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.