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Aulus Gellius 3.1

Translation copyright 2000 Neil W. Bernstein; all rights reserved.

An inquiry and discussion concerning why Sallust said that greed feminizes not only the masculine soul but also the body itself

  1. At the end of last winter I was walking in the square by the Titian baths (1) under a mild sun with the philosopher Favorinus.(2) While we walked there Sallust's Catiline (3) was being read aloud. Favorinus had seen the book in his friend's hand and had ordered him to read it aloud.
  2. The following passage had been read aloud from the book: (4)
    "Greed entails the craving for money, which no wise man desires. As if it were infused with evil poisons, greed feminizes the masculine body and soul. It is always infinite and insatiable; neither fulfillment nor lack diminish it."
  3. Then Favorinus looked at me and said: "How does greed feminize a man's body? I follow the argument fairly well up to the point where he claims that the masculine soul is feminized by greed. But I do not yet understand how it feminizes the male body as well."
  4. I said: "I myself was also wondering for a while about this question. If you had not gotten there first, I would have asked you about this myself."
  5. Full of hesitation, I had hardly said this much, when a certain member of the group of Favorinus's students, who seemed to be an experienced interpreter of literature, said: "I heard Valerius Probus (5) argue that Sallust used a poetic circumlocution. He wished to say that man is corrupted by greed, so he said body and soul because these two things designate a man. For a man is made of body and soul."
  6. "Never that I know of," said Favorinus, "has our Probus been so zealous and so mistaken in his cleverness, as to argue that Sallust, the master of the subtlest brevity, used poetic periphrases."
  7. There was a certain scholar accompanying us on our walk.
  8. Asked by Favorinus whether he had anything to say on the matter, he said something like the following:
  9. "Greed takes over and corrupts the minds of those who have given themselves over to searching for money from any source. We see many people engaged in this kind of life: just as they make all other things second to money, so they also give up manly labor and the practice of exercising the body."
  10. "They focus themselves on sedentary occupations and business conducted indoors, and as a result all their powers of body and soul decline and become, as Sallust says, feminized."
  11. Then Favorinus ordered the passage from Sallust to be read aloud again. Once it had been read aloud, he said: "How should we account therefore for the existence of many men who desire money and nevertheless have strong and active bodies?"
  12. Then the scholar responded thus in a truly learned way: "If someone desires money and nevertheless has a vigorous and well-cared for body, then it is a necessary consequence that he has devoted himself to the study or exercise of other pursuits, and that he has not been negligent in caring for himself."
  13. "For if total greed all by itself takes over each of a man's faculties and desires, and if it invades him so as to cause him to neglect his body, with the consequence that, as a result of greed alone, he no longer cares for morality or strength or body or soul-- then truly it is possible to say that those men who care neither for themselves nor for anything else but money have been feminized in body and soul."
  14. Then Favorinus said: "Either you have argued something likely; or through his hatred of greed, Sallust indicted it more than he should have."

Notes:

  1. Otherwise unknown.
  2. For the relationship between Gellius and his teacher Favorinus, cf. Holford-Strevens 1988: ch. 6.
  3. Sallust's Catiline presents a narrative of the unsuccessful conspiracy headed by Lucius Sergius Catilina.
  4. Sallust, Catiline 11.3.
  5. Marcus Valerius Probus (AD 20-105), a grammarian from Beirut; according to Suetonius, Lives of the Grammarians 24.2, he primarily studied the authors of the Roman republic.

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