The Golden Sayings of Epictetus

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Fragments Attributed to Epictetus


A life entangled with Fortune is like a torrent. It is turbulent and muddy; hard to pass and masterful of mood: noisy and of brief continuance.


The soul that companies with Virtue is like an ever-flowing source. It is a pure, clear, and wholesome draught; sweet, rich, and generous of its store; that injures not, neither destroys.


It is a shame that one who sweetens his drink with the gifts of the bee, should embitter God’s gift Reason with vice.


Crows pick out the eyes of the dead, when the dead have no longer need of them; but flatterers mar the soul of the living, and her eyes they blind.


Keep neither a blunt knife nor an ill-disciplined looseness of tongue.


Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.


Do not give sentence in another tribunal till you have been yourself judged in the tribunal of Justice.


It is shameful for a Judge to be judged by others.


Give me by all means the shorter and nobler life, instead of one that is longer but of less account!


Freedom is the name of virtue: Slavery, of vice. . . . None is a slave whose acts are free.


Of pleasures, those which occur most rarely give the most delight.


Exceed due measure, and the most delightful things become the least delightful.


The anger of an ape—the threat of a flatterer:—these deserve equal regard.


Chastise thy passions that they avenge not themselves upon thee.


No man is free who is not master of himself.


A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope.


Fortify thyself with contentment: that is an impregnable stronghold.


No man who is a lover of money, of pleasure, of glory, is likewise a lover of Men; but only he that is a lover of whatsoever things are fair and good.


Think of God more often than thou breathest.


Choose the life that is noblest, for custom can make it sweet to thee.


Let thy speech of God be renewed day by day, aye, rather than thy meat and drink.


Even as the Sun doth not wait for prayers and incantations to rise, but shines forth and is welcomed by all: so thou also wait not for clapping of hands and shouts and praise to do thy duty; nay, do good of thine own accord, and thou wilt be loved like the Sun.


Let no man think that he is loved by any who loveth none.


If thou rememberest that God standeth by to behold and visit all that thou doest; whether in the body or in the soul, thou surely wilt not err in any prayer or deed; and thou shalt have God to dwell with thee.

Note.—Schweighaeuser’s great edition collects 181 fragments attributed to Epictetus, of which but a few are certainly genuine. Some (as xxi., xxiv., above) bear the stamp of Pythagorean origin; others, though changed in form, may well be based upon Epictetean sayings. Most have been preserved in the Anthology of John of Stobi (Stobaeus), a Byzantine collector, of whom scarcely anything is known but that he probably wrote towards the end of the fifth century, and made his vast body of extracts from more than five hundred authors for his son’s use. The best examination of the authenticity of the Fragments is Quaestiones Epicteteae, by R. Asmus, 1888. The above selection includes some of doubtful origin but intrinsic interest.—Crossley.


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The Apology, Phaedo and Crito of Plato; the Golden Sayings of Epictetus; the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius with Introductions and Notes (The Harvard Classics [Leatherbound], Deluxe Edition, Registered Edition)
By Benjamin Jowett
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