November 1

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

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §4. ¶1.

THESE reasonings are unconnected: "I am richer than you, therefore I am better"; "I am more eloquent than you, therefore I am better." The connection is rather this: "I am richer than you, therefore my property is greater than yours"; "I am more eloquent than you, therefore my style is better than yours." But you after all own neither property nor style.



October 5

NEVER either praise or blame any person on account of outward actions that are common to all, but on the account of principles. These are the peculiar property of each individual, and the things which make actions good or bad.


IS it not a cruel thing to forbid men to affect those things, which they conceive to agree best with their own natures, and to tend most to their own proper good and benefit? But you seem to want to deny them this liberty, as often as you are angry with them for their sins. For surely they are led unto those sins whatsoever they be, as to their proper good and commodity. But it is not so (that will object perchance). You therefore teach them better, and make it clear to them: but do not be angry with them.



October 4

SOCRATES very properly used to call these things masks: for, as masks appear shocking and formidable to children, from their inexperience, we are affected in like manner, with regard to things, for no other reason than as children are with regard to masks. For what is a child? Ignorance. What is a child? Want of learning; for, so far as the knowledge of children extends, they are not inferior to us. What is death? A mask. Turn it, and be convinced. See, it does not bite. This little body and spirit must be separated (as they formerly were) either now, or hereafter: why, then, are you displeased if it is now? For if not now, if will be hereafter.



October 3

MEN are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things. Death, for instance, is not terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates. But the terror consists in our notion of death that it is terrible. When therefore we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never impute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles. It is the action of an uninstructed person to lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others; of one entering upon instruction to lay the fault on himself; and of one perfectly instructed, neither on others nor on himself.



October 2

WHENEVER anyone exceeds moderation, the most delightful things may become the most undelightful.


IF you are struck by the appearance of any promised pleasure, guard yourself against being hurried away by it; but let the affair wait your leisure, and procure yourself some delay. Then bring to your mind both points of time: that in which you shall enjoy the pleasure, and that in which you will repent and reproach yourself after you have enjoyed it; and set before you, in opposition to these, how you will rejoice and applaud yourself if you abstain. And even though it should appear to you a seasonable gratification, take heed that its enticing and agreeable and attractive force may not subdue you; but set in opposition to this how much better it is to be conscious of having gained so great a victory.



October 1

WHEN any alarming news is brought you, always have it at hand that no news can be brought you concerning what is in your own choice. Can anyone bring you news that your opinions or desires are ill conducted? By no means; but that somebody is dead. What is that to you, then? That somebody speaks ill of you. And what is that to you, then?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §18. ¶1.

AS for praise and commendation, view their mind and understanding, what estate they are in; what kind of things they fly, and what things they seek after: and that as in the sea-side, whatsoever was before to be seen, is by the continual succession of new heaps of sand cast up one upon another, soon hid and covered; so in this life, all former things by those which immediately succeed.



September 30

OH, wretched I! to whom this mischance is happened! nay, happy I, to whom this thing being happened, I can continue without grief; neither wounded by that which is present, nor in fear of that which is to come. For as for this, it might have happened unto any man, but any man having such a thing befallen him, could not have continued without grief. Why then should that rather be an unhappiness, than this a happiness? But however, canst thou, O man! term that unhappiness, which is no mischance to the nature of man! Canst thou think that a mischance to the nature of man, which is not contrary to the end and will of his nature? What then hast thou learned is the will of man's nature? Doth that then which hath happened unto thee, hinder thee from being just? or magnanimous? or temperate? or wise? or circumspect? or true? or modest? or free? or from anything else of all those things in the present enjoying and possession whereof the nature of man (as then enjoying all that is proper unto her,) is fully satisfied?



September 29

BUT show me that he who hath the worst principles gets the advantage over him who hath the better. You never will show it, nor anything like it: for the law of nature and of God is this: Let the better be always superior to the worse.

In what?

In that wherein it is better. One body is stronger than another: many than one; and a thief than one who is not a thief. Thus I, too, lost my lamp because the thief was better at keeping awake than I. But he bought a lamp at the price of being a thief, a rogue, and a wild beast. This seemed to him a good bargain, and much good may it do him!



September 28

CAST away from thee opinion, and thou art safe. And what is it that hinders thee from casting of it away? When thou art grieved at anything, hast thou forgotten that all things happen according to the Nature of the Universe; and that him only it concerns, who is in fault; and moreover, that what is now done, is that which from ever hath been done in the world, and will ever be done, and is now done everywhere: how nearly all men are allied one to another by a kindred not of blood, nor of seed, but of the same mind. Thou hast also forgotten that every man's mind, partakes of the Deity, and issueth from thence; and that no man can properly call anything his own, no not his son, nor his body, nor his life; for that they all proceed from that One who is the giver of all things: that all things are but opinion; that no man lives properly, but that very instant of time which is now present. And therefore that no man whensoever he dieth can properly be said to lose any more, than an instant of time.



September 27

WHAT is this, that now my fancy is set upon? of what things doth it consist? how long can it last? which of all the virtues, is the proper virtue for this present use? as whether meekness, fortitude, truth, faith, sincerity, contentedness, or any of the rest? Of everything therefore thou must use thyself to say. This immediately comes from God, This by that fatal connection and concatenation of things, or (which almost comes to one) by some coincidental casualty. And as for this, it proceeds from my neighbour, my kinsman, my fellow: through his ignorance indeed, because he knows not what is truly natural unto him: But I know it, and therefore carry myself towards him according to the natural law of fellowship; that is kindly, and justly. As for those things that of themselves are altogether indifferent, as in my best judgment I conceive everything to deserve more or less, so I carry myself towards it.



September 26

LET us see your principles. For is it not evident that you consider your own choice as nothing, but look out for something external and independent on it? As, what such a one will say of you, and what you shall be thought: whether a man of letters, whether to have read Chrysippus or Antipater; for, if Archedemus too, you have everything you wish. Why are you still solicitous, lest you should not show us what you are? Will you let me tell you what you have showed us that you are? A mean, discontented, passionate, cowardly fellow; complaining of everything; accusing everybody; perpetually restless; good for nothing. This you have showed us.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶5.


September 25

LET not things future trouble thee. For if necessity so require that they come to pass, thou shalt (whensoever that is) be provided for them with the same reason, by which whatsoever is now present, is made both tolerable and acceptable unto thee. All things are linked and knitted together, and the knot is sacred, neither is there anything in the world, that is not kind and natural in regard of any other thing, or, that hath not some kind of reference, and natural correspondence with whatsoever is in the world besides. For all things are ranked together, and by that decency of its due place and order that each particular doth observe, they all concur together to the making of one and the same orderly composition.


AS several members are in one body united, so are reasonable creatures, in a body divided and dispersed, all made and prepared for one common operation.


THAT which is not good for the beehive, cannot be good for the bee.



September 24

FROM some high place as it were to look down, and to behold here flocks, and there sacrifices, without number; and all kind of navigation; some in a rough and stormy sea, and some in a calm: the general differences, or different estates of things, some, that are now first upon being; the several and mutual relations of those things that are together; and some other things that are at their last. Their lives also, who were long ago, and theirs who shall be hereafter, and the present estate and life of those many nations of Barbarians that are now in the world, thou must likewise consider in thy mind. And how many there be, who never so much as heard of thy Name, how many that will soon forget it ; how many who but even now did commend thee, within a very little while perchance will speak ill of thee. So that neither fame, nor honour, nor anything else that this world doth afford, is worth the while. The sum then of all; Whatsoever doth happen unto thee, whereof God is the cause, to accept it contentedly: whatsoever thou doest, whereof thou thyself art the cause, to do it justly: which will be, if both in thy resolution and in thy action thou have no further end, than to do good unto others, as being that, which by thy natural constitution, as a man, thou art bound unto.



September 23

WHAT behaviour, then, is assigned you in return? If you consider yourself as a wolf — to bite again, to throw more stones. But if you ask the question as a man, examine your treasure; see what faculties you have brought into the world with you. Are they dispositions to ferocity? to revenge? When is a horse miserable? When he is deprived of his natural faculties. Not when he cannot crow, but when he cannot run. And a dog? not when he cannot fly, but when he cannot hunt. Is not a man, then, also unhappy in the same manner? Not he who cannot strangle lions, (for he hath received no faculties for this purpose from nature) but who hath lost his rectitude of mind, and fidelity. Such a one is the person who ought to be publicly lamented for the misfortunes into which he is fallen.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §5. ¶2.


September 22

WHAT room is there, then, for quarrelling to a person thus disposed? For doth he wonder at anything that happens? Doth it appear new to him? Doth not he expect worse and more grievous injuries from bad people than happen to him? Doth he not reckon it so much gained, as they come short of the last extremities? Such a one hath reviled you. — You are much obliged to him that he hath not struck you. — But he hath struck you too. — You are much obliged to him that he hath not wounded you too. — But he hath wounded you too. — You are much obliged to him that he hath not killed you. For when did he ever learn, or from whom, that he is a gentle, that he is a social animal, that the very injury itself is a great mischief to the injurious? As, then, he hath not learned these things, nor believes them, why should he not follow what appears for his interest? Your neighbour hath thrown stones. What then? Is it any fault of yours? But your goods are broken. What then? Are you a piece of furniture? No, but your essence consists in the faculty of choice.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §5. ¶2.


September 21

"FOR what purpose have I received these things?" — To use them. "How long?" — As long as he who lent them pleases. If, then, they are not necessary, do not attach yourself to them, and they will not be so; do not tell yourself that they are necessary, and they are not.

This should be our study from morning till night, beginning from the least and frailest things, from an earthen vessel, from a glass. Afterwards, proceed to a suit of clothes, a dog, a horse, an estate; from thence to yourself, body, parts of the body, children, wife, brothers. Look everywhere around you, and throw them from yourself. Correct your principles. See that nothing cleave to you which is not your own; nothing grow to you that may give you pain when it is torn away. And say, when you are daily exercising yourself as you do here, not that you act the philosopher (admit this to be an insolent title), but that you are asserting your freedom. For this is true freedom. This is the freedom that Diogenes gained from Antisthenes, and declared it was impossible that he should ever after be a slave to anyone.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1. ¶13.


September 20

PASSION is produced no otherwise than by a disappointment of the desires, and an incurring of the aversions. It is this which introduces perturbations, tumults, misfortunes, and calamities; this is the spring of sorrow, lamentation, and envy; this renders us envious, and emulous, and incapable of hearing reason.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶2.

THIS faculty in particular we have received from nature, that whatsoever doth oppose itself unto her, and doth withstand her in her purposes and intentions, she doth, though against its will and intention, bring it about to herself, to serve herself of it in the execution of her own destined ends; and so by this though not intended co-operation of it with herself makes it part of herself whether it will or no. So may every reasonable Creature, what crosses or impediments soever it meets with in the course of this mortal life, it may use them as fit and proper objects, to the furtherance of whatsoever it intended, and absolutely proposed unto itself as its natural end and happiness.



September 19

THE more rarely the objects of pleasure occur, the more delightful they are.


LET not that chief commanding part of thy soul be ever subject to any variation through any corporal either pain or pleasure, neither suffer it to be mixed with these, but let it both circumscribe itself, and confine those affections to their own proper parts and members. But if at any time they do reflect, and rebound upon the mind and understanding (as in an united and compacted body it must needs;) then must thou not go about to resist sense and feeling, it being natural. However let not thy understanding to this natural sense and feeling, which whether unto our flesh pleasant or painful, is unto us nothing properly, add an opinion of either good or bad, and all is well.



September 18

HE is a man of sense who doth not grieve for what he hath not, but rejoices in what he hath.


HE that hath broken off the bonds of the body, and perceiving that in a very little while he must of necessity bid the World farewell, and leave all these things behind him, he wholly applied himself, as to righteousness in all his actions, so to the common Nature in all things that should happen unto him. And contenting himself with these two things, to do all things justly, and whatsoever God doth send to like well of it: what others shall either say or think of him, or shall do against him, he doth not so much as trouble his thoughts with it. To go on straight, whither right and reason directed him, and by so doing to follow God, was the only thing that he did mind, that, his only business and occupation.



September 17

UPON every accident, remember to turn towards yourself and inquire what powers you have for making a proper use of it. If you see a handsome person, you will find continence a power against this: if pain be presented to you, you will find fortitude: if ill language, you will find patience. And thus habituated, the appearances of things will not hurry you away along with them.


BE not elated on any excellence not your own. If a horse should be elated and say, "I am handsome," it would be supportable. But when you are elated, and say, "I have a handsome horse," know that you are elated on what is, in fact, only the good of the horse.



September 16

HE hath a stronger body, and is a better wrestler than I. What then? Is he more bountiful? is he more modest? Doth he bear all adverse chances with more equanimity: Or with his neighbour's offences with more meekness and gentleness than I?


A VERY ridiculous thing it is, that any man should dispense with vice and wickedness in himself, which is in his power to restrain; and should go about to suppress it in others, which is altogether impossible.



September 15

AND when you are thus prepared and thus exercised to distinguish what belongs to others from your own; what is liable to restraint from what is not; to esteem your own property, the other not; to keep your desire, to keep your aversion carefully turned to this point; whom have you any longer to fear? — "No one." For about what should you be afraid? About what is your own, in which consists the essence of good and evil? And who hath any power over this? Who can take it away? Who can hinder you? No more than God can be hindered. But are you afraid for body, for possessions, for what belongs to others, for what is nothing to you? And what have you been studying all this while, but to distinguish between your own and not your own; what is in your power and what is not in your power; what is liable to restraint and what is not?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1. ¶12.


September 14

"IS not my hand my own?" It is a part of you, but it is by nature clay, liable to restraint, to compulsion, a slave to everything stronger than itself. And why do I say your hand? You ought to possess your whole body as a paltry ass with a pack-saddle on, as long as may be, as long as it is allowed you. But if there should come a press and a soldier should lay hold on it, let it go. Do not resist or murmur, otherwise you will be first beat, and lose the ass after all. And, since you are to consider the body itself in this manner, think what remains to do concerning those things which are provided for the sake of the body. If that be an ass, the rest are bridles, pack-saddles, shoes, oats, hay, for the ass. Let these go too. Quit them more easily and expeditiously than the ass.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1. ¶12.


September 13

WHAT shall I do, then?

What do you do when you come out of a ship? Do you take away the rudder or the oars along with you? What do you take, then? Your own: your bottle, and your bundle. So in the present case, if you will remember what is your own, you will not claim what belongs to others. Are you bid to put off your consular robe? Well, I am in my equestrian. — Put off that too. Well, I am naked. — Still, you raise my envy. Then e'en take my whole body. If I can throw off a paltry body, am I any longer afraid of a tyrant?



September 12

Neither the labour which the hand does nor that of the foot is contrary to nature, so long as the foot does the foot's work and the hand the hand's. So then neither to a man, as a man, is his labour contrary to nature, so long as it does the things of a man. But if the labour is not contrary to his nature, neither is it an evil to him.

How many pleasures have been enjoyed by robbers, patricides, tyrants.


DOTH either the Sun take upon him to do that which belongs to the rain? or his son Esculapius that, which unto the Earth doth properly belong? How is it with every one of the stars in particular? Though they all differ one from another, and have their several charges and functions by themselves, do they not all nevertheless concur and co-operate to one end?



September 11

WHEN a person maintains his proper station in life, he doth not gape after externals. What would you have, man?

"I am contented if my desires and aversions are conformable to nature: if I manage my powers of pursuit and avoidance, my purposes and intentions and assent, in the manner I was formed to do."

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

"I could wish, moreover, to have all who meet me admire me, and all who follow me cry out. What a great philosopher!"

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



September 10

"WHAT, then, must my leg be lame?" And is it for one paltry leg, wretch, that you accuse the world? Why will you not give it up to the whole? Why will you not withdraw yourself from it? Why will you not gladly yield it to him who gave it? And will you be angry and discontented with the decrees of Jupiter, which he, with the Fates who spun in his presence the thread of your birth, ordained and appointed? Do not you know how very small a part you are of the whole? That is, as to body; for as to reason you are neither worse, nor less, than the gods. For reason is not measured by length or height, but by principles. Will you not therefore place your good there, where you are equal to the gods?



September 9

A GOOD eye must be good to see whatsoever is to be seen, and not green things only. For that is proper to sore eyes. So must a good ear, and a good smell be ready for whatsoever is either to be heard, or smelt: and a good stomach as indifferent to all kinds of food, as a millstone is, to whatsoever she was made for, to grind. As ready therefore must a sound understanding be for whatsoever shall happen. But he that saith, O that my Children might live! and, O that all men might commend me for whatsoever I do! is an eye that seeks after green things; or as teeth, after that which is tender.



September 8

REQUIRE not things to happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.


FIT and accommodate thyself to that estate and to those occurrences, which by the destinies have been annexed unto thee ; and love those men whom thy fate it is to live with; but love them truly. An instrument, a tool, an utensil, whatsoever it be, if it be fit for the purpose it was made for, it is as it should be, though he perchance that made and fitted it, be out of sight and gone. But in things natural, that power which hath framed and fitted them, is and abideth within them still: for which reason she ought also the more to be respected, and we are the more obliged (if we may live and pass our time according to her purpose and intention) to think that all is well with us, and according to our own minds. After this manner also, and in this respect, it is that he that is all in all doth enjoy his happiness.



September 7

IS that shameful to you which is not your own act? Of which you are not the cause? Which hath happened to you by accident, like a fever, or the headache? If your parents were poor, or left others their heirs, or, though they are living, do not assist you, are these things shameful for you? Is this what you have learned from the philosophers? Have you never heard, that what is shameful is blamable; and what is blamable deserves to be blamed? Whom do you blame for an action not his own, which he hath not done himself?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §26. ¶1.

SHAME doth not consist in not having anything to eat, but in not having reason enough to exempt you from fear and sorrow.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §24. ¶7.


September 6

PASSION this day forward, whenever we do anything wrong we will impute it only to the principle from which we act; and we will endeavour to remove that, and cut it up by the roots with greater care than we would wens and tumours from the body. In like manner, we will ascribe what we do right to the same cause; and we will accuse neither servant, nor neighbour, nor wife, nor children as the causes of any evils to us; persuaded that if we had not such principles, such consequences would not follow. Of these principles we ourselves, and not externals, are the masters.


THOROUGHLY consider, how man's life is but for a very moment of time, and so depart meek, and contented: even as if a ripe Olive falling, should praise the ground that bare her, and give thanks to the tree that begat her.



September 5

THE first difference between one of the vulgar and a philosopher is this: the one says, I am undone on the account of my child, my brother, my father; but the other, if ever he be obliged to say, I am undone! reflects, and adds, On account of myself. For choice cannot be restrained or hurt by anything to which choice doth not extend, but only by itself. If, therefore, we always would incline this way, and, whenever we are unsuccessful, would lay the fault on ourselves, and remember that there is no cause of perturbation and inconstancy but principle, I engage we should make some proficiency. But we set out in a very different way, from the very beginning. In infancy, for example, if we happen to stumble, our nurse doth not chide us, but beats the stone. Why, what harm hath the stone done? Was it to move out of its place for the folly of your child? Again, if we do not find something to eat when we come out of the bath, our governor doth not try to moderate our appetite, but beats the cook.



September 4

IF these things are true, and we are not stupid or acting a part when we say that the good or ill of man consists in choice, and that all besides is nothing to us, why are we still troubled? Why do we still fear? What hath been our concern is in no one's power; what is in the power of others we do not regard. What embarrassment have we left?

But direct me.

Why should I direct you? Hath not God directed you? Hath He not given you what is your own, incapable of restraint or hindrance; and what is not your own, liable to both? What directions, then, what orders have you brought from Him? "By all methods keep what is your own: what belongs to others do not covet. Honesty is your own; a sense of virtuous shame is your own. Who, then, can deprive you of these? Who can restrain you from making use of them but yourself? And how do you do it? When you make that your concern which is not your own, you lose what is." Having such precepts and directions from God, what sort do you still want from me? Am I better than He? More worthy of credit? If you observe these, what others do you need? Or are not these directions His?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §25. ¶1.


September 3

WHAT then, would you have it appear and bear testimony against itself? What means this? If the case be thus, that which serves may be superior to that to which it is subservient; the horse to the rider; the dog to the hunter; the instrument to the musician; or servants to the king. What is it that makes use of all the rest? Choice. What takes care of all? Choice. What destroys the whole man, at one time by hunger; at another by a rope or a precipice? Choice. Hath man, then, anything stronger than this? And how is it possible, that what is liable to restraint should be stronger than what is not? What hath a natural power of hindering the faculty of sight? Both choice, and what depends on choice. And it is the same of the faculties of hearing and speech. And what hath a natural power of hindering choice? Nothing independent on itself, only its own perversion. Therefore choice alone is vice; choice alone is virtue.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §23. ¶1.


September 2

WHETHER we ought to believe, or to disbelieve, what is said; or whether, if we do believe, we ought to be moved by it or not; what is it that tells us? Is it not the faculty of choice? Again, the very faculty of elocution, and that which ornaments discourse, if there be any such peculiar faculty, what doth it more than merely ornament and arrange expressions, as curlers do the hair? But whether it be better to speak or to be silent; or better to speak in this or in that manner; whether this be decent or indecent; and the season and use of each; what is it that tells us, but the faculty of choice?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §23. ¶1.


September 1

STAY wretch, do not be hurried away. The combat is great, the achievement divine; for empire, for freedom, for prosperity, for tranquillity. Remember God. Invoke Him for your aid and protector, as sailors do Castor and Pollux in a storm. For what storm is greater than that which arises from violent appearances, contending to overset our reason? Indeed, what is the storm itself, but appearance? For, do but take away the fear of death, and let there be as many thunders and lightnings as you please, you will find that, in the ruling faculty, all is serenity and calm: but if you are once defeated, and say you will get the victory another time, and then the same thing over again; assure yourself, you will at last be reduced to so weak and wretched a condition, that you will not so much as know when you do amiss; but you will even begin to make defences for your behaviour, and thus verify the saying of Hesiod: "With constant ills the dilatory strive."

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §18, ¶5.

March 31

IF a person could be persuaded of this principle as he ought, that we are all originally descended from God, and that He is the Father of gods and men, I conceive he never would think meanly or degenerately concerning himself.


UPON all occasions we ought to have these maxims ready at hand:

Conduct me, Jove, and thou, O Destiny,
Wherever your decrees have fixed my station.
I follow cheerfully; and, did I not.
Wicked and wretched, I must follow still.

Whoe'er yields properly to Fate, is deemed
Wise among men, and knows the laws of heaven.

And this third:
"O Crito, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be. Anytus and Meletus may kill me indeed, but hurt me they cannot."



March 30

IF you would appear beautiful, young man, strive for human excellency.
What is that?
Consider, when you praise without partial affection, whom you praise: is it the honest, or the dishonest?
The honest.
The sober or the dissolute?
The sober.
The temperate or the intemperate?
The temperate.
Then, if you make yourself such a character, you know that you will make yourself beautiful; but, while you neglect these things, though you use every contrivance to appear beautiful, you must necessarily be deformed.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §1. ¶1.


March 29

DO, Soul, do; abuse and contemn thyself; yet a while and the time for thee to respect thyself, will be at an end. Every man's happiness depends upon himself, but behold thy life is almost at an end, whilst affording thyself no respect, thou dost make thy happiness to consist in the souls, and conceits of other men.
Why should any of these things that happen externally, so much distract thee? Give thyself leisure to learn some good thing, and cease roving and wandering to and fro. Thou must also take heed of another kind of wandering, for they are idle in their actions, who toil and labour in this life, and have no certain scope to which to direct all their motions, and desires.



March 28

DIOGENES rightly answered one who desired letters of recommendation from him, "At first sight he will know you to be a man: and whether you are a good or a bad man, if he hath any skill in distinguishing, he will know likewise; and, if he hath not, he will never know it, though I should write a thousand times." Just as if you were a piece of coin, and should desire to be recommended to any person as good, in order to be tried: if it be to an assayer, he will know your value, for you will recommend yourself. We ought, therefore, in life also, to have something analogous to this skill in gold; that one may be able to say, like the assayer, Bring me whatever piece you will, and I will find out its value: or as I would say with regard to syllogisms. Bring me whoever you will, and I will distinguish for you, whether he knows how to solve syllogisms or not. Why? Because I can solve syllogisms myself, and have that faculty, which is necessary for one who knows how to find out persons skilled in the solution of syllogisms. But how do I act in life? I at some times call a thing good; at others, bad. What is the cause of this? The contrary to what happens in syllogisms: ignorance and inexperience.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶1, 2.


March 27

WHERE, then, is the great good or evil of man? Where his difference is. If this is preserved and remains well fortified, and neither honour, fidelity, or judgment is destroyed, then he himself is preserved likewise; but when any of these is lost and demolished, he himself is lost also. In this do all great events consist. Paris, they say, was undone, because the Greeks invaded Troy and laid it waste, and his family were slain in battle. By no means; for no one is undone by an action not his own. All that was only laying waste the nests of storks. But his true undoing was when he lost the modest, the faithful, the hospitable, and the decent character. When was Achilles undone? When Patroclus died? By no means. But when he gave himself up to rage; when he wept over a girl; when he forgot that he came there not to get mistresses, but to fight. This is human undoing; this is the siege; this the overthrow; when right principles are ruined; when these are destroyed.



March 26

EPICURUS knew that, if once a child is born, it is no longer in our power not to love and be solicitous for it. For the same reason, he says, a wise man will not engage himself in public business, for he knew very well what such an engagement would oblige him to do; for what should restrain anyone from affairs if we may behave among men as we would among a swarm of flies?
And doth he who knows all this dare to bid us not bring up children? Not even a sheep or a wolf deserts its offspring, and shall man? What would you have? That we should be as silly as sheep? Yet even these do not desert their offspring. Or as savage as wolves? Neither do these desert them. Pray, who would mind you if he saw his child fallen upon the ground, and crying? For my part, I am of opinion that your father and mother, even if they could have foreseen that you would have been the author of such doctrines, would not, however, have thrown you away.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §23. ¶1, 2.


March 25

THE true joy of a man is to do that which properly belongs unto a man. That which is most proper unto a man, is First, to be kindly affected towards them, that are of the same kind and nature as he is himself; to contemn all sensual motions and appetites; to discern rightly all plausible fancies and imaginations, to contemplate the nature of the Universe; both it, and all things that are done in it. In which kind of contemplation three several relations are to be observed. The first, to the apparent secondary cause. The second, to the first original cause, God, from whom originally proceeds whatsoever doth happen in the world. The third and last, to them that we live and converse with: what use may be made of it, to their use and benefit.



March 24

HATH God, then, given you eyes in vain? Is it in vain that He hath infused into them such a strong and active spirit as to be able to represent the forms of distant objects? What messenger is so quick and diligent? Is it in vain that He hath made the intermediate air so yielding and elastic that the sight penetrates through it? And is it in vain that He hath made the light, without which all the rest would be useless? Man, be not ungrateful; nor, on the other hand, unmindful of your superior advantages; but for sight and hearing, and indeed for life itself, and the supports of it, as fruits, and wine, and oil, be thankful to God: but remember, that He hath given you another thing, superior to them all: which makes use of them, proves them, estimates the value of each.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §23. ¶1.


March 23

WHAT is man?
A rational and mortal being.
Well: from what are we distinguished by reason?
From wild beasts.
From what else?
From sheep and the like.
Take care, then, to do nothing like a wild beast; otherwise you have destroyed the man: you have not fulfilled what your nature promises. Take care, too, to do nothing like cattle; for thus likewise the man is destroyed.
In what do we act like cattle?
When we act gluttonously, lewdly, rashly, sordidly, inconsiderately, into what are we sunk?
Into cattle.
What have we destroyed?
The rational being.
When we behave contentiously, injuriously, passionately, and violently, into what are we sunk?
Into wild beasts. And further: some of us are wild beasts of a larger size; others, little mischievous vermin.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §9. ¶1, 2.


March 22

FIRST, to act as a man. What is comprehended in this? Not to be, though gentle, like a sheep; nor mischievous like a wild beast. But the particular end relates to the study and choice of each individual. A harper is to act as a harper; a carpenter, as a carpenter; a philosopher, as a philosopher; an orator, as an orator. When therefore you say, "Come and hear me read," observe first, not to do this at random; and, in the next place, after you have found to what end you refer it, consider whether it be a proper one. Would you be useful, or be praised? You presently hear him say, "What, do I value the praise of the multitude?" And he says well, for this is nothing to a musician or a geometrician, as such. You would be useful, then. In what? Tell us, that we too may run to make part of your audience. Now, is it possible for anyone to benefit others who hath received no benefit himself? No; for neither can he who is not a carpenter or a shoemaker benefit any in respect to those arts. Would you know, then, whether you have received benefit? Produce your principles, philosopher; what is the aim and promise of desire? Not to be disappointed. What of aversion? Not to be incurred. Come, do we fulfil this promise? Tell me the truth.



March 21

BUT I must excite you to philosophy. How shall I show you that contradiction among the generality of mankind, by which they differ concerning good and evil, profitable and unprofitable, when you know not what contradiction rneans? Show me, then, what I shall gain by discoursing with you. Excite an inclination in me, as a proper pasture excites an inclination to eating in a sheep: for if you offer him a stone, or a piece of bread, he will not be excited. Thus we too have certain natural inclinations to speaking, when the hearer appears to be somebody; when he gives us encouragement; but if he sits by, like a stone or a tuft of grass, how can he excite any desire in a man? Doth a vine say to an husbandman, "Take care of me"? No; but invites him to take care of it, by showing him that if he doth, it will reward him for his care. Who is there whom engaging sprightly children do not invite to play, and creep, and prattle with them? But who was ever taken with an inclination to divert himself, or bray, with an ass? For, be the creature ever so little, it is still a little ass.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶1.


March 20

DO we know, then, what man is? What is his nature; what our idea of him is; and how far our ears are open in respect to this matter? Nay, do you understand what nature is; or are you able, and in what degree, to comprehend me, when I come to say, "But I must use demonstration to you"? How should you? Do you comprehend what demonstration is; or how a thing is demonstrated, or by what methods; or what resembles a demonstration, and yet is not a demonstration? Do you know what true or false is? What is consequent to a thing, and what contradictory? Or unsuitable, or dissonant?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶1.


March 19

FOR each of us, most generally, is circumscribed as though by many circles, some smaller, some larger, some surrounding others, some surrounded, according to their different and unequal relations to one another. The first and closest circle is that which each person draws around his own mind, as the center: in this circle is enclosed the body and whatever is employed for the sake of the body. For this circle is the shortest and all but touches its own center. The second after this one, standing further away from the center and enclosing the first, is that within which our parents, siblings, wife, and children are ranged. Third, after these, is that in which there are uncles and aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers, the children of one’s siblings, and also cousins. After this comes the one that embraces all other relatives. next upon this is the circle of the members of one’s deme, then that of the members of one’s tribe, next that of one’s fellow citizens, and so, finally, that of those who border one’s city and that of people of like ethnicity. The furthest out and largest one, which surrounds all the circles, is that of the entire race of human beings. Once these have been thought through, accordingly, it is possible, starting with the most stretched-out one, to draw the circles—concerning the behavior that is due to each group — together in a way, as though toward the center, and with an effort to keep transferring items out of the containing circles into the contained.

A Extract from Stobaeus.


March 18

I SHOULD not expect the women who study philosophy to shirk their appointed tasks for mere talk any more than men, but I maintain that their discussions should be conducted for the sake of their practical application. For as there is no merit in the science of medicine unless it conduces to the healing of man's body, so if a philosopher has or teaches reason, it is of no use if it does not contribute to the virtue of man's soul.



March 17

HOW is it a paradox to say that when he is whipped or imprisoned or beheaded he is not hurt? If he suffers nobly, doth not he come off even the better, and a gainer? But he is the person hurt who suffers the most miserable and shameful evils; who, instead of a man, becomes a wolf or viper or a hornet.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1. ¶13.


March 16

BE assured that the essential property of piety towards the gods is to form right opinions concerning them, as existing and as governing the universe with goodness and justice. And fix yourself in this resolution, to obey them, and yield to them, and willingly follow them in all events, as produced by the most perfect understanding. For thus you will never find fault with the gods, nor accuse them as neglecting you.


IT is better to die with hunger, exempt from grief and fear, than to live in affluence with perturbation; and it is better your servant should be bad, than you unhappy.
Begin therefore from little things. Is a little oil spilt? a little wine stolen ? Say to yourself, "This is the purchase paid for tranquillity, and nothing is to be had for nothing."



March 15

IF we had any understanding, ought we not both, in public and in private, incessantly to sing hymns, and speak well of the Deity, and rehearse His benefits? Ought we not, whether we are digging, or ploughing, or eating, to sing the hymn to God? Great is God, who has supplied us with these instruments to till the ground: great is God, who has given us hands, a power of swallowing, a stomach: who has given us to grow insensibly, to breathe in sleep. Even these things we ought upon every occasion to celebrate; but to make it the subject of the greatest and most divine hymn, that He has given us the faculty of apprehending them, and using them in a proper way. Well then: because the most of you are blind and insensible, was it not necessary that there should be someone to fill this station, and give out, for all men, the hymn to God? For what else can I, a lame old man, do but sing hymns to God? If I was a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale: if a swan, the part of a swan. But, since I am a reasonable creature, it is my duty to praise God. This is my business. I do it. Nor will I ever desert this post as long as it is vouchsafed me; and I exhort you to join in the same song.



March 14

WHEN you do what you have made up your mind is right, do not shrink from being seen by others, though they would all misunderstand you. If the act be wrong, fear to do it; but if it be right, why fear those who would be wrong in blaming it?



March 13

EITHER Fate, (and that either an absolute necessity, and unavoidable decree; or a placable and flexible Providence) or All is a mere casual Confusion, void of all order and government. If an absolute and unavoidable Necessity, why dost thou resist? If a placable and exorable Providence, make thyself worthy of the divine help and assistance. If all be a mere confusion without any Moderator, or Governor, then hast thou reason to congratulate thyself, that in such a general flood of Confusion, thou thyself hast obtained a reasonable Faculty, whereby thou mayest govern thine own life and actions.



March 12

EITHER this Universe is a mere confused mass, and an intricate context of things, which shall in time be scattered and dispersed again: or it is an Union consisting of Order, and administered by providence. If the first, why should I desire to continue any longer in this fortuitous confusion and commixtion? or why should I take care for anything else, but that as soon as may be I may be Earth again? And why should I trouble myself any more whilst I seek to please the gods ? Whatsoever I do, Dispersion is my end, and will come upon me whether I will or no. But if the latter be, then am not I religious in vain; then will I be quiet and patient, and put my trust in Him, who is the governor of all.



March 11

THE goal of all the virtues is to live consistently with nature. Each one enables a human being to achieve this goal in his own way; for a human has from nature inclinations to discover what is appropriate and to stabilize his impulses and to stand firm and to distribute fairly. And each of the virtues does what is consonant with these inclinations and does its own job, thus enabling a human being to live consistently with nature.

Quoted in STOBAEUS' ANTHOLOGY. 2.5b3.

March 10

THE young character, which cannot hold fast to righteousness, must be rescued from the mob; it is too easy to side with the majority. Even Socrates, Cato, and Laelius might have been shaken in their moral strength by a crowd that was unlike them; so true it is that none of us, no matter how much he cultivates his abilities, can withstand the shock of faults that approach, as it were, with so great a retinue. Much harm is done by a single case of indulgence or greed; the familiar friend, if he be luxurious, weakens and softens us imperceptibly; the neighbour, if he be rich, rouses our covetousness; the companion, if he be slanderous, rubs off some of his rust upon us, even though we be spotless and sincere. What then do you think the effect will be on character, when the world at large assaults it! You must either imitate or loathe the world. But both courses are to be avoided; you should not copy the bad simply because they are many, nor should you hate the many because they are unlike you. Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can, Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for men learn while they teach.



March 9

WHENEVER you lay anything to the charge of Providence, do but reflect, and you will find that it hath happened agreeably to reason.
Well, but a dishonest man hath the advantage.
In what?
In money.
Why, he is better qualified for it than you; because he flatters, he throws away shame, he keeps awake; and where is the wonder? But look whether he hath the advantage of you in fidelity or in honour. You will find he hath not; but that wherever it is best for you to have advantage of him, there you have it.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §17. ¶1.

REMEMBER, that all things in general are by certain order and appointment.



March 8

THE ruin of the ruler and the citizen alike is wantonness. But how would anyone achieve self-control if he did not make an effort to curb his desires, or how could one who was undisciplined make others temperate? One can mention no study except philosophy that develops self-control. Certainly it teaches one to be above pleasure and greed, to admire thrift and to avoid extravagance; it trains one to have a sense of shame, and to control one's tongue, and it produces discipline, order, and courtesy, and in general what is fitting in action and in bearing. In an ordinary man when these qualities are present they give him dignity and self-command, but if they be present in a king they make him preeminently godlike and worthy of reverence.



March 7

THE majority of mortals, Paulinus, complain bitterly of the spitefulness of Nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live... It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is - the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.



March 6

THINK oftener of God than you breathe.


ARE not the gods everywhere at the same distance? Do not they everywhere equally see what is doing?


HE liveth with the gods, who at all times affords unto them the spectacle of a soul both contented and well pleased with whatsoever is afforded or allotted unto her; and performing whatsoever is pleasing to that spirit whom (being part of himself) Zeus hath appointed to every man as his overseer and governor.


IF you always remember that God stands by, an inspector of whatever you do either in soul or body, you will never err, either in your prayers or actions, and you will have God abiding with you.



March 5

BUT gods there be certainly, and they take care for the world; and as for those things which be truly evil, as vice and wickedness, such things they have put in a man's own power, that he might avoid them if he would: and had there been anything besides that had been truly bad and evil, they would have had a care of that also, that a man might have avoided it. But why should that be thought to hurt and prejudice a man's life in this world, which cannot anywise make man himself the better, or the worse in his own person? Neither must we think that the Nature of the Universe did either through ignorance pass these things, or if not as ignorant of them, yet as unable either to prevent, or better to order and dispose them. It cannot be that she through want either of power or skill, should have committed such a thing, so as to suffer all things both good and bad, equally and promiscuously to happen unto all both good and bad. As for life therefore, and death, honour and dishonour, labour and pleasure, riches and poverty, all these things happen unto men indeed, both good and bad, equally; but as things which of themselves are neither good nor bad; because of themselves, neither shameful nor praiseworthy.



March 4

TO them that ask thee, Where hast thou seen the Gods, or how knowest thou certainly that there be Gods, that thou art so devout in their worship? I answer first of all, that even to the very eye, they are in some manner visible and apparent. Secondly, neither have I ever seen mine own soul, and yet I respect and honour it. So then for the Gods, by the daily experience that I have of their power and providence towards myself and others, I know certainly that they are, and therefore worship them.


THOU shalt find it a very good help, to remember the Gods as often as may be; and that, the thing which they require at our hands, of as many of us, as are by nature reasonable creatures; is not that with fair words, and outward show of piety and devotion we should flatter them, but that we should become like unto them.



March 3

LABOUR not as one to whom it is appointed to be wretched, nor as one that either would be pitied, or admired; but let this be thine only care and desire; so always and in all things to prosecute or to forbear, as the law of Charity, or mutual society doth require.


HAVE I done anything charitably? then am I benefited by it. See that this upon all occasions may present itself unto thy mind, and never cease to think of it. What is thy profession? to be good.


WHAT wouldst thou have more? Unto him that is a man, thou hast done a good turn: doth not that suffice thee? Must thou be rewarded for it?



March 2

THEY that shall oppose thee in thy right courses, as it is not in their power to divert thee from thy good action, so neither let it be to divert thee from thy good affection towards them. But be it thy care to keep thyself constant in both; both in a right judgment and action, and in true meekness towards them, that either shall do their endeavour to hinder thee, or at least will be displeased with thee for what thou hast done. For to fail in either (either in the one to give over for fear, or in the other to forsake thy natural affection towards him, who by nature is both thy friend and thy kinsman) is equally base, and much savouring of the disposition of a cowardly fugitive soldier.



March 1

THOU must continually ponder and consider with thyself, what manner of men they be, and for their minds and understandings what is their present estate, whose good word and testimony thou dost desire. For then neither wilt thou see cause to complain of them that offend against their wills; or find any want of their applause, if once thou dost but penetrate into the true force and ground both of their opinions, and of their desires. "No soul (saith he) is willingly bereaved of the Truth," and by consequence, neither of justice, or temperance, or kindness, and mildness; nor of anything that is of the same kind. It is most needful that thou shouldst always remember this. For so shalt thou be far more gentle and moderate towards all men.