Epictetus, the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments/Book 1
IN FOUR BOOKS
Chapters of the First Book
Arrian to Lucius Gellius, greeting:
I have not composed these Words of Epictetus as one might be said to "compose" books of this kind, nor have I of my own act published them to the world; indeed, I acknowledge that I have not "composed" them at all. But whatever I heard him say I used to write down, word for word, as best I could, endeavouring to preserve it as a memorial, for my own future use, of his way of thinking and the frankness of his speech. They are, accordingly, as you might expect, such remarks as one man might make off-hand to another, not such as he would compose for men to read in after time. This being their character, they have fallen, I know not how, without my will or knowledge, into the hands of men. Yet to me it is a matter of small concern if I shall be thought incapable of "composing" a work, and to Epictetus of no concern at all if anyone shall despise his words, seeing that even when he uttered them he was clearly aiming at nothing else but to incite the minds of his hearers to the best things. If, now, these words of his should produce that same effect, they would have, I think, just that success which the words of the philosophers ought to have; but if not, let those who read them be assured of this, that when Epictetus himself spoke them, the hearer could not help but feel exactly what Epictetus wanted him to feel. If, however, the words by themselves do not produce this effect, perhaps I am at fault, or else, perhaps, it cannot well be otherwise. Farewell.
- The contrast intended is between γράφω, "write," § 2, and συγγράφω, "compose." Arrian had in mind, no doubt, the works of Plato and Xenophon, which, although they purported to reproduce the words of Socrates, were in fact highly finished literary compositions.