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For, in the language of Heraclitus, the virtuous soul is pure and unmixed light, springing from the body as a flash of lightning darts from the cloud. But the soul that is carnal and immersed in sense, like a heavy and dank vapor, can with difficulty be kindled, and caused to raise its eyes heavenward.
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A human body in no way resembles those that were born for ravenousness; it hath no hawk's bill, no sharp talon, no roughness of teeth, no such strength of stomach or heat of digestion, as can be sufficient to convert or alter such heavy and fleshy fare . . . There is nobody that is willing to eat even a lifeless and a dead thing even as it is; so they boil it, and roast it, and alter it by fire and medicines, as it were, changing and quenching the slaughtered gore with thousands of sweet sauces, that the palate being thereby deceived may admit of such uncouth fare.
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But being overborne with numbers, and nobody daring to face about, stretching out his hands to heaven, [Romulus] prayed to Jupiter to stop the army, and not to neglect but maintain the Roman cause, now in extreme danger. The prayer was no sooner made, than shame and respect for their king checked many; the fears of the fugitives changed suddenly into confidence.
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By the study of their biographies, we receive each man as a guest into our minds, and we seem to understand their character as the result of a personal acquaintance, because we have obtained from their acts the best and most important means of forming an opinion about them. "What greater pleasure could'st thou gain than this?" What more valuable for the elevation of our own character?
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I, for my part, wonder of what sort of feeling, mind or reason that man was possessed who was first to pollute his mouth with gore, and to allow his lips to touch the flesh of a murdered being: who spread his table with the mangled forms of dead bodies, and claimed as daily food and dainty dishes what but now were beings endowed with movement, perception and with voice. ... but for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that portion of life and time it had been born in to the world to enjoy.
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While Leonidas was preparing to make his stand, a Persian envoy arrived. The envoy explained to Leonidas the futility of trying to resist the advance of the Great King's army and demanded that the Greeks lay down their arms and submit to the might of Persia. Leonidas laconically told Xerxes, "Come and get them.
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For it is not Histories that I am writing, but Lives; and in the most illustrious deeds there is not always a manifestation of virtue or vice, nay, a slight thing like a phrase or a jest often makes a greater revelation of character than battles where thousands fall, or the greatest armaments, or sieges of cities.
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Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? ... It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace. But nothing abashed us, not the flower-like tinting of the flesh, not the persuasiveness of the harmonious voice, not the cleanliness of their habits or the unusual intelligence that may be found in the poor wretches. No, for the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.
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When a man's eyes are sore his friends do not let him finger them, however much he wishes to, nor do they themselves touch the inflammation: But a man sunk in grief suffers every chance comer to stir and augment his affliction like a running sore; and by reason of the fingering and consequent irritation it hardens into a serious and intractable evil.
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But virtue, by the bare statement of its actions, can so affect men's minds as to create at once both admiration of the things done and desire to imitate the doers of them. The goods of fortune we would possess and would enjoy; those of virtue we long to practise and exercise. We are content to receive the former from others, the latter we wish others to experience from us. Moral good is a practical stimulus; it is no sooner seen, than it inspires an impulse to practice, and influences the mind and character not by a mere imitation which we look at, but by the statement of the fact creates a moral purpose which we form.
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Antipater, in a letter written upon the death of Aristotle, the philosopher, observes, "Amongst his other gifts he had that of persuasiveness"; and the absence of this in the character of Marcius made all his great actions and noble qualities unacceptable to those whom they benifited: pride, and self-will, the consort, as Plato calls it, of solitude, made him insufferable. With the skill which Alcibiades, on the contrary, possessed to treat every one in the way most agreeable to him, we cannot wonder that all his successes were attended with the most exuberant favour and honour; his very errors, at time, being accompanied by something of grace and felicity. And so in spite of great and frequent hurt that he had done the city, he was repeatedly appointed to office and command; while Coriolanus stood in vain for a place which his great services had made his due. The one, in spite of the harm he occasioned, could not make himself hated, nor the other, with all the admiration he attracted, succeed in being beloved by his countrymen.
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For there is no virtue, the honour and credit for which procures a man more odium from the elite than that of justice; and this, because more than any other, it acquires a man power and authority among the common people. For they only honour the valiant and admire the wise, while in addition they also love just men, and put entire trust and confidence in them.