previous next


On the same subject.

If these things are true; and if we are not stupid or insincere when we say that the good or ill of man lies within his own will, and that all beside is nothing to us, why are we still troubled? Why do we still fear? What truly concerns us is in no one's power; what is in the power of others concerns not us. What embarrassment have we left?

" But you must direct me."

Why should I direct you? Has not Zeus directed you? Has he not given you what is your own. incapable of restraint or hindrance; and what is not your own, liable to both? What directions, then, what orders, have you brought from him? " By all means guard what is your own; what belongs to others do not covet. Honesty is your own; a sense of virtuous shame is your own. Who, then, can deprive you of these? Who can restrain you from making use of them, but yourself? And how do you do it? When you make that your concern which is not truly your own, you lose that which is." Having such precepts and directions from Zeus, what sort do you still want from me? Am I better than He, or more worthy of credit? If you observe these precepts, what others [p. 1082] do you need? Are not these His? Apply the. recognized principles; apply the demonstrations of philosophers; apply what you have often heard, and what you have said yourself; what you have read, and what you have carefully studied.

How long is it right to devote one's self to these things and not break up the game?

As long as it goes on well. A king is chosen at the Saturnalian Festival, supposing it to be agreed to play at that game; he orders: "Do you drink; you mix the wine; you sing: you go; you come." I obey, that the game may not be broken up by my fault.

[Then he orders] "I bid you think yourself to be unhappy." I do not think so; and who shall compel me to think so?

Again, suppose we agree to play Agamemnon and Achilles. He who is appointed for Agamemnon says to me, " Go to Achilles, and force away Briseis." I go. "Come." I come. We should deal with life as with these imaginary orders.

"Suppose it to be night." Well, suppose it. "Is it day then?" No; for I admitted the hypothesis, that it was night. "Suppose that you think it to be night." Well, suppose it. "But you must really think that it is night." That by no means follows from the hypothesis. Thus it is in the case illustrated. Suppose you have ill luck? Suppose it. "Are you then unlucky?" Yes. "Are you thoroughly unfor- [p. 1083] tunate?" Yes. "Well; but you must really regard yourself as miserable." But this is no part of the assumption, and there is a power who forbids me [to admit that].

How far, then, are we to carry such analogies? As far as is useful; that is, till we go farther than is reasonable and fit.

Moreover, some are peevish and fastidious, and say, I cannot dine with such a fellow, to be obliged to hear him all day recounting how he fought in Mysia. "I told you, my friend, how I gained the eminence." There I begin to suffer another siege. But another says, " I had rather get a dinner, and hear him prate as much as he pleases."

Do you decide between these opinions; but do not let it be with depression and anxiety, and the assumption that you are miserable, for no one compels you to that. Is there smoke in my house? If it be moderate, I will stay; if very great, I will go out. For you must always remember, and hold to this, that the door is open. "You are forbidden to live at Nicopolis." Then I will not live there. " Nor at Athens." Well, nor at Athens. " Nor at Rome." Nor at Rome. "But you shall live at Gyaros."1 I will live there. But suppose that living at Gyaros seems to me like living in a great smoke. I can then retire where no one can forbid me to live, for it is an abode open to [p. 1084] all, and put off my last garment, this poor body of mine; beyond this, no one has any power over me.

Thus Demetrius said to Nero: "You sentence me to death; and Nature you." If I prize my body first, I have surrendered myself as a slave; if my estate, the same; for I at once betray where I am vulnerable. Just as when a reptile pulls in his head, I bid you strike that part of him which he guards; and be you assured, that wherever you show a desire to guard yourself. there your master will attack you. Remember but this, and whom will you any longer flatter or fear?

"But I want to sit where the senators do."

Do not you see, that by this you incommode and torment yourself?

"Why, how else shall I see the show in the Amphitheatre advantageously? "

Do not insist on seeing it, O man ! and you will not be incommoded. Why do you vex yourself? Or wait a little while; and when the show is over, go sit in the senators' places and sun yourself. For remember, that this holds universally, - we incommode and torment ourselves; that is, our own preconceived notions do it for us. What is it to be reviled, for instance? Stand by a stone and revile it, and what will you get by it? If you, therefore, would listen only as a stone, what would your reviler gain? But if the reviler has the weakness of the reviled for a vantage-ground, then he carries his point. [p. 1085]

"Strip him" [bids the tyrant]. What mean you by him? Take my clothes, strip them, at your pleasure. "I meant only to insult you." Much good may it do you.

These things were the study of Socrates; and by these means he always preserved the same countenance. Yet we had rather exercise and study anything, than how to become unrestrained and free. " But the philosophers talk paradoxes." And are there not paradoxes in other arts? What is more paradoxical than to prick any one's eye, that he may see? Should one tell this to one ignorant of surgery, would not he laugh at him? What wonder then, if in philosophy also many truths appear paradoxes to the ignorant?


1 An island in the Aegean Sea, to which the Romans used to banish criminals. -C.

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 English (George Long, 1890)
load focus Greek (1916)
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.
Rome (Italy) (2)
Socrates (Georgia, United States) (1)
Nicopolis (Greece) (1)
Nero (Ohio, United States) (1)
Mysia (Turkey) (1)
Athens (Greece) (1)
Athens (Greece) (1)
Aegean (1)

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: