Epictetus, the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments/Book 3/Chapter 4

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To the man who look sides, in an undignified manner, while in a theatre

The Procurator of Epirus took the side of a comic actor in a somewhat undignified manner and was reviled by the people for doing so. Thereupon he brought word to Epictetus that he had been reviled, and gave expression to his indignation at the men who had so reviled him. Why, what wrong were they doing? said Epictetus. They too were taking sides, just as you yourself were. But when the other asked. Is that the way, then, in which a man takes sides? he replied, Yes, they saw you, their Governor, the friend and Procurator of Caesar, taking sides in this way, and weren't they likely to take sides themselves in the same way? Why, if people should not take sides in this way, you had better not do so yourself; but if they should, why are you angry if they imitated you? For whom have the people to imitate but you, their superior? Whom do they look to but you, when they go to the theatres? "See," says one of them, "how the Procurator of Caesar acts in the theatre; he shouts; very well, I'll shout too. He jumps up and down; I'll jump up and down too. His claque of slaves sit in different parts of the house and shout, whereas I haven't any slaves; very well, I'll shout as loud as I can to make up for all of them." 5You ought to know, then, that when you enter the theatre, you enter as a standard of behaviour and as an example to the rest, showing them how they ought to act in the theatre. Why, then, did they revile you? Because every man hates what stands in his way. They wanted So-and-so to get the crown, while you wanted the other man to get it. They were standing in your way, and you in theirs. You turned out to be the stronger; they did what they could, and reviled what was standing in their way. What, then, do you wish? That you should be able to do what you wish, but that they should not even say what they wish? And what is there surprising in all that? Don't the farmers revile Zeus, when he stands in their way? Don't the sailors revile Zeus? Do men ever stop reviling Caesar? What then? Doesn't Zeus know about it? Isn't Caesar informed of what is said? What, then, does he do? He knows that if he punishes all who revile him he will have no one left to rule over. What then? Ought you upon entering the theatre to say, "Come, let's see that Sophron gets the crown"? and not rather, "Come, let me in this subject-matter maintain my moral purpose in accord with nature"? 10No one is dearer to me than myself; it is absurd, therefore, for me to let myself be hurt in order that another man may win a victory as a comic actor.—Whom, then, do I wish to win the victory? The victor; and so the one whom I wish to win the victory will always win it.—But I wish Sophron to get the crown.—Stage as many contests as you will in your own house, and proclaim him victor in the Nemean, Pythian, Isthmian, and Olympic games; but out in public do not arrogate to yourself more than your due, and do not filch away a public privilege. Otherwise you must put up with being reviled; because, when you do the same things that the people do, you are putting yourself on their level.