A Selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 220 pages of information about A Selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion.
You must do everything according to rule, eat according to strict orders, abstain from delicacies, exercise yourself as you are bid at appointed times, in heat, in cold, you must not drink cold water, nor wine as you choose; in a word, you must deliver yourself up to the exercise master as you do to the physician, and then proceed to the contest.  And sometimes you will strain the hand, put the ankle out of joint, swallow much dust, sometimes be flogged, and after all this be defeated.  When you have considered all this, if you still choose, go to the contest:  if you do not you will behave like children, who at one time play at wrestlers, another time as flute players, again as gladiators, then as trumpeters, then as tragic actors.  So you also will be at one time an athlete, at another a gladiator, then a rhetorician, then a philosopher, but with your whole soul you will be nothing at all; but like an ape you imitate everything that you see, and one thing after another pleases you.  For you have not undertaken anything with consideration, nor have you surveyed it well; but carelessly and with cold desire.  Thus some who have seen a philosopher and having heard one speak, as Euphrates speaks—­and who can speak as he does?—­they wish to be philosophers themselves also.  My man, first of all consider what kind of thing it is; and then examine your own nature, if you are able to sustain the character.  Do you wish to be a pentathlete or a wrestler?  Look at your arms, your thighs, examine your loins.  For different men are formed by nature for different things.  Do you think that if you do these things, you can eat in the same manner, drink in the same manner, and in the same manner loathe certain things?  You must pass sleepless nights, endure toil, go away from your kinsmen, be despised by a slave, in everything have the inferior part, in honor, in office, in the courts of justice, in every little matter.  Consider these things, if you would exchange for them, freedom from passions, liberty, tranquillity.  If not, take care that, like little children, you be not now a philosopher, then a servant of the publicani, then a rhetorician, then a procurator (manager) for Caesar.  These things are not consistent.  You must be one man, either good or bad.  You must either cultivate your own ruling faculty, or external things.  You must either exercise your skill on internal things or on external things; that is you must either maintain the position of a philosopher or that of a common person.


Duties are universally measured by relations ([Greek:  tais schsesi]).  Is a man a father?  The precept is to take care of him, to yield to him in all things, to submit when he is reproachful, when he inflicts blows.  But suppose that he is a bad father.  Were you then by nature made akin to a good father?  No; but to a father.  Does a brother wrong you?  Maintain then your own position towards him, and do not examine what he is doing, but what you must do that your will shall be conformable to nature.  For another will not damage you, unless you choose:  but you will be damaged then when you shall think that you are damaged.  In this way then you will discover your duty from the relation of a neighbor, from that of a citizen, from that of a general, if you are accustomed to contemplate the relations.

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A Selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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