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Concerning a certain orator, who was going to Rome on a lawsuit.

A person came to him who was going to Rome on a lawsuit in which his dignity was concerned; and after telling him the occasion of his journey, asked him what he thought of the affair. If you ask me, says Epictetus, what will happen to you at Rome, and whether you shall gain or lose your cause, I have no suggestion as to that. But if you ask me how you shall fare, I can answer, If you have right principles, well; if wrong ones, ill. For every action turns upon its principle. What was the reason that you so earnestly desired to be chosen Governor of the Gnossians? Principle. What is the reason that you are now going to Rome? Principle. And in winter too, and with danger and expense? Why, because it is necessary. What tells you so? Your principle. If, then, principles are the source of all our actions, wherever any one has bad principles the effect will correspond to the cause. Well, then; are all our principles sound? Are both yours and your antagonist's? How then do you differ? Or are yours better than his? Why? You think so, and so thinks he of his, and so do madmen. This is a bad criterion. But show me that you have given some attention and [p. 2032] care to your principles. As you now take a voyage to Rome for the government of the Gnossians, and are not contented to stay at home with the honors you before enjoyed, but desire something greater and more illustrious, did you ever take such a voyage in order to examine your own principles and to throw away the bad ones, if you happened to have any? Did you ever apply to any one upon this account? What time did you ever appoint to yourself for it? What age? Run over your years. If you are ashamed of me, do it for yourself. Did you examine your principles when you were a child? Did not you act then as now? When you were a youth, and frequented the schools of the orators, and yourself made declamations, did you ever imagine that you were deficient in anything? And when you became a man and entered upon public business, pleaded causes, and acquired credit, whom did you then recognize as your equal? How would you have borne that any one should examine whether your principles were bad? What, then, would you have me say to you?

" Assist me in this affair."

I have no suggestion to offer for that. Neither are you come to me, if it be upon that account you came, as to a philosopher; but as you would come to an herb-seller or a shoemaker.

"For what purposes, then, can the philosophers give suggestions?"

For preserving and conducting the Reason con- [p. 2033] formably to Nature, whatever happens. Do you think this a small thing?

"No, but the greatest."

Well, and does it require but a short time, and may it be taken as you pass by? If you can, take it then; and so you will say, " I have visited Epictetus." Ay; just as you would visit a stone or a statue. For you have seen me, and nothing more. But he visits a man, as a man, who learns his principles, and, in return, shows his own. Learn my principles; show me yours. Then say you have visited me. Let us confute each other. If I have any bad principle, take it away. If you have any, bring it forth. This is visiting a philosopher. No, but "It lies in our way, and while we are about hiring a ship, we may call on Epictetus. Let us see what he says." And then when you are gone, you say, " Epictetus is nothing. His language was inaccurate, was barbarous." For what else did you come to criticise? " Well; but if I employ myself in these things, I shall be without an estate, like you, -without plate, without equipage, like you." Nothing, perhaps, is necessary to be said to this, but that I do not want them. But if you possess many things, you still want others; so that whether you will or not, you are poorer than I.

"What then do I need?"

What you have not, -constancy, a mind conformable to Nature, and a freedom from perturbation. [p. 2034] Patron or no patron, what care I? But you do. I am richer than you; I am not anxious what Caesar will think of me; I flatter no one on that account. This I have, instead of silver and gold plate. You have your vessels of gold; but your discourse, your principles, your opinions, your pursuits, your desires, are of mere earthen ware. When I have all these conformable to Nature, why should not I bestow some study upon my reasoning too? I am at leisure. My mind is under no distraction. In this freedom from distraction, what shall I do? Have I anything more becoming a man than this? You, when you have nothing to do, are restless; you go to the theatre, or perhaps to bathe. Why should not the philosopher polish his reasoning? You have fine crystal and myrrhine vases; 1 I have acute forms of arguing. To you, all you have appears little; to me all I have seems great. Your appetite is insatiable; mine is satisfied. When children thrust their hand into a narrow jar of nuts and figs, if they fill it, they cannot get it out again; then they begin crying. Drop a few of them, and you will get out the rest. And do you too drop your desire; do not demand much, and you will attain. [p. 2035]


1

“And how they quaff in gold,
Crystal and myrrhine cups, imbossed with gems.

Paradise Regained, iv. 181.
Myrrhine cups were probably a kind of agate described by Pliny, which, when burnt, had the smell of myrrh. See Teatro Critico, Tom. 6, disc. 4.6. -C.

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