Chapter IV

◄Chapter III - Chapter V►

To the man mho had once been caught in adultery

1As Epictetus was remarking that man is bom to fidelity, and that the man who overthrows this is overthrowing the characteristic quality of man, there entered one who had the reputation of being a scholar, and who had once been caught in the city in the act of adultery. 2But, goes on Epictetus, if we abandon this fidelity to which we are by nature born, and make designs against our neighbour's wife, what are we doing? Why, what but ruining and destroying? Whom? The man of fidelity, of self-respect, of piety. Is that all? 3Are we not overthrowing also neighbourly feeling, friendship, the state? In what position are we placing ourselves? As what am I to treat you, fellow? As a neighbour, as a friend? Of what kind? As a citizen? What confidence am I to place in you? 4If you were a vessel so cracked that it was impossible to use you for anything, you would be cast forth upon the dunghills and even from there no one would pick you up; 5but if, although a man, you cannot fill a man's place, what are we going to do with you? For, assuming that you cannot hold the place of a friend, can you hold that of a slave? And who is going to trust you? Are you not willing, therefore, that you too should be cast forth upon some dunghill as a useless vessel, as a piece of dung? 6For all that will you say, "Nobody cares for me, a scholar!"? No, for you are an evil man, and useless. It is just as if the wasps complained that nobody cares for them, but all run away from them, and, if anyone can, he strikes them and knocks them down. 7You have such a sting that you involve in trouble and pain whomever you strike. What do you want us to do with you? There is no place where you can be put.

8What then, you say; are not women by nature common property?[1] I agree. And the little pig is the common property of the invited guests ; but when portions have been assigned, if it so pleases you, approach and snatch up the portion of the guest who reclines at your side, steal it secretly, or slip in your hand and glut your greed, and if you cannot tear off a piece of the meat, get your fingers greasy and lick them. A fine companion you would make at a feast, and a dinner-guest worthy of Socrates![2] 9Come now, is not the theatre the common property of the citizens? When, therefore, they are seated there, go, if it so pleases you, and throw someone of them out of his seat. 10In the same way women also are by nature common property. But when the lawgiver, like a host at a banquet, has apportioned them, are you not willing like the rest to look for your own portion instead of filching away and glutting your greed upon that which is another's? "But I am a scholar and understand Archedemus."[3] 11Very well then, understand Archedemus and be an adulterer and faithless and a wolf or an ape instead of a man; for what is there to prevent you?

◄Chapter III - Chapter V►

1 A not uncommon social theory in antiquity, to which the Stoics also subscribed (Diog. Laert. VII. 33 and 131); but Epictetus accepts the doctrine only with such limitations as make it compatible with ordinary matrimonal institutions. Compare also frag. 15, where he recurs to the topic.

2The reference is probably to the Symposia by Plato and Xenophon.

3Possibly the Stoic philosopher of Tarsus (Plut. de Exil. 14), but more likely the rhetorician who commented upon a portion of Aristotle's Rhetoric (Quintilian, IlL 6. 31 and 33), if these be really different persons, which is not entirely certain.