On Benefits

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On Benefits (De Beneficiis)
by Seneca, translated by Aubrey Stewart
Dedicated to Aebutius Liberalis. Written 62 AD. Translated 1887

Translator's Preface

Book I. The prevalence of ingratitude--How a benefit ought to be bestowed--The three Graces--Benefits are the chief bond of human society--What we owe in return for a benefit received--A benefit consists not of a thing but of the wish to do good--Socrates and Aeschines--What kinds of benefits should be bestowed, and in what manner--Alexander and the franchise of Corinth.

Book II. Many men give through weakness of character--We ought to give before our friends ask--Many benefits are spoiled by the manner of the giver--Marius Nepos and Tiberius--Some benefits should be given secretly--We must not give what would harm the receiver--Alexander's gift of a city--Interchange of benefits like a game of ball--From whom ought one to receive a benefit?-- Examples--How to receive a benefit--Ingratitude caused by self- love, by greed, or by jealousy--Gratitude and repayment not the same thing--Phidias and the statue

Book III. Ingratitude--Is it worse to be ungrateful for kindness or not even to remember it?--Should ingratitude be punished by law?-- Can a slave bestow a benefit?--Can a son bestow a benefit upon his father?--Examples

Book IV. Whether the bestowal of benefits and the return of gratitude for them are desirable objects in themselves? Does God bestow benefits?--How to choose the man to be benefited--We ought not to look for any return--True gratitude--Of keeping one's promise--Philip and the soldier--Zeno

Book V. Of being worsted in a contest of benefits--Socrates and Archelaus--Whether a man can be grateful to himself, or can bestow a benefit upon himself--Examples of ingratitude--Dialogue on ingratitude--Whether one should remind one's friends of what one has done for them--Caesar and the soldier--Tiberius.

Book VI. Whether a benefit can be taken from one by force-- Benefits depend upon thought--We are not grateful for the advantages which we receive from inanimate Nature, or from dumb animals--In order to lay me under an obligation you must benefit me intentionally--Cleanthes's story of the two slaves--Of benefits given in a mercenary spirit--Physicians and teachers bestow enormous benefits, yet are sufficiently paid by a moderate fee-- Plato and the ferryman--Are we under an obligation to the sun and moon?--Ought we to wish that evil may befall our benefactors, in order that we may show our gratitude by helping them?

Book VII. The cynic Demetrius--his rules of conduct--Of the truly wise man--Whether one who has done everything in his power to return a benefit has returned it--Ought one to return a benefit to a bad man?--The Pythagorean, and the shoemaker--How one ought to bear with the ungrateful.