Page:Discourses of Epictetus volume 1 Oldfather 1925.djvu/24

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


Almost as characteristic was his intensity. He speaks much of tranquillity, as might be expected of a Stoic, but he was not one of those for whom that virtue is to be achieved only by Henry James's formula of successive accumulations of "endless" amounts of history, and tradition, and taste. His was a tranquillity, if there really be such a thing, of moral fervour, and of religious devotion. His vehemence gave him an extraordinarily firm and clean-cut character, and made him a singularly impressive teacher, as Arrian in the introductory epistle attests. For he was enormously interested in his teaching, knowing well that in this gift lay his single talent; made great efforts to present his material in the simplest terms and in well-arranged sequence; and sharply reproved those who blamed the stupidity of their pupils for what was due to their own incompetence in instruction. It also gave a notable vigour to his vocabulary and utterance, his παρρησία, or freedom of speech, suo quamque rem nomine appellare, as Cicero (Ad. Fam. IX. 22, 1) characterizes that Stoic virtue, which few exemplified more effectively than Epictetus; but it also, it must be confessed, made him somewhat intolerant of the opinions of others, were they philosophic or religious, in a fashion which for better or for worse was rapidly gaining ground in his day.[1]

But he was at the same time extremely modest. He never calls himself a "philosopher," he speaks frankly of his own failings, blames himself quite as much as his pupils for the failure of his instruction ofttimes to produce its perfect work, and quotes

  1. See Bonhöffer's remarks upon this point (1911, 346).