Where to Sit in the Amphitheater
"But I should like to sit where the Senators sit in the Arena." Do you see that you are putting yourself in a straightened position? You are squeezing yourself. "How then shall I see well in the amphitheater?" Man, do not be a spectator at all, and you will not be squeezed. Why do you give yourself trouble? Or wait a little, and when the spectacle is over, seat yourself in the place reserved for the Senators and sun yourself. For remember this general truth, that it is, our opinions that squeeze us and put us in straits. For what is it to be reviled? Stand by a stone and revile it. What will you gain? If, then, a man listens like a stone, what profit is there to the reviler? But if the reviler has as a stepping-stone the weakness of him who is reviled, then he accomplishes something. "Strip him." What do you mean by "him"? Lay hold of his garment, strip it off. "I have insulted you." Much good may it do you.
In the amphitheater, at plays, the nobility had the best seats. We are not just talking about wanting to have a good vantage point. Epictetus is also referring to the honors and privileges of high office. He is telling us that it is vain to covet position and the approbation of our fellow humans. Yes, this can be a spur to great deeds; however, it is also a lure to low deeds. It is better to disdain such honors as their pursuit will generally cause anguish. Better to put our faith in what is surely ours. If we do acquire fame and power it is best to use it to a higher purpose, not as a platform to acquire greater power. Thus, power should be earned by merit and put to good use once acquired.
The other side of the coin occurs when we are insulted or reviled. Epictetus says that if we care not for such things, if we completely ignore them, then they have no power over us. It is the wisdom inherent in the language of children, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
Stoicism and Christianity Index
- More on Struggle
- Faculty of Understanding (25a)
- God Gave Us a Brain (25b)
- The Saturnalia (25c)
- Conjecture and Life (25d)
- Examples of Application (25e)
- Where to Sit in the Amphitheater (25f)
- Give Up the Material (25g)