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Against the quarrelsome and ferocious.

THE wise and good man neither himself fights with any person, nor does he allow another, so far as he can prevent it. And an example of this as well as of all other things is proposed to us in the life of Socrates, who not only himself on all occasions avoided fights (quarrels), but would not allow even others to quarrel. See in Xenophon's Symposium1 how many quarrels he settled, how further he endured Thrasymachus and Polus and Callicles; how he tolerated his wife, and how he tolerated his son2 who attempted to confute him and to cavil with him. For he remembered well that no man has in his power another man's ruling principle. He wished therefore for nothing else than that which was his own. And what is this? Not that this or that man may act according to nature; for that is a thing which belongs to another; but that while others are doing their own acts, as they choose, he may never the less be in a condition conformable to nature and live in it, only doing what is his own to the end that others also may be in a state conformable to nature. For this is the object always set before him by the wise and good man. Is it to be commander (a praetor)3 of an army? No: but if it is permitted him, his object is in this matter to maintain his own ruling principle. Is it to marry? No; but if marriage is allowed to him, in this matter his object is to maintain himself in a condition conformable to nature. But if he would have his son not to do wrong or his wife, he would have what belongs to another not to belong to another: and to be instructed is this, to learn what things are a man's own and what belongs to another. How then is there left any place for fighting (quarrel- ling) to a man who has this opinion (which he ought to have)? Is he surprised at any thing which happens, and does it appear new to him?4 Does he not expect that which comes from the bad to be worse and more grievous than what actually befals him? And does he not reckon as pure gain whatever they (the bad) may do which falls short of extreme wickedness? Such a person has reviled you. Great thanks to him for not having struck you. But he has struck me also. Great thanks that he did not wound you. But he wounded me also. Great thanks that he did not kill you. For when did he learn or in what school that man is a tame5 animal, that men love one another, that an act of injustice is a great harm to him who does it. Since then he has not learned this and is not convinced of it, why shall he not follow that which seems to be for his own interest? Your neighbour has thrown stones. Have you then done any thing wrong? But the things in the house have been broken. Are you then a utensil? No; but a free power of will.6 What then is given to you (to do) in answer to this? If you are like a wolf, you must bite in return, and throw more stones. But if you consider what is proper for a man, examine your storehouse, see with what faculties you came into the world. Have you the disposition of a wild beast, have you the disposition of revenge for an injury? When is a horse wretched? When he is deprived of his natural faculties, not when he cannot crow like a cock, but when he cannot run. When is a dog wretched? Not when he cannot fly, but when he cannot track his game. Is then a man also unhappy in this way, not because he cannot strangle lions or embrace statues,7 for he did not come into the world in the possession of certain powers from nature for this purpose, but because he has lost his probity and his fidelity? People ought to meet and lament such a man for the misfortunes into which he has fallen; not indeed to lament because a man has been born or has died,8 but because it has happened to him in his life time to have lost the things which are his own, not that which he received from his father, not his land and house, and his inn,9 and his slaves; for not one of these things is a man's own, but all belong to others, are servile, and subject to account (ὑπεύθυνα), at different times given to different persons by those who have them in their power: but I mean the things which belong to him as a man, the marks (stamps) in his mind with which he came into the world, such as we seek also on coins, and if we find them, we approve of the coins, and if we do not find the marks, we reject them. What is the stamp on this Sestertius?10 The stamp of Trajan. Present it. It is the stamp of Nero. Throw it away: it cannot be accepted, it is counterfeit.11 So also in this case: What is the stamp of his opinions? It is gentleness, a sociable disposition, a tolerant temper, a disposition to mutual affection. Produce these qualities. I accept them: I consider this man a citizen, I accept him as a neighbour, a com- panion in my voyages. Only see that he has not Nero's stamp. Is he passionate, is he full of resentment, is he fault-finding? If the whim seizes him, does he break the heads of those who come in his way? (If so), why then did you say that he is a man? Is every thing judged (determined) by the bare form? If that is so, say that the form in wax12 is an apple and has the smell and the taste of an apple. But the external figure is not enough: neither then is the nose enough and the eyes to make the man, but he must have the opinions of a man. Here is a man who does not listen to reason, who does not know when he is refuted: he is an ass: in another man the sense of shame is become dead: he is good for nothing, he is any thing rather than a man. This man seeks whom he may meet and kick or bite, so that he is not even a sheep or an ass, but a kind of wild beast.

What then? would you have me to be despised?—By whom? by those who know you? and how shall those who know you despise a man who is gentle and modest? Perhaps you mean by those who do not know you? What is that to you? For no other artisan cares for the opinion of those who know not his art.—But they will be more hostile to me13 for this reason.—Why do you say 'me'? Can any man injure your will, or prevent you from using in a natural way the appearances which are presented to you? In no way can he. Why then are you still dis- turbed and why do you choose to show yourself afraid?14 And why do you not come forth and proclaim that you are at peace with all men whatever they may do, and laugh at those chiefly who think that they can harm you? These slaves, you can say, know not either who I am, nor where lies my good or my evil, because they have no access to the things which are mine.

In this way also those who occupy a strong city mock the besiegers, (and say): What trouble these men are now taking for nothing: our wall is secure, we have food for a very long time, and all other resources. These are the things which make a city strong and impregnable: but nothing else than his opinions makes a man's soul impregnable. For what wall is so strong, or what body is so hard, or what possession is so safe, or what honour (rank, character) so free from assault (as a man's opinions)? All (other) things every where are perishable, easily taken by assault, and if any man in any way is attached to them, he must be disturbed, expect what is bad, he must fear, lament, find his desires disappointed, and fall into things which he would avoid. Then do we not choose to make secure the only means of safety which are offered to us, and do we not choose to withdraw ourselves from that which is perishable and servile and to labour at the things which are imperishable and by nature free; and do we not remember that no man either hurts another or does good to another, but that a man's opinion about each thing, is that which hurts him, is that which overturns him; this is fighting, this is civil discord, this is war? That which made Eteocles and Polynices15 enemies was nothing else than this opinion which they had about royal power, their opinion about exile, that the one is the extreme of evils, the other the greatest good. Now this is the nature of every man to seek the good, to avoid the bad;16 to con- sider him who deprives us of the one and involves us in the other an enemy and treacherous, even if he be a brother, or a son or a father. For nothing is more akin to us than the good: therefore if these things (externals) are good and evil, neither is a father a friend to sons, nor a brother to a brother, but all the world is every where full of enemies, treacherous men, and sycophants. But if the will (προαίρεσις, the purpose, the intention) being what it ought to be, is the only good; and if the will being such as it ought not to be, is the only evil, where is there any strife, where is there reviling? about what? about the things which do not concern us? and strife with whom? with the ignorant, the unhappy, with those who are deceived about the chief things?

Remembering this Socrates managed his own house and endured a very ill tempered wife and a foolish (ungrateful?) son.17 For in what did she show her bad temper? In pouring water on his head as much as she liked, and in trampling on the cake (sent to Socrates). And what is this to me, if I think that these things are nothing to me? But this is my business; and neither tyrant shall check my will nor a master; nor shall the many check me who am only one, nor shall the stronger check me who am the weaker; for this power of being free from check (hindrance) is given by God to every man. For these opinions make love in a house (family), concord in a state, among nations peace, and gratitude to God; they make a man in all things cheerful (confident) in externals as about things which belong to others, as about things which are of no value.18 We indeed are able to write and to read these things, and to praise them when they are read, but we do not even come near to being convinced of them. Therefore what is said of the Lacedaemonians, “Lions at home, but in Ephesus foxes,” will fit in our case also, “Lions in the school, but out of it foxes.”19

1 See ii, 12. 15.

2 See Xenophon, Memorabilia, ii. 2,

3 The word στρατηγῆσαι may be translated either way.

4 See iv. 1. 77, and the use of θαυμάζειν.

5 See ii. 10. 14, iv. 1. 120. So Plato says (Legg. vi.), that a man who has had right education is wont to be the most divine and the tamest of animals. Upton. On the doing wrong to another, see Plato's Critc, and Epictetus iv. 1. 167.

6 See iii. 1. 40.

7 Like Hercules and Diogenes See iii. 12. 2.

8 The allusion is to a passage (a fragment) in the Cresphontes of Euripides translated by Cicero into Latin Iambics (Tusc. Disp. i. 48)— “ ἔδει γὰρ ἡμᾶς σύλλογον ποιουμένους
τὸν φύντα φρηνεῖν εἰς ὅσ᾽ ἔρχεται κάκα.
τὸν δ᾽αὖ φανόντα καὶ πόνων πεπαυμένον
χαίροντας, εὐφημοῦντας ἐκπέμπειν δόμων.

” Herodotus (v. 4) says of the Trausi, a Thracian tribe: 'when a child is born, the relatives sit round it and lament over all the evils which it must suffer on coming into the world and enumerate all the calamities of mankind: but when one dies, they hide him in the earth with rejoicing and pleasure, reckoning all the evils from which he is now released and in possession of all happiness.'

9 The word is πανδοκεῖον, which Schweig. says that he does not understand. He supposes the word to be corrupt; unless we take it to mean the inn in which a man lives who has no home. I do not understand the word here.

10 See the note of Schweig. on the word τετράσσαρον in the text.

11 This does not mean, it is said, that Nero issued counterfeit coins, for there are extant many coins of Nero which both in form and in the purity of the metal are complete. A learned numismatist, Francis Wise, fellow of Trinity College Oxford, in a letter to Upton, says that he can discover no reason for Nero's coins being rejected in commercial dealings after his death except the fact of the tyrant having been declared by the Senate to be an enemy to the Commonwealth. (Suetonius, Nero, c. 49.) When Domitian was murdered, the Senate ordered his busts to be taken down, as the French now do after a revolution, and all memorials of him to be destroyed (Suetonius, Domitian, c. 23). Dion also reports (LX.) that when Caligula was murdered, it was ordered that all the brass coin which bore his image should be melted, and, I suppose, coined again. There is more on this subject in Wise's letter. I do not believe that genuine coins would be refused in commercial dealings for the reasons which Wise gives, at least not refused in parts distant from Rome. Perhaps Epictetus means that some people would not touch the coins of the detestable Nero.

12 He says τὸ κήρινον, which Mrs. Carter translates 'a piece of wax.' Perhaps it means 'a piece of wax in the form of an apple.'

13 The word is ἐπιφύησονται, the form of which is not Greek. Schweig. has no remark on it, and he translates the word by 'adorientur.' The form ought to be ἐπιφύσονται. See Stephens' Lexicon on the word ἐπιφύομαι. Probably the word is corrupted.

14 Mrs. Carter renders φοβερόν by 'formidable,' and in the Latin translation it is rendered 'formidabilem,' but that cannot be the meaning of the word here.

15 Eteocles and Polynices were the sons of the unfortunate Oedipus, who quarrelled about the kingship of Thebes and killed one another This quarrel is the subject of the Seven against Thebes of Aeschylus and the Phoenissae of Euripides. See ii. 22. note 3.

16 Every man in everything he does naturally acts upon the fore- thought and apprehension of avoiding evil or obtaining good.' Bp. Butler, Analogy, Chap. 2. The bishop's 'naturally' is the φύσις of Epictetus.

17 Socrates' wife Xanthippe is charged by her eldest son Lamprocles with being so ill-tempered as to be past all endurance (Xenophon, Memorab. ii. 2, 7). Xenophon in this chapter has reported the conversation of Socrates with his son on this matter. Diogenes Laertius (ii.) tells the story of Xanthippe pouring water on the head of Socrates, and dirty water, as Seneca says (De Constantia, c. 18). Aelian (xi. 12) reports that Alcibiades sent Socrates a large and good cake, which Xanthippe trampled under her feet. Socrates only laughed and said, Well then, you will not have your share of it. The philosopher showed that his philosophy was practical by enduring the torment of a very ill-tempered wife, one of the greatest calamities that can happen to a man, and the trouble of an undutiful son.

18 This is one of the wisest and noblest expressions of Epictetus.

19 See Aristophanes, the Peace, v. 1188: πολλὰ γὰρ δὴ μ᾽ ἠδίκησαν,
ὄντες οἴκοι μὲν λέοντες,
ἐν μάχῃ δ᾽ ἀλώπεκες.


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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (5):
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 2.2
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 2.2.7
    • Xenophon, Symposium, 2.12
    • Suetonius, Domitianus, 23
    • Suetonius, Nero, 49
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