XIX[19arg] What Epictetus the philosophers used to say to worthless and vile men, who zealously followed the pursuit of philosophy; and the two words whose remembrance he enjoyed as by far the most salutary in all respects.
I HEARD Favorinus say that the philosopher Epictetus declared 1 that very many of those who professed to be philosophers were of the kind ἄνευ τοῦ πράττειν, μέχρι τοῦ λέγειν, which means “without deeds, limited to words”; that is, they preached but did not practise. But that is still more severe which Arrian, in his work On the Dissertations of Epictetus, 2 has written that this philosopher used to say. “For,” says Arrian, “when he perceived that a man without shame, persistent in wickedness, of abandoned [p. 267] character, reckless, boastful, and cultivating everything else except his soul—when he saw such a man taking up also the study and pursuit of philosophy, attacking natural history, practising logic and balancing and investigating many problems of that kind, he used to invoke the help 3 of gods and men, and usually amid his exclamations chided the man in these terms: 'O man, where are you storing these things? Consider whether the vessel be clean. For if you take them into your self-conceit, they are lost; if they are spoiled, they become urine or vinegar or something worse, if possible.'” Nothing surely could be weightier, nothing truer than these words, in which the greatest of philosophers declared that the learning and precepts of philosophy, flowing into a base and degenerate man, as if into a soiled and filthy vessel, are turned, altered, spoiled, and as he himself more cynically expresses it, become urine or, if possible, something worse than urine. Moreover, that same Epictetus, as we also heard from Favorinus, used to say that there were two faults which were by far the worst and most disgusting of all, lack of endurance and lack of self-restraint, when we cannot put up with or bear the wrongs which we ought to endure, or cannot restrain ourselves from actions or pleasures from which we ought to refrain. “Therefore,” said he, “if anyone would take these two words to heart and use them for his own guidance and regulation, he will be almost without sin and will lead a very peaceful life. These two words,” he said, “are ἀνέχου (bear) and ἀπέχου (forbear).” 4 [p. 269]