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While we were students at Athens, Herodes Atticus, a man of consular rank and of true Grecian eloquence, often invited me to his country houses near that city, in company with the honourable 1 Servilianus and several others of our countrymen who had withdrawn from Rome to Greece in quest of culture. And there at that time, while we were with him at the villa called Cephisia, both in the heat of summer and under the burning autumnal sun, we protected ourselves against the trying temperature by the shade of its spacious groves, its long, soft 2 promenades, the cool location of the house, its elegant baths with their abundance of sparkling water, and the charm of the villa as a whole, which was everywhere melodious with plashing waters and tuneful birds.

[p. 7] There was with us there at the time a young student of philosophy, of the Stoic school according to his own account, but intolerably loquacious and presuming. In the course of the conversations which are commonly carried on at table after dinner, this fellow often used to prattle unseasonably, absurdly, and at immoderate length, on the principles of philosophy, maintaining that compared with himself all the Greek-speaking authorities, all wearers of the toga, and the Latin race in general were ignorant boors. As he spoke, he rattled off unfamiliar terms, the catchwords of syllogisms and dialectic tricks, declaring that no one but he could unravel the “master,” the “resting,” and the “heap” arguments, 3 and other riddles of the kind. Furthermore, as to ethics, the nature of the human intellect, and the origin of the virtues with their duties and limits, or on the other hand the ills caused by disease and sin, and the wasting and destruction of the soul, he stoutly maintained that absolutely no one else had investigated, understood and mastered all these more thoroughly than himself. Further, he believed that torture, bodily pain and deadly peril could neither injure nor detract from the happy state and condition of life which, in his opinion, he had attained, and that no sorrow could even cloud the serenity of the Stoic's face and expression.

[p. 9] Once when he was puffing out these empty boasts, and already all, weary of his prating, were thoroughly disgusted and longing for an end, Herodes, speaking in Greek as was his general custom, said: “Allow me, mightiest of philosophers, since we, whom you call laymen, cannot answer you, to read from a book of Epictetus, greatest of Stoics, what he thought and said about such big talk as that of yours.” And he bade them bring the first 4 volume of the Discourses of Epictetus, arranged by Arrian, in which that venerable old man with just severity rebukes those young men who, though calling themselves Stoics, showed neither virtue nor honest industry, but merely babbled of trifling propositions and of the fruits of their study of such elements as are taught to children.

Then, when the book was brought, there was read the passage which I have appended, in which Epictetus with equal severity and humour set apart and separated from the true and genuine Stoic, who was beyond question without restraint or constraint, unembarrassed, free, prosperous and happy, that other mob of triflers who styled themselves Stoics, and casting the black soot of their verbiage before the eves of their hearers, laid false claim to the name of the holiest of sects:

"'Speak to me of good and evil.'—Listen:
The wind, bearing me from Ilium, drove me to the Cicones. 5
“Of all existing things some are good, some evil, and some indifferent. Now the good things are virtues and what partakes of them, the evil are vice and what partakes of vice, and the indifferent lie [p. 11] between these: wealth, health, life, death, pleasure, pain. 6 —'How do you know this?'—Hellanicus says so in his Egyptian Histoy. For what difference does it make whether you say that, or that it was Diogenes in his Ethics or Chrysippus or Cleanthes? Have you then investigated any of these matters and formed an opinion of your own? Let me see how you are accustomed to act in a storm at sea. Do you recall this classification when the sail cracks and you cry aloud? If some idle fellow should stand beside you and say: 'Tell me, for Heaven's sake, what you told me before. It isn't a vice to suffer shipwreck, is it? It doesn't partake of vice, does it?' Would you not hurl a stick of wood at him and cry: 'What have we to do with you, fellow? We perish and you come and crack jokes.' But if Caesar should summon you to answer an accusation. . .”

On hearing these words, that most arrogant of youths was mute, just as if the whole diatribe had been pronounced, not by Epictetus against others, but against himself by Herodes.

1 Clarisximus became a standing title of men of high rank, especially of the senatorial order.

2 Cf. Plin. Epist. ii. xvii. 15, vinea . . . ndis etiam pedibus mollis et cedens.

3 Where there are three propositions, any two of which are at variance with the third, they may be taken in pairs as true, rejecting the third as false. This is called the “master” argument, from κυριεύω, “to be master over”; see Epictetus, ii. 18 and 19. The fallacy is due to the fact that all persons do not hold to the truth of the same pair, and it is impossible to maintain all three propositions at once. The “sorites” raised the question, if one grain at a time were taken from a heap, when it would cease to be a heap; and conversely, if one grain at a time were added, when it would become a heap; see Cic. Acad. ii. 49. A variant, called the φαλακρός, inquired whether a man was bald after the loss of one hair, of two, or of how many. Horace, in Epist. ii. 1. 45–47, has combined both of these with the story told by Plutarch of Sertorius (Sert. 16). The “silent,” or “resting” argument consisted in stopping and refusing to answer. It was used to meet the logical fallacy of the “sorites.”

4 Actually the second book, ii. 19.

5 εἰπέ . . . is the request of the pseudo-philosopher, ῎ακουε the answer of Epictetus, who quotes a line of Homer (Odyss. ix. 39) which is here meaningless, implying that the pretended Stoics quote both poetry and ethics glibly, but without understanding.

6 Some assign this speech— “Of all existing things . . . pain” to Epictetus, quoting the pseudo-Stoic jargon; others to the pseudo-philosopher. The former seems to fit best with what follows.

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