Frederic William Farrar.

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pallet on which he slept. About his lamp there was current in antiquity
a famous story, to which he himself alludes. As a piece of unwonted
luxury he had purchased a little iron lamp, which burned in front of the
images of his household deities. It was the only possession which he
had, and a thief stole it. "He will be finely disappointed when he comes
again," quietly observed Epictetus. "for he will only find an
earthenware lamp next time." At his death the little earthenware lamp
was bought by some genuine hero-worshipper for 3,000 drachmas. "The
purchaser hoped," says the satirical Lucian, "that if he read philosophy
at night by that lamp, he would at once acquire in dreams the wisdom of
the admirable old man who once possessed it."

But, in spite of his deep poverty, it must not be supposed that there
was anything eccentric or ostentatious in the life of Epictetus. On the
contrary, his writings abound in directions as to the proper bearing of
a philosopher in life. He warns his students that they may have ridicule
to endure. Not only did the little boys in the streets, the _gamins_ of
Rome, appear to consider a philosopher "fair game," and think it fine
fun to mimic his gestures and pull his beard, but he had to undergo the
sneers of much more dignified people. "If," says Epictetus, "you want to
know how the Romans regard philosophers, listen. Maelius, who had the
highest philosophic reputation among them, once when I was present,
happened to get into a great rage with his people, and as though he had
received an intolerable injury, exclaimed, 'I _cannot_ endure it; you
are killing me; why, you'll make me _like him_! pointing to me,"
evidently as if Epictetus were the merest insect in existence. And,
again he says in the _Manual_. "If you wish to be a philosopher, prepare
yourself to be thoroughly laughed at since many will certainly sneer and
jeer at you, and will say, 'He has come back to us as a philosopher all
of a sudden,' and 'Where in the world did he get this superciliousness?'
Now do not you be supercilious, but cling to the things which appear
best to you in such a manner as though you were conscious of having been
appointed by God to this position." Again in the little discourse _On
the Desire of Admiration_, he warns the philosopher "_not to walk as if
he had swallowed a poker_" or to care for the applause of those
multitudes whom he holds to be immersed in error. For all display, and
pretence, and hypocrisy, and Pharisaism, and boasting, and mere
fruitless book-learning he seems to have felt a genuine and profound
contempt. Recommendations to simplicity of conduct, courtesy of manner,
and moderation of language were among his practical precepts. It is
refreshing, too, to know that with the strongest and manliest good
sense, he entirely repudiated that dog-like brutality of behaviour, and
repulsive eccentricity of self-neglect, which characterised not a few of
the Cynic leaders. He expressly argues that the Cynic should be a man of
ready tact, and attractive presence; and there is something of almost
indignant energy in his words when he urges upon a pupil the plain duty
of scrupulous cleanliness. In this respect our friends the Hermits would
not quite have satisfied him, although he might possibly have pardoned
them on the plea that they abode in desert solitudes, since he bids
those who neglect the due care of their bodies to live "either in the
wilderness or alone."

Late in life Epictetus increased his establishment by taking in an old
woman as a servant. The cause of his doing so shows an almost Christian
tenderness of character. According to the hideous custom of infanticide
which prevailed in the pagan world, a man with whom Epictetus was
acquainted exposed his infant son to perish. Epictetus in pity took the
child home to save its life, and the services of a female were necessary
to supply its wants. Such kindness and self-denial were all the more
admirable because pity, like all other deep emotions, was regarded by
the Stoics in the light rather of a vice than of a virtue. In this
respect, however, both Seneca and Epictetus, and to a still greater
extent Marcus Aurelius, were gloriously false to the rigidity of the
school to which they professed to belong. We see with delight that one
of the _Discourses_ of Epictetus was _On the Tenderness and Forbearance
due to Sinners_; and he abounds in exhortations to forbearance in
judging others. In one of his _Fragments_ he tells the following
anecdote: - A person who had seen a poor ship-wrecked and almost dying
pirate took pity on him, carried him home, gave him clothes, and
furnished him with all the necessaries of life. Somebody reproached him
for doing good to the wicked - "I have honoured," he replied, "not the
man, but humanity in his person."

But one fact more is known in the life of Epictetus, Domitian, the
younger son of Vespasian, succeeded his far nobler brother the Emperor
Titus; and in the course of his reign a decree was passed which banished
all the philosophers from Italy. Epictetus was not exempted from this
unjust and absurd decree. That he bore it with equanimity may be
inferred from the approval with which he tells an anecdote about
Agrippinus, who while his cause was being tried in the Senate went on
with all his usual avocations, and on being informed on his return from
bathing that he had been condemned, quietly asked, "To death or
banishment?" "To banishment," said the messenger. "Is my property
confiscated?" "No," "Very well, then let us go as far as Aricia" (about
sixteen miles from Rome), "and dine there."

There was a certain class of philosophers whose external mark and whose
sole claim to distinction rested in the length of their beards; and when
the decree of Domitian was passed these gentleman contented themselves
with shaving. Epictetus alludes to this in his second _Discourse_,
"Come, Epictetus, shave off your beard," he imagines some one to say to
him. "If I am a philosopher I will not," he replies. "Then I will take
off your head." "By all means, if that will do you any good."

He went to Nicopolis, a town of Epirus, which had been built by Augustus
in commemoration of his victory at Actium. Whether he ever revisited
Rome is uncertain, but it is probable that he did so, for we know that
he enjoyed the friendship of several eminent philosophers and statesmen,
and was esteemed and honoured by the Emperor Hadrian himself. He is said
to have lived to a good old age, surrounded by affectionate and eager
disciples, and to have died with the same noble simplicity which had
marked his life. The date of his death is as little known as that of his
birth. It only remains to give a sketch of those thoughts which, poor
though he was, and despised, and a slave, yet made him "dear to the



It is nearly certain that Epictetus never committed any of his doctrines
to writing. Like his great exemplar. Socrates, he contented himself with
oral instruction, and the bulk of what has come down to us in his name
consists in the _Discourses_ reproduced for us by his pupil Arrian. It
was the ambition of Arrian "to be to Epictetus what Xenophon had been to
Socrates," that is, to hand down to posterity a noble and faithful
picture of the manner in which his master had lived and taught. With
this view, he wrote four books on Epictetus, - a life, which is now
unhappily lost; a book of conversation or "table talk," which is also
lost; and two books which have come down to us, viz. the _Discourses_
and the _Manual_. It is from these two invaluable books, and from a good
many isolated fragments, that we are enabled to judge what was the
practical morality of Stoicism, as expounded by the holy and
upright slave.

The _Manual_ is a kind of abstract of Epictetus's ethical principles,
which, with many additional illustrations and with more expansion, are
also explained in the _Discourses_. Both books were so popular that by
their means Arrian first came into conspicuous notice, and ultimately
attained the highest eminence and rank. The _Manual_ was to antiquity
what the _Imitatio_ of Thomas à Kempis was to later times, and what
Woodhead's _Whole Duty of Man_ or Wilberforce's _Practical View of
Christianity_ have been to large sections of modern Englishmen. It was a
clear, succinct, and practical statement of common daily duties, and the
principles upon which they rest. Expressed in a manner entirely simple
and unornate, its popularity was wholly due to the moral elevation of
the thoughts which it expressed. Epictetus did not aim at style; his one
aim was to excite his hearers to virtue, and Arrian tells us that in
this endeavour he created a deep impression by his manner and voice. It
is interesting to know that the _Manual_ was widely accepted among
Christians no less than among Pagans, and that, so late as the fifth
century, paraphrases were written of it for Christian use. No systematic
treatise of morals so simply beautiful was ever composed, and to this
day the best Christian may study it, not with interest only, but with
real advantage. It is like the voice of the Sybil, which, uttering
things simple, and unperfumed, and unadorned, by God's grace reacheth
through innumerable years. We proceed to give a short sketch of
its contents.

Epictetus began by laying down the broad comprehensive statement that
there are some things which are in our power, and depend upon ourselves;
other things which are beyond our power, and wholly independent of us.
The things which are in our power are our opinions, our aims, our
desires, our aversions - in a word, _our actions_. The things beyond our
power are bodily accidents, possessions, fame, rank, and whatever lies
_beyond_ the sphere of our actions. To the former of these classes of
things our whole attention must be confined. In that region we may be
noble, unperturbed, and free; in the other we shall be dependent,
frustrated, querulous, miserable. Both classes cannot be successfully
attended to; they are antagonistic, antipathetic; we cannot serve God
and Mammon.

Now, if we take a right view of all these things which in no way depend
on ourselves we shall regard them as mere semblances - as shadows which
are to be distinguished from the true substance. We shall not look upon
them as fit subjects for aversion or desire. Sin and cruelty, and
falsehood we may hate, because we can avoid them if we will; but we must
look upon sickness, and poverty, and death as things which are _not_ fit
subjects for our avoidance, because they lie wholly beyond our control.

This, then, - endurance of the inevitable, avoidance of the evil - is the
keynote of the Epictetean philosophy. It has been summed up in the three
words, [Greek: Anechou kai apechou], "_sustine et abstine_," "Bear and
forbear," - bear whatever God assigns to you, abstain from that which
He forbids.

The earlier part of the _Manual_ is devoted to practical advice which
may enable men to endure nobly. For instance, "If there be anything,"
says Epictetus, "which you highly value or tenderly love, estimate at
the same time its true nature. Is it some possession? remember that it
may be destroyed. Is it wife or child? remember that they may die."
"Death," says an epitaph in Chester Cathedral -

"Death, the great monitor, comes oft to prove,
'Tis dust we dote on, when 'tis man we love."

"Desire nothing too much. If you are going to the public baths and are
annoyed or hindered by the rudeness, the pushing, the abuse, the
thievish propensities of others, do not lose your temper: remind
yourself that it is more important that you should keep your will in
harmony with nature than that you should bathe. And so with all
troubles; men suffer far less from the things themselves than from the
opinions they have of them."

"If you cannot frame your circumstances in accordance with your wishes,
frame your will into harmony with your circumstances.[64] When you lose
the best gifts of life, consider them as not lost but only resigned to
Him who gave them. You have a remedy in your own heart against all
trials - continence as a bulwark against passion, patience against
opposition, fortitude against pain. Begin with trifles: if you are
robbed, remind yourself that your peace of mind is of more value and
importance than the thing which has been stolen from you. Follow the
guidance of nature; that is the great thing; regret nothing, desire
nothing, which can disturb that end. Behave as at a banquet - take with
gratitude and in moderation what is set before you, and seek for nothing
more; a higher and diviner step will be to be ready and able to forego
even that which is given you, or which you might easily obtain.
Sympathise with others, at least externally, when they are in sorrow and
misfortune; but remember in your own heart that to the brave and wise
and true there is really no such thing as misfortune; it is but an ugly
semblance; the croak of the raven can portend no harm to such a man, he
is elevated above its power."

[Footnote 64: "When what thou willest befalls not, thou then must will
what befalleth."]

"We do not choose our own parts in life, and have nothing to do with
those parts; our simple duty is confined to playing them well. The slave
may be as free as the consul; and freedom is the chief of blessings; it
dwarfs all others; beside it all others are insignificant, with it all
others become needless, without it no others are possible. No one can
insult you if you will not regard his words or deeds as insults.[65]
Keep your eye steadily fixed on the great reality of death, and all
other things will shrink to their true proportions. As in a voyage, when
a ship has come to anchor, if you have gone out to find water, you may
amuse yourself with picking up a little shell or bulb, but you must keep
your attention steadily fixed upon the ship, in case the captain should
call, and then you must leave all such things lest you should be flung
on board, bound like sheep. So in life; if, instead of a little shell or
bulb, some wifeling or childling be granted you, well and good; but, if
the captain call, run to the ship and leave such possessions behind you,
not looking back. But if you be an old man, take care not to go a long
distance from the ship at all, lest you should be called and come too
late." The metaphor is a significant one, and perhaps the following
lines of Sir Walter Scott, prefixed anonymously to one of the chapters
of the Waverley Novels, may help to throw light upon it:

"Death finds us 'midst our playthings; snatches us,
As a cross nurse might do a wayward child,
From all our toys and baubles - the rough call
Unlooses all our favourite ties on earth:
And well if they are such as may be answered
In yonder world, where all is judged of truly."

[Footnote 65: Compare Cowper's _Conversation_: -
"Am I to set my life upon a throw
Because a bear is rude and surly? - No. -
A modest, sensible, and well-bred man
Will not insult me, and _no other can_."]

"Preserve your just relations to other men; their misconduct does not
affect your duties. Has your father done wrong, or your brother been
unjust? Still he _is_ your father, he _is_ your brother; and you must
consider your relation to him, not whether he be worthy of it or no.

"Your duty towards the gods is to form just and true opinions respecting
them. Believe that they do all things well, and then you need never
murmur or complain."

"As rules of practice," says Epictetus, "prescribe to yourself an ideal,
and then act up to it. Be mostly silent; or, if you converse, do not let
it be about vulgar and insignificant topics, such as dogs, horses,
racing, or prize-fighting. Avoid foolish and immoderate laughter, vulgar
entertainments, impurity, display, spectacles, recitations, and all
egotistical remarks. Set before you the examples of the great and good.
Do not be dazzled by mere appearances. Do what is right quite
irrespective of what people will say or think. Remember that your body
is a very small matter and needs but very little; just as all that the
foot needs is a shoe, and not a dazzling ornament of gold, purple, or
jewelled embroidery. To spend all one's time on the body, or on bodily
exercises, shows a weak intellect. Do not be fond of criticising others,
and do not resent their criticisms of you. Everything," he says, and
this is one of his most characteristic precepts, "has two handles! one
by which it may be borne, the other by which it cannot. If your brother
be unjust, do not take up the matter by that handle - the handle of his
injustice - for that handle is the one by which it cannot be taken up;
but rather by the handle that he is your brother and brought up with
you; and then you will be taking it up as it can be borne."

All these precepts have a general application, but Epictetus adds
others on the right bearing of a philosopher; that is, of one whose
professed ideal is higher than the multitude. He bids him above all
things not to be censorious, and not to be ostentatious. "Feed on your
own principles; do not throw them up to show how much you have eaten. Be
self-denying, but do not boast of it. Be independent and moderate, and
regard not the opinion or censure of others, but keep a watch upon
yourself as your own most dangerous enemy. Do not plume yourself on an
_intellectual_ knowledge of philosophy, which is in itself quite
valueless, but on a consistent nobleness of action. Never relax your
efforts, but aim at perfection. Let everything which seems best be to
you a law not to be transgressed; and whenever anything painful, or
pleasurable, or glorious, or inglorious, is set before you, remember
that now is the struggle, now is the hour of the Olympian contest, and
it may not be put off, and that by a single defeat or yielding your
advance in virtue may be either secured or lost. It was thus that
Socrates attained perfection, by giving his heart to reason, and to
reason only. And thou, even if as yet thou art not a Socrates, yet
shouldst live as though it were thy wish to be one." These are noble
words, but who that reads them will not be reminded of those sacred and
far more deeply-reaching words, "_Be ye perfect, even as your Father
which is in heaven is perfect" Behold, now is the accepted time; behold,
now is the day of salvation_.

In this brief sketch we have included all the most important thoughts in
the _Manual_. It ends in these words. "On all occasions we may keep in
mind these three sentiments: - "

'Lead me, O Zeus, and thou, Destiny, whithersoever ye have appointed me
to go, for I will follow, and that without delay. Should I be
unwilling, I shall follow as a coward, but I must follow all the same.'

'Whosoever hath nobly yielded to necessity, I hold him wise, and he
knoweth the things of God.' (Euripides.)

And this third one also, 'O Crito, be it so, if so be the will of
heaven. Anytus and Melitus can indeed slay me, but harm me they cannot.'

To this last conception of life; quoted from the end of Plato's
_Apology_, Epictetus recurs elsewhere: "What resources have we," he
asks, "in circumstances of great peril? What other than the remembrance
of what is or what is not in our own power; what is possible to us and
what is not? I must die. Be it so; but need I die groaning? I must be
bound; but must I be bound bewailing? I must be driven into exile, well,
who prevent me then from going with laughter, and cheerfulness, and
calm of mind?

"'Betray secrets.'

"'Indeed I will not, for _that_ rests in my own hands.'

"'Then I will put you in chains.'

"'My good sir, what are you talking about? Put _me_ in chains? No, no!
you may put my leg in chains, but not even Zeus himself can master
my will.'

"'I will throw you into prison.'

"'My poor little body; yes, no doubt.'

"'I will cut off your head.'

"'Well did I ever tell you that my head was the only one which could not
be cut off?'

"Such are the things of which philosophers should think, and write them
daily, and exercise themselves therein."

There are many other passages in which Epictetus shows that the
free-will of man is his noblest privilege, and that we should not "sell
it for a trifle;" or, as Scripture still more sternly expresses it,
should not "sell ourselves for nought." He relates, for instance, the
complete failure of the Emperor Vespasian to induce Helvidius Priscus
not to go to the Senate. "While I am a Senator," said Helvidius, "I
_must_ go." "Well, then, at least be silent there." "Ask me no
questions, and I will be silent." "But I _must_ ask your opinion." "And
_I_ must say what is right." "But I will put you to death." "Did I ever
tell you I was immortal? Do _your_ part, and _I_ will do _mine_. It is
yours to kill me, mine to die untrembling; yours to banish me, mine to
go into banishment without grief."

We see from these remarkable extracts that the wisest of the heathen
had, by God's grace, attained to the sense that life was subject to a
divine guidance. Yet how dim was their vision of this truth, how
insecure their hold upon it, in comparison with that which the meanest
Christian may attain! They never definitely grasped the doctrine of
immortality. They never quite got rid of a haunting dread that perhaps,
after all, they might be nothing better than insignificant and unheeded
atoms, swept hither and thither in the mighty eddies of an unseen,
impersonal, mysterious agency, and destined hereafter "to be sealed amid
the iron hills," or

"To be imprisoned in the viewless winds.
And blown with reckless violence about
The pendent world."

Their belief in a personal deity was confused with their belief in
nature, which, in the language of a modern sceptic, "acts with fearful
uniformity: stern as fate, absolute as tyranny, merciless as death; too
vast to praise, too inexorable to propitiate, it has no ear for prayer,
no heart for sympathy, no arm to save." How different the soothing and
tender certainty of the Christian's hope, for whom Christ has brought
life and immortality to light! For "chance" is not only "the daughter of
forethought," as the old Greek lyric poet calls her, but the daughter
also of love. How different the prayer of David, even in the hours of
his worst agony and shame, "_Let Thy loving Spirit lead me forth into
the land of righteousness_." Guidance, and guidance by the hand of love,
was - as even in that dark season he recognised - the very law of his
life; and his soul, purged by affliction, had but a single wish - the
wish to be led, not into prosperity, not into a recovery of his lost
glory, not even into the restoration of his lost innocence; but
only, - through paths however hard - only into the land of righteousness.
And because he knew that God would lead him thitherward, he had no wish,
no care for anything beyond. We will end this chapter by translating a
few of the isolated fragments of Epictetus which have been preserved for
us by other writers. The wisdom and beauty of these fragments will
interest the reader, for Epictetus was one of the few "in the very dust
of whose thoughts was gold."

* * * * *

"A life entangled with accident is like a wintry torrent, for it is
turbulent, and foul with mud, and impassable, and tyrannous, and loud,
and brief."

"A soul that dwells with virtue is like a perennial spring; for it is
pure, and limpid, and refreshful, and inviting, and serviceable, and
rich, and innocent, and uninjurious."

* * * * *

"If you wish to be good? first believe that you are bad."

Compare Matt. ix. 12, "They that be whole need not a physician, but
they that are sick;" John ix. 41, "Now ye say, We see, therefore your
sin remaineth;" and 1 John i. 8, "If we say that we have no sin, we
deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

* * * * *

"It is base for one who sweetens that which he drinks with the gifts of
bees, to embitter by vice his reason, which is the gift of God."

* * * * *

"Nothing is meaner than the love of pleasure, the love of gain, and
insolence: nothing nobler than high-mindedness, and gentleness, and
philanthropy, and doing good."

* * * * *

"The vine bears three clusters: the first of pleasure; the second of
drunkenness; the third of insult."

"He is a drunkard who drinks more than three cups; even if he be not

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