previous next


To those who fall off (desist) from their purpose.

CONSIDER as to the things which you proposed to yourself at first, which you have secured, and which you have not; and how you are pleased when you recall to memory the one, and are pained about the other; and if it is possible, recover the things wherein you failed. For we must not shrink when we are engaged in the greatest combat, but we must even take blows.1 For the combat before us is not in wrestling and the Pancration, in which both the successful and the unsuccessful may have the greatest merit, or may have little, and in truth may be very fortunate or very unfortunate; but the combat is for good fortune and happiness themselves. Well then, even if we have renounced the contest in this matter (for good fortune and happiness), no man hinders us from renewing the combat again, and we are not compelled to wait for another four years that the games at Olympia may come again2; but as soon as you have recovered and restored yourself, and employ the same zeal, you may renew the combat again; and if again you renounce it, you may again renew it; and if you once gain the victory, you are like him who has never renounced the combat. Only do not through a habit of doing the same thing (renouncing the combat) begin to do it with pleasure, and then like a bad athlete go about after being conquered in all the circuit of the games like quails who have run away.3

The sight of a beautiful young girl overpowers me. Well, have I not been overpowered before? An inclination arises in me to find fault with a person; for have I not found fault with him before? You speak to us as if you had come off (from these things) free from harm, just as if a man should say to his physician who forbids him to bathe, Have I not bathed before? If then the physician can say to him, Well, and what then happened to you after the bath? Had you not a fever, had you not a headache? And when you found fault with a person lately, did you not do the act of a malignant person, of a trifling babbler; did you not cherish this habit in you by adding to it the corresponding acts? And when you were overpowered by the young girl, did you come off unharmed? Why then do you talk of what you did before? You ought, I think, remembering what you did, as slaves remember the blows which they have received, to abstain from the same faults. But the one case is not like the other; for in the case of slaves the pain causes the remembrance: but in the case of your faults, what is the pain, what is the punishment; for when have you been accustomed to fly from evil acts?4 Sufferings then of the trying character are useful to us, whether we choose or not.


1 Compare iii. 15, 4.

2 These games were celebrated once in four years.

3 All the circuit of the games' means the circuit of the Pythian, Isthmian, Nemean, and Olympic games. A man who had contended in these four games victoriously was named Periodonices, or Periodeutes. Upton. The Greeks used to put quails in a cockpit, as those who are old enough may remember that we used to put game cocks to fight with one another. Schweighaeuser describes a way of trying the courage of these quails from Pollux (ix. 109); but I suppose that the birds fought also with one another.

4 Upton supposed that the words 'Αλλ᾽ οὐχ ὅμοιον . . . . to κακῶς ἐνεργῆσαι, in the translation, 'But the one case is not, . . . to 'fly from evil acts,' are said by the adversary of Epictetus, and Mrs. Carter has followed Upton in the translation. But then there is no sense in the last sentence Οἱ πόνοι ἄρα etc., in the translation, 'Sufferings then' etc. The reader may consult Schweighaeuser's note. I suppose that Epictetus is speaking the words 'But the one case' etc. to the end of the chapter. The adversary, who is not punished like a slave, and has no pains to remind him of his faults, is supposed so far not to have felt the consequences of his bad acts; but Epictetus concludes that sufferings of a painful character would be useful to him, as they are to all persons who do what they ought not to do. There is perhaps some difficulty in the word πειρατηρίων. But I think that Schweig. has correctly explained the passage.

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.

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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