03 December 2014

To do right by his own inclination

From the 2nd century BC play 'The Brothers' by the Roman playwright Terence, who was a North African slave educated by his master, the character Micio, a bachelor who has brought up his nephew as his adoptive son, discusses his approach to bringing up a true gentleman:

Micio: In my view honour and gentlemanly feeling are better curbs on a gentleman's son than fear. My brother and I disagree on this, he is quite against this view. He comes to me perpetually, crying, "What are you about, Micio? Why are you bringing the boy to ruin on our hands? Why this licence? Why these drinking parties? Why do you pile him up the guineas for such a life and let him spend so much at the tailor's? It's extremely silly of you?" He himself is extremely hard, past right and sense, and in my opinion it's a great mistake to suppose that the authority which is founded on force has more weight and stability than that which hangs by the link of friendliness. My system, my theory, is this: he who does his duty under the lash of punishment has no dread except in the thought of detection; if he thinks he won't be found out, back he goes to his natural bent. When you link a son to you by kindness, there is sincerity in all his acts, he sets himself to make a return, and will be the same behind your back as to your face. That's the spirit of a true father, to accustom his son to do right rather by his own inclination than by fear of another, and that's the difference between the parents of sons and the owner of slaves.

- Quoted in Jon E. Lewis, Rome: the Autobiography, London, 2010, p32.   
Post a Comment