previous next

To a certain rhetorician who was going up to Rome on a suit.

WHEN a certain person came to him, who was going up to Rome on account of a suit which had regard to his rank, Epictetus enquired the reason of his going to Rome, and the man then asked what he thought about the matter. Epictetus replied, If you ask me what you will do in Rome, whether you will succeed or fail, I have no rule (θεώρημα) about this. But if you ask me how you will fare, I can tell you: if you have right opinions (δόγματα), you will fare well; if they are false, you will fare ill. For to every man the cause of his acting is opinion. For what is the reason why you desired to be elected governor of the Cnossians? Your opinion. What is the reason that you are now going up to Rome? Your opinion. And going in winter, and with danger and expense.—I must go.—What tells you this? Your opinion. Then if opi- nions are the causes of all actions, and a man has bad opinions, such as the cause may be, such also is the effect. Have we then all sound opinions, both you and your adversary? And how do you differ? But have you sounder opinions than your adversary? Why? You think so. And so does he think that his opinions are better; and so do madmen. This is a bad criterion. But show to me that you have made some inquiry into your opinions and have taken some pains about them. And as now you are sailing to Rome in order to become governor of the Cnossians, and you are not content to stay at home with the honours which you had, but you desire something greater and more conspicuous, so when did you ever make a voyage for the purpose of examining your own opinions, and casting them out, if you have any that are bad? Whom have you approached for this purpose? What time have you fixed for it? What age? Go over the times of your life by yourself, if you are ashamed of me (knowing the fact) when you were a boy, did you examine your own opinions? and did you not then, as you do all things now, do as you did do? and when you were become a youth and attended the rheto- ricians, and yourself practised rhetoric, what did you imagine that you were deficient in? And when you were a young man and engaged in public matters, and pleaded causes yourself, and were gaining reputation, who then seemed your equal? And when would you have submitted to any man examining and showing that your opinions are bad? What then do you wish me to say to you?—Help me in this matter.—I have no theorem (rule) for this. Nor have you, if you came to me for this purpose, come to me as a philosopher, but as to a seller of vegetables or a shoemaker. For what purpose then have philosopher' theorems? For this purpose, that whatever may happen, our ruling faculty may be and continue to be conformable to nature. Does this seem to you a small thing?—No; but the greatest. —What then? does it need only a short time? and is it possible to seize it as you pass by? If you can, seize it.

Then you will say, I met with Epictetus as I should meet with a stone or a statue: for you saw me, and nothing snore. But he meets with a man as a man, who learns his opinions, and in his turn shows his own. Learn my opinions: show me yours; and then say that you have visited me. Let us examine one another: if I have any bad opinion, take it away: if you have any, show it. This is the meaning of meeting with a philosopher.—Not so, (you say): but this is only a passing visit, and while we are hiring the vessel, we can also see Epictetus. Let us see what he says. Then you go away and say: Epictetus was nothing; he used solecisms and spoke in a barbarous way. For of what else do you come as judges?—Well, but a man may say to me, if I attend to such matters1 (as you do), I shall have no land, as you have none; I shall have no silver cups as you have none, nor fine beasts as you have none.—In answer to this it is perhaps sufficient to say: I have no need of such things: but if you possess many things, you have need of others: whether you choose or not, you are poorer than I am. What then have I need of? Of that which you have not: of firmness, of a mind which is conformable to nature, of being free from perturbation. Whether I have a patron2 or not, what is that to me? but it is something to you. I am richer than you: I am not anxious what Caesar will think of me: for this reason, I flatter no man. This is what I possess instead of vessels of silver and gold. You have utensils of gold; but your discourse, your opinions, your assents, your movements (pursuits), your desires are of earthen ware. But when I have these things conformable to nature, why should I not employ my studies also upon reason? for I have leisure: my mind is not distracted. What shall I do, since I have no distraction? What more suitable to a man have I than this? When you have nothing to do, you are disturbed, you go to the theatre or you wander about without a purpose. Why should not the philosopher labour to improve his reason? You employ yourself about crystal vessels: I employ myself about the syllogism named the lying:3 you about myrrhine4 vessels; I employ myself about the syllogism named the denying (τοῦ ἀποφάσκοντος). To you every thing appears small that you possess: to me all that I have appears great. Your desire is insatiable: mine is satisfied. To (children) who put their hand into a narrow- necked earthen vessel and bring out figs and nuts, this happens; if they fill the hand, they cannot take it out, and then they cry. Drop a few of them and you will draw things out. And do you part with your desires: do not desire many things and you will have what you want.

1 See Schweig.'s note.

2 The Roman word 'patronus,' which at that time had the sense of a protector.

3 On the syllogism named 'lying' (ψευδόμενος) see Epict. ii. 17. 34.

4 'Murrhina vasa' were reckoned very precious by the Romans, and they gave great prices for them. It is not certain of what material they were made. Pliny (xxxvii. c. 2) has something about them.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus English (Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1890)
load focus Greek (1916)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Rome (Italy) (6)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: