Epictetus was a former slave and crippled school teacher, exiled from Rome to Nicopolis in Greece around 100AD.
400 years earlier, Diogenes lived in a barrel. He carried a lamp in the daytime, looking for an honest man, but could not find any men, only rascals and scoundrels. Diogenes was perhaps the only man to ever publicly mock Alexander the Great and live.Alexander found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, “I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.” Diogenes believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog and the dog’s virtues. The modern terms “cynic” and “cynical” derive from the Greek word kynikos, the adjective form of kynon, meaning dog. These are the references to Diogenes made by Epictetus in The Discourses:
Book 1 – CHAPTER 24
How we should struggle with circumstances
We are now sending a scout to Rome; but no man sends a cowardly scout, who, if he only hears a noise and sees a shadow anywhere, comes running back in terror and reports that the enemy is close at hand. So now if you should come and tell us, “Fearful is the state of affairs at Rome, terrible is death, terrible is exile; terrible is calumny; terrible is poverty; fly, my friends; the enemy is near”; we shall answer, “Begone, prophesy for yourself; we have committed only one fault, that we sent such a scout.”
Diogenes, who was sent as a scout before you, made a different report to us. He says that death is no evil, for neither is it base: he says that fame is the noise of madmen. And what has this spy said about pain, about pleasure, and about poverty? He says that to be naked is better than any purple robe, and to sleep on the bare ground is the softest bed; and he gives as a proof of each thing that he affirms his own courage, his tranquility his freedom, and the healthy appearance and compactness of his body. “There is no enemy he says; “all is peace.” How so, Diogenes? “See,” he replies, “if I have been struck, if I have been wounded, if I have fled from any man.” This is what a scout ought to be. But you come to us and tell us one thing after another. Will you not go back, and you will see clearer when you have laid aside fear?
Book 2 – CHAPTER 3
To those who recommend persons to philosophers
Diogenes said well to one who asked from him letters of recommendation, “That you are a man,” he said, “he will know as soon as he sees you; and he will know whether you are good or bad, if he is by experience skillful to distinguish the good and the bad; but if he is without experience, he will never know, if I write to him ten thousand times.” For it is just the same as if a drachma asked to be recommended to a person to be tested. If he is skillful in testing silver, he will know what you are, for you will recommend yourself.
Book2 – CHAPTER 13
Socrates used to practice speaking, he who talked as he did to the tyrants, to the dicasts, he who talked in his prison. Diogenes had practiced speaking, he who spoke as he did to Alexander, to the pirates, to the person who bought him. These men were confident in the things which they practiced.
But do you walk off to your own affairs and never leave them? : go and sit in a corner, and weave syllogisms, and propose them to another. There is not in you the man who can rule a state.
Book 2 – CHAPTER 16
See how tragedy is made when common things happen to silly men.
Student: “When then shall I see Athens again and the Acropolis?”
Epictetus: Wretch, are you not content with what you see daily? have you anything better or greater to see than the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole earth, the sea? But if indeed you comprehend him who administers the Whole, and carry him about in yourself, do you still desire small stones, and a beautiful rock? When, then, you are going to leave the sun itself and the moon, what will you do? will you sit and weep like children? Well, what have you been doing in the school? what did you hear, what did you learn? why did you write yourself a philosopher, when you might have written the truth; as, “I made certain introductions, and I read Chrysippus, but I did not even approach the door of a philosopher.” For how should I possess anything of the kind which Socrates possessed, who died as he did, who lived as he did, or anything such as Diogenes possessed? Do you think that any one of such men wept or grieved, because he was not going to see a certain man, or a certain woman, nor to be in Athens or in Corinth, but, if it should so happen, in Susa or in Ecbatana? … Will you not be weaned now, like children, and take more solid food, and not cry after mammas and nurses, which are the lamentations of old women?
Student: “But if I go away, I shall cause them sorrow.”
Epictetus: You cause them sorrow? By no means; but that will cause them sorrow which also causes you sorrow, opinion. What have you to do then? Take away your own opinion, and if these women are wise, they will take away their own: if they do not, they will lament through their own fault.
Book 3 – CHAPTER 2
…You grow pale, you cry out immediately, “I will show him who I am, that I am a great philosopher.”
…Why do you wish to show it by others? Do you not know that Diogenes pointed out one of the sophists in this way by stretching out his middle finger? And then when the man was wild with rage, “This,” he said, “is the certain person: I pointed him out to you.” For a man is not shown by the finger, as a stone or a piece of wood: but when any person shows the man’s principles, then he shows him as a man.
Book 3 – CHAPTER 21
God advised Socrates to occupy the place of one who confutes error, Diogenes the office of royalty and reproof, and the office of teaching precepts.
(RE: The Office of Royalty: Diogenes lived outdoors in a barrel, with only a cloak and a bowl)
Book 3 – CHAPTER 22
…the true Cynic … he must know that he is sent a messenger from Zeus to men about good and bad things, to show them that they have wandered and are seeking the substance of good and evil where it is not, but where it is, they never think; and that he is a spy, as Diogenes was carried off to Philip after the battle of Chaeroneia as a spy. For, in fact, a Cynic is a spy of the things which are good for men and which are evil, and it is his duty to examine carefully and to come and report truly, and not to be struck with terror so as to point out as enemies those who are not enemies, nor in any other way to be perturbed by appearances nor confounded…
It is his duty, then, to he able with a loud voice, if the occasion should arise, and appearing on the tragic stage to say like Socrates: “Men, whither are you hurrying, what are you doing, wretches? like blind people you are wandering up and down: you are going by another road, and have left the true road: you seek for prosperity and happiness where they are not, and if another shows you where they are, you do not believe him.” Why do you seek it without? In the body? It is not there…
But what is Caesar to a Cynic, or what is a proconsul, or what is any other except him who sent the Cynic down hither, and whom he serves, namely Zeus? Does he call upon any other than Zeus? Is he not convinced that, whatever he suffers, it is Zeus who is exercising him? Hercules when he was exercised by Eurystheus did not think that he was wretched, but without hesitation he attempted to execute all that he had in hand. And is he who is trained to the contest and exercised by Zeus going to call out and to be vexed, he who is worthy to bear the sceptre of Diogenes?
… For what shall (a tyrant) accuse him of? because he maintains a decency of behavior, because he displays his virtue more conspicuously? Well, and what does he say of poverty, about death, about pain? How did he compare his own happiness with that of the Great King? or rather he thought that there was no comparison between them. For where there are perturbations, and griefs, and fears, and desires not satisfied, and aversions of things which you cannot avoid, and envies and jealousies, how is there a road to happiness there? But where there are corrupt principles, there these things must of necessity be.
…where shall you find, I ask, a Cynic’s friend?
He ought to be a partner in the Cynic’s sceptre and his royalty, and a worthy minister, if he intends to be considered worthy of a Cynic’s friendship, as Diogenes was a friend of Antisthenes, as Crates was a friend of Diogenes. Do you think that, if a man comes to a Cynic and salutes him, he is the Cynic’s friend, and that the Cynic will think him worthy of receiving a Cynic into his house? So that, if you please, reflect on this also: rather look round for some convenient dunghill on which you shall bear your fever and which will shelter you from the north wind that you may not be chilled. But you seem to me to wish to go into some man’s house and to be well fed there for a time. Why then do you think of attempting so great a thing?…
Do we not perceive his grandeur and do we not justly contemplate the character of Diogenes; and do we, instead of this, turn our eyes to the present Cynics, who are dogs that wait at tables and in no respect imitate the Cynics of old except perchance in breaking wind, but in nothing else? For such matters would not have moved us at all nor should we have wondered if a Cynic should not marry or beget children. Man, the Cynic is the father of all men; the men are his sons, the women are his daughters: he so carefully visits all, so well does he care for all. Do you think that it is from idle impertinence that he rebukes those whom he meets? He does it as a father, as a brother, and as the minister of the father of all, the minister of Zeus…
It is necessary also for such a man to have a certain habit of body: for if he appears to be consumptive, thin and pale, his testimony has not then the same weight. For he must not only by showing the qualities of the soul prove to the vulgar that it is in his power independent of the things which they admire to be a good man, but he must also show by his body that his simple and frugal way of living in the open air does not injure even the body. “See,” he says, “I am a proof of this, and my own body also is.” So Diogenes used to do, for he used to go about fresh-looking, and he attracted the notice of the many by his personal appearance. But if a Cynic is an object of compassion, he seems to be a beggar: all persons turn away from him, all are offended with him; for neither ought he to appear dirty so that he shall not also in this respect drive away men; but his very roughness ought to be clean and attractive.
There ought also to belong to the Cynic much natural grace and sharpness; and if this is not so, he is a stupid fellow, and nothing else; and he must have these qualities that he may be able readily and fitly to be a match for all circumstances that may happen. So Diogenes replied to one who said, “Are you the Diogenes who does not believe that there are gods?” “And, how,” replied Diogenes, “can this be when I think that you are odious to the gods?” On another occasion in reply to Alexander, who stood by him when he was sleeping, and quoted Homer’s line,
“A man a councilor should not sleep all night,”
he answered, when he was half-asleep,
“The people’s guardian and so full of cares.”
Book 3 – CHAPTER 24
That we ought not to be moved by a desire of those things which are not in our power
Did Diogenes love nobody, who was so kind and so much a lover of all that for mankind in general he willingly undertook so much labour and bodily sufferings? He did love mankind, but how? As became a minister of God, at the same time caring for men, and being also subject to God. For this reason all the earth was his country, and no particular place; and when he was taken prisoner he did not regret Athens nor his associates and friends there, but even he became familiar with the pirates and tried to improve them; and being sold afterward he lived in Corinth as before at Athens; and he would have behaved the same, if he had gone to the country of the Perrhaebi. Thus is freedom acquired. For this reason he used to say, “Ever since Antisthenes made me free, I have not been a slave.” How did Antisthenes make him free? Hear what he says: “Antisthenes taught me what is my own, and what is not my own; possessions are not my own, nor kinsmen, domestics, friends, nor reputation, nor places familiar, nor mode of life; all these belong to others.” What then is your own? “The use of appearances. This be showed to me, that I possess it free from hindrance, and from compulsion, no person can put an obstacle in my way, no person can force me to use appearances otherwise than I wish.” Who then has any power over me? Philip or Alexander, or Perdiccas or the Great King? How have they this power? For if a man is going to be overpowered by a man, he must long before be overpowered by things. If, then, pleasure is not able to subdue a man, nor pain, nor fame, nor wealth, but he is able, when he chooses, to spit out all his poor body in a man’s face and depart from life, whose slave can he still be? But if he dwelt with pleasure in Athens, and was overpowered by this manner of life, his affairs would have been at every man’s command; the stronger would have had the power of grieving him. How do you think that Diogenes would have flattered the pirates that they might sell him to some Athenian, that some time he might see that beautiful Piraeus, and the Long Walls and the Acropolis? In what condition would you see them? As a captive, a slave and mean: and what would be the use of it for you? “Not so: but I should see them as a free man.” Show me, how you would be free. Observe, some person has caught you, who leads you away from your accustomed place of abode and says, “You are my slave, for it is in my power to hinder you from living as you please, it is in my power to treat you gently, and to humble you: when I choose, on the contrary you are cheerful and go elated to Athens.” What do you say to him who treats you as a slave? What means have you of finding one who will rescue you from slavery? Or cannot you even look him in the face, but without saying more do you entreat to be set free? Man, you ought to go gladly to prison, hastening, going before those who lead you there.
Book 3 – CHAPTER 26
To those who fear want
But learn the life of those who are in health, how slaves live, how labourers, how those live who are genuine philosophers; how Socrates lived, who had a wife and children; how Diogenes lived, and how Cleanthes, who attended to the school and drew water. If you choose to have these things, you will have them everywhere, and you will live in full confidence.
BOOK FOUR – CHAPTER 1
So Diogenes says that there is one way to freedom, and that is to die content: and he writes to the Persian king, “You cannot enslave the Athenian state any more than you can enslave fishes.” “How is that? cannot I catch them?” “If you catch them,” says Diogenes, “they will immediately leave you, as fishes do; for if you catch a fish, it dies; and if these men that are caught shall die, of what use to you is the preparation for war?” These are the words of a free man who had carefully examined the thing and, as was natural, had discovered it. But if you look for it in a different place from where it is, what wonder if you never find it?
…Look all round and throw these things from you. Purge your opinions so that nothing cleave to you of the things which are not your own, that nothing grow to you, that nothing give you pain when it is torn from you; and say, while you are daily exercising yourself as you do there, not that you are philosophizing, for this is an arrogant expression, but that you are presenting an asserter of freedom: for this is really freedom. To this freedom Diogenes was called by Antisthenes, and he said that he could no longer be enslaved by any man. For this reason when he was taken prisoner, how did he behave to the pirates? Did he call any of them master? and I do not speak of the name, for I am not afraid of the word, but of the state of mind by which the word is produced. How did he reprove them for feeding badly their captives? How was he sold? Did he seek a master? no; but a slave, And, when he was sold, how did he behave to his master? Immediately he disputed with him and said to his master that he ought not to be dressed as he was, nor shaved in such a manner; and about the children he told them how he ought to bring them up.
…“You then,” a man may say, “are you free?” I wish, by the Gods, and pray to be free; but I am not yet able to face my masters, I still value my poor body, I value greatly the preservation of it entire, though I do not possess it entire. But I can point out to you a free man, that you may no longer seek an example. Diogenes was free. How was he free?— not because he was born of free parents, but because he was himself free, because he had cast off all the handles of slavery, and it was not possible for any man to approach him, nor had any man the means of laying hold of him to enslave him. He had everything easily loosed, everything only hanging to him. If you laid hold of his property, he would rather have let it go and be yours than he would have followed you for it: if you had laid hold of his leg, he would have let go his leg; if of all his body, all his poor body; his intimates, friends, country, just the same. For he knew from whence he had them, and from whom, and on that conditions. His true parents indeed, the Gods, and his real country he would never have deserted, nor would he have yielded to any man in obedience to them or to their orders, nor would any man have died for his country more readily. For he was not used to inquire when he should be considered to have done anything on behalf of the whole of things, but he remembered that everything which is done comes from thence and is done on behalf of that country and is commanded by him who administers it. Therefore see what Diogenes himself says and writes: “For this reason,” he says, “Diogenes, it is in your power to speak both with the King of the Persians and with Archidamus the king of the Lacedaemonians, as you please.”
BOOK FOUR – CHAPTER 7
On freedom from fear
…Show me the swords of the guards. “See how big they are, and how sharp.” What, then, do these big and sharp swords do?
“They kill.” And what does a fever do? “Nothing else.” And what else a tile? “Nothing else.” Would you then have me to wonder at these things and worship them, and go about as the slave of all of them? I hope that this will not happen: but when I have once learned that everything which has come into existence must also go out of it, that the universe may not stand still nor be impeded, I no longer consider it any difference whether a fever shall do it, or a tile, or a soldier. But if a man must make a comparison between these things, I know that the soldier will do it with less trouble, and quicker. When, then, I neither fear anything which a tyrant can do to me, nor desire anything which he can give, why do I still look on with wonder?
Why am I still confounded? Why do I fear the guards? Why am I pleased if he speaks to me in a friendly way, and receives me, and why do I tell others how he spoke to me? Is he a Socrates, is he a Diogenes that his praise should be a proof of what I am? Have I been eager to imitate his morals? But I keep up the play and go to him, and serve him so long as he does not bid me to do anything foolish or unreasonable. But if he says to me, “Go and bring Leon of Salamis,” I say to him, “Seek another, for I am no longer playing.” “Lead him away.” I follow; that is part of the play. “But your head will be taken off.” Does the tyrant’s head always remain where it is, and the heads of you who obey him? “But you will be cast out unburied.” If the corpse is I, I shall be cast out; but if I am different from the corpse, speak more properly according as the fact is, and do not think of frightening me. These things are formidable to children and fools. But if any man has once entered a philosopher’s school and knows not what he is, he deserves to be full of fear and to flatter those whom afterward he used to flatter; if he has not yet learned that he is not flesh nor bones nor sinews, but he is that which makes use of these parts of the body and governs them and follows the appearances of things.
BOOK FOUR – CHAPTER 9
To a person who had been changed to a character of shamelessness
My man, you were modest, and you are so no longer. Have you lost nothing? In place of Chrysippus and Zeno you read Aristides and Evenus; have you lost nothing? In place of Socrates and Diogenes, you admire him who is able to corrupt and seduce most women. You wish to appear handsome and try to make yourself so, though you are not. You like to display splendid clothes that you may attract women; and if you find any fine oil, you imagine that you are happy. But formerly you did not think of any such thing, but only where there should be decent talk, a worthy man, and a generous conception. Therefore you slept like a man, walked forth like a man, wore a manly dress, and used to talk in a way becoming a good man; then do you say to me, “I have lost nothing?” So do men lose nothing more than coin? Is not modesty lost? Is not decent behavior lost? is it that he who has lost these things has sustained no loss? Perhaps you think that not one of these things is a loss. But there was a time when you reckoned this the only loss and damage, and you were anxious that no man should disturb you from these words and actions.
Observe, you are disturbed from these good words and actions by nobody but by yourself. Fight with yourself, restore yourself to decency, to modesty, to liberty.
BOOK FOUR – CHAPTER 11
But all who have written about Socrates … they say that he was pleasant not only to hear, but also to see. On the other hand they write the same about Diogenes. For we ought not even by the appearance of the body to deter the multitude from philosophy; but as in other things, a philosopher should show himself cheerful and tranquil, so also he should in the things that relate to the body: “See, ye men, that I have nothing, that I want nothing: see how I am without a house, and without a city, and an exile, if it happens to be so, and without a hearth I live more free from trouble and more happily than all of noble birth and than the rich.