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Letter IV. 1763

To Olympius1764

What do you mean, my dear Sir, by evicting from our retreat my dear friend and nurse of philosophy, Poverty?  Were she but gifted with speech, I take it you would have to appear as defendant in an action for unlawful ejectment.  She might plead “I chose to live with this man Basil, an admirer of Zeno, 1765 who, when he had lost everything in a shipwreck, cried, with great fortitude, ‘well done, Fortune! you are reducing me to the old cloak;’ 1766 a great admirer of Cleanthes, who by drawing water from the well got enough to live on and pay his tutors’ fees as well; 1767 an immense admirer of Diogenes, who prided himself on requiring no more than was absolutely necessary, and flung away his bowl after he had learned from some lad to stoop down and drink from the hollow of his hand.”  In some such terms as these you might be chidden by my dear mate Poverty, whom your presents have driven from house and home.  She might too add a threat; “if I catch you here again, I shall shew that what went before was Sicilian or Italian luxury:  so I shall exactly requite you out of my own store.”

But enough of this.  I am very glad that you have already begun a course of medicine, and pray that you may be benefited by it.  A condition of body fit for painless activity would well become so pious a soul.



Placed about 358.  Olympius sends Basil a present in his retreat, and he playfully remonstrates.


cf. Letters xii., xiii., lxiii., lxiv., and ccxi.


The founder of the Stoic school.


The τρίβων, dim. τριβώνιον, or worn cloak, was emblematic of the philosopher and later of the monk, as now the cowl.  cf. Lucian, Pereg. 15, and Synesius, Ep. 147.


Cleanthes, the Lydian Stoic, was hence called φρέαντλος, or well drawer.  On him vide Val. Max. viii. 7 and Sen., Ep. 44.

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