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Arrian to Lucius Gellius, with wishes for his happiness.

I NEITHER wrote these Discourses1 of Epictetus in the way in which a man might write such things; nor did I make them public myself, inasmuch as I declare that I did not even write them. But whatever I heard him say, the same I attempted to write down in his own words as nearly as possible, for the purpose of preserving them as memorials to myself afterwards of the thoughts and the freedom of speech of Epictetus. Accordingly, the Discourses are naturally such as a man would address without preparation to another, not such as a man would write with the view of others reading them. Now, being such, I do not know how they fell into the hands of the public, without either my consent or my knowledge. But it concerns me little if I shall be considered incompetent to write; and it concerns Epictetus not at all if any man shall despise his words; for at the time when he uttered them, it was plain that he had no other purpose than to move the minds of his hearers to the best things. If, indeed, these Discourses should produce this effect, they will have, I think, the result which the words of philosophers ought to have. But if they shall not, let those who read them know that, when Epictetus delivered them, the hearer could not avoid being affected in the way that Epictetus wished him to be. But if the Discourses themselves, as they are written, do not effect this result, it may be that the fault is mine, or, it may be, that the thing is unavoidable.

Farewell!

1 A. Gellius (i. 2 and xvii. 19) speaks of the Discourses of Epictetus being arranged by Arrian; and Gellius (xix. 1) speaks of a fifth book of these Discourses, but only four are extant and some fragments. The whole number of books was eight, as Photius (Cod. 58) says. There is also extant an Encheiridion or Manual, consisting of short pieces selected from the Discourses of Epictetus; and there is the valuable commentary on the Encheiridion written by Simplicius in the sixth century A. D. and in the reign of Justinian. Arrian explains in a manner what he means by saying that he did not write these Discourses of Epictetus; but he does not explain his meaning when he says that he did not make them public. He tells us that he did attempt to write down in the words of Epictetus what the philosopher said; but how it happened that they were first published, without his knowledge or consent, Arrian does not say. It appears, however, that he did see the Discourses when they were published; and as Schweighaeuser remarks, he would naturally correct any errors that he detected, and so there would be an edition revised by himself. Schweighaeuser has a note (i. ch. 26, 13) on the difficulties which we now find in the Discourses.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 17.19
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 19.1
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 1.2
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