previous next


How we ought to struggle with difficulties.

Difficulties are things that show what men are. For the future, in case of any difficulty, remember that God, like a gymnastic trainer, has pitted you against a rough antagonist. For what end? That you may be an Olympic conqueror; and this cannot be without toil. No man, in my opinion, has a more profitable difficulty on his hands than you have, provided you will but use it, as an athletic champion uses his antagonist.

Suppose we were to send you as a scout to Rome. But no one ever sends a timorous scout, who, when he only hears a noise, or sees a shadow, runs back frightened, and says, "The enemy is at hand." So now, if you should come and tell us, "Things are in a fearful way at Rome; death is terrible, banishment terrible, calumny terrible, poverty terrible; run, good people, the enemy is at hand;" we will answer, Get you gone, and prophesy for yourself; our only fault is that we have sent such a scout. Diogenes was sent as a scout before you, but he told us other tidings. He says that death is no evil, for it is nothing base; that calumny is only the noise of madmen. And what account did this spy give us of pain, of pleasure, [p. 1079] of poverty? He says that to be naked is better than a purple robe; to sleep upon the bare ground, the softest bed; and gives a proof of all he says by his own courage, tranquillity, and freedom, and, moreover, by a healthy and robust body. "There is no enemy near," he says; " all is profound peace." How so, Diogenes? "Look upon me," he says. "Am I hurt? Am I wounded? Have I run away from any one? " This is a scout worth having. But you come, and tell us one tale after another. Go back and look more carefully, and without fear.

"What shall I do, then?"

What do you do when you land from a ship? Do you take away with you the rudder, or the oars? What do you take, then? Your own, your bundle and your flask. So, in the present case, if you will but remember what is your own, you will not covet what belongs to others. If some tyrant bids you put off your consular robe, -" Well, I am in my equestrian robe." Put off that too. " I have only my coat." Put off that too. "Well, I am naked." I am not yet satisfied. " Then e'en take my whole body. If I can throw off a paltry body, am I any longer afraid of a tyrant? "

"But such a one will not leave me his heir." What, then, have I forgotten, that such possessions are never really mine? How, then, do we call them ours? It is as with a bed in an inn. If the landlord, when he dies. leaves you the bed. well and good; but [p. 1080] if to another, it will be his, and you will seek one elsewhere; and consequently, if you do not find one, you will sleep upon the ground; only sleep fearlessly and profoundly, and remember that tragedies find their theme among the rich and kings and tyrants. No poor man fills any other place in one than as part of the chorus; whereas, kings begin indeed with prosperity: " Crown the palace;" but continue about the third and fourth act: "Alas, Citheron! why didst thou receive me ! "1 Where are thy crowns, wretch; where is thy diadem? Cannot thy guards help thee?

Whenever you are brought into any such society, think then that you meet a tragic actor, or, rather, not an actor, but Oedipus himself. "But such a one is happy; he walks with a numerous train." Well, I too walk with a numerous train.

But remember the principal thing, -that the door is open. Do not be more fearful than children; but as they, when the play dues not please them, say, " I will play no longer," so do you, in the same case, say, "I will play no longer," and go; but, if you stay, do not complain. [p. 1081]


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 (George Long, 1890)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

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

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Washington (United States) (2)

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

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 1391
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: