Who Is Invincible?

Who then is invincible? It is he whom nothing disturbs unless it affects his will. Then examining the circumstance of an athlete who has come off victorious in his first contest, we must ask "What about his second contest?" "What if it should get hot?" "What if it should be an Olympic contest?" Even should he not be affected by money, suppose he should be offered a young woman, what then? What, if the contest is played in the dark? What if it should be in a venue unwatched by a crowd, or the crowd is abusive. What if the crowd should applaud him; and what if he should face death for defeat? Is he able to overcome all? If he can stand the heat, the rain, melancholy moods, and fatigue and still conquer, he will be my invincible athlete.

Epictetus draws a parallel between the moral and the physical ideal. Here he speaks of the athlete who overcomes all plaudits and all obstacles to remain the champion. He wants us to understand that the will requires a certain amount of training and effort in order to win in the internal battle between good and evil. But he who does train his will in a manner similar to the way an athlete trains his body will find that he is invincible. Is this not true also of the Christian who develops his or her own moral strength?

Chapter 18:

  1. The Mistakes of Others
  2. Evil Is Ignorance (18a)
  3. The Value of Property (18b)
  4. Exercising the Will (18c)
  5. Who Is Invincible? (18d)
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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