That which rules within, when it is according to nature, is so affected
with respect to the events which happen, that it always
easily adapts itself to that which is and is presented to
it. For it requires no definite material, but it moves
towards its purpose, under certain conditions however; and it makes a material for itself out of that which opposes it,
as fire lays hold of what falls into it, by which a small
light would have been extinguished: but when the fire is
strong, it soon appropriates to itself the matter which is
heaped on it, and consumes it, and rises higher by means of this very material.
Let no act be done
without a purpose, nor otherwise than according to the
perfect principles of art.
Men seek retreats for
themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and
mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for
it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire
into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more
freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own
soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility;
and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good
ordering of the mind. Constantly then give to thyself this
retreat, and renew thyself; and let thy principles be brief
and fundamental, which, as soon as thou shalt recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send thee
back free from all discontent with the things to which thou
returnest. For with what art thou discontented? With the
badness of men? Recall to thy mind this conclusion, that
rational animals exist for one another, and that to endure is a part of justice, and that men do wrong involuntarily; and
consider how many already, after mutual enmity, suspicion,
hatred, and fighting, have been stretched dead, reduced to
ashes; and be quiet at last.- But perhaps thou art
dissatisfied with that which is assigned to thee out of the
universe.- Recall to thy recollection this alternative; either there is providence or atoms, fortuitous concurrence of things; or
remember the arguments by which it has been proved that the
world is a kind of political community, and be quiet at
last.- But perhaps corporeal things will still fasten upon
thee.- Consider then further that the mind mingles not with the breath, whether moving gently or violently, when it has
once drawn itself apart and discovered its own power, and
think also of all that thou hast heard and assented to
about pain and pleasure, and be quiet at last.- But perhaps
the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee.- See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of
infinite time on each side of the present, and the
emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of
judgement in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at
last. For the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook
in it is this thy dwelling, and how few are there in it,
and what kind of people are they who will praise thee.
This then remains: Remember to retire into this little
territory of thy own, and above all do not distract or
strain thyself, but be free, and look at things as a man,
as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal. But among the
things readiest to thy hand to which thou shalt turn, let there be these, which are two. One is that things do not touch
the soul, for they are external and remain immovable; but
our perturbations come only from the opinion which is
within. The other is that all these things, which thou
seest, change immediately and will no longer be; and constantly bear in mind how many of these changes thou hast already
witnessed. The universe is transformation: life is opinion.
If our intellectual part is common, the reason
also, in respect of which we are rational beings, is
common: if this is so, common also is the reason which
commands us what to do, and what not to do; if this is so,
there is a common law also; if this is so, we are fellow-citizens; if this is so, we are members of some political community; if
this is so, the world is in a manner a state. For of what
other common political community will any one say that the
whole human race are members? And from thence, from this
common political community comes also our very intellectual faculty and reasoning faculty and our capacity for law; or whence do
they come? For as my earthly part is a portion given to me
from certain earth, and that which is watery from another
element, and that which is hot and fiery from some peculiar
source (for nothing comes out of that which is nothing, as
nothing also returns to non-existence), so also the intellectual part comes from some source.
Death is such
as generation is, a mystery of nature; a composition out of
the same elements, and a decomposition into the same; and altogether not a thing of which any man should be ashamed, for it is not
contrary to the nature of a reasonable animal, and not
contrary to the reason of our constitution.
It is natural that these things should be done by such
persons, it is a matter of necessity; and if a man will not
have it so, he will not allow the fig-tree to have juice.
But by all means bear this in mind, that within a very
short time both thou and he will be dead; and soon not even
your names will be left behind.
Take away thy
opinion, and then there is taken away the complaint, "I
have been harmed." Take away the complaint, "I have been harmed," and the harm is taken away.
That which does
not make a man worse than he was, also does not make his
life worse, nor does it harm him either from without or from within.
The nature of that which is
universally useful has been compelled to do this.
Consider that everything which happens, happens
justly, and if thou observest carefully, thou wilt find it
to be so. I do not say only with respect to the continuity
of the series of things, but with respect to what is just,
and as if it were done by one who assigns to each thing its value. Observe then as thou hast begun; and whatever thou
doest, do it in conjunction with this, the being good, and
in the sense in which a man is properly understood to be
good. Keep to this in every action.
Do not have such an opinion of things as he has who
does thee wrong, or such as he wishes thee to have, but
look at them as they are in truth.
A man should always have these two rules in
readiness; the one, to do only whatever the reason of the
ruling and legislating faculty may suggest for the use of
men; the other, to change thy opinion, if there is any one
at hand who sets thee right and moves thee from any opinion. But this change of opinion must proceed only from a certain
persuasion, as of what is just or of common advantage, and
the like, not because it appears pleasant or brings
Hast thou reason? I have.- Why then
dost not thou use it? For if this does its own work, what
else dost thou wish?
Thou hast existed as a part.
Thou shalt disappear in that which produced thee; but
rather thou shalt be received back into its seminal principle by transmutation.
grains of frankincense on the same altar: one falls before, another falls after; but it makes no difference.
Within ten days thou wilt seem a god to those to whom
thou art now a beast and an ape, if thou wilt return to
thy principles and the worship of reason.
Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand
years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it
is in thy power, be good.
trouble he avoids who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only to what he does himself,
that it may be just and pure; or as Agathon says, look not
round at the depraved morals of others, but run straight
along the line without deviating from it.
He who has a vehement desire for posthumous fame does
not consider that every one of those who remember him will
himself also die very soon; then again also they who have
succeeded them, until the whole remembrance shall have
been extinguished as it is transmitted through men who foolishly admire and perish. But suppose that those who will remember
are even immortal, and that the remembrance will be
immortal, what then is this to thee? And I say not what is
it to the dead, but what is it to the living? What is praise except indeed so far as it has a certain utility? For
thou now rejectest unseasonably the gift of nature,
clinging to something else...
Everything which is in any way beautiful is beautiful
in itself, and terminates in itself, not having praise as
part of itself. Neither worse then nor better is a thing
made by being praised. I affirm this also of the things
which are called beautiful by the vulgar, for example, material things and works of art. That which is really beautiful has
no need of anything; not more than law, not more than
truth, not more than benevolence or modesty. Which of
these things is beautiful because it is praised, or spoiled by being blamed? Is such a thing as an emerald made
worse than it was, if it is not praised? Or gold, ivory,
purple, a lyre, a little knife, a flower, a shrub?
If souls continue to exist, how does the air contain
them from eternity?- But how does the earth contain the
bodies of those who have been buried from time so remote?
For as here the mutation of these bodies after a certain
continuance, whatever it may be, and their dissolution make room for other dead bodies; so the souls which are
removed into the air after subsisting for some time are
transmuted and diffused, and assume a fiery nature by
being received into the seminal intelligence of the universe, and in this way make room for the fresh souls which come to
dwell there. And this is the answer which a man might give
on the hypothesis of souls continuing to exist. But we
must not only think of the number of bodies which are thus
buried, but also of the number of animals which are daily eaten by us and the other animals. For what a number is
consumed, and thus in a manner buried in the bodies of
those who feed on them! And nevertheless this earth
receives them by reason of the changes of these bodies into blood, and the transformations into the aerial or the fiery
What is the investigation
into the truth in this matter? The division into that
which is material and that which is the cause of form, the formal.
Do not be whirled about, but
in every movement have respect to justice, and on the
occasion of every impression maintain the faculty of comprehension or understanding.
Everything harmonizes with me, which is harmonious to
thee, O Universe. Nothing for me is too early nor too
late, which is in due time for thee. Everything is fruit
to me which thy seasons bring, O Nature: from thee are all
things, in thee are all things, to thee all things return. The poet says, Dear city of Cecrops; and wilt not thou say, Dear
city of Zeus?
Occupy thyself with
few things, says the philosopher, if thou wouldst be
tranquil.- But consider if it would not be better to say, Do what is necessary, and whatever the reason of the animal which is
naturally social requires, and as it requires. For this
brings not only the tranquility which comes from doing
well, but also that which comes from doing few things. For
the greatest part of what we say and do being unnecessary, if a man takes this away, he will have more leisure and less
uneasiness. Accordingly on every occasion a man should ask
himself, Is this one of the unnecessary things? Now a man
should take away not only unnecessary acts, but also, unnecessary thoughts, for thus superfluous acts will not
Try how the life of
the good man suits thee, the life of him who is satisfied
with his portion out of the whole, and satisfied with his own just acts and benevolent disposition.
Hast thou seen those things? Look also at these. Do
not disturb thyself. Make thyself all simplicity. Does any
one do wrong? It is to himself that he does the wrong. Has
anything happened to thee? Well; out of the universe from
the beginning everything which happens has been apportioned and spun out to thee. In a word, thy life is short. Thou must
turn to profit the present by the aid of reason and
justice. Be sober in thy relaxation.
Either it is a well-arranged universe or a chaos
huddled together, but still a universe. But can a certain
order subsist in thee, and disorder in the All? And this
too when all things are so separated and diffused and
A black character, a womanish
character, a stubborn character, bestial, childish,
animal, stupid, counterfeit, scurrilous, fraudulent, tyrannical.
If he is a stranger to
the universe who does not know what is in it, no less is
he a stranger who does not know what is going on in it. He
is a runaway, who flies from social reason; he is blind, who shuts the eyes of the understanding; he is poor, who has need of
another, and has not from himself all things which are
useful for life. He is an abscess on the universe who
withdraws and separates himself from the reason of our
common nature through being displeased with the things which happen, for the same nature produces this, and has produced thee too:
he is a piece rent asunder from the state, who tears his
own soul from that of reasonable animals, which is one.
The one is a philosopher without a tunic, and the
other without a book: here is another half naked: Bread I
have not, he says, and I abide by reason.- And I do not
get the means of living out of my learning, and I abide by
Love the art, poor as it may be, which
thou hast learned, and be content with it; and pass
through the rest of life like one who has intrusted to the
gods with his whole soul all that he has, making thyself neither the tyrant nor the slave of any man.
Consider, for example, the times of Vespasian. Thou
wilt see all these things, people marrying, bringing up
children, sick, dying, warring, feasting, trafficking,
cultivating the ground, flattering, obstinately arrogant,
suspecting, plotting, wishing for some to die, grumbling about the present, loving, heaping up treasure, desiring
counsulship, kingly power. Well then, that life of these
people no longer exists at all. Again, remove to the times
of Trajan. Again, all is the same. Their life too is gone.
In like manner view also the other epochs of time and of whole nations, and see how many after great efforts soon fell and were
resolved into the elements. But chiefly thou shouldst
think of those whom thou hast thyself known distracting
themselves about idle things, neglecting to do what was in
accordance with their proper constitution, and to hold firmly to this and to be content with it. And herein it is necessary to
remember that the attention given to everything has its
proper value and proportion. For thus thou wilt not be
dissatisfied, if thou appliest thyself to smaller matters
no further than is fit.
The words which were
formerly familiar are now antiquated: so also the names of
those who were famed of old, are now in a manner antiquated, Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Leonnatus, and a little after also
Scipio and Cato, then Augustus, then also Hadrian and
Antoninus. For all things soon pass away and become a mere
tale, and complete oblivion soon buries them. And I say
this of those who have shone in a wondrous way. For the rest, as soon as they have breathed out their breath, they are
gone, and no man speaks of them. And, to conclude the
matter, what is even an eternal remembrance? A mere
nothing. What then is that about which we ought to employ our serious pains? This one thing, thoughts just, and acts social, and
words which never lie, and a disposition which gladly
accepts all that happens, as necessary, as usual, as
flowing from a principle and source of the same kind.
Willingly give thyself up to Clotho, one of the
Fates, allowing her to spin thy thread into whatever
things she pleases.
Everything is only for a day,
both that which remembers and that which is remembered.
Observe constantly that all things take place by
change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature
of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the
things which are and to make new things like them. For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which
will be. But thou art thinking only of seeds which are
cast into the earth or into a womb: but this is a very
Thou wilt soon die, and thou art
not yet simple, not free from perturbations, nor without
suspicion of being hurt by external things, nor kindly
disposed towards all; nor dost thou yet place wisdom only in acting justly.
Examine men's ruling
principles, even those of the wise, what kind of things
they avoid, and what kind they pursue.
evil to thee does not subsist in the ruling principle of another; nor yet in any turning and mutation of thy corporeal
covering. Where is it then? It is in that part of thee in
which subsists the power of forming opinions about evils.
Let this power then not form such opinions, and all is
well. And if that which is nearest to it, the poor body, is burnt, filled with matter and rottenness, nevertheless let
the part which forms opinions about these things be quiet,
that is, let it judge that nothing is either bad or good
which can happen equally to the bad man and the good. For
that which happens equally to him who lives contrary to nature and to him who lives according to nature, is neither
according to nature nor contrary to nature.
Constantly regard the universe as one living being,
having one substance and one soul; and observe how all
things have reference to one perception, the perception of
this one living being; and how all things act with one
movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning
of the thread and the contexture of the web.
Thou art a little soul bearing about a corpse, as
Epictetus used to say.
It is no
evil for things to undergo change, and no good for things to subsist in consequence of change.
Time is like a river made up of the events which
happen, and a violent stream; for as soon as a thing has
been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its
place, and this will be carried away too.
Everything which happens is as familiar and well
known as the rose in spring and the fruit in summer; for
such is disease, and death, and calumny, and treachery,
and whatever else delights fools or vexes them.
In the series of things those which follow are always
aptly fitted to those which have gone before; for this
series is not like a mere enumeration of disjointed
things, which has only a necessary sequence, but it is a rational connection: and as all existing things are arranged
together harmoniously, so the things which come into
existence exhibit no mere succession, but a certain
Always remember the saying
of Heraclitus, that the death of earth is to become water,
and the death of water is to become air, and the death of
air is to become fire, and reversely. And think too of him who forgets whither the way leads, and that men quarrel with that with
which they are most constantly in communion, the reason
which governs the universe; and the things which daily
meet with seem to them strange: and consider that we ought
not to act and speak as if we were asleep, for even in sleep we seem to act and speak; and that we ought not, like children
who learn from their parents, simply to act and speak as
we have been taught.
If any god
told thee that thou shalt die to-morrow, or certainly on
the day after to-morrow, thou wouldst not care much whether it was on the third day or on the morrow, unless thou wast in the
highest degree mean-spirited- for how small is the
difference?- So think it no great thing to die after as
many years as thou canst name rather than to-morrow.
Think continually how many physicians are dead after
often contracting their eyebrows over the sick; and how
many astrologers after predicting with great pretensions
the deaths of others; and how many philosophers after
endless discourses on death or immortality; how many heroes after killing thousands; and how many tyrants who have used their
power over men's lives with terrible insolence as if they
were immortal; and how many cities are entirely dead, so
to speak, Helice and Pompeii and Herculaneum, and others
innumerable. Add to the reckoning all whom thou hast known, one after another. One man after burying another has been
laid out dead, and another buries him: and all this in a
short time. To conclude, always observe how ephemeral and
worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a
little mucus to-morrow will be a mummy or ashes. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy
journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is
ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the
tree on which it grew.
Be like the promontory
against which the waves continually break, but it stands
firm and tames the fury of the water around it.
Unhappy am I because this has happened to me.- Not
so, but happy am I, though this has happened to me,
because I continue free from pain, neither crushed by the
present nor fearing the future. For such a thing as this
might have happened to every man; but every man would not have continued free from pain on such an occasion. Why then is
that rather a misfortune than this a good fortune? And
dost thou in all cases call that a man's misfortune, which
is not a deviation from man's nature? And does a thing
seem to thee to be a deviation from man's nature, when it is not contrary to the will of man's nature? Well, thou knowest the
will of nature. Will then this which has happened prevent
thee from being just, magnanimous, temperate, prudent,
secure against inconsiderate opinions and falsehood; will
it prevent thee from having modesty, freedom, and everything else, by the presence of which man's nature obtains all that is its
own? Remember too on every occasion which leads thee to
vexation to apply this principle: not that this is a
misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune.
It is a vulgar, but still a useful help towards
contempt of death, to pass in review those who have
tenaciously stuck to life. What more then have they gained
than those who have died early? Certainly they lie in their tombs somewhere at last, Cadicianus, Fabius, Julianus,
Lepidus, or any one else like them, who have carried out
many to be buried, and then were carried out themselves.
Altogether the interval is small between birth and death;
and consider with how much trouble, and in company with what sort of people and in what a feeble body this interval is
laboriously passed. Do not then consider life a thing of
any value. For look to the immensity of time behind thee,
and to the time which is before thee, another boundless space. In this infinity then what is the difference between
him who lives three days and him who lives three
Always run to the short way; and the
short way is the natural: accordingly say and do
everything in conformity with the soundest reason. For
such a purpose frees a man from trouble, and warfare, and all artifice and ostentatious display.
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