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Epictetus, The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments [100]

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Epictetus, The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments. A Translation from the Greek based on that of Elizabeth Carter, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1865).

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About this Title:

The philosophical writings of the ex-Roman slave who turned to Stoicism. It contains his Discourses, the Enchiridion, and several Fragments attributed to him.

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The text is in the public domain.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

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Edition: current; Page: [a] Edition: current; Page: [b] Edition: current; Page: [c] Edition: current; Page: [d] Edition: current; Page: [i]
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

University Press: Welch, Bigelow, & Co., Cambridge.

Edition: current; Page: [iii]


ELIZABETH CARTER’S version of Epictetus has outlived every English prose translation of its day, and has admirably held its ground with readers. While Marcus Aurelius has had a series of English versions, the complete works of Epictetus have had but this one, reproduced in four different editions. Even of the “Enchiridion,” or Manual, of which there had been at least five different versions in England, before her time, — two of which had passed respectively through six editions, — I am not aware that any later translation has there been printed. And the main reason unquestionably is, that there was absolutely no work done, at that date, of so good a quality.

Thomas Taylor indeed grudgingly says that this translation “is as good as a person ignorant of philosophy can be supposed to make.”* But the philosophy of Epictetus was altogether of the practical sort, and quite unlike those cloudy regions of Proclus and Plotinus in which Thomas Taylor loved to wander. Whatever it was, Elizabeth Carter understood it, and rendered it almost too technically; and if she knew Edition: current; Page: [iv] less of philosophy than “the Platonist,” she knew Greek a great deal better. There is no reason to doubt that she was, as her friend Dr. Johnson declared, the best Greek scholar in England of her day. She certainly surpassed the contemporary Latin translator, Upton, whose edition of Epictetus was deservedly the standard one, until that of Schweighäuser; and I have rarely examined a point disputed between her and Schweighäuser, without siding with her at last. After saying this, it is no great stretch of humility to admit my own inferiority, and to claim only the advantage of writing more than a century later, and hence with more side-lights and a more modern style.

I hesitated for some time, whether to call this book simply a revision of Elizabeth Carter’s translation, or a new one based on hers. The latter alternative was finally chosen, less in order to claim for myself any credit of hers, than to save her from sharing any discredit of mine. The enterprise was begun simply as a revision. But to revise any translation made a century ago, is like underrunning a telegraphic cable: one may inspect a good deal of it, and find but trifling repairs needful; and then one may come to a point where a wholly new piece must go in. These substitutions multiplied so rapidly, — and even where the changes were slight, they touched words and phrases so vital, — that the name I have chosen is really the least dishonest that could be given. After all, it shows the thoroughness of Elizabeth Carter’s Edition: current; Page: [v] work, that this process of “underrunning” was practicable at all. With the loose, dashing, piquant school of translators who preceded her in that century, as L’Estrange and Collier, such an attempt would have been absurdity. They are very racy reading, — indeed, a capital study for coarse, colloquial English, — but there is no foundation of accuracy in them. Yet the style of Epictetus has a concise and even delicate precision which no language but Greek could perhaps attain; and to do justice to this without loss of popular intelligibility requires all Elizabeth Carter’s faithfulness, combined with an amount of purely literary effort which she did not always make. She apologizes, in her letters, for “the uncouthness, in many places, of a version pretty strictly literal.” If she erred on this side, perhaps I have erred in allowing myself a terminology, not more diffuse than hers, but more pliant and varied. But after all, unless a new English version is to be popularized, there seems no use in making it at all.

Epictetus limits himself strictly to giving a code of practical ethics. Not ignoring metaphysics in their proper place, he directs his aims elsewhere. His essential principles are very simple. All things (he holds) receive their character from our judgment concerning them; all objects, all events, are merely semblances or phenomena, to be interpreted according to the laws which nature gives us. An obvious classification at once occurs; all things are either controllable by will, or uncontrollable. If Edition: current; Page: [vi] controllable, we may properly exert towards them our desire or aversion, though always guardedly and moderately. If uncontrollable, they are nothing to us, and we are merely to acquiesce, not with resignation alone, but joyously, knowing that an all-wise Father rules the whole.* All success comes, according to Epictetus, from obedience to this rule; all failure proceeds from putting a false estimate on the phenomena of existence, from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power. “Two rules we should have always ready, — that there is nothing good or evil save in the Will; and, that we are not to lead events, but to follow them.” (p. 221.) This last is singularly identical with the wise Quaker motto, on which Elizabeth Fry based her remarkable practical successes, “to follow, not force, Providence.”

These simple principles are developed pithily in the “Enchiridion” or Manual, and more elaborately in the Discourses. Neither work was written by Epictetus, but both were taken down from his lips. The “Enchiridion” was made the subject, in the sixth century, of an elaborate Greek Commentary by Simplicius, which was translated into English by Stanhope, and was again made the text for a commentary longer than itself by Milton’s adversary, Salmasius.

There is no stain upon the consistent nobleness of these Discourses. One can point out some omissions, some points where our subtle human organization Edition: current; Page: [vii] eludes the simple system of Epictetus. But all which is here is noble. All the common complaints against the Stoic philosophy, — all charges of arrogance, uncharitableness, cold isolation, approval of suicide, — are refuted altogether by his clear statements. “What is the first business of one who studies philosophy? To part with self-conceit.” (p. 148.) “That we ought not to be angry with the erring,” forms the subject of a special chapter. (p. 54.) “All is full of beloved ones . . . . by nature endeared to each other.” (p. 266.) “Who is there whom bright and agreeable children do not attract to play and creep and prattle with them?” (p. 185.) The philosopher, “when beaten, must love those who beat him.” (p. 250.) As to suicide, there is a special argument against it. (p. 30.) In other places he alludes to it ironically, in a sort of contempt; or vindicates Providence by showing that we are not coerced even into living on earth, if we do not desire, but even in this last resort, our will is free. He also implies, more than once, that suicide, which is the cowardice of a moment, is after all less blasphemous than the settled habit of faithless complaint. For this querulousness is what rouses beyond all things his indignation.

In his practical examples, he constantly recurs to the noblest traits of his famous predecessors, — as Socrates, Diogenes, and Zeno; and he also gives us glimpses of the finest characters, whose names are else unfamiliar, — as Rufus and Euphrates. Indeed, all his standards are practical; he denounces, satirizes, Edition: current; Page: [viii] and riddles through and through all pretenders to philosophy, all mere logicians or rhapsodists; and brings all to the test of practical righteousness. Indeed, it is a favorite suggestion of his, that no man should ever profess to be a philosopher, but that each should leave this character to be inferred from his actions. “It is not reasonings that are wanted now,” he says, “for there are books stuffed full of stoical reasonings. What is wanted, then? The man who shall apply them; whose actions may bear testimony to his doctrines. Assume this character for me, that we may no longer make use in the schools of the examples of the ancients, but may have some examples of our own.” (p. 90.)

So far as the scanty record goes, and the testimony of contemporaries, Epictetus was himself such a man. He was probably born at Hierapolis in Phrygia, and he lived at Rome, in the first century of our era, as the slave of Epaphroditus, a freedman of Nero. Origen preserves an anecdote of Epictetus, that when his master once put his leg in the torture, his philosophic slave quietly remarked, “You will break my leg”; and when this presently happened, he added, in the same tone, “Did I not tell you so?” He afterwards became free, and lived very frugally at Rome, teaching philosophy. Simplicius says that the whole furniture of his house consisted of a bed, a cooking-vessel, and an earthen lamp; and Lucian ridicules a man who bought the latter, after his death, in hopes to become a philosopher by using it.

Edition: current; Page: [ix]

When Domitian banished the philosophers from Rome, Epictetus retired to Nicopolis, a city of Epirus, where he taught as before. He still lived in the same frugal way, his only companions being a young child, whom he adopted, in the later years of his life, because its parents abandoned it, and a woman whom he employed as its nurse. He suffered from extreme lameness, and, according to his contemporary, Aulus Gellius, composed a couplet to proclaim his gratitude to the Gods, in spite of these misfortunes. “Epictetus, a slave, maimed in body, an Irus in poverty, and favored by the Immortals.”* After Hadrian became Emperor (ad 117), Epictetus was treated with favor, but probably did not return to Rome. In these later years of his life, his discourses were written down by his disciple Arrian, a man of the highest character, both as a philosopher and as an historian. But four of the original eight books remain. The date of Epictetus’s death is entirely unknown.

Marcus Aurelius ranked this philosopher with Socrates, and Origen thought that his writings had done more good than those of Plato. In modern times, Niebuhr has said of him. “Epictetus’s greatness cannot be questioned, and it is impossible for any person of sound mind not to be charmed by his works.” I am acquainted with no book more replete with high Edition: current; Page: [x] conceptions of the Deity, and noble aims for man; nor do I know any in which the inevitable laws of retribution are more grandly stated, with less of merely childish bribery or threatening. It is pathetic to see good Mrs. Carter apologizing for this elevation of thought as if it were a weakness, and to find Merivale censuring it as “a low and popular view” to represent vice as its own punishment and virtue as its own reward. It is not, however, my object to vindicate these plain principles, but to let them speak for themselves, with as much as possible of their original clearness.

It has not seemed to me strange, but very natural, to pass from camp life to the study of Epictetus. Where should a student find contentment in enforced withdrawal from active service, if not in “the still air of delightful studies”? There seemed a special appropriateness, also, in coming to this work from a camp of colored soldiers, whose great exemplar, Toussaint l’Ouverture, made the works of this his fellow-slave a favorite manual. Moreover, the return of peace seems a fitting time to call anew the public attention to those eternal principles on which alone true prosperity is based; and, in a period of increasing religious toleration, to revive the voice of one who bore witness to the highest spiritual truths, ere the present sects were born.

T. W. H.
Edition: current; Page: [xi]



  • Arrian to Lucius Gellius . . . . . . Page 1
  • BOOK I.
    • Chapter I. Of the Things which are, and the Things which are not, in our own Power . . . . . . 3
    • II. In what Manner, upon every Occasion, to preserve our Character . . . . . . . . 7
    • III. How, from the Doctrine that God is he Father of Mankind, we may proceed to its Consequences . . 12
    • IV. Of Progress . . . . . . . . 13
    • V. Concerning the Academics . . . . . 17
    • VI. Of Providence . . . . . . . 18
    • VII. Of the Use of the Forms of Right Reasoning . . 23
    • VIII. That Logical Subtleties are not safe to the Uninstructed 27
    • IX. How, from the Doctrine of our Relationship to God, we are to deduce its Consequences . . . . 28
    • X. Concerning those who seek Preferment at Rome . 33
    • XI. Of Natural Affection . . . . . . . 34
    • XII. Of Contentment . . . . . . . 40
    • XIII. How Everything may be performed to the Divine Acceptance . . . . . . . . 44
    • XIV. That all Things are under the Divine Supervision . 45
    • XV. What Philosophy promises . . . . . 47
    • XVI. Of Providence . . . . . . . 48
    • XVII. That the Art of Reasoning is necessary . . . 51
    • XVIII. That we ought not to be Angry with the Erring . 54
    • XIX. Of the right Treatment of Tyrants . . . . 57
    • XX. In what Manner Reason contemplates itself . . 61
    • XXI. Of the Desire of Admiration . . . . . 63 Edition: current; Page: [xii]
    • XXII. Of General Principles . . . . . 64
    • XXIII. Against Epicurus . . . . . . . 66
    • XXIV. How we ought to struggle with Difficulties . . 67
    • XXV. On the same Subject . . . . . . 70
    • XXVI. What the Rule of Life is . . . . . 74
    • XXVII. Of the varied Appearances of Things to the Mind, and what Means are at Hand by which to regulate them 76
    • XXVIII. That we ought not to be Angry with Mankind. What Things are little, what great, among Men . . 79
    • XXIX. Of Courage . . . . . . . 83
    • XXX. Weapons ready for difficult Occasions . . . 91
  • BOOK II.
    • I. That Courage is not inconsistent with Caution . 93
    • II. Of Tranquillity . . . . . . . 98
    • III. Concerning such as recommend Persons to the Philosophers . . . . . . . . 101
    • IV. Concerning a Man who had been guilty of Adultery 102
    • V. How Nobleness of Mind may be consistent with Prudence . . . . . . . . 104
    • VI. Of Circumstances . . . . . . 108
    • VII. Of Divination . . . . . . . 111
    • VIII. Wherein consists the Essence of Good . . . 113
    • IX. That some Persons, failing to fulfil what the Character of a Man implies, assume that of a Philosopher . 117
    • X. How we may infer the Duties of Life from its nominal Functions . . . . . . . . 120
    • XI. The Beginning of Philosophy . . . . 124
    • XII. Of Disputation . . . . . . . 127
    • XIII. Of Anxiety . . . . . . . 130
    • XIV. Concerning Naso . . . . . . . 135
    • XV. Concerning those who obstinately persist in whatever they have determined . . . . . 139
    • XVI. That we do not study to make use of the established Principles concerning Good and Evil . . . 141
    • XVII. How to apply General Principles to Particular Cases 148
    • XVIII. How the Semblances of Things are to be combated . 153
    • XIX. Concerning those who embrace Philosophy only in Words . . . . . . . . 157
    • XX. Concerning the Epicureans and Academics . . 162 Edition: current; Page: [xiii]
    • XXI. Of Inconsistency . . . . . . . 168
    • XXII. Of Friendship . . . . . . 171
    • XXIII. Of Eloquence . . . . . . . . 177
    • XXIV. Concerning a Person whom he treated with Disregard 183
    • XXV. That Logic is necessary . . . . . . 188
    • XXVI. What is the Test of Error . . . . . 188
    • I. Of Personal Adornment . . . . . . 190
    • II. In what a well-trained Man should exercise himself; and that we neglect the principal Things . . 197
    • III. What is the chief Concern of a good Man; and in what we chiefly ought to train ourselves . . . 200
    • IV. Concerning one who made himself improperly conspicuous in the Theatre . . . . . . 203
    • V. Concerning those who plead Sickness . . . 205
    • VI. Miscellaneous . . . . . . . . 207
    • VII. Concerning a certain Governor who was an Epicurean 209
    • VIII. How we are to exercise ourselves against the Semblances of Things . . . . . . . 214
    • IX. Concerning a certain Orator who was going to Rome on a Lawsuit . . . . . . . . 215
    • X. In what Manner we ought to bear Sickness . . 218
    • XI. Miscellaneous . . . . . . . . 221
    • XII. Of Training . . . . . . . . 222
    • XIII. What Solitude is; and what a Solitary Person . . 225
    • XIV. Miscellaneous . . . . . . . 228
    • XV. That Everything is to be undertaken with Circumspection . . . . . . . . . 230
    • XVI. That Caution should be used as to personal Familiarity 232
    • XVII. Of Providence . . . . . . . . 234
    • XVIII. That we ought not to be alarmed by any News that is brought us . . . . . . . . 235
    • XIX. What is the comparative Condition of the Philosopher and of the Crowd . . . . . . . 236
    • XX. That some Advantage may be gained from every outward Circumstance . . . . . . 237
    • XXI. Concerning those who readily set up for Sophists . 240
    • XXII. Of the Cynic Philosophy . . . . . . 243
    • XXIII. Concerning such as read or dispute ostentatiously . 259 Edition: current; Page: [xiv]
    • XXIV. That we ought not to be affected by Things not in our own Power . . . . . . . . 265
    • XXV. Concerning those who waver in their Purpose . . 282
    • XXVI. Concerning those who are in dread of Want . . 284
  • BOOK IV.
    • I. Of Freedom . . . . . . . . 291
    • II. Of Complaisance. . . . . . . . 317
    • III. What Things are to be exchanged for Others . . 318
    • IV. Concerning those who earnestly desire a Life of Repose 320
    • V. Concerning the Quarrelsome and Ferocious . . 327
    • VI. Concerning those who are annoyed at being pitied . 333
    • VII. Of Fearlessness . . . . . . . 339
    • VIII. Concerning such as hastily assume the philosophic Dress 346
    • IX. Concerning a Person who had grown immodest . . 352
    • X. What Things we are to despise, and what chiefly to value 355
    • XI. Of Purity . . . . . . . . 360
    • XII. Of taking Pains . . . . . . . 365
    • XIII. Concerning such as are too Communicative . . 368
  • THE ENCHIRIDION . . . . . . . 373
  • FRAGMENTS . . . . . . . . 401
  • INDEX . . . . . . . . . . 435
Edition: current; Page: [xv]


[For the Complete Works.]

1. Epicteti quæ supersunt Dissertationes ab Arriano collectæ, . . . . illustravit Joannes Uptonus, Præbend. Rossensis. Londini, 1741. 2 vols. 8vo.

2. Epicteti Dissertationum libri iv. . . . . post J. Uptoni aliorumque curas, edidit J. Schweighäuser. Lipsiæ, 1799, 1800. 5 vols. in 6. 8vo.

3. The Works of Epictetus, . . . . translated from the original Greek, by Mrs. Elizabeth Carter. . . . . London, 1758. 4to. [2d ed., 2 vols., 12mo, 1759. 3d ed., 2 vols., 12mo, 1768. 4th ed., 2 vols., 8vo, 1804.]

4. . . . . Epicteti Dissertationes ab Arriani literis mandatæ. . . . . [Didot, Bib. Græc.] Parisiis, 1840. 8vo.

[For the Enchiridion.]

5. Simplicii Commentarius in Enchiridion Epicteti, . . . . cum versione Hier. Wolfii et Cl. Salmasii animadversionibus. . . . . Lugduni Batavorum, 1640. 4to.

6. The most excellent Morals of Epictetus made English in a Poetical Paraphrase, by Ellis Walker, M. A. London, 1692. 12mo. [Also, London, 1697, 1701, 1709, 1716, 1732; Boston, Mass., 1863, from the edition of 1716. The two latter are those which I have seen.]

7. Epictetus, his Morals, with Simplicius, his Commentary. Made English from the Greek by George Stanhope. . . . . London, 1694. 12mo. [Also, London, 1700, 1704, 1721, 1741, 1750.]

8. Epicteti Manuale. . . . . Græce et Latine in usum tyronum accommodati. . . . . illustravit Joseph Simpson. Editio Quarts. Londini, 1758. 8vo.

9. Epicteti Enchiridion Græce et Latine . . . . curavit Chr. Edition: current; Page: [xvi] Gottl. Heyne. Altera Editio. Varsaviæ, 1776. 18mo. [A previous edition at Dresden, 1756.]

10. Manuale di Epicteto . . . . secondo la Versione del Rev. Padre Pagnini. [Opere di G. D. Romagnosi. Vol. I. Part 2.] Milano, 1844. 8vo.

[The following English versions I find mentioned in Adam Clarke’s “Account of English Translations of Greek and Roman Classics.” London, 1806; — but I have not met with them.

1. The Manual of Epictetus, translated out of Greek into French, and now into English, compared with two Latin translations, . . . . by Jas. Sandford. London, 1567. 8vo.

2. The Life and Philosophy of Epictetus . . . . rendered into English by John Davies. London, 1670. 8vo.

3. The Manual of Epictetus the Philosopher, translated from the original Greek by Wm. Bond. London, 1730. 12mo.

Ellis Walker, in his preliminary life of Epictetus, speaks of still another English translation, by Healey; also of French versions by Du Vair and Boileau. There is also a critical edition of the Enchiridion, by Coray, with a French translation (Paris, 1826), which I have not seen.]

Edition: current; Page: [xvi]


Edition: current; Page: [xvii] Edition: current; Page: [1]


I NEITHER composed the Discourses of Epictetus in such a manner as things of this nature are commonly composed, nor did I myself produce them to public view, any more than I composed them. But whatever sentiments I heard from his own mouth, the very same I endeavored to set down in the very same words, so far as possible, and to preserve as memorials for my own use, of his manner of thinking, and freedom of speech.

These Discourses are such as one person would naturally deliver from his own thoughts, extempore, to another; not such as he would prepare to be read by numbers afterwards. Yet, notwithstanding this, I cannot tell how, without either my consent or knowledge, they have fallen into the hands of the public. But it is of little consequence to me, if I do not appear an able writer, and of none to Epictetus, if any one treats his Discourses with contempt; since it was very evident, even when he uttered them, that he aimed at nothing more than to excite his hearers to virtue. If they produce that one effect, they have in Edition: current; Page: [2] them what, I think, philosophical discourses ought to have. And should they fail of it, let the readers however be assured, that when Epictetus himself pronounced them, his audience could not help being affected in the very manner he intended they should. If by themselves they have less efficacy, perhaps it is my fault, or perhaps it is unavoidable.

Edition: current; Page: [3]



OF other faculties, you will find no one that contemplates, and consequently approves or disapproves itself. How far does the proper sphere of grammar extend? As far as the judging of language. Of music? As far as the judging of melody. Does either of them contemplate itself, then? By no means.

Thus, for instance, when you are to write to your friend, grammar will tell you what to write; but whether you are to write to your friend at all, or no, grammar will not tell you. Thus music, with regard to tunes; but whether it be proper or improper, at any particular time, to sing or play, music will not tell you.

What will tell, then?

That which contemplates both itself and all other things.

And what is that?

The Reasoning Faculty; for that alone is found to consider both itself, its powers, its value, and likewise Edition: current; Page: [4] all the rest. For what is it else that says, gold is beautiful; for the gold itself does not speak? Evidently that faculty, which judges of the appearances of things. What else distinguishes music, grammar, the other faculties, proves their uses, and shows their proper occasions?

Nothing but this.

As it was fit then, this most excellent and superior faculty alone, a right use of the appearances of things, the gods have placed in our own power; but all other matters, they have not placed in our power. What, was it because they would not? I rather think, that if they could, they had granted us these too; but they certainly could not. For, placed upon earth, and confined to such a body, and to such companions, how was it possible that, in these respects, we should not be hindered by things without us?

But what says Zeus? “O Epictetus, if it were possible, I had made this little body and property of thine free, and not liable to hindrance. But now do not mistake: it is not thy own, but only a finer mixture of clay. Since, then, I could not give thee this, I have given thee a certain portion of myself; this faculty of exerting the powers of pursuit and avoidance, of desire and aversion, and, in a word, the use of the appearances of things. Taking care of this point, and making what is thy own to consist in this, thou wilt never be restrained, never be hindered; thou wilt not groan, wilt not complain, wilt not flatter any one. How, then! Do all these advantages seem small to thee? Heaven forbid! Let them suffice thee then, and thank the gods.”

But now, when it is in our power to take care of one thing, and to apply to one, we choose rather to Edition: current; Page: [5] take care of many, and to encumber ourselves with many; body, property, brother, friend, child, and slave; and, by this multiplicity of encumbrances, we are burdened and weighed down. Thus, when the weather doth not happen to be fair for sailing, we sit in distress and gaze out perpetually. Which way is the wind? — North. — What do we want of that? When will the west blow? — When it pleases, friend, or when Æolus pleases; for Zeus has not made you dispenser of the winds, but Æolus.

What then is to be done?

To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it occurs.

And how does it occur?

As it pleases God.

What, then, must I be the only one to lose my head?

Why, would you have all the world, then, lose their heads for your consolation? Why are not you willing to stretch out your neck, like Lateranus,* when he was commanded by Nero to be beheaded? For, shrinking a little after receiving a weak blow, he stretched it out again. And before this, when Epaphroditus, the freedman of Nero, interrogated Edition: current; Page: [6] him about the conspiracy: “If I have a mind to say anything,” replied he, “I will tell it to your master.”

What resource have we then upon such occasions? Why, what else but to distinguish between what is ours, and what not ours; what is right, and what is wrong. I must die, and must I die groaning too? — Be fettered. Must I be lamenting too? — Exiled. And what hinders me, then, but that I may go smiling, and cheerful, and serene? — “Betray a secret.” — I will not betray it; for this is in my own power. — “Then I will fetter you.”— What do you say, man? Fetter me? You will fetter my leg; but not Zeus himself can get the better of my free will. “I will throw you into prison: I will behead that paltry body of yours.” Did I ever tell you, that I alone had a head not liable to be cut off? — These things ought philosophers to study; these ought they daily to write; and in these to exercise themselves.

Thraseas* used to say, “I had rather be killed today, than banished to-morrow.” But how did Rufus answer him? “If you prefer it as a heavier misfortune, how foolish a preference! If as a lighter, who has put it in your power? Why do not you study to be contented with what is allotted you?”

Well, and what said Agrippinus, upon this account? Edition: current; Page: [7] “I will not be a hindrance to myself.” Word was brought him, “Your cause is trying in the senate.” — “Good luck attend it; but it is eleven o’clock” (the hour when he used to exercise before bathing): “Let us go to our exercise.” This being over, a messenger tells him, “You are condemned.” To banishment, says he, or to death? “To banishment.” — What of my estate? — “It is not taken away.” Well then, let us go as far as Aricia,* and dine there.

This it is to have studied what ought to be studied; to have placed our desires and aversions above tyranny and above chance. I must die: if instantly, I will die instantly; if in a short time, I will dine first; and when the hour comes, then I will die. How? As becomes one who restores what is not his own.


TO a reasonable creature, that alone is insupportable which is unreasonable; but everything reasonable may be supported. Stripes are not naturally insupportable. — “How so?” — See how the Spartans bear whipping, after they have learned that it Edition: current; Page: [8] is a reasonable thing. Hanging is not insupportable; for, as soon as a man has taken it into his head that it is reasonable, he goes and hangs himself. In short we shall find by observation, that no creature is oppressed so much by anything, as by what is unreasonable; nor, on the other hand, attracted to anything so strongly, as to what is reasonable.

But it happens that different things are reasonable and unreasonable, as well as good and bad, advantageous and disadvantageous, to different persons. On this account, chiefly, we stand in need of a liberal education, to teach us to adapt the preconceptions of reasonable and unreasonable to particular cases, conformably to nature. But to judge of reasonable and unreasonable, we make use not only of a due estimation of things without us, but of what relates to each person’s particular character. Thus, it is reasonable for one man to submit to a menial office, who considers this only, that if he does not submit to it, he shall be whipt, and lose his dinner, but that if he does, he has nothing hard or disagreeable to suffer; whereas to another it appears insupportable, not only to submit to such an office himself, but to respect any one else who does. If you ask me, then, whether you shall do this menial office or not, I will tell you, it is a more valuable thing to get a dinner, than not; and a greater disgrace to be whipt, than not to be whipt; — so that, if you measure yourself by these things, go and do your office.

“Ay, but this is not suitable to my character.”

It is you who are to consider that, not I; for it is Edition: current; Page: [9] you who know yourself, what value you set upon yourself, and at what rate you sell yourself; for different people sell themselves at different prices.

Hence Agrippinus* when Florus was considering whether he should go to Nero’s shows, and perform some part in them himself, bid him go. — “But why do not you go then?” says Florus. “Because,” replied Agrippinus, “I do not deliberate about it.” For he who once sets himself about such considerations, and goes to calculating the worth of external things, approaches very near to those who forget their own character. For, why do you ask me whether death or life be the more eligible? I answer, life. Pain or pleasure? I answer, pleasure. — “But if I do not act a part, I shall lose my head.” — Go and act it then, but I will not.— “Why?” — Because you esteem yourself only as one thread of many that make up the piece. — “What then?” — You have nothing to care for, but how to be like the rest of mankind, as one thread desires not to be distinguished from the others. But I would be the purple, that small and brilliant part, which gives a lustre and beauty to the rest. Why do you bid me resemble the multitude then? At that rate, how shall I be the purple?

This Priscus Helvidius too saw, and acted accordingly; Edition: current; Page: [10] for when Vespasian had sent to forbid his going to the Senate, he answered, “It is in your power to prevent my continuing a senator; but while I am one, I must go.” — “Well then, at least be silent there.” — “Do not ask my opinion and I will be silent.” — “But I must ask it.” — “And I must speak what appears to me to be right.” — “But if you do, I will put you to death.” — “When did I ever tell you that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine: it is yours to kill and mine to die intrepid; yours to banish, mine to depart untroubled.”

What good, then, did Priscus do, who was but a single person? Why, what good does the purple do to the garment? What, but to be beautiful in itself, and to set a good example to the rest? Another, perhaps, if in such circumstances Cæsar had forbidden his going to the Senate, would have answered, “I am obliged to you for excusing me.” But such a one he would not have forbidden to go; well knowing, that he would either sit like a statue, or, if he spoke, would say what he knew to be agreeable to Cæsar, and would overdo it, by adding still more.

Thus acted even a wrestler, who was in danger of death, unless he consented to an ignominious amputation. His brother, who was a philosopher, coming to him, and saying “Well, brother, what do you design to do? Let us cut away this part, and return again to the field.” He refused, and courageously died.

When it was asked, whether he acted thus as a wrestler, or a philosopher? I answer, as a man, said Edition: current; Page: [11] Epictetus; but as a man who had been proclaimed a champion at the Olympic games; who had been used to such places, and not exercised merely in the school of Bato.* Another would have had his very head cut off, if he could have lived without it. This is that regard to character, so powerful with those who are accustomed to introduce it, from their own breasts, into their deliberations.

“Come now, Epictetus, take off your beard.” — If I am a philosopher, I answer, I will not take it off. — “Then I will take off your head.” — If that will do you any good, take it off.

It was asked, How shall each of us perceive what belongs to his character? Whence, replied Epictetus, does a bull, when the lion approaches, alone recognize his own qualifications, and expose himself alone for the whole herd? It is evident, that with the qualifications, occurs, at the same time, the consciousness of being indued with them. And in the same manner, whoever of us hath such qualifications, will not be ignorant of them. But neither is a bull, nor a gallant-spirited man, formed all at once. We are to exercise, and qualify ourselves, and not to run rashly upon what doth not concern us.

Only consider at what price you sell your own free will, O man! if only that you may not sell it for a trifle. The highest greatness and excellence perhaps seem to belong to others, to such as Socrates. Why then, as we are born with a like nature, do not all, or the greater number, become such as he? Edition: current; Page: [12] Why, are all horses swift? Are all dogs sagacious? What then, because my gifts are humble, shall I neglect all care of myself? Heaven forbid! Epictetus may not surpass Socrates; granted: but could I overtake him, it might be enough for me. I shall never be Milo, and yet I do not neglect my body; nor Crœsus, and yet I do not neglect my property; nor should we omit any effort, from a despair of arriving at the highest.


IF a person could be persuaded of this principle as he ought, that we are all originally descended from God, and that he is the father of men and gods; I conceive he never would think of himself meanly or ignobly. Suppose Cæsar were to adopt you, there would be no bearing your haughty looks; and will you not feel ennobled on knowing yourself to be the son of God? Yet, in fact, we are not ennobled. But having two things united in our composition, a body in common with the brutes, and reason in common with the gods, many incline to this unhappy and mortal kindred, and only some few to that which is happy and divine. And, as of necessity every one must treat each particular thing, according to the notions he forms about it; so those few, who suppose that they are made for faith and honor, and a wise use of things, will never think meanly or ignobly concerning themselves. But with the multitude the case is Edition: current; Page: [13] contrary; “For what am I? A poor contemptible man, with this miserable flesh of mine?” Miserable indeed. But you have likewise something better than this poor flesh. Why then, overlooking that, do you pine away in attention to this?

By means of this [animal] kindred, some of us, deviating towards it, become like wolves, faithless, and crafty, and mischievous; others, like lions, wild, and savage, and untamed; but most of us foxes, and disgraceful even among brutes. For what else is a slanderous and ill-natured man, but a fox, or something yet more wretched and mean? Watch and take heed then, that you do not sink thus low.


HE who is entering on a state of progress, having learnt from the philosophers, that good should be sought and evil shunned; and having learnt too, that prosperity and peace are no otherwise attainable by man, than in not missing what he seeks, nor incurring what he shuns; such a one removes totally from himself and banishes all wayward desire, and shuns only those things over which he can have control. For if he should attempt to shun those things over which he has no control, he knows that he must sometimes incur that which he shuns, and be unhappy. Now if virtue promises happiness, prosperity, and peace; then progress in virtue is certainly progress in each of these. For to whatever point the perfection Edition: current; Page: [14] of anything absolutely brings us, progress is always an approach towards it.

How happens it then, that when we confess virtue to be such, yet we seek, and make an ostentatious show of progress in other things? What is the business of virtue?

A life truly prosperous.

Who is in a state of progress then? He who has best studied Chrysippus?* Why, does virtue consist in having read Chrysippus through? If so, progress is confessedly nothing else than understanding a great deal of Chrysippus; otherwise we confess virtue to consist in one thing, and declare progress, which is an approach to it, to be quite another thing.

This person, they say, is already able to understand Chrysippus, by himself. — “Certainly, sir, you have made a vast improvement!” What improvement? Why do you delude him? Why do you withdraw him from a sense of his real needs? Why do not you show him the real function of virtue, that he may know where to seek progress? — Seek it there, O! unfortunate, where your work lies. And where doth your work lie? In learning what to seek and what to shun, that you may neither be disappointed of the one, nor incur the other; in practising how to pursue and how to avoid, that you may not be liable to fail; in practising intellectual assent and doubt, that you may not be liable to be deceived. These are the first and most necessary things. But if you merely seek, in trembling and lamentation, to Edition: current; Page: [15] keep away all possible ills, what real progress have you made?

Show me then your progress in this point. As if I should say to a wrestler, Show me your muscle; and he should answer me, “See my dumb-bells.” Your dumb-bells are your own affair: I desire to see the effect of them.

“Take the treatise on the active powers, and see how thoroughly I have perused it.”

I do not inquire into this, O! slavish man; but how you exert those powers; how you manage your desires and aversions, how your intentions and purposes; how you meet events, whether in accordance with nature’s laws, or contrary to them. If in accordance, give me evidence of that, and I will say you improve: if the contrary, go your way, and not only comment on these treatises, but write such yourself, and yet what service will it do you? Do not you know that the whole volume is sold for five denarii? Doth he who comments upon it, then, value himself at more than that sum? Never make your life to consist in one thing and yet seek progress in another.

Where is progress, then?

If any of you, withdrawing himself from externals, turns to his own will, to train, and perfect, and render it conformable to nature; noble, free, unrestrained, unhindered, faithful, humble; if he hath learnt, too, that whoever desires or shuns things beyond his own power, can neither be faithful nor free, but must necessarily take his chance with them, must necessarily too be subject to others, to such as can procure or prevent what he desires or shuns; if, rising in the morning, he observes and keeps to these Edition: current; Page: [16] rules; bathes regularly, eats frugally; and to every subject of action, applies the same fixed principles, — if a racer to racing, if an orator to oratory; this is he, who truly makes progress; this is he, who hath not labored in vain. But if he is wholly intent on reading books, and hath labored that point only, and travelled for that; I bid him go home immediately, and do his daily duties; since that which he sought is nothing.

The only real thing is, to study how to rid life of lamentation, and complaint, and Alas! and I am undone, and misfortune, and failure; and to learn what death, what exile, what a prison, what poison is; that he may be able to say in a prison, like Socrates, “My dear Crito, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be”; and not, “Wretched old man, have I kept my gray hairs for this!” [Do you ask] who speaks thus? Do you think I quote some mean and despicable person? Is it not Priam who says it? Is it not Œdipus? Nay, how many kings say it? For what else is tragedy, but the dramatized sufferings of men, bewildered by an admiration of externals? If one were to be taught by fictions, that things beyond our will are nothing to us, I should rejoice in such a fiction, by which I might live prosperous and serene. But what you wish for, it is your business to consider.

Of what service, then, is Chrysippus to us?

To teach you, that those things are not false, on which true prosperity and peace depend. “Take my books, and you will see, how true and conformable to nature those things are, which give me peace.” How great a happiness! And how great the benefactor, who shows the way! To Triptolemus all men have Edition: current; Page: [17] raised temples and altars, because he gave us a milder kind of food: but to him who hath discovered, and brought to light, and communicated the truth to all;* the means, not of living merely, but of living well; who among you ever raised an altar or a temple, or dedicated a statue, or who worships God in his name? We offer sacrifices in memory of those who have given us corn and the vine; and shall we not give thanks to God, for those who have nurtured such fruit in the human breast; even the truth which makes us blessed?


IT is said that there are those who will oppose very evident truths, and yet it is not easy to find a reason which may persuade such an one to alter his opinion. This may arise neither from his own strength, nor from the weakness of his teacher; but when a man becomes obstinate in error, reason cannot always reach him.

Now there are two sorts of obstinacy: the one, of the intellect; the other, of the will. A man may obstinately set himself not to assent to evident truths, nor to quit the defence of contradictions. We all dread a bodily paralysis; and would make use of every contrivance to avoid it: but none of us is troubled about a paralysis of the soul. And yet, indeed, Edition: current; Page: [18] even with regard to the soul, when a person is so affected as not to apprehend or understand anything, we think him in a sad condition; but where the emotions of shame and modesty are under an absolute paralysis, we go so far as even to call this strength of mind!

Are you certain that you are awake? — “I am not,” replies such a person, “for neither am I certain when in dreaming I appear to myself to be awake.” Is there no difference, then, between these appearances? — “None.” Shall I argue with this man any longer? For what steel or what caustic can I apply, to make him sensible of his paralysis? If he is sensible of it, and pretends not to be so, he is even worse than dead. He sees not his inconsistency, or, seeing it, holds to the wrong. He moves not, makes no progress; he rather falls back. His sense of shame is gone; his reasoning faculty is not gone, but brutalized. Shall I call this strength of mind? By no means: unless we allow it to be such in the vilest debauchees, publicly to speak and act out their worst impulses.


FROM every event that happens in the world it is easy to celebrate Providence, if a person hath but these two qualities in himself; a faculty of considering what happens to each individual, and a grateful temper. Without the first, he will not perceive the usefulness of things which happen; and Edition: current; Page: [19] without the other, he will not be thankful for them. If God had made colors, and had not made the faculty of seeing them, what would have been their use? None. On the other hand, if he had made the faculty of observation, without objects to observe, what would have been the use of that? None. Again; if he had formed both the faculty and the objects, but had not made light? Neither in that case would they have been of any use.

Who is it then that hath fitted each of these to the other? Who is it that hath fitted the sword to the scabbard, and the scabbard to the sword? Is there no such Being? From the very construction of a complete work, we are used to declare positively, that it must be the operation of some artificer, and not the effect of mere chance. Doth every such work, then, demonstrate an artificer; and do not visible objects, and the sense of seeing, and light, demonstrate one? Do not the difference of the sexes, and their inclination to each other, and the use of their several powers; do not these things demonstrate an artificer? Most certainly they do.

But further; this constitution of understanding, by which we are not simply impressed by sensible objects, but take and subtract and add and combine, and pass from point to point by inference; is not all this sufficient to prevail on some men, and make them ashamed of leaving an artificer out of their scheme? If not, let them explain to us what the power is that effects each of these; and how it is possible that chance should produce things so wonderful, and which carry such marks of design?

What, then, do these things belong to us alone?

Many indeed; such as are peculiarly necessary for Edition: current; Page: [20] a reasonable creature; but you will find many, which are common to us with mere animals.

Then, do they too understand what happens?

Not at all; for use is one affair, and understanding another. But God had need of animals, to make use of things; and of us to understand that use. It is sufficient, therefore, for them to eat, and drink, and sleep, and continue their species, and perform other such offices as belong to each of them; but to us, to whom he hath given likewise a faculty of understanding, these offices are not sufficient. For if we do not proceed in a wise and systematic manner, and suitably to the nature and constitution of each thing, we shall never attain our end. For where the constitution of beings is different, their offices and ends are different likewise. Thus where the constitution is adapted only to use, there use is alone sufficient; but where understanding is added to use, unless that too be duly exercised, the end of such a being will never be attained.

Well then; each of the animals is constituted either for food, or husbandry, to produce milk, or for some other like use; and for these purposes what need is there of understanding things, and being able to discriminate concerning them? But God hath introduced man, as a spectator of himself and of his works; and not only as a spectator, but an interpreter of them. It is therefore shameful that man should begin and end, where irrational creatures do. He is indeed to begin there, but to end where nature itself hath fixed our end; and that is, in contemplation and understanding, and in a scheme of life conformable to nature.

Take care, then, not to die without the contemplation Edition: current; Page: [21] of these things. You take a journey to Olympia to behold the work of Phidias, and each of you thinks it a misfortune to die without a knowledge of such things; and will you have no inclination to see and understand those works, for which there is no need to take a journey; but which are ready and at hand, even to those who bestow no pains! Will you never perceive what you are, or for what you were born, or for what purpose you are admitted to behold this spectacle?

But there are in life some things unpleasant and difficult.

And are there none at Olympia? Are not you heated? Are not you crowded? Are not you without good conveniences for bathing? Are not you wet through, when it happens to rain? Do you not have uproar, and noise, and other disagreeable circumstances? But I suppose, by comparing all these with the merit of the spectacle, you support and endure them. Well; and have you not received faculties by which you may support every event? Have you not received greatness of soul? Have you not received a manly spirit? Have you not received patience? What signifies to me anything that happens, while my soul is above it? What shall disconcert or trouble or appear grievous to me? Shall I not use my powers to that purpose for which I received them; but lament and groan at every casualty?

“True, no doubt; but I have such a disagreeable catarrh!” Attend to your diseases, then, as best you can. Do you say, it is unreasonable that there should be such a discomfort in the world?

And how much better is it that you should have a Edition: current; Page: [22] catarrh than complain? Pray, what figure do you think Hercules would have made, if there had not been a lion, and a hydra, and a stag, and unjust and brutal men, whom he expelled and cleared away? And what would he have done, if none of these had existed? Is it not plain, that he must have wrapt himself up and slept? In the first place, then, he would never have become a Hercules, by slumbering away his whole life in such delicacy and ease; or if he had, what good would it have done? What would have been the use of his arm and his strength, — of his patience and greatness of mind, — if such circumstances and subjects of action had not roused and exercised him?

What then, must we provide these things for ourselves; and introduce a boar, and a lion, and a hydra, into our country?

This would be madness and folly. But as they were in being, and to be met with, they were proper subjects to call out and exercise Hercules. Do you therefore likewise, being sensible of this, consider the faculties you have; and after taking a view of them, say, “Bring on me now, O Zeus, what difficulty thou wilt, for I have faculties granted me by thee, and powers by which I may win honor from every event.” — No; but you sit trembling, for fear this or that should happen, and lamenting, and mourning, and groaning at what doth happen; and then you accuse the gods. For what is the consequence of such a baseness, but impiety? And yet God hath not only granted these faculties, by which we may bear every event, without being depressed or broken by it; but, like a good prince, and a true father, hath placed their exercise above restraint, compulsion, or hindrance, Edition: current; Page: [23] and wholly within our own control; nor hath he reserved a power, even to himself, of hindering or restraining them. Having these things free, and your own, will you not use them, nor consider what you have received, nor from whom? But you sit groaning and lamenting, some of you, blind to him who gave them, and not acknowledging your benefactor; and others basely turn themselves to complaints and accusations against God! Yet I undertake to show you, that you have means and powers to exhibit greatness of soul, and a manly spirit; but what occasion you have to find fault, and complain, do you show me if you can.


IT is not understood by most persons that the proper use of inferences and hypotheses and interrogations, and logical forms generally, has any relation to the duties of life. In every subject of action, the question is, how a wise and good man may come honestly and consistently out of it. We must admit, therefore, either that the wise man will not engage in difficult problems; or that, if he does, he will not think it worth his care to deal with them thoroughly; or if we allow neither of these alternatives, it is necessary to confess, that some examination ought to be made of those points on which the solution of these problems chiefly depends. For what is reasoning? To lay down true positions; to reject false ones; and to suspend the judgment in doubtful Edition: current; Page: [24] ones. Is it enough, then, to have learned merely this? It is enough, say you. — Is it enough, then, for him who would not commit any mistake in the use of money, merely to have heard, that we are to receive the good pieces, and to reject the bad? — This is not enough. — What must be added besides? That skill which tries and distinguishes what pieces are good, what bad. — Therefore, in reasoning too, the definition just given is not enough; but it is necessary that we should be able to prove and distinguish between the true, and the false, and the doubtful. This is clear.

And what further is professed in reasoning? — To admit the consequence of what you have properly granted. Well? and is it enough merely to know this necessity? — It is not; but we must learn how such a thing is the consequence of such another; and when one thing follows from one premise, and when from many premises. Is it not moreover necessary, that he, who would behave skilfully in reasoning, should both himself demonstrate whatever he asserts, and be able to comprehend the demonstrations of others; and not be deceived by such as sophisticate, as if they were demonstrating? Hence arises the use and practice of logical forms; and it appears to be indispensable.

But it may possibly happen, that from the premises which we have honestly granted, there arises some consequence, which, though false, is nevertheless a fair inference. What then ought I to do? To admit a falsehood? — Impossible. — To deny my concessions? — But this will not be allowed. — Or assert that the consequence does not fairly follow from the premises? — Nor is even this practicable. — What Edition: current; Page: [25] then is to be done in the case? — Is it not this? As the having once borrowed money is not enough to make a person a debtor, unless he still continues to owe money, and has not paid it; so the having granted the premises is not enough to make it necessary to grant the inference, unless we continue our concessions. If the premises continue to the end, such as they were when the concessions were made, it is absolutely necessary to continue the concessions, and to admit what follows from them. But if the premises do not continue such as they were when the concession was made, it is absolutely necessary to revoke the concession, and refuse to accept the inference. For this inference is no consequence of ours, nor belongs to us, when we have revoked the concession of the premises. We ought then thoroughly to consider our premises, and their different aspects, on which any one, by laying hold, — either on the question itself, or on the answer, or on the inference or elsewhere, — may embarrass the unthinking who did not foresee the result. So that in this way we may not be led into any unbecoming or confused position.

The same thing is to be observed in hypotheses and hypothetical arguments. For it is sometimes necessary to require some hypothesis to be granted, as a kind of step to the rest of the argument. Is every given hypothesis then to be granted, or not every one; and if not every one, which? And is he who has granted an hypothesis, forever to abide by it? Or is he sometimes to revoke it, and admit only consequences, but not to admit contradictions? — Ay, but a person may say, on your admitting a possible hypothesis I will drive you upon an impossibility. With such a one as this, shall the wise man never engage, Edition: current; Page: [26] but avoid all argument and conversation with him? — And yet who beside the wise man is capable of treating an argument, or who beside is sagacious in reasoning, and incapable of being deceived and imposed on by sophistry? — Or will he indeed engage, but without regarding whether he behaves rashly and heedlessly in the argument? — Yet how then can he be wise as we are supposing him? and without some such exercise and preparation, how can he hold his own? If this could be shown, then indeed all these forms of reasoning would be superfluous and absurd, and unconnected with our idea of the virtuous man.

Why then are we still indolent, and slothful, and sluggish, seeking pretences of avoiding labor? Shall we not be watchful to render reason itself accurate? — “But suppose after all, I should make a mistake in these points? it is not as if I had killed a father.” — O, slavish man! in this case you had no father to kill; but the only fault that you could commit in this instance, you have committed. This very thing I myself said to Rufus, when he reproved me for not finding the weak point in some syllogism. Why, said I, have I burnt the capitol then? Slave! answered he, was the thing here involved the capitol? Or are there no other faults, but burning the capitol, or killing a father? and is it no fault to treat rashly, and vainly, and heedlessly the things which pass before our eyes; not to comprehend a reason, nor a demonstration, nor a sophism; nor, in short, to see what is strong in reasoning and what is weak? Is there nothing wrong in this?

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IN as many ways as equivalent syllogisms may be varied, in so many may the logical forms be varied likewise. As for instance: “If you had borrowed, and not paid, you owe me money. But you have not borrowed, and not paid; therefore you do not owe me money.” To perform these processes skilfully, is the peculiar mark of a philosopher. For if an enthymema be an imperfect syllogism; he who is versed in the perfect syllogism, must be equally ready to detect an imperfect one.

“Why then do not we exercise ourselves and others, after this manner?”

Because, even now, though we are not absorbed in these things, nor diverted, by me at least, from the study of morality; yet we make no eminent advances in virtue. What is to be expected then if we should add this avocation too? Especially as it would not only withdraw us from more necessary studies, but likewise afford a capital occasion of conceit and insolence. For the faculty of arguing, and of persuasive reasoning is great; and particularly, if it be constantly practised, and receive an additional ornament from rhetoric. For, in general, every such faculty is dangerous to weak and uninstructed persons, as being apt to render them arrogant and elated. For by what method can one persuade a young man, who excels in these kinds of study, that he ought not to be an appendage to these accomplishments, Edition: current; Page: [28] but they to him? Will he not trample upon all such advice; and walk about elated and puffed up, not bearing that any one should touch him, to put him in mind where he is wanting, and in what he goes wrong?

What then, was not Plato a philosopher?

Well, and was not Hippocrates a physician? Yet you see how he expresses himself. But what has his style to do with his professional qualities? Why do you confound things, accidentally united in the same men? If Plato was handsome and well made, must I too set myself to becoming handsome and well made; as if this was necessary to philosophy, because a certain person happened to be at once handsome and a philosopher? Why will you not perceive and distinguish what are the things that make men philosophers, and what belong to them on other accounts? Pray, if I were a philosopher, would it be necessary that you should be lame too?

What then? Do I reject these special faculties? By no means; — neither do I reject the faculty of seeing. But if you ask me, what is the good of man; I know not where it lies, save in dealing wisely with the phenomena of existence.


IF what philosophers say of the kinship between God and men be true, what has any one to do, but, like Socrates, when he is asked what countryman he Edition: current; Page: [29] is, never to say that he is a citizen of Athens, or of Corinth, but of the universe? For why, if you limit yourself to Athens, do you not farther limit yourself to that mere corner of Athens where your body was brought forth? Is it not, evidently, from some larger local tie, which comprehends not only that corner, and your whole house, but the whole country of your fathers, that you call yourself an Athenian, or a Corinthian? He then, who understands the administration of the universe, and has learned that the principal and greatest and most comprehensive of all things is this vast system, extending from men to God; and that from Him the seeds of being are descended, not only to one’s father or grandfather, but to all things that are produced and born on earth; and especially to rational natures, as they alone are qualified to partake of a communication with the Deity, being connected with him by reason; why may not such a one call himself a citizen of the universe? Why not a son of God? And why shall he fear anything that happens among men? Shall kinship to Cæsar, or any other of the great at Rome, enable a man to live secure, above contempt, and void of all fear whatever; and shall not the having God for our maker, and father, and guardian, free us from griefs and alarms?

“But wherewithal shall I be fed? For I have nothing.”

To what do fugitive slaves trust, when they run away from their masters? Is it to their estates? Their servants? Their plate? To nothing but themselves. Yet they do not fail to obtain the necessaries of life. And must a philosopher, think you, leave his own abode, to rest and rely upon others; and not take Edition: current; Page: [30] care of himself? Must he be more helpless and anxious than the brute beasts; each of which is self-sufficient, and wants neither proper food, nor any suitable and natural provision? One would think that you would need an instructor, not to guard you from thinking too meanly or ignobly of yourselves; but that his business would be to take care lest there be young men of such a spirit, that, knowing their affinity to the gods, and that we are as it were fettered by the body and its possessions, and by so many other things as are thus made needful for the daily pursuits of life, they should resolve to throw them all off, as both troublesome and useless, and depart to their divine kindred.

This is the work, if any, that ought to employ your master and preceptor, if you had one, that you should come to him, and say: “Epictetus, we can no longer bear being tied down to this poor body; feeding, and resting, and cleaning it, and vexed with so many low cares on its account. Are not these things indifferent, and nothing to us; and death no evil? Are we not of kindred to God; and did we not come from him? Suffer us to go back thither from whence we came: suffer us at length to be delivered from these fetters that bind and weigh us down. Here thieves and robbers, courts and tyrants, claim power over us, through the body and its possessions. Suffer us to show them that they have no power.”

And in this case it would be my part to answer: “My friends, wait for God till he shall give the signal, and dismiss you from this service; then return to him. For the present, be content to remain at this post, where he has placed you. The time of your abode here is short and easy, to such as are disposed Edition: current; Page: [31] like you; for what tyrant, what robber, what thief or what court can be formidable to those who thus count for nothing the body and its possessions. Stay, nor foolishly depart.”

Thus ought the case to stand between a preceptor and ingenuous young men. But how stands it now? The preceptor has no life in him; and you have none. When you have had enough to-day, you sit weeping about to-morrow, how you shall get food. Why, if you have it, slave, you will have it; if not, you will go out of life. The door is open; why do you lament; what room remains for tears; what occasion for flattery? Why should any one person envy another? Why should he be impressed with awe by those who have great possessions, or are placed in high rank? especially, if they are powerful and passionate? For what will they do to us? The things which they can do, we do not regard: the things about which we are concerned, they cannot reach. Who then, after all, shall hold sway over a person thus disposed? How behaved Socrates in regard to these things? As it became one conscious of kinship with the gods. He said to his judges: —

“If you should tell me, ‘We will acquit you, upon condition that you shall no longer discourse in the manner you have hitherto done, nor make any disturbance either among our young or our old people’; I would answer: ‘You are ridiculous in thinking, that if your general had placed me in any post, I ought to maintain and defend it, and choose to die a thousand times, rather than desert it; but that if God hath assigned me any station or method of life, I ought to desert that for you.’ ”

This it is, for a man to truly recognize his relationship Edition: current; Page: [32] with God. But we habitually think of ourselves as mere stomach and intestines and bodily parts. Because we fear, because we desire, we flatter those who can help us in these matters; we dread them too.

A person desired me once to write for him to Rome. He was one vulgarly esteemed unfortunate, as he had been formerly illustrious and rich, and was afterwards stripped of all his possessions, and reduced to live here. I wrote for him in a submissive style; but, after reading my letter, he returned it to me, and said: “I wanted your assistance, not your pity; for no evil hath befallen me.”

Thus Rufus, to try me, used to say, this or that you will have from your master. When I answered him, these are mere human affairs; Why then, says he, should I intercede with him,* when you can receive from yourself things more important? For what one hath of his own, it is superfluous and vain to receive from another. Shall I then, who can receive nobleness and a manly spirit from myself, receive an estate, or a sum of money, or a place, from you? Heaven forbid! I will not be so insensible of my own possessions. But, if a person is fearful and abject, what else is necessary, but to apply for permission to bury him as if he were dead. “Please forward to us the corpse of such a one.” For, in fact, such a one is that, and nothing more. For, if he were anything more, he would be sensible that man is not to be made miserable at the will of his fellow-man.

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IF we all applied ourselves as heartily to our proper business, as the old politicians at Rome to their schemes, perhaps we too might make some proficiency. I know a man older than I am, who is now a commissary at Rome. When he passed through this place, on his return from exile, what an account did he give me of his former life! and how did he promise, that for the future, when he had returned, he would apply himself to nothing but how to spend the remainder of his days in repose and tranquillity. “For how few have I now remaining!” he said. — You will not do it, said I. When you are once within reach of Rome, you will forget all this; and, if you can but once gain admittance to court, you will be rejoiced and thank God. “If you ever find me, Epictetus,” said he, “putting one foot into the court, think of me whatever you please.” Now, after all, how did he act? Before he entered the city, he was met by a billet from Cæsar. On receiving it, he forgot all his former resolutions; and has ever since been accumulating business upon himself. I should be glad now to have an opportunity of putting him in mind of his discourse upon the road; and of pointing out by how much I was the truer prophet.

What then do I say? that man is made for an inactive life? No, surely. But why is not ours a life of action? For my own part, I wake at dawn to recollect what things I am to read over again [with my pupils], and then say to myself quickly, What is it to Edition: current; Page: [34] me how such a one reads? My present business is to sleep.

Yet what likeness is there between their kind of activity and ours? If you consider what it is they do, you will see. For about what are they employed the whole day, but in calculating, contriving, consulting, about provisions, about an estate, or other interests like these? Is there any likeness, then, between reading such a petition from any one, as, “I entreat you to give me a permission to export corn”; and, “I entreat you to learn from Chrysippus, what the administration of the universe is; and what place a reasonable creature holds in it. Learn, too, what you yourself are; and wherein your good and evil consist.” Are these things at all alike? Do they require an equal degree of application? And is it as shameful to neglect the one as the other?

Well, then, are we older men the only idle dream ers? No: but you young men are so in a greater degree. And as we old folks, when we see young ones trifling, are tempted to trifle with them; so, much more, if I were to see you earnest and ardent, I should be excited to labor with you.


WHEN an important personage once came to visit him, Epictetus, having inquired into the particulars of his affairs, asked him, Whether he had a wife and children? The other replying that he had, Epictetus likewise inquired, In what manner do you Edition: current; Page: [35] live with them? “Very miserably,” says he. — How so? For men do not marry, and get children, to be miserable; but rather to make themselves happy. — “But I am so very miserable about my children, that the other day, when my daughter was sick, and appeared to be in danger, I could not bear even to be with her; but ran away, till it was told me, that she was recovered.” — And pray do you think this was acting right? — “It was acting naturally,” said he. — Well? do but convince me that it was acting naturally, and I can as well convince you that everything natural is right. — “All, or most of us fathers, are affected in the same way.” — I do not deny the fact; but the question between us is, whether it be right. For by this way of reasoning, it must be said, that diseases happen for the good of the body, because they do happen; and even that vices are natural, because all, or most of us, are guilty of them. Do you show me then, how such a behavior as yours appears to be natural.

“I cannot undertake that. But do you rather show me, that it is neither natural nor right.”

If we were disputing about black and white, what criterion must we call in, to distinguish them?

“The sight.”

If about hot and cold, or hard and soft, what?

“The touch.”

Well then? when we are debating about natural and unnatural, and right and wrong; what criterion are we to take?

“I cannot tell

And yet to be ignorant of a criterion of colors, or of smells, or tastes, might perhaps be no very great loss. But do you think, that he suffers only a small Edition: current; Page: [36] loss, who is ignorant of what is good and evil, and natural and unnatural to man?

“No. The very greatest.”

Well; tell me; are all things which are judged good and proper by some, rightly judged to be so? Thus, is it possible, that the several opinions of Jews, and Syrians, and Egyptians, and Romans, concerning food, should all be right?

“How can it be possible?”

I suppose then, it is absolutely necessary that, if the opinions of the Egyptians be right, the others must be wrong; if those of the Jews be good, all the rest must be bad.

“How can it be otherwise?”

And where ignorance is, there likewise is want of wisdom and instruction in the most necessary points.

“It is granted.”

Then as you are sensible of this, you will for the future apply to nothing, and think of nothing else, but how to learn the criterion of what is agreeable to nature; and to use that, in judging of each particular case.

At present the assistance I have to give you, towards what you desire, is this. Does affection seem to you to be a right and a natural thing?

“How should it be otherwise?”

Well; and is affection natural and right, and reason not so?

“By no means.”

Is there any opposition, then, between reason and affection?

“I think not.”

Suppose there were: if one of two opposites be natural, the other must necessarily be unnatural. Must it not?

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“It must.”

What we find, then, to accord at once with love and reason, that we may safely pronounce to be right and good.


Well, then: you will not dispute this, that to run away, and leave a sick child, is contrary to reason. It remains for us to consider, whether it be consistent with affection.

“Let us consider it.”

Did you, then, from an affection to your child, do right in running away, and leaving her? Has her mother no affection for the child?

“Yes, surely, she has.”

Would it have been right, then, that her mother too should leave her; or would it not?

“It would not.”

And does not her nurse love her?

“She does.”

Then ought she likewise to leave her?

“By no means.”

And does not her preceptor love her?

“He does.”

Then ought he also to have run away, and left her; the child being thus left alone and unassisted, from the great affection of her parents, and her friends; or left to die among people, who neither loved her, nor took care of her?

“Heaven forbid!”

But is it not unreasonable and unjust, that what you think right in yourself, on account of your affection, should not be allowed to others, who have the very same affection with you?

“It is absurd.”

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Pray, if you were sick yourself, should you be willing to have your family, and even your wife and children, so very affectionate, as to leave you helpless and alone?

“By no means.”

Or would you wish to be so loved by your friends, as from their excessive affection always to be left alone when you were sick? Or would you not rejoice, if it were possible, to have such a kind of affection from your enemies, as to make them thus let you alone? If so, it remains, that your behaviour was by no means affectionate. But now, was there no other motive that induced you to desert your child?

“How is that possible?”

I mean some such motive as induced a person at Rome to hide his face while a horse was running, to which he earnestly wished success; and when, beyond his expectation, it won the race, he was obliged himself to be sponged, to recover from his faintness.

“And what was this motive?”

At present, perhaps, it cannot be made clear to you. It is sufficient to be convinced, if what philosophers say be true, that we are not to seek any motive merely from without; but that there is the same [unseen] motive in all cases, which moves us to do or forbear any action; to speak or not to speak; to be elated or depressed; to avoid or pursue: that very impulse which hath now moved us two; you, to come, and sit and hear me; and me, to speak as I do.

“And what is that?”

Is it anything else, than that it seemed right to us to do so?

“Nothing else.”

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And if it had seemed otherwise to us, what else should we have done, than what we thought right? This, and not the death of Patroclus, was the real source of the lamentation of Achilles, — for every man is not thus affected by the death of a friend, — that it seemed right to him. This too was the cause of your running away from your child, that it then seemed right; and if hereafter you should stay with her, it will be because that seems right. You are now returning to Rome, because it seems right to you; but if you should alter your opinion, you will not return. In a word, neither death, nor exile, nor pain, nor anything of this kind, is the real cause of our doing or not doing any action: but our inward opinions and principles. Do I convince you of this, or not?

“You do.”

Well then: such as the cause is, such will be the effect. From this day forward, then, whenever we do anything wrong, we will impute it to the wrong principle from which we act; and we will endeavor to remove and extirpate that, with greater care than we would remove wens and tumors from the body. In like manner, we will ascribe what we do right, to the same cause; and we will accuse neither servant, nor neighbor, nor wife, nor children, as the cause of any evil to us; persuaded that if we had not accepted such principles, we should not carry them to such consequences. The control of these principles lies in us, and not in any outward things. Of these principles we ourselves, and not externals, are the masters.


From this day, then, we will not so closely inquire as to any external conditions, — estate, or slaves, or Edition: current; Page: [40] horses, or dogs, — but only make sure of our own principles.

“Such is my desire,” said the visitor.

You see, then, that it is necessary for you to become a student, that being whom every one laughs at, if you really desire to make an examination of your own principles. But this, as you should know, is not the work of an hour or a day.


CONCERNING the gods, some affirm, that there is no deity; others, that he indeed exists, but is slothful, negligent, and without providential care; a third class admits both his being and his providence, but only in respect to great and heavenly objects, not earthly; a fourth recognizes him both in heaven and earth, but only in general, not individual matters; a fifth, like Ulysses and Socrates, says, “I cannot be hid from thee in any of my motions.”*

It is, before all things, necessary to examine each of these opinions; which is, and which is not rightly spoken. Now, if there are no gods, wherefore serve them? If there are, but they take no care of anything, how is the case bettered? Or, if they both are, and take care; yet, if there is nothing communicated from them to men, and therefore certainly nothing to me, how much better is it? A wise and good man, after examining these things, submits his mind to Him who administers the whole, as good citizens do to the laws of the commonwealth.

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He, then, who comes to be instructed, ought to come with this aim: “How may I in everything follow the gods? How may I acquiesce in the divine administration? And how may I be free?” For he is free, to whom all happens agreeably to his desire, and whom no one can unduly restrain.

“What then, is freedom mere license?”

By no means; for madness and freedom are incompatible.

“But I would have that happen which appears to me desirable; however it comes to appear so.”

You are mad: you have lost your senses. Do not you know, that freedom is a very beautiful and valuable thing? But for me to choose at random, and for things to happen agreeably to such a choice, may be so far from a beautiful thing, as to be, of all others, the most undesirable. For how do we proceed in writing? Do I choose to write the name of Dion (for instance) as I will? No; but I am taught to be willing to write it as it ought to be written. And what is the case in music? The same. And what in every other art or science? Otherwise, it would be of no purpose to learn anything, if it were to be adapted to each one’s particular humor. Is it then only in the greatest and principal matter, that of freedom, permitted me to desire at random? By no means; but true instruction is this, — learning to desire that things should happen as they do. And how do they happen? As the appointer of them hath appointed. He hath appointed, that there should be summer and winter, plenty and dearth, virtue and vice, and all such contrarieties, for the harmony of the whole. To each of us he has given a body and its parts, and our several possessions and companions. Edition: current; Page: [42] Mindful of this appointment, we should enter upon a course of education and instruction, not in order to change the constitution of things; — a gift neither practicable nor desirable; — but that things being as they are with regard to us, we may have our mind accommodated to the facts. Can we, for instance, flee from mankind? How is that possible? Can we, by conversing with them, transform them? Who has given us such a power? What then remains, or what method is there to be found, for such a commerce with them, that, while they act according to the appearances in their own minds, we may nevertheless be affected conformably to nature?

But you are wretched and discontented. If you are alone, you term it a desert; and if with men, you call them cheats and robbers. You find fault too with your parents, and children, and brothers, and neighbors. Whereas you ought, if you live alone, to call that repose and freedom, and to esteem yourself as resembling the gods; and when you are in company, not to call it a crowd, and a tumult, and a trouble, but an assembly, and a festival; and thus to take all things contentedly. What then, is the punishment of those who do not so accept them? To be — as they are. Is any one discontented with being alone? Let him remain in his desert. Discontented with his parents? Let him be a bad son; and let him mourn. Discontented with his children? Let him be a bad father. Shall we throw him into prison? What prison? Where he already is, for he is in a situation against his will, and wherever any one is against his will, that is to him a prison; just as Socrates was not truly in prison, for he was willingly there.

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“What, then, must my leg be lame?”

And is it for one paltry leg, wretch, that you accuse the universe? Can you not forego that, in consideration of the whole? Can you not give up something? Can you not gladly yield it to him who gave it? And will you be angry and discontented with the decrees of Zeus; which he, with the Fates, who spun in his presence the thread of your birth, ordained and appointed? Do not you know how very small a part you are of the whole? That is, as to body; for, as to reason, you are neither worse, nor less, than divine. For reason is not measured by size or height, but by principles. Will you not therefore place your good there, where you share with the gods?

“But how wretched am I, in such a father and mother!”

What, then, was it granted you to come beforehand, and make your own terms, and say, “Let such and such persons, at this hour, be the authors of my birth”? It was not granted; for it was necessary that your parents should exist before you, and so you be born afterwards. — Of whom? — Of just such as they were. What, then, since they are such, is there no remedy afforded you? Surely, you would be wretched and miserable, if you knew not the use of sight, and shut your eyes in presence of colors; and are not you more wretched and miserable, in being ignorant, that you have within you the needful nobleness and manhood wherewith to meet these accidents? Events proportioned to your reason are brought before you; but you turn it away, at the very time when you ought to have it the most open and discerning. Why do not you rather thank the Edition: current; Page: [44] gods, that they have made you superior to those events which they have not placed within your own control; and have rendered you accountable for that only, which is within your own control? Of your parents they acquit you, as not accountable: of your brothers they acquit you; of body, possessions, death, life, they acquit you. For what, then, have they made you accountable? For that which is alone in your own power; a right use of things as they appear. Why, then, should you draw those cares upon yourself, for which you are not accountable? This is giving one’s self vexation, without need.


WHEN a person inquired, how any one might eat to the divine acceptance; if he eats with justice, said Epictetus, and with gratitude, and fairly, and temperately, and decently, must he not also eat to the divine acceptance? And if you call for hot water, and your servant does not hear you; or, if he does, brings it only warm; or perhaps is not to be found at home; then to abstain from anger or petulance, is not this to the divine acceptance?

“But how, then, can one bear such things?”

O slavish man! will you not bear with your own brother, who has God for his Father, as being a son from the same stock, and of the same high descent? But, if you chance to be placed in some superior station, will you presently set yourself up for a tyrant? Edition: current; Page: [45] Will you not remember what you are, and over whom you bear rule? That they are by nature your relations, your brothers; that they are the offspring of God?

“But I have them by right of purchase, and not they me.”

Do you see what it is you regard? Your regards look downward towards the earth, and what is lower than earth, and towards the unjust laws of men long dead; but up towards the divine laws you never turn your eyes.


WHEN a person asked him, how any one might be convinced that his every act is under the supervision of God? Do not you think, said Epictetus, that all things are mutually connected and united?

“I do.”

Well; and do not you think, that things on earth feel the influence of the heavenly powers?


Else how is it that in their season, as if by express command, God bids the plants to blossom and they blossom, to bud and they bud, to bear fruit and they bear it, to ripen it and they ripen; — and when again he bids them drop their leaves, and withdrawing into themselves to rest and wait, they rest and wait? Whence again are there seen, on the increase and decrease of the moon, and the approach and departure of the sun, so great changes and transformations in Edition: current; Page: [46] earthly things? Have then the very leaves, and our own bodies, this connection and sympathy with the whole; and have not our souls much more? But our souls are thus connected and intimately joined to God, as being indeed members and distinct portions of his essence; and must not he be sensible of every movement of them, as belonging and connatural to himself? Can even you think of the divine administration, and every other divine subject, and together with these of human affairs also; can you at once receive impressions on your senses and your understanding, from a thousand objects; at once assent to some things, deny or suspend your judgment concerning others, and preserve in your mind impressions from so many and various objects, by whose aid you can revert to ideas similar to those which first impressed you? Can you retain a variety of arts and the memorials of ten thousand things? And is not God capable of surveying all things, and being present with all, and in communication with all? Is the sun capable of illuminating so great a portion of the universe, and of leaving only that small part of it unilluminated, which is covered by the shadow of the earth, — and cannot He who made and moves the sun, a small part of himself, if compared with the whole, — cannot he perceive all things?

“But I cannot,” say you, “attend to all things at once.” Who asserts that you have equal power with Zeus? Nevertheless he has assigned to each man a director, his own good genius, and committed him to that guardianship; a director sleepless and not to be deceived. To what better and more careful guardian could he have committed each one of us? So that when you have shut your doors, and darkened your Edition: current; Page: [47] room, remember, never to say that you are alone; for you are not alone; but God is within, and your genius is within; and what need have they of light, to see what you are doing? To this God you likewise ought to swear such an oath as the soldiers do to Cæsar. For they, in order to receive their pay, swear to prefer before all things the safety of Cæsar; and will not you swear, who have received so many and so great favors; or, if you have sworn, will you not fulfil the oath? And what must you swear? Never to distrust, nor accuse, nor murmur at any of the things appointed by him; nor to shrink from doing or enduring that which is inevitable. Is this oath like the former? In the first oath persons swear never to dishonor Cæsar; by the last, never to dishonor themselves.


WHEN one consulted him, how he might persuade his brother to forbear treating him ill; — Philosophy, answered Epictetus, doth not promise to procure any outward good for man; otherwise it would admit something beyond its proper theme. For as the material of a carpenter is wood; of a statuary, brass; so of the art of living, the material is each man’s own life.

“What, then, is my brother’s life?”

That, again, is matter for his own art, but is external to you; like property, health, or reputation. Philosophy promises none of these. In every circumstance Edition: current; Page: [48] I will keep my will in harmony with nature. To whom belongs that will? To Him in whom I exist.

“But how, then, is my brother’s unkindness to be cured?”

Bring him to me, and I will tell him; but I have nothing to say to you about his unkindness.

But the inquirer still further asking for a rule for self-government, if he should not be reconciled; Epictetus answered thus: —

No great thing is created suddenly; any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me, that you desire a fig, I answer you, that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. Since then, the fruit of a fig-tree is not brought to perfection suddenly, or in one hour; do you think to possess instantaneously and easily the fruit of the human mind? I warn you, expect it not.


BE not surprised, if other animals have all things necessary to the body, ready provided for them, not only meat and drink, but lodging; if they want neither shoes, nor bedding, nor clothes; while we stand in need of all these. For they not being made for themselves, but for service, it was not fit that they should be so formed as to be waited on by others. For consider what it would be for us to take care, not only for ourselves, but for sheep and asses too; how they should be clothed, how shod, and how they Edition: current; Page: [49] should eat and drink. But as soldiers are furnished ready for their commander, shod, clothed, and armed, — for it would be a grievous thing for a colonel to be obliged to go through his regiment to put on their clothes, — so nature has furnished these useful animals, ready provided, and standing in need of no further care. So that one little boy, with only a crook, drives a flock.

But we, instead of being thankful for this, complain of God, that there is not the same kind of care taken of us likewise. And yet, good Heaven! any one thing in the creation is sufficient to demonstrate a Providence, to a humble and grateful mind. Not to instance great things, the mere possibility of producing milk from grass, cheese from milk, and wool from skins; who formed and planned it? No one, say you. O surprising irreverence and dulness! But come; let us omit the primary works of nature. Let us contemplate her merely incidental traits. What is more useless than the hairs upon one’s chin? And yet has she not made use even of these, in the most becoming manner possible? Has she not by these distinguished the sexes? Does not nature in each of us call out, even at a distance, I am a man; approach and address me as such; inquire no further; see the characteristic. On the other hand, with regard to women, as she has mixed something softer in their voice, so she has deprived them of a beard. But no; [some think] this living being should have been left undistinguished, and each of us should be obliged to proclaim, “I am a man!” But why is not this characteristic beautiful and becoming, and venerable? How much more beautiful than the comb of cocks; how much more noble than the mane of lions! Edition: current; Page: [50] Therefore, we ought to preserve the characteristics, made by the Creator; we ought not to reject them, nor confound, as much as in us lies, the distinct sexes.

Are these the only works of Providence, with regard to us? And what speech can fitly celebrate their praise? For, if we had any understanding, ought we not, both in public and in private, incessantly to sing and praise the Deity, and rehearse his benefits? Ought we not, whether we dig, or plough, or eat, to sing this hymn to God? Great is God, who has supplied us with these instruments to till the ground; great is God, who has given us hands and organs of digestion; who has given us to grow insensibly, to breathe in sleep. These things we ought forever to celebrate; but to make it the theme of the greatest and divinest hymn, that he has given us the power to appreciate these gifts, and to use them well. But because the most of you are blind and insensible, there must be some one to fill this station, and lead in behalf of all men, the hymn to God; for what else can I do, a lame old man, but sing hymns to God? Were I a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale; were I a swan, the part of a swan. But since I am a reasonable creature, it is my duty to praise God. This is my business. I do it. Nor will I ever desert this post, so long as it is permitted me; and I call on you to join in the same song.

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SINCE it is Reason which shapes and regulates all other things, it ought not itself to be left in disorder. But by what shall it be regulated? Evidently, either by itself, or by something else. Well; either that too is Reason, or something else superior to Reason, which is impossible; and, if it be Reason, what again shall regulate that? For, if this Reason can regulate itself, so can the former; and, if we still require any further agent, the series will be infinite, and without end.

“But,” say you, “the essential thing is to prescribe for qualities of character.”

Would you hear about these, therefore? Well; hear. But then, if you say to me, that you cannot tell whether my arguments are true or false; and if I happen to express myself ambiguously, and you bid me make it clearer; I will then at once show you that this is the first essential. Therefore, I suppose, they first establish the art of reasoning; just as, before the measuring of corn, we settle the measure. For, unless we first determine the measure and the weight, how shall we be able to measure or weigh? Thus, in the present case; unless we have first learned, and fixed, that which is the criterion of other things, and by which other things are learned, how shall we be able accurately to learn anything else? How is it possible? Well; a bushel-measure is only wood, a thing of no value, but it measures corn. And logic is of no value in itself; — that we will consider hereafter, Edition: current; Page: [52] but grant it now; — it is enough that it distinguishes and examines, and, as one may say, measures and weighs all other things. Who says this? Is it only Chrysippus, and Zeno, and Cleanthes? Does not Antisthenes say it? And who is it then, who has written, that the beginning of a right education is the examination of words? Does not Socrates say it? Of whom, then, does Xenophon write, that he began by the examination of words, what each signified?

Is this, then, the great and admirable thing, to understand or interpret Chrysippus?

Who says that it is? But what, then, is the admirable thing?

To understand the will of nature.

Well then; do you conform to it yourself? In that case, what need have you for any one else? For, if it be true, that men err but unwillingly, and if you have learnt the truth, you must needs act rightly.

But, indeed, I do not conform to the will of nature.

Who, then, shall interpret that?

They say, Chrysippus. I go and inquire what this interpreter of nature says. Soon I cannot understand his meaning. I seek one to interpret that. I call on him to explain everything as clearly as if it were in Latin. Yet what right has this last interpreter to boast? Nor has Chrysippus himself, so long as he only interprets the will of nature, and does not follow it; and much less has his interpreter. For we have no need of Chrysippus, on his own account; but that, by his means, we may apprehend the will of nature; just as no one values a diviner on his own account, but that, by his assistance, men Edition: current; Page: [53] hope to understand future events and heavenly indications; nor the auguries, on their own account, but on account of what is signified by them; neither is it the raven, or the crow, that is admired, but the divine purposes displayed through their means. Thus I come to the diviner and interpreter of these higher things; and say, “Inspect the auguries for me: what is signified to me?” Having taken, and inspected them, he thus interprets them. You have a free will, O man! incapable of being restrained or compelled. This is written here in the auguries. I will show you this, first, in the faculty of assent. Can any one restrain you from assenting to truth? No one. Can any one compel you to admit a falsehood? No one. You see, then, that you have here a free will, incapable of being restrained, or compelled, or hindered. Well; is it otherwise with regard to pursuit and desire? What can displace one pursuit? Another pursuit. What, desire and aversion? Another desire and another aversion. “If you offer death as an alternative,” say you, you compel me. No; not the alternative does it, but your conviction that it is better to do such a thing than to die. Here, again, you see that it is your own conviction which compels you; that is, choice compels choice. For, if God had constituted that portion which he has separated from his own essence, and given to us, capable of being restrained or compelled, either by himself, or by any other, he would not have been God, nor have fitly cared for us.

These things, says the diviner, I find in the auguries. These things are announced to you. If you please, you are free. If you please, you will have no one to complain of, no one to accuse. All will be Edition: current; Page: [54] equally according to your own mind, and to the mind of God.

For the sake of this oracle, I go to this diviner and philosopher; admiring not alone him for his interpretation, but also the things which he interprets.


IF what the philosophers say be true, that all men’s actions proceed from one source; that, as they assent, from a persuasion that a thing is so, and dissent, from a persuasion that it is not, and suspend their judgment, from a persuasion that it is uncertain; so, likewise, they seek a thing, from a persuasion that it is for their advantage; — and it is impossible to esteem one thing advantageous, and yet desire another; to esteem one thing a duty, and yet pursue another; — why, after all, should we be angry at the multitude?

“They are thieves and robbers.”

What do you mean by thieves and robbers? They are in an error concerning good and evil. Ought you, then, to be angry, or rather to pity them? Do but show them their error, and you will see, that they will amend their faults; but, if they do not see the error, they will rise no higher than their convictions.

“What, then, ought not this thief and this adulterer to be destroyed?”

Nay, call him rather one who errs and is deceived in things of the greatest importance; blinded, not in Edition: current; Page: [55] the vision, that distinguishes white from black, but in the reason, that discerns good from evil? By stating your question thus, you would see how inhuman it is; and just as if you should say, “Ought not this blind, or that deaf man, to be destroyed?” For, if the greatest hurt be a deprivation of the most valuable things, and the most valuable thing to every one be rectitude of will; when any one is deprived of this, why, after all, are you angry? You ought not to be affected, O man! contrary to nature, by the evil deeds of another. Pity him rather. Yield not to hatred and anger; nor say, as many do, “What! shall these execrable and odious wretches dare to act thus?” Whence have you so suddenly learnt wisdom?

Why are we thus enraged? Because we make idols of those things which such people take from us. Make not an idol of your clothes, and you will not be enraged with the thief. Make not an idol of a woman’s beauty, and you will not be enraged with an adulterer. Know, that thief and adulterer cannot reach the things that are properly your own; but those only which belong to others, and are not within your power. If you can give up these things, and look upon them as not essential, with whom will you any longer be enraged? But while you idolize them, be angry with yourself, rather than with others. Consider the case: you have a fine suit of clothes; your neighbor has not. You have a casement; you want to air them. He knows not in what the good of man consists, but imagines it is in a fine suit of clothes; just as you imagine. Shall he not come and take them away? When you show a cake to greedy people, and are devouring it all yourself; Edition: current; Page: [56] would not you have them snatch it from you? Do not tempt them. Do not have a casement. Do not expose your clothes. I, too, the other day, had an iron lamp burning before my household deities. Hearing a noise at the window, I ran. I found my lamp was stolen. I considered, that he who took it away did nothing unaccountable. What then? I said, to-morrow you shall find an earthen one; for a man loses only what he has. — “I have lost my coat.” Ay; because you had a coat. “I have a pain in my head.” You certainly can have none in your horns. Why then are you out of humor? For loss and pain can be only of such things as are possessed.

But the tyrant will chain — what? A leg. He will take away — what? A head. What is there, then, that he can neither chain nor take away? The free will. Hence the advice of the ancients, — Know thyself.

“What then ought we to do?”

Practise yourself, for heaven’s sake, in little things; and thence proceed to greater. “I have a pain in my head.” Do not lament. “I have a pain in my ear.” Do not lament. I do not say you may never groan; but do not groan in spirit; or, if your servant be a long while in bringing you something to bind your head, do not croak and go into hysterics, and say, “Everybody hates me.” For, who would not hate such a one?

Relying for the future on these principles, walk erect and free; not trusting to bulk of body, like a wrestler; for one should not be unconquerable in the sense that an ass is.

Who then is unconquerable? He whom the inevitable Edition: current; Page: [57] cannot overcome. For such a person I imagine every trial, and watch him as an athlete in each. He has been victorious in the first encounter. What will he do in the second? What, if he should be exhausted by the heat? What, if the field be Olympia? And so in other trials. If you throw money in his way, he will despise it. Is he proof against the seductions of women? What if he be tested by fame, by calumny, by praise, by death? He is able to overcome them all. — If he can bear sunshine and storm, discouragement and fatigue, I pronounce him an athlete unconquered indeed.


WHEN a person is possessed of some personal advantage, either real or imaginary, he will necessarily be puffed up with it, unless he has been well instructed. A tyrant openly says, “I am supreme over all.” And what can you bestow on me? Can you exempt my desires from disappointment? How should you? For do you never incur what you shun? Are your own aims infallible? Whence came you by that privilege? Pray, on shipboard, do you trust to yourself, or to the pilot? In a chariot, to whom but the driver? And to whom in all other arts? Just the same. In what, then, does your power consist?

“All men pay regard to me.”

So do I to my desk. I wash it, and wipe it; and drive a nail for my oil-flask.

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“What, then, are these things to be valued beyond me?”

No; but they are of some use to me, and therefore I pay regard to them. Why, do I not pay regard to an ass? Do I not wash his feet? Do I not clean him? Do not you know, that every one pays such regard even to himself; and that he does it to you, just as he does to an ass? For who pays regard to you as a man? Show that. Who would wish to be like you? Who would desire to imitate you, as he would Socrates?

“But I can take off your head?”

You say rightly. I had forgot, that one is to pay regard to you as to a fever, or the cholera; and that there should be an altar erected to you, as there is to the goddess Fever at Rome.

What is it, then, that disturbs and terrifies the multitude? The tyrant and his guards? By no means. What is by nature free, cannot be disturbed or restrained by anything but itself. But its own convictions disturb it. Thus, when the tyrant says to any one, “I will chain your leg,” he who chiefly values his leg, cries out for pity; while he who chiefly values his own free will, says, “If you imagine it for your interest, chain it.”

“What! do not you care?”

No; I do not care.

“I will show you that I am master.”

You? How should you? Zeus has set me free. What! do you think he would suffer his own son to be enslaved? You are master of my carcass; take it.

“So that, when you come into my presence, you pay no regard to me?”

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No, but to myself; or, if you will have me recognize you also, I will do it as if you were a piece of furniture. This is not selfish vanity; for every animal is so constituted, as to do everything for itself. Even the sun does all for himself; and for that matter so does even Zeus himself. But when he would be styled the dispenser of rain and plenty, and the father of gods and men, you see that he cannot attain these offices and titles, unless he contributes to the common good. And he has universally so constituted the nature of every reasonable creature, that no one can attain its own good without contributing something for the good of all. And thus it becomes not selfish to do everything for one’s self. For, do you expect, that a man should desert himself, and his own concerns; when all beings have one and the same original instinct, self-preservation? What follows then? That where we recognize those absurd convictions, which treat things outward as if they were the true good or evil of life, there must necessarily be a regard paid to tyrants; and I wish it were to tyrants only, and not to the very officers of their bed-chamber too. For how wise doth a man grow on a sudden, when Cæsar has made him his flunkey? How immediately we say, “Felicio talked very sensibly to me!” I wish he were turned out of office, that he might once more appear to you the fool he is.

Epaphroditus owned a shoemaker; whom, because he was good for nothing, he sold. This very fellow being, by some strange luck, bought by a courtier, became shoemaker to Cæsar. Then you might have seen how Epaphroditus honored him. “How is good Felicio, pray?” And, if any of us asked, what the Edition: current; Page: [60] great man himself was about, it was answered, “He is consulting about affairs with Felicio.” Did not he sell him previously as good for nothing? Who then, has all on a sudden, made a wise man of him? This it is to reverence externals.

Is any one exalted to the office of tribune? All who meet him congratulate him. One kisses his eyes, another his neck, and the slaves his hands. He goes to his house; finds it illuminated. He ascends the capitol; offers a sacrifice. Now, who ever offered a sacrifice for having good desires? For conforming his aims to Nature? Yet we thank the gods for that wherein we place our good.

A person was talking with me to-day about applying for the priesthood in the temple of Augustus. I said to him, let the thing alone, friend; you will be at great expense for nothing. “But my name,” said he, “will be written in the annals.” Will you stand by, then, and tell those who read them, “I am the person whose name is written there?” And even if you could tell every one so now, what will you do when you are dead? — “My name will remain.” — Write it upon a stone, and it will remain just as well. And, pray, what remembrance will there be of you out of Nicopolis? — “But I shall wear a crown of gold.” — If your heart is quite set upon a crown, make and put on one of roses; for it will make the prettier appearance.

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EVERY art, and every faculty, contemplates certain things as its principal objects. Whenever, therefore, it is of the same nature with the objects of its contemplation, it necessarily contemplates itself too. But, where it is of a different nature, it cannot contemplate itself. The art of shoemaking, for instance, is exercised upon leather; but is itself entirely distinct from the materials it works upon; therefore it does not contemplate itself. Again, grammar is exercised on articulate speech. Is the art of grammar itself, then, articulate speech? By no means. Therefore it cannot contemplate itself. To what purpose, then, is reason appointed by nature? To a proper use of the phenomena of existence. And what is reason? The art of systematizing these phenomena. Thus, by its nature, it becomes contemplative of itself too.

Again; what subjects of contemplation belong to prudence? Good and evil, and that which is indifferent. What, then, is prudence itself? Good. What imprudence? Evil.

You see, then, that it necessarily contemplates both itself and its contrary. Therefore, the first and greatest work of a philosopher is, to try and distinguish the phenomena of existence; and to admit none untried. Even in money, where our interest seems to be concerned, you see what an art we have invented, and how many ways an assayer uses to try its value. By the sight, the touch, the smell, and, lastly, the Edition: current; Page: [62] hearing. He throws the piece down, and attends to the jingle; and is not contented with its jingling only once; but, by frequent attention to it, trains his ear for sound. So when we think it of consequence whether we are deceived or not, we use the utmost attention to discern those things, which may deceive us. But, yawning and slumbering over our poor neglected reason, we are imposed upon by every appearance, nor know the mischief done. Would you know, then, how very languidly you are affected by good and evil, and how vehemently by things indifferent; consider how you feel with regard to bodily blindness, and how with regard to being deceived; and you will find, that you are far from being moved, as you ought, in relation to good and evil.

“But trained powers, and much labor, and learning, are here needed.”

What, then? Do you expect the greatest of arts to be acquired by slight endeavors? And yet the principal doctrine of the philosophers is in itself short. If you have a mind to know it, read Zeno, and you will see. It is not a long story to say, “Our end is to serve the gods,” and “The essence of good consists in the proper use of the phenomena of existence.” If you say, what then is God? What are phenomena? What is particular, what universal nature? Here the long story comes in. And so, if Epicurus should come and say, that good lies in the body; here, too, it will be a long story, and it will be necessary to hear, what is the principal, and substantial, and essential part in us. It is unlikely, that the good of a snail should be placed in the shell; and, is it likely, that the good of a man should? You yourself, Epicurus, have in you something superior to this. Edition: current; Page: [63] What is that in you, which deliberates, which examines, which recognizes the body as the principal part? Why light your lamp, and labor for us, and write so many books? That we may not be ignorant of the truth? But what are we? What are we to you? Thus the doctrine becomes a long story.


WHEN one maintains his proper attitude in life, he does not long after externals. What would you have, O man?

“I am contented, if my desires and aversions are conformable to nature; if I seek and shun that which I ought, and thus regulate my purposes, my efforts, and my opinions.”

Why, then, do you walk as if you had swallowed a ramrod?

“Because I could wish moreover to have all who meet me, admire me, and all who follow me, cry out, what a great philosopher!”

Who are those, by whom you would be admired? Are they not the very people, who, you used to say, were mad? What, then, would you be admired by madmen?

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THE same general principles are common to all men, nor does one such principle contradict another. For which of us does not admit, that good is advantageous and eligible, and in all cases to be pursued and followed? Who does not admit that justice is fair and becoming? Where, then, arises the dispute? In adapting these principles to particular cases. As, when one cries, “Such a person has acted well; he is a gallant man”; and another, “No; he has acted like a fool.” Hence arises dispute among men. This is the dispute between Jews, and Syrians, and Egyptians, and Romans; not whether the right be preferable to all things, and in every instance to be sought; but whether the eating swine’s flesh be consistent with right, or not. This, too, you will find to have been the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon. For call them forth. What say you, Agamemnon. Ought not that to be done, which is fit and right? — “Yes, surely.” — Achilles, what say you? Is it not agreeable to you, that what is right should be done? — “Yes; I desire it beyond everything.” Apply your principles then. Here begins the dispute. One says, “It is not fit that I should restore Chryseis to her father.” The other says, “Yes; but it is.” One or the other of them, certainly, makes a wrong conception of the principle of fitness. Again, the one says: “If it be fit that I should give up Chryseis, it is fit, too, that I should take some of your prizes.” The other answers, Edition: current; Page: [65] “What, that you should take my mistress?” — “Ay; yours.” — “What, mine only? Must I only, then, lose my prize?”

What then is it to be properly educated? To learn how to apply the principles of natural right to particular cases, and, for the rest, to distinguish that some things are in our power, while others are not. In our own power are the will, and all voluntary actions; out of our power, the body and its parts, property, parents, brothers, children, country; and, in short, all our fellow-beings. Where, then, shall we place good? In what shall we define it to consist? In things within our own power. “But are not health, and strength, and life, good? And are not children, parents, country? You talk unreasonably.”

Let us, then, try another point of view. Can he who suffers evil, and is disappointed of good, be happy? He cannot. And can he preserve a right behavior with regard to society? How is it possible that he should? For I am naturally led to seek my own highest good. If, therefore, it is my highest good to have an estate, it is for my good likewise to take it away from my neighbor. If it is my highest good to have a suit of clothes, it is for my good likewise to steal it wherever I find it. Hence wars, seditions, tyranny, unjust invasions. How shall I, if this be the case, be able, any longer, to do my duty towards Zeus? If I suffer evil, and am disappointed, he takes no care of me. And, what is he to me, if he cannot help me; or, again, what is he to me, if he chooses I should be in the condition that I am? Then I begin to hate him. What, then, do we build temples, do we raise statues, to Zeus, as to evil demons, as to the goddess Fever? How then is he the Edition: current; Page: [66] preserver; and how the dispenser of rain and plenty? If we place the essence of good on any such ground, all this will follow. What, then, shall we do?

This is the inquiry which interests him who philosophizes in earnest, and to some result. Do I not now see what is good, and what is evil, or am I mad? Suppose I place good only in things dependent on my own will? Why, every one will laugh at me. Some gray-headed old fellow will come, with his fingers covered with gold rings, and will shake his head, and say; “Hark ye, child, it is fit you should learn philosophy; but it is fit, too, you should have common-sense. All this is nonsense. You learn syllogisms from philosophers; but how you are to act, you know better than they.” Then, what displeases you if I do know? What can I say to this unfortunate? If I make no answer, he will burst; so I must answer thus: “Bear with me, as with lovers. Granted; I am not myself. I have lost my senses.”


EVEN Epicurus is sensible that we are by nature sociable beings; but having once placed our good in the mere outward shell, he can say nothing afterwards inconsistent with that. For again, he strenuously maintains, that we ought not to admire, or accept, anything separated from the nature of good. And he is in the right to maintain it. But how, then, arise any affectionate anxieties, unless there be such a thing as natural affection towards our Edition: current; Page: [67] offspring? Then why do you, Epicurus, dissuade a wise man from bringing up children? Why are you afraid, that, upon their account, he may fall into anxieties? Does he fall into any for a mouse, that feeds within his house? What is it to him, if a little mouse bewails itself there? But Epicurus knew, that, if once a child is born, it is no longer in our power not to love and be solicitous for it. On the same grounds he says, that a wise man will not engage himself in public business, knowing very well what must follow. If men are only so many flies, why should he not engage in it?

And does he, who knows all this, dare to forbid us to bring up children? Not even a sheep, or a wolf, deserts its offspring; and shall man? What would you have? That we should be as silly as sheep? Yet even these do not desert their offspring. Or as savage as wolves? Neither do these desert them. Pray, who would mind you, if he saw his child fallen upon the ground and crying? For my part, I am of opinion, that your father and mother, even if they could have foreseen that you would have been the author of such doctrines, would not have thrown you away.


DIFFICULTIES are things that show what men are. For the future, in case of any difficulty, remember, that God, like a gymnastic trainer, has pitted you against a rough antagonist. For what end? That you may be an Olympic conqueror; and Edition: current; Page: [68] this cannot be without toil. No man, in my opinion, has a more profitable difficulty on his hands than you have; provided you will but use it, as an athletic champion uses his antagonist.

Suppose we were to send you as a scout to Rome. But no one ever sends a timorous scout, who, when he only hears a noise, or sees a shadow, runs back frightened, and says, “The enemy is at hand.” So now, if you should come and tell us: “Things are in a fearful way at Rome; death is terrible, banishment terrible, calumny terrible, poverty terrible; run, good people, the enemy is at hand”; — we will answer: Get you gone, and prophesy for yourself; our only fault is, that we have sent such a scout. Diogenes was sent a scout before you, but he told us other tidings. He says that death is no evil, for it is nothing base; that calumny is only the noise of madmen. And what account did this spy give us of pain, of pleasure, of poverty? He says, that to be naked is better than a purple robe; to sleep upon the bare ground, the softest bed; and gives a proof of all he says by his own courage, tranquillity, and freedom; and, moreover, by a healthy and robust body. “There is no enemy near,” he says. “All is profound peace.” How so, Diogenes? “Look upon me,” he says. “Am I hurt? Am I wounded? Have I run away from any one?” This is a scout worth having. But you come, and tell us one thing after another. Go back and look more carefully, and without fear.

“What shall I do, then?”

What do you do when you come out of a ship? Do you take away with you the rudder, or the oars? What do you take, then? Your own, your bundle and your flask. So, in the present case, if you will Edition: current; Page: [69] but remember what is your own, you will not covet what belongs to others. If some tyrant bids you put off your consular robe? “Well, I am in my equestrian robe.” Put off that too. “I have only my coat.” Put off that too. “Well, I am naked.” I am not yet satisfied. “Then e’en take my whole body. If I can throw off a paltry body, am I any longer afraid of a tyrant?”

“But such a one will not leave me his heir.” What, then, have I forgotten, that such things are never really mine? How then do we call them ours? As with a bed, in an inn. If the landlord, when he dies, leaves you the bed, well and good; but if to another, it will be his, and you will seek one elsewhere; and, consequently, if you do not find one, you will sleep upon the ground; only sleep fearlessly and profoundly, and remember, that tragedies find their theme among the rich, and kings, and tyrants. No poor man fills any other place in one, than as part of the chorus; whereas kings begin, indeed, with prosperity: “Crown the palace”; — but continue about the third and fourth act: “Alas, Citheron! Why didst thou receive me!”* Where are thy crowns, wretch; where is thy diadem? Cannot thy guards help thee?

Whenever you are brought into any such society, think then that you meet a tragic actor, or rather, not an actor, but Œdipus himself. “But such a one is happy. He walks with a numerous train.” Well; I too walk with a numerous train.

But remember the principal thing; that the door is open. Do not be more fearful than children; but as they, when the play does not please them, say, “I Edition: current; Page: [70] will play no longer”; so do you, in the same case, say, “I will play no longer”; and go; but, if you stay, do not complain.


IF these things are true; and if we are not stupid, or insincere, when we say, that the good or ill of man lies within his own will, and that all beside is nothing to us; why are we still troubled? Why do we still fear? What truly concerns us is in no one’s power: what is in the power of others concerns not us. What embarrassment have we left?

“But you must direct me.”

Why should I direct you? Has not Zeus directed you? Has he not given you what is your own, incapable of restraint or hindrance; and what is not your own, liable to both? What directions, then, what orders, have you brought from him? “By all means guard what is your own: what belongs to others do not covet. Honesty is your own: a sense of virtuous shame is your own. Who, then, can deprive you of these? Who can restrain you from making use of them, but yourself? And how do you do it? When you make that your concern which is not truly your own, you lose that which is.” Having such precepts and directions from Zeus, what sort do you still want from me? Am I better than He, or more worthy of credit? If you observe these precepts, what others do you need? Are not these His? Apply the recognized principles; apply the demonstrations Edition: current; Page: [71] of philosophers; apply what you have often heard, and what you have said yourself; what you have read, and what you have carefully studied.

How long is it right to devote one’s self to these things and not break up the game?

As long as it goes on well. A king is chosen at the Saturnalian Festival, supposing that it was agreed to play at that game: he orders: “Do you drink; you mix the wine; you sing; you go; you come.” I obey; that the game may not be broken up by my fault.

[Then he orders] “I bid you think yourself to be unhappy.” I do not think so; and who shall compel me to think so?

Again; suppose we agreed to play Agamemnon and Achilles. He who is appointed for Agamemnon says to me, “Go to Achilles, and force away Briseis.” I go. “Come.” I come. We should deal with life as with these imaginary orders.

“Suppose it to be night.” Well; suppose it. “Is it day then?” No: for I admitted the hypothesis, that it was night. “Suppose that you think it to be night.” Well; suppose it. “But you must really think that it is night.” That by no means follows from the hypothesis. Thus it is in the case illustrated. Suppose you have ill luck. Suppose it. “Are you then unlucky?” Yes. “Are you thoroughly unfortunate?” Yes. “Well; but you must really regard yourself as miserable.” But this is no part of the assumption, and there is a power who forbids me to admit that.

How far then are we to carry such analogies? As far as is useful; that is, till we go farther than is reasonable and fit.

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Moreover, some are peevish and fastidious, and say, I cannot dine with such a fellow, to be obliged to hear him all day recounting how he fought in Mysia. “I told you, my friend, how I gained the eminence.” There I begin to suffer another siege. But another says, “I had rather get a dinner, and hear him prate as much as he pleases.”

Do you decide between these opinions; but do not let it be with depression and anxiety, and the assumption that you are miserable; for no one compels you to that. Is there smoke in my house? If it be moderate, I will stay; if very great, I will go out. For you must always remember, and hold to this, that the door is open. “You are forbidden to live at Nicopolis.” I will not live there. “Nor at Athens.” Well, nor at Athens. “Nor at Rome.” Nor at Rome. “But you shall live at Gyaros.”* I will live there. But suppose that living at Gyaros seems to me like living in a great smoke. I can then retire where no one can forbid me to live, for it is an abode open to all; and put off my last garment, this poor body of mine; beyond this, no one has any power over me.

Thus Demetrius said to Nero: “You sentence me to death; and Nature you.” If I prize my body first, I have surrendered myself as a slave; if my estate, the same; for I at once betray where I am vulnerable. Just as when a reptile pulls in his head, I bid you strike that part of him which he guards; and be you assured, that wherever you show a desire to guard yourself, there your master will attack you. Edition: current; Page: [73] Remember but this, and whom will you any longer flatter or fear?

“But I want to sit where the senators do.”

Do not you see, that by this you incommode and torment yourself?

“Why, how else shall I see the show in the Amphitheatre advantageously?”

Do not insist on seeing it, O man! and you will not be incommoded. Why do you vex yourself? Or wait a little while; and when the show is over, go sit in the senators’ places, and sun yourself. For remember, that this holds universally; we incommode and torment ourselves; that is, our own preconceived notions do it for us. What is it to be reviled, for instance? Stand by a stone, and revile it; and what will you get by it? If you, therefore, would listen only as a stone, what would your reviler gain? But, if the reviler has the weakness of the reviled for a vantage-ground, then he carries his point.

“Strip him,” [bids the tyrant]. What mean you by him? Take my clothes, strip them, at your pleasure. “I meant only to insult you.” Much good may it do you.

These things were the study of Socrates; and, by these means, he always preserved the same countenance. Yet we had rather exercise and study anything, than how to become unrestrained and free. “But the philosophers talk paradoxes.” And are there not paradoxes in other arts? What is more paradoxical, than to prick any one’s eye, that he may see? Should one tell this to one ignorant of surgery, would not he laugh at him? What wonder then, if, in philosophy also, many truths appear paradoxes to the ignorant?

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AS some one was reading hypothetical propositions, Epictetus remarked that it was a rule in these to admit whatever was in accordance with the hypothesis; but much more a rule in life, to do what was in accordance with nature. For, if we desire in every matter and on every occasion to conform to nature; we must, on every occasion, evidently make it our aim, neither to omit anything thus conformable, nor to admit anything inconsistent. Philosophers, therefore, first exercise us in theory, which is the more easy task, and then lead us to the more difficult; for in theory, there is nothing to hinder our following what we are taught, but in life there are many things to draw us aside. It is ridiculous then to say, we must begin with these applications, for it is not easy to begin with the most difficult; and this excuse children should make to those parents who dislike that they should study philosophy. “Am I to blame then, sir, and ignorant of my duty, and of what is incumbent on me? If this is neither to be learned, nor taught, why do you find fault with me? If it is to be taught, pray teach me yourself; or, if you cannot, let me learn it from those who profess to understand it. For what think you; that I voluntarily fall into evil, and miss good? Heaven forbid! What, then, is the cause of my faults? Ignorance. Are you not willing, then, that I should get rid of my ignorance? Who was ever taught the art of music, or navigation, by anger? Do you expect, Edition: current; Page: [75] then, that your anger should teach me the art of living?”

This, however, can properly be said only by one who is really in earnest. But he who reads these things, and applies to the philosophers, merely for the sake of showing, at some entertainment, that he understands hypothetical reasonings; what aim has he but to be admired by some senator, who happens to sit near him?* Great possessions may be won by such aims as that, but what we hold as wealth passes there for folly. It is hard, therefore, to overcome by appearances, where vain things thus pass for great.

I once saw a person weeping and embracing the knees of Epaphroditus; and deploring his hard fortune, that he had not more than 150,000 drachmæ left. What said Epaphroditus then? Did he laugh at him, as we should do? No; but cried out with astonishment: “Poor man! How could you be silent under it? How could you bear it?”

The first step, therefore, towards becoming a philosopher, is to be sensible in what state the ruling faculty of the mind is; for on knowing it to be weak, no person will immediately employ it in great attempts. But, for want of this, some, who can scarce digest a crumb, will yet buy and swallow whole treatises; and so they throw them up again, or cannot digest them; and then come colics, fluxes, and fevers. Such persons ought to consider what they can bear. Indeed, it is easy to convince an ignorant person, so far as concerns theory; but in matters relating to Edition: current; Page: [76] life, no one offers himself to conviction, and we hate those who have convinced us. Socrates used to say, that we ought not to live a life unexamined.*


APPEARANCES to the mind are of four kinds. Things either are what they appear to be; or they neither are, nor appear to be; or they are, and do not appear to be; or they are not, and yet appear to be. Rightly to aim, in all these cases, is the wise man’s task. Whatever unduly constrains us, to that a remedy must be applied. If the sophistries of Pyrrhonism, or the Academy, constrain us, the remedy must be applied there; if specious appearances, by which things seem to be good which are not so, let us seek for a remedy there. If it be custom which constrains us, we must endeavor to find a remedy against that.

“What remedy is to be found against custom?”

Establish a contrary custom. You hear the vulgar say, “Such a one, poor soul! is dead.” Well, his father died: his mother died. “Ay, but he was cut off in the flower of his age, and in a foreign land.” Observe these contrary ways of speaking; and abandon such expressions. Oppose to one custom, a contrary custom; to sophistry, the art of reasoning, and the frequent use and exercise of it. Edition: current; Page: [77] Against specious appearances we must set clear convictions, bright and ready for use. When death appears as an evil, we ought immediately to remember, that evils are things to be avoided, but death is inevitable. For what can I do, or where can I fly from it? Let me suppose myself to be Sarpedon, the son of Jove, that I may speak as nobly. “I go either to excel, or to give another the occasion to excel.”* If I can achieve nothing myself, I will not grudge another his achievement.

But suppose this to be a strain too high for us; do not these following thoughts befit us? Whither shall I fly from death? Show me the place, show me the people, to whom I may have recourse, whom death does not overtake. Show me the charm to avoid it. If there be none, what would you have me do? I cannot escape death; but cannot I escape the dread of it? Must I die trembling, and lamenting? For the very origin of the disease lies in wishing for something that is not obtained. Under the influence of this, if I can make outward things conform to my own inclination, I do it; if not, I feel inclined to tear out the eyes of whoever hinders me. For it is the nature of man not to endure the being deprived of good; not to endure the falling into evil. And so, at last, when I can neither control events, nor tear out the eyes of him who hinders me, I sit down, and groan, and revile him whom I can; Zeus, and the rest of the gods. For what are they to me, if they take no care of me?

“Oh! but then you will be impious.”

What then? Can I be in a worse condition than I am now? In general, remember this, that unless we Edition: current; Page: [78] place our religion and our treasure in the same thing, religion will always be sacrificed.

Have these things no weight? Let a Pyrrhonist, or an Academic, come and oppose them. For my part, I have neither leisure nor ability to stand up as an advocate for common sense. Even if the business were concerning an estate, I should call in another advocate. To what advocate, then, shall I now appeal? I will leave it to any one who may be upon the spot. Thus I may not be able to explain how sensation takes place, whether it be diffused universally, or reside in a particular part; for I find perplexities in either case; but that you and I are not the same person, I very exactly know.

“How so?”

Why, I never, when I have a mind to swallow anything, carry it to your mouth; but my own. I never, when I wanted bread, seized a broom instead, but went directly to the bread as I needed it. You who deny all evidence of the senses, do you act otherwise? Which of you, when he wished to go into a bath, ever went into a mill?

“Why then, must not we, to the utmost, defend these points? stand by common sense; be fortified against everything that opposes it?”*

Who denies that? But it must be done by him who has ability and leisure to spare; but he, who is Edition: current; Page: [79] full of trembling and perturbation, and inward disorders of heart, must first employ his time about something else.


WHAT is the cause of assent to anything? Its appearing to be true. It is not possible, therefore, to assent to what appears to be not true. Why? Because it is the very nature of the understanding to agree to truth, to be dissatisfied with falsehood, and to suspend its belief, in doubtful cases.

What is the proof of this?

Persuade yourself, if you can, that it is now night. Impossible. Dissuade yourself from the belief that it is day. Impossible. Persuade yourself that the number of the stars is even or odd. Impossible.

When any one, then, assents to what is false, be assured that he doth not wilfully assent to it, as false; for, as Plato affirms, the soul is unwillingly deprived of truth;* but what is false appears to him to be true. Well, then; have we, in actions, anything correspondent to this distinction between true and false?

Right and wrong; advantageous and disadvantageous; desirable and undesirable; and the like.

A person then, cannot think a thing truly advantageous to him, and not choose it?

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He cannot. But how says Medea?

  • “I know what evils wait upon my purpose;
  • But wrath is stronger than this will of mine.”*

Was it that she thought the very indulgence of her rage, and the punishing her husband, more advantageous than the preservation of her children? Yes; but she is deceived. Show clearly to her that she is deceived, and she will forbear; but, till you have shown it, what has she to follow, but what appears to herself? Nothing.

Why, then, are you angry with her, that the unhappy woman is deceived in the most important points, and instead of a human creature, becomes a viper? Why do not you rather, as we pity the blind and lame, so likewise pity those who are blinded and lamed in their superior faculties? Whoever, therefore, duly remembers, that the appearance of things to the mind is the standard of every action to man; that this is either right or wrong, and, if right, he is without fault, if wrong, he himself suffers punishment; for that one man cannot be the person deceived, and another the only sufferer; — such a person will not be outrageous and angry at any one; will not revile, or reproach, or hate, or quarrel with any one.

“So then, have all the great and dreadful deeds, that have been done in the world, no other origin than [true or false] appearances?”

Absolutely, no other. The Iliad consists of nothing but such appearances and their results. It seemed to Paris that he should carry off the wife of Menelaus. It seemed to Helen, that she should follow Edition: current; Page: [81] him. If, then, it had seemed to Menelaus, that it was an advantage to be robbed of such a wife, what could have happened? Not only the Iliad had been lost, but the Odyssey too.

“Do such great events, then, depend on so small a cause?”

What events, then, call you great?

“Wars and seditions; the destruction of numbers of men, and the overthrow of cities.”

And what in all this is great? Nothing. What is great in the death of numbers of oxen, numbers of sheep, or in the burning or pulling down numbers of nests of storks or swallows?

“Are these things then similar?”

They are. The bodies of men are destroyed, and the bodies of sheep and oxen. The houses of men are burnt, and the nests of storks. What is there so great or fearful in all this? Pray, show me what difference there is between the house of a man and the nest of a stork, considered as a habitation, except that houses are built with beams, and tiles, and bricks; and nests with sticks and clay?

“What, then, are a stork and a man similar? What do you mean?”

Similar in body.

“Is there no difference, then, between a man and a stork?”

Yes, surely; but not in these things.

“In what then?”

Inquire; and you will find, that the difference lies in something else. See whether it be not in rationality of action, in social instincts, fidelity, honor, providence, judgment.

“Where then is the real good or evil of man?”

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Just where this difference lies. If this distinguishing trait is preserved, and remains well fortified, and neither honor, fidelity, nor judgment is destroyed, then he himself is likewise saved; but when any one of these is lost or demolished, he himself is lost also. In this do all great events consist. Paris, they say, was undone, because the Greeks invaded Troy, and laid it waste, and his family were slain in battle. By no means; for no one is undone by an action not his own. All that was only like laying waste the nests of storks. But his true undoing was, when he lost modesty, faith, honor, virtue. When was Achilles undone? When Patroclus died? By no means. But when he gave himself up to rage; when he wept over a girl; when he forgot, that he came there, not to win mistresses, but to fight. This is human undoing; this is the siege; this the overthrow; when right principles are ruined and destroyed.

“But when wives and children are led away captives, and the men themselves killed, are not these evils?”

Whence do you conclude them such? Pray inform me, in my turn.

“Nay; but whence do you affirm that they are not evils?”

Recur to the rules. Apply your principles. One cannot sufficiently wonder at what happens among men. When we would judge of light and heavy, we do not judge by guess; nor when we judge of straight and crooked; and, in general, when it concerns us to know the truth on any special point, no one of us will do anything by guess. But where the first and principal source of right or wrong action is concerned, of being prosperous or unprosperous, Edition: current; Page: [83] happy or unhappy; there only do we act rashly, and by guess. Nowhere anything like a balance; nowhere anything like a rule; but something seems thus or so to me, and I at once act accordingly. For am I better than Agamemnon or Achilles; that they, by following what seemed best to them, should do and suffer so many things, and yet that seeming should not suffice me? And what tragedy hath any other origin? The Atreus of Euripides, what is it? Seeming. The Œdipus of Sophocles? Seeming. The Phœnix? The Hippolytus? All seeming. Who then, think you, can escape this influence? What are they called who follow every seeming? Madmen. Yet do we, then, behave otherwise?


THE essence of good and evil is a certain disposition of the will.

What are things outward then?

Materials on which the will may act, in attaining its own good or evil.

How, then, will it attain good?

If it be not dazzled by its own materials; for right principles concerning these materials keep the will in a good state; but perverse and distorted principles, in a bad one. This law hath God ordained, who says, “If you wish for good, receive it from yourself.” You say, No; but from another. “Nay; but from yourself.”

Accordingly, when a tyrant threatens, and sends for Edition: current; Page: [84] me, I say, Against what is your threatening pointed? If he says, “I will chain you”; I answer, It is my hands and feet that you threaten. If he says, “I will cut off your head”; I answer, It is my head that you threaten. If he says, “I will throw you into prison”; I answer, It is the whole of this paltry body that you threaten; and, if he threatens banishment, just the same.

“Does not he threaten you, then?”

If I am persuaded, that these things are nothing to me, he does not; but, if I fear any of them, it is me that he threatens. Who is it, after all, that I fear? The master of what? Of things in my own power? Of these no one is the master. Of things not in my power? And what are these to me?

“What, then! do you philosophers teach us a contempt of kings?”

By no means. Which of us teaches any one to contend with them, about things of which they have the command? Take my body; take my possessions; take my reputation; take away even my friends. If I persuade any one to claim these things as his own, you may justly accuse me. “Ay; but I would command your principles too.” And who hath given you that power? How can you conquer the principle of another? “By applying terror, I will conquer it.” Do not you see, that what conquers itself, is not conquered by another? And nothing but itself can conquer the will. Hence, too, the most excellent and equitable law of God; that the better should always prevail over the worse. Ten are better than one.

“For what purpose?”

For chaining, killing, dragging where they please; for taking away an estate. Thus ten conquer one, in the cases wherein they are better.

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“In what, then, are they worse?”

When the one has right principles, and the others have not. For can they conquer in this case? How should they? If we were weighed in a scale, must not the heavier outweigh?

“How then came Socrates to suffer such things from the Athenians?”

O foolish man! what mean you by Socrates? Express the fact as it is. Are you surprised that the mere body of Socrates should be carried away, and dragged to prison, by such as were stronger; that it should be poisoned by hemlock and die? Do these things appear wonderful to you? These things unjust? Is it for such things as these that you accuse God? Had Socrates, then, no compensation for them? In what, then, to him, did the essence of good consist? Whom shall we regard; you, or him? And what says he? “Anytus and Melitus may indeed kill; but hurt me they cannot.” And again: “If it so pleases God, so let it be.”

But show me, that he who has the worse principles can get the advantage over him who has the better. You never will show it, nor anything like it; for the Law of Nature and of God is this, — let the better always prevail over the worse.

“In what?”

In that wherein it is better. One body may be stronger than another; many, than one; and a thief, than one who is not a thief. Thus I, for instance, lost my lamp; because the thief was better at keeping awake than I. But for that lamp he paid the price of becoming a thief; for that lamp he lost his virtue and became like a wild beast. This seemed to him a good bargain; and so let it be!

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But some one takes me by the collar, and drags me to the forum; and then all the rest cry out, “Philosopher, what good do your principles do you? See, you are being dragged to prison; see, you are going to lose your head!” And, pray, what rule of philosophy could I contrive, that, when a stronger than myself lays hold on my collar, I should not be dragged? Or that, when ten men pull me at once, and throw me into prison, I should not be thrown there? But have I learned nothing, then? I have learned to know, whatever happens, that, if it concerns not my will, it is nothing to me. Have my principles, then, done me no good? What, then! do I seek for anything else to do me good, but what I have learned? Afterwards, as I sit in prison, I say, He who has made all this disturbance neither recognizes any guidance, nor heeds any teaching, nor is it any concern to him, to know what philosophers say, or do. Let him alone.

“Come forth again from prison.” If you have no further need for me in prison, I will come out; if you want me again, I will return. “For how long?” Just so long as reason requires I should continue in this body; when that is over, take it, and fare ye well. Only let us not act inconsiderately, nor from cowardice, nor on slight grounds, since that would be contrary to the will of God; for he hath need of such a world, and such beings to live on earth. But, if he sounds a retreat, as he did to Socrates, we are to obey him when he sounds it, as our General.

“Well; but can these things be explained to the multitude?”

To what purpose? Is it not sufficient to be convinced one’s self? When children come to us clapping Edition: current; Page: [87] their hands, and saying, “To-morrow is the good feast of Saturn”; do we tell them that good doth not consist in such things? By no means; but we clap our hands also. Thus, when you are unable to convince any one, consider him as a child, and clap your hands with him; or, if you will not do that, at least hold your tongue. These things we ought to remember; and, when we are called to any trial, to know, that an opportunity is come of showing whether we have been well taught. For he who goes from a philosophical lecture to a difficult point of practice, is like a young man who has been studying to solve syllogisms. If you propose an easy one, he says, “Give me rather a fine intricate one, that I may try my strength.” Thus athletic champions are displeased with a slight antagonist. “He cannot lift me,” says one. Is this a youth of spirit? No; for when the occasion calls upon him, he may begin crying, and say, “I wanted to learn a little longer first.” Learn what? If you did not learn these things to show them in practice, why did you learn them?

I trust there must be some one among you, sitting here, who feels secret pangs of impatience, and says: “When will such a trial come to my share, as hath now fallen to his? Must I sit wasting my life in a corner, when I might be crowned at Olympia? When will any one bring the news of such a combat, for me?” Such should be the disposition of you all. Even among the gladiators of Cæsar, there are some who bear it very ill, that they are not brought upon the stage, and matched; and who offer vows to God, and address the officers, begging to fight. And will none among you appear such? I would willingly take a voyage on purpose to see how a champion of mine acts; how he meets his occasion.

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This is not the contest I would choose, say you. Is it in your power, then, to make the selection? Such a body is given you, such parents, such brothers, such a country, and such a rank in it; and then you come to me, to change the conditions! Have you not abilities to manage that which is given you? You should say to me, “It is your business to propose; mine, to treat the subject well.” No; but you say, “Do not meet me with such a perplexity, but such a one; do not offer such an obstacle to me, but such a one.” There will be a time, I suppose, when tragedians will fancy themselves to be mere masks, and buskins, and long train. These things are your materials, man, and your stage-properties. Speak something; that we may know whether you are a tragedian, or a buffoon; for both have all the rest in common. Suppose any one should take away his buskins and his mask, and bring him upon the stage, in his common dress, is the tragedian lost, or does he remain? If he has a voice, he remains. “Here, this instant, take upon you the command.” I take it; and, taking it, I show how a skilful man performs the part. “Now lay aside your robe; put on rags, and come upon the stage in that character.” What then? Is it not in my power to express the character by a suitable voice?

“In what character do you now appear?” As a witness summoned by God. “Come you, then, and bear witness for me; for you are a fit witness to be produced by me. Is anything which is inevitable, to be classed as either good or evil? Do I hurt any one? Have I made the good of each individual to rest on any one, but himself? What evidence do you give for God?”

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“I am in a miserable condition, O Lord; I am undone: no mortal cares for me; no mortal gives me anything; all blame me; all speak ill of me.”

Is this the evidence you are to give? And will you bring disgrace upon his summons, who hath conferred such an honor upon you, and thought you worthy of being produced as a witness in such a cause?

But some one in authority has given a sentence. “I judge you to be impious and profane.” What has befallen you? — I have been judged to be impious and profane. — Anything else? — Nothing. — Suppose he had passed his judgment upon any process of reasoning, and pronounced it to be a false conclusion, that, if it be day, it is light; what would have befallen the proposition? In this case, who is judged, who condemned; the proposition, or he who cannot understand it? Does he know, who claims the power of ruling in your case, what pious or impious means? Has he made it his study or learned it? Where? From whom? A musician would not regard him, if he pronounced bass to be treble; nor a mathematician, if he passed sentence, that lines drawn from the centre to the circumference, are not equal. And shall he, who is instructed in the truth, respect an ignorant man, when he pronounces upon pious and impious, just and unjust?

“O the persecutions to which the wise are exposed!” Is it here that you have learned this talk? Why do not you leave such pitiful discourse to idle, pitiful fellows; and let them sit in a corner, and receive some little mean pay; or grumble, that nobody gives them anything? But do you come, and make some use of what you have learned. It is not Edition: current; Page: [90] reasonings that are wanted now, for there are books stuffed full of stoical reasonings.

“What is wanted, then?”

The man who shall apply them; whose actions may bear testimony to his doctrines. Assume this character for me, that we may no longer make use in the schools of the examples of the ancients, but may have some examples of our own.

“To whom, then, does the contemplation of these abstractions belong?”

To any one who has leisure for them. For man is a being fond of contemplation. But it is shameful to take only such view of things as truant slaves take of a play. We ought to sit calmly, and listen, whether to the actor, or to the musician; and not do like those poor fellows, who come in and admire the actor, constantly glancing about them, and then, if any one happens to name their master, run frightened away. It is shameful for a philosopher, thus to contemplate the works of nature. What, in this parallel case, stands for the master? Man is not the master of man; but death, and life, and pleasure, and pain; for without these, bring even Cæsar to me, and you will see how intrepid I shall be. But, if he comes thundering and lightening with these, and these are the objects of my terror; what do I else, but, like the truant slave, acknowledge my master? While I have any respite from these, as the truant comes into the theatre, so I bathe, drink, sing; but all with terror and anxiety. But, if I free myself from my masters, that is, from such things as render a master terrible, what trouble, what master have I remaining?

“Shall we then insist upon these things with all men?”

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No. But make allowance for the ignorant, and say, This poor man advises me to what he thinks good for himself. I excuse him; for Socrates, too, excused the jailer, who wept when he was to drink the poison; and said, “How heartily he sheds tears for us.” Was it to him that Socrates said, “For this reason we sent the women out of the way”? No; but to his friends; to such as were capable of hearing it; while he humored the other, as a child.


WHEN you are going before any of the great, remember, that there is another, who sees from above, what passes, and whom you ought to please, rather than man. He, therefore, asks you:

“In the schools, what did you use to call exile, and prison, and chains, and death, and calumny?”

I? Indifferent things.

“What, then, do you call them now? Are they at all changed?”


“Are you changed, then?”


“Tell me, then, what things are indifferent.”

Things not dependent on our own will.

“What is the inference?”

Things not dependent on my own will are nothing to me.

“Tell me, likewise, what appeared to be the good of man.”

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Rectitude of will, and to understand the appearances of things.

“What his end?”

To follow Thee.

“Do you say the same things now, too?”

Yes. I do say the same things, even now.

Well, go in then boldly, and mindful of these things; and you will show the difference between the instructed and the ignorant. I protest, I think you will then have such thoughts as these: “Why do we provide so many and great resources for nothing? Is the power, the antechamber, the attendants, the guards, no more than this? Is it for these, that I have listened to so many dissertations? These are nothing; and yet I had qualified myself as for some great encounter.”

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THERE is an assertion of the philosophers which may perhaps appear a paradox to many; yet let us fairly examine whether it be true: — that it is possible in all things, to act at once with caution and courage. For caution seems, in some measure, contrary to courage; and contraries are by no means consistent. The appearance of a paradox in the present case seems to me to arise as follows. If indeed we assert, that courage and caution are to be used in the same instances, we might justly be accused of uniting contradictions; but, in the way that we affirm it, where is the absurdity? For, if what has been so often said, and so often demonstrated, be certain, that the essence of good and evil consists in the use of things as they appear, and that things inevitable are not to be classed either as good or evil, what paradox do the philosophers assert, if they say, “Where events are inevitable, meet them with courage, but otherwise, with caution”? For in these last cases only, if evil lies in a perverted will, is caution to be used. And if things inevitable and uncontrollable are nothing to us, in these we are to make use of courage. Thus we shall be at once cautious and courageous; and, indeed, courageous on account of this very caution; for by using caution, with regard Edition: current; Page: [94] to things really evil, we shall gain courage, with regard to what are not so.

But we are in the same condition with deer; when these in a fright fly from the plumes [which hunters wave], whither do they turn, and to what do they retire for safety? To the nets. And thus they are undone, by inverting the objects of fear and confidence. Thus we, too. When do we yield to fear? About things inevitable. When, on the other hand, do we behave with courage, as if there were nothing to be dreaded? About things that might be controlled by will. To be deceived then, or to act rashly or imprudently, or to indulge a scandalous desire, we treat as of no importance, in our effort to bring about things which we cannot, after all, control. But where death, or exile, or pain, or ignominy, is concerned, then comes the retreat, the flutter, and the fright. Hence, as it must be with those who err in matters of the greatest importance, we turn what should be courage into rashness, desperation, recklessness, effrontery; and what should be caution becomes timid, base, and full of fears and perturbations. Let one apply his spirit of caution to things within the reach of his own will, then he will have the subject of avoidance within his own control; but if he transfers it to that which is inevitable, trying to shun that which he cannot control and others can, then he must needs fear, be harassed and be disturbed. For it is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death. Hence we commend him who says:

“Death is no ill, but shamefully to die.”*

Courage, then, ought to be opposed to death, and caution to the fear of death; whereas we, on the contrary, Edition: current; Page: [95] oppose to death, flight; and to these our false convictions concerning it, recklessness, and desperation, and assumed indifference.

Socrates used, very properly, to call these things masks; for, as masks appear shocking and formidable to children, from their inexperience; so we are thus affected with regard to things, for no other reason. For what constitutes a child? Ignorance. What constitutes a child? Want of instruction; for they are our equals, so for as their degree of knowledge permits. What is death? A mask. Turn it on the other side and be convinced. See, it doth not bite. This little body and spirit must be again, as once, separated, either now or hereafter; why, then, are you displeased if it be now? For if not now it will be hereafter. Why? To fulfil the course of the universe; for that hath need of some things present, others to come, and others already completed.

What is pain? A mask. Turn it and be convinced.

This weak flesh is sometimes affected by harsh, sometimes by smooth impressions. If suffering be beyond endurance, the door is open; till then, bear it. It is fit that the final door should be open against all accidents, since thus we escape all trouble.

What, then, is the fruit of these principles? What it ought to be; the most noble, and the most suitable to the wise, — tranquillity, security, freedom. For in this case, we are not to give credit to the many, who say, that none ought to be educated but the free; but rather to the philosophers, who say, that the wise alone are free.

“How so?”

Thus: is freedom anything else than the power of living as we like?

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“Nothing else.”

Well; tell me then, do you like to live in error?

“We do not. No one, who lives in error, is free.”

Do you like to live in fear? Do you like to live in sorrow? Do you like to live in perturbation?

“By no means.”

No one, therefore, in a state of fear, or sorrow, or perturbation, is free; but whoever is delivered from sorrow, fear, and perturbation, by the same means is delivered likewise from slavery. How shall we believe you, then, good legislators, when you say, “We allow none to be educated but the free”? For the philosophers say, “We allow none to be free but the wise”; that is, God doth not allow it.

“What, then, when any person hath turned his slave about, before the consul,* has he done nothing?”

Yes, he has.


He has turned his slave about, before the consul.

“Nothing more?”

Yes. He pays a fine for him.

“Well, then; is not the man, who has gone through this ceremony, rendered free?”

Only so far as he is emancipated from perturbation. Pray, have you, who are able to give this freedom to others, no master of your own? Are you not a slave to money? To a girl? To a boy? To a tyrant? To some friend of a tyrant? Else, why do you tremble when any one of these is in question? Therefore, I so often repeat to you, let this be your study and constant pursuit, to learn in what it is necessary to be courageous, and in what cautious; courageous against the inevitable, cautious so far as your will can control.

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“But have I not read my essay to you? Do not you know what I am doing?”

In what?

“In my essays.”

Show me in what state you are, as to desires and aversions; whether you do not fail of what you wish, and incur what you would avoid; but, as to these commonplace essays, if you are wise, you will take them, and destroy them.

“Why, did not Socrates write?”

Yes; who so much? But how? As he had not always one at hand, to argue against his principles, or be argued against in his turn, he argued with and examined himself; and always made practical application of some one great principle at least. These are the things which a philosopher writes; but such commonplaces as those of which I speak, he leaves to the foolish, or to the happy creatures whom idleness furnishes with leisure; or to such as are too weak to regard consequences. And yet will you, when opportunity offers, come forward to exhibit and read aloud such things, and take a pride in them?

“Pray, see how I compose dialogues.”

Talk not of that, man, but rather be able to say, See how I accomplish my purposes; see how I avert what I wish to shun. Set death before me; set pain, a prison, disgrace, doom, and you will know me. This should be the pride of a young man come out from the schools. Leave the rest to others. Let no one ever hear you waste a word upon them, nor suffer it, if any one commends you for them; but admit that you are nobody, and that you know nothing. Appear to know only this, never to fail nor fall. Let others study cases, problems, and syllogisms. Do Edition: current; Page: [98] you rather contemplate death, change, torture, exile; and all these with courage, and reliance upon Him, who hath called you to them, and judged you worthy a post in which you may show what reason can do, when it encounters the inevitable. And thus, this paradox ceases to be a paradox, that we must be at once cautious and courageous; courageous against the inevitable; and cautious, when events are within our own control.


CONSIDER, you who are going to take your trial, what you wish to preserve, and in what to succeed. For if you wish to preserve a will in harmony with nature, you are entirely safe; everything goes well; you have no trouble on your hands. While you wish to preserve that freedom which belongs to you, and are contented with that, for what have you longer to be anxious? For who is the master of things like these? Who can take them away? If you wish to be a man of modesty and fidelity, who shall prevent you? If you wish not to be restrained or compelled, who shall compel you to desires contrary to your principles; to aversions, contrary to your opinion? The judge, perhaps, will pass a sentence against you, which he thinks formidable; but can he likewise make you receive it with shrinking? Since, then, desire and aversion are in your own power, for what have you to be anxious? Let this be your introduction; this your narration; this Edition: current; Page: [99] your proof; this your conclusion; this your victory; and this your applause. Thus said Socrates to one who put him in mind to prepare himself for his trial: “Do you not think that I have been preparing myself for this very thing, my whole life long?” — By what kind of preparation? — “I have attended to my own work.” — What mean you? — “I have done nothing unjust, either in public, or in private life.”

But if you wish to make use of externals too, your body, your estate, your dignity; I advise you immediately to prepare yourself by every possible preparation; and besides, to consider the disposition of your judge, and of your adversary. If it be necessary to embrace his knees, do so; if to weep, weep; if to groan, groan. For when you have once made yourself a slave to externals, be a slave wholly; do not struggle, and be alternately willing and unwilling, but be simply and thoroughly the one or the other; free, or a slave; instructed, or ignorant; a game-cock, or a craven; either bear to be beaten till you die, or give out at once; and do not be soundly beaten first, and then give out at last.

If both alternatives be shameful, learn immediately to distinguish where good and evil lie. They lie where truth likewise lies. Where truth and nature dictate, there exercise caution or courage. Why, do you think that, if Socrates had concerned himself about externals, he would have said, when he appeared at his trial, “Anytus and Melitus may indeed kill, but hurt me they cannot”? Was he so foolish as not to see that this way did not lead to safety, but the contrary? What, then, is the reason, that he not only disregarded, but defied, his judges? Thus my friend Heraclitus, in a trifling suit, about a little estate Edition: current; Page: [100] at Rhodes, after having proved to the judges that his cause was good, when he came to the conclusion of his speech, “I will not entreat you,” said he; “nor be anxious as to what judgment you give; for it is rather you who are to be judged, than I.” And thus he lost his suit. What need was there of this? Be content not to entreat; yet do not proclaim that you will not entreat; unless it be a proper time to provoke the judges designedly, as in the case of Socrates. But if you too are preparing such a speech as his, what do you wait for? Why do you consent to be tried? For if you wish to be hanged, have patience, and the gibbet will come. But if you choose rather to consent, and make your defence as well as you can, all the rest is to be ordered accordingly; with a due regard, however, to the preservation of your own proper character.

For this reason it is absurd to call upon me for specific advice. How should I know what to advise you? Ask me rather to teach you to accommodate yourself to whatever may be the event. The former is just as if an illiterate person should say, “Tell me how to write down some name that is proposed to me”; and I show him how to write the name of Dion; and then another comes, and asks him to write the name, not of Dion, but of Theon; — what will be the consequence? What will he write? Whereas, if you make writing your study, you are ready prepared for whatever word may occur; if not, how can I advise you? For, if the actual case should suggest something else, what will you say, or how will you say, or how will you act? Remember, then, the general rule, and you will need no special suggestions; but if you are absorbed in externals, you must necessarily Edition: current; Page: [101] be tossed up and down, according to the inclination of your master.

Who is your master? He who controls those things which you seek or shun.


DIOGENES rightly answered one who desired letters of recommendation from him: “At first sight he will know you to be a man; and whether you are a good or a bad man, if he has any skill in distinguishing, he will know likewise; and, if he has not, he will never know it, though I should write a thousand times.” Just as if you were a piece of coin, and should desire to be recommended to any person as good, in order to be tried; — if it be to an assayer, he will know your value, for you will recommend yourself.

We ought, therefore, in life also, to have something analogous to this skill in gold; that one may be able to say, like the assayer, Bring me whatever piece you will, and I will find out its value; or, as I would say with regard to syllogisms, Bring me whomsoever you will, and I will distinguish for you, whether he knows how to solve syllogisms, or not. Why? Because I can do that myself, and have that faculty which is necessary for one, who can discern persons skilled in such solutions. But how do I act in life? I sometimes call a thing good; at other times, bad. What is the cause of this? Something contrary to Edition: current; Page: [102] what occurs to me in syllogisms, — ignorance, and inexperience.


JUST as he was once saying, that man is made for fidelity, and that whoever subverts this, subverts the peculiar property of man; there entered one of the so-called literary men, who had been found guilty of adultery, in that city. — But, continued Epictetus, if, laying aside that fidelity for which we were born, we form designs against the wife of our neighbor, what do we? What else but destroy and ruin — what? Fidelity, honor, and sanctity of manners. Only these? And do not we ruin neighborhood? Friendship? Our country? In what rank do we then place ourselves? How am I to consider you, sir? As a neighbor? A friend? What sort of one? As a citizen? How shall I trust you? Indeed, if you were some potsherd, so noisome that no use could be made of you, you might be thrown on a dunghill, and no mortal would take the trouble to pick you up; but if, being a man, you cannot fill any one place in human society, what shall we do with you? For, suppose you cannot hold the place of a friend, can you hold even that of a slave? And who will trust you? Why, then, should not you also be contented to be thrown upon some dunghill, as a useless vessel, and indeed as worse than that? Will you say, after this, Has no one any regard for me, a Edition: current; Page: [103] man of letters? Why, you are wicked, and fit for no use. Just as if wasps should take it ill that no one has any regard for them; but all shun, and whoever can, beats them down. You have such a sting, that whoever you strike with it, is thrown into troubles and sorrows. What would you have us do with you? There is nowhere to place you.

“What, then, are not women made by nature common?”

I admit it; and so is food at table common to those who are invited. But, after it is distributed, will you go and snatch away the share of him who sits next you; or slyly steal it, or stretch out your hand, and taste; and, if you cannot tear away any of the meat, dip your fingers and lick them? A fine companion! A Socratic guest indeed! Again; is not the theatre common to all the citizens? Therefore come, when all are seated, if you dare, and turn any one of them out of his place. In this sense, only, are women common by nature; but when the laws, like a good host, have distributed them, cannot you, like the rest of the company, be contented with your own share, but must you pilfer, and taste what belongs to another?

“But I am a man of letters, and understand Archedemus.”

With all your understanding of Archedemus, then, you will be an adulterer, and a rogue; and instead of a man, a wolf or an ape. For where is the difference?

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THE materials of action are variable, but the use we make of them should be constant.

How, then, shall one combine composure and tranquillity with energy; doing nothing rashly, nothing carelessly?

By imitating those who play at games. The dice are variable; the pieces are variable. How do I know what will fall out? But it is my business, to manage carefully and dexterously whatever happens. Thus in life too, this is the chief business, to consider and discriminate things; and say, “Externals are not in my power; choice is. Where shall I seek good and evil? Within; in what is my own.” But in what is controlled by others, count nothing good or evil, profitable or hurtful, or any such thing.

What, then, are we to treat these in a careless way?

By no means; for this, on the other hand, would be a perversion of the will, and so contrary to nature. But we are to act with care, because the use of our materials is not indifferent; and at the same time with calmness and tranquillity, because the materials themselves are uncertain. For where a thing is not uncertain, there no one can restrain or compel me. Where I am capable of being restrained or compelled, the acquisition does not depend upon me; nor is it either good or evil. The use of it, indeed, is either good or evil; but that does depend upon me. It is difficult, I own, to blend and unite tranquillity in Edition: current; Page: [105] accepting, and energy in using, the facts of life; but it is not impossible; if it be, it is impossible to be happy. How do we act in a voyage? What is in my power? To choose the pilot, the sailors, the day, the hour. Afterwards comes a storm. What have I to care for? My part is performed. This matter belongs to another, to the pilot. But the ship is sinking; what then have I to do? That which alone I can do; I submit to being drowned, without fear, without clamor, or accusing God; but as one who knows, that what is born, must likewise die. For I am not eternity, but a man; a part of the whole, as an hour is of the day. I must come like an hour, and like an hour must pass away. What signifies it whether by drowning, or by a fever? For, in some way or other, pass I must.

This you may see to be the practice of those who play skilfully at ball. No one contends for the ball itself, as either a good or an evil; but how he may throw and catch it again. Here lies the address, here the art, the nimbleness, the skill; lest I fail to catch it, even when I open my breast for it, while another catches it, whenever I throw it. But if we catch or throw it, in fear and trembling, what kind of play will this be? How shall we keep ourselves steady; or how see the order of the game? One will say, throw: another, do not throw: a third, you have thrown once already. This is a mere quarrel; not a play. Therefore Socrates well understood playing at ball.

“What do you mean?”

When he joked at his trial. “Tell me,” said he, “Anytus, how can you say that I do not believe in a God? What do you think demons are? Are they Edition: current; Page: [106] not either the offspring of the gods, or compounded of gods and men?” — Yes. — “Do you think, then, that one can believe there are mules, and not believe that there are asses?” This was just as if he had been playing at ball. And what was the ball he had to play with? Life, chains, exile, a draught of poison, separation from a wife, and leaving his children orphans. These were what he had to play with; and yet he did play, and threw the ball with address. Thus we should be careful as to the play, but indifferent as to the ball. We are by all means to manage our materials with art; not taking them for the best; but showing our art about them, whatever they may happen to be. Thus a weaver does not make the wool, but employs his art upon what is given him. It is another who gives you food, and property; and may take them away, and your paltry body too. Do you, however, work upon the materials you have received; and then, if you come off unhurt, others, no doubt, who meet you, will congratulate you on your escape. But he who has a clearer insight into such things, will praise and congratulate you if he sees you to have done well; but if you owe your escape to any unbecoming action, he will do the contrary. For where there is a reasonable cause for rejoicing, there is cause likewise for congratulation.

How, then, are some external circumstances said to be according to nature; others contrary to it?

Only when we are viewed as isolated individuals. I will allow that it is natural for the foot, (for instance,) to be clean. But if you take it as a foot, and not as a mere isolated thing, it will be fit that it should walk in the dirt, and tread upon thorns; and sometimes that it should even be cut off, for the good Edition: current; Page: [107] of the whole; otherwise it is no longer a foot. We should reason in some such manner concerning ourselves. Who are you? A man. If then, indeed, you consider yourself isolatedly, it is natural that you should live to old age, should be prosperous and healthy; but if you consider yourself as a man, and as a part of the whole, it will be fit, in view of that whole, that you should at one time be sick; at another, take a voyage, and be exposed to danger; sometimes be in want; and possibly die before your time. Why, then, are you displeased? Do not you know, that otherwise, just as the other ceases to be a foot, so you are no longer a man? For what is a man? A part of a commonwealth; first and chiefly of that which includes both gods and men; and next, of that to which you immediately belong, which is a miniature of the universal city.

What, then, must I, at one time, go before a tribunal; must another, at another time, be scorched by a fever; another be exposed to the sea; another die; another be condemned?

Yes; for it is impossible, in such a body, in such a world, and among such companions, but that some one or other of us must meet with such circumstances. Your business, then, is simply to say what you ought, to order things as the case requires. After this comes some one and says, “I pronounce that you have acted unjustly.” Much good may it do you; I have done my part. You are to look to it, whether you have done yours; for you may as well understand that there is some danger in that quarter also.

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A PROCESS of reasoning may be an indifferent thing; but our judgment concerning it is not indifferent; for it is either knowledge, or opinion, or mistake. So the events of life occur indifferently, but the use of it is not indifferent. When you are told, therefore, that these things are indifferent, do not, on that account, ever be careless; nor yet, when you are governed by prudence, be abject, and dazzled by externals. It is good to know your own qualifications and powers; that, where you are not qualified, you may be quiet, and not angry that others have there the advantage of you. For you too will think it reasonable, that you should have the advantage in the art of reasoning; and, if others should be angry at it, you will tell them, by way of consolation, “This I have learned, and you have not.” Thus too, wherever practice is necessary, do not pretend to what can only be attained by practice; but leave the matter to those who are practised, and do you be contented in your own serenity.

“Go, for instance, and pay your court to such a person.” — How? I will not do it abjectly. So I find myself shut out; for I have not learned to get in at the window, and finding the door shut, I must necessarily either go back, or get in at the window. — “But speak to him at least.” I am willing. “In Edition: current; Page: [109] what manner?” Not basely at any rate. “Well, you have failed.” This is not your business, but his. Why do you claim what belongs to another? Always remember what is your own, and what is another’s, and you will never be disturbed.

Hence Chrysippus rightly says: While consequences are uncertain, I will keep to those things which will bring me most in harmony with nature; for God himself hath formed me to choose this. If I knew, that it was inevitable for me to be sick, I would conform my inclinations that way; for even the foot, if it had understanding, would be inclined to get into the dirt. For why are ears of corn produced, if it be not to ripen? and why do they ripen, if not to be reaped? For they are not isolated, individual things. If they were capable of sense, do you think they would wish never to be reaped? It would be a curse upon ears of corn not to be reaped, and we ought to know that it would be a curse upon man not to die; like that of not ripening, and not being reaped. Since, then, it is necessary for us to be reaped, and we have, at the same time, understanding to know it, are we angry at it? This is only because we neither know what we are, nor have we studied what belongs to man, as jockies do what belongs to horses. Yet Chrysantas, when he was about to strike an enemy, on hearing the trumpet sound a retreat, drew back his hand; for he thought it more eligible to obey the command of his general, than his own inclination.* But not one of us, even when necessity calls, is ready and willing to Edition: current; Page: [110] obey it; but we weep and groan over painful events, calling them our “circumstances.” What circumstances, man? For if you call what surrounds you circumstances, everything is a circumstance; but, if by this you mean hardships, where is the hardship, that whatever is born must die? The instrument is either a sword, or a wheel, or the sea, or a tile, or a tyrant. And what does it signify to you by what way you descend to Hades? All are equal; but, if you would hear the truth, the shortest is that by which a tyrant sends you. No tyrant was ever six months in cuting any man’s throat; but a fever often takes a year. All these things are mere sound, and the rumor of empty names.

“My life is in danger from Cæsar.”

And am I not in danger, who dwell at Nicopolis, where there are so many earthquakes? And when you yourself recross the Adriatic, what is then in danger? Is it not your life?

“Ay, and my convictions also.”

What, your own? How so? Can any one compel you to have any convictions contrary to your own inclination?

“But the convictions of others too.”

And what danger is it of yours, if others have false convictions?

“But I am in danger of being banished.”

What is it to be banished? only to be somewhere else than at Rome.

“Yes? but what if I should be sent to Gyaros?”

If it be thought best for you, you will go; if not, there is another place than Gyaros whither you are sure to go, — where he who now sends you to Gyaros must go likewise, whether he will or not. Why, then, Edition: current; Page: [111] do you come to these, as to great trials? They are not equal to your powers. So that an ingenuous young man would say, it was not worth while for this, to have read and written so much, and to have sat to long listening to this old man. Only remember the distinction between what is your own, and what is not your own, and you will never claim what belongs to others. Judicial bench or dungeon, each is but a place, one high, the other low; but your will is equal to either condition, and if you have a mind to keep it so, it may be so kept. We shall then become imitators of Socrates, when, even in a prison, we are able to write hymns of praise;* but as we now are, consider whether we could even bear to have another say to us in prison, “Shall I read you a hymn of praise?” — “Why do you trouble me; do you not know my sad situation? In such circumstances, am I able to hear hymns?” — What circumstances? — “I am going to die.” — And are all other men to be immortal?


FROM an unseasonable regard to divination, we omit many duties: for what can the diviner contemplate besides death, danger, sickness, and such matters. When it is necessary, then, to expose one’s self to danger for a friend, or even a duty to die for him, what occasion have I for divination? Have not I a diviner within, who has told me the essence of Edition: current; Page: [112] good and evil; and who explains to me the indications of both? What further need, then, have I of signs or auguries. Can I tolerate the other diviner, when he says, “This is for your interest”? For does he know what is for my interest? Does he know what good is? Has he learned the indications of good and evil, as he has those of the victims? If so, he knows the indications likewise of fair and base, just and unjust. You may predict to me, sir, what is to befall me; life or death, riches or poverty. But whether these things are for my interest, or not, I shall not inquire of you. “Why?” Because you cannot even give an opinion about points of grammar; and do you give it here, in things about which all men differ and dispute? Therefore the lady, who was going to send a month’s provision to Gratilla,* in her banishment, made a right answer to one, who told her that Domitian would seize it. “I had rather,” said she, “that he should seize it, than I not send it.”

What, then, is it, that leads us so often to divination? Cowardice; the dread of events. Hence we flatter the diviners. “Pray, sir, shall I inherit my father’s estate?” — “Let us see: let us sacrifice upon the occasion.” — “Nay, sir, just as fortune pleases.” Then if he predicts that we shall inherit it, we give him thanks, as if we received the inheritance from him. The consequence of this is, that they impose upon us.

What, then, is to be done?

We should come without previous desire or aversion; as a traveller inquires the road of the person he meets, without any desire for that which turns to Edition: current; Page: [113] the right hand, more than for that to the left; for he wishes for neither of these, but only for that road which leads him properly. Thus we should come to God, as to a guide. Just as we make use of our eyes; not persuading them to show us one object rather than another, but receiving such as they present to us. But now we conduct the augury with fear and trembling; and in our invocations to God, entreat him: “Lord have mercy upon me, suffer me to come off safe.” Foolish man! would you have anything then but what is best? And what is best but what pleases God? Why would you then, so far as in you lies, corrupt your judge and seduce your adviser?


GOD is beneficial. Good is also beneficial. It should seem, then, that where the essence of God is, there too is the essence of good. What then is the essence of God? Flesh? By no means. An estate? Fame? By no means. Intelligence? Knowledge? Right reason? Certainly. Here, then, without more ado, seek the essence of good. For do you seek that quality in a plant? No. Or in a brute? No. If, then, you seek it only in a rational subject, why do you seek it anywhere but in what distinguishes that from things irrational? Plants make no voluntary use of things; and therefore you do not apply the term of good to them. — Good, then, implies such use. And nothing else? If so, you may say, that good, and happiness, and unhappiness, belong to Edition: current; Page: [114] mere animals. But this you do not say, and you are right; for, how much soever they have the use of things, they have not the intelligent use; and with good reason; for they are made to be subservient to others, and not of primary importance. Why was an ass made? Was it as being of primary importance? No; but because we had need of a back, able to carry burdens. We had need too that he should be capable of locomotion; therefore he had the voluntary use of things added; otherwise he could not have moved. But here his endowments end; for, if an understanding of that use had been likewise added, he would not, in reason, have been subject to us, nor have done us these services; but would have been like and equal to ourselves. Why will you not, therefore, seek the essence of good in that without which you cannot say that there is good in anything?

What then? Are not all these likewise the works of the gods? They are; but not primary existences, nor parts of the gods. But you are a primary existence. You are a distinct portion of the essence of God; and contain a certain part of him in yourself. Why then are you ignorant of your noble birth? Why do not you consider whence you came? why do not you remember, when you are eating, who you are who eat; and whom you feed? When you are in the company of women; when you are conversing; when you are exercising; when you are disputing; do not you know, that it is the Divine you feed; the Divine you exercise? You carry a God about with you, poor wretch, and know nothing of it. Do you suppose I mean some god without you of gold or silver? It is within yourself that you carry him; and Edition: current; Page: [115] you do not observe that you profane him by impure thoughts and unclean actions. If the mere external image of God were present, you would not dare to act as you do; and when God himself is within you, and hears and sees all, are not you ashamed to think and act thus; insensible of your own nature, and at enmity with God?

Why then are we afraid, when we send a young man from the school, into active life, that he should behave indecently, eat indecently, converse indecently with women; that he should either debase himself by slovenliness, or clothe himself too finely? Knows he not the God within him? Knows he not in what company he goes? It is provoking to hear him say [to his instructor], “I wish to have you with me.” Have you not God? Do you seek any other, while you have him? Or will He tell you any other things than these? If you were a statue of Phidias, as Zeus or Minerva, you would remember both yourself and the artist; and, if you had any sense, you would endeavor to be in no way unworthy of him who formed you, nor of yourself; nor to appear in an unbecoming manner to spectators. And are you now careless how you appear, when you are the workmanship of Zeus himself? And yet, what comparison is there, either between the artists, or the things they have formed? What work of any artist has conveyed into its structure those very faculties which are shown in shaping it? Is it anything but marble, or brass, or gold, or ivory? And the Minerva of Phidias, when its hand is once extended, and a Victory placed in it, remains in that attitude forever. But the works of God are endowed with motion, breath, the powers of use and judgment. Being, then, the work of such an Edition: current; Page: [116] artist, will you dishonor him, — especially, when he hath not only formed you, but given your guardianship to yourself? Will you not only be forgetful of this, but, moreover, dishonor the trust? If God had committed some orphan to your charge, would you have been thus careless of him? He has delivered yourself to your care; and says, “I had no one fitter to be trusted than you: preserve this person for me, such as he is by nature; modest, faithful, noble, unterrified, dispassionate, tranquil.” And will you not preserve him?

But it will be said: “What need of this lofty look, and dignity of face?”

I answer, that I have not yet so much dignity as the case demands. For I do not yet trust to what I have learned, and accepted. I still fear my own weakness. Let me but take courage a little, and then you shall see such a look, and such an appearance, as I ought to have. Then I will show you the statue, when it is finished, when it is polished. Do you think I will show you a supercilious countenance? Heaven forbid? For Olympian Zeus doth not haughtily lift his brow; but keeps a steady countenance, as becomes him who is about to say,

“My promise is irrevocable, sure.”*

Such will I show myself to you; faithful, modest, noble, tranquil.

“What, and immortal too, and exempt from age and sickness?”

No. But sickening and dying as becomes the divine within me. This is in my power; this I can do. The other is not in my power, nor can I do it. Edition: current; Page: [117] Shall I show you the muscular training of a philosopher?

“What muscles are those?”

A will undisappointed; evils avoided; powers duly exerted; careful resolutions; unerring decisions. These you shall see.


IT were no slight attainment, could we merely fulfil what the nature of man implies. For what is man? A rational and mortal being. Well; from what are we distinguished by reason? From wild beasts. From what else? From sheep, and the like.

Take care, then, to do nothing like a wild beast; otherwise you have destroyed the man; you have not fulfilled what your nature promises. Take care too, to do nothing like cattle; for thus likewise the man is destroyed.

In what do we act like cattle?

When we act gluttonously, lewdly, rashly, sordidly, inconsiderately, into what are we sunk? Into cattle. What have we destroyed? The rational being.

When we behave contentiously, injuriously, passionately, and violently, into what have we sunk? Into wild beasts.

And further; some of us are wild beasts of a larger size; others, little mischievous vermin; such as suggest the proverb, Let me rather be eaten by a lion.

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By all these means, that is destroyed which the nature of man implies.

For, when is a conjunctive proposition sustained? When it fulfils what its nature implies. So then the sustaining of such a proposition consists in this: that its several parts remain a series of truths.

When is a disjunctive proposition sustained? When it fulfils what its nature implies.

When is a flute, a harp, a horse, or a dog, preserved in existence? While each fulfils what its nature implies.

Where is the wonder, then, that manhood should be preserved or destroyed in the same manner? All things are preserved and improved by exercising their proper functions; as a carpenter, by building; a grammarian, by grammar: but if he permit himself to write ungrammatically, his art will necessarily be spoiled and destroyed. Thus modest actions preserve the modest man, and immodest ones destroy him; faithful actions preserve the faithful man, and the contrary destroy him. On the other hand, the contrary actions heighten the contrary characters. Thus the practice of immodesty develops an immodest character; knavery, a knavish one; slander, a slanderous one; anger, an angry one; and fraud, a covetous one.

For this reason, philosophers advise us not to be contented with mere learning; but to add meditation likewise, and then practice. For we have been long accustomed to perverse actions, and have practised upon wrong opinions. If, therefore, we do not likewise habituate ourselves to practise upon right opinions, we shall be nothing more than expositors of the abstract doctrines of others. For who among us is Edition: current; Page: [119] not already able to discourse, according to the rules of art, upon good and evil? “That some things are good, some evil, and others indifferent: the good include the virtues and all things appertaining; the evil comprise the contrary; and the indifferent include riches, health, reputation”; — and then, if, while we are saying all this, there should happen some more than ordinary noise, or one of the by-standers should laugh at us, we are disconcerted. Philosopher, what is become of what you were saying? Whence did it proceed? Merely from your lips? Why then, do you confound the remedies which might be useful to others? Why do you trifle on the most important subjects? It is one thing to hoard up provision in a storehouse, and another to eat it. What is eaten is assimilated, digested, and becomes nerves, flesh, bones, blood, color, breath. Whatever is hoarded is ready indeed, whenever you desire to show it; but is of no further use to you than in the mere knowledge that you have it.

For what difference does it make whether you discourse on these doctrines, or those of the heterodox? Sit down and comment skilfully on Epicurus, for instance; perhaps you may comment more profitably than himself. Why then do you call yourself a Stoic? Why do you act like a Jew, when you are a Greek? Do not you see on what terms each is called a Jew, a Syrian, an Egyptian? And when we see any one wavering, we are wont to say, This is not a Jew, but only acts like one. But, when he assumes the sentiments of one who has been baptized and circumcised, then he both really is, and is called, a Jew. Thus we, falsifying our profession, may be Jews in name, but are in reality something else. We are inconsistent with Edition: current; Page: [120] our own discourse; we are far from practising what we teach, and what we pride ourselves on knowing. Thus, while we are unable to fulfil what the character of a man implies, we are ready to assume besides so vast a weight as that of a philosopher. As if a person, incapable of lifting ten pounds, should endeavor to heave the same stone with Ajax.


CONSIDER who you are. In the first place, a man; that is, one who recognizes nothing superior to the faculty of free will, but all things as subject to this; and this itself as not to be enslaved or subjected to anything. Consider then, from what you are distinguished by reason. You are distinguished from wild beasts: you are distinguished from cattle. Besides, you are a citizen of the universe, and a part of it; not a subordinate, but a principal part. You are capable of comprehending the Divine economy; and of considering the connections of things. What then does the character of a citizen imply? To hold no private interest; to deliberate of nothing as a separate individual, but rather like the hand or the foot, which, if they had reason, and comprehended the constitution of nature, would never pursue, or desire, but with a reference to the whole. Hence the philosophers rightly say, that, if it were possible for a wise and good man to foresee what was to happen, he might co-operate in bringing on himself Edition: current; Page: [121] sickness, and death, and mutilation, being sensible that these things are appointed in the order of the universe; and that the whole is superior to a part, and the city to the citizen. But, since we do not foreknow what is to happen, it becomes our duty to hold to what is more agreeable to our choice, for this too is a part of our birthright.

Remember next, that perhaps you are a son; and what does this character imply? To esteem everything that is his, as belonging to his father; in every instance to obey him; not to revile him to any one; not to say or do anything injurious to him; to give way and yield in everything; co-operating with him to the utmost of his power.

After this, know likewise that you are a brother too; and that to this character it belongs, to make concessions; to be easily persuaded; to use gentle language; never to claim, for yourself, any nonessential thing; but cheerfully to give up these, to be repaid by a larger share of things essential. For consider what it is, instead of a lettuce, for instance, or a chair, to procure for yourself a good temper. How great an advantage gained!

If, beside this, you are a senator of any city, demean yourself as a senator; if a youth, as a youth; if an old man, as an old man. For each of these names, if it comes to be considered, always points out the proper duties. But, if you go and revile your brother, I tell you that you have forgotten who you are, and what is your name. If you were a smith, and made an ill use of the hammer, you would have forgotten the smith; and if you have forgotten the brother, and are become, instead of a brother, an enemy, do you imagine you have made no change of Edition: current; Page: [122] one thing for another, in that case? If, instead of a man, a gentle, social creature, you have become a wild beast, mischievous, insidious, biting; have you lost nothing? Is it only the loss of money which is reckoned damage; and is there no other thing, the loss of which damages a man? If you were to part with your skill in grammar, or in music, would you think the loss of these a damage; and yet, if you part with honor, decency, and gentleness, do you think that no matter? Yet the first may be lost by some cause external and inevitable; but the last only by our own fault. There is no shame in not having, or in losing the one; but either not to have, or to lose the other, is equally shameful, and reproachful, and unhappy. What does the debauchee lose? Manhood. What does he lose, who made him such? Many things, but manhood also. What does an adulterer lose? The modest, the chaste character; the good neighbor. What does an angry person lose? A coward? Each loses his portion. No one is wicked without some loss, or damage. Now if, after all, you treat the loss of money as the only damage, all these are unhurt and uninjured. Nay, they may be even gainers; as, by such practices, their money may possibly be increased. But consider; if you refer everything to money, then a man who loses his nose is not hurt. Yes, say you; he is maimed in his body. Well, but does he who loses his sense of smell itself lose nothing? Is there, then, no faculty of the soul, which benefits the possessor, and which it is an injury to lose?

“Of what sort do you mean?”

Have we not a natural sense of honor?

“We have.”

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Does he, who loses this, suffer no damage? Is he deprived of nothing? Does he part with nothing that belongs to him? Have we no natural fidelity? No natural affection? No natural disposition to mutual usefulness, to mutual forbearance? Is he, then, who carelessly suffers himself to be damaged in these respects, still safe and uninjured?

“What, then, shall not I injure him who has injured me?”

Consider first what injury is; and remember what you have heard from the philosophers. For, if both good and evil lie in the will, see whether what you say does not amount to this: “Since he has hurt himself, by injuring me, shall I not hurt myself by injuring him?” Why do we not make to ourselves some such representation as this? Are we hurt, when any detriment happens to our bodily possesions; and are we not at all hurt, when our will is depraved? He who has erred, or injured another, has indeed no pain in his head; nor loses an eye, nor a leg, nor an estate; and we wish for nothing beyond these. Whether our will be habitually humble and faithful, or shameless and unfaithful, we regard as a thing indifferent, except only in the discussions of the schools. In that case, all the improvement we make reaches only to words; and beyond them is absolutely nothing.

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THE beginning of philosophy, at least to such as enter upon it in a proper way, and by the door, is a consciousness of our own weakness and inability in necessary things. For we came into the world without any natural idea of a right-angled triangle; of a diesis, or a semitone, in music; but we learn each of these things by some artistic instruction. Hence, they who do not understand them, do not assume to understand them. But who ever came into the world without an innate idea of good and evil; fair and base; becoming and unbecoming; happiness and misery; proper and improper; what ought to be done, and what not to be done? Hence we all make use of the terms, and endeavor to apply our impressions to particular cases. “Such a one hath acted well, not well; right, not right; is unhappy, is happy; is just, is unjust.” Which of us refrains from these terms? Who defers the use of them, till he has learnt it; as those do, who are ignorant of lines and sounds? The reason of this is, that we come instructed, in some degree, by nature, upon these subjects; and from this beginning, we go on to add self-conceit. “For why,” say you, “should I not know what fair or base is? Have I not the idea of it?” You have. “Do I not apply this idea to the particular instance?” You do. “Do I not apply it rightly then?” Here lies the whole question; and here arises the self-conceit. Beginning from these acknowledged points, men proceed, by applying them Edition: current; Page: [125] improperly, to reach the very position most questionable. For, if they knew how to apply them also, they would be all but perfect.

If you think that you know how to apply your general principles to particular cases, tell me on what you base this application.

“Upon its seeming so to me.”

But it does not seem so to another; and does not he too think that he makes a right application?

“He does.”

Is it possible, then, that each of you should rightly apply your principles, on the very subjects about which your opinions conflict?

“It is not.”

Have you anything to show us, then, for this application, beyond the fact of its seeming so to you? And does a madman act any otherwise than seems to him right? Is this then a sufficient criterion for him too?

“It is not.”

Come, therefore, to some stronger ground than seeming.

“What is that?”

The beginning of philosophy is this; the being sensible of the disagreement of men with each other; an inquiry into the cause of this disagreement; and a disapprobation, and distrust of what merely seems; a careful examination into what seems, whether it seem rightly; and the discovery of some rule which shall serve like a balance, for the determination of weights; like a square, for distinguishing straight and crooked. This is the beginning of philosophy.

Is it possible that all things which seem right to all persons, are so? Can things contradictory be right? Edition: current; Page: [126] We say not all things; but all that seem so to us. And why more to you than to the Syrians, or Egyptians? Than to me, or to any other man? Not at all more.

Therefore what seems to each man, is not sufficient to determine the reality of a thing. For even in weights and measures we are not satisfied with the bare appearance; but for everything we find some rule. And is there then, in the present case, no rule preferable to what seems? Is it possible, that what is of the greatest necessity in human life, should be left incapable of determination and discovery?

There must be some rule. And why do we not seek and discover it, and, when we have discovered, ever after make use of it, without fail, so as not even to move a finger without it. For this, I conceive, is what, when found, will cure those of their madness, who make use of no other measure, but their own perverted way of thinking. Afterwards, beginning from certain known and determinate points, we may make use of general principles, properly applied to particulars.

Thus, what is the subject that falls under our inquiry? Pleasure. Bring it to the rule. Throw it into the scale. Must good be something in which it is fit to confide, and to which we may trust? Yes. Is it fit to trust to anything unstable? No. Is pleasure, then, a stable thing? No. Take it, then, and throw it out of the scale, and drive it far distant from the place of good things.

But, if you are not quick-sighted, and one balance is insufficient, bring another. Is it fit to be elated by good? Yes. Is it fit, then, to be elated by a present pleasure? See that you do not say it is; Edition: current; Page: [127] otherwise I shall not think you so much as worthy to use a scale. Thus are things judged, and weighed, when we have the rules ready. This is the part of philosophy, to examine, and fix the rules; and to make use of them, when they are known, is the business of a wise and good man.


WHAT things are to be learned, in order to the right use of reason, the philosophers of our sect have accurately taught; but we are altogether unpractised in the due application of them. Only give to any one of us whom you will, some illiterate person for an antagonist, and he will not find out how to treat him. But when he has a little moved the man, if he happens to answer at cross purposes, the questioner knows not how to deal with him any further, but either reviles or laughs at him, and says: “He is an illiterate fellow; there is no making anything of him.” Yet a guide, when he perceives his charge going out of the way, does not revile and ridicule, and then leave him; but leads him into the right path. Do you also show your antagonist the truth, and you will see that he will follow. But till you show it, do not ridicule him; but rather be sensible of your own incapacity.

How, then, did Socrates use to act? He obliged his antagonist himself to bear testimony to him; and wanted no other witness. Hence he might well say:* Edition: current; Page: [128] “I give up all the rest, and am always satisfied with the testimony of my opponent; and I call in no one to vote, but my antagonist alone.” For he rendered the arguments drawn from natural impressions so clear, that every one saw and avoided the contradiction. — “Does an envious man rejoice?” — “By no means; he rather grieves.” (This he moves him to say, by proposing the contrary.) — “Well; and do you think envy to be a grief caused by evils?” — “And who ever envied evils?” — (Therefore he makes the other say, that envy is a grief caused by things good.) — “Does any one envy those things which are nothing to him?” — “No, surely.” Having thus fully drawn out his idea, he then leaves that point; not saying, “Define to me what envy is”; and after he has defined it, “You have defined it wrong; for the definition does not correspond to the thing defined.”

There are phrases repulsive and obscure to the illiterate, which yet we cannot dispense with. But we have no capacity at all to move them, by such arguments as might lead them, in following the methods of their own minds, to admit or abandon any position. And, from a consciousness of this incapacity, those among us, who have any modesty, give the matter entirely up; but the greater part, rashly entering upon these debates, mutually confound and are confounded; and, at last, reviling and reviled, walk off. Whereas it was the principal and most peculiar characteristic of Socrates, never to be provoked in a dispute, nor to throw out any reviling or injurious expression; but to bear patiently with those who reviled him, and thus put an end to the controversy. If you would know how great abilities he had Edition: current; Page: [129] in this particular, read Xenophon’s Banquet, and you will see how many controversies he ended. Hence, even among the poets, this is justly mentioned with the highest commendation,

“Wisely at once the greatest strife to still.”*

But what then? This is no very safe affair now, and especially at Rome. For he who does it, must not do it in a corner; but go to some rich consular senator, for instance, and question him. Pray, sir, can you tell me to whom you intrust your horses? “Yes, certainly.” Is it then, to any one indifferently, though he be ignorant of horsemanship? “By no means.” To whom do you intrust your gold, or your silver, or your clothes? “Not to any one indifferently.” And did you ever consider to whom you committed the care of your body? “Yes, surely.” To one skilled in exercise, or medicine, I suppose. “Without doubt.” Are these things your chief good; or are you possessed of something better than all of them? “What do you mean?” Something which makes use of these; and deliberates and counsels about each of them? “What then, do you mean the soul?” You have guessed rightly; for indeed I do mean that. “I do really think it a much better possession than all the rest.” Can you show us, then, in what manner you have taken care of this soul? For it is not probable, that a person of your wisdom and approved character in the state, would carelessly suffer the most excellent thing that belongs to you to be neglected and lost. “No, certainly.” But do you take care of it yourself? And is it done by the instructions of another, or by your own ability? — Here, Edition: current; Page: [130] now, comes the danger, that he may first say, “Pray, good sir, what business is that of yours; what are you to me?” Then, if you persist in troubling him, he may lift up his hand, and give you a box on the ear. I myself was once a great admirer of this method of instruction, till I fell into such kind of adventures.


WHEN I see any one anxious, I say, what does this man mean? Unless he wanted something or other, not in his own power, how could he still be anxious? A musician, for instance, feels no anxiety, while he is singing by himself, but when he appears upon the stage he does; even if his voice be ever so good, or he plays ever so well. For what he wishes is not only to sing well, but likewise to gain applause. But this is not in his own power. In short, where his skill lies, there is his courage. Bring any ignorant person, and he does not mind him. But in the point which he neither understands, nor has studied, there he is anxious.

“What point is that?”

He does not understand what a multitude is, nor what the applause of a multitude. He has learnt, indeed, how to sound bass and treble; but what the applause of the many is, and what force it has in life, he neither understands, nor has studied. Hence he must necessarily tremble, and turn pale. I cannot indeed say, that a man is no musician, when I see him afraid; but I can say something else, and Edition: current; Page: [131] indeed many things. And, first of all, I call him a stranger, and say, this man does not know in what country he is; and though he has lived here so long, he is ignorant of the laws and customs of the state, and what is permitted, and what not; nor hath he ever consulted any legal adviser, who might tell and explain to him the laws. But no man writes a will, without knowing how it ought to be written, or consulting some one who knows; nor does he rashly sign a bond, or give security. Yet he indulges his desires and aversions, exerts his pursuits, intentions, and resolutions, without consulting any legal adviser about the matter.

“How do you mean, without a legal adviser?”

He knows not, when he chooses what is not allowed him, and does not choose what is necessary; and he knows not what is his own, and what belongs to others; for if he did know, he would never be hindered, would never be restrained, would never be anxious.

“How so?”

Why? does any one fear things that are not evils?


Does any one fear things, that seem evils indeed, but which it is in his own power to prevent?

“No, surely.”

If, then, the things independent of our will are neither good nor evil; and all things that do depend on will, are in our own power, and can neither be taken away from us, nor given to us, unless we please; what room is there left for anxiety? But we are anxious about this paltry body or estate of ours, or about what Cæsar thinks; and not at all about anything internal. Are we ever anxious not to take up a false opinion? No; for this is within Edition: current; Page: [132] our own power. Or not to follow any pursuit contrary to nature? No; nor this. When, therefore, you see any one pale with anxiety, just as the physician pronounces from the complexion, that such a patient is disordered in the spleen, and another in the liver; so do you likewise say, this man is disordered in his desires and aversions; he cannot walk steadily; he is in a fever. For nothing else changes the complexion, or causes trembling, or sets the teeth chattering.

“He crouching walks, or squats upon his heels.”*

Therefore Zeno, when he was to meet Antigonus, felt no anxiety. For over that which he prized, Antigonus had no power: and those things over which he had power, Zeno did not regard. But Antigonus felt anxiety when he was to meet Zeno; and with reason, for he was desirous to please him; and this was external ambition. But Zeno was not solicitous to please Antigonus; for no one skilful in any art is solicitous to please a person unskilful.

“I am solicitous to please you.”

For what? Do you know the rules, by which one man judges of another? Have you studied to understand what a good, and what a bad man is; and how each becomes such? Why then are not you yourself a good man?

“In what respect am I not?”

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Because no good man laments, or sighs, or groans; no good man turns pale, and trembles, and says, “How will such a one receive me; how will he hear me?” — As he thinks fit, foolish man. Why do you trouble yourself about what belongs to others? Is it not his fault, if he receives you ill?

“Yes, surely.”

And can one person be in fault, and another the suffer?


Why then are you anxious about what belongs to others?

“Well; but I am anxious how I shall speak to him.”

What then, cannot you speak to him as you will?

“But I am afraid I shall be disconcerted.”

If you were going to write down the name of Dion, should you be afraid of being disconcerted?

“By no means.”

What is the reason? Is it because you have learned how to write?


And if you were going to read, would it not be exactly the same?


What is the reason?

“Because every art gives a certain assurance and confidence, on its own ground.

Have you not learned, then, how to speak? And what else did you study at school?

“Syllogisms, and convertible propositions.”

For what purpose? Was it not in order to talk properly? And what is that, but to talk seasonably, and discreetly, and intelligently, and without flutter Edition: current; Page: [134] or hesitation; and by means of all this, with courage?

“Very true.”

When, therefore, you go into the field on horseback, are you anxious on being matched against one who is on foot? you being practised and he unpractised?

“Ay, but the person has power to kill me.”

Then speak the truth, O! unfortunate! and be not arrogant, nor take the philosopher upon you, nor conceal from yourself who are your masters; but while you are thus to be held by the body, follow the strongest. Socrates, indeed, had studied how to speak, who talked in such a manner to tyrants and judges, and in prison. Diogenes* had studied how to speak, who talked in such a manner to Alexander, to Philip, to the pirates, to the person who bought him. This belonged to those who had studied the matter; who had courage. But do you go where you belong and remain there. Retire into some corner, and there sit and weave syllogisms, and propose them to others. For there is not in you a man who can rule the city.

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WHEN a certain Roman came to him with his son, and had heard one lesson, — “This,” said Epictetus, “is the method of teaching”; and ceased. When the other desired him to go on, he answered, Every art seems tedious, when it is delivered to a person ignorant and unskilful in it. The things performed by the common arts, quickly manifest the use for which they were made; and most of them have something attractive and agreeable. Thus the trade of a shoemaker, as one seeks to learn it, is an unpleasant thing; but the shoe is useful, and not unpleasing to the eye. The trade of a smith is extremely unattractive to an ignorant observer, but the work shows the usefulness of the art. You will see this much more strongly in music; for if you stand by, while a person is learning, it will appear to you of all sciences the most unpleasant; but the effects are agreeable and delightful, even to those who do not understand it.

So here we take it to be the work of one who studies philosophy, to bring his will into harmony with events; so that none of the things which happen may happen against our inclination, nor those which do not happen be desired by us. Hence they, who have settled this point, have it in their power never to be disappointed in what they seek, nor to incur what they shun; but to lead their own lives without sorrow, fear, or perturbation; and in society to preserve all the natural or acquired relations of son, father, brother, citizen, husband, wife, neighbor, fellow-traveller, Edition: current; Page: [136] ruler, or subject. Something like this is what we take to be the work of a philosopher. It remains to inquire, how it is to be effected. Now we see that a carpenter becomes a carpenter by learning certain things; and a pilot, by learning certain things, becomes a pilot. Probably then it is not sufficient, in the present case, merely to be willing to be wise and good; but it is moreover necessary that certain things should be learned. What these things are, is the question. The philosophers say, that we are first to learn that there is a God; and that his providence directs the whole; and that it is not merely impossible to conceal from him our actions, but even our thoughts and emotions. We are next to learn, what the gods are; for such as they are found to be, such must he seek to be to the utmost of his power, who would please and obey them. If the Deity is faithful, he too must be faithful: if free, beneficent, and noble, he must be free, beneficent, and noble likewise; in all his words and actions, behaving as an imitator of God.

“Whence, then, are we to begin?”

If you will give me leave, I will tell you. It is necessary, in the first place, that you should understand words.

“So then! I do not understand them now?”

No. You do not.

“How is it, then, that I use them?”

Just as the illiterate use the words of the learned; and as brutes use the phenomena of nature. For use is one thing, and understanding another. But if you think you understand them, bring whatever words you please, and let us see whether we understand them or not.

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“Well; but it is a grievous thing for a man to be confuted who has grown old; and has perhaps served through his three campaigns to a senatorship.”

I know it very well. For you now come to me, as if you wanted nothing. And how can it enter into your imagination, that there should be anything in which you are deficient? You are rich; and perhaps have a wife and children, and a great number of domestics. Cæsar takes notice of you: you have many friends at Rome: you render to all their dues: you know how to requite a favor, and revenge an injury. In what are you deficient? Suppose then, I should prove to you, that you are deficient in what is most necessary and important to happiness; and that hitherto you have taken care of everything, rather than your duty; and, to complete all, that you understand not what God or man, or good or evil, means? That you are ignorant of all the rest, perhaps, you may bear to be told; but if I prove to you that you are ignorant even of yourself, how will you bear with me, and how will you have patience to stay and be convinced? Not at all. You will immediately be offended, and go away. And yet what injury have I done you; unless a looking-glass injures a person not handsome, when it shows him to himself, such as he is? Or unless a physician can be thought to affront his patient, when he says to him: “Do you think, sir, that you are not ill? You have a fever. Eat no meat to-day, and drink water.” Nobody cries out here, “What an intolerable affront!” But, if you say to any one: You exhibit feverishness in your desires, and low habits in what you shun; your aims are contradictory, your pursuits not conformable to nature, your opinions rash, and mistaken; Edition: current; Page: [138] he presently goes away, and complains that he is affronted.

This is the position we assume. As, in a crowded fair, the horses and cattle are brought to be sold, and most men come either to buy or sell; but there are a few, who come only to look at the fair, and inquire how it is carried on, and why in that manner, and who appointed it, and for what purpose; — thus, in this fair [of the world] some, like cattle, trouble themselves about nothing but fodder. To all of you, who busy yourselves about possessions, and farms, and domestics, and public posts, these things are nothing else but mere fodder. But there are some few men, among the crowd, who are fond of looking on, and considering: “What then, after all, is the world? Who governs it? Has it no governor? How is it possible, when neither a city nor a house can remain, ever so short a time, without some one to govern and take care of it, that this vast and beautiful system should be administered in a fortuitous and disorderly manner? Is there then a governor? Of what sort is he? And how does he govern; and what are we, who are under him? And for what designed? Have we some connection and relation to him, or none?” In this manner are the few affected; and apply themselves only to view the fair, and then depart. Well; and they are laughed at by the multitude? Why, so are the lookers-on, by the buyers and sellers; and, if the cattle had any apprehension, they too would laugh at such as admired anything but fodder.

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SOME, when they hear such discourses as these, “That we ought to be steadfast; that the will is by nature free and unconstrained; and that all else is liable to restraint, compulsion, slavery, and tyranny,” imagine that they must remain immutably fixed to everything which they have determined. But it is first necessary that the determination should be a wise one. I agree, that there should be sinews in the body, but such as in a healthy, an athletic body; for if you show me that you exhibit the [convulsed] sinews of a lunatic, and value yourself upon that, I will say to you, Seek a physician, man; this is not muscular vigor, but is really enervation. Such is the distemper of mind in those who hear these discourses in a wrong manner; like an acquaintance of mine, who, for no reason, had determined to starve himself to death. I went the third day, and inquired what was the matter. He answered, “I am determined.” — Well; but what is your motive? For, if your determination be right, we will stay, and assist your departure; but, if unreasonable, change it. — “We ought to keep our determinations.” — What do you mean, sir? Not all of them; but such as are right. Else, if you should fancy that it is night, if this be your principle, do not change, but persist, and say, “We ought to keep to our determinations.” What do you mean, sir? Not to all of them. Why do you not begin by first laying the foundation, inquiring Edition: current; Page: [140] whether your determination be a sound one, or not; and then build your firmness and constancy upon it. For, if you lay a rotten and crazy foundation, you must not build; since the greater and more weighty the superstructure, the sooner will it fall. Without any reason, you are withdrawing from us, out of life, a friend, a companion, a fellow-citizen both of the greater and the lesser city; and while you are committing murder, and destroying an innocent person, you say, “We must keep to our determinations.” Suppose, by any means, it should ever come into your head to kill me; must you keep such a determination?

With difficulty this person was, however, at last convinced; but there are some at present, whom there is no convincing. So that now I think I understand, what before I did not, the meaning of that common saying, that a fool will neither bend nor break. May it never fall to my lot to have a wise, that is an untractable fool for my friend. “It is all to no purpose; I am determined.” So are madmen too; but the more strongly they are determined upon absurdities, the more need have they of hellebore. Why will you not act like a sick person, and apply yourself to a physician? “Sir, I am sick. Give me your assistance; consider what I am to do. It is my part to follow your directions.” So say in the present case: “I know not what I ought to do; and I am come to learn.” — “No; but talk to me about other things; for upon this I am determined.” What other things? What is of greater consequence, than to convince you that it is not sufficient to be determined, and to persist? This is the vigor of a madman; not of one in health. “I will die, if you compel Edition: current; Page: [141] me to this.” Why so, man; what is the matter? “I am determined.” I have a lucky escape, that it is not your determination to kill me. “I will not be bribed [from my purpose.”] Why so? “I am determined.” Be assured, that with that very vigor which you now employ to refuse the bribe, you may hereafter have as unreasonable a propensity to take it; and again to say, “I am determined.” As, in a distempered and rheumatic body, the humor tends sometimes to one part, sometimes to another; thus it is uncertain which way a sickly mind will incline. But if to its inclination and bent a spasmodic vigor be likewise added, the evil then becomes desperate and incurable.


WHERE lies good? In the will. Where evil? In the will. Where neither good nor evil? In things inevitable. What then? Does any one of us remember these lessons out of the schools? Does any one of us study how to answer for himself in the affairs of life, as in common questions? “Is it day?” — “Yes.” — “Is it night, then?” — “No.” — “Is the number of stars even?” — “I cannot tell.” — When a bribe is offered you, have you learned to make the proper answer, that it is not a good? Have you exercised yourself in such answers as these; or only in sophistries? Why do you wonder, then, that you improve in points which you have studied; while Edition: current; Page: [142] in those which you have not studied, there you remain the same? When an orator knows that he has written well; that he has committed to memory what he has written; and that he brings an agreeable voice with him; why is he still anxious? Because he is not contented with what he has studied. What does he want then? To be applauded by the audience. He has studied the power of speaking, then; but he has not studied censure and applause. For when did he hear from any one what applause, what censure is? What is the nature of each? What kind of applause is to be sought, and what kind of censure to be shunned? And when did he ever apply himself to study what follows from these lessons? Why do you wonder then, if, in what he has learned, he excels others; but, where he has not studied, he is the same with the rest of the world? Just as a musician knows how to play, sings well, and has the proper dress of his profession; yet trembles when he comes upon the stage. For the first he understands; but what the multitude is, or what mean the clamor and laughter of the multitude, he does not understand. Nor does he even know what anxiety itself is; whether it be our own affair, or that of others; or whether it be possible to suppress it, or not. Hence, if he is applauded, he is puffed up, when he makes his exit: but if he is laughed at, the inflation is punctured, and subsides.

Thus are we too affected. What do we admire? Externals. For what do we strive? Externals. And are we then in any doubt why we fear and are anxious? What is the consequence, then, when we esteem the things that are brought upon us to be evils? We cannot but fear; we cannot but be Edition: current; Page: [143] anxious. And then we say, “O Lord God, how shall I avoid anxiety!” Have you not hands, foolish man? Hath not God made them for you? You might as well kneel and pray to be cured of your catarrh. Take care of your disease, rather; and do not murmur. Well; and hath he given you nothing in the present case? Hath he not given you patience? Hath he not given you magnanimity? Hath he not given you fortitude? When you have such hands as these, do you still seek for aid from another? But we neither study nor regard these things. For give me but one, who cares how he does anything, who does not regard the success of anything, but his own manner of acting. Who, when he is walking, regards his own action? Who, when he is deliberating, prizes the deliberation itself, and not the success that is to follow it? If it happens to succeed, he is elated; and cries: “How prudently have we deliberated! Did not I tell you, my dear friend, that it was impossible, when we considered about anything, that it should not happen right?” But if it miscarries, the poor wretch is dejected; and knows not what to say about the matter. Who among us ever, for such a purpose, consulted a diviner? Who of us ever slept in a temple, to be instructed [in a dream] concerning his manner of acting? I say, who? Show me one who is truly noble and ingenuous, that I may see what I have long sought. Show me either a young or an old man.

Why then are we still surprised, if, when we waste all our attention on the mere materials of action, we are, in the manner of action itself, low, sordid, unworthy, timid, wretched, and altogether failures? For we do not care about these things, nor make Edition: current; Page: [144] them our study. If we had feared, not death or exile, but fear itself, we should have studied not to fall into what appears to us to be evil. But, as the case now stands, we are eager and loquacious in the schools; and, when any little question arises about any of these things, we are prepared to trace its consequences; but drag us into practice, and you will find us miserably shipwrecked. Let something of alarming aspect attack us, and you will perceive what we have been studying, and in what we are exercised. Besides, through this negligence, we always exaggerate, and represent things greater than the reality. In a voyage, for instance, casting my eyes down upon the ocean below, and looking round me, and seeing no land, I am beside myself, and imagine that, if I should be shipwrecked, I must swallow all that ocean; nor does it occur to me, that three pints are enough for me. What is it then, that alarms me? The ocean? No; but my own impressions. Again; in an earthquake, I imagine the city is going to fall upon me; but is not one little stone enough to knock my brains out? What is it then, that oppresses, and makes us beside ourselves? Why, what else but our own impressions? For what is it, but mere impressions, that distress him, who leaves his country, and is separated from his acquaintance, and friends, and place, and usual manner of life? When children cry, if their nurse happens to be absent for a little while, give them a cake, and they forget their grief. Shall we compare you to these children then?

“No, indeed. For I do not desire to be pacified by a cake; but by right impressions. And what are they?”

Such as a man ought to study all day long, so as Edition: current; Page: [145] not to be absorbed in what does not belong to him; neither friend, place, nor academy, nor even his own body; but to remember the law, and to have that constantly before his eyes. And what is the divine law? To preserve inviolate what is properly our own; not to claim what belongs to others; to use what is given us, and not desire what is not given us; and, when anything is taken away, to restore it readily, and to be thankful for the time you have been permitted the use of it; and not cry after it, like a child for its nurse and its mamma. For what does it signify, what gets the better of you, or on what you depend? Which is the worthier, one crying for a doll, or for an academy? You lament for the portico and the assembly of young people, and such entertainments. Another comes lamenting that he must no longer drink the water of Dircè.* Why, is not the Marcian water as good? “But I was used to that.” And in time you will be used to the other. And, when you are attached to this too, you may weep again, and set yourself, in imitation of Euripides, to celebrate, in verse,

The baths of Nero, and the Marcian water.

Hence see the origin of Tragedy, when trifling accidents befall foolish men. “Ah, when shall I see Athens and the citadel again?” Foolish man, are not you contented with what you see every day? Can you see anything better than the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole earth, the sea? But if, besides, you comprehend him who administers the whole, and carry him about within yourself, do you still Edition: current; Page: [146] long after certain stones, and a fine rock? What will you do then, when you are to leave even the sun and moon? Will you sit crying, like an infant? What, then, have you been doing in the school? What did you hear? What did you learn? Why have you written yourself down a philosopher, instead of writing the real fact? “I have prepared some abstracts, and read over Chrysippus; but I have not so much as approached the door of philosophy. For what pretensions have I in common with Socrates, who died and who lived in such a manner? Or with Diogenes? Do you observe either of these crying, or out of humor, that he is not to see such a man, or such a woman; nor to live any longer at Athens, nor at Corinth; but at Susa, for instance, or Ecbatana? For does he stay and repine, who may at any time, if he will, quit the entertainment, and play no longer? Why does he not stay, as children do, so long as he is amused? Such a one, no doubt, will bear perpetual banishment and a sentence of death wonderfully well! Why will not you be weaned, as children are; and take more solid food? Will you never cease to cry after your mammas and nurses, whom the old women about you have taught you to bewail? “But if I go away, I shall trouble them also.” You trouble them! No; it will not be you; but that which troubles you too, — a mere impression. What have you to do then? Rid yourself of that impression; and, if they are wise, they will do the same for theirs; or, if not, they must lament for themselves.

Boldly make a desperate push, man, as the saying is, for prosperity, for freedom, for magnanimity. Lift up your head at last, as being free from slavery. Edition: current; Page: [147] Dare to look up to God, and say, “Make use of me for the future as Thou wilt. I am of the same mind; I am one with Thee. I refuse nothing which seems good to Thee. Lead me whither Thou wilt. Clothe me in whatever dress Thou wilt. Is it Thy will that I should be in a public or a private condition; dwell here, or be banished; be poor, or rich? Under all these circumstances I will testify unto Thee before men. I will explain the nature of every dispensation.” No? Rather sit alone, then, in safety, and wait till your mamma comes to feed you. If Hercules had sat loitering at home, what would he have been? Eurystheus, and not Hercules. Besides, by travelling through the world, how many acquaintances and how many friends he made. But none more his friend than God; for which reason he was believed to be the son of God; and was so. In obedience to him, he went about extirpating injustice and lawless force. But you are not Hercules, nor able to extirpate the evils of others; nor even Theseus, to extirpate the evils of Attica. Extirpate your own then. Expel, instead of Procrustes and Sciron,* grief, fear, desire, envy, malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, intemperance. But these can be no otherwise expelled than by looking up to God alone, as your pattern; by attaching yourself to him alone, and being consecrated to his commands. If you wish for anything else, you will, with sighs and groans, follow what is stronger than you; always seeking prosperity without, and never able to find it. For you seek it where it is not, and neglect to seek it where it is.

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WHAT is the first business of one who studies philosophy? To part with self-conceit. For it is impossible for any one to begin to learn what he thinks that he already knows. We all go to the philosophers, talking at random upon negative and positive duties; good and evil; fair and base. We praise, censure, accuse; we judge and dispute about fair and base enterprises. And yet for what do we go to the philosophers? To learn what we suppose ourselves not to know. And what is this? Propositions. We are desirous to hear what the philosophers say, for its elegance and acuteness; and some with a view only to gain. Now it is ridiculous to suppose, that a person will learn anything but what he desires to learn; or make an improvement, in what he does not learn. But most are deceived, in the same manner as Theopompus, the orator, when he blames Plato for defining everything. “For,” he says, “did none of us, before you, use the words good and just; or did we utter them as empty sounds, without understanding what each of them meant?” Why, who tells you, Theopompus, that we had not natural ideas and general principles as to each of these? But it is not possible to apply principles in detail, without having minutely distinguished them, and examined what details appertain to each. You may make the same objection to the physicians. For who of us did not use the words wholesome and unwholesome, before Edition: current; Page: [149] Hippocrates was born; or did we utter them as empty sounds? For we have some general conception of what is wholesome too; but we cannot apply it. Hence one says, let the patient abstain from meat; another, give it to him: one says, let him be bled; another, cup him. And what is the reason, but not being able to adapt the general conception of wholesomeness to particular cases? Thus, too, in life; who of us does not talk of good or evil, advantageous and disadvantageous; for who of us has not a general conception of each of these? But is it then a distinct and perfect one? Show me this.

“How shall I show it?”

Apply it properly in detail. Plato, to go no further, puts definitions under the general head of useful; but you, under that of useless. Can both of you be right? How is it possible? Again; does not one man adapt the general conception of good, to riches? Another, not to riches, but to pleasure, or health? In general, unless we who use words employ them vaguely, or without proper care in discrimination, why do we differ? Why do we wrangle? Why do we censure each other? But what occasion have I to mention this mutual contradiction? If you yourself apply your principles properly, how comes it to pass, that you do not prosper? Why do you meet with any hindrance? Let us for the present omit our second point, concerning the pursuits, and the duties relative to them: let us omit the third too, concerning assent. I waive all these for you. Let us insist only on the first;* which affords almost a sensible proof, that you do not properly apply your principles. You desire what is possible in itself, and Edition: current; Page: [150] possible for you. Why then are you hindered? Why are not you in a prosperous way? You do not shrink from the inevitable. Why then do you incur anything undesirable? Why are you unfortunate? When you desire anything, why does it not happen? When you do not desire it, why happens it? For this is the greatest proof of ill success and misery: “I desire something and it does not happen; and what is more wretched than I?” From such impatience Medea came to murder her own children; a lofty action in this point of view alone, that she had a proper impression of what it was to fail of one’s aim. “Thus I shall punish him who has injured and dishonored me; and what is so wicked a wretch good for? But how is this to be effected? I will murder the children; but that will be punishing myself. And what care I?” This is the error of a powerful soul. For she knew not where the fulfilment of our desires is to be found; that it is not to be had from without, nor by altering the appointment of things. Do not demand the man for your husband, and nothing which you do desire will fail to happen. Do not desire to keep him to yourself. Do not desire to stay at Corinth, and, in a word, have no will, but the will of God; and who shall restrain you; who shall compel you, any more than Zeus? When you have such a guide, and conform your will and inclinations to his, why need you fear being disappointed? Fix your desire and aversion on riches, or poverty; the one will be disappointed, the other incurred. Fix them on health, power, honors, your country, friends, children, in short, on anything beyond the control of your will, you will be unfortunate. But fix them on Zeus, on the gods. Give yourself up to these; let these govern; Edition: current; Page: [151] let your powers be ranged on the same side with these; and how can you be any longer unprosperous? But if, poor wretch, you envy, and pity, and are jealous, and tremble, and never cease a single day from complaining of yourself and the gods, why do you boast of your education? What education, man? That you have learned syllogisms? Why do not you, if possible, unlearn all these, and begin again; convinced that hitherto you have not even touched upon the essential point? And, for the future, beginning from this foundation, proceed in order to the superstructure; that nothing may happen which you do not wish, and that everything may happen which you desire. Give me but one young man, who brings this intention with him to the school; who is a champion for this point, and says, “I yield up all the rest; it suffices me, if once I become able to pass my life free from hindrance and grief; to stretch out my neck to all events as free; and to look up to Heaven, as the friend of God, fearing nothing that can happen.” Let any one of you show himself of such a disposition, that I may say, “Come into the place, young man, that is of right your own; for you are destined to be an ornament to philosophy. Yours are these possessions; yours these books; yours these discourses.” Then, when he has thoroughly mastered this first class, let him come to me again, and say: “I desire indeed to be free from passion, and perturbation; but I desire too, as a pious, a philosophic, and a diligent man, to know what is my duty to God, to my parents, to my relations, to my country, and to strangers.” Come into the second class too; for this likewise is yours. “But I have now sufficiently studied the second class Edition: current; Page: [152] too; and I would willingly be secure, and unshaken by error and delusion, not only when awake, but even when asleep; when warmed with wine; when diseased with the spleen.” You are becoming as a god, man; your aims are sublime!

“Nay; but I, for my part, desire to understand what Chrysippus says, in his logical treatise of the Pseudomenos.”* — Go hang yourself, pitiful man, with only such an aim as this! What good will it do you? You will read the whole, lamenting all the while; and say to others, trembling, “Do as I do. Shall I read to you, my friend, and you to me? You write amazingly well; and you very finely imitate the style of Plato; and you, of Xenophon; and you, of Antisthenes.” And thus, having related your dreams to each other, you return again to the same state. Your desires and aversions, your pursuits, your intentions, your resolutions, your wishes and endeavors, are just what they were. You do not so much as seek for one to advise you, but are offended when you hear such things as these; and cry, “An ill-natured old man! He never wept over me, when I was setting out, nor said, To what a danger are you going to be exposed? If you come off safe, child, I will illuminate my house. This would have been the part of a man of feeling.” Truly, it will be a mighty happiness, if you do come off safe: it will be worth while to make an illumination. For you ought to be immortal, and exempt from sickness, to be sure.

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Throwing away then, I say, this self-conceit, by which we fancy we have gained some knowledge of what is useful, we should come to philosophic reasoning as we do to mathematics and music; otherwise we shall be far from making any improvement, even if we have read over all the compends and commentaries, not only of Chrysippus, but of Antipater, and Archedemus too.


EVERY habit and faculty is preserved and increased by correspondent actions; as the habit of walking, by walking; of running, by running. If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write. But if you do not read for a month together, but do something else; you will see what will be the consequence. So, after sitting still for ten days, get up and attempt to take a long walk; and you will find how your legs are weakened. Upon the whole then, whatever you would make habitual, practise it; and, if you would not make a thing habitual, do not practise it, but habituate yourself to something else.

It is the same with regard to the operations of the soul. Whenever you are angry, be assured, that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit, and added fuel to a fire. When you are overcome by the seductions of a woman, do not consider it as a single defeat alone, but that you have fed, that you have increased, your dissoluteness. For it is impossible, Edition: current; Page: [154] but that habits and faculties must either be first produced, or strengthened and increased, by corresponding actions. Hence the philosophers derive the growth of all maladies. When you once desire money, for example, if reason be applied to produce a sense of the evil, the desire ceases, and the governing faculty of the mind regains its authority; whereas, if you apply no remedy, it returns no more to its former state, but, being again similarly excited, it kindles at the desire more quickly than before; and by frequent repetitions, at last becomes callous, and by this malady is the love of money fixed. For he who has had a fever, even after it has left him, is not in the same state of health as before, unless he was perfectly cured; and the same thing happens in distempers of the soul likewise. There are certain traces and blisters left in it; which, unless they are well effaced, whenever a new hurt is received in the same part, instead of blisters will become sores.

If you would not be of an angry temper, then, do not feed the habit. Give it nothing to help its increase. Be quiet at first, and reckon the days in which you have not been angry. I used to be angry every day; now every other day; then every third and fourth day; and if you miss it so long as thirty days, offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God. For habit is first weakened, and then entirely destroyed. “I was not vexed to-day; nor the next day; nor for three or four months after; but restrained myself under provocation.” Be assured, that you are in an excellent way. “To-day, when I saw a handsome person, I did not say to myself, O that I could possess her! and how happy is her husband” (for he who says this, says too, how happy is her gallant); “nor Edition: current; Page: [155] did I go on to fancy her in my arms.” On this I stroke my head, and say, Well done, Epictetus; thou hast solved a hard problem, harder than the chief syllogism. But, if even the lady should happen to be willing and give me intimations of it, and send for me, and press my hand, and place herself next to me; and I should then forbear, and get the victory; that would be a triumph beyond all the forms of logic. This is the proper subject for exultation, and not one’s power in handling the syllogism.

How then is this to be effected? Be willing to approve yourself to yourself. Be willing to appear beautiful in the sight of God; be desirous to converse in purity with your own pure mind, and with God; and then, if any such semblance bewilders you, Plato directs you: “Have recourse to expiations; go a suppliant to the temples of the averting deities.” It is sufficient, however, if you propose to yourself the example of wise and good men, whether alive or dead; and compare your conduct with theirs. Go to Socrates, and see him placed beside his beloved, yet not seduced by youth and beauty. Consider what a victory he was conscious of obtaining! What an Olympic triumph! How near does he rank to Hercules!* So that, by Heaven, one might justly salute him; hail! wondrous victor! instead of those sorry boxers and wrestlers, and the gladiators who resemble them.

By placing such an example before you, you will Edition: current; Page: [156] conquer any alluring semblance, and not be drawn away by it. But in the first place, be not hurried away by excitement; but say, Semblance, wait for me a little. Let me see what you are, and what you represent. Let me try you. Then, afterwards, do not suffer it to go on drawing gay pictures of what will follow; if you do, it will lead you wherever it pleases. But rather oppose to it some good and noble semblance, and banish this base one. If you are habituated to this kind of exercise, you will see what shoulders, what nerves, what sinews, you will have. But now it is mere trifling talk, and nothing more. He is the true athlete, who trains himself against such semblances as these. Stay, wretch, do not be hurried away. The combat is great, the achievement divine; for empire, for freedom, for prosperity, for tranquillity. Remember God. Invoke him for your aid and protector; as sailors do Castor and Pollux, in a storm. For what storm is greater than that which arises from these perilous semblances, contending to overset our reason? Indeed what is the storm itself, but a semblance? For, do but take away the fear of death, and let there be as many thunders and lightnings as you please, you will find, that to the reason all is serenity and calm; but if you are once defeated, and say, you will get the victory another time, and then the same thing over again; assure yourself that you will at last be reduced to so weak and wretched a condition, you will not so much as know when you do amiss; but you will even begin to make defences for your behavior, and thus verify the saying of Hesiod: —

With constant ills, the dilatory strive.*

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THE science of “the ruling argument”* appears to have its rise from hence. Of the following propositions, any two imply a contradiction to the third. They are these. “That everything past is necessarily true”; “That an impossibility is not the consequence of a possibility”; and, “That something is a possibility, which neither is nor will be true.” Diodorus, perceiving this contradiction, combined the first two, to prove, that nothing is possible, which neither is nor will be true. Some again hold the second and third; “that something is possible, which neither is nor will be true”; and, “that an impossibility is not the consequence of a possibility”; and consequently assert, “That not everything past is necessarily true.” This way Cleanthes and his followers took; whom Antipater copiously defends. Others, lastly, maintain the first and third; “that something is possible, which neither is nor will be true”; and “that everything past is necessarily true”; but then, “that an impossibility may be the consequence of a possibility.” But all these three propositions cannot be at once maintained, because of their mutual contradiction.

If any one should ask me then, which of them I maintain; I answer him, that really I cannot tell. But I have heard it related, that Diodorus held one opinion about them; the followers of Panthædes, I Edition: current; Page: [158] think, and Cleanthes, another; and Chrysippus a third.

“What then is your opinion?”

I express none. I was born to examine things as they appear to my own mind; to compare what is said by others, and thence to form some conviction of my own on any topic. Of these things I have merely technical knowledge. Who was the father of Hector? Priam. Who were his brothers? Paris and Deiphobus. Who was his mother? Hecuba. This I have heard related. From whom? Homer. But I believe Hellanicus, and other authors, have written on the same subject. And what better account have I of “the ruling argument”? But, if I were vain enough, I might, especially at some entertainment, astonish all the company by an enumeration of authors relating to it. Chrysippus has written wonderfully, in his first Book of Possibilities. Cleanthes and Archedemus have each written separately on this subject. Antipater too has written, not only in his Treatise of Possibilities, but especially in a discourse on “the ruling argument.” Have you not read the work? “No.” Read it then. And what good will it do him? He will be more trifling and impertinent than he is already. For what else have you gained by reading it? What conviction have you formed upon this subject? But you tell us of Helen, and Priam, and the isle of Calypso, something which never was, nor ever will be. And in these matters, indeed, it is of no great consequence if you retain the story, without forming any principle of your own. But it is our misfortune to do so, much more, in morality, than upon such subjects as these.

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“Talk to me concerning good and evil.”


“Winds blew from Ilium to Ciconian shores.”*

Of things, some are good, some evil, and some indifferent. Now the good are the virtues, and whatever partakes of them; and the evil, vices, and what partakes of vice; the indifferent lie between these, as riches, health, life, death, pleasure, pain.

“Whence do you know this?”

[Suppose I say,] Hellanicus says it, in his Egyptian History. For what does it signify, whether one quotes the history of Hellanicus, or the ethics of Diogenes, or Chrysippus, or Cleanthes? Have you then examined any of these things, and formed convictions of your own? But show me, how you are used to exercise yourself on shipboard. Remember these distinctions, when the mast rattles, and some idle fellow stands by you, while you are screaming, and says: “For heaven’s sake, talk as you did a little while ago. Is it vice to suffer shipwreck? Or does it partake of vice?” Would you not take up a log, and throw it at his head? “What have we to do with you, sir? We are perishing, and you come and jest.” Again; if Cæsar should summon you, to answer an accusation, remember these distinctions. If, when you are going in, pale and trembling, any one should meet you and say, “Why do you tremble, sir? What is this affair you are engaged in? Doth Cæsar, within there, give virtue and vice to those who approach him?”—“What, do you too insult me, and add to my evils?” — “Nay, but tell me, philosopher, why you tremble? Is there any other danger, Edition: current; Page: [160] but death, or a prison, or bodily pain, or exile, or slander?” — “Why, what else should there be?” — “Are any of these vice? Or do they partake of vice? What, then, did you yourself use to say of these things?” — “What have you to do with me, sir? My own evils are enough for me.” — “You say rightly. Your own evils are indeed enough for you; your baseness, your cowardice, and that arrogance by which you were elated, as you sat in the schools. Why did you assume plumage not your own? Why did you call yourself a Stoic?”

Observe yourselves thus in your actions, and you will find of what sect you are. You will find, that most of you are Epicureans; a few Peripatetics, and those but loose ones. For by what action will you prove that you think virtue equal, and even superior, to all other things? Show me a Stoic, if you have one. Where? Or how should you? You can show, indeed, a thousand who repeat the Stoic reasonings. But do they repeat the Epicurean less well? Are they not just as perfect in the Peripatetic? Who then is a Stoic? As we call that a Phidian statue, which is formed according to the art of Phidias; so show me some one person formed according to the principles which he professes. Show me one who is sick, and happy; in danger, and happy; dying, and happy; exiled, and happy; disgraced, and happy. Show him to me; for, by Heaven, I long to see a Stoic. But you have not one fully developed? Show me then one who is developing; one who is approaching towards this character. Do me this favor. Do not refuse an old man a sight which he has never yet seen. Do you suppose that you are to show the Jupiter or Minerva of Phidias, a work of ivory or gold? Let any of you Edition: current; Page: [161] show me a human soul, desiring to be in unity with God; not to accuse either God or man; not to be disappointed of its desire, nor incur its aversion; not to be angry; not to be envious; not to be jealous; in a word, desiring from a man to become a god; and, in this poor mortal body, aiming to have fellowship with Zeus. Show him to me. But you cannot. Why then do you impose upon yourselves, and play tricks with others? Why do you put on a dress not your own; and walk about in it, mere thieves and pilferers of names and things which do not belong to you? I am now your preceptor, and you come to be instructed by me. And indeed my aim is to secure you from being restrained, compelled, hindered; to make you free, prosperous, happy; looking to God upon every occasion, great or small. And you come to learn and study these things. Why then do you not finish your work, if you have the proper aims, and I, besides the aim, the proper qualifications? What is wanting? When I see an artificer, and the materials lying ready, I await the work. Now here is the artificer; here are the materials; what is it we want? Is not the thing capable of being taught? It is. Is it not in our own power then? The only thing of all others that is so. Neither riches, nor health, nor fame, nor, in short, anything else is in our power, except a right use of the semblances of things. This alone is, by nature, not subject to restraint, not subject to hindrance. Why then do not you finish it? Tell me the cause. It must be my fault, or yours, or from the nature of the thing. The thing itself is practicable, and the only thing in our power. The fault then must be either in me, or in you, or, more truly, in both. Well then, shall we at length begin to carry Edition: current; Page: [162] such an aim with us? Let us lay aside all that is past. Let us begin. Only believe me, and you shall see.


THINGS true and evident must, of necessity, be recognized even by those who would contradict them. And perhaps one of the strongest proofs that there is such a thing as evidence, is the necessity which compels even those who contradict it to make use of it. If a person, for instance, should deny that anything is universally true, he will be obliged to assert the contrary, that nothing is universally true. Foolish man, not so. For what is this, but an universal statement?* Again; suppose any one should come and say, “Know that there is nothing to be known; but all things are uncertain”; or another, “Believe me, for your good, that no man ought to be believed in anything”; or a third, “Learn from me that nothing is to be learned; I tell you this, and will teach the proof of it, if you please.” Now what difference is there between such as these, and those who call themselves Academics, — who say to us, “Be convinced, that no one ever is convinced; believe us, that nobody believes anybody”?

Thus also, when Epicurus would destroy the natural tie between mankind, he makes use of the very thing he is destroying. For what says he? “Be not deceived; be not seduced and mistaken. There is no natural tie between reasonable beings. Believe Edition: current; Page: [163] me. Those who say otherwise mislead and impose upon you.” — Why are you concerned for us then? Let us be deceived. You will fare never the worse, if all the rest of us are persuaded, that there is a natural tie between mankind; and that it is by all means to be preserved. Nay, it will be much safer and better. Why do you give yourself any trouble about us, sir? Why do you break your rest for us? Why do you light your lamp? Why do you rise early? Why do you compose so many volumes? Is it that none of us should be deceived concerning the gods, as if they took any care of men? Or that we may not suppose the essence of good consists in anything but in pleasure? For if these things be so, lie down and sleep, and lead the life of which you judge yourself worthy; that of a mere worm. Eat, drink, debauch, snore. What is it to you, whether others think rightly or wrongly about these things? For what have you to do with us? You take care of sheep, because they afford their milk, their wool, and at last their flesh. And would it not be a desirable thing that men might be so lulled and enchanted by the Stoics as to give themselves up to be milked and fleeced by you, and such as you? Should not these doctrines be taught to your brother Epicureans only, and concealed from the rest of the world; who should by all means, above all things, be persuaded, that we have a natural tie with each other, and that self-command is a good thing, in order that all may be kept safe for you? Or is this tie to be preserved towards some and not towards others? Towards whom, then, is it to be preserved? Towards such as mutually preserve, or such as violate it? And who violate it more than you, who teach such doctrines?

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What was it, then, that waked Epicurus from his sleep, and compelled him to write what he did; what else, but that which is of all influences the most powerful among mankind, Nature; which draws every one, however unwilling and reluctant, to its own purposes. For since, she says, you think that there is no tie between mankind, write out this doctrine, and leave it for the use of others; and break your sleep upon that account; and by your own practice confute your own principles. Do we say, that Orestes was roused from sleep because driven by the furies; and was not Epicurus waked by sterner furies and avengers, which would not suffer him to rest, but compelled him to utter his own ills, as wine and madness do the priests of Cybele? So strong and unconquerable a thing is human nature! For how can a vine have the properties not of a vine, but of an olive-tree? Or an olive-tree, not those of an olive-tree, but of a vine? It is impossible. It is inconceivable. Neither, therefore, is it possible for a human creature entirely to lose human affections. But even those who have undergone a mutilation, cannot have their inclinations also mutilated; and so Epicurus, when he had mutilated all the offices of a man, of a master of a family, of a citizen, and of a friend, did not mutilate the inclinations of humanity; for this he could not do; any more than the idle Academics can throw away or blind their own senses, though this be the point they chiefly labor. What a misfortune is it, when any one, after having received from Nature standards and rules for the knowledge of truth, does not strive to add to these, and make up their deficiencies; but, on the contrary, endeavors to take away and destroy whatever truth may be known even by them.

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What say you, philosopher? What do you think of piety and sanctity? — “If you please, I will prove that they are good.” — Pray do prove it; that our citizens may be converted, and honor the Deity, and may no longer neglect what is of the highest importance. “Do you accept these demonstrations, then?” I have, and I thank you. “Since you are so well pleased with this, then, learn these contrary propositions; that there are no gods, or, if there are, that they take no care of mankind, neither have we any concern with them; that this piety and sanctity, so much talked of by many, are only an imposition of boasting and sophistical men; or, perhaps, of legislators, for a terror and restraint to injustice.” — Well done, philosopher. Our citizens are much the better for you. You have already brought back all the youth to a contempt of the Deity. “What! does not this please you, then? Learn next, that justice is nothing; that shame is folly; that the paternal relation is nothing; the filial, nothing.” Well said, philosopher; persist, convince the youth; that we may have many more, to think and talk like you. By such doctrines as these, no doubt, have our well-governed states flourished! Upon these was Sparta founded! Lycurgus, by his laws, and method of education, introduced such persuasions as these; that it is not base to be slaves, rather than honorable; nor honorable to be free, rather than base! They who died at Thermopylæ, died from such principles as these! And from what other doctrines did the Athenians leave their city?*

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And yet, they who talk thus marry, and produce children, and engage in public affairs, and get themselves made priests and prophets. Of whom? Of gods that have no existence. And they consult the Pythian priestess, only to hear falsehoods, and interpret the oracles to others. O! monstrous impudence and imposture!

What are you doing, man?* You contradict yourself every day; and you will not give up these paltry cavils. When you eat, where do you put your hand? To your mouth, or to your eye? When you bathe, where do you go? Do you ever call a kettle a dish, or a spoon a spit? If I were a servant to one of these gentlemen, were it at the hazard of being flayed every day, I would plague him. “Throw some oil into the bath, boy.” I would take pickle, and pour upon his head. “What is this?” Really, sir, I was impressed by a certain semblance so like oil as not to be distinguished from it. “Give me the soup.” I would carry him a dish full of vinegar. “Did I not ask for the soup?” Yes, sir, this is the soup. “Is not this vinegar?” Why so, more than soup? “Take it and smell it, take it and taste it.” How do you know, then, but our senses deceive us? If I had three or four fellow-servants to join with me, I would make him either choke with passion and burst, or change his opinions. But now they insult us, by making use of the gifts of nature, while in words they destroy them. Those must be grateful and modest men, at least, who, while eating their daily Edition: current; Page: [167] bread, dare to say, “We do not know whether there be any such beings as Demeter, or Core, or Pluto.” Not to mention, that while they possess the blessings of night and day, of the annual seasons, of the stars, the earth and the sea, they are not the least affected by any of these things; but only study to throw out some idle problem, and when they have thus relieved themselves, go and bathe; but take not the least care what they say, nor on what subjects, nor to whom, nor what may be the consequence of their talk; whether any well-disposed young man, on hearing such doctrines, may not be affected by them, and so affected as entirely to lose the seeds of his good disposition; whether they may not furnish an adulterer with occasions of growing shameless in his guilt; whether a public plunderer may not find excuses from these doctrines; whether he, who neglects his parents, may not gain an additional confidence from them.

“What things, then, in your opinion, are good and evil, fair and base; such things, or such things?” But why should one argue any more with such as these, or interchange opinions, or endeavor to convince them? By Zeus, one might sooner hope to convince the most unnatural debauchees, than those, who are thus deaf and blind to their own ills.

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THERE are some things which men confess with ease; and others with difficulty. No one, for instance, will confess himself a fool, or a blockhead; but, on the contrary, you will hear every one say, “I wish my fortune were in proportion to my abilities.” But they easily confess themselves fearful, and say, “I am somewhat timorous, I confess; but in other respects you will not find me a fool.” No one will easily confess himself intemperate in his desires; upon no account dishonest, nor indeed very envious, or meddling; but many confess themselves to have the weakness of being compassionate. What is the reason of all this? The principal reason is, an inconsistency and confusion in what relates to good and evil. But different people have different motives, and in general, whatever they imagine to be base, they do not absolutely confess. Fear and compassion they imagine to belong to a well-meaning disposition; but stupidity, to a slave. Offences against society they do not own; but, in most faults, they are brought to a confession, chiefly from imagining that there is something involuntary in them; as in fear and compassion. And, though a person should in some measure confess himself intemperate in his desires, he accuses his passion, and expects forgiveness, as for an involuntary fault. But dishonesty is not imagined to be, by any means, involuntary. In jealousy too, there is something they suppose involuntary; and this, likewise, in some degree, they confess.

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Conversing therefore with such men, thus confused, thus ignorant what they say, and what are or are not their ills, whence they have them, and how they may be delivered from them; it is worth while, I think, to ask one’s self continually, “Am I too one of these? What do I imagine myself to be? How do I conduct myself? As a prudent, as a temperate man? Do I, too, ever talk at this rate; that I am sufficiently instructed for what may happen? Have I that persuasion, that I know nothing, which becomes one who knows nothing? Do I go to a master, as to an oracle, prepared to obey; or do I also, like a mere driveller, enter the school, only to learn and understand books which I did not understand before; or, perhaps, to explain them to others?”

You have been fighting at home, with your man-servant; you have turned the house upside-down, and alarmed the neighborhood; and do you come to me with a pompous show of wisdom, and sit and criticise how I explain a sentence, how I prate whatever comes into my head? Do you come, envious and dejected, that nothing has come from home for you; and in the midst of the disputations, sit thinking on nothing, but how your father or your brother may treat you? “What are they saying about me at home? Now they think I am improving, and say, he will come back with universal knowledge. I wish I could learn everything before my return; but this requires much labor, and nobody sends me anything. The baths are very bad at Nicopolis; and things go very ill both at home, and here.”

After all this, it is said, nobody is the better for the philosophic school. Why, who comes to the school? I mean, who comes to be reformed? Who, to submit Edition: current; Page: [170] his principles to correction; who, with a sense of his wants? Why do you wonder, then, that you bring back from the school the very thing you carried there? For you do not come to lay aside, or correct, or change, your principles. How should you? Far from it. Rather consider this, therefore, whether you have not what you have come for. You have come to talk about theorems. Well; and are you not more impertinently talkative than you were? Do not these paltry theorems furnish you with matter for ostentation? Do you not solve convertible and hypothetical syllogisms? Why, then, are you still displeased, if you have the very thing for which you came?

“Very true; but, if my child, or my brother should die; or if I must die or be tortured myself, what good will these things do me?” Why, did you come for this? Did you attend upon me for this? Was it upon any such account, that you ever lighted your lamp, or sat up at night? Or did you, when you went into the walk, propose any delusive semblance to your own mind to be discussed, instead of a syllogism? Did any of you ever go through such a subject jointly? And, after all, you say, theorems are useless. To whom? To such as apply them ill. For medicines for the eyes are not useless to those who apply them when and as they ought. Fomentations are not useless, dumb-bells are not useless; but they are useless to some, and, on the contrary, useful to others. If you should ask me, now, are syllogisms useful? I should answer, that they are useful; and, if you please, I will show you how. “Will they be of service to me, then?” Why, did you ask, man, whether they would be useful to you, Edition: current; Page: [171] or in general? If any one in a dysentery should ask me, whether acids be useful; I should answer, they are. “Are they useful for me, then?” I say, no. First try to get the flux stopped, and the ulceration healed. Do you too first get your ulcers healed, your fluxes stopped. Quiet your mind, and bring it free from distraction to the school; and then you will know what force there is in reasoning.


TO whatever objects a person devotes his attention, these objects he probably loves. Do men ever devote their attention then, to [what they think] evils? By no means. Or even to things indifferent? No, nor this. It remains then, that good must be the sole object of their attention; and, if of their attention, of their love too. Whoever, therefore, understands good, is capable likewise of love; and he who cannot distinguish good from evil, and things indifferent from both, how is it possible that he can love? The wise person alone, then, is capable of loving.

“How so? I am not this wise person, yet I love my child.”

I protest it surprises me, that you should, in the first place, confess yourself unwise. For in what are you deficient? Have not you the use of your senses? Do you not distinguish the semblances of things? Do you not provide such food and clothing and habitation as are suitable to you? Why then do you confess that you want wisdom? In truth, because you Edition: current; Page: [172] are often struck and disconcerted by semblances, and their speciousness gets the better of you; and hence you sometimes suppose the very same things to be good, then evil, and lastly, neither; and, in a word, you grieve, you fear, you envy, you are disconcerted, you change. Is it from this that you confess yourself unwise? And are you not changeable too in love? Riches, pleasure, in short, the very same things, you sometimes esteem good, and at other times evil. And do you not esteem the same persons too, alternately as good and bad, at one time treating them with kindness, at another with enmity, at one time commending, and at another censuring them?

“Yes. This too is the case with me.”

Well then, can he who is deceived in another, be his friend, think you?

“No, surely.”

Or does he, who loves him with a changeable affection, bear him genuine good will?

“Nor he, neither.”

Or he, who now vilifies, then admires him?

“Nor he.”

Do you not often see little dogs caressing, and playing with each other, so that you would say, nothing could be more friendly; but, to learn what this friendship is, throw a bit of meat between them, and you will see. Do you too throw a bit of an estate betwixt you and your son, and you will see, that he will quickly wish you under ground, and you him; and then you, no doubt, on the other hand will exclaim, What a son have I brought up! He would bury me alive! — Throw in a pretty girl, and the old fellow and the young one will both fall in love with her; or let fame or danger intervene, the words of the father of Admetus will be yours:

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  • “You love to see the light. Doth not your father?
  • You fain would still behold it. Would not he?”*

Do you suppose that he did not love his own child when it was little? That he was not in agonies when it had a fever, and often wished to undergo that fever in its stead? But, after all, when the trial comes home, you see what expressions he uses. Were not Eteocles and Polynices born of the same mother, and of the same father? Were they not brought up, and did they not live, and eat, and sleep, together? Did not they kiss and fondle each other? So that any one, who saw them, would have laughed at all the paradoxes which philosophers utter about love. And yet, when a kingdom, like a bit of meat, was thrown betwixt them, see what they say.

Polynices. “Where wilt thou stand before the towers?”

Eteocles. “Why askest thou this of me?”

Pol. “I will oppose myself to thee, to slay thee.”

Et. “Me too the desire of this seizes.”

Such are the prayers they offer. Be not therefore deceived. No living being is held by anything so strongly as by its own needs. Whatever therefore appears a hindrance to these, be it brother, or father, or child, or mistress, or friend, is hated, abhorred, execrated; for by nature it loves nothing like its own needs. This motive is father, and brother, and family, and country, and God. Whenever, therefore, the Gods seem to hinder this, we vilify even them, and throw down their statues, and burn their temples; Edition: current; Page: [174] as Alexander ordered the temple of Æsculapius to be burnt, because he had lost the man he loved.

When therefore any one identifies his interest with those of sanctity, virtue, country, parents, and friends, all these are secured; but whenever he places his interest in anything else than friends, country, family, and justice, then these all give way, borne down by the weight of self-interest. For wherever I and mine are placed, thither must every living being gravitate. If in body, that will sway us; if in our own will, that; if in externals, these. If, therefore, I rest my personality in the will, then only shall I be a friend, a son, or a father, such as I ought. For, in that case, it will be for my interest to preserve the faithful, the modest, the patient, the abstinent, the beneficent character; to keep the relations of life inviolate. But, if I place my personality in one thing, and virtue in another, the doctrine of Epicurus will stand its ground, that virtue is nothing, or mere opinion.

From this ignorance it was, that the Athenians and Lacedemonians quarrelled with each other, and the Thebans with both; the Persian king with Greece, and the Macedonians with both; and now the Romans with the Getes. And, in still remoter times the Trojan war arose from the same cause. Alexander [Paris] was the guest of Menelaus; and whoever had seen the mutual proofs of good will, that passed between them, would never have believed that they were not friends. But a tempting bait, a pretty woman, was thrown in between them; and thence came war. At present, therefore, when you see that dear brothers have, in appearance, but one soul, do not immediately pronounce upon their love; not Edition: current; Page: [175] though they should swear it, and affirm it was impossible to live asunder. For the governing faculty of a bad man is faithless, unsettled, undiscriminating, successively vanquished by different semblances. But inquire, not as others do, whether they were born of the same parents, and brought up together, and under the same preceptor; but this thing only, in what they place their interest; in externals, or in their own wills. If in externals, you can no more pronounce them friends, than you can call them faithful, or constant, or brave, or free; nay, nor even truly men, if you are wise. For it is no principle of humanity, that makes them bite and vilify each other, and take possession of public assemblies, as wild beasts do of solitudes and mountains; and convert courts of justice into dens of robbers; that prompts them to be intemperate, adulterers, seducers; or leads them into other offences, that men commit against each other, — all from that one single error, by which they risk themselves, and their own concerns, on things uncontrollable by will.

But if you hear, that these men in reality suppose good to be placed only in the will, and in a right use of things as they appear; no longer take the trouble of inquiring if they are father and son, or old companions and acquaintances; but boldly pronounce that they are friends, and also that they are faithful and just. For where else can friendship be met, but joined with fidelity and modesty, and the intercommunication of virtue alone?

“Well; but such a one paid me the utmost regard, for so long a time, and did he not love me?”

How can you tell, foolish man, if that regard be any other than he pays to his shoes, or his horse, Edition: current; Page: [176] when he cleans them? And, how do you know but that when you cease to be a necessary utensil, he may throw you away, like a broken stool?

“Well; but it is my wife, and we have lived together many years.”

And how many did Eriphyle live with Amphiaraus; and was the mother of children, not a few? But a bauble came between them. What was this bauble? A false conviction concerning certain things. This turned her into a savage anima; this cut asunder all love, and suffered neither the wife nor the mother to continue such.*

Whoever therefore, among you, studies either to be or to gain a friend, let him cut up all false convictions by the root, hate them, drive them utterly out of his soul. Thus, in the first place, he will be secure from inward reproaches and contests; from vacillation and self-torment. Then with respect to others; to every like-minded person, he will be without disguise; to such as are unlike, he will be patient, mild, gentle, and ready to forgive them, as failing in points of the greatest importance; but severe to none, being fully convinced of Plato’s doctrine, that the soul is never willingly deprived of truth. Without all this, you may, in many respects, live as friends do; and drink, and lodge, and travel together, and even be born of the same parents; and so may serpents too; but neither they nor you can ever be really friends, while your accustomed principles remain brutal and execrable.

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A BOOK will always be read with more pleasure and ease, if it be written in fair characters; and so every one will the more easily attend to discourses likewise, if ornamented with proper and beautiful expressions. It ought not then to be said, that there is no such thing as the faculty of eloquence; for this would be at once the part of an impious and timid person. Impious, because he dishonors the gifts of God; just as if he should deny any use in the faculties of sight, hearing, and speech itself. Hath God then given you eyes in vain? Is it in vain, that he hath infused into them such a strong and active spirit, as to be able to represent the forms of distant objects? What messenger is so quick and diligent? Is it in vain, that he hath made the intermediate air so yielding and elastic, that sight penetrates through it? And is it in vain, that he hath made the light, without which all the rest would be useless? Man, be not ungrateful, nor, on the other hand, unmindful of your superior advantages; but for sight, and hearing, and indeed for life itself, and the supports of it, as fruits, and wine, and oil, be thankful to God; but remember that He hath given you another thing, superior to them all, which uses them, proves them, estimates the value of each. For what is it that pronounces upon the value of each of these faculties? Is it the faculty itself? Did you ever perceive the faculty of sight or hearing, to say anything concerning itself? Or wheat, or barley, or horses, or dogs? Edition: current; Page: [178] No. These things are appointed as instruments and servants, to obey that which is capable of using things as they appear. If you inquire the value of anything; of what do you inquire? What is the faculty that answers you? How then can any faculty be superior to this, which uses all the rest as instruments, and tries and pronounces concerning each of them? For which of them knows what itself is; and what is its own value? Which of them knows, when it is to be used, and when not? Which is it, that opens and shuts the eyes, and turns them away from improper objects? Is it the faculty of sight? No; but that of Will. Which is it, that opens and shuts the ears? Which is it, by which they are made curious and inquisitive; or on the contrary deaf, and unaffected by what is said? Is it the faculty of hearing? No; but that of Will. This, then, recognizing itself to exist amidst other faculties, all blind and deaf, and unable to discern anything but those offices, in which they are appointed to minister and serve; itself alone sees clearly, and distinguishes the value of each of the rest. Will this, I say, inform us, that anything is supreme, but itself? What can the eye, when it is opened, do more than see? But whether we ought to look upon the wife of any one, and in what manner, what is it that decides us? The faculty of Will. Whether we ought to believe, or disbelieve what is said; or whether, if we do believe, we ought to be moved by it, or not, what is it that decides us? Is it not the faculty of Will? Again; the very faculty of eloquence, and that which ornaments discourse, if any such peculiar faculty there be, what does it more than merely ornament and arrange expressions, as curlers do the hair? But Edition: current; Page: [179] whether it be better to speak, or to be silent; or better to speak in this, or in that manner; whether this be decent, or indecent; and the season and use of each; what is it that decides for us, but the faculty of Will? What then, would you have it appear, and bear testimony against itself? What means this? If the case be thus, then that which serves may be superior to that to which it is subservient; the horse to the rider; the dog to the hunter; the instrument to the musician; or servants to the king. What is it that makes use of all the rest? The Will. What takes care of all? The Will. What destroys the whole man, at one time, by hunger; at another, by a rope, or a precipice? The Will. Has man, then, anything stronger than this? And how is it possible, that what is liable to restraint should be stronger than what is not? What has a natural power to restrain the faculty of sight? The Will and its workings. And it is the same with the faculties of hearing and of speech. And what has a natural power of restraining the Will? Nothing beyond itself, only its own perversion. Therefore in the Will alone is vice: in the Will alone is virtue.

Since, then, the Will is such a faculty, and placed in authority over all the rest, suppose it to come forth and say to us, that the body is, of all things, the most excellent! If even the body itself pronounced itself to be the most excellent, it could not be borne. But now, what is it, Epicurus, that pronounces all this? What was it, that composed volumes concerning “the End,” “the Nature of things,” “the Rule”; that assumed a philosophic beard; that, as it was dying, wrote, that it was “then spending its last and happiest day”?* Was this the body, or was Edition: current; Page: [180] it the faculty of Will? And can you, then, without madness, admit anything to be superior to this? Are you in reality so deaf and blind? What, then, does any one dishonor the other faculties? Heaven forbid! Does any one assert that there is no use or excellence in the faculty of sight? Heaven forbid! It would be stupid, impious, and ungrateful to God. But we render to each its due. There is some use in an ass, though not so much as in an ox; and in a dog, though not so much as in a servant: and in a servant, though not so much as in the citizens; and in the citizens, though not so much as in the magistrates. And though some are more excellent than others, those uses, which the last afford, are not to be despised. The faculty of eloquence has thus its value, though not equal to that of the Will. When therefore I talk thus, let not any one suppose, that I would have you neglect eloquence, any more than your eyes, or ears, or hands, or feet, or clothes, or shoes. But if you ask me what is the most excellent of things, what shall I say? I cannot say, eloquence, but a right Will; for it is this which makes use of that, and of all the other faculties, whether great or small. If this be set right, a bad man becomes good; if it be wrong, a good man becomes wicked. By this we are unfortunate or fortunate; we disapprove or approve each other. In a word, it is this which, neglected, forms unhappiness; and, well cultivated, happiness.

But to take away the faculty of eloquence, and to say, that it is in reality nothing, is not only ungrateful to those who gave it, but cowardly too. For such a person seems to me to be afraid, that, if there be Edition: current; Page: [181] any such faculty, we may, on occasion, be compelled to respect it. Such are they too, who deny any difference between beauty and deformity. Was it possible, then, to be affected in the same manner by seeing Thersites, as by Achilles; by Helen, as by any other woman? These, also, are the foolish and clownish notions of those who are ignorant of the nature of things; and afraid that whoever perceives such a difference must presently be carried away, and overcome. But the great point is to leave to each thing its own proper faculty; and then to see what the value of that faculty is, to learn what is the principal thing, and, upon every occasion, to follow that, and to make it the chief object of our attention; to consider other things as trifling in comparison with this, and yet, so far as we are able, not to neglect even these. We ought, for instance, to take care of our eyes; yet not as of the principal thing, but only on account of that which is principal; because that can no otherwise preserve its own nature, than by making a due estimate of the rest, and preferring some to others. What is the usual practice then? That of a traveller, who, returning into his own country, and meeting on the way with a good inn, being pleased with the inn, should remain there. Have you forgotten your intention, man? You were not travelling to this place, but only through it. “But this is a fine place.” And how many other fine inns are there, and how many pleasant fields, yet they are simply as a means of passage. What is the real business? To return to your country; to relieve the anxieties of your family; to perform the duties of a citizen; to marry, have children, and go through the public offices. For you did not travel Edition: current; Page: [182] in order to choose the finest places; but to return, to live in that where you were born, and of which you are appointed a citizen.

Such is the present case. Because by speech and such instruction, we are to perfect our education, and purify our own will, and rectify that faculty which deals with things as they appear; and, because, for the statement of theorems, a certain diction, and some variety and subtility of discourse are needful; many, captivated by these very things, one by diction, another by syllogisms, a third by convertible propositions, just as our traveller was by the good inn, go no further; but sit down and waste their lives shamefully there, as if amongst the sirens. Your business, man, was to prepare yourself for such use of the semblances of things as nature demands; not to fail in what you seek, or incur what you shun; never to be disappointed or unfortunate, but free, unrestrained, uncompelled; conformed to the Divine Administration, obedient to that; finding fault with nothing; but able to say, from your whole soul, the verses which begin,

“Conduct me, Jove; and thou, O Destiny.”*

While you have such a business before you, will you be so pleased with a pretty form of expression, or a few theorems, as to choose to stay and live with them, forgetful of your home; and say, “They are fine things!” Why, who says they are not fine things? But only as a means; as an inn. For what hinders one speaking like Demosthenes from being miserable? What hinders a logician equal to Chrysippus from being wretched, sorrowful, envious, Edition: current; Page: [183] vexed, unhappy? Nothing. You see, then, that these are merely unimportant inns, and what concerns you is quite another thing. When I talk thus to some, they suppose that I am setting aside all care about eloquence, and about theorems; but I do not object to that; only the dwelling on these things incessantly, and placing our hopes there. If any one, by maintaining this, hurts his hearers, place me amongst those hurtful people; for I cannot, when I see one thing to be the principal and most excellent, call another so, to please you.


WHEN a certain person said to him, “I have often come to you, with a desire of hearing you, and you have never given me any answer; but now, if possible, I entreat you to say something to me”; — do you think, replied Epictetus, that, as in other things, so in speaking, there is an art, by which he, who understands it, speaks skilfully, and he, who does not, unskilfully?

“I do think so.”

He, then, who by speaking both benefits himself, and is able to benefit others, must speak skilfully; but he who injures and is injured, must be unskilful in this art. For you may find some speakers injured, and others benefited. And are all hearers benefited by what they hear? Or will you find some benefited, and some hurt?

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Then those who hear skilfully are benefited, and those who hear unskilfully, hurt.


Is there any art of hearing, then, as well as of speaking?

“It seems so.”

If you please, consider it thus too. To whom think you that the practice of music belongs?

“To a musician.”

To whom the proper formation of a statue?

“To a sculptor.”

And do you not imagine some art necessary even to view a statue skilfully?

“I do.”

If, therefore, to speak properly belongs to one who is skilful, do you not see, that to hear profitably belongs likewise to one who is skilful? For the present, however, if you please, let us say no more of doing things perfectly and profitably, since we are both far enough from anything of that kind; but this seems to be universally confessed, that he, who would hear philosophers, needs some kind of exercise in hearing. Is it not so? Tell me, then, on what I shall speak to you? On what subject are you able to hear me?

“On good and evil.”

The good and evil of what? Of a horse?


Of an ox?


What then, of a man?


Do we know, then, what man is? What is his nature, what our idea of him, and how far our ears are Edition: current; Page: [185] open in this respect to him? Nay, do you understand what Nature is; or are you able, in any degree, to comprehend me, when I come to say, “But I must use demonstration to you?” How should you? Do you comprehend what demonstration is, or how a thing is demonstrated, or by what methods; or what resembles a demonstration, and yet is not a demonstration? Do you know what true or false is? What is consequent upon anything, and what contradictory; suitable, or dissonant? But I must excite you to study philosophy. How shall I show you that contradiction, among the generality of mankind, by which they differ concerning good and evil, profitable and unprofitable, when you know not what contradiction means? Show me, then, what I shall gain, by discoursing with you? Excite an inclination in me, as a proper pasture excites an inclination to eating, in a sheep: for if you offer him a stone, or a piece of bread, he will not be excited. Thus we too have certain natural inclinations to speaking, when the hearer appears to be somebody, when he gives us encouragement; but if he sits by, like a stone, or a tuft of grass, how can he excite any desire in a man? Does a vine say to an husbandman, “Take care of me?” No; but invites him to take care of it, by showing him, that, if he does, it will reward him for his care. Who is there, whom bright and agreeable children do not attract to play, and creep, and prattle with them? But who was ever taken with an inclination to divert himself, or bray with an ass; for, be the creature ever so little, it is still a little ass.

“Why then do you say nothing to me?”

I have only this to say to you; that whoever is utterly ignorant what he is, and wherefore he was born, Edition: current; Page: [186] and in what kind of a universe, and in what society; what things are good, and what evil, what fair, and what base; who understands neither discourse, nor demonstration, nor what is true, nor what is false, nor is able to distinguish between them; such a one will neither exert his desires, nor aversions, nor pursuits, conformably to Nature; he will neither aim, nor assent, nor deny, nor suspend his judgment, conformably to Nature; but will wander up and down, entirely deaf and blind, supposing himself to be somebody, while he is nobody. Is there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all the errors that have happened, from the very origin of mankind? Why did Agamemnon and Achilles differ? Was it not for want of knowing what is advantageous, what disadvantageous? Does not one of them say, it is advantageous to restore Chryseis to her father; the other, that it is not? Does not one say, that he ought to take away the prize of the other; the other, that he ought not? Did they not, by these means, forget who they were, and for what purpose they had come there? Why, what did you come for, man; to win mistresses, or to fight? — “To fight.” — With whom; Trojans or Greeks? — “With the Trojans.” — Leaving Hector, then, do you draw your sword upon your own king? And do you, good sir, forgetting the duties of a king,

“Intrusted with a nation and its cares,”*

go to squabbling, about a girl, with the bravest of your allies; whom you ought, by every method, to conciliate and preserve? And will you be inferior to a subtle priest, who pays his court anxiously to Edition: current; Page: [187] you fine gladiators? — You see the effects produced by ignorance of what is truly advantageous.

“But I am rich, as well as other people.” — What, richer than Agamemnon? — “But I am handsome too.” — What, handsomer than Achilles? — “But I have fine hair too.” — Had not Achilles finer and brighter? Yet he never combed it exquisitely, nor curled it. — “But I am strong too.” — Can you lift such a stone, then, as Hector or Ajax? — “But I am of a noble family too.” — Is your mother a goddess, or your father descended from Zeus? And what good did all this do Achilles, when he sat crying for a girl? — “But I am an orator.” — And was not he? Do you not see how he treated the most eloquent of the Greeks, Odysseus and Phœnix? How he struck them dumb? This is all I have to say to you; and even this against my inclination.

“Why so?”

Because you have not excited me to it. For what can I see in you, to excite me, as spirited horses their riders? Your person? That you disfigure. Your dress? That is effeminate. Your behavior? Your look? Absolutely nothing. When you would hear a philosopher, do not say to him, “You tell me nothing”; but only show yourself fit and worthy to hear; and you will find how you will move him to speak.

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WHEN one of the company said to him, “Convince me that logic is necessary,” — Would you have me, he said, demonstrate it to you? “Yes.” Then I must use a demonstrative form of argument. “Granted.” And how will you know, then, whether I argue sophistically? On this, the man being silent, You see, says he, that, even by your own confession, logic is necessary; since without it, you cannot even learn whether it be necessary or not.


EVERY error implies a contradiction; for, since he who errs does not wish to err, but to be in the right, it is evident, that he acts contrary to his wish. What does a thief desire to attain? His own interest. If, then, thieving be really against his interest he acts contrary to his own desire. Now every rational soul is naturally averse to self-contradiction; but so long as any one is ignorant that it is a contradiction, nothing restrains him from acting contradictorily; but, whenever he discovers it, he must as necessarily renounce and avoid it, as any one must dissent from a falsehood whenever he perceives it to be a falsehood; only while this does not appear, he assents to it as to a truth.

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He, then, is gifted in speech, and excels at once in exhortation and conviction, who can disclose to each man the contradiction by which he errs, and prove clearly to him, that what he would he doth not; and what he would not, that he doth. For, if that be shown, he will depart from it of his own accord; but, till you have shown it, be not surprised that he remains where he is; for he proceeds on the semblance of acting rightly. Hence Socrates, relying on this faculty, used to say, “It is not my custom to cite any other witness for my assertions; but I am always contented with my opponent. I call and summon him for my witness; and his single evidence serves instead of all others.” For he knew that, if a rational soul be moved by anything, the scale must turn, whether it will or no. Show the governing faculty of Reason a contradiction, and it will renounce it; but till you have shown it, rather blame yourself than him who remains unconvinced.

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A CERTAIN young rhetorician coming to him with his hair too elaborately ornamented, and his dress very fine; tell me, said Epictetus, whether you do not think some horses and dogs beautiful; and so of all other animals?

“I do.”

Are some men, then, likewise beautiful, and others deformed?


Do we pronounce all these beautiful the same way then, or each in some way peculiar to itself? You will judge of it by this; since we see a dog naturally formed for one thing, a horse for another, and a nightingale, for instance, for another, therefore in general, it will be correct to pronounce each of them beautiful, so far as it is developed suitably to its own nature; but, since the nature of each is different, I think each of them must be beautiful in a different way. Is it not so?


Then what makes a dog beautiful makes a horse deformed; and what makes a horse beautiful makes a dog deformed; if their natures are different.

“So it seems.”

For, I suppose, what makes a good Pancratiast* Edition: current; Page: [191] makes no good wrestler, and a very ridiculous racer; and the very same person who appears well as a Pentathlete, might make a very ill figure in wrestling.

“Very true.”

What, then, makes a man beautiful? Is it on the same principle that a dog or a horse is beautiful?

“The same.”

What is it then, that makes a dog beautiful?

“That excellence which belongs to a dog.”

What a horse?

“The excellence of a horse.”

What a man? Must it not be the excellence belonging to a man? If then you would appear beautiful, young man, strive for human excellence.

“What is that?”

Consider whom you praise, when unbiassed by partiality; is it the honest or dishonest?

“The honest.”

The sober, or the dissolute?

“The sober.”

The temperate, or the intemperate?

“The temperate.”

Then, if you make yourself such a character, you know that you will make yourself beautiful; but, while you neglect these things, though you use every contrivance to appear beautiful, you must necessarily be deformed.

I know not how to say anything further to you; for if I speak what I think, you will be vexed, and perhaps go away and return no more. And if I do not speak, consider what I am doing. You come to Edition: current; Page: [192] me to be improved, and I do not improve you; and you come to me as to a philosopher, and I do not speak like a philosopher. Besides, how could it be consistent with my duty towards yourself, to pass you by as incorrigible? If, hereafter, you should come to have sense, you will accuse me with reason: “What did Epictetus observe in me, that, when he saw me come to him in such a shameful condition, he overlooked it, and never said so much as a word about it? Did he so absolutely despair of me? Was I not young? Was I not able to hear reason? How many young men, at that age, are guilty of many such errors? I am told of one Polemo, who, from a most dissolute youth, became totally changed.* Suppose he did not think I should become a Polemo, he might nevertheless have set my locks to rights, he might have stripped off my bracelets and rings, he might have prevented my depilating my person. But when he saw me dressed like a — what shall I say? — he was silent.” I do not say like what; when you come to your senses, you will say it yourself, and will know what it is, and who they are who adopt such a dress.

If you should hereafter lay this to my charge, what excuse could I make? “Ay; but if I do speak, he will not regard me.” Why, did Laius regard Apollo? Did not he go and get intoxicated, and bid farewell to the oracle? What then? Did this hinder Apollo from telling him the truth? Now, I am uncertain, whether you will regard me, or not; but Apollo positively knew, that Laius would not regard him, and yet he spoke. And why did he speak? You may Edition: current; Page: [193] as well ask, why is he Apollo; why doth he deliver oracles; why hath he placed himself in such a post as a prophet, and the fountain of truth, to whom the inhabitants of the world should resort? Why is know thyself inscribed on the front of his temple, when no one heeds it?

Did Socrates prevail upon all who came to him, to take care of themselves? Not upon the thousandth part; but being, as he himself declares, divinely appointed to such a post, he never deserted it. What said he even to his judges? “If you would acquit me, on condition that I should no longer act as I do now, I would not accept it, nor desist; but I will accost all I meet, whether young or old, and interrogate them in just the same manner; but particularly you, my fellow-citizens, since you are more nearly related to me.” — “Are you so curious and officious, Socrates? What is it to you, how we act?” — “What say you? While you are of the same community and the same kindred with me, will you be careless of yourself, and show yourself a bad citizen to the city, a bad kinsman to your kindred, and a bad neighbor to your neighborhood?” — “Why, who are you?” Here one ought nobly to say, “I am he who ought to take care of mankind.” For it is not every little paltry heifer that dares resist the lion; but if the bull should come up, and resist him, would you say to him, “Who are you? What business is it of yours?” In every species, man, there is some one quality which by nature excels; in oxen, in dogs, in bees, in horses. Do not say to whatever excels, “Who are you?” If you do, it will, somehow or Edition: current; Page: [194] other, find a voice to tell you; “I am like the purple thread in a garment. Do not expect me to be like the rest; nor find fault with my nature, which has distinguished me from others.”

“What then, am I such a one? How should I be?” Indeed, are you such a one as to be able to hear the truth? I wish you were. But however, since I am condemned to wear a gray beard and a cloak, and you come to me as a philosopher, I will not treat you cruelly, nor as if I despaired of you; but will ask you, Who is it, young man, whom you would render beautiful? Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.

You are a human being; that is, a mortal animal, capable of a rational use of things as they appear. And what is this rational use? A perfect conformity to Nature. What have you, then, particularly excellent? Is it the animal part? No. The mortal? No. That which is capable of the mere use of these things? No. The excellence lies in the rational part. Adorn and beautify this; but leave your hair to Him who formed it as he thought good.

Well; what other appellations have you? Are you a man, or a woman? A man. Then adorn yourself as a man, not as a woman. A woman is naturally smooth and delicate; and, if hairy, is a monster, and shown among the monsters at Rome. It is the same thing in a man, not to be hairy; and, if he is by nature not so, he is a monster. But if he depilates himself, what shall we do with him? Where shall we show him; and how shall we advertise him? “A man to be seen, who would rather be a woman.” What a scandalous show! Who would not wonder at such an advertisement? I believe, indeed, that these Edition: current; Page: [195] very persons themselves would; not apprehending, that it is the very thing of which they are guilty.

Of what have you to accuse your nature, sir, that it has made you a man? Why, were all to be born women then? In that case what would have been the use of your finery? For whom would you have made yourself fine, if all were women? But the whole affair displeases you. Go to work upon the whole then. Remove your manhood itself, and make yourself a woman entirely, that we may be no longer deceived, nor you be half man, half woman. To whom would you be agreeable? To the women? Be agreeable to them as a man.

“Ay; but they are pleased with fops.”

Go hang yourself. Suppose they were pleased with every debauchery, would you consent? Is this your business in life? Were you born to please dissolute women? Shall we make such a one as you, in the Corinthian republic for instance, governor of the city, master of the youth, commander of the army, or director of the public games? Will you pursue the same practices when you are married? For whom, and for what? Will you be the father of children, and introduce them into the state, such as yourself? O what a fine citizen, and senator, and orator! Surely, young man, we ought to pray for a succession of young men disposed and bred like you!

Now, when you have once heard this discourse, go home, and say to yourself, It is not Epictetus who has told me all these things, — for how should he? — but some propitious God through him; for it would never have entered the head of Epictetus, who is not used to dispute with any one. Well; let us obey God then, that we may not incur the Divine displeasure. Edition: current; Page: [196] If a crow has signified anything to you by his croaking, it is not the crow that signifies it, but God, through him. And, if you have anything signified to you through the human voice, doth He not cause that man to tell it to you, that you may know the Divine power which acts thus variously, and signifies the greatest and principal things through the noblest messenger? What else does the poet mean, when he says,

  • “Since we forewarned him,
  • Sending forth Hermes, watchful Argicide,
  • Neither to slay, — nor woo another’s wife.”*

Hermes, descending from heaven, was to warn him; and the Gods now, likewise, send a Hermes the Argicide as messenger to warn you, not to invert the well-appointed order of things, nor be absorbed in fopperies; but suffer a man to be a man, and a woman to be a woman; a beautiful man, to be beautiful, as a man; a deformed man, to be deformed, as a man; for your personality lies not in flesh and hair, but in the Will. If you take care to have this beautiful, you will be beautiful. But all this while, I dare not tell you, that you are deformed; for I fancy you would rather hear anything than this. But consider what Socrates says to the most beautiful and blooming of all men, Alcibiades. “Endeavor to make yourself beautiful.” What does he mean to say to him? “Curl your locks, and depilate your legs?” Heaven forbid! But rather, “Regulate your Will; throw away your wrong principles.”

“What is to be done with the poor body then?”

Leave it to nature. Another hath taken care of such things. Give them up to Him.

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“What, then, must one be a sloven?”

By no means; but act in conformity to your nature. A man should care for his body, as a man; a woman, as a woman; a child, as a child. If not, let us pick out the mane of a lion, that he may not be slovenly; and the comb of a cock, for he too should be tidy. Yes, but let it be as a cock; and a lion, as a lion; and a hound, as a hound.


THERE are three topics in philosophy, in which he who would be wise and good must be exercised. That of the desires and aversions, that he may not be disappointed of the one, nor incur the other. That of the pursuits and avoidances, and, in general, the duties of life; that he may act with order and consideration, and not carelessly. The third includes integrity of mind and prudence, and, in general, whatever belongs to the judgment.

Of these points, the principal and most urgent is that which reaches the passions; for passion is produced no otherwise than by a disappointment of one’s desires and an incurring of one’s aversions. It is this which introduces perturbations, tumults, misfortunes, and calamities; this is the spring of sorrow, lamentation, and envy; this renders us envious and emulous, and incapable of hearing reason.

The next topic regards the duties of life. For I Edition: current; Page: [198] am not to be undisturbed by passions, in the same sense as a statue is; but as one who preserves the natural and acquired relations; as a pious person, as a son, as a brother, as a father, as a citizen.

The third topic belongs to those scholars who are now somewhat advanced; and is a security to the other two, that no bewildering semblance may surprise us, either in sleep, or wine, or in depression. This, say you, is beyond us. Yet our present philosophers, leaving the first and second topics, employ themselves wholly about the third; dealing in the logical subtilties. For they say that we must, by engaging in these subjects, take care to guard against deception. Who must? A wise and good man. Is this really, then, the thing you need? Have you mastered the other points? Are you not liable to be deceived by money? When you see a fine girl, do you oppose the seductive influence? If your neighbor inherits an estate, do you feel no vexation? Is it not steadfastness which you chiefly need? You learn even these very things, slave, with trembling, and a solicitous dread of contempt; and are inquisitive to know what is said of you. And if any one comes and tells you that, in a dispute as to which was the best of the philosophers, one of the company named a certain person as the only philosopher, that little soul of yours grows to the size of two cubits instead of an inch. But if another comes and says, “You are mistaken, he is not worth hearing; for what does he know? He has the first rudiments, but nothing more”; you are thunderstruck; you presently turn pale, and cry out, “I will show what I am; that I am a great philosopher.” You exhibit by these very things what you are aiming to show in other ways. Edition: current; Page: [199] Do not you know that Diogenes exhibited some sophist in this manner, by pointing with his middle finger;* and when the man was mad with rage, “This,” said Diogenes, “is the very man; I have exhibited him to you.” For a man is not shown by the finger in the same sense as a stone, or a piece of wood, but whoever points out his principles, shows him as a man.

Let us see your principles too. For is it not evident that you consider your own Will as nothing: but are always aiming at something beyond its reach? As, what such a one will say of you, and what you shall be thought; whether a man of letters; whether to have read Chrysippus, or Antipater; and if Archedemus too, you have everything you wish. Why are you still solicitous, lest you should not show us what you are? Shall I tell you, what you have shown yourself? A mean, discontented, passionate, cowardly person; complaining of everything; accusing everybody; perpetually restless; good for nothing. This you have shown us. Go now and read Archedemus; and then, if you hear but the noise of a mouse, you are a dead man; for you will die some such kind of death as — Who was it? Crinis; who valued himself extremely too, that he understood Archedemus.

Wretch, why do you not let alone things that do not belong to you? These things belong to such as are able to learn them without perturbation; who can say, “I am not subject to anger, or grief, or Edition: current; Page: [200] envy. I am not restrained; I am not compelled. What remains for me to do? I am at leisure; I am at ease. Let us now see how logical inversions are to be treated; let us consider, when an hypothesis is laid down, how we may avoid a contradiction.” To such persons do these things belong. They who are safe may light a fire, go to dinner, if they please, and sing and dance; but you are for spreading sail just when your ship is going down.


THE chief concern of a wise and good man is his own Reason. The body is the concern of a physician, and of a gymnastic trainer; and the fields, of the husbandman. The business of a wise and good man is, to use the phenomena of existence, conformably to Nature. Now, every soul, as it is naturally formed for an assent to truth, a dissent from falsehood, and a suspense of judgment with regard to things uncertain; so it is moved by a desire of good, an aversion from evil, and an indifference to what is neither good nor evil. For, as a money-changer, or a gardener, is not at liberty to reject Cæsar’s coin; but when once it is shown, is obliged, whether he will or not, to deliver his wares in exchange for it; so is it with the soul. Apparent good at first sight attracts, and evil repels. Nor will the soul any more reject an evident appearance of good, than Cæsar’s coin.

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Hence depends every movement, both of God and man; and hence good is preferred to every obligation, however near. My connection is not with my father; but with good. — Are you so hard-hearted? — Such is my nature, and such is the coin which God hath given me. If therefore good is interpreted to be anything but what is fair and just, away go father, and brother, and country, and everything. What! Shall I overlook my own good, and give it up to you? For what? “I am your father.” But not my good. “I am your brother.” But not my good. But, if we place it in a rightly trained Will, good must then consist in an observance of the several relations of life; and then, he who gives up mere externals, acquires good. Your father deprives you of your money; but he does not hurt you. He will possess more land than you, as much more as he pleases; but will he possess more honor? More fidelity? More affection? Who can deprive you of this possession? Not even Zeus; for he did not will it so, since he has put this good into my own power, and given it me, like his own, uncompelled, unrestrained, and unhindered. But when any one deals in coin different from this, then whoever shows it to him, may have whatever is sold for it, in return. A thievish proconsul comes into the province. What coin does he use? Silver. Show it him, and carry off what you please. An adulterer comes. What coin does he use? Women. Take the coin, says one, and give me this trifle. “Give it me, and it is yours.” Another is addicted to other debauchery; give him but his coin, and take what you please. Another is fond of hunting; give him a fine pony or puppy, and he will sell you for it what you will, though it be Edition: current; Page: [202] with sighs and groans. For there is that within which controls him, and assumes this to be current coin.

In this manner ought every one chiefly to train himself. When you go out in the morning, examine whomsoever you see, or hear; and answer as if to a question. What have you seen? A handsome person? Apply the rule. Is this a thing controllable by Will, or uncontrollable? Uncontrollable. Then discard it. What have you seen? One in agony for the death of a child. Apply the rule. Death is inevitable. Banish this despair then. Has a consul met you? Apply the rule. What kind of thing is the consular office? Controllable by Will, or uncontrollable? Uncontrollable. Throw aside this too. It will not pass. Cast it away. It is nothing to you.

If we acted thus, and practised in this manner from morning till night, by Heaven, something would be done. Whereas now, on the contrary, we are allured by every semblance, half asleep; and, if we ever awake, it is only a little in the school; but as soon as we go out, if we meet any one grieving, we say, “He is undone.” If a consul, “How happy is he!” If an exile, “How miserable.” If a poor man, “How wretched; he has nothing to eat!”

These miserable prejudices then are to be lopped off; and here is our whole strength to be applied. For what is weeping and groaning? Prejudice. What is misfortune? Prejudice. What is sedition, discord, complaint, accusation, impiety, levity? All these are prejudices, and nothing more; and prejudices concerning things uncontrollable by Will, as if they could be either good or evil. Let any one transfer these convictions to things controllable by Edition: current; Page: [203] Will, and I will engage that he will preserve his constancy, whatever be the state of things about him.

The soul is like a vase filled with water; while the semblances of things fall like rays upon its surface. If the water is moved, the ray will seem to be moved likewise, though it is in reality without motion. When, therefore, any one is seized with a giddiness in his head, it is not the arts and virtues that are bewildered, but the mind in which they lie; when this recovers its composure, so will they likewise.


WHEN the Governor of Epirus had exerted himself with improper eagerness in favor of a comedian, and was upon that account publicly railed at; and, when he came to hear it, was highly displeased with those who railed at him; Why, what harm, said Epictetus, have these people done? They have shown favoritism; which is just what you did.

“Is this a proper manner then, of expressing their favor?”

Seeing you, their governor, and the friend and vicegerent of Cæsar, express it thus, was it not to be expected that they would express it thus too? For, if this zealous favoritism is not right, do not show it yourself; and if it is, why are you angry at them for imitating you? For whom have the many to imitate, but you, their superiors? From whom are they to take example, when they come into the theatre, but Edition: current; Page: [204] from you? “Do but look how Cæsar’s vicegerent sees the play? Has he cried out? I will cry out too. Has he leaped up from his seat? I too will leap up from mine. Do his slaves sit in different parts of the house, making an uproar? I indeed have no slaves; but I will make as much uproar as I can unaided.”

You ought to consider, then, that when you appear in the theatre, you appear as a rule and example to others, how they ought to see the play. Why is it that they have railed at you? Because every man hates what hinders him. They would have one actor crowned; you, another. They hindered you; and you them. You proved the stronger. They have done what they could; they have railed at the person who hindered them. What would you have, then? Would you do as you please, and not have them even talk as they please? Where is the wonder of all this? Does not the husbandman rail at Zeus when he is hindered by him? Does not the sailor? Do men ever cease railing at Cæsar? What then, is Zeus ignorant of this? Are not the things that are said reported to Cæsar? How then does he act? He knows that, if he were to punish all railers, he would have nobody left to command.

When you enter the theatre, then, ought you to say, “Come, let Sophron be crowned?” No. But rather, “Come, let me at this time regulate my Will in a manner conformable to Nature. No one is dearer to me than myself. It is ridiculous, then, that because another man gains the victory as a player, I should be hurt. Whom do I wish to gain the victory? Him who does gain it; and thus he will always be victorious whom I wish to be so.” — Edition: current; Page: [205] “But I would have Sophron crowned.” — Why, celebrate as many games as you will at your own house, Nemean, Pythian, Isthmian, Olympic, and proclaim him victor in all; but in public do not arrogate more than your due, nor seek to monopolize what belongs to all; or if otherwise, bear to be railed at, for if you act like the mob, you reduce yourself to an equality with them.


“I AM sick here,” said one of the scholars. “I will return home.”

Were you never sick at home then? Consider whether you are doing anything here conducive to the regulation of your Will; for if you make no improvement, it was to no purpose that you came. Go home then, and take care of your domestic affairs. For if your Reason cannot be brought into conformity to nature, your land may. You may increase your money, support the old age of your father, mix in the public assemblies, and rule as badly as you have lived, and do other such things. But if you are conscious to yourself that you are casting off some of your wrong principles, and taking up different ones in their room, and that you have transferred your scheme of life from things not controllable by will to those controllable; and that if you do sometimes cry alas, it is not for what concerns your father, or your brother, but yourself; why do you any longer plead sickness? Do not you know that both sickness and death must overtake us? At what employment? Edition: current; Page: [206] The husbandman at his plough; the sailor on his voyage. At what employment would you be taken? For, indeed, at what employment ought you to be taken? If there is any better employment at which you can be taken, follow that. For my own part, I would be found engaged in nothing but in the regulation of my own Will; how to render it undisturbed, unrestrained, uncompelled, free. I would be found studying this, that I may be able to say to God, “Have I transgressed Thy commands? Have I perverted the powers, the senses, the instincts, which Thou hast given me? Have I ever accused Thee, or censured Thy dispensations? I have been sick, because it was Thy pleasure, like others; but I willingly. I have been poor, it being Thy will; but with joy. I have not been in power, because it was not Thy will; and power I have never desired. Hast Thou ever seen me saddened because of this? Have I not always approached Thee with a cheerful countenance; prepared to execute Thy commands and the indications of Thy will? Is it Thy pleasure that I should depart from this assembly? I depart. I give Thee all thanks that Thou hast thought me worthy to have a share in it with Thee; to behold Thy works, and to join with Thee in comprehending Thy administration.” Let death overtake me while I am thinking, while I am writing, while I am reading such things as these.

“But I shall not have my mother to hold my head when I am sick.”

Get home then to your mother; for you are most fit to have your head held when you are sick.

“But I used at home to lie on a fine couch.”

Get to this couch of yours; for you are fit to lie Edition: current; Page: [207] upon such a one, even in health; so do not miss doing that for which you are qualified. But what says Socrates? “As one man rejoices in the improvement of his estate, another of his horse, so do I daily rejoice in perceiving myself to grow better.”*

“In what? In pretty speeches?”

Use courteous words, man.

“In trifling theorems? What do they signify? Yet, indeed, I do not see that the philosophers are employed in anything else.”

Do you think it nothing, to accuse and censure no one, God nor man? Always to carry abroad and bring home the same countenance? These were the things which Socrates knew; and yet he never professed to know, or to teach anything; but if any one wanted pretty speeches, or little theorems, he brought him to Protagoras, to Hippias; just as, if any one had come for potherbs, he would have taken him to a gardener. Which of you, then, earnestly sets his heart on this? If you had, you would bear sickness and hunger and death with cheerfulness. If any one of you has truly loved, he knows that I speak truth.


WHEN he was asked, how it came to pass, that though the art of reasoning might be now more studied, yet the improvements made were formerly greater? In what instance, answered he, is it now more studied; and in what were the improvements Edition: current; Page: [208] greater? For in what now is most studied, in that will be found likewise the improvements. The present study is the solution of syllogisms, and in this improvements are made. But formerly the study was to harmonize the Reason with Nature; and improvement was made in that. Therefore do not confound things, nor, when you study one thing, expect improvement in another; but see whether any one of us, who applies himself to think and act conformably to Nature, ever fails of improvement. Depend upon it, you will not find one.

A good man is invincible; for he does not contend where he is not superior. If you would have his land, take it; take his servants, take his office, take his body. But you will never frustrate his desire, nor make him incur his aversion. He engages in no combat but what concerns objects within his own control. How then can he fail to be invincible?

Being asked, what common sense was, he answered: As that may be called a common ear which distinguishes only sounds, but that which distinguishes notes, an artistic one; so there are some things which men, not totally perverted, discern by their common natural powers; and such a disposition is called common sense.

It is not easy to gain the attention of effeminate young men, — for you cannot take up custard by a hook, — but the ingenuous, even if you discourage them, are the more eager for learning. Hence Rufus, for the most part, did discourage them; and made use of that as a criterion of the ingenuous and disingenuous. For, he used to say, as a stone, even if you throw it up, will, by its own propensity be carried downward, so an ingenuous mind, the more it is Edition: current; Page: [209] forced from its natural bent, will incline towards it the more strongly.


WHEN the Governor, who was an Epicurean, came to him; “It is fit,” said he, “that we ignorant people should inquire of you philosophers what is the most valuable thing in the world; as those who come into a strange city do of the citizens, and such as are acquainted with it; that, after this inquiry, we may go and take a view of it, as they do in cities. Now, almost every one admits that there are three things belonging to man, — soul, body, and externals. It belongs to such as you to answer which is the best. What shall we tell mankind? Is it the flesh?”

And was it for this that Maximus took a voyage in winter as far as Cassiope to accompany his son? Was it to gratify the flesh?

“No, surely.”

Is it not fit, then, to study what is best?

“Yes, beyond all other things.”

What have we, then, better than flesh?

“The soul.”

Are we to prefer the good of the better, or of the worse?

“Of the better.”

Does the good of the soul consist in things controllable by Will, or uncontrollable?

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“In things controllable.”

Does the pleasure of the soul then depend on the Will?

“It does.”

And whence does this pleasure arise? From itself? This is unintelligible. For there must exist some principal essence of good, in the attainment of which, we shall enjoy this pleasure of the soul.

“This too is granted.”

In what then consists this pleasure of the soul? If it be in mental objects, the essence of good is found. For it is impossible that good should lie in one thing, and rational enjoyment in another; or that, if the cause is not good, the effect should be good. For, to make the effect reasonable, the cause must be good. But this you cannot reasonably allow; for it would be to contradict both Epicurus and the rest of your principles. It remains then, that the pleasures of the soul must consist in bodily objects; and that there must be the cause and the essence of good. Maximus, therefore, did foolishly, if he took a voyage for the sake of anything but his body; that is, for the sake of what is best. A man does foolishly, too, if he refrains from what is another’s, when he is a judge and able to take it. We should consider only this, if you please, how it may be done secretly and safely, and so that no one may know it. For Epicurus himself does not pronounce stealing to be evil, only the being found out in it; and prohibits it for no other reason, but because it is impossible to insure ourselves against discovery. But I say to you that, if it be done dexterously and cautiously, we shall not be discovered. Besides we have powerful friends of both sexes at Rome; and the Greeks are weak; and Edition: current; Page: [211] nobody will dare to go up to Rome on such an affair. Why do you refrain from your own proper good? It is madness; it is folly. But if you were to tell me that you do refrain, I would not believe you. For, as it is impossible to assent to an apparent falsehood, or to deny an apparent truth, so it is impossible to abstain from an apparent good. Now, riches are a good; and, indeed, the chief instrument of pleasures. Why do not you acquire them? And why do not we corrupt the wife of our neighbor, if it can be done secretly? And if the husband should happen to be impertinent, why not cut his throat too, if you have a mind to be such a philosopher as you ought to be, a complete one, — to be consistent with your own principles. Otherwise you will not differ from us who are called Stoics. For we, too, say one thing and do another; we talk well and act ill; but you will be perverse in a contrary way, teaching bad principles, and acting well.

For Heaven’s sake represent to yourself a city of Epicureans. “I do not marry.” “Nor I. For we are not to marry nor have children; nor to engage in public affairs.” What will be the consequence of this? Whence are the citizens to come? Who will educate them? Who will be the governor of the youth? Who the master of their exercises? What then will he teach them? Will it be what used to be taught at Athens, or Lacedemon? Take a young man; bring him up according to your principles. These principles are wicked, subversive of a state, pernicious to families, nor becoming even to women. Give them up, sir. You live in a capital city. You are to govern and judge uprightly, and to refrain from what belongs to others. No one’s wife or child, Edition: current; Page: [212] or silver or gold plate, is to have any charms for you, except your own. Provide yourself with principles consonant to these truths; and, setting out thence, you will with pleasure refrain from things so persuasive to mislead and conquer. But, if to their own persuasive force, we can add such a philosophy as hurries us upon them, and confirms us in them, what will be the consequence?

In a sculptured vase, which is the best; the silver, or the workmanship? In the hand the substance is flesh; but its operations are the principal thing. Accordingly, its functions are threefold; relating to its existence, to the manner of its existence, and to its principal operations. Thus, likewise, do not set a value on the mere materials of man, the flesh; but on the principal operations which belong to him.

“What are these?”

Engaging in public business, marrying, the production of children, the worship of God, the care of parents, and, in general, the regulation of our desires and aversions, our pursuits and avoidances, in accordance with our nature.

“What is our nature?”

To be free, noble spirited, modest. For what other animal blushes? What other has the idea of shame? But pleasure must be subjected to these, as an attendant and handmaid, to call forth our activity, and to keep us constant in natural operations.

“But I am rich and want nothing.”

Then why do you pretend to philosophize? Your gold and silver plate is enough for you. What need have you of principles?

“Besides, I am Judge of the Greeks.”

Do you know how to judge? Who has imparted this knowledge to you?

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“Cæsar has given me a commission.”

Let him give you a commission to judge of music; what good will it do you? But how were you made a Judge? Whose hand have you kissed? That of Symphorus, or Numenius? Before whose door have you slept? To whom have you sent presents? After all, do you not perceive that the office of Judge puts you in the same rank with Numenius?

“But I can throw whom I please into a prison.”

So you may a stone.

“But I can beat whom I will too.”

So you may an ass. This is not a government over men. Govern us like reasonable creatures. Show us what is best for us, and we will pursue it; show us what is otherwise, and we will avoid it. Like Socrates, make us imitators of yourself. He was properly a governor of men, who controlled their desires and aversions, their pursuits, their avoidances. “Do this; do not that, or I will throw you into prison.” This is not a government for reasonable creatures. But “Do as Zeus hath commanded, or you will be punished, and be a loser.”

“What shall I lose?”

Simply your own right action, your fidelity, honor, decency. You can find no losses greater than these.

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IN the same manner as we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, we should exercise ourselves likewise in relation to such semblances as every day occur; for these, too, offer questions to us. Such a one’s son is dead. What think you of it? Answer; it is a thing inevitable, and therefore not an evil. Such a one is disinherited by his father. What think you of it? It is inevitable, and so not an evil. Cæsar has condemned him. This is inevitable, and so not an evil. He has been afflicted by it. This is controllable by Will; it is an evil. He has supported it bravely. This is within the control of Will; it is a good.

If we train ourselves in this manner we shall make improvement; for we shall never assent to anything but what the semblance itself includes. A son is dead. What then? A son is dead. Nothing more? Nothing. A ship is lost. What then? A ship is lost. He is carried to prison. What then? He is carried to prison. That he is unhappy is an addition that every one must make for himself. “But Zeus does not order these things rightly.” Why so. Because he has made you to be patient? Because he has made you to be brave? Because he has made them to be no evils? Because it is permitted you, while you suffer them, to be happy? Because he has opened you the door whenever they do not suit you? Go out, man, and do not complain!

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If you would know how the Romans treat philosophers, hear. Italicus, esteemed one of the greatest philosophers among them, being in a passion with his own people, when I was by, said, as if he had suffered some intolerable evil, “I cannot bear it; you are the ruin of me; you will make me just like him”; pointing to me.


A PERSON came to him who was going to Rome on a lawsuit in which his dignity was concerned; and, after telling him the occasion of his journey, asked him what he thought of the affair? If you ask me, says Epictetus, what will happen to you at Rome, and whether you shall gain or lose your cause, I have no suggestion as to that. But if you ask me, how you shall fare; I can answer, If you have right principles, well; if wrong ones, ill. For every action turns upon its principle. What was the reason that you so earnestly desired to be chosen Governor of the Gnossians? Principle. What is the reason that you are now going to Rome? Principle. And in winter too; and with danger, and expense? Why, because it is necessary. What tells you so? Your principle. If, then, principles are the source of all our actions, wherever any one has bad principles the effect will correspond to the cause. Well then; are all our principles sound? Are both yours and your antagonist’s? How then do you differ? Or are yours better than his? Why? You think so; and so thinks he Edition: current; Page: [216] of his; and so do madmen. This is a bad criterion. But show me that you have given some attention and care to your principles. As you now take a voyage to Rome for the government of the Gnossians, and are not contented to stay at home with the honors you before enjoyed, but desire something greater and more illustrious; did you ever take such a voyage in order to examine your own principles, and to throw away the bad ones, if you happened to have any? Did you ever apply to any one upon this account? What time did you ever appoint to yourself for it? What age? Run over your years. If you are ashamed of me, do it for yourself. Did you examine your principles when you were a child? Did not you act then as now? When you were a youth, and frequented the schools of the orators, and yourself made declamations, did you ever imagine that you were deficient in anything? And when you became a man, and entered upon public business, pleaded causes, and acquired credit, whom did you then recognize as your equal? How would you have borne that any one should examine whether your principles were bad? What, then, would you have me say to you?

“Assist me in this affair.”

I have no suggestion to offer for that. Neither are you come to me, if it be upon that account you came, as to a philosopher; but as you would come to an herb-seller or a shoemaker.

“For what purposes, then, can the philosophers give suggestions?”

For preserving and conducting the Reason conformably to Nature, whatever happens. Do you think this a small thing?

“No; but the greatest.”

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Well; and does it require but a short time? and may it be taken as you pass by? If you can, take it then; and so you will say, “I have visited Epictetus.” Ay; just as you would visit a stone or a statue. For you have seen me, and nothing more. But he visits a man, as a man, who learns his principles; and, in return, shows his own. Learn my principles. Show me yours. Then say you have visited me. Let us confute each other. If I have any bad principle, take it away. If you have any, bring it forth. This is visiting a philosopher. No; but “It lies in our way; and, while we are about hiring a ship, we may call on Epictetus. Let us see what he says.” And then when you are gone, you say “Epictetus is nothing. His language was inaccurate, was barbarous.” For what else did you come to criticise? “Well; but if I employ myself in these things, I shall be without an estate, like you; without plate, without equipage, like you.” Nothing, perhaps, is necessary to be said to this, but that I do not want them. But, if you possess many things, you still want others; so that whether you will or not, you are poorer than I.

“What then do I need?”

What you have not; constancy; a mind conformable to Nature; and a freedom from perturbation. Patron, or no patron, what care I? But you do. I am richer than you. I am not anxious what Cæsar will think of me. I flatter no one on that account. This I have, instead of silver and gold plate. You have your vessels of gold; but your discourse, your principles, your opinions, your pursuits, your desires, are of mere earthen ware. When I have all these conformable to Nature, why should not I bestow Edition: current; Page: [218] some study upon my reasoning too? I am at leisure. My mind is under no distraction. In this freedom from distraction, what shall I do? Have I anything more becoming a man than this? You, when you have nothing to do, are restless; you go to the theatre, or perhaps to bathe. Why should not the philosopher polish his reasoning? You have fine crystal and myrrhine vases;* I have acute forms of arguing. To you, all you have appears little; to me all I have seems great. Your appetite is insatiable; mine is satisfied. When children thrust their hand into a narrow jar of nuts and figs, if they fill it, they cannot get it out again; then they begin crying. Drop a few of them, and you will get out the rest. And do you too drop your desire; do not demand much, and you will attain.


WE should have all our principles ready for use on every occasion. At dinner, such as relate to dinner; in the bath, such as relate to the bath; in the bed, such as relate to the bed.

  • “Let not the stealing god of sleep surprise,
  • Nor creep in slumbers on thy weary eyes,
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  • Ere every action of the former day
  • Strictly thou dost, and righteously survey.
  • What have I done? In what have I transgressed?
  • What good, or ill, has this day’s life expressed?
  • Where have I failed, in what I ought to do?
  • If evil were thy deeds, repent and mourn,
  • If good, rejoice.”*

We should retain these verses so as to apply them to our use; not merely to say them by rote, as we do with verses in honor of Apollo.

Again; in a fever, we should have such principles ready as relate to a fever; and not, as soon as we are taken ill, forget all. Provided I do but act like a philosopher, let what will happen. Some way or other depart I must from this frail body, whether a fever comes or not. What is it to be a philosopher? Is it not to be prepared against events? Do you not comprehend that you then say, in effect, “If I am but prepared to bear all events with calmness, let what will happen”; otherwise, you are like an athlete, who, after receiving a blow, should quit the combat. In that case, indeed, you might leave off without a penalty. But what shall we get by leaving off philosophy?

What, then, ought each of us to say upon every difficult occasion? “It was for this that I exercised; it was for this that I trained myself.” God says to you, give me a proof if you have gone through the preparatory combats according to rule; if you have followed a proper diet and proper exercise; if you have obeyed your master; — and, after this, do you faint at the very time of action?

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Now is your time for a fever. Bear it well. For thirst; bear it well. For hunger; bear it well. Is it not in your power? Who shall restrain you? A physician may restrain you from drinking; but he cannot restrain you from bearing your thirst well. He may restrain you from eating; but he cannot restrain you from bearing hunger well. “But I cannot follow my studies.” And for what end do you follow them, slave? Is it not that you may be prosperous? That you may be constant? that you may think and act conformably to Nature? What restrains you, but that, in a fever, you may keep your Reason in harmony with Nature? Here is the test of the matter. Here is the trial of the philosopher; for a fever is a part of life, as is a walk, a voyage, or a journey. Do you read when you are walking? No; nor in a fever. But when you walk well, you attend to what belongs to a walker; so, if you bear a fever well, you have everything belonging to one in a fever. What is it to bear a fever well? Not to blame either God or man; not to be afflicted at what happens; to await death in a right and becoming manner; and to do what is to be done. When the physician enters, not to dread what he may say; nor, if he should tell you that you are doing well, to be too much rejoiced; for what good has he told you? When you were in health, what good did it do you? Not to be dejected when he tells you that you are very ill; for what is it to be very ill? To be near the separation of soul and body. What harm is there in this, then? If you are not near it now, will you not be near it hereafter? What, will the world be quite overturned when you die? Why, then, do you flatter your physician? Why do you say, “If you please, sir, I shall do well”? Why Edition: current; Page: [221] do you furnish an occasion to his pride? Why do not you treat a physician, with regard to an insignificant body, — which is not yours, but by nature mortal, — as you do a shoemaker about your foot, or a carpenter about a house? It is the season for these things, to one in a fever. If he fulfils these, he has what belongs to him. For it is not the business of a philosopher to take care of these mere externals, of his wine, his oil, or his body; but of his Reason. And how with regard to externals? Not to behave inconsiderately about them.

What occasion is there, then, for fear? What occasion for anger, for desire, about things that belong to others, or are of no value? For two rules we should always have ready, — that there is nothing good or evil save in the Will; and that we are not to lead events, but to follow them. “My brother ought not to have treated me so.” Very true; but he must see to that. However he treats me, I am to act rightly with regard to him; for the one is my own concern, the other is not; the one cannot be restrained, the other may.


THERE are some punishments appointed, as by a law, for such as disobey the Divine administration. Whoever shall esteem anything good, except what depends on the Will, let him envy, let him covet, let him flatter, let him be full of perturbation. Whoever esteems anything else to be evil, let him grieve, let him mourn, let him lament, let him be Edition: current; Page: [222] wretched. And yet, though thus severely punished, we cannot desist.

Remember what the poet says, of a guest.

  • “It were not lawful to affront a guest,
  • Even did the worst draw nigh.”*

This, too, you should be prepared to say with regard to a father, It is not lawful for me to affront you, father, even if a worse than you had come; for all are from paternal Zeus. And so of a brother; for all are from kindred Zeus. And thus we shall find Zeus to be the superintendent of all the other relations.


WE are not to carry our training beyond Nature and Reason; for thus we, who call ourselves philosophers, shall not differ from jugglers. For it is no doubt difficult to walk upon a rope; and not only difficult, but dangerous. Ought we too, for that reason, to make it our study to walk upon a rope, or balance a pole, or grasp a statue? By no means. It is not everything difficult or dangerous that is a Edition: current; Page: [223] proper training; but such things as are conducive to what lies before us to do.

“And what is it that lies before us to do?”

To have our desires and aversions free from restraint.

“How is that?”

Not to be disappointed of our desire, nor incur our aversion. To this ought our training to be directed. For, without vigorous and steady training, it is not possible to preserve our desire undisappointed and our aversion unincurred; and, therefore, if we suffer it to be externally employed on things uncontrollable by Will, be assured that your desire will neither gain its object, nor your aversion avoid it.

And because habit has a powerful influence, and we are habituated to apply our desire and aversion to externals only, we must oppose one habit to another; and where the semblances are most treacherous, there oppose the force of training. I am inclined to pleasure. I will bend myself, even unduly, to the other side, as a matter of training. I am averse to pain. I will strive and wrestle with these semblances, that I may cease to shrink from any such object. For who is truly in training? He who endeavors totally to control desire, and to apply aversion only to things controllable by Will, and strives for it most in the most difficult cases. Hence different persons are to be trained in different ways. What signifies it, to this purpose, to balance a pole, or to go about with tent and implements [of exhibition]? If you are hasty, man, let it be your training to bear ill language patiently; and, when you are affronted, not to be angry. Thus, at length, you may arrive at such a proficiency as, when any one strikes you, to say to Edition: current; Page: [224] yourself, “Let me suppose this to be like grasping a statue.” Next, train yourself to make but a moderate use of wine, — not to drink a great deal, to which some are so foolish as to train themselves, — but to abstain from this first; and then to abstain from women and from gluttony. Afterwards you will venture into the lists at some proper season, by way of trial, if at all, to see whether these semblances get the better of you, as much as they used to do. But, at first, fly from what is stronger than you. The contest between a fascinating woman and a young man just initiated into philosophy is unequal. The brass pot and the earthen pitcher, as the fable says, are an unfair match.

Next to the desires and aversions, is the second class, of the pursuits and avoidances; that they may be obedient to reason; that nothing may be done improperly, in point of time and place, or in any other respect.

The third class relates to the faculty of assent and to what is plausible and persuasive. As Socrates said, that we are not to lead a life, which is not tested, so neither are we to admit an untested semblance; but to say, “Stop; let me see what you are, and whence you come,” just as the police say, “Show me your pass.” “Have you that indorsement from Nature which is necessary to the acceptance of every semblance?”

In short, whatever things are applied to the body by those who train it, so may these be used in our training if they any way affect desire or aversion. But if this be done for mere ostentation, it belongs to one who looks and seeks for something external, and strives for spectators to exclaim, “What a great Edition: current; Page: [225] man!” Hence Apollonius said well, “If you have a mind to train yourself for your own benefit, when you are choking with heat, take a little cold water in your mouth, and spit it out again, and hold your tongue.”


IT is solitude to be in the condition of a helpless person. For he who is alone is not therefore solitary, any more than one in a crowd is the contrary. When, therefore, we lose a son, or a brother, or a friend, on whom we have been used to repose, we often say we are left solitary, even in the midst of Rome, where such a crowd is continually meeting us; where we live among so many, and where we have, perhaps, a numerous train of servants. For he is understood to be solitary who is helpless, and exposed to such as would injure him. Hence, in a journey especially, we call ourselves solitary when we fall among thieves; for it is not the sight of a man that removes our solitude, but of an honest man, a man of honor, and a helpful companion. If merely being alone is sufficient for solitude, Zeus may be said to be solitary at the great conflagration,* and bewail himself that he hath neither Here, nor Athene, nor Apollo, nor brother, nor son, nor descendant, nor relation. This, some indeed say, he doth when he is alone at the conflagration. Such as these, moved by some natural principle, some natural desire of society, Edition: current; Page: [226] and mutual love, and by the pleasure of conversation, do not rightly consider the state of a person who is alone. But none the less should we be prepared for this also, to suffice unto ourselves, and to bear our own company. For as Zeus converses with himself, acquiesces in himself, and contemplates his own administration, and is employed in thoughts worthy of himself; so should we too be able to talk with ourselves, and not to need the conversation of others, nor suffer ennui; to attend to the divine administration; to consider our relation to other beings; how we have formerly been affected by events, how we are affected now; what are the things that still press upon us; how these too may be cured, how removed; if anything wants completing, to complete it according to reason. You perceive that Cæsar has procured us a profound peace; there are neither wars nor battles, nor great robberies nor piracies; but we may travel at all hours, and sail from east to west. But can Cæsar procure us peace from a fever too? From a shipwreck? From a fire? From an earthquake? From a thunder storm? Nay, even from love? He cannot. From grief? From envy? No; not from any one of these. But the doctrine of philosophers promises to procure us peace from these too. And what doth it say? “If you will attend to me, O mortals! wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you shall neither grieve, nor be angry, nor be compelled, nor restrained; but you shall live serene, and free from all.” Shall not he who enjoys this peace proclaimed, not by Cæsar (for how should he have it to proclaim?) but by God, through Reason, — be contented when he is alone, reflecting and considering: “To me there can now no ill happen; Edition: current; Page: [227] there is no thief, no earthquake. All is full of peace, all full of tranquillity; every road, every city, every assembly, neighbor, companion, is powerless to hurt me.” Another whose care it is, provides you with food, with clothes, with senses, with ideas. Whenever He doth not provide what is necessary, He sounds a retreat; He opens the door, and says to you, “Come.” Whither? To nothing dreadful; but to that whence you were made; to what is friendly and congenial, to the elements. What in you was fire goes away to fire; what was earth, to earth; what air, to air; what water, to water. There is no Hades, nor Aclieron, nor Cocytus, nor Pyriphlegethon; but all is full of gods and divine beings. He who can have such thoughts, and can look upon the sun, moon, and stars, and enjoy the earth and sea, is no more solitary than he is helpless. “Well; but suppose any one should come and murder me when I am alone.” Foolish man; not you; but that insignificant body of yours.

What solitude is there then left? What destitution? Why do we make ourselves worse than children? What do they do when they are left alone? They take up shells and dust; they build houses, then pull them down; then build something else; and thus never want amusement. Suppose you were all to sail away; am I to sit and cry because I am left alone and solitary? Am I so unprovided with shells and dust? But children do this from folly; and shall we be wretched through wisdom?

Every great gift is dangerous to a beginner. Study first how to live like a person in sickness; that in time you may know how to live like one in health. Abstain from food. Drink water. Totally repress your Edition: current; Page: [228] desire, for some time, that you may at length use it according to reason; and, if so, when you are stronger in virtue, you will use it well. No; but we would live immediately as men already wise; and be of service to mankind. Of what service? What are you doing? Why; have you been of so much service to yourself that you would exhort them? You exhort! Would you be of service to them, show them by your own example what kind of men philosophy makes; and do not trifle. When you eat, be of service to those who eat with you; when you drink, to those who drink with you. Be of service to them by giving way to all, yielding to them, bearing with them; and not by venting upon them your own ill humor.


AS bad performers cannot sing alone, but in a chorus; so some persons cannot walk alone. If you are anything, walk alone; talk by yourself; and do not skulk in the chorus. Think a little at last; look about you; sift yourself that you may know what you are.

If a person drinks water, or does anything else for the sake of training, upon every occasion he tells all he meets, “I drink water.” Why, do you drink water merely for the sake of drinking it? If it does you any good to drink it, do so; if not, you act ridiculously. But, if it is for your advantage that you drink it, say nothing about it before those who would criticise. Yet can it be possible that these are the very people you wish to please?

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Of actions, some are performed on their own account; others from circumstances, others from complaisance, others upon system.

Two things must be rooted out of men, conceit and diffidence. Conceit lies in thinking that you want nothing; and diffidence in supposing it impossible that under such adverse circumstances, you should ever succeed. Now conceit is removed by confutation; and of this Socrates set the example. And consider and ascertain that the undertaking is not impracticable. The inquiry itself will do you no harm; and it is almost being a philosopher to inquire how it is possible to employ our desire and aversion without hindrance.

“I am better than you; for my father has been consul.” — “I have been a tribune,” says another, “and you not.” If we were horses, would you say, “My father was swifter than yours? I have abundance of oats and hay and fine trappings?” What now, if, while you were saying this, I should answer: “Be it so. Let us run a race then.” Is there nothing in man analogous to a race in horses, by which it may be decided which is better or worse? Is there not honor, fidelity, justice? Show yourself the better in these, that you may be the better as a man. But if you only tell me that you can kick violently, I will tell you again that you value yourself on what is the property of an ass.

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IN every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit indeed, careless of the consequences, and when these are developed, you will shamefully desist. “I would conquer at the Olympic Games.” But consider what precedes and follows, and, then, if it be for your advantage, engage in the affair. You must conform to rules, submit to a diet, refrain from dainties; exercise your body, whether you choose it or not, at a stated hour, in heat and cold; you must drink no cold water, and sometimes no wine. In a word, you must give yourself up to your trainer as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow abundance of dust, receive stripes [for negligence]; and after all, lose the victory. When you have reckoned up all this, if your inclination still holds, set about the combat. Otherwise, take notice, you will behave like children who sometimes play wrestlers, sometimes gladiators; sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act a tragedy, when they happen to have seen and admired these shows. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator; now a philosopher, now an orator; but nothing in earnest. Like an ape you mimic all you see, and one thing after another is sure Edition: current; Page: [231] to please you; but is out of favor as soon as it becomes familiar. For you have never entered upon anything considerately, nor after having surveyed and tested the whole matter; but carelessly, and with a half-way zeal. Thus some, when they have seen a philosopher, and heard a man speaking like Euphrates,* — though indeed who can speak like him? — have a mind to be philosophers too. Consider first, man, what the matter is, and what your own nature is able to bear. If you would be a wrestler, consider your shoulders, your back, your thighs; for different persons are made for different things. Do you think that you can act as you do and be a philosopher? That you can eat, drink, be angry, be discontented, as you are now? You must watch, you must labor, you must get the better of certain appetites; must quit your acquaintances, be despised by your servant, be laughed at by those you meet; come off worse than others in everything, in offices, in honors, before tribunals. When you have fully considered all these things, approach, if you please; if, by parting with them, you have a mind to purchase serenity, freedom, and tranquillity. If not, do not come hither; do not, like children, be now a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator, and then one of Cæsar’s officers. These things are not consistent. You must be one man either good or bad. You must cultivate either your own Reason or else externals; apply yourself either to things within or without you; that is, be either a philosopher, or one of the mob.

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HE who frequently mingles with others, either in conversation or at entertainments, or in any familiar way of living, must necessarily either become like his companions, or bring them over to his own way. For, if a dead coal be applied to a live one, either the first will quench the last, or the last kindle the first. Since, then, the danger is so great, caution must be used in entering into these familiarities with the crowd; remembering that it is impossible to touch a chimney-sweeper without being partaker of his soot. For what will you do, if you have to discuss gladiators, horses, wrestlers, and, what is worse, men? “Such a one is good, another bad; this was well, that ill done.” Besides, what if any one should sneer, or ridicule, or be ill-natured? Are any of you prepared, like a harper, who, when he takes his harp, and tries the strings, finds out which notes are discordant, and knows how to put the instrument in tune? Have any of you such a faculty as Socrates had; who in every conversation, could bring his companions to his own purpose? Whence should you have it? You must therefore be carried along by the crowd. And why are they more powerful than you? Because they utter their corrupt discourses from sincere opinion, and you your good ones only from your lips. Hence they are without strength or life; and it is disgusting to hear your exhortations and your poor miserable virtue proclaimed up hill and Edition: current; Page: [233] down. Thus it is that the crowd gets the better of you; for sincere opinion is always strong, always invincible. Therefore before wise sentiments are fixed in you, and you have acquired some power of self-defence, I advise you to be cautious in popular intercourse, otherwise, if you have any impressions made on you in the schools, they will melt away daily like wax before the sun. Get away then, far from the sun, while you have these waxen opinions.

It is for this reason that the philosophers advise us to leave our country; because habitual practices draw the mind aside, and prevent the formation of new habits. We cannot bear that those who meet us should say, “Hey-day! such a one is turned philosopher, who was formerly thus and so.” Thus physicians send patients with lingering distempers to another place and another air; and they do right. Do you too import other manners instead of those you carry out. Fix your opinions, and exercise yourself in them. No; but you go hence to the theatre, to the gladiators, to the walks, to the circus; then hither again, then back again; — just the same persons all the while! No good habit, no criticism, no animadversion upon ourselves. No observation what use we make of the appearances presented to our minds; whether it be conformable, or contrary to Nature; whether we interpret them rightly or wrongly. Can I say to the inevitable that it is nothing to me? If this be not yet your case, fly from your former habits: fly from the crowd if you would ever begin to be anything.

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WHENEVER you lay anything to the charge of Providence, do but reflect, and you will find that it has happened agreeably to Reason.

“Well; but a dishonest man has the advantage.”

In what?

“In money.”

Here he ought to surpass you; because he flatters, he is shameless, he keeps awake. Where is the wonder? But look whether he has the advantage of you in fidelity or in honor. You will find he has not; but that wherever it is best for you to have the advantage of him, there you have it. I once said to one who was full of indignation at the good fortune of Philostrogus, “Why, would you be willing to sleep with Sura?”* Heaven forbid, said he, that day should ever come! Why then are you angry that he is paid for what he sells; or how can you call him happy in possessions acquired by means which you detest? Or what harm does Providence do in giving the best things to the best men? Is it not better to have a sense of honor than to be rich? “Granted.” Why then are you angry, man, if you have what is best? Always remember, then, and have it in mind that a better man has the advantage of a worse in that direction in which he is better; and you will never have any indignation.

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“But my wife treats me ill.”

Well; if you are asked what is the matter, answer, “My wife treats me ill.”

“Nothing more?”


“My father gives me nothing.” But to denominate this an evil, some external and false addition must be made. We are not therefore to get rid of poverty, but of our impressions concerning it; and we shall do well.

When Galba was killed, somebody said to Rufus, “Now, indeed, the world is governed by Providence.” I had never thought, answered Rufus, of extracting through Galba the slightest proof that the world was governed by Providence.


WHEN any alarming news is brought you, always have it ready in mind that no news can be brought you concerning what is within the power of your own Will. Can any one bring you news that your opinions or desires are ill conducted? By no means; only that such a person is dead. What is that to you then? — That somebody speaks ill of you. And what is that to you then? — That your father is perhaps forming some contrivance or other. Against what? Against your Will? How can he? No; but against your body, against your estate? You are very safe; this is not against you. — But the Judge Edition: current; Page: [236] has pronounced you guilty of impiety. And did not the Judges pronounce the same of Socrates? Is his pronouncing a sentence any business of yours? No. Then why do you any longer trouble yourself about it? There is a duty incumbent on your father, which unless he performs, he loses the character of a father, of natural affection, of tenderness. Do not desire him to lose anything else, by this; for every man suffers precisely where he errs. Your duty, on the other hand, is to meet the case with firmness, modesty, and mildness; otherwise you forfeit piety, modesty, and nobleness. Well; and is your Judge free from danger? No. He runs an equal hazard. Why, then, are you still afraid of his decision? What have you to do with the ills of another? Meeting the case wrongly would be your own ill. Let it be your only care to avoid that; but whether sentence is passed on you, or not, as it is the business of another, so the ill belongs to him. “Such a one threatens you.” Me? No. “He censures you.” Let him look to it, how he does his own duty. “He will give an unjust sentence against you.” Poor wretch!


THE first difference between one of the crowd and a philosopher is this; the one says, “I am undone on the account of my child, my brother, my father”; but the other, if ever he be obliged to say, “I am undone!” reflects, and adds, “on account of Edition: current; Page: [237] myself.” For the Will cannot be restrained or hurt by anything to which the Will does not extend, but only by itself. If, therefore, we always would incline this way, and, whenever we are unsuccessful, would lay the fault on ourselves, and remember that there is no cause of perturbation and inconstancy, but wrong principles, I pledge myself to you that we should make some proficiency. But we set out in a very different way from the very beginning. In infancy, for example, if we happen to stumble, our nurse does not chide us, but beats the stone. Why; what harm has the stone done? Was it to move out of its place for the folly of your child? Again; if we do not find something to eat when we come out of the bath, our tutor does not try to moderate our appetite, but beats the cook. Why; did we appoint you tutor of the cook, man? No; but of our child. It is he whom you are to correct and improve. By these means, even when we are grown up, we appear children. For an unmusical person is a child in music; an illiterate person, a child in learning; and an untaught one, a child in life.


IN considering sensible phenomena, almost all persons admit good and evil to lie in ourselves and not in externals. No one says it is good to be day; evil to be night; and the greatest evil that three should be four; but what? That knowledge is good Edition: current; Page: [238] and error evil. Even in connection with falsehood itself there may be one good thing; the knowledge that it is falsehood. Thus, then, should it be in life also. “Health is a good; sickness an evil.” No, sir. But what? A right use of health is a good; a wrong one, an evil. So that, in truth, it is possible to be a gainer even by sickness. And is it not possible by death too? By mutilation? Do you think Menæceus* an inconsiderable gainer by death? “May whoever talks thus be such a gainer as he was!” Why, pray, sir, did not he preserve his patriotism, his magnanimity, his fidelity, his gallant spirit? And, if he had lived on, would he not have lost all these? Would not cowardice, baseness, and hatred of his country, and a wretched love of life, have been his portion? Well now; do not you think him a considerable gainer by dying? No; but I warrant you the father of Admetus was a great gainer by living on in so mean-spirited and wretched a way as he did! For did not he die at last? For Heaven’s sake cease to be thus deluded by externals. Cease to make yourselves slaves; first, of things, and, then, upon their account, of the men who have the power either to bestow, or to take them away. Is there any advantage, then, to be gained from these men? From all; even from a reviler. What advantage does a wrestler gain from him with whom he exercises himself before the combat? The greatest. And just in the same manner I exercise myself with this man. He exercises me in patience, in gentleness, in meekness. I am to suppose, then, that I gain an advantage from him Edition: current; Page: [239] who exercises my neck, and puts my back and shoulders in order; so that the trainer may well bid me grapple him, with both hands, and the heavier he is the better for me; and yet it is no advantage to me when I am exercised in gentleness of temper! This is not to know how to gain an advantage from men. Is my neighbor a bad one? He is so to himself; but a good one to me. He exercises my good-temper, my moderation. Is my father bad? To himself; but not to me. “This is the rod of Hermes. Touch with it whatever you please, and it will become gold.” No; but bring whatever you please, and I will turn it into good. Bring sickness, death, want, reproach, trial for life. All these, by the rod of Hermes, shall turn to advantage. “What will you make of death?” Why, what but an ornament to you? what but a means of your showing, by action, what that man is who knows and follows the will of Nature. “What will you make of sickness?” I will show its nature. I will make a good figure in it; I will be composed and happy; I will not beseech my physician, nor yet will I pray to die. What need you ask further? Whatever you give me, I will make it happy, fortunate, respectable, and eligible.

No, but, “take care not to be sick; — it is an evil.” Just as if one should say, “Take care that the semblance of three being four does not present itself to you. It is an evil.” How an evil, man? If I think as I ought about it, what hurt will it any longer do me? Will it not rather be even an advantage to me? If then I think as I ought of poverty, of sickness, of political disorder, is not that enough for me? Why then must I any longer seek good or evil in externals?

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But how is it? These truths are admitted here; but nobody carries them home, for immediately every one is in a state of war with his servant, his neighbors, with those who sneer and ridicule him. Many thanks to Lespius for proving every day that I know nothing.


THEY who have merely received bare maxims are presently inclined to throw them up, as a sick stomach does its food. Digest it, and then you will not throw it up; otherwise it will be crude and impure, and unfit for nourishment. But show us, from what you have digested, some change in your ruling faculty; as wrestlers do in their shoulders, from their exercise and their diet; as artificers, in their skill, from what they have learnt. A carpenter does not come and say, “Hear me discourse on the art of building”; but he hires a building, and fits it up, and shows himself master of his trade. Let it be your business likewise to do something like this; be manly in your ways of eating, drinking, dressing; marry, have children, perform the duty of a citizen; bear reproach; bear with an unreasonable brother; bear with a father; bear with a son, a neighbor, a companion, as becomes a man. Show us these things, that we may see that you have really learned something from the philosophers. No; but “come and hear me repeat commentaries.” Get you gone, and seek somebody else upon whom to bestow them. Edition: current; Page: [241] “Nay, but I will explain the doctrines of Chrysippus to you as no other person can; I will elucidate his style in the clearest manner.” And is it for this, then, that young men leave their country, and their own parents, that they may come and hear you explain words? Ought they not to return patient, active, free from passion, free from perturbation; furnished with such a provision for life, that, setting out with it, they will be able to bear all events well, and derive ornament from them? But how should you impart what you have not? For have you yourself done anything else, from the beginning, but spend your time in solving syllogisms and convertible propositions and interrogatory arguments. “But such a one has a school, and why should not I have one?” Foolish man, these things are not brought about carelessly and at haphazard. But there must be a fit age, and a method of life, and a guiding God. Is it not so? No one quits the port, or sets sail, till he hath sacrified to the gods, and implored their assistance; nor do men sow without first invoking Ceres. And shall any one who has undertaken so great a work attempt it safely without the gods? And shall they who apply to such a one, apply to him with success? What are you doing else, man, but divulging the mysteries? As if you said, “There is a temple at Eleusis, and here is one too. There is a priest, and I will make a priest here; there is a herald, and I will appoint a herald too; there is a torch-bearer, and I will have a torch-bearer; there are torches, and so shall there be here. The words said, the things done, are the same. Where is the difference betwixt one and the other?” Most impious man! is there no difference? Are these things of use, out Edition: current; Page: [242] of place, and out of time? A man should come with sacrifices and prayers, previously purified, and his mind affected by the knowledge that he is approaching sacred and ancient rites. Thus the mysteries become useful; thus we come to have an idea that all these things were appointed by the ancients for the instruction and correction of life. But you divulge and publish them without regard to time and place, without sacrifices, without purity; you have not the garment that is necessary for a priest, nor the fitting hair nor girdle; nor the voice, nor the age, nor have you purified yourself like him. But, when you have got the words by heart, you say, “The mere words are sacred of themselves.” These things are to be approached in another manner. It is a great, it is a mystical affair; not given by chance, or to every one indifferently. Nay, mere wisdom, perhaps, is not a sufficient qualification for the care of youth. There ought to be likewise a certain readiness and aptitude for this, and indeed a particular physical temperament: and, above all, a counsel from God to undertake this office, as he counselled Socrates to undertake the office of confutation; Diogenes, that of authoritative reproof; Zeno, that of dogmatical instruction. But you set up for a physician, provided with nothing but medicines, and without knowing, or having studied, where or how they are to be applied. “Why, such a one had medicines for the eyes, and I have the same.” Have you also, then, a faculty of making use of them? Do you at all know when, and how, and to whom, they will be of service? Why then do you act at hazard? Why are you careless in things of the greatest importance? Why do you attempt a matter Edition: current; Page: [243] unsuitable to you? Leave it to those who can perform it and do it honor. Do not you too bring a scandal upon philosophy by your means; nor be one of those who cause the thing itself to be calumniated. But if mere theorems delight you, sit quietly and turn them over by yourself; but never call yourself a philosopher, nor suffer another to call you so; but say: he is mistaken; for my desires are not different from what they were; nor my pursuits directed to other objects; nor my assents otherwise given; nor have I at all made any change from my former condition in the use of things as they appear. Think and speak thus of yourself, if you would think as you ought; if not, act at random, and do as you do; for it is appropriate to you.


WHEN one of his scholars, who seemed inclined to the Cynic philosophy, asked him what a Cynic must be, and what was the general plan of that sect? Let us examine it, he said, at our leisure. But thus much I can tell you now, that he who attempts so great an affair without divine guidance is an object of divine wrath, and would only bring public dishonor upon himself. For in a well-regulated house no one comes and says to himself, “I ought to be the manager here.” If he does, and the master returns and sees him insolently giving orders, he drags him out, and has him punished. Such is the case likewise in this great city. For Edition: current; Page: [244] here, too, is a master of the family who orders everything. “You are the sun; you can, by making a circuit, form the year and the seasons, and increase and nourish the fruits; you can raise and calm the winds, and give an equable warmth to the bodies of men. Go; make your circuit, and thus move everything from the greatest to the least. You are a calf; when the lion appears act accordingly, or you will suffer for it. You are a bull; come and fight; for that is incumbent on you, and becomes you, and you can do it. You can lead an army to Troy; be you Agamemnon. You can engage in single combat with Hector; be you Achilles.” But if Thersites had come and claimed the command, either he would not have obtained it; or, if he had, he would have disgraced himself before so many more witnesses.

Do you, too, carefully deliberate upon this underdertaking; it is not what you think it. “I wear an old cloak now, and I shall have one then. I sleep upon the hard ground now, and I shall sleep so then. I will moreover take a wallet and a staff, and go about, and beg of those I meet, and begin by rebuking them; and, if I see any one using effeminate practices, or arranging his curls, or walking in purple, I will rebuke him.” If you imagine this to be the whole thing, avaunt; come not near it: it belongs not to you. But, if you imagine it to be what it really is, and do not think yourself unworthy of it, consider how great a thing you undertake.

First, with regard to yourself; you must no longer, in any instance, appear as now. You must accuse neither God nor man. You must altogether control desire; and must transfer aversion to such things only as are controllable by Will. You must have Edition: current; Page: [245] neither anger, nor resentment, nor envy, nor pity. Neither boy, nor girl, nor fame, nor dainties, must have charms for you. For you must know that other men indeed fence themselves with walls, and houses, and darkness, when they indulge in anything of this kind, and have many concealments; a man shuts the door, places somebody before the apartment: “Say that he is out; say that he is engaged.” But the Cynic, instead of all this, must fence himself with virtuous shame; otherwise he will be improperly exposed in the open air. This is his house, this his door, this his porter, this his darkness. He must not wish to conceal anything relating to himself; for, if he does, he is gone; he has lost the Cynic character, the openness, the freedom; he has begun to fear something external; he has begun to need concealment; nor can he get it when he will. For where shall he conceal himself, or how? For if this tutor, this pedagogue of the public, should happen to slip, what must he suffer? Can he then, who dreads these things, be thoroughly bold within, and prescribe to other men? Impracticable, impossible.

In the first place, then, you must purify your own ruling faculty, to match this method of life. Now the material for me to work upon is my own mind; as wood is for a carpenter, or leather for a shoemaker; and my business is, a right use of things as they appear. But body is nothing to me: its parts nothing to me. Let death come when it will; either of the whole body or of part. “Go into exile.” And whither? Can any one turn me out of the universe? He cannot. But wherever I go, there is the sun, the moon, the stars, dreams, auguries, communication with God. And even this preparation is by no Edition: current; Page: [246] means sufficient for a true Cynic. But it must further be known that he is a messenger sent from Zeus to men, concerning good and evil; to show them that they are mistaken, and seek the essence of good and evil where it is not, but do not observe it where it is; that he is a spy, like Diogenes, when he was brought to Philip, after the battle of Chæronea. For, in effect, a Cynic is a spy to discover what things are friendly, what hostile, to man; and he must, after making an accurate observation, come and tell them the truth; not be struck with terror, so as to point out to them enemies where there are none; nor, in any other instance, be disconcerted or confounded by appearances.

He must, then, if it should so happen, be able to lift up his voice, to come upon the stage, and say, like Socrates: “O mortals, whither are you hurrying? What are you about? Why do you tumble up and down, O miserable wretches! like blind men? You are going the wrong way, and have forsaken the right. You seek prosperity and happiness in a wrong place, where they are not; nor do you give credit to another, who shows you where they are. Why do you seek this possession without? It lies not in the body; if you do not believe me, look at Myro, look at Ofellius. It is not in wealth; if you do not believe me, look upon Crœsus; look upon the rich of the present age, how full of lamentation their life is. It is not in power; for otherwise, they who have been twice and thrice consuls must be happy; but they are not. To whom shall we give heed in these things? To you who look only upon the externals of their condition, and are dazzled by appearances, — or to themselves? What do they say? Hear them when they groan, Edition: current; Page: [247] when they sigh, when they pronounce themselves the more wretched and in more danger from these very consulships, this glory and splendor. It is not in empire; otherwise Nero and Sardanapalus had been happy. But not even Agamemnon was happy, though a better man than Sardanapalus or Nero. But, when others sleep soundly what is he doing?

“Forth by the roots he rends his hairs.”*

And what does he himself say?

“I wander bewildered; my heart leaps forth from my bosom.”

Why; which of your affairs goes ill, poor wretch? Your possessions? No. Your body? No. But you have gold and brass in abundance. What then goes ill? That part of you is neglected and corrupted, whatever it be called, by which we desire, and shrink; by which we pursue, and avoid. How neglected? It is ignorant of that for which it was naturally formed, of the essence of good, and of the essence of evil. It is ignorant what is its own, and what another’s. And, when anything belonging to others goes ill, it says, “I am undone; the Greeks are in danger!” (Poor ruling faculty! which alone is neglected, and has no care taken of it.) “They will die by the sword of the Trojans!” And, if the Trojans should not kill them, will they not die? “Yes, but not all at once.” Why, where is the difference? For if it be an evil to die, then whether it be all at once or singly, it is equally an evil. Will anything more happen than the separation of soul and body? “Nothing.” And, when the Greeks perish, is the door shut against you? Is it not in your power to die? “It is.” Why then do you lament, while you Edition: current; Page: [248] are a king and hold the sceptre of Zeus? A king is no more to be made unfortunate than a god. What are you, then? You are a mere shepherd, truly so called; for you weep, just as shepherds do when the wolf seizes any of their sheep; and they who are governed by you are mere sheep. But why do you come hither? Was your desire in any danger? Your aversion? Your pursuits? Your avoidances? “No,” he says, “but my brother’s wife has been stolen.” Is it not great good luck, then, to be rid of an adulterous wife? “But must we be held in contempt by the Trojans?” What are they? Wise men, or fools? If wise, why do you go to war with them? If fools, why do you heed them?

Where, then, does our good lie, since it does not lie in these things? Tell us, sir, you who are our messenger and spy. Where you do not think, nor are willing to seek it. For, if you were willing, you would find it in yourselves; nor would you wander abroad, nor seek what belongs to others, as your own. Turn your thoughts upon yourselves. Consider the impressions which you have. What do you imagine good to be? What is prosperous, happy, unhindered. Well; and do you not naturally imagine it great? Do you not imagine it valuable? Do you not imagine it incapable of being hurt? Where then, must you seek prosperity and exemption from hindrance? In that which is enslaved, or free? “In the free.” Is your body, then, enslaved, or free? We do not know. Do you not know that it is the slave of fever, gout, defluxion, dysentery; of a tyrant; of fire, steel; of everything stronger than itself? “Yes, it is a slave.” How, then, can anything belonging to the body be unhindered? And how can that be great Edition: current; Page: [249] or valuable, which is by nature lifeless, earth, clay? What, then, have you nothing free? “Possibly nothing.” Why, who can compel you to assent to what appears false? No one. Or who, not to assent to what appears true? No one. Here, then, you see that there is something in you naturally free. But which of you can desire or shun, or use his active powers of pursuit or avoidance, or prepare or plan anything, unless he has been impressed by an appearance of its being for his advantage or his duty? No one. You have then, in these too, something unrestrained and free. Cultivate this, unfortunates; take care of this; seek for good here. “But how is it possible that a man destitute, naked, without house or home, squalid, unattended, an outcast, can lead a prosperous life?” See; God hath sent us one, to show in practice that it is possible. “Take notice of me that I am without a country, without a house, without an estate, without a servant; I lie on the ground; have no wife, no children, no coat; but have only earth and heaven and one poor cloak. And what need I? Am not I without sorrow, without fear? Am not I free? Did any of you ever see me disappointed of my desire, or incurring my aversion? Did I ever blame God or man? Did I ever accuse any one? Have any of you seen me look discontented? How do I treat those whom you fear and of whom you are struck with awe? Is it not like poor slaves? Who that sees me does not think that he sees his own king and master?” This is the language, this the character, this the undertaking, of a Cynic. No, [but you think only of] the wallet and the staff and a large capacity of swallowing and appropriating whatever is given you; abusing unseasonably Edition: current; Page: [250] those you meet, or showing your bare arm. Do you consider how you shall attempt so important an undertaking? First take a mirror. View your shoulders, examine your back, your loins. It is the Olympic Games, man, for which you are to be entered; not a poor slight contest. In the Olympic Games a champion is not allowed merely to be conquered and depart; but must first be disgraced in the view of the whole world, not of the Athenians alone, or Spartans, or Nicopolitans; and, then, he who has prematurely departed must be whipped too; and, before that, must have suffered thirst, and heat, and have swallowed an abundance of dust.

Consider carefully, know yourself, consult the Divinity; attempt nothing without God; for, if he counsels you, be assured that it is his will, whether that you should become eminent, or that you should suffer many a blow. For there is this fine circumstance connected with the character of a Cynic, that he must be beaten like an ass, and yet, when beaten, must love those who beat him as the father, as the brother of all.

“No, to be sure; but, if anybody beats you, stand publicly and roar out ‘O! Cæsar, am I to suffer such things in breach of your peace? Let us go before the Proconsul.’ ”

But what is Cæsar to a Cynic, or what is the Proconsul, or any one else, but Zeus, who hath deputed him, and whom he serves. Does he invoke any other but him? And is he not persuaded that, whatever he suffers of this sort, it is Zeus who doth it to exercise him? Now Hercules, when he was exercised by Eurystheus, did not think himself miserable; but executed with alacrity all that was to be done. And Edition: current; Page: [251] shall he who is appointed to the combat, and exercised by Zeus, cry out and take offence at things? A worthy person, truly, to bear the sceptre of Diogenes! Hear what he in a fever, said to those who were passing by.* “Foolish men, why do you not stay? Do you take such a journey to Olympia to see the destruction or combat of the champions; and have you no inclination to see the combat between a man and a fever?” Such a one, who took a pride in difficult circumstances, and thought himself worthy to be a spectacle to those who passed by, was a likely person indeed to accuse God, who had deputed him, as treating him unworthily! For what subject of accusation shall he find? That he preserves a decency of behavior? With what does he find fault? That he sets his own virtue in a clearer light? Well; and what does he say of poverty? Of death? Of pain? How did he compare his happiness with that of the Persian king; or rather, thought it beyond comparison! For amidst perturbations, and griefs, and fears, and disappointed desires, and incurred aversions, how can there be any entrance for happiness? And where there are corrupt principles, there must all these things necessarily be.

— The same young man inquiring, whether, if a Edition: current; Page: [252] friend should desire to come to him and take care of him when he was sick, he should comply? And where, says Epictetus, will you find me the friend of a Cynic? For to be worthy of being numbered among his friends, a person ought to be such another as himself; he ought to be a partner of the sceptre and the kingdom, and a worthy minister, if he would be honored with his friendship; as Diogenes was the friend of Antisthenes; as Crates, of Diogenes. Do you think that he who only comes to him, and salutes him, is his friend; and that he will think him worthy of being entertained as such? If such a thought comes into your head, rather look round you for some desirable dunghill to shelter you in your fever from the north wind, that you may not perish by taking cold. But you seem to me to prefer to get into somebody’s house, and to be well fed there awhile. What business have you then, even to attempt so important an undertaking as this?

“But,” said the young man, “will marriage and parentage be recognized as important duties by a Cynic?”

Grant me a community of sages, and no one there, perhaps, will readily apply himself to the Cynic philosophy. For on whose account should he there embrace that method of life? However, supposing he does, there will be nothing to restrain him from marrying and having children. For his wife will be such another as himself; his father-in-law such another as himself; and his children will be brought up in the same manner. But as the state of things now is, like that of an army prepared for battle, is it not necessary that a Cynic should be without distraction;* Edition: current; Page: [253] entirely attentive to the service of God; at liberty to walk among mankind, not tied down to common duties, nor entangled in relations, which if he transgresses, he will no longer keep the character of a wise and good man; and which if he observes, there is an end of him, as the messenger, and spy, and herald of the gods? For consider, there are some offices due to his father-in-law; some to the other relations of his wife; some to his wife herself: besides, after this, he is confined to the care of his family when sick, and to providing for their support. At the very least, he must have a vessel to warm water in, to bathe his child; there must be wool, oil, a bed, a cup, for his wife, after her delivery; and thus the furniture increases; more business, more distraction. Where, for the future, is this king whose time is devoted to the public good?

“To whom the people are trusted, and many a care.”*

Who ought to superintend others, married men, fathers of children; — whether one treats his wife well or ill; who quarrels; which family is well regulated; which not; — like a physician who goes about and feels the pulse of his patients: “You have a fever; you the headache; you the gout. Do you abstain from food; do you eat; do you omit bathing; you must have an incision made: you be cauterized.” Where shall he have leisure for this who is tied down to common duties? Must he not provide clothes for his children; and send them with pens, and ink, and paper, to a schoolmaster? Must he not provide a Edition: current; Page: [254] bed for them, — for they cannot be Cynics from their very birth? — Otherwise, it would have been better to expose them, as soon as they were born, than to kill them thus. Do you see to what we bring down our Cynic? How we deprive him of his kingdom? “Well, but Crates* was married.” The case of which you speak was a particular one, arising from love; and the woman was another Crates. But we are inquiring about ordinary and common marriages; and in this inquiry we do not find the affair much suited to the condition of a Cynic.

“How then shall he keep up society?”

For Heaven’s sake, do they confer a greater benefit upon the world, who leave two or three brats in their stead, than those who, so far as possible, oversee all mankind; what they do, how they live; what they attend to, what they neglect, in spite of their duty. Did all those who left children to the Thebans do them more good than Epaminondas, who died childless? And did Priam who was the father of fifty profligates, or Danaus, or Æolus, conduce more to the advantage of society than Homer? Shall a military command, or any other post, then, exempt a man from marrying and becoming a father, so that he shall be thought to have made sufficient amends for the want of children; and shall not the kingdom of a Cynic be a proper compensation for it? Perhaps we do not understand his grandeur, nor duly represent to ourselves the character of Diogenes; but we think of Cynics as they are now, who stand Edition: current; Page: [255] like dogs watching at tables, and who have only the lowest things in common with the others; else things like these would not move us, nor should we be astonished that a Cynic will not marry nor have children. Consider, sir, that he is the father of mankind; that all men are his sons, and all women his daughters. Thus he attends to all; thus takes care of all. What! do you think it is from impertinence that he rebukes those he meets? He does it as a father, as a brother, as a minister of the common parent, Zeus.

Ask me, if you please, too, whether a Cynic will engage in the administration of the commonwealth. What commonwealth do you inquire after, foolish man, greater than what he administers? Why should he harangue among the Athenians about revenues and taxes, whose business it is to debate with all mankind; with the Athenians, Corinthians, and Romans, equally; not about taxes and revenues, or peace and war, but about happiness and misery, prosperity and adversity, slavery and freedom. Do you ask me whether a man engages in the administration of the commonwealth who administers such a commonwealth as this? Ask me, too, whether he will accept any command? I will answer you again, What command, foolish one, is greater than that which he now exercises?

But he has need of a constitution duly qualified; for, if he should appear consumptive, thin, and pale, his testimony has no longer the same authority. For he must not only give a proof to the vulgar, by the constancy of his mind, that it is possible to be a man of weight and merit without those things that strike them with admiration; but he must show, too, by his body, that a simple and frugal diet, under the open Edition: current; Page: [256] air, does no injury to the constitution. “See, I and my body bear witness to this.” As Diogenes did; for he went about in hale condition, and gained the attention of the many by his mere physical aspect. But a Cynic in poor condition seems a mere beggar; all avoid him, all are offended at him; for he ought not to appear slovenly, so as to drive people from him; but even his indigence should be clean and attractive.

Much natural tact and acuteness are likewise necessary in a Cynic (otherwise he is almost worthless); that he may be able to give an answer, readily and pertinently, upon every occasion. So Diogenes, to one who asked him, “are you that Diogenes who does not believe there are any gods?” — How so, replied he, when I think you odious to them? Again; when Alexander surprised him sleeping, and repeated,

“To sleep all the night becomes not a man who gives counsel”;*

before he was quite awake, he responded,

“To whom the people are trusted, and many a care.”

But, above all, the reason of the man must be clearer than the sun; otherwise he must necessarily be a common cheat and a rascal, if, while himself guilty of some vice, he reproves others. For consider how the case stands. Arms and guards give a power to common kings and tyrants of reproving and of punishing delinquents, though they be wicked themselves; but to a Cynic, instead of arms and guards, conscience gives this power; when he knows that he has watched and labored for mankind; that he has slept pure, and waked still purer; and that he hath Edition: current; Page: [257] regulated all his thoughts as the friend, as the minister of the gods, as a partner of the empire of Zeus; that he is ready to say, upon all occasions,

“Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny.”*

And, “if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be.” Why should he not dare to speak boldly to his own brethren, to his children; in a word, to his kindred? Hence he, who is thus qualified, is neither impertinent nor a busybody: for he is not busied about the affairs of others, but his own, when he oversees the transactions of men. Otherwise call a general a busybody, when he oversees, inspects, and watches his soldiers and punishes the disorderly. But, if you reprove others, at the very time that you have booty under your own arm, I will ask you, if you had not better go into a corner, and eat up what you have stolen? But what have you to do with the concerns of others? For what are you? Are you the bull in the herd, or the queen of the bees? Show me such ensigns of empire, as she has from nature. But, if you are a drone, and arrogate to yourself the kingdom of the bees, do you not think that your fellow-citizens will drive you out, just as the bees do the drones?

A Cynic must, besides, have so much patience as to seem insensible and like a stone to the vulgar. No one reviles, no one beats, no one affronts him; but he has surrendered his body to be treated at pleasure by any one who will. For he remembers that the inferior, in whatever respect it is the inferior, must be conquered by the superior; and the body is inferior to the multitude, the weaker to the stronger. He never, therefore, enters into a combat where he can Edition: current; Page: [258] be conquered; but immediately gives up what belongs to others; he does not claim what is slavish and dependent; but in what concerns Will and the use of things as they appear, you will see that he has so many eyes, you would say Argus was blind to him. Is his assent ever precipitate? His pursuits ever rash? His desire ever disappointed? His aversion ever incurred? His aim ever fruitless? Is he ever querulous, ever dejected, ever envious? Here lies all his attention and application. With regard to other things, he enjoys profound quiet. All is peace. There is no robber, no tyrant for the Will. But there is for the body? Yes. The estate? Yes. Magistracies and honors? Yes. And what cares he for these? When any one, therefore, would frighten him with them, he says; “Go look for children; masks are frightful to them; but I know they are only shells, and have nothing within.”

Such is the affair about which you are deliberating; therefore, if you please, for Heaven’s sake, defer it, and first consider how you are prepared for it. Observe what Hector says to Andromache:

“War is the sphere for all men, and for me.”*

Thus conscious was he of his own qualifications and of her weakness.

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FIRST, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. For in almost everything we see this to be the practice. Olympic champions first determine what they would be, and then act accordingly. To a racer, in a longer course, there must be one kind of diet, walking, anointing, and training; to one in a shorter, all these must be different; and to a Pentathlete, still more different. You will find the case the same in the manual arts. If a carpenter, you must have such and such things; if a smith, such other. For if we do not refer each of our actions to some end, we shall act at random; if to an improper one, we shall miss our aim. Further; there is a general and a particular end. The first is, to act as a man. What is comprehended in this? To be gentle, yet not sheepish; not to be mischievous, like a wild beast. But the particular end relates to the study and choice of each individual. A harper is to act as a harper; a carpenter, as a carpenter; a philosopher, as a philosopher; an orator, as an orator. When, therefore, you say, “Come, and hear me read,” observe, first, not to do this at random; and, in the next place, after you have found to what end you refer it, consider whether it be a proper one. Would you be useful, — or be praised? You presently hear him say, “What do I value the praise of the multitude?” And he says well; for this is nothing to a musician, or a geometrician, Edition: current; Page: [260] as such. You would be useful then. In what? Tell us, that we too may run to make part of your audience. Now, is it possible for any one to benefit others, who has received no benefit himself? No; for neither can he who is not a carpenter, or a shoemaker, benefit any one in respect to those arts. Would you know, then, whether you have received benefit? Produce your principles, philosopher. What is the aim and promise of desire? Not to be disappointed. What of aversion? Not to be incurred. Come, do we fulfil this promise? Tell me the truth; but, if you falsify, I will tell it to you. The other day, when your audience came but coldly together, and did not receive what you said with acclamations of applause, you went away dejected. Again; the other day when you were praised, you went about asking everybody, “What did you think of me?” — “Upon my life, sir, it was prodigious.” — “But how did I express myself upon that subject?” — “Which?” — “Where I gave a description of Pan and the Nymphs.”* — “Most excellently.” And do you tell me, after this, that you regulate your desires and aversions conformably to Nature? Get you gone! Persuade somebody else.

Did not you, the other day, praise a man contrary to your own opinion? Did not you flatter a certain senator? Yet would you wish your own children to be like him? “Heaven forbid!” Why then did you praise and cajole him? “He is an ingenuous young man, and attentive to discourses.” How so? “He admires me.” Now indeed you have produced your proof.

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After all, what do you think? Do not these very people secretly despise you? When a man conscious of no good action or intention finds some philosopher saying, “You are a great genius, and of a frank and candid disposition”; what do you think he says, but, “This man has some need of me.” Pray tell me what mark of a great genius he has shown. You see he has long conversed with you, has heard your discourses, has attended your lectures. Has he turned his attention to himself? Has he perceived his own faults? Has he thrown off his conceit? Does he seek an instructor? “Yes, he does.” An instructor how to live? No, fool, but how to talk; for it is upon this account that he admires you. Hear what he says: “This man writes with very great art, and much more finely than Dion.” That is quite another thing. Does he say, This is a modest, faithful, calm person? But if he said this too, I would ask him, if he is faithful, what it is to be faithful? And if he could not tell, I would add, “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

While you are in this bad disposition, then, and gaping after applauders, and counting your hearers, can you be of benefit to others? “To-day I had many more hearers.” — “Yes, many; we think there were five hundred.” — “You say nothing; estimate them at a thousand.” — “Dion never had so great an audience.” — “How should he?” — “And they have a fine taste for discourses.” — “What is excellent, sir, will move even a stone.” — Here is the language of a philosopher! Here is the disposition of one who is to be beneficial to mankind! Here is the man, attentive to discourses! Who has read the works of the Socratic philosophers, as such; not as if they were Edition: current; Page: [262] the writings of orators, like Lysias and Isocrates. “I have often wondered by what arguments — ”* No; “By what argument”; that is the more perfectly accurate expression. Is this to have read them any otherwise than as you read little pieces of poetry? If you read them as you ought, you would not dwell on such trifles, but would rather consider such a passage as this: “Anytus and Melitus may kill, but they cannot hurt me.” And “I am always so disposed as to defer to none of my friends, but to that reason which, after examination, appears to me to be the best.” Hence, who ever heard Socrates say, “I know, or teach anything”? But he sent different people to different instructors; they came to him, desiring to be introduced to the philosophers; and he took them and introduced them. No; but [you think] as he accompanied them he used to give them such advice as this: “Hear me discourse to-day at the house of Quadratus.” Why should I hear you? Have you a mind to show me how finely you put words together, sir? And what good does that do you? “But praise me.” What do you mean by praising you? “Say, Incomparable! prodigious!” Well; I do say it. But if praise be that which the philosophers call by the appellation of good, what have I to praise you for? If it be good to speak well, teach me, and I will praise you. “What, then, ought these things to be heard without pleasure?” By no means. I do not hear even a harper without pleasure; but am I therefore to devote myself to playing Edition: current; Page: [263] upon the harp? Hear what Socrates says to his judges. “It would not be decent for me to appear before you, at this age, composing speeches like a boy.”* Like a boy, he says. For it is, without doubt, a pretty accomplishment to select words and place them together, and then to read or speak them gracefully in public; and in the midst of the discourse to observe that “he vows by all that is good, there are but few capable of these things.” But does a philosopher apply to people to hear him? Does he not attract those who are fitted to receive benefit from him, in the same manner as the sun or their necessary food does? What physician applies to anybody to be cured by him? (Though now indeed I hear that the physicians at Rome apply for patients; but in my time they were applied to.) “I apply to you to come and hear that you are in a bad way, and that you take care of everything but what you ought; that you knew not what is good or evil, and are unfortunate and unhappy.” A fine application! And yet, unless the discourse of a philosopher has this effect, both that and the speaker are lifeless.

Rufus used to say, “If you are at leisure to praise me, I speak to no purpose.” And indeed he used to speak in such a manner, that each of us who heard him supposed that some person had accused us to him; he so precisely hit upon what was done by us, and placed the faults of every one before his eyes.

The school of a philosopher is a surgery. You are not to go out of it with pleasure, but with pain; for you do not come there in health; but one of you has a dislocated shoulder; another, an abscess; a third, a fistula; a fourth, the headache. And am I, Edition: current; Page: [264] then, to sit uttering pretty, trifling thoughts and little exclamations, that, when you have praised me, you may each of you go away with the same dislocated shoulder, the same aching head, the same fistula, and the same abscess that you brought? And is it for this that young men are to travel? And do they leave their parents, their friends, their relations, and their estates, that they may praise you while you are uttering little exclamations? Was this the practice of Socrates? Of Zeno? Of Cleanthes?

What then! is there not in speaking a style and manner of exhortation? Who denies it? Just as there is a manner of confutation and of instruction. But who ever, therefore, added that of ostentation for a fourth? For in what doth the hortatory manner consist? In being able to show, to one and all, the contradictions in which they are involved; and that they care for everything rather than what they mean to care for: for they mean the things conducive to happiness, but they seek them where they are not to be found. To effect this, must a thousand seats be placed, and an audience invited; and you, in a fine robe or cloak, ascend the rostrum, and describe the death of Achilles? Forbear, for Heaven’s sake, to bring, so far as you are able, good works and practices into disgrace. Nothing, to be sure, gives more force to exhortation, than when the speaker shows that he has need of the hearers; but tell me who, when he hears you reading or speaking, is solicitous about himself? Or turns his attention upon himself? Or says, when he is gone away, “The philosopher hit me well.” Instead of this, even though you are in high vogue, one hearer merely remarks to another, “He spoke finely about Xerxes!” — “No,” says the Edition: current; Page: [265] other; “but on the battle of Thermopylæ!” Is this the audience for a philosopher?


LET not another’s disobedience to Nature become an ill to you; for you were not born to be depressed and unhappy with others, but to be happy with them. And if any is unhappy, remember that he is so for himself; for God made all men to enjoy felicity and peace. He hath furnished all with means for this purpose; having given them some things for their own; others, not for their own. Whatever is subject to restraint, compulsion, or deprivation is not their own; whatever is not subject to restraint is their own. And the essence of good and evil He has placed in things which are our own; as it became Him who provides for, and protects us, with paternal care.

“But I have parted with such a one, and he is therefore in grief.”

And why did he esteem what belonged to another his own? Why did he not consider, while he was happy in seeing you, that you are mortal, that you are liable to change your abode? Therefore he bears the punishment of his own folly. But to what purpose, or for what cause, do you too suffer depression of spirits? Have you not studied these things? Like trifling, silly women, have you regarded the things you took delight in, the places, the persons, the conversations, Edition: current; Page: [266] as if they were to last for ever; and do you now sit crying, because you do not see the same people, nor live in the same place? Indeed, you deserve to be so overcome, and thus to become more wretched than ravens or crows, which, without groaning or longing for their former state, can fly where they will, build their nests in another place, and cross the seas.

“Ay, but this happens from their want of reason.”

Was reason then given to us by the gods, for the purpose of unhappiness and misery, to make us live wretched and lamenting? O, by all means, let every one be deathless! Let nobody go from home! Let us never go from home ourselves, but remain rooted to a spot, like plants! And if any of our acquaintance should quit his abode, let us sit and cry; and when he comes back, let us dance and clap our hands like children. Shall we never wean ourselves, and remember what we have heard from the philosophers, — unless we have heard them only as juggling enchanters; — that the universe is one great city, and the substance one of which it is formed; that there must necessarily be a certain rotation of things; that some must give way to others, some be dissolved, and others rise in their stead; some remain in the same situation, and others be moved; but that all is full of beloved ones, first of the gods, and then of men, by nature endeared to each other; that some must be separated, others live together, rejoicing in the present, and not grieving for the absent: and that man, besides a natural greatness of mind and contempt of things independent on his own will, is likewise formed not to be rooted to the earth, but to go at different times to different places; sometimes on Edition: current; Page: [267] urgent occasions, and sometimes merely for the sake of observation. Such was the case of Ulysses, who

“Saw the cities and watched the habits of various men.”*

And, even before him, of Hercules, to travel over the habitable world,

“Observing manners, good or ill, of men.”

To expel and clear away the one, and, in its stead, to introduce the other. Yet how many friends do you not think he must have at Thebes? How many at Argos? How many at Athens? And how many did he acquire in his travels? He married, too, when he thought it a proper time, and became a father, and then quitted his children; not lamenting and longing for them, nor as if he had left them orphans; for he knew that no human creature is an orphan, but that there is a father, who always, and without intermission, takes care of all. For he had not merely heard it as matter of talk, that Zeus was the Father of Mankind; but he esteemed and called him his own Father, and performed all that he did with a view to Him. Hence he was, in every place, able to live happy. But it is never possible to make happiness consistent with a longing after what is not present. For true happiness implies the possession of all which is desired, as in case of satiety with food; there must be no thirst, no hunger.

“But Ulysses longed for his wife, and sat weeping on a rock.”

Why do you regard Homer and his fables in everything? Or, if Ulysses really did weep, what was he but a wretched man? But what wise and good man Edition: current; Page: [268] is wretched? The universe is surely but ill governed, if Zeus does not take care that his subjects may be happy like himself. But these are unlawful and profane thoughts; and Ulysses, if he did indeed cry and bewail himself, was not a good man. For who can be a good man who does not know what he is? And who knows this, and yet forgets that all things made are perishable; and that it is not possible for man and man always to live together? What then? To desire impossibilities is base and foolish: it is the behavior of a stranger [to the world]; of one who fights against God in the only way he can, by holding false principles.

“But my mother grieves when she does not see me.”

And why has not she learned these doctrines? I do not say that care ought not to be taken that she may not lament; but that we are not to insist absolutely upon what is not in our own power. Now the grief of another is not in my power; but my own grief is. I will therefore absolutely suppress my own, for that is in my power; and I will endeavor to suppress another’s grief so far as I am able; but I will not insist upon it absolutely, otherwise I shall fight against God; I shall resist Zeus, and oppose him in the administration of the universe. And not only my children’s children will bear the punishment of this disobedience and fighting against God, but I myself too; starting, and full of perturbation, both in the day-time and in my nightly dreams; trembling at every message, and having my peace dependent on intelligence from others. “Somebody is come from Rome.” “I trust no harm has happened.” Why, what harm can happen to you where you are not? Edition: current; Page: [269] “From Greece.” — “No harm, I hope.” Why, at this rate, every place may be the cause of misfortune to you. Is it not enough for you to be unfortunate where you are, but it must happen beyond sea, too, and by letters? Such is the security of your condition!

“But what if my friends there should be dead?”

What, indeed, but that those are dead who were born to die? Do you at once wish to grow old, and yet not to see the death of any one you love? Do you not know that, in a long course of time, many and various events must necessarily happen? That a fever must get the better of one; a highwayman, of another; a tyrant, of a third? For such is the world we live in; such they who live in it with us. Heats and colds, improper diet, journeys, voyages, winds, and various accidents destroy some, banish others; destine one to an embassy, another to a camp. And now, pray, will you sit in consternation about all these things; lamenting, disappointed, wretched, dependent on another; and not on one or two only, but ten thousand times ten thousand!

Is this what you have heard from the philosophers? This what you have learned? Do you not know what sort of a thing warfare is? One must keep guard, another go out for a spy, another even to battle. It is neither possible, nor indeed desirable, that all should be in the same place; but you, neglecting to perform the orders of your General, complain whenever anything a little hard is commanded; and do not consider what influence you have on the army, so far as lies in your power. For, if all should imitate you, nobody will dig a trench, or throw up a rampart, or stand guard, or expose himself to danger, Edition: current; Page: [270] but every one will appear useless to the expedition. Again; if you were a sailor in a voyage, suppose you were to fix upon one place, and there remain? If it should be necessary to climb the mast, refuse to do it; if to run to the bow of the ship, refuse to do it! And what captain would tolerate you? Would he not throw you overboard as a useless piece of goods and mere luggage, and a bad example to the other sailors? Thus, also, in the present case; every one’s life is a warfare, and that long and various. You must observe the duty of a soldier, and perform everything at the nod of your General, and even, if possible, divine what he would have done. For there is no comparison between the above-mentioned General and this whom you now obey, either in power or excellence of character. You are placed in an extensive command, and not in a mean post; your life is a perpetual magistracy? Do you not know that such a one must spend but little time on his affairs at home; but be much abroad, either commanding or obeying; attending on the duties either of a magistrate, a soldier, or a judge? And now, pray, would you be fixed and rooted on the same spot, like a plant?

“Why; it is pleasant.”

Who denies it? And so is a ragout pleasant, and a fine woman is pleasant. Is not this just what they say who make pleasure their end? Do you not perceive whose language you have spoken? That of Epicureans and debauchees. And while you follow their practices and hold their principles, do you talk to us of the doctrines of Zeno and Socrates? Why do you not throw away as far as possible those assumed traits which belong to others, and with which you have Edition: current; Page: [271] nothing to do? What else do the Epicureans desire than to sleep without hindrance, and rise without compulsion; and when they have risen, to yawn at their leisure and wash their faces; then write and read what they please; then prate about some trifle or other, and be applauded by their friends, whatever they say; then go out for a walk, and, after they have taken a turn, bathe, and then eat, and then to bed; in what manner they spend their time there, why should one say? For it is easily guessed. Come now; do you also tell me what course of life you desire to lead, who are a zealot for truth, and Diogenes, and Socrates? What would you do at Athens? These very same things? Why then do you call yourself a Stoic? They who falsely pretend to the Roman citizenship are punished severely; and must those be dismissed with impunity who falsely claim so great a thing, and so venerable a title, as you? Or is not this impossible; and is there not a divine, and powerful, and inevitable law, which exacts the greatest punishments from those who are guilty of the greatest offences? For what says this law? — Let him who claims what belongs not to him be arrogant, be vainglorious, be base, be a slave; let him grieve, let him envy, let him pity; and in a word, let him lament and be miserable.

“What then! would you have me pay my court to such a one? Would you have me frequent his door?”

If reason requires it for your country, for your relations, for mankind, why should you not go? You are not ashamed to go to the door of a shoemaker when you want shoes; nor of a gardener when you want lettuce. Why then in regard to the rich, when you have some similar want?

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“Ay; but I need not be awed before a shoemaker.”

Nor before a rich man.

“I need not flatter a gardener.”

Nor a rich man.

“How, then, shall I get what I want?”

Why, do I bid you go in expectation of getting it? No; only that you may do your duty.

“Why, then, after all, should I go?”

That you may have gone; that you may have discharged the duties of a citizen, of a brother, of a friend. And, after all, remember, that you are going as if to a shoemaker, to a gardener, who has no monopoly of anything great or respectable, though he should sell it ever so dear. You are going as if to buy lettuces, worth an obolus, but by no means worth a talent. So here too, if the matter is worth going to his door about, I will go; if it is worth talking with him about, I will talk with him. But if one must kiss his hand, too, and cajole him with praise; that is paying too dear. It is not expedient for myself, nor my country, nor my fellow-citizens, nor my friends, to destroy what constitutes the good citizen and the friend.

“But one will appear not to have set heartily about the business, if one thus fails.”

What, have you again forgotten why you went? Do you not know that a wise and good man does nothing for appearance; but everything for the sake of having acted well?

“What advantage is it, then, to him, to have acted well?”

What advantage is it to one who writes down the name of Dion without a blunder? The having written it.

“Is there no reward, then?”

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Why; do you seek any greater reward for a good man than the doing what is fair and just? And yet, at Olympia, you desire nothing else; but think it enough to be crowned victor. Does it appear to you so small and worthless a thing to be just, good, and happy? Besides; being introduced by God into this Great City [the world] and bound to discharge at this time the duties of a man, do you still want nurses and a mamma; and are you conquered and effeminated by the tears of poor weak women? Are you thus determined never to cease being an infant? Do not you know that, if one acts like a child, the older he is, so much the more he is ridiculous?

Did you never visit any one at Athens at his own house?

“Yes; whomsoever I pleased.”

Why; now you are here, be willing to visit this person, and you will still see whom you please; only let it be without meanness, without undue desire or aversion, and your affairs will go well; but their going well, or not, does not consist in going to the house and standing at the door, or the contrary; but lies within, in your own principles; when you have acquired a contempt for things uncontrollable by Will, and esteem none of them your own, but hold that what belongs to you is only to judge and think, to exert rightly your aims, your desires, and aversions. What further room is there after this for flattery, for meanness? Why do you still long for the quiet you elsewhere enjoyed; for places familiar to you? Stay a little, and these will become familiar to you in their turn; and, then, if you are so meanspirited, you may weep and lament again on leaving these.

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“How, then, am I to preserve an affectionate disposition?”

As becomes a noble-spirited and happy person. For reason will never tell you to be dejected and broken-hearted; or to depend on another; or to reproach either God or man. Be affectionate in such a manner as to observe all this. But if, from affection, as you call it, you are to be a slave and miserable, it is not worth your while to be affectionate. And what restrains you from loving any one as a mortal, — as a person who may be obliged to quit you? Pray did not Socrates love his own children? But it was as became one who was free, and mindful that his first duty was, to gain the love of the gods. Hence he violated no part of the character of a good man, either in his defence or in fixing a penalty on himself.* Nor yet before, when he was a senator, or a soldier. But we make use of every pretence to be mean-spirited; some, on account of a child; some, of a mother; and some, of a brother. But it is not fit to be unhappy on account of any one; but happy on account of all; and chiefly of God, who has constituted us for this purpose. What! did Diogenes love nobody; who was so gentle and benevolent as cheerfully to undergo so many pains and Edition: current; Page: [275] miseries of body for the common good of mankind? Yes, he did love them; but how? As became a minister of Zeus; at once caring for men, and obedient to God. Hence the whole earth, not any particular place, was his country. And when he was taken captive he did not long for Athens and his friends and acquaintance there; but made himself acquainted with the pirates, and endeavored to reform them; and when he was at last sold into captivity, he lived at Corinth just as before at Athens; and, if he had gone to the Perrhœbeans,* he would have been exactly the same. Thus is freedom acquired. Hence he used to say, “Ever since Antisthenes made me free I have ceased to be a slave.” How did he make him free? Hear what he says. “He taught me what was my own and what not. An estate is not my own. Kindred, domestics, friends, reputation, familiar places, manner of life, all belong to another.” — “What is your own then?” — “The right use of the phenomena of existence. He showed me that I have this, not subject to restraint or compulsion; no one can hinder or force me in this, any otherwise than as I please. Who, then, after this, has any power over me? Philip, or Alexander, or Perdiccas, or the Persian king? Whence should they have it? For he that is to be subdued by man must first be subdued by things. He, therefore, of whom neither pleasure, nor pain, nor fame, nor riches, can get the better; and he who is able, whenever he thinks fit, to abandon his whole body with contempt and depart, whose slave can he ever be? To whom is he subject?” But if Diogenes had taken pleasure Edition: current; Page: [276] in living at Athens, and had been subdued by that manner of life, his affairs would have been at every one’s disposal; and whoever was stronger would have had the power of grieving him. How would he have flattered the pirates, think you, to make them sell him to some Athenian, that he might see again the fine Piræus, the Long Walls, and the Citadel? How would you see them? As a slave and a miserable wretch? And what good would that do you? “No; but as free.” How free? See, somebody lays hold on you, takes you away from your usual manner of life, and says: “You are my slave; for it is in my power to restrain you from living as you like. It is in my power to afflict and humble you. Whenever I please you may be cheerful once more; and set out elated for Athens.” What do you say to him who thus enslaves you? What rescuer can you find? Or dare you not so much as look up at him; but, without making many words, do you supplicate to be dismissed? Why, you ought even to go to prison, man, with alacrity, with speed, outstripping your conductors. Instead of this do you regret living at Rome and long for Greece? And, when you must die, will you then, too, come crying to us, that you shall no more see Athens, nor walk in the Lyceum? Is it for this that you have travelled? Is it for this that you have been seeking for somebody to do you good? What good? That you may the more easily solve syllogisms and manage hypothetical arguments? And is it for this reason you left your brother, your country, your friends, your family, that you might carry back such acquirements as these? So that you did not travel to learn constancy nor tranquillity; nor that, secured from harm, you might complain of Edition: current; Page: [277] no one, accuse no one; that no one might injure you; and that thus you might preserve your human relations, without impediment. You have made a fine traffic of it, to carry home hypothetical arguments and convertible propositions! If you please, too, sit in the market, and cry them for sale, as mountebanks do their medicines. Why will you not rather deny that you know even what you have learned; for fear of bringing a scandal upon such theorems as useless? What harm has philosophy done you, — in what has Chrysippus injured you, — that you should demonstrate by your actions that such studies are of no value? Had you not evils enough at home? How many causes for grief and lamentation had you there, even if you had not travelled? But you have added more; and, if you ever get any new acquaintance and friends, you will find fresh causes for groaning; and, in like manner, if you attach yourself to any other country. To what purpose, therefore, do you live? To heap sorrow upon sorrow, to make you wretched? And then you tell me this is affection. What affection, man? If it be good, it cannot be the cause of any ill; if ill, I will have nothing to do with it. I was born for my own good, not ill.

“What, then, is the proper training for these cases?”

First, the highest and principal means, and as obvious as if at your very door, is this, — that when you attach yourself to anything, it may not be as to a secure possession.

“How then?”

As to something brittle as glass or earthenware; that, when it happens to be broken, you may not lose Edition: current; Page: [278] your self-command. So here, too; when you embrace your child, or your brother, or your friend, never yield yourself wholly to the fair semblance, nor let the passion pass into excess; but curb it, restrain it, — like those who stand behind triumphant victors, and remind them that they are men. Do you likewise remind yourself that you love what is mortal; that you love what is not your own. It is allowed you for the present, not irrevocably, nor forever; but as a fig, or a bunch of grapes, in the appointed season. If you long for these in winter you are foolish. So, if you long for your son, or your friend, when you cannot have him, remember that you are wishing for figs in winter. For as winter is to a fig, so is every accident in the universe to those things with which it interferes. In the next place, whatever objects give you pleasure, call before yourself the opposite images. What harm is there, while you kiss your child, in saying softly, “To-morrow you may die”; and so to your friend, “To-morrow either you or I may go away, and we may see each other no more.”

“But these sayings are ominous.”

And so are some incantations; but, because they are useful, I do not mind it; only let them be useful. But do you call anything ominous except what implies some ill? Cowardice is ominous; baseness is ominous; lamentation, grief, shamelessness. These are words of bad omen; and yet we ought not to shrink from using them, as a guard against the things they mean. But do you tell me that a word is ominous which is significant of anything natural? Say, too, that it is ominous for ears of corn to be reaped; for this signifies the destruction of the corn; but not Edition: current; Page: [279] of the world. Say, too, that the fall of the leaf is ominous; and that confectionery should be produced from figs, and raisins from grapes. For all these are changes from a former state into another; not a destruction, but a certain appointed economy and administration. Such is absence, a slight change; such is death, a greater change; not from what now is nothing, but to what now is not.

“What, then, shall I be no more?”

True; but you will be something else, of which at present the world has no need; for even you were not produced when you pleased, but when the world had need of you. Hence a wise and good man, mindful who he is and whence he came, and by whom he was produced, is attentive only how he may fill his post regularly and dutifully before God. “Dost Thou wish me still to live? Let me live free and noble, as Thou desirest; for Thou hast made me incapable of restraint in what is my own. But hast Thou no farther use for me? Farewell! I have staid thus long through Thee alone, and no other; and now I depart in obedience to Thee.” — “How do you depart?” — “Still as Thou wilt; as one free, as thy servant, as one sensible of thy commands and thy prohibitions. But, while I am employed in thy service, what wouldst Thou have me to be? A prince, or a private man; a senator, or a plebeian; a soldier, or a general; a preceptor, or a master of a family? Whatever post or rank Thou shalt assign me, — like Socrates, I will die a thousand times rather than desert it. Where wouldst thou have me to be? At Rome, or at Athens; at Thebes, or at Gyaros? Only remember me there. If Thou shalt send me where men cannot live conformably to nature, I will not Edition: current; Page: [280] depart unbidden, but upon a recall as it were sounded by Thee. Even then I do not desert Thee; Heaven forbid! but I perceive that Thou hast no use for me. If a life conformable to nature be granted, I will seek no other place but that in which I am; nor any other company but those with whom I dwell.”

Let these things be ready at hand, night and day. These things write; these things read; of these things talk both to yourself and others. [Ask them,] “Have you any assistance to give me for this purpose?” And, again, go and ask another and another. Then, if any of those things should happen that are called disagreeable, this will surely be a relief to you; in the first place, that it was not unexpected. For it is much to be able always to say, “I knew that I begot one born to die.”* Thus do you say too, “I knew that I was liable to die, to travel, to be exiled, to be imprisoned.” If afterwards you turn to yourself, and seek from what quarter the event proceeds, you will presently recollect: “It is from things uncontrollable by will, not from what is my own. What then is it to me?” Then, farther, which is the chief point: “Who sent this? The commander, the general, the city, the public law? Give it to me, then, for I must always obey the law in all things.”

Farther yet; when any delusive appearance molests you (for this may not depend on you,) strive against it, and conquer it through reason. Do not suffer it to gain strength, nor to lead you indefinitely on, beguiling you at its own will. If you are at Gyaros, do not represent to yourself the manner of living at Edition: current; Page: [281] Rome; how many pleasures you used to find there, and how many would attend your return; but dwell rather on this point; how he, who must live at Gyaros, may live there nobly. And if you are at Rome, do not represent to yourself the manner of living at Athens; but consider only how you ought to live where you are.

Lastly, for all other pleasures substitute the conciousness that you are obeying God, and performing not in word, but in deed, the duty of a wise and good man. How great a thing is it to be able to say to yourself: “What others are now solemnly arguing in the schools, and can state in paradoxes, this I put in practice. Those qualities which are there discoursed, disputed, celebrated, I have made mine own. Zeus hath been pleased to let me recognize this within myself, and himself to discern whether he hath in me one fit for a soldier and a citizen, and to employ me as a witness to other men, concerning things uncontrollable by will. See that your fears were vain, your appetites vain. Seek not good from without: seek it within yourselves, or you will never find it. For this reason he now brings me hither, now sends me thither; sets me before mankind, poor, powerless, sick; banishes me to Gyaros; leads me to prison; not that he hates me, — Heaven forbid! For who hates the most faithful of his servants? Nor that he neglects me, for he neglects not one of the smallest things; but to exercise me, and make use of me as a witness to others. Appointed to such a service, do I still care where I am, or with whom, or what is said of me, — instead of being wholly attentive to God and to his orders and commands?”

Having these principles always at hand, and practising Edition: current; Page: [282] them by yourself, and making them ready for use, you will never want any one to comfort and strengthen you. For shame does not consist in having nothing to eat, but in not having wisdom enough to exempt you from fear and sorrow. But if you once acquire that exemption, will a tyrant, or his guards, or courtiers, be anything to you? Will offices or office-seekers disturb you, who have received so great a command from Zeus? Only do not make a parade over it, nor grow insolent upon it. But show it by your actions; and though no one else should notice it, be content that you are well and blessed.


CONSIDER which of your undertakings you have fulfilled, which not, and wherefore; which give you pleasure, which pain, in the reflection; and, if possible, recover yourself where you have failed. For the champions in this greatest of combats must not grow weary; but should even contentedly bear chastisement. For this is no combat of wrestling or boxing, where both he who succeeds and he who fails may possibly be of very great worth or of little; indeed may be very fortunate or very miserable; but this combat is for good fortune and happiness itself. What is the case, then? Here even if we have renounced the contest, no one restrains us from renewing it; nor need we wait for another four years for the return of another Olympiad; but recollecting and recovering yourself, and returning with the same Edition: current; Page: [283] zeal, you may renew it immediately; and even if you should again yield, you may again begin; and if you once get the victory, you become like one who has never yielded. Only do not begin, by forming the habit of this, to do it with pleasure, and then, like quails that have fled the fighting-pit, go about as if you were a brave champion, although you have been conquered throughout all the games. “I am conquered in presence of a girl. But what of it? I have been thus conquered before.” — “I am excited to wrath against some one. But I have been in anger before.” You talk to us just as if you had come off unhurt. As if one should say to his physician, who had forbidden him to bathe, “Why, did not I bathe before?” Suppose the physician should answer him, “Well, and what was the consequence of your bathing? Were you not feverish? Had you not the headache?” So, when you before railed at somebody, did you not act like an ill-natured person; like an impertinent one? Have not you fed this habit of yours by corresponding actions? When you were conquered by a pretty girl, did you come off with impunity? Why, then, do you talk of what you have done before? You ought to remember it, I think, as slaves do whipping, so as to refrain from the same faults. “But the case is unlike; for there it is pain that causes the remembrance: but what is the pain, what the punishment, of my committing these faults? For when was I ever thus trained to the avoidance of bad actions?” Yet the pains of experience, whether we will or not, have their beneficial influence.

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ARE not you ashamed to be more fearful and mean-spirited than fugitive slaves? To what estates, to what servants, do they trust, when they run away and leave their masters? Do they not, after carrying off a little with them for the first days, travel over land and sea, contriving first one, then another method of getting food? And what fugitive ever died of hunger? But you tremble, and lie awake at night, for fear you should want necessaries. Foolish man! are you so blind? Do not you see the way whither the want of necessaries leads?

“Why, whither does it lead?”

Whither a fever, or a falling stone may lead, — to death. Have you not, then, often said this to your companions? Have you not read, have you not written, many things on this point? And how often have you arrogantly boasted that you are undisturbed by fears of death.

“Ay; but my family, too, will perish with hunger.”

What then? Does their hunger lead any other way than yours? Is there not the same descent? The same state below? Will you not then, in every want and necessity, look with confidence there, where even the most rich and powerful, and kings and tyrants themselves, must descend? You indeed may descend hungry, perhaps; and they, full of indigestion and drunkenness. For have you often seen a beggar who did not live to old age, nay, to extreme Edition: current; Page: [285] old age? Chilled by day and night, lying on the ground, and eating only what is barely necessary, they yet seem almost to become incapable of dying. But cannot you write? Cannot you keep a school? Cannot you be a watchman at somebody’s door?

“But it is shameful to come to this necessity.”

First, therefore, learn what things are shameful, and then claim to be a philosopher; but at present do not suffer even another to call you so. Is that shameful to you which is not your own act? Of which you are not the cause? Which has happened to you by accident, like a fever or the head-ache? If your parents were poor, or left others their heirs, or though living, do not assist you, are these things shameful for you? Is this what you have learned from the philosophers? Have you never heard that what is shameful is blamable; and what is blamable must be something which deserves to be blamed? Whom do you blame for an action not his own, which he has not himself performed? Did you, then, make your father such as he is? Or is it in your power to mend him? Is that permitted you? What, then, must you desire what is not permitted; and when you fail of it be ashamed? Are you thus accustomed, even when you are studying philosophy, to depend on others, and to hope nothing from yourself? Sigh, then, and groan and eat in fear that you shall have no food to-morrow. Tremble, lest your servants should rob you, or run away from you, or die. Thus live on forever, whoever you are, who have applied yourself to philosophy in name only, and as much as in you lies have disgraced its principles, by showing that they are unprofitable and useless to those who profess them. You have never made constancy, Edition: current; Page: [286] tranquillity, and serenity the object of your desires; have sought no teacher for this knowledge, but many for mere syllogisms. You have never, by yourself, confronted some delusive semblance with — “Can I bear this, or can I not bear it? What remains for me to do?” But, as if all your affairs went safe and well, you have aimed only to secure yourself in your present possessions. What are they? Cowardice, baseness, worldliness, desires unaccomplished, unavailing aversions. These are the things which you have been laboring to secure. Ought you not first to have acquired something by the use of reason, and then to have provided security for that? Whom did you ever see building a series of battlements without placing them upon a wall? And what porter is ever set, where there is no door? But you study! Can you show me what you study?

“Not to be shaken by sophistry.”

Shaken from what? Show me first, what you have in your custody; what you measure, or what you weigh; and then accordingly show me your weights and measures; and to what purpose you measure that which is but dust. Ought you not to show what makes men truly happy, what makes their affairs proceed as they wish? How we may blame no one, accuse no one; how acquiesce in the administration of the universe? Show me these things. “See, I do show them,” say you; “I will solve syllogisms to you.” This is but the measure, O unfortunate! and not the thing measured. Hence you now pay the penalty due for neglecting philosophy. You tremble, you lie awake; you advise with everybody, and if the result of the advice does not please everybody, you think that you have been ill-advised. Edition: current; Page: [287] Then you dread hunger, as you fancy; yet it is not hunger that you dread; but you are afraid that you will not have some one to cook for you; some one else for a butler; another to pull off your shoes; a fourth to dress you; others to rub you; others to follow you: that when you have undressed yourself in the bathing-room, and stretched yourself out, like a man crucified, you may be rubbed here and there; and the attendant may stand by, and say, “Come this way; give your side; take hold of his head; turn your shoulder”; and that when you are returned home from the bath you may cry out, “Does nobody bring anything to eat?” And then, “Take away; wipe the table.” This is your dread, that you will not be able to lead the life of a sick man. But learn the life of those in health; how slaves live, how laborers, how those who are genuine philosophers; how Socrates lived, even with a wife and children; how Diogenes; how Cleanthes, at once studying and drawing water [for his livelihood]. If these are the things you would have, you can possess them everywhere, and with a fearless confidence.

“In what?”

In the only thing that can be confided in; in what is sure, incapable of being restrained or taken away; your own will.

But why have you contrived to make yourself so useless and good for nothing, that nobody will receive you into his house; nobody take care of you: but although, if any sound useful vessel be thrown out of doors, whoever finds it will take it up and prize it as something gained; yet nobody will take you up, but everybody esteem you a loss. What, cannot you so much as perform the office of a dog or a cock? Why, Edition: current; Page: [288] then, do you wish to live any longer if you are so worthless? Does any good man fear that food should fail him? It does not fail the blind; it does not fail the lame. Shall it fail a good man? A paymaster is always to be found for a soldier, or a laborer, or a shoemaker, and shall one be wanting to a good man? Is God so negligent of his own institutions, of his servants, of his witnesses, whom alone he uses for examples to the uninstructed, to show that He exists, and that he administers the universe rightly, and doth not neglect human affairs; and that no evil can happen to a good man, either living or dead? What, then, is the case, when he doth not bestow food? What else than that, like a good general, he hath made me a signal of retreat? I obey, I follow; speaking well of my leader, praising his works. For I came when it seemed good to him, and, again, when it seems good to him, I depart; and in life it was my business to praise God within myself and to every auditor, and to the world. Doth he grant me but few things? Doth he refuse me affluence? It is not his pleasure that I should live luxuriously; for he did not grant that even to Hercules, his own son; but another reigned over Argos and Mycene, while he obeyed, labored, and strove. And Eurystheus was just what he was; neither truly king of Argos, nor of Mycene; not being indeed king over himself. But Hercules was ruler and governor of the whole earth and seas; the expeller of lawlessness and injustice; the introducer of justice and sanctity. And this he effected naked and alone. Again; when Ulysses was shipwrecked and cast away, did his helpless condition at all deject him? Did it break his spirit? No: but how did he go to Nausicaa and her attendants, to ask Edition: current; Page: [289] those necessaries which it seems most shameful to beg from another?

“As some lion, bred in the mountains, confiding in strength.”*

Confiding in what? Not in glory, or in riches, or in dominion, but in his own strength; that is, in his knowledge of what is within him and without him. For this alone is what can render us free and incapable of restraint; can raise the heads of the humble, and make them look, with unaverted eyes, full in the face of the rich and of the tyrants; and this is what philosophy bestows. But you will not even set forth with confidence; but all trembling about such trifles as clothes and plate. Foolish man! have you thus wasted your time till now?

“But what if I should be sick?”

It will then be for the best that you should be sick.

“Who will take care of me?”

God and your friends.

“I shall lie in a hard bed.”

But like a man.

“I shall not have a convenient room.”

Then you will be sick in an inconvenient one.

“Who will provide food for me?”

They who provide for others, too; you will be sick like Manes.

“But what will be the conclusion of my sickness? Any other than death?”

Why, do you not know, then, that the origin of all human evils, and of baseness, and cowardice, is not Edition: current; Page: [290] death; but rather the fear of death? Fortify yourself, therefore, against this. Hither let all your discourses, readings, exercises, tend. And then you will know that thus alone are men made free.

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HE is free who lives as he likes; who is not subject to compulsion, to restraint, or to violence; whose pursuits are unhindered, his desires successful, his aversions unincurred. Who, then, would wish to lead a wrong course of life? “No one.” Who would live deceived, erring, unjust, dissolute, discontented, dejected? “No one.” No wicked man, then, lives as he likes; therefore no such man is free. And who would live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity, with disappointed desires and unavailing aversions? “No one.” Do we then find any of the wicked exempt from these evils? “Not one.” Consequently, then, they are not free.

If some person who has been twice consul should hear this, he will forgive you, provided you add, “but you are wise, and this has no reference to you.” But if you tell him the truth, that, in point of slavery, he does not necessarily differ from those who have been thrice sold, what but chastisement can you expect? “For how,” he says, “am I a slave? My father was free, my mother free. Besides, I am a senator, too, and the friend of Cæsar, and have been twice consul, and have myself many slaves.” In the first place, most worthy sir, perhaps your father too was a slave of the same kind; and your mother, and your grandfather, and all your series of ancestors. But even Edition: current; Page: [292] were they ever so free, what is that to you? For what if they were of a generous, you of a mean spirit; they brave, and you a coward; they sober, and you dissolute?

“But what,” he says, “has this to do with my being a slave.” Is it no part of slavery to act against your will, under compulsion, and lamenting? “Be it so. But who can compel me but the master of all, Cæsar?” By your own confession, then, you have one master; and let not his being, as you say, master of all, give you any comfort; for then you are merely a slave in a large family. Thus the Nicopolitans, too, frequently cry out, “By the genius of Cæsar we are free!

For the present, however, if you please, we will let Cæsar alone. But tell me this. Have you never been in love with any one, either of a servile or liberal condition? “Why, what has that to do with being slave or free?” Were you never commanded anything by your mistress that you did not choose? Have you never flattered your fair slave? Have you never kissed her feet? And yet if you were commanded to kiss Cæsar’s feet, you would think it an outrage and an excess of tyranny. What else is this than slavery? Have you never gone out by night where you did not desire? Have you never spent more than you chose? Have you not sometimes uttered your words with sighs and groans? Have you never borne to be reviled and shut out of doors? But if you are ashamed to confess your own follies, see what Thrasonides* says, and does; who, after having fought more battles perhaps than you, went Edition: current; Page: [293] out by night, when [his slave] Geta would not dare to go; nay, had he been compelled to do it by him, would have gone bewailing and lamenting the bitterness of servitude. And what says he afterwards? “A contemptible girl has enslaved me, whom no enemy ever enslaved.” Wretch! to be the slave of a girl and a contemptible girl too! Why, then, do you still call yourself free? Why do you boast your military expeditions? Then he calls for a sword, and is angry with the person who, out of kindness, denies it; and sends presents to her who hates him; and begs, and weeps, and then again is elated on every little success. But what elation? Is he raised above desire or fear?

Consider in animals what is our idea of freedom. Some keep tame lions, and feed them and even lead them about; and who will say that any such lion is free? Nay, does he not live the more slavishly the more he lives at ease? And who that had sense and reason would wish to be one of those lions? Again, how much will caged birds suffer in trying to escape? Nay, some of them starve themselves rather than undergo such a life; others are saved only with difficulty and in a pining condition; and the moment they find any opening, out they go. Such a desire have they for their natural freedom, and to be at their own disposal, and unrestrained. “And what harm can this confinement do you?” — “What say you? I was born to fly where I please, to live in the open air, to sing when I please. You deprive me of all this, and then ask, what harm I suffer?”

Hence we will allow those only to be free who will not endure captivity; but so soon as they are taken, die and so escape. Thus Diogenes somewhere says Edition: current; Page: [294] that the only way to freedom is to die with ease. And he writes to the Persian king, “You can no more enslave the Athenians than you can fish.” — “How? Can I not get possession of them?” — “If you do,” said he, “they will leave you, and be gone like fish. For catch a fish, and it dies. And if the Athenians, too, die as soon as you have caught them, of what use are your warlike preparations?” This is the voice of a free man who had examined the matter in earnest; and, as it might be expected, found it all out. But if you seek it where it is not, what wonder if you never find it?

A slave wishes to be immediately set free. Think you it is because he is desirous to pay his fee [of manumission] to the officer? No, but because he fancies that, for want of acquiring his freedom, he has hitherto lived under restraint and unprosperously. “If I am once set free,” he says, “it is all prosperity; I care for no one; I can speak to all as being their equal and on a level with them. I go where I will, I come when and how I will.” He is at last made free, and presently having nowhere to eat he seeks whom he may flatter, with whom he may sup. He then either submits to the basest and most infamous degradation; and if he can obtain admission to some great man’s table, falls into a slavery much worse than the former; or perhaps, if the ignorant fellow should grow rich, he doats upon some girl, laments, and is unhappy, and wishes for slavery again. “For what harm did it do me? Another clothed me, another shod me, another fed me, another took care of me when I was sick. It was but in a few things, by way of return, I used to serve him. But now, miserable wretch! what do I suffer, in being Edition: current; Page: [295] a slave to many, instead of one! Yet, if I can be promoted to equestrian rank, I shall live in the utmost prosperity and happiness.” In order to obtain this, he first deservedly suffers; and as soon as he has obtained it, it is all the same again. “But, then,” he says, “if I do but get a military command, I shall be delivered from all my troubles.” He gets a military command. He suffers as much as the vilest rogue of a slave; and, nevertheless, he asks for a second command, and a third; and when he has put the finishing touch, and is made a senator, then he is a slave indeed. When he comes into the public assembly, it is then that he undergoes his finest and most splendid slavery.

[It is needful] not to be foolish, but to learn what Socrates taught, the nature of things; and not rashly to apply general principles to particulars. For the cause of all human evils is the not being able to apply general principles to special cases. But different people have different grounds of complaint; one, for instance, that he is sick. That is not the trouble, it is in his principles. Another, that he is poor; another, that he has a harsh father and mother; another, that he is not in the good graces of Cæsar. This is nothing else but not understanding how to apply our principles. For who has not an idea of evil, that it is hurtful? That it is to be avoided? That it is by all means to be prudently guarded against? One principle does not contradict another, except when it comes to be applied. What, then, is this evil, — thus hurtful and to be avoided? “Not to be the friend of Cæsar,” says some one. He is gone; he has failed in applying his principles; he is embarrassed; he seeks what is nothing to the purpose. For if he comes to be Cæsar’s Edition: current; Page: [296] friend, he is still no nearer to what he sought. For what is it that every man seeks? To be secure, to be happy, to do what he pleases without restraint and without compulsion. When he becomes the friend of Cæsar, then does he cease to be restrained? To be compelled? Is he secure? Is he happy? Whom shall we ask? Whom can we better credit than this very man who has been his friend? Come forth and tell us whether you sleep more quietly now than before you were the friend of Cæsar? You presently hear him cry, “Leave off, for Heaven’s sake, and do not insult me. You know not the miseries I suffer; there is no sleep for me; but one comes and says that Cæsar is already awake; another, that he is just going out. Then follow perturbations, then cares.” Well; and when did you use to sup the more pleasantly, — formerly, or now? Hear what he says about this, too. When he is not invited, he is distracted; and if he is, he sups like a slave with his master, solicitous all the while not to say or do anything foolish. And what think you? Is he afraid of being whipped like a slave? No such easy penalty. No; but rather, as becomes so great a man, Cæsar’s friend, of losing his head. And when did you bathe the more quietly; when did you perform your exercises the more at your leisure; in short, which life would you rather wish to live, your present, or the former? I could swear there is no one so stupid and insensible as not to deplore his miseries, in proportion as he is the more the friend of Cæsar.

Since, then, neither they who are called kings nor the friends of kings live as they like, who, then, after all, is free? Seek, and you will find; for you are furnished by nature with means for discovering the Edition: current; Page: [297] truth. But if you are not able by these alone to find the consequence, hear them who have sought it. What do they say? Do you think freedom a good? “The greatest.” Can any one, then, who attains the greatest good, be unhappy or unsuccessful in his affairs? “No.” As many, therefore, as you see unhappy, lamenting, unprosperous, — confidently pronounce them not free. “I do.” Henceforth, then, we have done with buying and selling, and such like stated conditions of becoming slaves. For if these concessions hold, then, whether the unhappy man be a great or a little king, — of consular or bi-consular dignity, — he is not free. “Agreed.”

Further, then, answer me this; do you think freedom to be something great and noble and valuable? “How should I not?” Is it possible, then, that he who acquires anything so great and valuable and noble should be of an abject spirit? “It is not.” Whenever, then, you see any one subject to another, and flattering him contrary to his own opinion, confidently say that he too is not free; and not only when he does this for a supper, but even if it be for a government, nay, a consulship. Call those indeed little slaves who act thus for the sake of little things; and call the others as they deserve, great slaves. “Be this, too, agreed.” Well; do you think freedom to be something independent and self-determined? “How can it be otherwise?” Him, then, whom it is in the power of another to restrain or to compel, affirm confidently to be by no means free. And do not heed his grandfathers or great-grandfathers; or inquire whether he has been bought or sold; but if you hear him say from his heart and with emotion, “my master,” though twelve Lictors should march Edition: current; Page: [298] before him, call him a slave. And if you should hear him say, “Wretch, that I am! what do I suffer!” call him a slave. In short, if you see him wailing, complaining, unprosperous, call him a slave, even in purple.

“Suppose, then, that he does nothing of all this.” Do not yet say that he is free; but learn whether his principles are in any event liable to compulsion, to restraint, or disappointment; and if you find this to be the case, call him a slave, keeping holiday during the Saturnalia. Say that his master is abroad; that he will come presently; and you will know what he suffers. “Who will come?” Whoever has the power either of bestowing or of taking away any of the things he desires.

“Have we so many masters, then?” We have. For, prior to all such, we have the things themselves for our masters. Now they are many; and it is through these that the men who control the things inevitably become our masters too. For no one fears Cæsar himself; but death, banishment, confiscation, prison, disgrace. Nor does any one love Cæsar unless he be a person of great worth; but we love riches, the tribunate, the prætorship, the consulship. When we love or hate or fear such things, they who have the disposal of them must necessarily be our masters. Hence we even worship them as gods. For we consider that whoever has the disposal of the greatest advantages is a deity; and then further reason falsely, “but such a one has the control of the greatest advantages; therefore he is a deity.” For if we reason falsely, the final inference must be also false.

What is it, then, that makes a man free and independent? For neither riches, nor consulship, nor Edition: current; Page: [299] the command of provinces, nor of kingdoms, can make him so; but something else must be found.” What is it that keeps any one from being hindered and restrained in penmanship, for instance? “The science of penmanship.” In music? “The science of music.” Therefore in life too, it must be the science of living. As you have heard it in general, then, consider it likewise in particulars. Is it possible for him to be unrestrained who desires any of those things that are within the power of others? “No.” Can he avoid being hindered? “No.” Therefore neither can he be free. Consider, then, whether we have nothing or everything in our own sole power, — or whether some things are in our own power and some in that of others. “What do you mean?” When you would have your body perfect, is it in your own power, or is it not? “It is not.” When you would be healthy? “It is not.” When you would be handsome? “It is not.” When you would live or die? “It is not.” Body then is not our own; but is subject to everything that proves stronger than itself. “Agreed.” Well; is it in your own power to have an estate when you please, and such a one as you please? “No.” Slaves? “No.” Clothes? “No.” A house? “No.” Horses? “Indeed none of these.” Well; if you desire ever so earnestly to have your children live, or your wife, or your brother, or your friends, is it in your own power? “No, it is not.”

Will you then say that there is nothing independent, which is in your own power alone, and unalienable? See if you have anything of this sort. “I do not know.” But, consider it thus: can any one make you assent to a falsehood? “No one.” In Edition: current; Page: [300] the matter of assent, then, you are unrestrained and unhindered. “Agreed.” Well, and can any one compel you to exert your aims towards what you do not like? “He can. For when he threatens me with death, or fetters, he thus compels me.” If, then, you were to despise dying or being fettered, would you any longer regard him? “No.” Is despising death, then, an action in our power, or is it not? “It is.” Is it therefore in your power also to exert your aims towards anything, or is it not? “Agreed that it is. But in whose power is my avoiding anything?” This, too, is in your own. “What then if, when I am exerting myself to walk, any one should restrain me?” What part of you can he restrain? Can he restrain your assent? “No, but my body.” Ay, as he may a stone. “Be it so. But still I cease to walk.” And who claimed that walking was one of the actions that cannot be restrained? For I only said that your exerting yourself towards it could not be restrained. But where there is need of body and its assistance, you have already heard that nothing is in your power. “Be this, too, agreed.” And can any one compel you to desire against your will? “No one.” Or to propose, or intend, or, in short, not to be beguiled by the appearances of things? “Nor this. But when I desire anything, he can restrain me from obtaining what I desire.” If you desire anything that is truly within your reach, and that cannot be restrained, how can he restrain you? “By no means.” And pray who claims that he who longs for what depends on another will be free from restraint?

“May I not long for health, them?” By no means; nor anything else that depends on another; for what Edition: current; Page: [301] is not in your own power, either to procure or to preserve when you will, that belongs to another. Keep off not only your hands from it, but even more than these, your desires. Otherwise you have given yourself up as a slave; you have put your neck under the yoke, if you admire any of the things which are not your own, but which are subject and mortal, to which of them soever you are attached. “Is not my hand my own?” It is a part of you, but it is by nature clay, liable to restraint, to compulsion; a slave to everything stronger than itself. And why do I say, your hand? You ought to hold your whole body but as a useful ass, with a pack-saddle on, so long as may be, so long as it is allowed you. But if there should come a military conscription, and a soldier should lay hold on it, let it go. Do not resist, or murmur; otherwise you will be first beaten and lose the ass after all. And since you are thus to regard even the body itself, think what remains to do concerning things to be provided for the sake of the body. If that be an ass, the rest are but bridles, pack-saddles, shoes, cats, hay, for him. Let these go, too. Quit them yet more easily and expeditiously. And when you are thus prepared and trained to distinguish what belongs to others from your own, what is liable to restraint from what is not; to esteem the one your own property, but not the other; to keep your desire, to keep your aversion carefully regulated by this point; whom have you any longer to fear? “No one.” For about what should you be afraid? About what is your own, in which consists the essence of good and evil? And who has any power over this? Who can take it away? Who can hinder you, any more than God can be hindered. But are you afraid for body, for Edition: current; Page: [302] possessions, for what belongs to others, for what is nothing to you? And what have you been studying all this while, but to distinguish between your own and that which is not your own; what is in your power and what is not in your power; what is liable to restraint and what is not? And for what purpose have you applied to the philosophers? That you might nevertheless be disappointed and unfortunate? No doubt you will be exempt from fear and perturbation! And what is grief to you? For whatsoever we anticipate with fear, we endure with grief. And for what will you any longer passionately wish? For you have a temperate and steady desire of things dependent on will, since they are accessible and desirable; and you have no desire of things uncontrollable by will, so as to leave room for that irrational, and impetuous, and precipitate passion.

Since then you are thus affected with regard to things, what man can any longer be formidable to you? What has man that he can be formidable to man, either in appearance, or speech, or mutual intercourse? No more than horse to horse, or dog to dog, or bee to bee. But things are formidable to every one, and whenever any person can either give these to another, or take them away, he becomes formidable too. “How, then, is this citadel to be destroyed?” Not by sword or fire, but by principle. For if we should demolish the visible citadel, shall we have demolished also that of some fever, of some fair woman, in short, the citadel [of temptation] within ourselves; and have turned out the tyrants to whom we are subject upon all occasions and every day, sometimes the same, sometimes others? From hence we must begin; hence demolish the citadel, Edition: current; Page: [303] and turn out the tyrants; — give up body, members, riches, power, fame, magistracies, honors, children, brothers, friends; esteem all these as belonging to others. And if the tyrants be turned out from hence, why should I besides demolish the external citadel, at least on my own account? For what harm to me from its standing? Why should I turn out the guards? For in what point do they affect me? It is against others that they direct their fasces, their staves, and their swords. Have I ever been restrained from what I willed, or compelled against my will? Indeed, how is this possible? I have placed my pursuits under the direction of God. Is it His will that I should have a fever? It is my will too. Is it His will that I should pursue anything? It is my will, too. Is it His will that I should desire? It is my will too. Is it His will that I should obtain anything? It is mine too. Is it not His will? It is not mine. Is it His will that I should be tortured? Then it is my will to be tortured. Is it His will that I should die? Then it is my will to die. Who can any longer restrain or compel me, contrary to my own opinion? No more than Zeus.

It is thus that cautious travellers act. Does some one hear that the road is beset by robbers? He does not set out alone, but waits for the retinue of an ambassador, or quæstor, or proconsul; and when he has joined himself to their company, goes along in safety. Thus does the prudent man act in the world. There are many robberies, tyrants, storms, distresses, losses of things most dear. Where is there any refuge? How can he go alone unattacked? What retinue can he wait for, to go safely through his journey? To what company shall he join himself? To some Edition: current; Page: [304] rich man? To some consular senator? And what good will that do me? He may be robbed himself, groaning and lamenting. And what if my fellow-traveller himself should turn against me and rob me? What shall I do? I say, I will be the friend of Cæsar. While I am his companion, no one will injure me. Yet before I can become illustrious enough for this, what must I bear and suffer! How often, and by how many, must I be robbed! And, then, if I do become the friend of Cæsar, he too is mortal; and if, by any accident, he should become my enemy, where can I best retreat? To a desert? Well; and may not a fever come there? What can be done then? Is it not possible to find a fellow-traveller, safe, faithful, brave, incapable of being surprised? A person who reasons thus, understands and considers that, if he joins himself to God, he shall go safely through his journey.

“How do you mean, join himself?” That what ever is the will of God may be his will too: that whatever is not the will of God may not be his. “How, then, can this be done?” Why, how otherwise than by considering the workings of God’s power and his administration? What has he given me to be my own, and independent? What has he reserved to himself? He has given me whatever depends on will. The things within my power he has made incapable of hindrance or restraint. But how could he make a body of clay incapable of hindrance? Therefore he has subjected possessions, furniture, house, children, wife, to the revolutions of the universe. Why, then, do I fight against God? Why do I will to retain that which depends not on will? That which is not granted absolutely; but how? In such Edition: current; Page: [305] a manner, and for such a time as was thought proper. But he who gave takes away. Why, then, do I resist? Besides being a fool, in contending with a stronger than myself, I shall be unjust, which is a more important consideration. For whence had I these things, when I came into the world? My father gave them to me. And who gave them to him? And who made the sun? Who the fruits? Who the seasons? Who their connection and relations with each other? And after you have received all, and even your very self from another, are you angry with the giver; and do you complain if He takes anything away from you? Who are you; and for what purpose did you come? Was it not He who brought you here? Was it not He who showed you the light? Hath not He given you companions? Hath not He given you senses? Hath not He given you reason? And as whom did He bring you here? Was it not as a mortal? Was it not as one to live with a little portion of flesh upon earth, and to see his administration; to behold the spectacle with Him, and partake of the festival for a short time? After having beheld the spectacle and the solemnity, then, as long as it is permitted you, will you not depart when He leads you out, adoring and thankful for what you have heard and seen? “No; but I would enjoy the feast still longer.” So would the initiated [in the mysteries], too, be longer in their initiation; so, perhaps, would the spectators at Olympia see more combatants. But the solemnity is over. Go away. Depart like a grateful and modest person; make room for others. Others, too, must be born as you were; and when they are born must have a place, and habitations, and necessaries. But if the first do Edition: current; Page: [306] not give way, what room is there left? Why are you insatiable, unconscionable? Why do you crowd the world?

“Ay, but I would have my wife and children with me too.” Why, are they yours? Are they not the Giver’s? Are they not His who made you also? Will you not then quit what belongs to another? Will you not yield to your Superior? “Why, then, did he bring me into the world upon these conditions?” Well; if it is not worth your while, depart. He hath no need of a discontented spectator. He wants such as will share the festival; make part of the chorus; who will extol, applaud, celebrate the solemnity. He will not be displeased to see the wretched and fearful dismissed from it. For when they were present they did not behave as at a festival nor fill a proper place, but lamented, found fault with the Deity, with their fortune, with their companions. They were insensible both of their advantages and of the powers which they received for far different purposes; the powers of magnanimity, nobleness of spirit, fortitude, and that which now concerns us, freedom. “For what purpose, then, have I received these things?” To use them. “How long?” As long as He who lent them pleases. If, then, they are not necessary, do not make an idol of them, and they will not be so; do not tell yourself that they are necessary, when they are not.

This should be our study from morning till night, beginning with the least and frailest things, as with earthen-ware, with glass-ware. Afterwards, proceed to a suit of clothes, a dog, a horse, an estate; thence to yourself, body, members, children, wife, brothers. Look everywhere around you, and be able to detach Edition: current; Page: [307] yourself from these things. Correct your principles. Permit nothing to cleave to you that is not your own; nothing to grow to you that may give you agony when it is torn away. And say, when you are daily training yourself as you do here, not that you act the philosopher, which may be a presumptuous claim, but that you are asserting your freedom. For this is true freedom. This is the freedom that Diogenes gained from Antisthenes; and declared it was impossible that he should ever after be a slave to any one. Hence, when he was taken prisoner, how did he treat the pirates? Did he call any of them master? I do not mean the name, for I am not afraid of a word, but of the disposition from whence the word proceeds. How did he reprove them for feeding their prisoners ill? How was he sold? Did he seek a master? No; but a slave. And when he was sold, how did he converse with his lord? He immediately disputed with him whether he ought to be dressed or shaved in the manner he was; and how he ought to bring up his children. And where is the wonder? For if the same master had bought some one to instruct his children in gymnastic exercises, would he in those exercises have treated him as a servant or as a master? And so if he had bought a physician or an architect? In every department the skilful must necessarily be superior to the unskilful. What else, then, can he be but master, who possesses the universal knowledge of life? For who is master in a ship? The pilot. Why? Because whoever disobeys him is a loser. “But a master can put me in chains.” Can he do it then, without being a loser? “I think not, indeed.” But because he must be a loser, he evidently must not do it; for no one acts Edition: current; Page: [308] unjustly without being a loser. — “And how does he suffer, who puts his own slave in chains?” What think you? From the very fact of chaining him. This you yourself must grant, if you would hold to the doctrine that man is not naturally a wild, but a gentle animal. For when is it that a vine is in a bad condition? “When it is in a condition contrary to its nature.” How is it with a cock? “The same.” It is therefore the same with a man also. What is his nature? To bite, and kick, and throw into prison, and cut off heads? No, but to do good, to assist, to indulge the wishes of others. Whether you will or not, then, he is in a bad condition whenever he acts unreasonably. “And so was not Socrates in a bad condition?” No, but his judges and accusers. “Nor Helvidius, at Rome?” No, but his murderer. “How do you talk?” Why, just as you do. You do not call that cock in a bad condition which is victorious, and yet wounded; but that which is conquered and comes off unhurt. Nor do you call a dog happy which neither hunts nor toils; but when you see him perspiring, and distressed, and panting with the chase. In what do we talk paradoxes? If we say that the evil of everything consists in what is contrary to its nature, is this a paradox? Do you not say it with regard to other things? Why, therefore, in the case of man alone, do you take a different view? But further; it is no paradox to say that by nature man is gentle and social, and faithful. “This is none.” How then [is it a paradox to say] that, when he is whipped, or imprisoned, or beheaded, he is not hurt? If he suffers nobly does he not come off even the better and a gainer? But he is the person hurt who suffers the most miserable and shameful evils; who, Edition: current; Page: [309] instead of a man, becomes a wolf, a viper, or a hornet.

Come, then; let us recapitulate what has been granted. The man who is unrestrained, who has all things in his power as he wills, is free; but he who may be restrained, or compelled, or hindered, or thrown into any condition against his will, is a slave. “And who is unrestrained?” He who desires none of those things that belong to others. “And what are those things, which belong to others?” Those which are not in our own power, either to have or not to have; or to have them thus or so. Body, therefore, belongs to another; its parts to another; property to another. If, then, you attach yourself to any of these as your own, you will be punished, as he deserves who desires what belongs to others. This is the way that leads to freedom; this the only deliverance from slavery; to be able at length to say, from the bottom of one’s soul:

  • “Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O destiny,
  • Wherever your decrees have fixed my lot.”*

But what say you, philosopher? A tyrant calls upon you to speak something unbecoming you. Will you say it, or will you not? “Stay, let me consider.” Would you consider now? And what did you use to consider when you were in the schools? Did you not study what things were good and evil, and what indifferent? “I did.” Well; and what were the opinions which pleased us? — “That just and fair actions were good; unjust and base ones, evil.” Is living a good? “No.” Dying, an evil? Edition: current; Page: [310] “No.” A prison? “No.” And what did a mean and dishonest speech, the betraying a friend, or the flattering a tyrant, appear to us? “Evils.” Why, then, are you still considering, and have not already considered and come to a resolution? For what sort of a consideration is this: — “Whether I ought, when it is in my power, to procure myself the greatest good, instead of procuring myself the greatest evil.” A fine and necessary consideration, truly, and deserving mighty deliberation! Why do you trifle with us, man? No one ever needed to consider any such point; nor, if you really imagined things fair and honest to be good, things base and dishonest to be evil, and all other things indifferent, would you ever be in such a perplexity as this, or near it; but you would presently be able to distinguish by your understanding as you do by your sight. For do you ever have to consider whether black is white; or whether light is heavy? Do you not follow the plain evidence of your senses? Why, then, do you say that you are now considering whether things indifferent are to be avoided, rather than evils? The truth is, you have no principles; for things indifferent do not impress you as such, but as the greatest evils; and these, on the other hand, as things of no importance.

For thus has been your practice from the first. “Where am I? If I am in the school and there is an audience, I talk as the philosophers do. But if I am out of the school, then away with this stuff that belongs only to scholars and fools.” This man is accused by the testimony of a philosopher, his friend; this philosopher turns parasite; another hires himself out for money; a third does that in the very senate. When one is not governed by appearances, then his Edition: current; Page: [311] principles speak for themselves. You are a poor cold lump of prejudice, consisting of mere phrases, on which you hang as by a hair. You should preserve yourself firm and practical, remembering that you are to deal with real things. In what manner do you hear, — I will not say that your child is dead, for how could you possibly bear that? — but that your oil is spilled, your wine consumed? Would that some one, while you are bawling, would only say this: “Philosopher, you talk quite otherwise when in the schools. Why do you deceive us? Why, when you are a worm, do you call yourself a man?” I should be glad to be near one of these philosophers, while he is revelling in debauchery, that I might see how he demeans himself, and what sayings he utters; whether he remembers the title he bears and the discourses which he hears, or speaks, or reads.

“And what is all this to freedom?” It lies in nothing else but this; whether you rich people approve or not. “And who is your evidence of this?” Who, but yourselves? You who have a powerful master, and live by his motion and nod, and faint away if he does but look sternly upon you, who pay your court to old men and old women, and say, “I cannot do this or that, it is not in my power.” Why is it not in your power? Did not you just now contradict me, and say you were free? “But Aprylla has forbidden me.” Speak the truth, then, slave, and do not run away from your masters nor deny them, nor dare to assert your freedom, when you have so many proofs of your slavery. One might indeed find some excuse for a person compelled by love to do something contrary to his opinion, even when at the same time he sees what is best without Edition: current; Page: [312] having resolution enough to follow it, since he is withheld by something overpowering, and in some measure divine. But who can bear you, who are in love with old men and old women; and perform menial offices for them, and bribe them with presents, and wait upon them like a slave when they are sick; at the same time wishing they may die, and inquiring of the physician whether their distemper be yet mortal? And again, when for these great and venerable magistracies and honors you kiss the hands of the slaves of others; so that you are the slave of those who are not free themselves! And then you walk about in state, a prætor or a consul. Do I not know how you came to be prætor; whence you received the consulship; who gave it to you? For my own part, I would not even live, if I must live by Felicio’s means, and bear his pride and slavish insolence. For I know what a slave is, blinded by what he thinks good fortune.

“Are you free yourself, then?” you may ask. By Heaven, I wish and pray for it. But I own I cannot yet face my masters. I still pay a regard to my body, and set a great value on keeping it whole; though, for that matter, it is not whole. But I can show you one who was free, that you may no longer seek an example. Diogenes was free. “How so?” Not because he was of free parents, for he was not; but because he was so in himself; because he had cast away all which gives a handle to slavery; nor was there any way of getting at him, nor anywhere to lay hold on him, to enslave him. Everything sat loose upon him, everything only just hung on. If you took hold on his possessions, he would rather let them go than follow you for them; if on his leg, he Edition: current; Page: [313] let go his leg; if his body, he let go his body; acquaintance, friends, country, just the same. For he knew whence he had them, and from whom, and upon what conditions he received them. But he would never have forsaken his true parents, the gods, and his real country [the universe]; nor have suffered any one to be more dutiful and obedient to them than he; nor would any one have died more readily for his country than he. For he never had to inquire whether he should act for the good of the whole universe; for he remembered that everything that exists belongs to that administration, and is commanded by its ruler. Accordingly, see what he himself says and writes. “Upon this account,” said he, “O Diogenes, it is in your power to converse as you will with the Persian monarch and with Archidamus, king of the Lacedemonians.” Was it because he was born of free parents? Or was it because they were descended from slaves, that all the Athenians, and all the Lacedemonians, and Corinthians, could not converse with them as they pleased; but feared and paid court to them? Why then is it in your power, Diogenes? “Because I do not esteem this poor body as my own. Because I want nothing. Because this, and nothing else is a law to me.” These were the things that enabled him to be free.

And that you may not urge that I show you the example of a man clear of incumbrances, without a wife or children, or country, or friends, or relations, to bend and draw him aside; — take Socrates, and consider him, who had a wife and children, but held them not as his own; had a country, friends, relations, but held them only so long as it was proper, and in the manner that was proper; submitting all Edition: current; Page: [314] these to the law and to the obedience due to it. Hence, when it was proper to fight, he was the first to go out, and exposed himself to danger without the least reserve. But when he was sent by the thirty tyrants to apprehend Leon,* because he esteemed it a base action, he did not even deliberate about it; though he knew that, perhaps, he might die for it. But what did that signify to him? For it was something else that he wanted to preserve, not his mere flesh; but his fidelity, his honor free from attack or subjection. And afterwards, when he was to make a defence for his life, does he behave like one having children? Or a wife? No; but like a single man. And how does he behave, when required to drink the poison? When he might escape and Crito would have him escape from prison for the sake of his children, what says he? Does he esteem it a fortunate opportunity? How should he? But he considers what is becoming, and neither sees nor regards anything else. “For I am not desirous,” he says, “to preserve this pitiful body; but that part which is improved and preserved by justice, and impaired and destroyed by injustice.” Socrates is not to be basely preserved. He who refused to vote for what the Athenians commanded; he, who contemned the thirty tyrants; he, who held such discourses on virtue and moral beauty; such a man is not to be preserved Edition: current; Page: [315] by a base action, but is preserved by dying, instead of running away. For even a good actor is preserved as such by leaving off when he ought, not by going on to act beyond his time. “What then will become of your children?” — “If I had gone away into Thessaly, you would have taken care of them; and will there be no one to take care of them when I am departed to Hades?”* You see how he ridicules and plays with death. But if it had been you or I, we should presently have proved by philosophical arguments, that those who act unjustly are to be repaid in their own way; and should have added, “If I escape I shall be of use to many; if I die, to none.” Nay, if it had been necessary, we should have crept through a mouse-hole to get away. But how should we have been of use to any? For where must they have dwelt? If we were useful alive, should we not be of still more use to mankind by dying when we ought and as we ought? And now the remembrance of the death of Socrates is not less, but even more useful to the world than that of the things which he did and said when alive.

Study these points, these principles, these discourses; contemplate these examples if you would be free, if you desire the thing in proportion to its value. And where is the wonder that you should purchase so good a thing at the price of others, so many, and so great? Some hang themselves, others break their necks, and sometimes even whole cities have been destroyed for that which is reputed freedom; and will not you for the sake of the true and secure and inviolable freedom, repay God what he hath given when he demands it? Will you not study Edition: current; Page: [316] not only, as Plato says, how to die, but how to be tortured and banished and scourged; and, in short, how to give up all that belongs to others. If not, you will be a slave among slaves, though you were ten thousand times a consul; and even though you should rise to the palace you will never be the less so. And you will feel that, though philosophers (as Cleanthes says) do, perhaps, talk contrary to common opinion, yet it is not contrary to reason. For you will find it true, in fact, that the things that are eagerly followed and admired are of no use to those who have gained them; while they who have not yet gained them imagine that, if they are acquired, every good will come along with them; and, then, when they are acquired, there is the same feverishness, the same agitation, the same nausea, and the same desire for what is absent. For freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire. And in order to know that this is true, take the same pains about these which you have taken about other things. Hold vigils to acquire a set of principles that will make you free. Instead of a rich old man pay your court to a philosopher. Be seen about his doors. You will not get any disgrace by being seen there. You will not return empty or unprofited if you go as you ought. However, try at least. The trial is not dishonorable.

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TO this point you must attend before all others; not to be so attached to any one of your former acquaintances or friends as to condescend to behavior like his; otherwise you will undo yourself. But if it comes into your head, “I shall appear odd to him, and he will not treat me as before,” remember, that there is nothing to be had for nothing; nor is it possible that he who acts in the same manner as before, should not be the same person. Choose, then, whether you will be loved by those who formerly loved you, and be like your former self; or be better, and not meet with the same treatment. For if this is preferable, immediately incline altogether this way, and let no other kinds of reasoning draw you aside; for no one can improve while he is wavering. If, then, you prefer this to everything, if you would be fixed only on this, and employ all your pains about it, give up everything else. Otherwise this wavering will affect you in both ways; you will neither make a due improvement, nor preserve the advantages you had before. For before, by setting your heart entirely on things of no value, you were agreeable to your companions. But you cannot excel in both styles; you must necessarily lose as much of the one as you partake of the other. If you do not drink with those with whom you used to drink, you cannot appear equally agreeable to them. Choose, then, whether you would be a drunkard, and agreeable to them, — or sober, and disagreeable to them. If you Edition: current; Page: [318] do not sing with those with whom you used to sing, you cannot be equally dear to them. Here too, then, choose which you will. For if it is better to be modest and decent than to have it said of you “what an agreeable fellow,” give up the rest; renounce it; withdraw yourself; have nothing to do with it. But if this does not please you, incline with your whole force the contrary way. Be one of the debauchees; one of the adulterers. Act all that is consistent with such a character, and you will obtain what you would have. Jump up in the theatre, too, and roar out in praise of the dancer. But characters so different are not to be confounded. You cannot act both Thersites and Agamemnon. If you would be Thersites, you must be hump-backed and bald; if Agamemnon, great and noble, and faithful to those who are under your care.


WHEN you have lost anything external, have always at hand the consideration of what you have got instead of it; and if that be of more value, do not by any means call yourself a loser; whether it be a horse for an ass; an ox for a sheep; a good action for a piece of money; a due composure of mind for a dull jest; or modesty for indecent talk. By continually remembering this, you will preserve your character such as it ought to be. Otherwise, consider that you are spending your time in vain; and all that to which you are now applying your mind, Edition: current; Page: [319] you are about to spill and overturn. And there needs but little, merely a small deviation from reason, to destroy and overset all. A pilot does not need so much apparatus to overturn a ship as to save it; but if he exposes it a little too much to the wind, it is lost; even if he should not do it by design, but only for a moment be thinking of something else, it is lost. Such is the case here, too. If you do but nod a little, all that you have hitherto accomplished is gone. Take heed, then, to the appearances of things. Keep yourself watchful over them. It is no inconsiderable matter that you have to guard; but modesty, fidelity, constancy, docility, innocence, fearlessness, serenity; in short, freedom. For what will you sell these? Consider what the purchase is worth. “But shall I not get such a thing instead of it?” Consider, if you do not get it, what it is that you have instead. Suppose I have decency, and another the office of tribune; I have modesty, and he the prætorship? But I do not applaud where it is unbecoming; I will pay no undeserved honor; for I am free, and the friend of God, so as to obey him willingly; but I must not value anything else, neither body, nor possessions, nor fame; in short, nothing. For it is not His will that I should value them. For if this had been His pleasure, He would have placed in them my good, which now He hath not done; therefore I cannot transgress his commands. Seek in all things your own highest good, — and for other aims, recognize them as far as the case requires, and in accordance with reason, contented with this alone. Otherwise you will be unfortunate, disappointed, restrained, hindered.” These are the established laws, these the statutes. Of these one ought to be an expositor, and Edition: current; Page: [320] to these obedient, rather than to those of Masurius and Cassius.*


REMEMBER that it is not only the desire of riches and power that debases us and subjects us to others, but even that of quiet, leisure, learning, or travelling. For, in general, reverence for any external thing whatever makes us subject to others. Where is the difference, then, whether you desire to be a senator or not to be a senator? Where is the difference, whether you desire power or to be out of power? Where is the difference, whether you say “I am in a wretched way, I have nothing to do; but am tied down to books, as inactive as if I were dead”; — or, “I am in a wretched way, I have no leisure to read?” For as levees and power are among things external and uncontrollable by will, so, likewise is a book. For what purpose would you read? Tell me. For if you rest merely in being amused and learning something, you are insignificant and miserable. But if you refer it to the proper end, what is that but a life truly prosperous? And if reading does not procure you a prosperous life, of what use is it. “But it does procure a prosperous life (say you); and therefore I am uneasy at being deprived of it.” And what sort of prosperity is that which everything can hinder; — I do not say Cæsar alone, or Cæsar’s friend, but a crow, a man practising Edition: current; Page: [321] the flute, a fever, or ten thousand other things? But nothing is so essential to prosperity as that it should be permanent and unhindered. Suppose I am now called to do something. I now go, therefore, and will be attentive to the bounds and measures which ought to be observed; that I may act modestly, steadily, and without desire or aversion as to externals. In the next place, I am attentive to other men; what they say, and how they are moved; and that not from ill-nature, nor that I may have an opportunity for censure or ridicule; but I turn to myself. “Am I also guilty of the same faults; and how then shall I leave them off?” or, “I once thus erred, but, God be thanked, not now.” Well; when you have done thus, and been employed on such things, have you not done as good a work as if you had read a thousand lines or written as many? For are you uneasy at not reading while you are eating? When you eat, or bathe, or exercise, are you not satisfied with doing it in a manner corresponding to what you have read? Why, then, do you not reason in like manner about everything? When you approach Cæsar or any other person, if you preserve yourself dispassionate, fearless, sedate; if you are rather an observer of what is done than the subject of observation; if you do not envy those who are preferred to you; if you are not overcome by the occasion, what need you more? Books? How, or to what end? For these are not the real preparation for living, but living is made up of things very different. Just as if a champion, when he enters the lists, should begin crying because he is not still exercising without. It was for this that you were exercised. For this were the dumb-bells, the dust, and your Edition: current; Page: [322] young antagonists. And do you now seek for these when it is the time for actual business? This is just as if, in forming our opinions, when perplexed between true and false semblances, we should, instead of practically distinguishing between them, merely peruse dissertations on evidence.

What, then, is the trouble? That we have neither learned by reading, nor by writing, how to deal practically with the semblances of things, according to the laws of nature. But we stop at learning what is said, and, being able to explain it to others, at solving syllogisms and arranging hypothetical arguments. Hence where the study is, there, too, is the hindrance. Do you desire absolutely what is out of your power? Be restrained then, be hindered, be disappointed. But if we were to read dissertations about the exertion of our efforts, not merely to see what might be said about our efforts, but to exert them well; on desire and aversion, that we might not be disappointed of our desires, nor incur our aversions; on the duties of life, that, mindful of our relations, we might do nothing irrational nor inconsistent with them; then we should not be provoked at being hindered in our reading; but should be contented with the performance of actions suitable to us, and should learn a new standard of computation. Not, “To-day I have perused so many lines; I have written so many”; but, “To-day I have used my efforts as the philosophers direct. I have restrained my desires absolutely; I have applied my aversion only to things controllable by will. I have not been terrified by such a one, nor put out of countenance by such another. I have exercised my patience, my abstinence, my beneficence.” And thus we should thank God for what we ought to thank him.

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But now we resemble the crowd in another way also, and do not know it. One is afraid that he shall not be in power; you, that you shall. By no means be afraid of it, man; but as you laugh at him, laugh at yourself. For there is no difference, whether you thirst like one in a fever, or dread water like him who is bit by a mad dog. Else how can you say, like Socrates, “If it so pleases God, so let it be?” Do you think that Socrates, if he had fixed his desires on the leisure of the lyceum or the academy, or the conversation of the youth there, day after day, would have made so many campaigns as he did, so readily? Would not he have lamented and groaned: “How wretched am I! now must I be miserable here, when I might be sunning myself in the lyceum?” Was that your business in life, then, to sun yourself? Was it not to be truly successful? To be unrestrained and free? And how could he have been Socrates, if he had lamented thus? How could he after that have written Pæans in a prison?

In short, then, remember this, that so far as you prize anything external to your own will, you impair that will. And not only power is external to it, but the being out of power too; not only business, but leisure too. “Then must I live in this tumult now?” What do you call a tumult? “A multitude of people.” And where is the hardship? Suppose it to be the Olympic Games. Think it a public assembly. There, too, some bawl out one thing, some another; some push the rest. The baths are crowded. Yet who of us is not pleased with these assemblies, and does not grieve to leave them? Do not be hard to please, and squeamish at what happens. “Vinegar is disagreeable, for it is sour. Honey is disagreeable, Edition: current; Page: [324] for it disorders my constitution. I do not like vegetables.” “So I do not like retirement, it is a desert; I do not like a crowd, it is a tumult.” Why, if things are so disposed, that you are to live alone or with few, call this condition repose, and make use of it as you ought. Talk with yourself, judge of the appearances presented to your mind; train your mental habits to accuracy. But if you happen on a crowd, call it one of the public games, a grand assembly, a festival. Endeavor to share in the festival with the rest of the world. For what sight is more pleasant to a lover of mankind than a great number of men? We see companies of oxen or horses with pleasure. We are highly delighted to see a great many ships. Who is sorry to see a great many men? “But they stun me with their noise.” Then your hearing is hindered; and what is that to you? Is your faculty of making a right use of the appearances of things hindered too? Or who can restrain you from using your desire and aversion, your powers of pursuit and avoidance, conformably to nature? What tumult is sufficient for this?

Do but remember the general rules. What is mine? What not mine? What is allotted me? What is it the will of God that I should do now? What is not his will? A little while ago it was His will that you should be at leisure, should talk with yourself, write about these things, read, hear, prepare yourself. You have had sufficient time for this. At present, He says to you, “Come now to the combat. Show us what you have learned; how you have wrestled.” How long would you exercise by yourself? It is now the time to show whether you are of the number of those champions who merit victory, or of those who go Edition: current; Page: [325] about the world conquered in all the circle of games. Why, then, are you out of humor? There is no combat without a tumult. There must be many preparatory exercises, many acclamations, many masters, many spectators. “But I would live in quiet.” Why, then, lament and groan as you deserve. For what greater punishment is there to those who are uninstructed and disobedient to the orders of God, than to grieve, to mourn, to envy; in short, to be disappointed and unhappy? Are you not willing to deliver yourself from all this? “And how shall I deliver myself?” Have you not heard that you must absolutely control desire, and apply aversion to such things only as are controllable by will? That you must consent to resign all, body, possessions, fame, books, tumults, power, exemption from power? For to whichsoever your disposition is, you are a slave; you are under subjection; you are made liable to restraint, to compulsion; you are altogether the property of others. But have that maxim of Cleanthes always ready,

“Conduct me, Zeus; and thou, O destiny.”

Is it your will that I should go to Rome? Conduct me to Rome. To Gyaros? — To Gyaros. To Athens? — To Athens. To prison? — To prison. If you once say, “When may I go to Athens?” you are undone. This desire, if it be unaccomplished, must necessarily render you disappointed; and, if fulfilled, vain respecting what ought not to elate you; — if, on the contrary, you are hindered, then you are wretched through incurring what you do not like. Therefore give up all these things.

“Athens is a fine place.” But it is a much finer Edition: current; Page: [326] thing to be happy, serene, tranquil, not to have your affairs dependent on others. “Rome is full of tumults and visits.” But prosperity is worth all difficulties. If, then, it be a proper time for these, why do not you withdraw your aversion from them? What necessity is there for you to be made to carry your burden, by being cudgelled like an ass? Otherwise, consider that you must always be a slave to him who has the power to procure your discharge, — to every one who has the power of hindering you; — and must worship him like your evil genius.

The only way to real prosperity (let this rule be at hand morning, noon, and night) is a resignation of things uncontrollable by will; to esteem nothing as property; to deliver up all things to our tutelar genius and to fortune; to leave the control of them to those whom Zeus hath made such; to be ourselves devoted to that only which is really ours; to that which is incapable of restraint; and whatever we read, or write, or hear, to refer all to this.

Therefore I cannot call any one industrious, if I hear only that he reads or writes; nor do I call him so even if he adds the whole night to the day, unless I know to what he applies it. For not even you would call him industrious who sits up for the sake of a girl; nor, therefore, in the other case do I. But if he does it for fame, I call him ambitious; if for money, avaricious; if from the desire of learning, bookish; but not industrious. But if he applies his labor to his ruling faculty, in order to treat and regulate it conformably to nature, then only I call him industrious. Never praise or blame any person on account of outward actions that are common to all; but only on account of principles. These are the Edition: current; Page: [327] peculiar property of each individual, and the things which make actions good or bad.

Mindful of this, enjoy the present and accept all things in their season. If you meet in action any of those things which you have made a subject of study, rejoice in them. If you have laid aside ill-nature and reviling; if you have lessened your harshness, indecent language, inconsiderateness, effeminacy; if you are not moved by the same things as formerly, or if not in the same manner as formerly; — you may keep a perpetual festival, to-day for success in one affair, to-morrow for another. How much better a reason for sacrifice is this than obtaining a consulship or a government? These things you have from yourself and from the gods. Remember this, who it is that gave them, and to whom and for what purpose. Habituated once to these reasonings, can you still think that it makes any difference what place God allots you? Are not the gods everywhere at the same distance? Do not they everywhere see equally what is doing?


A WISE and good person neither quarrels with any one himself, nor, as far as possible, suffers another to do so. The life of Socrates affords us an example of this too, as well as of other things; since he not only everywhere avoided quarrelling himself, but did not even suffer others to quarrel. See in Xenophon’s Banquet how many quarrels he ended; Edition: current; Page: [328] how, again, he bore with Thrasymachus, with Polus, with Callicles; how with his wife, how with his son, who attempted to confute him, and cavilled at him. For he well remembered that no one is master of the ruling faculty of another; and therefore he desired nothing but what was his own. “And what is that?” Not that any particular person should be dealt with conformably to nature; for that belongs to others; but that while they act in their own way, as they please, he should nevertheless live conformably to nature, only doing what belongs to himself, in order to make them live conformably to nature also. For this is the point that a wise and good person has in view. To have the command of an army? No; but if it be allotted him, to properly apply his own powers in that sphere. To marry? No; but if marriage be allotted him, to act in this sphere also, according to the laws of nature. But if he expects perfection in his wife or his child, then he asks to have that for his own which really belongs to others. And wisdom consists in this very point, to learn what things are our own and what belong to others.

What room is there then for quarrelling, to a person thus disposed? For does he wonder at anything that happens? Does it appear strange to him? Does he not prepare for worse and more grievous injuries from bad people than actually happen to him? Does he not reckon it so much gained if they come short of the last extremities? Such a one has reviled you. You are much obliged to him that he has not struck you. But he has struck you too. You are much obliged to him that he has not wounded you too. But he has wounded you too. You are much obliged to him that he has not killed you. For when did he Edition: current; Page: [329] ever learn, or from whom, that he is a gentle, that he is a social animal; that the very injury itself is a great mischief to him who inflicts it? As, then, he has not learned these things, nor believes them, why should he not follow what appears to be for his interest? Your neighbor has thrown stones. What then? Is it any fault of yours? But your goods are broken. What then? Are you a piece of furniture? No; but your essence consists in the faculty of will. What behavior then is assigned you in return? If you consider yourself as a wolf, — then, to bite again, to throw more stones. But if you ask the question as a man, then examine your treasure; see what faculties you have brought into the world with you. Are they fitted for ferocity? For revenge? When is a horse miserable? When he is deprived of his natural faculties. Not when he cannot crow, but when he cannot run. And a dog? Not when he cannot fly, but when he cannot hunt. Is not a man, then, also unhappy in the same manner? Not he who cannot strangle lions or perform athletic feats, (for he has received no faculties for this purpose from nature); but who has lost his rectitude of mind, his fidelity. This is he who ought to receive public condolence for the misfortunes into which he is fallen; not, by Heaven, either he who has the misfortune to be born or to die; but he whom it has befallen while he lives to lose what is properly his own. Not his paternal possessions, his paltry estate or his house, his lodging or his slaves, for none of these are a man’s own; but all these belong to others, are servile, dependent, and very variously assigned by the disposers of them. But his personal qualifications as a man, the impressions which he brought into the world stamped Edition: current; Page: [330] upon his mind; such as we look for in money, accepting or rejecting it accordingly. “What impression has this piece of money?” — “Trajan’s.” — “Give it me.” — “Nero’s.”* Throw it away. It is false; it is good for nothing. So in the other case. “What stamp have his principles?” — “Gentleness, social affection, patience, good-nature.” Bring them hither. I receive them. I make such a man a citizen; I receive him for a neighbor, a fellow-traveller. Only see that he have not the Neronian stamp. Is he passionate? Is he resentful? Is he querulous? Would he, if he took the fancy, break the heads of those who fell in his way? Why then do you call him a man? For is everything determined by a mere outward form? Then say, just as well, that a piece of wax is an apple, or that it has the smell and taste, too. But the external figure is not enough; nor, consequently, is it sufficient to constitute a man, that he has a nose and eyes, if he have not the proper principles of a man. Such a one does not understand reason, or apprehend when he is confuted. He is like an ass. Another is dead to the sense of shame. He is a worthless creature; anything rather than a man. Another seeks whom he may kick or bite: so that he is neither sheep nor ass. But what then? He is a wild beast.

“Well; but would you have me despised, then?” By whom? By those who know you? And how can they despise you who know you to be gentle and modest? But, perhaps, by those who do not know you? And what is that to you? For no other artist troubles himself about those ignorant of art. “But people Edition: current; Page: [331] will be much readier to attack me.” Why do you say me? Can any one hurt your will, or restrain you from treating, conformably to nature, the phenomena of existence? Why, then, are you disturbed and desirous to make yourself appear formidable? Why do you not make public proclamation that you are at peace with all mankind, however they may act; and that you chiefly laugh at those who suppose they can hurt you? “These wretches neither know who I am, nor in what consist my good and evil; nor how little they can touch what is really mine.” Thus the inhabitants of a fortified city laugh at the besiegers. “What trouble, now, are these people giving themselves for nothing? Our wall is secure; we have provisions for a very long time, and every other preparation.” These are what render a city fortified and impregnable; but nothing but its principles render the human soul so. For what wall is so strong, what body so impenetrable, what possession so unalienable, what dignity so secured against stratagems? All things else, everywhere else, are mortal, easily reduced; and whoever in any degree fixes his mind upon them, must necessarily be subject to perturbation, despair, terrors, lamentations, disappointed desires, and unavailing aversions.

And will we not fortify, then, the only citadel that is granted us; and, withdrawing ourselves from what is mortal and servile, diligently improve what is immortal and by nature free? Do we not remember that no one either hurts or benefits another; but only the principles which we hold concerning everything? It is this that hurts us; this that overturns us. Here is the fight, the sedition, the war. It was nothing else that made Eteocles and Polynices enemies, Edition: current; Page: [332] but their principles concerning empire, and their principles concerning exile; that the one seemed the extremest evil, the other, the greatest good. Now the very nature of every one is to pursue good, to avoid evil; to esteem him as an enemy and betrayer who deprives us of the one, and involves us in the other, though he be a brother, or a son, or father. For nothing is more nearly related to us than good. So that if good and evil consist in externals, there is no affection between father and son, brother and brother; but all is everywhere full of enemies, betrayers, sycophants. But if a right choice be the only good, and a wrong one the only evil, what further room is there for quarrelling, for reviling? About what can it be? About what is nothing to us. Against whom? Against the ignorant, against the unhappy, against those who are deceived in the most important respects.

Mindful of this, Socrates lived in his own house, patiently bearing a furious wife, a senseless son. For what were the effects of her fury? The throwing as much water as she pleased on his head, the trampling* a cake under her feet. “And what is this to me, if I think such things nothing to me? This very point is my business; and neither a tyrant, nor a master, shall restrain my will; nor multitudes, though I am a single person; nor one ever so strong, though I am ever so weak. For this is given by God to every one, free from restraint.”

These principles make friendship in families, concord Edition: current; Page: [333] in cities, peace in nations. They make a person grateful to God, everywhere courageous, as dealing with things merely foreign and of minor importance. But we, alas! are able indeed to write and read these things, and to praise them when they are read; but very far from being convinced by them. In that case, what is said of the Lacedemonians,

“Lions at home, foxes at Ephesus,”

may be applied to us, too; lions in the school, but foxes out of it.


IT vexes me, say you, to be pitied. Is this your affair, then, or theirs who pity you? And further, how is it in your power to prevent it? “It is, if I show them that I do not need pity.” But are you now in such a condition as not to need pity, or are you not? “I think I am. But these people do not pity me for what, if anything, would deserve pity, my faults; but for poverty, and want of power, and sicknesses, and deaths, and other things of that kind.” Are you, then, prepared to convince the world that none of these things is in reality an evil; but that it is possible for a person to be happy, even when he is poor, and without honors and power? Or are you prepared to put on the appearance of being rich and powerful? The last of these is the part of an arrogant, silly, worthless fellow. Observe, too, by what means this fiction must be carried on. You must Edition: current; Page: [334] hire some poor slaves, and get possessed of a few little pieces of plate, and often show them in public; and though they are the same, endeavor to conceal that they are the same; you must have gay clothes and other finery, and make a show of being honored by your great people; and endeavor to sup with them, or be thought to sup with them; and use some vile arts with your person, to make it appear handsomer and genteeler than it really is. All this you must contrive, if you would take the second way not to be pitied. And the first is impracticable as well as tedious, to undertake the very thing that Zeus himself could not do; to convince all mankind what things are really good and evil. Is this granted you? The only thing granted you is to convince yourself; and you have not yet done that; and yet do you undertake to convince others? Why, who has lived so long with you as you have with yourself? Who is so likely to have faith in you, in order to be convinced by you, as yourself? Who is more truly a well-wisher or a friend to you than yourself? How is it, then, that you have not yet convinced yourself? Should you not now revolve these things? What you were studying was this; to learn to be exempt from grief, perturbation, and meanness, and to be free. Have you not heard, then, that the only way that leads to this is, to give up what is beyond the control of will; to withdraw from it, and confess that it belongs to others? To what order of things belongs another’s opinion about you? “Things uncontrollable by will.” Is it nothing then to you? “Nothing.” While you are still piqued and disturbed about it, then, do you consider that you are convinced concerning good and evil?

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Letting others alone, then, why will you not be your own scholar and teacher? Let others look to it, whether it be for their advantage to think and act contrary to nature; but no one is nearer to me than myself. What means this? I have heard the reasonings of philosophers, and assented to them; yet, in fact, I am not the more relieved. Am I so stupid? And yet, in other things to which I had an inclination, I was not found very stupid; but I quickly learned grammar and the exercises of the palæstra, and geometry, and the solution of syllogisms. Has not reason, then, convinced me? And yet there is no one of the other things that I so much approved or liked from the very first. And now I read concerning these subjects, I hear discourses upon them, I write about them, and I have not yet found any principle more sure than this. What, then, do I need? Is not this the difficulty, that the contrary principles are not removed out of my mind? Is it not that I have not strengthened these opinions by exercise, nor practised them in action? but, like arms thrown aside, they are grown rusty, and do not suit me? Yet neither in the palæstra, nor writing, nor reading, nor solving syllogisms, am I contented with merely learning; but I apply in every way the forms of arguments which are presented to me, and I invent others; and the same of convertible propositions. But the necessary principles by which I might become exempted from fear, grief, and passion, and be unrestrained and free, I do not exercise, nor bestow on them the proper care. And, then, I trouble myself what others will say of me; whether I shall appear to them worthy of regard; whether I shall appear happy. Will you not see, foolish man, what Edition: current; Page: [336] you can say of yourself? What sort of person you appear to yourself in your opinions, in your desires, in your aversions, in your pursuits, in your preparation, in your intention, in the other proper works of a man? But instead of that, do you trouble yourself whether others pity you? “Very true. But I am pitied without reason.” Then are you not pained by this? And is not he who is in pain to be pitied? “Yes.” How, then, are you pitied without reason? For you render yourself worthy of pity by what you suffer upon being pitied.

What says Antisthenes, then? Have you never heard? “It is kingly, O Cyrus, to do well and to be ill spoken of.” My head is well, and all around me think it aches. What is that to me? I am free from a fever; and they compassionate me as if I had one. “Poor soul, what a long while have you had this fever!” I say, too, with a dismal countenance, Ay, indeed, it is now a long time that I have been ill. “What can be the consequence, then?” What pleases God. And at the same time I secretly laugh at those who pity me. What forbids, then, but that the same may be done in the other case? I am poor, but I have right principles concerning poverty. What is it to me, then, if people pity me for my poverty? I am not in power and others are; but I have such opinions as I ought to have concerning power and the want of power. Let them see to it who pity me. I am neither hungry, nor thirsty, nor cold. But because they are hungry and thirsty, they suppose me to be so too. What can I do for them? Am I to go about making proclamation, and saying, Do not deceive yourselves, good people, I am very well; I care for neither poverty, nor want of power, nor anything Edition: current; Page: [337] else but right principles? These I possess unrestrained, and care for nothing further.

But what trifling is this? How have I right principles when I am not contented to be what I am; but am in agony, how I shall appear? “But others will get more, and be preferred to me.” Well, what is more reasonable, than that they who take pains for anything should get most in that particular direction, in which they take pains? They have taken pains for power; you, for right principles: they, for riches; you, for a proper use of the phenomena of existence. See whether they have the advantage of you in that for which you have taken pains, and which they neglect; if they judge better concerning the natural bounds and limits of things; if their desires are less often disappointed than yours, their aversions less often incurred; if they aim better in their intentions, in their purposes, in their pursuits; if they preserve a becoming behavior as men, as sons, as parents, and so on with the other relations of life. But if they are in power, and you not, why will you not speak the truth to yourself; that you do nothing for the sake of power, but that they do everything? It were very reasonable that he who carefully seeks anything, should be less successful than he who neglects it! “No; but since I take care to have right principles, it is more reasonable that I should excel.” Yes, in respect to what you take pains about, your principles. But give up to others the things in which they have taken more pains than you. Else it is just as if, because you have right principles, you should expect to aim an arrow better than an archer, or to forge better than a smith. Therefore cease to take pains about principles, and apply yourself to those things which Edition: current; Page: [338] you wish to possess, and then begin crying, if you do not succeed; for you deserve to cry. But now you claim that you are engaged and absorbed in other things; and they say well that no man can be of two trades. One man, as soon as he rises and goes out, seeks to whom he may pay his compliments, whom he may flatter, to whom he may send a present, how he may please the favorite; how, by doing mischief to one, he may oblige another. Whenever he prays, he prays for things like these; whenever he sacrifices, he sacrifices for things like these. To these he transfers the Pythagorean precept:

“Let not the stealing god of Sleep surprise.”

*Where have I failed in point of flattery? What have I done? Anything like a free, brave-spirited man? If he should find anything of this sort, he rebukes and accuses himself. “What business had you to say that? For could you not have lied? Even the philosophers say there is no objection against telling a lie.”

But, on the other hand, if you have in reality been careful about nothing else but to make a right use of the phenomena of existence; then, as soon as you are up in the morning, consider what you need in order to be free from passion? What, to enjoy tranquillity? “In what do I consist? Merely in body, in estate, in reputation? None of these. What, then? I am a reasonable creature. What, then, is required of me?” Meditate upon your actions. Where have I failed in any requisite for prosperity? What have I done, either unfriendly or unsocial? Edition: current; Page: [339] What have I omitted that was necessary in these points?

Since there is so much difference, then, in your desires, your actions, your wishes, would you yet have an equal share with others in those things about which you have not taken pains, and they have? And do you wonder, after all, and are you out of humor if they pity you? But they are not out of humor, if you pity them. Why? Because they are convinced that they are in possession of their proper good; but you are not convinced that you are. Hence you are not contented with your own condition, but desire theirs; whereas they are contented with theirs, and do not desire yours. For if you were really convinced that it is you who are in possession of what is good, and that they are mistaken, you would not so much as think what they say about you.


WHAT makes a tyrant formidable? His guards, say you, and their swords; they who protect his bedchamber; and they who keep out intruders. Why, then, if you bring a child to him amidst these guards, is it not afraid? Is it because the child does not know what they mean? Suppose, then, that any one knows what is meant by guards, and that they are armed with swords; and for that very reason comes in the tyrant’s way, being desirous, on account of some misfortune, to die, and seeking to die easily by the hand of another. Does such a man Edition: current; Page: [340] fear the guards? No; for he desires the very thing that renders them formidable. Well, then; if any one being without an absolute desire to live or die, but indifferent to it, comes in the way of a tyrant, what prevents his approaching him without fear? Nothing. If, then, another should think concerning his estate, or wife, or children, as this man thinks concerning his body; and, in short, from some madness or folly should be of such a disposition as not to care whether he has them or not; but just as children, playing with shells, are busied with the play, but not with the shells, so he should pay no regard to these affairs, except to carry on the play with them, what tyrant, what guards or swords are any longer formidable to such a man?

And is it possible that any one should be thus disposed towards these things from madness; and the Galileans from mere habit; yet that no one should be able to learn, from reason and demonstration, that God made all things in the world, and made the whole world itself unrestrained and perfect; and all its parts for the use of the whole? All other creatures are indeed excluded from a power of comprehending the administration of the world; but a reasonable being has abilities for the consideration of all these things: both that itself is a part, and what part; and that it is fit the parts should submit to the whole. Besides, being by nature constituted noble, magnanimous, and free, it sees that of the things which relate to it some are unrestrained and in its own power, some restrained and in the power of others: the unrestrained, such as depend on will; the restrained, such as do not depend on it. And for this reason, if it esteems its good and its interest to Edition: current; Page: [341] consist in things unrestrained and in its own power, it will be free, prosperous, happy, safe, magnanimous, pious, thankful to God for everything, never finding fault with anything, never censuring anything that is brought about by him. But if it esteems its good and its interest to consist in externals, and things uncontrollable by will, it must necessarily be restrained, be hindered, be enslaved to those who have the power over those things which it admires and fears; it must necessarily be impious, as supposing itself injured by God, and unjust, as claiming more than its share; it must necessarily, too, be abject and base.

Why may not he who discerns these things live with an easy and light heart, quietly awaiting whatever may happen, and bearing contentedly what has happened? Shall it be poverty? Bring it; and you shall see what poverty is when it is met well. Would you have power? Bring toils too along with it. Banishment? Wherever I go, it will be well with me there; for it was well with me here, not on account of the place, but of the principles which I shall carry away with me; for no one can deprive me of these; on the contrary, they alone are my property, and cannot be taken away; and their possession suffices me wherever I am, or whatever I do.

“But it is now time to die.” What is that you call dying? Do not talk of the thing in a tragedy strain; but state the thing as it is, that it is time for your material part to revert whence it came. And where is the terror of this? What part of the world is going to be lost? What is going to happen that is new or prodigious? Is it for this that a tyrant is formidable? Is it on this account that the swords of his Edition: current; Page: [342] guards seem so large and sharp? Try these things upon others. For my part, I have examined the whole. No one has authority over me. God hath made me free; I know his commands; after this no one can enslave me. I have a proper vindicator of my freedom; proper judges. Are you the master of my body? But what is that to me? Of my little estate? But what is that to me? Of banishment and chains? Why all these again, and my whole body, I give up to you; make a trial of your power whenever you please, and you will find how far it extends.

Whom, then, can I any longer fear? Those who guard the chamber? Lest they should do — what? Shut me out? If they find me desirous to come in, let them. “Why do you come to the door, then?” Because it is fitting for me, that while the play lasts I should play too. “How then are you incapable of being shut out?” Because, if I am not admitted, I would not wish to go in; but would much rather that things should be as they are, for I esteem what God wills to be better than what I will. To Him I yield myself as a servant and a follower. My pursuits, my desires, my very will, must coincide with His. Being shut out does not affect me; but those who push to get in. Why, then, do not I push too? Because I know that there is no really good thing distributed to those who get in. But when I hear any one congratulated on the favor of Cæsar, I ask what he has got. “A province.” Has he the needed wisdom also? “A public office.” Has he with it the knowledge how to use it? If not, why should I push my way in?

Some one scatters nuts and figs. Children scramble Edition: current; Page: [343] and quarrel for them; but not men, for they think them trifles. But if any one should scatter shells, not even children would scramble for these. Provinces are being distributed. Let children look to it. Money. Let children look to it. Military command, a consulship. Let children scramble for them. Let these be shut out, be beaten, kiss the hands of the giver, or of his slaves. But to me they are mere figs and nuts. “What, then, is to be done?” If you miss them while he is throwing them, do not trouble yourself about it; but if a fig should fall into your lap, take it, and eat it; for one may pay so much regard even to a fig. But if I am to stoop and throw down one [rival] or be thrown down by another, and flatter those who succeed, a fig is not worth this, nor is any other of those things which are not really good, and which the philosophers have persuaded me not to esteem as good.

Show me the swords of the guards. “See how large and how sharp they are.” What, then, can these great and sharp swords do? “They kill.” And what can a fever do? “Nothing else.” And a [falling] tile? “Nothing else.” Do you then wish me to be bewildered by all these things, and to worship them, and to go about as a slave to them all? Heaven forbid! But having once learned that everything that is born must likewise die, (that the world may not be at a stand, nor the course of it hindered,) I no longer see any difference, whether this be effected by a fever, or a tile, or a soldier; but if any comparison is to be made, I know that the soldier will effect it with less pain and more speedily. Since then I neither fear any of those things which he can inflict upon me, nor covet anything which he can bestow, Edition: current; Page: [344] why do I stand any longer in awe of a tyrant? Why am I amazed at him? Why do I fear his guards? Why do I rejoice, if he speaks kindly to me, and receives me graciously; and why boast to others of my reception? For is he Socrates or Diogenes, that his praise should show what I am? Or have I set my heart on imitating his manners? But to keep up the play I go to him and serve him, so long as he commands nothing unreasonable or improper. But if he should say to me, “Go to Salamis, and bring Leon,”* I bid him seek another, for I play no longer. “Lead him away.” I follow as a part of the play. “But your head will be taken off.” And will his own remain on forever; or yours, who obey him? “But you will be thrown out unburied.” If I am identical with my corpse, I shall be thrown out; but if I am something else than the corpse, speak more handsomely, as the thing is, and do not think to frighten me. These things are frightful to children and fools. But if any one, who has once entered into the school of a philosopher, knows not what he himself is, then he deserves to be frightened, and to flatter the last object of flattery; if he has not yet learnt that he is neither flesh, nor bones, nor nerves, but is that which makes use of these, and regulates and comprehends the phenomena of existence.

“Well; but these reasonings make men despise the laws.” And what reasonings, then, render those who use them more obedient to the laws? But the law of fools is no law. And yet, see how these reasonings render us properly disposed, even towards such persons, since they teach us not to assert against them any claim wherein they can surpass us. They Edition: current; Page: [345] teach us to give up body, to give up estate, children, parents, brothers, to yield everything, to let go everything, excepting only principles; which even Zeus hath excepted and decreed to be every one’s own property. What unreasonableness, what breach of the laws, is there in this? Where you are superior and stronger, there I give way to you. Where, on the contrary, I am superior, do you submit to me; for this has been my study, and not yours. Your study has been to walk upon a mosaic floor, to be attended by your servants and clients, to wear fine clothes, to have a great number of hunters, fiddlers, and players. Do I lay any claim to these? On the other hand, have you made a study of principles, or even of your own reason? Do you know of what parts it consists? How they are combined and joined, and with what powers? Why, then, do you take it amiss, if another, who has studied them, has the advantage of you in these things? “But they are of all things the greatest.” Well; and who restrains you from being conversant with them, and attending to them ever so carefully? Or who is better provided with books, with leisure, with assistants? Only turn your thoughts now and then to these matters; bestow but a little time upon your own ruling faculty. Consider what is the power you have, and whence it came, that uses all other things, that examines them all, that chooses, that rejects. But while you employ yourself merely about externals, you will possess those indeed beyond all rivals; but all else will be, just as you elect to have it, sordid and neglected.

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NEVER commend or censure any one for common actions, nor attribute to them either skilfulness or unskilfulness; and thus you will at once be free both from rashness and ill-nature. Such a one bathes hastily. Does he therefore do it ill? Not at all. But what? Hastily. “Is everything well done, then?” By no means. But what is done from good principles is well done; what from bad ones, ill. Till you know from what principle any one acts, neither commend nor censure the action. But the principle is not easily discerned from the external appearance. Such a one is a carpenter. Why? He uses an axe. What proof is that? Such a one is a musician, for he sings. What proof is that? Such a one is a philosopher. Why? Because he wears a cloak and long hair. What then do mountebanks wear? And so, when people see any of these acting indecently, they presently say, “See what the philosopher does.” But they ought rather, from his acting indecently, to say that he is no philosopher. For, if indeed the essence of philosophic pursuits is to wear a cloak and long hair, they say right; but if it be rather to keep himself free from faults, since he does not fulfil his profession, why do not they deprive him of his title? For this is the way with regard to other arts. When we see any one handle an axe awkwardly, we do not say, “Where is the use of this art? See how poorly carpenters acquit themselves.” But we say the very Edition: current; Page: [347] contrary, “This man is no carpenter; for he handles an axe awkwardly.” So, if we hear any one sing badly, we do not say, “Observe how musicians sing,” but rather, “This fellow is no musician.” It is with regard to philosophy alone, that people are thus affected. When they see any one acting inconsistently with the profession of a philosopher, they do not take away his title; but assuming that he is a philosopher, and then reasoning from his improper behavior, they infer that philosophy is of no use.

“What, then, is the reason of this?” Because we pay some regard to the idea which we have of a carpenter and a musician, and so of other artists, but not of a philosopher; which idea being thus vague and confused, we judge of it only from external appearances. And of what other art do we form our opinion from the dress or the hair? Has it not principles too, and materials, and an aim? What, then, are the materials of a philosopher? A cloak? No, but reason. What his aim? To wear a cloak? No, but to have his reason in good order. What are his principles? Are they how to get a great beard, or long hair? No, but rather, as Zeno expresses it, — to know the elements of reason, what is each separately and how linked together, and what their consequences.

Why, then, will you not first see, whether when acting improperly he fulfils his profession, ere you proceed to blame the study? Whereas now, when acting soberly yourself, you say, in regard to whatever he appears to do amiss, “Observe the philosopher!” As if it were proper to call a person, who does such things, a philosopher. And again, “This is philosophical!” But you do not say, “Observe Edition: current; Page: [348] the carpenter, or observe the musician,” when you know one of them to be an adulterer, or see him to be a glutton. So, in some small degree, even you perceive what the profession of a philosopher is; but are misled and confounded by your own carelessness. And, indeed, even those called philosophers enter upon their profession by commonplace beginnings. As soon as they have put on the cloak and let their beards grow, they cry, “I am a philosopher.” Yet no one says, “I am a musician,” merely because he has bought a fiddle and fiddlestick: nor, “I am a smith,” because he is dressed in the cap and apron. But they take their name from their art, not from their garb.

For this reason, Euphrates was in the right to say, “I long endeavored to conceal my embracing the philosophic life; and it was of use to me. For, in the first place, I knew that whatever I did right I did not for spectators, but for myself. I eat in a seemly manner, for my own approbation. I preserved composure of look and manner, all for God and myself. Then, as I contended alone, I alone was in danger. Philosophy was in no danger, on my doing anything shameful or unbecoming; nor did I hurt the rest of the world, which, by offending as a philosopher, I might have done. For this reason, they who were ignorant of my intention, used to wonder that while I conversed and lived entirely with philosophers, I never took up the character. And where was the harm, that I should be discovered to be a philosopher by my actions, rather than by the usual badges? See how I eat, how I drink, how I sleep, how I bear, how I forbear; how I assist others; how I make use of my desires, how of my aversions; how I preserve Edition: current; Page: [349] the natural and acquired relations, without confusion and without obstruction. Judge of me hence, if you can. But if you are so deaf and blind that you would not suppose Vulcan himself to be a good smith, unless you saw the cap upon his head, where is the harm in not being found out by so foolish a judge?”

It was thus, too, that Socrates concealed himself from the multitude; and some even came and desired him to introduce them to philosophers. Was he accustomed to be displeased, then, like us; and to say, What! do not you take me for a philosopher? No, he took them and introduced them; contented with merely being a philosopher, and rejoicing in feeling no annoyance, that he was not thought one. For he remembered his business; and what is the business of a wise and good man? To have many scholars? By no means. Let those see to it who have made this their study. Well, then, is it to be a perfect master of difficult theorems? Let others see to that, too. What, then, was his position, and what did he desire to be? What constituted his hurt or advantage? “If,” said he, “any one can still hurt me, I am accomplishing nothing. If I depend for my advantage upon another, I am nothing. Have I any wish unaccomplished? Then I am unhappy.” To such a combat he invited every one, and, in my opinion, yielded to no one. But do you think it was by making proclamation, and saying, “I am such a one?” Far from it: but by being such a one. For it is folly and insolence to say, “I am passive and undisturbed. Be it known to you, mortals, that while you are disturbed and vexed about things of no value, I alone am free from all perturbation.” Edition: current; Page: [350] Are you then so little satisfied with your exemption from pain that you must needs make proclamation: “Come hither all you who have the gout, or the headache, or a fever, or are lame, or blind; and see me, free from every distemper.” This is vain and shocking, unless you can show, like Æsculapius, by what method of cure they may presently become as free from distempers as yourself, and can bring your own health as a proof of it.

Such is the Cynic honored with the sceptre and diadem from Zeus; who says, “That you may see, O mankind, that you do not seek happiness and tranquillity where it is, but where it is not, behold, I am sent an example to you from God; — who have neither estate, nor house, nor wife, nor children, — nor even a bed, coat, or furniture. And yet see how in what good condition I am. Try me; and if you see me free from perturbation, hear the remedies, and by what means I was cured.” This now is benevolent and noble. But consider whose business it is. That of Zeus, or his whom he judges worthy of this office; that he may never show to the world anything to impeach his own testimony for virtue and against externals.

“Neither pallid of hue, nor wiping tears from his cheek.”*

And not only this, but he does not desire or seek for company, or place, or amusement, as boys do the vintage time, or holidays; — being always fortified by virtuous shame, as others are by walls, and gates, and sentinels.

But now they who have only such an inclination to philosophy as weak stomachs have to some kinds Edition: current; Page: [351] of food, of which they will presently grow sick, expect to hasten to the sceptre, to the kingdom. They let their hair grow, assume the cloak, bare the shoulder, wrangle with all they meet; and if they see any one in a thick, warm coat, must needs wrangle with him. First harden yourself against all weather, man. Consider your inclination; whether it be not that of a weak stomach, or of a longing woman. First study to conceal what you are; philosophize a little while by yourself. Fruit is produced thus. The seed must first be buried in the ground, lie hid there some time, and grow up by degrees, that it may come to perfection. But if it produces the ear before the stalk has its proper joints, it is imperfect, and of the garden of Adonis.* Now you are a poor plant of this kind. You have blossomed too soon: the winter will kill you. See what countrymen say about seeds of any sort, when the warm weather comes too early. They are in great anxiety for fear the seeds should shoot out too luxuriantly; and then one frost taking them may show how prejudicial their forwardness was. Beware you too, O man. You have shot out luxuriantly; you have sprung forth towards a trifling fame, before the proper season. You seem to be somebody, as a fool may among fools. You will be taken by the frost; or rather, you are already frozen downward at the root; you still blossom indeed a little at the top, and therefore you think you are still alive and flourishing.

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Let us, at least, ripen naturally. Why do you lay us open? Why do you force us? We cannot yet bear the air. Suffer the root to grow; then the first, then the second, then the third joint of the stalk to spring from it; and thus nature will force out the fruit, whether I will or not. For who that is charged with such principles, but must perceive, too, his own powers, and strive to put them in practice. Not even a bull is ignorant of his own powers, when any wild beast approaches the herd, nor waits he for any one to encourage him; nor does a dog when he spies any game. And if I have the powers of a good man, shall I wait for you to qualify me for my own proper actions? But believe me, I have them not quite yet. Why, then, would you wish me to be withered before my time, as you are?


WHEN you see another in power, set this against it, that you have the advantage of not needing power. When you see another rich, see what you have instead of riches; for if you have nothing in their stead, you are miserable. But if you have the advantage of not needing riches, know that you have something more than he has, and of far greater value. Another possesses a handsome woman; you the happiness of not desiring a handsome woman. Do you think these are little matters? And what would not those very persons give, who are rich and powerful, and possess handsome women, if they were only able Edition: current; Page: [353] to despise riches and power, and those very women whom they love and whom they possess! Do not you know of what nature the thirst of one in a fever is? It has no resemblance to that of a person in health. The latter drinks and is satisfied. But the other, after being delighted a very little while, is nauseated, the water becomes bile, he is sick at his stomach, and becomes more thirsty than ever. It is the same with avarice, ambition, lust. Presently comes jealousy, fear of loss, unbecoming words, designs, and actions.

“And what,” say you, “do I lose?” You were modest, man, and are so no longer. Have you lost nothing? Instead of Chrysippus and Zeno, you read Aristides* and Euenus. Have you lost nothing, then? Instead of Socrates and Diogenes, you admire him who can corrupt and seduce most women. You would be handsome, by decking your person, when you are not really so. You love to appear in fine clothes, to attract female eyes; and, if you anywhere meet with a good perfumer, you esteem yourself a happy man. But formerly you did not so much as think of any of these things; but only where you might find a decent discourse, a worthy person, a noble design. For this reason, you used to appear like a man both at home and abroad; to wear a manly dress; to hold discourses worthy of a man. And after this, do you tell me you have lost nothing? What then, do men lose nothing but money? Is not modesty to be lost? Is not decency to be lost? Or can he who loses these suffer no injury? You indeed perhaps no longer think anything of this sort Edition: current; Page: [354] to be an injury. But there was once a time when you accounted this to be the only injury and hurt; when you were anxiously afraid lest any one should shake your regard from such discourses and actions. See, it is not shaken by another, but by yourself. Fight against yourself, recover yourself to decency, to modesty, to freedom. If you had formerly been told any of these things of me, that one prevailed on me to commit adultery, to wear such a dress as yours, or to be perfumed, would you not have gone and laid violent hands on the man who thus abused me? And will you not now help yourself? For how much easier is that sort of assistance? You need not kill, or fetter, or affront, or go to law with any one; but merely talk with yourself, the person who will most readily be persuaded by you, and with whom no one has greater weight than you. And, in the first place, condemn your actions; but when you have condemned them, do not despair of yourself, nor be like those poor-spirited people who, when they have once given way, abandon themselves entirely, and are carried along as by a torrent. Take example from the wrestling-masters. Has the boy fallen down? Get up again, they say; wrestle again, till you have acquired strength. Be you affected in the same manner. For be assured that there is nothing more tractable than the human mind. You need but will, and it is done, it is set right; as, on the contrary, you need but nod over the work, and it is ruined. For both ruin and recovery are from within.

“And, after all, what good will this do me?” What greater good do you seek? From being impudent, you will become modest; from indecent, decent; from dissolute, sober. But if you seek any Edition: current; Page: [355] greater things than these, do as you are doing. It is no longer in the power of any God to save you.


THE doubts and perplexities of all men are concerning externals; — what they shall do, — how it will be, — what will be the event, — whether this thing will happen, or that? All this is the talk of persons engaged in things uncontrollable by will. For who says, How shall I do, not to assent to what is false? How, not to dissent from what is true? If any one is of such a good disposition as to be anxious about these things, I will remind him: “Why are you anxious? It is in your own power. Be assured. Do not hastily give your assent before you have applied those tests prescribed by nature.” Again, if he be anxious, for fear lest he should fail of what he seeks or incur what he shuns, I will first embrace him, because, slighting what others are fluttered and terrified about, he takes care of what is his own, where his very being is; then I will say to him: “If you would not fail of what you seek, or incur what you shun, desire nothing that belongs to others; shun nothing beyond your own power; otherwise you must necessarily be disappointed in what you seek, and incur what you shun.” Where is the doubt here? Where the room for, How will it be? What will be the event? And Will this happen, or that? Is not the event uncontrollable by will? “Yes.” And Edition: current; Page: [356] does not the essence of good and evil consist in what is within the control of will? It is in your power, then, to treat every event conformably to nature? Can any one restrain you? “No one.” Then do not say to me any more, How will it be? For, however it be, you will set it right, and the event to you will be auspicious.

Pray what would Hercules have been, if he had said, “What can be done to prevent a great lion, or a large boar, or savage men, from coming in my way?” Why, what is that to you? If a large boar should come in your way, you will fight the greater combat; if wicked men, you will deliver the world from wicked men. “But then if I should die by this means?” You will die as a good man, in the performance of a gallant action. For since, at all events, one must die, one must necessarily be found doing something, either tilling, or digging, or trading, or serving a consulship, or sick with indigestion or dysentery. At what employment, then, would you have death find you? For my part, I would have it to be some humane, beneficent, public-spirited, noble action. But if I cannot be found doing any such great things, yet, at least, I would be doing what I am incapable of being restrained from, what is given me to do, — correcting myself, improving that faculty which makes use of the phenomena of existence to procure tranquillity, and render to the several relations of life their due; and if I am so fortunate, advancing still further to the security of judging right. If death overtakes me in such a situation, it is enough for me if I can stretch out my hands to God, and say, “The opportunities which I have received from Thee of comprehending and obeying thy administration, I Edition: current; Page: [357] have not neglected. As far as in me lay, I have not dishonored Thee. See how I have used my perceptions; how my convictions. Have I at any time found fault with Thee? Have I been discontented at Thy dispensations; or wished them otherwise? Have I transgressed the relations of life? I thank Thee that Thou hast brought me into being. I am satisfied with the time that I have enjoyed the things which thou hast given me. Receive them back again, and distribute them as thou wilt; for they were all Thine, and Thou gavest them to me.”

Is it not enough to depart in this mood of mind? And what life is better and more becoming than that of such a one? Or what conclusion happier? But in order to attain these advantages, there are no inconsiderable risks to be encountered. You cannot seek a consulship and these things too, nor toil for an estate and these things too, nor take charge of your slaves and yourself too. But if you insist on anything of what belongs to others, then what is your own is lost. This is the nature of the affair. Nothing is to be had for nothing. And where is the wonder? If you would be consul, you must watch, run about, kiss hands, be wearied down with waiting at the doors of others, must say and do many slavish things, send gifts to many, daily presents to some. And for what result? Twelve bundles of rods;* to sit three or four times on the tribunal; to give the games of the circus, and suppers in baskets to all the world; or let any one show me what there is in it more than this. Will you, then, employ no expense and no pains to acquire peace and tranquillity, to sleep sound while you do sleep, to be thoroughly Edition: current; Page: [358] awake while you are awake, to fear nothing, to be anxious for nothing? But if anything belonging to you be lost or idly wasted, while you are thus engaged, or another gets what you ought to have had, will you immediately begin fretting at what has happened? Will you not compare the exchange you have made? How much for how much? But you would have such great things for nothing, I suppose. And how can you? Two trades cannot be combined; you cannot bestow your care both upon externals and your own ruling faculty. But if you would have the former, let the latter alone; or you will succeed in neither, while you are drawn in different ways by the two. On the other hand, if you would have the latter, let the former alone. “The oil will be spilled, the furniture will be spoiled”; — but still I shall be free from passion. “There will be a fire when I am out of the way, and the books will be destroyed”; — but still I shall make a right use of the phenomena of existence. “But I shall have nothing to eat.” If I am so unlucky, dying is a safe harbor. That is the harbor for all, death; that is the refuge; and for that reason there is nothing difficult in life. You may go out of doors when you please, and be troubled with smoke no longer.

Why, then, are you anxious? Why break your rest? Why do you not calculate where your good and evil lie; and say, “They are both in my own power; nor can any deprive me of the one, nor involve me against my will in the other.” Why, then, do not I lay myself down and sleep? What is my own is safe. Let what belongs to others look to itself, who carries it off, how it is distributed by him who hath the disposal of it. Who am I, to will that it Edition: current; Page: [359] should be so and so? For is the option given to me? Has any one made me the dispenser of it? What I have in my own disposal is enough for me. I must make the best I can of this. Other things must be as their master pleases.

Does any one who has these things before his eyes lie sleepless, and shift from side to side? What would he have, or what needs he? Patroclus,* or Antilochus, or Menelaus? Why, did he ever think any one of his friends immortal? When was it not obvious that on the morrow, or the next day, he himself or that friend might die? “Ay, very true,” he says; “but I reckoned that he would survive me, and bring up my son.” Because you were a fool, and reckoned upon uncertainties. Why, then, do you not blame yourself, instead of sitting in tears, like a girl? “But he used to set my dinner before me.” Because he was alive, foolish man; but now he cannot. But Automedon will set it before you; and if he should die, you will find somebody else. What if the vessel in which your meat used to be cooked should happen to be broken; must you die with hunger because you have not your old vessel? Do you not send and buy a new one?

“What greater evil could afflict my breast?”

Is this your evil, then? And, instead of removing it, do you accuse your mother, that she did not foretell it to you, that you might have spent your whole life in grieving from that time forward?

Do you not think now that Homer composed all this on purpose to show us that the noblest, the Edition: current; Page: [360] strongest, the richest, the handsomest of men may nevertheless be the most unfortunate and wretched, if they have not the principles they need?


SOME doubt whether the love of society be comprehended in the nature of man; and yet these very persons do not seem to me to doubt but that purity is by all means comprehended in it; and that by this, if by anything, it is distinguished from brute animals. When, therefore, we see any animal cleaning itself, we are apt to cry with wonder, that it is like a human creature. On the contrary, if an animal is censured, we are presently apt to say, by way of excuse, that it is not a human creature. Such excellence do we suppose to be in man, which we first received from the Gods. For as they are by nature pure and uncorrupt, in proportion as men approach to them by reason, they are tenacious of purity and incorruption. But since it is impracticable that their essence, composed of such materials, should be absolutely pure, it is the office of reason to endeavor to render it as pure as possible.

The first and highest purity or impurity, then, is that which is formed in the soul. But you will not find the impurity of the soul and body to be alike. For what stain can you find in the soul, unless it be something which renders it impure in its operations? Now the operations of the soul are its pursuits and avoidances, its desires, aversions, preparations, intentions, Edition: current; Page: [361] assents. What, then, is that which renders it defiled and impure in these operations? Nothing else than its perverse judgments. So that the impurity of the soul consists in wicked principles, and its purification in forming right principles; and that is pure which has right principles, for that alone is unmixed and undefiled in its operations.

Now we should, as far as possible, endeavor after something like this in the body, too. It is impossible but that in such a composition as man, there must be a discharge of superfluous phlegm. For this reason, Nature has made hands, and the nostrils themselves as channels to let out the moisture; nor can this be neglected with propriety. It was impossible but that the feet should be bemired and soiled from what they pass through. Therefore Nature has prepared water and hands. It was impossible but that some uncleanness must cleave to the teeth from eating. Therefore, she says, rinse your teeth. Why? That you may be a man, and not a wild beast, or a swine. It was impossible but that, from perspiration and the pressure of the clothes, something dirty and necessary to be cleaned should remain upon the body. For this there is water, oil, hands, towels, brushes, soap, and other necessary apparatus for its purification. But no; a smith indeed will get the rust off his iron, and have proper instruments for that purpose; and you yourself will have your plates washed before you eat, unless you are quite dirty and slovenly; but you will not wash nor purify your body. “Why should I?” say you. I tell you again, in the first place, that you may be like a man; and, in the next, that you may not offend those with whom you converse. Do you think it fitting to smell offensively? Edition: current; Page: [362] Be it so. But is it fitting as regards those who sit near you? Who are placed at the table with you? Who salute you? Either go into a desert, as you deserve, or live solitary at home, and be the only sufferer. But to what sort of character does it belong to live in a city, and behave so carelessly and inconsiderately? If Nature had trusted even a horse to your care, would you have overlooked and neglected him? Yet now, without being sensible of it, you do something like this. Consider your body as committed to you, instead of a horse. Wash it, rub it, take care that it may not be any one’s aversion, nor disgust any one. Who is not more disgusted at a foul, unwholesome-looking sloven, than at a person who has been accidentally rolled in filth? The stench of the one is adventitious, from without; but that which arises from want of care is a kind of inward putrefaction. “But Socrates bathed but seldom.” Yet his person looked clean, and was so agreeable and pleasing, that the most beautiful and noble youths were fond of him, and desired rather to sit by him than by those who had the finest persons. He might have omitted both bathing and washing, if he had pleased; and yet his amount of bathing had its effect. Cold water may supply the place of the warm bath. “But Aristophanes calls him one of the pallid, barefooted philosophers.”* Why, so he says, too, that he walked in the air, and stole clothes from the Palæstra. Besides, all who have written of Socrates, affirm quite the contrary; that he was not only agreeable in his conversation, but in his person too. And, again, they write the same of Diogenes. For we ought not to frighten the world from philosophy by the appearance Edition: current; Page: [363] of our persons; but to show our serenity of mind, as in all other ways, so in the care of our persons. “See, all of you, that I have nothing; that I want nothing. Without house, without city, and an exile (if that happens to be the case), and without a home, I live more easily and prosperously than the noble and rich. Look upon my person, too, that it is not injured by coarse fare.” But if any one should tell me this, bearing the habit and the visage of a condemned criminal, what God should persuade me to come near philosophy, while it renders men such figures? Heaven forbid! I would not do it, even if I was sure to become a wise man for my pains. I declare, for my own part, I would rather that a young man, on his first inclination to philosophy, should come to me finically dressed, than with his hair spoiled and dirty. For there appears in him some idea of beauty and desire of decency; and where he imagines it to be, there he applies his endeavors. One has nothing more to do but to point it out to him, and say, “You seek beauty, young man, and you do well. Be assured, then, that it springs from the rational part of you. Seek it there, where the pursuits and avoidances, the desires and aversions, are concerned. Herein consists your excellence; but the paltry body is by nature clay. Why do you trouble yourself, to no purpose, about it? You will be convinced by time, if not otherwise, that it is nothing.” But if he should come to me soiled and dirty, with moustaches drooping to his knees, what can I say to him? By what similitude allure him? For what has he studied which has any resemblance to beauty, that I may transfer his attention, and say that beauty is not there, but here? Edition: current; Page: [364] Would you have me tell him that beauty consists not in filth, but in reason? For has he any desire of beauty? Has he any appearance of it? Go, and argue with a hog not to roll in the mire.

It was in the quality of a young man who loved beauty, that Polemo was touched by the discourses of Xenocrates. For he entered with some incentives to the study of beauty, though he sought in the wrong place. And, indeed, Nature hath not made the very brutes dirty which live with man. Does a horse wallow in the mire? Or a good dog? But swine, and dirty geese, and worms, and spiders, which are banished to the greatest distance from human society. Will you, then, who are a man, choose not to be even one of the animals that are conversant with man; but rather a worm or a spider? Will you not bathe sometimes, be it in whatever manner you please? Will you never use water to wash yourself? Will you not come clean, that they who converse with you may have some pleasure in you? But will you accompany us, in your uncleanness, even to the temples, where all unclean ways are forbidden?

What, then, would anybody have you adorn yourself to the utmost? By no means, except in those things where our nature requires it, in reason, principles, actions; but in our persons, only so far as neatness requires, so far as not to give offence. But if you hear that it is not right to wear purple, you must go, I suppose, and roll your cloak in the mud, or tear it. “But how can I have a fine cloak?” You have water, man; wash it. What an amiable youth is here! How worthy this old man, to love and be loved! A fit person to be trusted with the Edition: current; Page: [365] instruction of our sons and daughters, and attended by young people as occasion may require, — to read them lectures from a dunghill! Every deterioration takes its origin from something human; but this almost dehumanizes a man.


WHEN you cease to take pains for a little while, do not fancy you may recommence whenever you please, but remember this, that by means of the fault of to-day, your affairs must necessarily be in a worse condition for the future. The first and worst evil is that there arises a habit of neglect; and then a habit of postponing effort, and constantly procrastinating as to one’s successes and good behavior and orderly thought and action. Now if procrastination as to anything is advantageous, it must be still more advantageous to omit it altogether; but if it be not advantageous, why do you not take pains all the time? “I would play to-day.” What then? Ought you not to take proper pains about it? “I would sing.” But why not take proper pains about it? For there is no part of life exempted, about which pains are not needed. For will you do anything the worse by taking pains, and the better by neglect? What else in life is best performed by heedless people? Does a smith forge the better by heedlessness? Does a pilot steer more safely by heedlessness? Or is any other, even of the minutest operations, best performed heedlessly? Do you not perceive that, Edition: current; Page: [366] when you have let your mind loose, it is no longer in your power to call it back, either to propriety, or modesty, or moderation? But you do everything at haphazard; you merely follow your inclinations.

“To what, then, am I to direct my pains.”

Why, in the first place, to those universal maxims which you must always have at hand; and not sleep, or arise, or drink, or eat, or converse without them: — that no one is the master of another’s will; and that it is in the will alone that good and evil lie. No one, therefore, is my master, either to procure me any good, or to involve me in any evil; but I alone have the disposal of myself with regard to these things. Since these, then, are secured to me, what need have I to be troubled about externals? What tyrant is formidable? What disease? What poverty? What offence? “I have not pleased such a one.” Is he my concern then? Is he my conscience? “No.” Why, then, do I trouble myself any further about him? “But he is thought to be of some consequence.” Let him look to that; and they who think him so. But I have One whom I must please, to whom I must submit, whom I must obey; God, and those who surround Him. He has intrusted me with myself, and made my will subject to myself alone, having given me rules for the right use of it. If I follow the proper rules in syllogisms, in convertible propositions, I do not heed or regard any one who says anything contrary to them. Why, then, am I vexed at being censured in matters of greater consequence? What is the reason of this perturbation? Nothing else, but that in this instance I want practice. For every science despises ignorance and the ignorant; and not only the sciences, Edition: current; Page: [367] but even the arts. Take any shoemaker, take any smith you will, and he may laugh at the rest of the world, so far as his own business is concerned.

In the first place, then, these are the maxims we must have ready, and do nothing without them, but direct the soul to this mark. To pursue nothing external, nothing that belongs to others, but as He who hath the power hath appointed. Things controllable by will are to be pursued always; and the rest as may be permitted. Besides this, we must remember who we are, and what name we bear, endeavoring to use all the circumstances of life in their proper relations; what is the proper time for singing, what for play, and in what company; what will be the consequence of our performance; whether our companions will despise us, or we ourselves; when to employ raillery, and whom to ridicule; upon what occasions to comply, and with whom; and then, in complying, how to preserve our own character.

Wherever you deviate from any of these rules, the damage is immediate; not from anything external, but from the very action itself. “What, then, is it possible by these means to be faultless?” Impracticable; but this is possible, to use a constant endeavor to be faultless. For we shall have cause to be satisfied, if, by never remitting our pains, we shall be exempt at least from a few faults. But now, when you say you will begin to take pains to-morrow, be assured that it is the same thing as if you said, “To-day I will be shameless, impertinent, base, it shall be in the power of others to grieve me; I will be passionate, I will be envious to-day.” See to how many evils you give yourself up. “But all will be well to-morrow.” How much better to-day? If it be for Edition: current; Page: [368] your interest to-morrow, how much more to-day, that it may be in your power to-morrow too, and that you may not again defer it until the third day.


WHEN any one appears to us to discourse frankly of his own affairs, we too are somehow tempted to disclose our secrets to him; and we consider this to be acting with frankness. First, because it seems unfair that when we have heard the affairs of our neighbor, we should not in return communicate ours to him; and besides we think that we shall not appear of a frank character, in concealing what belongs to ourselves. Indeed it is often said, “I have told you all my affairs; and will you tell me none of yours? How happens this?” Lastly, it is supposed that we may safely trust him who has already trusted us; for we imagine that he will never discover our affairs, for fear we should in turn discover his. It is thus that the inconsiderate are caught by the soldiers at Rome. A soldier sits by you in a civilian’s dress, and begins to speak ill of Cæsar. Then you, as if you had received a pledge of his fidelity, by his first beginning the abuse, say likewise what you think; and so you are led away in chains to execution.

Something like this is the case with us in general. But when one has safely intrusted his secrets to me, shall I, in imitation of him, trust mine to any one who comes in my way? The case is different. I indeed Edition: current; Page: [369] hold my tongue (supposing me to be of such a disposition); but he goes and discovers them to everybody; and then, when I come to find it out, if I happen to be like him, from a desire of revenge, I discover his; and asperse and am aspersed. But if I remember that one man does not hurt another, but that every one is hurt or profited by his own actions, I may indeed keep to this, not to do anything like him; yet, by my own talkative folly, I suffer what I do suffer.

“Ay; but it is unfair, when you have heard the secrets of your neighbor, not to communicate anything to him in return.” Why, did I ask you to do it, sir? Did you tell me your affairs upon condition that I should tell you mine in return? If you are a gossip, and take all you meet for friends, would you have me too become like you? But what if the case be this; that you did right in trusting your affairs to me, but it is not right that I should trust you? Would you have me run headlong, and fall? This is just as if I had a sound barrel, and you a leaky one; and you should come and deposit your wine with me, to be put into my barrel; and then should take it ill, that, in my turn, I did not trust you with my wine. No. You have a leaky barrel. How, then, are we any longer upon equal terms? You have intrusted your affairs to an honest man, and a man of honor; one who finds his help or harm in his own actions alone, and in nothing external. Would you have me intrust mine to you, who have dishonored your own will, and who would get a paltry sum, or a post of power or preferment at court, even if it required you to kill your own children, like Medea? Where is the fairness in this? But show Edition: current; Page: [370] me that you are faithful, honorable, steady; show me that you have principles conducive to friendship; show me that your vessel is not leaky, and you shall see that I will not wait for you to intrust your affairs to me, but I will come and entreat you to hear mine. For who would not make use of a good vessel? Who despises a benevolent and friendly adviser? Who will not gladly receive one to share the burden, as it were, of his difficulties; and by sharing, to make it lighter? “Well; but I trust you, and you do not trust me.” In the first place, you do not really trust me; but you are a gossip, and therefore can keep nothing in. For if the former be the case, trust only me. But now, whenever you see a man at leisure, you sit down by him, and say: “My dear friend, there is not a man in the world who wishes me better, or has more kindness for me, than you; I entreat you to hear my affairs.” And this you do to those with whom you have not the least acquaintance. But if you do trust me, it is plainly as a man of fidelity and honor, and not because I have told you my affairs. Let me alone, then, till I reciprocate this opinion. Convince me that, if a person has told his affairs to any one, it is a proof of his being a man of fidelity and honor. For if this were the case, I would go about and tell my affairs to the whole world, if I could thus become a man of fidelity and honor. But that is no such matter; for it demands of a man to have no ordinary principles.

If, then, you see any one taking pains for things that belong to others, and subjecting his will to them, be assured that this man has a thousand things to compel and restrain him. He has no need of burning pitch, or the torturing wheel, to make him tell Edition: current; Page: [371] what he knows; but the nod of a girl, for instance, will shake his purpose; the good-will of a courtier, the desire of an office, of an inheritance; ten thousand other things of that sort. It must therefore be remembered in general, that confidential discourses require fidelity and a certain sort of principles. And where, at this time, are these easily to be found? Pray let any one show me a person of such a disposition as to say, I concern myself only for those things which are my own, incapable of restraint, and by nature free. This I esteem the essence of good. Let the rest be as it may happen; it makes no difference to me.

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THERE are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.

Now the things within our power are by nature free, unrestricted, unhindered; but those beyond our power are weak, dependent, restricted, alien. Remember then, that, if you attribute freedom to things by nature dependent, and take what belongs to others for your own; you will be hindered, you will lament, you will be disturbed, you will find fault both with Gods and men. But if you take for your own only that which is your own, and view what belongs to others just as it really is, then no one will ever compel you, no one will restrict you, you will find fault with no one, you will accuse no one, you will do nothing against your will; no one will hurt you, you will not have an enemy, nor will you suffer any harm.

Aiming therefore at such great things, remember that you must not allow yourself any inclination, however slight, towards the attainment of the others; but that you must entirely quit some of them, and Edition: current; Page: [376] for the present postpone the rest. But if you would have these, and possess power and wealth likewise, you may miss the latter in seeking the former; and you will certainly fail of that, by which alone happiness and freedom are procured.

Seek at once, therefore, to be able to say to every unpleasing semblance, “You are but a semblance and by no means the real thing.” And then examine it by those rules which you have; and first and chiefly, by this: whether it concerns the things which are within our own power, or those which are not; and if it concerns anything beyond our power, be prepared to say that it is nothing to you.


Remember that desire demands the attainment of that of which you are desirous; and aversion demands the avoidance of that to which you are averse; that he who fails of the object of his desires, is disappointed; and he who incurs the object of his aversion, is wretched. If, then, you shun only those undesirable things which you can control, you will never incur anything which you shun. But if you shun sickness, or death, or poverty, you will run the risk of wretchedness. Remove aversion, then, from all things that are not within our power, and transfer it to things undesirable, which are within our power. But for the present altogether restrain desire; for if you desire any of the things not within our own power, you must necessarily be disappointed; and you are not yet secure of those which are within our power, and so are legitimate objects of desire. Where it is practically necessary for you to pursue or avoid anything, do even this with discretion, and gentleness, and moderation.

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With regard to whatever objects either delight the mind, or contribute to use, or are tenderly beloved, remind yourself of what nature they are, beginning with the merest trifles: if you have a favorite cup, that it is a cup of which you are fond; for thus, if it is broken, you can bear it: if you embrace your child, or your wife, that you embrace a mortal; and thus, if either of them dies, you can bear it.


When you set about any action, remind yourself of what nature the action is. If you are going to bathe, represent to yourself the incidents usual in the bath; some persons pouring out, others pushing in, others scolding, others pilfering. And thus you will more safely go about this action, if you say to yourself, “I will now go to bathe, and keep my own will in harmony with nature.” And so with regard to every other action. For thus, if any impediment arises in bathing, you will be able to say, “It was not only to bathe that I desired, but to keep my will in harmony with nature; and I shall not keep it thus, if I am out of humor at things that happen.”


Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things. Thus death is nothing terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates. But the terror consists in our notion of death, that it is terrible. When, therefore, we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never impute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own views. It is the action of an uninstructed person to reproach Edition: current; Page: [378] others for his own misfortunes; of one entering upon instruction, to reproach himself; and of one perfectly instructed, to reproach neither others nor himself.


Be not elated at any excellence not your own. If a horse should be elated, and say, “I am handsome,” it might be endurable. But when you are elated, and say, “I have a handsome horse,” know that you are elated only on the merit of the horse. What, then, is your own? The use of the phenomena of existence. So that when you are in harmony with nature in this respect, you will be elated with some reason; for you will be elated at some good of your own.


As in a voyage, when the ship is at anchor, if you go on shore to get water, you may amuse yourself with picking up a shell-fish or a truffle in your way; but your thoughts ought to be bent towards the ship, and perpetually attentive, lest the captain should call; and then you must leave all these things, that you may not have to be carried on board the vessel, bound like a sheep. Thus likewise in life, if, instead of a truffle or shell-fish, such a thing as a wife or a child be granted you, there is no objection; but if the captain calls, run to the ship, leave all these things, and never look behind. But if you are old, never go far from the ship, lest you should be missing when called for.


Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.

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Sickness is an impediment to the body, but not to the will, unless itself pleases. Lameness is an impediment to the leg, but not to the will; and say this to yourself with regard to everything that happens. For you will find it to be an impediment to something else, but not truly to yourself.


Upon every accident, remember to turn towards yourself and inquire what faculty you have for its use. If you encounter a handsome person, you will find continence the faculty needed; if pain, then fortitude; if reviling, then patience. And when thus habituated, the phenomena of existence will not overwhelm you.


Never say of anything, “I have lost it”; but, “I have restored it.” Has your child died? It is restored. Has your wife died? She is restored. Has your estate been taken away? That likewise is restored. “But it was a bad man who took it.” What is it to you, by whose hands He who gave it hath demanded it again? While He permits you to possess it, hold it as something not your own; as do travellers at an inn.


If you would improve, lay aside such reasonings as these: “If I neglect my affairs, I shall not have a maintenance; if I do not punish my servant, he will be good for nothing.” For it were better to die of hunger, exempt from grief and fear, than to live in affluence with perturbation; and it is better that your servant should be bad than you unhappy.

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Begin therefore with little things. Is a little oil spilt or a little wine stolen? Say to yourself, “This is the price paid for peace and tranquillity; and nothing is to be had for nothing.” And when you call your servant, consider that it is possible he may not come at your call; or, if he does, that he may not do what you wish. But it is not at all desirable for him, and very undesirable for you, that it should be in his power to cause you any disturbance.


If you would improve, be content to be thought foolish and dull with regard to externals. Do not desire to be thought to know anything; and though you should appear to others to be somebody, distrust yourself. For be assured, it is not easy at once to keep your will in harmony with nature, and to secure externals; but while you are absorbed in the one, you must of necessity neglect the other.


If you wish your children, and your wife, and your friends, to live forever, you are foolish; for you wish things to be in your power which are not so; and what belongs to others, to be your own. So likewise, if you wish your servant to be without fault, you are foolish; for you wish vice not to be vice, but something else. But if you wish not to be disappointed in your desires, that is in your own power. Exercise, therefore, what is in your power. A man’s master is he who is able to confer or remove whatever that man seeks or shuns. Whoever then would be free, let him wish nothing, let him decline nothing, which depends on others; else he must necessarily be a slave.

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Remember that you must behave as at a banquet. Is anything brought round to you? Put out your hand, and take a moderate share. Does it pass by you? Do not stop it. Is it not yet come? Do not yearn in desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you. So with regard to children, wife, office, riches; and you will some time or other be worthy to feast with the Gods. And if you do not so much as take the things which are set before you, but are able even to forego them, then you will not only be worthy to feast with the Gods, but to rule with them also. For, by thus doing, Diogenes and Heraclitus, and others like them, deservedly became divine, and were so recognized.


When you see any one weeping for grief, either that his son has gone abroad, or that he has suffered in his affairs; take care not to be overcome by the apparent evil. But discriminate, and be ready to say, “What hurts this man is not this occurrence itself, for another man might not be hurt by it; — but the view he chooses to take of it.” As far as conversation goes, however, do not disdain to accommodate yourself to him, and if need be, to groan with him. Take heed, however, not to groan inwardly too.


Remember that you are an actor in a drama of such sort as the author chooses. If short, then in a short one; if long, then in a long one. If it be his pleasure that you should act a poor man, see that you act it well; or a cripple, or a ruler, or a private Edition: current; Page: [382] citizen. For this is your business, to act well the given part; but to choose it, belongs to another.


When a raven happens to croak unluckily, be not overcome by appearances, but discriminate, and say, “Nothing is portended to me; but either to my paltry body, or property, or reputation, or children, or wife. But to me all portents are lucky, if I will. For whatsoever happens, it belongs to me to derive advantage therefrom.”


You can be unconquerable, if you enter into no combat, in which it is not in your own power to conquer. When, therefore, you see any one eminent in honors or power, or in high esteem on any other account, take heed not to be bewildered by appearances and to pronounce him happy; for if the essence of good consists in things within our own power, there will be no room for envy or emulation. But, for your part, do not desire to be a general, or a senator, or a consul, but to be free; and the only way to this is, a disregard of things which lie not within our own power.


Remember that it is not he who gives abuse or blows who affronts; but the view we take of these things as insulting. When, therefore, any one provokes you, be assured that it is your own opinion which provokes you. Try, therefore, in the first place, not to be bewildered by appearances. For if you once gain time and respite, you will more easily command yourself.

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Let death and exile, and all other things which appear terrible, be daily before your eyes, but death chiefly; and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything.


If you have an earnest desire towards philosophy, prepare yourself from the very first to have the multitude laugh and sneer, and say, “He is returned to us a philosopher all at once”; and “Whence this supercilious look?” Now for your part, do not have a supercilious look indeed; but keep steadily to those things which appear best to you, as one appointed by God to this particular station. For remember that, if you are persistent, those very persons who at first ridiculed, will afterwards admire you. But if you are conquered by them, you will incur a double ridicule.


If you ever happen to turn your attention to externals, for the pleasure of any one, be assured that you have ruined your scheme of life. Be contented, then, in everything, with being a philosopher; and, if you wish to seem so likewise to any one, appear so to yourself, and it will suffice you.


Let not such considerations as these distress you: “I shall live in discredit, and be nobody anywhere.” For if discredit be an evil, you can no more be involved in evil through another, than in baseness. Is it any business of yours, then, to get power, or to be admitted to an entertainment? By no means. How Edition: current; Page: [384] then, after all, is this discredit? And how is it true that you will be nobody anywhere; when you ought to be somebody in those things only which are within your own power, in which you may be of the greatest consequence? “But my friends will be unassisted.” What do you mean by unassisted? They will not have money from you; nor will you make them Roman citizens. Who told you, then, that these are among the things within our own power; and not rather the affairs of others? And who can give to another the things which he himself has not? “Well, but get them, then, that we too may have a share.” If I can get them with the preservation of my own honor, and fidelity, and self-respect, show me the way, and I will get them; but if you require me to lose my own proper good, that you may gain what is no good, consider how unreasonable and foolish you are. Besides, which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a faithful and honorable friend? Rather assist me, then, to gain this character, than require me to do those things by which I may lose it. Well, but my country, say you, as far as depends upon me, will be unassisted. Here again, what assistance is this you mean? It will not have porticos nor baths of your providing? And what signifies that? Why, neither does a smith provide it with shoes, nor a shoemaker with arms. It is enough if every one fully performs his own proper business. And were you to supply it with another faithful and honorable citizen, would not he be of use to it? Yes. Therefore neither are you yourself useless to it. “What place then,” say you, “shall I hold in the state?” Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your fidelity and honor. But if, by desiring Edition: current; Page: [385] to be useful to that, you lose these, how can you serve your country, when you have become faithless and shameless?


Is any one preferred before you at an entertainment, or in courtesies, or in confidential intercourse? If these things are good, you ought to rejoice that he has them; and if they are evil, do not be grieved that you have them not. And remember that you cannot be permitted to rival others in externals, without using the same means to obtain them. For how can he, who will not haunt the door of any man, will not attend him, will not praise him, have an equal share with him who does these things? You are unjust, then, and unreasonable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing. For how much are lettuces sold? An obolus, for instance. If another, then, paying an obolus takes the lettuces, and you, not paying it, go without them, do not imagine that he has gained any advantage over you. For as he has the lettuces, so you have the obolus which you did not give. So, in the present case, you have not been invited to such a person’s entertainment; because you have not paid him the price for which a supper is sold. It is sold for praise; it is sold for attendance. Give him, then, the value, if it be for your advantage. But if you would at the same time not pay the one, and yet receive the other, you are unreasonable and foolish. Have you nothing, then, in place of the supper? Yes, indeed you have; not to praise him whom you do not like to praise; not to bear the insolence of his lackeys.

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The will of Nature may be learned from things upon which we are all agreed. As, when our neighbor’s boy has broken a cup, or the like, we are ready at once to say, “These are casualties that will happen.” Be assured, then, that when your own cup is likewise broken, you ought to be affected just as when another’s cup was broken. Now apply this to greater things. Is the child or wife of another dead? There is no one who would not say, “This is an accident of mortality.” But if any one’s own child happens to die, it is immediately, “Alas! how wretched am I!” It should be always remembered how we are affected on hearing the same thing concerning others.


As a mark* is not set up for the sake of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world.


If a person had delivered up your body to some passer-by, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in delivering up your own mind to any reviler, to be disconcerted and confounded?



Duties are universally measured by relations. Is a certain man your father? In this are implied, taking Edition: current; Page: [387] care of him; submitting to him in all things; patiently receiving his reproaches, his correction. But he is a bad father. Is your natural tie, then, to a good father? No, but to a father. Is a brother unjust? Well, preserve your own just relation towards him. Consider not what he does; but what you are to do, to keep your own will in a state conformable to nature. For another cannot hurt you, unless you please. You will then be hurt when you consent to be hurt. In this manner, therefore, if you accustom yourself to contemplate the relations of neighbor, citizen, commander, you can deduce from each the corresponding duties.


Be assured that the essence of piety towards the Gods lies in this, to form right opinions concerning them, as existing, and as governing the universe justly and well. And fix yourself in this resolution, to obey them, and yield to them, and willingly follow them amidst all events, as being ruled by the most perfect wisdom. For thus you will never find fault with the Gods, nor accuse them of neglecting you. And it is not possible for this to be effected in any other way, than by withdrawing yourself from things which are not within our own power, and by making good or evil to consist only in those which are. For if you suppose any other things to be either good or evil, it is inevitable that, when you are disappointed of what you wish, or incur what you would avoid, you should reproach and blame their authors. For every creature is naturally formed to flee and abhor things that appear hurtful, and that which causes them; and to pursue and admire those which appear Edition: current; Page: [388] beneficial, and that which causes them. It is impracticable, then, that one who supposes himself to be hurt, should rejoice in the person who, as he thinks, hurts him; just as it is impossible to rejoice in the hurt itself. Hence, also, a father is reviled by his son, when he does not impart the things which seem to be good; and this made Polynices and Eteocles mutually enemies, that empire seemed good to both. On this account the husbandman reviles the Gods; — the sailor, the merchant, or those who have lost wife or child. For where our interest is, there too is piety directed. So that whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he ought, is thus made careful of piety likewise. But it also becomes incumbent on every one to offer libations, and sacrifices, and first-fruits, according to the customs of his country, purely, and not heedlessly nor negligently; not avariciously, nor yet extravagantly.


When you have recourse to divination, remember that you know not what the event will be, and you come to learn it of the diviner; but of what nature it is you knew before coming; at least, if you are of philosophic mind. For if it is among the things not within our own power, it can by no means be either good or evil. Do not, therefore, bring with you to the diviner either desire or aversion, — else you will approach him trembling, — but first clearly understand, that every event is indifferent, and nothing to you, of whatever sort it may be; for it will be in your power to make a right use of it, and this no one can hinder. Then come with confidence to the Gods as your counsellors; and afterwards, when any counsel Edition: current; Page: [389] is given you, remember what counsellors you have assumed, and whose advice you will neglect, if you disobey. Come to divination, as Socrates prescribed, in cases of which the whole consideration relates to the event, and in which no opportunities are afforded by reason, or any other art, to discover the matter in view. When, therefore, it is our duty to share the danger of a friend or of our country, we ought not to consult the oracle as to whether we shall share it with them or not. For though the diviner should forewarn you that the auspices are unfavorable, this means no more than that either death or mutilation or exile is portended. But we have reason within us; and it directs us, even with these hazards, to stand by our friend and our country. Attend, therefore, to the greater diviner, the Pythian God, who once cast out of the temple him who neglected to save his friend.*


Begin by prescribing to yourself some character and demeanor, such as you may preserve both alone and in company.

Be mostly silent; or speak merely what is needful, and in few words. We may, however, enter sparingly into discourse sometimes, when occasion calls for it; but let it not run on any of the common subjects, as gladiators, or horse-races, or athletic champions, or food, or drink, — the vulgar topics of conversation; and especially not on men, so as either to blame, or praise, or make comparisons. If you are Edition: current; Page: [390] able, then, by your own conversation, bring over that of your company to proper subjects; but if you happen to find yourself among strangers, be silent.

Let not your laughter be loud, frequent, or abundant.

Avoid taking oaths, if possible, altogether; at any rate, so far as you are able.

Avoid public and vulgar entertainments; but if ever an occasion calls you to them, keep your attention upon the stretch, that you may not imperceptibly slide into vulgarity. For be assured that if a person be ever so pure himself, yet, if his companion be corrupted, he who converses with him will be corrupted likewise.

Provide things relating to the body no farther than absolute need requires; as meat, drink, clothing, house, retinue. But cut off everything that looks towards show and luxury.

Before marriage, guard yourself with all your ability from unlawful intercourse with women; yet be not uncharitable or severe to those who are led into this, nor frequently boast that you yourself do otherwise.

If any one tells you that such a person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you, but answer: “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”

It is not necessary for you to appear often at public spectacles; but if ever there is a proper occasion for you to be there, do not appear more solicitous for any other, than for yourself; that is, wish things to be only just as they are, and only the best man to win; for thus nothing will go against you. But abstain entirely from acclamations, and derision, and Edition: current; Page: [391] violent emotions. And when you come away, do not discourse a great deal on what has passed, and what contributes nothing to your own amendment. For it would appear by such discourse that you were dazzled by the show.

Be not prompt or ready to attend private recitations; but if you do attend, preserve your gravity and dignity, and yet avoid making yourself disagreeable.

When you are going to confer with any one, and especially with one who seems your superior, represent to yourself how Socrates or Zeno would behave in such a case, and you will not be at a loss to meet properly whatever may occur.

When you are going before any one in power, fancy to yourself that you may not find him at home, that you may be shut out, that the doors may not be opened to you, that he may not notice you. If, with all this, it be your duty to go, bear what happens, and never say to yourself, “It was not worth so much.” For this is vulgar, and like a man bewildered by externals.

In society, avoid a frequent and excessive mention of your own actions and dangers. For however agreeable it may be to yourself to allude to the risks you have run, it is not equally agreeable to others to hear your adventures. Avoid likewise an endeavor to excite laughter. For this may readily slide you into vulgarity, and, besides, may be apt to lower you in the esteem of your acquaintance. Approaches to indecent discourse are likewise dangerous. Therefore when anything of this sort happens, use the first fit opportunity to rebuke him who makes advances that way; or, at least, by silence, and blushing, and Edition: current; Page: [392] a serious look, show yourself to be displeased by such talk.


If you are dazzled by the semblance of any promised pleasure, guard yourself against being bewildered by it; but let the affair wait your leisure, and procure yourself some delay. Then bring to your mind both points of time; that in which you shall enjoy the pleasure, and that in which you will repent and reproach yourself, after you have enjoyed it; and set before you, in opposition to these, how you will rejoice and applaud yourself, if you abstain. And even though it should appear to you a seasonable gratification, take heed that its enticements and allurements and seductions may not subdue you; but set in opposition to this, how much better it is to be conscious of having gained so great a victory.


When you do anything from a clear judgment that it ought to be done, never shrink from being seen to do it, even though the world should misunderstand it; for if you are not acting rightly, shun the action itself; if you are, why fear those who wrongly censure you?


As the proposition, either it is day, or it is night, has much force in a disjunctive argument, but none at all in a conjunctive one; so, at a feast, to choose the largest share, is very suitable to the bodily appetite, but utterly inconsistent with the social spirit of the entertainment. Remember, then, when you eat with another, not only the value to the body of those things which are set before you, but also the value of proper courtesy towards your host.

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If you have assumed any character beyond your strength, you have both demeaned yourself ill in that, and quitted one which you might have supported.


As in walking you take care not to tread upon a nail, or turn your foot, so likewise take care not to hurt the ruling faculty of your mind. And if we were to guard against this in every action, we should enter upon action more safely.


The body is to every one the proper measure of its possessions, as the foot is of the shoe. If, therefore, you stop at this, you will keep the measure; but if you move beyond it, you must necessarily be carried forward, as down a precipice; as in the case of a shoe, if you go beyond its fitness to the foot, it comes first to be gilded, then purple, and then studded with jewels. For to that which once exceeds the fit measure there is no bound.


Women from fourteen years old are flattered by men with the title of mistresses. Therefore, perceiving that they are regarded only as qualified to give men pleasure, they begin to adorn themselves, and in that to place all their hopes. It is worth while, therefore, to try that they may perceive themselves honored only so far as they appear beautiful in their demeanor, and modestly virtuous.

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It is a mark of want of intellect, to spend much time in things relating to the body; as to be immoderate in exercises, in eating and drinking, and in the discharge of other animal functions. These things should be done incidentally and our main strength be applied to our reason.


When any person does ill by you, or speaks ill of you, remember that he acts or speaks from an impression that it is right for him to do so. Now, it is not possible that he should follow what appears right to you, but only what appears so to himself. Therefore, if he judges from false appearances, he is the person hurt; since he too is the person deceived. For if any one takes a true proposition to be false, the proposition is not hurt, but only the man is deceived. Setting out, then, from these principles, you will meekly bear with a person who reviles you; for you will say upon every occasion, “It seemed so to him.”


Everything has two handles: one by which it may be borne; another by which it cannot. If your brother acts unjustly, do not lay hold on the affair by the handle of his injustice; for by that it cannot be borne: but rather by the opposite, that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it as it is to be borne.


These reasonings have no logical connection: “I am richer than you; therefore I am your superior”: Edition: current; Page: [395] “I am more eloquent than you; therefore I am your superior.” The true logical connection is rather this: “I am richer than you; therefore my possessions must exceed yours”: “I am more eloquent than you; therefore my style must surpass yours.” But you, after all, consist neither in property nor in style.


Does any one bathe hastily? Do not say, that he does it ill, but hastily. Does any one drink much wine? Do not say that he does ill, but that he drinks a great deal. For unless you perfectly understand his motives, how should you know if he acts ill? Thus you will not risk yielding to any appearances but such as you fully comprehend.


Never proclaim yourself a philosopher; nor make much talk among the ignorant about your principles, but show them by actions. Thus, at an entertainment, do not discourse how people ought to eat; but eat as you ought. For remember that thus Socrates also universally avoided all ostentation. And when persons came to him, and desired to be introduced by him to philosophers, he took them and introduced them; so well did he bear being overlooked. So if ever there should be among the ignorant any discussion of principles, be for the most part silent. For there is great danger in hastily throwing out what is undigested. And if any one tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have really entered on your work. For sheep do not hastily throw up the grass, to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; Edition: current; Page: [396] but, inwardly digesting their food, they produce it outwardly in wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you not make an exhibition before the ignorant of your principles; but of the actions to which their digestion gives rise.


When you have learned to nourish your body frugally, do not pique yourself upon it; nor, if you drink water, be saying upon every occasion, “I drink water.” But first consider how much more frugal are the poor than we, and how much more patient of hardship. But if at any time you would inure yourself by exercise to labor and privation, for your own sake and not for the public, do not attempt great feats; but when you are violently thirsty, just rinse your mouth with water, and tell nobody.


The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person is, that he never looks for either help or harm from himself, but only from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher is, that he looks to himself for all help or harm. The marks of a proficient are, that he censures no one, praises no one, blames no one, accuses no one; says nothing concerning himself as being anybody, or knowing anything: when he is in any instance hindered or restrained, he accuses himself; and if he is praised, he smiles to himself at the person who praises him; and if he is censured, he makes no defence. But he goes about with the caution of a convalescent, careful of interference with anything that is doing well, but not yet quite secure. He restrains desire; he transfers Edition: current; Page: [397] his aversion to those things only which thwart the proper use of our own will; he employs his energies moderately in all directions; if he appears stupid or ignorant, he does not care; and, in a word, he keeps watch over himself as over an enemy and one in ambush.


When any one shows himself vain, on being able to understand and interpret the works of Chrysippus, say to yourself: “Unless Chrysippus had written obscurely, this person would have had nothing to be vain of. But what do I desire? To understand Nature, and follow her. I ask, then, who interprets her; and hearing that Chrysippus does, I have recourse to him. I do not understand his writings. I seek, therefore, one to interpret them.” So far there is nothing to value myself upon. And when I find an interpreter, what remains is, to make use of his instructions. This alone is the valuable thing. But if I admire merely the interpretation, what do I become more than a grammarian, instead of a philosopher? Except, indeed, that instead of Homer I interpret Chrysippus. When any one, therefore, desires me to read Chrysippus to him, I rather blush, when I cannot exhibit actions that are harmonious and consonant with his discourse.


Whatever rules you have adopted, abide by them as laws, and as if you would be impious to transgress them; and do not regard what any one says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours. How long, then, will you delay to demand of yourself the noblest improvements, and in no instance to transgress Edition: current; Page: [398] the judgments of reason? You have received the philosophic principles with which you ought to be conversant; and you have been conversant with them. For what other master, then, do you wait as an excuse for this delay in self-reformation? You are no longer a boy, but a grown man. If, therefore, you will be negligent and slothful, and always add procrastination to procrastination, purpose to purpose, and fix day after day in which you will attend to yourself, you will insensibly continue to accomplish nothing, and, living and dying, remain of vulgar mind. This instant, then, think yourself worthy of living as a man grown up and a proficient. Let whatever appears to be the best, be to you an inviolable law. And if any instance of pain or pleasure, glory or disgrace, be set before you, remember that now is the combat, now the Olympiad comes on, nor can it be put off; and that by one failure and defeat honor may be lost — or won. Thus Socrates became perfect, improving himself by everything; following reason alone. And though you are not yet a Socrates, you ought, however, to live as one seeking to be a Socrates.


The first and most necessary topic in philosophy is the practical application of principles; as, We ought not to lie: the second is that of demonstrations; as, Why it is that we ought not to lie: the third, that which gives strength and logical connection to the other two; as, Why this is a demonstration. For what is demonstration? What is a consequence? What a contradiction? What truth? What falsehood? The third point is then necessary on account of the second; and the second on account of the first. But Edition: current; Page: [399] the most necessary, and that whereon we ought to rest, is the first. But we do just the contrary. For we spend all our time on the third point, and employ all our diligence about that, and entirely neglect the first. Therefore, at the same time that we lie, we are very ready to show how it is demonstrated that lying is wrong.


Upon all occasions we ought to have these maxims ready at hand: —

    • Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny,
    • Wherever your decrees have fixed my lot.
    • I follow cheerfully; and, did I not,
    • Wicked and wretched, I must follow still.*
    • Whoe’er yields properly to Fate is deemed
    • Wise among men, and knows the laws of Heaven.

And this third: —

“O Crito, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be.” “Anytus and Melitus may kill me indeed; but hurt me they cannot.”

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A LIFE at odds with Fortune resembles a wintry torrent; for it is turbulent and muddy and difficult to pass, and violent and noisy and brief.

A soul conversant with virtue resembles a perpetual fountain; for it is clear and gentle and agreeable and sweet and serviceable and rich and harmless and innocent.


If you would be good, first believe that you are bad.


It is better sometimes frankly to offend, and act often wisely, than to say we seldom err and offend frequently.


Chastise your passions, that they may not chastise you.

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Be not so much ashamed of what is inglorious, as studious to shun what is untruthful.


If you would be well spoken of, learn to speak well of others. And when you have learned to speak well, endeavor likewise to do well; and thus you will reap the fruit of being well spoken of.


Freedom and slavery are merely names of virtue and of vice; and both these are matters of will. But neither of them belongs to things in which will has no share. But Fortune is accustomed to dispose at her pleasure of the body, and those things relating to the body in which will has no share. For no one is a slave whose will is free.

Fortune is an evil chain to the body, and vice to the soul. For he whose body is unbound, and whose soul is chained, is a slave. On the contrary, he whose body is chained, and his soul unbound, is free. The chain of the body, Nature unbinds by death, or baseness for money; the chain of the soul, virtue unbinds by wisdom and experience and philosophic training.


If you would live tranquil and contented, endeavor that all who live with you may be good. And you can have them good by instructing the willing and dismissing the unwilling. For sin and bondage will fly with those who leave you, and with those who remain with you will virtue and liberty be left.

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It is scandalous, that he who sweetens his drink by the gift of the bees, should by vice embitter reason, the gift of the Gods.


No one who is a lover of money, a lover of pleasure, or a lover of glory, is likewise a lover of mankind; but only he who is a lover of virtue.


As you would not wish to sail in a large and elegant and gilded ship, and sink; so neither is it desirable to inhabit a grand and sumptuous house, and be in a tumult.


When we are invited to an entertainment we take what we find; and if any one should bid the master of the house set fish or tarts before him, he would be thought absurd. Yet in the world we ask the Gods for what they do not give us; and that, though there are so many things which they have given us.


They are pretty fellows indeed, said he, who value themselves on things not in our own power. I am a better man than you, says one; for I have many estates, and you are pining with hunger. I have been consul, says another; I am a ruler, says a third; and I have a fine head of hair, says a fourth. Yet one horse does not say to another, “I am better than you; for I have a great deal of hay and a great deal of oats; and I have a gold bridle and embroidered trappings”; but only, “I am swifter than you.” And every creature is better or worse from its own Edition: current; Page: [406] good or bad qualities. Is man, then, the only creature which has no natural good quality? And must we take account of hair, and clothes, and ancestors?


Patients are displeased with a physician who does not prescribe to them; and think he gives them over. And why are none so affected towards a philosopher as to conclude that he despairs of their recovery to a right way of thinking, if he tells them nothing for their good?


They who have a good constitution of body can bear heat and cold; and so they who have a right constitution of soul can meet anger and grief and immoderate joy and the other passions.


Examine yourself, whether you had rather be rich or happy; and if rich, be assured that this is neither a good, nor altogether in your own power; but if happy, that this is both a good, and in your own power; since the one is a temporary loan of Fortune, and the other depends on will.


As when you see a viper, or an asp, or a scorpion, in a box of ivory or gold, you do not love it or think it happy because of the magnificence of the material in which it is enclosed; but you shun and detest it, because it is of a pernicious nature: so, likewise, when you see vice lodged in the midst of wealth, and the swelling pride of fortune, be not struck by the splendor of the material with which it is surrounded; but despise the base alloy of its manners.

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Riches are not among the number of things which are good; prodigality is of the number of those which are evil; modesty of those which are good. Now modesty invites to frugality and the acquisition of things that are good; but riches invite to prodigality and seduce from modesty. It is difficult, therefore, for a rich person to be modest, or a modest person rich.


If you had been born and bred in a ship, you would not be impatient to become the pilot. For you are not necessarily identified with the ship there, nor with riches here; but with reason everywhere. That therefore which is natural and congenial to you, reason, think likewise to be peculiarly your own, and take care of it.


If you were born in Persia, you would not endeavor to live in Greece; but to be happy in the place where you were. Why, then, if you are born in poverty, do you yearn to be rich, and not rather to be happy in the condition where you are?


As it is better to lie straitened for room upon a little couch, in health, than to toss upon a wide bed in sickness, so it is better to contract yourself within the compass of a small fortune, and be happy, than to have a great one and be wretched.


It is not poverty that causes sorrow, but covetous desires; nor do riches deliver from fear, but only reasoning. Edition: current; Page: [408] If therefore you acquire a habit of reasoning, you will neither desire riches, nor complain of poverty.


A horse is not elated, and does not value himself on his fine stable or trappings or saddle-cloths, nor a bird on the warm materials of its nest; but the former on the swiftness of his feet, and the latter of its wings. Do not you, therefore, glory in your food or dress; or in short any external advantage; but in integrity and beneficence.


There is a difference between living well and living profusely. The one arises from contentment and order and propriety and frugality; the other from dissoluteness and luxury and disorder and indecency. In short, to the one belongs true praise; to the other, censure. If therefore you would live well, do not seek to be praised for profuseness.


Let the first satisfaction of appetite be always the measure to you of eating and drinking; and appetite itself the sauce and the pleasure. Thus you will never take more than is necessary, nor will you want cooks; and you will be contented with whatever drink falls in your way.


Consider that you do not thrive merely by the food in your stomach; but by the elevation of your soul. For the former, as you see, is evacuated and carried off altogether; but the latter, though the soul be parted, remains uncorrupted through all things.

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In every feast remember that there are two guests to be entertained, the body and the soul; and that what you give the body you presently lose, but what you give the soul remains forever.


Do not mingle anger with profusion, and set them before your guests. Profusion, when it has made its way through the body, is quickly gone; but anger, when it has penetrated the soul, abides for a long time. Take care not to pay a great price merely to be transported with anger, and affront your guests; but rather delight them at a cheap rate by gentle behavior.


Take care at your meals that the attendants be not more in number than those whom they are to attend. For it is absurd that many persons should wait on a few chairs.


It would be best if, both while you are personally making your preparations and while you are feasting at table, you could give among the servants part of what is before you. But if such a thing be difficult at that time, remember that you, who are not weary, are attended by those who are; you who are eating and drinking, by those who are not; you who are talking, by those who are silent; you who are at ease, by those who are under constraint: and thus you will never be heated into any unreasonable passion yourself, nor do any mischief by provoking another.

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Strife and contention are always absurd, but particularly unbecoming at table conversations. For a person warmed with wine will never either teach, or be convinced by, one who is sober. And wherever sobriety is wanting, the end will show that you have exerted yourself to no purpose.


Grasshoppers are musical; but snails are dumb. The latter rejoice in being wet; and the former in being warm. Then the dew calls out the one race, and for this they come forth; but, on the contrary, the noonday sun awakens the others, and in this they sing. If therefore you would be a musical and harmonious person, whenever the soul is bedewed with wine at drinking-parties, suffer her not to go forth and defile herself. But when in rational society she glows by the beams of reason, then command her to speak from inspiration, and utter the oracles of justice.


Consider him with whom you converse in one of these three ways; either as your superior, or inferior, or equal. If superior, you ought to hear him and be convinced; if inferior, to convince him; if equal, to agree with him; and thus you will never be led into the love of strife.


It is better, by yielding to truth, to conquer prejudice, than by yielding to principle to be defeated by truth.


If you seek truth, you will not seek merely victory Edition: current; Page: [411] at all hazards; and when you have found truth, you will have a security against being conquered.


Truth conquers by itself; prejudice, by appealing to externals.


It is better, through living with one free person, to be fearless and free, than to be a slave in company with many.


What you avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others. You avoid slavery, for instance; take care not to enslave. For if you can bear to exact slavery from others, you appear to have been yourself a slave. For vice has nothing in common with virtue, nor freedom with slavery. As a person in health would not wish to be attended by the sick, nor to have those who live with him in a state of sickness; so neither would a person who is free bear to be served by slaves, nor to have those who live with him in a state of slavery.


Whoever you are that would live apart from slaves, deliver yourself from slavery. And you will be free if you deliver yourself from appetite. For neither was Aristides called just, nor Epaminondas divine, nor Lycurgus a preserver, because they were rich and slave-holders; but because, being poor, they delivered Greece from slavery.


If you would have your house securely inhabited, Edition: current; Page: [412] imitate the Spartan Lycurgus. And as he did not enclose his city with walls, but fortified the inhabitants with virtue, and preserved the city always free; so do you, likewise, not surround yourself with a great court-yard, nor raise high towers, but strengthen those who live with you by benevolence, and fidelity, and friendship. And thus nothing hurtful will enter, even if the whole band of wickedness be set in array against it.


Do not hang your house round with tablets and pictures; but adorn it with virtue. For those are merely foreign and a fading deception of the eyes; but this, a congenial and indelible and perpetual ornament to the house.


Instead of herds of oxen, endeavor to assemble flocks of friends about your house.


As a wolf resembles a dog, so much does a flatterer, an adulterer, a parasite, resemble a friend. Take heed therefore, that instead of guardian dogs, you do not inadvertently admit ravening wolves.


To seek admiration by adorning one’s house with stucco belongs to a tasteless man; but to adorn our characters by the charm of an amiable nature shows at once a lover of beauty and a lover of man.


If you chiefly admire little things, you will never Edition: current; Page: [413] be held worthy of great ones; but if you are above little things, you will be held greatly worthy.


Nothing is meaner than the love of pleasure, the love of gain, and insolence. Nothing is nobler than magnanimity, meekness, and philanthropy.


[We represent] those intractable philosophers who do not think pleasure to be in itself the natural state of man; but merely an incident of those things in which his natural state consists, — justice, moderation, and freedom. Why, then, should the soul rejoice and be glad in the minor blessings of the body, as Epicurus says, and not be pleased with its own good, which is the very greatest? And yet Nature has given me likewise a sense of shame; and I am covered with blushes when I think I have uttered any indecent expression. This emotion will not suffer me to recognize pleasure as a good and the end of life.


The ladies at Rome have Plato’s Republic in their hands, because he allows a community of wives; for they attend merely to the words of the author, and not to his sense. For he does not first order one man and one woman to marry and live together, and then allow a community of wives; but he abolishes that system of marriage, and introduces one of another kind. And, in general, men are pleased in finding out excuses for their own faults. Yet philosophy says, it is not fit even to move a finger without some reason.

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It is the rarest pleasures which especially delight us.


Once exceed moderation, and the most delightful things may become the most undelightful.


Agrippinus was justly entitled to praise on this account, that, though he was a man of the highest worth, he never praised himself; but blushed, even if another praised him. And he was a man of such a character, as to commend every untoward event that befell him: if he was feverish, the fever; if disgraced, the disgrace; if banished, the banishment. And, when once, as he was going to dine, a messenger brought him word that Nero ordered him to banishment; Well then, said Agrippinus, let us dine at Aricia.*


Diogenes affirmed no labor to be good, unless the end were a due state and tone of the soul, and not of the body.


As a true balance is neither set right by a true one, nor judged by a false one; so likewise a just person has neither to be set right by just persons, nor to be judged by unjust ones.


As what is straight needs no straightness, so what is just needs [to borrow] no justice.

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Give no judgment from another tribunal before you have yourself been judged at the tribunal of absolute justice.


If you would give a just decision, heed neither parties nor pleaders, but the cause itself.


You will commit the fewest faults in judging, if you are faultless in your own life.


It is better, by giving a just judgment, to be blamed by him who is deservedly condemned, than by giving an unjust judgment, to be justly censured by Nature.


As the touchstone which tries gold, but is not itself tried by the gold; such is he, who has the standard of judgment.


It is scandalous for a judge to have to be judged by others.


As nothing is straighter than absolute straightness, so nothing is juster than absolute justice.


Who among you does not admire the action of Lycurgus the Lacedemonian? For when he had been deprived of one of his eyes by one of the citizens, and the people had delivered the young man to Edition: current; Page: [416] him, to be punished in whatever manner he should think proper, Lycurgus forbore to give him any punishment. But having instructed him, and rendered him a good man, he brought him into the theatre; and while the Lacedemonians were struck with admiration: “I received,” said he, “this person from you, dangerous and violent, and I restore him to you gentle and a good citizen.”


When Pittacus had been unjustly treated by some person, and had the power of chastising him, he let him go, saying, “Forgiveness is better than punishment; for the one is the proof of a gentle, the other of a savage nature.”


This, above all, is the business of nature, to connect and apply the active powers to what appears fit and beneficial.


It is the character of the most mean-spirited and foolish men, to suppose that they shall be despised by others, unless they somehow strike the first blow at their enemies.


When you are going to attack any one with vehemence and threatening, remember to say first to yourself, that you are constituted gentle, and that by doing nothing violent, you will live without the need of repentance, and irreproachable.


We ought to know that it is not easy for a man to form his principles of action, unless he daily reiterates Edition: current; Page: [417] and hears the same things, and at the same time applies them in action.


Nicias was so intent on business, that he often asked his domestics whether he had bathed, and whether he had dined.


While Archimedes was intent on his diagrams, his servants drew him away by violence, and anointed* him, and after his body was anointed, he traced his figures upon that.


When Lampis, the naval commander, was asked how he acquired wealth; he answered, that great wealth cost but little trouble, but that a little wealth [at the beginning] cost a great deal.


When Solon was silent at an entertainment, and was asked by Periander, whether he was silent for want of words, or from folly: “No fool,” answered he, “can be silent at a feast.”


Consult nothing so much, upon every occasion, as discretion. Now it is more discreet to be silent than to speak; and to omit speaking whatever is not accompanied with sense and reason.


As light-houses in harbors, by kindling a great Edition: current; Page: [418] flame from a few faggots, afford a considerable assistance to ships wandering on the sea; so an illustrious person, in a state harassed by storms, confers great benefits on his fellow-citizens, when himself contented with little.


You would certainly, if you undertook to steer a ship, learn the steersman’s art. And as in that case, you can steer the whole ship; so in another case, the whole state.


If you have a mind to adorn your city by consecrated monuments, first consecrate in yourself the most beautiful monument, — of gentleness, and justice, and benevolence.


You will confer the greatest benefits on your city, not by raising its roofs, but by exalting its souls. For it is better that great souls should live in small habitations, than that abject slaves should burrow in great houses.


Do not variegate the structure of your walls with Eubœan and Spartan stone; but adorn both the minds of the citizens and of those who govern them by the Greek culture. For cities are made good habitations by the sentiments of those who live in them, not by wood or stone.


As, if you were to breed lions, you would not be solicitous about the magnificence of their dens, but about the qualities of the animals; so, if you undertake to preside over your fellow-citizens, be not so Edition: current; Page: [419] solicitous about the magnificence of the buildings, as careful of the nobleness of those who inhabit them.


As a skilful manager of horses does not feed the good colts, and suffer the unruly ones to starve; but feeds them both alike, chastising the one more, to make him draw equally with his fellow; so a man of foresight and administrative skill endeavors to do good to the well-disposed citizens, but not at once to destroy those that are otherwise. He by no means denies subsistence to either of them; only he disciplines and urges on, with the greater vehemence, him who resists reason and the laws.


As a goose is not alarmed by hissing, nor a sheep by bleating; so neither be you terrified by the voice of a senseless multitude.


As you do not comply with a multitude, when it unreasonably asks of you any part of your own property; so neither be disconcerted before a mob, demanding of you any unjust compliance.


Pay in advance your dues to the public, and you will never be asked for what is not due.


As the sun waits not for prayers and incantations to be prevailed on to rise, but immediately shines forth, and is received with universal salutation; so Edition: current; Page: [420] neither do you wait for applauses and shouts and praises in order to do good; but be a voluntary benefactor, and you will be beloved like the sun.


A ship ought not to be held by one anchor, nor life by a single hope.


We ought not to stretch either our legs or our hopes for a point they cannot reach


Thales, being asked what was the most universal possession, answered, “Hope; for they have it who have nothing else.”


It is more necessary for the soul to be healed than the body; for it is better to die than to live ill.


Pyrrho used to say, “There is no difference between living and dying.” A person asked him, Why then do you not die? “Because,” answered Pyrrho, “there is no difference.”


Nature is admirable, and, as Xenophon says, avaricious of life. Hence we love and tend the body, which is of all things the most unpleasant and squalid. For if we were obliged, for only five days, to take care of our neighbor’s body, we would not endure it. For only consider what it would be, when we rise in the morning, to clean the teeth of others, Edition: current; Page: [421] and do all requisite offices besides. In reality, it is wonderful that we should love a thing which every day demands so much attendance. I stuff this sack, and then I empty it again. What is more troublesome? But I must obey God. Therefore I remain, and endure to wash and feed and clothe this poor body. When I was younger, he demanded of me still more, and I bore it. And when Nature, which gave the body, takes it away, will you not bear that? “I love it,” say you. This is what I have just been observing; and this very love has Nature given you, but she also says, “Now let it go, and have no further trouble.”


When a young man dies, some one blames the Gods that, at the time when he himself ought to be at rest, he is still encumbered with the troubles of life. Yet when death approaches, he wishes to live, and sends for the physician, and entreats him to omit no care or pains. It is marvellous that men should not be willing either to live or die.


To a longer and worse life, a shorter and better is by all means to be preferred by every one.


When we are children, our parents deliver us to the care of a tutor; who is continually to watch over us that we get no hurt. When we are become men, God delivers us to the guardianship of an implanted conscience. We ought by no means, then, to despise this guardian; for it will both displease God, and we shall be enemies to our own conscience.

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Riches ought to be used as the means to some end, and not lavished on every occasion.


All men should wish rather for virtue than for wealth, which is dangerous to the foolish, since vice is increased by riches. And in proportion as any one is foolish, he becomes the more profuse, through having the means of gratifying his passion for pleasure.


What ought not to be done, do not even think of doing.


Deliberate much before you speak or act; for what is once said or done you cannot recall.


Every place is safe to him who dwells with justice.


Crows pick out the eyes of the dead, when they are no longer of any use. But flatterers destroy the souls of the living by blinding their eyes.


The anger of a monkey and the threats of a flatterer deserve equal regard.


Kindly receive those who are willing to give good advice; but not those who upon every occasion are eager to flatter. For the former truly see what is Edition: current; Page: [423] advantageous; but the latter consider only the opinions of their superiors; and imitate the shadows of bodies, nodding assent to what they say.


An adviser ought, in the first place, to have a regard to the delicacy and sense of shame of the person admonished. For they who are beyond blushing are incorrigible.


It is better to advise than reproach; for the one is mild and friendly, the other stern and severe; the one corrects the erring, the other only convicts them.


Impart to strangers and persons in need according to your ability. For he who gives nothing to the needy shall receive nothing in his own need.


A person once brought clothes to a pirate, who had been cast ashore, and almost killed by the severity of the weather; then carried him to his house, and furnished him with all necessaries. Being reproached by some one for doing good to the evil; “I have paid this regard,” answered he, “not to the man, but to humanity.”


We ought not to choose every pleasure; but that whose end is good.


It belongs to a wise man to resist pleasure; and to a fool to be enslaved by it.

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In all vice, pleasure, being presented like a bait, draws sensual minds to the hook of perdition.


Choose rather to punish your appetites than to be punished by them.


No one is free who commands not himself.


The vine bears three clusters; the first of pleasure, the second of intoxication, the third of outrage.


Do not talk much over wine to show your learning; for your discourse will be unpleasing.


He is a drunkard who takes more than three glasses; and though he be not drunk, he has exceeded moderation.


Let discourse of God be renewed every day more surely than our food.


Think of God oftener than you breathe.


If you always remember that God stands by as a witness of whatever you do, either in soul or body, you will never err, either in your prayers or actions, and you will have God abiding with you.

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As it is pleasant to view the sea from the shore, so it is pleasant to one who has escaped, to remember his past labors.


Law aims to benefit human life; but it cannot, when men themselves choose to suffer, for it manifests its proper virtue on condition of obedience.


As physicians are the preservers of the sick, so are the laws, of the injured.


The justest laws are the truest.


It is decent to yield to a law, to a ruler, and to a wiser man.


Things done contrary to law are to be regarded as undone.


In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; in adversity, nothing is so difficult.


Time delivers fools from grief; and reason, wise men.


He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.

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Epictetus being asked how a person might grieve his enemy, answered, “By doing as well as possible himself.”


Let no wise man estrange himself from the government of the state; for it is both wicked to withdraw from being useful to the needy, and cowardly to give way to the worthless. For it is foolish to choose rather to be governed ill than to govern well.


Nothing is more becoming a ruler, than to despise no one, nor be insolent, but to preside over all impartially.


Any person may live happy in poverty, but few in wealth and power. So great is the advantage of poverty, that no wise man would exchange it for disreputable wealth; unless indeed Themistocles, the son of Neocles, the most wealthy of the Athenians, but poor in virtue, was better than Aristides and Socrates. But both himself and his wealth are perished, and without a name. For a bad man loses all in death; but virtue is eternal.


[Remember] that such is, and was, and will be, the nature of the world, nor is it possible that things should be otherwise than they now are; and that not only men and other creatures upon earth partake of this change and transformation, but diviner things also. For indeed even the four elements are transformed and metamorphosed; and earth becomes water, Edition: current; Page: [427] and water air, and this again is transformed into other things. And the same manner of transformation happens from things above to those below. Whoever endeavors to turn his mind towards these points, and persuade himself to receive with willingness what cannot be avoided, will pass his life in moderation and harmony.


He who is discontented with things present and allotted, is unskilled in life. But he who bears them, and the consequences arising from them, nobly and rationally, is worthy to be esteemed a good man.


All things serve and obey the [laws of the] universe; the earth, the sea, the sun, the stars, and the plants and animals of the earth. Our body likewise obeys the same, in being sick and well, young and old, and passing through the other changes decreed. It is therefore reasonable that what depends on ourselves, that is, our own understanding, should not be the only rebel. For the universe is powerful and superior, and consults the best for us by governing us in conjunction with the whole. And further; opposition, besides that it is unreasonable, and produces nothing except a vain struggle, throws us into pain and sorrows.

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The following Fragments are ascribed jointly to Epictetus and other authors.


Moderation, as it is a short and agreeable way, brings much delight and little trouble.


Fortify yourself with moderation; for this is an impregnable fortress.


Prefer nothing to truth, not even the choicest friendship, since this borders on those passions by which justice is both confounded and darkened.


Truth is an immortal and an eternal thing. It bestows not a beauty which time will wither, nor a courage which may quail before a human tribunal; but only things just and lawful, from which it divides and destroys all that is unjust.


We should have neither a blunt sword nor a pointless speech.


Nature has given man one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear twice as much as we speak.


Nothing is in reality either pleasant or unpleasant by nature; but all things become such through habit.

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Choose the best life; for habit will make it pleasant.


Choose rather to leave your children well instructed than rich. For the hopes of the wise are better than the riches of the ignorant.


A daughter is to a father a possession which is not his own.


The same person advised to bequeath modesty to children, rather than gold.


The reproof of a father is an agreeable medicine; for the profit is greater than the pain.


He who is fortunate in a son-in-law, finds a son; he who is unfortunate in one, loses likewise a daughter.


The worth of instruction, like that of gold, passes current in every place.


He who cultivates wisdom cultivates the knowledge of God.


There is no creature so beautiful as a man adorned by instruction.

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We ought to flee the friendship of the wicked, and the enmity of the good.


Misfortunes test friends, and detect enemies.


We ought to do well by our friends, when they are present; and speak well of them, when they are absent.


Let him not think himself loved by any, who loves none.


We ought to choose, both for a physician and for a friend, not the most agreeable, but the most useful.


If you would lead a life without sorrow, regard things which will happen, as if they had already happened.


Be exempt from grief; not like irrational creatures, from insensibility, nor from inconsiderateness, like fools; but like a man of virtue, making reason the remedy for grief.


They whose minds are the least grieved by calamities, and who best meet them in action, are the greatest both in public and in private life.


They who are well instructed, like those who are Edition: current; Page: [431] exercised in the Palæstra, if they happen to fall quickly and dexterously rise again from misfortunes.


We ought to call in reason, like a good physician, to our assistance in misfortune.


Too much intoxication from good fortune, as from drinking, makes a fool more senseless.


Envy is the adversary of the fortunate.


He who remembers what man is, can be discontented at nothing which happens.


A pilot and a fair wind are necessary to a happy voyage; reason and art, to a happy life.


Of good fortune, as of ripe fruit, we must make the most while it lasts.


He is unreasonable who quarrels with events which happen from natural necessity.

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The following Fragments are omitted by Mr. Upton; but as they stand under the name of Arrian, and seem to be in the spirit of Epictetus, they are added here.


*WHAT does it signify to me, said he, whether the universe is composed of atoms or uncompounded substances, — or of fire and earth? Is it not sufficient to know the essence of good and evil, and the proper bounds of the desires and aversions, and of the active powers; and by making use of these as so many certain rules, to order the conduct of life, and let go these things which are above us; which, perhaps, are incomprehensible to human understanding, but if one should suppose them ever so comprehensible, are still of doubtful benefit when comprehended. And must it not be said that he gives himself trouble to no purpose who attributes these things as essential to the character of a philosopher? “What, then, is the Delphic admonition, Know thyself, superfluous?” “No, surely,” said he. “What, then, does it mean?” If any one should admonish a performer in a chorus to know himself, would he not take it as a hint to improve his motions?


The same person being asked, “Wherein do the diligent have the advantage of the slothful?” answered, “Wherein the pious have the advantage of the impious: — in good hopes.”

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*Walls give to cities, and education to minds, ornament and security.


When a young man was giving himself airs in a public place, and saying, that he had grown wise by conversing with many wise men: “I have conversed too,” answered somebody, “with many rich men, but I have not grown rich.”


Socrates, being sent for by Archelaus, as designing to make him a rich man, returned him this answer: “Four quarts of meal are sold at Athens for five denarii, and the fountains run with water. If what I have is not sufficient for me, yet I am sufficiently able to make a shift with that; and thus it becomes sufficient for me. Do you not perceive that it makes no difference in the goodness of Polus’s voice, whether he performs the part of Œdipus in his regal state, or whether he is a wanderer and a beggar at Colonus? And shall a brave man appear worse than Polus, and not perform well in whatever part is imposed upon him by the Deity? Shall he not imitate Odysseus, who made no worse figure in rags than in a fine purple robe?”

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*There are some persons who are calmly of a high spirit, and do all the same things quietly, and as it were without anger, which those do who are hurried with strong passion. We are to guard, therefore, against the faults of such persons, as being much worse than those of violent anger. For people of the latter character are quickly satiated with vengeance; whereas the others, like persons in a slow fever, extend the excitement over a longer time.

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Cambridge: Stereotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.


See his translation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, B. III. c. 3, note.


Compare pages 12, 22, 29, 40, 44, 147, 255, 265, 288, etc.


Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticæ, B. II. c. 18. Salmasius, however, doubts the genuineness of this passage. (Com., ed. 1640, p. 3.) The same epigram has been attributed to Leonidas of Tarentum.


Plautius Lateranus, a Consul elect, was put to death by the command of Nero, for being privy to the conspiracy of Piso. His execution was so sudden, that he was not permitted to take leave of his wife and children; but was hurried into a place appropriated to the punishment of slaves, and there killed by the hand of the tribune Statius. He suffered in obstinate silence, and without making any reproach to Statius, who was concerned in the same plot for which he himself was punished. Tacitus, Ann. xv. c. 60. — C.

Epaphroditus was the master of requests and freedman of Nero, and the master of Epictetus. He assisted Nero in killing himself; for which he was condemned to death by Domitian. Suetonius in Vitâ Neronis, c. 49; Domit. c. 14. — C.


Thraseas Pætus, a Stoic philosopher, put to death by Nero. He was husband of Arria, so well known by that beautiful epigram in Martial. The expression of Tacitus concerning him is remarkable: “After the murder of so many excellent persons, Nero at last formed a desire of cutting off virtue itself, by the execution of Thraseas Pætus and Bareas Soranus.” Ann. xvi. c. 21. — C.

Rufus was a Tuscan, of the equestrian order, and a Stoic philosopher. When Vespasian banished the other philosophers, Rufus was alone excepted. — C.

Agrippinus was banished by Nero, for no other crime than the unfortunate death of his father, who had been causelessly killed by the command of Tiberius; and this had furnished a pretence for accusing him of hereditary disloyalty. Tacitus, Ann. xvi. c. 28, 29. — C.


Aricia, a town about sixteen miles from Rome, which lay in his road to banishment. — C.

The Spartans, to make a trial of the fortitude of their children, used to have them publicly whipped at the altar of Diana; and often with so much severity, that they expired. The boys supported this exercise with so much constancy as never to cry out, nor even groan. — C.


Nero was remarkably fond of theatrical entertainments; and used to introduce upon the stage the descendants of noble families, whom want had rendered venal. Tacitus, Ann. xiv. c. 14. — C.

An allusion to the purple border, which distinguished the dress of the Roman nobility. — C.

Helvidius Priscus was no less remarkable for his learning and philosophy, than for the sanctity of his manners and the love of his country. He behaved however with too much haughtiness on several occasions, to Vespasian, who sentenced him to death with great reluctance, and even forbade the execution, when it was too late. Sueton. in Vesp. § 15. — C.


Bato was a famous master of the Olympic exercises. — C.

Domitian ordered all the philosophers to be banished. To avoid this inconvenience, those who had a mind to disguise their profession, took off their beards. — C.


Chrysippus was regarded as the highest authority among the later Stoics; but not one of his seven hundred volumes has come down to posterity. — H.


Triptolemus was said to have introduced agriculture and vegetable food among men, under the guidance of Ceres. — H.

The New Academy denied the existence of any universal truths. — H.


This is a disputed passage, and something is probably lost. The above version mainly follows Upton and Mrs. Carter. — H.


Xenophon, Mem. I. 1; Homer, Iliad, X. 278. — H.


Sophocles, Œdipus Tyrannus, V. 1391. — H.


An island in the Ægean Sea, to which the Romans used to banish criminals. — C.


This passage is omitted as inexplicable by Mrs. Carter. Schweighaeuser says, “Tentare interpretationem possum; praestare non possum.” A passage just below I also have omitted, as the text is admitted to be in a hopeless state. — H.


Plato, Apologia, I. 28. — H.


Imitated from Iliad, xii. 328. — H.


This seems to be said by one of the hearers, who wanted to have the absurdities of the sceptics confuted and guarded against by regular argument. Epictetus allows this to be right, for such as have abilities and leisure; but recommends in others the more necessary task of curing their own moral disorders, and insinuates that the mere common occurrences of life are sufficient to overthrow the notions of the Pyrrhonists. — C.


This is not a literal quotation from Plato, but similar passages are to be found in his Laws, ix. 5; Sophist, § 29; Protagoras, § 87, etc. — H.


Euripides, Medea, 1087. — H.


Euripides, Fragments. — H.


The prescribed form of manumission. — H.


This discourse is supposed to have been addressed to a pupil, who feared to remain at Rome, because of the persecutions aimed by Domitian at the philosophers. — H.


In a speech which Cyrus made to his soldiers, after the battle with the Assyrians, he mentioned Chrysantas, one of his captains, with particular honor, for this instance of obedience. Xenoph. Cyrop. IV. 1. — C.


Diogenes Laertius in his life of Socrates (c. 42) gives the first verse of a hymn thus composed by him. — H.


A lady of high rank at Rome, banished from Italy, among many noble persons, by Domitian. — C.


Iliad, I. 526. — H.


Plato, Gorgias, § 69, and elsewhere. — H.


Hesiod, Theogony, 87. — H.


Homer, Iliad, xiii. 281. — H.

Antigonus Gonatas, king of Macedon, had so great an esteem for Zeno, that he often took a journey to Athens to visit him; and endeavored, by magnificent promises, to allure him to his court, but without success. He gave it as a reason for the distinguished regard which he paid him, that, though he had made him many, and very considerable offers, Zeno never appeared either mean or insolent. — C.


When Diogenes was sailing to Ægina, he was taken by pirates, and carried to Crete, and there exposed to sale. Being asked what he could do, he answered, “Govern men”; and pointing to a well-dressed Corinthian, who was passing by, “Sell me,” said he, “to him; for he wants a master.” The Corinthian, whose name was Xeniades, bought him, and appointed him the tutor to his children; and Diogenes perfectly well discharged his trust. — C.


A beautiful clear river in Bœotia, flowing into the Ismenus The Marcian water was conveyed by Ancus Marcius to Rome. — C.


Two famous robbers who infested Attica, and were at last killed by Theseus. — C.


The topic of the Desires and Aversions. — C.


The “Pseudomenos” was a famous problem among the Stoics, and it is this. When a person says, I lie; does he lie, or does he not? If he lies, he speaks truth: if he speaks truth, he lies. Chrysippus wrote six books upon it. — C.


Hercules is said to have been the author of the gymnastic games; and the first victor. Those who afterwards conquered in wrestling, and the pancratium, were numbered from him. — C.

This pompous title was given to those who had been victors in all the Olympic games. — C.


Works and Days, v. 383. — H.


A logical subtlety. — H.


Homer, Odyssey, IX. 39. The expression became proverbial, signifying “from bad to worse.” — H.


Translation conjectural. — H.


When the Athenians found themselves unable to resist the forces of the Persians, they left their city; and, having removed their wives and children, and their movable effects, to Trœzen and Salamis, went on board their ships, and defended the liberty of Greece by their fleet. — C.


What follows is against the Academics, who denied the evidence of the senses. — C.


Euripides, Alcestis, v. [691] 701. The second line, as quoted by Epictetus, is not found in the received editions. Pheres, the father of Admetus, is defending himself for not consenting to die in place of his son. — H.

Euripides, Phœnissæ, v. 630, 631.


Amphiaraus married Eriphyle, the sister of Adrastus, king of Argos, and was betrayed by her for a golden chain. — C.


These words are part of a letter written by Epicurus, when he was dying, to one of his friends. Diog. Laert. X. 22. — C. The titles previously given are those of treatises by Epicurus. — H.

A Fragment of Cleanthes, quoted in full in Enchiridion, c. 52. — H.


Homer, Iliad, II. 25.


These are the names of combatants in the Olympic games. A Pancratiast was one who united the exercises of wrestling and boxing. A Pentathlete, one who contended on all the five games of leaping, running, throwing the discus, darting, and wrestling. — C.


By accidentally visiting the school of Xenocrates. — H.

Laius, king of Thebes, petitioned Apollo for a son. The oracle answered him, that if Laius became a father, he should perish by the hand of his son. The prediction was fulfilled by Œdipus. — C.


Homer, Odyssey, I. 37.


Extending the middle finger, with the ancients, was a mark of the greatest contempt. — C.

Crinis was a Stoic philosopher. The circumstances of his death are not now known. — C.


Xenophon, Mem. I. 6. — H.

  • “And how they quaff in gold,
  • Crystal and myrrhine cups, imbossed with gems.”
  • Paradise Regained, IV. 181.

Myrrhine cups were probably a kind of agate described by Pliny, which, when burnt, had the smell of myrrh. See Teatro Critico, Tom. 6, disc. 4, § 6. — C.


Pythagoras, Golden Verses, 40-44. This is Rowe’s translation, as quoted by Mrs. Carter, but not precisely as given in Dacier’s Pythagoras (London, 1707), p. 165. — H.


Homer, Odyssey, XIV. 54. — H.

A phrase occurs here, which has greatly puzzled the commentators, but which evidently refers to the gymnastic exercise known as the “perche-pole,” where a pole is balanced by one performer and ascended by another. — H.

Diogenes used, in winter, to grasp statues, when they were covered with snow, as an exercise, to inure himself to hardship. Diogenes Laertius — C.


The Stoics held to successive conflagrations at destined periods; in which all beings were reabsorbed into the Deity. — C.


This fifteenth chapter makes the twenty-ninth of the Enchiridion; but with some varieties of reading. — C


Euphrates was a philosopher of Syria, whose character is described, with the highest encomiums, by Pliny. See L. I. Ep. x. — C.


This person is not known. One of his name is mentioned in the Acts of Ignatius, as being consul at the time when he suffered martyrdom. — C.


The son of Creon, — who killed himself, after he had been informed by an oracle that his death would procure a victory to the Thebans. — C.


Homer, Iliad, X. 15; 91 – 5. — H.


St. Jerome, cited by Mr. Upton, gives the following, somewhat different account of this matter. Diogenes, as he was going to the Olympic Games, was taken with a fever, and laid himself down in the road; his friends would have put him into some vehicle; but he refused it, and bid them go on to the show. “This night,” said he, “I will either conquer, or be conquered. If I conquer the fever, I will come to the games; if it conquers me, I will descend to Hades.’ — C.

  • [“Si febrim vicero, ad Agonem veniam:
  • Si me vicerit, ad inferna descendam”
  • Jerome adv. Jovianum, Lib. II. — H.]

It is remarkable, that Epictetus here uses the same word (ἀπερισπάστως) with St. Paul, 1 Cor. vii. 35, and urges the same consideration, of applying wholly to the service of God, to dissuade from marriage. — C.


Homer, Iliad, II. 25. — H.


Crates, a rich Theban, gave away a large fortune, and assumed the wallet and staff of a Cynic philosopher. Hipparchia, a Thracian lady, forsook wealth and friends to share his poverty, in spite of his advice to the contrary. Diogenes Laertius: Crates. — H.


Homer, Iliad, II. 24, 25. — H.


Cleanthes, in Diogenes Laertius. — H.


Homer, Iliad, VI. 492, 493. — H.


Mr. Upton observes that these florid descriptions were the principal study of the Sophists. — C.


These words are the beginning of Xenophon’s Memoirs of Socrates; and it was a debate among the minute critics, whether argument or arguments was the proper reading. — C.

Plato, Apology, § 18; Crito, § 6. — H.


Plato, Apology, § 1. — H.


Homer, Odyssey, I. 3. Afterwards, XV. 487. — H.


It was the custom at Athens, in cases where no fixed punishment was appointed by the law, before the judges gave sentence, to ask the criminal himself what penalty he thought he deserved. Socrates refused either to comply with this form himself, or suffer any of his friends to do it for him; alleging that the naming a penalty was a confession of guilt. When the judges therefore asked him what penalty he thought he deserved, he answered, “The highest honors and rewards, and to be maintained in the Prytaneum at the public expense.” An answer which so extremely irritated his judges, that they immediately condemned him to death. — C.


A people towards the extremity of Greece. — C.

Diogenes was the disciple of Antisthenes. — C.


This was said by Xenophon, when news was brought him that his son Gryllus was killed in a battle. — C.


Homer, Odyssey, VI. 130. — H.

The name of a slave, particularly of a slave who once belonged to Diogenes; and perhaps this expression alludes to some story about him, which is now unknown. — C.


A character in one of the Comedies of Menander, called The Hated Lover. — C.


A Fragment of Cleanthes, before quoted; and given in full in Enchiridion, c. 52. — H.


Socrates, with four other persons, was commanded by the thirty tyrants of Athens to fetch Leon from the isle of Salamis, in order to be put to death. His companions executed their commission; but Socrates remained at home, and chose rather to expose his life to the fury of the tyrants, than be accessary to the death of an innocent person. He would most probably have fallen a sacrifice to their vengeance, if the Oligarchy had not shortly after been dissolved. See Plato’s Apology. — C.


Plato, Crito. I. 15. — H.


Two famous lawyers. — C.


Nero being declared an enemy by the Senate, his coin was, in consequence of this, prohibited and destroyed. — C.


Alcibiades sent a fine great cake as a present to Socrates; which so provoked the jealousy of the meek Xantippe, that she threw it down, and stamped upon it. Socrates only laughed, and said, “Now you will have no share in it yourself.” — C.


See the Pythagorean verses (quoted in B. III. c. 10) of which these questions are a parody. — C.


As with Socrates; see note, ante, p. 314.


Homer, Odyssey, XI. 528, 529. — H.


At the feast of Adonis there were carried about little earthen pots filled with mould, in which grew several sorts of herbs. These were called gardens; and from thence the gardens of Adonis came to be proverbially applied to things unfruitful or fading; because those herbs were only sowed so long before the festival as to sprout forth and be green at that time, and then were presently cast into the water. — C.


An indecent poet of Miletus. — C.

A writer of amorous verses. — C.


The ensigns of the consular office. — C.


This whole paragraph refers to the lament of Achilles over Patroclus. Iliad, XIX. 315, etc. — H.


Clouds, I. 103. — H.


Happiness, the effect of virtue, is the mark which God hath set up for us to aim at. Our missing it is no work of His; nor so properly anything real, as a mere negative and failure of our own. — C.

This chapter, except some very trifling differences, is the same with the fifteenth of the third book of the Discourses, and therefore unnecessary to be repeated here. — C.


This refers to an anecdote given in full by Simplicius, in his commentary on this passage, of a man assaulted and killed, on his way to consult the oracle, while his companion, deserting him, took refuge in the temple, till cast out by the Deity. — H.


Cleanthes, in Diogenes Laertius, quoted also by Seneca, Epistle 107. — H.

Euripides, Fragments. — H.

Plato, Crito, § 17; Apology, § 18. — H.


Stobæus lived early in the fifth century, Maximus in the seventh, and Antonius, surnamed Melissa, or the Bee, in the eighth. Their collections are printed together. Many of these sayings are merely traditional. — H.


The first stage on his journey into banishment. See note, ante, p. 7. — H.


The ancients anointed the body every day. — C.


Stobæus de Diis. Serm. 211, p. 714, ed. Francof., 1581. — C.

Maximus, περὶ ϕιλοπονίας. Serm. 118, p. 374. — C.


Ant. and Max. de Disciplinâ. Serm. 210, p. 704. — C.

Ibid. — C.

Stobæus, Compar. Paupertatis et Divitiarum. Serm. 237, p. 778. — C.


Stobæus, Quod Eventus, &c., pp. 324, 329. — C.