person who does not haunt some man’s door, to have equal shares with the man who does? For the man who does not do escort duty, with the man who does? For the man who does not praise, with the man who does? You will be unjust, therefore, and insatiable, if, while refusing to pay the price for which such things are bought, you want to obtain them for nothing. Well, what is the price for heads of lettuce? An obol, perhaps. If, then, somebody gives up his obol and gets his heads of lettuce, while you do not give your obol, and do not get them, do not imagine that you are worse off than the man who gets his lettuce. For as he has his heads of lettuce, so you have your obol which you have not given away.
Now it is the same way also in life. You have not been invited to somebody’s dinner-party? Of course not; for you didn’t give the host the price at which he sells his dinner. He sells it for praise; he sells it for personal attention. Give him the price, then, for which it is sold, if it is to your interest. But if you wish both not to give up the one and yet to get the other, you are insatiable and a simpleton. Have you, then, nothing in place of the dinner? Indeed you have; you have not had to praise the man you did not want to praise; you have not had to put up with the insolence of his doorkeepers.
Has some one had precedence of you at an entertainment or a levée or been called in before you to give advice? If these things are good you ought to be glad that he got them; if they are evil, do not be angry that you did not get them yourself. Remember that if you want to get what is not in your power, you cannot earn the same reward as others unless you act as they do. How is it possible for one who does not haunt the great man’s door to have equal shares with one who does, or one who does not go in his train equality with one who does; or one who does not praise him with one who does? You will be unjust then and insatiable if you wish to get these privileges for nothing, without paying their price. What is the price of a lettuce? An obol perhaps. If then a man pays his obol and gets his lettuces, and you do not pay and do not get them, do not think you are defrauded. For as he has the lettuces so you have the obol you did not give. The same principle holds good too in conduct. You were not invited to some one’s entertainment? Because you did not give the host the price for which he sells his dinner. He sells it for compliments, he sells it for attentions. Pay him the price then, if it is to your profit. But if you wish to get the one and yet not give up the other, nothing can satisfy you in your folly.
What! you say, you have nothing instead of the dinner?
Nay, you have this, you have not praised the man you did not want to praise, you have not had to bear with the insults of his doorstep.
Has any man been preferred before you at a banquet, or in being saluted, or in being invited to a consultation? If these things are good, you ought to rejoice that he has obtained them: but if bad, be not grieved because you have not obtained them; and remember that you cannot, if you do not the same things in order to obtain what is not in our power, be considered worthy of the same (equal) things. For how can a man obtain an equal share with another when he does not visit a man’s doors as that other man does, when he does not attend him when he goes abroad, as the other man does; when he does not praise (flatter) him as another does? You will be unjust, then, and insatiable, if you do not part with the price, in return for which those things are sold, and if you wish to obtain them for nothing. Well, what is the price of lettuces? An obolus perhaps. If, then, a man gives up the obolus, and receives the lettuces, and if you do not give up the obolus and do not obtain the lettuces, do not suppose that you receive less than he who has got the lettuces; for as he has the lettuces, so you have the obolus which you did not give. In the same way, then, in the other matter also you have not been invited to a man’s feast, for you did not give to the host the price at which the supper is sold; but he sells it for praise (flattery), he sells it for personal attention. Give then the price, if it is for your interest, for which it is sold. But if you wish both not to give the price and to obtain the things, you are insatiable and silly. Have you nothing then in place of the supper? You have indeed, you have the not flattering of him, whom you did not choose to flatter; you have the not enduring of the man when he enters the room.
Is some one preferred before you at a feast or in salutation, or in being invited to give counsel? Then if these things be good, you should rejoice that he has gained them; but if evil, why grieve that you have not? But remember that if you do not do as other men, in order to gain the things that depend not upon ourselves, neither shall you be rewarded as they.
For how is it possible for you to have an equal share with him who hangs about other men’s doors, and attends upon them, and flatters them, when you yourself will do none of these things? You are unjust then, and insatiable, if you wish to gain the things that depend not upon ourselves, for nothing, and without paying the price for which they are sold.
But how much is your head of lettuce sold for? A penny perchance. Go to, then: if one will lay out a penny he may have a head of lettuce; but you who do not choose to lay out your penny shall not have your lettuce. But you must not suppose that you will be therefore worse off than he. For he has the lettuce, but you the penny which you did not choose to part with.
And in this matter also the same principle holds good. You are not invited to somebody’s banquet? That is because you did not give the entertainer the price that banquets are sold for — and they are sold for flattery, they are sold for attendance. Pay then the price if you think you will profit by the exchange. But if you are determined not to lay out these things, and at the same time to gain the others—surely you are a greedy man, and an infatuated.
Shall you have nothing then instead of the banquet which you give up? Yea verily, you shall have this — not to have praised one whom you did not care to praise, nor to have endured the insolence of a rich man’s doorkeepers.
Is any one preferred before you at an entertainment, or in courtesies, or in confidential intercourse? If these things are good, you ought to rejoice that he. has them; and if they are evil, do not be grieved that you have them not. And remember that you cannot be permitted to rival others in externals, without using the same means to obtain them. For how can he who will not haunt the door of any man, will not attend him, will not praise him, have an equal share with him who does these things? You are unjust, then, and unreasonable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing. For how much are lettuces sold? An obolus, for instance. If another, then, paying an obolus, takes the lettuces, and you, not paying it, go without them, do not imagine that he has gained any advantage over you. For as he has the lettuces, so you have the obolus which you did not give. So, in the present case, you have not been invited to such a person’s entertainment, because you have not paid him the price for which a supper is sold. It is sold for praise; it is sold for attendance. Give him, then, the value, if it be for your advantage. But if you would at the same time not pay the one, and yet receive the other, you are unreasonable and foolish. Have you nothing, then, in place of the supper? Yes, indeed you have: not to praise him whom you do not like to praise; not to bear the insolence of his lackeys.
Is anyone preferred before you at an entertainment, or in a compliment, or in being admitted to a consultation? If these things are good, you ought to be glad that he has gotten them; and if they are evil, don’t be grieved that you have not gotten them. And remember that you cannot, without using the same means [which others do] to acquire things not in our own control, expect to be thought worthy of an equal share of them. For how can he who does not frequent the door of any [great] man, does not attend him, does not praise him, have an equal share with him who does? You are unjust, then, and insatiable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing. For how much is lettuce sold? Fifty cents, for instance. If another, then, paying fifty cents, takes the lettuce, and you, not paying it, go without them, don’t imagine that he has gained any advantage over you. For as he has the lettuce, so you have the fifty cents which you did not give. So, in the present case, you have not been invited to such a person’s entertainment, because you have not paid him the price for which a supper is sold. It is sold for praise; it is sold for attendance. Give him then the value, if it is for your advantage. But if you would, at the same time, not pay the one and yet receive the other, you are insatiable, and a blockhead. Have you nothing, then, instead of the supper? Yes, indeed, you have: the not praising him, whom you don’t like to praise; the not bearing with his behavior at coming in.
Προετιμήθη σού τις ἐν ἑστιάσει ἢ ἐν προσαγορεύσει ἢ ἐν τῷ παραληφθῆναι εἰς συμβουλίαν; εἰ μὲν ἀγαθὰ ταῦτά ἐστι, χαίρειν σε δεῖ, ὅτι ἔτυχεν αὐτῶν ἐκεῖνος: εἰ δὲ κακά, μὴ ἄχθου, ὅτι σὺ αὐτῶν οὐκ ἔτυχες: μέμνησο δέ, ὅτι οὐ δύνασαι μὴ ταὐτὰ ποιῶν πρὸς τὸ τυγχάνειν τῶν οὐκ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν τῶν ἴσων ἀξιοῦσθαι.
πῶς γὰρ ἴσον ἔχειν δύναται ὁ μὴ φοιτῶν ἐπὶ θύρας τινὸς τῷ φοιτῶντι; ὁ μὴ παραπέμπων τῷ παραπέμποντι; ὁ μὴ ἐπαινῶν τῷ ἐπαινοῦντι, ἄδικος οὖν ἔσῃ καὶ ἄπληστος, εἰ μὴ προϊέμενος ταῦτα, ἀνθ’ ὧν ἐκεῖνα πιπράσκεται, προῖκα αὐτὰ βουλήσῃ λαμβάνειν.
ἀλλὰ πόσου πιπράσκονται θρίδακες; ὀβολοῦ, ἂν οὕτω τύχῃ. ἂν οὖν τις προέμενος τὸν ὀβολὸν λάβῃ θρίδακας, σὺ δὲ μὴ προέμενος μὴ λάβῃς, μὴ οἴου ἔλαττον ἔχειν τοῦ λαβόντος. ὡς γὰρ ἐκεῖνος ἔχει θρίδακας, οὕτω σὺ τὸν ὀβολόν, ὃν οὐκ ἔδωκας.
τὸν αὐτὸν δὴ τρόπον καὶ ἐνταῦθα. οὐ παρεκλήθης ἐφ’ ἑστίασίν τινος; οὐ γὰρ ἔδωκας τῷ καλοῦντι, ὅσου πωλεῖ τὸ δεῖπνον. ἐπαίνου δ’ αὐτὸ πωλεῖ, θεραπείας πωλεῖ. δὸς οὖν τὸ διάφορον, εἰ σοι λυσιτελεῖ, ὅσου πωλεῖται. εἰ δὲ κἀκεῖνα θέλεις μὴ προί̈εσθαι καὶ ταῦτα λαμβάνειν, ἄπληστος εἶ καὶ ἀβέλτερος.
οὐδὲν οὖν ἔχεις ἀντὶ τοῦ δείπνου; ἔχεις μὲν οὖν τὸ μὴ ἐπαινέσαι τοῦτον, ὃν οὐκ ἤθελες, τὸ μὴ ἀνασχέσθαι αὐτοῦ τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς εἰσόδου.