Virtues of the Mantle. It Pleads in Its Own Defence.
"Still," say you, "must we thus change from gown [61] to Mantle?" Why, what if from diadem and sceptre? Did Anacharsis change otherwise, when to the royalty of Scythia he preferred philosophy? Grant that there be no (miraculous) signs in proof of your transformation for the better: there is somewhat which this your garb can do. For, to begin with the simplicity of its uptaking: it needs no tedious arrangement. Accordingly, there is no necessity for any artist formally to dispose its wrinkled folds from the beginning a day beforehand, and then to reduce them to a more finished elegance, and to assign to the guardianship of the stretchers [62] the whole figment of the massed boss; subsequently, at daybreak, first gathering up by the aid of a girdle the tunic which it were better to have woven of more moderate length (in the first instance), and, again scrutinizing the boss, and rearranging any disarrangement, to make one part prominent on the left, but (making now an end of the folds) to draw backwards from the shoulders the circuit of it whence the hollow is formed, and, leaving the right shoulder free, heap it still upon the left, with another similar set of folds reserved for the back, and thus clothe the man with a burden! In short, I will persistently ask your own conscience, What is your first sensation in wearing your gown? Do you feel yourself clad, or laded? wearing a garment, or carrying it? If you shall answer negatively, I will follow you home; I win see what you hasten to do immediately after crossing your threshold. There is really no garment the doffing whereof congratulates a man more than the gown's does. [63] Of shoes we say nothing -- implements as they are of torture proper to the gown, most uncleanly protection to the feet, yes, and false too. For who would not find it expedient, in cold and heat, to stiffen with feet bare rather than in a shoe with feet bound? A mighty munition for the tread have the Venetian shoe-factories provided in the shape of effeminate boots! Well, but, than the Mantle nothing is more expedite, even if it be double, like that of Crates. [64] Nowhere is there a compulsory waste of time in dressing yourself (in it), seeing that its whole art consists in loosely covering. That can be effected by a single circumjection, and one in no case inelegant: [65] thus it wholly covers every part of the man at once. The shoulder it either exposes or encloses: [66] in other respects it adheres to the shoulder; it has no surrounding support; it has no surrounding tie; it has no anxiety as to the fidelity with which its folds keep their place; easily it manages, easily readjusts itself: even in the doffing it is consigned to no cross until the morrow. If any shirt is worn beneath it, the torment of a girdle is superfluous: if anything in the way of shoeing is worn, it is a most cleanly work; [67] or else the feet are rather bare, -- more manly, at all events, (if bare,) than in shoes. These (pleas I advance) for the Mantle in the meantime, in so far as you have defamed it by name. Now, however, it challenges you on the score of its function withal. "I," it says, "owe no duty to the forum, the election-ground, or the senate-house; I keep no obsequious vigil, preoccupy no platforms, hover about no prætorian residences; I am not odorant of the canals, am not odorant of the lattices, am no constant wearer out of benches, no wholesale router of laws, no barking pleader, no judge, no soldier, no king: I have withdrawn from the populace. My only business is with myself: except that other care I have none, save not to care. The better life you would more enjoy in seclusion than in publicity. But you will decry me as indolent. Forsooth, we are to live for our country, and empire, and estate.' Such used, [68] of old, to be the sentiment. None is born for another, being destined to die for himself. At all events, when we come to the Epicuri and Zenones, you give the epithet of sages' to the whole teacherhood of Quietude, who have consecrated that Quietude with the name of supreme' and unique' pleasure. Still, to some extent it will be allowed, even to me, to confer benefit on the public. From any and every boundary-stone or altar it is my wont to prescribe medicines to morals -- medicines which will be more felicitous in conferring good health upon public affairs, and states, and empires, than your works are. Indeed, if I proceed to encounter you with naked foils, gowns have done the commonwealth more hurt than cuirasses. Moreover, I flatter no vices; I give quarter to no lethargy, no slothful encrustation. I apply the cauterizing iron to the ambition which led M. Tullius to buy a circular table of citron-wood for more than £4000, [69] and Asinius Gallus to pay twice as much for an ordinary table of the same Moorish wood (Hem! at what fortunes did they value woody dapplings!), or, again, Sulla to frame dishes of an hundred pounds' weight. I fear lest that balance be small, when a Drusillanus (and he withal a slave of Claudius!) constructs a tray [70] of the weight of 500 lbs.! -- a tray indispensable, perchance, to the aforesaid tables, for which, if a workshop was erected, [71] there ought to have been erected a dining-room too. Equally do I plunge the scalpel into the inhumanity which led Vedius Pollio to expose slaves to fill the bellies of sea-eels. Delighted, forsooth, with his novel savagery, he kept land-monsters, toothless, clawless, hornless: it was his pleasure to turn perforce into wild beasts his fish, which (of course) were to be forthwith cooked, that in their entrails he himself withal might taste some savour of the bodies of his own slaves. I will forelop the gluttony which led Hortensius the orator to be the first to have the heart to slay a peacock for the sake of food; which led Aufidius Lurco to be the first to vitiate meat with stuffing, and by the aid of forcemeats to raise them to an adulterous [72] flavour; which led Asinius Celer to purchase the viand of a single mullet at nearly £50; [73] which led Æsopus the actor to preserve in his pantry a dish of the value of nearly £800, made up of birds of the selfsame costliness (as the mullet aforesaid), consisting of all the songsters and talkers; which led his son, after such a titbit, to have the hardihood to hunger after somewhat yet more sumptuous: for he swallowed down pearls -- costly even on the ground of their name -- I suppose for fear he should have supped more beggarly than his father. I am silent as to the Neros and Apicii and Rufi. I will give a cathartic to the impurity of a Scaurus, and the gambling of a Curius, and the intemperance of an Antony. And remember that these, out of the many (whom I have named), were men of the toga -- such as among the men of the pallium you would not easily find. These purulencies of a state who will eliminate and exsuppurate, save a bemantled speech?


[61] Toga.

[62] Or, "forcipes."

[63] Of course the meaning is, "on the doffing of which a man congratulates himself more," etc.; but Tertullian as it were personifies the act of doffing, and represents it as congratulating the doffer; and I have scrupulously retained all his extravagances, believing them (in the present treatise at least) to be intentional.

[64] A Cynic philosopher.

[65] "Inhumano;" or, perhaps, "involving superhuman effort."

[66] Oehler attempts to defend the common reading, "humerum velans exponit vel includit;" but the correction of Salmasius and Lud. de la Cerda which he quotes, "vel exponit," is followed in preference. If Oehler's reading be retained, we may render: "a covering for the shoulder, it exposes or encloses it at will."

[67] i.e., the "shoeing" appropriate to the mantle will consist at most of sandals; "shoes" being (as has been said) suited to the gown.

[68] "Erat."--Oehler, who refers to "errat" as the general reading, and (if adopted) renders: "This sentiment errs (or wanders) in all directions;" making olim = passim.

[69] Reckoning the 1000 sesterces at their pre-Augustan value, £8, 17s. 1d.

[70] "Promulsis"--a tray on which the first course ("promulsis" or "antecoena") was served, otherwise called "promulsidare."

[71] As Pliny (quoted by Oehler) tells us was the case.

[72] Or, "adulterated."

[73] Reckoning the 1000 sesterces at the post-Augustan value, £7, 16s. 3d.

chapter iv change not always improvement
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