This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Arrian's Discourses of Epictetus
That when we cannot fulfil that which the character of a man promises, we assume the character of a philosopher.
What is the matter on which a good man should be employed, and in what we ought chiefly to practise ourselves.
2 The rational faculty is the λογικὴ ψυχή of Epictetus and Antoninus, of which Antoninus says (xi. 1): “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.”
3 This is what he has just named the rational faculty. The Stoics gave the name of appearances (φαντασίαι) to all impressions received by the senses, and to all emotions caused by external things. Chrysippus said: “φαντασία ἐστὶ πάθος ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ γινόμενον, ἐνδεικνύμενον ἑαυτό τε καὶ τὸ πεποιηκός” (Plutarch, iv. c. 12, De Placit. Philosoph.).
4 Compare Antoninus, ii. 3. Epictetus does not intend to limit the power of the gods, but he means that the constitution of things being what it is, they cannot do contradictories. They have so constituted things that man is hindered by externals. How then could they give to man a power of not being hindered by externals? Seneca (De Providentia, c. 6) says: “But it may be said, many things happen which cause sadness, fear, and are hard to bear. Because (God says) I could not save you from them, I have armed your minds against all.” This is the answer to those who imagine that they have disproved the common assertion of the omnipotence of God, when they ask whether He can combine inherent contradictions, whether He can cause two and two to make five. This is indeed a very absurd way of talking.
5 Schweighaeuser observes that these faculties of pursuit and avoidance, and of desire and aversion, and even the faculty of using appearances, belong to animals as well as to man: but animals in using appearances are moved by passion only, and do not understand what they are doing, while in man these passions are under his control. Salmasius proposed to change ἡμέτερον into ὑμέτερον, to remove the difficulty about these animal passions being called “a small portion of us (the gods).” Schweighaeuser, however, though he sees the difficulty, does not accept the emendation. Perhaps Arrian has here imperfectly represented what his master said, and perhaps he did not.
6 He alludes to the
7 Plautius Lateranus, consul-elect, was charged with being engaged in Piso's conspiracy against Nero. He was hurried to execution without being allowed to see his children; and though the tribune who executed him was privy to the plot, Lateranus said nothing. (Tacit. Ann. xv. 49, 60.)
8 Epaphroditus was a freedman of Nero, and once the master of Epictetus. He was Nero's secretary. One good act is recorded of him: he helped Nero to kill himself, and for this act he was killed by Domitian (Suetonius, Domitian, c. 14).
11 Thrasea Paetus, a Stoic philosopher, who was ordered in Nero's
time to put himself to death (Tacit. Ann. xvi. 21–35). He was
the husband of Arria, whose mother Arria, the wife of Caecina Paetus,
in the time of the Emperor Claudius, heroically showed her husband
the way to die (Plinius, Letters, iii. 16.) Martial has immortalised
the elder Arria in a famous epigram (i. 14):—
When Arria to her Paetus gave the sword,
Which her own hand from her chaste bosom drew,
'This wound,' she said, 'believe me, gives no pain,
But that will pain me which thy hand will do.'
13 Paconius Agrippinus was condemned in Nero's time. The charge against him was that he inherited his father's hatred of the head of the Roman state (Tacit. Ann. xvi. 28). The father of Agrippinus had been put to death under Tiberius (Suetonius, Tib. c. 61).
15 Epictetus, Encheiridion, c. 11: “Never say on the occasion of anything, 'I have lost it' but say, 'I have returned it.'”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.