If you have a desire, Eutychus, to read the little books of Phædrus, you must keep yourself disengaged from business, that your mind, at liberty, may relish the meaning of the lines. “But,” you say, “my genius is not of such great value, that a moment of time should be lost for it to my own pursuits.” There is no reason then why that should be touched by your hands which is not suited for ears so engaged. Perhaps you will say, “some holidays will come, which will invite me to study with mind unbent.” Will you rather, I ask you, read worthless ditties, than bestow attention upon your domestic concerns, give moments to your friends, your leisure to your wife, relax your mind, and refresh your body, in order that you may return more efficiently to your wonted duties? You must change your purpose and your mode of life, if you have thoughts of crossing the threshold of the Muses. I, whom my mother brought forth on the Pierian hill, upon which hallowed Mnemosyne, nine times fruitful, bore the choir of Muses to thundering Jove: although I was born almost in the very school itself, and have entirely erased all care for acquiring wealth from my breast, and with the approval of many have applied myself to these pursuits, am still with difficulty received into the choir of the Poets. What do you imagine must be the lot of him who seeks, with ceaseless vigilance, to amass great wealth, preferring the sweets of gain to the labours of learning?
But now, come of it what may (as Sinon said when he ur honor and your goodness. If you read it, I shall rejoice; but if otherwise, at least posterity will have something with which to amuse themselves.
Now will I explain in a few words why Fabulous narrative was invented. Slavery, subject to the will of another, because it did not dare to say what it wished, couched its sentiments in Fables, and by pleasing fictions eluded censure. In place of its foot-path I have made a road, and have invented more than it left, selecting some points to my own misfortune. But if any other than Sejanus had been the informer, if any other the witness, if any other the judge, in fine, I should confess myself deserving of such severe woes; nor should I soothe my sorrow with these expedients. If any one shall make erroneous surmises, and apply to himself what is applicable to all in common, he will absurdly expose the secret convictions of his mind. And still, to him I would hold myself excused; for it is no intention of mine to point at individuals, but to describe life itself and the manners of mankind. Perhaps some one will say, that I undertake a weighty task. If Æsop of Phrygia, if Anacharsis of Scythia could, by their genius, found a lasting fame, why should I who am more nearly related to learned Greece, forsake in sluggish indolence the glories of my country? especially as the Thracian race numbers its own authors, and Apollo was the parent of Linus, a Muse of Orpheus, who with his song moved rocks and tamed wild beasts, and held the current of Hebrus in sweet suspense. Away then, envy! nor lament in vain, because to me the customary fame is due.
I have urged you to read these lines; I beg that you will give me your sincere opinion of them with your well-known candour.