December 21

THE brass pot and the earthen pitcher, as the fable says, are an unsuitable match.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §12. ¶2.

IF you wish your children, and your wife, and your friends to live for ever, you are stupid; for you wish things to be in your power which are not so, and what belongs to others to be your own. So likewise, if you wish your servant to be without fault, you are a fool; for you wish vice not to be vice, but something else. But, if you wish to have your desires undisappointed, this is in your own power. Exercise, therefore, what is in your power. He is the master of every other person who is able to confer or remove whatever that person wishes either 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.



December 20

TO look back upon things of former ages, as upon the manifold changes and conversions of several monarchies and commonwealths. We may also foresee things future, for they shall all be of the same kind; neither is it possible that they should leave the tune, or break the consort that is now begun, as it were, by these things that are now done and brought to pass in the World. It comes all to one therefore, whether a man be a spectator of the things of this life but forty years, or whether he see them ten thousand years together: for what shall he see more?"And as for those parts that came from the Earth, they shall return unto the Earth again; and those that came from Heaven, they also shall return unto those heavenly places."


December 19

AS for death, if there be any gods, it is no grievous thing to leave the society of men. The gods will do thee no hurt thou mayest be sure. But if it be so that there be no gods, or that they take no care of the world, why should I desire to live in a world void of gods, and of all divine providence?


HE that feareth Death, either feareth that he shall have no sense at all, or that his senses will not be the same. Whereas, he should rather comfort himself, that either no sense at all, and so no sense of evil; or if any sense, then another life, and so no death properly,


THOU must not in matter of death, carry thyself scornfully, but as one that is well pleased with it, as being one of those things that Nature hath appointed.



December 18

LET that of Heraclitus never be out of thy mind, that the death of earth, is water, and the death of water, is air; and the death of air, is fire; and so on the contrary. Remember him also who was ignorant whither the way did lead, and how that Reason being the thing, by which all things in the world are administered, and which men are continually and most inwardly conversant with: yet is the thing, which ordinarily they are most in opposition with, and how those things which daily happen among them, cease not daily to be strange unto them, and that we should not either speak, or do anything as men in their sleep, by opinion and bare imagination: for then we think we speak and do, and that we must not be as children, who follow their father's example; for best reason alleging barely this: As by tradition from our forefathers we have received it.



December 17

THUS Demetrius said to Nero: "You sentence me to death and nature, you!" If I place my admiration on body, I give myself up for a slave; if on an estate, the same; for I immediately betray myself how I may be taken. Just as when a snake pulls in his head, I say, strike that part of him which he guards: and be you assured, that whatever you show a desire to guard, there your master will attack you. Remember but this, whom will you any longer flatter or fear?


"BUT your head will be taken off." And will his own always remain on; or yours, who obey him? — "But you will be thrown out unburied." If I am the corpse, I shall be thrown out; but if I am something else than the corpse, speak more handsomely, as the thing is, and do not think to fright me. These things are frightful to children and fools.



December 16

THAT soul which is ever ready, even now presently (if need be) from the body, whether by way of Extinction, or Dispersion, or Continuation in another place and estate to be separated, how blessed, and happy is it!


HOW many of them who came into the world at the same time when I did, are already gone out of it?


OUR life is reaped like a ripe ear of corn.


WAIT until thy soul shall fall off from that outward cloak or skin, wherein as a child in the womb it lieth involved and shut up.



December 15

IF I can achieve nothing myself, I will not envy another the honour of doing some gallant action. But suppose this to be a strain too high for us ; are not we capable at least of arguing thus? — Where shall I fly from death? Show me the place; show me the people to whom I may have recourse, whom death doth not overtake. Show me the charm to avoid it. If there be none, what would you have me do? I cannot escape death; but cannot I escape the dread of it? Must I die trembling and lamenting? For the origin of the disease is wishing for something that is not obtained. In consequence of this, if I can bring over externals to my own inclination, I do it; if not, I want to tear out the eyes of whoever hinders me. For it is the nature of man not to bear the being deprived of good; not to bear the falling into evil. And so, at last, when I can neither bring over things to my own inclination, nor tear out the eyes of him who hinders me, I sit down and groan, and revile him whom I can; Zeus, and the rest of the gods.



December 14

I MUST die: and must I die groaning too? — Be fettered. Must it be lamenting too? — Exiled. And what hinders me, then, but that I may go smiling, and cheerful, and serene ? — "Betray a secret." — I will not betray it; for this is in my own power. — "Then I will fetter you." — What do you say, man? Fetter me? You will fetter my leg; but not Jupiter himself can get the better of my choice. "I will throwyou into prison: I will behead that paltry body of yours." Did I ever tell you, that I alone had a head not liable to be cut off? — These things ought philosophers to study; these ought they daily to write; and in these to exercise themselves.


I WILL dine first, and when the hour comes, then I will die. How? As becomes one who restores what is not his own.



December 13

LET it be thy earnest and incessant care as a Roman and a man to perform whatsoever it is that thou art about, with true and unfeigned gravity, natural affection, freedom and justice: and as for all other cares, and imaginations, how thou mayest ease thy mind of them. Which thou shalt do; if thou shalt go about every action as thy last action, free from all vanity, all passionate and wilful aberration from reason, and from all hypocrisy, and self-love, and dislike of those things, which by the fates, or appointment of God, have happened unto thee.



December 12

THIS is the work, if any, that ought to employ your master and preceptor, if you had one; that you should come to him, and say: "Epictetus, we can no longer bear being tied down to this paltry body, feeding and resting and cleaning it, and hurried about with so many low cares on its account. Are not these things indifferent, and nothing to us, and death no evil? Are not we relations of God, and did we not come from Him? Suffer us to go back thither from whence we came; suffer us, at length, to be delivered from these fetters, that chain and weigh us down. Here thieves and robbers, and courts of judicature, and those who are called tyrants, seem to have some power over us, on account of the body and its possessions. Suffer us to show them, that they have no power." And in this case it would be my part to answer: "My friends, wait for God, till He shall give the signal, and dismiss you from this service; then return to Him. For the present, be content to remain in this post where He has placed you. The time of your abode here is short, and easy to such as are disposed like you. For what tyrant, what robber, what thief, or what courts of judicature are formidable to those who thus account the body and its possessions as nothing? Stay. Depart not inconsiderately."



December 11

WHEREVER I go it will be well with me there, for it was well with me here, not on account of the place, but of the principles which I shall carry away with me, for no one can deprive me of these; on the contrary, they alone are my property, and cannot be taken away, and retaining them suffices me wherever I am or whatever I do. "But it is now time to die."—What is it that you call dying? Do not talk of the thing in a tragedy strain, but say, as the truth is, that it is time for a compound piece of matter to be resolved back into its original.

And where is the terror of this? What part of the world is going to be lost? What is going to happen new or prodigious? Is it for this that a tyrant is formidable? Is it on this account that the swords of his guards seem so large and sharp? Try these things upon others. For my part I have examined the whole. No one hath an authority over me. God hath made me free; I know His commands; after this no one can enslave me.



December 10

I HAVE been sick, because it was Thy pleasure; and so have others, but I willingly. I have been poor, it being Thy will, but with joy. I have not been in power, because it was not Thy will; and power I have never desired. Hast Thou ever seen me out of humour upon this account? Have I not always approached thee with a cheerful countenance, prepared to execute Thy commands and the significations of Thy will? Is it Thy pleasure that I should depart from this assembly? I depart. I give Thee all thanks that Thou hast thought me worthy to have a share in it with Thee; to behold Thy works, and to join with Thee in comprehending Thy administration." Let death overtake me while I am thinking, while I am writing, while I am reading such things as these.

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


December 9

DO not you know that both sickness and death must overtake us? At what employment? The husbandman at his plough; the sailor on his voyage. At what employment would you be taken? For, indeed, at what employment ought you to be taken? If there is any better employment at which you can be taken, follow that. For my own part, I would be taken engaged in nothing, but in the care of my own faculty of choice ; how to render it undisturbed, unrestrained, uncompelled, free. I would be found studying this, that I may be able to say to God, "Have I transgressed Thy commands? Have I perverted the powers, the senses, the preconceptions which Thou hast given me? Have I ever accused Thee, or censured Thy dispensations?"

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


December 8

AS concerning pain: that which is intolerable is soon ended by death ; and that which holds long must needs be tolerable.


WHATSOEVER doth happen unto thee, thou art naturally by thy natural constitution either able, or not able, to bear. If thou beest able, be not offended, but bear it according to thy natural constitution, or as nature hath enabled thee. If thou beest not able, be not offended. For it will soon make an end of thee, and itself, (whatsoever it be) at the same time end with thee. But remember, that whatsoever by the strength of opinion, grounded upon a true apprehension of both true profit and duty, thou canst conceive tolerable : that thou art able to bear by thy natural constitution.



December 7

O MY soul, the time I trust will be, when thou shalt be good, simple, single, more open and visible, than that body by which it is enclosed. Thou wilt one day be sensible of their happiness, whose end is love, and their affections dead to all worldly things. Thou shalt one day be full, and in want of no external thing : not seeking pleasure from anything, either living or insensible, that this World can afford ; neither wanting time for the continuation of thy pleasure, nor place and opportunity, nor the favour either of the weather or of men. When thou shalt have content in thy present estate, and all things present shall add to thy content: when thou shalt persuade thyself, that thou hast all things; all for thy good, and all by the providence of the gods: and of things future also shalt be as confident, that all will do well, as tending to the maintenance and preservation in some sort, of his perfect welfare and happiness, who is perfection of life, of goodness, and beauty; Who begets all things, and containeth all things in himself, and in himself doth recollect all things from all places that are dissolved, that of them he may beget others again like unto them. Such one day shall be thy disposition, that thou shalt be able, both in regard of the gods, and in regard of men, so to fit and order thy conversation, as neither to complain of them at any time, for anything that they do; nor to do anything thyself, for which thou mayest justly be condemned.



December 6

FOR a man to be proud and high conceited, that he is not proud and high conceited, is of all kinds of pride and presumption the most intolerable.


WHEN you have brought yourself to supply the necessities of your body at a small price, do not pique yourself upon it; nor, if you drink water, be saying upon every occasion, "I drink water." But first consider how much more sparing and patient of hardship the poor are than we. But if at any time you would inure yourself by exercise to labour, and bearing hard trials, do it for your own sake, and not for the world ; do not grasp statues, but, when you are violently thirsty, take a little cold water in your mouth, and spurt it out and tell nobody.


IF you would be well spoken of, learn to speak well of others. And, when you have learned to speak well of them, endeavour likewise to do well to them ; and thus you will reap the fruit of being well spoken of by them.



December 5

WHEN children cry if their nurse happens to be absent for a little while, give them a cake, and they forget their grief. Shall we compare you to these children, then?
No, indeed. For I do not desire to be pacified by a cake, but by right principles. And what are they?

Such as a man ought to study all day long, so as not to be attached to what doth not belong to him; neither to a friend, to a place, an academy, nor even to his own body, but to remember the law and to have that constantly before his eyes. And what is the divine law? To preserve inviolate what is properly our own, not to claim what belongs to others; to use what is given us, and not desire what is not given us; and, when anything is taken away, to restore it readily, and to be thankful for the time you have been permitted the use of it, and not cry after it, like a child for its nurse and its mamma.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §16. ¶3.


December 4

'THE soul' surveys the world and the empty space around it, and the way it's put together. It delves into the endlessness of time to extend its grasp and comprehension of the periodic births and rebirths that the world goes through. It knows that those who come after us will see nothing different, that those who came before us saw no more than we do, and that anyone with forty years behind him and eyes in his head has seen both past and future - both alike.

[Thus] the characteristics of the rational soul [are]:
Affection for its neighbors. Truthfulness. Humility. Not to place anything above itself.



December 3

THE time of a man's life is as a point; the substance of it ever flowing, the sense obscure; and the whole composition of the body, tending to corruption. His soul is restless, fortune uncertain, and fame doubtful: to be brief, as a stream so are all things belonging to the body; as a dream, or as a smoke, so are all that belong unto the soul. Our life is a warfare, and a mere pilgrimage. Fame after life, is no better than oblivion. What is it then that will adhere and follow? Only one thing, Philosophy. And philosophy doth consist in this, for a man to preserve that Spirit which is within him, from all manner of contumelies and injuries, and above all pains or pleasures; never to do anything either rashly, or feignedly, or hypocritically: wholly to depend from himself, and his own proper actions: all things that happen unto him to embrace contentedly, as coming from Him from whom He Himself also came; and above all things, with all meekness and a calm cheerfulness, to expect death, as being nothing else, but the resolution of those Elements, of which every creature is composed. And if the Elements themselves suffer nothing by this their perpetual conversion of one into another, that dissolution, and alteration, which is so common unto all, why should it be feared by any? Is not this according to nature? But nothing that is according to Nature, can be evil.



December 2

AS we say commonly, The physician has prescribed unto this man, riding; unto another, cold baths; unto a third, to go bare foot: so it is alike to say, The Nature of the Universe hath prescribed unto this man sickness, or blindness, or some loss, or damage or some such thing. For as there, when we say of a physician, that he hath prescribed anything, our meaning is, that he hath appointed this for that, as subordinate and conducing to health.


THEY who have a good constitution of body support heats and colds; and so they who have a right constitution of soul bear the attacks of anger, grief, and immoderate joy, and the other passions.



December 1

NATURE has given man one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear twice as much as we speak.

Attributed to EPICTETUS.

WHETHER thou speak in the Senate, or whether thou speak to any particular person, let thy speech be always grave and modest. But thou must not openly and vulgarly observe that sound and exact form of speaking, concerning that which is truly good and truly evil, the vanity of the world and of worldly men, which otherwise truth and reason both prescribe.


LET not your laughter be much, nor often, nor profuse.


USE thyself when any man speaks unto thee, so to hearken unto him, as that in the interim, thou give not way to any other thoughts; that so thou mayest (as far as is possible) seem fixed and fastened to his very soul, whosoever he be that speaks unto thee.



November 30

"IF YOU seek tranquility, do less." Or (more accurately) do what's essential - what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better.

Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you'll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, "Is this necessary?"

But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.


June 30

SUCH a one is a philosopher. Why? Because he wears a cloak and long hair. What, then, do mountebanks wear? And so, when people see any of these acting indecently, they presently say, “See what the philosopher doth." But they ought rather, from his acting indecently, to say he is no philosopher.


AS soon as they have put on a cloak and let their beard grow they cry, "I am a philosopher." Yet no one says, “I am a musician," because he hath bought a fiddle and fiddlestick; nor, "I am a smith," because he is dressed in the Vulcanian cap and apron. But they take their name from their art, not from their habit.



June 29

EUPHRATES was in the right to say, "I long endeavoured to conceal my embracing the philosophic life, and it was of use to me. For, in the first place, I knew that what I did right I did it not for spectators, but for myself. I ate in a proper manner for myself. I had a composed look and walk, all for God and myself. Then, as I fought alone, I was alone in danger. Philosophy was in no danger, on my doing anything shameful or unbecoming; nor did I hurt the rest of the world, which, by offending as a philosopher, I might have done. For this reason, they who were ignorant of my intention used to wonder, that while I conversed and lived entirely with philosophers, I never took up the character. And where was the harm, that I should be discovered to be a philosopher by my actions and not by the usual badges?"



June 28

NEVER call yourself a philosopher, nor talk a great deal among the unlearned about philosophic principles, but act conformably to them. Thus, at an entertainment, do not talk how persons ought to eat, but eat as you ought. For remember that in this manner Socrates also universally avoided all ostentation. And when persons came to him and desired to be recommended by him to philosophers, he took and recommended them, so well did he bear being overlooked. And, if anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have begun your business. For sheep do not throw up the grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; but, inwardly digesting their food, they outwardly produce wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you likewise not show theorems to the unlearned, but the actions produced by them after they have been digested.



June 27

A CARPENTER doth not come and say, "Hear me discourse on the art of building"; but he hires a house and fits it up and shows himself master of his trade. Let it be your business likewise to do something like this: eat like a man; drink, dress, marry, have children, perform the duty of a citizen; bear reproach; bear with an unreasonable brother; bear with a father; bear with a son, a neighbour, a companion, as becomes a man. Show us these things that we may see that you have really learnt somewhat from the philosophers.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §21. ¶1


June 26

BUT you set up for a physician, provided with nothing but medicines, and without knowing, or having studied, where or how they are to be applied. "Why, such a one had medicines for the eyes, and I have the same." Have you, then, a faculty too of making use of them? Do you at all know when and how and to whom they will be of service?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §21. ¶1

HIPPOCRATES having cured many sicknesses, fell sick himself and died. The Chaldeans and Astrologians having foretold the deaths of divers, were afterwards themselves surprised by the fates. Alexander and Pompeius, and Caius Caesar, having destroyed so many towns, and cut off in the field so many thousands both of horse and foot, yet they themselves at last, were fain to part with their own lives. Heraclitus having written so many natural tracts concerning the last and general conflagration of the world, died afterwards all filled with water within, and all bedaubed with dirt and dung without. Lice killed Democritus; and Socrates, another sort of vermin, wicked ungodly men.



June 25

BE willing to approve yourself to yourself. Be willing to appear beautiful in the sight of God: be desirous to converse in purity with your own pure mind, and with God; and then, if any such appearance strikes you, Plato directs you: "Have recourse to expiations: go a suppliant to the temples of the averting deities." It is sufficient, however, if you propose to yourself the example of wise and good men, whether alive or dead; and compare your conduct with theirs.



June 24

WHAT is it that we must bestow our care and diligence upon? even upon this only: That our minds and wills be just; that our actions be charitable; that our speech be never deceitful, or that our understanding be not subject to error; that our inclination be always set to embrace whatsoever shall happen unto us, as necessary, as usual, as ordinary, as flowing from such a beginning, and such a fountain, from which both thou thyself, and all things are.


ENDEAVOUR to continue such, as philosophy (hadst thou wholly and constantly applied thyself unto it) would have made and secured thee. Worship the gods, procure the welfare of men, this life is short. Charitable actions, and a holy disposition, is the only fruit of this mortal life.



June 23

W HATSOEVER any man either doth or saith, thou must be good; not for any man's sake, but for thine own nature's sake.


AFTER one consideration, man is nearest unto us; as we are bound to do them good, and to bear with them. But as he may oppose any of our true proper actions, so man is unto me but as a thing indifferent: even as the sun, or the wind, or some wild beast. By some of these it may be, that some operation or other of mine, may be hindered; however, of my mind and resolution itself, there can be no let or impediment.


WE ought to do well by our friends when they are present, and speak well of them when they are absent.

Attributed to EPICTETUS.


June 22

BUT the care of thine honour and reputation will perchance distract thee. How can that be, if thou dost look back, and consider both how quickly all things that are, are forgotten, and what an immense chaos of eternity was before, and will follow after all things: and the vanity of praise, and the inconstancy and variableness of human Judgments and opinions, and the narrowness of the place, wherein it is limited and circumscribed? For the whole earth is but as one point; and of it, this inhabited part of it, is but a very little part; and of this part, how many in number, and what manner of men are they, that will commend thee? What remains then, but that thou often put in practice this kind of retiring of thyself, to this little part of thyself; and above all things, keep thyself from distraction, and intend not anything vehemently, but be free and consider all things, as a man, whose proper object is virtue, as a man, whose true nature is to be kind and sociable, as a Citizen, as a mortal creature.



June 21

HE who is greedy of credit and reputation after his death, doth not consider, that they themselves by whom he is remembered, shall soon after every one of them be dead : And they likewise that succeed those ; until at last all memory, which hitherto by the succession of men admiring and soon after dying hath had its course, be quite extinct. But suppose that both they that shall remember thee, and thy memory with them should be immortal, what is that to thee? I will not say to thee after thou art dead but even to thee living, what is thy praise? That which is fair and goodly, whatsoever it be, and in what respect soever it be, that it is fair and goodly, it is so of itself, and terminates in itself, not admitting praise as a part or member ; that therefore which is praised, is not thereby made either better or worse. This I understand even of those things, that are commonly called fair and good, as those which are commended either for the matter itself, or for curious workmanship. As for that which is truly good, what can it stand in need of more, than either Justice or Truth; or more than either kindness and modesty? Which of all those, either becomes good or fair, because commended; or dispraised suffers any damage?



June 20

THERE is not any man that is so happy in his death, but that some of those that are by him when he dies, will be ready to rejoice at his supposed calamity. Is it one that was virtuous and wise indeed? Will there not someone or other be found, who thus will say to himself, Well now at last shall I be at rest from this Pedagogue? He did not indeed otherwise trouble us much; but I know well enough that in his heart, he did much condemn us. Thus will they speak of the virtuous.


REMEMBER that all is but opinion, and all opinion depends of the mind. Take thine opinion away, and then as a ship that hath stricken in within the arms and mouth of the harbour, a present calm ; all things safe and steady ; a Bay, not capable of any storms and tempests : as the Poet hath it.



June 19

AS the sun doth not wait for prayers and incantations to be prevailed on to rise, but immediately shines forth, and is received with universal salutation: so, neither do you wait for applauses and shouts and praises, in order to do good ; but be a voluntary benefactor, and you will be beloved like the sun.


WHEN it is our duty to share the danger of a friend or of our country, we ought not to consult the oracle whether we shall share it with them or not. For, though the diviner should forewarn you that the victims are unfavourable, this means no more than that either death or mutilation or exile is portended. But we have reason within us, and it directs, even with these hazards, to stand by our friend and our country. Attend, therefore, to the greater diviner, the Pythian god, who cast out of the temple the person who gave no assistance to his friend while another was murdering him.



June 18

A MAN is carried to prison. What hath happened? He is carried to prison. That he is unhappy, is an addition that everyone makes of his own.—But Zeus doth not order these things right. Why so? Because he hath made you patient? Because he hath made you brave? Because he hath made them to be no evils? Because it is permitted you, while you suffer them, to be happy? Because he hath opened you the door, whenever they do not suit you? Go out, man, and do not complain.


BEING asked what common sense was, he answered : As that may be called a common ear which distinguishes only sounds, but that which distinguishes notes an artistic one ; so there are some things which men not totally perverted discern by their common natural powers ; and such a disposition is called common sense.



June 17

THAT meekness is a thing unconquerable, if it be true and natural, and not affected, or hypocritical. For how shall even the most fierce and malicious that thou shalt conceive, be able to hold on against thee, if thou shalt still continue meek and loving unto him; and that even at that time, when he is about to do thee wrong, thou shalt be well disposed, and in good temper, with all meekness to teach him, and to instruct him better? As for example; My son, we were not born for this, to hurt and annoy one another; It will be thy hurt not mine, my son; and so to show him forcibly and fully, that it is so in very deed: and that neither Bees do it to one another, nor any other creatures that are naturally sociable. But this thou must do, not scoffingly, not by way of exprobration, but tenderly without any harshness of words. Neither must thou do it by way of exercise, or ostentation, that they that are by and hear thee, may admire thee: but so always that nobody be privy to it, but himself alone: yea, though there be more present at the same time.



June 16

FROM MY GRANDFATHER'S FATHER, I learned to dispense with attendance at public schools, and to enjoy good teachers at home, and to recognize that on such things money should be eagerly spent.


MERE wisdom, perhaps, is not a sufficient qualification for the care of youth. There ought to be likewise a certain readiness and aptitude for this, and, indeed, a particular constitution of body ; and, above all, a counsel from God to undertake this office.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §21. ¶1

CHOOSE rather to have your children well instructed than rich.

Attributed to EPICTETUS..


June 15

SAITH the Poet, "The winds blow upon the trees, and their leaves fall upon the ground. Then do the trees begin to bud again, and by the springtime they put forth new branches. So is the generation of men; some come into the world, and others go out of it." Of these leaves then thy Children are. And they also that applaud thee so gravely, or, that applaud thy speeches, with that their usual acclamation, O wisely spoken! and speak well of thee, as on the other side, they that stick not to curse thee, they that privately and secretly dispraise and deride thee, they also are but leaves. And they also that shall follow, in whose memories the names of men famous after death, is preserved, they are but leaves neither. For even so is it of all these worldly things. Their spring comes, and they are put forth. Then blows the wind, and they go down. And then in lieu of them grow others out of the common matter of all things, like unto them. But, to endure but for a while, is common unto all. Why then shouldst thou so earnestly either seek after these things, or fly from them, as though they should endure for ever? Yet a little while, and thine eyes will be closed up, and for him that carries thee to thy grave shall another mourn within a while after.



June 14

SPEAK the truth, slave, and do not run away from your masters, nor deny them, nor dare to assert your freedom when you have so many proofs of your slavery. One might indeed find some excuse for a person, compelled by love to do something contrary to his opinion, even when at the same time he sees what is best and yet hath not resolution enough to follow it, since he is withheld by something violent and, in some measure, divine. But who can bear you, who are in love with old men and women; and wipe their noses, and wash them, and bribe them with presents, and wait upon them when they are sick like a slave; at the same time wishing they may die, and inquiring of the physician whether their distemper be yet mortal? And again, when for these great and venerable magistracies and honours you kiss the hands of the slaves of others, so that you are the slave of those who are not free themselves! And then you walk about in state, a praetor, or a consul. Do not I know how you came to be praetor, whence you received the consulship, who gave it you? For my own part, I would not even live, if I must live by Felicio's means, and bear his pride and slavish insolence. For I know what a slave is, blinded by what he thinks good fortune.



June 13

ARE you free yourself, then? (it will be said). By heaven, I wish and pray for it. But I cannot yet face my masters. I still pay a regard to my body, and set a great value on keeping it whole, though at the same time it is not whole. But I can show you one who was free, that you may no longer seek an example. Diogenes was free. — "How so?" Not because he was of free parents, for he was not; but because he was so himself, because he had cast away all the handles of slavery, nor was there any way of getting at him, nor anywhere to lay hold on him to enslave him. Everything sat loose upon him, everything only just hung on. If you took hold on his possessions, he would rather let them go than follow you for them; if on his leg, he let go his leg; if his body, he let go his body; acquaintance, friends, country, just the same. For he knew whence he had them, and from whom and upon what conditions he received them. But he would never have forsaken his true parents the gods, and his real country, nor have suffered anyone to be more dutiful and obedient to them than he; nor would anyone have died more readily for his country than he.



June 12

WHENEVER you see any one subject to another, and flattering him, contrary to his own opinion, confidently say that he too is not free ; and not only if he doth it for a supper, but even if it be for a government, nay, a consulship ; but call those indeed little slaves who act thus for the sake of little things, and the others, as they deserve, great slaves. — "Be this, too, agreed." Well, do you think freedom to be something independent and self-determined? — "How can it be otherwise?" Him, then, whom it is in the power of another to restrain or to compel, affirm confidently to be not free. And do not mind his grandfathers, or great-grandfathers, or inquire whether he hath been bought or sold; but if you hear him say from his heart, and with emotion, My master, though twelve lictors should march before him, call him a slave. And if you should hear him say. Wretch that I am, what do I suffer! call him a slave. In short, if you see him wailing, complaining, unprosperous, call him a slave in purple. “Suppose, then, he doth nothing of all this?” — Do not yet say he is free, but learn whether his principles are liable to compulsion, to restraint, or disappointment, and, if you find this to be the case, call him a slave keeping holiday during the Saturnalia. Say that his master is abroad: he will come presently, and you will know what he suffers. “Who will come?” — Whoever hath the power either of bestowing or taking away any of the things he wishes for.



June 11

WHEN you are going to any one of the great, remember there is another, who sees from above what passes; and whom you ought to please rather than man. He therefore asks you:

In the school, what did you use to call exile, and prison, and chains, and death, and defamation?

I? Indifferent things.

What, then, do you call them now? Are they at all changed? — No.

Are you changed, then? — No.

Tell me, then, what things are indifferent.

Things independent on choice.

Tell me the consequence too.

Things independent on choice, are nothing to me.

Tell me, likewise, what appeared to us to be the good of man.

A right choice and a right use of the appearances of things,

What his end?

To follow thee.

Do you say the same things now, too?

Yes, I do say the same things, even now.

Well, go in, then, boldly, and mindful of these things: and you will see what a youth, who hath studied what he ought, is among men who have not. I protest, I imagine you will have such thoughts as these: " Why do we provide so many and great qualifications for nothing? Is the power, the antechamber, the attendants, the guards, no more than this? Is it for these that I have listened to so many dissertations? These are nothing: and I had qualified myself as for some great encounter."



June 10

BUT he who hath the power hath given sentence. “I judge you to be impious and profane." What hath befallen you? — I have been judged to be impious and profane. Anything else? — Nothing. Suppose he had passed his judgment upon an hypothetical proposition, and pronounced it to be a false conclusion, that if it be day it is light; what would have befallen the proposition? In this case who is judged; who condemned; the proposition, or he who is deceived concerning it? Doth he, who hath the power of pronouncing anything concerning you, know what pious or impious mean? Hath he made it his study, or learned it? Where? From whom? A musician would not regard him if he pronounced bass to be treble: nor a mathematician, if he passed sentence that lines drawn from the centre to the circle are not equal. And shall he, who is truly learned, regard an unlearned man, when he pronounces upon pious and impious, just and unjust?



June 9

CONSIDER, you who are going to take your trial, what you wish to preserve, and in what to succeed. For if you wish to preserve a choice conformable to nature, you are resting safe; everything goes well; you have no trouble on your hands. While you wish to preserve what is in your own power, and which is naturally free, and are contented with that, whom have you longer to care for? For who is the master of things like these? Who can take them away.''If you wish to be a man of honour and fidelity, who shall prevent you? If you wish not to be restrained or compelled, who shall compel you to desires contrary to your principles; to aversions contrary to your opinion? The judge, perhaps, will pass a sentence against you which he thinks formidable: but how can he likewise make you receive it with aversion? Since, then, desire and aversion are in your own power, what have you else to care for? Let this be your introduction, this your narration, this your proof, this your victory, this your conclusion, and this your applause.



June 8

WHAT, then, must I at one time be called to a trial; must another at another time be scorched by a fever; another be exposed to the sea; another die; and another be condemned?

Yes; for it is impossible, in such a body, in such a world, and among such companions, but that some or other of us must fall into such circumstances. Your business, when you come into them, is to say what you ought, to order things as you can. Then, says one, “I decide that you have acted unjustly." Much good may it do you; I have done my part. You are to look to it, whether you have done yours; for there is some danger of that too, let me tell you.



June 7

WHAT makes a tyrant formidable? His guards, say you, and their swords; they who belong to the bedchamber, and they who shut out those who would go in. What is the reason, then, that, if you bring a child to him when he is surrounded by his guards, it is not afraid? Is it because the child doth not know what they mean? Suppose, then, that anyone doth know what is meant by guards, and that they are armed with swords, and, for that very reason, comes in the tyrant's way, being desirous, on account of some misfortune, to die, and seeking to die easily by the hand of another : doth such a man fear the guards? No; for he wants the very thing that renders them formidable. Well, then, if anyone without an absolute desire to live or die, but, as it may happen, comes in the way of a tyrant, what restrains his approaching him without fear? Nothing.



June 6

DO not you know that freedom is a very beautiful and valuable thing? But for me to choose at random, and for things to happen agreeably to such a choice, may be so far from a beautiful thing as to be, of all others, the most shocking. For how do we proceed in writing? Do I choose to write the name of Dion (for instance) as I will? No; but I am taught to be willing to write it as it ought to be writ. And what is the case in music? The same. And what in every other art or science? Otherwise, it would be to no purpose to learn anything, if it was to be adapted to each one's particular humour. Is it, then, only in the greatest and principal point, that of freedom, permitted me to will at random? By no means, but true instruction is this: learning to will that things should happen as they do. And how do they happen? As the appointer of them hath appointed. He hath appointed that there should be summer and winter, plenty and dearth, virtue and vice, and all such contrarieties, for the harmony of the whole. To each of us he hath given a body and its parts, and our several properties and companions. Mindful of this appointment, we should enter upon a course of education and instruction not to change the constitutions of things, which is neither put within our reach nor for our good ; but that, being as they are, and as their nature is with regard to us, we may have our mind accommodated to what exists.



June 5

WHAT is our nature ?

To be free, noble-spirited, modest. (For what other animal blushes? What other hath the idea of shame?) But pleasure must be subjected to these, as an attendant and handmaid, to call forth our activity and to keep us constant in natural operations.

But I am rich and want nothing.

Then why do you pretend to philosophize? Your gold and silver plate is enough for you. What need have you of principles?

Besides, I am judge of the Greeks.

Do you know how to judge? Who hath imparted this knowledge to you?

Ceasar hath given me a commission.

Let him give you a commission to judge of music; and what good will it do you? But how were you made a judge? Whose hand have you kissed? Before whose bed-chamber have you slept? To whom have you sent presents?

But I can throw whom I please into prison.

As you may a stone.

But I can beat whom I will too.

As you may an ass. This is not a government of men.



June 4

WHAT is by nature free, cannot be disturbed or restrained by anything but itself. But its own principles disturb it. Thus, when the tyrant says to anyone: “I will chain your leg”: he who values his leg, cries out for pity: while he who sets the value on his own will and choice, says: “If you imagine it for your interest, chain it." — "What! do not you care?" — No; I do not care. — "I will show you that I am master." — You? How should you? God has set me free. What! do you think He would suffer His own son to be enslaved? You are master of my carcase. Take it. — “So that when you come into my presence, you pay no regard to me?” — No; but to myself.



June 3

IF Hercules had sat loitering at home, what would he have been? Eurystheus, and not Hercules. Besides, by travelling through the world, how many acquaintances and how many friends had he? But none more his friend than God, for which reason he was believed to be the son of God, and was so. In obedience to Him, he went about extirpating injustice and lawless force. But you are not Hercules, nor able to extirpate the evils of others ; nor even Theseus to extirpate the evils of Attica. Extirpate your own, then. Expel, instead of Procrustes and Sciron, grief, fear, desire, envy, malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, intemperance, from your mind. But these can be no otherwise expelled than by looking up to God alone as your pattern; by attaching yourself to Him alone, and being consecrated to His commands. If you wish for anything else, you will, with sighs and groans, follow what is stronger than you, always seeking prosperity without, and never able to find it. For you seek it where it is not, and neglect to seek it where it is.



June 2

BOLDLY make a desperate push, man, as the saying is, for prosperity, for freedom, for magnanimity. Lift up your head at last, as free from slavery. Dare to look up to God and say, “Make use of me for the future as Thou wilt. I am of the same mind; I am equal with Thee. I refuse nothing which seems good to Thee. Lead me whither Thou wilt. Clothe me in whatever dress Thou wilt. Is it Thy will, that I should be in a public or a private condition, dwell here or be banished, be poor or rich? Under all these circumstances I will make Thy defence to men. I will show what the nature of everything is." No. Rather sit alone in a warm place, and wait till your mamma comes to feed you.



June 1

BUT what says God? “O Epictetus, if it were possible, I had made this little body and property of thine free, and not liable to hindrance. But now do not mistake: it is not thine own, but only a finer mixture of clay. Since, then, I could not give thee this, I have given thee a certain portion of myself: this faculty of exerting the powers or pursuit and avoidance, of desire and aversion; and, in a word, the use of the appearances of things. Taking care of this point, and making what is thy own to consist in this, thou wilt never be restrained, never be hindered ; thou wilt not groan, wilt not complain, wilt not flatter anyone. How then! Do all these advantages seem small to thee?" Heaven forbid! "Let them suffice thee then, and thank the gods."



May 31

WHAT is it to bear a fever well? Not to blame either God or man, not to be afflicted at what happens; to expect death in a right and becoming manner, and to do what is to be done. When the physician enters, not to dread what he may say; nor, if he should tell you that you are in a fair way to be too much rejoiced; for what good hath he told you? When you were in health, what good did it do you? Not to be dejected when he tells you that you are very ill; for what is it to be very ill? To be near the separation of soul and body. What harm is there in this, then? If you are not near it now, will you not be near it hereafter? What, will the world be quite overset when you die?



May 30

AS for thy life, consider what it is; a wind; not one constant wind neither, but every moment of an hour let out, and sucked in again. The third, is thy ruling part; and here consider; Thou art an old man; suffer not that excellent part to be brought in subjection, and to become slavish: suffer it not to be drawn up and down with unreasonable and unsociable lusts and motions, as it were with wires and nerves; suffer it not any more, either to repine at anything now present, or to fear and fly anything to come, which the Destiny hath appointed thee.



May 29

AS one that tosseth up a ball. And what is a ball the better, if the motion of it be upwards; or the worse if it be downwards; or if it chance to fall upon the ground? So for the bubble; if it continue, what is it the better? And if it dissolve, what is it the worse? And so is it of a candle too. And so must thou reason with thyself, both in matter of fame, and in matter of death. For as for the body itself, (the subject of death) wouldst thou know the vileness of it? Turn it about, that thou mayest behold it the worst sides upwards as well, as in its more ordinary pleasant shape; how doth it look, when it is old and withered? when sick and pained? And as for fame. This life is short. Both he that praiseth, and he that is praised; he that remembers, and he that is remembered, will soon be dust and ashes. Besides, it is but in one corner of this part of the world that thou art praised; and yet in this corner, thou hast not the joint praises of all men; no nor scarce of anyone constantly. And yet the whole earth itself, what is it but as one point, in regard of the whole world?



May 28

THEY kill me, they cut my flesh: they persecute my person with curses. What then? May not thy mind for all this continue pure, prudent, temperate, just? As a fountain of sweet and clear water, though she be cursed by some stander by, yet do her springs nevertheless still run as sweet and clear as before ; yea though either dirt or dung be thrown in, yet is it no sooner thrown, than dispersed, and she cleared. She cannot be dyed or, infected by it. What then must I do, that I may have within myself an overflowing fountain, and not a well? Beget thyself by continual pains and endeavours to true liberty with charity, and true simplicity and modesty.



May 27

GOD says, "If you wish for good, receive it from yourself." You say. No; but from another. — "Nay; but from yourself." In consequence of this, when a tyrant threatens and sends for me; I say. Against what is your threatening pointed? If he says, “I will chain you"; I answer, It is my hands and feet that you threaten. If he says, “I will cut off your head”; I answer, It is my head that you threaten. If he says, "I will throw you into prison"; I answer. It is the whole of this paltry body that you threaten: and, if he threatens banishment, just the same.

Doth not he threaten you, then ?

If I am persuaded that these things are nothing to me, he doth not; but, if I fear any of them, it is me that he threatens. Whom, after all, is it that I fear? The master of what? Of things in my own power? Of these no one is the master. Of things not in my power? And what are these to me?



May 26

Do you philosophers, then, teach us to despise our kings?

— Far from it. Who among us teaches you to dispute their claim to the things over which they have authority? Take my paltry body, take my property, take my reputation, take those who are about me. If I persuade any to lay claim to these things, let some man truly accuse me.

"Yes, but I wish to control your judgements also."

And who has given you this authority? How can you have the power to overcome another's judgement?

"By bringing fear to bear upon him," he says, "I shall overcome him."

You fail to realize that the judgement overcame itself, it was not overcome by something else; and nothing else can overcome moral purpose, but it overcomes itself. For this reason too the law of God is most good and most just: "Let the better always prevail over the worse." 


May 25

"BUT the tyrant will chain..." What? Your leg. "But he will cut off..." What? Your neck. What, then, will he neither chain nor cut off? Your moral purpose. This is why the ancients gave us the injunction, "Know thyself."

SUPPOSE that a competitor in the ring has gashed us with his nails and butted us violently with his head, we do not protest or take it amiss or suspect our opponent in future of foul play. Still we do keep an eye on him, not indeed as an enemy, or from suspicion of him, but with good-humoured avoidance. Act much in the same way in all the other parts of life. Let us make many allowances for our fellow-athletes as it were. Avoidance is always possible, as I have said, without suspicion or hatred.


January 24

FROM Claudius Maximus I learnt in all things to endeavour to have power of myself, and in nothing to be carried about; to be cheerful and courageous in all sudden chances and accidents, as in sicknesses: to love mildness, and moderation, and gravity: and to do my business, whatsoever it be, thoroughly, and without querulousness. Whatsoever he said, all men believed him that as he spake, so he thought, and whatsoever he did, that he did it with a good intent. His manner was, never to wonder at anything; never to be in haste, and yet never slow: nor to be perplexed, or dejected, or at any time unseemly, or excessively to laugh: nor to be angry, or suspicious, but ever ready to do good, and to forgive, and to speak truth; and all this, as one that seemed rather of himself to have been straight and right, than ever to have been rectified, or redressed: neither was there any man that ever thought himself undervalued by him, or that could find in his heart, to think himself a better man than he. He would also be very pleasant and gracious.



January 23

OF my Grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. From the fame and memory of him that begot me I have learned both shamefastness and manlike behaviour. Of my Mother I have learned to be religious, and bountiful; and to forbear, not only to do, but to intend any evil; to content myself with a spare diet, and to fly all such excess as is incidental to great wealth. Of my great Grandfather, both to frequent public schools and Auditories, and to get me good and able Teachers at home; and that I ought not to think much, if upon such occasions, I were at excessive charges.



January 22

UP and down, from one age to another, go the ordinary things of the world; being still the same. And either of every thing in particular before it come to pass, the mind of the Universe doth consider with itself and deliberate: (and if so, then submit for shame unto the determination of such an excellent Understanding): or once for all it did resolve upon all things in general; and since that, whatsoever happens, happens by a necessary consequence, and all things indivisibly in a manner and inseparably hold one of another. In sum, either there is a God, and then all is well; or if all things go by chance and fortune, yet must thou use thine own providence in those things that concern thee properly; and then art thou well.



January 21

THE school of a philosopher is a surgery. You are not to go out of it with pleasure, but with pain: for you come there not in health; but one of you had a dislocated shoulder, another an abscess, a third a fistula, a fourth the headache. And am I, then, to sit uttering pretty trifling thoughts and little exclamations that, when you have praised me, you may each of you go away with the same dislocated shoulder, the same aching head, the same fistula, and the same abscess that you brought? And is it for this that young men are to travel? And do they leave their parents, their friends, their relations, and their estates that they may praise you while you are uttering little exclamations?

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


January 20

EVERY great faculty is dangerous to a beginner. Study first how to live with a person in sickness, that in time you may know how to live with one in health.

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

IF you have an earnest desire of attaining to philosophy, prepare yourself from the very first to be laughed at, to be sneered by the multitude, to hear them say, "He is returned to us a philosopher all at once," and "Whence this supercilious look?" Now, for your part, do not have a supercilious look indeed; but keep steadily to those things which appear best to you as one appointed by God to this station. For remember that, if you adhere to the same point, those very persons who at first ridiculed will afterwards admire you. But if you are conquered by them, you will incur a double ridicule.



January 19

WHY do you say nothing to me, then?

I have only this to say to you: That whoever is ignorant of what he is, and wherefore he was born, and in what kind of a world, and in what society; what things are good, and what evil; what fair, and what base: who understands neither discourse nor demonstration; nor what is true nor what is false; nor is able to distinguish between them: such a one will neither exert his desires, nor aversions, nor pursuits, conformably to nature; he will neither intend, nor assent, nor deny, nor suspend his judgment conformably to nature; but will wander up and down entirely deaf and blind, supposing himself to be somebody, while he is in reality nobody. Is there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all the errors that have happened from the very original of mankind?

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


January 18

IN the same manner as we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, we should exercise ourselves likewise in relation to such appearances as every day occur, for these two offer questions to us. Such a one's son is dead. What do you think of it? Answer: it is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — Such a one is disinherited by his father. What do you think of it? It is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — Caesar hath condemned him. This is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — He hath been afflicted by it. This is dependent on choice, it is an evil. — He hath supported it bravely. This is dependent on choice, it is a good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §8. ¶1.


January 17

OF things that are external, happen what will to that which can suffer by external accidents. Those things that suffer let them complain themselves, if they will; as for me, as long as I conceive no such thing, as that that which is happened is evil, I have no hurt; and it is in my power not to conceive any such thing.


AT ANY things there be, which oftentimes insensibly trouble and vex thee, as not armed against them with patience, because they go not ordinarily under the name of pains, which indeed are of the same nature as pain; as to slumber unquietly, to suffer heat, to want appetite: when therefore any of these things make thee discontented, check thyself with these words: "Now hath pain given thee the foil: thy courage hath failed thee."


January 16

IN short, then, remember this, that whatever external to your own choice you esteem, you destroy that choice. And not only power is external to it, but the being out of power too; not only business, but leisure too. — "Then, must I live in this tumult now?" — What do you call a tumult? — "A multitude of people." — And where is the hardship? Suppose it is the Olympic games. Think it a public assembly. There, too, some bawl out one thing, some do another; some push the rest. The baths are crowded. Yet who of us is not pleased with these assemblies, and doth not grieve to leave them? Do not be hard to please, and squeamish at what happens. "Vinegar is disagreeable (says one), for it is sour. Honey is disagreeable (says a second), for it disorders my constitution. I do not like vegetables, says a third. Thus, too (say others), I do not like retirement; it is a desert: I do not like a crowd; it is a tumult." — Why, if things are so disposed that you are to live alone, or with few, call this condition a repose, and make use of it as you ought.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶3.


January 15

DO but remember the general rules. What is mine? What not mine? What is allotted me? What is the will of God, that I should do now? What is not His will? A little while ago it was His will that you should be at leisure, should talk with yourself, write about these things, read, hear, prepare yourself. You have had sufficient time for this. At present He says to you, "Come now to the combat. Show us what you have learned, how you have wrestled." How long would you exercise by yourself? It is now the time to show whether you are of the number of those champions who merit victory, or of those who go about the world, conquered in all the games round. Why, then, are you out of humour? There is no combat without a tumult. There must be many preparatory exercises, many acclamations, many masters, many spectators.



January 14

AND it is impracticable, as well as tedious, to undertake the very thing that Jupiter himself could not do: to convince all mankind what things are really good and evil. Is this granted you? The only thing granted you is to convince yourself, and you have not yet done that; and do you, notwithstanding, undertake to convince others? Why, who hath lived so long with you as you have with yourself? Who is so likely to have faith in you, in order to be convinced by you, as you in yourself? Who is a better wisher, or a nearer friend to you, than you to yourself? How is it, then, that you have not yet convinced yourself? Should not you now turn these things every way in your thoughts ? What you were studying was this: to learn to be exempt from grief, perturbation, and meanness, and to be free. Have not you heard, then, that the only way that leads to this is to give up what doth not depend on choice: to withdraw from it, and confess that it belongs to others? What kind of thing, then, is another's opinion about you? — "Independent on choice." Is it nothing, then, to you? — "Nothing." While you are still piqued and disturbed about it, then, do you think that you are convinced concerning good and evil?



January 13

THEN hath a man attained to the estate of perfection in his life and conversation, when he so spends every day, as if it were his last day.


WHATSOEVER thou dost affect, whatsoever thou dost project, so do, and so project all, as one who, for aught thou knowest, may at this very present depart out of this life.


AS it is impossible to assent to an evident falsehood, or to deny an evident truth, so it is impossible to abstain from an evident good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §7. ¶1.

EVIDENT good at first sight attracts, and evil repels. Nor will the soul any more reject an evident appearance of good than they will Caesar's coin.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §3. ¶2.


January 12

THAT which is chief in every man's constitution, is, that he intend the common good. The second is, that he yield not to any lusts and motions of the flesh. For it is the part and privilege of the reasonable and intellective faculty, that she can so bound herself, as that neither the sensitive, nor the appetitive faculties, may not anywise prevail upon her. For both these are brutish. And therefore over both she challengeth mastery, and cannot anywise endure, if in her right temper, to be subject unto either.



January 11

WHAT was it, that waked Epicurus from his sleep, and compelled him to write what he did? What else but that which is of all others the most powerful in mankind, nature; which draws everyone, however unwilling and reluctant, to its own purposes? For since, says she, you think that there is no relation between mankind, write this doctrine, and leave it for the use of others, and break your sleep upon that account; and, by your own practice, confute your own principles. Do we say that Orestes was roused from sleep by the agitation of the Furies; and was not Epicurus waked by Furies more cruel and avenging, which would not suffer him to rest, but compelled him to divulge his own evils, as wine and madness do the priests of Cybele? So strong and unconquerable a thing is human nature! For how can a vine have the properties not of a vine, but of an olive-tree? Or an olive-tree not those of an olive-tree, but of a vine? It is impossible. It is inconceivable. Neither, therefore, is it possible for a human creature entirely to lose human affections. But even those who have undergone a mutilation cannot have their inclinations also mutilated: and so Epicurus, when he had mutilated all the offices of a man, of a master of a family, of a citizen, and of a friend, did not mutilate the inclinations of humanity. ... What a misfortune is it when anyone, after having received from nature standards and rules for the knowledge of truth, doth not strive to add to these, and make up their deficiencies; but, on the contrary, endeavours to take away and destroy whatever truth may be known even by them.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §20. ¶3.


January 10

NO object can of itself beget any opinion in us, neither can come to us, but stands without still and quiet; but we ourselves beget, and as it were print in ourselves opinions concerning them. Now it is in our power, not to print them; and if they creep in and lurk in some corner, it is in our power to wipe them off. Remember moreover, that this care and circumspection of thine, is to continue but for a while, and then thy life will be at an end. And what should hinder, but that thou mayst do well with all these things? For if they be according to nature, rejoice in them, and let them be pleasing and acceptable unto thee. But if they be against Nature, seek thou that which is according to thine own Nature, and whether it be for thy credit or no, use all possible speed for the attainment of it: for no man ought to be blamed, for seeking his own good and happiness.



January 9

WELL then: each of the animals is constituted either for food, or husbandry, or to produce milk, and the rest of them for some other like use; and for these purposes what need is there of understanding the appearances of things, and being able to make distinctions concerning them? But God hath introduced man as a spectator of Himself and His works; and not only as a spectator, but an interpreter of them. It is therefore shameful that man should begin and end where irrational creatures do. He is indeed rather to begin there, but to end where nature itself hath fixed our end; and that is in contemplation and understanding, and in a scheme of life comformable to nature.



January 8

WHY should I grieve myself; who never did willingly grieve any other! One thing rejoiceth one, and another thing another. As for me, this is my joy; if my understanding be right and sound, as neither averse from any man, nor refusing any of those things, which as a man I am subject unto; if I can look upon all things in the world meekly and kindly; accept all things, and carry myself towards everything according to the true worth of the thing itself.


WHEN one consulted him, how he might persuade his brother to forbear treating him ill: Philosophy, answered Epictetus, doth not promise to procure anything external to man, otherwise it would admit something beyond its proper subject-matter. For the subject-matter of a carpenter is wood; of a statuary, brass: and so of the art of living, the subject-matter is each person's own life.



January 7

YOU say theorems are useless. To whom? To such as apply them ill. For medicines for the eyes are not useless to those who apply them when and as they ought. Fomentations are not useless; poisers are not useless; but they are useless to some, and, on the contrary, useful to others. If you should ask me now, Are syllogisms useful? I answer, that they are useful; and, if you please, I will show you how. "Will they be of service to me, then?” — Why, did you ask, man, whether they would be useful to you, or in general? If anyone in a dysentery should ask me whether acids be useful, I answer. They are. "Are they useful for me, then?" — I say. No. First try to get the flux stopped, and the exulceration healed. Do you, too, first get your ulcers healed; your fluxes stopped. Quiet your mind, and bring it free from distraction to the school, and then you will know what is the force of reasoning.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §21, ¶3.


January 6

THE natural properties, and privileges of a reasonable soul are; That she seeth herself; that she can order, and compose herself: that she makes herself as she will herself: that she reaps her own fruits whatsoever, whereas plants, trees, unreasonable creatures, what fruit soever (be it either fruit properly, or analogically only) they bear, they bear them unto others, and not to themselves. Again; Whensoever, and wheresoever, sooner or later, her life doth end, she hath her own end nevertheless. For it is not with her, as with dancers, and players, who if they be interrupted in any part of their action, the whole action must needs be imperfect: but she in what part of time or action soever she be surprised, can make that which she hath in her hand whatsoever it be, complete and full, so that she may depart with that comfort, "I have lived; neither want I anything of that which properly did belong unto me."



January 5

IN every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit; but not having thought of the consequences, when some of them appear you will shamefully desist. “I would conquer at the Olympic games." But consider what precedes and follows, and then, if it be for your advantage, engage in the affair. You must conform to rules, submit to a diet, refrain from dainties; exercise your body, whether you choose it or not, at a stated hour, in heat and cold; you must drink no cold water, nor sometimes even wine. In a word, you must give yourself up to your master, as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow abundance of dust, be whipped, and, after all, lose the victory. When you have reckoned up all this, if your inclination still holds, set about the combat. Otherwise, take notice, you will behave like children, who sometimes play wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act a tragedy, when they happen to have seen and admired these shows. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator, now a philosopher, then an orator; but with your whole soul, nothing at all. Like an ape, you mimic all you see, and one thing after another is sure to please you, but is out of favour as soon as it becomes familiar. For you have never entered upon anything considerately, nor after having viewed the whole matter on all sides, or made any scrutiny into it, but rashly, and with a cold inclination.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §15, ¶1.


January 4

THIS is the nature of our proceedings. As in a crowded fair the horses and cattle are brought to be sold, and the greatest part of men come either to buy or sell; but there are a few who come only to look at the fair, and inquire how it is carried on; and why in that manner; and who appointed it; and for what purpose: thus, in the fair of the world, some, like cattle, trouble themselves about nothing but fodder. For as to all you who busy yourselves about possessions and farms and domestics and public posts, these things are nothing else but mere fodder. But there are some few men among the crowd who are fond of looking on and considering, “What then, after all, is the world? Who governs it? Hath it no governor? How is it possible, when neither a city nor a house can remain ever so short a time without someone to govern and take care of it, that this vast and beautiful system should be administered in a fortuitous and disorderly manner? Is there then a governor? What sort of one is he? And how doth he govern; and what are we who are under him; And for what designed ? Have we some connection and relation to him; or none?" In this manner are the few affected; and apply themselves only to view the fair and then depart.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §14, ¶4.


January 3

BETIMES in the morning say to thyself: This day I shall have to do with an idle curious man, with an unthankful man, a railer, a crafty, false, or an envious man; an unsociable uncharitable man. All these ill qualities have happened unto them, through ignorance of that which is truly good and truly bad. But I that understand the nature of that which is good, that it only is to be desired, and of that which is bad, that it only is truly odious and shameful: who know moreover, that this transgressor, whosoever he be, is my kinsman, not by the same blood and seed, but by participation of the same reason, and of the same divine particle; How can I either be hurt by any of those, since it is not in their power to make me incur anything that is truly reproachful? or angry, and ill affected towards him, who by nature is so near unto me? for we are all born to be fellow-workers, as the feet, the hands, and the eye-lids; as the rows of the upper and under teeth: for such therefore to be in opposition, is against nature; and what is it to chafe at, and to be averse from, but to be in opposition?