Honors Are Vanity

A person was talking to me today about getting appointed to the priesthood of Augustus. I said to him, "Man, let the thing alone. You will spend much to no purpose." The man replied, "But my name will be recorded in the history books." Do you then stand by those who read them, and say to such persons, "It is I whose name is written there!" And if you can't be present on all such occasions now, what will you do when you are dead? "My name will remain," he said. I told him to engrave it on a stone, and it will remain. But come, what remembrance of you will there be beyond Nicopolis [the city where Epictetus taught after he had been exiled from Rome]? "But I shall wear a crown of gold." If you desire a crown at all, take a crown of roses and put it on, for it will be more elegant in appearance.

Honors and offices are mere vanity. People strive mightily to attain them, but ultimately, how much do they mean when put up against the happiness possible from a close relationship with God? While this relationship will last forever, worldly fame will last only a short time. It has no relevance at all to a person once he or she is dead.

Epictetus has much to say on the subject of tyrants. In most of this discourse modern government might stand in for the tyrant. This does not mean that a republican form of government is a tyranny, but any government and the individuals who administer it take on aspects of power and authority. We might sum up Epictetus' advice as, "don't let political power influence how you act - whether you are the one using the power or the one whom it is being acted upon."

Chapter 19:

  1. How We Should Behave to Tyrants
  2. Tyrants and Pipkins (19a)
  3. God Is Useful (19b)
  4. Felicion the Shoemaker (19c)
  5. Alexander and Diogenes (19d)
  6. Honors Are Vanity (19e)
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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