Cronus to the Rich, Greeting.
31I lately received a letter from the poor, complaining that you give them no share of your prosperity. They petitioned me in general terms to institute community of goods and let each have his part: it was only right that equality should be established, instead of one's having a superfluity while another was cut off from pleasure altogether. I told them that had better be left to Zeus; but their particular festival grievances I considered to belong to my own jurisdiction, and so I undertook to write to you. These demands of theirs are moderate enough, it seems to me. How can we possibly keep the feast (they ask), when we are numb with frost and pinched with hunger? if I meant them to participate, I must compel you to bestow on them any clothes that you do not require, or find too heavy for your own use, and also to vouchsafe them just a slight sprinkling of gold. If you do this, they engage not to dispute your right to your property any further in the court of Zeus. Otherwise they will demand redistribution the next time he takes his seat
upon the bench. Well, this is no heavy call, considering the vast property on the possession of which I congratulate you.
They also requested me to mention the subject of dinners; 32you were to ask them to dinner, instead of closing your doors and living daintily by yourselves. When you do entertain a few of them at long intervals, they say you make it rather a humiliation than an enjoyment; everything is done to degrade them--that monstrous piece of snobbishness, for instance, the giving different people different wines. It is really a little discreditable to them that they do not get up and walk out in such a case, leaving you in sole possession. But that is not all; they tell me there is not enough to drink either; your butlers' ears are as impervious as those of Odysseus's crew. Other vulgarities I can hardly bring myself to name. The helpings and the waiters are complained of; the latter linger about you till you are full to repletion, but post by your poor guests at a run--with other meannesses hardly conceivable in the house of a gentleman. For mirth and good-fellowship it is essential that all the company be on the same footing; if your carver does not secure equality, better not have one, but a general scramble.
It rests with you to obviate these complaints and secure 33 honour and affection; a liberality that costs you nothing appreciable will impress itself permanently by its timeliness on the memory of recipients. Why, your cities would not be habitable, if you had not poor fellow citizens to make their numberless contributions to your well-being; you would have no admirers of your wealth if you lived alone with it in the obscurity of isolation. Let there be plenty to see it and to marvel at your silver and your exquisite tables; let them drink to your health, and as they drink examine the goblet, feel and guess at its weight, enjoy its storied workmanship enhanced by
and enhancing the preciousness of the material. So you may not only gain a reputation for goodness and geniality, but also escape envy; that is a feeling not directed against people who let others participate in their prosperity to a reasonable extent; every one prays that they may live long to enjoy it. Your present practice results in an unsatisfying life, with none to see your happiness, but plenty to grudge you your wealth.
34It is surely not so agreeable to gorge yourself alone, like a lion or an old wolf that has deserted the pack, as to have the company of well-bred people who do their best to make things pleasant. In the first place they banish dull silence from your table, and are ready with a good story, a harmless jest, or some other contribution to entertainment; that is the way to please the Gods of wine and love and beauty. And secondly they win you love by spreading abroad next morning your hospitable fame. These are things that would be cheap at a considerable price.
35For I put it to you whether, if blindness were a regular concomitant of poverty (fancy is free), you would be indifferent to the want of any one to impress with your purple clothes and attendant crowds and massive rings. I will not dwell on the certainty that plots and ill-feeling will be excited against you by your exclusiveness; suffice it to say that the curses they threaten to imprecate upon you are positively horrible; God forbid they should really be driven to it! You would never taste sausage or pastry more; if the dog's depredations stopped short of completeness, you would still find a fishy flavour in your soup, the boar and the buck would effect an escape to the mountains from off the very roasting-jack, and your birds (no matter for their being plucked) would be off with a whiz and a whirr to the poor men's tables. Worst of all, your pretty cup-bearers would turn bald in a twinkling--the wine, by the way, having
previously all been spilt. I now leave you to make up your minds on the course that the festival proprieties and your own safety recommend; these people are extremely poor; a little relief will gain you friends worth having at a trifling cost.