Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Suddenly Rich

K.J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle (Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1974; rpt. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1994), pp. 172-173 (footnote omitted):
People who acquired wealth do not seem to have been admired by the Greeks for commercial acumen, inventiveness, flair for the exploitation of opportunities, or the single-minded pursuit of profit which causes the self-made millionaire to be an object of admiration in some modern societies. In comedy, some use is made of the assumption that dishonest men become rich and honest men remain poor; this is the theme of Aristophanes' Wealth, and cf. Men. Colax 43, 'No one gets rich quickly by being honest'. Jealousy enters into this view, fortified by the resentment of injustice which we feel when we compare bad rich people with good poor people, and in the case of the Greeks the comparative absence of innovation in the material conditions of life entailed also an absence of people who could claim to have benefited the population by inventing, producing and marketing something new and useful.
The Kolax quotation (Οὐδεὶς ἐπλούτησε ταχέως δίκαιος ὤν) is missing from Dover's index of "Greek Authors and Works Cited" (it should be on p. 325). Stobaeus quotes it under the heading περὶ ἀδικίας καὶ φιλαργυρίας καὶ πλεονεξίας. It is discussed by Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #1807 (p. 1320), where however the reference to Plato, "Les Lois, 7, 743a" is mistaken—743a is in book 5 of Plato's Laws.

On resentment against the suddenly rich, see Demosthenes 10.68 (not in Tosi, tr. J.H. Vince):
Indeed, of these politicians, some who were beggars are suddenly growing rich, some unknown to name and fame are now men of honour and distinction; while you, on the contrary, have passed from honour to dishonour, from affluence to destitution.

καὶ γάρ τοι τούτων μὲν ἐκ πτωχῶν ἔνιοι ταχὺ πλούσιοι γίγνονται, καὶ ἐξ ἀνωνύμων καὶ ἀδόξων ἔνδοξοι καὶ γνώριμοι, ὑμεῖς δὲ τοὐναντίον ἐκ μὲν ἐνδόξων ἄδοξοι, ἐκ δ᾽ εὐπόρων ἄποροι.
In Latin, the saying appears, almost as a translation of Menander, in Publilius Syrus 329 Ribbeck: Repente dives factus est nemo bonus (or, in Pithoeus' transposition, Repente dives nemo factus est bonus). A few parallels not in Tosi:

Cicero, Philippics 2.27.65 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Thus, having plunged suddenly into the wealth of such a man, he wildly rejoiced like a character in a farce, "beggar one day, rich the next."

in eius igitur viri copias cum se subito ingurgitasset, exsultabat gaudio, persona de mimo, "modo egens, repente dives."
Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 2.1.28 (quoting Rufus Vibius, tr. Michael Winterbottom):
You shouldn't imagine riches suit everybody. Nothing is more indecent than a nouveau riche.

non est quod putes omnibus divitias convenire: nihil enim nocentius novicio divite est.
Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus 22.1.14 (on Agathocles, my translation):
Not satisfied with having suddenly become rich instead of poor, he engaged in piracy against his homeland.

nec contentus quod ex inope repente dives factus esset, piraticam adversus patriam exercuit.
Related post: Mma Potokwane and Saint Jerome.

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