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The Discourses of Epictetus, tr. by P.E Matheson, [1916], at



When the Procurator of Epirus offended decorum by the way he showed interest in a comedian, the people reviled him for this; thereupon when he brought word of this to Epictetus and expressed annoyance at those who reviled him: Why! he said, what harm were they doing? They too showed their interest as you did!

'What!' said he, 'is this the way they show interest?'

Yes, he said, when they saw you, their Governor, the friend and Procurator of Caesar, showing your interest in this way, would you not expect them to do the same? If it is not right to show interest in that way, leave off doing it yourself: but if it is right, why are you angry at their imitating you? For whom else but you, their superiors, have the people to imitate? Whom are they to look to when they come to the theatre but you? 'See', they say, 'how Caesar's Procurator behaves in the theatre. He cries out: then I will cry out too. He jumps from his seat. I will do so too. His claque of slaves shout from their scattered seats: I have no slaves, I will cry as loud as I can to make up for it.' You ought to know then that when you enter the theatre you enter it as a pattern and example to all other spectators how to behave. Why then did they revile you? Because every man hates what stands in his way. They wanted So-and-so to be crowned, you wanted another; they

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stood in your way and you in theirs. You were found to be stronger than they; they did what they could, they reviled what stood in their way. What would you have then? That you should do what you wish, and they should not even say what they wish? Nay, what wonder they should talk so? Do not farmers revile Zeus, when He stands in their way? Do not sailors revile Him? Do they not revile Caesar without ceasing? What follows? Does not Zeus know? Does not Caesar have reported to him what men say? What does he do then? He knows that if he punishes all who revile him he will have no one left to rule over. What is my conclusion? When you enter the theatre you ought not to say, 'Let me have Sophron crowned', but, 'Let me keep my will in accord with Nature in this matter, for no one is dearer to me than myself: it is absurd then that I should be injured, that another may be victorious on the stage.'

Whom then do I want to win? The victor: and so the victory will always be in accordance with my wish.

'But I wish Sophron to be crowned.'

Hold as many contests as you please in your own house and proclaim him there victor in the Nemean, Pythian, Isthmian and Olympic games: but in public do not claim more than your share, nor steal what is public property. If you do, you must put up with being reviled: for when you do as the people do, you put yourself on their level.

Next: Chapter V. Against Those Who Make Illness an Excuse For Leaving the Lecture-Room