previous next

Against those who lament over being pitied.

I am grieved, a man says, at being pitied. Whether then is the fact of your being pitied a thing which concerns you or those who pity you? Well, is it in your power to stop this pity?—It is in my power, if I show them that I do not require pity.—And whether then are you in the condition of not deserving (requiring) pity, or are you not in that condition?—I think that I am not: but these persons do not pity me, for the things for which, if they ought to pity me, it would be proper, I mean, for my faults; but they pity me for my poverty, for not pos- sessing honourable offices, for diseases and deaths and other such things—Whether then are you prepared to convince the many, that not one of these things is an evil, but that it is possible for a man who is poor and has no office (ἀνάρχοντι) and enjoys no honour to be happy; or to shew yourself to them as rich and in power? For the second of these things belong to a man who is boastful, silly and good for nothing. And consider by what means the pre- tence must be supported. It will be necessary for you to hire slaves an I to possess a few silver vessels, and to exhibit them in public, if it is possible, though they are often the same, and to attempt to conceal the fact that they are the same, and to have splendid garments, and all other things for display, and to show that you are a man honoured by the great, and to try to sup at their houses, or to be supposed to sup there, and as to your person to employ some mean arts, that you may appear to be more handsome and nobler than you are. These things you must contrive, if you choose to go by the second path in order not to be pitied. But the first way is both impracticable and long, to attempt the very thing which Zeus has not been able to do, to convince all men what things are good and bad.1 Is this power given to you? This only is given to you, to convince yourself; and you have not convinced yourself. Then I ask you, do you attempt to persuade other men? and who has lived so long with you as you with yourself? and who has so much power of convincing you as you have of convincing yourself; and who is better disposed and nearer to you than you are to yourself? How then have you not yet convinced yourself in order to learn? At present are not things upside down? Is this what you have been earnest about doing,2 to learn to be free from grief and free from disturbance, and not to be humbled (abject), and to be free? Have you not heard then that there is only one way which leads to this end, to give up (dismiss) the things which do not depend on the will, to withdraw from them, and to admit that they belong to others? For another man then to have an opinion about you, of what kind is it?—It is a thing independent of the will—Then is it nothing to you?—-It is nothing- When then you are still vexed at this and disturbed, do you think that you are convinced about good and evil?

Will you not then letting others alone be to yourself both scholar and teacher?—The rest of mankind will look after this, whether it is to their interest to be and to pass their lives in a state contrary to nature: but to me no man is nearer than myself. What then is the meaning of this, that I have listened to the words of the philosophers and I assent to them, but in fact I am no way made easier (more content)? Am I so stupid? And yet in all other things such as I have chosen, I have not been found very stupid; but I learned letters quickly, and to wrestle, and geometry, and to resolve syllogisms. Has not then reason convinced me? and indeed no other things have I from the beginning so approved and chosen (as the things which are rational): and now I read about these things, hear about them, write about them; I have so far discovered no reason stronger than this (living according to nature). In what then am I deficient? Have the contrary opinions not been eradicated from me? Have the notions (opinions) themselves not been exercised nor used to be applied to action, but as armour are laid aside and rusted and cannot fit me? And yet neither in the exercises of the palaestra, nor in writing or reading am I satisfied with learning, but I turn up and down the syllogisms which are proposed, and I make others, and sophistical syllogisms also.3 But the necessary theorems by proceeding from which a man can become free from grief, fear, passions (affects), hindrance, and a free man, these I do not exercise myself in nor do I practise in these the proper practice (study). Then I care about what others will say of me, whether I shall appear to them worth notice, whether I shall appear happy.—

Wretched man, will you not see what you are saying about yourself? What do you appear to yourself to be? in your opinions, in your desires, in your aversions from things (ἐν τῷ ἐκκλίνειν), in your movements (purposes, ἐν ὁρμῇ) in your preparation (for anything), in your de- signs (plans), and in other acts suitable to a man? But do you trouble yourself about this, whether others pity you? —Yes, but I am pitied not as I ought to be.—Are you then pained at this? and is he who is pained, an object of pity? —Yes—How then are you pitied not as you ought to be? For by the very act that you feel (suffer) about being pitied, you make yourself deserving of pity. What then says Antisthenes? Have you not heard? 'It is a royal thing, O Cyrus, to do right (well) and to be ill spoken of.4 My head is sound, and all think that I have the head ache. What do I care for that? I am free from fever, and people sympathize with me as if I had a fever, (and say), Poor man, for so long a time you have not ceased to have fever. I also say with a sorrowful countenance, In truth it is now a long time that I have been ill. What will happen then? As God may please: and at the same time I secretly laugh at those who are pitying me. What then hinders the same being done in this case also? I am poor, but I have a right opinion about poverty. Why then do I care if they pity me for my poverty? I am not in power (not a magistrate); but others are: and I have the opinion which I ought to have about having and not having power. Let them look to it who pity me:5 but I am neither hungry nor thirsty nor do I suffer cold; but because they are hungry or thirsty they think that I too am. What then shall I do for them? Shall I go about and proclaim and say, Be not mistaken, men, I am very well, I do not trouble myself about poverty, nor want of power, nor in a word about anything else than right opinions. These I have free from restraint, I care for nothing at all.—What foolish talk is this? How do I possess right opinions when I am not content with being what I am, but am uneasy about what I am supposed to be?

But you say, others will get more and be preferred to me—What then is more reasonable than for those who have laboured about any thing to have more in that thing in which they have laboured? They have laboured for power, you have laboured about opinions; and they have laboured for wealth, you for the proper use of appearances. See if they have more than you in this about which you have laboured, and which they neglect; if they assent better than you with respect to the natural rules (measures) of things; if they are less disappointed than you in their desires; if they fall less into things which they would avoid than you do; if in their intentions, if in the things which they propose to themselves, if in their purposes, if in their motions towards an object they take a better aim; if they better observe a proper behaviour, as men, as sons, as parents, and so on as to the other names by which we express the relations of life. But if they exercise power, and you do not, will you not choose to tell yourself the truth, that you do nothing for the sake of this (power), and they do all? But it is most unreasonable that he who looks after anything should obtain less than he who does not look after it.

Not so: but since I care about right opinions, it is more reasonable for me to have power.—Yes in the matter about which you do care, in opinions. But in a matter in which they have cared more than you, give way to them. The case is just the same as if because you have right opinions, you thought that in using the bow you should hit the mark better than an archer, and in working in metal you should succeed better than a smith. Give up then your earnestness about opinions and employ yourself about the things which you wish to acquire; and then lament, if you do not succeed; for you deserve to lament. But now you say that you are occupied with other things, that you are looking after other things; but the many say this truly, that one act has no community with another.6 He who has risen in the morning seeks whom (of the house of Caesar) he shall salute, to whom he shall say something agreeable, to whom he shall send a present, how he shall please the dancing man, how by bad behaviour to one he may please another. When he prays, he prays about these things; when he sacrifices, he sacrifices for these things: the saying of Pythagoras

Let sleep not come upon thy languid eyes
7 he transfers to these things. Where have I failed in the matters pertaining to flattery? What have I done? Any thing like a free man, any thing like a noble minded man? And if he finds any thing of the kind, he blames and accuses himself: “Why did you say this? Was it not in your power to lie? Even the philosophers say that nothing hinders us from telling a lie.” But do you, if indeed you have cared about nothing else except the proper use of appearances, as soon as you have risen in the morning reflect, “What do I want in order to be free from passion (affects), and free from perturbation? What am I? Am I a poor body, a piece of property, a thing of which something is said? 1 am none of these. But what am I? I am a rational animal. What then is required of me?” Reflect on your acts. Where have I omitted the things which conduce to happiness (εὔροιαν)? What have I done which is either unfriendly or unsocial? what have I not done as to these things which I ought to have done?

So great then being the difference in desires, actions, wishes, would you still have the same share with others in those things about which you have not laboured, and they have laboured? Then are you surprised if they pity you, and are you vexed? But they are not vexed if you pity them. Why? Because they are convinced that they have that which is good, and you are not convinced. For this reason you are not satisfied with your own, but you desire that which they have: but they are satisfied with their own, and do not desire what you have: since if you were really convinced, that with respect to what is good, it is you who are the possessor of it and that they have missed it, you would not even have thought of what they say about you.

1 Here it is implied that there are things which God cannot do. Perhaps he means that as God has given man certain powers of will and therefore of action, he cannot at the same time exercise the contradictory powers of forcing man's will and action; for this would be at the same time to give power and to take it away. Butler remarks (Analogy, chap. 5) “the present is so far from proving in event a discipline of virtue to the generality of men that on the contrary they seem to make it a discipline of vice.” In fact all men are not convinced and cannot be convinced in the present constitution of things 'what things are good and bad.'

2 Something is perhaps wrong in the text here. See Schweig.'s note.

3 In place of μεπαπίπτοντας Schweig. suggests that Arrian wrote καὶ τἄλλα ὡσαύτως or something of the kind. On μεταπίπτοντας see Epictetus, i. 7.

4 M. Antoninus, vii. 36.

5 ὄψονται. See i. 4, note 4.

6 Schweig. says that he has not observed that this proverb is mentioned by any other writer, and that he does not quite see the meaning of it, unless it be what he expresses in the Latin version (iv. 10. 24), 'alterum opus cum altero nihil commune habet.' I think that the context explains it: if you wish to obtain a particular end, employ the proper means, and not the means which do not make for that end.

7 See iii. i. note 2. Epictetus is making a parody of the verses of Pythagoras. See Schweig.'s remarks on the words 'He who has risen etc.' I have of necessity translated κακοηφισάμενος in an active sense; but if this is right, I do not understand how the word is used so.

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

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

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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