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VOL I - 










546-24 I 


THE Manual of Epictetus is well known, but 
the Discourses have been less widely read than they 
deserve to be, and it is hoped that this translation 
may bring them some new readers. It is based on the 
text edited by Dr. H. Schenkl (Teubner, 1894), an< ^ 
the chief divergences from the text are mentioned 
in the notes. I am much indebted to this book and 
to the monumental edition of Schweighaeuser (i 799), 
as well as to the works of Bonhoffer mentioned 
on p. 10. 

It must be remembered that the Discourses as we 
have them are notes taken by Arrian of the lectures 
of his master, and therefore have not the finished 
form of a work of literary art. It is hoped that the 
running summary printed beside the text may 
enable the reader to follow the argument more 
easily. The style of the Discourses is colloquial and 
a large part is in the form of dialogue. Where the 
speaker is not Epictetus the words are printed 
within commas, so as to indicate the change of 
person. In a few places words have been added to 
complete the sense. These are put within square 

I wish to thank those who have helped me, and 
especially my old Head Master and friend of forty 
years, Dr. Edwin Abbott, at whose suggestion this 
translation was undertaken, and to whom I owe 

4 Preface 

much on this and many other occasions, and my 
colleague Mr. Edwyn Bevan, who has been kind 
enough to read the proofs, and has made many 
valuable suggestions. If I have failed, the fault 
is not theirs. Other friends have advised me on 
particular points and given me their encouragement 
on my way. I wish to thank them, and also the 
staff of the Press for the trouble they have taken 
in printing this book at a difficult time. 

When the doctrine that might is right is being 
once more asserted by the armed forces of absolutism 
it may not be inopportune to recall to men s minds 
the words of one who preached unceasingly the 
supremacy and independence of the spirit of man. 











1. On things in our power and things not in our 

power . ....... 43 

2. How one may be true to one s character in every 

thing . . 47 

3. What conclusions may be drawn from the fact that 

God is Father of men ..... 52 

4. On progress, or moral advance .... 53 

5. Against followers of the Academy ... 57 
6 On Providence ....... 59 

7. On the use of variable premisses and hypothetical 

arguments and the like ..... 64 

8. That faculties are fraught with danger for the un 

educated ....... 68 

9. How one may draw conclusions from the fact that 

we are God s kinsmen ..... 70 

10. To those who have spent their energies on advance 

ment in Rome . ..... 74 

11. On family affection ...... 76 

6 Discourses of Epictetus 


12. On contentment ...... 82 

13. How one may act in all things so as to please the gods 87 

14. That God beholds all men ... 88 

15. What philosophy professes ..... 90 

1 6. On Providence . . . . . . 91 

17. That the processes of logic are necessary . . 94 

1 8. That we should not be angry at men s errors . 98 

19. How one should behave towards tyrants . . 101 

20. How reason has the faculty of taking cognizance of 

itself ........ 105 

21. To those who wish to be admired . . .108 

22. On primary conceptions ..... 108 

23. Against Epicurus . . . . . .Ill 

24. How one should contend against difficulties . 113 

25. On the same theme . . . . , .116 

26. What is the law of life . . . . .120 

27. On the ways in which impressions come to us, and 

the aids we must provide for ourselves to deal 
with them . . . . . . .123 

28. That we must not be angry with men : and con 

cerning what things are small and what are great 
among men ....... 126 

29. On constancy . . . . . . 131 

30. What a man should have ready to hand in the 

crises of life ....... 140 


1. That there is no conflict between confidence and 

caution ........ 142 

2. On peace of mind ...... 148 

3. To those who commend persons to philosophers . 151 

4. To the man caught in adultery . . . .152 

5. How a careful life is compatible with a noble spirit 154 



6. On what is meant by indifferent things . .158 

7. How to consult diviners . . .162 

8. What is the true nature of the good . . .164 

9. That we adopt the profession of the philosopher 

when we cannot fulfil that of a man . .168 
10. How the acts appropriate to man are to be dis 
covered from the names he bears . . I 7 I 
u. What is the beginning of Philosophy . . 75 

12. On the art of discussion . 1 79 


13. Concerning anxiety ..... 

14. On Naso ... .187 

15. On those who cling stubbornly to their judgements 191 

16. That we do not practise applying our judgements 

about things good and evil .... 194 

17. How we must adjust our primary conceptions to 

particular things . .... 201 

1 8. How we must struggle against impressions . . 206 

19. To those who take up the principles of the philo 

sophers only to discuss them .... 210 

20. Against followers of Epicurus and of the Academy . 216 

21. Concerning inconsistency of mind . 222 

22. On Friendship .... 2Z ^ 

23. On the faculty of expression .... 2 3 2 

24. To one whom he did not think worthy . .239 

25. How the art of reasoning is necessary . 244 

26. What is the distinctive character of error . . 244 


1. On Adornment . . 3 

2. (i) In what matters should the man who is to 

make progress train himself IO 

(2) That we neglect what is most vital . . 10 

8 Discourses of Epictetus 


3. What is the material with which the good man deals, 

and what should be the object of our training . 14 

4. Against one who was indecorously excited in the 

theatre . . . . . . . .17 

5. Against those who make illness an excuse for 

leaving the lecture-room . . . -19 

6. Scattered sayings ...... 22 

7. Dialogue with the Commissioner of the Free 

Cities, who was an Epicurean . . . 23 

8. How we should train ourselves to deal with impres 

sions ........ 29 

9. To a Rhetor going up to Rome for a trial . 30 
10. How one should bear illnesses .... 34 
n. Scattered sayings ...... 37 

12. On training ....... 38 

13. What a forlorn condition means, and a forlorn 

man 40 

14. Scattered sayings ...... 44 

15. That we should approach everything with con 

sideration ....... 46 

16. That we must be cautious in our social relations 48 

17. Concerning Providence ..... 50 

18. That we must not allow news to disturb us . 51 

19. What is the difference between the philosopher 

and the uneducated man .... 53 

20. That benefit may be derived from all outward things 54 

21. To those who undertake the profession of teacher 

with a light heart . . . . . 57 

22. On the calling of the Cynic .... 60 

23. To those who read and discourse for display . 77 

24. That we ought not to spend our feelings on things 

beyond our power ...... 84 

Contents 9 


25. To those who fail to achieve what they set before 

them . 

26. To those who fear want . IO 4 


1. On Freedom 

2. On intercourse with men . 

3. What to aim at in exchange . H 2 

4. To those whose heart is set on a quiet life . H4 

5. To those that are contentious and brutal . 152 

6. To those who are distressed at being pitied . 158 

7. On freedom from fear . . J 5 

8. To those who hastily assume the character of 

Philosophers . 

9. To one who was modest and has become shame 



10. What things we should despise, and what we should 

deem important .... 1 2 


11. On cleanliness . 

12. On attention . J 93 

13. To those who lightly communicate their secrets 197 

FRAGMENTS . . .... 201 


NOTES .... . 239 


INDEX OF PROPER NAMES, with Descriptions . . 267 

INDEX OF MATTERS ...... 276 


EDWIN A. ABBOTT. Silanus the Christian. 

VON ARNIM. Epiktctos (in Pauly-Wissowa s Rcal-Encyclo- 


E. V. ARNOLD. Roman Stoicism. 
E. R. BEVAN. Stoics and Sceptics. 
A. BONHOFFER. I. Epiktet und die Stoa. II. Die Ethik des 

Stoikers Epiktet. 

S. Dn.r.. Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius. 
T. R. GLOVER. The Conflict of Religions in the Roman 


R. D. HICKS. Stoic and Epicurean. 
C. MARTHA. Les Moralistes sous I Empire roinahi. 
GILBERT MURRAY. The Stoic Philosophy. 
E. ZELLER. Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics. 

1 This list is intended rather for the ordinary reader than for 
the scholar, and does not profess to be complete. A full biblio 
graphy will be found in Professor E. V. Arnold s Roman Stoicism. 



THE new life given to the study of Rome and her insti 
tutions under the early Empire has served to dispel many 
false notions. It is fully realized now that the pagan 
world in the first century was not bankrupt in institutions 
or ideas. The Roman Republic, noble as its achieve 
ments had been in its best age, had not said the last word 
in the development of Roman Law and institutions ; the 
work of the great jurists, the Romanization of the Empire 
by means of new centres of free municipal life, the organi 
zation for defence and government of the Graeco-Roman 
world which preserved it against barbarian forces, until 
the inheritance of Rome could be passed on to the nations 
of modern Europe all this positive achievement is seen 
to compensate in some measure for the loss of an indepen 
dent Senate and the disappearance of the simple life of 
old Rome. So also in the spiritual world : the state 
religion of Rome, it is true, had become a pompous 
mockery, but that does not mean that Rome had nothing 
to live by, no theory of living. It is against reason to 
suppose that the great work of law and government 
which Rome accomplished between Augustus and Diocle 
tian had no counterpart in the inner life of its subjects. 
The history of the Empire is unintelligible without some 

1 2 Introduction 

study of the mingled influences which came from the 
traditional discipline of family education, and from the 
penetration of the Roman world by Greek philosophy. 
Happily these influences are now in no danger of being 
overlooked. The works of M. Martha, Mr. Glover, and 
Dr. Wendland, and the studies of Sir Samuel Dill on 
the Empire, not to speak of the imaginative presentment 
of the conflict of ideas in Roman society in Marius the 
Epicurean, to name only a few writers, have helped us to 
realize more adequately the moving forces of the world 
in which Christianity arose, and the continuity, as well 
as the contrast, of the new world with the old. In this 
record of the inner life of Rome Stoicism holds a large 
place. Its doctrines find literary expression in many 
forms : but no utterance is perhaps so forcible or so 
instructive as this of Epictetus. Seneca, as Professor 
Pelham has pointed out, is rather a cultivated man of the 
world than a teacher whose heart is in his mission ; 
Marcus Aurelius rises to nobler heights and his position 
that of the philosopher with greatness thrust upon him 
gives a peculiar note of pathos to his writing. But 
Epictetus s influence comes closer to the bosom of the 
common man and is also more illustrative of the age. 
We see the preacher at his business : here is no work of 
literary art, but a plain report of the day-to-day discourses 
to which young Romans listened, and which gripped 
their attention by the pungent irony and the masterful 
directness with which the new scale of values is enforced. 
It is not the monologue of reflection, but a series of 
dramatic scenes in which preacher and listener and this 

Epictetus and his age 1 3 

or that third person play their parts, in a perpetual 
dialectic. If at times the discussion seems to become 
abstract and remote, we are brought into the real world 
again by some suggestive touch of contemporary life, of 
the court or the magistrate, or the public games, or the 
actual lecture-room, where all this dialogue is going on. 
It is a striking testimony to the wide range of Stoic 
influence that it should have found its highest expression 
in a Roman Emperor and a Greek slave, both finding 
common ground in the Stoic doctrine and the language 
of the later Greek world. That the slave s sermons 
should have been preserved by a high Roman official is 
a proof that the great administrators of the Empire had 
turned to good purpose the teaching of Hellenism. 

Who and what was this Greek slave ? Like many of the 
greatest he is almost unknown except in his writings. 
From the scattered statements which have been collected 
from writers of the second and later centuries, based 
largely on his own writings, we learn that he was slave 
to one Epaphroditus, a freedman of Nero, that he came 
from Hierapolis in Phrygia, and that he was lame. His 
master seems to have allowed him to attend the lectures 
of the Stoic Musonius Rufus and ultimately to obtain 
his freedom. He lived a life of bare simplicity, and 
taught philosophy in Rome, but on the expulsion of 
philosophers from Rome and Italy by Domitian in A. D. 89 
he went and taught at Nicopolis in Epirus, the Greek 
city founded by Augustus to commemorate the victory 
of Actium. There his lectures were attended by many 
students from Italy and the Greek East. The Discourses 

1 4 Introduction 

show us how the sophist s lecture had passed into the 
sermon of the popular preacher, and from his Discourses 
we can construct some picture of the scene in his lecture- 
room. Sometimes the master would read his own dis 
courses to his pupils, sometimes he would comment on 
the Stoic texts, or would listen to his pupils essays 1 and 
criticize them in class. The teaching would one day 
take the form of a dialogue, in which both master and 
pupil joined, or in which Epictetus himself would play 
both parts, supplying question and answer, in rapid 
interchange. Now and again some person of fashion or 
importance, landing at the port, would look into the 
lecture-room to hear what the master had to say, thinking 
to pick up in a casual visit the lessons of a lifetime, and 
would as often as not receive the snub he deserved. 
There was plenty of diversity among the audience ; 
there were serious students and frivolous young dandies ; 
earnest young Stoics, whose main interest was in specula 
tion, and men of the world like Arrian, who were taking 
a course of philosophy as a preparation for the higher 
service of the State. 

We are told that Epictetus was on intimate terms with 
Hadrian, but whether they met at Nicopolis or Athens 
is not known. According to Suidas he lived into the 
reign of Marcus Aurelius (accession 161 A.D.) but as he 
left Italy in 89 and must have then been already known 

1 The precise meaning of ava^iyvwaKuv in Epictetus has been 
much discussed. It seems sometimes to mean reading out a Stoic 
text, sometimes the reading of a pupil s essay. See Bruns de 
Schola Epicleli, Kiel, 1897. 

Epictetus and his age i f 

as a teacher it is very unlikely that he lived much beyond 
the accession of Antoninus Pius (138). He wrote nothing 
so far as we know, and we owe the preservation of his 
Discourses and the compilation of the Manual to one of 
his most devoted pupils, who also became a distinguished 
Roman official. This man, Flavius Arrianus, 2 of Nico- 
media in Bithynia, attended Epictetus s lectures at 
Nicopolis as a young man, and took notes of them ; later 
he attracted the notice of Hadrian and became consul 
in 130 and legate of Cappadocia in 131. The history 
of the publication of the Discourses is given in Arrian s 
touching preface. The precise extent of the Discourses 
is uncertain. Photius says that there were eight books of 
discourses (8taTpi/3at) and twelve of colloquies (6/, 
and Gellius xix. 2 refers to the 5th book of the SiaAeets, 
but this last is probably a variant for Starpt/^ai. Schenkl 
thinks that there were eight booksof discourses (Starpt/Sat ) 
and four of colloquies (6/uAiai), but this must remain 
doubtful. The Handbook or Manual (ey^eipt Stov), 
which is a condensed selection of Epictetus s sayings, also 
made by Arrian, is in itself evidence that the present 
collection of the Discourses is incomplete, for it contains 
sayings which are not to be found in them. Stobaeus also 
(a lexicographer of the fifth or sixth century) quotes (see 
fragments 13-16 of Epictetus) sayings from Epictetus s 
Commentaries (uTro/mj/zoveiVaTa) which Schenkl believes 
to be distinct from Arrian s records of him. His works 
were widely read and admired, and after being quoted 
against the Christians as the noblest utterances of pagan 
3 See Pelham s Essays on Roman History, pp. 212 ff. 

1 6 Introduction 

philosophy were later so far adopted by Christian writers 
that the Manual became a popular work of edification 
and was re-edited in a Christian form. Both the pagan 
and the Christian revered him as a master. Lucian tells 
us (adv. indoct. 13) that a man gave 3,000 drachmae for 
Epictetus s earthenware lamp in the hope that it would 
light him on to attain the wisdom of that wondrous old 
man ; and Fabricius has a story of uncertain origin that 
Augustine prayed that Epictetus might attain to eternal 


This is not the place to trace the history of Stoic ideas 
or to give a complete account of Stoic doctrine. Happily 
the greater part of Epictetus s Discourses can be followed 
without any detailed knowledge of Stoicism. For a fuller 
study readers should consult Mr. Edwyn Bevan s Stoics 
and Sceptics, or the other works on Stoicism mentioned 
in the list given on p. 10. It is sufficient here to say some 
thing on the relation of Epictetus to his predecessors and 
to his contemporaries, and then to give a short account 
of the technical terms of his psychology and ethics. 

The earlier history of the school is associated with a few 
great names : Zeno, of Citium in Cyprus, its founder ; 
Cleanthes, strong in character rather than in intellect, 
whose noble hymn to Zeus is perhaps the best-known 
Stoic utterance; Chrysippus, who expanded and formu 
lated the Stoic doctrines. All these are referred to in 
Epictetus s Discourses. In Stoicism as it influenced 


Epictetus and Stoicism i 7 

Roman society other great men bore a large part : 
Panaetius, who, as the friend of Scipio and his circle, made 
Stoicism familiar at Rome, and still more Posidonius, 
whose versatile genius illuminated many fields and gave 
a wider scope to the Stoic doctrine until it threatened 
to lose its distinctive colour and become merged in the 
common stock, in that fusion of Platonic and Stoic teach 
ing which we find represented in the pages of Plutarch. 
But with these later developments Epictetus had little to 
do ; though he belongs to the first century of the Empire 
he is a Stoic of the old school as Bonhoffer has conclusively 
shown ; and it is therefore not necessary to say anything 
here of the modified Stoicism for which Posidonius more 
than any one man seems to have been responsible. A few 
words on the earlier stage of Stoic doctrine must suffice as 
an introduction to Epictetus s own teaching. 

Stoicism was an attempt to simplify the problems of 
existence and of conduct by a bold assertion of the unity 
of the world on the one hand, and of the unity of man s 
soul on the other. The universe is an ordered whole, in 
constant movement, but moving in a rational order ; it 
is material, but there are gradations in the elements of 
which it is composed ; the whole may be regarded at once 
as governed by God, and identical with God. God is, on 
the one hand, the purest form of matter fire or spirit 3 
on the other, the highest expression of reason (Ao yos). 

Similarly man s being is one : he must not be regarded 
as a composite creature with a rational part distinct from 
an irrational; he is a rational creature, his Governing 

3 trvtv^a, air-current , as some translate it. 
546-24 I B 

1 8 Introduction 

Principle (rjyefj.oviKov) is reason, a fragment of the divine. 
The Universe (KOCT/AOS), the source of things, is in periodic 
process, and at the end of each period is consumed in 
a conflagration, from which the process of things recom 
mences. Fire once more passes into vapour and moisture, 
and out of these are generated the earth, air, and water, 
out of which the world is built up, the air and fire being 
the active elements or force, and earth and water the 
passive or matter. 

At first sight the whole Stoic position might seem 
doomed to hopeless materialism, but it is saved from this 
by its bold assertion of (l) the dynamic power of reason 
in the world, and (2) the independence of the human will. 
The rational will of man has power to recognize the 
rational order of the world and to adopt it as his own. 
By the exercise of his own powers, the authority which 
reason gives him, he is able to control his own inner life 
and to accept events as the outcome of God s will, and by 
this attitudeto attain to perfect freedom. He achieves this 
consummation, in which tranquillity and independence 
are to be found, by the exercise of his faculties by the 
right use of experience, whether the outward experience 
of events or the inward experience of the mind. Stress 
is constantly laid, as will be seen in these pages, on reason, 
discourse, logical training, mental discipline ; but at the 
back of all is a conviction that man is in some sense 
immediately conscious of the divine order of the world, 
and it is this which gives to Stoic doctrine the fervour of 
a religious faith. 

Its admission that man s soul, even God Himself, is 

Epictetus and Stoicism 19 

material, that there is no ultimate line to be drawn 
between body and spirit, exposes Stoicism to perpetual 
contradiction ; it is the price paid for securing that 
unity which gave to Stoicism its driving power, and 
which appealed so strongly to the Roman mind, interested 
in the marshalling of disciplined forces on a large scale 
and in the wide application of ordered laws. 

The main interest of Stoicism was in conduct : its chief 
contribution in this field was the assertion that the highest 
good lies in conformity with nature or reason : this alone 
has absolute value, all other things are indifferent 
(dSiae^opa). The only good things (dya#a) of absolute 
value are those which lie within the control of man s will, 
which belong to his inner life. To these alone he must 
direct his will if he is to find freedom from fear and desire, 
the peace of mind which is the Stoic ideal. But being in 
the every-day world of action the Stoic has to take some 
notice of the indifferent things with which the daily 
actions of ordinary men are concerned. There is a 
difference of value (dia) even among these things. 
From the first Zeno distinguished certain things as 
promoted or preferred 4 (Trpo^y^eva) which still have 
value for men though they should not be objects of his 
desire. They are relatively but not absolutely indifferent. 
He can do without them and their loss does not mean 
failure, but he may take them in preference to other 
indifferent things. Such are in the sphere of the soul, 
cleverness, skill, intellectual progress, and the like ; in the 
sphere of the body, life, health, strength, good condition, 

4 Arnold, Roman Stoicism, translates things of high degree . 
B 2 

20 Introduction 

completeness of members, beauty ; in the sphere of 
detached things, wealth, repute, gentle birth, and the 
like. 5 But this distinction between Trpor/y/AeW which 
have value and a7ro7rpo^y/x,eva which have not, though it 
plays a large part in Stoic doctrine, is not mentioned by 
Epictetus. We need not believe that he ignored it, but 
he is so much interested in insisting on the primary truth 
that the sole concern of man is with what lies within the 
control of his will that, at least in the discourses preserved 
to us, he does not call attention to this lesser distinction. 
In this, as in some other features of his ethics, he comes 
very near to the Cynic position. There is another aspect 
of the practical side of Stoicism to which Epictetus gives 
much more attention. When the Stoic was asked how 
his rational formula of life was to be applied in detail, 
he answered that everyday conduct is determined by con 
sideration of what actions are appropriate (/c 
to a man s circumstances and to the relations 
in which he stands to other people. 

True happiness is to be found in rational conduct only ; 
pleasure as such has no value. The emotions or feelings 
(irdOif) fear, desire, pleasure, pain though they are 
states of the ruling reason, are not true to man s nature 
they are the product of false judgements. The rational 
man must keep them in control, or get rid of them by 
coming to realize his errors. 6 The young must be trained 

5 Diog. Laert, vii. 106 (Bevan s Trans.). 

6 It is in regard to the emotions generally that Epictetus comes 
most into conflict with the Christian ideal. Sympathy is allow 
able, but only if it does not disturb the soul s serenity. You may 

Epictetus and Stoicism 


in the application of judgements if they are to keep in the 
right way. 

Connected with the Stoic idea of the supremacy of 
reason is the paradox, made familiar to us in the criticisms 
of Horace and others, that the wise man alone is virtuous 
and that there are no degrees in virtue. Epictetus has 
too much humanity and humour to adopt this extreme 
position. There is, to his mind, a world of difference 
between the philosopher and the layman, but the philo 
sopher too must be a man indeed, a man who lives up to 
his true nature, and in practice the dividing line between 
enlightenment and ignorance cannot be sharply drawn. 
It will be seen from what Epictetus says about moral 
progress or proficiency (irpoKoirrj) that he regards all 
men as having the potential germ of perfection ; the de 
termining factor is a right direction of the will. The 
probationer (6 TT/JOKOTTTWV), who is on the right way, 
may still be only in the rudimentary stages or he may have 
come near to perfection, but in either case his character 
has in it the promise of wisdom. 

The paradox of Stoicism in regard to conduct is the 
antinomy of free-will and necessity. The order of the 
world is a necessary order : Zeus, Fate, the rational order 
under whatever name the principle of the universe is 
described is fixed and unchangeable. Yet the Stoics are 
equally clear that man is master of his fate, in the sense 
that his every action on its inner side is his own choice. 

sigh with your friend, but your inner being must remain unmoved 
(cf. Ench. 16). Similarly pity is viewed with suspicion, and friend 
ship and affection must be kept within strict limits. 

2 2 Introduction 

His true attitude combines self-surrender and indepen 

Conduct was the supreme interest of Stoicism, but 
conduct was not to be isolated from knowledge : only he 
who knows his place in the world can live and act in 
accordance with nature. This at once gives heightened 
value and interest to science. And as reason is the soul 
of the world, the handling of the processes of human 
reason is an important part of human study. Logic and 
grammar, the analysis of expression and discourse, occupy 
a large place. 7 This purely intellectual side of Stoicism, 
as we shall see, appeals little to Epictetus, and he is often 
at pains to point out that its value is only in relation to 
life and action and as preparatory to it. 

If we turn from the actual teaching of Epictetus and 
ask what are the surroundings in which it was delivered, 
the moral atmosphere of the world which he addressed, 
we find in his discourses many hints of the institutions 
and life of the century in which he lived. Foremost and 
ominously significant are the references to absolute 
monarchy : the tyrant and his guards are always in the 
background, dominating the life of the plain man, a per 
petual menace to the freedom of the individual citizen. 
The friendship of the Emperor is the avenue to Roman 
society. His frown may mean at any moment exile or 
death. His spies are scattered in the city, ready to entrap 

7 The Stoics were specially interested in hypothetical and 
disjunctive inferences. When Epictetus refers to logical studies 
he describes them as consisting in analysis of variable syllogisms, 
fallacious premisses and hypothetical propositions (ii. 21. 17). 

Epictetus and Stoicism 23 

the innocent citizen. The citizen has indeed his oppor 
tunity to exercise his powers, in an ordinary country-town 
or a provincial capital (e.g. Corinth, iii. I. 34), or in the 
more exciting life of Rome with its noisy ambitions. In 
Rome everything is overshadowed by the ambition of 
office ; men s hopes and fears are centred on the dignities 
and emoluments of the Senatorial or Equestrian career. 
The highest class look forward to the rank of Senator or 
Consular, with the prospect of a governorship to follow. 
The Equestrian order look forward to rising to one of the 
great prefectures. We get glimpses of provincial gover 
nors presiding at public games or festivals, or ruling a 
province for their personal profit, and of the Corrector 
of free cities 8 visiting the philosopher s lecture-room. 
Epictetus speaks of the Roman Peace established by 
the Principate, which gives every man security to travel 
by land or sea (iii. 13.9). To the great lawyers, Masurius 
and Cassius, he refers to contrast their subject with the 
high laws of God. The philosopher and his school are 
in evidence ; apart from the references to his own 
teaching there is the vivid picture of his master, Musonius 
Rufus (iii. 23. 29-30). Everywhere it is implied that 
the young Roman is sent from home to sit at the feet of 
public teachers, at Nicopolis or Athens, or elsewhere. 

The games especially those of Olympia are constantly 
spoken of and supply Epictetus, as they do St. Paul, with 
many of his illustrations ; and there is frequent mention 

8 An Imperial official who begins to appear in the first century 
A. D., coming in to regulate the affairs of cities which were nominally 
free : a sign of the growing centralization. 

24 Introduction 

of the other public festivals, and of the theatre and its 
spectacles. The quieter life of Italy and the provinces 
is suggested in many pictures by the way the children 
with their games and mud-pies, the professional beggar 
with his long hair and ragged cloak, the slave and his 
servitude, the freedman and the price of his enfranchise 
ment. The very smell of Rome reawakens ambition in 
the returning exile, who had sworn that he would live 
quietly, and he yields to the overpowering fascination. 
Along with these touches, which show an observant and 
sympathetic eye, there are glimpses of the fopperies and 
vanities and vices of a world where old household pieties 
had been undermined and no new religion had yet 
replaced the old family discipline. The Jews are 
several times mentioned, but we hear nothing of the 
other Oriental cults, such as those of Isis and Mithras, 
which were coming in with their new emotional appeals, 
and a casual reference to the Galileans is the only hint 
we find of the Christian communities which were now 
springing up in the quiet corners of Rome and the Roman 
world. On the other hand the ordinary religious obser 
vances of the Graeco-Roman world sacrifice, consultation 
of oracles, worship are assumed as a part of daily life, 
but they are raised to a higher plane by the constant 
identification of God with reason and by the almost 
personal language in which Zeus or God or the spirit of 
the world is spoken of, and the exultant note with which 
the preacher accepts the decrees of Providence. The 
Mysteries are referred to with respect (iii. 21. 13), but it 
is not to them that Epictetus looks for strength, nor do 

Epictetus and Stoicism 2? 

they supply him with much of his technical language. 
To him, it would seem, as to other cultivated Romans, 
philosophy rather than religion is the basis of con 
duct ; and in the region of philosophy there are two main 
theories of conduct, the Stoic and the Epicurean. That 
is why he devotes a large space to analysing and rebutting 
the Epicurean doctrine (ii. 20, iii. 7), which he evidently 
regards as the chief rival of Stoicism in the Roman world. 
The scepticism of Pyrrho and the doctrine of the New 
Academy are indeed referred to, but Epicurus is the one 
teacher whose sayings and arguments are examined at any 
length. Epictetus is zealous to combat and overthrow 
them by all possible means, for he regards their principle 
of life as utterly unsound. The Epicureans who are good 
are good in spite of their doctrine : they are nobly incon 
sistent. Though he constantly contrasts the philosopher, 
the enlightened or educated man (6 7r7rcuSev/AeVos) with 
the uninstructed layman (6 tSico-n??), the unphilosophic 
mind, we feel, as we hear him discourse, that we are not 
asked to admire the pedantry of the abstract theorist : 
he keeps always close to everyday life and conduct, and 
the performance of 

the little nameless unremembered acts 

of daily life is not despised. A wise cheerfulness is to him 
a large part of the secret of life. And in the last resort, 
when cheerfulness is no longer possible, because the con 
dition of self-respect seems gone, and the rational life is 
threatened in its very citadel of the soul, the door is 
open, and a man may leave life as quietly as he came into 

2 6 Introduction 

it. This open door , which to us seems a weakness in 
Stoicism, is only a last resource ; in a world more happily 
organized than imperial Rome it would be unnecessary, 
and even here no man may use it unless he is convinced in 
his mind that God has sounded the bugle for his retreat . 
Till then he must live his life, he must play the game 
out . Like all theories of life the Stoic has its antinomies 
to reconcile, and Epictetus is aware of them : the Stoic, 
in a sense, is detached and independent, but he is also 
a social being with all sorts of human ties ; he must be a 
student, but he must study only that he may be and do ; 
he must be brave, but he must also be cautious; a citizen 
of this human world, he must never forget his citizenship 
which is in heaven ; alive to the stern realities of life, 
inflexible and immovable in matters of principle, he must, 
like Socrates, wear a countenance attired with bright 
ness , and be a source of cheerfulness and joy to his fellows. 
But the radiant face is no gloss upon the surface, it is the 
sign of that conformity with God s will which is the test 
of the rational man. 

Lead me, O Zeus, and lead me Destiny, 
Whither your high disposal bids me go. 

It is at once his necessity and his deliberate choice. 

Psychology of Epictetus 27 


The psychology of Epictetus can only be pieced 
together from his discourses, and its technical terms are 
not always strictly used, but its main features are clear, 
and are those of the earlier Stoics. There is no distinction 
of a rational and an irrational element in the soul of man. 
It is one and indivisible. The characteristic name for 
it is the Governing Principle (TO rjjf/jioviKov). It in 
cludes feeling (TTU^OS) and perception (cucrifyo-is) as well 
as reason (Xoyos) and is identified with the whole spirit 
(i/ i X 7 ?) of man. 9 The characteristic feature n man s 
nature is reason (Adyos) and therefore the Governing 
Principle is thought of as rational, but Epictetus with his 
strong interest in character often applies to it epithets 
which belong rather to what We should call the character 
or will or heart of man, than to reason 10 in the 
narrower sense. 

The senses are but functions of the Governing Principle 
(TO -ffyf/jiovLKov), exercised through separate organs. The 
word perception or sensation (euo-fl^o-is) is used 
both of perception by the senses and of the inner percep 
tion or self-consciousness (sometimes called 

TU ff^tfjioviKov is sometimes distinguished from the rest of the 
fi, but on the whole must be regarded as coextensive with it. 
10 Other phrases used sometimes to express the whole being 
of man, sometimes one aspect only, are : Sidvoia (understanding), 
which is the rational element in man ; irpoaiptais, moral choice, the 
will, the distinctive quality of man on the side of character and 

2 8 Introduction 

Sometimes the purely sensuous aspect of the process of 
aicr^cris is emphasized, at other times the intellectual. 
But the word most commonly used by Epictetus in 
regard to sensation or perception in general is (/rnvracria, 
imagination, impression, presentation, a word of 
very wide range and very difficult to render. The Latin 
rendering visum, appearance, is not very informing, and 
no English word can convey its whole range of mean 
ing ; it is used by Epictetus for everything presented 
to consciousness, whether the simplest sensation or the 
images called up by the rational mind (Stavota) or by the 
memory, or even those more complex images presented to 
the mind and adopted by its assent (oTry/caTa&ro-is), which 
are more properly called judgements (Soy/mra). Its 
range, in fact, covers the whole sphere of the mind s 
action, and its exact meaning must be determined by 
the context. 

Such impressions are the material on which the 
mind works. The power not only to deal with his 
impressions in the ordinary sense (which he shares with 
the lower animals) but to understand them and deal 
with them or attend to them intelligently (n-apaKoXovOelv) 
depends upon man s rational faculty (Aoyi/o) StW/xis). 
From this point of view the whole activity of man may 
be summed up in the faculty of handling impressions 
rightly (6p@r] xprja-LS^avTao-iStv). The much disputed 
phrase KaraX-iyim.^ ^avrao-ta, apprehensive impression 
(i.e. an impression which lays hold on the mind with 
convincing force) is rarelyused by Epictetus, but he shares 
the general Stoic view that such impressions carry with 

Psychology of Epictetus 29 

them the conviction of their truth and command assent 
(oa-yKaratfecm). Assent (cnry/caTa(9ecm) is the approval 
by the reason (Siavoia) of the impressions (<avTao-/ai) 
presented to it. A man may either give assent or refuse 
it (dvaveveiv), or withhold his judgement (eTre xeiv, 
i. 28. 2). 

But apart from the product of sensation, the mind finds 
itself at the outset in possession of certain general pre 
conceptions (TrpoA^eis) of good and bad and the 
like, which he shares with other men as general concep 
tions Ootvai eVvotcu). They are at first vague and imper 
fectly understood and one part of man s activity lies in 
applying these preconceptions to the concrete details 
of life in a word, in making them definite and articu 
late (S^po^eV?/ TpoM^w)- The same process from 
another aspect (ii. 10) consists in making definite and 
articulate to ourselves the true meaning of the terms 
(ovo/iora) which we begin by using in a rough and 
ready way. 

It will be seen that on the psychological side the terms 
of primary importance are : impressions (^avrao-tat) and 
judgements (Sdy/xara). In the handling and interpre 
tation of the raw material of experience and thought, in 
the framing of true judgements from what the senses 
and the self-conscious mind present to man, lies the secret 
of the rational life. 



When we examine Epictetus s psychology on the side of 
action and conduct we find the best starting-point in his 
classification of the departments of philosophic education 
(TOTTOI). These are three, concerned respectively with (i) 
the will to get and the will to avoid (opet9 and l/cKvWis) ; 
(2) impulse (opprj) ; (3) assent (o-uyKaratfecris). The third 
sphere is concerned with all the logical activities of man. 
Assent indeed is implied in the other functions of the 
rational soul (Aoyi/o) i/^x 7 ?) which are covered by o/aefis 
and opfji-rj, but as Epictetus s main concern is with the 
practical working of character and conduct he does not 
take pains to analyse the intellectual processes involved. 
Logic, as the reader of the Discourses will see, he holds 
to be a necessary element in the training of the true 
philosopher, but its more advanced problems are outside 
the range of the ordinary man, whose main concern is to 
keep his will (which is covered by opets and op/nij) in 
a right state. What is the relation of will (o/oe) and 
impulse (opp.r{) to one another ? How are they distin 
guished ? The hardest word to translate in Epictetus 
is oppri, and any rendering adopted must be regarded 
rather as a symbol than an exact equivalent, as no Eng 
lish word exactly corresponds to it. 11 In its widest sense 
it was applied by the Stoics to all processes of the will and 
from this point of view all opeets would be species of 

11 The Romans found the same difficulty : the translations 
appetitio and impetus are not very satisfactory. 

OP/AT;, but it is clear from the threefold division of man s 
activities mentioned above (optis, opfj-rj, crvyKara^ecri?) 
that in general Epictetus regards them as distinct stages 
in the operation of the mind in regard to action. The 
main distinction between opfi<s (will to get) and opp.rj 
(impulse) is this, that the former is less closely related to 
action : it implies direction to an object as good (dyaOov) 
or advantageous (o-upe pov) but without involving action : 
impulse (opp.rj) marks the first step towards action, the 
adoption of an object as something to be done or achieved. 
opcis is the choice of an end, 6/>/n; the first step toward 
its realization : its sphere is TO. KaO^Kovra, the appro 
priate acts of daily life. 

The converse of opei? is eK/cAtcris, the will to avoid, 
the converse of opfjirj (impulse to act) is d^op/xr; (impulse 
not to act). All these functions of the soul are normal 
and rational if rightly directed, but they are subject to 
error and may be directed to wrong objects. The philo 
sopher, the enlightened or educated man, wills only to get 
those goods which are in his power, and that being so, his 
will never fails ; in the same way he wills to avoid only the 
evils which it is in his power to avoid, and he therefore 
never incurs those evils. On the other hand, if a man 
directs his will to get or to avoid what is beyond his con 
trol he is always liable to failure and disappointment. 

opets in itself is a neutral word and may be used both 
of rational and irrational exercise of will. If the Stoic 
wishes to speak of will as irrational he uses the word 
fTTidv^La, desire, as distinguished from fiovXycns, 
rational will. But in certain passages (i. 4 note I, iii. 22. 

3 2 Introduction 

13, &c.) Epictetus speaks of the necessity of removing 
or postponing opeis altogether as though it were bad in 
itself. The explanation is that he is here addressing the 
beginner in ethics, who is under discipline, learning from 
his master how to avoid what is evil, but not yet having 
a formed character to supply him with proper objects for 
his will. It is one of the paradoxes of conduct that a man 
cannot will to do good until in a sense he has become good, 
but Epictetus would doubtless admit that the will must 
from the first have exercise. Only he is anxious to warn 
his pupil not to be too ready to exercise his will before 
he has learnt the distinction between the goods which 
are within our power (TrpoaipcTiKa) and those which 
are not, those which are our own and those which are 
alien or another s (dAAo rpia). In the exercise of 
impulse, positive and negative (O/D/AT? and a^opprj), the 
criterion is that they should be in accordance with nature 
or reason (iv. 4. 28 OP/JLTJ Kal a(f>op/j.7J ^p^ja-OaL Kara <u(riv). 
The will acts in accord with nature if it is rational, and 
the process of education consists in educating the will 
by means of the reason. Error and sin lie not in the 
triumph of a material element in the soul over the rational 
the Stoics admit no such dualism- but in the perversion 
of the reason, and the object of education is to set it 
right, to mould man s reason (Xoyos) into right reason 
(6p#os Aoyos). In this lifelong process the material 
conditions of life cannot control or hinder man s spiritual 
development ; the body is indeed lower than the soul, 
of which it is the husk or vehicle, but it cannot hinder 
man if he sets his choice on the objects which are within 

Psychology of Conduct 33 

his control. The body is not a degrading prison, but 
the necessary means of his personal growth. The diffi 
culties of life, all that is summed up in circumstance 
(Trept o-racris), is the material for his moral training, and 
must be used to strengthen him for further achievement. 


The ethical principles of Epictetus will appear in his 
Discourses, but the main features may be set down here 
in outline. It is clear from what has been said of his 
psychology that conduct for him consists in the proper 
regulation of the will. The happiness which it is natural 
to man to aim at, and which is within the reach of all, is 
to be found in freedom and peace ; the freedom of man s 
rational soul. The soul achieves this freedom when it is 
directed to its own proper objects, and when its choice 
is set on internal goods alone, which are man s own (tSta), 
and within the region of his will (Trpoatperi/ca), not on 
wealth and external goods, which are beyond his will 
(a-rrpoaLpfTa) and do not belong to him (dAAdrpia). If his 
will is ordered thus, he will always achieve what he wills 
and avoid what he seeks to avoid, and by his escape from 
the pain and fear which arise from unrealized or hampered 
will he may attain a freedom from perturbation (drapa^ta) 
and from passion (d.7ra$ia) and a constancy which nothing 
can shake. 

This inward state will find its counterpart in the ex 
pression of his rational nature in the appropriate acts 
(TO. KaOrjKovra} of life. On the personal side these include 

546-24 I C 

34 Introduction 

cleanliness, purity (with some concession to human 
weakness), moderation, cheerfulness, piety. A man s life 
is to be pervaded by a sense of the presence of God, and 
by a conviction that circumstance and character are gifts 
of which the best possible use is to be made. On the 
intellectual side Epictetus s intense interest in conduct 
overshadows the purely scientific interest ; at the same 
time he insists that some knowledge of metaphysics is 
necessary for man to understand his relations to God and 
nature, and that without some logical training he cannot 
aim at those right judgements (opOa. 8dy/Aara) which are 
the indispensable conditions of right conduct. On the 
other hand, the more advanced study of logic is only for 
those who are specially gifted (eu^veis) . 

If it be asked how the character and conduct which 
Epictetus commends are to be achieved, the answer is that 
all men have by nature some rudimentary moral endow 
ment : they have also some general ideas or preconceptions 
(irpoXrj{f/ei<;) of good and evil, right and wrong. Their 
potential virtue may indeed be obscured and distorted by 
bad surroundings and bad education. The first condition 
then of moral progress (TTPOKOTT??) is to recognize one s 
error, to be shown the right ; it is the function of the 
preacher and the philosopher to awaken and direct. As 
soon as a man s feet are set on the right path he may be 
called in a state of progress (TTPO/COTTTWV) ; in a rudimentary 
sense he is a probationer , but he is not really a profi 
cient in the full sense until he has approached much 
nearer to the perfection (o-weyytcr^os Trpos 
which is to be found in the truly wise. 

Ethical Principles 

Nowhere is Epictetus s strength more clearly shown than 
in what he says of the character and method of ethical 
education. It is slow, like the processes of nature. The 
philosophic mind, the sense of the true values of things, 
cannot be picked up by passing into and out of a lecture- 
room ; it demands trained fitness in the teacher and 
disciplined attention in the pupil. It implies a spiritual 
sympathy between master and pupils in which one mind 
reacts on another. The dull or indolent pupil will never 
get the best that his master has to give. 12 Education 
demands time, but it is after all only a preparation for 
life and action, and we cannot afford to spend all our days 
in the lecture-room. Life is more than learning. 

Again, man is not an isolated being, he is by nature 
social (^wov KoivwviKov, ii. 10. 14) and cannot fulfil his 
nature without understanding his proper social relations 
(o^eo-eis) both to his family and to the State. He has 
a duty to his city, and must serve it, if called upon ; but 
he has a higher allegiance to the great City (17 fj.fydXrj 
TrdXts, iii. 22. 4) which is the Universe (KOO-^OS)- This 
background of the higher citizenship lessens the in 
tensity of the ordinary civic claims, but the small city 
which lies nearest is by no means ignored (ii. 5. 26). The 
wider conception of the world carries with it the idea of 
universal equality : there is neither bond nor free , 
slavery is nothing unless it is a slavery of the spirit. All 
men are linked together by the common tie of sonship 
to God. Throughout life man s highest aim must be to 
adopt God s will as his own ; in other words, to accept 

12 Cf. i. 10. 10 foil. 
c 2 

3 6 Introduction 

events. The Stoic conception of God does not indeed 
allow this to be interpreted in the sense of any intimate 
personal relation between the human soul and the divine. 
The idea of God s fatherhood, which is frequently insisted 
on, means to Epictetus that man shares in the rational 
life of God and must learn to see in the rational forces 
of the universe the operation of a divine providence. 
He must also recognize his fellow men to be his brothers 
in the human family. This bond of brotherhood has in 
deed its own strict limits. It finds its highest expression in 
Epictetus s description of the Cynic , the ideal teacher, 
whose mission it is to rouse his fellow men to right 
living and who has a warning and awakening power. His 
life is one of devotion to his fellow men. But in general 
there is a certain hardness in the Stoic s attitude to his 
fellows. The rational man has no room for pity, because 
physical misery is nothing, and spiritual misery depends 
on the man who feels it : no one else can remove it. Again, 
it must be admitted that the Stoic doctrine looks upon 
sin rather as error of judgement than as rooted deep in 
character. It is true that when analysed the judgements 
involved in conduct are seen to be not purely intellectual : 
they depend on a man s whole nature, on the discipline 
through which he has passed and on his own power of self- 
control. But it remains true that this conception of sin 
weakens the moral appeal of the preacher. When we 
remember the degrading vices of which we have glimpses 
in the pages of Martial and Juvenal as well as of Epictetus 
himself, we can understand the relief with which a man 
struggling under the influences of a vicious society might 

Ethical Principles 37 

turn from the colder counsels of Stoicism to another and 
a more winning appeal. While Epictetus bade the sinner 
look within to his own reason, there was growing up in 
scattered groups over the Roman world a society which 
promised to lift men out of this evil world and to save 
them from spiritual death by the power of One who had 
authority to forgive sin and to reconcile men with God. 
In place of the Christian idea of the fatherhood of God, 
in the sense of a divine love and self-sacrifice, which are 
to relieve men of the burden of sin, Epictetus preaches to 
his pupils the belief in a divine order to be accepted and 
obeyed and of a divine presence to be recognized in the 
ordinary pieties of life and worship. This faith is to be 
strengthened and sustained by the powerful examples 
afforded by the great heroes of the past. Man is not 
alone in the world. In Heracles, the great deliverer, in 
Socrates and in Diogenes men may find inspiring examples. 
It is just this appeal to personal imitation which gives a 
more human touch to the preacher s inculcation of the 
ideal life. In these great leaders the true spirit of the 
world has manifested itself in the past, and their record 
is a proof of what the life of reason can achieve. The 
man whose feet are set on the right path, who is advancing 
in the philosophic life, may feel that he is not merely an 
isolated unit, but one in the succession of noble spirits 
who have worked together to make the world habitable 
and to give to it the ordered discipline which reason 

The doctrine of Epictetus, as will be seen from what 
has been said, when analysed into its elements may seem 

3 8 Introduction 

too rational to satisfy ordinary human needs. The note 
of detachment and independence makes it appear hard and 
unlovely when contrasted with the ideal of a love which 
1 oses itself in the lives of others. But no analysis or descrip 
tion can do it justice. Like many other appeals, religious 
and ethical, it depends for its force more on an inspiring 
character than on a formulated creed. The personality 
of Epictetus himself is what lays hold on the reader. 
Selections can give his epigrams and finer sayings, but 
one must read the full text of the Discourses to appreciate 
the range of his powers. His overmastering conviction 
of the supremacy of reason, his impatience of unmanliness 
and loose living, his profound belief i n the unity of nature 
and the kinship of the rational world, in which all men 
are related as the children of one father all these doc 
trines are enforced by a dramatic method which arrests 
and convicts, a sarcasm which strips affectation bare, and 
a fiery earnestness which robs his rude strokes of their 
cruelty. There are dull passages in the Discourses, but 
they are perhaps necessary to remind the reader that he 
has to do with no mere maker of epigrams, but with one 
who appeals to reason. Epictetus believes that man 
must think hard as well as live simply if he is to do well. 
He need not be a philosopher, but he must equip himself 
to dispose of the crude illusions that lie in wait to entrap 
him into wrong. For this reason the Discourses are 
much more representative of the preacher than the 
Manual. They not only put before us the drama of the 
lecture-room, but they give us the connexion between 
the different parts of his doctrine. If they are sometimes 

Ethical Principles 39 

tedious, and occasionally obscure, they are from time to 
time illumined by flashes of imagination, which make the 
reader feel the majesty of the law of reason and the glory 
of the universe about him. When all else is gone nothing 
can take away from man the fatherhood of God, and the 
splendour of all the company of heaven . For to Epic- 
tetus, as to Kant and Manilius, 13 the unfailing wonder of 
the universe presents itself in the starry heavens above 
and the moral law within . 

The cycle of the universe will proceed through its 
ordered changes, with its periodic conflagrations, the 
individual soul will perish like the other constituents of 
the universe and will pass into new forms. Epictetus 
holds out no hope of the permanence of the individual 
soul, no compensation in another world for the sorrows 
of this one, no suggestion of the possibility of further 
progress in knowledge and character beyond the grave 
these are consolations which Stoicism could not offer. 
But for the brief moment that man finds himself in this 
great gathering of human kind, this Olympia of life, 
Epictetus would have man feel that through the conscious 
ness that he is at one with the divine order of the universe, 
the part, however humble, that he is cast to play upon 
the stage is touched to higher issues which give it a dignity 
and value that nothing can destroy. 

13 A Stoic poet of the Augustan age. See H. W. Garrod s 
Introduction to his edition of Book II of Manilius. 



Arrianus to Lucius Gellius greeting 

I DID not write down the Lectures of Epictetus in the 
form of a book, as one might do with such utterances as 
his, nor did I of my own will give them to the public, for, 
as I say, I did not write them down for publication. 
What I tried to do was to make notes of all that I used to 
hear him say word for word in the very language he used, 
so far as possible, and to preserve his sayings as reminders 
for myself hereafter of the nature of his mind and the 
directness of his speech. It follows then, as is natural, 
that the words are just such as a man might use to 
another on the impulse of the moment, not such as he 
would write for formal publication, with a view to a circle 
of readers hereafter. Moreover, such as they are, some 
how or other they were put abroad among men without 
my consent and without my knowledge. Well, to me it 
is no great matter, if I appear in the world s eyes incapable 
of writing a book ; and to Epictetus it will not matter in 
the least if men despise his lectures, for in the very act of 
giving them he made it plain that his one and only desire 
was to impel the minds of his hearers towards the noblest 

42 Discourses of Epictetus 

objects. If then these lectures should accomplish this 
result and no other, I take it they would be just what the 
lectures of philosophers ought to be ; and if they fail, yet 
I would have those who read them understand that when 
Epictetus himself was speaking, his hearers were forced 
to feel just what he would have them feel. If the words 
read by themselves do not achieve this result, it may be 
that I am to blame, but it may be also that it could not 
be otherwise. Farewell. 



On things in our power and things not in our power. 

OF our faculties in general you will find that none can How 

take cognizance of itself ; none therefore has the power T Z?? 
to approve or disapprove its own action. Our gramma- from all 
tical faculty for instance : how far can that take cogni- ? , r . 
zance ? Only so far as to distinguish expression. Our 
musical faculty? Only so far as to distinguish tune. Does 
any one of these then take cognizance of itself ? By no 
means. If you are writing to your friend, when you 
want to know what words to write grammar will tell 
you ; but whether you should write to your friend or 
should not write grammar will not tell you. And in the 
same way music will tell you about tunes, but whether 
at this precise moment you should sing and play the lyre 
or should not sing nor play the lyre it will not tell you. 
What will tell you then ? That faculty which takes cogni 
zance of itself and of all things else. What is this ? The 
reasoning faculty : for this alone of the faculties we have 
received is created to comprehend even its own nature ; 
that is to say, what it is and what it can do, and with 
what precious qualities it has come to us, and to compre 
hend all other faculties as well. For what else is it that 
tells us that gold is a goodly thing ? For the gold does not 
tell us. Clearly it is the faculty which can deal with our 


Discourses of Epictetus 

It is the 
power to 
deal with 

A gift of 

and^tsel f 

impressions. 1 What else is it which distinguishes the 
faculties of music, grammar, and the rest, testing their 
uses and pointing out the due seasons for their use ? It is 
reason and nothing else. 

The gods then, as was but right, put in our hands the 
one blessing that is best of all and master of all, that and 
nothing else, the power to deal rightly with our impres 
sions, but everything else they did not put in our hands. 
Was it that they would not ? For my part I think that 
if they could have entrusted us with those other powers 
as well they would have done so, but they were quite 
unable. Prisoners on the earth and in an earthly body 
and among earthly companions, how was it possible that 
we should not be hindered from the attainment of these 
powers by these external fetters ? 

But what says Zeus ? Epictetus, if it were possible 
I would have made your body and your possessions (those 
trifles that you prize) 2 free and untrammelled. But as 
things are never forget this this body is not yours, it is 
but a clever mixture of clay. But since I could not make 
it free, I gave you a portion in our divinity, this faculty 
of impulse to act and not to act, of will to get and will to 
avoid, 3 in a word the faculty which can turn impressions 
to right use. If you pay heed to this, and put your affairs 
in its keeping, you will never suffer let nor hindrance, you 
will not groan, you will blame no man, you will flatter 
none. What then ? Does all this seem but little to you ? 

Heaven forbid ! 

Are you content then ? 

So surely as I hope for the gods favour. 

Book I, Chapter i 4J 

But, as things are, though we have it in our power to If we fol 
low it, we 
pay heed to one thing and to devote ourselves to one, yet atte nd to 

instead of this we prefer to pay heed to many things and one thing 

instead of 
to be bound fast to many our body, our property, to many . 

brother and friend, child and slave. Inasmuch then as 
we are bound fast to many things, we are burdened by 
them and dragged down. That is why, if the weather is 
bad for sailing, we sit distracted and keep looking con 
tinually and ask, What wind is blowing ? The north 
wind. What have we to do with that ? When will 
the west wind blow ? When it so chooses, good sir, or 
when Aeolus chooses. For God made Aeolus the master 
of the winds, not you. What follows ? We must make 
the best of those things that are in our power, and take 
the rest as nature gives it. What do you mean by 
nature ? I mean, God s will. 

What? Am I to be beheaded now, and I alone ? 

Why ? would you have had all beheaded, to give you ^" e are un 

. dismayed 

consolation ? Will you not stretch out your neck as b y death. 

Lateranus did in Rome when Nero ordered his beheadal ? 
For he stretched out his neck and took the blow, and when 
the blow dealt him was too weak he shrank up a little and 
then stretched it out again. Nay more, on a previous 
occasion, when Nero s freedman Epaphroditus came to 
him and asked him the cause of his offence, he answered, 
If I want to say anything, I will say it to your master. 

What then must a man have ready to help him in such Because 

... ... , , tn we know 

emergencies? Surely this : he must ask himself, What wna t can- 
is mine, and what is not mine ? What may I do, what may not be 

I not do ? from us. 

46 Discourses of Epictetus 

I must die. But must I die groaning? I must be 
imprisoned. But must I whine as well ? I must suffer 
exile. Can any one then hinder me from going with 
a smile, and a good courage, and at peace ? 
Tell the secret ! 

I refuse to tell, for this is in my power. 
But I will chain you 

What say you, fellow ? Chain me ? My leg you will 
chain yes, but my will no, not even Zeus can conquer 

I will imprison you. 
My bit of a body, you mean. 
I will behead you. 

Why ? When did I ever tell you that I was the only 
man in the world that could not be beheaded ? 

These are the thoughts that those who pursue philoso 
phy should ponder, these are the lessons they should 
write down day by day, in these they should exercise 

And are Thrasea used to say I had rather be killed to-day than 

with what ex ^ ec ^ to-morrow . What then did Rufus say to him ? 

is given. If you choose it as the harder, what is the meaning of 

your foolish choice ? If as the easier, who has given you 

the easier ? Will you not study to be content with what 

is given you ? 

Agrippi- It was in this spirit that Agrippinus used to say do 

mis atti- . , , T ... . . 

tudeisthat 7 OU know what ? I will not stand in my own way ! 

of the true News was brought him, Your trial is on in the Senate ! 

pher. Good luck to it, but the fifth hour is come this was 

the hour when he used to take his exercise and have a cold 

Book /, Chapter i 47 

bath let us go and take exercise. When he had taken 
his exercise they came and toldhim, You are condemned. 
Exile or death? he asked. Exile. And my pro 
perty ? It is not confiscated. Well then, let us go to 
Aricia and dine. 

Here you see the result of training as training should 
be, of the will to get and will to avoid, so disciplined that 
nothing can hinder or frustrate them. I must die, 
must I ? If at once, then I am dying : if soon, I dine now, 
as it is time for dinner, and afterwards when the time 
comes I will die. And die how ? As befits one who gives 
back what is not his own. 


How one may be true to one s character in everything. 

To the rational creature that which is against reason To the 

is alone past bearing ; the rational he can always bear. rat i na l 
T>I u -11.1 creature 

Blows are not by nature intolerable. all things 

What do you mean ? in . acc rd 

Let me explain ; the Lacedaemonians bear flogging, reason are 
because they have learnt that it is in accord with reason. to era ble. 
But is it not intolerable to hang oneself ? 
At any rate, when a man comes to feel that it is rational, 
he goes and hangs himself at once. In a word, if we look 
to it we shall see that by nothing is the rational creature 
so distressed as by the irrational, and again to nothing so 
much attracted as to the rational. 

But rational and irrational mean different things to But man 


Discourses of Epictetus 

needs edu 
cation to 
know what 
is truly 
and act 
upon it. 

is rational 
for a man 
which is 
not in 
with his 
upon a 
man s 
He must 
be true to 

This is 
by the 
of Agrip- 
pinus and 

different persons, just as good and evil, expedient and 
inexpedient, are different for different persons. That is 
the chief reason why we need education, that we may 
learn so to adjust our preconceptions * of rational and 
irrational to particular conditions as to be in harmony 
with nature. But to decide what is rational and irrational 
we not only estimate the value of things external, but each 
one of us considers what is in keeping with his character. 
For one man thinks it reasonable to perform the meanest 
office 2 for another ; for he looks merely to this, that if 
he refuses he will be beaten and get no food, while if he 
does it nothing hard or painful will be done to him. To 
another it seems intolerable not only to do this service 
himself, but even to suffer another to do it. If then you 
ask me, Am I to do it or not ? I shall say to you, to get 
food is worth more than to go without it, and to be 
flogged is worth less than to escape flogging: therefore, if 
you measure your affairs by this standard, go and do it. 

But I shall be false to myself. 

That is for you to bring into the question, not for me. 
For it is you who know yourself ; you know at how much 
you put your worth, and at what price you sell yourself. 
For different men sell at different prices. 

That is why Agrippinus, when Florus was considering 
whether he should go down to Nero s shows, to perform 
some part in them himself, said to him, Go down. And 
when he asked, Why do you not go down yourself ? 
said, Because I do not even consider the question. For 
when a man once lowers himself to think about such 
matters, and to value external things and calculate about 

Book /, Chapter 2 49 

them he has almost forgotten his own character. What 
is it you ask me ? Is death or life to be preferred ? 
I say life . Pain or pleasure ? I say pleasure . 3 

But, if I do not act in the tragedy, I shall be 

Go then and act your tragedy, but I will not do so. 
You ask me, Why ? I answer, Because you count 
yourself to be but an ordinary thread in the tunic. The purple 
What follows then ? You ought to think how you can be 

like other men, just as one thread does not wish to have stands out 
something special to distinguish it from the rest : but rest 
I want to be the purple, that touch of brilliance which 
gives distinction and beauty to the rest. Why then do 
you say to me, Make yourself like unto the many ? If 
I do that, I shall no longer be the purple. 

Priscus Helvidius too saw this, and acted on it. When As we see 
Vespasian sent to him not to come into the Senate he \ n * e Y 1 " 
answered, You can forbid me to be a senator ; but as spirit of 
long as I am a senator I must come in. 

Come in then, he says, and be silent. 

Question me not and I will be silent. 

But I am bound to question you. 

And I am bound to say what seems right to me. 

But, if you say it, I shall kill you. 

When did I tell you, that I was immortal? You 
will do your part, and I mine. It is yours to kill, mine 
to die without quailing : yours to banish, mine to go 
into exile without groaning. 

What good, you ask, did Priscus do, being but one ? 
What good does the purple do to the garment ? Just this, 

546-241 D 

He, like 
the athlete 
who pre 
death to 
acted in 
with his 

Each man 
will come 

5-0 Discourses of Epictetus 

that being purple it gives distinction and stands out as 
a fine example to the rest. Another man, had Caesar in 
such circumstances told him not to come into the Senate, 
would have said, Thank you for sparing me. Such a 
one he would never have forbidden to come in ; he 
would know that he would either sit silent like a pipkin 
or if he spoke would say what he knew Caesar wished and 
pile on more besides. 

This spirit too was shown by a certain athlete, who 
was threatened with death if he did not sacrifice his 
virility. When his brother, who was a philosopher, 
came to him and said, Brother, what will you do ? Are 
we to let the knife do its work and still go into the gymna 
sium ? he would not consent, but endured to meet his 
death. (Here some one asked, How did he do so, as an 
athlete or as a philosopher? ) He did so as a man, 
and a man who had wrestled at Olympia and been pro 
claimed victor, one who had passed his days in such a place 
as that, not one who anoints himself at Bato s. Another 
man would have consented to have even his head cut off, 
if he could have lived without it. 

That is what I mean by keeping your character : such 
is its power with those who have acquired the habit of 
carrying it into every question that arises. 

Go to, Epictetus, have yourself shaved. 

If I am a philosopher I say, I will not be shaved. 

I must behead you then. 

Behead me, if it is better for you so. 

One asked, How then shall we discover, each of us, 
what suits his character ? 

Book /, Chapter 2 yi 

How does the bull, he answered, at the lion s approach, to the 
alone discover what powers he is endowed with, when he ^^ e ^ e 
stands forth to protect the whole herd ? It is plain that character, 
with the possession of his power the consciousness of it 
also is given him. So each of us, who has power of this 
sort, will not be unaware of its possession. Like the bull, 1 
the man of noble nature does not become noble of a 
sudden ; he must train through the winter, and make 
ready, and not lightly leap to meet things that concern 
him not. 

Of one thing beware, O man ; see what is the price at Above all, 
which you sell your will. If you do nothing else, do not u 1 ^ ma -?i 
sell your will cheap. The great, heroic style, it may be, too cheap, 
belongs to others, to Socrates 4 and men like him. b h 

If then this is our true nature, why do not all men, or of heroic 

many, show it ? mould > he 

J may yet 

What ? Do all horses turn out swift, are all dogs good do, Ms beat, 
at the scent ? 

What am I to do then ? Since I have no natural gifts, 
am I to make no effort for that reason ? 

Heaven forbid. Epictetus is not better than Socrates : 
if only he is as good as Socrates I am content. For I 
shall never be a Milo, yet I do not neglect my body ; 
nor a Croesus, and yet I do not neglect my property ; 
nor, in a word, do we abandon our effort in any field 
because we despair of the first place. 

D 2 

Discourses of Epictetus 

He who 
believes in 
the father 
hood of 
God will 
have no 

But most 
men think 
only of 
their piti 
ful body.. 


What conclusions may be drawn from the fact that God is 
Father of men. 

IF a man could only take to heart this judgement, as 
he ought, that we are all, before anything else, children 
of God and that God is the Father of gods and men, 
I think that he will never harbour a mean or ignoble 
thought about himself. Why, if Caesar adopts you, your 
arrogance will be past all bearing ; but if you realize that 
you are a son of Zeus, will you feel no elation ? We ought 
to be proud, but we are not ; as there are these two 
elements mingled in our birth, the body which we share 
with the animals, and the reason and mind which we 
share with the gods, men in general decline upon that 
wretched and dead kinship with the beasts, and but few 
claim that which is divine and blessed. 

And so, since every one, whoever he be, must needs 
deal with each person or thing according to the opinion 
that he holds about them, those few who think that they 
have been born to be faithful, born to be honourable, 
born to deal with their impressions without error, have 
no mean or ignoble thought about themselves. But 
the thoughts of most men are just the opposite to this. 
What am I ? A miserable creature of a man ; and my 
wretched rags of flesh . Wretched indeed, but you 
have too something better than your rags of flesh . 
Why then do you discard the better and cling to your 
rags ? 

Book / 5 Chapter 3 


By reason of this lower kinship some of us fall away, and and so fall 
become like wolves, faithless and treacherous and mis 
chievous, others like lions, savage and brutal and untame- mere 
able, but the greater part of us become foxes and the most 
god-forsaken creatures in the animal world. For a foul- 
mouthed and wicked man is no better than a fox or the 
meanest and most miserable of creatures. Look to it 
then and beware lest you turn out to be one of these god 
forsaken creatures. 


On progress, or moral advance. 

How shall we describe progress l ? It is the state of The true 

him who having learnt from philosophers that man wills P r g ress 

_ L _ is towards 

to get what is good, and wills to avoid what is evil, and peace of 

having/learnt also that peace and calm come to a man only minc * > 
if he fail not to get what he wills, and if he fall not into 
that which he avoids,mas put away from him altogether 
the will to get anything and has postponed it to the 
future, and wills to avoid only such things as are dependent 
on his will. For if he tries to avoid anything beyond his 
will, he knows that, for all his avoidance, he will one 
day come to grief and be unhappy. And if this is the 
/ promise that virtue makes to us) the promise to produce 
happiness and peace and calm, surely progress toward 
virtue is progress toward each of these. For to whatever 
end the perfection of a thing leads, to that end is progress 
an approach. 

How is it then that, though we admit that this is the But men 

^4 Discourses of Epictetus 

seek it nature of virtue, we search elsewhere for progress and 
elsewhere. disp]ay j t elsewhere ? 

What does virtue produce ? 

Peace of mind. 

Who then makes progress ? Is it he who has read many 
treatises of Chrysippus ? Can this be virtue to have 
understood Chrysippus ? For if this be so, we must admit 
that progress is nothing but to understand a lot of sayings 
of Chrysippus. But, the fact is, we admit that virtue 
tends to one result, and yet declare that progress, the 
approach to virtue, tends to another. 
Progress Yonder man , he says, can already read Chrysippus by 

! iesno f. himself. 
in reading 

books, but Bravo, by the gods, you make progress, fellow. Pro- 
*" tra | lln K g ress indeed ! Why do you mock him ? Why do you 
draw him away from the sense of his own shortcomings ? 
Will you not show him what virtue really means, that he 
may learn where to seek for progress ? Miserable man, 
there is only one place to seek it where your work lies. 
Where .does it lie ? It lies in the region of will ; * that you 
may not fail to get what you will to get, nor fall into what 
you will to avoid ; it lies in avoiding error in the region 
of impulse, impulse to act and impulse not to act : it lies 
in assent and the withholding of assent, that in these you 
may never be deceived. 2 But the first department I 
have named comes first and is most necessary. If you 
merely tremble and mourn and seek to escape misfortune, 
progress is of course impossible. 

This is the Show me your progress then in this field. You act as 
true work t j lou g] 1 wnen \ was talking to an athlete and said Show 

Book /, Chapter 4 5-5- 

me your shoulders , he answered, Look at my leaping- of man, to 
weights. That is for you and your leaping-weights to w "j"f nto S 

look to ; I want to see the final result of your leaping- harmony 

weights. nature . 

Take the treatise on " Impulse" and learn how i have 
read it. 

Slave, that is not what I am looking for I want to 
know what impulses you have, for action and against it, 
to know what you will to get and will to avoid ; how you 
plan and purpose and prepare whether in harmony 
with nature, or out of harmony with nature. Show me 
that you act in harmony with nature, and I will tell you 
that you are making progress ; act out of harmony with 
nature, and I bid you begone and write books on such 
things and not merely expound them. What good, I ask, 
will they do you ? Do not you know that the whole book 
is worth but five pence ? Do you think then that the 
man who expounds it is worth more ? Therefore never 
seek your work in one place and progress in another. 

Where then is progress ? The man 

, . . . , . . , i who is in 

If any one of you, dismissing things without, has the way O f 

brought his mind to bear on his own will, to work out its progress 

, . . . r i has trained 

full development, that he may bring it into perfect har- hig will> 

mony with nature lofty, free, unhindered, untrammelled, and left 
trustworthy, self-respecting ; if he has learnt that he that c 
wills to get or to avoid what is not in his power cannot that lies 
be trustworthy nor free, but must needs h mself change 
as they change, fitful as the winds, and must needs have 
made himself subservient to others, who can procure or 
hinder such things ; and if, in a word, when he rises in 

56 Discourses of Epictetus 

the morning he guards and keeps these principles, washes 
as one thatis trustworthy, eats as one that is self-respecting, 
and on each occasion that arises labours to achieve his 
main tasks, even as the runner makes running his one aim 
and the voice-trainer his training he is the man who is 
indeed in the path of progress and who has not travelled 
to no purpose. 

This puts But if all his efforts are turned to the study of books, if 
mm above on ^jg ^ e S p en( j s n i s labour, and for this has gone abroad, 
laments of then I bid him go straight home and not neglect what 

Priam and ^ g n( j g t ^ere for this that he has gone abroad for is 


and gives nothing ; his true work is to study to remove from his 

him the jj e mourn i n g a nd lamentation, the ah me and alas 
calm con 
tent of for my misery , the talk of bad fortune and misfor- 
Socrates. tun , . an( j tQ } earnj wn at is death, what is exile, what 
is imprisonment, what is the cup of hemlock ; that he 
may be able to say in prison, My dear Crito, if it pleases 
the gods, so be it , and not such words as miserable old 
man that I am, is it for this I kept my grey hairs ? Whose 
words are they ? Do you think I shall name to you a mean 
man of no reputation ? Are they not the words of Priam 
and of Oedipus ? Are they not the words of all kings that 
are ? For what else are tragedies but a portrayal in such 
metrical form of the sufferings of men who have set their 
admiration on outward things ? If delusion after all were 
the only means for a man to learn this lesson 3 the lesson 
that not one of the things beyond the compass of our will 
concerns us, then I for my part would choose a delusion 
such as this, if it should procure me a life of undisturbed 
tranquillity ; I leave it to you to see what you choose. 

Book /, Chapter 4 5" 7 

What then does Chrysippus offer us ? Yet men 

That you may know , he says, that these truths from "kankftcT 
which tranquillity and peace of mind come to men are God for 
not false take my books and you shall find that what thereve- 
gives me peace of mind is true and in harmony with this truth, 

O great good fortune ! O great benefactor, who shows 
us the way ! And yet though all men have raised temples 
and altars to Triptolemus, for teaching us the cultivation 
of the crops, yet what man of you ever set up an altar 
in honour of him who found the truth and brought it 
to light and published it among all men not the truth 
of mere living, but the truth that leads to right living ? 
Who ever dedicated a shrine or an image for this gift, or 
worships God for it ? I say shall we, who offer sacrifices 
because the gods gave us wheat or the vine, never give 
thanks to God that they produced this manner of fruit 
in the mind of men, whereby they were to show us the 
true way of happiness ? 


Against followers of the Academy. 

IF a man, says Epictetus, objects to what is manifestly it is im- 

clear, it is not easy to find an argument against him, P ossi ble to 

. . . reason 

whereby one shall change his mind. And this is not w ith a 

because of his power, nor because of the weakness of him hardened 

r . mind, 

that is instructing him ; but, when a man, worsted in 

argument, becomes hardened like a stone, how can one 
reason with him any more ? 

5" 8 Discourses of Epictetus 

It is bad Now there are two ways in which a man may be thus 

to have hardened : one when his reasoning faculty is petrified, 

the reason 

hardened, and the other when his moral sense is petrified, and he 

sets himself deliberately not to assent to manifest argu- 
worse when 

the moral ments, and not to abandon what conflicts with them. 

sense is Now most Q j ug ear ^ d eac lening o f tne body and would 
take all possible means to avoid such a calamity, yet we 
take no heed of the deadening of the mind and the spirit. 
When the mind itself is in such a state that a man can 
follow nothing and understand nothing, we do indeed 
think that he is in a bad condition; yet, if a man s sense 
of shame and self-respect is deadened, we even go so far 
as to call him a strong man . 

Do you comprehend that you are awake ? 

This is not No, he says, no more than I comprehend it, when 
ind ^ seem to be awake in my dreams. 

but mere Is there no difference then between the one sort of 

weakness. . 1^.1.^.1.5 

impression and the other r 


Can I argue with him any longer ? What fire or sword, 
I say, am I to bring to bear on him, to prove that his mind 
is deadened ? He has sensation and pretends that he 
has not ; he is worse than the dead. One man does not 
see the battle ; he is ill off. This other sees it but stirs 
not, nor advances ; his state is still more wretched. His 
sense of shame and self-respect is cut out of him, and his 
reasoning faculty, though not cut away, is brutalized. 
Am I to call this strength ? Heaven forbid, unless I call 
it strength in those who sin against nature, that makes 
them do and say in public whatever occurs to their fancy. 

Book /, Chapter 6 f9 


On Providence. 

EACH single thing that comes into being in the universe There is 
,_ T , -n j -r reason to 

affords a ready ground for praising Providence, it one pra j se 

possesses these two qualities a power to see clearly the Providence 
circumstances of each, and the spirit of gratitude there- tn j ng 
with. Without these, one man will fail to see the useful 
ness of nature s products and another though he see it 
will not give thanks for them. If God had created 
colours and, in general, all visible things, but had not 
created a faculty to behold them, of what use would they 
be ? None at all. If on the other hand He had created 
this faculty, but had not created objects of such a nature 
as to fall under the faculty of vision, even so of what use 
would it be ? None at all. If again He had created both 
these, and had not created light, even so there would be 
no use in them. Who is it then that has adapted this to The hand 
that, and that to this ? Who is it that has fitted the sword "j.^^^ 
to the scabbard and the scabbard to the sword ? Is there appears in 
no one ? Surely the very structure of such finished pro- Q^^re 
ducts leads us commonly to infer that they must be the no less 
work of some craftsman, and are not constructed at ran 
dom. Are we to say then that each of these products art. 
points to the craftsman, but that things visible and vision 
and light do not ? Do not male and female and the desire 
of union and the power to use the organs adapted for it 
do not these point to the craftsman ? But if these things 
are so, then the fact that the intellect is so framed that 


created for 
self -con 
tion, has 
than the 

60 Discourses of Epictetus 

we are not merely the passive subjects of sensations, but 
select and subtract from them and add to them, and by 
this means construct particular objects, nay more, that 
we pass from them to others which are not in mere 
juxtaposition I say are not these facts sufficient to rouse 
men s attention and to deter them from leaving out the 
craftsman ? If it be not so, let them explain to us what 
it is which makes each of these things, or how it is possible 
that objects so marvellously designed should have come 
into being by chance and at random ? 

Again, Are these faculties found in us alone ? Many 
in us alone faculties which the rational creature had 
special need of but many you will find that we share 
with irrational creatures. Do they also then understand 
events and things ? No for using is one thing, and 
understanding is another. God had need of them as 
creatures dealing with impressions, and of us as dealing 
with them and understanding them as well. That is 
why it is enough for them to eat and drink and rest and 
breed, and every function is theirs which each irrational 
creature fulfils ; while we, to whom He gave also the 
power of understanding, cannot be satisfied with these 
functions, but, unless we act with method and order and 
consistently with our respective natures and constitutions, 
we shall no longer attain to our end. For those whose con 
stitutions are different have also differentfunctionsanddif- 
ferentends. Thereforethatwhichbyconstitutioniscapable 
only of using things, is satisfied to use them anyhow ; 
but that which by constitution is capable of understand 
ing things as well as using them, will never attain its end, 

Book /, Chapter 6 61 

unless to use it adds method also. What is my conclusion ? 
God makes one animal for eating, and another for service 
in farming, another to produce cheese, and others for 
different uses of a like nature, for which there is no need 
of understanding impressions and being able to distin 
guish them ; but He brought man into the world to take 
cognizance of Himself and His works, and not only to take 
cognizance but also to interpret them. Therefore it is 
beneath man s dignity to begin and to end where the 
irrational creatures do : he must rather begin where they 
do and end where nature has ended in forming us ; and 
nature ends in contemplation and understanding and 
a way of life in harmony with nature. See to it then 
that ye do not die without taking cognizance of these 

You travel to Olympia, that you may see the work of 
Phidias, and each of you thinks it a misfortune to die 
without visiting these sights, and will you have no desire 
to behold and to comprehend those things for which 
there is no need of travel, in the presence of which you 
stand here and now, each one of you ? Will you not realize 
then who you are and to what end you are born and what 
that is which you have received the power to see ? 

Yes, but there are unpleasant and hard things in life. 
Are there none such at Olympia ? Are you not scorched 
with heat ? Are you not cramped for room ? Is not 
washing difficult ? Are you not wet through when it is 
wet ? Do you not get your fill of noise and clamour and 
other annoyances ? Yet I fancy that when you set against 
all these hardships the magnificence of the spectacle you 

he must 
use them 
to bring 
his life 
into har 
mony with 

Every man 
has within 
his reach 
a spectacle 
far greater 

the spec 
tacle of 


of life , 
like the 
tasks of 
are the 
school of 
man s 

62 Discourses of Epictetus 

bear them and put up with them. And have you not 
received faculties, which will enable you to bear all that 
happens to you ? Have you not received greatness of 
spirit ? Have you not received courage ? Have you not 
received endurance ? If I am of a great spirit what 
concern have I in what may happen ? What shall shake me 
or confound me or seem painful to me ? Instead of using 
my faculty for the purpose for which I have received it, 
am I to mourn and lament at the events of fortune ? 

Yes, but my rheum flows. 

Slave ! What have you hands for then ? Is it not to 
wipe your rheum away ? 

Is it reasonable then that there should be rheum in 
the world ? 

Well, how much better it is to wipe your rheum 
away than to complain ! What do you think would 
have become of Heracles if there had not been a lion, 
as in the story, and a hydra and a stag and a boar 
and unjust and brutal men, whom he drove forth and 
cleansed the world of them ? What would he have done, 
if there had been nothing of this sort ? Is it not plain that 
he would have wrapped himself up and slept ? Nay to 
begin with he would never have been a Heracles at all, 
had he slumbered all his life in such ease and luxury ; and 
if by any chance he had been, of what good would he have 
been ? What use would he have made of his arms and his 
might and his endurance and noble heart as well, had not 
he been stimulated and trained by such perils and oppor 
tunities ? 

Was it his duty then to contrive these occasions for 

Book J, Chapter 6 63 

himself and to seek means to bring a lion, a boar, or a 
hydra into his country ? 

That were madness and folly ; but as they had come 
into being and were found in the world these monsters were 
of service to display Heracles powers and to train them. 

It is for you then, when you realize this, to look to the If a man 
faculties you possess, and considering them to say, Zeus, ^1^, he 
send me what trial Thou wilt ; for I have endowments will cease 
and resources, given me by Thee, to bring myself honour j^^ n " 
through what befalls. Nay, instead, you sit trembling show a 
for fear of what may happen, or lamenting, mourning, ^ag 
and groaning for what does happen, and then you reproach spirit, 
the gods. What else but impiety indeed can attend 
upon so ignoble a spirit as yours ? And yet God not only 
gave us these faculties, which will enable us to bear all 
the issue of events without being humiliated or broken 
down by it, but, as became a good king and a true father, 
He gave us this gift free from all let or hindrance or 
compulsion nay, He put it wholly in our hands, not 
even leaving Himself any power to let or hinder us. Yet 
possessing these powers in freedom for your own you 
refuse to use them and will not realize what gifts you 
have received and from whose hand, but you sit mourning 
and grieving, some of you blinded to the giver Himself 
and refusing to recognize your benefactor, and some from 
meanness of spirit turning to reproaches and complaints 
against God. Yet I will show you that you have resources 
and endowment to fit you for a noble and courageous 
spirit : show me, if you can, what endowments you have 
for complaining and reproach. 

^4 Discourses of Epictetus 


On the use of variable premisses and hypothetical arguments 
and the like. 1 

Logic, like MOST men ignore the fact that the treatment of 
other variable premisses and hypothetical arguments and again of 

activities, syllogisms that conclude by way of question, and, in a word, 
is con- O f a n gych arguments is concerned with conduct. 2 For 
with really, whatever subject we are dealing with, our aim is to 

conduct, n d now the good man may fitly deal with it and fitly be 
have towards it. It follows then that either they must say 
that the virtuous man will not condescend to question 
and must and answer, or that if he does he will take no care to avoid 
therefore Behaving lightly and at random in questioning and 
ignored answering ; or else, if they accept neither alternative, 

by V 16 they must admit that we have to investigate those subjects 
good man. . , 

round which question and answer chiefly turn, lor what 

do we promise in a discussion ? To establish what is true, 
to remove what is false, to withhold assent in what is 
uncertain. Is it enough then merely to learn that this 
is so ? 

It is enough. 

Is it enough then for him who wishes not to go wrong 
in the use of coin merely to be told why you accept 
genuine drachmas and reject spurious ones ? 

It is not enough. 

What then must you acquire besides ? Surely you 
He must must have a faculty to test and distinguish genuine 
learn to drachmas from spurious. Is it not true then in 

Booh 7, Chapter 7 

regard to argument also that merely to hear what is said is 
not enough ; a man must acquire the faculty to test and 
distinguish the true from the false and the uncertain ? 
It must be so. 

This being so, what is required in argument ? 
Accept what follows from the premisses you have duly 

Here again, is it enough merely to know this ? No, you 
must learn how a conclusion follows from the premisses, 
and how sometimes one proposition follows from one 
other, and sometimes from many together. May we say 
then that this faculty too must be acquired by him who is 
to behave with good sense in discussion, and who is himself 
to prove each point in his demonstration and to follow 
the demonstrations of others, and to avoid being led astray 
by sophistical arguments, posing as demonstrations ? 
Thus it comes about that we are led to think it really 
necessary to discuss and to practise the arguments and 
moods which are conclusive. 

But note this : there are cases where we have granted 
the premisses properly, and such and such a conclusion 
follows which, though it follows, is none the less false. 
What then is it fitting for me to do ? Must I accept 
the false conclusion ? How can I do that ? Must I say I 
was wrong in granting the premisses ? 

No, you may not do this either. 

That it does not follow from the premisses granted ? 

No, you may not do this. 

What then is one to do in these circumstances ? May 
we not say that just as in order to be in debt it is not 

546-241 E 

true argu - 
ments from 

But he 
must not 
on pre 
misses he 
has agreed 
to, unless 
he still 
accepts the 

66 Discourses of Epictetus 

enough merely to borrow, but one must remain a bor 
rower and not have paid off the loan, so in order to be 
bound to admit an inference it is not enough to have 
granted the premisses, but one must abide by having 
granted them ? 2 

In a word, if they remain to the end as we granted them, 
we are absolutely bound to remain by our concessions 
and accept what follows the premisses ; if, on the other 
hand, they do not remain as they were granted, we are 
also absolutely bound to abandon the concession and no 
longer to accept what is inconsistent with the premisses; 
for since we have abandoned our agreement as to the 
premisses, this inference which is drawn no longer con 
cerns us or touches us. We must then examine into 
premisses of this sort and into such changes and alterations 
in them, by which they are changed in the actual process 
of question or answer or syllogism or the like, and so 
afford occasion to the foolish to be troubled because they 
do not see the sequence of the argument. Why must 
For care- we so do ? That in this sphere we may do what ^is 

ful reason- fj tt i ne by avoiding what is random or confused in 
ing is fit 
ting for us. argument. 

The same And we ought to do the same with hypotheses ^and 

care is hypothetical arguments. For it is necessary sometimes 

iTregaTd to assume a hypothesis as a step to the next argument. 

to hypo- Must we t hen concede every given hypothesis or not ? 

reasoning. And if not every one, which ? 3 And, having conceded it, 

must we abide by it once for all and maintain it, or are 

we sometimes to abandon it, and are we to accept what 

follows from it and reject what conflicts with it ? 

Book /, Chapter 7 6j 


But a man says, If you accept a hypothesis of what is 
possible, I will reduce you in argument to what is impos 

Will the prudent man refuse to meet him in argument, 
and avoid examination and discussion with him ? Nay, 
it is just the prudent man who is capable of reasoning The wise 
logically and who is expert at questioning and answering, man Wl11 
yes and who is proof against deception and sophistry, bewise 

Will he then consent to argue, but take no pains to avoid lf he , ls . 
, . . , careless in 

being careless and casual in argument ? If so, will he not argument. 

cease to be the man we consider him to be ? But without 
some such training and preparation as I suggest can he 
guard the sequence of his argument? Let them show 
that he can, and then all these speculation are idle ; 
they were absurd and inconsistent with the conception 
we have formed of the good man. 

Why do we persist in being lazy and indolent and 
sluggish, why do we seek excuses to enable us to avoid 
toiling early and late to perfect ourselves in logical 
theory ? 

Do you call it parricide if I go wrong in logic ? 
Slave, here is no father for you to kill. You ask what 
you have done ; you have committed the one error 
which was possible in this field. Your answer is the very 
one I made myself to Rufus when he rebuked me because 
I could not find the one missing step in a syllogism. 
Well, said I, I suppose I have not burnt the Capitol 
down ; and he answered, Slave, the missing step here 
is the Capitol. 

Failure in 
logic in its 
way may 
be com 
pared to 

68 Discourses of Epictetus 

You are not going to tell me, are you, that setting fire 
to the Capitol and killing one s father are the only forms 
of wrongdoing ? To deal with one s impressions without 
thought or method, to fail to follow argument or demon 
stration or sophism, in a word, to be unable to see what 
concerns himself and what does not in question and answer 
is there no wrongdoing, I ask, in any of these ? 







any more 




why we do 
not devote 
more time 
to such 
are (i) that 
we cannot 


That faculties are fraught with danger for the uneducated. 

JUST as it is possible to interchange terms which are 
equivalent to one another, so and in just as many ways it 
is allowable to vary in argument the types of disputative 
argument and enthymeme. 1 Take for instance this kind of 
argument : If you borrowed and did not repay, you owe 
me the money. You did not borrow without repaying ; 
therefore 2 you do not owe me the money. And the 
philosopher above all others is the proper person to 
handle such arguments with skill. For if enthymeme is 
imperfect syllogism, plainly he who is trained in perfect 
syllogism would be equally capable in dealing with 

Why then, you ask, do we not train ourselves and one 
another in this style of argument ? Because even now, 
though we do not devote ourselves to training in these 
matters and though we are not drawn away, so far as I have 
any influence, from cultivating character, nevertheless 
we make no advance towards goodness. What should 

Book /, Chapter 8 6$ 

we have to expect then, if we should add this business to spare time 

our other employments ? And there is more not only f m cul- 
r J i tivatmg 

should we have less leisure for more necessary things, but character, 

we should give uncommon occasion for conceit and 
vanity. For the faculty of disputative and plausible ( 2 ) Rhe- 

reasoning is a powerful one, especially if it should be torical 
j , , , . . arguments 

developed by training and gam further dignity from tend to 

mastery of language. For indeed generally every faculty P uff U P tne 
. j i . ignorant, 

is dangerous when it comes into the hands of those who 

are without education and without real force, for it tends 
to exalt and puff them up. For how would it be possible 
to persuade the young man who excels in these arguments 
that he ought not to become dependent upon them, but 
to make them depend upon him ? Instead of this he 
tramples under foot all we say to him and walks among 
us in a high state of elation, so puffed up that he cannot 
bear that any one should remind him how far he has 
fallen short and into what errors he has lapsed. 

What do you mean ? Was not Plato a philosopher ? Rhetorical 

I reply, Was not Hippocrates a physician ? But you P ower 1S 

not neces- 
see how eloquent Hippocrates was. Was Hippocrates so sary in a 

eloquent by virtue of being a physician ? Why then do ph llos - 

you mix qualities, which are casually united in the same 

persons? Suppose Plato was handsome and strong; ought 

I also to set to and strive to become handsome or strong, 

as though this were necessary for philosophy, just because 

one philosopher was handsome as well ? Will you not 

have the discernment to see what makes men philosophers 

and what qualities are accidental in them ? Suppose now 

I were a philosopher, ought you to become lame f 

70 Discourses of Epictetus 

Such You ask me, do I then count these faculties as of no 

power has effcct ? 

its value, 

but it is Heaven forbid ! no more than I ignore the faculty of 

not man s v ; s j on Nevertheless if you ask me what is the true good 
end, which _ 

is dis- of man, I can only say to you that it lies in a certain disposi- 

Pf 1 , 110 ",, tionof the will 3 , 
of the will. 


How one may draw conclusions from the fact that ive are 
God s kinsmen. 

If we are IF these statements of the philosophers are true, that 
of God we ^d an d men are akin, there is but one course open to 
are citizens men, to do as Socrates did : never to reply to one who 
universe as ^ s ^ s country, I am an Athenian , or, I am a Corin 
thian , but I am a citizen of the universe. For why do 
you say that you are an Athenian, instead of merely a 
native of the little spot on which your bit of a body was 
cast forth at birth ? Plainly you call yourself Athenian 
or Corinthian after that more sovereign region which 
includes not only the very spot where you were born, and 
all your household, but also generally that region from 
which the race of your forbears has come down to you. 
connected When a man therefore has learnt to understand the 
the } T t g vernment of the universe and has realized that there is 
frame of nothing so great or sovereign" or all-inclusive as this 
d" b frame of things wherein men and God are united, and 
our son- that from it come the seeds from which are sprung not 
abTve alf 3 onl > m y own father or grandfather, but all things that 
fear. are begotten and that grow upon earth, and rational 

Book /, Chapter 9 71 

creatures in particular for these alone are by nature fitted 
to share in the society of God, being connected with Him 
by the bond of reason why should he not call himself 
a citizen of the universe and a son of God ? Why should 
he fear anything that can happen to him among men ? 
When kinship with Caesar or any other of those who are 
powerful in Rome is sufficient to make men live in 
security, above all scorn and free from every fear, shall 
not the fact that we have God as maker and father and 
kinsman relieve us from pains and fears ? 

And where am I to find food to eat, if I have nothing ? For the 

says one. P hi !f 


Well, what do slaves do when they leave their masters, or depends 
what do they rely on ? Do they rely on fields, or servants, on himse 
or silver plate ? No, on nothing but themselves ; never 
theless sustenance does not fail them. And shall our 
philosopher in his wanderings have to rest his confidence 
in others, instead of taking care of himself ? Is he to be 
baser and more cowardly than the unreasoning beasts ? For 
each one of them is content with itself, and lacks not its 
proper sustenance nor the way of life that is naturally 
suited to it. 

I think that the old man l who sits here to teach you Indeed 
ought to devote his skill not to save you from being low- some f ear 
minded, and from reasoning about yourselves in a low of young 
and ignoble spirit, but rather to prevent young men from Conine uf e 
arising of the type who, discovering their kinship with the from pride 
gods, and seeing that we have these fetters attached to us 

in the shape of the body and its possessions and all that sonship. 
we find necessary for the course and management of 


72 Discourses of Epictetus 

our life by reason of the body, may desire to fling all these 
away as vexatious and useless burdens and so depart to 
the gods their kindred. 

The And so your teacher and instructor, if he were a true 

must warn teacner > should engage in this conflict of argument : 
hisyounger You come saying, Epictetus, we can bear no longer to 

against be bound with the fetters of this wretched body, giving it 
this error, meat and drink and rest and purgation, and by reason of 

The pleas the body having to adapt ourselves to this or that set of 
of the 

circumstances. Are not these things indifferent and as 

nothing to us, and death no evil thing ? Are we not kins 
men of the gods, from whom we have come hither ? 
Suffer us to depart to the place whence we have come, 
suffer us to be released from these bonds that are fastened 
to us and weigh us down. Here are robbers and thieves 
and law-courts and so-called kings, who by reason of our 
poor body and its possessions are accounted to have 
authority 2 over us. Suffer us to show them that they 
have authority over nothing. 

Hereupon I answer : Men as you are, wait upon God. 
When He gives the signal and releases you from this 
service, then you shall depart to Him ; but for the present 
be content to dwell in this country wherein He appointed 
you to dwell. Short indeed is the time of your dwelling 
here, and easy for them whose spirit is thus disposed. 
What manner of tyrant or what thief or what law-courts 
have any fears for those who have thus set at nought the 
body and its possessions ? Stay where you are, and depart 
not without reason. Such should be the answer of the 
teacher to his gifted pupils. How different is what we 

should be 


by the 

master s 


not to 




Book /, Chapter 9 73 

see ! There is no life in your master, and no life in you. But too 
When you have had your fill to-day, you sit groaning ? ten mere 
about the morrow, and how you are to find food. Slave, in master 
if you get food, you will have it ; if not, you will depart : or P u P lls > 
the door is open. Why do you whine ? What room is cherish 
there for tears any more ? What occasion for flattery any j. e ares 
more ? Why should one envy another ? Why should morrow, 
he gaze with wonder on them that are rich or powerful, 
especially if they be strong and quick to anger ? For what 
will they do with us ? We will pay no heed to what 
they have power to do, what we really care for they The great 

cannot touch. Who, I ask you, will be master over one a "r 1 

who is of this spirit ? touch what 

How did Socrates approach these matters ? Surely as you r , ea ^ 
one should who is convinced of his kinship with the gods, The sp i r it 

If you tell me, he says, " we acquit you on condition f God s 
. . kinsmen, 

that you discourse no longer as you have done hitherto, asse enin 

and that you do not annoy young or old among us ", I shall Socrates, 
answer, " It is absurd for you to suppose that, while I am 
bound to maintain and guard any post to which your 
general appointed me, and should rather die ten thousand 
times than abandon it, yet if God has appointed us to 
a certain place and way of life we ought to abandon that." 
Here you see a man who is a kinsman of the gods in very is far 

truth. But as for us we think of ourselves as if we were removed 

from our 

all belly and flesh and animal desire ; such are our fears, fleshly 

such our passions ; those that can help us to these ends standards 
we flatter, and at the same time fear. 

Some one has asked me to write for him to Rome, one The true 

who, as the world thought, had had misfortunes ; he had man n s 

no one to 
plead for 

for he can 
find in 
himself all 
that he 
needs a 
noble and 

74 Discourses of Epictetus 

once been famous and rich, and had now lost everything 
and was living here. So I wrote for him in a humble 
tone. And he read my letter and gave it me back and 
said, I wanted your help, not your pity. So, too, 
Rufus, to try me, used to say, Your master will do this 
or that to you ; and when I answered him, This is the 
lot of man , Why then , said he, do I appeal to your 
master when I can get everything from you ? for, 
indeed, it is true that what a man has of himself it is idle 
and futile for him to receive from another. 4 Am I then, 
who can get from myself the gift of a noble and lofty 
spirit, to get from you a field or money or office ? Heaven 
forbid ! I will not be so blind to my true possessions. 
But when a man is mean and cowardly, for him one must 
needs write letters as for one that is dead. Make us 
a present of the corpse of so and so and his miserable quart 
of blood. For indeed such a one is a mere corpse and a 
quart of blood and nothing more. If he were anything 
more, he would have realized that one man cannot make 
another miserable. 


To those who have spent their energies on advancement in 

If we IF we had been as earnest and serious about our work 

showed as , j r> i_ i_ 

much zeal as men m ^ ome are about their concerns, we too 

as men of might perhaps have achieved something. I know what 
Rome we was sa ^ to me ^7 a man older than myself who is now 
should in charge of the corn-supply l in Rome, when he passed 

Book 7, Chapter 10 75- 

through here on his way back from exile ; he ran down his achieve 


former life and made great professions for the future, n 

saying that when once he was back he would have no 
other interest except to live out the rest of his life in 
peace and tranquillity, For how little I have still left 
me , said he. 

And I said to him, You will not do it ; so soon as 
you sniff the air of Rome you will forget all your pro 
fessions ; and I told him that if he got a chance of en 
tering the Palace, he would thrust his way in and give 
God thanks. 

Epictetus, he answered, if you find me putting one 
foot in the Palace, believe what you like of me. 

Well, what did he do? Before he came to Rome, a dis 
patch from the Emperor met him, and as soon as he got 
it he forgot all he had said and has gone on adding to his 
heap ever since. I should like to stand by him now and 
remind him of the words he used as he passed through, 
and say to him, How much more clever a prophet am 
I than you ! 

What conclusion do I draw ? Do I say that the creature Man is 
man is not to be active ? Heaven forbid ! But what is it act j on 
that fetters our faculty of action ? Take myself first : but is 
when day comes, I remind myself a little as to what mc j i ence 
lesson I ought to read to my pupils. Then in a moment 
I find myself saying, But what do I really care what sort 
of lesson I give to this man or that ? The first thing is 
for me to sleep. And yet how can their business be 
compared in importance with ours ? If you attend to 
what they are doing you will see the difference. They 

The fault 
lies partly 
with the 
with the 
reacts on 

To an 
asked for 

76 Discourses of Epictetus 

do nothing all day long except vote, dispute, de 
liberate about a handful of corn or an acre of land, and 
petty profits of this sort. Is there any resemblance 
between receiving and reading a petition such as this : 
I beg you to let me export a little corn , and a petition 
such as, I beg you to inquire from Chrysippus how the 
universe is governed and what position the rational 
creature holds in it ; inquire too who you are and what 
is good for you, and what is evil ? What have these 
petitions in common ? Do both demand the same atten 
tion ? Is it equally shameful to neglect one and to neglect 
the other ? 

What is my conclusion ? Are we elders alone indolent 
and sleepy ? Nay, the fault is much rather with you 
young men. For indeed, we old folk, when we see young 
men playing, are only too eager and ready to join their 
play. Much more, if I saw them thoroughly awakened 
and eager to share my studies, should I be eager myself to 
take my studies seriously too. 


On family affection. 

WHEN an official came to Epictetus and inquired for 
special directions he asked whether he had a wife and 
children ; and when the man said, Yes , he asked again, 
How do you get on ? 

Miserably , he said. 

What do you mean ? said he ; Men do not marry 

II 77 

and have children to the end that they may be miserable, 
but rather that they may be happy. 

Ah, said he, but I am so miserable about my poor 
children, that lately when my daughter was ill and was 
thought to be in danger I could not bear to be near her, 
but fled away from her, until some one brought me news 
that she was well. 

Well, do you think you were right to do it ? Epictetus 

It was natural , he said. 

Nay, said the master, only convince me that it was criterion in 
natural, and I will convince you that everything that is " 

natural is right. natural . 

All fathers, he said, or most of us, at least, feel like 

I do not deny, said Epictetus, that parents feel so, 
but the real question is whether it is right. No doubt 
as far as that goes, we must say that even tumours come 
into being for the good of the body, and in a word that 
error is natural, for nearly all, or most of us at least, are 
prone to error. Prove to me then how it is natural. 

I cannot ; he said, rather do you prove to me how 
it is wrong or unnatural. 

He answered, Suppose we were discussing black and 
white, what test should we call in to distinguish between 
them ? 

The sight , he said. 

What if we were discussing things hot or cold, hard 
and soft, what test should we use ? 


Well then, as we are discussing what is natural and Error in 


Discourses of Epictetus 


is re 

than in 

of taste 
or touch, 

But judge 

differ 5 and 
a criterion 
is neces- 

The par- 

reason and 

right and the opposite, what test would you have us 
take ? 

I do not know , said he. 

Look here, it is no great loss perhaps not to know the 
proper test for colours and smells, nay, and flavours too, 
but do you think it is a small loss to man not to know what 
is good and what is evil, what is natural and what is 
unnatural ? 

No, the greatest possible loss. 

Tell me now, is everything right which seems noble and 
^ tt: ^ n 8 to certa i n people ? To-day, for instance, are the 

opinions of Jews and Syrians, Egyptians and Romans, as 
tQ food aU of them h ? 

How can they be ? 

No, I suppose if the Egyptians views are right the 
other nations must of necessity be wrong ; if the Jews 
opinions are good, other people s must be bad. 

Of course. 

And where there is ignorance, there is also want of 
insight and education as to necessary things, 


When once you have realized this, then, said Epicte 
tus, you will make this your one interest in the future, 
and to this alone devote your mind to discover the 
means of judging what is natural and to use your criterion 
to distinguish each particular case as it arises. 

For the present I can help you just so far as this in 
re S ar< ^ to w ^ at 7 OU wis ^ ^ 7 OU ^ ink family affection 
is natural and good ? 

Of course. 

Book /, Chapter 1 1 79 

Again, is it true that affection is natural and good, and affection 

i , coincide, 

reason not good? 

Certainly not. 

Is there a conflict then between reason and affection? 

I think not. 

If there were a conflict, then, as one of the two is 
natural, the other must needs be unnatural ? 

Certainly , he said. 

It follows then that whenever we find reason and affec 
tion united in an action, we confidently affirm that it is 
right and good. 

Granted , he said. 

Mark what follows. I do not think you will deny that 
it is not reasonable to leave one s child when it is ill and 
to go away. The only question left for us is to consider 
whether it is affectionate. 

Let us consider it then. 

Was it right, I ask, for you, being affectionately dis 
posed to your child, to run away and leave her? Is her 
mother not fond of the child? 

She is indeed. 

Should the mother then have left her too, or should she 

She should not. 

What of the nurse? Is she fond of the child? 

She is , he said. 

Ought she then to have left her ? 

By no means. 

Again, is not the child s attendant fond of her? 

He is. 


Discourses of Epictetus 

The error 
was due, 
not to 
causes but 
to wrong 

Ought he then to have gone away and left her? Was 
it right that as a consequence the child should be thus left 
desolate and helpless because of the great affection of 
you its parents and of those about it, or should die in the 
hands of those who had no love or care for it? 

Heaven forbid ! 

Once more, it is not fair or reasonable, is it, that a man 
should not allow others equally affectionate with himself 
to do what, because he is affectionate, he thinks proper 
for himself. It is absurd. Tell me, would you have liked, 
if you were ill, your relations and every one else, even your 
wife and children, to show their affection for you in such 
a way as to leave you alone and desolate? 

Certainly not. 

Would you pray to be so loved by your own people, as 
to be always left alone by them when you were ill, because 
of their exceeding affection, or would you, if it were 
a question of being left alone, rather pray, supposing 
that were possible, to have the affection of your enemies ? 
And if that is so, we are forced to the conclusion that 
your conduct was not that of affection. 

What reason had you then? Was there nothing which 
moved and impelled you to abandon the child? How is 
that possible? It must have been the same sort of motive, 
which once made a man in Rome cover his eyes when the 
horse he had backed was running, and then again when 
the horse unexpectedly won made him faint so that he 
needed sponges to recover him. What is the motive? 
This perhaps is not the moment to define it ; but it is 
enough that we should be convinced of this if what 

Book /, Chapter 

1 1 

philosophers say is sound that we must not look for it ^/ 
somewhere outside us, but that it is always one and the 
same motive which causes us to do or not to do a thing, 
to speak or not to speak, to be elated or depressed, to fly 
or to pursue the very motive which has moved you and 
me at this moment, you to come and sit and listen to me, 
and me to say what I do. What is the motive? Surely 
it is nothing but this that we are so minded ? 1 

Nothing else. 

And if things had looked different to us, we should still 
have done what we were minded to do and nothing else. 
So when Achilles mourned, his reason was, not the death 
of Patroclus for another man, when his comrade dies, is 
not thus affected but that he was so minded. So in 
your case, you ran away just because you were so minded ; 
and again, if you stay it will be because you are so minded. 
And now you return to Rome, because you have a mind to 
do so ; and if your mind changes, you will not depart 
thither. And in a word it is not death nor exile nor pain 
nor any such thing which is the cause of our action or 
inaction, but thoughts and judgements of the mind. 
Are you convinced of this or not ? Whenever 

< I am , he said. we g 

Then on each occasion the effects of an action correspond then we 

to the causes. So henceforward whenever we do a thin must 

3 blame 
wrong, we shall blame nothing else but the judgement ourselves. 

which led us to do it, and we shall try to remove and 
extirpate this even more than we do tumours and abscesses 
from the body. And so also we shall assert that our right 
actions are determined in the same way ; and we shall 

546-241 F 

That is 
why we 
to study 
our judge 

8 2 Discourses of Epictetus 

no longer blame neighbour or wife or children as though 
they caused evils to befall us, being convinced that, unless 
we make up our mind that things are such, we do not 
act as though they were, but that whether we judge them 
to be so or not depends upon ourselves and not on any 
thing outside us. 

True , he said. 

From this day forward then we shall not investigate or 
examine the nature or condition of anything else 
whether it be land or slaves or horses or dogs but only 
our own judgements. 

I hope so , said he. 

You see then that you must become a student that 
creature whom all mock at if you really wish to investi 
gate your judgements. That this is not the work of an 
hour or a day you fully understand without my telling 


On contentment. 

There are CONCERNING the gods there are some who say that the 

many Divine does not exist, others that it exists but is inactive 
views of i-i 

the rela- and indifferent and takes no thought for anything, others 

t10 ? of again that God does exist and take thought but only for 
gods to i i_ 

the world, great things and things in the heavens, but for nothing 

on earth ; and a fourth class say that God takes thought 
also for earthly and human things, but only in a general 
way, and has no care for individuals : and there is 

Book /, Chapter 12 83 

a fifth class, to whom belong Odysseus and Socrates, 
who say 

where er I move 
Thou seest me. 

Before all things then it is necessary to examine each of and these 

these views, to see whether it is true or untrue. For if we m V st 

there are no gods, how can following the gods be the end because of 

of man ? If againthere are gods, but they care for nothing, !-^ e r ^ ear " 

in that case too what good will it be to follow them? conduct. 

But once more, if they exist and do care, yet if there is no 

communication between them and men, nay what is 

more, if there is none between them and me, to follow 

them cannot be a true end. The good man then, having The good 

examined into all these questions, has submitted his m ? n fV^" 

mits his 
mind to Him that orders the universe, as good citizens mind to 

submit to the law of the city. The man who is under t ^ ie divine 

... govern- 

education ought to approach education with this purpose ance, and 

in his mind : How can I follow the gods in everything, * n , 

and how can I be content with the divine governance freedom. 

and how can I become free? For he is free, for whom 
all things happen according to his will and whom no one 
can hinder. 

What then ? Is freedom the same as madness ? For free- 

Heaven forbid ! frenzy and freedom have nothing in 

not mean 

common. personal 

But , you say, I want everything to happen as I think capn< 

good, whatever that may be. 

Then you are in a state of madness, you are out of your 

mind. Do you not know that freedom is a noble thing, 
F 2 

but im 
plies a 
as in all 
arts and 

the will to 
events as 
by God. 

We cannot 



84 Discourses of Epictetus 

and worthy of regard ? But merely to want one s chance 
thoughts to be realized, is not a noble thing ; it comes 
perilously near being the most shameful of all things. 
How do we act in matters of grammar ? Do I want to 
write Dion s name as I will ? No, I am taught to will the 
right way of writing. How is it in music ? Just the same. 
So it is universally, in every region of art or science. 
Otherwise it would not be worth while to know anything, 
if everything conformed itself to each man s will. 

Are we to say then that in this sphere alone, the greatest 
and most momentous of all, the sphere of freedom, it is 
permitted me to indulge chance desires ? By no means : 
education is just this learning to frame one s will in 
accord with events. How do events happen ? They 
happen as the Disposer of events has ordained them. He 
ordained summer and winter, fruitful and barren seasons, 
virtue and vice and all such opposites for the.sake of the 
harmony of the universe, and gave to each one of us a body 
and bodily parts and property and men to associate 

Remembering then that things are thus ordained we 
ought to approach education, not that we may change 
the conditions of life, 1 that is not given to us, nor is it good 
f or us but that, our circumstances being as they are 
and as nature makes them, we may conform our mind 
to events. 

I ask you, is it possible to avoid men ? How can we ? 
Can we change their nature by our society ? Who gives 
us that power ? What is left for us then, or what means 
do we discover to deal with them ? We must so act as 

Book /, Chapter 1 2 

to leave them to do as seems good to them, while we 
remain in accord with nature. 

But you are impatient and discontented ; if you are 
alone you call it a wilderness, and if you are with men 
you describe them as plotters and robbers, and you find 
fault even with your own parents and children and 
brothers and neighbours. 

Why, when you are alone you ought to call it peace Whether 
and freedom and consider yourself the equal of the gods ; i n f 
when you are in a large company you should not call it or in a 

a crowd or a mob or a nuisance, but a high-day and cr Y we 

J ought to 

a festival, and so accept all things in a spirit of content. be content. 

What punishment is there, you ask, for those who do Discon- 
not accept things in this spirit ? Their punishment is to l 
be as they are. Is one discontented with being alone? punish- 

Let him be deserted. Is one discontented with his mi r nt 

parents ? Let him be a bad son, and mourn his lot. Is 

one discontented with his children? Let him be a bad 

Cast him into prison. 

What do you mean by prison? he is in prison already ; 
for a man s prison is the place that he is in against his will, 
just as, conversely, Socrates was not in prison, for he 
chose to be there. 

Am I then to have a maimed leg ? Bodily 

oil ..... defects are 

blave, do you mean to arraign the universe for one no Rrounc i 

wretched leg ? Will you not make a gift of it to the sum for dis- 
of things ? Will you not resign it ? Will you not joyfully 
yield it up to Him who gave it ? Will you be vexed and 
discontented with the ordinances of Zeus, laid down and 

8 6 Discourses of Epictetus 

ordained by Him with the Fates who were present at your 

birth and span your thread of life ? Do you not know, 

what a little part you are compared with the universe? 

and in I say this of your body, for in reason you are not inferior 

reason to t ^ e goc j s nor J ess than they : for the greatness of 

manlsthe i i i .-11 i 

equal of reason is judged not by length or height but by its 

the gods, judgements. 

In reason Will you not then set your good in that region where 

must find 7 u are e q ual to the ods ? 

his good. Alas, but look what a father and mother I have got ! 

Why ? was it given you on entering life to choose and 

say, Let such an one marry such an one at this hour, 

that I may be born ? No such choice was given you : 

your parents had to be in existence first, and your birth 

had to follow. Of what parents ? Of such as they were. 

Well then, as your parents are what they are, is no 

Reason resource left you ? Surely if you did not know to what end 

him to^fac^ X ou P ossess th e faculty of vision, you would be unhappy 

everything, and miserable if you closed your eyes, when colours were 

responsible brought near you ; but are you not more wretched and 

only for unhappy still for not knowing that you have a high and 

rns^power n ble spirit to face each occasion as it arises ? The 

objects which correspond to the faculty that you have 

are brought near you : yet you turn away your faculty 

just at the very moment when you ought to keep it 

open-eyed and alert. Rather give thanks to the gods 

that they set you above those things which they put out 

of your power, and made you responsible only for what 

is within your control. For your parents they left you 

without responsibility ; and the same is true of brothers 

Book I, Chapter 12 87 

body, property, death, life. For what then did they 
make you responsible ? For that which alone is in your 
power, the proper handling of your impressions. Why 
then do you insist on dragging in these things for which 
you are not responsible ? That is to make trouble for 


How one may act in all things so as to please the gods. 

WHEN some one asked Epictetus how one may eat so It is pos- 
as to please the gods, he said, If you can eat justly, S1 , e to , 
and with good feeling and, it may be, with self-control gods in 
and modesty, may you not also eat so as to please the gods ? ^ T , 
And when you call for hot water and the slave does not self-con- 
answer, or answers and brings it luke-warm, or is not f 
to be found in the house, is it not pleasing to the 
gods that you should not be angry nor break into 
a passion ? 

How then is one to bear with such persons ? 

Slave, will you not bear with your own brother, who Men must 
has Zeus for his forefather, and is born as a son of the same 
seed as you and of the same heavenly descent ? You other, as 
were appointed to a place of superiority like this, and are 
you straightway going to constitute yourself a despot ? 
Will you not remember what you are and whom you 
are ruling ? that they are kinsmen, born your brothers, 
children of Zeus ? 

But I have bought them, and they have not bought 


Discourses of Epictetus 

God be 
holds a 
man s 
every act 
the uni 
verse is 

for our 
minds are 
of God s 

Do you see where your eyes are looking ? You are 
looking at the earth, at what is lowest and basest \ at 
these miserable laws of the dead, and you regard not the 
laws of the gods. 


That God beholds all men. 

WHEN one asked him how a man may be convinced 
that every one of his acts is seen by God, Do you not 
think, he said, that all things are united together ? 

I do , he said. 

Again, do you think that things on earth feel the 
influence of things in heaven ? 

I do , he said. 

Whence comes it that in such perfect order as at 
God s command, when He bids the plants to flower, 
they flower, when He bids them grow they grow, 
when He bids them to bear fruit, they bear, when to 
ripen, they ripen ; when again He bids them drop their 
fruit, they drop it, and when to let fall their leaves, 
they let them fall, and when He bids them gather them 
selves up * and be still and take their rest, they are still 
and take their rest ? Whence is it that as the moon 
waxes and wanes and as the sun draws near and departs 
afar we behold so great a change and transformation 
of things on the earth ? If the plants then and our 
own bodies are so closely bound up with the universe, 
and so share its affections, is it not much more so with 
our minds ? And if our minds are so bound up with God 
and in such close touch with Him as being part and portion 

Book /, Chapter 14 89 

of His very being, does not God perceive their every 
movement as closely akin to Him ? 

Consider this : you, a man, have power to reflect on If man can 
the divine governance and on each divine operation as 
well as upon things human, you have the faculty of being and corn- 

moved in your senses and your intelligence by countless 
objects, sometimes assenting, sometimes rejecting, God be- 
sometimes doubting ; you guard in your own mind these , 
many impressions derived from so many and various 
objects, and moved by them you conceive thoughts 
corresponding to those objects which have first impressed 
you, and so from countless objects you derive and main 
tain one after another the products of art and memo"--. 

All this you do, and is God not able to behold ail 
things and be present with all and to have some communi 
cation with all ? Why, the sun is able to illuminate so 
large a part of the universe, and to leave unilluminated 
only so much as the shadow which the earth makes can 
cover : and cannot He who has created the sun itself, 
and who makes it to revolve a small part of Himself 
as compared with the whole has not He, I say, the 
power to perceive all things ? 

But , says one, I cannot comprehend all these things Man is not 

at once. fl u f in 

faculty to 

Of course no one tells you that in faculty you are equal Zeus, but 

to Zeus. 2 Nevertheless He has set by each man his he ha ^ a 

. guardian 

genius 3 to guard him, and committed each man to genius, 

his genius to watch over, aye and a genius which sleeps W P . S 

not and is not to be beguiled. To what other guardian, him. 
better or more attentive, could He have committed 4 

90 Discourses of Epictetus 

each one of us ? Therefore, when you close your doors 
and make darkness within, remembe never to say that 
you are alone : you are not alone, God is within, and 
your genius. What need have they of light to see what 
you are doing ? To th s God you ought to swear allegiance 
from the first as the soldiers swear to Caesar. They 
are paid servants, yet they swear that they will put the 
safety of Caesar above all things : and shall you not 
swear too, who have been counted worthy of so many 
and so great blessings, or having sworn shall you not 
To God keep your oath ? And what shall your oath be ? Never 
he must to disobey, never to accuse, never to find fault with any 

L3.K.C 3.11 

oath like of God s gifts, never to let your will rebel, when you 
the soldier, h ave to j o or to b ear w h a t necessity demands. Can 
oath to the soldier s oath be compared with ours ? The soldiers 

respect swear to respect no man above Caesar, but we to 

respect ourselves first of all. 5 

What philosophy professes. 

Philosophy WHEN a man consulted Epictetus how to persuade his 
brother to be angry with him no longer, he replied, 
control Philosophy does not promise to secure to man anything 
external outs ide him. If it did it would be admitting something 
No man beyond its subject-matter. For as wood is the material 

can inter- dealt with by the carpenter, bronze by the statuary, so 
fere with ...... 

another s tne subject-matter of each man s art ot living is his own 

art of lif e- What are we to say then of your brother s life ? 

Book /, Chapter i y 91 

That again is the concern of his art of living : to yours 
it is a thing external, like land, health, good repute. 
Philosophy makes no promises about such things. 

In all circumstances (says philosophy) I will keep the 
Governing Principle l in accord with nature. 

Whose Governing Principle ? 

1 His, in whom I am. 

How then am I to prevent my brother from being 
angry with me ? Bring him to me and I will tell him, 
but I have nothing to say to you about his anger. 

When the man who consulted him said, What I am In conduct 
looking for is this how I may be in accord with nature, ^ n 
even though he be not reconciled with me , he replied, the natural 
No great thing comes suddenly into being, any more wor ^ e 
than a cluster of grapes or a fig. If you say to me now, pect not 
I want a fig , I shall answer that it needs time. Let it r f pl 
flower first, then put forth its fruit and then ripen, but slow 
I say then, if the fig tree s fruit is not brought to perfec- S rowt 
tion suddenly in a single hour, would you gather fruit of 
men s minds so soon and so easily ? I tell you, you must 
not expect it. 


On Providence. 

MARVEL not that the other creatures have their bodily The other 
needs supplied not only meat and drink, but a bed to cre ^ ures> 
lie on and that they want no shoes nor rugs nor clothes, man, have 
while we want all these things. For it would not have , ^i 

been a good thing that these creatures, born not for wants 



Discourses of Epictetus 

We ought 


this and 


We may 

the hair 
given man 

., i" 1 

themselves but for service, should have been created 
liable to wants. Consider what it would be for us to 
have to take thought not only for ourselves but for 
sheep and asses, how they were to dress and what shoes 
they were to put on, and how they should find meat and 
drink. But just as soldiers when they appear before their 
general are ready shod, and clothed and armed, and it 
would be a strange thing indeed if the tribune had to 
go round and shoe or clothe his regiment, so also nature 
has made the creatures that are born for service ready 
and prepared and able to dispense with any attention. 
So one small child can drive sheep with a rod. 

Yet we forbear to give thanks that we have not to 
P a y t k e same attention to them as to ourselves, and 
proceed to complain against God on our own account. 

l declare > b 7 Zeus and a11 the g ds one sin g le fact of 
nature would suffice to make him that is reverent and 

grateful realize the providence of God : no great matter, 
I mean ; take the mere fact that milk is produced from 
grass and cheese from milk and wool from skin. Who is 
it that has created or contrived these things ? 

No one , he says. 

Oh, the depth of man s stupidity and shamelessness ! 

Come, let us leave the chief works of nature, and behold 
what she works by the way. Is anything more useless 
than the hairs upon the chin ? Did she not use even 
these in the most suitable way she could ? Did she not 
by these means distinguish male and female ? Does 
not the nature of each one of us cry aloud from afar, 
I am a man : on these terms approach me and address 

Book /, Chapter \6 93 

me ; seek nothing else. Behold the signs. Again, in 
women nature took the hair from their face, even as 
she mingled in their voice a softer note. What ! You 
say the creature ought to have been left undistinguished 
and each of us to have proclaimed, I am a man ? Nay, 
but how noble and comely and dignified is this sign, 
how much more fair than the cock s crest, how much 
more magnificent than the lion s mane ! Therefore we 
ought to preserve the signs God has given ; we ought 
not to abandon them, nor, so far as in us lies, to confound 
the sexes which have been distinguished. 

Are these the only works of Providence in us ? Nay, For this 
what words are enough to praise them or bring them -f ts we 
home to us ? If we had sense we ought to do nothing ought to 
else, in public and in private, than praise and bless God 
and pay Him due thanks. Ought we not, as we dig and 
plough and eat, to sing the hymn to God ? Great is God 
that He gave us these instruments wherewith we shall 
till the earth. Great is God that He has given us hands, 
and power to swallow, and a belly, and the power to grow 
without knowing it, and to draw our breath in sleep. 
At every moment we ought to sing these praises and above 
all the greatest and divinest praise, that God gave us the 
faculty to comprehend these gifts and to use the way 
of reason. 

More than that : since most of you are walking in 
blindness, should there not be some one to discharge 
this duty and sing praises to God for all ? What else 
can a lame old man as I am do but chant the praise of 
God ? If, indeed, I were a nightingale I should sing as a 


Discourses of Epictetus 

nightingale, if a swan, as a swan : but as I am a rational 
creature I must praise God. This is my task, and I do 
it : and I will not abandon this duty, so long as it is 
given me ; and I invite you all to join in this same song. 

Logic is 

If it be 
urged that 
moral pro 
gress is 
the answer 
is that 
logic is a 
test and 
of sound 


That the processes of logic are necessary. 

SINCE it is reason which makes 1 all other things articu 
late and complete, and reason itself must be analysed 
and made articulate, what is it that shall effect this ? 
Plainly, reason itself or something else. That something 
else either is reason or it will be something superior 
to reason, which is impossible. If it is reason, who again 
will analyse that reason ? For if it analyses itself, so 
can the reason with which we started. If we are going to 
call in something else, the process will be endless and 

Yes, says one, but the more pressing need is not 
logic but the discipline of men s thoughts and feelings , 2 
and the like. 

If you want to hear about moral improvement, well 
and good. But if you say to me, I do not know whether 
you argue truly or falsely , and if I use an ambiguous 
word and you say to me distinguish , I shall grow 
impatient and say to you, this is the more pressing need. 
It is for this reason, 3 I suppose, that men put the processes 
of logic in the forefront, just as we put the testing of 
the measure before the measuring of the corn. And 

Book /, Chapter 17 9 y 

if we do not determine first what is the bushel and what 
is the scale, how shall we be able to measure or weigh 
anything ? So in the sphere of thought if we have not 
fully grasped and trained to perfection the instrument 
by which we judge other things and understand other 
things, shall we ever be able to arrive at accurate know 
ledge ? Of course, it is impossible. 

Yes, they say, but the bushel is a mere thing of Logic 
wood and bears no fruit. ^ 

True, but it can measure corn. or test of 

The processes of logic, too, are unfruitful. terms, &c. 

This we will consider presently : but even if one 
should concede this, it is enough that logic has the power 
to analyse and distinguish other things and in fact, as 
one might say, has the power to weigh and measure. 
Who asserts this ? Is it only Chrysippus and Zeno and 
Cleanthes ? Does not Antisthenes agree ? 4 Why, who 
is it that has written, The beginning of education is 
the analysis of terms ? Does not Socrates too say the 
same ? Does not Xenophon write of him that he began 
with the analysis of terms, to discover what each 
means ? 

Is this then what you call great and admirable to But it is 
understand or interpret Chrysippus ? Nay, no one 

says that. What is admirable then ? To understand thing to 
the will of Nature. Very well : do you understand ja t 
it of yourself ? If so, what more do you need ? 
For if it is true that all error is involuntary and 
you have learnt the truth, you must needs do rightly 

9 6 Discourses of Epictetus 

But who But , you may say, I do not understand the will of 

shall in- XT ,. , 
terpret Nature " 

Nature ? Who then expounds it ? They say Chrysippus. 

usor I come an d inquire what this interpreter of Nature 
his com- says. I begin not to understand what he means and 
I seek some one to interpret. The interpreter says, 
Let us examine the sense of this phrase, as if it were 

The inter- Why, pray, should the interpreter put on airs ? Even 

Nature is Chrysippus has no right to do so, if he is only expounding 

of no good tne w iU o f Nature, and does not follow it himself : how 

follows much less his interpreter. For we have no need of 

Nature Chrysippus for his own sake, but only to enable us to 

thesu- follow Nature : just as we have no need, for himself, of 

preme end. the priest 5 who offers sacrifice, but because we think 

that through him we shall understand the signs which 

the gods give of the future, nor do we need the sacrifice 

for itself, but because through it the sign is given, nor 

do we marvel at the crow or the raven but at God who 

gives His signs by them. 

The lesson So I come to this interpreter and priest 5 and say, 
learnt from Examine the victim s flesh to see what sign is given 
the Divine me. He takes and opens the flesh and interprets, Man, 
freedom 7 OU nave a w ^ unhindered and unconstrained by nature. 

of man This is written here in the flesh of the sacrifice. I will 
in assent. , ....,,.,, . 

show you the truth of it first in the sphere of assent. 

Can any one prevent you from agreeing to what is true ? 
No one. Can any one compel you to accept the 
false ? No one. Do you see that in this sphere your 
faculty is free from let and hindrance and constraint and 

Bock /, Chapter 17 97 

compulsion ? Is it any different in the spher of will and 

impulse ? What, I ask, can overcome impulse except in will 

another impulse ? And what can overcome the will to and 

.,, . . impulse, 

get or will to avoid except another will to get or to 

avoid ? 

If he threatens me with death, one says, he compels 

me. Compul- 

No, it is not what he threatens you with which com- sion can 

1 not be put 

pels you, but your decision that it is better to do what on man 

you are bidden than to die. Once more then it is your ^ m ^V 

own judgement which compels you that is, will puts his own 

pressure on will. For if God had so created that portion of J ud g ement 

tj. . . can com- 

His own being which He has taken from Himself and given pel him. 

to us, that it could suffer hindrance or compulsion from God could 

another, He would cease to be God and to care for us as not , have 

made man 

He must needs do. This , says the priest, is what I find who shares 

in the sacrifice : this is God s sign to you : if you will, Hls . nature 


you are free : if you will, you will blame no one, you to corn- 
will accuse no one : everything shall be in accordance P ulsion - 
with your own mind and the mind of God. 

This is the prophecy which draws me to consult this 
seer and philosopher, and his interpretation makes me 
admire not him but the truths which he interprets. 

546.24 I 

9 8 Discourses of Epictctus 


That we should not be angry at men s errors. 

All action IF what philosophers say is true, that in all men 
source in act ion starts from one source, feeling, as in assent it is 
feeling, and the feeling 1 that a thing is so, and in denial the feeling 
we^must 6 that ^ * s not so y es ^7 Zeus, and in withholding 
not be judgement, the feeling that it is uncertain : so also 
theerring i m P u ^ se towards a thing is originated by the feeling 
multitude, that it is fitting, and will to get a thing by the feeling 
that it is expedient for one, and it is impossible to judge 
one thing expedient and will to get another, and to judge 
one thing fitting and be impelled to another. If all 
this be true, why are we angry with the multitude ? 
They are thieves , he says, and robbers. 
What do you mean by thieves and robbers ? 
They are gone astray and know not what is good and 
what is evil. 
They only Ought we then to be angry with them or to pity 

need to see t j iem ? Only show them their error and you will see how 

their error, 

to desist, they desist from their faults. But if their eyes are not 

opened, they regard nothing as superior to their own 


To put What ! you say. Ought not this robber and this 

death Ts as adulterer to be put to death ? 

inhuman Nay, say not so, but rather, Should I not destroy 
to death^ ^^ man w ^ * s * n error an ^ delusion about the greatest 
the blind matters and is blinded not merely in the vision which 
deaf 6 distinguishes white and black, but in the judgement 

Book /, Chapter i 8 99 

which distinguishes good and evil ? If you put it this 
way, you will recognize how inhuman your words are ; 
that it is like saying, Should I not kill this blind man, 
or this deaf one ? For if the greatest harm that can 
befall one is the loss of what is greatest, and a right 
will is the greatest thing in every one, is it not enough 
for him to lose this, without incurring your anger 
besides ? Man, if you must needs harbour unnatural Rather 
feelings at the misfortune of another, pity him rather 
than hate him ; give up this spirit of offence and hatred : 
do not use these phrases which the backbiting multitude 
use, These accursed and pestilent fools . 

Very well. How are you suddenly converted to 
wisdom ? What an angry temper you show ! 2 

Why then are we angry ? Because we admire the We are 
material things of which they rob us. For only cease to caus g we 
admire your clothes, and you are not angry with him set store 
who steals them : cease to admire your wife s beauty, C Q O( J S 
and you cease to be angry with the adulterer. Know that 
the thief and adulterer have no place among things 
that are your own, but only among things that are 
another s and beyond your power. If you let them alone If we 
and count them as nothing you have no one to be angry l| n ? r - e a 
with any more. But as long as you admire these things not ours, 
you must be angry with yourself rather than with them. *"; 
For, look you, you have fine clothes, your neighbour place, 
has none : you have a window, you wish to air them. He 
does not know what is the true good of man, but 
fancies, as you do too, that it is to have fine clothes. 
Is he not to come then and carry them off ? Why, 
G 2 

ioo Discourses of Epictetus 

if you show a cake to greedy men, and gobble it down 
all to yourself, do you expect them not to snatch at it ? 
Do not provoke them, do not have a window, do not air 
your clothes. 
If your For my part, yesterday I had an iron lamp beside 

iron lamp m household gods, and hearing a noise I rushed to 
is stolen, . , ~ T 

buy one the window. I found the lamp had been carried on. 

of earthen- reasonec l w i tn myself, that the man who took it yielded 

to some plausible feeling. What do I conclude ? To- 

A man s morrow, I say, you will find one of earthenware. The 

losses are trut h j s a man loses only what he has. I have lost my 
limited to , , , , 

his posses- cloak. Yes, for you had one. I have got a headache. 

sions. Have you a horn-ache too ? Why then are you vexed ? 

Your losses and your pains are concerned only with what 

you possess. 
The tyrant But the tyrant will chain me. 

cannot rob Y es, your leg. 

you of . 

your will. But he will cut off. 

What ? Your neck. But what will he fail to bind or cut 
off ? Your will. That is why the men of old enjoined 
Know thyself. What follows ? You ought to practise 
in small things and go on from them to greater. 

I have a headache. 

Then do not say, Ah me ! 

[ I have earache. 
Do not say, Ah me ! And I do not mean that you 
may not groan, but do not groan in spirit. 3 And if the 
boy brings you your leg-bands slowly, do not cry out 
loud and pull a long face and say, Every one hates me. 
Who is not likely to hate such an one ? 

Book /, Chapter 18 101 

Put confidence in these thoughts for the future and 
walk erect and free, not relying on bulk of body like an 
athlete. For you do not need to be invincible by brute 
force like an ass. 

Who then is the man who is invincible ? He whom Practise 
nothing beyond his will can dismay. So I go on observing j n sma u 
him in each set of circumstances as if he were an athlete. things,that 
He has overcome the first round. What will he do in ^ i nv i n - 

the second ? What if it be a hot sun, and the struggle cible in 
/-M , all trials, 

is in Olympia ? 

So it is in life. If you offer a man a trifle of silver, he 
will scorn it. What will happen if you offer him a young 
maid ? What if you do it in the dark ? What happens 
if you ply him with reputation, or abuse, or praise, 
or death ? All these he can conquer. What will he do 
if he is wrestling in the hot sun, I mean, if he has drunk 
too much ? What if he is in a frenzy, or in sleep ? 
The man who can overcome in all these circumstances 
is what I mean by the invincible athlete. 


How one should behave towards tyrants. 

IF a man possesses some advantage, or thinks he does The 
though he does not, he is bound, if he be uneducated, 

to be puffed up because of it. The tyrant, for instance, merely 

< T i_ r 11 5 external. 

says, 1 am mightiest of all men. 

Well, and what can you give me ? Can you enable me 
to get what I will to get ? How can you ? Can you avoid 

He is not 
as one to 
be ad 
mired and 

a man is 
not the 
tyrant s 
guard but 
his own 

i o 2 Discourses of Epictetus 

what you will to avoid, independent of circumstances ? 
Is your impulse free from error ? How can you claim 
any such power ? 

Tell me, on shipboard, do you put confidence in your 
self or in the man who knows ? And in a chariot ? 
Surely in him who knows. How is it in other arts ? 
Exactly the same. What does your power come to then ? 

All men pay me attention. 

Yes, and I pay attention to my platter and work it 
and polish it and I fix up a peg for my oil-flask. Does 
that mean that these are superior to me ? No, but they 
do me some service, and for this reason I pay them 
attention. Again : do I not pay attention to my ass ? 
Do I not wash his feet ? Do I not curry him ? Do you 
not know that every man pays regard to himself, and to 
you only as to his ass ? For who pays regard to you as 
a man ? Show me. Who wishes to become like you ? 
Who regards you as one like Socrates to admire and 
follow ? 

But I can behead you. 

Well said. I forgot, of course, one ought to pay you 
worship as if you were fever or cholera, and raise an altar 
to you, like the altar to Fever in Rome. 

What is it then which disturbs and confounds the 
multitude ? Is it the tyrant and his guards ? Nay, 
God forbid ! It is impossible for that which is free by 
nature to be disturbed or hindered by anything but 
itself. It is a man s own judgements which disturb 
him. For when the tyrant says to a man, I will chain 
your leg, he that values his leg says, Nay, have mercy, 

Book /, Cbapt 19 103 

but he that values his will says, If it seems more profit 
able to you, chain it. 

Do you pay no heed ? 

No, I pay no heed. 

I will show you that I am master. 

How can you ? Zeus gave me my freedom. Or do 
you think that he was likely to let his own son be enslaved ? 
You are master of my dead body, take it. 

Do you mean that when you approach me, you pay 
no respect to me ? 

No, I only pay respect to myself : if you wish me to 
say that I pay respect to you too, I tell you that I do 
so, but only as I pay respect to my water-pot. 

/* This is not mere self-love : for it is natural to man, as Man, like 
to other creatures, to do everything for his own sake ; features 
for even the sun does everything for its own sake, and in acts for 
a word so does Zeus himself. But when he would be J^s^but 
called The Rain-giver and Fruit-giver and Father to achieve 
of men and Gods , you see that he cannot win these en S d tr m u St 
names or do these works unless he does some good to serve the 
the world at large : and in general he has so created the ^ t mmi 
nature of the rational animal, that he can attain nothing 
good for himself, unless he contributes some service to 
the community. So it turns out that to do everything 
for his own sake is not unsocial. For what do you 
expect ? Do you expect a man to hold aloof from himself He cannot 
and his own interest ? No : we cannot ignore the one 1! 

principle of action which governs all things to be at terest ; he 

i . i i must seek 

unity with themselves. t ^ e at 

What follows ? When men s minds harbour wrong unity with 



for tyrants 

and their 


arises from 






Men give 
thanks for 
office in 
stead of 
for right 
will and 

If you 
want a 
crown, let 
it be a 

104. Discourses of Epictetus 

opinions on things beyond the will, counting them good 
and evil, they are bound to pay regard to tyrants. Would 
that it were only tyrants, and not chamberlains too ! 
How can a man possibly grow wise of a sudden, when 
Caesar appoints him to the charge of the privy ? How 
is it we straightway say, Felicio has spoken wisely 
to me ? I would fain have him deposed from the 
dung-heap, that he may seem foolish to you again. 
Epaphroditus had a shoemaker, whom he sold because 
he was useless : then by some chance he was bought by 
one of Caesar s officials, and became Caesar s shoemaker. 
If you could have seen how Epaphroditus honoured him. 
How is my good Felicio, I pray you ? Then if 
some one asked us, What is your master doing ? the 
answer was, He is consulting Felicio about something. 
What, had he not sold him for useless ? Who has sudden 
ly made a wise man of him ? This is what comes of 
honouring anything outside one s will. 

He has been honoured with a tribuneship. All who 
meet him congratulate him ; one kisses his eyes, another 
his neck, his slaves kiss his hands. He comes into his 
house and finds lamps being lighted. He goes up to 
the Capitol and offers sacrifice. Who, I ask you, 
eve i- offered sacrifice in gratitude for right direction of 
the will or for impulse in accordance with nature ? 
For we give thanks to the gods for what we think our 
good ! 

To-day one spoke to me about the priesthood of 
Augustus. I told him, Fellow, leave the thing alone ; 
you will spend a great deal on nothing. 

Book 7, Chapter 19 105- 

Well, but those who draw up contracts l will record plain 

crown of 
my name. roses< 

Can you be there when men read it and say to them, 
That is my name, and even supposing you can be 
there now, what will you do if you die ? 

My name will remain. 

Write it on a stone and it will remain. But who will 
remember you outside Nicopolis ? 

But I shall wear a golden crown. 

If you desire a crown at all, take a crown of roses and 
wear that : you will look smarter in that. 


How reason has the faculty of taking cognizance of itself . 

EVERY art ; and faculty has certain principal things x Reason is 
of which it is to take cognizance. W r hen therefore the r 16 ^ 
faculty itself is of like kind with the objects of which that can 

it takes cognizance, it must of necessity have power to ta . 

. . . . ... cognizance 

take cognizance of itself : when it is of unlike kind, it of itself. 

cannot take cognizance of itself. For instance, the 
shoemaker s art is concerned with hides, but itself is 
absolutely different from the material of hides : for this 
reason it does not take cognizance of itself. Grammar 
again is concerned with written speech : is it then 
written speech itself ? Certainly not : therefore it 
cannot take cognizance of itself. 

For what purpose then have we received reason from 
nature ? 

rod Discourses of Epictetus 

That we may deal with impressions aright. 

What then is reason itself ? 

A system framed from impressions of a certain kind. 2 
Thus it naturally has the power to take cognizance of itself. 

Again, sagacity 3 has been given us. To take cognizance 
of what ? 

Things good and bad and indifferent. 

What is it then itself ? 


And what is folly ? 

The philo- Bad. Do you see then that of necessity sagacity has the 
sopher has p Ower o f taking cognizance of itself and its opposite ? 
pressions Therefore the primary and highest task of the philosopher 

just as the - g to test i m p ress i ons anc l distinguish them and to make 

assayer r 

tests the use of none which is untested. Consider how we have 

rrency. invented an art to test the currency, in which we are 
admitted to have some interest. Look how many means 
the assayer uses to test the coin sight, touch, smell, 
finally hearing : he breaks the penny and attends to the 
sound, and is not content with hearing its note once, 
but by much attention gets an ear for music. 

Thus, where we think it makes a serious difference 

to us whether we are right or wrong, we take great 

pains to distinguish the possible sources of error, and yet 

when we have to do with our Governing Principle itself, 

poor thing, we gape and sleep and are ready to accept any 

impression that comes : for we do not notice our loss. 

But most When you wish, therefore, to realize how little con- 

not take cerne d 7 OU are about good and evil, and how eager 

the trouble about things indifferent, 4 consider how you regard 

Book /, Chapter 20 107 

physical blindness on the one hand, and mental delusion to learn 
on the other, and you will recognize that you are far from . ow ^ , 
having a proper feeling in regard to things good and evil, good and 

Yes, but it needs much preparation and much toil 
j.i, We are 

and study. t old that 

What of that ? Do you expect that a brief study will it requires 
enable you to acquire the greatest art ? Yet the principal b ut tne 
doctrine of philosophers itself is brief enough. If you main 
will learn it, read Zeno s words and you will see. For j s short- 
it is no long matter to say man s end is to follow the enough, 
gods, and the essence of good is the power of dealing 
rightly with impressions. 

Tell us then what is "God", and what is " im- Still, it 

pression ", and what is nature in the individual, and takes time 
..... to analyse 

what in the universe . ourno- 

That is a long story. tions, and 

...,. iij ,1 n to confute 

Again, it rLpicurus should come and say, that the good f a ] se d oc . 

must be in the flesh, that too means a long discussion ; trine, such 

, , . . .. as that of 

it means we must be taught what is the commanding Epicurus. 

faculty in us, what constitutes our substantial and true 
nature. If it is not probable that the good of the snail 
is in the shell, is it probable that man s good is in his 
body ? Take yourself, Epicurus. What is the more 
masterful faculty you possess ? What is it in you which 
deliberates, which examines everything, which examines 
the flesh itself and decides that it is the principal thing ? 
Why do you light a lamp and toil for us, and write such 
big volumes ? Is it that we may not be ignorant of 
the truth ? Who are we ? What concern have we with 
you ? So the argument becomes a long one.. 

i o 8 Discourses of Epictetus 

A man s 
true end 
is to be in 



To seek 
is to accept 
the opinion 
of mad- 


To those who wish to be admired. 

WHEN a man has his proper station in life, he does not 
hanker after what is beyond him. 

What is it, man, that you wish to have ? 

I am content if I am in accord with Nature in what 
I will to get and will to avoid, if I follow Nature in impulse 
to act and to refrain from action, in purpose, and design 
and assent. 

Why then do you walk about as if you had swallowed 
a poker ? 

I would fain that they who meet me should admire 
me, and cry aloud, " What a great philosopher" ! 

Who are these by whom you wish to be admired ? 
Are not these the men whom you generally describe as 
mad ? What do you want then ? Do you want to be 
admired by madmen ? 

tions are 
to all, 


On primary conceptions}- 

PRIMARY conceptions are common to all men, and one 
does not conflict with another. Who among us, for 
instance, does not assume that the good is expedient 
and desirable and that we ought in all circumstances 
to follow and pursue it ? Which of us does not assume 
that the just is noble and becoming ? 

Book /, Chapter 22 109 

At what moment then does conflict arise ? It arises but con- 

, .. . , . . , flict arises 

in the application or primary conceptions to particular j n ^^ 

facts ; when for instance one says, He has done well : applica- 
he is brave, and another, Nay, he is out of his mind. 
Hence arises the conflict of men with one another. Such Such is 

is the conflict between Tews and Syrians and Egyptians ^e conflict 

. f racial 

and Romans not the question whether holiness must customs 

be put before all things and must in all circumstances 
be pursued, but whether it is holy or unholy to eat of 
swine s flesh. Such you will find is the conflict between or of 
Agamemnon and Achilles. Call them to come forward. 

What do you say, Agamemnon ? Do you say that non and 
what is right and noble ought not to be done ? 

Of course it ought. 

And what do you say, Achilles ? Do you not approve 
of doing what is noble ? 

Nay, I approve of it above all things. 

Now apply these primary notions : and here the 
conflict begins. One says, I ought not to give back 
Chryseis to her father. The other says, Nay, you ought. 
Certainly one or other of them wrongly applies the primary 
notion of right. Again one says, Well, if I must give 
back Chryseis, I must take the prize from one of you : 
the other says, What, take away my beloved ? Yes, 
yours, he says. Am I alone then to be the loser ? 
But am I alone to have nothing ? So a conflict arises. 

In what then does education consist ? In learning Education 
to apply the natural primary conceptions to particular |^.^j n s m 
occasions in accordance with nature, and further to how to 
distinguish between things in our power and things not ap P ^ P n 

I 10 

Discourses of Epictetus 

mary con 
and to dis 
what is in 
our power 
from what 
is not. 
If we place 
the good 
things not 
in our 
power, we 
shall fail 
in conduct, 

and we 
shall not 
in Zeus 
a Saviour. 

in our power. In our power are will and all operations 
of the will, and beyond our power are the body, the parts 
of the body, possessions, parents, brothers, children, 
country, in a word those whose society we share. Where 
then are we to place the good ? To what class of 
things shall we apply it ? 

To what is in our power . 

Does it follow then that health and a whole body, and 
life are not good, nor children, parents, and country ? 
No one will bear with you if you say that. Let us 
then transfer the name good to this class of things. 
Is it possible for a man to be happy if he is injured and 
fails to win good things ? 

It is impossible. 

Can he also find the proper way to live with his fellows ? 
Nay, how is it possible ? For instance, I incline by 
nature to my true interest 2 . If it is my interest to have 
a field, it is also my interest to take it away from my 
neighbour : if it is my interest to have a robe, it is my 
interest also to steal it from the bath. This is the source 
of wars, factions, tyrannies, plots. 

Again, how shall I be able to observe what is fitting 
towards Zeus, for if I am injured or unfortunate, he 
heeds me not ? So one hears, What have I to do with 
him, if he cannot help me ? and again, What have 
1 to do with him, if he wills that I should be as I am 
now ? It follows that I begin to hate him. Why then 
do we build temples and make images to Zeus as if he 
were an evil genius, as if he were Fever ? How can we 
give him any more the name Saviour, Rain-giver, and 

Booh /, Chapter 22 111 

Fruit-giver ? Surely if we place the true nature of the 
good in outward things, all these consequences follow. 

What are we to do then ? This is the search to be 

made by the true student of philosophy, who is in travail couraged 

with truth. [These are his thoughts :] I do not see b y ^he 
what is good and what evil. Am I not mad ? 3 I am. w j se , but 

But if I put the good in the region of things that , 

my will controls, every one will laugh at me. Some j n the 
grey-haired old man will arrive, with many gold rings region of 
on his fingers : then he will shake his head and say, 
Listen to me, my child : you must study philosophy, 
but you must keep a cool head too. All that talk is 
folly. You learn the syllogism from philosophers, but 
you know better than the philosophers what you ought 
to do. 

Fellow, why do you rebuke me then, if I know it ? 
What am I to say to this slave ? If I am silent, he 
bursts with anger. One ought to say, Pardon me as 
you would pardon lovers. I am not my own master. 
I am mad. 


Against Epicurus. 

EPICURUS understands as well as we do that we are Epicurus 

by nature social beings, but having once placed our good ? mcon 

. . . . . sistent, 

not in the spirit but in the husk which contains it he admitting 

cannot say anything different. On the other hand he * w ? , 

. . are social 

firmly grasps the principle that one must not admire beings, 


Discourses of Epictetus 

but advis 
ing men 
not to 
bring up 
nor enter 

The lower 
teach us 
a lesson of 
for chil 

nor accept anything which is severed from the nature 
of the good : and he is quite right. 

How can we be social beings, 1 if (as you say) we have no 
natural affection for our offspring ? Why do you advise 
the wise man not to bring up children ? Why are you 
afraid that they may bring him into troubles ? 

Does the mouse he rears indoors cause him trouble ? 
What does he care then, if a tiny mouse begins crying 
in his house ? 2 But he knows that if once a child is 
born, it will not be in our power not to love it nor care 
for it. 

Epicurus says that the man who is wise does not enter 
into politics, for he knows what sort of things the politician 
has to do. Of course if you are going to live among 
men as if they were flies, what is to prevent you ? 3 
But Epicurus, as though he did not know what natural 
affection is, says Let us not bring up children. 

If a sheep does not abandon its offspring, nor a wolf, 
does a man abandon his ? What would you have us do ? 
Would you have us foolish as sheep ? Even they do 
not abandon their young. Would you have us savage 
as wolves ? Even they do not abandon theirs. Nay, 
who takes your advice when he sees his child fallen on 
the ground and crying ? Why, I think that if your 
father and mother had foreseen that you were going 
to talk thus, even then they would not have cast you 
away from them. 4 

Book /, Chapter 24. 113 


How one should contend against difficulties. 

DIFFICULTIES are what show men s character. There- Difficul- 
fore when a difficult crisis meets you, remember that you ties are m 
are as the raw youth with whom God the trainer is tunityfor 
wrestling. trial and 

To what end ? the hearer asks. 

That you may win at Olympia : and that cannot 
be done without sweating for it. To my mind no man s 
difficulties ever gave him a finer trial than yours, if only 
you will use them for exercise, as the athlete wrestles 
with the young man. Even now we are sending you x K we sen d 
to Rome to spy out the land 2 : and no one sends a coward RoSXe 
as a spy, for that means that if he but hears a noise or must be no 
sees a shadow anywhere, he will come running in confusion coward> 
and saying that the enemy are close at hand. So now if 
you come and tell us The doings in Rome are fearful, 
death is terrible, exile is terrible, evil-speaking is terrible, 
poverty is terrible : fly sirs, the enemy is at hand , we 
shall say to you, Begone, prophesy to yourself, the only 
mistake we made was in sending a man like you to spy out 
the land . Diogenes, who was sent scouting before you, Against 
has brought us back a different report : he says, Death the , false 
is not evil, for it is not dishonour ; he says, Glory is port we set 
a vain noise made by madmen . And what a message 
this scout brought us about pain and pleasure and genes, 
poverty ! To wear no raiment , he says, is better 
than any robe with purple hem ; to sleep on the ground 

546.24 1 H 

ii4 Discourses of Epictetus 

enforced without a bed , he says, is the softest couch. Moreover 
peace of ^ e P rove s each point by showing his own confidence, 
mind, and his tranquillity of mind, his freedom, and withal his body 
dition. we ^ knit, and in good condition. No enemy is near, 
he says, all is full of peace. 

What do you mean, Diogenes ? 

See, he says, have I suffered shot or wound or rout ? 
That is the right kind of scouting : but you come back 
to us and talk at random. Drop your cowardice and go 
back again, and take a more accurate observation. 
What am I to do then ? 

If you re- What do you do, when you disembark from a ship ? 
member to Do ou take the he i m and the oars with ? ^ t 

take only J J 

what is do you take then ? You take what is yours, oil-flask and 

y u wallet. So now if you remember what is yours, you will 
no em- never claim what is another s. 

The emperor says to you, Lay aside your purple 
hem. 3 

See, I wear the narrow one. 

Lay aside this also. 

See, I wear the toga only. 

Lay aside the toga. 

See, I take that off too. 

Aye, but you still rouse my envy. 

Then take my poor body, every bit of it. The man to 
whom I can throw away my body has no fears for me. 

But he will not leave me as his heir. 

What ? Did I forget that none of these things was 
mine. ? In what sense do we call them mine ? Only 
as we call mine the pallet in an inn. If then the inn- 

Book /, Chapter 24 1 1 f 

keeper dies and leaves you the pallets, well and good ; 
if he leaves them to another, that man will have them, 
and you will look for another. If you do not find one Tyrants 
you will sleep on the ground, only do so with a good afte^alJ 85 
cheer, snoring the while, and remembering that it is are tragic 
among rich men and kings and emperors that tragedies (j^f 8 00 
find room, and that no poor man fills a part in a tragedy envied, 
except as one of the chorus. But kings begin with 
a prelude of good things : 

Crown high the halls 
and then about the third or fourth act comes 

O Cithaeron, why didst than receive me*? 

Poor slave, where are your crowns, where your diadem ? 
Your guards avail you nought. Therefore when you 
come near to one of those great men remember this, 
that you are meeting a tragic character, no actor, but 
Oedipus in person. 

Nay, but such a one is blessed, for he has a great 
company to walk with him. 

I too join the ranks of the multitude and have a large 
company to walk with. 

To sum up : remember that the door is open. Do not In the last 

be a greater coward than the children, but do as thev do r , esor * the 
,, , door is 

Children, when things do not please them, say, { I will open and 

not play any more ; so, when things seem to you to ou m ^ y 
.... leave the 

reach that point, just say, I will not play any more, and game. 

so depart, instead of staying to make moan. 

H 2 

1 1 6 Discourses of Epictettis 

You have 
no reason, 
then, for 
fear or 

You need 
no other 
than that 
which Zeus 
has given 

to guard 
what is 
your own, 

but your 
own is 
yours only 
so long as 
you use it. 


On the same theme. 

IF this is true, and if we are not silly and insincere 
when we say that for men good and evil lies in the region 
of the will, and that everything else has no concern for 
us, why are we disturbed or fearful any more ? No one 
has authority 1 over the things in which we are interested : 
and we pay no regard to the things over which others have 
authority. What more have we to trouble about ? 

Nay, but give me commands (says the student). 

What command should I give you ? Has not Zeus laid 
commands upon you ? Has He not given you what is 
yours, free from hindrance and constraint, and what 
is not yours subject to hindrance and constraint ? What 
command then have you brought with you into the world, 
and what manner of ordinance ? Guard what is your 
own by all means, grasp not at the things of others. 
Your good faith 2 is your own. . . . Who can take these 
qualities from you ? Who shall hinder you from using 
them but yourself ? And how will you do so ? When 
you take no interest in what is your own, you lose it and 
it ceases to be yours. 

When you have instructions and commands from Zeus 
such as these, what commands would you have from me ? 
Am I greater or more trustworthy than He ? Do you need 
any other commands if you keep these of His ? Has He 
not laid these commands upon you ? Look at the primary 
conceptions. Look at the demonstrations of philosophers. 

Book /, Chapter 25 117 

Look at the lessons you have often heard, and the words 
you have spoken yourself all you have read, all you 
have studied. 

How long, then, is it right to keep these commands The limit 
and not break up the game ? 

As long as it is conducted properly. your own 

Here is a king chosen by lot at the Saturnalia : for ^nte. e 
they decide to play the game of Kings . He gives which lies 
his orders : You drink, you mix the wine, you sing, you n w j 
go, you come . I obey, that I may not break up the game, consistent. 

Now believe that you are in evil case. 

I do not believe it, and who will compel me to 
believe it ? 

Again, we agree to play Agamemnon and Achilles . 
He who is given the part of Agamemnon says to me, 
Go to Achilles and drag away Briseis . I go. Come. 
I come. 

In fact we must behave in life as we do with hypothe 
tical arguments. 

Let us assume it is night. 


What follows ? Is it day ? 

No, for I have already assented to the assumption 
that it is night. 

Let us assume that you believe that it is night. 


Now believe that it really is night. 

This does not follow from the hypothesis. 

So too it is in life. Let us assume that you are un 

1 1 8 Discourses of Epictetus 


Are you then unfortunate ? 


What then, are you in misery ? 


Now, believe that you are in evil case. 

This does not follow from the hypothesis : and Another 3 
forbids me. 

How far, then, must we submit to such commands ? 4 
So far as is expedient ; that is, so far as I am true to 

But some what is becoming and consistent. There are, however, 

men can , 

bear much some severe and sour-tempered persons who say, I 

more than cannot dine with this fellow, and put up with his daily 

narrative of how he fought in Mysia. " I told you, 

brother, how I mounted the hill : now I begin again 

at the siege." Another says, I would rather dine and 

hear him babble on to his heart s content. It is for you 

to compare these estimates : only do nothing in the 

spirit of one burdened and afflicted, who believes him- 

The door self in evil case : for no one compels you to this. Sup- 

the room P ose some one ma de the room smoke. If the smoke 

becomes is moderate I will stay : if excessive, I go out : for one 

must remember and hold fast to this, that the door 

is open. 

The order comes, Do not dwell in Nicopolis. 

I will not. 

Nor in Athens. 

I give up Athens. 

Nor in Rome. 

I give up Rome. 

Book 7, Chapter 25- 119 

Dwell in Gyara. 

I dwell in Gyara : but this seems to me a very smoky 
room indeed, and I depart where no one shall hinder 
me from dwelling : for that dwelling is open to every 

man. And beyond the last inner tunic, which is this The tyrant 

, may take 

poor body of mine, no one has any authority over me ^ r tun j c 

at all. That is why Demetrius said to Nero, You or your 
threaten me with death, but nature threatens you . beond U 

If I pay regard to my poor body, I have given myself that you 

over as a slave : and if I value my wretched property 

I am a slave, for thereby I show at once what power 

can master me. Just as when the snake draws in its head 

I say, Strike the part of him which he guards, so you 

may be sure that your master will trample on that part 

of you which you wish to guard. When you remember 

this, whom will you flatter or fear any more ? 

Nay, but I want to sit where the senators sit. The 

. . 1 r ambitious 

Do you see that you are making a strait place tor only make 

yourself and squeezing yourself ? discomfort 

, . , i . f or thein- 

How else then shall I have a good view in the ampni- se j veSi 

theatre ? 

Man, do not go to the show and you will not be 
crushed. Why do you trouble yourself ? Or wait 
a little, and when the show is done, sit down in the 

senator s seats and sun yourself. For remember this No one can 
...... , trouble us 

(and it is true universally) that it is we who straiten un i essour 

and crush ourselves that is to say, it is our judgements own 
which straiten and crush us. For instance, what does R j ve hi m a 
it mean to be slandered ? Stand by a stone and slander hold on us. 
it : what effect will you produce ? If a man then listens 

Let us 
follow the 
example of 
who let 

120 Discourses of Epictctus 

like a stone, what advantage has the slanderer? But if 
the slanderer has the weakness of him that he slanders to 
work upon, then he does achieve something. 

Tear his toga off him. 

Why bring him in ? Take his toga. Tear that. 5 

I have done you an outrage. 

May it turn out to your good. 

These were the principles that Socrates practised : 
that is why his face always wore the same expression. 
But we are fain to study and practise everything except 
how to be free men and untrammelled. 

The philosophers talk paradoxes. 

But are there no paradoxes in the other arts ? Nay, what 
is more paradoxical than to lance a man s eye that he 
may see ? If one told this to a person unskilled in the 
physician s art, would he not laugh at him who said it ? 
Is it surprising then that in philosophy also many truths 
seem paradoxical to those who are unskilled? 


What is the law of life. 

The law of WHEN some one was reciting hypothetical arguments, 

living is Epictetus said : This also is a law which governs hypo- 
more im- -11 
portant thesis, that we must accept what conforms with the 

than any hypothesis. But much more important is the law of 
law of r ... 

hypothesis, living, which is this to act in conformity with nature. 

For if we wish in every subject and in all circumstances 

Book /, Chapter 26 

I 21 

to observe what is natural, it is plain that in everything 
we must aim at not letting slip what is in harmony with 
nature nor accepting what is in conflict with it. First, but it is 

then, philosophers train us in the region of speculation, harder > . 

, . , . . , fo because in 

which is easier, and only then lead us on to what is life there 

harder: for in the sphere of speculation there is no in- are .P 
fluence which hinders us from following what we are influences, 
taught, but in life there are many influences which drag 
us the contrary way. We may laugh, then, at him who 
says that he wants to try living first ; for it is not easy 
to begin with what is harder. 

And this is the defence that we must plead with parents The study 
who are angered at their children studying philosophy : * p ,~ ^ n 
Suppose I am in error, my father, and ignorant of what only be 
is fitting and proper for me. If, then, this cannot be 
taught or learnt, why do you reproach me? If it can be to live 
taught, teach me, and, if you cannot, let me learn from rig * y 
those who say that they know. For what think you ? 
That I fall into evil and fail to do well because I wish 
to ? God forbid. What, then, is the cause of my going 
wrong ? Ignorance. Would you not then have me put 
away my ignorance ? Who was ever taught the art of 
music or of steering by anger ? Do you think, then, that 
your anger will enable me to learn the art of living ? 
This argument can only be used by one who has enter- But some 
tained the purpose of right living. But if a man studies stu X l \ 
logic and goes to the philosophers just because he wants display, 
to show at a dinner party that he knows hypothetical 
arguments, is he not merely trying to win the admiration 
of some senator who sits next him? For in such society 


Discourses of Epictetus 

the great forces of the world prevail, and what we call 
wealth here seems child s-play there. 1 

and are This is what makes it difficult to get the mastery 

influenced , . . ,. . , 

bv the over one s impressions, where distracting forces are 

material strong. I know a man who clung to the knees of Epaphro- 

their ditus in tears and said he was in distress, for he had nothing 

society. left but a million and a half. What did Epaphroditus 

do ? Did he laugh at him, as we should ? No, he was 

astonished, and said, Unhappy man, how ever did you 

manage to keep silence and endure it ? 

We cannot Once when he put to confusion the student who was 
moral reading hypothetical arguments, and the master who had 

judge- set him to read laughed at his pupil, he said, You are 

men ts from, , . 1r ,., , 

the young ^ au g nm g at yourself ; you did not give the young man 

unless they any preliminary training, nor discover whether he can 

nrelim- follow the arguments, but just treat him as a reader. 

inary_ Why is it, he said, that when a mind is unable to follow 

and judge a complex argument we trust to it the task 
of praise and blame and of deciding on good and bad 
actions? If he speaks ill of any one, does the man attend 
to him, and is any one elated by a praise which comes 
from one who cannot find the logical connexion in such 
small matters? 

This, then, is where the philosophic life begins ; in 
the discovery of the true state of one s own mind : 
for when once you realize that it is in a feeble state, you 
will not choose to employ it any more for great matters. 

To read But, as it is, some men, finding themselves unable to 

books is swallow a mouthful, buy themselves a treatise, and set 


unless the about eating it whole, and, in consequence they vomit 

Book 7, Chapter 26 123 

or have indigestion. Hence come colics and fluxes and mind can 
fevers. They ought first to have considered whether 
they have the faculty. 

It is easy enough in speculation to examine and refute 
the ignorant, but in practical life men do not submit 
themselves to be tested, and we hate the man who examines 
and exposes us. Yet Socrates used to say that a life 
which was not put to the test was not worth living. 


On the ways in which impressions come to us : and the 
aids we must provide for ourselves to deal with them, 

IMPRESSIONS come to us in four ways : either things are The philo- 
and seem so to us ; or they are not and seem not to be ; f"P. \ 
or they are and seem not ; or they are not and yet seem to deal 

to be. Now it is the business of the true philosopher 1 " n " 


to deal rightly with all these ; he ought to afford help 
at whatever point the pressure comes. If it is the 
fallacies of Pyrrho and of the Academy which crush us, 
let us render help against them. If it is the plausibilities 
of circumstances, which make things seem good which 
are not, let us seek help against this danger : if it is habit 
which crushes us we must try to discover help against 

What, then, can we discover to help us against habit ? Habit can 
Contrary habit. ^,, c 

You hear ignorant folk saying, Unhappy man that by con- 
he was, he died : His father perished, and his mother : 

The fear 
of death 
can only 
be met by 
the convic 
tion that 
it is not 
an evil. 

from un 

124 Discourses of Epictetus 

He was cut off, yes, and untimely and in a foreign land. 
Now listen to the arguments on the other side ; draw 
yourself away from these voices, set against habit the 
opposite habit. Set against fallacious arguments the 
processes of reason, training yourself to be familiar with 
these processes : against the plausibilities of things we 
must have our primary conceptions clear, like weapons 
bright and ready for use. 

When death appears an evil we must have ready to 
hand the argument that it is fitting to avoid evils, and 
death is a necessary thing. 2 What am I to do ? where 
am I to escape it ? Grant that I am not Sarpedon son 
of Zeus, to utter those noble words, I would fain go 
and achieve glory or afford another the occasion to 
achieve it : if I cannot win success myself, I will not 
grudge another the chance of doing a noble deed . 
Grant that this is beyond us, can we not compass the 
other ? 3 

I ask you, Where am I to escape death ? Point me 
to the place, point me to the people, among whom I am 
to go, on whom it does not light, point me to a charm 
against it. If I have none, what would you have me 
do ? I cannot escape death : am I not to escape the fear 
of it ? Am I to die in tears and trembling ? For trouble 
of mind springs from this, from wishing for a thing 
which does not come to pass. Wheresoever I can alter 
external things to suit my own will, I alter them : where 
I cannot, I am fain to tear any man s eyes out who 
stands in my way. For man s nature is such that he 
cannot bear to be deprived of what is good, nor can he 

Book 7, Chapter 2.7 125 

bear to be involved in evil. And so the end of the matter 
is that when I cannot alter things, nor blind him that 
hinders me, I sit still and moan and revile whom I can- 
Zeus and the other gods ; for if they heed me not, 
what have I to do with them? 

Yes, but that will be impious of you. Piety can 

Well, how shall I be worse off than I am now ? In a 

word, we must remember this, that unless piety and true if a man 
. , i finds his 

interest coincide, piety cannot be preserved in a man. true j n . 

Do not these principles seem to you to be urgent? terest in it. 

Let the Pyrrhonist and the disciple of the Academy 
come and maintain the contrary ! For my part I have 
no leisure for these discussions, nor can I act as advocate 
to the common-sense view. 4 

If I had some petty action concerned with a plot of 
land, I should have called in another to be my advocate, 
[how much more in a matter of this concern]. 5 

With what argument, then, am I content ? With what It is not 
is appropriate to the subject in hand. How sensation takes to fa & ]j[ e 
place, whether through the whole body or through par- to deal 
ticular parts, I cannot render a reasoned account, though phji ? ve 
I find difficulty in both views. But that you and I are sophical 
not the same persons, I know absolutely and for certain. ^ 
How is that ? When I want to swallow a morsel I never 
lift it to your mouth, but to mine. When I want to 
take a piece of bread, I never take rubbish instead, but 
go to the bread as to a mark. And even you who make 
nothing of the senses, act just as I do. Which of you 
when he wants to go to the bath goes to the mill 
instead ? 

The ordin 
ary man 
must be 
with what 
serves him 
for prac 
tical use. 

on im 

126 Discourses of Epictetus 

What follows ? Must we not to the best of our power 
hold fast to this that is, maintain the view of common 
sense, and guard ourselves against all that upsets it ? Yes, 
who disputes that ? But these are matters for one who 
has the power and the leisure : the man who trembles, 
and is disturbed, and whose heart is shaken within him, 
ought to devote his time to something else. 


That we must not be angry with men: and concerning what 
things are small and what are great among men. 

WHAT is the reason that we assent to a thing? because 
it seems to us that it is so. It is impossible that we shall 
assent to that which seems not to be. Why ? Because 
this is the nature of the mind to agree to what is true, 
and disagree with what is false, and withhold judgement 
on what is doubtful. 

What is the proof of this ? 

Feel now, if you can, that it is night. 

It is impossible. 

Put away the feeling that it is day. 

It is impossible. 

Assume or put away the feeling that the stars are even 
in number. 

It is not possible. 

When a man assents, then, to what is false, know that 
he had no wish to assent to the false : for no soul is 
robbed of the truth with its own consent , as Plato says, 
but the false seemed to him true. 

Book 7, Chapter 28 127 

Now, in the sphere of action what have we to corre- and in 

j^ j r i .uv. v. r ^.-3 action too 

spond to true and false in the sphere of perception: j ^ 

What is fitting and unfitting, profitable and unprofitable, on im- 
appropriate and inappropriate, and the like. 

Cannot a man, then, think a thing is to his profit, and 
not choose it ? 

He cannot. 

What of her 1 who says 

/ know full well what ills I mean to do 
But -passion overpowers what counsel bids me. 

Here the very gratification of passion and the vengeance To correct 

she takes on her husband she believes to be more to her ^ ou 

duct you 

profit than saving her children. must cor- 

Yes, but she is deceived. . rect > our 


Prove to her plainly that she is deceived and she will sions. 
not do it, but as long as you do not show her, what else 
can she follow but that which appears to her ? Nothing. 
Why then are you indignant with her, because, unhappy 
woman, she is deluded on the greatest matters and is 
transformed from a human being into a serpent ? 
Why do you not rather pity her if so it may be ? 
As we pity the blind and the lame, so should we pity 
those who are blinded and lamed in their most sovereign 

We must remember this clearly, that man measures If you 
his every action by his impressions ; of course they may reanze | nis 
be good or bad : if good, he is free from reproach ; if never be 

bad, he pays the penalty in his own person, for it is an g r 7 wltn 

J any one. 

impossible for one to be deluded and another to suffer 

The deeds 
on im 

There is 
great in 

128 Discourses of Epictetus 

for it. The man who remembers this, I say, will be 
angry with no one, indignant with no one, revile none, 
blame none, hate none, offend none. 

So you say that deeds so great and awful take their 
origin from this, the impressions of the mind ? 

From this and nothing else. The Iliad is nothing 
but men s impressions and how they dealt with them. 
It was impressions that made Paris take away the wife 
of Menelaus, impressions that drew Helen to follow 
him. If, then, his impressions had led Menelaus to feel 
that it was a gain to be robbed of such a wife, what 
would have happened ? We should have lost the Iliad, 
and not only that but the Odyssey too. 

What ? Do these great matters depend on one that 
is so small ? 

What are these you call such great matters ? Wars 
and factions, deaths of many men and destructions of 
cities. What is there great in this, pray ? 
Is there nothing great ? 

Why, what is there great in the death of many oxen 
and many sheep, and the burning and destruction of 
many nests of swallows and storks ? 
Are these like those other horrors ? 
Most like : bodies of men perished, so did bodies 
of oxen and sheep. Huts of men were burnt : so were 
storks nasts. What is great or awful here ? Or if it be 
so, show me how a man s home differs from a stork s 
nest, as a dwelling. 

Is a stork, then, like a man ? 

What do you say? In respect of his body, very like j 

Book /, Chapter 28 129 

save only that men s homes are built of beams and rafters 

and bricks, and storks nests of sticks and clay. 

Does a man then differ in nothing from a stork ? 

God forbid : but he does not differ in these matters. 

In what then does he differ ? F or man s 

Search and you will find that he differs in something K reatn ess 

i T i i i i depends on 

else. Look whether it be not that he differs in under- his reason. 

standing what he does, in his. faculty for society, in 
his good faith, his self-respect, his security of aim, his 

Where then is man s good and man s evil, in the true 
sense, to be found ? 

In that faculty which makes men different from all 
else. If a man preserves this and keeps it safely fortified ; 
if his sense of honour, his good faith, and his prudence 
are not destroyed, then he too is preserved ; but if any 
of these perish or be taken by storm, then he too perishes 
with them. And it is on this that great events depend. Man fails 
Was Alexander s great failure when the Hellenes came when he 
against the Trojans and sacked Troy and when his brothers ^ason and 
perished ? By no means : for no one fails by the act of self - 
another ; yet then there was destruction of storks nests. respec 
Nay, his failure was when he lost the man of honour, 
the man of good faith, the man who respected manners 
and the laws of hospitality. When did Achilles fail ? 
Was it when Patroclus died ? God forbid : it was when 
he was angry, when he cried for a trumpery maiden, 
when he forgot that he was there not to win lady-loves, 
but to make war. These are man s failures this is 
his siege, this is his razed city, when his right judge- 

546.24 I T 

1 3 o Discourses of Epictetus 

ments are broken to the ground, and when they are 
not where But when women are carried off, and children are made 

.V 5 j captive, and men themselves are slaughtered are not 
robbed or 
killed. these things evil ? 

Where do you get this idea from? If it is true, teach 
it me too. 

No, I cannot : but how can you say that they are 
not evil? 
We go Let us turn to our standards, let us look to our primary 

notions. For I cannot be sufficiently astonished at what 
because we J 

recognize men do. When we want to judge weights, we ,do not 

no stand- ; uc [g e at ran j om : when we judge things straight and 

ard in con- J J 

duct and crooked, it is not at random : in a word, when it is 

X im " important to us to know the truth on any subject, no one 
of us will ever do anything at random. Yet when we are 
dealing with the primary and sole cause of right or 
wrong action, of prosperity or adversity, of good or bad 
fortune, there alone we are random and headlong : 
we nowhere have anything like a scale, nowhere anything 
like a standard : some impression strikes me, and straight 
way I act on it. 
This is the Am I anv better than Agamemnon or Achilles, that 

source of they should do and suffer such evils because they 
all tragedy. . . . . . . 

follow their impressions, and I should 8 be content with 

mine ? 

Surely tragedy has no other source but this. What is 
the Atreus of Euripides? Impressions. What is the 
Oedipus of Sophocles? Impressions. Phoenix ? Im 
pressions. Hippolytus ? Impressions. Plow do you 

Book /, Chapter 28 131 

think then we should describe the man who takes no 
pains to discipline his impressions ? What name do we 
give to those who follow everything that comes into 
their mind ? 


Well, is not this exactly what we do ? 


On Constancy. 

THE essence of good and of evil lies in an attitude Good and 

evil dc* 
of the will. pend on 

What are external things then? the will. 

They are materials for the will, in dealing with which 
it will find its own good or evil. 

How will it find its good ? 

If it does not value over much the things that it deals 
with. For its judgements on matters presented to it, 
if they be right, make the will good, and if crooked and 
perverse make it bad. This law God has ordained and 
says, If you want anything good, get it from yourself. 

You say, Not so, but from another. 

I say, No, from yourself. So when the tyrant The 

, , T7 , , , tyrant s 
threatens and does not invite me, 1 say, What does he t h rea ts 

threaten ? If he says, I will bind you , I say, He cannot 
threatens my hands and my feet. If he says, I will man s w i]]_ 
behead you , I say, He threatens my neck . If he says, 
I will put you in prison , I say, He threatens all my 
poor flesh , and if he threatens banishment, the same. 
Does he then not threaten you at all? 

I 2 

132 Discourses of Epictetus 

Not at all, if I feel that these things are nothing to me : 
but if I fear any of them, he does threaten me. Who is 
there left for me to fear, and over what has he control ? 
Over what is in my power? No one controls that. 
Over what is not in my power? I have no concern in 
Philosophy Do you philosophers then teach us to despise kings ? 

teaches Heaven forbid ! Which of us teaches men to resist 


only when them in the matters over which they have authority ? 

^ Take m 7 bit of a bod > take m ? P r P ert 7> take m 7 


control the name, take my companions. If I try to persuade any 

iid ement ^ tnem to res i st , I gi ye hi m leave to accuse me indeed. 

Yes, but I want to command your judgements. 

Who has given you this authority? How can you 
conquer another s judgement? 

I will conquer him , he says, by bringing fear to 
bear on him. 

You are not aware that it was the judgement that 
conquered itself, it was not conquered by another. 
The will may conquer itself, but nothing else can conquer 
it. That is the reason too why the noblest and most just 
law of God is this : Let the better always be victorious 
over the worse. 

Right Ten , you say, are better than one. 

judgement Better fof what ? TQ bind to gl to carr off where 

is mvin- 

cible. they will, to take away property. Ten conquer one 

therefore only in so far as they are better. 

In what then are they worse ? 

They are worse if the one has right judgements, and 
the ten have not. I ask you, can they conquer him in 

Book 7, Chapter 29 133 

this? How can they? If we weigh them in the balance, 
must not the heavier pull down the scale ? 

This is your outcome then, that Socrates should suffer 
the fate he did at the hands of the Athenians ? 

Slave, why do you say, Socrates ? State the fact as Socrates 
it really is, That Socrates vile body should be arrested ^ h ^ lled 
and haled to prison by those who are stronger, and that judgement 
some one should give hemlock to Socrates vile body a * V1C " 
and it should die of chill does this seem to you mar 
vellous, does this seem unjust, is it for this you accuse 
God? Did Socrates then get nothing in exchange? 
In what did his true good consist? Which are we to 
attend to? To you or to him? Nay, what does Socrates 
say? Anytus or Meletus can slay me, but they cannot 
harm me : l and again, If God so will, so be it. Prove, 
I say, that one who has worse judgements gains the 
mastery over him who is his superior in judgements. 
You will not prove it : far from it. For the law of 
nature and of God is this, Let the better always come 
out victor over the worse. Victorious in what? In 
that wherein it is better. One body is stronger than 
another, the majority are stronger than one, the thief 
stronger than he who is not a thief. That is why I too The thief 
lost my lamp, because in the matter of vigilance the who steals 
thief was a stronger man than I. But he bought his lamp pays for it: 

for this price : for a lamp he became a thief, for a lamp r? e P rice 1S 
. . . his degra- 

he broke his faith, for a lamp he became a brute. This dation. 

seemed to his judgement to be profitable. 

Very well : but now some one has laid hold on my cloak, Imprison- 
and drags me into the market, then others raise a clamour P^ 1S 

to the 
because it 
is beyond 
his will. 

He is con 
tent to 
stay where 
he is, so 
long as 
God wants 

and to go, 
if God 
gives the 

134 Discourses of Epictetus 

against me, Philosopher, what good have your judge 
ments done you ? for, see, you are haled to prison, see, 
you are about to be beheaded. 

And what sort of Introduction to philosophy could 
I have studied, that would save me from being haled 
off, if a stronger man seizes my cloak, or, if ten men drag 
me about and cast me into prison, will save me from being 
cast there? Have I then learnt nothing else? I have 
learnt to sec that everything that happens, if it is beyond 
the control of my will, is nothing to me. Have you not 
gained benefit then in this respect ? Why do you seek 
benefit elsewhere than where you learnt that it is to be 
found ? 

I sit on then in prison and say, This person who 
clamours at me has no car for the true meaning of things, 
he does not understand what is said, in a word he has 
taken no pains to know what philosophers do or say. Let 
him be. 

But [the answer comes], Come out of your prison. 

If you have no more need of me in prison, I come 
out : if you need me again, I will come in. For how 
long? For as long as reason requires that I should abide 
by my vile body ; but when reason demands it no longer, 
take it from me and good health to you ! Only let me 
not cast it off without reason or from a faint heart, or 
for a casual pretext. For again God wills it not : for 
He has need of a world like this, and of such creatures 
as ourselves to move upon the earth. But if He give the 
signal of retreat, as He gave it to Socrates, one must 
obey His signal as that of the general in command. 

Book /, Chapter 29 135* 

What then? must I say these things to the multitude? But there 

Why should you ? Is it not sufficient to believe them 1S no n f^ 
i } to say this 

yourself ? For when children come up to us and clap to the 

their hands and say, A good Saturnalia to you to-day ! multitude. 

do we say These things are not good ? Not at all, we 

clap with them ourselves. So, when you cannot change 

a man s opinion, recognize that he is a child, clap with 

him, and if you do not wish to do this, you have only 

to hold your peace. 

These things we must remember, and when called to when the 
face a crisis that is to test us we must realize that the ^"^ 
moment, is come to show whether we have learnt our s how that 
lesson. For a young man going straight from his studies 
to face a crisis may be compared to one who has practised lesson, 
the analysis of syllogisms. If some one offers him one jjjjjj^jj 
that is easy to analyse, he says, Nay, propound me one study 
which is cunningly involved, that I may get proper Ion S er - 
exercise. And so wrestlers are discontented if put to 
wrestle with young men of light weight : He cannot 
lift me , one says. Here is a young man of parts, yet when 
the crisis calls he must needs weep and say, I would 
fain go on learning. 

Learning what? If you did not learn your lesson to 
display it in action, what did you learn it for ? 

I imagine one of those who are sitting here crying Welcome 
out in the travail of his heart, Why does not a crisis g^^iato, 
come to me such as has come to him ? Am I to wear welcomes 
my life out idly in a corner, when I might win a crown 
at Olympia ? When will some one bring me news of 
a contest like that ? Such ought to be the attitude of 

what task 
shall be 
set him. 

He must 
make the 

most of it. 

The actor 
what he is 
by his 

and so, in 
rank of 
life, we 

136 Discourses of Epictetus 

you all. Why, among Caesar s gladiators there are some 
who are vexed that no one brings them out or matches 
them in fight, and they pray to God and go to the 
managers 2 and implore them to let them fight ; and shall 
no one of you display a like spirit ? That is exactly why 
I should like to take ship for Rome to see how my 
wrestler puts his lesson into practice. 

I do not want , says he, an exercise of this sort. 

What ? is it in your power to take the task you choose ? 
No, a body is given you of such a kind, parents of such 
a kind, brothers of such a kind, a country of such a kind, 
a position in it of such a kind : and yet you come to me 
and say, Change the task set me. What ! have you 
not resources, to deal with what is given you ? Instead of 
saying, It is yours to set the task, and mine to study it 
well , you say, Do not put before me such a syllogism, 
but such an one : do not impose on me such a conclusion, 
but such an one. A time will soon come when tragic 
actors will imagine that they are merely mask and shoes 
and robe, and nothing else. Man, you have these things 
given you as your subject and task. Speak your part, 
that we may know whether you are a tragic actor or 
a buffoon : for except their speech they have all else 
in common. Does the tragic actor disappear, if you 
take away his shoes and mask and bring him on the stage 
in the bare guise of a ghost, or is he there still? If he 
has a voice he is there still. 

So it is in life : Take a post of command ; I take it, 
and taking it show how a philosopher behaves. 

Lay aside the senator s dress, and put on rags and 

Book /, Chapter 29 137 

appear in that character. Very well : is it not given must bear 

11 j- i 11 -3 witness to 

me still to display a noble voice? Q O( J 

In what part then do you appear now? 

As a witness called by God : Come and bear 
witness for me, for I count you worthy to come 
forward as my witness. Is anything good or evil which 
lies outside the range of the will? Do I harm any one? 
Do I put each man s advantage elsewhere than in 

What is the witness you now bear to God ? If you 

I am in danger, O Lord, and in misfortune ; no man 
heeds me, no man gives me anything, all blame me and honour 
speak evil of me. 

Is this the witness you are going to bear, and so 
dishonour the calling that he has given you, in that 
he honoured you thus and counted you worthy to be 
brought forward to bear such weighty witness ? 

But suppose that he who has authority pronounces, It matters 
I judge you to be godless and unholy , how does this man - n 
affect you ? authority 

I am judged to be godless and unholy. godless 

Nothing more? 


If he had been giving judgement on a hypothetical 
proposition and had declared, I judge the proposition 
" if it be day, there is light " to be false , how would it have 
affected the proposition? Who is judged here? Who 
is condemned? The proposition or the man who is 
deluded about it? Who in the world then is this who 
has authority to pronounce upon you? Does he know 

for the 
pays no 
heed to 
the unen 
on matters 
of right 
and wrong. 

to others, 

and apply 
your prin 
ciples to 

The philo 
must con 
the world 
with an 

138 Discourses of Epictetus 

what godliness or ungodliness is? Has he msde a study 
of it ? Has he learnt it ? Where and with what master ? 

If a musician pays no heed to him when he pronounces 
that the lowest note is the highest, nor a geometrician 
when he decides that the Ikies from the centre of a circle 
to the circumference are not equal, shall he who is 
educated in true philosophy pay any heed to an uneducated 
man when he gives judgement on what is holy and unholy, 
just and unjust? What a great wrong for philosophers to 
be guilty of ! Is this what you have learnt by coming to 
school ? 

Leave other people, persons of no endurance, to 
argue on these matters to little purpose. Let them 
sit in a corner and take their paltry fees, or murmur 
that no one offers them anything, and come forward 
yourself and practise what you have learnt. For it 
is not arguments that are wanting nowadays : no, 
the books of the Stoics are full of them. What then is 
the one thing wanting? We want the man who will 
apply his arguments, and bear witness to them by 
action. This is the character I would have you take 
up, that we may no longer make use of old examples 
in the school, but may be able to show an example 
from our own day. 

Whose business then is it to take cognizance of 2 these 
questions ? It is for him that has studied at school ; for 
man is a creature with a faculty of taking cognizance, but 
it is shameful for him to exercise it in the spirit of runaway 
slaves. No : one must sit undistracted and listen in 
turn to tragic actor or harp-player, and not do as the 

Book 7, Chapter 29 139 

runaways do. At the very moment one of them is attend- unper- 

, . . , . . . .. , turbed 

ing and praising the actor, he gives a glance all round, spirit, 

and then if some one utters the word master he is 
fluttered and confounded in a moment. It is shameful 
that philosophers should take cognizance of the works 

of nature in this spirit. For what does master mean ? showing 
XT c i i no fear of 

JNo man is master of another man ; his masters are only jg.^ or 

death and life, pleasure and pain. For, apart from them, any other 

you may bring me face to face with Caesar and you 

shall see what constancy I show. But when he comes 

in thunder and lightning with these in his train, and 

I show fear of them, I am only recognizing my master 

as the runaway does. But so long as I have respite from 

them I am just like the runaway watching in the theatre ; 

I wash, drink, sing, but do everything in fear and misery. 

But if I once free myself from my masters, that is from 

those feelings which make masters formidable, my trouble 

is past, and I have a master no more. 

Should I then proclaim this to all men ? But he 

No ! One should study the weakness of the uninstructed n , n . ot 
1 proclaim 

and say to them, This man advises me what he thinks his know- 
good for himself, and I excuse him. For Socrates too if^j 
excused the gaoler who wept when he was going to drink treat the 
the poison, and said, How nobly he has wept for us ! 
Does he say to the gaoler, That is why we dismissed ately. 
the women ? No, he says that to his intimate friends, 
who were fit to hear it, but the gaoler he treats consider 
ately like a child. 3 

140 Discourses of Epictetus 

In the 
crises of 
life you 
God, who 

If you hold 
fast your 


What a man should, have ready to hand in the crises of life. 

WHEN you appear before one of the mighty of the earth, 
remember that Another 1 looks from above on what is 
happening and that you must please Him rather than 
this man. He that is above inquires of you : What 
did you say in the school about exile and prison and bonds 
and death and dishonour? 

I said they were indifferent . 

What do you call them now, then ? Have they 
changed ? 


Have you changed then ? 


Tell me then what things are indifferent. 

Things which lie outside the will s control. 

Tell me what follows. 

Things indifferent concern me not at all. 

Tell me also what you thought were "good things ". 

A right will and a faculty of dealing rightly with 

And what did you think was the end ? 

To follow Thee. 

Do you still say that ? 

Yes. I say the same now as before. 

Go on then into the palace in confidence and remember 
these things, and you shall see how a young man who has 
studied what he ought compares with men who have had 

Book /, Chapter 30 141 

no study. By the gods I imagine that you will feel thus : Klngs , 
Why do we make these many and great preparations t h e ir 
for nothing? Is this what authority meant? Are the terrors 
vestibule, the chamberlains, the guards no more than this? 
Was it for this that I listened to those long discourses ? 
These terrors were naught, and I made ready for them 
all the time as though they were great matters. 



That there is no conflict between confidence and caution. 

Confidence PERHAPS the contention of philosophers that it is 
tionare" P oss ible in everything we do to combine confidence 
not incom- with caution may appear a paradox, but nevertheless 
3 e we must do our best to consider whether it is true. In 
a sense, no doubt, caution seems to be contrary to confi 
dence, and contraries are by no means compatible. 
But I think that what seems to many a paradox in this 
subject depends on a confusion, and it is this. If we 
really called upon a man to use caution and confidence 
in regard to the same things, they might fairly find 
fault with us as uniting qualities which cannot be united. 

if they are But as a matter of fact there is nothing strange in the 
exercised r . r . . 

in the right statement : for lf u 1S true > as has often been said and 
spheres. often proved, that the true nature of good and also 
of evil depends on how we deal with impressions, and 
if things outside the will s control cannot be described 
Confidence as good or bad, we cannot surely call it a paradoxical 
region of Demand of tne philosophers if they say, Be confident 
things out- in all that lies beyond the will s control, be cautious 
wiH. * n a ^ tnat * s dependent on the will. For if evil depends 

Caution in on evil choice, it is only in regard to matters of will 
that il is right t0 USC cailtion ; and if thin gs outside the 

Book 77, Chapter i 143 

will s control, which do not depend on us, concern us dependent 
in no way, we should use confidence in regard to these. ontnewl "- 
And in that way we shall be at once cautious and confident 
and indeed confident because of our caution. For because 
we are cautious as to things which are really evil we shall 
get confidence to face things which are not so. 

However, we behave like deer : when hinds fear the As it is, we 
feathers 1 and fly from them, where do they turn, and in ^ er 
what do they take refuge as a safe retreat ? They turn the wrong 
to the nets, and so they perish because they confuse s P heres 
objects of fear with objects of confidence. 

So it is with us. Where do we show fear? In regard 
to things outside our will s control. Again, when do we 
behave with confidence as though there were nothing to 
fear ? In matters within the will s control. So if only 
we are successful in things beyond our will s control 
we think it is of no consequence to us to be deceived or 
to act rashly, or to do a shameless deed, or to conceive 
a shameful desire. But where death or exile or pain or 
infamy confronts us, there we show the spirit of retreat 
and of wild alarm. Wherefore, as is likely with men who and so our 

are mistaken in the greatest matters, we convert our Confidence 


natural confidence into something bold, desperate, reckless- 
reckless, shameless, whereas we change our natural ness a . 

our caution 

caution and modesty into a cowardly and abject quality, cowardice, 
full of fears and perturbations. For if a man transfers 
his caution to the region of the will and the operations 
of the will, with the will to be cautious he will find that 
the will to avoid lies in his control : while if he turns his 
caution to what is beyond the control of our will, inas- 

144 Discourses of Epictetus 

much as his will to avoid will be directed to what depends 

upon others he will of necessity be subject to fear, 

What we inconstancy, and perturbation. For it is not death or 

is not P a * n which * s a fearful thing, but the fear of pain or 

death but death. Therefore men praise him who said 
the fear 

of death. ft ot ^^ l ut shameful death, is to be feared. 

We ought then to turn our confidence towards 
death, and our caution towards the fear of death : what 
we really do is just the contrary ; we fly from death. 
yet we pay no heed to forming judgements about 
death, but are reckless and indifferent. Socrates called 
The fear of such fears bogies , and rightly too. For just as masks 

death is seem fearful and terrible to children from want of 
a bogy. 

experience, so we are affected by events for much the 
same reason as children are affected by bogies . For what 
makes a child ? Want of knowledge. What makes a child ? 
Want of instruction. For so far as a child knows those 
things he is no worse off than we are. What is death ? A 
bogy. Turn it round and see what it is : you see it does not 
Death is bite. The stuff of the body was bound to be parted from 
part o t e t ^ e ^^ e } ementj either now or hereafter, as it existed 
the uni- apart from it before. Why then are you vexed if they are 
parted now? for if not parted now, they will be hereafter. 
Why so? That the revolution of the universe may be 
accomplished, for it has need of things present, things 
future, and things past and done with. What is pain? 
A bogy. Turn it round and see what it is. The poor 
flesh is subject to rough movement, then again to smooth. 
If it is not to your profit, the door stands open : if it 

Book II, Chapter i 

is to your profit, bear it. For in every event the door 
must stand open and then we have no trouble. 

What then is the fruit of these judgements? A fruit 
which must needs be most noble and most becoming to 
those who are truly being educated a mind tranquil 
and fearless and free. For on these matters you must 
not trust the multitude, who say, Only the free may 
be educated , but rather the philosophers who say, Only 
the educated are free. 

What do you mean by that? 

I mean this. What else is freedom but power to pass 
our life as we will? 


Tell me, fellow men, do you wish to live doing wrong ? 

We do not. 

Is no one free who does wrong ? 

No one. 2 

Do you wish to live in fear, in pain, in distress of mind ? 

By no means. 

Well, no man who suffers fear or pain or distress of 
mind is free, but whoever is quit of fears and pains and 
distresses is by the self-same road quit of slavery. How 
then shall we go on believing you, dearest lawgivers? 

Do we allow none but the free to get education ? 

Nay ! philosophers say that we do not allow any to 
be free except those whose education is complete : that 
is, God does not allow it. 

Well then, when a man turns his slave round before 
the praetor, 3 does he do nothing ? 

He does something. 

546.24 1 K 

The fruit 
of this 
belief is 

in which 

is not the 
result of 

sion or of 
paying a 

It is to 
when to 
be con 
fident and 
when to be 

must be 
left to the 
stupid or 
to those 
who have 
peace of 

146 Discourses of Epictetus 

What ? 

He turns his slave round before the praetor. 
Nothing else ? 

Yes, he is bound to pay the twentieth 3 for him. 
What follows ? Has not the man to whom this is done 
gained freedom ? 

No more than he has gained peace of mind. For do you 
who can confer this freedom own no master? Have 
you not a master in money, a girl lover or a boy lover, 
the tyrant, or a friend of the tyrant? If not, why do 
you tremble when you go away to face a crisis of this 
sort ? Therefore I say many times over : What you must 
practise and have at command is to know what you ought 
to approach with confidence, and what with caution ; 
all that is beyond the control of the will with confidence, 
and what is dependent on the will with caution. 

But (says my pupil) have I not recited to you? Do 
you not know what I am doing ? 

What are you engaged on? Paltry phrases. Away 
with your paltry phrases : show me how you stand 
in regard to the will to get and the will to avoid : if you 
do not fail to get what you will, or fall into what you 
will to avoid. As for those paltry periods, if you have 
sense you will take them away somewhere or other and 
make away with them. 

What do you mean ? Did not Socrates write ? 

Yes, who wrote so much as he? But under what 

conditions? He could not always have some one at hand 

examining his judgements or to be examined by him in 

turn, and therefore he examined and questioned himself 

Book //, Chapter 


and was always putting to trial some primary conception 
or other in a practical way. This is what a philosopher 
writes : but paltry phrases and periods 4 "he leaves to 
others, to the stupid or the blessed, those whose peace of 
mind gives them leisure for study or those who can 
draw no logical conclusions because of their folly. 

To-day, when the crisis calls you, will you go off and 

,. , . . , 

.display your recitation and harp on, How cleverly I 

compose dialogues ? Nay, fellow man, make this your 
object, Look how I fail not to get what I will. Look 
how I escape what I will to avoid. Let death come 
and you shall know ; bring me pains, prison, dishonour, 
condemnation. This is the true field of display for 
a young man come from school. Leave those other 
trifles to other men ; let no one ever hear you say a word 
on them, do not tolerate any compliments upon them ; 
assume the air of being no one and of knowing nothing. 

Show that you know this only, how not to fail and how 

, T i 

not to fall. Let others practise law-suits, logical puzzles 

and syllogisms : let your study be how to suffer death, 
bondage, the rack, exile : let all this be done with 
confidence and trust in Him who has called you to face 
them, and judged you worthy of this place you hold, 
wherein at your appointed post you shall show what is the 
power of reason, the Governing Principle, when arrayed 
against forces which are outside the will. And, if you do 
this, that paradox will no longer seem impossible or 
paradoxical that we must show caution and confidence 
at the same time, confidence in regard to things beyond 
the will, caution in things which depend on the will. 


When the 
crisis calls 
you Dis 

p a y not 

patience in 
and trust 

w ho has 
ca l e d y u - 

148 Discourses of Epictetus 


On -peace of mind. 1 

He who is CONSIDER, you who are going into court, what you 

OI ? 11 t , want to maintain and where you want to end : for if 

will have 

no trouble you want to maintain your freedom of will in its natural 

f he keeps conc Jition, you have all security and facility to do so, 

kingdom and your trouble is over. If you wish to maintain 

of the will. au thority over what is in your power and to keep it 

naturally free, and if you are content with this, what 

more need you attend to? For who is master of this, 

who can take it away from you? If you wish to be 

a man of honour and trust, who will forbid you? If 

you wish not to be hindered or compelled, what man 

will compel you to will to get what is against your 

judgement, and to will to avoid things that you do not 

think proper to avoid? 

For in this What can he do then ? He will cause you troubles 

no compul- w hj c h se em to you formidable : but how can he make 

sion can . / 

touch him. you will to avoid what is done to you ? As long then as 

you retain in your control the will to get and the will 
to avoid, you need attend to nothing else. This is your 
introduction, this your narrative, this your proof, this 
your victory, this your peroration, this your ground of 
boasting. 2 

Life, as That is why Socrates, in reply to one who reminded 

saw is the ^ m to make ready for the court, said : Do you not 
true pre- think my whole life is a preparation for this ? 
for trial. What kind of preparation? 

Book //, Chapter 2 149 

I have maintained , said he, what is my own. 

What do you mean? 

I never did an unjust act in my private or in my 
public life. 

But if you wish to keep what is outside you as well Make your 
your paltry body, and goods, and reputation I advise fo^ii 01 
you to begin this moment to make all possible preparation, between 
and further to study the character of your judge and mwar ^ n 
your opponent. If you must clasp his knees, clasp 
them ; if you must weep, then weep ; if you must 
lament, then lament. For when once you allow out 
ward things to dominate what is your own, you had 
better become a slave and have done with it. Don t 
be drawn this way and that, wishing to be a slave one 
moment and free another, but be this or that simply 
and with all your mind, free or slave, philosopher or 
unenlightened, a fighting cock of spirit, or one of no 
spirit ; either bear stroke after stroke patiently till you 
die, or give way at once. Let it not be your lot to suffer 
many blows and then give way in the end. If such con 
duct is shameful, get your own mind clear at once : 
Where is the nature of good and evil to be found ? 
Where truth is. Where truth and nature are, there 
is caution ; where truth and nature are, there is con 
fidence. 3 

For what think you? If Socrates had wished to keep Socrates 
his outward possessions, would he have come forward and j^atti^ 
said, Anytus and Meletus have power to kill me, but tude would 
not to harm me ? Was he so foolish as not to see that 
this road leads not to that end, but elsewhere? Why is it 

1 5*o Discourses of Epictetus 

then, that he renders no account to his judges, and adds 
a word of provocation? Just as my friend Heraclitus, 
when he had an action in Rhodes concerning a plot of 
land and had pointed out to the judges that his arguments 
were just, when he came to his peroration said, I will 
not supplicate you, nor do I regard the judgement you 
will give ; it is you who are on your trial rather than 
But you I ? an d so ne made an end of the business. You need not 

need not S p e ak like that, only do not supplicate. Do not add the 

provoke . 

your words, I do not supplicate , unless, as happened to 

judges, un- Socrates, the right time has come deliberately to provoke 

less the 5 . . 7 

time has your judges. If, indeed, you are preparing a peroration 

come. o f tn j s sort> w hy Jo y OU a pp ear J n court ? 4 Why do you 
answer the summons? If you wish to be crucified, wait 
and the cross will come : but if reason requires that you 
should answer the summons and do your best to persuade 
the judge, you must act in accordance with this, but 
always keeping true to yourself. 

Do not ask On this principle it is ridiculous to say, Give me advice. 

for -par- What advice am I to give you? Say rather, Enable my 

advice, but mind to adapt itself to the issue, whatever it may be , 

be ready to f or ^ e o ther phrase is as though a man unskilled in 

yourself to writing should say, Tell me what to write, when 

any issue. a name i s se t me to write. For if I say Dion , and 

then yonder fellow comes forward and sets him the 

name not of Dion but of Theon, what is to happen ? 

What is he to write? If you have practised writing, 

you can prepare yourself for anything that is dictated 

to you. But if you have not practised, what is the good 

of my making a suggestion ? For if circumstances suggest 

Book //, Chapter 2 1 5- 1 

something different, what will you say or what will 
you do ? Remember then this general principle, and you 
will need no special suggestion. But if you fix your 
gaze on outward things, you must needs be tossed up 
and down, at the will of your master. And who is your 
master? He who has authority over any of those things 
on which you set your heart or which you will to avoid. 


To those who commend persons to philosophers. 

THAT is a good answer of Diogenes to one who asked The philo- 
him for letters of introduction : You are a man, and ^f^^ 
that his eyes will tell him ; but whether you are good himself 
or bad he will discover, if he has skill to distinguish the v 
good from the bad ; and if he has not that skill, he will worth, 
never discover it, though I should write him ten thousand 
letters. A drachma might just as well ask tobe introduced 
to some one in order to be tested. If the man is a judge 
of silver, you will introduce yourself. We ought, there- But most 
fore, to have some faculty to guide us in life, as the n 
assayer has in dealing with silver, that I may be able to of distin- 
say as he does, Give me any drachma you please, and I will 
distinguish. Now I can deal with a syllogism and say, bad. 
Bring any one you like/and I will distinguish between him 
who can analyse syllogisms and him who cannot. Why? 
Because I know how to analyse them : I have the faculty 
a man must have who is to recognize those who can 
handle syllogisms aright. But when I have to deal 

1 5" 2 Discourses of Epictetus 

with life, how do I behave? Sometimes I call a thing 
good, sometimes evil. And the reason is just this, that 
whereas I have knowledge of syllogisms, I have no 
knowledge or experience of life. 

The adul 
trust and 

If you are 
not fit to 
be a mem 
ber of 
society you 
must be 
cast on the 


To the man caught in adultery. 

WHEN Epictetus was saying that man is born for 
mutual trust, and he who overthrows this overthrows the 
quality peculiar to man, there came in one of those who 
are reputed scholars, a man who had once been caught 
committing adultery in the city. If, said Epictetus, 
we put away this trust, for which we are born, and plot 
against our neighbour s wife, what are we doing? Are 
we not pulling down and destroying ? Whom ? The man 
of trust, of honour, of piety. Is this all? Are we not 
overthrowing neighbourly feeling, friendship, the city 
itself? What position are we taking up? 

How am I to treat you, my fellow man? As a neighbour? 
As a friend? Of what kind? As a citizen? What trust 
am I to put in you? No doubt, if you were a piece of 
pottery, so cracked that you could not be used for 
anything, you would be cast out on the dunghill, and no 
one would stoop to take you thence : what shall we do 
with you then, if being a man you can fill no place 
becoming to a man ? Granted that you cannot hold the 
position of a friend, can you hold that of a slave? And 
who will trust you? Will you not then consent to be 

Book //, Chapter 4 1^3 

cast upon a dunghill yourself as a useless vessel, as 
a thing for the dunghill? 

Will you complain, No man pays any attention to 
me, a man and a scholar ? 

Of course, for you are bad and useless. Wasps might 
as well be indignant because no one heeds them, but all 
avoid them and any one who can strikes and crushes 
them. Your sting is such that you cause pain and trouble 
to any one you strike with it. What would you have us 
do to you? There is no place to put you. 

What then? Is it not true that women are com- If it be 
mon property by nature ? 1 I agree, for the sucking- s 
pig is the common property of those who are bidden common 

to the feast. Very well, when it has been cut into PP ert y > 
the answer 

portions, come, if you see fit, and snatch the portion is, Not 

of the guest who sits next you, steal it secretly or slip ^ ( 
your hand over it and taste it, or if you cannot snatch has dis- 
any of the flesh rub your fingers on the fat and lick them. P sed , of 
A fine companion you are for a feast or a dinner, worthy 
of Socrates indeed ! 

Again, is not the theatre common to all citizens ? 
When they are seated there, come, if you see fit, and turn 
one of them out. In the same way you may say that 
women are common property by nature. But when the 
law-giver, like the giver of the feast, has apportioned 
them, will you not look for your own portion instead 
of stealing what is another s and guzzling that? 

Yes, but I am a scholar and understand Archedemus. 
Well then, understand Archedemus, be an adulterer and 
a man of broken trust, a wolf or an ape instead of a man ; 
for what is there to hinder you ? 

1 5-4 Discourses of Epictetus 

Man must 
learn to 
deal with 
things, as 
learn to 

He must 
place good 
and evil 
within his 
and must 
learn to 
deal aright 
with what 
is beyond 
his control. 


How a careful life is compatible with a noble spirit. 

MATERIAL things are indifferent, but how we handle 
them is not indifferent. 

How then is one to maintain the constant and tranquil 
mind, and therewith the careful spirit which is not 
random or hasty? 

You can do it if you imitate those who play dice. 
Counters and dice are indifferent : how do I know what 
is going to turn up? My business is to use what does 
turn up with diligence and skill. In like manner this is 
the principal business of life : distinguish between things, 
weigh them one against the other, and say, External 
things are not in my power, my will is my own. Where 
am I to seek what is good and what is evil ? Within me, 
among my own possessions. You must never use the 
word good or evil or benefit or injury or any such word, 
in connexion with other men s possessions. 

Do you mean then that outward things are to be used 
without care? 

By no means. For this again is evil for the will and 
unnatural to it. They must be used with care, for their 
use is not a matter of indifference, but at the same time 
with constancy and tranquillity, for in themselves they 
are indifferent. For where the true value of things is 
concerned, no one can hinder or compel me. I am subject 
to hindrance and compulsion only in matters which lie 
out of my power to win, which are neither good nor evil, 

Book //, Chapter 

but they may be dealt with well or ill, and this rests 
with me. 

It is difficult to unite and combine these qualities To com- 
the diligence of a man who devotes himself to material cence w j t h 
things, and the constancy of one who disregards them yet constancy 
not impossible. Otherwise it would be impossible to b ut not 
be happy. We act very much as if we were on a voyage, impossible. 
What can I do . ?1 I can choose out the helmsman, the 
sailors, the day, the moment. Then a storm arises. 
What do I care? I have fulfilled my task : another has 
now to act, the helmsman. Suppose even the ship goes Do your 
down. What have I to do then? I do only what lies {g^ eath 
in my power, drowning, if drown I must, without fear, come if it 
not crying out or accusing heaven, for I know that what is 
born must needs also perish. For I am not immortal, but 
a man, a part of the universe as an hour is part of the day. 
Like the hour I must be here and like an hour pass away. 
What matters it then to me how I pass, by drowning 
or by fever, for by some such means I must needs pass 

You will see that those who play ball with skill behave Play the 
so. No one of them discusses whether the ball is good | ame . an 
or bad, but only how to strike it and how to receive it. think of 
Therefore balanced play consists in this skill, speed, t 
good judgement consist in this that while I cannot 
catch the ball, even if I spread my gown for it, the expert 
catches it if I throw it. But if we catch or strike the ball 
with flurry or fear, what is the good of the game? How 
will any one stick to the game and see how it works out ? 
One will say, Strike , and another, Do not strike , and 

So, like 
you will 
with in 

Use what 
is given 
you, but do 
not cling 
to life. 

i y 6 Discourses of Epictetus 

another, You have had one stroke. 2 This surely is 
fighting instead of playing. 

In that sense Socrates knew how to play the game. 
What do you mean ? 

He knew how to play in the court. Tell me, Anytus, 
said he, in what way you say that I disbelieve in God. 
What do you think that divinities are? Are they not 
either children of the gods, or the mixed offspring of 
men and gods ? And when Anytus agreed, he said, Who 
then do you think can believe in the existence of mules 
and not in asses ? He was like one playing at ball. What 
then was the ball that he played with? Life, imprison 
ment, exile, taking poison, being deprived of his wife, 
leaving his children orphans. These were the things 
he played with, but none the less he played and tossed 
the ball with balance. So we ought to play the game, 
so to speak, with all possible care and skill, but treat the 
ball itself as indifferent. A man must certainly cultivate 
skill in regard to some outward things : he need not 
accept a thing for its own sake, but he should show his 
skill in regard to it, whatever it be. In the same way the 
weaver does not make fleeces, but devotes himself to 
dealing with them in whatever form he receives them. 
Sustenance and property are given you by Another, who 
can take them away from you too, yes and your bit of 
a body as well. 

It is for you, then, to take what is given you and make 
the most of it. Then if you come off without harm, 
others who meet you will rejoice with you in your safety, 
but the man who has a good eye for conduct, if he sees 

Book 77, Chapter $ 15-7 

that you behaved here with honour, will praise you and 
rejoice with you : but if he sees a man has saved his life 
by acting dishonourably, he will do the opposite. For 
where a man can rejoice with reason, his neighbour can 
rejoice with him also. 

How is it then that some external things are described You can- 
as natural and some as unnatural? It is because we "hin^is^ 
regard ourselves as detached from the rest of the uni- natural 
verse. For the foot (for instance), I shall say it is natural ^ str ^ ct 
to be clean, but if you take it as a foot and not as a de 
tached thing, it will be fitting for it to walk in the mud 
and tread upon thorns and sometimes to be cut off for 
the sake of the whole body : or else it will cease to be 
a foot. We must hold exactly the same sort of view about 
ourselves. Man is not 

What are you ? A man. If you regard man as a detached an isolated 
. . being, but 

being, it is natural for him to live to old age, to be rich, part of a 

to be healthy. But if you regard him as a man and a part v g( f r -, 
of a larger whole, that whole makes it fitting that at one must take 

moment you should fall ill, at another go a voyage and con " 

. } J f sequences, 

risk your life, and at another be at your wit s end, and, 

it may be, die before your time. Why then are you 
indignant? Do you not know that, just as the foot 
spoke of if viewed apart will cease to be a foot, so you will 
cease to be a man? For what is a man? A part of a city, 
first a part of the City in which gods and men are incor 
porate, and secondly of that city which has the next claim 
to be called so, which is a small copy of the City universal. 
What, you say, am I now to be put on my trial ? 
Is another then to have a fever, another to go a voyage, 
another die, another be condemned ? I say it is impossible 

Do your 
part and 
leave the 
judge to 
do his. 

if 8 Discourses of Epictetus 

in a body like ours, in this enveloping space, in this 
common life, that events of this sort should not happen, 
one to this man and another to that. It is your business 
then to take what fate brings and deal with what 
happens, as is fitting. 3 Suppose then the judge says, 
I will judge you to be a wrongdoer ; you reply, May 
it go well with you ! I did my part, and it is for you 
to see if you have done yours : for the judge s part too, 
do not forget, has its own danger ! 

Life is in 
but not the 
use of life. 

It is good 
to know 
the limits 
of your 


On what is meant by indifferent things. 

TAKE a given hypothetical proposition. In itself it is 
indifferent, but your judgement upon it is not indifferent, 
but is either knowledge, or mere opinion, or delusion. 
In the same way though life is indifferent, the way you 
deal with it is not indifferent. Therefore, when you are 
told These things also are indifferent , do not be careless, 
and when you are urged to be careful, do not show 
a mean spirit and be overawed by material things. 

It is a good thing to know what you can do and what 
you are prepared for, that in matters where you are not 
prepared, you may keep quiet and not be vexed if others 
have the advantage of you there. For when it is a 
question of syllogisms, you in your turn will expect to 
have the advantage, and if they are vexed with this you 
will console them with the words, I learnt them, but 
you did not. So when acquired dexterity is. needed 1 

Book II j Chapter 6 15-9 

it is for you in your turn not to seek what only practice 
can give : leave that to those who have acquired the 
knack, and be content yourself to show constancy. 

1 Go and salute such an one. Right 

I have saluted him. conduct 

. , depends on 

How ? holding 

In no mean spirit. ^ ast to . 

, T, ... what is 

.But his house was shut upon you. your own 

Yes, for I have not learnt to enter by the window ? nd what , 
i T c 1S natural, 

when 1 hnd the door shut, I must either retire or go 

in by the window. 

But again one says, " Talk to him." 

I do talk to him. 

How ? 

In no mean spirit. 

Suppose you did not get what you wanted ? Surely 
that was his business and not yours. Why then do you 
claim what is another s ? If you always remember what is 
yours and what is not yours, you will never be put to 
confusion. Therefore Chrysippus well says, As long as 
the consequences are unknown to me, I always hold fast 
to what is better adapted to secure what is natural, 
for God Himself created me with the faculty of choosing 
what is natural. Nay, if I really knew that it was 
ordained for me now to be ill, I should wish 2 to be ill ; 
for the foot too, if it had a mind, would wish to get 

For instance, why do ears of corn grow ? Is it not that It is as 

they may ripen in the sun ? And if they are ripened natural f . or 
. . i , men to die, 

is it not that they may be reaped, for they are not as for corn 

to ripen 
and be 

We are 
angry be 
cause we 
are con 
scious of 
our lot, but 
of our true 

And so we 
do not 
obey like 
tas, but 

It is no 
to die, and 
one road 
to death is 
as good as 

1 60 Discourses of Epictetus 

things apart? If they had feelings then, ought they 
to pray never to be reaped at any time? But this is 
a curse upon corn to pray that it should never be 
reaped. In like manner know that you are cursing men 
when you pray for them not to die : it is like a prayer 
not to be ripened, not to be reaped. But we men, be 
ing creatures whose fate it is to be reaped, are also made 
aware of this very fact, that we are destined for reaping, 
and so we are angry ; for we do not know who we are, 
nor have we studied human things as those who are 
skilled in horses study the concerns of horses. 

But Chrysantas, when he was about to strike the enemy, 
and heard the bugle sounding the retreat, desisted : so 
convinced was he that it was more to his advantage to 
do the general s bidding than his own. But not a man 
of us, even when necessity calls, is willing to obey her 
easily, but we bear what comes upon us with tears and 
groans, and we call it circumstances . 3 

What do you mean by circumstances , fellow men? 
If you mean by circumstances what surrounds you, 
everything is circumstance : if you use the term in the 
sense of hardships, how is it a hardship that what was 
born should be destroyed ? The instrument of destruction 
is a sword or a wheel or the sea or a potsherd or a tyrant. 
What matters it to you, by what road you are to go 
down to Hades? All roads are alike. But, if you will 
hear the truth, the road the tyrant sends you is shorter. 
No tyrant ever took six months to execute a man, but 
a fever often takes a year to kill one. All these complaints 
are mere noise and vanity of idle phrases. 

Book 77, Chapter 6 161 

In Caesar s presence my life is in danger. Caesar s 

But am not I in equal danger, dwelling in Nicopolis, J" r rt J 
where earthquakes are so many? And you too, when gerous 

you sail across the Adriatic, are you not in danger of th ^n Nico- 
,.,. , polis, and 

life? in the last 

Yes, but in thought too I am in danger. res rt y u 

v T i , TT are free to 

Tour thought? How can that be? Who can go else- 

compel you to think against your will ? The thought where - 
of others? How can it be any danger to you for others 
to have false ideas? 

Yes, but I am in danger of being banished. 
What is being banished ? Is it being elsewhere than 
in Rome? 

Yes, suppose I am sent to Gyara ? 
If it makes for your good, you will go : if not, you have 
a place to go to instead of Gyara, a place whither he 
who is sending you to Gyara will also go whether he 
will or no. Why then do you go to Rome as though it 
meant so much? It is not much compared with your 
preparation for it : so that a youth of fine feeling may 
say, It was not worth this price to have heard so 
many lectures and written so many exercises, and sat 
at the feet of an old man of no great merit. 

There is only one thing for you to remember, that is, The one 

the distinction between what is yours and what is not thlnfi *? 

,, . . . remember 

yours. Never lay claim to anything that is not your own. is to keep 

Tribunal and prison are distinct places, one high, the y ?" r own 

i , will secure. 

other low ; but your will, if you choose to keep it the 

same in both, may be kept the same. So we shall emulate 
Socrates, but only when we can write songs of triumph 

546.24 1 L 

1 62 Discourses of Epictetns 

in prison. As for our condition up till now, I doubt 
whether we should have borne with one who should 
say to us in prison, Would you like me to recite to you 
songs of triumph? 

Why do you trouble me ? Do you not know the ills 
which beset me ? for this is my state. 

What is it ? 

I am at the point of death. 

Yes, but are other men going to be immortal? 


How to consult diviners. 

The MANY of us often neglect acts which are fitting 

diviner because we consult the diviners out of season. What 

cannot tell 

you what can the diviner see more than death or danger or disease 

is right or or g enera lly things of that sort ? If then I have to risk 
wrong. . . 

my life for a friend, if even it is fitting for me to die for 

him, how can it be in season for me to consult a diviner? 
Have I not within me the diviner who has told me the 
true nature of good and evil, who has expounded the 
signs of both? What need have I then of the flesh of 
victims or the flight of birds ? Can I bear with him when 
he says, This is expedient for you ? Does he know what 
is expedient, does he know what is good, has he learnt 
signs to distinguish between good things and bad, like 
the signs in the flesh of victims ? If he knows the signs 
of good and evil, he knows also the signs of things noble 
and shameful, just and unjust. It is yours, man, to tell 

Book //, Chapter 7 163 

me what is portended life or death, poverty or wealth ; 
but whether this is expedient or inexpedient I am not 
going to inquire of you. 

Why do you not lay down the law in matters of gram 
mar ? Are you going to do it here then, where all mankind 
are at sea and in conflict with one another? Therefore 
that was a good answer that the lady made who wished 
to send the shipload of supplies to Gratilla in exile, when 
one said, Domitian will take them away : I would 
rather , she said, that Domitian should take them away 
than that I should not send them. 

What then leads us to consult diviners so constantly? Nothing 
Cowardice, fear of events. That is why we flatter , j- 
the diviners. makes us 

Master, shall I inherit from my father ? nsult 

J them. 

Let us see : let us offer sacrifice. 

Yes, master, as fortune wills. 

When he says, You shall inherit , we give thanks to 
him as though we had received the inheritance from him. 
That is why they go on deluding us. 

What must we do then? We must come without the We ought 

will to get or the will to avoid, iust as the wayfarer asks to a P~ 

the man he meets which of two ways leads anywhere, God like 

not wanting the right hand to be the road rather than tra yellers 
ready to 

the left, for he does not wish to go one particular road, take what 

but the road which leads to his goal. We ought to r ? ac \ 

. . . . may lead 

approach God as we approach a guide, dealing with Him to. 

as we deal with our eyes, not beseeching them to show 
us one sort of things rather than another, but accepting 
the impressions of things as they are shown us, But 


1 64 Discourses of Epictetus 

instead of that we tremble and get hold of the augur 
and appeal to him as if he were a god 1 and say, Master, 
have pity, suffer me to come off safe. 

Slave, do you not wish for what is better for you? 
Is anything better than what seems good to God? Why 
do you do all that in you lies to corrupt the judge, and 
pervert your counsellor? 


What is the true nature of the good. 

The good GOD is beneficent, but the good also is beneficent. It 
take oTthe * S natura l tner efore that the true nature of the good 
nature of should be in the same region as the true nature of God. 
God> What then is the nature of God ? Is it flesh ? God forbid. 

Land? God forbid. Fame? God forbid. It is intelli 
gence, knowledge, right reason. In these then and no 
where else seek the true nature of the good. Do you 
look for it in a plant ? No. Or in an irrational creature? 
No. If then you seek it in what is rational why do you 
seek it elsewhere than in what distinguishes it from 
irrational things? Plants have not the faculty of dealing 
with impressions ; therefore you do not predicate good 
of them. 

It implies The good then demands power to deal with impressions. 

deaTwith * S tliat a ^ ^ demands - ? I f tnat be all, you must say that 

impres- other animals also are capable of good and of happiness and 

unhappiness. But you do not say so and you are right, 

for whatever power they may have to deal with impressions, 

Book //, Chapter 8 16? 

they have not the power to understand how they do so, to under 

and with good reason, for they are subservient to others, s 

and are not of primary importance. 

Take the ass, for instance, is it born to be of primary 
importance? No; it is born because we had need of 
a back able to bear burdens. Nay, more, we had need 
that it should walk ; therefore it has further received the 
power of dealing with impressions, for else it could not 
have walked. Beyond that its powers cease. But if the 
ass itself had received the power to understand how 
it deals with impressions, then it is plain that reason 
would have required that it should not have been subject 
to us or have supplied these needs, but should have been 
our equal and like ourselves. Will you not then seek the Man is 

true nature of the good in that, the want of which makes , s c ie 

work, a 

you refuse to predicate good of other things ? portion of 

What do you mean ? Are not they too God s ^ f d Him 
works ? 

They are, but not His principal works, nor parts of the 
Divine. But you are a principal work, a fragment of God 
Himself, you have in yourself a part of Him. Why then 
are you ignorant of your high birth? Why do you not 
know whence you have come? Will you not remember, 
when you eat, who you are that eat, and whom you are 
feeding, and the same in your relations with women ? 
When you take part in society, or training, or conversa 
tion, do you not know that it is God you are nourishing 
and training? You bear God about with you, poor 
wretch, and know it not. Do you think I speak of some Every man 
external god of silver or gold ? No, you bear Him about 

with him, 
and must 
see that 
he defiles 
Him not. 

A statue 
would re 
member its 
maker, but 
man a far 
Zeus, who 
made him. 

1 66 Discourses of Epictetus 

within you and are unaware that you are defiling Him with 
unclean thoughts and foul actions. If an image of God 
were present, you would not dare to do any of the things 
you do ; yet when God Himself is present within you and 
sees and hears all things, you are not ashamed of thinking 
and acting thus : O slow to understand your nature, and 
estranged from God ! 

Again, when we send a young man from school to the 
world of action, why is it that we fear that he may do some 
thing amiss in eating, in relations with women, that he 
may be humbled by wearing rags, or puffed up by fine 
clothes ? 

He does not know the God that is in him, he knows 
not in whose company he is going. Can we allow him to 
say, I would fain have you with me ? Have you not 
God there ? and, having Him, do you look for any one 
else? Will He tell you anything different from this? 
Why, if you were a statue wrought by Phidias his Zeus 
or his Athena you would have remembered what you are 
and the craftsman who made you, and if you had any 
intelligence, you would have tried to do nothing un 
worthy of him who made you or of yourself, and to 
bear yourself becomingly in men s eyes. But as it is, do 
you, whom Zeus has made, for that reason take no thought 
what manner of man you will show yourself? Yet what 
comparison is there between the one artificer and the 
other or the one work and the other ? What work of art, 
for instance, has in itself the faculties of which it gives 
indication in its structure? Is it not stone or bronze or 
gold or ivory? Even the Athena of Phidias having once 
for all stretched out her hand and received the Victory 

Book 77, Chapter 8 167 

upon it stands thus for all time, but the works of God are 
endowed with movement and breath, and have the 
faculty of dealing with impressions and of testing them. 

When this Craftsman has made you, do you dishonour 
his work? Nay, more, He not only made you, but com 
mitted you as a trust to yourself and none other. Will 
you not remember this, but even dishonour the trust 
committed to you ? 

If God had committed some orphan to your care, would God 

you have neglected him so? Yet He has entrusted your trusted 

! you to 
own self to you and He says, I had none other more trust- yourself, to 

worthy than you : keep this man for me such as he is kee !j u ?l 
born to be, modest, faithful, high-minded, undismayed, Him. 
free from passion and tumult. After that, do you refuse 
to keep him so ? 

But they will say, Where has this man got his high 
looks and his lofty countenance ? 

Nay, I have not got them yet as I ought : for as yet 
I have not confidence in what I have learnt and assented 
to, I still fear my own weakness. Only let me gain confi 
dence and then you shall see a proper aspect and a proper 
bearing, then I will show you the statue as it is when it 
is finished and polished. What think you? That this 
means proud looks? Heaven forbid! Does Zeus of 
Olympia wear proud looks? No, but his gaze is steadfast, 
as his should be who is to say : 

For my word cannot be taken back, nor can it deceive. 

Such will I show myself to you faithful, self-respecting, 
noble, free from tumult. 

itf8 Discourses of Epictetus 

Keep your- Do you mean, free from death and old age and disease ? 

self then -\T u i 

not free rslo > but as one w ^ " ies as a gd, and who bears illness 

from like a god. These are my possessions, these my faculties 

death, but ,, , 

ready to a11 otners are beyond me. 1 will show you the smews of 

die like a philosopher. 

What do you mean by sinews ? 

Will to achieve that fails not, will to avoid that falls 
not into evil, impulse to act appropriately, strenuous 
purpose, assent that is not precipitate. This is what you 
shall see. 


That we adopt the profession of the philosopher when we 
cannot fulfil that of a man. 

Man s call- IT is no ordinary task merely to fulfil man s promise. 

rational. 1 6 F r what is Man? A rational animal, subject to death. 

This marks At once we ask, from what does the rational element 

?rorno[her distin g uisn us ? From wild beasts. And from what else? 

animals. From sheep and the like. Look to it then that you do 
nothing like a wild beast, else you destroy the Man in you 
and fail to fulfil his promise. See that you do not act 
like a sheep, or else again the Man in you perishes. 
You ask how we act like sheep ? 

When we consult the belly, or our passions, when our 
actions are random or dirty or inconsiderate, are we not 
falling away to the state of sheep? What do we destroy? 
The faculty of reason. When our actions are combative, 
mischievous, angry, and rude, do we not fall away and 
become wild beasts ? In a word, some of us are great beasts, 

Book //, Chapter 9 169 

and others are small but base-natured beasts, which give 
occasion to say, Nay, rather let me be food for a lion. All 
these are actions by which the calling of man is destroyed. 
What makes a complex proposition be what it is? It 
must fulfil its promise ; it keeps its character only if the 
parts it is composed of are true. What makes a disjunc 
tive proposition? It must fulfil its purport. Is not the 
same true of flutes, lyre, horse, and dog? Is it surprising But man 
then that man too keeps or loses his nature on the same can 011 }y 
principle? Each man is strengthened and preserved by true nature 

the exercise of the functions that correspond to his nature, b 7 exer 
11. cismg it. 

the carpenter by carpentering, the grammarian by studies 

in grammar. If a man gets the habit of writing ungram 
matically, his art is bound to be destroyed and perish. 
In the same way the modest man is made by modest acts 
and ruined by immodest acts, the man of honour keeps 
his character by honest acts and loses it by dishonest. 
So again men of the opposite character are strengthened 
by the opposite actions : the shameless man by shameless- 
ness, the dishonest by dishonesty, the slanderous by 
slander, the ill-tempered by ill-temper, the miser by 
grasping at more than he gives. That is why philosophers 
enjoin upon us not to be content with learning only, but 
to add practice as well and then training . For we have 
acquired wrong habits in course of years and have adopted 
for our use conceptions opposite to the true, and therefore 
if we do not adopt true conceptions for our use we shall 
be nothing else but interpreters of judgements which 
are not our own. 

Of course any one of us can discourse for the moment It is easy 

ijo Discourses of Epictetus 

to ex- on what is good and what is bad : as thus, Of things 

pound the t ^ at are some are good, some bad, some indifferent : good 


of our are virtues and things that have part in virtues ; evil are 

the opposite ; indifferent are wealth, health, reputation. 

And then if some loud noise disturbs us while we are 

speaking or one of the bystanders laughs at us, we are put 

but it is out of countenance. Philosopher, where are those princi- 

useless un- pj es y OU were talking of? Whence did you fetch them 

are forth to utter? From the lips and no further. 

wrought These principles 1 are not your own : why do you make 
into our L ... 

being. a mess of them ? Why do you gamble with things of highest 

moment? It is one thing (to use an illustration) to put 
bread and wine away into a store-cupboard, and another 
thing to eat. What you eat is digested and distributed, 
and is turned into sinews, flesh, bones, blood, complexion, 
breath. What you store away you have at hand and can 
show to others at will, but it does you no good except for 
the mere name of having it. What is the good of ex 
pounding these doctrines any more than those of another 
Unless this school ? Sit down now and discourse on the doctrines of 

be done, Epicurus, and you will soon discourse more effectively than 
you are no . . 

more Stoic Epicurus himself. Why then do you call yourself a Stoic, 

than Epi- w ^y j o vou d ece i ve the world, why being a Hellene do 


you act the Jew ? a Do you not see in what sense a man 

is called a Jew, in what sense a Syrian, in what an Egyp 
tian? When we see a man trimming between two faiths 
we are wont to say, He is no Jew, but is acting a part , 
but when he adopts the attitude of mind of him who is 
baptized and has made his choice, then he is not only 
called a Jew but is a Jew indeed. So we also are but 

Book //, Chapter 9 171 

counterfeit baptists , Jews in name only, but really Do not 

something else, with no feeling for reason, far from acting pn jj " ie 

on the principles we talk of, though we pride ourselves on sopher 

them as though we knew them. So, being unable to fulfil ^[^0^ 

the calling of Man we adopt that of the Philosopher, cannot 

a heavy burden indeed ! It is as though one who could |^_ 
not lift ten pounds were fain to lift the stone of Ajax ! 


How the acts appropriate to man are to be discovered from 
the names he bears. 

CONSIDER who you are. First, a Man ; that is, one who Man is 
has nothing more sovereign than will, but all else -subject " u 
to this, and will itself free from slavery or subjection, under- 

Consider then from what you are parted by reason. sta . nd tne 


You are parted from wild beasts, you are parted from 

sheep. On these terms you are a citizen of the universe 

and a part of it, not one of those marked for service, but 

of those fitted for command ; for you have the faculty 

to understand the divine governance of the universe and 

to reason on its sequence. What then is the calling of 

a Citizen? To have no personal interest, never to think Asa 

about anything as though he were detached, but to be ^^ 

like the hand or the foot, which, if they had the power of universe 

\\ 11 " 

reason and understood the order of nature, would direct j s is to a 
every impulse and every process of the will by reference work with 
to the whole. That is why it is well said by philosophers 
that if the good man knew coming events beforehand 

172 Discourses of Epictetus 

he would help on nature, even if it meant working with 
disease, and death and maiming , for he would realize 
that by the ordering of the universe this task is allotted 
him, and that the whole is more commanding than the 
part and the city than the citizen. But seeing that we 
do not know beforehand, it is appropriate that we should 
hold fast to the things that are by nature more fit to be 
chosen ; for indeed we are born for this. 

As son, he Next remember that you are a Son. What part do we 

must obey 

his father. ex P ect a son to P la 7- ? His part is to count all that is his as 

his father s, to obey him in all things, never to speak ill 
of him to any, nor to say or do anything to harm him, to 
give way to him and yield him place in all things, working 
with him so far as his powers allow. 

As brother, Next know that you are also a Brother. For this part 

he must , 

be con- y ou are boun d to show a spirit of concession and 

siderate. obedience ; and to speak kindly, and not to claim against 
another anything that is outside the will, but gladly to 
sacrifice those things, that you may gain in the region 
where your will has control. For look what a thing it is 
to gain good nature at the price of a lettuce, if it so 
chance, or the surrender of a chair : what a gain is that ! 

Every N extj if you are a member of a city council, remember 

name he , . 

bears sug- tnat 7 OU are a councillor ; if young, that you are young ; 

conduc* 6 ^ ld that ^ U 3re ld if a father that X ou are a fa ther. 

proper For eac h of these names, if properly considered, suggests 
the acts appropriate to it. But if you go and disparage 
your brother, I tell you that you are forgetting who you 

To act are and what is your name. I say, if you were a smith 
- lhe and used your hammer wrong, you would have forgotten 

Book //, Chapter i o 173 

the smith ; but if you forget the brother s part and turn 
into an enemy instead of a brother, are you going to 
imagine that you have undergone no change? If instead 
of man, a gentle and sociable creature, you have become 
a dangerous, aggressive, and biting brute, have you lost 
nothing? Do you think you must lose cash in order to 
suffer damage? Does no other sort of loss damage man? 
If you lost skill in grammar or music you would count 
the loss as damage ; if you are going to lose honour and 
dignity and gentleness, do you count it as nothing? 
Surely those other losses are due to some external cause 
outside our will, but these are due to ourselves. Those 
qualities it is no honour to have and no dishonour to lose, 
but these you cannot lack or lose without dishonour, 
reproach, and disaster. 

What does he lose who is the victim of unnatural lust? 
He loses his manhood. And the agent of such lust, what 
does he lose? He loses his manhood like the other, and 
much besides. What does the adulterer lose? He loses 
the man of honour and self-control, the gentleman, the 
citizen, the neighbour. What does the angry man lose ? 
Something else. The man who fears? Something else. 
No one is evil without destruction and loss. 

If on the other hand you look for loss in paltry pence, 
all the men I have mentioned are without loss or damage, 
if it so chance, nay they actually receive gain and profit, 
when they get cash by any of these actions. But 
notice, that if you make money the standard in every 
thing, you will not count even the man who loses his 
nose as having suffered injury. 

spirit of 
your name 
means loss 
and dis 

All evil 
means de 
or loss, 

not mere 
loss of 
but of 
man s most 

174 Discourses of Epictetus 

Yes, I do, he says, for his body is mutilated. 
Well, but does the man who has lost, not his nose but 
his sense of smell, lose nothing? Is there no faculty of 
the mind, which brings gain to him that gets it and hurt 
to him that loses it ? 

What can possibly be the faculty you mean ? 
Have we no natural sense of honour? 
We have. 

Does he that destroys this suffer no damage, no depriva 
tion, no loss of what belongs to him? Have we not 
a natural faculty of trust, a natural gift of affection, of 
beneficence, of mutual toleration? Are we then to count 
the man who suffers himself to be injured in regard to 
these as free from loss and damage ? 
To return What conclusion do you draw? Am I not to harm him 

evil for evil who harmcd me ? 

is only 

to harm First consider what harm means and remember what 

ourselves. ^ QU h ea rd from the philosophers. For if good lies in the 
will and evil also lies in the will, look whether what you 
are saying does not come to this : What do you mean? 
As he harmed himself by doing me a wrong, am I not to 
harm myself by doing him a wrong? Why then do we 
not look at things in this light ? When we suffer some loss 
in body or property, we count it hurt : is there no hurt, 
when we suffer loss in respect of our will ? 

We fail Of course the man who is deceived or the man who 

to make ^ a wron g has no pa i n ; n his head or his eye or his hip, 


because we nor does he lose his estate ; and these are the things we 

pay no care for, nothing else. But we take no concern whatever 
heed to 

whether our will is going to be kept honourable and trust- 

Book II y Chapter i o 175* 

worthy or shameless and faithless, except only so far as we our natural 
discuss it in the lecture-room, and therefore so far as our 
wretched discussions go we make some progress, but 
beyond them not the least. 


What is the beginning of Philosophy. 

THE beginning of philosophy with those who approach Philo- 

it in the right way and by the door is a consciousness of fphy 

, i j r begins with 

one s own weakness and want of power in regard to a sense 

necessary things. For we come into the world with no * one s 

, . , , i , weakness, 

innate conception ot a right-angled triangle, or of a quar 
ter-tone or of a semi-tone, but we are taught what each 
of these means by systematic instruction ; and therefore 
those who are ignorant of these things do not think that 
they know them. On the other hand every one has come Men have 

into the world with an innate conception as to good and lnna . tecon ; 

ceptions of 
bad, noble and shameful, becoming and unbecoming, hap- good and 

piness and unhappiness, fitting and inappropriate, what ba ^> happy 
is right to do and what is wrong. Therefore we all use happy, but 

these terms and try to fit our preconceived notions to par- differ m 

ticular facts. He did nobly , dutifully , undutifully . them. 

He was unfortunate , he was fortunate ; he is unjust , he 
is just. Which of us refrains from these phrases ? Which 
of us puts off using them until he is taught them, just as 
men who have no knowledge of lines or sounds refrain 
from talking of them ? The reason is that on the subject in 
question we come into the world with a certain amount 

How can 
we get 
these dif 
ferences ? 

176 Discourses of Epictetus 

of teaching, so to say, already given us by nature ; to this 
basis of knowledge we have added our own fancies. 

Why ! says he ; Do I not know what is noble and 
what is shameful? Have I no conception of them? 

You have. 

Do I not fit my conception to particulars ? 

You do. 

Do I not fit them well then ? 

There lies the whole question and there fancy comes in. 
For, starting with these admitted principles, men advance 
to the matter in dispute, applying these principles inap 
propriately. For if they really possessed this faculty as 
well, what would prevent them from being perfect ? You 
think that you apply your preconceptions properly to 
particular cases ; but tell me, how do you arrive at this ? 

I have such a conviction. 

But another has a different conviction, has he not, and 
yet believes, as you do, that he is applying his conception 
rightly ? 

He does. 

Is it possible then for you both to apply your conceptions 
properly in matters on which you hold contrary opinion ? 

It is impossible. 

Can you then point us to anything beyond your own 
opinion which will enable us to apply our conceptions 
better? Does the madman do anything else but what he 
thinks right ? Is this criterion then sufficient for him too? 

It is not. 

Come, then, let us look for something beyond personal 
opinion. Where shall we find it? 

Book //, Chapter 1 1 1 7 7 

Here you see the beginning of Philosophy, in the Philosophy 
discovery of the conflict of men s minds with one another, is an at 
and the attempt to seek for the reason of this conflict, and finTa " 
the condemnation of mere opinion, as a thing not to be standard 
trusted ; and a search to determine whether your opinion 
is true, and an attempt to discover a standard, just as 
we discover the balance to deal with weights and the rule 
to deal with things straight and crooked. This is the 
beginning of Philosophy. 

Are all opinions right which all men hold ? which shall 

Nay, how is it possible for contraries to be both right ? go be > T nd 
\\r n u 11 personal 

Well, then, not all opinions, but our opinions ? opinion 

Why ours, rather than those of the Syrians or the and g ive us 
T? principles 

Egyptians, or the personal opinion of myself or of this which we 

man or that ? can apply 

-IT/I j j < 5 with con- 

Why indeed ? fidence- 

So then, what each man thinks is not sufficient to make 
a thing so : for in dealing with weights and measures we 
are not satisfied with mere appearance, but have found 
a standard to determine each. Is there, then, no standard 
here beyond opinion ? It is impossible surely that things 
most necessary among men should be beyond discovery 
and beyond proof? 

There is a standard then. Then, why do we not seek 
it and find it, and having found it use it hereafter without 
fail, never so much as stretching out our finger without 
it? For it is this standard, I suppose, the discovery of 
which relieves from madness those who wrongly use per 
sonal opinion as their only measure, and enables us there- 
after to start from known principles, clearly defined, and 

546 .24 I * M 

178 Discourses of Epic fetus 

so to apply our conceptions to particulars in definite 
and articulate form. 

What subject, I might ask, lies before us for our present 


Submit it to the rule, put it in the balance. Ought the 
good to be something which is worthy to inspire con 
fidence and trust? 

It ought. 

Is it proper to have confidence in anything which is 
insecure ? 


Has pleasure; then, any certainty in it? 


Away with it then ! Cast it from the scales and drive 
it far away from the region of good things. But if your 
sight is not keen, and you are not satisfied with one set 
of scales, try another. 

Is it proper to be elated at what is good? 

It is. 

Is it proper, then, to be elated at the pleasure of the 
moment? Be careful how you say that it is proper. 
If you do, I shall not count you worthy of the scales. 

Thus things are judged and weighed if we have standards 
ready to test them : and in fact the work of philosophy 
is to investigate and firmly establish such standards ; and 
the duty of the good man is to proceed to apply the 
decisions arrived at. 

Book //, Chapter 12 179 


On the art of discussion. 

OUR philosophers have precisely defined what a man We have 

must learn in order to know how to argue : but we are ? 0t learnt 

... . _ < now to 

still quite unpractised in the proper use of what we have argue, and 

learnt. Give any one of us you like an unskilled person ^ make 1 
to argue with, and he does not discover how to deal with the most 
him : he just rouses the man for a moment, and then if jj^ewith 
he answers him in the wrong key he cannot deal with him 
any longer : he either reviles him or laughs at him ever 
after, and says, He is an ignoramus, there is nothing to 
be got out of him. 

But the true guide, when he finds a man wandering, 
leads him to the right road, instead of leaving him with 
a gibe or an insult. So should you do. Only show him 
the truth and you will see that he follows. But so long 
as you do not show it him, do not laugh at him, but rather 
realize your own incapacity. 

Now how did Socrates proceed ? He compelled the man Socrates 
who was conversing with him to be his witness, and needed was^he 
no witness besides. Therefore he was able to say : I am ri g ht ne, 
satisfied with my opponent as a witness, and let every one JJJwitwai 
else alone : and I do not take the votes of other people, ofhisinter- 
but only of him who is arguing with me. For he drew locutor 
out so clearly the consequences of a man s conceptions 
that every one realized the contradiction and aban 
doned it. 

Does the man who envies rejoice in his envy? 
M 2 

1 8 o Discourses of Epictetus 

Not at all ; he is pained rather than pleased. 
Thus he rouses his neighbour by contradiction. 
Well, does envy seem to you to be a feeling of pain at 
evil things? Yet how can there be envy of things evil? 
So he makes his opponent say that envy is pain felt at 
good things. 

Again, can a man envy things which do not concern 

Certainly not. 

In this way he made the conception full and articulate, 
and so went away. He did not say, Define me envy , 
and then, when the man defined it, You define it ill, for 
the terms of the definition do not correspond to the 
Most of us subject defined. Such phrases are technical and there- 
cal phrases ^ ore ti resorne to the lay mind, and hard to follow, yet you 
and failing, and I cannot get away from them. We are quite unable 
despair to rouse tne ordinary man s attention in a way which will 
enable him to follow his own impressions and so arrive 
at admitting or rejecting this or that. And therefore 
those of us who are at all cautious naturally give the sub 
ject up, when we become aware of this incapacity ; 
while the mass of men, who venture at random into this 
sort of enterprise, muddle others and get muddled them 
selves, and end by abusing their opponents and getting 
His good abused in return, and so leave the field. But the first 
madcThim 4 ua ^ t y ^ a ^ m Socrates, and the most characteristic, was 
a peace- that he never lost his temper in argument, never uttered 
cer anything abusive, never anything insolent, but bore 
with abuse from others and quieted strife. If you would 
get to know what a faculty he had in this matter, read the 

Book //, Chapter 


Banquet of Xenophon and you will see how many strifes 
he has brought to an end. Therefore the poets too with 
good reason have praised this gift most highly : 

And straightway with skill be brought to rest a mighty 

What follows? The occupation is not a very safe one But philo- 

nowadays, and especially in Rome. For he who pursues it s ph lcd . ls " 
L J _ cussion is 

will certainly not have to do it in a corner, but he must not easy, 

go up to a consular or a rich man, if it so chance, and . es P^ clall y 
. in Rome, 

ask him : You there, can you tell me to whose care you 

trust your horses? 


Do you trust them to a chance comer and one unskilled 
in horse-keeping? 

Certainly not. 

Again, tell me to whom you trust your gold or your 
silver or your clothes. 

Not to a chance comer either. 

And your body have you ever thought of trusting 
that to anybody to look after it ? 


He too, no doubt, is one skilled in the art of training or 
of medicine, is he not ? 

Certainly he is. 

Are these then your best possessions or have you got 
something besides, better than all? 

What can you mean ? 

I mean, of course, that which makes use of all these 
possessions and tests each one, and thinks about them. 

i 8 2 Discourses of Epictetus 

Do you mean the soul? 

You are right ; that is exactly what I do mean. 

Yes, I certainly think that this is a better possession 
than all the rest. 

Can you tell me, then, in what manner you have taken 
care of your soul? for it is not likely that one so wise 
as you, and of such position in the state, should lightly 
and recklessly allow the best possession you have to be 
neglected and go to ruin. 

Certainly not. 

Well, have you taken care of it yourself? Did any one 
teach you how, or did you find out for yourself? 

When you do this, the danger is, you will find, that 
first he will say : My good sir, what concern is it of 
yours? Are you my master? Then, if you persist in 
annoying him he will lift his hand and give you a 

That (says Epictetus) was a pursuit I had a keen taste 
for once, before I was reduced to my present condition. 1 


Concerning anxiety. 

Anxiety WHEN I see a man in a state of anxiety, I say, What 

implies can tn j s ma - n want ? ]f ne JJ^ not wan t something which 
desire ior e i ... 

something is not in his power, how could he still be anxious? It is for 

not m one s tn j s reason t h at one w h o sings to the lyre is not anxious 

when he is performing by himself, but when he enters the 

theatre, even if he has a very good voice and plays well : 

Book //, Chapter 13 183 

for he not only wants to perform well, but also to win 
a great name, and that is beyond his own control. 

In fact, where he has knowledge there he has confidence. 
Bring in any unskilled person you like, and he pays no 
heed to him. On the other hand he is anxious whenever 
he has no knowledge and has made no study of the subject. 
What does this mean ? He does not know what the 
people is, nor what its praise is worth : he has learnt to 
strike the bottom note or the top note, but he does not 
know what the praise of the multitude is, nor what value 
it has in life ; he has made no study of that. So he is To tremble 

bound to tremble and grow pale. before the 

When I see a man, then, in this state of fear I cannot say means 

that he is no performer with the lyre, but I can say some- lgnc 
thing else of him, and not one thing but many. And first 
of all I call him a stranger and say, This man does not 
know where in the world he is ; though he has been with 
us so long, he does not know the laws and customs of the 
City what he may do and what he may not do no, nor 
has he called in a lawyer at any time to tell him and 
explain to him what are the requirements of the law. 
Of course he does not draw up a will without knowing how 
he ought to draw it up, or without calling in one who 
knows, nor does he lightly put his seal to a guarantee or 
give a written security ; but he calls in no lawyer when 
he is exercising the will to get and will to avoid, impulse 
and intention and purpose. 1 What do I mean by having 
no lawyer ? I mean that he does not know that he is 
wishing to have what is not given him, and wishing not to 
have what he cannot avoid, and he docs not know 1 what 

184 Discourses of Epictetus 

is his own and what is not his own. If he did know, 
he would never feel hindrance or constraint or anxiety ; 
how could he? Does any one fear about things which 
are not evil? 


Or again about things which are evil but are in his 
power to prevent? 

Certainly not. 

If we know If ? then, nothing beyond our will s control is either good 

what is in 

our power or ev "> an d everything within our will s control depends 

and what entirely on ourselves, so that no one can take any such 

is not we 

need never thing away from us or win it for us against our will, what 

be anxious, room is left for anxiety ? Yet we are anxious for our bit of 
a body, for our bit of property, for what Caesar will 
think, but are not anxious at all for what is within us. 
Am I anxious about not conceiving a false thought? 
No, for that depends on myself. 

Or about indulging an impulse contrary to nature? 
No, not about this either. So, when you see a man 
pale, just as the physician, judging from his colour, says, 
This man s spleen is out of order, or that man s liver , 
so do you say, This man is disordered in the will to get 
and the will to avoid, he is not in the right way, he is 
feverish ; for nothing else changes the complexion and 
causes a man to tremble and his teeth to chatter, 

and droop the knee and sink upon his feet. 

fore Zeno was not distressed when he was gc 
Antigonus, for Antigonus had no authorit 1 
when he any of the things that Zeno admired, and Zeno paid no 

That is Therefore Zeno was not distressed when he was gome to 

why Zeno . . 

w-is cairn mee t Antigonus, for Antigonus had no authority over 

Book 7/ ? Chapter 13 i 8 f 

attention to the possessions of Antigonus. Antigonus met Anti- 
was anxious when he was going to meet Zeno, and with s r 
good reason, for he wanted to please him, and this lay 
beyond his control ; but Zeno did not wish to please 
Antigonus, any more than any artist cares to please one 
who has no skill. 

Do I want to please you ? Why should I ? Do you To depend 
know the standards by which man judges man? Have you ]\ e * 
made it your study to learn what a good man is and what another is 

a bad man is, and what makes each of them so? Why, to adlut 

* * 

then, are you not good yourself? 

Not good? What do you mean? he replies. 

Why, no good man whines or groans or laments, no 
good man grows pale or trembles or says, How will 
he receive me ? What hearing will he give me ? 

Slave, he will do as he thinks good. What concern 
have you in what does not belong to you ? Is it not his fault 
if he gives a bad reception to what you offer? 

His fault, certainly. 

But can the fault be one man s-and the harm another s ? 


Why, then, are you anxious about another s concerns ? 

Nay, but I am anxious to know how I am to addresshim. 

What, is it not in your power to address him as you will ? 

Yes, but I am afraid I may lose my self-possession. 

Are you afraid of losing your self-possession when you 
are going to write the name Dion? 

Certainly not. 

What is the reason? Is it not, that you have practised 
writing ? 

Art or skill 
means con 
fidence. If 
you sur 
render this 
you are 
a slave, 

and must 
go back 
to your 

i 8 6 Discourses of Epictetus 

Of course it is. Or again, when you are about to read, 
would you not be in like case? 


What is the reason? The reason is that every art con 
tains within it an element of strength and confidence. 
Have you not practised speaking, then ? What else did you 
study at school ? You studied syllogisms and variable argu 
ments. What for? Was it not that you might converse 
with skill, and does not with skill mean in good season, 
with security and good sense, and, more than that, with 
out failure or hindrance, and, to crown all, with con 
fidence ? 


Well, if you are a rider and have to confront a man on 
foot in the plain, where you have the advantage of practice 
and he has not, are you anxious? 

Nay, but he has power to put me to death. 

Miserable man, tell the truth and be not a braggart 
nor claim to be a philosopher. Know who are your 
masters. As long as you give them this hold over your 
body, you must follow every one who is stronger than you. 

But Socrates, who spoke to the Tyrants, to his judges, 
and in prison, in the tone we know, had studied speaking 
to some purpose. So had Diogenes, who spoke in the same 
tone to Alexander, to Philip, to the pirates, to his purchaser. 
. . . Leave this to those who have made it their concern, 
to the confident : and do you go to your own concerns 
and never leave them again. Go and sit in your corner 
and weave syllogisms and propound them to others, 
No ruler of a state is found in you. 

Book //, Chapter 14 187 


On Naso. 

ONCE when a Roman came in with his son and was The pro- 
listening to one of his lectures Epictetus said : This is ^chin 
the method of my teaching , and broke off short. And philo- 
when the Roman begged him to continue, he replied : tbat^ 
Every art, when it is being taught, is tiresome to one of other 
who is unskilled and untried in it. The products of the !? re ^!L e 
arts indeed show at once the use they are made for, and 
most of them have an attraction and charm of their own ; 
for though it is no pleasure to be present and follow the 
process by which a shoemaker learns his art, the shoe itself 
is useful and a pleasant thing to look at as well. So too 
the process by which a carpenter learns is very tiresome 
to the unskilled person who happens to be by, but his 
work shows the use of his art. This you will see still more 
in the case of music, for if you are by when a man is being 
taught you will think the process of all things the most 
unpleasant, yet the effects of music are pleasant and 
delightful for unmusical persons to hear. 

So with philosophy ; we picture to ourselves the work The philo- 
of the philosopher to be something of this sort : he must s ? 1 . er s 
bring his own will into harmony with events, in such bring his 
manner that nothing which happens should happen ^ ln 
against our will, and that we should not wish for anything with 
to happen that does not happen. The result of this is that e 
those who have thus ordered their life do not fail to get 
what they will, and do not fall into what they will to avoid : 

To achieve 
this he 
must learn 
that God 
is, and try 
to make 
like Him. 

As a first 
step, it is 
to under 

188 Discourses of Epictetus 

each man spends his own life free from pain, from fear, 
and from distraction, and maintains the natural and 
acquired relations which unite him to his fellows the 
part of son, father, brother, citizen, husband, wife, neigh 
bour, fellow traveller, ruler, subject. 

Such is the business of the philosopher as we picture it. 
The next thing is that we seek how we are to achieve it. 
Now we see that the carpenter becomes a carpenter by 
learning certain things, the helmsman becomes a helms 
man by learning certain things. May we, then, infer that 
in the sphere of conduct too it is not enough merely to 
wish to become good, but one must learn certain things? 
We have, then, to look and see what these things are. The 
philosophers say that the first thing one must learn is this : 
that God exists and provides for the universe, and it is 
impossible for a man to act or even to conceive a thought 
or reflection without God knowing. The next thing is 
to learn the true nature of the gods. For whatever their 
nature is discovered to be, he that is to please and obey 
them must needs try, so far as he can, to make himself 
like them. If God is faithful, he must be faithful too ; if 
free, he must be free too ; if beneficent, he too must be 
beneficent : if high-minded, he must be high-minded : 
he must, in fact, as one who makes God his ideal, follow 
this out in every act and word. 

At what point, then, must we begin? 

If you attempt this task, I will tell you, that you must 
first understand terms. 

What? Do you imply that I do not understand terms 
now ? 

Book //, Chapter 14 189 

You do not. 

How then do I use them? 

You use them as illiterate persons deal with written 
sounds, as cattle deal with impressions : for it is one thing 
to use them, and another to understand. If you think 
you understand them, let us take any term you like and 
put ourselves to the test, to see if we understand. 

But it is vexatious when one is getting old, and has No doubt 

, . r . , ,1 , an old man 

served, if it so chance, one s three campaigns, to be put O fg 00( j 

through an examination. 1 position 

I know that as well as you. You have come to me being told 
now as if you were in want of nothing : and indeed of his 
what could you be imagined as wanting? You are rich, 8 
you have children, it may be, and a wife and many servants, 
the Emperor knows you, you possess many friends in 
Rome, you perform the acts appropriate to you, 2 you 
know how to return good for good and evil for evil. 
What do you lack? If I show you that you lack what is 
most necessary and important for happiness, and that 
hitherto you have paid attention to everything rather 
than to acting appropriately, and if I conclude my criti 
cism by saying that you do not know what God or man is, 
or what good or evil is, though perhaps you may bear 
being told of your ignorance in other ways, you cannot 
bear with me when I say that you do not know your own 
self ; how can you submit to examination and abide my 
question? You cannot bear it at all : you go away at 
once in disgust. And yet what evil have I done you ? 
Unless indeed the mirror does harm to the ugly man, by but he 
showing him what sort of man he is : unless the physician ou & nt not 

to resent 
being told 
of his par 
lous state. 

In the 
world s 
care only 
for what 
they can 
buy and 

Only few 
care to 
know what 
the world 
means and 
how it is 

190 Discourses of Epictetus 

too insults the sick man, when he says to him, Sir, you 
think there is nothing wrong with you, but you are in 
a fever ; take no food to-day and drink water ; and no 
one says, What shocking insolence ! But if you say 
to a man, There is fever in your will to get, your will to 
avoid is degraded, your designs are inconsistent, your 
impulses out of harmony with nature, your conceptions 
random and false , he goes away at once and says, He 
insulted me ! 

Our condition may be compared to the gathering at 
a public festival. Cattle and oxen are brought thither 
for sale, and the mass of men come to buy or to sell ; only 
some few come to look at the assembled people and see 
how and why the assembly gathers and who instituted it 
and with what object. It is just the same here, in this 
assembly of the world : some are like cattle and trouble 
themselves about nothing but their fodder, for you who 
busy yourselves with property and lands and servants and 
public offices are busy with fodder and nothing else. 
There are but few who come to this assembly with a desire 
to see what really is the meaning of the universe and Who 
governs it. Does no one govern it? How can that be? 
A city or a household cannot endure even for a brief span 
of time without one to govern and take charge of it, and 
can this great and noble frame of things 3 be administered 
in such good order by mere random chance? 

There is, then, One who governs it. What is His nature 
and how does He govern ? And we, what are we, His 
creations, and to what work are we born ? Have we any 
connexion and relation with Him or not? Such are the 

thoughts which occur to these few, and so they devote 
their time to this and this alone, to investigate the assem 
bly of life before they leave it. What follows ? They are 
laughed at by the multitude, just as in the other assembly 
those who look on are laughed at by those who buy and 
sell. Nay, the cattle themselves, if they shared our 
perception, would laugh at those who have made anything 
else but fodder the object of their wonder and regard ! 


On those who cling stubbornly to their judgements. 

THERE are some who when they hear these precepts A man 
that a man must be steadfast, and that the will is by m ay d V e 
nature a free thing and not subject to compulsion, whereas without 

all else is subject to hindrance and compulsion, being in f 1 ? .f to 
J his judge- 

bondage and dependence imagine that they must abide ments im- 

without swerving by every judgement that they have mutabl y- 
formed. No first of all the judgement arrived at must 
be sound. 

For I would have the body firmly braced, but it must 
be the firmness of health and good condition ; if you 
show me that you have the firmness of a madman and 
boast of that, I shall say to you, Look, man, for some one 
to cure you. This is not firmness, but the opposite. To decide 

Let me describe another state of mind to be found in ng I s 

more im- 
those who hear these precepts amiss. A friend of mine, portant 

for instance, determined for no reason to starve himself. , ?? *? 

abide by 
I learnt of it when he was in the third day of his fasting, your de- 

and went and asked him what had happened, 

192 Discourses of Epictetus 

I have decided , said he. 

Yes, but, for all that, say what it was that per 
suaded you ; for if your decision was right, here we are 
at your side ready to help you to leave this life, but, 
if your decision was against reason, then change your 

A man must abide by his decisions. 
What are you doing, man? Not all decisions, but right 
decisions. For instance, if you were convinced at the 
moment that it was night, abide by that opinion if you 
think fit, and do not change it, but say, one must abide 
by one s decisions. l 

Lay a Will you not lay this foundation to begin with that is, 

foundation exam i ne your decision and see whether it is sound cr 
first in unsound, and then afterwards build on it your firmness 
decision anc ^ unsna ken resolve? But if you lay a rotten and crum 
bling foundation } ou will not be able to build even a tiny 
building ; the more courses and the stronger that you 
lay upon it the quicker will it collapse. You are removing 
from life without any reason our familiar friend, our 
fellow citizen in the great City and the small, 2 and then, 
though you are guilty of murder and of killing one who 
has done no wrong, you say, I must abide by my decisions. 
If perchance it occurred to you to kill me, would you be 

bound to abide by your decisions? 
When you 

are in Well, I had much ado to persuade that friend to change 

doubt call ^ m i nc l. But it is impossible to move some of the men 

in advice, . r 

as the sick of to-day, so that I think that I know now what I did not 

man con- k now before, the meaning of the familiar saying, A fool 
doctor is not to be persuaded nor broken of his folly. May 

Book //, Chapter ly 193 

it never be my lot to have for friend a wise fool : nothing 
is more difficult to handle. 
I have decided. 

So have the madmen, but the more firmly they persist 
in false judgements the more hellebore 3 do they require. 
Will you not act as the sick man should, and call in the 
physician? As he says, I am sick, master; help me: 
consider what I ought to do, it is for me to obey you , so 
you should say, I do not know what I ought to do, but 
I have come to learn. Oh no, you say : Talk to me about 
other things ; this I have decided. Other things indeed ! 
What is greater or more to your advantage than that you 
should be convinced that it is not sufficient to have 
decided and to refuse all change of mind? This is the 
firmness of madness, not of health. 

If you force me to this, I would fain die. Man - s ob . 

Why, man, what has happened ? stinacy is 

I have decided. asi 8 nof 


Lucky for me that you have not decided to kill me * not of 

I do not take fees. strength. 


I have decided. 

Let me tell you that the same energy with which you now 
refuse to take fees may incline you one day (what is to pre 
vent it?) to take them and to say again, I have decided. 

Just as in an ailing body, which suffers from a flux, 
the flux inclines now to this part and now to that, so it is 
with a weak mind : no one can tell which way it 
sways, but when this swaying and drift has energy to 
back it, then the mischief becomes past help and remedy. 

516-24 I N 

194 Discourses of Epictetus 

We fail in 
conduct for 
want of 
practice in 
our prin 

As the 
orator or 
because he 
does not 
know the 
true value 
of his 


That we do not practise applying our judgements about 
things good and evil. 

WHERE lies the good? 

In a man s will. 

Where lies evil ? 

In the will. 

Where is the neutral sphere? 

In the region outside the will s control. 

Well, now, does any one of us remember these principles 
outside the lecture-room? Does any man practise by 
himself to answer facts as he would answer questions ? For 
instance, is it day? Yes. Again, is it night ? No. 
Again, are the stars even in number? I cannot say. 
When money is shown you have you practised giving 
the proper answer, that it is not a good thing? Have 
you trained yourself in answers like this, or only to meet 
fallacious arguments? Why are you surprised, then, that 
you surpass yourself in the sphere where you have prac 
tised, and make no progress where you are unpractised? 

Why is it that the orator, though he knows that he has 
written a good speech, and has got by heart what he has 
written, and brings a pleasant voice to his task, still feels 
anxiety in spite of all? The reason is that merely to de 
claim his speech does not content him. What does he 
want then? To be praised by his audience. Now he has 
been trained to be able to declaim, but he has not been 
trained in regard to praise and blame. For when did he 

Book 77, Chapter 16 195- 

hear from any one what praise is and what blame is : what 
is the nature of each, what manner of praise must be 
pursued, and what manner of blame must be avoided? 
When did he go through this training in accordance with 
these principles? 

Why, then, are you still surprised that he is superior to 
others in the things he has been taught, and on a level 
with the mass of men in the things he has not studied ? 
He is like the singer accompanying the lyre who knows 
how to play, sings well, and wears a fine tunic, and yet 
trembles when he comes on ; for though he has all this 
knowledge he does not know what the people is or the 
clamour or mockery of the people. Nay, he does not 
even know what this anxiety is that he is feeling, whether 
it depends on himself or on another, whether it can be 
suppressed or not. Therefore, if men praise him, he leaves 
the stage puffed up ; if they mock him, his poor bubble 
of conceit is pricked and subsides. 

Very much the same is our position. What do we so we live 
admire? External things. What are we anxious about? the^uture 
External things. And yet we are at a loss to know how forgetting 
fears or anxiety assail us ! What else can possibly happen r s gl ts 
when we count impending events as evil? We cannot be and en- 
free from fear, we cannot be free from anxiety. Yet we durance - 
say, O Lord God, how am I to be rid of anxiety? Fool, 
have you no hands? Did not God make them for you? 
Sit still and pray forsooth, that your rheum may not flow. 
Nay, wipe your nose rather and do not accuse God. 

What moral do I draw? Has not God given you any 
thing in the sphere of conduct ? Has He not given you en- 

N 2 

i<?6 Discourses of Epictetiis 

durance, has Henotgivenyou greatness of mind, has He not 

given you manliness ? When you have these strong hands to 

help you, do you still seek for one to wipe your rheum away ? 

Instead of But we do not piactise such conduct nor pay attention 

our activi- to * t- F^d me on e man who cares how he is going to 


ties in do a thing, who is interested not in getting something but 

we care for * n rea h zm g his true nature. Who is there that when 
what they walking is interested in his own activity, or when deli- 
^ berating is interested in the act of deliberation, and not 
in getting that for which he is planning? And then if he 
succeeds he is elated and says, What a fine plan that was 
of ours ! Did not I tell you, my brother, that if we have 
thought a thing out it is bound to happen so ? But if 
he fails he is humbled and miserable, and cannot find 
anything to say about what has happened. Which of us 
ever called in a prophet in order to realize his true nature? 
Which of us ever slept in a temple of dreams for this? 
Name the man. Give me but one, that I may set eyes on 
him I have long been seeking for, the man who is truly 
noble and has fine feeling ; be he young or old, give me 

We are Why, then, do we wonder any more that, whereas we are 

fluent in , .. . , .... 

thelecture- i ulte at home in dealing with material things, when we 

room, but come to express ourselves in action we behave basely 

life are full an ^ unseemly, are worthless, cowardly, unenduring, 

of fears. failures altogether? But if we kept our fear not for death 

or exile, but for fear itself, then we should practise to 

avoid what we think evil. As it is we are glib and fluent 

in the lecture-room, and if any paltry question arises 

about a point of conduct, we are capable of pursuing the 

Book //, Chapter 16 197 

subject logically ; but put us to the practical test and 
you will find us miserable shipwrecks. Let a distracting 
thought occur to us and you will soon find out for what 
we were studying and training. The result of our want 
of practice is that we are always heaping up terrors and 
imagining things bigger than they really are. When I go 
a voyage, as soon as I gaze down into the deep or look 
round on the sea and find no land, I am beside myself, 
imagining that if I am wrecked I must swallow all this 
sea, for it never occurs to me that three quarts are enough 
for me. What is it alarms me? The sea? No, but my 
judgement about it. Again, when an earthquake hap 
pens, I imagine that the city is going to fall on me. What ! 
Is not a tiny stone enough to knock my brains out? 

What, then, are the burdens that weigh upon us and It is our 
drive us out of our minds? What else but our judgements? ^T 
When a man goes away and leaves the companions and the ments that 
places and the society that he is used to, what else is it |^ Ui 
that weighs upon him but judgement? Children, when 
they cry a little because their nurse has left them, forget 
her as soon as they are given a bit of cake. 

Do you want us to be like children too ? 

No, not at all ; it is not by cake I would have you in- In order to 

fluenced, but by true judgements. What do I mean? have true 
T 1-1 judge- 

1 mean the judgements that a man must study all day ments, we 

long, uninfluenced by anything that does not concern must keep 
, . ii_ the law of 

him, whether it be companion or place or gymnasia, or God before 

even his own body ; he must remember the law and keep our e y es 
this before his eyes. 

What is the law of God? 

198 Discourses of Epictetus 

To guard what is your own, not to claim what is 
another s ; to use what is given you, not to long for 
anything if it be not given ; if anything be taken away, 
to give it up at once and without a struggle, with gratitude 
for the time you have enjoyed it, if you would not cry 
and learn for your nurse and your mammy. For what difference 

not to ^^ - t ma k e wna t a man is a slave to, and what he de- 
depend on 
anything pends on ? How are you better than one who weeps for 

beyond our a m i stresS) if vou break your heart for a paltry gymna 
sium and paltry colonnades and precious young men and 
that sort of occupation ? Here comes a man complaining 
that he is not to drink the water of Dirce any more. 1 

What ! is not the Marcian water as good as that of 
Dirce ? 

Nay, but I was used to the other. 

Yes, and you will get used to this in turn. I say, if such 
things are going to influence you, go away and cry for it, 
and try to write a line like that of Euripides, 

The baths of Nero and the Marcian spring. 

See how tragedy arises when fools have to face everyday 

events ! 

Why pine When shall I see Athens again, then, and the Acro- 
for Athens, po ij s ? 

when you -11 

can see the Unhappy man, are you not content with what you see 

sun and ^ jay by j a y? c an y OU set e y es on anything better or 
greater than the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole earth, 
the ocean? And if you really understand Him that governs 
the universe and if you carry Him about within you, do 
you still long for paltry stones and pretty rock? 2 What 

Book //, Chapter 16 


will you do, then, when you are going to leave the very 
sun and moon? Shall you sit crying like little children? 
What were you doing, then, at school ? What did you hear ? 
What did you learn? Why did you write yourself down 
a philosopher when you might have written the truth, 
saying, I did a few Introductions and read Chrysippus 
sayings, but I never entered the door of a philosopher. 
What share have I in the calling of Socrates, who lived 
and died so nobly, or of Diogenes? Can you imagine one 
of them weeping or indignant, because he is not going 
to see this man or that or be in Athens or in Corinth, 
but in Susa, if it so chance, or Ecbatana? Does he who 
may leave the banquet when he will and play no longer, 
vex himself while he stays on? Does he not stay at 
play just as long as it pleases him? Do you suppose the 
man I describe would endure interminable exile or con 
demnation to death? 

Will you not be weaned at last, as children are, and take 
more solid food, and cease to cry nurse and mammy , 
cries for old women s ears? 

But I shall distress them , you say, by departing. 
You will distress them ? No, you will not distress 
them ; what distresses them and you is judgement. 3 
What can you do then? Get rid of your judgement : 
theirs, if they do well, they will get rid of themselves, or 
they will sorrow for it and have themselves to thank. 
Man, be bold at last, even to despair, 4 as the phrase is, 
that you may have peace and freedom and a lofty mind. 
Lift up your neck at last, as one released from slavery. 
Have courage to look up to God and say, Deal with me 

Studies are 
of no use 
unless they 
enable you 
to share 
the atti 
tude of 
Socrates or 

It is time 
to put 
and look 
to God and 
His will. 

the obe 
dient son 
of Zeus, 
should be 
your heart 
as he 
the world. 

200 Discourses of Epictetus 

hereafter as Thou wilt, I am as one with Thee, I am Thine. 
I flinch from nothing so long as Thou thinkest it good. 
Lead me, where Thou wilt, put on me what raiment Thou 
wilt. Wouldst Thou have me hold office, or eschew it, 
stay or fly, be poor or rich ? For all this I will defend Thee 
before men. I will show each thing in its true nature, 
as it is. 

Nay, stay rather in the cow s belly and wait for your 
mammy s milk to fill you. 5 What would have become of 
Heracles, if he had stayed at home ? He would have been 
Eurystheus, and no Heracles. 

But tell me, how many friends and companions had he, 
as he went about the world ? No nearer friend than God : 
and that is why he was believed to be son of Zeus, and 
was so. Obedient to Him, he went about the world, 
cleansing it of wrong and lawlessness. 

Do you say you are no Heracles, nor able to get rid of 
other men s evils, not even a Theseus, to cleanse Attica 
of ills? 

Cleanse your own heart, cast out from your mind, 
not Procrustes and Sciron, but pain, fear, desire, envy, 
ill will, avarice, cowardice, passion uncontrolled. These 
things you cannot cast out, unless you look to God 
alone, on Him alone set your thoughts, and consecrate 
yourself to His commands. If you wish for anything 
else, with groaning and sorrow you will follow what is 
stronger than you, ever seeking peace outside you, and 
never able to be at peace : for you seek it where it is not, 
and refuse to seek it where it is. 

from con 

Book II j Chapter 17 201 


How we must adjust our primary conceptions to particular 

WHAT is the first business of the philosopher? To cast Thephilo- 
away conceit: for it is impossible for a man to begin ^Jsinessis 
learning what he thinks he knows. When we go to to free us 
the philosophers we all bandy phrases freely of things to 
be done and not to be done, of things good and bad, noble 
and base ; we make them the ground of our praise and 
blame, accusation and disparagement, pronouncing judge 
ment on noble and base conduct and distinguishing 
between them. But what do we go to the philosophers 
for? To learn in their school what we think we do not 
know. What is that? Principles. 1 For we want to learn 
what the philosophers talk of, some of us because we 
think their words witty and smart, and others in hope to 
make profit of them. It is absurd, then, to think that 
a man will learn anything but what he wishes to learn, 
or in fact that he will make progress if he does not learn. 
But the mass of men are under the same delusion as We have 

Theopompus the rhetor, when he criticized Plato because P rimar y 

he wanted to define every term. What are his words? tions al- 

Did none of us before you talk of "good" or " just", ready ^ 

are unable 
or did we use the terms vaguely and idly without under- to apply 

standing what each of them meant ? them. 

Who told you, Theopompus, that we had not natural 
notions and primary conceptions of each of these? But 
it is impossible to adjust the primary conceptions to the 

2 o 2 Discourses of Epictetus 

appropriate facts, without making them articulate and 
without considering just this what fact must be ranged 
under each conception. 

You may say just the same thing, for instance, to physi 
cians. Which of us did not use the words healthy 
and diseased before Hippocrates was born ? Were 
those terms we used mere empty sounds ? No, we 
have a conception of healthy , but we cannot apply it. 
Therefore one physician says, Take no food , 2 and another 
Give food , and one says, Cut the vein , and another, 
Use the cupping-glass. What is the reason? Nothing 
but incapacity to apply the conception of the healthy 
to particulars in the proper way. 

We talk of So it is here in life. Which of us does not talk of good 

id bad and bad , expedient and inexpedient ? Which of us has 

but our not a primary conception of each of these? Is that con- 

i^"ot ptl " n ception, then, articulate and complete? Prove it. How 

articulate, am I to prove it? Apply it properly to particular facts. 

To begin with, Plato makes his definitions conform to 

the conception of the useful , you to the conception of 

the useless . Is it possible, then, for both of you to be 

right? Of course not. Does not one man apply his 

primary conception of good to wealth while another does 

not? Another applies it to pleasure, another to health. 

To sum up, if all of us who use these terms really know 

them adequately as well, and if we need take no pains to 

make our conceptions articulate, why do we quarrel and 

make war and criticize one another ? 

If you Indeed, I need not bring forward our contentions with 

ply your one another and make mention of them. Take yourself 

Book //, Chapter 17 203 

alone ; if you apply your preconceptions properly, why concep- 
do you feel miserable and hampered? Let us dismiss for Der [ v vou 
the moment the Second Department 3 of study, that would not 
concerned with impulses and with what is fitting in rela- ^^ 
tion to them. Let us dismiss also the Third Department, 3 
that of assents. I grant you all this. Let us confine 
ourselves to the First Department, 3 where we have 
almost sensible demonstration that we do not apply our 
preconceptions properly. Do you now will things 
possible, and possible for you? Why, then, do you feel 
hindered and miserable? Do you now refuse to shun 
what is necessary? Why, then, do you fall into trouble 
and misfortune? Why does a thing not happen when you 
will it, and happen when you do not will it, for this is 
the strongest proof of misery and misfortune? I will 
a thing, and it does not happen ; what could be more 
wretched than I ? I will it not and it happens ; again, 
what is more wretched than I ? 

It was because she could not endure this that Medea Medea s 

was led to kill her children : and the act showed a great a . ct 

snowed a 
nature ; for she had a right conception of what it means great 

for one s will not to be realized. Then , said she, nature 

I shall thus take vengeance on him who did me wrong through 

and outrage. Yet what is the good of putting him in ignorance 

of what it 
this misery? What am I to do then? I kill my children, means to 

but I shall also be punishing myself. What do I care? rea l lze 

r . one s will. 

This is the aberration of a mind of great force ; for she 

did not know where the power lies to do what we will ; 
that we must not get it from outside, nor by disturbing 
or disarranging events. Do not will to have your 


204 Discourses of Epictetus 

husband, and then nothing that you will fails to happen. 
Do not will that he should live with you in all circum 
stances, do not will to stay in Corinth : in a word, will 
nothing but what God wills. Then who shall hinder 
you, who compel you? You will be as free as Zeus 
If you Himself. 

your will When you have a leader such as this, and identify your 

with God s will with His, you need never fear failure any more. But, 

troubles once make a gift to poverty and wealth of your will to get 

are at an and your will to avoid, and you will fail and be unfortunate. 

Give them to health and you will be unhappy : or to 

office, honour, country, friends, children in a word, if 

you give them to anything beyond your will s control. But 

give them to Zeus and to the other gods ; hand them to 

their keeping, let them control them, and command them, 

and you can never be miserable any more. But if, O man 

of no endurance, you are envious, pitiful, jealous, timorous, 

and never go a day without bewailing yourself and the 

gods, how can you call yourself a philosopher any more? 

True edu- Philosophy indeed ! Just because you worked at variable 

cation con- .. . , ,. , . ., 

sists not in syllogisms: Will you not unlearn all this, it you can, and 

learning begin at the beginning again, and realize that so far you 
but in never touched the matter, and, beginning here, build 

realizing further on this foundation, so that nothing shall be when 
freedom as ... . , . , ,, .,, . , 

the friend 7 OU wl ^ lt: not not hmg shall not be when you will it ? 

of God. Give me one young man who has come to school with this 
purpose, ready to strive at this, like one at the games, say 
ing, For my part let all else go for nothing : I am content 
if I shall be allowed to spend my life unhindered and free 
from pain, and to lift my neck like a free man in face of facts, 

Book 77, Chapter 17 205- 

and to look up to heaven as God s friend, fearing nothing 
that can happen. Let one of you show himself in this 
character, that I may say, Come to your own, young 
man : for it is your destiny to adorn philosophy, these 
possessions are yours, the books and theories are for you. 
Then, when he has worked at this subject and made him 
self master of it, let him come again and say to me, 
I wish to be free from passion and disquiet, and to know 
in a religious and philosophic and devoted spirit how it 
is fitting for me to behave towards the gods, towards my 
parents, my brothers, my country, and towards foreigners. 

Enter now on the Second Department : this is yours 

Yes, but now I have studied the Second Department ; 
next I should wish to be secure and unshaken, and that 
not only in my waking hours, but in my sleep and in my 
cups and when distraught. 

Man, you are a god, you have great designs ! 

No, he replies, I want to understand what Chrysip- Mere read- 
pus says in his treatise on " The Liar ". 4 

, writing 

That s your design, is it, my poor fellow? Take it and books is of 
go hang ! What good will it do you ? You will read all the no avail - 
treatise with sorrow and repeat it to others with trembling. 

That is just how you behave. Would you like me to 
read to you, brother, and you to me? Man, you are 
a wonderful writer : and, You have a great turn for 
Xenophon s style , and, You for Plato s , and, You for 
Antisthenes . And after all, when you have related 
your dreams to one another, you return again to the 
same behaviour as before : the same will to get and will 

206 Discourses of Epictetus 

to avoid, the same impulses and designs and purposes, 
the same prayers, the same interests. Then you never 
look for any one to remind you of the truth, but are 
vexed if any one reminds you. Then you say, He is an 
unamiable man ; he did not weep when I left home nor 
say, "What difficulties you are going to \ 5 my son, if you 
return safe, I will light some lamps." This is what an 
amiable man would say. Great good you will get if 
you return safe ! It is worth while lighting a lamp for 
such as you, for you ought no doubt to be free from disease 
and death ! 
Philo- We must, then, as I say, put off this fancy of thinking 

sop y is t ^ at we k now an ything useful, and we must approach 

a serious 

study, like philosophy as we approach the study of geometry and 

geometry mus j c . otherwise we shall not come near making progress, 
and music. 

even if we go through all the Introductions and treatises 

of Chrysippus and Antipater and Archedemus. 


How we must struggle against impressions. 

Habit and EVERY habit and every faculty is confirmed and 
acu .tyj"" 6 strengthened by the corresponding acts, the faculty of 
and con- walking by walking, that of running by running. If you 

rme . y wish to have a faculty for reading, read ; if for writing, 
exercise. J 

write. When you have not read for thirty days on end, 
but have done something else, you will know what happens. 
So if you lie in bed for ten days, and then get up and try 
to take a fairly long walk, you will see how your legs lose 

Book 77, Chapter 18 207 

their power. So generally if you wish to acquire a habit 
for anything, do the thing ; if you do not wish to acquire 
the habit, abstain from doing it, and acquire the habit of 
doing something else instead. The same holds good in 
things of the mind : when you are angry, know that you 
have not merely done ill, but that you have strengthened 
the habit, and, as it were, put fuel on the fire. When you 
yield to carnal passion you must take account not only 
of this one defeat, but of the fact that you have fed your 
incontinence and strengthened it. For habits and faculties 
are bound to be affected by the corresponding actions ; 
they are either implanted if they did not exist before, or 
strengthened and intensified if they were there already. 
This is exactly how philosophers say that morbid habits Unless 

spring up in the mind. For when once you conceive a * au ts ar ^ 
r m r . . , corrected 

desire for money, if reason is applied to make you realize the by reason 

evil, the desire is checked and the Governing Principle " 1C X are , 

recovers its first power ; but if you give it no medicine to 

heal it, it will not return to where it was, but when stimu 
lated again by the appropriate impression it kindles to desire 
quicker than before. And if this happens time after time 
it ends by growing hardened, and the weakness confirms the 
avarice in a man. For he who has a fever and gets quit 
of it is not in the same condition as before he had it, unless 
he has undergone a complete cure. The same sort of 
thing happens with affections of the mind. They leave 
traces behind them like weals from a blow, and if a man 
does not succeed in removing them, when he is flogged 
again on the same place his weals turn into sores. If, then, jj not add 
you wish not to be choleric, do not feed the angry habit, ^ ue to l ^ e 

208 Discourses of Epictetus 

Hames of do not add fuel to the fire. To begin with, keep quiet 

passion. , , , 

but check ancl count tne days when you were not angry. I used to 

it- be angry every day, then every other day, then every three 

days, then every four. But if you miss thirty days, then 
sacrifice to God : for the habit is first weakened and then 
wholly destroyed. 

I kept free from distress to-day, and again next day, 
and for two or three months after ; and when occasions 
arose to provoke it, I took pains to check it. 

Know that you are doing well. 

To check To-day when I saw a handsome woman I did not 

a growing lr ,- x TT , , , 

passion is Sa 7 to m 7 sel f> Would that she were mine ! and 

better than Blessed is her husband ! For he who says that will say, 
a fallacy. Blessed is the adulterer ! Nor do I picture the next 
scene : the woman present and disrobing and reclining by 
my side. I pat myself on the head and say, Bravo, Epi 
ctetus, you have refuted a pretty fallacy, a much prettier 
one than the so-called Master .* And if, though the 
woman herself, poor thing, is willing and beckons and 
sends to me, and even touches me and comes close to me, 
I still hold aloof and conquer : the refutation of this 
fallacy is something greater than the argument of The 
Liar , or the Resting argument. 2 This is a thing to be 
really proud of, rather than of propounding the 
Master argument. 

To do this, How, then, is this to be done? Make up your mind at 

you must , , , , , 

resolve to * ast to Please your true sell, make up your mind to appear 

be pure noble to God ; set your desires on becoming pure in the 

presence of your pure self and God. Then when an 

impression of that sort assails you , says Plato, go and 

Book //, Chapter 18 209 

offer expiatory sacrifices, go as a suppliant and sacrifice 

to the gods who avert evil : it is enough even if you 

withdraw to the society of the good and noble and set 

yourself to compare them with yourself, whether your or find a 

pattern be among the living or the dead. Go to Socrates ^ 3rn t , 

and see him reclining with Alcibiades and making light of great 

his beauty. Consider what a victory, what an Olym- ^ eroe ^ llke 

pic triumph, he won over himself and knew it what 

place he thus achieved among the followers of Heracles ! 

a victory that deserves the salutation, Hail, admirable 

victor, who hast conquered something more than these 

worn-out boxers and pancratiasts and the gladiators who 

are like them ! If you set these thoughts against your 

impression, you will conquer it, and not be carried away 

by it. But first of all do not be hurried away by the It is a 

suddenness of the shock, but say, Wait for me a little, fgcuritv 

impression. Let me see what you are, and what is at not to be 

stake : let me test you . And, further, do not allow it to a ^y v v 

go on picturing the next scene. If you do, it straight- base im- 

way carries you off whither it will. Cast out this filthy P re 

impression and bring in some other impression, a lovely 

and noble one, in its place. I say, if you acquire the 

habit of training yourself thus, you will see what shoulders 

you get, what sinews, what vigour ; but now you have 

only paltry words and nothing more. 

The man who truly trains is he who disciplines himself but this 
to face such impressions. Stay, unhappy man ! be not 
carried away. Great is the struggle, divine the task ; the 
stake is a kingdom, freedom, peace, an unruffled spirit. 
Remember God, call Him to aid and support you, as 

546.24 1 O 


Discourses of Epictetus 

voyagers call in storm to the Dioscuri. 3 Can any storm 
be greater than that which springs from violent impres 
sions that drive out reason? For what is storm itself but 
an impression ? Take away the fear of death, and you may 
bring as much thunder and lightning as you will, and 
you will discover what deep peace and tranquillity is in 
your mind. But if you once allow yourself to be defeated 
and say that you will conquer hereafter, and then do the 
same again, be sure that you will be weak and miserable ; 
you will never notice hereafter that you are going wrong, 
but will even begin to provide excuses for your conduct : 
and then you will confirm the truth of Hesiod s words, 
A dilatory man is ever wrestling with calamities . 

There are 
three pro 
on the re 
lations of 
which the 
is based. 


To those who take up the principles of the philosophers only 
to discuss them. 

THE Master argument appears to have been pro 
pounded on some such basis as this. 

There are three propositions which are at variance 
with one another 1 i.e. any two with the third 
namely, these : (l) everything true as an event in the past 
is necessary ; (2) the impossible does not follow from 
the possible ; (3) what neither is true nor will be is 
yet possible. Diodorus, noticing this conflict of state 
ments, used the probability of the first two to prove 
the conclusion, Nothing is possible which neither is nor 
will be true . Some one else, however, will maintain 
another pair of these propositions. What neither is nor 

Book 77, Chapter 1 9 


will be true is yet possible , and, The impossible does 
not follow from the possible , while rejecting the 
third, Everything true in the past is necessary , as 
appears to be the view of Cleanthes and his school, who 
have been supported to a large extent by Antipater. 
Others maintain the third pair, What neither is true nor 
will be is yet possible , and Everything true as an event 
in the past is necessary , and reject The impossible does 
not follow from the possible . But to maintain all three 
propositions at once is impracticable, because every pair 
is in conflict with the third. 

If, then, some one ask me, But which of these do you If I am 
maintain ? I shall answer him that I do not know, but fSjjgj. v j e 
the account I have received is that Diodorus maintained I take of it 
one pair, and the school of Panthoides and Cleanthes, I 
fancy, the second, and the school of Chrysippus the third, three 

What do you hold then? 

I have never given my mind to this, to put my own 
impression to the test and compare different views and 
form a judgement of my own on the subject : therefore 
I am no better than a grammarian. 

Who was Hector s father? 


Who were his brothers ? 

Paris and Deiphobus. 

And who was their mother ? 

Hecuba. That is the account I have received. 

From whom ? 

From Homer : and Hellanicus also writes on the same 
subject, I believe, and others of the same class. 



Discourses of Epictetus 

So it is with me and the Master argument : I go no 
further. But if I am a vain person I cause the utmost 
amazement among the company at a banquet by enumera 
ting those who have written on the subject. Chrysippus 
also has written admirably in the first book of his treatise 
" On the possible ". Cleanthes, too, has written a special 
book on this, and Archedemus. AndAntipater also has 
written, not only in his book on " The possible ", but also 
specially in his work on the Master argument. Have 
you not read the treatise ? 

I have not read it. 
But mere Read it. 

tionai And what good will he get from it ? He will only be 

knowledge more silly and tiresome than he is now. For what have 

use unless 7 OU ot by rea ding it ? What judgement have you formed 

you learn on the subject ? You will only tell us of Helen and Priam 

youTpnn- an ^ tne island of Calypso, which never was nor will be. 

ciples to And indeed in the field of literature it does not matter 

much that you should master the received account and 

have formed no judgement of your own. But we are 

much more liable to this fault in matters of conduct 

than in literary matters. 

Tell me about things good and evil. 
The philo- From Ilion to the Cicones I came, 

s P^ er> Wind-borne. 


ethics as 

glibly as Qf things that are, some are good, some bad, some 

his Homer, 

but with- indifferent. The virtues and all that share in them are 

put realiz- g OO( } vices and all that share in them are bad, and all 
ing it. 

Book 77, Chapter 19 213 

that comes between is indifferent wealth, health, life, 
death, pleasure, pain. 

How do you know? 

Hellanicus says so in his history of Egypt. For you 
might just as well say that as say Diogenes or Chrysippus 
or Cleanthes said so in his Ethics . I ask, have you put Life is the 
any of these doctrines to the test, and formed a judge- t i, : s : s 
ment of your own? Show us how you are wont to bear of storm or 
yourself in a storm on shipboard. Do you remember this K^fo nS 
distinction of good and bad when the sail cracks and you Caesar 
cry aloud to heaven, and some bystander, untimely merry, 
says Tell me, by the gods, what have you been telling us 
lately? Is it a vice to suffer shipwreck? Does it partake 
of vice? Will you not take up a belaying pin and give 
him a drubbing ? What have we to do with you, fellow ? 
We are perishing, and you come and mock us. 

Again, if you are sent for by Caesar and are accused, 
do you remember the distinction ? As you enter with 
a pale face, and trembling withal, suppose some one 
comes up and says to you, Why do you tremble, man ? 
What are you concerned about ? Does Caesar put vir 
tue and vice in the hearts of those who come before 

Why do you mock me, as though I had not miseries 
enough ? 

Nay, philosopher, tell me why you tremble. Is it 
not of death you stand in danger, or prison or pain of 
body or exile or disgrace, nothing else? Is it wickedness, 
or anything that partakes of wickedness? And what did 
you tell us that all these were ? 

214 Discourses of Epictetus 

Man, what have I to do with you? My own evils are 
enough for me. 

Well said, indeed : for your own evils are indeed 
enough meanness, cowardice, the boasting spirit, which 
you showed when you sat in the lecture-room. Why did 
you pride yourself on what was not your own ? Why 
did you call yourself a Stoic ? 
The occa- Watch your own conduct thus and you will discover to 

sion will w school you belong. You will find that most of you 
show what 7 / 

school you are Epicureans and some few Peripatetics, but with all the 

really fibre gone from you. Where have you shown that you 
belong to. J 

really hold virtue to be equal to all else, or even superior? 

Show me a Stoic if you can ! Where or how is he to be 
found? You can show me men who use the fine phrases 
of the Stoics, in any number, for the same men who 
do this can recite Epicurean phrases just as well and can 
repeat those of the Peripatetics just as perfectly ; is it 
not so? 

Who then is a Stoic? 

Show me a man moulded to the pattern of the judge 
ments that he utters, in the same way as we call a statue 
Phidian that is moulded according to the art of Phidias. 
Show me one who is sick and yet happy, in peril and yet 
happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in dis- 
The true grace and happy. Show him me. By the gods I would 

Stoic is he f a j n see a Stoic. Nay you cannot show me a finished 

whose soul . . 

desires to Stoic ; then show me one in the moulding, one who has 

be at one set h; s f eet on ^g path. Do me this kindness, do not 
with God. f 

grudge an old man like me a sight I never saw till now. 

What ! you think you are going to show me the Zeus of 

Book //, Chapter 19 21 f 

Phidias or his Athena, that work of ivory and gold? It 
is a soul I want ; let one of you show me the soul of a man 
who wishes to be at one with God, and to blame God or 
man no longer, to fail in nothing, to feel no misfortune, 
to be free from anger, envy, and jealousy one who (why 
wrap up my meaning?) desires to change his manhood for 
godhead, and who in this poor dead body of his has his 
purpose set upon communion with God. Show him to 
me. Nay, you cannot. Why, then, do you mock your 
selves, and trifle with others? Why do you put on a 
character which is not your own, and walk about like 
thieves and robbers in these stolen phrases and properties 
that do not belong to you ? 

And so now I am your teacher, and you are at school That is the 
with me : and my purpose is this, to make you my com- * the 
pleted work, untouched by hindrance or compulsion, or would fain 
constraint, free, tranquil, happy, looking to God in P rocluce< 
everything small or great ; and you are here to learn and 
practise these things. Why, then, do you not finish the 
work, if indeed you also have the purpose you should 
have, and if I have the purpose and the proper equipment 
also? What is it that is wanting? When I see a craftsman 
and material ready to his hand, I look for the finished work. 
Now here, too, is the craftsman, and here is the material. 
What do we lack? Is not the subject teachable? It is 
teachable. Is it not within our power then? Nay, it is 
the one thing of all others which is in our power. Wealth 
is not in our power, nor health, nor anything else, in a 
word, except the proper use of impressions. This alone, by If teacher 
nature s gift, is unhindered and untrammelled. Why, an pupl 

2i 6 Discourses of Epictetus 

then, do you not finish, the work ? Tell me the reason : for 
it lies either in me or in you or in the nature of the thing. 

work to 
gether, it 
may be 
achieved. The achievement itself is possible, and rests with us alone. 

It follows then that the reason lies in me or in you, or, 
more truly, in both. What is my conclusion? Let us 
begin, if you only will, to carry out such purpose here 
and now. Let us leave behind what is past. Only let 
us begin ; have trust in me, and you shall see. 

The Aca 
they deny 
that assent 
is possible. 


Against followers of Epicurus and of the Academy. 

EVEN those who contradict propositions that are true 
and evident are obliged to make use of them. And 
indeed one may almost give as the strongest proof that 
a thing is evident that even he who contradicts it finds 
himself obliged to make use of it. For instance, if one 
should deny that any universal statement is true, plainly 
he cannot help asserting the contrary. 

No universal statement is true. 

Slave, this is not true either : for what else is your 
assertion than, If a statement is universal, it is false? 
Again, if one comes forward and says, Know that nothing 
is knowable, but that everything is unprovable, or 
another says, Believe me, and it will be to your advan 
tage ; you ought not to believe a man at all ; or again, 
if another says, Learn from me, man, that it is impossible 
to learn anything ; I tell you this, and will teach you, if 
you will. What difference is there between such persons 

Book //, Chapter 20 217 

and whom shall I say? those who call themselves 
Academics ? Men, give your assent to the statement 
that no man assents ! 

Believe us that no man believes any one ! 1 

So too Epicurus, when he wishes to get rid of the Epicurus 
natural fellowship of men with one another, makes use of i 
the very principle of which he is getting rid. For what fellowship, 
does he say? Men, be not deceived, be not misled or U S 

deluded. There is no natural fellowship of rational cognised it 
beings with one another : believe me. Those who state 
the contrary deceive you and mislead your reason. 

What concern, then, is it of yours ? Let us be deceived. 
Will you come off any the worse if the rest of us are all 
convinced that we have a natural fellowship with one 
another and that we are bound by all means to guard it ? 
Nay, your position will be much better and more secure. 
Man, why do you take thought for our sake, why do you 
keep awake for us, why do you light your lamp, why do 
you rise early, why do you write such big books ? Is it to 
prevent any of us being deluded into thinking that the 
gods have any care for mankind, or to prevent us from 
supposing that the nature of the good is anything but 
pleasure ? For if this is so, be off with you and go to sleep ; 
do as the worm does, for this is the life of which you 
pronounce yourself worthy : eating, drinking, copulation, 
evacuation, and snoring. 

What does it matter to you, what opinions others will The Epicu- 
hold on these matters, or whether they are right or wrong? reservehis 
What have we to do with you ? You take interest in sheep doctrine 
because they offer themselves to be shorn and milked and 

2 1 8 Discourses of Epictetus 

fellows, finally to be slaughtered by us. Would it not be desirable 

advantage ^ men cou ^ be charmed and bewitched by the Stoics into 

of the slumber, and offer themselves to you and those like you 

the world to ^ e s ^ orn an d milked ? These sentiments were proper 

enough to utter to your fellow Epicureans ; ought you 

not to conceal them from outsiders, and take special pains 

to convince them before all things that we are born with 

a sociable nature, that self-control is a good thing, that 

so you may secure everything for yourself? Or do you 

say we must maintain this fellowship towards some and 

not towards others? Towards whom, then, must we 

observe it? towards those who observe it in their turn, or 

towards those who transgress it? And who transgress it 

more completely than you who have laid down these 


But What, then, was it that roused Epicurus from his 

Nature slumbers and compelled him to write what he wrote? 

was too 

strong for What else but that which is the most powerful of all 

Lpicurus, numan things, Nature, which draws a man to her will 

and forced 

him to though he groan and resist? For (she says), because you 

preach his ^old t h ese unsO ciable opinions, write them down and 

bequeath them to others and stay lip late for them and 

by your own act accuse the very principles you maintain. 
What ! we speak of Orestes pursued by the Furies and 
roused from his slumbers, but are not the Furies and 
Torments that beset Epicurus more exacting? They 
roused him from his sleep and would not allow him to 
rest, but compelled him to announce his miseries, as 
madness and wine compel the priests of Cybele. So 
powerful and unconquerable a thing is human nature. 

Book II, Chapter 20 219 

How can a vine be moved to act, not as a vine but as an 
olive, or again an olive not as an olive but as a vine? It 
is impossible, inconceivable. So it is impossible for man 
utterly to destroy the instincts of man ; even those who 
have their bodily organs cut off cannot cut off the desires 
of men. In the same way Epicurus, though he cut off all Neither he 

the attributes of a man and a householder and a citizen r ? or j 


and a friend, could not cut off human desires. No, he can de- 

could not do it, any more than the indolent Academics stroy 

, _ human 

could cast away or blind their senses, though they have instincts. 

made this the chief object of their life, f Is not this sheer 
misfortune ? f 2 A man has received from Nature measures 
and standards for the discovery of truth, and instead of 
busying himself to add to them and to work out further 
results, he does exactly the opposite, and tries to remove 
and destroy any faculty which he possesses for discovering 
the truth. 

What say you, philosopher ? What is your view of Are philo- 
religion and piety J 

If you will, I will prove that it is good. us, denying 

Prove it then, that our fellow citizens may take heed the cl . al . ms 

of religion 

and honour the Divine and cease at last from being indif- and yet 

ferent as to the highest matters. acting as 

if they 
Have you the proofs then ? believed 

I have, and am thankful for it ! in them ? 

Since you find such an interest in these things, now hear 
the contrary : " The gods do not exist, and if they do, they 
pay no regard to men and we have no communion with 
them, and thus religion and piety, of which the multitude 
talk, are a lie of pretentious persons and sophists, or it 

22o Discourses of Epictetus 

may be of lawgivers, for the fear and deterrence of wrong 

Bravo, philosopher ! What a service you confer on our 
citizens ! our young men are already inclining to despise 
divine things, and you recover them for us ! 

What is the matter? Does not this please you? Now 
learn, how justice is nothing, how self-respect is folly, 
how " father " and " son " are empty words. 

Bravo, philosopher ! Stick to your task, persuade our 
young men, that we may have more to agree with you 
and share your views. These, no doubt, are the argu 
ments which have brought well-governed cities to great 
ness, these are the arguments which made Lacedaemon, 
these are the convictions which Lycurgus wrought into 
the Spartans by his laws and training : that slavery is no 
more shameful than noble, and freedom no more noble 
than shameful ! For these beliefs no doubt those who died 
at Thermopylae died ! And for what principles but these 
did the Athenians give up their city? 

And yet the men who state these theories marry and 
beget children and share in city life and appoint themselves 
priests and prophets. Of what? Of what has no existence ! 
And they question the Pythian prophetess themselves, to 
learn lies, and they interpret oracles to others. Is not 
this the height of shameless imposition? 

Such con- Man, what are you doing? You convict yourself of false- 
duct is as hooddaybyday: will you not abandon these crude fallacies? 
to confuse When you eat where do you put your hand, to your mouth 
with rgan r t0 y Ur e y e ? When you bathe into what do you go? 
another, or When did you ever call the jug a saucer or the ladle a spit? 

Book 77, Chapter 20 221 

If I were slave to one of these men, I would torture to refuse 
him, even if I had to stand a flogging from him every day. \ e evl % 
Put a drop of oil, boy, in the bath. I would get some the senses 
fish sauce and pour it over his head. What is that? 
By your fortune I had an impression, very like oil, indis 
tinguishable from it. Give me gruel here. I would 
fill a dish with vinegar sauce and bring it him. 

Did I not ask for gruel ? 

Yes, master, this is gruel. 

Is not this vinegar sauce ? 

How is it more that than gruel? 

Take it and smell, take it and taste. 

How can you know if the senses play us false ? If I had 
three or four fellow slaves who shared my mind I should 
give him such a dressing that he would hang himself, or 
change his opinion. Such men trifle with us ; they take 
advantage of all the gifts of nature, while in theory they 
do away with them. 

Grateful and self-respecting men indeed ! they eat These phi- 
bread every day, to say nothing else, and yet dare to assert los .P h ers 
that we know not whether there is a Demeter or Kore or gifts of 
Pluto : not to say that they enjoy day and night and the N . ature but 
changes of the year, the stars and sea and land and the them, and 

service that men render, yet not one of these things n ?} 
J consider 

makes them take notice in the least. No, their only aim the effect 
is to vomit their paltry problem, and having thus exercised t -\ eir 
their stomach to go away and have a bath. But they 
have not given the slightest thought to what they are 
going to say : what subject they are going to speak about, 
or to whom, and what they are going to get from these 


Discourses of Epictetus 

arguments : whether any young man of noble spirit may 
be influenced by them or has been influenced already 
and may lose all the germs of nobility in him : whether 
we may be giving an adulterer opportunity to brazen out 
his acts : whether one who is embezzling public funds 
may find some excuse to lay hold of in these theories : 
whether one who neglects his parents may get from them 
fresh courage. 

They have What, then, do you hold good or evil, base or noble ? 

donsancT ^ s ** ^ s doctrine, or that? It is useless to go on dis- 

are beyond puting with one of these men, or reasoning with him, or 

trying to alter his opinion. One might have very much 

more hope of altering the mind of a profligate than 

of men who are absolutely deaf and blind to their own 



Concerning inconsistency of mind. 

Men are THERE are some admissions which men readily make, 

confessto ot ^ ers ^ey do not. Now no one will admit that he is 
some faults thoughtless or foolish : on the contrary, you will hear 

others * ^ eveI 7 ne **y> Would that T had luck as ! have wits ! 
but men readily admit that they are cowards and say, 

I am a bit of a coward, I admit, but for the rest you will 
find me no fool . A man will not readily own to incon 
tinence, to injustice not at all, never to envy or fussiness, 
while most men will own to being pitiful. You ask 
what is the reason ? The most vital reason is a confusion 

Book //, Chapter 21 223 

and want of consistency in men s views of what is good 
and evil, but, apart from this, different persons are 
affected by different motives ; speaking generally, people 
are not ready to own to qualities which to their mind 
appear base. Cowardice and a sense of pity they imagine 
show good nature, silliness a slavish mind, and social 
faults they are least ready to admit. In most of the errors 
which they are inclined to confess to it is because they 
think there is an involuntary element, as in the cowardly 
and the pitiful. So if any one does own to incontinence, 
he brings in passion, to give him the excuse of involuntary 
action. Injustice is in no circumstances conceived as 
involuntary. There is an involuntary element, they 
think, in jealousy, and for this reason this too is a fault 
which men confess. 

Moving, then, as we do among men of this character, Seeing 

so bewildered, so ignorant of what they are saying, or of P 611 s 

., . , . , . ignorance 

what evil is theirs, or whether they have any, or what is we ought 

the reason of it, or how they are to be relieved, we ought to ^ e on 

T i i our guard, 

ourselves, I think, to be constantly on our guard, asking 

ourselves, Am I too perhaps one of them ? What impres 
sion have I of myself? How do I bear myself? Do I too 
bear myself as a man of prudence and self-control? Do 
I too sometimes say that I am educated to meet every 
emergency? Am I conscious, as the man who knows 
nothing should be, that I know nothing ? Do I come to lest we 

my teacher as to the oracles, prepared to obey, or do I too c me *? 

school in 
come to school like a driveller, to learn nothing but history the wrong 

and to understand the books which I did not understand 
before, and if it so chance, to expound them to others ? 

224 Discourses of Epictetus 

Man, you have had a boxing match with your slave at 
home, and turned your house upside down and disturbed 
your neighbours, and now do you come to me with a 
solemn air like a wise man and sit and criticize the way 
I interpret language, and how I rattle out anything that 
comes into my head? Do you come in a spirit of envy, 
depressed because nothing is brought you from home, 
and while the discussion is going on, sit thinking of 
nothing yourself but how you stand with your father or 
your brother? What are men at home saying about 
me? They are thinking now that I am making progress 
and say, " He will come back knowing everything ". I did 
indeed wish to return one day if I could, having learnt 
everything, but it needs hard work, and no one sends 
me anything and the baths are shockingly bad in Nicopolis, 
and I am badly off in my lodgings and in the lecture-room. 

Men carry Then they say, No one gets any good from the lecture- 
away from , , 
thelecture- room ! 
room what Why, who comes to the lecture-room? Who comes to 

OI / be cured? Who comes to have his judgements purified? 
Who comes that he may grow conscious of his needs ? 
Why are you surprised, then, that you carry away from 
school the very qualities you bring there, for you do not 
come to put away your opinions or to correct them, or to 
get others in exchange ? No, far from it ! What you 
must look to is whether you get what you come for. You 
wish to chatter about principles. Well, do you not come 
away with lighter tongues than before? Does not school 
afford you material for displaying your precious princi 
ples? Do you not analyse variable syllogisms? Do you 

Book //, Chapter 21 2 2 f 

not pursue the assumptions of The Liar 1 and hypothe 
tical propositions? Why then do you go on being vexed 
at getting what you come for ? If you 

Yes, but if my child or my brother die, or if I must want 
be racked and die myself, what good will such things to f ace 
do me ? trouble, 

What ! is this what you came for ? Is this what you ^ ot as k f or 
sit by me for? Did you ever light your lamp or sit up syllogisms, 
late for this ? Or, when you have gone out for a walk, have to Sc h 00 i 
you ever put a conception before your mind instead of with a 
a syllogism and pursued this with your companion ? When Deace 
have you ever done so ? Then you say, Principles are 
useless. To whom? To those who use them wrongly. 
For collyrium is not useless to those who anoint themselves 
at the right time and in the right way, plasters are not 
useless, leaping-weights are not useless, but only useless to 
some, and again useful to others. 

If you ask me now, Are syllogisms useful ? I shall 
say they are useful, and if you wish I will prove it. 

What good have they done me then ? 

Man, did you ask whether they were useful in general, 
or useful to you ? Suppose a man suffering from dysentery 
asked me, Is vinegar useful ? I shall say it is. Is it 
useful to me ? I shall say. No ; seek first to get your 
flux stayed, and your ulcerations healed. It is the same 
with you. You must first attend to your ulcers, and 
stay your flux, and arrive at peace in your mind and bring 
it to school undistracted, and then you will discover how 
wonderful the power of reason is. 

546.241 p 

226 Discourses of Epictetus 

The wise 
man alone 
can love 
for he 
what is 



man is 

subject to 





On Friendship. 

A MAN naturally loves those things in which he is 
interested. Now do men take an interest in things evil? 
Certainly not. Do they take interest in what does 
not concern them? No, they do not. It follows then 
that they are interested in good things alone, and if 
interested in them, therefore love them too. Whoever 
then has knowledge of good things, would know how to 
love them ; but how could one who cannot distinguish 
good things from evil and things indifferent from both 
have power to love? Therefore the wise man alone has 
power to love. 

Nay, how is this ? says one. I am not wise, yet 
I love my child. 

By the gods, I am surprised, to begin with, at your 
admission that you are not wise. What do you lack? 
Do you not enjoy sensation, do you not distinguish impres 
sions, do you not supply your body with the food that is 
suited to it, and with shelter and a dwelling? How is it 
then that you admit that you are foolish? I suppose 
because you are often disturbed and bewildered by your 
impressions, and overcome by their persuasive powers, 
so that the very things that at one moment you consider 
good you presently consider bad and afterwards indifferent ; 
and, in a word, you are subject to pain, fear, envy, confusion, 
change : that is why you confess yourself to be foolish 

Book 77, Chapter 22 

And do you not change in your affections ? Do you 
believe at one time that wealth and pleasure and mere 
outward things are good, and at another time that they 
are evil, and do you not regard the same persons now as 
good, now as bad, and sometimes feel friendly towards 
them, sometimes unfriendly, and now praise, now blame 
them ? 

Yes. I am subject to these feelings. 

Well then ; do you think a man can be a friend to 
anything about which he is deceived ? 

Not at all. 

Nor can he whose choice of a friend is subject to change 
bear good will to him ? 

No, he cannot. 

Can he who first reviles a man and then admires him ? and there- 

i -NT i > fore his 

No, he cannot. affection 

Again, did you never see curs fawning on one another can be 
and playing with one another, so that you say nothing t ^ 
could be friendlier ? But to see what friendship is, throw personal 
a piece of meat among them and you will learn. So with 
you and your dear boy : throw a bit of land between you, 
and you will learn how your boy wishes to give you a 
speedy burial, and you pray for the boy to die. Then 
you cry out again, What a child I have reared ! he is 
impatient to bury me . Throw a pretty maid between 
you and suppose you both love her, you the old man, and 
he the young man. Or suppose you throw a bit of glory 
between you. And if you have to risk your life, you will 
use the words of Admetus father : 

Ton love the light; shall not your father love it? 
p 2 

will out 
weigh all 

228 Discourses of Epictetus 

Do you think that he did not love his own child when it 
was small, and was not distressed when it had the fever, 
and did not often say, Would it were I who had the fever 
instead! ? yet when the event came close upon him, see 
what words they utter ! Were not Eteocles and Polynices 
born of the same mother and the same father? Were 
they not reared together, did they not live together, drink 
together, sleep together, often kiss one another, so that if 
one had seen them he would, no doubt, have laughed at 
the paradoxes of philosophers on friendship. Yet when 
the bit of meat, in the shape of a king s throne, fell 
between them, see what they say : 

E. Where wilt stand upon the tower ? 

P. Wherefore dost thou ask me this ? 

E. / will face thee then and slay thee. 

P. I desire thy blood no less. 

Yes, such are the prayers they utter ! 

For be not deceived, every creature, to speak generally, 
is attached to nothing so much as to its own interest. 
Whatever then seems to hinder his way to this, be it 
a brother or a father or a child, the object of his passion 
or his own lover, he hates him, guards against him, curses 
him. For his nature is to love nothing so much as his 
own interest ; this is his father and brother and kinsfolk 
and country and god. At any rate, when the gods seem 
to hinder us in regard to this we revile even the gods 
and overthrow their statues and set fire to their temples, 
as Alexander ordered the shrines of Asclepius to be burnt 
when the object of his passion died. Therefore if interest, 

Book //, Chapter 22 229 

religion and honour, country, parents and friends are set 
in the same scale, then all are safe ; but if interest is in 
one scale, and in the other friends and country and kindred 
and justice itself, all these are weighed down by interest 
and disappear. For the creature must needs incline to 
that side where I and mine are ; if they are in the 
flesh, the ruling power must be there ; if in the will, it 
must be there ; if in external things, it must be there. 

If then I identify myself with my will, then and only Love can 
then shall I be a friend and son and father in the true i -^ a 
sense. For this will be my interest to guard my man finds 
character for good faith, honour, forbearance, self-control, ^ yg w ju 
and service of others, to maintain my relations with 
others. 1 But if I separate myself from what is noble, 
then Epicurus statement is confirmed, which declares 
that there is no such thing as the noble or at best it is 
but the creature of opinion . 

It was this ignorance that made the Athenians and The wars 
Lacedaemonians quarrel with one another, and the r ~- 

Thebans with both, and the Great King with Hellas, men find- 
and the Macedonians with Hellas and the King, and I^QJ^JQ 
now the Romans with the Getae ; and yet earlier outward 
this was the reason of the wars with Ilion. Paris 
was the guest of Menelaus, and any one who had seen 
the courtesies they used to one another would not 
have believed one who denied that they were friends. 
But a morsel was thrown between them, in the shape 
of a pretty woman, and for that there was war ! So 
now, when you see friends or brothers who seem to 
be of one mind, do not therefore pronounce upon their 

230 Discourses of Epictetus 

friendship, though they swear to it and say it is impossible 
for them to part with one another. The Governing Prin 
ciple of the bad man is not to be trusted ; it is uncertain, 
irresolute, conquered now by one impression, now by an 
other. The question you must ask is, not what others ask, 
whether they were born of the same parents and brought 
up together and under the charge of the same slave ; but 
this question only, where they put their interest outside 
them or in the will. If they put it outside, do not call 
them friends, any more than you can call them faithful, or 
stable, or confident, or free ; nay, do not call them even 
men, if you are wise. For it is no human judgement which 
makes them bite one another and revile one another and 
occupy deserts or market-places like wild beasts 2 and be 
have like robbers in the law-courts ; and which makes them 
guilty of profligacy and adultery and seduction and the 
other offences men commit against one another. There 
is one judgement and one only which is responsible for 
all this that they set themselves and all their interests 
When men elsewhere than in their will. But if you hear that these 

find their men j n y truth believe the good to lie only in the 
good in J 

the region region of the will and in dealing rightly with impressions, 

of the will y OU nee( j trouble yourself no more as to whether a man 

friendship, is son or father, whether they are brothers, or have been 

familiar companions for years ; I say, if you grasp this one 

fact and no more, you may pronounce with confidence 

that they are friends, as you may that they are faithful 

and just. For where else is friendship but where faith 

and honour are, where men give and take what is good, 

and nothing else ? 

Book //, Chapter 22 231 

But he has paid me attention all this time : did he not 
love me ? 

How do you know, slave, whether he has paid you this 
attention, as a man cleans his boots, or tends his beast? 
How do you know whether, when you have lost your use 
as a paltry vessel, he will not throw you away like a broken 
plate ? 

1 But she is my wife and we have lived together this 
long time. 

How long did Eriphyle live with Amphiaraus, aye, and 
was mother of many children ? But a necklace came 
between them. 

What do you mean by a necklace ? 

Man s judgement about good and evil. This was the 
brutish element, this was what broke up the friendship, 
which suffered not the wife to be true to her wedlock, 
nor the mother to be a mother indeed. So let every 
one of you, who is anxious himself to be friend to an- Without 

other or to win another for his friend, uproot these lt: , 
. . r cannot be. 

judgements, hate them, drive them out of his mind. If 

he does that, then first he will never revile himself or be 
in conflict with himself, he will be free from change of 
mind, and self-torture ; secondly he will be friendly to 
his neighbour, always and absolutely, if he be like himself, 
and if he be unlike, he will bear with him, be gentle and 
tender with him, considerate to him as to one who is 
ignorant and in error about the highest matters ; not 
hard upon any man, for he knows of a certainty Plato s 
saying, No soul is robbed of the truth save involuntarily . 
But if you fail to do this, you may do everything else 

232 Discourses of Epictetus 

that friends do drink together and live under the same 
roof and sail in the same ship and be born of the same 
parents ; well, the same may be true of snakes, but 
neither they nor you will be capable of friendship so long 
as you retain these brutish and revolting judgements. 


On the faculty of expression. 

The EVERY one can read a book with the more pleasure and 

faculty of vi- 

expression ease tne plainer the letters in which it is written. So too 

has its every one can listen more easily to discourse which is ex- 

value, like , . . . I,.. 

other pressed in becoming and distinguished language. We must 

faculties, therefore not say that the faculty of expression is nothing. 
To say so is at once irreligious and cowardly ; irreligious 
because it means disparaging God s gifts, just as though 
one should deny the usefulness of the faculty of vision or 
hearing or even the faculty of speech. Was it for nothing 
then that God gave you your eyes ? Was it for nothing He 
mingled with them a spirit 1 so powerful and cunningly de 
vised, that even from a distance they can fashion the shapes 
of what they see? And what messenger is so swift and 
attentive as they? Was it for nothing that He made the 
intervening air so active and sensitive that vision passes 
through it as through a tense medium ? Was it for nothing 
that He made light, without the presence of which all the 
rest would have been useless? 

not un g ra tcful, nor again forget higher things ! 

ill C 

Book //, Chapter 23 233 

Give thanks to God for sight and hearing, yes, and for ordinate 

life itself and what is conducive to life for grain and fruit. to *" e 


for wine and oil ; but remember that He has given you faculty 

another gift superior to all these, the faculty which shall 
use them, test them, and calculate the value of each. 
For what is it that pronounces on each of these faculties, 
and decides their value? Is it the faculty itself, in each 
case ? Did you ever hear the faculty of vision saying any 
thing about itself ? or the faculty of hearing ? 2 No, these 
faculties are ordained as ministers and slaves to serve the 
faculty which deals with impressions. And if you ask what 
each is worth, whom do you ask? Who answers you ? How 
then can any other faculty be superior to this, which uses 
the rest as its servants and itself tests each result and 
pronounces on it? Which of those faculties knows what 
it is and what it is worth, which of them knows when it 
ought to be used and when it ought not? What is the 
faculty that opens and closes the eyes and brings them 
near some objects and turns them away, at need, from 
others ? Is it the faculty of vision ? No, it is the faculty of Which de- 

will. What is it that closes and opens the ears ? What is te r p ines 

r _ their value 

it that makes us curious and questioning, or again unmoved 

by discourse? Is it the faculty of hearing? It is no other 
faculty but that of the will. 

I say, when the will sees that all the other faculties 
which surround it are blind and deaf and are unable to 
see anything else beyond the very objects for which they 
are ordained to minister to this faculty and serve it, and 
this alone has clear sight and surveys the rest and itself 
and estimates their value, is it likely to pronounce that 

234 Discourses of Epictetus 

any other faculty but itself is the highest? What is the 
function of the eye, when opened, but to see ? But what 
is it tells us whether we ought to look at a man s wife or 
how? The faculty of will. What tells us whether we 
ought to believe or disbelieve what we are told, and if 
we believe whether we are to be excited or not ? Is it not 
the faculty of will ? This faculty of eloquence I spoke 
of, if such special faculty there be, concerned with the 
framing of fair phrases, does no more than construct and 
adorn phrases, when there is an occasion for discourse, just 
as hairdressers arrange and adorn the hair. But whether 
it is better to speak or be silent, and to speak in this way 
or that, and whether it is proper or improper in a word, 
to decide the occasion and the use for each discourse, all 
these are questions for one faculty only, that of the will. 
Would you have it come forward and pronounce against 
itself ? 

But , says the objector, what if. the matter stands 

thus, what if that which ministers can be superior to 

that which it serves, the horse to the horseman, the 

hound to the hunter, the lyre to him that plays it, the 

The will servants to the king they serve ? The answer is : What 

dependent is it: that USCS Other thin & S ? The wil1 What is h that 

and un- attends to everything ? The will. What is it that destroys 

hindered. t j le w h o i e marij now by starvation, now by a halter, now 

by a headlong fall? The will. Is there then anything 

stronger in men than this ? Nay, how can things that 

are subject to hindrance be stronger than that which is 

unhindered ? What has power to hinder the faculty of 

vision? Will and events beyond the will. The faculty 

Book //, Chapter 23 235- 

of hearing and that of speech are subject to the same 
hindrance. But what can hinder the will ? Nothing 
beyond the will, only the perversion of the will itself. 
Therefore vice or virtue resides in this alone. Yet being 
so mighty a faculty, ordained to rule all the rest, you 
would have it come forward and tell us that the flesh 
is of all things most excellent. Why, if the flesh itself 
asserted that it was the most excellent of things, one 
would not tolerate it even then. But as it is, Epicurus, 
what is the faculty that pronounces this judgement ? Is it 
the faculty which has written on The End or Physics 
or The Standard ? The faculty which made you grow 
your beard as a philosopher ? which wrote in the hour 
of death I am living my last day and that a blessed 
one ? 3 Is this faculty flesh or will ? Surely it is madness 
to admit that you have a faculty superior to this. Can 
you be in truth so blind and deaf? 

What follows ? Do we disparage the other faculties ? Do not de- 
God forbid. Do we say that there is no use nor advance- sp lse tner 
ment save in the faculty of will ? God forbid ! that were but give 
foolish, irreligious, ungrateful toward God. We are only ie - n j 
giving each thing its due. For there is use in an ass, 
but not so much as in an ox there is use in a dog, but 
not so much as in a servant ; there is use in a servant, 
but not so much as in a fellow-citizen ; there is use in 
them too, but not so much as in those who govern them. 

Yet because other faculties are higher we must not , 

. . Eloquence 

depreciate the use which inferior faculties yield. The has its 

faculty of eloquence has its value, but it is not so great 

\ is not the 

as that of the will ; but when 1 say this, let no one suppose highest. 

Yet to 
deny its 
value is 
ful and 




256 Discourses of Epictetus 

that I bid you neglect your manner of speech, any more 
than I would have you neglect eyes or ears or hands or 
feet or clothes or shoes. 

But if you ask me, What then is the highest of all 
things, what am I to say ? The faculty of speech ? 
I cannot say that. No, the faculty of will, when it is in 
the right way. For it is this which controls the faculty 
of speech and all other faculties small and great. When 
this is set in the right course, a man becomes good ; when 
it fails, man becomes bad ; it is this which makes our 
fortune bad or good, this which makes us critical of one 
another or well content ; in a word, to ignore this means 
misery, to attend to it means happiness. 

Yet to do away with the faculty of eloquence and deny 
its existence is indeed not only ungrateful to those who 
have given it, but shows a coward s spirit. For he who 
denies it seems to me to fear that, if there is a faculty of 
eloquence, we may not be able to despise it. It is just 
the same with those who deny that there is any difference 
between beauty and ugliness. What ! are we to believe 
that the sight of Thersites could move men as much as the 
sight of Achilles, and the sight of Helen no more than the 
sight of an ordinary woman ? No, these are the words of 
foolish and uneducated persons, who do not know one 
thing from another, and who fear that if once one becomes 
aware of such differences, one may be overwhelmed and 

No, the great thing is this to leave each in possession 
of his own faculty, and so leaving him to see the value 
of the faculty, and to understand what is the highest of 

Book //, Chapter 23 237 

all things and to pursue this always, and concentrate but con- 
your interest on this, counting all other things subordinate c ^ r . at ^ on 
to this, yet not failing to attend to them too so far as 
you may. For even to the eyes you must attend, yet not 
as though they were the highest, but to these also for 
the sake of the highest ; for the highest will not fulfil its 
proper nature unless it uses the eyes with reason, and 
chooses one thing rather than another. 

What then do we see men doing? They are like a man To culti- 
returning to his own country who finding a good inn on 
his road, stays on there because it pleases him. Man, unduly is 
you are forgetting your purpose ! You were not travelling ? 
to this, but through it. inn instead 

Yes, but this is a fine inn. 

And how many other fine inns are there, and how road, 
many fine meadows ? But they are merely to pass through ; 
your purpose is yonder ; to return to your country, to 
relieve your kinsfolk of their fears, to fulfil your own 
duties as a citizen, to marry, beget children, and hold 
office in due course. For you have not come into the 
world to choose your pick of fine places, but to live and 
move in the place where you were born and appointed 
to be a citizen. The same principle holds good in what 
we are discussing. Our road to perfection must needs 
lie through instruction and the spoken word ; and one 
must purify the will and bring into right order the faculty 
which deals with impressions ; and principles must be 
communicated in a particular style, with some variety 
and epigram. But this being so, some people are attracted 
by the very means they are using and stay where they are, 

238 Discourses of Epictetus 

one caught by style, another by syllogisms, a third by 
variable arguments, and a fourth by some other seductive 
inn by the way ; and there they stay on and moulder 
away, like those whom the Sirens entertain. 

Man, the purpose set before you was to make yourself 
capable of dealing with the impressions that you meet as 
nature orders, so as not to fail in what you will to get, 
nor to fall into what you will to avoid, never suffering mis 
fortune or bad fortune, free, unhindered, unconstrained, 
conforming to the governance of God, obeying this, well 
pleased with this, criticizing none, blaming none, able 
to say these lines with your whole heart, 

Lead, me, O Zeus, and tbou my Destiny. 

It is to Having this purpose before you, are you going to stay 

*Jj where you are just because a pretty phrase or certain 

pose of life, precepts please you, and choose to make your home there, 
forgetting what you have left at home, and say, These 
things are fine ? Who says they are not fine ? But they 
are fine as things to pass through, as inns by the way. 
What prevents you from being unfortunate, though you 
speak like Demosthenes ? Though you can analyse syllogisms 
like Chrysippus, what prevents you from being wretched, 
mournful, envious in a word, bewildered and miserable ? 
Nothing prevents you. Do you see then that these were 
inns of no value ; and the goal set before you was different ? 
Certain persons when I say this think I am disparaging 
the study of rhetoric or of principles. No, I am not 
depreciating that, but only the tendency to dwell un 
ceasingly on such matters and to set your hopes on them. 

Book 77, Chapter 23 239 

If any man does his hearers harm by bringing this truth 
home to them, count me among those who do this harm. 
But when I see that what is highest and most sovereign is 
something different, I cannot say that it is what it is not 
in order to gratify you. 


To one whom he did not think worthy, 

SOME one said to him, I often came to you, desiring to To listen 
hear you and you never gave me an answer, and now, if it P r P er V 
may be, I beg you to say something to me . as much 

Do you think, he replied, that there is an art of speaking, ^ as , 
like other arts, and that he who has it will speak with properly, 
skill and he who has it not, without skill ? 

I think so. 

Is it true then that he who by his speech gains benefit 
himself and is able to benefit others would speak with skill, 
and he who tends to be harmed himself and harm others 
would be unskilled in the art of speaking? 

Yes, you would find that some are harmed, some 

But what of the hearers? Are they all benefited by 
what they hear, or would you find that of them too some 
are benefited and some harmed? 

Yes, that is true of them too , he said. 

Here too then it is true that those who hear with skill 
are benefited, and those who hear without skill are harmed ? 

He agreed. 

240 Discourses of Epictetus 

Is there then a skill in hearing as well as in speaking? 

So it appears. 

If you will, look at the question thus. Whose part do 
you think it is to touch an instrument musically? 

The musician s. 

And whose part do you think it is to make a statue 

The sculptor s. 

Does it not seem to you to require any art to look at 
a statue with skill? 

Yes, this requires art too. 

If then right speaking demands a skilled person, do 
you see that hearing with profit also demands a skilled 
person? As for perfection and profit in the full sense, 
that, if you like, we may for the moment dismiss, as we 
are both far from anything of that sort ; but this I think 
every one would admit, that he who is to listen to philo 
sophers must have at least some practice in listening. Is 
it not so? 

Therefore Show me then what it is you would have me speak to 
aski to you about. What are you able to hear about ? About 

be taught things good and bad ? Good what ? A good horse ? 

unless you < XT , 

are able 

to listen. A good ox ? 


What then ? A good man ? 


Do we know then what man is, what his nature is, what 
the notion is ? Are our ears open in any degree with 
regard to this ? Nay, do you understand what Nature is, 

Book //, Chapter 24 241 

or can you in any measure follow me when I speak? Am 
I to demonstrate to you? How am I to do it? Do you 
really understand what demonstration is, or how a thing 
is demonstrated, or by what means, or what processes arc 
like demonstration without being demonstrations? Do 
you know what is true or what is false, what follows what, 
what is in conflict, or disagreement or discord with what ? 
Can I rouse you to philosophy? How can I show you the 
conflict of the multitude, their disputes as to things 
good and evil, useful and harmful, when you do not so 
much as know what conflict is ? Show me then what good 
I shall do you by conversing with you. 

Rouse my interest. It is im- 

As the sheep when he sees the grass that suits him P ossl t>le to 
i i ! i in awaken 

has his desire roused to eat, but it you set a stone or loal by interest 

him he will not be roused, so there are in us certain without a 
..... , ,. . responsive 

natural inclinations toward discourse, when the appro- listener. 

priate hearer appears and provokes the inclination ; but 
if he lies there like a stone or a piece of grass, how can he 
rouse a man s will? Does the vine say to the farmer, 
Attend to me ? No, its very appearance shows that 
it will be to his profit to attend to it and so calls out his 
energies. Who does not answer the call of winning and 
saucy children to play with them and crawl with them 
and talk nonsense with them, but who wants to play or 
bray with an ass? However small he may be, he is still 
an as?. 

Why then do you say nothing to me ? Some 

There is only one thing I can say to you, that he who ^P ^ ge 
is ignorant who he is and for what he is born and what the and of the 
546-24 1 

242 Discourses of Epictetus 

world is world is that he is in and who are his fellows, and what 

necessary faines are good and evil, noble and base ; who cannot 

if you are 

to follow understand reasoning or demonstration, or what is true 

nature. Qr w j iat fa j se ^ anc j j s una bl e to distinguish them, such a 
man will not follow nature in his will to get or to avoid, 
in his impulses or designs, in assent, refusal, or withholding 
of assent ; to sum up, he will go about the world deaf and 
blind, thinking himself somebody, when he is really 
nobody. Do you think there is anything new in this? 
Ever since the race of men began, have not all errors and 
misfortunes arisen from this ignorance? 

All errors Why did Agamemnon and Achilles quarrel with one 

ha . ve another? Was it not because they did not know what was 


from want expedient or inexpedient? Did not one say that it was 

ofthls - expedient to give back Chryseis to her father, and the 
other that it was not? Did not one say that he ought to 
take the other s prize, and the other that he ought not ? 
Did not this too make them forget who they were and for 
what they had come ? 

Let be, man, what have you come for? To win women 
for your love or to make war ? 

To make war. 

With whom? Trojans or Greeks? 


Why then do you leave Hector and draw your sword 
on your own king ? And you, best of men, have you left 
your duties as a king, 

trusted with dans and all their mighty cares, 
to fight a duel for a paltry damsel with the most warlike 

Book //, Chapter 24 243 

of your allies, whom you ought by all means to respect 
and guard ? Do you show yourself inferior to the courteous 
high priest who pays all attention to you noble gladiators ? 
Do you see what ignorance as to things expedient 
leads to ? 

But I too am rich. You are no 

Are you any richer than Agamemnon ? TT . 

But I am handsome as well. heroes. 

Are you any handsomer than Achilles ? 

But I have a fine head of hair. 

Had not Achilles a finer, and golden hair too, and he 
did not comb and smooth it to look fine ? 

But I am strong. 

Can you lift a stone as big as Hector or Ajax could? 

But I am noble too. 

Was your mother a goddess, or your father of the seed of 
Zeus? What good do these things do Achilles, when he 
sits weeping for his darling mistress? 

But I am an orator. 

And was not he? Do not you see how he handled 
Odysseus and Phoenix, the most eloquent of the Hellenes, 
how he shut their mouths ? 

This is all I can say to you, and even this I have no 
heart for. 

Why ? 

Because you do not excite my interest. Is there any- If you 

thing in vou to excite me as men who keep horses are want to 

J hear, you 

excited at sight of a well-bred horse? Your poor body? must show 

You make an ugly figure. Your clothes? They are too your , 
luxurious. Your air, your countenance? There is nothing 

244 Discourses of Epictetus 

to see. When you wish to hear a philosopher, do not say 
to him, You say nothing to me, but only show yourself 
worthy to hear and you will see how you will rouse him to 
discourse ! 


How the art of reasoning is necessary. 

WHEN one of his audience said, Convince me that logic 
is useful, he said. 

Would you have me demonstrate it? 


Well, then, must I not use a demonstrative argument? 

And, when the other agreed, he said, How then shall 
you know if I impose upon you ? And when the man 
had no answer, he said, You see how you yourself admit 
that logic is necessary, if without it you are not even able 
to learn this much whether it is necessary or not. 


What is the distinctive character of error. 

Error EVERY error implies conflict ; for since he who errs does 

conflict" 1 not w * sn to wron g but to go right, plainly he is not 
doing what he wishes. For what does the thief wish to 
do? What is to his interest. If then thieving is against 
his interest, he is not doing what he wishes. But every 
rational soul by nature dislikes conflict ; and so, as long 
as a man does not understand that he is in conflict, there 

Rook 11, Chapter 26 245- 

is nothing to prevent him from doing conflicting acts, but, 
whenever he understands, strong necessity makes him 
abandon the conflict and avoid it, just as bitter necessity 
makes a man renounce a falsehood when he discovers it, 
though as long as he has not this impression he assents 
to it as true. 

He then who can show to each man the conflict which You can 
causes his error, and can clearly bring home to him how " r o r S b P 
he fails to do what he wishes and does what he does not exposing 
wish, is powerful in argument and strong to encourage 
and convict. For if one shows this, a man will retire from 
his error of himself ; but as long as you do not succeed 
in showing this, you need not wonder if he persists in 
his error, for he acts because he has an impression that 
he is right. That is why Socrates too, relying on this 
faculty, said, I am not wont to produce any other witness 
to support what I say, but am content with him to whom 
I am talking on each occasion ; it is his vote that I take, 
his evidence that I call, and his sole word suffices instead 
of all. For Socrates knew what moves the rational soul, 
and that it will incline to what moves it, whether it wishes 
to or not. 1 Show the conflict to the rational Governing 
Principle and it will desist. If you do not show it, blame 
yourself rather than him who refuses to obey.