Epictetus
Epictetus


Sending a Scout to Rome

If we send a scout to Rome, we do not send a cowardly scout, who, if he hears a noise and sees a shadow, comes running back in terror to report that the enemy is close at hand. So if the scout should come 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!" then we shall answer, "Be-gone, prophesy for yourself. It was a mistake to send such a scout."

Thus, finding adversity to be a good thing, it is not logical to fear it. Epictetus speaks of "sending a scout to Rome". As the philosophers had been banished from the imperial city, they gathered together and sent an individual to the city to report back on matters concerning personal and public matters that affected them. This scout is analogous to the outlook of the individual. Epictetus wants us to view tribulation as an opportunity, rather than as a thing to be feared.

In John 16:33 the words of Jesus tell us, "I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world." The essence of life is not in the tribulations that assail us. It is in the spiritual life we lead. Jesus tells us we need not fear the world. We need not fear suffering. The perspective of Jesus is slightly different from Epictetus. Though both the Stoic and the Christian abjure suffering, they do it for slightly different reasons. The Stoic takes it on as a learning experience, while the Christian disregards it as meaningless in the context of life because Jesus has already died for us so that we will ultimately transcend suffering and finally achieve salvation. Both views are helpful in dealing with adversity. Both views are ultimately correct. Common sense tells us that adversity is a teacher. The Bible tells us that we are saved.

Chapter 24:

  1. How We Struggle with Circumstances
  2. Sending a Scout to Rome (24a)
  3. Death Is No Evil (24b)
  4. Stoicism and Inheritance (24c)
  5. How We Struggle with Circumstances (24d)
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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