History Kindles the Desire for Honor

“I have often heard that Quintus Maximus, Publius Scipio, and other illustrious citizens of our state, used to say that the sight of their ancestors’ portrait-masks fired their hearts with an ardent desire to merit honour.  Obviously they did not mean that the actual mould of wax had such power over them, but that the memory of what others have accomplished kindles in the breasts of noble men a flame that is not quenched until their own prowess has won similar glory and renown.  In these degenerate days, however, one cannot find a man who does not seek to rival his ancestors in wealth and extravagance, instead of in uprightness and industry.  Even newcomers to politics, who formerly relied on merit to outstrip the nobility, now use underhand intrigue and open violence, instead of honourable means, in the struggle for military and civil power, as though a praetorship, a consulship, or any similar position, were something glorious and magnificent in itself–whereas, in reality, the respect in which such offices are held depends on the worth of those who uphold their dignity.”  Sallust, Chap. 1 in The Jugurthine War trans. S. A. Handford (London: Penguin, 1963), p. 37.  [Emphasis added]

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