3. Seneca, Ben. 1.3.8-9 and 1.4.5-6


(on old wives’ tales cfr. Plato, Resp. 2.377a-378d; Tht. 176b; Lg. 10.887c-e)

1.3 8Chrysippus quoque, penes quem subtile illud acumen est et in imam penetrans veritatem, qui rei agendae causa loquitur et verbis non ultra, quam ad intellectum satis est, utitur, totum librum suum his ineptiis replet, ita ut de ipso officio dandi, accipiendi, reddendi beneficii pauca admodum dicat; nec his fabulas, sed haec fabulis inserit. 9Nam praeter ista, quae Hecaton transcribit, tres Chrysippus Gratias ait Iovis et Eurynomes filias esse, aetate autem minores quam Horas, sed meliuscula facie et ideo Veneri datas comites. […]

1.4 5Istae vero ineptiae poetis relinquantur, quibus aures oblectare propositum est et dulcem fabulam nectere. 6At qui ingenia sanare et fidem in rebus humanis retinere, memoriam officiorum ingerere animis volunt, serio loquantur et magnis viribus agant; nisi forte existimas levi ac fabuloso sermone et anilibus argumentis prohiberi posse rem perniciosissimam, beneficiorum novas tabulas.

1.3 8Chrysippus, too, with his well-known sharpness and shrewdness in getting to the innermost truth, with his way of speaking to the point and not using more words than are needed to make himself understood, devotes his entire book to such frivolities – to the extent of saying very little about the duty itself of doing, accepting or returning a favour. Nor does he graft these stories onto his argument, but the other way round. 9For besides what Hecaton copies from him, Chrysippus says that the three Graces are daughters of Jupiter and Eurynome, younger than the Hours but a bit better looking, which is why they were given to Venus as companions. […]

1.4 5Let the frivolities of which I speak be left to poets, whose purpose is just to delight the ear and weave a sweet story.  6But if you would cure people’s characters, if you would hold on to trust as a factor in human affairs and engrave on men’s minds a memory of services received, you must speak in earnest and act with force – unless perhaps you suppose that fricolous talk and fables and old wives’ tales can prevent that most disastrous of things, an annulment of kindnesses altogether.

(Trans J.M. Cooper 1995)