The Reaction of Aggripinus

What, then, did Agrippinus say? He said, "I am not a hindrance to myself." When it was reported to him that his trial was going on in the Senate, he said, "I hope it may turn out well, but it is the fifth hour of the day" - this was the time when he was used to exercise himself and then take the cold bath - "let us go and take our exercise." After he had taken his exercise, someone came to tell him, "You have been condemned." "To banishment," he replied, "or to death?" "To banishment." "What about my property?" "It is not taken from you." "Let us go to Aricia then," he said, "and dine." This it is to have studied what a man ought to study: to have made desire, aversion, free from hindrance, and free from all that a man would avoid. I must die. If now, I am ready to die. If, after a short time, I now dine because it is the dinner-hour; after this I will then die. How? Like a man who gives up what belongs to another.

Through these stories about prominent Romans and how they faced their fate, Epictetus reminds us that we should deal with adversity with calmness and fortitude. Many of the martyrs of the early church were faced with torture and death and yet faced their end with steadfastness and faith. Epictetus is saying that, ultimately, we must remember that we should control what we can, and accept the rest. We have free will within the range of choices that are handed to us. To arrogantly assume we can control everything is to blunder.

In the first paragraph, Epictetus tells us we should pray. Reading the rest of this chapter we get the idea that he does not mean prayer as a means of controlling the elements or the flow of great events, but as a way to find our part in them. Stoicism is a practical philosophy and Christianity is a practical religion. As we go through the 30 chapters of Book 1 of the Discourses you will find many Christian-like ideas. You will begin to see how the wisdom of an aging ex-slave meshes with the divine message of the carpenter from Nazareth.

Chapter 1:

  1. Of the Things Which Are and Are Not in Our Power
  2. What Is Fitting (1a)
  3. Mind Control (1b)
  4. Don't Worry, Be Happy (1c)
  5. Lateranus the Stoic (1d)
  6. Free Will and Zeus (1e)
  7. Thrasea the Roman Senator (1f)
  8. The Reaction of Aggripinus (1g)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus

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