Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/83

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To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend

flatter them kindly. This we see also, that in solemn assemblies and great meetings or auditories they are by their good wills the first that put themselves forth and make offer to begin speech; but it is for nothing else but that afterward they would seem to quit the place and give assent to their betters, soon retracting their own opinions, when they hear a mighty man, a rich or noble personage in authority to contradict and say the contrary. And here we ought most of all to be circumspect and wary, that we may evict them of this, that all this courting, this giving place, this yielding of the victory and reverence made unto others, is not for any more sufficiency that they acknowledge in them, for their knowledge, experience and virtues; nor yet for their worthiness in regard of elder age, but only for their wealth, riches, credit, and reputation in the world.

Megabysus,[1] a great lord belonging to the king's court of Persia, came upon a time to visit Apelles the painter: and sitting by him in his shop to see him work, began of his own accord to discourse I wot not what, of lines, shadows and other matters belonging to his art: Apelles hearing him, could not hold, but said unto him; See you not, sir, these little prentice boys here that grind ochre and other colours? So long as you sate still and said never a word, they advised you well and their eye was never off, wondering to see your rich purple robes, your chains and jewels of gold, no sooner began you to speak but they fell to teighing, and now they laugh you to scorn, talking thus as you do of those things which you never learned. And Solon, being demanded once by Croesus, King of Lydia, what men he had seen whom he reputed most happy in this world? named unto him one Tellus, none of the great men of Athens, but a good plain and mean citizen, Cleobis also and Biton: and these he said were of all others most fortunate. But these flatterers will affirm that kings and princes, rich men and rulers, are not only blessed, happy, and fortunate; but also excel all others in wisdom, knowledge and virtue. There is not one of them that can endure so much as to hear the Stoics, who hold that the sage and wise man (such a one as they depaint unto us) ought all at once to be called rich, fair, noble, yea, and a king: whereas our flatterers will have the rich man only, whom they are disposed to flatter, to be an orator and a poet; yea, and if he will himself, a painter, a good piper, passing light of foot and strong of limbs; insomuch, as whosoever wrestleth with him shall be sure to take the foil and lie along; and whomsoever he runneth with

  1. Pliny reporteth this of King Alexander, and not of Megabysus.