These are the properties of the rational soul: it sees itself, analyses
itself, and makes itself such as it chooses; the fruit which it bears
itself enjoys- for the fruits of plants and that in animals which
corresponds to fruits others enjoy- it obtains its own end, wherever
the limit of life may be fixed. Not as in a dance and in a play and
in such like things, where the whole action is incomplete, if anything
cuts it short; but in every part and wherever it may be stopped, it
makes what has been set before it full and complete, so that it can
say, I have what is my own. And further it traverses the whole universe,
and the surrounding vacuum, and surveys its form, and it extends itself
into the infinity of time, and embraces and comprehends the periodical
renovation of all things, and it comprehends that those who come after
us will see nothing new, nor have those before us seen anything more,
but in a manner he who is forty years old, if he has any understanding
at all, has seen by virtue of the uniformity that prevails all things
which have been and all that will be. This too is a property of the
rational soul, love of one's neighbour, and truth and modesty, and
to value nothing more more than itself, which is also the property
of Law. Thus then right reason differs not at all from the reason
Thou wilt set little value on pleasing song and dancing and the pancratium,
if thou wilt distribute the melody of the voice into its several sounds,
and ask thyself as to each, if thou art mastered by this; for thou
wilt be prevented by shame from confessing it: and in the matter of
dancing, if at each movement and attitude thou wilt do the same; and
the like also in the matter of the pancratium. In all things, then,
except virtue and the acts of virtue, remember to apply thyself to
their several parts, and by this division to come to value them little:
and apply this rule also to thy whole life.
What a soul that is which is ready, if at any moment it must be separated
from the body, and ready either to be extinguished or dispersed or
continue to exist; but so that this readiness comes from a man's own
judgement, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately
and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic
Have I done something for the general interest? Well then I have had
my reward. Let this always be present to thy mind, and never stop
doing such good.
What is thy art? To be good. And how is this accomplished well except
by general principles, some about the nature of the universe, and
others about the proper constitution of man?
At first tragedies were brought on the stage as means of reminding
men of the things which happen to them, and that it is according to
nature for things to happen so, and that, if you are delighted with
what is shown on the stage, you should not be troubled with that which
takes place on the larger stage. For you see that these things must
be accomplished thus, and that even they bear them who cry out "O
Cithaeron." And, indeed, some things are said well by the dramatic
writers, of which kind is the following especially:-
Me and my children if the gods neglect,
This has its reason too. And again-
We must not chale and fret at that which happens. And
Life's harvest reap like the wheat's fruitful ear. And other things
of the same kind.
After tragedy the old comedy was introduced, which had a magisterial
freedom of speech, and by its very plainness of speaking was useful
in reminding men to beware of insolence; and for this purpose too
Diogenes used to take from these writers.
But as to the middle comedy which came next, observe what it was,
and again, for what object the new comedy was introduced, which gradually
sunk down into a mere mimic artifice. That some good things are said
even by these writers, everybody knows: but the whole plan of such
poetry and dramaturgy, to what end does it look!
How plain does it appear that there is not another condition of life
so well suited for philosophising as this in which thou now happenest
A branch cut off from the adjacent branch must of necessity be cut
off from the whole tree also. So too a man when he is separated from
another man has fallen off from the whole social community. Now as
to a branch, another cuts it off, but a man by his own act separates
himself from his neighbour when he hates him and turns away from him,
and he does not know that he has at the same time cut himself off
from the whole social system. Yet he has this privilege certainly
from Zeus who framed society, for it is in our power to grow again
to that which is near to us, and be to come a part which helps to
make up the whole. However, if it often happens, this kind of separation,
it makes it difficult for that which detaches itself to be brought
to unity and to be restored to its former condition. Finally, the
branch, which from the first grew together with the tree, and has
continued to have one life with it, is not like that which after being
cut off is then ingrafted, for this is something like what the gardeners
mean when they say that it grows with the rest of the tree, but that
it has not the same mind with it.
As those who try to stand in thy way when thou art proceeding according
to right reason, will not be able to turn thee aside from thy proper
action, so neither let them drive thee from thy benevolent feelings
towards them, but be on thy guard equally in both matters, not only
in the matter of steady judgement and action, but also in the matter
of gentleness towards those who try to hinder or otherwise trouble
thee. For this also is a weakness, to be vexed at them, as well as
to be diverted from thy course of action and to give way through fear;
for both are equally deserters from their post, the man who does it
through fear, and the man who is alienated from him who is by nature
a kinsman and a friend.
There is no nature which is inferior to art, for the arts imitate
the nature of things. But if this is so, that nature which is the
most perfect and the most comprehensive of all natures, cannot fall
short of the skill of art. Now all arts do the inferior things for
the sake of the superior; therefore the universal nature does so too.
And, indeed, hence is the origin of justice, and in justice the other
virtues have their foundation: for justice will not be observed, if
we either care for middle things (things indifferent), or are easily
deceived and careless and changeable.
If the things do not come to thee, the pursuits and avoidances of
which disturb thee, still in a manner thou goest to them. Let then
thy judgement about them be at rest, and they will remain quiet, and
thou wilt not be seen either pursuing or avoiding.
The spherical form of the soul maintains its figure, when it is neither
extended towards any object, nor contracted inwards, nor dispersed
nor sinks down, but is illuminated by light, by which it sees the
truth, the truth of all things and the truth that is in itself.
Suppose any man shall despise me. Let him look to that himself. But
I will look to this, that I be not discovered doing or saying anything
deserving of contempt. Shall any man hate me? Let him look to it.
But I will be mild and benevolent towards every man, and ready to
show even him his mistake, not reproachfully, nor yet as making a
display of my endurance, but nobly and honestly, like the great Phocion,
unless indeed he only assumed it. For the interior parts ought to
be such, and a man ought to be seen by the gods neither dissatisfied
with anything nor complaining. For what evil is it to thee, if thou
art now doing what is agreeable to thy own nature, and art satisfied
with that which at this moment is suitable to the nature of the universe,
since thou art a human being placed at thy post in order that what
is for the common advantage may be done in some way?
Men despise one another and flatter one another; and men wish to raise
themselves above one another, and crouch before one another.
How unsound and insincere is he who says, I have determined to deal
with thee in a fair way.- What art thou doing, man? There is no occasion
to give this notice. It will soon show itself by acts. The voice ought
to be plainly written on the forehead. Such as a man's character is,
he immediately shows it in his eyes, just as he who is beloved forthwith
reads everything in the eyes of lovers. The man who is honest and
good ought to be exactly like a man who smells strong, so that the
bystander as soon as he comes near him must smell whether he choose
or not. But the affectation of simplicity is like a crooked stick.
Nothing is more disgraceful than a wolfish friendship (false friendship).
Avoid this most of all. The good and simple and benevolent show all
these things in the eyes, and there is no mistaking.
As to living in the best way, this power is in the soul, if it be
indifferent to things which are indifferent. And it will be indifferent,
if it looks on each of these things separately and all together, and
if it remembers that not one of them produces in us an opinion about
itself, nor comes to us; but these things remain immovable, and it
is we ourselves who produce the judgements about them, and, as we
may say, write them in ourselves, it being in our power not to write
them, and it being in our power, if perchance these judgements have
imperceptibly got admission to our minds, to wipe them out; and if
we remember also that such attention will only be for a short time,
and then life will be at an end. Besides, what trouble is there at
all in doing this? For if these things are according to nature, rejoice
in them, and they will be easy to thee: but if contrary to nature,
seek what is conformable to thy own nature, and strive towards this,
even if it bring no reputation; for every man is allowed to seek his
Consider whence each thing is come, and of what it consists, and into
what it changes, and what kind of a thing it will be when it has changed,
and that it will sustain no harm.
If any have offended against thee, consider first: What is my relation
to men, and that we are made for one another; and in another respect,
I was made to be set over them, as a ram over the flock or a bull
over the herd. But examine the matter from first principles, from
this: If all things are not mere atoms, it is nature which orders
all things: if this is so, the inferior things exist for the sake
of the superior, and these for the sake of one another.
Second, consider what kind of men they are at table, in bed, and so
forth: and particularly, under what compulsions in respect of opinions
they are; and as to their acts, consider with what pride they do what
Third, that if men do rightly what they do, we ought not to be displeased;
but if they do not right, it is plain that they do so involuntarily
and in ignorance. For as every soul is unwillingly deprived of the
truth, so also is it unwillingly deprived of the power of behaving
to each man according to his deserts. Accordingly men are pained when
they are called unjust, ungrateful, and greedy, and in a word wrong-doers
to their neighbours.
Fourth, consider that thou also doest many things wrong, and that
thou art a man like others; and even if thou dost abstain from certain
faults, still thou hast the disposition to commit them, though either
through cowardice, or concern about reputation, or some such mean
motive, thou dost abstain from such faults.
Fifth, consider that thou dost not even understand whether men are
doing wrong or not, for many things are done with a certain reference
to circumstances. And in short, a man must learn a great deal to enable
him to pass a correct judgement on another man's acts.
Sixth, consider when thou art much vexed or grieved, that man's life
is only a moment, and after a short time we are all laid out dead.
Seventh, that it is not men's acts which disturb us, for those acts
have their foundation in men's ruling principles, but it is our own
opinions which disturb us. Take away these opinions then, and resolve
to dismiss thy judgement about an act as if it were something grievous,
and thy anger is gone. How then shall I take away these opinions?
By reflecting that no wrongful act of another brings shame on thee:
for unless that which is shameful is alone bad, thou also must of
necessity do many things wrong, and become a robber and everything
Eighth, consider how much more pain is brought on us by the anger
and vexation caused by such acts than by the acts themselves, at which
we are angry and vexed.
Ninth, consider that a good disposition is invincible, if it be genuine,
and not an affected smile and acting a part. For what will the most
violent man do to thee, if thou continuest to be of a kind disposition
towards him, and if, as opportunity offers, thou gently admonishest
him and calmly correctest his errors at the very time when he is trying
to do thee harm, saying, Not so, my child: we are constituted by nature
for something else: I shall certainly not be injured, but thou art
injuring thyself, my child.- And show him with gentle tact and by
general principles that this is so, and that even bees do not do as
he does, nor any animals which are formed by nature to be gregarious.
And thou must do this neither with any double meaning nor in the way
of reproach, but affectionately and without any rancour in thy soul;
and not as if thou wert lecturing him, nor yet that any bystander
may admire, but either when he is alone, and if others are present...
Remember these nine rules, as if thou hadst received them as a gift
from the Muses, and begin at last to be a man while thou livest. But
thou must equally avoid flattering men and being veied at them, for
both are unsocial and lead to harm. And let this truth be present
to thee in the excitement of anger, that to be moved by passion is
not manly, but that mildness and gentleness, as they are more agreeable
to human nature, so also are they more manly; and he who possesses
these qualities possesses strength, nerves and courage, and not the
man who is subject to fits of passion and discontent. For in the same
degree in which a man's mind is nearer to freedom from all passion,
in the same degree also is it nearer to strength: and as the sense
of pain is a characteristic of weakness, so also is anger. For he
who yields to pain and he who yields to anger, both are wounded and
But if thou wilt, receive also a tenth present from the leader of
the Muses (Apollo), and it is this- that to expect bad men not to
do wrong is madness, for he who expects this desires an impossibility.
But to allow men to behave so to others, and to expect them not to
do thee any wrong, is irrational and tyrannical.
There are four principal aberrations of the superior faculty against
which thou shouldst be constantly on thy guard, and when thou hast
detected them, thou shouldst wipe them out and say on each occasion
thus: this thought is not necessary: this tends to destroy social
union: this which thou art going to say comes not from the real thoughts;
for thou shouldst consider it among the most absurd of things for
a man not to speak from his real thoughts. But the fourth is when
thou shalt reproach thyself for anything, for this is an evidence
of the diviner part within thee being overpowered and yielding to
the less honourable and to the perishable part, the body, and to its
Thy aerial part and all the fiery parts which are mingled in thee,
though by nature they have an upward tendency, still in obedience
to the disposition of the universe they are overpowered here in the
compound mass (the body). And also the whole of the earthy part in
thee and the watery, though their tendency is downward, still are
raised up and occupy a position which is not their natural one. In
this manner then the elemental parts obey the universal, for when
they have been fixed in any place perforce they remain there until
again the universal shall sound the signal for dissolution. Is it
not then strange that thy intelligent part only should be disobedient
and discontented with its own place? And yet no force is imposed on
it, but only those things which are conformable to its nature: still
it does not submit, but is carried in the opposite direction. For
the movement towards injustice and intemperance and to anger and grief
and fear is nothing else than the act of one who deviates from nature.
And also when the ruling faculty is discontented with anything that
happens, then too it deserts its post: for it is constituted for piety
and reverence towards the gods no less than for justice. For these
qualities also are comprehended under the generic term of contentment
with the constitution of things, and indeed they are prior to acts
He who has not one and always the same object in life, cannot be one
and the same all through his life. But what I have said is not enough,
unless this also is added, what this object ought to be. For as there
is not the same opinion about all the things which in some way or
other are considered by the majority to be good, but only about some
certain things, that is, things which concern the common interest;
so also ought we to propose to ourselves an object which shall be
of a common kind (social) and political. For he who directs all his
own efforts to this object, will make all his acts alike, and thus
will always be the same.
Think of the country mouse and of the town mouse, and of the alarm
and trepidation of the town mouse.
Socrates used to call the opinions of the many by the name of Lamiae,
bugbears to frighten children.
The Lacedaemonians at their public spectacles used to set seats in
the shade for strangers, but themselves sat down anywhere.
Socrates excused himself to Perdiccas for not going to him, saying,
It is because I would not perish by the worst of all ends, that is,
I would not receive a favour and then be unable to return it.
In the writings of the Ephesians there was this precept, constantly
to think of some one of the men of former times who practised virtue.
The Pythagoreans bid us in the morning look to the heavens that we
may be reminded of those bodies which continually do the same things
and in the same manner perform their work, and also be reminded of
their purity and nudity. For there is no veil over a star.
Consider what a man Socrates was when he dressed himself in a skin,
after Xanthippe had taken his cloak and gone out, and what Socrates
said to his friends who were ashamed of him and drew back from him
when they saw him dressed thus.
Neither in writing nor in reading wilt thou be able to lay down rules
for others before thou shalt have first learned to obey rules thyself.
Much more is this so in life.
A slave thou art: free speech is not for thee.
And my heart laughed within.
And virtue they will curse, speaking harsh words.
To look for the fig in winter is a madman's act: such is he who looks
for his child when it is no longer allowed.
When a man kisses his child, said Epictetus, he should whisper to
himself, "To-morrow perchance thou wilt die."- But those are words
of bad omen.- "No word is a word of bad omen," said Epictetus, "which
expresses any work of nature; or if it is so, it is also a word of
bad omen to speak of the ears of corn being reaped."
The unripe grape, the ripe bunch, the dried grape, all are changes,
not into nothing, but into something which exists not yet.
No man can rob us of our free will.
Epictetus also said, A man must discover an art (or rules) with respect
to giving his assent; and in respect to his movements he must be careful
that they be made with regard to circumstances, that they be consistent
with social interests, that they have regard to the value of the object;
and as to sensual desire, he should altogether keep away from it;
and as to avoidance (aversion) he should not show it with respect
to any of the things which are not in our power.
The dispute then, he said, is not about any common matter, but about
being mad or not.
Socrates used to say, What do you want? Souls of rational men or irrational?-
Souls of rational men.- Of what rational men? Sound or unsound?- Sound.-
Why then do you not seek for them?- Because we have them.- Why then
do you fight and quarrel?