Of the Parsimony of the Ancients

Attilius Regulus, general of the Roman army in Africa, in the height of all his glory and victories over the Carthaginians, wrote to the Republic to acquaint them that a certain hind he had left in trust with his estate, which was in all but seven acres of land, had run away with all his instruments of husbandry, and entreating therefore, that they would please to call him home that he might take order in his own affairs, lest his wife and children should suffer by this disaster. Whereupon the Senate appointed another to manage his business, caused his losses to be made good, and ordered his family to be maintained at the public expense.

The elder Cato, returning consul from Spain, sold his warhorse to save the money it would have cost in bringing it back by sea into Italy; and being Governor of Sardinia, he made all his visits on foot, without other train than one officer of the Republic who carried his robe and a censer for sacrifices, and for the most part carried his trunk himself. He bragged that he had never worn a gown that cost above ten crowns, nor had ever sent above tenpence to the market for one day’s provision; and that as to his country houses, he had not one that was rough-cast on the outside.

Scipio AEmilianus, after two triumphs and two consulships, went an embassy with no more than seven servants in his train. ‘Tis said that Homer had never more than one, Plato three, and Zeno, founder of the sect of Stoics, none at all. Tiberius Gracchus was allowed but fivepence halfpenny a day when employed as public minister about the public affairs, and being at that time the greatest man of Rome.

Posted in Montaigne: Book I, Originals.