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.


May 24

STUDY these points, these principles, these discourses, contemplate these examples, if you would be free, if you desire the thing in proportion to its value. And where is the wonder that you should purchase so great a thing at the price of others, so many, and so great? Some hang themselves, others break their necks, and sometimes even whole cities have been destroyed, for that which is reputed freedom; and will not you, for the sake of the true and secure and inviolable freedom, repay God what He hath given when He demands it? Will you not study, not only as Plato says, to die, but to be tortured and banished and scourged, and, in short, to give up all that belongs to others? If not, you will be a slave among slaves, though you were ten thousand times a consul; and, even though you should rise to the palace, you will be nevertheless so. And you will feel that though philosophers (as Cleanthes says) do, perhaps, talk contrary to common opinion, yet not contrary to reason. For you will find it true, in fact, that the things that are eagerly followed and admired are of no use to those who have gained them; while they who have not yet gained them imagine that, if they are acquired, every good will come along with them; and then, when they are acquired, there is the same feverishness, the same agitation, the same nauseating, and the same desire of what is absent.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶19.


May 23

HE is free who lives as he likes; who is not subject either to compulsion, to restraint, or to violence; whose pursuits are unhindered, his desires successful, his aversions unincurred. Who, then, would wish to lead a wrong course of life? — "No one." Who would live deceived, prone to mistake, unjust, dissolute, discontented, dejected? — "No one." No wicked man, then, lives as he likes; therefore neither is he free. And who would live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity; with disappointed desires, and incurred aversions? — "No one." Do we then find any of the wicked exempt from sorrow, fear, disappointed desires, incurred aversions?—"Not one." Consequently, then, not free.



May 22

THE man who is unrestrained, who hath all things in his power as he wills, is free; but he who may be restrained, or compelled, or hindered, or thrown into any condition against his will, is a slave. "And who is unrestrained?" — He that desires none of those things that belong to others. "And what are those things which belong to others?" — Those which are not in our own power, either to have or not to have.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶14.

THE things themselves (which either to get or to avoid thou art put to so much trouble) come not unto thee themselves; but thou in a manner goest unto them. Let then thine own judgment and opinion concerning those things be at rest; and as for the things themselves, they stand still and quiet, without any noise or stir at all; and so shall all pursuing and flying cease.



May 21

FREEDOM is the name of virtue ; and slavery, of vice.


NO one is free, who doth not command himself.

E. F. 109.

WHAT is wickedness? It is that which many times and often thou hast already seen and known in the world. And so oft as anything doth happen that might otherwise trouble thee, let this memento presently come to thy mind, that it is that which thou hast already often seen and known. Generally, above and below, thou shalt find but the same things. The very same things whereof ancient stories, middle-age stories, and fresh stories are full: whereof towns are full, and houses full. There is nothing that is new. All things that are, are both usual and of little continuance.



May 20

CEASE to make yourselves slaves, first of things, and then upon their account, of the men who have the power either to bestow or take them away. Is there any advantage then to be gained from these men? From all, even from a reviler. What advantage doth a wrestler gain from him with whom he exercises himself, before the combat? The greatest. Why, just in the same manner I exercise myself with this man. He exercises me in patience, in gentleness, in meekness. Is my neighbour a bad one? He is so to himself; but a good one to me. He exercises my good temper, my moderation. Is my father bad? To himself, but not to me. "This is the rod of Hermes. Touch with it whatever you please, and it will become gold." No; but bring whatever you please, and I will turn it into good. Bring sickness, death, want, reproach, capital trial. All these, by the rod of Hermes, shall turn to advantage.



May 19

WE will allow those creatures only to be free who do not endure captivity; but, as soon as they are taken, die, and escape. Thus Diogenes somewhere says, that the only way to freedom is to die with ease. And he writes to the Persian king, “You can no more enslave the Athenians than you can fish." — "How? What, shall not I take them?" — "If you do take them," says he, " they will leave you, and be gone like fish. For take a fish, and it dies. And, if the Athenians too die as soon as you have taken them, of what use are your warlike preparations?” This is the voice of a free man, who had examined the matter in earnest, and, as it might be expected, found it out. But, if you seek it where it is not, what wonder if you never find it?



May 18

DIOGENES used to say, "Ever since Antisthenes made me free, I have ceased to be a slave." How did he make him free? Hear what he says. “He taught me what was my own, and what not. An estate is not my own. Kindred, domestics, friends, reputation, familiar places, manner of life, all belong to another."

"What is your own, then?"

"The use of the appearances of things. He showed me that I have this, not subject to restraint or compulsion; no one can hinder or force me to use them any otherwise than I please. Who, then, after this, hath any power over me? Philip, or Alexander, or Perdiccas, or the Persian king? Whence should they have it? For he that is to be subdued by man must, long before, be subdued by things. He, therefore, of whom neither pleasure nor pain, nor fame nor riches, can get the better, and who is able, whenever he thinks fit, to throw away his whole body with contempt, and depart, whose slave can he ever be?"



May 17

PRISCUS HELVIDIUS, when Vespasian had sent to forbid his going to the senate, answered, "It is in your power to prevent my continuing a senator; but while I am one, I must go." "Well then, at least be silent there."—" Do not ask my opinion, and I will be silent."—"But I must ask it."—" And I must speak what appears to me to be right."—"But if you do, I will put you to death."—" Did I ever tell you that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine: It is yours to kill, and mine to die intrepid; yours to banish me, mine to depart untroubled."
What good, then, did Priscus do, who was but a single person? Why what good does the purple do to the garment? What but the being a shining character in himself, and setting a good example to others? Another, perhaps, if in such circumstances Caesar had forbidden his going to the senate, would have answered, “I am obliged to you for excusing me." But such a one he would not have forbidden to go, well knowing that he would either sit like a statue, or, if he spoke, he would say what he knew to be agreeable to Caesar, and would overdo it by adding still more.


May 16

I WOULD be the purple, that small and shining thing, which gives a lustre and beauty to the rest.


FOR as for him who is the Administrator of all, he will make good use of thee whether thou wilt or no, and make thee (as a part and member of the whole) so to co-operate with him, that whatsoever thou doest, shall turn to the furtherance of his own counsels, and resolutions. But be not thou for shame such a part of the whole, as that vile and ridiculous verse (which Chrysippus in a place doth mention) is a part of the Comedy.


PAY in, before you are called upon, what is due to the public, and you will never be asked for what is not due.



May 15

IS freedom anything else than the power of living as we like?

Nothing else.

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

We do not. No one, sure, that lives in error is free.

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

By no means.

No one, therefore, in a state of fear, or sorrow, or perturbation, is free; but whoever is delivered from sorrow, fear, and perturbation, by the same means is delivered likewise from slavery.



May 14

WHO is it that hath fitted the sword to the scabbard, and the scabbard to the sword? Is it no one? From the very construction of a complete work, we are used to declare positively, that it must be the operation of some artificer, and not the effect of mere chance. Doth every such work, then, demonstrate an artificer; and do not visible objects, and the sense of seeing, and Light, demonstrate one?


SEE the practice of those who play skilfully at ball. No one contends for the ball, as either a good or an evil; but how he may throw and catch it again. Here lies the address, here the art, the nimbleness, the sagacity; that I may not be able to catch it, even if I hold up my lap for it; another may catch it whenever I throw it. But if we catch or throw it with fear or perturbation, what kind of play will this be? How shall we keep ourselves steady; or how see the order of the game? One will say, Throw; another, Do not throw; a third, You have thrown once already. This is a mere quarrel, not a play.

E. D. ii. 5, 3.


May 13

REMEMBER that you must behave in life as at an entertainment. Is anything brought round to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Doth it pass by you? Do not stop it. Is it not yet come? Do not stretch forth your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you.


LET death and exile, and all other things which appear terrible, be daily before your eyes, but chiefly death, and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything.

E. M. 21.

AT a feast, to choose the largest share is very suitable to the bodily appetite, but utterly inconsistent with the social spirit of an entertainment. When you eat with another, then, remember not only the value of those things which are set before you to the body, but the value of that behaviour which ought to be observed towards the person who gives the entertainment.

E. M. 36.


May 12

IF you would have your house securely inhabited, imitate the Spartan Lycurgus. And as he did not enclose his city with walls, but fortified the inhabitants with virtue, and preserved the city always free, so you do likewise; not surround yourself with a great courtyard, nor raise high towers, but strengthen those that live with you by benevolence and fidelity and friendship. And thus nothing hurtful will enter, even if the whole band of wickedness was set in array against it.


THERE is nothing more shameful than perfidious friendship.


HE is the master of every other person who is able to confer or remove whatever that person wishes to have or to avoid. Whoever then would be free, let him wish nothing, let him decline nothing, which depends on others, else he must necessarily be a slave.



May 11

DO not say to what excels, Who are you? If you do, it will, somehow or other, find a voice to tell you, "I am like the purple thread in a garment. Do not expect me to be like the rest, or find fault with my nature, which hath distinguished me from others."

What then, am I such a one? How should I? Indeed, are you such a one as to be able to hear the truth? I wish you were. But, however, since I am condemned to wear a grey beard and a cloak, and you come to me as to a philosopher, I will not treat you cruelly, nor as if I despaired of you, but will ask you—Whom is it, young man, whom you would render beautiful? Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly. You are a man ; that is, a mortal animal, capable of a rational use of the appearances of things. And what is this rational use? A perfect conformity to nature. What have you then particularly excellent? Is it the animal part? No. The mortal? No. That which is capable of the use of the appearances of things? No. The excellence lies in the rational part. Adorn and beautify this, but leave your hair to him who formed it, as he thought good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §1. ¶4, 5.


May 10

DO you think you deserve to have an unpleasant odour? Be it so. But do those deserve to suffer by it who sit near you, who are placed at table with you, who salute you? Either go into a desert, as you deserve, or live solitary at home, and smell yourself; for it is fit you should enjoy your nastiness alone. But to what sort of character doth it belong to live in a city, and behave so carelessly and inconsiderately? If nature had trusted even a horse to your care, would you have overlooked and neglected him? Now, consider your body as committed to you instead of a horse. Wash it, rub it, take care that it may not be anyone's aversion, nor disgust anyone. Who is not more disgusted at a stinking, unwholesome-looking sloven, than at a person who hath been rolled in filth? The stench of the one is adventitious from without, but that which arises from want of care is a kind of inward putrefaction.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §11. ¶3.


May 9

WHAT, then, would anybody have you dress yourself out to the utmost? By no means, except in those things where our nature requires it; in reason, principles, actions; but, in our persons, only as far as neatness, as far as not to give offence. But if you hear that it is not right to wear purple, you must go, I suppose, and roll your cloak in the mud, or tear it.— "But where should I have a fine cloak?" — You have water, man; wash it. "What an amiable youth is here! How worthy this old man to love and be loved!" — A fit person to be trusted with the instruction of our sons and daughters, and attended by young people, as occasion may require — to read them lectures on a dunghill! Every deviation proceeds from something human, but this approaches very nearly towards being not human.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §11. ¶5.


May 8

USE thyself even unto those things that thou dost at first despair of. For the left hand we see, which for the most part lieth idle because not used; yet doth it hold the bridle with more strength than the right, because it hath been used unto it.


REMEMBER that you are an actor in a drama, of such a kind as the author pleases to make it. If short, of a short one; if long, of a long one. If it be his pleasure you should act a poor man, a cripple, a governor, or a private person, see that you act it naturally. For this is your business, to act well the character assigned you; to choose it, is another's.



May 7

WILL this querulousness, this murmuring, this complaining and dissembling never be at an end? What, then, is it that troubleth thee? Doth any new thing happen unto thee? What dost thou so wonder at ? At the cause, or the matter? Behold either by itself, is either of that weight and moment indeed? And besides these, there is not anything. But thy duty towards the 'gods also, it is time that thou shouldst acquit thyself of it with more goodness and simplicity.


MANY of those things that trouble and straighten thee, it is in thy power to cut off, as wholly depending from mere conceit and opinion, and then thou shalt have room enough.



May 6

ONLY give any of us that you please some illiterate person for an antagonist, and he will not find out how to treat him. But when he hath a little moved the man, if he happens to answer beside the purpose, he knows not how to deal with him any further; but either reviles or laughs at him, and says, "He is an illiterate fellow; there is no making anything of him." Yet a guide, when he perceives his charge going out of the way, doth not revile and ridicule and then leave him; but leads him into the right path. Do you also show your antagonist the truth, and you will see that he will follow. But till you do show it, do not ridicule him; but rather be sensible of your own incapacity.

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


May 5

WHEN children come to us clapping their hands and saying: "To-morrow is the good feast of Saturn," do we tell them that good doth not consist in such things? By no means: but we clap our hands along with them. Thus, when you are unable to convince anyone, consider him as a child, and clap your hands with him; or if you will not do that, at least hold your tongue.


I ONCE saw a person weeping and embracing the knees of Epaphroditus, and deploring his hard fortune that he had not £50,000 left. What said Epaphroditus, then? Did he laugh at him, as we should do? No; but cried out with astonishment: "Poor man! How could you be silent? How could you bear it?"



May 4

MY friend Heraclitus, in a trifling suit about a little estate at Rhodes, after having proved to the judges that his cause was good, when he came to the conclusion of his speech, "I will not entreat you," says he, "nor care what judgment you give: for it is rather you who are to be judged than I." And thus he lost his suit. What need was there of this? Be content not to entreat: do not tell them, too, that you will not entreat, unless it be a proper time to provoke the judges designedly, as in the case of Socrates. But if you too are preparing such a speech, what do you wait for? Why do you submit to be tried? For if you wish to be hanged, have patience, and the gibbet will come. But if you choose rather to submit, and make your defence as well as you can, all the rest is to be ordered accordingly: with a due regard, however, to the preservation of your own character.



May 3

WHAT are you doing, man? You contradict yourself every day, and yet you will not give up these paltry cavils. When you eat, where do you carry your hand? To your mouth, or to your eye? When you bathe, where do you go? Do you ever call a kettle a dish; or a spoon a spit? If I were a servant to one of these gentlemen, were it at the hazard of being flayed every day, I would plague him. "Throw some oil into the bath, boy." I would take pickle and pour upon his head. "What is this?" Really, sir, an appearance struck me so perfectly alike, as not to be distinguished from oil. "Give me the soup." I would carry him a dish full of vinegar. "Did not I ask for the soup?" Yes, sir, this is the soup. "Is not this vinegar?" Why so, more than soup? "Take it and smell to it; take it and taste it." How do you know, then, but our senses deceive us? If I had three or four fellow-servants to join with me, I would make him either choke with passion and burst, or change his opinions. But now they insult us by making use of the gifts of nature, while in words they destroy them. Grateful and modest men, truly!

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §20. ¶6.


May 2

I MAY be at a loss, perhaps, to give a reason how sensation is performed; whether it be diffused universally, or reside in a particular part; for I find difficulties that shock me in each case; but, that you and I are not the same person, I very exactly know.

How so?

Why, I never, when I have a mind to swallow anything, carry it to your mouth, but my own. I never, when I wanted to take a loaf, took a brush; but went directly to the loaf, as fit to answer my purpose. And do you yourselves, who deny all evidence of the senses, act any otherwise ? Who of you, when he intended to go into a bath, ever went into a mill?



May 1

IN parties of conversation, avoid a frequent and excessive mention of your own actions and dangers. For, however agreeable it may be to yourself to mention the risks you have run, it is not equally agreeable to others to hear your adventures. Avoid, likewise, an endeavour to excite laughter. For this is a slippery point, which may throw you into vulgar manners, and, besides, may be apt to lessen you in the esteem of your acquaintance. Approaches to indecent discourse are likewise dangerous. Whenever, therefore, anything of this sort happens, if there be a proper opportunity, rebuke him who makes advances that way ; or, at least, by silence and blushing and a forbidding look, show yourself to be displeased by such talk.



April 30

WHEN a person inquired, how any one might eat acceptably to the gods: If he eats with justice, says Epictetus, and gratitude, and fairly and temperately and decently, must he not also eat acceptably to the gods? And when you call for hot water, and your servant doth not hear you, or, if he doth, brings it only warm; or perhaps is not to be found at home; then not to be angry, or burst with passion, is not this acceptable to the gods?


IN the mind that is once truly disciplined and purged, thou canst not find anything, either foul or impure, or as it were festered: nothing that is either servile, or affected: no partial tie; no malicious averseness; nothing obnoxious; nothing concealed. The life of such an one. Death can never surprise as imperfect; as of an Actor, that should die before he had ended, or the play itself were at an end, a man might speak.



April 29

IT would be best if, both while you are personally making your preparations, and while you are feasting at table, you could give among the servants part of what is before you. But, if such a thing be difficult at that time, remember that you, who are not weary, are attended by those who are; you, who are eating and drinking, by those who are not; you, who are talking, by those who are silent; you, who are at ease, by those who are under constraint; and thus you will never be heated into any unreasonable passion yourself, nor do any mischief by provoking another.



April 28

WHEN we are invited to an entertainment, we take what we find; and if anyone should bid the master of the house set fish or tarts before him, he would be thought absurd. Yet, in the world, we ask the gods for what they do not give us, and that though they have given us so many things.


IN every feast remember that there are two guests to be entertained, the body and the soul ; and that what you give the body you presently lose, but what you give the soul remains for ever.


AGRIPPINUS, when Florus was considering whether he should go to Nero's shows, so as to perform some part in them himself, bid him go. — "But why do not you go then?" says Florus. "Because," replied Agrippinus, "I do not deliberate about it." For he who once sets himself about such considerations, and goes to calculating the worth of external things, approaches very near to those who forget their own character.



April 22

Y0U carry a god about with you, wretch. I know nothing of it. Do you suppose I mean some god without you, of gold or silver? It is within yourself you wrong him, and profane him, without being sensible of it, by impure thoughts and unclean actions.


HAVE you not God? Do you seek any other, while you have Him ? Or will He tell you any other than these things ? If you were a statue of Phidias, either Zeus or Athena, you would remember both yourself and the artist ; and, if you had any sense, you would endeavour to do nothing unworthy of him who formed you, or of yourself: nor to appear in an unbecoming manner to spectators. And are you now careless how you appear, because you are the workmanship of Jupiter ?



April 10

A CYNIC must besides have so much patience as to seem insensible and a stone to the vulgar. No one reviles, no one beats, no one affronts him; but he hath surrendered his body to be treated at pleasure by anyone who will. For he remembers that the inferior, in whatever instance it is the inferior, must be conquered by the superior, and the body is inferior to the multitude, the weaker to the stronger. He never therefore enters into a combat where he can be conquered, but immediately gives up what belongs to others; he doth not claim what is slavish and dependent; but, where choice and the use of the Appearances are concerned, you will see that he hath so many eyes, you would say Argos was blind to him. Is his assent ever precipitate? His pursuits ever rash? His desire ever disappointed? His aversion ever incurred? His intention ever fruitless? Is he ever querulous, ever dejected, ever envious? Here lies all his attention and application. With regard to other things, he snores supine. All is peace. There is no robber, no tyrant of the choice.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §22. ¶14.


April 9

SHOW me one who is sick, and happy; in danger, and happy; dying, and happy; exiled, and happy; disgraced, and happy. Show him me, for, by heaven, I long to see a Stoic. But (you will say) you have not one perfectly formed. Show me, then, one who is forming, one who is approaching towards this character. Do me this favour. Do not refuse an old man a sight which he hath never yet seen. Let any of you show me a human soul, willing to have the same sentiments with those of God, not to accuse either God or man, not to be disappointed of its desire, or incur its aversion, not to be angry, not to be envious, not to be jealous, in a word, willing from a man to become a God, and, in this poor mortal body, aiming to have fellowship with Jupiter. Show him to me. But you cannot. Why, then, do you impose upon yourselves, and play tricks with others?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §19. ¶3.


April 8

OBSERVE yourselves in your actions, and you will find of what sect you are. You will find that most of you are Epicureans, a few Peripatetics, and those but loose ones. For, by what action will you prove that you think virtue equal, and even superior, to all other things? Show me a Stoic if you have one. Where? Or how should you? You can show, indeed, a thousand who repeat the Stoic reasonings. But do they repeat the Epicurean worse! Are they not just as perfect in the Peripatetic? Who, then, is a Stoic? As we call that a Phidian statue, which is formed according to the art of Phidias, so show me some one person, formed according to the principles which he professes.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §19. ¶3.


April 7

NEITHER is any of the virtues an object of choice per se nor any of the vices an object of avoidance but all these must be referred to the aim one has assumed.
Quoted by Plutarch


April 6

TO judge of reasonable and unreasonable, we make use not only of a due estimation of things without us, but of what relates to each person's particular character. Thus, it is reasonable for one man to submit to a dirty disgraceful office, who considers this only, that if he does not submit to it he shall be whipped, and lose his dinner; but if he does, that he has nothing hard or disagreeable to suffer : whereas to another it appears insupportable, not only to submit to such an office himself, but to bear with anyone else who does. If you ask me, then, whether you shall do this dirty office or not, I will tell you, it is a more valuable thing to get a dinner, than not; and a greater disgrace to be whipped than not to be whipped : so that, if you measure yourself by these things, go and do your office.

"Ay, but this is not suitable to my character."

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



April 5

AS thou thyself, whoever thou art, wert made for the perfection and consummation, being a member of it, of a common society; so must every action of thine tend to the perfection and consummation of a life that is truly sociable. What action soever of thine therefore that either immediately or afar off, hath not reference to the common good, that is an exorbitant, and disorderly action; yea it is seditious; as one among the people who from such and such a consent and unity, should factiously divide and separate himself.


THERE is but one light of the sun, though it be intercepted by walls and mountains, and other thousand objects. There is but one common soul, though divided into innumerable particular essences and natures.



April 4

DO not you know what sort of a thing a warfare is? One must keep guard, another go out for a spy, another to battle too. It is neither possible that all should be in the same place, nor, indeed, better: but you, neglecting to perform the orders of your general, complain whenever anything a little hard is commanded, and do not consider what you make the army become as far as lies in your power. For, if all should imitate you, nobody will dig a trench, or throw up a rampart, or watch, or expose himself to danger; but everyone will appear useless to the expedition. Again, if you were a sailor in a voyage, fix upon one place, and there remain. If it should be necessary to climb the mast, refuse to do it; if to run to the head of the ship, refuse to do it. And what captain will bear you? Would not he throw you overboard as a useless piece of goods and mere luggage, and a bad example to the other sailors? Thus, also, in the present case, every one's life is a warfare, and that long and various. You must observe the duty of a soldier, and perform everything at the nod of your general; and even, if possible, divine what he would have done.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §24. ¶2.


April 3

WHATSOEVER I do either by myself, or with some other, the only thing that I must intend, is that it be good and expedient for the public. For as for praise, consider how many who once were much commended, are now already quite forgotten; yea they that commended them, how even they themselves are long since dead and gone.


SHOULD I do it? I will: so the end of my action be, to do good unto men. Doth anything by way of cross or adversity happen unto me? I accept it, with reference unto the gods and their providence; the fountain of all things, from which whatsoever comes to pass doth hang and depend.



April 2

HAVE the very leaves, and our own bodies, this connection and sympathy with the whole, and have not our souls much more? But our souls are thus connected and intimately joined to God, as being indeed members and distinct portions of His essence.


GOD hath universally so constituted the nature of every reasonable creature, that no one can attain any of its own proper advantages without contributing something to the use of society.


SOONER mayest thou find a thing earthly, where no earthly thing is, than find a man that naturally can live by himself alone.



April 1

IN all vice, pleasure being presented with a bait, draws sensual minds to the hook of perdition.


REPENTANCE, is an inward and self-reprehension for the neglect or omission of somewhat that was profitable. Now whatsoever is good, is also profitable, and it is the part of an honest virtuous man to set by it, and to make reckoning of it accordingly. But never did any honest virtuous man repent of the neglect or omission of any carnal pleasure: no carnal pleasure then is either good or profitable.


IT is the character of a wise man to resist pleasure, and of a fool to be enslaved by it.



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.