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[The left hand column notes refer to the appropriate sections of the Latin text of Epictetus by Johannes Schweighäuser, 1799, or his Greek and Latin version of 1798, it is not clear which. These references are taken from the last pages of the written text. The Notes for this book, that are also at the end of the volume, have been incorporated at the end of each chapter on this webpage. Click on the footnote number and you will jump to it, click on that number again, and you will leap back to that place in the text.  — Elf.Ed.]

From The Teaching of Epictetus: Being the ‘Encheiridion of Epictetus,’ with Selections from the ‘Dissertations’ and ‘Fragments,’ translated from the Greek, with Introduction and Notes, by T. W. Rolleston; Chicago; Donohue, Henneberry & Co; undated; pp. 207-248.


The Teaching of Epictetus
translated from the Greek, with Introduction and Notes,
by T. W. Rolleston.





Ench. XXXIII. 1-6. 1.  Ordain for thyself forthwith a certain form and type of conduct, which thou shalt maintain both alone and, when it may chance, among men.

2.  And for the most part keep silence, or speak only what is necessary, and in few words. But when occasion may call thee to speak, then speak, but sparingly, and not about any subject at hap-hazard, nor about gladiators, nor horse races, nor athletes, nor things to eat and drink, which are talked of everywhere; but, above all, not about men, as blaming or praising or comparing them.

If, then, thou art able, let thy discourse draw that of the company towards what is seemly and good. But if thou find thyself apart among men of another sort, keep silence.

3.  Laugh not much, nor at many things, nor unrestrainedly.

4.  Refuse altogether, if thou canst, to take an oath; if thou canst not, then as the circumstances allow.1


5.  Shun banquets given by strangers and by the vulgar. But if any occasion bring thee to them, give strictest heed, lest thou fall unawares into the ways of the vulgar. For know that if thy companion be corrupt, he who hath conversation with him must needs be corrupted also, even if himself should chance to be pure.

Diss. III. xvi. 5-9 6.  Hath any of you the art of a lute-player when he takes the lute in his hand, so as at once when he hath touched the strings to know which are out of tune, and then to tune the instrument? — such a gift as Socrates had, who in every company could lead those that were with him to his own topic? Whence should you have it? but ye must needs be carried about hither and thither by the vulgar. And wherefore, then, are they stronger than ye? For that they speak their sorry stuff from belief; but ye, your fine talk from the lips out. Wherefore it is flat and dead; and sickening it is to hear your exhortations and this wretched virtue of yours, which is prated of in every quarter. And thus the vulgar conquer you. For everywhere belief is mighty, belief is invincible. Until then the right opinions are hardened in you; and until ye shall have gained a certain strength for your safety, I counsel you to mingle cautiously with the vulgar, else every day, like wax in the sun, shall whatever hath been written in you in the school be melted away.


Ench. XXXIII. 7-16. 7.  In things that concern the body accept so far as the bare need — as in food, drink, clothing, habitation, servants. But all that makes for glory of luxury thou must utterly proscribe.

8.  Concerning intercourse of the sexes, it is right to be pure before marriage, to the best of thy power. But, using it, let a man have to do only with what is lawful. Yet be not grievous to those who use such pleasures, nor censorious; nor be often putting thyself forward as not using them.

9.  If one shall bear thee word that such a one hath spoken evil of thee, then do not defend thyself against his accusations, but make answer: He little knew my other vices, or he had not mentioned only these.

10.  There is no necessity to go often to the arena, but if occasion should take thee there, do not appear ardent on any man’s side but thine own; that is to say, choose that only to happen which does happen, and that the conqueror may be simply he who wins; for so shalt thou not be thwarted. But from shouting and laughing at this or that, or violent gesticulation, thou must utterly abstain. And when thou art gone away, converse little on the things that have passed, so far as they make not for thine own correction. For from that it would appear that admiration of the spectacle had overcome thee.

11.  Go not freely nor indiscriminately to 21 recitations.2 But if thou go, then preserve (yet without being grievous to others) thy gravity and calmness.

12.  When thou art about to meet any one, especially one of those that are thought high in rank, set before thy mind what Socrates or Zeno had done in such a case. And so thou wilt not fail to deal is it behooves thee with the occasion.

13.  When thou goest to any of those that are great in power, set before thy mind the case that thou wilt not find him at home, that thou wilt be shut out, that the door may be slammed in thy face, that he will take no notice of thee. And if even with these things it behooves thee to go, then go and bear all that happens; and never say to thyself — It was not worth this. For that is the part of the foolish, and of those that are offended at outward things.

14.  In company, be it far from thee to dwell much and over-measure on thine own deeds and dangers. For to dwell on thine own dangers is pleasant indeed to thee, but not equally pleasant for others is it to hear of the things that have chanced to thee.

15.  Be if far from thee to move laughter. For that habit is a slippery descent into vulgarity;3 and it is always enough to relax thy neighbor’s respect for thee.

16.  And it is dangerous to approach to vicious conversation. Therefore, when anything of the kind may arise, rebuke, if there 211 is opportunity, him who approaches thereto. But if not, then at least by silence and blushing and grave looks, let it be plain that his talk is disagreeable to thee.


1  Simplicius explains that the oath was to be refused, because to call God to witness in any merely personal and earthly interest implies a want of reverence towards Him; but that if there were a question of pledging one’s faith on behalf of friends, or parents, or country, it was not improper to add the confirmation of an oath.

2  Upton quotes allusions to these recitations from Juvenal, Martial, and Pliny. Authors would read their own works and invite crowds of flatterers to attend. Epict. Diss. iii. 23. (Schweighäuser) is a scornful diatribe against the pretentious people who held forth on these occasions, and the people who assembled to hear and applaud them. He contrasts with fashionable reciters and lecturers his own master, Rufus. “Rufus was wont to say, I speak to no purpose, if ye have time to praise me. And, verily, he spoke in such a way that every man who sat there thought that some one had accused him to Rufus, he so handled all that was going on, he so set before each man’s eyes his faults.”

3  Into vulgarity — εἰς  ἰδιωτισμόν.



Diss. II. xviii. 1-21 to
ἀπσθανόντων .
1.  Every skill and faculty is maintained and increased by the corresponding acts; as, the faculty of walking by walking, of running by running. If you will read aloud well, then do it constantly; if you will write, then write. But when you have not read aloud for thirty days together, but done something else, you shall see the result. Thus, if you have lain down for ten days, then rise up and endeavor to walk a good distance, and you shall see how your legs are enfeebled. In general, then, if you would make yourself skilled in anything, then do it; and if you would refrain from anything, then do it not, but use yourself to do rather some other thing instead of it.

2.  And thus it is in spiritual things also. When thou art wrathful, know that not this single evil hath happened to thee, but that thou hast increased the aptness to it, and, as it were, poured oil upon the fire. When thou art overcome in passion, think not that this defeat is all; but thou hast nourished 212 thine incontinence, and increased it. For it is impossible but that aptitudes and faculties should spring up where they were not before, or spread and grow mightier, by the corresponding acts. And thus, surely, do also, as the philosopher says, the infirmities of the soul grow up. For when thou hast once been covetous of money, if Reason, which leadeth to a sense of the vice, be called to aid, then both the desire is set at rest, and our ruling faculty is re-established, as it was in the beginning. But if thou bring no remedy to aid, then shall the soul return no more to the first estate; but when next excited by the corresponding appearance, shall be kindled to desire even more quickly than before. And when this is continually happening, the soul becomes callous in the end, and through its infirmity the love of money is strengthened. For he that hath had a fever, when the illness hath left him, is not what he was before his fever, unless he have been entirely healed. And somewhat on this wise also it happens in the affection of the soul: certain traces and scars are left in it, the which if a man do not wholly eradicate, when he hath been again scourged on the same place, it shall make no longer scars, but sores.

3.  Wouldst thou, then, be no longer of a wrathful temper? Then do not nourish the aptness to it, give it nothing that will increase it, be tranquil from the outset, and number 213 the days when thou hast not been wrathful. I have not been wrathful now for one, now for two, now for three days; but if thou have saved thirty days, then sacrifice to God. For the aptness is at first enfeebled, and then destroyed. To-day I was not vexed, nor to-morrow, nor for two or three months together; but I was heedful when anything happened to move me thus. Know that thou are in good case. To-day, when I saw a fair woman, I did not say to myself, Would that one could possess her; nor, Happy is her husband, for he who saith this saith also, Happy is her paramour; nor do I picture to my mind what should follow. But I stroke my head, and say, Well done, Epictetus! you have solved a fine sophism, finer by far than the master sophism. But if she were also willing and consenting, and sent to me, and drew near to me, and I should yet restrain myself and conquer, this were indeed then a sophism above the Liar, above the Quiescent. Verily, for this a man’s spirit may rightly swell, and not for propounding the master sophism.1

4.  How, then, may this come to pass? Resolve at last to seek thine own commendation, to appear fair in the eyes of God; desire to become pure with thine own pure self, and with God. Then when thou shalt fall in with any appearance such as we have spoken of, what saith Plato? Go to the purifying 214 sacrifices, go and pray in the temples of the protecting Gods.2 It shall even suffice if thou seek the company of good and wise men, and try thyself by one of them, whether he be one of the living or of the dead.

Diss. II. xviii. 23-32. 5.  By opposing these remedies thou shalt conquer the appearance, nor be led captive by it. But at the outset, be not swept away by the vehemence of it; but say, Await me a little, thou appearance; let me see what thou art, an with what thou hast to do; let me approve thee. And then permit it not to lead thee forward, and to picture to thee what should follow, else it shall take possession of the, and carry thee whithersoever it will. But rather bring in against it some other fair and noble appearance, and therewithal cast out this vile one. And if thou use to exercise thyself in this way, thou shalt see what shoulders and nerves and sinews thou wilt have! But now we have only wordiness, and nothing more.

6.  This is the true athlete,3 he who exerciseth himself against appearances. Hold, unhappy man! be not swept away. Great is the contest, divine the task, for kingship, for freedom, for prosperity, for tranquillity. Be mindful of God, call Him to be thy helper and defender, as men at sea call upon the Dioscuri in a storm.4 For what greater tempest is there than that which proceedeth from appearances that 215 mightily overcome and expel the Reason? Yea, a storm itself, what is it but an appearance? For, take away only the dread of death, and bring as many thunderings and lightnings as thou wilt, and thou shalt see what fair weather and calm there will be in the ruling faculty. But if having been once defeated, thou shalt say, The next time I will conquer; and then the same thing over again, be sure that in the end thou wilt be brought to such a sorry and feeble state that henceforth thou wilt not so much as know that thou art sinning; but thou wilt begin to make excuses for the thing, and then confirm that saying of Hesiod to be true: — 

“With ills unending strives the putter off.”

 — Works and Days, 411.

Diss. IV. xii. 19-21. 7.  What then? can a man make this resolve, and so stand up faultless? He cannot; but this much he can — to be ever straining towards faultlessness. For happy it were if, by never relaxing this industrious heed, we shall rid ourselves of at least a few of our faults. But now, when thou sayest, From to-morrow I shall be heedful, know that this is what thou art saying: — To-day I shall be shameless, importunate, abject; it shall be in others’ power to afflict me; to-day I shall be wrathful, envious. Lo, to how many vices dost thou give place! But if aught be well to-morrow, how much better to-day? if to-morrow suit, how much better to-day? Yea, 216 and for this, too, that thou mayest have the power to-morrow, and not again put it off till the third day.


1  The sophism, or puzzle, called the Liar, ran thus: — A liar says he lies: if it is true, he is no liar; and if he lies, he is speaking truth. The Quiescent (ὁ  ἡσυχάζων) was an invention attributed by Cicero to Chrysippus (Acad. ii. 29). When asked of a gradually-increasing number of things to say when they ceased to be few and became many, he was wont to cease replying, or be “quiescent,” shortly before the limit was reached — a device which we have some difficulty in regarding as a fair example of Chrysippus’s contributions to the science of logic. For the master sophism see B. II. chap. i., note 1.

2  Plato, Laws., ix.: — “When any of such opinions visit thee, go to the purifying sacrifices, go and pray in the temples of the protecting Gods, go to the society of men whom thou hast heard of as good; and now hear from others, now say for thine own part, that it behooves every man to hold in regard the things that are honorable and righteous. But from the company of evil men, fly without a look behind. And if in doing these things thy disease give ground, well; but if not, hold death the better choice, and depart from life.”

3  The true athlete. — Literally, ascetic, ἀσκητής; i. e., practicer.

4  The Dioscuri, or Twins, Castor and Pollux, were the patron deities of sailors.



Diss. II. xii. 1-4 1.  What things a man must have learned in order to be able to reason well have been accurately defined by our philosophers; but in the fitting use of them we are wholly unexercised. Give any one of us whom ye please some ignorant man for a disputant, and he shall find no way to deal with him; but if, when he hath moved him a little, the man answer beside the purpose, he is no longer able to manage him, but either he will revile him, or mock him, and say, He is an ignorant fellow; nothing can be done with him.

2.  But a guide, when he hath found one straying from the way, leads him into the proper road, and does not mock him or revile him, and then go away. And do thou show such a man the truth, and thou shalt see that he will follow it. But so long as thou dost not show it, mock him not, but be sensible rather of thine own incapacity.

Diss. II. xii. 17-25. 3.  But what? this business of instruction is not very safe at present, and least of all 217 in Rome; for he who pursues it will of course feel constrained not to do it in a corner, but he must go to some man of consular rank, it may be, or some rich man, and inquire of him: Sir, can you tell me to whom you have committed the care of your horses? Surely. Was it, then, to any chance-comer and one inexperienced about horses? By no means. Well, then, to whom are your gold and silver vessels and raiment entrusted? Neither are these committed to any chance person. And your body, have you already sought out one to whom to commit the care of it? How not? And that also one who is experienced in training and medicine? Assuredly. Whether now, are these the best things you have, or do you possess aught that is better than all of them? What thing do you mean? That, by Zeus, which useth all these, and approveth each of them and taketh counsel? Is it the soul, then, that you mean? You have conceived me rightly; it is even this. Truly I hold that I possess in this something much better than everything else. Can you then declare to us in what manner you have taken thought for your soul? for it is not likely that a wise man like yourself, and one of repute in the State, would overlook the best thing you possess, and use no diligence or design bout it, but leave it neglected and perishing? Surely not. But do you provide for it yourself? and have 218 you learned the way from another, or discovered it yourself?

4.  And then at last there is danger lest he say first, Good sir, what is this to you? who are you? and then, if you persist in troubling him, that he may lift up his hands and smite you. Once I too was an admirer of this method until I fell into these difficulties.



Ench. XXXIV. 1.  When thou hast received the appearance of some pleasure, then, as in other things, guard thyself lest thou be carried away by it, but delay with thyself a little, and let the thing await thee for a while. Then bethink thyself of the two periods of time, one when thou shalt be enjoying the pleasure, the other, when, having enjoyed it, thou shalt afterwards repent of it and reproach thyself. And set on the other side how thou shalt rejoice and commend thyself if thou abstain.

2.  But if it seem reasonable to thee to do the thing, beware lest thou have been conquered by the flattery and the sweetness and the allurement of it. But set on the other side how much better were the consciousness of having won that victory.




Ench. XXXV. 1.  In doing aught which thou hast clearly discerned as right to do, seek never to avoid being seen in the doing of it, even though the multitude should be destined to form some wrong opinion concerning it. For if thou dost not right, avoid the deed itself. But if rightly, why fear those who will wrongly rebuke thee?



Ench. XXXVI 1.  As the sayings, It is day, It is night, are wholly justifiable, if viewed disjunctively, but not if viewed together, even so at a feast, to pick out the largest portion for one’s self may be justifiable, if we look to the needs of the body alone, but is unjustifiable if viewed as it concerns the preservation of the proper community in the feast. Therefore, in eating with another person, remember not to look only at the value for the body of the things that are set before thee, but to 220 preserve also the reverence due to the giver of the feast.


1  If viewed disjunctively. — That is, if we say, It is day, or, It is night. This is a difficult chapter, and full of corruptions. The feast alluded to is, doubtless, the feast of life, where the Gods are the hosts.



Ench. XXXVII. 1.  If thou hast assumed a part beyond thy power to play, then thou hast both come to shame in that, and missed one thou couldst have well performed.

Diss. I. ii. 30-32. 2.  And some one having inquired, How then, shall each of us perceive what character he befits? Whence, said Epitectus, doth the bull alone, when the lion approacheth, discover his own capacity, and advance to defend the herd? It is clear that with the capacity is ever joined the perception of the same, and thus, whoever of us may possess a like capacity will not be ignorant of it. But a bull is not made in a moment, nor is a man of generous spirit; but we must have preparation and winter-training1 and not lightly rush upon things that do not concern us.


1  Winter training. — Such as the Roman troops underwent in winter-quarters. They were accustomed to exercise themselves with arms of double the normal weight, and prepare themselves by marching, running, leaping, etc., for active service.



Ench. XXXVIII. 1.  In going about, you are careful not to step upon a nail or to twist your foot. Care thus 221 also lest you injure your ruling faculty. And if we observe this in each thing we do, we shall the more safely undertake it.



Ench. XXXIX. 1.  The measure of gain for each man is the body, as the foot is for the shoe. Take your stand on this, and you shall preserve the measure. But if you transgress it, you must thenceforth be borne, as it were, down a steep. And so it is with the shoe, for it you will go beyond the measure of the foot, the shoe will be first gilded, then dyed purple, then embroidered. For that which hath once transgressed its measure hath no longer any limit.



Ench. XL.   From the age of fourteen years women are flattered and worshiped by men. Seeing thus that there is nothing else for them but to serve the pleasure of men, they begin to beautify themselves, and to place all their hopes in this. It were well, then, that they should perceive themselves to be prized for nothing else than modesty and decorum.




Ench. XLI.   It betokens a dull nature to be greatly occupied in matters that concern the body, as to be much concerned about exercising one’s self, or eating, or drinking, or other bodily acts. But these things should be done by the way, and all attention be given to the mind.



Diss. III. i. 1-9. 1.  A certain young man, a rhetorician, having come to Epitectus with his hair dressed in an unusually elaborate way, and his other attire much adorned, Tell me, said Epitectus, think you not that some dogs are beautiful, and some horses, and so of the other animals?

 — “I do think it,” said he.

And men too — are not some beautiful and some ill-favored?

 — “How otherwise?”

Whether, then, do we call each of these 223 beautiful for the same reasons and in the same kind, or each for something proper to itself? And you shall see the matter thus: Inasmuch as we observe a dog to be formed by nature for one end, and a horse for another, and, let us say, a nightingale for another, we may in general say, not unreasonably, that each of them is then beautiful when it is excellent according to its own nature; but since the nature of each is different, different also, it seems to me, is the manner of being beautiful in each. Is it not so?

He acknowledged that it was.

Therefore, that which maketh a dog beautiful maketh a horse ill-favored; and that which maketh a horse beautiful, a dog ill-favored; if, indeed, their natures are different?

 — “So it seems.”

And that which maketh a beautiful Pancratiast,1 the same maketh a wrestler not good, and a runner utterly laughable? And he who is beautiful for the Pentathlon is very bad for wresting?

 — “It is so,” he said.

What is it, then, that makes a man beautiful? Is it not that which, in its kind, makes also a dog or a horse beautiful?

 — “It is that,” he answered.

What, then, makes a dog beautiful? The presence of the virtue of a dog. And a horse? The presence of the virtue of a horse. 224 And what, then, a man? Is it not also the presence of the virtue of a man? And, O youth, if thou wouldst be beautiful, do thou labor to perfect this, the virtue of a human being. But what is it? Look whom you praise when you praise any without affection — is it the righteous or the unrighteous?

 — “The righteous.”

Is it the temperate or the profligate?

 — “The temperate.”

Is it the continent or the incontinent?

 — “The continent.”

Then making yourself such a one as you praise, you will know that you are making yourself beautiful; but so long as you neglect these things, though you sought out every device to appear beautiful, you must of necessity be ugly.

Diss. III. i. 40-44. 2.  For thou art not flesh and hair, but a Will: if thou keep this beautiful, then wilt thou be beautiful. But so far I dare not tell thee that thou art ugly, for I think thou wilt more easily bear to hear anything else than this. But see what Socrates saith to Alcibiades, the most beautiful and blooming of men: Endeavor, then, to be beautiful; and what saith he? Curl thy locks, and pluck out the hairs of thy legs? God forbid. But Set thy Will in order, cast out evil doctrines.

 — “And how then shall we deal with the body?”

As nature made it. Another hath cared for this; commit it to Him.


 — “But what? Shall the body then be uncleansed?”

God forbid. But that which thou art and wast made by Nature, cleanse this; let a man be clean as a man, a woman as a woman, a child as a child.

Diss. IV. xi. 22-29. 3.  For we ought not even by the aspect of the body to scare away the multitude from philosophy; but by his body, as in all other things, a philosopher should show himself cheerful, and free from troubles. Behold, friends, how I have nothing and need nothing; behold how I am homeless and landless, and an exile, if so it chance, and hearthless, and yet I live more free from troubles than all the lordly and the rich. But look on my body, too; ye see that it is not the worse for my hard life. But if one saith this to me, having the countenance and garb of a condemned criminal what God shall persuade me to approach to philosophy which makes such men as this? God forbid! I would not, were it even to become a sage.

4.  I, indeed, by the Gods, had rather a young man in his first movement towards philosophy came to me with his hair curled than disheveled and foul. For a certain impression of the beautiful is to be seen in him, and an aim at which is becoming; and to the thing wherein it seemeth to him to lie, there he applies his art. Thenceforth, it only needs to show him its true place, and to say, Young man, thou seekest the beautiful, 226 and thou dost well. Know, then, that it flourishes there where thy Reason is; there seek it where are thy likes and dislikes, thy pursuits and avoidances, for this is what thou hast in thyself of choice and precious, but the body is by nature mud. Why dost thou spend thy labor upon it in vain? for that the body is naught, Time shall certainly teach thee, though it teacheth thee nothing else. But if one come to me foul and filthy, and a mustache down to the knees, what have I to say to him? with what image or likeness can I draw him on? For with what that is like unto Beauty hath he ever busied himself, so as I may set him on another course, and say, Not here is Beauty, but there? Will you have me tell him, Beauty consists not in being befouled, but in the Reason? For doth he even seek Beauty? hath he any impression of it in his mind? Go, and reason with a hog, that he shall not roll himself in the mud.

Diss. IV. xi. 35, 36. 5.  Behold a youth worthy of love — behold an old man worthy to love, and to be loved in return; to whom one may commit his sons, his daughters, to be taught; to whom young men may come, if it please you — that he may deliver lectures to them on a dung-hill! God forbid. Every extravagance arises from something in human nature, but this is near to being one that is not human.


1  The Pancratium was a contest in which boxing and wrestling were both allowable. For the Pentahlon, see Bk. II. Chap. xvii., note 3.)




Ench. XLII.   When some one may do you an injury, or speak ill of you, remember that he either does it or speaks it believing that it is right and meet for him to do so. It is not possible, then, that he can follow the thing that appears to you, but the thing that appears to him. Wherefore, if it appear evil to him, it is he that is injured, being deceived. For also if any one should take a true consequence to be false, it is not the consequence that is injured, but he which is deceived. Setting out, then, from those opinions, you will bear a gentle mind towards any man who may revile you. For, say on each occasion, So it appeared to him.



Ench. XLIII.   Every matter hath two handles — by the one it may be carried; by the other, not. If thy brother do thee wrong, take not this thing by the handle, He wrongs me; for that 228 is the handle whereby it may not be carried. But take it rather by the handle, He is my brother, nourished with me; and thou wilt take it by a handle whereby it may be carried.



Ench. XLIV.   There is no true conclusion in these reasonings: I am richer than thou, therefore I am better: I am more eloquent than thou, therefore I am better. But the conclusions are rather these; I an richer than thou, therefore my wealth is better: I am more eloquent than thou, therefore my speech is better. But thou art not wealth, and thou art not speech.



Ench. XLV. 1.  Doth a man bathe himself quickly? Then, say not, Wrongly, but Quickly. Doth he drink much wine? Then say not, Wrongly, but Much. For whence do you know if it were ill done till you have understood his opinion?

2.  Thus it shall not befall you to assent 229 to any other things than those whereof you are truly and directly sensible.1

Diss. I. xxviii. 1-9. 3.  What is the cause of assenting to anything? The appearance that it is so. But if it appear to be not so, it is impossible to assent to it. Wherefore? For that is the nature of the mind, to receive the true with favor, the false with disfavor, and the uncertain with indifference. The proof of this? Be sure, if you can, at this moment, that it is night. You cannot. Cease to be sure that it is day. You cannot. Be sure that the stars are odd in number, or that they are even. You cannot. When, therefore, any man shall assent to what is false, know that he had no will to consent to falsehood; for, as saith Plato, no soul is willingly deprived of the truth, but the false appeared to it to be true. Come, then, what have we in actions corresponding to this true and false? The seemly and unseemly, the profitable and the unprofitable, that which concerns me and that which doth not concern me, and such like. Can any man think that a certain thing is for his profit, and not elect to do it? He cannot. How, then, is it with her who saith — 

“And will I know the evils I shall do,
  But wrath is lord of all my purposes?”

Medea, 1079.

For, did she hold this very thing, to gratify her wrath and avenge herself on her husband, 230 more profitable than to spare her children? Even so: but she was deceived. Show her clearly that she was deceived, and she will not do it; but so long as you show it not, what else hath she to follow than the thing as it appears to her? Nothing. Wherefore, then, have you indignation with her, that the unhappy wretch has gone astray concerning the greatest things, and has become a viper instead of a human being? If anything, will you not rather pity, as we pity the blind and the lame, those that are blinded and lamed in the chiefest of their faculties?

Diss. I. xxviii. 11-25. 4. — “So that all these great and dreadful deeds have this same origin in the appearance of the thing?”

The same, and no other. The Iliad is nought but appearance, and the use of appearances. The thing that appeared to Paris was the carrying off of the wife of Menelaus; the thing that appeared to Helen was to accompany him. Had it, then, appeared to Menelaus to be sensible that it was a gain to be deprived of such a wife, what would have happened? Not only had there been no Iliad, but no Odyssey neither.

 — “On such a little thing do such great ones hang?”

But what talk is this of great things? Wars and seditions and destructions of many men, and overthrow of cities? And what is there of great in these? Nothing. For what is there of greatness in the deaths of 231 many oxen and sheep, and the burning or overthrow of many nests of swallow or storks?

 — “But are these things like unto those?

They are most like. The bodies of men are destroyed, and the bodies of oxen and of sheep. The dwellings of men are burned, and the nests of storks. What is there great, what is there awful in this? Or show me wherein differeth the dwelling of a man, as a dwelling, from the nest of a stork, save that the one buildeth his little houses of planks and tiles and bricks, and the other of sticks and mud?

 — “Are a stork and a man, then, alike?”

What say you? In body they are most like.

 — “Doth a man, then, differ in no respect from a stork?”

Go forbid; but in these matters there is no difference.

 — “Wherein, then, doth he differ?

Seek, and you shall find that in another thing there is a difference. Look if it be not in the observing and studying of what he doth; look if it be not in his social instinct, in his faith, his reverence, his steadfastness, his understanding. Where, then, is the great Good or Evil for man? There, where the difference is. If this be saved, and abide, as it were, in a fortress, and reverence 232 be not depraved, nor faith, nor understanding, then is the man also saved. But if one of these things perish, or be taken by storm, then doth the man also perish. And in this it is that great actions are done. It was a mighty downfall, they say, for Paris, when the Greeks came, and when they sacked Troy, and when his brothers perished. Not so: for through another’s act can no man fall — that was the sacking of the storks’ nests. But the downfall was then when he lost reverence and faith, when he betrayed hospitality and violated decorum. When was the fall of Achilles? When Patroclus died? God forbid; but when he was wrathful, when he bewept at loss of his girl, when he forgot that he was there not to win mistresses but to make war. These, for men, are downfall and storming and overthrow, when right opinions are demolished or depraved.


1  This means, apparently, that the judgment has no right to do more than endorse the deliverances of the perceptive faculty. If a man commits any error, he does it under the conviction that it is in some way for his profit or satisfaction; that is, that there is something of the nature of the Good in it. He may be mistaken in this; but so long αs he does noτ know where Good and Evil really lie, he can do no other than he does. The true course, then, for the philosopher is not to condemn him for his actions, but to show him the fundamental error from which they proceed. The expression, “assent,” συγκατατίθεσθαι, is that used by Epictetus in II. vi., etc., where he speaks of the mind as being imposed on, or taken captive, by the outward shows of things.



E. XLVI. 1.  Thou shalt never proclaim thyself a philosopher, nor speak much among the vulgar of the philosophic maxims; but do the things that follow from the maxims. For example, do not discourse at a feast upon 233 how one ought to eat, but eat as one ought. For remember that even so Socrates everywhere banished ostentation, so that men used to come to him desiring that he would recommend them to teachers of philosophy, and he brought them away and did so, so well did he bear to be overlooked.

2.  And if among the vulgar discourse should arise concerning some maxim of thy philosophy, do thou, for the most part, keep silence, for there is great risk that thou straightway vomit up what thou hast not digested. And when some one shall say to thee, Thou knowest naught, and it bites thee not, then know that thou hast begun the work.

3.  And as sheep do not bring their food to the shepherds to show how much they have eaten, but digesting inwardly their provender, bear outwardly wool and milk, even so do not thou, for the most part, display the maxims before the vulgar, but rather the works which follow from them when they are digested.



Ench. XLVII.   When you have adapted the body to a frugal way of living, do not flatter yourself on that, nor if you drink only water, say, on every 234 opportunity, I drink only water. And if you desire at any time to inure yourself to labor and endurance, do it to yourself and not unto the world. And do not embrace the statues; but some time when you are exceedingly thirsty take a mouthful of cold water, and spit it out, and say nothing about it.



E. XLVIII. 1.  The position and token of the vulgar: he looks never to himself for benefit or hurt, but always to outward things. The position and character of the philosopher: he looks for benefit or hurt only to himself.

2.  The tokens of one that is making advance; he blames none, he praises none, he accuses none, he complains none; he speaks never of himself, as being somewhat, or as knowing aught. When he is thwarted or hindered in aught, he accuseth himself. If one should praise him, he laughs at him in his sleeve; if one should blame him, he makes no defense. He goes about like the sick and feeble, fearing to move the parts that are settling together before they have taken hold. He hath taken out of himself all pursuit, and hath turned all avoidance to things in our power which are contrary to nature. Toward all things he will keep his 235 inclination slack. If he is thought foolish or unlearned, he regardeth it not. In a word, he watches himself as he would a treacherous enemy.



Diss. I. xvii. 1, 2. 1.  Since Reason is that by which all other things are organized and perfected,1 it is meet that itself should not remain unorganized. But by what shall it be organized? For it is clear that this must be either by itself or by some other thing. But this must be Reason; or something else which is greater than Reason, which is impossible.

Diss. I. xvii. 4-12. 2.  “Yea,” one may say, “but it is more pressing to cure our vices, and the like.”

You desire, then, to hear something of these things? Hear then; but if you shall say to me, I know not if you are reasoning truly or falsely? or if I utter something ambiguous, and you shall bid me distinguish, shall I lose patience with you and tell you, It is more pressing to cure our vices than chop logic?

3.  For this reason I think the logical are set at the beginning of our study, even as before the measuring of corn we set the examination of the measure. For unless we 236 shall first establish what is a modius2 and what is a balance, how shall we be able to measure or weigh anything?

4.  In this case, then, if you have not understood and accurately investigated the criterion of all other things, and that through which they are understood, shall we be able to investigate and understand anything else? and how could we? Yea, but a modius is a wooden thing, and barren. But it measures corn. And logic is also barren. As regards this, indeed, we shall see. But even if one should grant this, it sufficeth that logic is that which distinguishes and investigates other things, and, as one may say, measures and weighs them. Who saith these things? is it Chrysippus alone and Zeno and Cleanthes? but doth not Antisthenes3 say it? And who wrote that the investigation of terms is the beginning of education? — was it not Socrates? and of whom doth Xenophon write that he began with the investigation of terms, what each of them signified.


1  The Greek is Ἐπειδὴ  λόγη   ἐστὶν  ὁ  διαρθρῶν   καὶ  ἐξεργαζόμενος  τὰ  λοιπά.    διαθρόω means, literally, to fashion with joints, hence constitute organically, with interdependence of parts. Long translates “analyze.”

2  Modius. — A measure of about two gallons.

3  Antisthenes, about 400 B. C., founder of the Cynic school, which was established by him in the gymnasium called the Cynosarges (hence the name). As a Cynic, his authority would, of course, be respected by the hearers of Epictetus. This investigation of terms, or names, is, indeed, the beginning of philosophy and the guide to truth in any sphere, but perhaps not every one is competent to undertake it. There must be a real and not merely a formal appreciation of the contents of each term. A primrose is one thing to Peter Bell and another to Wordsworth. The term, let us say, Duty, is one thing to a Herbert Spencer and another to a Kant.



Ench. XLIX.   When some one may exalt himself in that he is able to understand and expound the works of Chrysippus, say then to thyself: 237 If Chrysippus had not written obscurely, this man would have had nothing whereon to exalt himself. But I, what do I desire? Is it not to learn to understand Nature and to follow her? I inquire, then, who can expound Nature to me, and hearing that Chrysippus can, I betake myself to him. But I do not understand his writings, therefore I seek an expounder for them. And so far there is nothing exalted. But when I have found the expounder, it remaineth for me to put in practice what he declares to me, and in this alone is there anything exalted. But if I shall admire the bare exposition, what else have I made of myself than a grammarian instead of a philosopher, save, indeed, that the exposition is of Chrysippus and not of Homer? When, therefore, one may ask me to lecture on the philosophy of Chrysippus, I shall rather blush when I am not able to show forth works of a like nature and in harmony with the words.



Diss. II. xxiii. 1-10. 1.  The clearer be the characters in which a book is writ, the more pleasantly and conveniently shall any man read it. Thus also a man shall listen more conveniently to any 238 discourse if it be conveyed in well-ordered and graceful words. Be it not said, then, that there is no faculty of expression, for this is the thought of a man both impious and cowardly1 — impious, for he holds in disesteem the gracious gifts of God, as if he would take away the serviceable faculty of seeing, or of hearing, or indeed this of speaking. Did God give the eyes for nothing? And was it for nothing that He mingled in them a spirit of such might and cunning as to reach a long way off and receive the impression of visible forms — a messenger so swift and faithful? Was it for nothing that He gave the intervening air such efficacy, and made it elastic, so that being, in a manner, strained,2 our vision should traverse it? Was it for nothing that He made Light, without which there were not benefit of any other thing?

2.  Men, be not unthankful for these things, nor yet unmindful of better things. For seeing and hearing, and, by Zeus, for life itself, and the things that work together to maintain it, for dried fruits, for wine, for oil, do thou give thanks to God. But remember that He hath given thee another thing which is better than all these — that, namely, which uses them, which approves them, which taketh account of the worth of each. For what is that which declareth concerning all these faculties how much of them is worth? Is it the faculty itself? Heard you 239 ever the faculty of vision tell aught concerning itself? or that of hearing? or wheat, or barley, or a horse, or a dog? Nay, but as ministers and slaves are they appointed, to serve the faculty which makes use of appearances. And if you would learn how much any of them is worth, of whom will you inquire? who shall give answer? How then shall any other faculty be greater than this, which both useth the others as its servants, and the same approveth each of them, and declareth concerning them? For which of them knoweth what itself is, and what it is worth? Which of them knoweth when it behooves to make use of it, and when not? What is that which openeth and closeth the eyes, turning them away from things which they should not behold, and guiding them towards other things? Is it the faculty of vision? Nay, but the faculty of the Will. What is that which closeth and openeth the ears? — that in obedience to which they become busy and curious, or again, unmoved by what they hear? Is it the faculty of hearing? It is no other than that of the Will.

Diss. II. xxiii. 20-47. 3.  Being then so great a faculty, and set over all the rest, let it come to us and tell us that the best of existing things is the flesh! Not even if the flesh itself affirmed that it was the best, would any man have patience with it. Now what is it, Epitectus, which declares this doctrine, that the flesh is best, 240 which wrote concerning the End of Being, and on Laws of Nature, and on the Canon of Truth? — which let thy beard grow? which wrote, when dying, that it was spending its last day and a happy one?3 Is it the flesh or the Will? Wilt thou affirm, then, that thou hast aught better than the Will? Nay, but art thou not mad — so blind, in truth, and deaf as thou art?

4.  What then? Shall any man contemn the other faculties? God forbid! Doth any man say that there is no use or eminence in the faculty of eloquence? God forbid — that were senseless, impious, thankless towards God. But to each thing its true worth. For there is a certain use in an ass, but not so much as in an ox; and in a dog, but not so much as in a slave; and in a slave, but not so much as in a citizen; and in citizens, but not so much as in governors. Yet not because other things are better is the use which anything affords to be contemned. There is a certain worth in the faculty of eloquence, but not so much as in the Will. When, then, I speak thus, let no man deem that I would have you neglect the power of eloquence, for I would not have you neglect your eyes, or ears, or hands, or feet, or raiment, or shoes. But if one ask me which is, then, the best of existing things, what shall I say? The faculty of eloquence I cannot say, but that of the Will, when it is made right. For this is that which useth the other, and all 241 the other faculties, both small and great. When this is set right, a man that was not good becomes good; when it is not right, the man becomes evil. This is that whereby we fail or prosper — whereby we blame others, or approve them; the neglect of which is the misery, and the care of it the happiness, of mankind.

5.  But to take away the faculty of eloquence, and to say that there is in truth no such faculty, is not only the part of a thankless man toward Him who hath given it, but also of a cowardly. For such a one seemeth to me to fear lest if there be any faculty of this kind we shall not be able to despise it. Such are they also which say that there is no difference between beauty and ugliness. Then were a man to be affected in like manner on seeing Thersites and Achilles, or on seeing Helen and any common woman?4 Truly, a thought of fools and boors, and of men who know not the nature of each thing, but fear lest, if one perceive the difference, he shall be straightway swept away and overpowered by it. But the great thing is this — to leave to each the faculty that it hath, and so leaving it to scan the worth of the faculty, and to learn what is the greatest of existing things; and everywhere to pursue this, and be zealous about this, making all other things accessory to this, albeit, according to our powers, not neglecting even these. For of the eyes also must we take care, yet 242 not as of the best thing; yet of these, too, by the very exercise of the best thing; since that shall in no other wise subsist according to Nature save by wise dealing in these matters, and preferring certain things to others.

6.  But what is done in the world? As if a man journeying to his own country should pass by an excellent inn, and the inn being agreeable to him, should stay, and abide in it. Man, thou hast forgotten thy purpose; thy journeying was not to this, but through this. But this is pleasant. And how many inns are pleasant, and how many meadows? yet merely for passing through. But thy business is this, to arrive in thy native country, to remove the fears of thy kinsfolk, to do, thyself, the duties of a citizen, to marry, to beget children, to fill the customary offices. For thou art not come into this world to choose out its pleasanter places, but to dwell in those where thou wast born, and whereof thou wast appointed to be a citizen. And so in some wise it is with this matter. Since, by the aid of speech and such like deliverance, we must come to our aim, and purify the Will, and order aright the faculty which makes use of appearances; and it is necessary that this deliverance of the doctrines come to pass by a certain use of speech, and with a certain art and trenchancy of expression, there are some which are taken captive by these things themselves, 243 and abide in them — one in the gift of speech, and one in syllogisms, one in sophisms, and one in some such another of these inns, and there they linger and molder away, as though they were fallen among the Sirens.

7.  Man, thy business was to make thyself fit to use the appearances that encounter thee according to Nature, not missing what thou pursuest, nor falling into what thou wouldst avoid, never failing of good fortune, nor overtaken of ill fortune, free, unhindered, uncompelled, agreeing with the governance of Zeus, obedient unto the same, and well-pleased therein; blaming none, charging none, able of thy whole soul to utter these lines: —

“Lead me, O Zeus, and thou, Destiny!”

Then, having this for thy business, if some little matter of eloquence please thee, or certain speculations, wilt thou stay and abide in them, and elect to settle in them, forgetting all that is at home? and wilt thou say, These things are admirable? Who saith they are not admirable? but for passing through, like inns. What should hinder one that spoke like Demosthenes to be unfortunate? or one that could resolve syllogisms like Chrysippus to be miserable, to grieve, to envy; in a word, to be troubled and unhappy? Nothing. Thou seest now that all these things are but inns, and of no worth; but our business was another thing. When 244 I say these things to certain persons, they think I am rejecting all care about language or speculation. But I do not reject this: I reject the endless occupation with them, the putting our hopes in them. If a man by this teaching injureth those who hear him, reckon me also among those who do this injury. For I cannot, in order to please you, see that one thing is best and chief of all, and say that another is.5


1  “My friends fly all culture,” is an injunction reported of Epicurus (Diog. L. x. 6). However, neglect of form in literary style was a characteristic of philosophic writers of the Hellenistic period, which was by no means confined to the Epicureans.

2  This passage is corrupt. I follow the reading adopted by Schweighäuser (after Wolf); but it may be noted that Schweighäuser’s translation follows another reading than that which he adopts in his text, viz. — κινουμένου (being moved), instead of τεινομένου (being strained). The original, in all versions is γινομένου, which makes no sense at all. — See Preface, xxiii.

3  The writings enumerated are, of course, works of Epicurus. When dying, he wrote in a letter to a friend (Diog. L. x. 22) that he was spending a happy day, and his last.

4  Stoic ἀπάθεια was anything but insensibility. Chrysippus held that may things in the Kosmos were created for their beauty alone. — Zeller, 171.

5  There is another short chapter on the arts of ratiocination and expression (I. viii. Schw.), which glances at the subject from a somewhat different point of view from that taken in the chapter which I have given. There Epictetus dwells chiefly on the danger that weak spirits should lose themselves in the fascination of these arts: “For, in general, in every faculty acquired by the uninstructed and feeble there is danger lest they be elated and puffed up through it. For how could one contrive to persuade a young man who excels in such things that he must not be an appendage to them, but make them an appendage to him?”



Ench. L.   Abide in the precepts as in laws which it were impious to transgress. And whatsoever any man may say of thee, regard it not; for neither is this anything of thine own.



Ench. LI. 1.  How long wilt thou delay to hold thyself worthy of the best things, and to transgress in nothing but the decrees of Reason? Thou hast received the maxims by which it behooves thee to live; and dost thou live by 245 them? What teacher dost thou still look for to whom to hand over the task of thy correction? Thou art no longer a boy, but already a man full grown. If, then, thou art neglectful and sluggish, and ever making resolve after resolve, and fixing one day after another on which thou wilt begin to attend to thyself, thou wilt forget that thou art making no advance, but wilt go on as one of the vulgar sort, both living and dying.

2.  Now, at last, therefore hold thyself worthy to live as a man of full age and one who is pressing forward, and let everything that appeareth the best be to thee as in inviolable law. And if any toil or pleasure or reputation or the loss of it be laid upon thee, remember that now is the contest, here already are the Olympian games, and there is no deferring them any longer, and that in a single day and in a single trial ground is to be lost or gained.

3.  It was thus that Socrates made himself what he was, in all things, that befell him having regard to no other thing than Reason. But thou, albeit thou be yet no Socrates, yet as one that would be Socrates, so it behooveth thee to live.




Ench. LIII. 1.  The first and most necessary point in philosophy is the use of the precepts, for example, not to lie. The second is the proof of these, as, Whence it comes that it is wrong to lie? The third is that which giveth confirmation and coherence to the others, such as, Whence it comes that this is proof? for what is proof? what is consequence? what is contradiction? what is truth? what is falsehood?

2.  Thus the third point is necessary through the second, and the second through the first. But the most necessary of all, and that when we should rest, is the first. But we do the contrary. For we linger on the third point, and spend all our zeal on that, while of the first we are utterly neglectful, and thus we are liars; but the explanation of how it is shown to be wrong to lie we have ever ready to hand.




Ench. LIII.   Hold in readiness for every need, these — 

“Lead me, O Zeus, and thou, Destiny, whithersoever ye have appointed me to go, and may I follow fearlessly. But if in an evil mind I be unwilling, still must I follow.”

“That man is wise among us, and hath understanding of things divine, who hath nobly agreed with Necessity.

But the third also — 

“O Crito, if so it seem good to the Gods so let it be. Amytus and Meletus are able to kill me indeed, but to harm me, never.”1

The End.


1  The first of these quotations is from the Stoic Cleanthes, the second from a lost play of Euripedes; in the third Epictetus has joined together two sayings of Socrates, one from the Crito and one from the Apologia. Anytus and Meletus were the principal accusers of Socrates in the trial which ended in his sentence to death.

[This is the end of the translation, but the next pages contain Notes on Philosophic Terms used in Epictetus, as well as the Notes and References that have already been incorporated in the online text. — Elf.Ed.]

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