Phaedrus’ A THIEF PILLAGING THE ALTAR OF JUPITER*

Posted by jlubans on April 28, 2020

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Caption: What's left of a Temple of Jupiter in Lebanon.

A Thief lighted his Lamp at the altar of Jupiter, and then plundered it by the help of its own light.
Just as he was taking his departure, laden with the results of his sacrilege, the Holy Place suddenly sent forth these words: “Although these were the gifts of the wicked, and to me abominable, so much so that I care not to be spoiled of them, still, profane man, thou shalt pay the penalty with thy life, when hereafter, the day of punishment, appointed by fate, arrives.
But, that our fire, by means of which piety worships the awful Gods, may not afford its light to crime, I forbid that henceforth there shall be any such interchange of light.”
Accordingly, to this day, it is neither lawful for a lamp to be lighted at the fire of the Gods, nor yet a sacrifice kindled from a lamp.
No other than he who invented this Fable, could explain how many useful lessons it affords.
In the first place, it teaches that those whom you yourself have brought up, may often be found the most hostile to you: then again, it shows that crimes are punished not through the wrath of the Gods, but at the time appointed by the Fates: lastly, it warns the good to use nothing in common with the wicked.
___________
However labored,
the point is made. Don’t filch from the church.
Remember what happened to Bernie Madoff? That’s the Fates at work for his theft from St. Mary’s poor box when a wee lad.
But, there’s more.
The temple says good riddance to “the gifts of the wicked” yet in real life we know that some institutions are glad to accept tainted money.
When exposed, the response is “'taint enough!”
A gift of stolen money may well do good and/or it may act as a salve to a guilty conscience. Yet, unable to resist temptation, the beneficiary may mis-use the gift.
Finally, to whom is Phaedrus alluding when he says “those whom you yourself have brought up, may often be found the most hostile to you.”

*Source: THE COMEDIES OF TERENCE AND THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.
TRANSLATED By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS,
By CHRISTOPHER SMART.

LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, 1887.

© Copyright John Lubans 2020

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