Page:Discourses of Epictetus volume 1 Oldfather 1925.djvu/22

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


They constitute a remarkable self-revelation of a character of extraordinary strength, elevation, and sweetness, and despite their frequent repetitions and occasional obscurity must ever rank high in the literature of personal portrayal, even were one inclined to disregard their moral elevation. For Epictetus was without doubt, as the great wit and cynic Lucian calls him, "a marvellous old man."

It may not be amiss to dwell a few moments upon the outstanding features of his personality, before saying a few words upon his doctrines, for his doctrines, or at all events the varying emphasis laid on his doctrines, were to a marked degree influenced by the kind of man that he was.

And first of all I should observe that he had the point of view of a man who had suffered from slavery and abhorred it, but had not been altogether able to escape its influence. He was predisposed to suffer, to renounce, to yield, and to accept whatever burden might be laid upon him.[1] He was not a revolutionist, or a cultured gentleman, or a statesman, as were other Stoics before and after. Many of the good things of life which others enjoyed as a matter of course he had grown accustomed never to demand for himself; and the social obligations for the maintenance and advancement of order and civilization, towards which men of higher station were sensitive, clearly did not weigh heavily upon his conscience. His whole teaching was to make men free and happy by a severe restriction of effort to the realm of the moral

  1. Compare the excellent remarks of E V. Arnold upon this point, Encyclop., etc., 324.