solid mental grace

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Petty Ambition

PETTY ambition, I imagine, may be described as a sordid craving for notoriety.

The man of petty ambition if invited to dinner will be eager to be set next his host. He will take his son to Dephi to have his hair first cut. 1 He will see to it that his attendant is an Ethiopian. When he pays for anything he pays with a new coin. He is always having his hair cut, he keeps his teeth shining, and changes his clothes though his present ones are quite good, and anoints himself with unguents. He hovers around the bankers' tables in the market-place. He spends his time in the gymnasia while the youths are exercising. In the theatre when there is a play he sits next the generals. He makes no purchases for himself, but many on commission for friends abroad, pickled olives for Byzantion, Spartan dogs for Kyzikos, and Hymettian honey for Rhodes, and talks about it to everyone in the city. He is sure to keep an ape as pet, and to obtain Sicilian doves, dice of deer - horn, rounded Thurian vases, walking sticks of the curved Spartan make, and tapestry with the defeat of the Persians embroidered on it. He will possess a small courtyard with a wrestling-ground prepared with sand and a court for games of ball, and will for ever be lending it to philosophers, lecturers, drill - masters, musicians. At their exhibitions he himself will appear slightly late, so that the spectators will say to one another 'See, the owner of the wrestling - ground.' When he has sacrificed an ox he nails up the skin of the forehead just opposite the doorway, so that anyone visiting him must see he has been sacrificing an ox. If he has been in procession with the Knights he will take off his ceremonial robe and hand it to a slave to carry home, leaving his spurs on, with which he will walk in the market - place, though otherwise in every-day dress. He is sure to buy a little ladder for his pet jackdaw, and make a little shield of brass to enable it to leap on to the ladder. If his little dog of the Melitan2 breed dies, he puts up a tomb to it and a slab with the inscription 'Klados of Melita.' If he dedicates a ring of brass in the temple of Asklepios he wears it away with daily garlandings and anointings. It is his custom to arrange with the presidents of the Assembly that he may be allowed to report the result of a sacrifice to the people. Then, having provided himself with a white robe and with a garland, he comes forward and cries 'Men of Athens, we the presidents of the Assembly have sacrificed to the Mother of the Gods3 with sacrifice worthy and good. Do ye receive her blessings.' Having done this he goes off home to his wife boasting of his absolutely unparalleled good-fortune.

1 The Athenian boy at the age of seventeen was supposed to become a youth. His hair was first cut then and dedicated to some local god. The old custom was to dedicate it at the temple of Apollo in Delphi. This man of petty ambition observes the old custom to gain notoriety.

2 A little island in the Adriatic, now Meleda.

3 The Asiatic goddess Kybele whose temple was on the E. of the market-place.