January 24

FROM Claudius Maximus I learnt in all things to endeavour to have power of myself, and in nothing to be carried about; to be cheerful and courageous in all sudden chances and accidents, as in sicknesses: to love mildness, and moderation, and gravity: and to do my business, whatsoever it be, thoroughly, and without querulousness. Whatsoever he said, all men believed him that as he spake, so he thought, and whatsoever he did, that he did it with a good intent. His manner was, never to wonder at anything; never to be in haste, and yet never slow: nor to be perplexed, or dejected, or at any time unseemly, or excessively to laugh: nor to be angry, or suspicious, but ever ready to do good, and to forgive, and to speak truth; and all this, as one that seemed rather of himself to have been straight and right, than ever to have been rectified, or redressed: neither was there any man that ever thought himself undervalued by him, or that could find in his heart, to think himself a better man than he. He would also be very pleasant and gracious.



January 23

OF my Grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. From the fame and memory of him that begot me I have learned both shamefastness and manlike behaviour. Of my Mother I have learned to be religious, and bountiful; and to forbear, not only to do, but to intend any evil; to content myself with a spare diet, and to fly all such excess as is incidental to great wealth. Of my great Grandfather, both to frequent public schools and Auditories, and to get me good and able Teachers at home; and that I ought not to think much, if upon such occasions, I were at excessive charges.



January 22

UP and down, from one age to another, go the ordinary things of the world; being still the same. And either of every thing in particular before it come to pass, the mind of the Universe doth consider with itself and deliberate: (and if so, then submit for shame unto the determination of such an excellent Understanding): or once for all it did resolve upon all things in general; and since that, whatsoever happens, happens by a necessary consequence, and all things indivisibly in a manner and inseparably hold one of another. In sum, either there is a God, and then all is well; or if all things go by chance and fortune, yet must thou use thine own providence in those things that concern thee properly; and then art thou well.



January 21

THE school of a philosopher is a surgery. You are not to go out of it with pleasure, but with pain: for you come there not in health; but one of you had a dislocated shoulder, another an abscess, a third a fistula, a fourth the headache. And am I, then, to sit uttering pretty trifling thoughts and little exclamations that, when you have praised me, you may each of you go away with the same dislocated shoulder, the same aching head, the same fistula, and the same abscess that you brought? And is it for this that young men are to travel? And do they leave their parents, their friends, their relations, and their estates that they may praise you while you are uttering little exclamations?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶2.


January 20

EVERY great faculty is dangerous to a beginner. Study first how to live with a person in sickness, that in time you may know how to live with one in health.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶2.

IF you have an earnest desire of attaining to philosophy, prepare yourself from the very first to be laughed at, to be sneered by the multitude, to hear them say, "He is returned to us a philosopher all at once," and "Whence this supercilious look?" Now, for your part, do not have a supercilious look indeed; but keep steadily to those things which appear best to you as one appointed by God to this station. For remember that, if you adhere to the same point, those very persons who at first ridiculed will afterwards admire you. But if you are conquered by them, you will incur a double ridicule.



January 19

WHY do you say nothing to me, then?

I have only this to say to you: That whoever is ignorant of what he is, and wherefore he was born, and in what kind of a world, and in what society; what things are good, and what evil; what fair, and what base: who understands neither discourse nor demonstration; nor what is true nor what is false; nor is able to distinguish between them: such a one will neither exert his desires, nor aversions, nor pursuits, conformably to nature; he will neither intend, nor assent, nor deny, nor suspend his judgment conformably to nature; but will wander up and down entirely deaf and blind, supposing himself to be somebody, while he is in reality nobody. Is there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all the errors that have happened from the very original of mankind?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶2.


January 18

IN the same manner as we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, we should exercise ourselves likewise in relation to such appearances as every day occur, for these two offer questions to us. Such a one's son is dead. What do you think of it? Answer: it is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — Such a one is disinherited by his father. What do you think of it? It is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — Caesar hath condemned him. This is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — He hath been afflicted by it. This is dependent on choice, it is an evil. — He hath supported it bravely. This is dependent on choice, it is a good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §8. ¶1.


January 17

OF things that are external, happen what will to that which can suffer by external accidents. Those things that suffer let them complain themselves, if they will; as for me, as long as I conceive no such thing, as that that which is happened is evil, I have no hurt; and it is in my power not to conceive any such thing.


AT ANY things there be, which oftentimes insensibly trouble and vex thee, as not armed against them with patience, because they go not ordinarily under the name of pains, which indeed are of the same nature as pain; as to slumber unquietly, to suffer heat, to want appetite: when therefore any of these things make thee discontented, check thyself with these words: "Now hath pain given thee the foil: thy courage hath failed thee."


January 16

IN short, then, remember this, that whatever external to your own choice you esteem, you destroy that choice. And not only power is external to it, but the being out of power too; not only business, but leisure too. — "Then, must I live in this tumult now?" — What do you call a tumult? — "A multitude of people." — And where is the hardship? Suppose it is the Olympic games. Think it a public assembly. There, too, some bawl out one thing, some do another; some push the rest. The baths are crowded. Yet who of us is not pleased with these assemblies, and doth not grieve to leave them? Do not be hard to please, and squeamish at what happens. "Vinegar is disagreeable (says one), for it is sour. Honey is disagreeable (says a second), for it disorders my constitution. I do not like vegetables, says a third. Thus, too (say others), I do not like retirement; it is a desert: I do not like a crowd; it is a tumult." — Why, if things are so disposed that you are to live alone, or with few, call this condition a repose, and make use of it as you ought.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶3.


January 15

DO but remember the general rules. What is mine? What not mine? What is allotted me? What is the will of God, that I should do now? What is not His will? A little while ago it was His will that you should be at leisure, should talk with yourself, write about these things, read, hear, prepare yourself. You have had sufficient time for this. At present He says to you, "Come now to the combat. Show us what you have learned, how you have wrestled." How long would you exercise by yourself? It is now the time to show whether you are of the number of those champions who merit victory, or of those who go about the world, conquered in all the games round. Why, then, are you out of humour? There is no combat without a tumult. There must be many preparatory exercises, many acclamations, many masters, many spectators.



January 14

AND it is impracticable, as well as tedious, to undertake the very thing that Jupiter himself could not do: to convince all mankind what things are really good and evil. Is this granted you? The only thing granted you is to convince yourself, and you have not yet done that; and do you, notwithstanding, undertake to convince others? Why, who hath lived so long with you as you have with yourself? Who is so likely to have faith in you, in order to be convinced by you, as you in yourself? Who is a better wisher, or a nearer friend to you, than you to yourself? How is it, then, that you have not yet convinced yourself? Should not you now turn these things every way in your thoughts ? What you were studying was this: to learn to be exempt from grief, perturbation, and meanness, and to be free. Have not you heard, then, that the only way that leads to this is to give up what doth not depend on choice: to withdraw from it, and confess that it belongs to others? What kind of thing, then, is another's opinion about you? — "Independent on choice." Is it nothing, then, to you? — "Nothing." While you are still piqued and disturbed about it, then, do you think that you are convinced concerning good and evil?



January 13

THEN hath a man attained to the estate of perfection in his life and conversation, when he so spends every day, as if it were his last day.


WHATSOEVER thou dost affect, whatsoever thou dost project, so do, and so project all, as one who, for aught thou knowest, may at this very present depart out of this life.


AS it is impossible to assent to an evident falsehood, or to deny an evident truth, so it is impossible to abstain from an evident good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §7. ¶1.

EVIDENT good at first sight attracts, and evil repels. Nor will the soul any more reject an evident appearance of good than they will Caesar's coin.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §3. ¶2.


January 12

THAT which is chief in every man's constitution, is, that he intend the common good. The second is, that he yield not to any lusts and motions of the flesh. For it is the part and privilege of the reasonable and intellective faculty, that she can so bound herself, as that neither the sensitive, nor the appetitive faculties, may not anywise prevail upon her. For both these are brutish. And therefore over both she challengeth mastery, and cannot anywise endure, if in her right temper, to be subject unto either.



January 11

WHAT was it, that waked Epicurus from his sleep, and compelled him to write what he did? What else but that which is of all others the most powerful in mankind, nature; which draws everyone, however unwilling and reluctant, to its own purposes? For since, says she, you think that there is no relation between mankind, write this doctrine, and leave it for the use of others, and break your sleep upon that account; and, by your own practice, confute your own principles. Do we say that Orestes was roused from sleep by the agitation of the Furies; and was not Epicurus waked by Furies more cruel and avenging, which would not suffer him to rest, but compelled him to divulge his own evils, as wine and madness do the priests of Cybele? So strong and unconquerable a thing is human nature! For how can a vine have the properties not of a vine, but of an olive-tree? Or an olive-tree not those of an olive-tree, but of a vine? It is impossible. It is inconceivable. Neither, therefore, is it possible for a human creature entirely to lose human affections. But even those who have undergone a mutilation cannot have their inclinations also mutilated: and so Epicurus, when he had mutilated all the offices of a man, of a master of a family, of a citizen, and of a friend, did not mutilate the inclinations of humanity. ... What a misfortune is it when anyone, after having received from nature standards and rules for the knowledge of truth, doth not strive to add to these, and make up their deficiencies; but, on the contrary, endeavours to take away and destroy whatever truth may be known even by them.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §20. ¶3.


January 10

NO object can of itself beget any opinion in us, neither can come to us, but stands without still and quiet; but we ourselves beget, and as it were print in ourselves opinions concerning them. Now it is in our power, not to print them; and if they creep in and lurk in some corner, it is in our power to wipe them off. Remember moreover, that this care and circumspection of thine, is to continue but for a while, and then thy life will be at an end. And what should hinder, but that thou mayst do well with all these things? For if they be according to nature, rejoice in them, and let them be pleasing and acceptable unto thee. But if they be against Nature, seek thou that which is according to thine own Nature, and whether it be for thy credit or no, use all possible speed for the attainment of it: for no man ought to be blamed, for seeking his own good and happiness.



January 9

WELL then: each of the animals is constituted either for food, or husbandry, or to produce milk, and the rest of them for some other like use; and for these purposes what need is there of understanding the appearances of things, and being able to make distinctions concerning them? But God hath introduced man as a spectator of Himself and His works; and not only as a spectator, but an interpreter of them. It is therefore shameful that man should begin and end where irrational creatures do. He is indeed rather to begin there, but to end where nature itself hath fixed our end; and that is in contemplation and understanding, and in a scheme of life comformable to nature.



January 8

WHY should I grieve myself; who never did willingly grieve any other! One thing rejoiceth one, and another thing another. As for me, this is my joy; if my understanding be right and sound, as neither averse from any man, nor refusing any of those things, which as a man I am subject unto; if I can look upon all things in the world meekly and kindly; accept all things, and carry myself towards everything according to the true worth of the thing itself.


WHEN one consulted him, how he might persuade his brother to forbear treating him ill: Philosophy, answered Epictetus, doth not promise to procure anything external to man, otherwise it would admit something beyond its proper subject-matter. For the subject-matter of a carpenter is wood; of a statuary, brass: and so of the art of living, the subject-matter is each person's own life.



January 7

YOU say theorems are useless. To whom? To such as apply them ill. For medicines for the eyes are not useless to those who apply them when and as they ought. Fomentations are not useless; poisers are not useless; but they are useless to some, and, on the contrary, useful to others. If you should ask me now, Are syllogisms useful? I answer, that they are useful; and, if you please, I will show you how. "Will they be of service to me, then?” — Why, did you ask, man, whether they would be useful to you, or in general? If anyone in a dysentery should ask me whether acids be useful, I answer. They are. "Are they useful for me, then?" — I say. No. First try to get the flux stopped, and the exulceration healed. Do you, too, first get your ulcers healed; your fluxes stopped. Quiet your mind, and bring it free from distraction to the school, and then you will know what is the force of reasoning.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §21, ¶3.


January 6

THE natural properties, and privileges of a reasonable soul are; That she seeth herself; that she can order, and compose herself: that she makes herself as she will herself: that she reaps her own fruits whatsoever, whereas plants, trees, unreasonable creatures, what fruit soever (be it either fruit properly, or analogically only) they bear, they bear them unto others, and not to themselves. Again; Whensoever, and wheresoever, sooner or later, her life doth end, she hath her own end nevertheless. For it is not with her, as with dancers, and players, who if they be interrupted in any part of their action, the whole action must needs be imperfect: but she in what part of time or action soever she be surprised, can make that which she hath in her hand whatsoever it be, complete and full, so that she may depart with that comfort, "I have lived; neither want I anything of that which properly did belong unto me."



January 5

IN every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit; but not having thought of the consequences, when some of them appear you will shamefully desist. “I would conquer at the Olympic games." But consider what precedes and follows, and then, if it be for your advantage, engage in the affair. You must conform to rules, submit to a diet, refrain from dainties; exercise your body, whether you choose it or not, at a stated hour, in heat and cold; you must drink no cold water, nor sometimes even wine. In a word, you must give yourself up to your master, as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow abundance of dust, be whipped, and, after all, lose the victory. When you have reckoned up all this, if your inclination still holds, set about the combat. Otherwise, take notice, you will behave like children, who sometimes play wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act a tragedy, when they happen to have seen and admired these shows. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator, now a philosopher, then an orator; but with your whole soul, nothing at all. Like an ape, you mimic all you see, and one thing after another is sure to please you, but is out of favour as soon as it becomes familiar. For you have never entered upon anything considerately, nor after having viewed the whole matter on all sides, or made any scrutiny into it, but rashly, and with a cold inclination.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §15, ¶1.


January 4

THIS is the nature of our proceedings. As in a crowded fair the horses and cattle are brought to be sold, and the greatest part of men come either to buy or sell; but there are a few who come only to look at the fair, and inquire how it is carried on; and why in that manner; and who appointed it; and for what purpose: thus, in the fair of the world, some, like cattle, trouble themselves about nothing but fodder. For as to all you who busy yourselves about possessions and farms and domestics and public posts, these things are nothing else but mere fodder. But there are some few men among the crowd who are fond of looking on and considering, “What then, after all, is the world? Who governs it? Hath it no governor? How is it possible, when neither a city nor a house can remain ever so short a time without someone to govern and take care of it, that this vast and beautiful system should be administered in a fortuitous and disorderly manner? Is there then a governor? What sort of one is he? And how doth he govern; and what are we who are under him; And for what designed ? Have we some connection and relation to him; or none?" In this manner are the few affected; and apply themselves only to view the fair and then depart.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §14, ¶4.


January 3

BETIMES in the morning say to thyself: This day I shall have to do with an idle curious man, with an unthankful man, a railer, a crafty, false, or an envious man; an unsociable uncharitable man. All these ill qualities have happened unto them, through ignorance of that which is truly good and truly bad. But I that understand the nature of that which is good, that it only is to be desired, and of that which is bad, that it only is truly odious and shameful: who know moreover, that this transgressor, whosoever he be, is my kinsman, not by the same blood and seed, but by participation of the same reason, and of the same divine particle; How can I either be hurt by any of those, since it is not in their power to make me incur anything that is truly reproachful? or angry, and ill affected towards him, who by nature is so near unto me? for we are all born to be fellow-workers, as the feet, the hands, and the eye-lids; as the rows of the upper and under teeth: for such therefore to be in opposition, is against nature; and what is it to chafe at, and to be averse from, but to be in opposition?



January 2

IN the morning when thou findest thyself unwilling to rise, consider with thyself presently, it is to go about a man's work that I am stirred up. Am I then yet unwilling to go about that, for which I myself was born and brought forth into this world? Or was I made for this, to lay me down, and make much of myself in a warm bed?


WHEN thou art hard to be stirred up and awaked out of thy sleep, admonish thyself and call to mind, that to perform actions tending to the common good is that which is thine own proper constitution, and that which the nature of man doth require. But to sleep, is common to unreasonable creatures also.


NOT to be slack and negligent; or loose, and wanton in thy actions, nor contentious, and troublesome in thy conversation, nor to rove and wander in thy fancies and imaginations. Not basely to contract thy soul; nor boisterously to sally out with it, or, furiously to launch out as it were, nor ever to want employment.



January 1

IN the morning as soon as thou art awaked, when thy judgment, before either thy affections, or external objects have wrought upon it, is yet most free and impartial: put this question to thyself, whether if that which is right and just be done, the doing of it by thyself, or by others when thou art not able thyself, be a thing material or no. For sure it is not. And as for these that keep such a life, and stand so much upon the praises, or dispraises of other men, hast thou forgotten what manner of men they be: that such and such upon their beds, and such at their board: what their ordinary actions are: what they pursue after, and what they fly from: what thefts and rapines they commit, if not with their hands and feet, yet with that more precious part of theirs, their minds: which (would it but admit of them) might enjoy faith, modesty, truth, justice, a good spirit.