Old age lacks strength, it is said. But strength is not demanded of old age. My period of life is exempted by law and custom from offices which cannot be borne without strength. Therefore we are compelled to do, not what we are unable to do, but even less than we can do. Is it said that many old men are so feeble that they are incapable of any duty or charge whatsoever? This, I answer, is not an inability peculiar to old age, but common to bodily infirmity at whatever period of life. How feeble, Scipio, was that son of Africanus who adopted you! But for this, he would have shone second in his family as a luminary of the state, adding to his father's greatness a more ample intellectual culture. What wonder, then, is it that old men are sometimes feeble, when it is a misfortune which even the young cannot always escape? Old age, Laelius and Scipio, should be resisted, and its deficiencies should be supplied by faithful effort. Old age, like disease, should be fought against. Care must be bestowed upon the health; moderate exercise must be taken; the food and drink should be sufficient to recruit the strength, and not in such excess as to become oppressive. Nor yet should the body alone be sustained in vigor, but much more the powers of mind; for these too, unless you pour oil into the lamp, are extinguished by old age. Indeed, while over-exertion tends by fatigue to weigh down the body, exercise makes the mind elastic. For, when Caecilius speaks of
"Foolish old men, fit sport for comedy,"
he means those who are credulous, forgetful, weak-minded, and these are the faults, not of old age, but of lazy, indolent, drowsy old age. As wantonness and licentiousness are the faults of the young rather than of the old, yet not of all young men, but only of such of them as are depraved, so the senile folly which is commonly called dotage belongs not to all, but only to frivolous old men. Appius, when both blind and old, governed four grown-up sons, five daughters, a very large household, a numerous body of clients; for he had his mind on the alert, like a bent bow, nor did he, as he became feeble, succumb to old age. He maintained, not only authority, but absolute command over all who belonged to him. His servants feared him; his children held him in awe; all loved him. In that family the manners and discipline of the earlier time were still in the ascendant. Old age, indeed, is worthy of honor only when it defends itself, when it asserts its rights, when it comes into bondage to no one, when even to the last breath it maintains its sway over those of its own family. Still farther, as I hold in high esteem the youth who has in him some of the qualities of age, I have like esteem for the old man in whom there is something of the youth, which he who cultivates may be old in body, but will never be so in mind. I have now in hand the seventh Book of my History. I am collecting all the memorials of earlier times. I am just now writing out, as my memory serves me, my speeches in the celebrated cases that I have defended. I am treating of augural, pontifical, civil law. I read a good deal of Greek. At the same time, in order to exercise my memory in the method prescribed by Pythagoras, I recall every evening whatever I have said, heard, or done during the day. These are the exercises of the mind; these, the race-ground of the intellect. In these pursuits while I labor vigorously, I hardly feel my loss of bodily strength. I appear in court in behalf of my friends. I often take my place in the Senate, and I there introduce of my own motion subjects on which I have thought much and long, and I defend my opinions with strength of mind, not of body. If I were too feeble to pursue this course of life, I still on my bed should find pleasure in thinking out what I could no longer do; but that I am able still to do, as well as to think, is the result of my past life. One who is always occupied in these studies and labors is unaware when age creeps upon him. Thus one grows old gradually and unconsciously, and life is not suddenly extinguished, but closes when by length of time it is burned out.