Epictetus, Fragments

LCL 218: 440-441

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Arrians's Discourses of Epictetus


1 (1751). Stobaeus, Eclogae, II. 1, 31

Ἀρριανοῦ Ἐπικτητείου πρὸς τὸν περὶ οὐσίας πολυπραγμονοῦντα2

Τί μοι μέλει, φησί, πότερον ἐξ ἀτόμων ἢ ἐξ ἀμερῶν ἢ ἐκ πυρὸς καὶ γῆς συνέστηκε τὰ ὄντα; οὐ γὰρ ἀρκεῖ μαθεῖν τὴν οὐσίαν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ καὶ κακοῦ καὶ τὰ μέτρα τῶν ὀρέξεων καὶ ἐκκλίσεων καὶ ἔτι ὁρμῶν καὶ ἀφορμῶν καὶ τούτοις ὥσπερ κανόσι χρώμενον διοικεῖν τὰ τοῦ βίου, τὰ δ᾿ ὑπὲρ ἡμᾶς ταῦτα χαίρειν ἐᾶν, ἃ τυχὸν μὲν ἀκατάληπτά ἐστι τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ γνώμῃ, εἰ δὲ καὶ τὰ μάλιστα θείη3 τις εἶναι καταληπτά, ἀλλ᾿ οὖν τί ὄφελος καταληφθέντων; οὐχὶ δὲ διακενῆς πράγματα ἔχειν φατέον τοὺς ταῦτα ὡς ἀναγκαῖα τῷ τοῦ φιλοσόφου λόγῳ προσνέμοντας; Μή τι οὖν καὶ τὸ ἐν Δελφοῖς παράγγελμα παρέλκον ἐστί, τὸ Γνῶθι σαυτόν;—Τοῦτο δὲ μὲν οὔ, φησί.—Τίς οὖν ἡ δύναμις αὐτοῦ; εἰ χορευτῇ τις παρήγγελλε τὸ γνῶναι ἑαυτόν, οὔκουν ἂν4 τῇ προστάξει προσεῖχε τῷ ἐπιστραφῆναι καὶ τῶν συγχορευτῶν καὶ τῆς πρὸς αὐτοὺς συμφωνίας;—Φησίν.—Εἰ δὲ ναύτῃ;5 εἰ δὲ στρατιώτῃ; πότερον




From Arrian the pupil of Epictetus. To the man who was bothering himself about the problem of being

What do I care, says Epictetus, whether all existing things are composed of atoms, or of indivisibles, or of fire and earth? Is it not enough to learn the true nature of the good and the evil, and the limits of the desires and aversions, and also of the choices and refusals, and, by employing these as rules, to order the affairs of our life, and dismiss the things that are beyond us? It may very well be that these latter are not to be comprehended by the human mind, and even if one assume that they are perfectly comprehensible, well, what profit comes from comprehending them? And ought we not to say that those men trouble themselves in vain who assign all this as necessary to the philosopher’s system of thought? Is, therefore, also the precept at Delphi superfluous, “Know thyself”?—That, indeed, no, the man answers.—What, then, does it mean? If one bade a singer in a chorus to “know himself,” would he not heed the order by paying attention both to his fellows in the chorus and to singing in harmony with them?—Yes.—And so in the case of a sailor?

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.epictetus-fragments.1928