Atreus: Who would reject the flood of fortune's gifts? Thyestes: Anyone who has experienced how easily they flow back. —Seneca, Thyestes, 536

Daily Touch of Inspirations
April 12th: Reject tantalizing gifts
Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

Thyestes is one of Seneca's darkest and most disturbing plays. Even two thousand years later it remains a classic of the revenge genre. Without spoiling it, the quote above comes from the scene in which Atreus is attempting to lure his hated brother Thyestes into a cruel trap by offering him tempting and generous gifts. At first, Thyestes declines, to the complete bafflement of his enemy.

We are typically surprised when someone turns down an expensive gift of a position of honor or success. William T. Sherman emphatically rejected offers to run for president of the United States saying at one point: "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected." If his friend Ulysses S. Grant had made such a "Shermanesque statement" (as such rejections are now known). Grant certainly would have preserved his own legacy from the disastrous turn of events it suffered.

Despite his initial misgivings, Thyestes is ultimately tempted and persuaded to accept "fortune's gifts"... which turned out to be a ruse hiding devastating tragedy. Not every opportunity is fraught with danger, but the play was intended to remind us that our attraction toward what is new and shiny can lead us into serious trouble.


The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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