Of all the faculties, you will find not one which is capable of contemplating itself; and, consequently, not capable either of approving or disapproving. How far does the grammatic art possess the contemplating power? As far as forming a judgement about what is written and spoken. And how far music? As far as judging about melody. Does either of them then contemplate itself? By no means. But when you must write something to your friend, grammar will tell you what words you must write; but whether you should write or not, grammar will not tell you. And so it is with music as to musical sounds; but whether you should sing at the present time and play on the lute, or do neither, music will not tell you. What faculty then will tell you? That which contemplates both itself and all other things. And what is this faculty? The rational faculty; for this is the only faculty that we have received which examines itself, what it is, and what power it has, and what is the value of this gift, and examines all other faculties: for what else is there which tells us that golden things are beautiful, for they do not say so themselves? Evidently it is the faculty which is capable of judging of appearances. What else judges of music, grammar, and other faculties, proves their uses and points out the occasions for using them? Nothing else.
As then it was fit to be so, that which is best of all and supreme over all is the only thing which the gods have placed in our power, the right use of appearances; but all other things they have not placed in our power. Was it because they did not choose? I indeed think that, if they had been able, they would have put these other things also in our power, but they certainly could not. For as we exist on the earth, and are bound to such a body and to such companions, how was it possible for us not to be hindered as to these things by externals?
But what says Zeus? “Epictetus, if it were possible, I would have made both your little body and your little property free and not exposed to hindrance. But now be not ignorant of this: this body is not yours, but it is clay finely tempered. And since I was not able to do for you what I have mentioned, I have given you a small portion of us, this faculty of pursuing an object and avoiding it, and the faculty of desire and aversion, and, in a word, the faculty of using the appearances of things; and if you will take care of this faculty and consider it your only possession, you will never be hindered, never meet with impediments; you will not lament, you will not blame, you will not flatter any person.”
“Well, do these seem to you small matters?” I hope not. “Be content with them then and pray to the gods.” But now when it is in our power to look after one thing, and to attach ourselves to it, we prefer to look after many things, and to be bound to many things, to the body and to property, and to brother and to friend, and to child and to slave. Since, then, we are bound to many things, we are depressed by them and dragged down. For this reason, when the weather is not fit for sailing, we sit down and torment ourselves, and continually look out to see what wind is blowing. “It is north.” What is that to us? “When will the west wind blow?” When it shall choose, my good man, or when it shall please AEolus; for God has not made you the manager of the winds, but AEolus. What then? We must make the best use that we can of the things which are in our power, and use the rest according to their nature. What is their nature then? As God may please.
“Must I, then, alone have my head cut off?” What, would you have all men lose their heads that you may be consoled? Will you not stretch out your neck as Lateranus did at Rome when Nero ordered him to be beheaded? For when he had stretched out his neck, and received a feeble blow, which made him draw it in for a moment, he stretched it out again. And a little before, when he was visited by Epaphroditus, Nero’s freedman, who asked him about the cause of offense which he had given, he said, “If I choose to tell anything, I will tell your master.”
What then should a man have in readiness in such circumstances? What else than “What is mine, and what is not mine; and permitted to me, and what is not permitted to me.” I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment? “Tell me the secret which you possess.” I will not, for this is in my power. “But I will put you in chains.” Man, what are you talking about? Me in chains? You may fetter my leg, but my will not even Zeus himself can overpower. “I will throw you into prison.” My poor body, you mean. “I will cut your head off.” When, then, have I told you that my head alone cannot be cut off? These are the things which philosophers should meditate on, which they should write daily, in which they should exercise themselves.
Thrasea used to say, “I would rather be killed to-day than banished to-morrow.” What, then, did Rufus say to him? “If you choose death as the heavier misfortune, how great is the folly of your choice? But if, as the lighter, who has given you the choice? Will you not study to be content with that which has been given to you?”
What, then, did Agrippinus say? He said, “I am not a hindrance to myself.” When it was reported to him that his trial was going on in the Senate, he said, “I hope it may turn out well; but it is the fifth hour of the day”— this was the time when he was used to exercise himself and then take the cold bath —”let us go and take our exercise.” After he had taken his exercise, one comes and tells him, “You have been condemned.” “To banishment,” he replies, “or to death?” “To banishment.” “What about my property?” “It is not taken from you.” “Let us go to Aricia then,” he said, “and dine.”
This it is to have studied what a man ought to study; to have made desire, aversion, free from hindrance, and free from all that a man would avoid. I must die. If now, I am ready to die. If, after a short time, I now dine because it is the dinner-hour; after this I will then die. How? Like a man who gives up what belongs to another.
To the rational animal only is the irrational intolerable; but that which is rational is tolerable. Blows are not naturally intolerable. “How is that?” See how the Lacedaemonians endure whipping when they have learned that whipping is consistent with reason. “To hang yourself is not intolerable.” When, then, you have the opinion that it is rational, you go and hang yourself. In short, if we observe, we shall find that the animal man is pained by nothing so much as by that which is irrational; and, on the contrary, attracted to nothing so much as to that which is rational.
But the rational and the irrational appear such in a different way to different persons, just as the good and the bad, the profitable and the unprofitable. For this reason, particularly, we need discipline, in order to learn how to adapt the preconception of the rational and the irrational to the several things conformably to nature. But in order to determine the rational and the irrational, we use not only the of external things, but we consider also what is appropriate to each person. For to one man it is consistent with reason to hold a chamber pot for another, and to look to this only, that if he does not hold it, he will receive stripes, and he will not receive his food: but if he shall hold the pot, he will not suffer anything hard or disagreeable. But to another man not only does the holding of a chamber pot appear intolerable for himself, but intolerable also for him to allow another to do this office for him. If, then, you ask me whether you should hold the chamber pot or not, I shall say to you that the receiving of food is worth more than the not receiving of it, and the being scourged is a greater indignity than not being scourged; so that if you measure your interests by these things, go and hold the chamber pot. “But this,” you say, “would not be worthy of me.” Well, then, it is you who must introduce this consideration into the inquiry, not I; for it is you who know yourself, how much you are worth to yourself, and at what price you sell yourself; for men sell themselves at various prices.
For this reason, when Florus was deliberating whether he should go down to Nero’s spectacles and also perform in them himself, Agrippinus said to him, “Go down”: and when Florus asked Agrippinus, “Why do not you go down?” Agrippinus replied, “Because I do not even deliberate about the matter.” For he who has once brought himself to deliberate about such matters, and to calculate the value of external things, comes very near to those who have forgotten their own character. For why do you ask me the question, whether death is preferable or life? I say “life.” “Pain or pleasure?” I say “pleasure.” But if I do not take a part in the tragic acting, I shall have my head struck off. Go then and take a part, but I will not. “Why?” Because you consider yourself to be only one thread of those which are in the tunic. Well then it was fitting for you to take care how you should be like the rest of men, just as the thread has no design to be anything superior to the other threads. But I wish to be purple, that small part which is bright, and makes all the rest appear graceful and beautiful. Why then do you tell me to make myself like the many? and if I do, how shall I still be purple?
Priscus Helvidius also saw this, and acted conformably. For when Vespasian sent and commanded him not to go into the senate, he replied, “It is in your power not to allow me to be a member of the senate, but so long as I am, I must go in.” “Well, go in then,” says the emperor, “but say nothing.” “Do not ask my opinion, and I will be silent.” “But I must ask your opinion.” “And I must say what I think right.” “But if you do, I shall put you to death.” “When then did I tell you that I am immortal? You will do your part, and I will do mine: it is your part to kill; it is mine to die, but not in fear: yours to banish me; mine to depart without sorrow.”
What good then did Priscus do, who was only a single person? And what good does the purple do for the toga? Why, what else than this, that it is conspicuous in the toga as purple, and is displayed also as a fine example to all other things? But in such circumstances another would have replied to Caesar who forbade him to enter the senate, “I thank you for sparing me.” But such a man Vespasian would not even have forbidden to enter the senate, for he knew that he would either sit there like an earthen vessel, or, if he spoke, he would say what Caesar wished, and add even more.
In this way an athlete also acted who was in danger of dying unless his private parts were amputated. His brother came to the athlete, who was a philosopher, and said, “Come, brother, what are you going to do? Shall we amputate this member and return to the gymnasium?” But the athlete persisted in his resolution and died. When some one asked Epictetus how he did this, as an athlete or a philosopher, “As a man,” Epictetus replied, “and a man who had been proclaimed among the athletes at the Olympic games and had contended in them, a man who had been familiar with such a place, and not merely anointed in Baton’s school. Another would have allowed even his head to be cut off, if he could have lived without it. Such is that regard to character which is so strong in those who have been accustomed to introduce it of themselves and conjoined with other things into their deliberations.”
“Come, then, Epictetus, shave yourself.” “If I am a philosopher,” I answer, “I will not shave myself.” “But I will take off your head?” If that will do you any good, take it off.
Some person asked, “How then shall every man among us perceive what is suitable to his character?” How, he replied, does the bull alone, when the lion has attacked, discover his own powers and put himself forward in defense of the whole herd? It is plain that with the powers the perception of having them is immediately conjoined; and, therefore, whoever of us has such powers will not be ignorant of them. Now a bull is not made suddenly, nor a brave man; but we must discipline ourselves in the winter for the summer campaign, and not rashly run upon that which does not concern us.
Only consider at what price you sell your own will; if for no other reason, at least for this, that you sell it not for a small sum. But that which is great and superior perhaps belongs to Socrates and such as are like him. “Why then, if we are naturally such, are not a very great number of us like him?” Is it true then that all horses become swift, that all dogs are skilled in tracking footprints? “What, then, since I am naturally dull, shall I, for this reason, take no pains?” I hope not. Epictetus is not superior to Socrates; but if he is not inferior, this is enough for me; for I shall never be a Milo, and yet I do not neglect my body; nor shall I be a Croesus, and yet I do not neglect my property; nor, in a word, do we neglect looking after anything because we despair of reaching the highest degree.
If a man should be able to assent to this doctrine as he ought, that we are all sprung from God in an especial manner, and that God is the father both of men and of gods, I suppose that he would never have any ignoble or mean thoughts about himself. But if Caesar should adopt you, no one could endure your arrogance; and if you know that you are the son of Zeus, will you not be elated? Yet we do not so; but since these two things are mingled in the generation of man, body in common with the animals, and reason and intelligence in common with the gods, many incline to this kinship, which is miserable and mortal; and some few to that which is divine and happy. Since then it is of necessity that every man uses everything according to the opinion which he has about it, those, the few, who think that they are formed for fidelity and modesty and a sure use of appearances have no mean or ignoble thoughts about themselves; but with the many it is quite the contrary. For they say, “What am I? A poor, miserable man, with my wretched bit of flesh.” Wretched. Indeed; but you possess something better than your “bit of flesh.” Why then do you neglect that which is better, and why do you attach yourself to this?
Through this kinship with the flesh, some of us inclining to it become like wolves, faithless and treacherous and mischievous: some become like lions, savage and untamed; but the greater part of us become foxes and other worse animals. For what else is a slanderer and a malignant man than a fox, or some other more wretched and meaner animal? See, then, and take care that you do not become some one of these miserable things.
He who is making progress, having learned from philosophers that desire means the desire of good things, and aversion means aversion from bad things; having learned too that happiness and tranquillity are not attainable by man otherwise than by not failing to obtain what he desires, and not falling into that which he would avoid; such a man takes from himself desire altogether and defers it, but he employs his aversion only on things which are dependent on his will. For if he attempts to avoid anything independent of his will, he knows that sometimes he will fall in with something which he wishes to avoid, and he will be unhappy. Now if virtue promises good fortune and tranquillity and happiness, certainly also the progress toward virtue is progress toward each of these things. For it is always true that to whatever point the perfecting of anything leads us, progress is an approach toward this point.
How then do we admit that virtue is such as I have said, and yet seek progress in other things and make a display of it? What is the product of virtue? Tranquillity. Who then makes improvement? It is he who has read many books of Chrysippus? But does virtue consist in having understood Chrysippus? If this is so, progress is clearly nothing else than knowing a great deal of Chrysippus. But now we admit that virtue produces one thing. and we declare that approaching near to it is another thing, namely, progress or improvement. “Such a person,” says one, “is already able to read Chrysippus by himself.” Indeed, sir, you are making great progress. What kind of progress? But why do you mock the man? Why do you draw him away from the perception of his own misfortunes? Will you not show him the effect of virtue that he may learn where to look for improvement? Seek it there, wretch, where your work lies. And where is your work? In desire and in aversion, that you may not be disappointed in your desire, and that you may not fall into that which you would avoid; in your pursuit and avoiding, that you commit no error; in assent and suspension of assent, that you be not deceived. The first things, and the most necessary, are those which I have named. But if with trembling and lamentation you seek not to fall into that which you avoid, tell me how you are improving.
Do you then show me your improvement in these things? If I were talking to an athlete, I should say, “Show me your shoulders”; and then he might say, “Here are my halteres.” You and your halteres look to that. I should reply, “I wish to see the effect of the halteres.” So, when you say: “Take the treatise on the active powers, and see how I have studied it.” I reply, “Slave, I am not inquiring about this, but how you exercise pursuit and avoidance, desire and aversion, how your design and purpose and prepare yourself, whether conformably to nature or not. If conformably, give me evidence of it, and I will say that you are making progress: but if not conformably, be gone, and not only expound your books, but write such books yourself; and what will you gain by it? Do you not know that the whole book costs only five denarii? Does then the expounder seem to be worth more than five denarii? Never, then, look for the matter itself in one place, and progress toward it in another.”
Where then is progress? If any of you, withdrawing himself from externals, turns to his own will to exercise it and to improve it by labour, so as to make it conformable to nature, elevated, free, unrestrained, unimpeded, faithful, modest; and if he has learned that he who desires or avoids the things which are not in his power can neither be faithful nor free, but of necessity he must change with them and be tossed about with them as in a tempest, and of necessity must subject himself to others who have the power to procure or prevent what he desires or would avoid; finally, when he rises in the morning, if he observes and keeps these rules, bathes as a man of fidelity, eats as a modest man; in like manner, if in every matter that occurs he works out his chief principles as the runner does with reference to running, and the trainer of the voice with reference to the voice — this is the man who truly makes progress, and this is the man who has not traveled in vain. But if he has strained his efforts to the practice of reading books, and labours only at this, and has traveled for this, I tell him to return home immediately, and not to neglect his affairs there; for this for which he has traveled is nothing. But the other thing is something, to study how a man can rid his life of lamentation and groaning, and saying, “Woe to me,” and “wretched that I am,” and to rid it also of misfortune and disappointment and to learn what death is, and exile, and prison, and poison, that he may be able to say when he is in fetters, “Dear Crito, if it is the will of the gods that it be so, let it be so”; and not to say, “Wretched am I, an old man; have I kept my gray hairs for this?” Who is it that speaks thus? Do you think that I shall name some man of no repute and of low condition? Does not Priam say this? Does not OEdipus say this? Nay, all kings say it! For what else is tragedy than the perturbations of men who value externals exhibited in this kind of poetry? But if a man must learn by fiction that no external things which are independent of the will concern us, for this? part I should like this fiction, by the aid of which I should live happily and undisturbed. But you must consider for yourselves what you wish.
What then does Chrysippus teach us? The reply is, “to know that these things are not false, from which happiness comes and tranquillity arises. Take my books, and you will learn how true and conformable to nature are the things which make me free from perturbations.” O great good fortune! O the great benefactor who points out the way! To Triptolemus all men have erected temples and altars, because he gave us food by cultivation; but to him who discovered truth and brought it to light and communicated it to all, not the truth which shows us how to live, but how to live well, who of you for this reason has built an altar, or a temple, or has dedicated a statue, or who worships God for this? Because the gods have given the vine, or wheat, we sacrifice to them: but because they have produced in the human mind that fruit by which they designed to show us the truth which relates to happiness, shall we not thank God for this?
If a man, said Epictetus, opposes evident truths, it is not easy to find arguments by which we shall make him change his opinion. But this does not arise either from the man’s strength or the teacher’s weakness; for when the man, though he has been confuted, is hardened like a stone, how shall we then be able to deal with him by argument?
Now there are two kinds of hardening, one of the understanding, the other of the sense of shame, when a man is resolved not to assent to what is manifest nor to desist from contradictions. Most of us are afraid of mortification of the body, and would contrive all means to avoid such a thing, but we care not about the soul’s mortification. And indeed with regard to the soul, if a man be in such a state as not to apprehend anything, or understand at all, we think that he is in a bad condition: but if the sense of shame and modesty are deadened, this we call even power.
Do you comprehend that you are awake? “I do not,” the man replies, “for I do not even comprehend when in my sleep I imagine that I am awake.” Does this appearance then not differ from the other? “Not at all,” he replies. Shall I still argue with this man? And what fire or what iron shall I apply to him to make him feel that he is deadened? He does perceive, but he pretends that he does not. He’s even worse than a dead man. He does not see the contradiction: he is in a bad condition. Another does see it, but he is not moved, and makes no improvement: he is even in a worse condition. His modesty is extirpated, and his sense of shame; and the rational faculty has not been cut off from him, but it is brutalized. Shall I name this strength of mind? Certainly not, unless we also name it such in catamites, through which they do and say in public whatever comes into their head.
From everything which is or happens in the world, it is easy to praise Providence, if a man possesses these two qualities, the faculty of seeing what belongs and happens to all persons and things, and a grateful disposition. If he does not possess these two qualities, one man will not see the use of things which are and which happen; another will not be thankful for them, even if he does know them. If God had made colours, but had not made the faculty of seeing them, what would have been their use? None at all. On the other hand, if He had made the faculty of vision, but had not made objects such as to fall under the faculty, what in that case also would have been the use of it? None at all. Well, suppose that He had made both, but had not made light? In that case, also, they would have been of no use. Who is it, then, who has fitted this to that and that to this? And who is it that has fitted the knife to the case and the case to the knife? Is it no one? And, indeed, from the very structure of things which have attained their completion, we are accustomed to show that the work is certainly the act of some artificer, and that it has not been constructed without a purpose. Does then each of these things demonstrate the workman, and do not visible things and the faculty of seeing and light demonstrate Him? And the existence of male and female, and the desire of each for conjunction, and the power of using the parts which are constructed, do not even these declare the workman? If they do not, let us consider the constitution of our understanding according to which, when we meet with sensible objects, we simply receive impressions from them, but we also select something from them, and subtract something, and add, and compound by means of them these things or those, and, in fact, pass from some to other things which, in a manner, resemble them: is not even this sufficient to move some men, and to induce them not to forget the workman? If not so, let them explain to us what it is that makes each several thing, or how it is possible that things so wonderful and like the contrivances of art should exist by chance and from their own proper motion?
What, then, are these things done in us only. Many, indeed, in us only, of which the rational animal had peculiar need; but you will find many common to us with irrational animals. Do they them understand what is done? By no means. For use is one thing, and understanding is another: God had need of irrational animals to make use of appearances, but of us to understand the use of appearances. It is therefore enough for them to eat and to drink, and to sleep and to copulate, and to do all the other things which they severally do. But for us, to whom He has given also the faculty, these things are not sufficient; for unless we act in a proper and orderly manner, and conformably to the nature and constitution of each thing, we shall never attain our true end. For where the constitutions of living beings are different, there also the acts and the ends are different. In those animals, then, whose constitution is adapted only to use, use alone is enough: but in an animal which has also the power of understanding the use, unless there be the due exercise of the understanding, he will never attain his proper end. Well then God constitutes every animal, one to be eaten, another to serve for agriculture, another to supply cheese, and another for some like use; for which purposes what need is there to understand appearances and to be able to distinguish them? But God has introduced man to be a spectator of God and of His works; and not only a spectator of them, but an interpreter. For this reason it is shameful for man to begin and to end where irrational animals do, but rather he ought to begin where they begin, and to end where nature ends in us; and nature ends in contemplation and understanding, in a way of life conformable to nature. Take care then not to die without having been spectators of these things.
But you take a journey to Olympia to see the work of Phidias, and all of you think it a misfortune to die without having seen such things. But when there is no need to take a journey, and where a man is, there he has the works (of God) before him, will you not desire to see and understand them? Will you not perceive either what you are, or what you were born for, or what this is for which you have received the faculty of sight? But you may say, “There are some things disagreeable and troublesome in life.” And are there none in Olympia? Are you not scorched? Are you not pressed by a crowd? Are you not without comfortable means of bathing? Are you not wet when it rains? Have you not abundance of noise, clamour, and other disagreeable things? But I suppose that setting all these things off against the magnificence of the spectacle, you bear and endure. Well, then, and have you not received faculties by which you will be able to bear all that happens? Have you not received greatness of soul? Have you not received manliness? Have you not received endurance? And why do I trouble myself about anything that can happen if I possess greatness of soul? What shall distract my mind or disturb me, or appear painful? Shall I not use the power for the purposes for which I received it, and shall I grieve and lament over what happens?
“Yes, but my nose runs.” For what purpose then, slave, have you hands? Is it not that you may wipe your nose? “Is it, then, consistent with reason that there should be running of noses in the world?” Nay, how much better it is to wipe your nose than to find fault. What do you think that Hercules would have been if there had not been such a lion, and hydra, and stag, and boar, and certain unjust and bestial men, whom Hercules used to drive away and clear out? And what would he have been doing if there had been nothing of the kind? Is it not plain that he would have wrapped himself up and have slept? In the first place, then he would not have been a Hercules, when he was dreaming away all his life in such luxury and case; and even if he had been one what would have been the use of him? and what the use of his arms, and of the strength of the other parts of his body, and his endurance and noble spirit, if such circumstances and occasions had not roused and exercised him? “Well, then, must a man provide for himself such means of exercise, and to introduce a lion from some place into his country, and a boar and a hydra?” This would be folly and madness: but as they did exist, and were found, they were useful for showing what Hercules was and for exercising him. Come then do you also having observed these things look to the faculties which you have, and when you have looked at them, say: “Bring now, O Zeus, any difficulty that Thou pleasest, for I have means given to me by Thee and powers for honoring myself through the things which happen.” You do not so; but you sit still, trembling for fear that some things will happen, and weeping, and lamenting and groaning for what does happen: and then you blame the gods. For what is the consequence of such meanness of spirit but impiety? And yet God has not only given us these faculties; by which we shall be able to bear everything that happens without being depressed or broken by it; but, like a good king and a true father, He has given us these faculties free from hindrance, subject to no compulsion unimpeded, and has put them entirely in our own power, without even having reserved to Himself any power of hindering or impeding. You, who have received these powers free and as your own, use them not: you do not even see what you have received, and from whom; some of you being blinded to the giver, and not even acknowledging your benefactor, and others, through meanness of spirit, betaking yourselves to fault finding and making charges against God. Yet I will show to you that you have powers and means for greatness of soul and manliness but what powers you have for finding fault and making accusations, do you show me.
The handling of sophistical and hypothetical arguments, and of those which derive their conclusions from questioning, and in a word the handling of all such arguments, relates to the duties of life, though the many do not know this truth. For in every matter we inquire how the wise and good man shall discover the proper path and the proper method of dealing with the matter. Let, then, people either say that the grave man will not descend into the contest of question and answer, or that, if he does descend into the contest, he will take no care about not conducting himself rashly or carelessly in questioning and answering. But if they do not allow either the one or the other of these things, they must admit that some inquiry ought to be made into those topics on which particularly questioning and answering are employed. For what is the end proposed in reasoning? To establish true propositions, to remove the false, to withhold assent from those which are not plain. Is it enough then to have learned only this? “It is enough,” a man may reply. Is it, then, also enough for a man, who would not make a mistake in the use of coined money, to have heard this precept, that he should receive the genuine drachmae and reject the spurious? “It is not enough.” What, then, ought to be added to this precept? What else than the faculty which proves and distinguishes the genuine and the spurious drachmae? Consequently also in reasoning what has been said is not enough; but is it necessary that a man should acquire the faculty of examining and distinguishing the true and the false, and that which is not plain? “It is necessary.” Besides this, what is proposed in reasoning? “That you should accept what follows from that which you have properly granted.” Well, is it then enough in this case also to know this? It is not enough; but a man must learn how one thing is a consequence of other things, and when one thing follows from one thing, and when it follows from several collectively. Consider, then if it be not necessary that this power should also be acquired by him who purposes to conduct himself skillfully in reasoning, the power of demonstrating himself the several things which he has proposed, and the power of understanding the demonstrations of others, including of not being deceived by sophists, as if they were demonstrating. Therefore there has arisen among us the practice and exercise of conclusive arguments and figures, and it has been shown to be necessary.
But in fact in some cases we have properly granted the premisses or assumptions, and there results from them something; and though it is not true, yet none the less it does result. What then ought I to do? Ought I to admit the falsehood? And how is that possible? Well, should I say that I did not properly grant that which we agreed upon? “But you are not allowed to do even this.” Shall I then say that the consequence does not arise through what has been conceded? “But neither is it allowed.” What then must be done in this case? Consider if it is not this: as to have borrowed is not enough to make a man still a debtor, but to this must be added the fact that he continues to owe the money and that the debt is not paid, so it is not enough to compel you to admit the inference that you have granted the premisses, but you must abide by what you have granted. Indeed, if the premisses continue to the end such as they were when they were granted, it is absolutely necessary for us to abide by what we have granted, and we must accept their consequences: but if the premisses do not remain such as they were when they were granted, it is absolutely necessary for us also to withdraw from what we granted, and from accepting what does not follow from the words in which our concessions were made. For the inference is now not our inference, nor does it result with our assent, since we have withdrawn from the premisses which we granted. We ought then both to examine such kind of premisses, and such change and variation of them, by which in the course of questioning or answering, or in making the syllogistic conclusion, or in any other such way, the premisses undergo variations, and give occasion to the foolish to be confounded, if they do not see what conclusions are. For what reason ought we to examine? In order that we may not in this matter be employed in an improper manner nor in a confused way.
And the same in hypotheses and hypothetical arguments; for it is necessary sometimes to demand the granting of some hypothesis as a kind of passage to the argument which follows. Must we then allow every hypothesis that is proposed, or not allow every one? And if not every one, which should we allow? And if a man has allowed an hypothesis, must he in every case abide by allowing it? or must he sometimes withdraw from it, but admit the consequences and not admit contradictions? Yes; but suppose that a man says, “If you admit the hypothesis of a possibility, I will draw you to an impossibility.” With such a person shall a man of sense refuse to enter into a contest, and avoid discussion and conversation with him? But what other man than the man of sense can use argumentation and is skillful in questioning and answering, and incapable of being cheated and deceived by false reasoning? And shall he enter into the contest, and yet not take care whether he shall engage in argument not rashly and not carelessly? And if he does not take care, how can he be such a man as we conceive him to be? But without some such exercise and preparation, can he maintain a continuous and consistent argument? Let them show this; and all these speculations become superfluous, and are absurd and inconsistent with our notion of a good and serious man.
Why are we still indolent and negligent and sluggish, and why do we seek pretences for not labouring and not being watchful in cultivating our reason? “If then I shall make a mistake in these matters may I not have killed my father?” Slave, where was there a father in this matter that you could kill him? What, then, have you done? The only fault that was possible here is the fault which you have committed. This is the very remark which I made to Rufus when he blamed me for not having discovered the one thing omitted in a certain syllogism: “I suppose,” I said, “that I have burnt the Capitol.” “Slave,” he replied, “was the thing omitted here the Capitol?” Or are these the only crimes, to burn the Capitol and to kill your father? But for a man to use the appearances resented to him rashly and foolishly and carelessly, not to understand argument, nor demonstration, nor sophism, nor, in a word, to see in questioning and answering what is consistent with that which we have granted or is not consistent; is there no error in this?
In as many ways as we can change things which are equivalent to one another, in just so many ways we can change the forms of arguments and enthymemes in argumentation. This is an instance: “If you have borrowed and not repaid, you owe me the money: you have not borrowed and you have not repaid; then you do not owe me the money.” To do this skillfully is suitable to no man more than to the philosopher; for if the enthymeme is all imperfect syllogism. it is plain that he who has been exercised in the perfect syllogism must be equally expert in the imperfect also.
“Why then do we not exercise ourselves and one another in this manner?” Because, I reply, at present, though we are not exercised in these things and not distracted from the study of morality, by me at least, still we make no progress in virtue. What then must we expect if we should add this occupation? and particularly as this would not only be an occupation which would withdraw us from more necessary things, but would also be a cause of self conceit and arrogance, and no small cause. For great is the power of arguing and the faculty of persuasion, and particularly if it should be much exercised, and also receive additional ornament from language: and so universally, every faculty acquired by the uninstructed and weak brings with it the danger of these persons being elated and inflated by it. For by what means could one persuade a young man who excels in these matters that he ought not to become an appendage to them, but to make them an appendage to himself? Does he not trample on all such reasons, and strut before us elated and inflated, not enduring that any man should reprove him and remind him of what he has neglected and to what he has turned aside?
“What, then, was not Plato a philosopher?” I reply, “And was not Hippocrates a physician? but you see how Hippocrates speaks.” Does Hippocrates, then, speak thus in respect of being a physician? Why do you mingle things which have been accidentally united in the same men? And if Plato was handsome and strong, ought I also to set to work and endeavor to become handsome or strong, as if this was necessary for philosophy, because a certain philosopher was at the same time handsome and a philosopher? Will you not choose to see and to distinguish in respect to what men become philosophers, and what things belong to belong to them in other respects? And if I were a philosopher, ought you also to be made lame? What then? Do I take away these faculties which you possess? By no means; for neither do I take away the faculty of seeing. But if you ask me what is the good of man, I cannot mention to you anything else than that it is a certain disposition of the will with respect to appearances.
If the things are true which are said by the philosophers about the kinship between God and man, what else remains for men to do then what Socrates did? Never in reply to the question, to what country you belong, say that you are an Athenian or a Corinthian, but that you are a citizen of the world. For why do you say that you are an Athenian, and why do you not say that you belong to the small nook only into which your poor body was cast at birth? Is it not plain that you call yourself an Athenian or Corinthian from the place which has a greater authority and comprises not only that small nook itself and all your family, but even the whole country from which the stock of your progenitors is derived down to you? He then who has observed with intelligence the administration of the world, and has learned that the greatest and supreme and the most comprehensive community is that which is composed of men and God, and that from God have descended the seeds not only to my father and grandfather, but to all beings which are generated on the earth and are produced, and particularly to rational beings — for these only are by their nature formed to have communion with God, being by means of reason conjoined with Him — why should not such a man call himself a citizen of the world, why not a son of God, and why should he be afraid of anything which happens among men? Is kinship with Caesar or with any other of the powerful in Rome sufficient to enable us to live in safety, and above contempt and without any fear at all? and to have God for your maker and father and guardian, shall not this release us from sorrows and fears?
But a man may say, “Whence shall I get bread to eat when I have nothing?”
And how do slaves, and runaways, on what do they rely when they leave their masters? Do they rely on their lands or slaves, or their vessels of silver? They rely on nothing but themselves, and food does not fail them. And shall it be necessary for one among us who is a philosopher to travel into foreign parts, and trust to and rely on others, and not to take care of himself, and shall he be inferior to irrational animals and more cowardly, each of which, being self-sufficient, neither fails to get its proper food, nor to find a suitable way of living, and one conformable to nature?
I indeed think that the old man ought to be sitting here, not to contrive how you may have no mean thoughts nor mean and ignoble talk about yourselves, but to take care that there be not among us any young men of such a mind that, when they have recognized their kinship to God, and that we are fettered by these bonds, the body, I mean, and its possessions, and whatever else on account of them is necessary to us for the economy and commerce of life, they should intend to throw off these things as if they were burdens painful and intolerable, and to depart to their kinsmen. But this is the labour that your teacher and instructor ought to be employed upon, if he really were what he should be. You should come to him and say, “Epictetus, we can no longer endure being bound to this poor body, and feeding it and giving it drink, and rest, and cleaning it, and for the sake of the body complying with the wishes of these and of those. Are not these things indifferent and nothing to us, and is not death no evil? And are we not in a manner kinsmen of God, and did we not come from Him? Allow us to depart to the place from which we came; allow us to be released at last from these bonds by which we are bound and weighed down. Here there are robbers and thieves and courts of justice, and those who are named tyrants, and think that they have some power over us by means of the body and its possessions. Permit us to show them that they have no power over any man.” And I on my part would say, “Friends, wait for God; when He shall give the signal and release you from this service, then go to Him; but for the present endure to dwell in this place where He has put you: short indeed is this time of your dwelling here, and easy to bear for those who are so disposed: for what tyrant or what thief, or what courts of justice, are formidable to those who have thus considered as things of no value the body and the possessions of the body? Wait then, do not depart without a reason.”
Something like this ought to be said by the teacher to ingenuous youths. But now what happens? The teacher is a lifeless body, and you are lifeless bodies. When you have been well filled to-day, you sit down and lament about the morrow, how you shall get something to eat. Wretch, if you have it, you will have it; if you have it not, you will depart from life. The door is open. Why do you grieve? where does there remain any room for tears? and where is there occasion for flattery? why shall one man envy another? why should a man admire the rich or the powerful, even if they be both very strong and of violent temper? for what will they do to us? We shall not care for that which they can do; and what we do care for, that they cannot do. How did Socrates behave with respect to these matters? Why, in what other way than a man ought to do who was convinced that he was a kinsman of the gods? “If you say to me now,” said Socrates to his judges, “’We will acquit you on the condition that you no longer discourse in the way in which you have hitherto discoursed, nor trouble either our young or our old men,’ I shall answer, ‘you make yourselves ridiculous by thinking that, if one of our commanders has appointed me to a certain post, it is my duty to keep and maintain it, and to resolve to die a thousand times rather than desert it; but if God has put us in any place and way of life, we ought to desert it.’” Socrates speaks like a man who is really a kinsman of the gods. But we think about ourselves as if we were only stomachs, and intestines, and shameful parts; we fear, we desire; we flatter those who are able to help us in these matters, and we fear them also.
A man asked me to write to Rome about him, a man who, as most people thought, had been unfortunate, for formerly he was a man of rank and rich, but had been stripped of all, and was living here. I wrote on his behalf in a submissive manner; but when he had read the letter, he gave it back to me and said, “I wished for your help, not your pity: no evil has happened to me.”
Thus also Musonius Rufus, in order to try me, used to say: “This and this will befall you from your master”; and I replied that these were things which happen in the ordinary course of human affairs. “Why, then,” said he, “should I ask him for anything when I can obtain it from you?” For, in fact, what a man has from himself, it is superfluous and foolish to receive from another? Shall I, then, who am able to receive from myself greatness of soul and a generous spirit, receive from you land and money or a magisterial office? I hope not: I will not be so ignorant about my own possessions. But when a man is cowardly and mean, what else must be done for him than to write letters as you would about a corpse. “Please to grant us the body of a certain person and a sextarius of poor blood.” For such a person is, in fact, a carcass and a sextarius of blood, and nothing more. But if he were anything more, he would know that one man is not miserable through the means of another.
If we applied ourselves as busily to our own work as the old men at Rome do to those matters about which they are employed, perhaps we also might accomplish something. I am acquainted with a man older than myself who is now superintendent of corn at Rome, and remember the time when he came here on his way back from exile, and what he said as he related the events of his former life, and how he declared that with respect to the future after his return he would look after nothing else than passing the rest of his life in quiet and tranquillity. “For how little of life,” he said, remains for me.” I replied, “You will not do it, but as soon as you smell Rome, you will forget all that you have said; and if admission is allowed even into the imperial palace, you will gladly thrust yourself in and thank God.” “If you find me, Epictetus,” he answered, “setting even one foot within the palace, think what you please.” Well, what then did he do? Before he entered the city he was met by letters from Caesar, and as soon as he received them he forgot all, and ever after has added one piece of business to another. I wish that I were now by his side to remind him of what he said when he was passing this way and to tell him how much better a seer I am than he is.
Well, then, do I say that man is an animal made for doing nothing? Certainly not. But why are we not active? For example, as to myself, as soon as day comes, in a few words I remind myself of what I must read over to my pupils; then forthwith I say to myself, “But what is it to me how a certain person shall read? the first thing for me is to sleep.” And indeed what resemblance is there between what other persons do and what we do? If you observe what they do, you will understand. And what else do they do all day long than make up accounts, inquire among themselves, give and take advice about some small quantity of grain, a bit of land, and such kind of profits? Is it then the same thing to receive a petition and to read in it: “I entreat you to permit me to export a small quantity of corn”; and one to this effect: “I entreat you to learn from Chrysippus what is the administration of the world, and what place in it the rational animal holds; consider also who you are, and what is the nature of your good and bad.” Are these things like the other, do they require equal care, and is it equally base to neglect these and those? Well, then, are we the only persons who are lazy and love sleep? No; but much rather you young men are. For we old men, when we see young men amusing themselves, are eager to play with them; and if I saw you active and zealous, much more should I be eager myself to join you in your serious pursuits.
When he was visited by one of the magistrates, Epictetus inquired of him about several particulars, and asked if he had children and a wife. The man replied that he had; and Epictetus inquired further, how he felt under the circumstances. “Miserable,” the man said. Then Epictetus asked, “In what respect,” for men do not marry and beget children in order to be wretched, but rather to be happy. “But I,” the man replied, “am so wretched about my children that lately, when my little daughter was sick and was supposed to be in danger, I could not endure to stay with her, but I left home till a person sent me news that she had recovered.” Well then, said Epictetus, do you think that you acted right? “I acted naturally,” the man replied. But convince me of this that you acted naturally, and I will convince you that everything which takes place according to nature takes place rightly. “This is the case,” said the man, “with all or at least most fathers.” I do not deny that: but the matter about which we are inquiring is whether such behavior is right; for in respect to this matter we must say that tumours also come for the good of the body, because they do come; and generally we must say that to do wrong is natural, because nearly all or at least most of us do wrong. Do you show me then how your behavior is natural. “I cannot,” he said; “but do you rather show me how it is not according to nature and is not rightly done.
Well, said Epictetus, if we were inquiring about white and black, what criterion should we employ for distinguishing between them? “The sight,” he said. And if about hot and cold, and hard and soft, what criterion? “The touch.” Well then, since we are inquiring about things which are according to nature, and those which are done rightly or not rightly, what kind of criterion do you think that we should employ? “I do not know,” he said. And yet not to know the criterion of colors and smells, and also of tastes, is perhaps no great harm; but if a man do not know the criterion of good and bad, and of things according to nature and contrary to nature, does this seem to you a small harm? “The greatest harm.” Come tell me, do all things which seem to some persons to be good and becoming rightly appear such; and at present as to Jews and Syrians and Egyptians and Romans, is it possible that the opinions of all of them in respect to food are right? “How is it possible?” he said. Well, I suppose it is absolutely necessary that, if the opinions of the Egyptians are right, the opinions of the rest must be wrong: if the opinions of the Jews are right, those of the rest cannot be right. “Certainly.” But where there is ignorance, there also there is want of learning and training in things which are necessary. He assented to this. You then, said Epictetus, since you know this, for the future will employ yourself seriously about nothing else, and will apply your mind to nothing else than to learn the criterion of things which are according to nature, and by using it also to determine each several thing. But in the present matter I have so much as this to aid you toward what you wish. Does affection to those of your family appear to you to be according to nature and to be good? “Certainly.” Well, is such affection natural and good, and is a thing consistent with reason not good? “By no means.” Is then that which is consistent with reason in contradiction with affection? “I think not.” You are right, for if it is otherwise, it is necessary that one of the contradictions being according to nature, the other must be contrary to nature. Is it not so? “It is,” he said. Whatever, then, we shall discover to be at the same time affectionate and also consistent with reason, this we confidently declare to be right and good. “Agreed.” Well then to leave your sick child and to go away is not reasonable, and I suppose that you will not say that it is; but it remains for us to inquire if it is consistent with affection. “Yes, let us consider.” Did you, then, since you had an affectionate disposition to your child, do right when you ran off and left her; and has the mother no affection for the child? “Certainly, she has.” Ought, then, the mother also to have left her, or ought she not? “She ought not.” And the nurse, does she love her? “She does.” Ought, then, she also to have left her? “By no means.” And the pedagogue, does he not love her? “He does love her.” Ought, then, he also to have deserted her? and so should the child have been left alone and without help on account of the great affection of you, the parents, and of those about her, or should she have died in the hands of those who neither loved her nor cared for her? “Certainly not.” Now this is unfair and unreasonable, not to allow those who have equal affection with yourself to do what you think to be proper for yourself to do because you have affection. It is absurd. Come then, if you were sick, would you wish your relations to be so affectionate, and all the rest, children and wife, as to leave you alone and deserted? “By no means.” And would you wish to be so loved by your own that through their excessive affection you would always be left alone in sickness? or for this reason would you rather pray, if it were possible, to be loved by your enemies and deserted by them? But if this is so, it results that your behavior was not at all an affectionate act.
Well then, was it nothing which moved you and induced you to desert your child? and how is that possible? But it might be something of the kind which moved a man at Rome to wrap up his head while a horse was running which he favoured; and when contrary to expectation the horse won, he required sponges to recover from his fainting fit. What then is the thing which moved? The exact discussion of this does not belong to the present occasion perhaps; but it is enough to be convinced of this, if what the philosophers say is true, that we must not look for it anywhere without, but in all cases it is one and the same thing which is the cause of our doing or not doing something, of saying or not saying something, of being elated or depressed, of avoiding anything or pursuing: the very thing which is now the cause to me and to you, to you of coming to me and sitting and hearing, and to me of saying what I do say. And what is this? Is it any other than our will to do so? “No other.” But if we had willed otherwise, what else should we have been doing than that which we willed to do? This, then, was the cause of Achilles’ lamentation, not the death of Patroclus; for another man does not behave thus on the death of his companion; but it was because he chose to do so. And to you this was the very cause of your then running away, that you chose to do so; and on the other side, if you should stay with her, the reason will be the same. And now you are going to Rome because you choose; and if you should change your mind, you will not go thither. And in a word, neither death nor exile nor pain nor anything of the kind is the cause of our doing anything or not doing; but our own opinions and our wills.
Do I convince you of this or not? “You do convince me.” Such, then, as the causes are in each case, such also are the effects. When, then, we are doing anything not rightly, from this day we shall impute it to nothing else than to the will from which we have done it: and it is that which we shall endeavour to take away and to extirpate more than the tumours and abscesses out of the body. And in like manner we shall give the same account of the cause of the things which we do right; and we shall no longer allege as causes of any evil to us, either slave or neighbour, or wife or children, being persuaded that, if we do not think things to he what we do think them to be, we do not the acts which follow from such opinions; and as to thinking or not thinking, that is in our power and not in externals. “It is so,” he said. From this day then we shall inquire into and examine nothing else, what its quality is, or its state, neither land nor slaves nor horses nor dogs, nothing else than opinions. “I hope so.” You see, then, that you must become a Scholasticus, an animal whom all ridicule, if you really intend to make an examination of your own opinions: and that this is not the work of one hour or day, you know yourself.
With respect to gods, there are some who say that a divine being does not exist: others say that it exists, but is inactive and careless, and takes no forethought about anything; a third class say that such a being exists and exercises forethought, but only about great things and heavenly things, and about nothing on the earth; a fourth class say that a divine being exercises forethought both about things on the earth and heavenly things, but in a general way only, and not about things severally. There is a fifth class to whom Ulysses and Socrates belong, who say: “I move not without thy knowledge.”
Before all other things, then, it is necessary to inquire about each of these opinions, whether it is affirmed truly or not truly. For if there are no gods, how is it our proper end to follow them? And if they exist, but take no care of anything, in this case also how will it be right to follow them? But if indeed they do exist and look after things, still if there is nothing communicated from them to men, nor in fact to myself, how even so is it right? The wise and good man, then, after considering all these things, submits his own mind to him who administers the whole, as good citizens do to the law of the state. He who is receiving instruction ought to come to the instructed with this intention: How shall I follow the gods in all things, how shall I be contented with the divine administration, and how can I become free?” For he is free to whom everything happens according, to his will, and whom no man can hinder. “What then, is freedom madness?” Certainly not: for madness and freedom do not consist. “But,” you say, “I would have everything result just as I like, and in whatever way I like.” You are mad, you are beside yourself. Do you not know that freedom is a noble and valuable thing? But for me inconsiderately to wish for things to happen as I inconsiderately like, this appears to be not only not noble, but even most base. For how do we proceed in the matter of writing? Do I wish to write the name of Dion as I choose? No, but I am taught to choose to write it as it ought to be written. And how with respect to music? In the same manner. And what universally in every art or science? Just the same. If it were not so, it would be of no value to know anything, if knowledge were adapted to every man’s whim. Is it, then, in this alone, in this which is the greatest and the chief thing, I mean freedom, that I am permitted to will inconsiderately? By no means; but to be instructed is this, to learn to wish that everything may happen as it does. And how do things happen? As the disposer has disposed them? And he has appointed summer and winter, and abundance and scarcity, and virtue and vice, and all such opposites for the harmony of the whole; and to each of us he has given a body, and parts of the body, and possessions, and companions.
Remembering, then, this disposition of things we ought to go to be instructed, not that we may change the constitution of things — for we have not the power to do it, nor is it better that we should have the power-but in order that, as the things around us are what they are and by nature exist, we may maintain our minds in harmony with them things which happen. For can we escape from men? and how is it possible? And if we associate with them, can we chance them? Who gives us the power? What then remains, or what method is discovered of holding commerce with them? Is there such a method by which they shall do what seems fit to them, and we not the less shall be in a mood which is conformable to nature? But you are unwilling to endure and are discontented: and if you are alone, you call it solitude; and of you are with men, you call them knaves and robbers; and you find fault with your own parents and children, and brothers and neighbours. But you ought when you are alone to call this condition by the name of tranquillity and freedom, and to think yourself like to the gods; and when you are with many, you ought not to call it crowd, nor trouble, nor uneasiness, but festival and assembly, and so accept all contentedly.
What, then, is the punishment of those who do not accept? It is to be what they are. Is any person dissatisfied with being alone, let him be alone. Is a man dissatisfied with his parents? let him be a bad son, and lament. Is he dissatisfied with his children? let him be a bad father. “Cast him into prison.” What prison? Where he is already, for he is there against his will; and where a man is against his will, there he is in prison. So Socrates was not in prison, for he was there willingly. “Must my leg then be lamed?” Wretch, do you then on account of one poor leg find fault with the world? Will you not willingly surrender it for the whole? Will you not withdraw from it? Will you not gladly part with it to him who gave it? And will you be vexed and discontented with the things established by Zeus, which he with the Moirae who were present and spinning the thread of your generation, defined and put in order? Know you not how small a part you are compared with the whole. I mean with respect to the body, for as to intelligence you are not inferior to the gods nor less; for the magnitude of intelligence is not measured by length nor yet by height, but by thoughts.
Will you not, then, choose to place your good in that in which you are equal to the gods? “Wretch that I am to have such a father and mother.” What, then, was it permitted to you to come forth, and to select, and to say: “Let such a man at this moment unite with such a woman that I may be produced?” It was not permitted, but it was a necessity for your parents to exist first, and then for you to be begotten. Of what kind of parents? Of such as they were. Well then, since they are such as they are, is there no remedy given to you? Now if you did not know for what purpose you possess the faculty of vision, you would be unfortunate and wretched if you closed your eyes when colors were brought before them; but in that you possess greatness of soul and nobility of spirit for every event that may happen, and you know not that you possess them, are you not more unfortunate and wretched? Things are brought close to you which are proportionate to the power which you possess, but you turn away this power most particularly at the very time when you ought to maintain it open and discerning. Do you not rather thank the gods that they have allowed you to be above these things which they have not placed in your power; and have made you accountable only for those which are in your power? As to your parents, the gods have left you free from responsibility; and so with respect to your brothers, and your body, and possessions, and death and life. For what, then, have they made you responsible? For that which alone is in your power, the proper use of appearances. Why then do you draw on yourself the things for which you are not responsible? It is, indeed, a giving of trouble to yourself.
When some one asked, how may a man eat acceptably to the gods, he answered: If he can eat justly and contentedly, and with equanimity, and temperately and orderly, will it not be also acceptably to the gods? But when you have asked for warm water and the slave has not heard, or if he did hear has brought only tepid water, or he is not even found to be in the house, then not to be vexed or to burst with passion, is not this acceptable to the gods? “How then shall a man endure such persons as this slave?” Slave yourself, will you not bear with your own brother, who has Zeus for his progenitor, and is like a son from the same seeds and of the same descent from above? But if you have been put in any such higher place, will you immediately make yourself a tyrant? Will you not remember who you are, and whom you rule? that they are kinsmen, that they are brethren by nature, that they are the offspring of Zeus? “But I have purchased them, and they have not purchased me.” Do you see in what direction you are looking, that it is toward the earth, toward the pit, that it is toward these wretched laws of dead men? but toward the laws of the gods you are not looking.
When a person asked him how a man could be convinced that all his actions are under the inspection of God, he answered, Do you not think that all things are united in one? “I do,” the person replied. Well, do you not think that earthly things have a natural agreement and union with heavenly things “I do.” And how else so regularly as if by God’s command, when He bids the plants to flower, do they flower? when He bids them to send forth shoots, do they shoot? when He bids them to produce fruit, how else do they produce fruit? when He bids the fruit to ripen, does it ripen? when again He bids them to cast down the fruits, how else do they cast them down? and when to shed the leaves, do they shed the leaves? and when He bids them to fold themselves up and to remain quiet and rest, how else do they remain quiet and rest? And how else at the growth and the wane of the moon, and at the approach and recession of the sun, are so great an alteration and change to the contrary seen in earthly things? But are plants and our bodies so bound up and united with the whole, and are not our souls much more? and our souls so bound up and in contact with God as parts of Him and portions of Him; and does not God perceive every motion of these parts as being His own motion connate with Himself? Now are you able to think of the divine administration, and about all things divine, and at the same time also about human affairs, and to be moved by ten thousand things at the same time in your senses and in your understanding, and to assent to some, and to dissent from others, and again as to some things to suspend your judgment; and do you retain in your soul so many impressions from so many and various things, and being moved by them, do you fall upon notions similar to those first impressed, and do you retain numerous arts and the memories of ten thousand things; and is not God able to oversee all things, and to be present with all, and to receive from all a certain communication? And is the sun able to illuminate so large a part of the All, and to leave so little not illuminated, that part only which is occupied by the earth’s shadow; and He who made the sun itself and makes it go round, being a small part of Himself compared with the whole, cannot He perceive all things?
“But I cannot,” the man may reply, “comprehend all these things at once.” But who tells you that you have equal power with Zeus? Nevertheless he has placed by every man a guardian, every man’s Demon, to whom he has committed the care of the man, a guardian who never sleeps, is never deceived. For to what better and more careful guardian could He have entrusted each of us? When, then, you have shut the doors and made darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not; but God is within, and your Demon is within, and what need have they of light to see what you are doing? To this God you ought to swear an oath just as the soldiers do to Caesar. But they who are hired for pay swear to regard the safety of Caesar before all things; and you who have received so many and such great favours, will you not swear, or when you have sworn, will you not abide by your oath? And what shall you swear? Never to be disobedient, never to make any charges, never to find fault with anything that he has given, and never unwillingly to do or to suffer anything, that is necessary. Is this oath like the soldier’s oath? The soldiers swear not to prefer any man to Caesar: in this oath men swear to honour themselves before all.
When a man was consulting him how he should persuade his brother to cease being angry with him, Epictetus replied: Philosophy does not propose to secure for a man any external thing. If it did philosophy would be allowing something which is not within its province. For as the carpenter’s material is wood, and that of the statuary is copper, so the matter of the art of living is each man’s life. “What then is my brother’s?” That again belongs to his own art; but with respect to yours, it is one of the external things, like a piece of land, like health, like reputation. But Philosophy promises none of these. “In every circumstance I will maintain,” she says, “the governing part conformable to nature.” Whose governing part? “His in whom I am,” she says.
“How then shall my brother cease to be angry with me?” Bring him to me and I will tell him. But I have nothing to say to you about his anger.
When the man, who was consulting him, said, “I seek to know this — how, even if my brother is not reconciled to me, shall I maintain myself in a state conformable to nature?” Nothing great, said Epictetus, is produced suddenly, since not even the grape or the fig is. If you say to me now that you want a fig, I will answer to you that it requires time: let it flower first, then put forth fruit, and then ripen. Is, then, the fruit of a fig-tree not perfected suddenly and in one hour, and would you possess the fruit of a man’s mind in so short a time and so easily? Do not expect it, even if I tell you.
Do not wonder if for other animals than man all things are provided for the body, not only food and drink, but beds also, and they have no need of shoes nor bed materials, nor clothing; but we require all these additional things. For, animals not being made for themselves, but for service, it was not fit for them to he made so as to need other things. For consider what it would be for us to take care not only of ourselves, but also about cattle and asses, how they should be clothed, and how shod, and how they should eat and drink. Now as soldiers are ready for their commander, shod, clothed and armed: but it would be a hard thing, for the chiliarch to go round and shoe or clothe his thousand men; so also nature has formed the animals which are made for service, all ready, prepared, and requiring no further care. So one little boy with only a stick drives the cattle.
But now we, instead of being thankful that we need not take the same care of animals as of ourselves, complain of God on our own account; and yet, in the name of Zeus and the gods, any one thing of those which exist would be enough to make a man perceive the providence of God, at least a man who is modest and grateful. And speak not to me now of the great thins, but only of this, that milk is produced from grass, and cheese from milk, and wool from skins. Who made these things or devised them? “No one,” you say. Oh, amazing shamelessness and stupidity!
Well, let us omit the works of nature and contemplate her smaller acts. Is there anything less useful than the hair on the chin? What then, has not nature used this hair also in the most suitable manner possible? Has she not by it distinguished the male and the female? does not the nature of every man forthwith proclaim from a distance, “I am a man; as such approach me, as such speak to me; look for nothing else; see the signs”? Again, in the case of women, as she has mingled something softer in the voice, so she has also deprived them of hair (on the chin). You say: “Not so; the human animal ought to have been left without marks of distinction, and each of us should have been obliged to proclaim, ‘I am a man.’ But how is not the sign beautiful and becoming, and venerable? how much more beautiful than the cock’s comb, how much more becoming than the lion’s mane? For this reason we ought to preserve the signs which God has given, we ought not to throw them away, nor to confound, as much as we can, the distinctions of the sexes.
Are these the only works of providence in us? And what words are sufficient to praise them and set them forth according to their worth? For if we had understanding, ought we to do anything else both jointly and severally than to sing hymns and bless the deity, and to tell of his benefits? Ought we not when we are digging and ploughing and eating to sing this hymn to God? “Great is God, who has given us such implements with which we shall cultivate the earth: great is God who has given us hands, the power of swallowing, a stomach, imperceptible growth, and the power of breathing while we sleep.” This is what we ought to sing on every occasion, and to sing the greatest and most divine hymn for giving us the faculty of comprehending these things and using a proper way. Well then, since most of you have become blind, ought there not to be some man to fill this office, and on behalf of all to sing the hymn to God? For what else can I do, a lame old man, than sing hymns to God? If then I was a nightingale, I would do the part of a nightingale: if I were a swan, I would do like a swan. But now I am a rational creature, and I ought to praise God: this is my work; I do it, nor will I desert this post, so long as I am allowed to keep it; and I exhort you to join in this same song.
Since reason is the faculty which analyses and perfects the rest, and it ought itself not to be unanalysed, by what should it be analysed? for it is plain that this should be done either by itself or by another thing. Either, then, this other thing also is reason, or something else superior to reason; which is impossible. But if it is reason, again who shall analyse that reason? For if that reason does this for itself, our reason also can do it. But we shall require something else, the thing, will go on to infinity and have no end. Reason therefore is analysed by itself. “Yes: but it is more urgent to cure (our opinions) and the like.” Will you then hear about those things? Hear. But if you should say, “I know not whether you are arguing truly or falsely,” and if I should express myself in any way ambiguously, and you should say to me, “ Distinguish,” I will bear with you no longer, and I shall say to “It is more urgent.” This is the reason, I suppose, why they place the logical art first, as in the measuring of corn we place first the examination of the measure. But if we do not determine first what is a modius, and what is a balance, how shall we be able to measure or weigh anything?
In this case, then, if we have not fully learned and accurately examined the criterion of all other things, by which the other things are learned, shall we be able to examine accurately and to learn fully anything else? “Yes; but the modius is only wood, and a thing which produces no fruit.” But it is a thing which can measure corn. “Logic also produces no fruit.” As to this indeed we shall see: but then even if a man should rant this, it is enough that logic has the power of distinguishing and examining other things, and, as we may say, of measuring and weighing them. Who says this? Is it only Chrysippus, and Zeno, and Cleanthes? And does not Antisthenes say so? And who is it that has written that the examination of names is the beginning of education? And does not Socrates say so? And of whom does Xenophon write, that he began with the examination of names, what each name signified? Is this then the great and wondrous thing to understand or interpret Chrysippus? Who says this? What then is the wondrous thing? To understand the will of nature. Well then do you apprehend it yourself by your own power? and what more have you need of? For if it is true that all men err involuntarily, and you have learned the truth, of necessity you must act right. “But in truth I do not apprehend the will of nature.” Who then tells us what it is? They say that it is Chrysippus. I proceed, and I inquire what this interpreter of nature says. I begin not to understand what he says; I seek an interpreter of Chrysippus. “Well, consider how this is said, just as if it were said in the Roman tongue.” What then is this superciliousness of the interpreter? There is no superciliousness which can justly he charged even to Chrysippus, if he only interprets the will of nature, but does not follow it himself; and much more is this so with his interpreter. For we have no need of Chrysippus for his own sake, but in order that we may understand nature. Nor do we need a diviner on his own account, but because we think that through him we shall know the future and understand the signs given by the gods; nor do we need the viscera of animals for their own sake, but because through them signs are given; nor do we look with wonder on the crow or raven, but on God, who through them gives signs?
I go then to the interpreter of these things and the sacrificer, and I say, “Inspect the viscera for me, and tell me what signs they give.” The man takes the viscera, opens them, and interprets them: “Man,” he says, “you have a will free by nature from hindrance and compulsion; this is written here in the viscera. I will show you this first in the matter of assent. Can any man hinder you from assenting to the truth? No man can. Can any man compel you to receive what is false? No man can. You see that in this matter you have the faculty of the will free from hindrance, free from compulsion, unimpeded.” Well, then, in the matter of desire and pursuit of an object, is it otherwise? And what can overcome pursuit except another pursuit? And what can overcome desire and aversion except another desire and aversion? But, you object: “If you place before me the fear of death, you do compel me.” No, it is not what is placed before you that compels, but your opinion that it is better to do so-and-so than to die. In this matter, then, it is your opinion that compelled you: that is, will compelled will. For if God had made that part of Himself, which He took from Himself and gave to us, of such a nature as to be hindered or compelled either by Himself or by another, He would not then be God nor would He be taking care of us as He ought. “This,” says the diviner, “I find in the victims: these are the things which are signified to you. If you choose, you are free; if you choose, you will blame no one: you will charge no one. All will be at the same time according to your mind and the mind of God.” For the sake of this divination I go to this diviner and to the philosopher, not admiring him for this interpretation, but admiring the things which he interprets.
If what philosophers say is true, that all men have one principle, as in the case of assent the persuasion that a thing is so, and in the case of dissent the persuasion that a thing is not so, and in the case of a suspense of judgment the persuasion that a thing is uncertain, so also in the case of a movement toward anything the persuasion that a thing is for a man’s advantage, and it is impossible to think that one thing is advantageous and to desire another, and to judge one thing to be proper and to move toward another, why then are we angry with the many? “They are thieves and robbers,” you may say. What do you mean by thieves and robbers? “They are mistaken about good and evil.” Ought we then to be angry with them, or to pity them? But show them their error, and you will see how they desist from their errors. If they do not see their errors, they have nothing superior to their present opinion.
“Ought not then this robber and this adulterer to be destroyed?” By no means say so, but speak rather in this way: “This man who has been mistaken and deceived about the most important things, and blinded, not in the faculty of vision which distinguishes white and black, but in the faculty which distinguishes good and bad, should we not destroy him?” If you speak thus, you will see how inhuman this is which you say, and that it is just as if you would say, “Ought we not to destroy this blind and deaf man?” But if the greatest harm is the privation of the greatest things, and the greatest thing in every man is the will or choice such as it ought to be, and a man is deprived of this will, why are you also angry with him? Man, you ought not to be affected contrary to nature by the bad things of another. Pity him rather: drop this readiness to be offended and to hate, and these words which the many utter: “These accursed and odious fellows.” How have you been made so wise at once? and how are you so peevish? Why then are we angry? Is it because we value so much the things of which these men rob us? Do not admire your clothes, and then you will not be angry with the thief. Do not admire the beauty of your wife, and you will not be angry with the adulterer. Learn that a thief and an adulterer have no place in the things which are yours, but in those which belong to others and which are not in your power. If you dismiss these things and consider them as nothing, with whom are you still angry? But so long as you value these things, be angry with yourself rather than with the thief and the adulterer. Consider the matter thus: you have fine clothes; your neighbor has not: you have a window; you wish to air the clothes. The thief does not know wherein man’s good consists, but he thinks that it consists in having fine clothes, the very thing which you also think. Must he not then come and take them away? When you show a cake to greedy persons, and swallow it all yourself, do you expect them not to snatch it from you? Do not provoke them: do not have a window: do not air your clothes. I also lately had an iron lamp placed by the side of my household gods: hearing a noise at the door, I ran down, and found that the lamp had been carried off. I reflected that he who had taken the lamp had done nothing strange. What then? To-morrow, I said, you will find an earthen lamp: for a man only loses that which he has. “I have lost my garment.” The reason is that you had a garment. “I have pain in my head.” Have you any pain in your horns? Why then are you troubled? for we only lose those things, we have only pains about those things which we possess.
“But the tyrant will chain.” What? the leg. “He will take away.” What? the neck. What then will he not chain and not take away? the will. This is why the ancients taught the maxim, “Know thyself.” Therefore we ought to exercise ourselves in small things and, beginning with them, to proceed to the greater. “I have pain in the head.” Do not say, “Alas!” “I have pain in the ear.” Do not say, “Alas!” And I do not say that you are not allowed to groan, but do not groan inwardly; and if your slave is slow in bringing a bandage, do not cry out and torment yourself, and say, “Everybody hates me”: for who would not hate such a man? For the future, relying on these opinions, walk about upright, free; not trusting to the size of your body, as an athlete, for a man ought not to be invincible in the way that an ass is.
Who then is the invincible? It is he whom none of the things disturb which are independent of the will. Then examining one circumstance after another I observe, as in the case of an athlete; he has come off victorious in the first contest: well then, as to the second? and what if there should be great heat? and what, if it should be at Olympia? And the same I say in this case: if you should throw money in his way, he will despise it. Well, suppose you put a young girl in his way, what then? and what, if it is in the dark? what if it should be a little reputation, or abuse; and what, if it should be praise; and what if it should be death? He is able to overcome all. What then if it be in heat, and what if it is in the rain, and what if he be in a melancholy mood, and what if he be asleep? He will still conquer. This is my invincible athlete.
If a man possesses any superiority, or thinks that he does, when he does not, such a man, if he is uninstructed, will of necessity be puffed up through it. For instance, the tyrant says, “I am master of all.” And what can you do for me? Can you give me desire which shall have no hindrance? How can you? Have you the infallible power of avoiding what you would avoid? Have you the power of moving toward an object without error? And how do you possess this power? Come, when you are in a ship, do you trust to yourself or to the helmsman? And when you are in a chariot, to whom do you trust but to the driver? And how is it in all other arts? Just the same. In what then lies your power? “All men pay respect to me.” Well, I also pay respect to my platter, and I wash it and wipe it; and for the sake of my oil flask, I drive a peg into the wall. Well then, are these things superior to me? No, but they supply some of my wants, and for this reason I take care of them. Well, do I not attend to my ass? Do I not wash his feet? Do I not clean him? Do you not know that every man has regard to himself, and to you just the same as he has regard to his ass? For who has regard to you as a man? Show me. Who wishes to become like you? Who imitates you, as he imitates Socrates? “But I can cut off your head.” You say right. I had forgotten that I must have regard to you, as I would to a fever and the bile, and raise an altar to you, as there is at Rome an altar to fever.
What is it then that disturbs and terrifies the multitude? is it the tyrant and his guards? I hope that it is not so. It is not possible that what is by nature free can be disturbed by anything else, or hindered by any other thing than by itself. But it is a man’s own opinions which disturb him: for when the tyrant says to a man, “I will chain your leg,” he who values his leg says, “Do not; have pity”: but he who values his own will says, “If it appears more advantageous to you, chain it.” “Do you not care?” I do not care. “I will show you that I am master.” You cannot do that. Zeus has set me free: do you think that he intended to allow his own son to be enslaved? But you are master of my carcass: take it. “So when you approach me, you have no regard to me?” No, but I have regard to myself; and if you wish me to say that I have regard to you also, I tell you that I have the same regard to you that I have to my pipkin.
This is not a perverse self-regard, for the animal is constituted so as to do all things for itself. For even the sun does all things for itself; nay, even Zeus himself. But when he chooses to be the Giver of rain and the Giver of fruits, and the Father of gods and men, you see that he cannot obtain these functions and these names, if he is not useful to man; and, universally, he has made the nature of the rational animal such that it cannot obtain any one of its own proper interests, if it does not contribute something to the common interest. In this manner and sense it is not unsociable for a man to do everything, for the sake of himself. For what do you expect? that a man should neglect himself and his own interest? And how in that case can there be one and the same principle in all animals, the principle of attachment to themselves?
What then? when absurd notions about things independent of our will, as if they were good and bad, lie at the bottom of our opinions, we must of necessity pay regard to tyrants; for I wish that men would pay regard to tyrants only, and not also to the bedchamber men. How is it that the man becomes all at once wise, when Caesar has made him superintendent of the close stool? How is it that we say immediately, “Felicion spoke sensibly to me.” I wish he were ejected from the bedchamber, that he might again appear to you to be a fool.
Epaphroditus had a shoemaker whom he sold because he was good for nothing. This fellow by some good luck was bought by one of Caesar’s men, and became Caesar’s shoemaker. You should have seen what respect Epaphroditus paid to him: “How does the good Felicion do, I pray?” Then if any of us asked, “What is master doing?” the answer “He is consulting about something with Felicion.” Had he not sold the man as good for nothing? Who then made him wise all at once? This is an instance of valuing something else than the things which depend on the will.
Has a man been exalted to the tribuneship? All who meet him offer their congratulations; one kisses his eyes, another the neck, and the slaves kiss his hands. He goes to his house, he finds torches lighted. He ascends the Capitol: he offers a sacrifice of the occasion. Now who ever sacrificed for having had good desires? for having acted conformably to nature? For in fact we thank the gods for those things in which we place our good.
A person was talking to me to-day about the priesthood of Augustus. I say to him: “Man, let the thing alone: you will spend much for no purpose.” But he replies, “Those who draw up agreements will write any name.” Do you then stand by those who read them, and say to such persons, “It is I whose name is written there;” And if you can now be present on all such occasions, what will you do when you are dead? “My name will remain.” Write it on a stone, and it will remain. But come, what remembrance of you will there be beyond Nicopolis? “But I shall wear a crown of gold.” If you desire a crown at all, take a crown of roses and put it on, for it will be more elegant in appearance.
Every art and faculty contemplates certain things especially. When then it is itself of the same kind with the objects which it contemplates, it must of necessity contemplate itself also: but when it is of an unlike kind, it cannot contemplate itself. For instance, the shoemaker’s art is employed on skins, but itself is entirely distinct from the material of skins: for this reason it does not contemplate itself. Again, the grammarian’s art is employed about articulate speech; is then the art also articulate speech? By no means. For this reason it is not able to contemplate itself. Now reason, for what purpose has it been given by nature? For the right use of appearances. What is it then itself? A system of certain appearances. So by its nature it has the faculty of contemplating itself so. Again, sound sense, for the contemplation of what things does it belong to us? Good and evil, and things which are neither. What is it then itself? Good. And want of sense, what is it? Evil. Do you see then that good sense necessarily contemplates both itself and the opposite? For this reason it is the chief and the first work of a philosopher to examine appearances, and to distinguish them, and to admit none without examination. You see even in the matter of coin, in which our interest appears to be somewhat concerned, how we have invented an art, and how many means the assayer uses to try the value of coin, the sight, the touch, the smell, and lastly the hearing. He throws the coin down, and observes the sound, and he is not content with its sounding once, but through his great attention he becomes a musician. In like manner, where we think that to be mistaken and not to be mistaken make a great difference, there we apply great attention to discovering the things which can deceive. But in the matter of our miserable ruling faculty, yawning and sleeping, we carelessly admit every appearance, for the harm is not noticed.
When then you would know how careless you are with respect to good and evil, and how active with respect to things which are indifferent, observe how you feel with respect to being deprived of the sight of eyes, and how with respect of being deceived, and you will discover you are far from feeling as you ought to in relation to good and evil. “But this is a matter which requires much preparation, and much labor and study.” Well then do you expect to acquire the greatest of arts with small labor? And yet the chief doctrine of philosophers is brief. If you would know, read Zeno’s writings and you will see. For how few words it requires to say man’s end is to follow the god’s, and that the nature of good is a proper use of appearances. But if you say “What is ‘God,’ what is ‘appearance,’ and what is ‘particular’ and what is ‘universal nature’? then indeed many words are necessary. If then Epicures should come and say that the good must be in the body; in this case also many words become necessary, and we must be taught what is the leading principle in us, and the fundamental and the substantial; and as it is not probable that the good of a snail is in the shell, is it probable that the good of a man is in the body? But you yourself, Epicurus, possess something better than this. What is that in you which deliberates, what is that which examines everything, what is that which forms a judgement about the body itself, that it is the principle part? and why do you light your lamp and labor for us, and write so many books? is it that we may not be ignorant of the truth, who we are, and what we are with respect to you? Thus the discussion requires many words.
When a man holds his proper station in life, he does not gape after things beyond it. Man, what do you wish to happen to you? “I am satisfied if I desire and avoid conformably to nature, if I employ movements toward and from an object as I am by nature formed to do, and purpose and design and assent.” Why then do you strut before us as if you had swallowed a spit? “My wish has always been that those who meet me should admire me, and those who follow me should exclaim, ‘Oh, the great philosopher.’” Who are they by whom you wish to be admired? Are they not those of whom you are used to say that they are mad? Well then do you wish to be admired by madmen?
Precognitions are common to all men, and precognition is not contradictory to precognition. For who of us does not assume that Good is useful and eligible, and in all circumstances that we ought to follow and pursue it? And who of us does not assume that justice is beautiful and becoming? When, then, does the contradiction arise? It arises in the adaptation of the precognitions to the particular cases. When one man says, “He has done well: he is a brave man,” and another says, “Not so; but he has acted foolishly”; then the disputes arise among men. This is the dispute among the Jews and the Syrians and the Egyptians and the Romans; not whether holiness should be preferred to all things and in all cases should be pursued, but whether it is holy to eat pig’s flesh or not holy. You will find this dispute also between Agamemnon and Achilles; for call them forth. What do you say, Agamemnon ought not that to be done which is proper and right? “Certainly.” Well, what do you say, Achilles? do you not admit that what is good ought to be done? “I do most certainly.” Adapt your precognitions then to the present matter. Here the dispute begins. Agamemnon says, “I ought not to give up Chryseis to her father.” Achilles says, “You ought.” It is certain that one of the two makes a wrong adaptation of the precognition of ought” or “duty.” Further, Agamemnon says, “Then if I ought to restore Chryseis, it is fit that I take his prize from some of you.” Achilles replies, “Would you then take her whom I love?” “Yes, her whom you love.” “Must I then be the only man who goes without a prize? and must I be the only man who has no prize?” Thus the dispute begins.
What then is education? Education is the learning how to adapt the natural precognitions to the particular things conformably to nature; and then to distinguish that of things some are in our power, but others are not; in our power are will and all acts which depend on the will; things not in our power are the body, the parts of the body, possessions, parents, brothers, children, country, and, generally, all with whom we live in society. In what, then, should we place the good? To what kind of things shall we adapt it? “To the things which are in our power?” Is not health then a good thing, and soundness of limb, and life? and are not children and parents and country? Who will tolerate you if you deny this?
Let us then transfer the notion of good to these things. is it possible, then, when a man sustains damage and does not obtain good things, that he can be happy? “It is not possible.” And can he maintain toward society a proper behavior? He cannot. For I am naturally formed to look after my own interest. If it is my interest to have an estate in land, it is my interest also to take it from my neighbor. If it is my interest to have a garment, it is my interest also to steal it from the bath. This is the origin of wars, civil commotions, tyrannies, conspiracies. And how shall I be still able to maintain my duty toward Zeus? for if I sustain damage and am unlucky, he takes no care of me; and what is he to me if he allows me to be in the condition in which I am? I now begin to hate him. Why, then, do we build temples, why set up statues to Zeus, as well as to evil demons, such as to Fever; and how is Zeus the Saviour, and how the Giver of rain, and the Giver of fruits? And in truth if we place the nature of Good in any such things, all this follows.
What should we do then? This is the inquiry of the true philosopher who is in labour. “Now I do not see what the Good is nor the Bad. Am I not mad? Yes.” But suppose that I place the good somewhere among the things which depend on the will: all will laugh at me. There will come some grey-head wearing many gold rings on his fingers and he will shake his head and say, “Hear, my child. It is right that you should philosophize; but you ought to have some brains also: all this that you are doing is silly. You learn the syllogism from philosophers; but you know how to act better than philosophers do.” Man, why then do you blame me, if I know? What shall I say to this slave? If I am silent, he will burst. I must speak in this way: “Excuse me, as you would excuse lovers: I am not my own master: I am mad.”
Even Epicurus perceives that we are by nature social, but having once placed our good in the husk he is no longer able to say anything else. For on the other hand he strongly maintains this, that we ought not to admire nor to accept anything which is detached from the nature of good; and he is right in maintaining this. How then are we [suspicious], if we have no natural affection to our children? Why do you advise the wise man not to bring up children? Why are you afraid that he may thus fall into trouble? For does he fall into trouble on account of the mouse which is nurtured in the house? What does he care if a little mouse in the house makes lamentation to him? But Epicurus knows that if once a child is born, it is no longer in our power not to love it nor care about it. For this reason, Epicurus says that a man who has any sense also does not engage in political matters; for he knows what a man must do who is engaged in such things; for, indeed, if you intend to behave among men as you do among a swarm of flies, what hinders you? But Epicurus, who knows this, ventures to say that we should not bring up children. But a sheep does not desert its own offspring, nor yet a wolf; and shall a man desert his child? What do you mean? that we should be as silly as sheep? but not even do they desert their offspring: or as savage as wolves, but not even do wolves desert their young. Well, who would follow your advice, if he saw his child weeping after falling on the ground? For my part I think that, even if your mother and your father had been told by an oracle that you would say what you have said, they would not have cast you away.
It is circumstances which show what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. “For what purpose?” you may say, Why, that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat. In my opinion no man has had a more profitable difficulty than you have had, if you choose to make use of it as an athlete would deal with a young antagonist. We are now sending a scout to Rome; but no man sends a cowardly scout, who, if he only hears a noise and sees a shadow anywhere, comes running back in terror and reports that the enemy is close at hand. So now if you should come and tell us, “Fearful is the state of affairs at Rome, terrible is death, terrible is exile; terrible is calumny; terrible is poverty; fly, my friends; the enemy is near”; we shall answer, “Begone, prophesy for yourself; we have committed only one fault, that we sent such a scout.”
Diogenes, who was sent as a scout before you, made a different report to us. He says that death is no evil, for neither is it base: he says that fame is the noise of madmen. And what has this spy said about pain, about pleasure, and about poverty? He says that to be naked is better than any purple robe, and to sleep on the bare ground is the softest bed; and he gives as a proof of each thing that he affirms his own courage, his tranquillity his freedom, and the healthy appearance and compactness of his body. “There is no enemy he says; “all is peace.” How so, Diogenes? “See,” he replies, “if I am struck, if I have been wounded, if I have fled from any man.” This is what a scout ought to be. But you come to us and tell us one thing after another. Will you not go back, and you will see clearer when you have laid aside fear?
What then shall I do? What do you do when you leave a ship? Do you take away the helm or the oars? What then do you take away? You take what is your own, your bottle and your wallet; and now if you think of what is your own, you will never claim what belongs to others. The emperor says, “Lay aside your laticlave.” See, I put on the angusticlave. “Lay aside this also.” See, I have only my toga. “Lay aside your toga.” See, I am naked. “But you still raise my envy.” Take then all my poor body; when, at a man’s command, I can throw away my poor body, do I still fear him?
“But a certain person will not leave to me the succession to his estate.” What then? had I forgotten that not one of these things was mine. How then do we call them mine? just as we call the bed in the inn. If, then, the innkeeper at his death leaves you the beds, all well; but if he leaves them to another, he will have them, and you will seek another bed. If then you shall not find one, you will sleep on the ground: only sleep with a good will and snore, and remember that tragedies have their place among the rich and kings and tyrants, but no poor man fills a part in the tragedy, except as one of the chorus. Kings indeed commence with prosperity: “ornament the palaces with garlands,” then about the third or fourth act they call out, “O Cithaeron, why didst thou receive me?” Slave, where are the crowns, where the diadem? The guards help thee not at all. When then you approach any of these persons, remember this that you are approaching a tragedian, not the actor but OEdipus himself. But you say, “Such a man is happy; for he walks about with many,” and I also place myself with the many and walk about with many. In sum remember this: the door is open; be not more timid than little children, but as they say, when the thing does not please them, “I will play no loner,” so do you, when things seem to you of such a kind, say I will no longer play, and begone: but if you stay, do not complain.
If these things are true, and if we are not silly, and are not acting hypocritically when we say that the good of man is in the will, and the evil too, and that everything else does not concern us, why are we still disturbed, why are we still afraid? The things about which we have been busied are in no man’s power: and the things which are in the power of others, we care not for. What kind of trouble have we still?
“But give me directions.” Why should I give you directions? has not Zeus given you directions? Has he not given to you what is your own free from hindrance and free from impediment, and what is not your own subject to hindrance and impediment? What directions then, what kind of orders did you bring when you came from him? Keep by every means what is your own; do not desire what belongs to others. Fidelity is your own, virtuous shame is your own; who then can take these things from you? who else than yourself will hinder you from using them? But how do you act? when you seek what is not your own, you lose that which is your own. Having such promptings and commands from Zeus, what kind do you still ask from me? Am I more powerful than he, am I more worthy of confidence? But if you observe these, do you want any others besides? “Well, but he has not given these orders” you will say. Produce your precognitions, produce the proofs of philosophers, produce what you have often heard, and produce what you have said yourself, produce what you have read, produce what you have meditated on (and you will then see that all these things are from God). How long, then, is it fit to observe these precepts from God, and not to break up the play? As long as the play is continued with propriety. In the Saturnalia a king is chosen by lot, for it has been the custom to play at this game. The king commands: “Do you drink,” “Do you mix the wine,” “Do you sing,” “Do you go,” “Do you come.” I obey that the game may be broken up through me. But if he says, “Think that you are in evil plight”: I answer, “I do not think so”; and who compel me to think so? Further, we agreed to play Agamemnon and Achilles. He who is appointed to play Agamemnon says to me, “Go to Achilles and tear from him Briseis.” I go. He says, “Come,” and I come.
For as we behave in the matter of hypothetical arguments, so ought we to do in life. “Suppose it to be night.” I suppose that it is night. “Well then; is it day?” No, for I admitted the hypothesis that it was night. “Suppose that you think that it is night?” Suppose that I do. “But also think that it is night.” That is not consistent with the hypothesis. So in this case also: “Suppose that you are unfortunate.” Well, suppose so. “Are you then unhappy?” Yes. “Well, then, are you troubled with an unfavourable demon?” Yes. “But think also that you are in misery.” This is not consistent with the hypothesis; and Another forbids me to think so.
How long then must we obey such orders? As long as it is profitable; and this means as long as I maintain that which is becoming and consistent. Further, some men are sour and of bad temper, and they say, “I cannot sup with this man to be obliged to hear him telling daily how he fought in Mysia: ‘I told you, brother, how I ascended the hill: then I began to be besieged again.’” But another says, “I prefer to get my supper and to hear him talk as much as he likes.” And do you compare these estimates: only do nothing in a depressed mood, nor as one afflicted, nor as thinking that you are in misery, for no man compels you to that. Has it smoked in the chamber? If the smoke is moderate, I will stay; if it is excessive, I go out: for you must always remember this and hold it fast, that the door is open. Well, but you say to me, “Do not live in Nicopolis.” I will not live there. “Nor in Athens.” I will not live in Athens. “Nor in Rome.” I will not live in Rome. “Live in Gyarus.” I will live in Gyarus, but it seems like a great smoke to live in Gyarus; and I depart to the place where no man will hinder me from living, for that dwelling-place is open to all; and as to the last garment, that is the poor body, no one has any power over me beyond this. This was the reason why Demetrius said to Nero, “You threaten me with death, but nature threatens you.” If I set my admiration on the poor body, I have given myself up to be a slave: if on my little possessions, I also make myself a slave: for I immediately make it plain with what I may be caught; as if the snake draws in his head, I tell you to strike that part of him which he guards; and do you he assured that whatever part you choose to guard, that part your master will attack. Remembering this, whom will you still flatter or fear?
“But I should like to sit where the Senators sit.” Do you see that you are putting yourself in straits, you are squeezing yourself. “How then shall I see well in any other way in the amphitheatre?” Man, do not be a spectator at all; and you will not be squeezed. Why do you give yourself trouble? Or wait a little, and when the spectacle is over, seat yourself in the place reserved for the Senators and sun yourself. For remember this general truth, that it is we who squeeze ourselves, who put ourselves in straits; that is, our opinions squeeze us and put us in straits. For what is it to be reviled? Stand by a stone and revile it; and what will you gain? If, then, a man listens like a stone, what profit is there to the reviler? But if the reviler has as a stepping-stone the weakness of him who is reviled, then he accomplishes something. “Strip him.” What do you mean by “him”? Lay hold of his garment, strip it off. “I have insulted you.” Much good may it do you.
This was the practice of Socrates: this was the reason why he always had one face. But we choose to practice and study anything rather than the means by which we shall be unimpeded and free. You say, “Philosophers talk paradoxes.” But are there no paradoxes in the other arts? and what is more paradoxical than to puncture a man’s eye in order that he may see? If any one said this to a man ignorant of the surgical art, would he not ridicule the speaker? Where is the wonder then if in philosophy also many things which are true appear paradoxical to the inexperienced?
When a person was reading hypothetical arguments, Epictetus said: This also is an hypothetical law that we must accept what follows from the hypothesis. But much before this law is the law of life, that we must act conformably to nature. For if in every matter and circumstance we wish to observe what is natural, it is plain that in everything we ought to make it our aim that is consequent shall not escape us, and that we do not admit the contradictory. First, then, philosophers exercise us in theory, which is easier; and then next they lead us to the more difficult things; for in theory, there is nothing which draws us away from following what is taught; but in the matters of life, many are the things which distract us. He is ridiculous, then, who says that he wishes to begin with the matters of real life, for it is not easy to begin with the more difficult things; and we ought to employ this fact as an argument to those parents who are vexed at their children learning philosophy: “Am I doing wrong then, my father, and do I not know what is suitable to me and becoming? If indeed this can neither be learned nor taught, why do you blame me? but if it can he taught, teach me; and if you cannot, allow me to learn from those who say that they know how to teach. For what do you think? do you suppose that I voluntarily fall into evil and miss the good? I hope that it may not be so. What is then the cause of my doing wrong? Ignorance. Do you not choose then that I should get rid of my ignorance? Who was ever taught by anger the art of a pilot or music? Do you think then that by means of your anger I shall learn the art of life?” He only is allowed to speak in this way who has shown such an intention. But if a man only intending to make a display at a banquet and to show that he is acquainted with hypothetical arguments reads them and attends the philosophers, what other object has he than that some man of senatorian rank who sits by him may admire? For there are the really great materials, and the riches here appear to be trifles there. This is the reason why it is difficult for a man to be master of the appearances, where the things which disturb the judgement are great. I know a certain person who complained, as he embraced the knees of Epaphroditus, that he had only one hundred and fifty times ten thousand denarii remaining. What then did Epaphroditus do? Did he laugh at him, as we slaves of Epaphroditus did? No, but he cried out with amazement, “Poor man, how did you keep silence, how did you endure it?”
When Epictetus had reproved the person who was reading the hypothetical arguments, and the teacher who had suggested the reading was laughing at the reader, Epictetus said to the teacher: “You are laughing at yourself; you did not prepare the young man nor did you ascertain whether he was able to understand these matters; but perhaps you are only employing him as a reader.” Well then, said Epictetus, if a man has not ability enough to understand a complex, do we trust him in, giving praise, do we trust him in giving blame, do we allow that he is able to form a judgement about good or bad? and if such a man blames any one, does the man care for the blame? and if he praises any one, is the man elated, when in such small matters as an hypothetical syllogism he who praises cannot see what is consequent on the hypothesis?
This then is the beginning of philosophy, a man’s perception of the state of his ruling faculty; for when a man knows that it is weak, then he will not employ it on things of the greatest difficulty. But at present, if men cannot swallow even a morsel, they buy whole volumes and attempt to devour them; and this is the reason why they vomit them up or suffer indigestion: and then come gripings, defluxes, and fevers. Such men ought to consider what their ability is. In theory it is easy to convince an ignorant person; but in the affairs of real life no one offers himself to be convinced, and we hate the man who has convinced us. But Socrates advised us not to live a life which is not subjected to examination.
Appearances to us in four ways: for either things appear as they are; or they are not, and do not even appear to be; or they are, and do not appear to be; or they are not, and yet appear to be. Further, in all these cases to form a right judgement is the office of an educated man. But whatever it is that annoys us, to that we ought to apply a remedy. If the sophisms of Pyrrho and of the Academics are what annoys, we must apply the remedy to them. If it is the persuasion of appearances, by which some things appear to be good, when they are not good, let us seek a remedy for this. If it is habit which annoys us, we must try to seek aid against habit. What aid then can we find against habit, The contrary habit. You hear the ignorant say: “That unfortunate person is dead: his father and mother are overpowered with sorrow; he was cut off by an untimely death and in a foreign land.” Here the contrary way of speaking: tear yourself from these expressions: oppose to one habit the contrary habit; to sophistry oppose reason, and the exercise and discipline of reason; against persuasive appearances we ought to have manifest precognitions, cleared of all impurities and ready to hand.
When death appears an evil, we ought to have this rule in readiness, that it is fit to avoid evil things, and that death is a necessary thing. For what shall I do, and where shall I escape it? Suppose that I am not Sarpedon, the son of Zeus, nor able to speak in this noble way: “I will go and I am resolved either to behave bravely myself or to give to another the opportunity of doing so; if I cannot succeed in doing anything myself, I will not grudge another the doing of something noble.” Suppose that it is above our power to act thus; is it not in our power to reason thus? Tell me where I can escape death: discover for me the country, show me the men to whom I must go, whom death does not visit. Discover to me a charm against death. If I have not one, what do you wish me to do? I cannot escape from death. Shall I not escape from the fear of death, but shall I die lamenting and trembling? For the origin of perturbation is this, to wish for something, and that this should not happen. Therefore if I am able to change externals according to my wish, I change them; but if I cannot, I am ready to tear out the eyes of him who hinders me. For the nature of man is not to endure to be deprived of the good, and not to endure the falling into the evil. Then, at last, when I am neither able to change circumstances nor to tear out the eyes of him who hinders me, I sit down and groan, and abuse whom I can, Zeus and the rest of the gods. For if they do not care for me, what are they to me? “Yes, but you will be an impious man.” In what respect then will it be worse for me than it is now? To sum up, remember this that unless piety and your interest be in the same thing, piety cannot be maintained in any man. Do not these things seem necessary?
Let the followers of Pyrrho and the Academics come and make their objections. For I, as to my part, have no leisure for these disputes, nor am I able to undertake the defense of common consent. If I had a suit even about a bit of land, I would call in another to defend my interests. With what evidence then am I satisfied? With that which belongs to the matter in hand. How indeed perception is effected, whether through the whole body or any part, perhaps I cannot explain: for both opinions perplex me. But that you and I are not the same, I know with perfect certainty. “How do you know it?” When I intend to swallow anything, I never carry it to your b month, but to my own. When I intend to take bread, I never lay hold of a broom, but I always go to the bread as to a mark. And you yourselves who take away the evidence of the senses, do you act otherwise? Who among you, when he intended to enter a bath, ever went into a mill?
What then? Ought we not with all our power to hold to this also, the maintaining of general opinion, and fortifying ourselves against the arguments which are directed against it? Who denies that we ought to do this? Well, he should do it who is able, who has leisure for it; but as to him who trembles and is perturbed and is inwardly broken in heart, he must employ his time better on something else.
What is the cause of assenting to anything? The fact that it appears to be true. It is not possible then to assent to that which appears not to be true. Why? Because this is the nature of the understanding, to incline to the true, to be dissatisfied with the false, and in matters uncertain to withhold assent. What is the proof of this? “Imagine, if you can, that it is now night.” It is not possible. “Take away your persuasion that it is day.” It is not possible. “Persuade yourself or take away your persuasion that the stars are even in number.” It is impossible. When, then, any man assents to that which is false, be assured that he did not intend to assent to it as false, for every soul is unwillingly deprived of the truth, as Plato says; but the falsity seemed to him to be true. Well, in acts what have we of the like kind as we have here truth or falsehood? We have the fit and the not fit, the profitable and the unprofitable, that which is suitable to a person and that which is not, and whatever is like these. Can, then, a man think that a thing is useful to him and not choose it? He cannot. How says Medea?
“’Tis true I know what evil I shall do,
But passion overpowers the better council.’”
She thought that to indulge her passion and take vengeance on her husband was more profitable than to spare her children. “It was so; but she was deceived.” Show her plainly that she is deceived, and she will not do it; but so long as you do not show it, what can she follow except that which appears to herself? Nothing else. Why, then, are you angry with the unhappy woman that she has been bewildered about the most important things, and is become a viper instead of a human creature? And why not, if it is possible, rather pity, as we pity the blind and the lame, those who are blinded and maimed in the faculties which are supreme?
Whoever, then, clearly remembers this, that to man the measure of every act is the appearance — whether the thing appears good or bad: if good, he is free from blame; if bad, himself suffers the penalty, for it is impossible that he who is deceived can be one person, and he who suffers another person — whoever remembers this will not be angry with any man, will not be vexed at any man, will not revile or blame any man, nor hate nor quarrel with any man.
“So then all these great and dreadful deeds have this origin, in the appearance?” Yes, this origin and no other. The Iliad is nothing else than appearance and the use of appearances. It appeared to Paris to carry off the wife of Menelaus: it appeared to Helen to follow him. If then it had appeared to Menelaus to feel that it was a gain to be deprived of such a wife, what would have happened? Not only a wi would the Iliad have been lost, but the Odyssey also. “On so small a matter then did such great things depend?” But what do you mean by such great things? Wars and civil commotions, and the destruction of many men and cities. And what great matter is this? “Is it nothing?” But what great matter is the death of many oxen, and many sheep, and many nests of swallows or storks being burnt or destroyed? “Are these things, then, like those?” Very like. Bodies of men are destroyed, and the bodies of oxen and sheep; the dwellings of men are burnt, and the nests of storks. What is there in this great or dreadful? Or show me what is the difference between a man’s house and a stork’s nest, as far as each is a dwelling; except that man builds his little houses of beams and tiles and bricks, and the stork builds them of sticks and mud. “Are a stork and a man, then, like things?” What say you? In body they are very much alike.
“Does a man then differ in no respect from a stork?” Don’t suppose that I say so; but there is no difference in these matters. “In what, then, is the difference?” Seek and you will find that there is a difference in another matter. See whether it is not in a man the understanding of what he does, see if it is not in social community, in fidelity, in modesty, in steadfastness, in intelligence. Where then is the great good and evil in men? It is where the difference is. If the difference is preserved and remains fenced round, and neither modesty is destroyed, nor fidelity, nor intelligence, then the man also is preserved; but if any of these things is destroyed and stormed like a city, then the man too perishes; and in this consist the great things. Paris, you say, sustained great damage, then, when the Hellenes invaded and when they ravaged Troy, and when his brothers perished. By no means; for no man is damaged by an action which is not his own; but what happened at that time was only the destruction of storks’ nests: now the ruin of Paris was when he lost the character of modesty, fidelity, regard to hospitality, and to decency. When was Achilles ruined? Was it when Patroclus died? Not so. But it happened when he began to be angry, when he wept for a girl, when he forgot that he was at Troy not to get mistresses, but to fight. These things are the ruin of men, this is being besieged, this is the destruction of cities, when right opinions are destroyed, when they are corrupted.
“When, then, women are carried off, when children are made captives, and when the men are killed, are these not evils?” How is it then that you add to the facts these opinions? Explain this to me also. “I shall not do that; but how is it that you say that these are not evils?” Let us come to the rules: produce the precognitions: for it is because this is neglected that we cannot sufficiently wonder at what men do. When we intend to judge of weights, we do not judge by guess: where we intend to judge of straight and crooked, we do not judge by guess. In all cases where it is our interest to know what is true in any matter, never will any man among us do anything by guess. But in things which depend on the first and on the only cause of doing right or wrong, of happiness or unhappiness, of being unfortunate or fortunate, there only we are inconsiderate and rash. There is then nothing like scales, nothing like a rule: but some appearance is presented, and straightway I act according to it. Must I then suppose that I am superior to Achilles or Agamemnon, so that they by following appearances do and suffer so many evils: and shall not the appearance be sufficient for me? And what tragedy has any other beginning? The Atreus of Euripides, what is it? An appearance. The OEdipus of Sophocles, what is it? An appearance. The Phoenix? An appearance. The Hippolytus? An appearance. What kind of a man then do you suppose him to be who pays no regard to this matter? And what is the name of those who follow every appearance? “They are called madmen.” Do we then act at all differently?
The being of the Good is a certain Will; the being of the Bad is a certain kind of Will. What then are externals? Materials for the Will, about which the will being conversant shall obtain its own good or evil. How shall it obtain the good? If it does not admire the materials; for the opinions about the materials, if the opinions are right, make the will good: but perverse and distorted opinions make the will bad. God has fixed this law, and says, “If you would have anything good, receive it from yourself.” You say, “No, but I have it from another.” Do not so: but receive it from yourself. Therefore when the tyrant threatens and calls me, I say, “Whom do you threaten If he says, “I will put you in chains,” I say, “You threaten my hands and my feet.” If he says, “I will cut off your head,” I reply, “You threaten my head.” If he says, “I will throw you into prison,” I say, “You threaten the whole of this poor body.” If he threatens me with banishment, I say the same. “Does he, then, not threaten you at all?” If I feel that all these things do not concern me, he does not threaten me at all; but if I fear any of them, it is I whom he threatens. Whom then do I fear? the master of what? The master of things which are in my own power? There is no such master. Do I fear the master of things which are not in my power? And what are these things to me?
“Do you philosophers then teach us to despise kings?” I hope not. Who among us teaches to claim against them the power over things which they possess? Take my poor body, take my property, take my reputation, take those who are about me. If I advise any persons to claim these things, they may truly accuse me. “Yes, but I intend to command your opinions also.” And who has given you this power? How can you conquer the opinion of another man? “By applying terror to it,” he replies, “I will conquer it.” Do you not know that opinion conquers itself, and is not conquered by another? But nothing else can conquer Will except the Will itself. For this reason, too, the law of God is most powerful and most just, which is this: “Let the stronger always be superior to the weaker.” “Ten are stronger than one.” For what? For putting in chains, for killing, for dragging whither they choose, for taking away what a man has. The ten therefore conquer the one in this in which they are stronger. “In what then are the ten weaker,” If the one possess right opinions and the others do not. “Well then, can the ten conquer in this matter?” How is it possible? If we were placed in the scales, must not the heavier draw down the scale in which it is?
“How strange, then, that Socrates should have been so treated by the Athenians.” Slave, why do you say Socrates? Speak of the thing as it is: how strange that the poor body of Socrates should have been carried off and dragged to prison by stronger men, and that any one should have given hemlock to the poor body of Socrates, and that it should breathe out the life. Do these things seem strange. do they seem unjust, do you on account of these things blame God? Had Socrates then no equivalent for these things, Where, then, for him was the nature of good? Whom shall we listen to, you or him? And what does Socrates say? “Anytus and Meletus can kill me, but they cannot hurt me”: and further, he says, “If it so pleases God, so let it be.”
But show me that he who has the inferior principles overpowers him who is superior in principles. You will never show this, nor come near showing it; for this is the law of nature and of God that the superior shall always overpower the inferior. In what? In that in which it is superior. One body is stronger than another: many are stronger than one: the thief is stronger than he who is not a thief. This is the reason why I also lost my lamp, because in wakefulness the thief was superior to me. But the man bought the lamp at this price: for a lamp he became a thief, a faithless fellow, and like a wild beast. This seemed to him a good bargain. Be it so. But a man has seized me by the cloak, and is drawing me to the public place: then others bawl out, “Philosopher, what has been the use of your opinions? see you are dragged to prison, you are going to be beheaded.” And what system of philosophy could f have made so that, if a stronger man should have laid hold of my cloak, I should not be dragged off; that if ten men should have laid hold of me and cast me into prison, I should not be cast in? Have I learned nothing else then? I have learned to see that everything which happens, if it be independent of my will, is nothing to me. I may ask if you have not gained by this. Why then do you seek advantage in anything else than in that in which you have learned that advantage is?
Then sitting in prison I say: “The man who cries out in this way neither hears what words mean, nor understands what is said, nor does he care at all to know what philosophers say or what they do. Let him alone.”
But now he says to the prisoner, “Come out from your prison.” If you have no further need of me in prison, I come out: if you should have need of me again, I will enter the prison. “How long will you act thus?” So long as reason requires me to be with the body: but when reason does not require this, take away the body, and fare you well. Only we must not do it inconsiderately, nor weakly, nor for any slight reason; for, on the other hand, God does not wish it to be done, and he has need of such a world and such inhabitants in it. But if he sounds the signal for retreat, as he did to Socrates, we must obey him who gives the signal, as if he were a general.
“Well, then, ought we to say such things to the many?” Why should we? Is it not enough for a man to be persuaded himself? When children come clapping their hands and crying out, “To-day is the good Saturnalia,” do we say, “The Saturnalia are not good?” By no means, but we clap our hands also. Do you also then, when you are not able to make a man change his mind, be assured that he is a child, and clap your hands with him, and if you do not choose to do this, keep silent.
A man must keep this in mind; and when he is called to any such difficulty, he should know that the time is come for showing if he has been instructed. For he who is come into a difficulty is like a young man from a school who has practiced the resolution of syllogisms; and if any person proposes to him an easy syllogism, he says, “Rather propose to me a syllogism which is skillfully complicated that I may exercise myself on it.” Even athletes are dissatisfied with slight young men, and say “He cannot lift me.” “This is a youth of noble disposition.” But when the time of trial is come, one of you must weep and say, “I wish that I had learned more.” A little more of what? If you did not learn these things in order to show them in practice, why did you learn them? I think that there is some one among you who are sitting here, who is suffering like a woman in labour, and saying, “Oh, that such a difficulty does not present itself to me as that which has come to this man; oh, that I should be wasting my life in a corner, when I might be crowned at Olympia. When will any one announce to me such a contest?” Such ought to be the disposition of all of you. Even among the gladiators of Caesar there are some who complain grievously that they are not brought forward and matched, and they offer up prayers to God and address themselves to their superintendents entreating that they might fight. And will no one among you show himself such? I would willingly take a voyage for this purpose and see what my athlete is doing, how he is studying his subject. “I do not choose such a subject,” he says. Why, is it in your power to take what subject you choose? There has been given to you such a body as you have, such parents, such brethren, such a country, such a place in your country: then you come to me and say, “Change my subject.” Have you not abilities which enable you to manage the subject which has been given to you? “It is your business to propose; it is mine to exercise myself well.” However, you do not say so, but you say, “Do not propose to me such a tropic, but such: do not urge against me such an objection, but such.” There will be a time, perhaps, when tragic actors will suppose that they are masks and buskins and the long cloak. I say, these things, man, are your material and subject. Utter something that we may know whether you are a tragic actor or a buffoon; for both of you have all the rest in common. If any one then should take away the tragic actor’s buskins and his mask, and introduce him on the stage as a phantom, is the tragic actor lost, or does he still remain? If he has voice, he still remains.
An example of another kind. “Assume the governorship of a province.” I assume it, and when I have assumed it, I show how an instructed man behaves. “Lay aside the laticlave and, clothing yourself in rags, come forward in this character.” What then have I not the power of displaying a good voice? How, then, do you now appear? As a witness summoned by God. “Come forward, you, and bear testimony for me, for you are worthy to be brought forward as a witness by me: is anything external to the will good or bad? do I hurt any man? have I made every man’s interest dependent on any man except himself?” What testimony do you give for God? “I am in a wretched condition, Master, and I am unfortunate; no man cares for me, no man gives me anything; all blame me, all speak ill of me.” Is this the evidence that you are going to give, and disgrace his summons, who has conferred so much honour on you, and thought you worthy of being called to bear such testimony?
But suppose that he who has the power has declared, “I judge you to be impious and profane.” What has happened to you? “I have been judged to be impious and profane?” Nothing else? “Nothing else.” But if the same person had passed judgment on an hypothetical syllogism, and had made a declaration, “the conclusion that, if it is day, it is light, I declare to be false,” what has happened to the hypothetical syllogism? who is judged in this case? who has been condemned? the hypothetical syllogism, or the man who has been deceived by it? Does he, then, who has the power of making any declaration about you know what is pious or impious? Has he studied it, and has he learned it? Where? From whom? Then is it the fact that a musician pays no regard to him who declares that the lowest chord in the lyre is the highest; nor yet a geometrician, if he declares that the lines from the centre of a circle to the circumference are not equal; and shall he who is really instructed pay any regard to the uninstructed man when he pronounces judgment on what is pious and what is impious, on what is just and unjust? Oh, the signal wrong done by the instructed. Did they learn this here?
Will you not leave the small arguments about these matters to others, to lazy fellows, that they may sit in a corner and receive their sorry pay, or grumble that no one gives them anything; and will you not come forward and make use of what you have learned? For it is not these small arguments that are wanted now: the writings of the Stoics are full of them. What then is the thing which is wanted? A man who shall apply them, one who by his acts shall bear testimony to his words. Assume, I, entreat you, this character, that we may no longer use in the schools the examples of the ancients but may have some example of our own.
To whom then does the contemplation of these matters belong? To him who has leisure, for man is an animal that loves contemplation. But it is shameful to contemplate these things as runaway slaves do; we should sit, as in a theatre, free from distraction, and listen at one time to the tragic actor, at another time to the lute-player; and not do as slaves do. As soon as the slave has taken his station he praises the actor and at the same time looks round: then if any one calls out his master’s name, the slave is immediately frightened and disturbed. It is shameful for philosophers thus to contemplate the works of nature. For what is a master? Man is not the master of man; but death is, and life and pleasure and pain; for if he comes without these things, bring Caesar to me and you will see how firm I am. But when he shall come with these things, thundering and lightning, and when I am afraid of them, what do I do then except to recognize my master like the runaway slave? But so long as I have any respite from these terrors, as a runaway slave stands in the theatre, so do I: I bathe, I drink, I sing; but all this I do with terror and uneasiness. But if I shall release myself from my masters, that is from those things by means of which masters are formidable, what further trouble have I, what master have I still?
“What then, ought we to publish these things to all men?” No, but we ought to accommodate ourselves to the ignorant and to say: “This man recommends to me that which he thinks good for himself: I excuse him.” For Socrates also excused the gaoler, who had the charge of him in prison and was weeping when Socrates was going to drink the poison, and said, “How generously he laments over us.” Does he then say to the gaoler that for this reason we have sent away the women? No, but he says it to his friends who were able to hear it; and he treats the gaoler as a child.
When you are going into any great personage, remember that Another also from above sees what is going on, and that you ought to please Him rather than the other. He, then, who sees from above asks you: “In the schools what used you to say about exile and bonds and death and disgrace?” I used to say that they are things indifferent. “What then do you say of them now? Are they changed at all?” No. “Are you changed then?” No. “Tell me then what things are indifferent?” The things which are independent of the will. “Tell me, also, what follows from this.” The things which are independent of the will are nothing to me. “Tell me also about the Good, what was your opinion?” A will such as we ought to have and also such a use of appearances. “And the end, what is it?” To follow Thee. “Do you say this now also?” I say the same now also.
Then go into the great personage boldly and remember these things; and you will see what a youth is who has studied these things when he is among men who have not studied them. I indeed imagine that you will have such thoughts as these: “Why do we make so great and so many preparations for nothing? Is this the thing which men name power? Is this the antechamber? this the men of the bedchamber? this the armed guards? Is it for this that I listened to so many discourses? All this is nothing: but I have been preparing myself for something great.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50