BECK index

Introduction to Epictetus

Epictetus, who was a native of Phrygia, is known by a name which means "newly acquired," because he was a slave of Epaphroditus in the court of Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero (54-68 CE).

The early Christian, Origen, quotes an account by Celsus about Epictetus and the greatness of his words under suffering similar to that of Jesus. Celsus wrote, "Take Epictetus, who, when his master was twisting his leg, said, smiling and unmoved, 'You will break my leg;' and when it was broken, he added, 'Did I not tell you that you would break it?'" Epictetus spent the rest of his life with a crippled leg.

While a slave Epictetus managed to attend lectures of the Stoic philosopher, Musonius Rufus, who made his listeners feel that they were personally being accused. Epictetus gained his freedom and was expelled from Rome by the emperor Domitian about 90 CE with other philosophers suspected of republicanism.

Epictetus settled in Nicopolis in Greece where he lived in poverty with only "earth, sky, and a cloak." Epictetus lived and taught a long time and probably died late in the reign of Hadrian (117-138).

Among his students coming from various parts of the empire was Flavius Arrian, who became a consul under the emperor Hadrian and wrote a history of Alexander the Great. Arrian collected the teachings of Epictetus into eight books of DISCOURSES, the first four of which survive, and a brief compendium of these teachings called the ENCHEIRIDION or MANUAL OF EPICTETUS.

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book.

To listen to Sanderson Beck reading his translation of The Manuel of Epictetus Part 1, please click on the play triangle below.

To listen to Sanderson Beck reading his translation of The Manuel of Epictetus Part 2, please click on the play triangle below.

by Arrian

Translated by Sanderson Beck

1. What is in Our Power
2. Desire and Aversion
3. Liking Qualities
4. Watch Preferences
5. Opinions Disturb
6. Use of Impressions
7. Pay Attention to the Captain
8. Wish for What Occurs
9. External Hindrances
10. Use Experiences
11. Giving Back
12. Not Being Disturbed
13. Care for Externals or Nature
14. Intentions
15. Banquet Behavior
16. Not Lamenting Inside
17. An Actor in a Play
18. Portents

19. Good is in Your Power
20. Irritation
21. Think of Death
22. Ridicule of Philosophy
23. Being a Philosopher
24. The Benefits in Your Power
25. Paying the Price
26. Nature Does Not Differ
27. The Universe Not Evil
28. Turning Over Your Mind
29. Athletics or Philosophy
30. See the Conditions
31. Piety
32. Divination
33. How to Behave
34. Pleasure
35. When Doing Something
36. Eating

37. A Role Beyond Your Power
38. Watch Your Leadership
39. Keep the Measure
40. Women
41. What Concerns the Body
42. The Insulting
43. Two Handles
44. Coherent Reasoning
45. Do Not Say It Is Bad
46. Follow Principles
47. Do It for Yourself
48. Signs of the Progressing
49. Expounding
50. Stay with What Is Proposed
51. Now Is the Contest
52. Three Topics in Philosophy
53. Handy Sayings

Of existing things some are in our power,
others not in our power.
In our power are conception, effort, desire, aversion
and in a word whatever are our actions;
but not in our power are the body, property, reputation,
rulers and in a word whatever are not our actions.

Also things in our power are by nature
free, unhindered, unimpeded,
but things not in our power are
weak, slavish, hindered, belonging to others.

So remember, that if
what is by nature slavish you think free
and what is others' your own,
you will be hindered, you will mourn, you will be disturbed,
and you will blame both gods and humans,
but if you think only yours is yours,
and another's, just as it is, another's,
no one will ever compel you, no one will hinder you,
you will not blame anyone, nor accuse someone,
not one thing will you do unwilling,
no one will harm you, you will have no enemy,
for you will suffer no harm from anyone.

So aiming at such great things, remember that
it is not necessary moderately moving to take hold of them,
but to give up some things completely,
and carry over others for the present.

Even if you intend these things
and to rule and be wealthy,
perhaps you may not bring about these latter
because of also aiming at the former,
and you may fail to get these,
by which alone freedom and happiness are gained.

So at once practice saying to every disturbing impression,
"You are an impression and not the complete manifestation."
Then examine it and test it by these rules which you have,
first and foremost of which is this:
whether it concerns things in our power or not in our power;
and if it does not concern something in our power,
let the reason for that be handy, "It is nothing to me."

Remember that the promise of desire
is the attainment of what you desire,
the attainment of aversion
not to fall into that which is avoided,
and whoever fails in desire is unfortunate,
and whoever falls into what is avoided has misfortune.

If then you avoid things against nature in your power,
you will fall into none which you may avoid;
but if you are averse to sickness or death or poverty,
you will have misfortune.

So remove aversion from all things not in your power
and transfer it to things against nature in your power.
But for the present remove completely the desire;
for if you desire some of the things not in our power,
you must be unfortunate,
and of those in our power,
however beautiful it would be to desire them,
none would ever come forward for you.
But use only impulse and departing,
and yet even lightly with exceptions and unconstrained.

To each of the allurements
or things providing use or contentment
remember to say, "What quality is it?"
beginning from the smallest things.

If you like a jug, say, "I like a jug;"
for when it breaks you will not be disturbed.
If you should kiss your child or wife,
say that you are kissing a person;
for when one dies, you will not be disturbed.

When you are about to take on some work,
remind yourself, what kind of work it is.
If you are going out to bathe,
put before yourself things occurring in a bathhouse,
the splashing, the pushing, the insulting, the stealing.
And thus you will take on your work more safely,
if at once you say to yourself, "I intend to bathe
and to watch keeping my preferring according to nature."

Also do the same in each action.
For thus if something got in the way of bathing,
a handy reason for that will be:
"But this was not the only thing I intended,
but also to watch keeping my preferring according to nature;
but I shall not be observing it,
if I am annoyed at the things occurring."

Actions do not disturb people,
but opinions about actions;
for example, death is nothing terrible,
or else it would have appeared so to Socrates also,
but the opinion about death, that it is terrible,
that is what is terrible.

So when we are hindered or disturbed or grieved,
let us never accuse another, but ourselves,
that is, our own opinions.

To charge others is the work of the uneducated,
in whose power the self is doing badly;
beginning to be educated is to charge oneself;
having been educated neither another nor oneself.

Do not be excited by any advantages of others.
If the horse being excited should say,
"I am beautiful," it could be endured;
but when you being excited say, "I have a beautiful horse,"
be aware that you are excited about a good of the horse.

What then is yours?
The use of impressions.
Therefore, when you have the use of impressions
according to nature, then get excited;
for then you will be getting excited
about something good in your power.

Just as on a voyage the ship being anchored
if you should go out to draw water,
along the way you might pick up both shell-fish and bulbs,
it is necessary to pay attention to the ship
and continually turn towards it,
lest the captain ever call,
and if he calls, to give up all those things,
unless you want to be thrown on like the sheep.

Thus also in life, if instead of a bulb and shell-fish
a wife and child is given, no one will hinder;
but if the captain should call,
run to the ship giving up all those and not turning back.

If you are old, do not ever get far away from the ship,
lest when called you may be left behind.

Do not strive for things occurring to occur as you wish,
but wish the things occurring as they occur,
and you will flow well.

Sickness is a hindrance of the body,
but not of preferring, unless this wills it.
Lameness is a hindrance of the leg, but not of preferring.
Also say this upon each thing happening;
for you will find this a hindrance of something else,
but not of yourself.

Upon each thing happening remember turning upon yourself
to seek what ability you have for the use of it.
If you see someone handsome or beautiful,
you will discover self-control the ability for these;
if labor is imposed, you will discover endurance;
if insults, you will discover patience.
And so becoming accustomed the impressions will not grab you.

Never say about anything, "I lost it,"
but "I gave it back."
Did the child die? It was given back.
Did the woman die? She was given back.
"The farm was taken away." So this also was given back.
"But the one taking it away was bad."
What do you care by whom the giver took it back?

So long as one gives it, as a stranger's take care of it,
just as the ones passing by do of an inn.

If you intend to advance, give up such inferences.
"If I neglect my things, I shall have no support."
"Unless I punish the servant, he will be bad."
For it is better to die of hunger
becoming sorrowless and fearless
than live in abundance being disturbed.
And it is better for your servant to be bad
than for you to be unhappy.

Begin therefore from the small things.
The oil is poured out; the wine is stolen;
say, "Such is the price of calmness, of being undisturbed."
Nothing is gained gratis.

When you call the servant,
realize that he may not be able to comply
and having complied may not do what you intend;
however it is not so well for him
that it should be in that one's power
for you to be disturbed at all.

If you intend to advance,
daring on account of external things
to be thought unintelligent and silly,
do not wish to be known for knowing anything;
and if some should believe you to be something,
distrust yourself.

For be aware that it is not easy
to watch keeping your preferring according to nature
and the externals too,
but taking care of one of these,
one must neglect the other altogether.

If you wish that your children and wife and your friends
live forever, you are silly;
for you are wishing that
things not in your power be in your power
and others' things be yours;
thus if you wish that the servant not fail, you are a fool;
for you are wishing that vice not be vice,
but something else.

But if you wish not to fail in desiring, this can be done.
Therefore exercise this, what can be done.
The lord of each is the one having authority
over what that one is wishing or not wishing
in the obtaining or taking away.

So whoever would be free,
let them neither wish anything nor avoid anything
in the power of others;
or else be by necessity enslaved.

Remember that you ought to conduct yourself
as at a banquet.
When something is passed around to you,
stretching out your hand partake of it politely.
It passes on; do not hold it back.
It has not arrived yet; do not project the desire forward,
but wait around until it comes to you.

Do so toward children, do so toward a wife,
do so toward officers, do so toward wealth;
and then you will be worthy of the gods' banquets.

But if you do not take what is put before you,
but look down on it,
then not only will you share in the banquet of the gods
but also in ruling with them.
For by doing thus Diogenes and Heracleitus and similar ones
were deservedly divine and called so.

When you see someone crying in sorrow,
either a child having gone abroad
or one's things having been ruined,
be careful that the impression does not grab you
as being in one's external ills,
but at once let be handy,
"What happened does not distress this person
(for it does not distress another),
but their opinion about it."

Yet as far as words go
do not hesitate to sympathize with them,
and if it so chances, even to lament with them;
yet be careful not to lament also inside.

Remember that you are an actor in a play,
which the playwright wills;
if short, short; if long, long;
he may intend you to play a beggar
so that also you might act this naturally;
or a cripple, an official, or a private person.
For this is yours, to play the given role beautifully;
but the selection of it is another's.

When a raven does not crow auspiciously,
do not let the impression carry you away;
but at once distinguish for yourself and say,
"None of these are significant for me,
but either for my body or my property
or my reputation or the children or wife.

"For me every portent is significant, if I wish;
for whatever turns out,
it is in my power to benefit from it."

You can be invincible,
if you never go into a contest,
which is not in your power to win.

Look out lest seeing some more honored
or with great power or otherwise blessed with fame,
you are ever carried away by the impression.

For if the essence of the good is in your power,
neither envy nor jealousy have a place;
and you yourself will not wish to be a magistrate,
nor a president or consul, but free.

There is one way to this,
looking down upon things not in your power.

Remember that not the one abusing or beating is insulting,
but the opinion about these is insulting.
So when someone irritates you,
be aware that your assumption has irritated you.
Thus at first try not to be carried away by the impression;
for once you get time and delay,
you will more easily control yourself.

Let death and exile and all things appearing terrible
be before your eyes each day, but most of all death;
and then you will neither take to heart the mean
nor will you desire anything very much.

If you desire philosophy,
prepare now as one being ridiculed,
as you are being mocked by many,
who are saying, "Suddenly a philosopher has returned to us"
and "From where has this high brow come to us?"

But you should not have a high brow;
but hold thus to what is appearing best to you,
as to that place assigned by God;
and remember that if you remain in the same,
these ridiculing you before will later be amazed,
but if you are overcome by them,
you will receive ridicule twice.

If it should ever happen that you turn outside
because you wish to please someone,
be aware that you lost the management.

Therefore be sure in everything to be a philosopher,
if you also plan to seem one,
and you will be capable also of showing it.

Do not let these considerations oppress you:
"I shall live unhonored and no one anywhere."
For if the lack of honor is bad,
you cannot be in evil through another,
any more than in shame.

So is it your work to get office
or be invited to a feast?
Not at all.
How then can this still be lack of honor?
and how will you be no one anywhere,
when it is necessary to be someone
only in those things which are in your power,
in which it is possible for you to be worthy of the greatest?

But will your friends be helpless?
What do you mean "helpless"?
They will not have small change from you;
nor will you make them citizens of Rome.

So who told you that these things are in your power,
and not others' work?
Who can give another what one does not have oneself?

"So acquire," one says, "so that you shall have."
If I can acquire keeping myself modest
and faithful and high-minded,
show the way and I shall acquire.
But if you expect me to lose the good things that are mine,
so that you may obtain things that are not good,
you see yourselves how unfair and unkind you are.

And what do you want more?
silver or a faithful and modest friend?
Therefore rather assist me into this
and do not expect me to do those things,
by which I may lose these things.

"But the country, as far as it is in my power,"
one says, "will be helpless."
Again, what kind of help is this also?
It will not have porticoes nor baths through you.
And what is this?
For neither does it have shoes through the blacksmith
nor arms through the cobbler;
but it is sufficient if each fulfills one's own work.

If you furnished for it
another faithful and modest citizen,
would you not be benefiting it?


Then you yourself would not be unbeneficial to it.

"So what place," one says, "shall I have in the state?"

Whichever you can
guarding at the same time fidelity and modesty.
But if wanting to benefit it you lose these things,
what benefit would you be for it,
if you ended up shameless and unfaithful?

Is someone honored before you at a feast
or in greeting or in being invited in to counsel?
If these things are good,
you must be glad that that one got them;
but if bad, do not be distressed that you did not get them.

Remember that not doing the same things
toward getting things not in your power,
you cannot be expected to get an equal share.
For how can one have an equal share
not frequenting someone's door with the one frequenting it?
not escorting with the one escorting?
not praising with the one praising?

Thus you would be unjust and insatiable,
if not paying things for which those are sold,
you wish to receive them free.
But for how much is lettuce sold?
For an obol, perhaps.
So if someone paying an obol receives lettuce,
and you not paying do not receive it,
in no way have you less than the one receiving.
For as that one has lettuce,
so you an obol, which you have not given.

Now it is the same way also here.
You have not been invited to someone's feast?
For you have not given to the one calling
as much as the dinner is sold for.
It is sold for praise, it is sold for service.
So give the price, if it profits you, for which it is sold.
But if you intend both not to pay and receive these,
you are insatiable and silly.
So do you have nothing instead of the dinner?
Thus you have the not praising one whom you did not wish to,
the not having to endure those at his entrance.

The will of nature is to be learned out of things
in which we do not differ from each other.
For example, when another's servant breaks the cup,
it is handy at once to say, "It is of the things happening."
So be aware that when your cup is broken,
you should be such, as when that of another is broken.

Thus alter also the greater things.
Another's child or wife has died;
There is no one who would not say that it is human.
However when someone of one's own dies,
at once "Ah me! I am wretched."
But one must remember,
what we suffer hearing about the same of others.

Just as a mark is not set up in order to be missed,
so neither does the nature of evil occur in the universe.

If someone turned over your body to anyone,
you would be upset;
but that you turn over your mind to any chance,
so that, if they insult you, it is disturbed and troubled,
are you not ashamed on account of this?

In each action consider the leading things
and its following things and so upon the action itself.
If not, you will come to it at first enthusiastically
without having thought of the next things,
but later when some difficulties show up
you will withdraw disgracefully.

Do you wish to win the Olympics?
I do too, by the gods; for it is exquisite.
However consider the leading things and the things following
and so take hold of the action.
It is necessary for you to be disciplined,
to eat strictly, to keep off sweets,
to exercise under compulsion, at an appointed hour,
in heat, in cold, not to drink cold water,
nor wine, as it chances,
absolutely as to a physician
to give yourself over to the trainer,
when in the contest to dig in alongside,
it is possible then to throw out a hand,
to sprain an ankle, swallow much sand, perhaps be beaten,
and with all these things be defeated.

Having considered these things,
if you still intend to, enter upon athletics.
If not, you will be turning back like children,
who now play at wrestling, and now at single combat,
and now at athletics, then at tragedy;
so also you are now an athlete, and now a gladiator,
then an orator, then a philosopher,
but with the whole soul nothing;
but like an ape imitate everything which you see
and one after another whatever strikes you.

For you did not go into anything
with consideration nor circumspection,
but rashly and according to cold desire.

Thus some having seen a philosopher
and having heard thus someone talking,
like Euphrates talks (Yet who can speak like him?),
they wish also to philosophize themselves.

Person, first consider, what is the matter;
and then learn your nature, if you can bear it.
Do you wish to be in the pentathlon or a wrestler?
Look at your arms, thighs, study the loins.
For another has a nature for another thing.

Do you think that doing these things
you can eat the same way, drink the same way,
get angry similarly, be displeased similarly?
It is necessary to stay awake, to work,
to go away from the household, to be condemned by a servant,
to be ridiculed by everyone, to have the worst in everything,
in honor, in office, in justice, in every affair.

Consider these things, if you are willing to exchange
for these calm, freedom, tranquillity;
but if not, do not approach, not like children,
now a philosopher, but later a tax collector,
then an orator, then an administrator of Caesar.
These things do not harmonize.

But you must be one person either good or bad;
you must work out of yourself
either the leading or the externals;
either to love the art concerning inside things
or concerning outside things;
that is, either take the position of a philosopher
or of an average person.

Proper things in general are measured by the conditions.
It is a father; one is required to take care,
to yield in all things, to hold up when insulted, struck.
"But the father is bad."
What then, you were not related to a good father by nature?
But to a father.

"The brother is unjust."
So then maintain your position to him;
do not consider what he does,
but what you are doing
to keep your preferring according to nature.

For another will not harm you if you are not willing;
but then you will be harmed, when you assume you are harmed.
So then from the neighbor, from the citizen, from the general
you will discover the proper thing,
if you are in the habit of seeing the conditions.

Concerning piety toward the gods
be aware that the most lordly is that,
to have correct conceptions about them as existing
and administering the things whole beautifully and justly,
and to have appointed yourself into this,
to obey them and to submit to everything happening
and to follow voluntarily
as being accomplished by the best intelligence.
For thus you will never blame the gods
nor accuse them for neglecting.

But no other way can this happen,
than by withdrawing from things not in your power
and putting good and bad only on things in your power.
Since if you conceive of any of the former as good or bad,
by absolute necessity, when you fail in things you wish
and fall into things you do not wish,
you will blame and hate those responsible.

For this is the nature of all living things
to flee and turn aside from things appearing harmful
and things responsible for them,
and to go after and admire things beneficial
and things responsible for them.

Thus it is impractical for someone
thinking they are being harmed
to be glad at what seems to be harming,
just as it is impossible to be glad at the harm itself.

Therefore even a father is insulted by a son,
when he does not share with the child what seems to be good;
and this made Polyneices and Eteocles enemies to each other
thinking tyranny was good.

Because of this also the farmer insults the gods,
because of this the sailor, because of this the merchant,
because of this the ones who have lost wives and children.
For where the profit is, there also is piety.

Therefore, whoever is careful of desire and aversion
as one should, at the same time also is taking care of piety.
But it is fitting to pour libations and offer and sacrifice
according to ancestral ways each time purely and not slovenly
nor carelessly nor sparingly nor beyond ability.

When you undertake divination,
remember that what the outcome will be, you do not know,
but you have come inquiring it from the diviner,
and you have come knowing what sort it is,
if you are a philosopher.
For if it is anything not in your power,
it is absolutely necessary
for it to be neither good nor bad.

So do not bring to the diviner desire or aversion
nor approach them trembling,
but resolving that every outcome
is indifferent and nothing to you,
and whatever it may be, it will be beautifully useful to one,
and no one will prevent this.

So be confident in going to the gods as to counselors;
and leaving, when some counsel is given to you,
remember whom you have taken as counselors
and whom you disregard disobeying.

But go to divination, just as Socrates went,
in things where all speculation has reference to the outcome
and neither from logic nor from any other skill
is it given to begin to view the thing exposed.

Therefore, when one should incur danger
with a friend or country,
do not divine if the danger should be incurred.
For if the diviner foretells to you the omens are poor,
it is clear that death is indicated
or maiming of some part of the body or exile;
but reason requires even with this to stand by the friend
and incur danger with the country.

Therefore pay attention to the greater diviner,
the Pythian, who threw out of the temple
one who had not helped a friend being murdered.

Appoint for yourself already some character and model,
which you may keep by yourself and meeting with people.

And be silent most of the time
or talk the necessities and in few words.
But rarely, when opportunity invites speaking, speak,
but about none of the ordinary things;
not about gladiators, not about horse-races,
not about athletes, not about food or drink,
things said everywhere,
and especially not about people
faulting or praising or comparing.

So you may be able to change it by your words
and those of the companions to what is proper.
But if you are caught by chance among strangers, be silent.

Do not laugh much nor at many things nor unrestrained.
Decline an oath, if possible at all,
but if not, it is out of one's power.

Avoid feasts of those outside and average persons;
but if at some time an opportunity occurs,
let your attention be alert,
never then slip into mediocrity.
For be aware that if the companion be defiled,
also the one rubbing up against them must be defiled,
even though one happens to be clean.

In things concerning the body
take only the bare necessities,
such as food, drink, clothing, shelter, servants;
but draw the line at all glamour and luxury.
Concerning sexuality be as pure as possible before marriage;
but in engaging participate in what is lawful.
However do not be annoying nor examining to those indulging;
nor bring forward often the fact that one does not indulge.

If someone reports to you
that a certain person speaks badly of you,
do not defend against the things said, but answer,
"For they did not know the other bad approaches to me,
otherwise these would not be the only things said."

It is not necessary to go to shows often.
But if at some time there is an opportunity,
do not show seriousness for anyone other than yourself,
that is, wish only for the things happening to happen
and only for those winning to win;
for thus you will not be thwarted.
But refrain completely from shouting and laughing at anyone
or from being much stirred up.

Also after leaving
do not discuss much about what occurred,
except as it bears on your improvement;
for it appears from such that the sight was amazing.

Do not go rashly nor readily to people's readings;
but going be solemn and steady
and at the same time keep inoffensive.

When you are about to meet someone,
especially those held in eminence,
propose to yourself,
what would Socrates or Zeno have done in this situation,
and you will not be at a loss
to make proper use of the event.

When you resort to some of great power,
propose that you will not find them in,
that you will be shut out,
that the doors will be slammed on you,
that they will pay no attention to you.
And if it is proper to go into this,
go bearing what happens
and never say to yourself, "It was not so great;"
for the average person also is offended by externals.

In your conversation stay away from
remembering much and excessively
your own actions or dangers.
For it is not as pleasant for others
thus also to hear of your adventures
as it is pleasant for you to remember your dangers.

Stay away also from arousing laughter;
for the slippery manner relaxes into vulgarity
and at the same time the respect of neighbors for you.
It is also precarious to go on into foul language.
So when some such thing occurs, if it be well-timed,
even reprove the one going into it;
and if not, keep silent and blush and frown
to make clear you are displeased by the word.

When you receive an impression of some pleasure,
as with others, watch yourself, not to be carried off by it;
however let it wait upon your business,
and get some delay for yourself.

Next remember both the times,
when you will enjoy the pleasure,
and when having enjoyed it
later you will repent and reproach yourself;
and against these refraining
how much you will be glad and commend yourself.

But if an opportunity appears to you
to engage in the action,
be sure you are not overcome
by its softness and pleasure and attraction;
but set against it, how much better is the awareness
for yourself to have won a victory over it.

When you have decided to do something,
that it is to be done,
never avoid being seen doing it,
even though many people will likely suppose
something different about it.

For if you are not acting correctly,
avoid the action itself;
but if you are acting correctly,
why should you fear those chastising not correctly?

Just as "It is day" and "It is night"
in separation have great value,
but in combination are without value,
so also to select a larger portion
for the body may have value,
but in community at a feast,
one should be able to observe,
it is without value.
So when you are eating with another,
remember, look at not only the value
of what is presented for the body,
but also keep respect for the host.

If you take up some role beyond your power,
both are you in this dishonored, and,
you are unable to fulfill what you left behind.

Just as you pay attention in walking around,
not to step on a nail or sprain your foot,
so be sure also not to hurt your leadership.
And if we observe this in each action,
we shall reach more security of action.

The body of each is the measure of property
as the foot of the shoe.
So if you establish this, you will keep the measure;
but if you go beyond it,
as down from a cliff you must be carried;
so also with the shoe, if you go beyond the foot,
the shoe becomes gilded, then purple, embroidered.
For once beyond the measure there is no limit.

Women right after fourteen years
are called ladies by the men.
Therefore seeing that there is nothing else for them,
but only to sleep with men,
they begin to beautify themselves
and in this put all hopes.

So it is valuable to make sure they understand
that they are honored for nothing else
than to appear orderly and modest.

It is a sign of the unnatural
to waste time on what concerns the body,
as on much exercise, on much eating, on much drinking,
on much defecating, copulating.
However these may be done in passing;
but let all the attention be concerning the mind.

When someone treats you badly or speaks badly,
remember that thinking it is proper they do or say so.
So they are not able to follow what appears so to you,
but to themselves,
so that, if it appears wrong to them,
they are hurt, who are also deceived.

For if someone supposes that a compound truth is false,
the compound truth is not hurt, but the one deceived.
So starting from this you will be gentle to the insulting.
For declare each time, "It seemed so to them."

Every matter has two handles,
one for carrying, the other not for carrying.
If your brother wrongs, do not take hold of it from here,
that he wrongs (for this is the handle not to carry it by),
but rather from there, that he is a brother,
that you were nurtured together,
and you will take it as it is carried.

These reasonings are not coherent:
"I am wealthier than you; thus I am better than you."
"I am more eloquent than you; thus I am better than you."

But these are more coherent:
"I am wealthier than you;
thus my property is better than yours."
"I am more eloquent than you;
thus my speech is better than yours."

But you are neither property nor speech.

Someone bathes quickly;
do not say that it is bad, but that it is quick.

Someone drinks much wine;
do not say that it is bad, but that it is much.

For until you understand the belief,
how do you know whether it is bad?

Thus it will not result for you
to receive some repressed impressions,
but agree to others.

Never say you are a philosopher
nor speak much among average people about principles,
but do what follows from principles;
for example at a banquet do not say how one should eat,
but eat as one should.

For remember how thus Socrates completely avoided display,
such that they came to him
wishing to be introduced to philosophers by him,
and he took them along.
Thus he bore being overlooked.

And if some argument about principle
arises among average people,
be silent most of the time;
for great is the danger you will immediately vomit out
what you have not digested.

And when someone says to you that you know nothing,
and you are not stung,
then be aware that you may be beginning the action.

Since even sheep do not bring fodder to the shepherds
to show how much they have eaten,
but digesting pasture inside produce outside wool and milk;
and you then do not show off principles to average people,
but the actions from their having been digested.

When you are adapted frugally according to the body,
do not embellish on this at all,
do not, if you drink water,
on every occasion say that you drink water.
and if you ever intend to train for endurance,
do it for yourself and not for the ones outside;
do not embrace statues;
but when very thirsty draw in cold water
and spit it out and say nothing.

Position and character of the average:
never from themselves do they expect benefit or harm,
but from ones outside.

Position and character of a philosopher:
every benefit and harm is expected from oneself.

Signs of the progressing:
they blame no one, praise no one,
fault no one, accuse no one,
say nothing about themselves
as though being someone or knowing something.

If someone praises them,
they laugh to themselves at the one praising;
if blamed, they make no defense.

They go around like the feeble,
taking care about moving any of what is set,
until it has been fixed.

They keep out of themselves every desire;
and they transfer aversion
only to things against nature in our power.

They use unrestrained effort toward everything.
If they seem foolish or unlearned, they do not care.
In a word, as a treacherous enemy they guard themselves.

When someone thinks they can expound and interpret
the books of Chrysippus,
say to yourself, "If Chrysippus had not written obscurely,
this one would have nothing upon which to interpret."

But what do I want?
To understand nature and follow her.
So I seek someone who is expounding;
and having heard that Chrysippus does, I go to him.
But I do not understand what has been written;
so I seek the one expounding.
And so far of these there is nothing holy yet.
But when I find the one expounding,
it remains to use the instructions;
this itself is alone the holy.

But if I admire this expounding itself,
what other accomplishment is it other than grammatical
instead of philosophical?
Except that instead of Homer it is expounding Chrysippus.
So rather, when someone says to me, "Read to me Chrysippus,"
I blush, when I cannot show similar actions
harmonizing with the words.

Whatever is proposed, stay with these like laws,
as though it would be profane for you to overstep them.
But whatever anyone may say about you, pay no attention;
for this is still not yours.

For how much longer will you put off
valuing yourself worthy of the best
and in nothing step over logical distinctions?
You received the principles with which you should agree,
and you have agreed.

So what kind of teacher are you still expecting,
that you postpone for that
making corrections of yourself?

You are no longer a boy, but already a grown man.
If now you are careless and take it easy
and always make advances out of advancement
and schedule for other days upon other days,
after which you will pay attention to yourself,
escaping yourself you will not progress,
but you will continue in mediocrity both living and dying.

So already value your life as perfect and progress;
and let everything appearing best to you be unchangeable law.
And if you meet anything laborious or sweet
or notable or unnotable,
remember that now is the contest
and already present are the Olympics
and it is not possible to put it off any longer
and that on a single day and in one matter
progress is both lost and saved.

Thus Socrates became accomplished,
by paying attention in every encounter of his
to nothing else but reason.
And even if you are not yet a Socrates,
as one wishing to be a Socrates you ought to live.

The first and most necessary topic in philosophy
is the using of principles, such as not lying;
The second is demonstrating, such as why should one not lie?
The third is confirming and discriminating from these,
such as how does this demonstrate it?

For what is a demonstration, what a consequence,
what a conflict, what true, what false?
Therefore the third topic is necessary because of the second,
and the second because of the first;
and most necessary and where one should halt is the first.

But we do the contrary;
for we spend time on the third topic
and all our effort is concerning that;
while we completely neglect the first.

Therefore we lie,
but we have handy how to demonstrate that one should not lie.

Upon every occasion one must have handy these things:

"Lead me, Zeus, and you also Destiny,
to where I am assigned by you;
as I follow untiring; and if I am not willing,
becoming bad, nonetheless I shall follow."

"Whoever with necessity complies well,
is wise by us, and in things divine skilled."

"But, Crito, if this is friendly to the gods,
let it be this."

"Anytus and Meletus can kill me, but not hurt me."

Copyright 1996, 2002 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.


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