The Golden Sayings of Epictetus

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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.


If 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.—Schweighser'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 (Stobus), 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 Epictete, by R. Asmus, 1888. The above selection includes some of doubtful origin but intrinsic interest.—Crossley.


The Hymn of Cleanthes

     Chiefest glory of deathless Gods, Almighty for ever,
     Sovereign of Nature that rulest by law, what Name shall we
          give Thee?—
     Blessed be Thou! for on Thee should call all things that are
     For that we are Thine offspring; nay, all that in myriad motion
     Lives for its day on the earth bears one impress—Thy
          likeness—upon it.
     Wherefore my song is of Thee, and I hymn thy power for ever.

     Lo, the vast orb of the Worlds, round the Earth evermore as it
     Feels Thee its Ruler and Guide, and owns Thy lordship rejoicing.
     Aye, for Thy conquering hands have a servant of living fire—
     Sharp is the bolt!—where it falls, Nature shrinks at the shock
     and doth shudder.
     Thus Thou directest the Word universal that pulses through all
     Mingling its life with Lights that are great and Lights that
          are lesser,
     E'en as beseemeth its birth, High King through ages unending.

     Nought is done that is done without Thee in the earth or the waters
     Or in the heights of heaven, save the deed of the fool and the
     Thou canst make rough things smooth; at Thy voice, lo, jarring
     Moveth to music, and Love is born where hatred abounded.
     Thus hast Thou fitted alike things good and things evil together,
     That over all might reign one Reason, supreme and eternal;
     Though thereunto the hearts of the wicked be hardened and
     Woe unto them!—for while ever their hands are grasping at
          good things,
     Blind are their eyes, yea, stopped are their ears to God's Law
     Calling through wise disobedience to live the life that is noble.
     This they mark not, but heedless of right, turn each to his
          own way,
     Here, a heart fired with ambition, in strife and straining
     There, thrusting honour aside, fast set upon getting and gaining;
     Others again given over to lusts and dissolute softness,
     Working never God's Law, but that which wareth upon it.

     Nay, but, O Giver of all things good, whose home is the dark cloud,
     Thou that wields Heaven's bolt, save men from their
          ignorance grievous;
     Scatter its night from their souls, and grant them to come to
          that Wisdom
     Wherewithal, sistered with Justice, Thou rulest and governest
          all things;
     That we, honoured by Thee, may requite Thee with worship and
     Evermore praising thy works, as is meet for men that shall perish;
     Seeing that none, be he mortal or God, hath privilege nobler
     Than without stint, without stay, to extol Thy Law universal.

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