Chapter 1

1.1 τῶν ὄντων τὰ μέν ἐστιν ἐφ' ἡμῖν, τὰ δὲ οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν. ἐφ' ἡμῖν μὲν ὑπόληψις, ὁρμή, ὄρεξις, ἔκκλισις καὶ ἑνὶ λόγῳ ὅσα ἡμέτερα ἔργα· οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν δὲ τὸ σῶμα, ἡ κτῆσις, δόξαι, ἀρχαὶ καὶ ἑνὶ λόγῳ ὅσα οὐχ ἡμέτερα ἔργα. 1.2 καὶ τὰ μὲν ἐφ' ἡμῖν ἐστι φύσει ἐλεύθερα, ἀκώλυτα, ἀπαραπόδιστα· τὰ δὲ οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν ἀσθενῆ, δοῦλα, κωλυτά, ἀλλότρια.  1.3 μέμνησο οὖν ὅτι, ἐὰν τὰ φύσει δοῦλα ἐλεύθερα οἰηθῇς καὶ τὰ ἀλλότρια ἴδια, ἐμποδισθήσῃ, πενθήσεις, ταραχθήσῃ, μέμψῃ καὶ θεοὺς καὶ ἀνθρώπους· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ σὸν μόνον οἰηθῇς σὸν εἶναι, τὸ δὲ ἀλλότριον (ὥσπερ ἐστίν) ἀλλότριον, οὐδείς σε ἀναγκάσει οὐδέποτε, οὐδείς σε κωλύσει, οὐ μέμψῃ οὐδένα, οὐκ ἐγκαλέσεις τινί, ἄκων πράξεις οὐδὲ ἕν, οὐδείς σε βλάψει, ἐχθρὸν οὐχ ἕξεις, οὐδὲ γὰρ βλαβερόν τι πείσῃ.  1.4 τηλικούτων οὖν ἐφιέμενος μέμνησο ὅτι οὐ δεῖ μετρίως κεκινημένον ἅπτεσθαι αὐτῶν, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν ἀφιέναι παντελῶς, τὰ δὲ ὑπερτίθεσθαι πρὸς τὸ παρόν. ἐὰν δὲ καὶ ταῦτα θέλῃς καὶ ἄρχειν καὶ πλουτεῖν, τυχὸν μὲν οὐδ' αὐτῶν τούτων τεύξῃ διὰ τὸ καὶ τῶν προτέρων ἐφίεσθαι· πάντως γε μὴν ἐκείνων ἀποτεύξῃ δι' ὧν μόνων ἐλευθερία καὶ εὐδαιμονία περιγίνεται. 1.5 εὐθὺς οὖν πάσῃ φαντασίᾳ τραχείᾳ μελέτα ἐπιλέγειν ὅτι «φαντασία εἶ καὶ οὐ πάντως τὸ φαινόμενον·» ἔπειτα ἐξέταζε αὐτὴν καὶ δοκίμαζε τοῖς κανόσι τούτοις οἷς ἔχεις, πρώτῳ δὲ τούτῳ καὶ μάλιστα, πότερον περὶ τὰ ἐφ' ἡμῖν ἐστιν ἢ περὶ τὰ οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν· κἂν περί τι τῶν οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν ᾖ, πρόχειρον ἔστω τὸ διότι οὐδὲν πρὸς σέ.

What Is and Is Not in Our Control

The ability to distinguish between what is in our control (ἐφ᾽ἡμῖν) and what is not in our control (οὐκ ἐφ᾽ἡμῖν) is the key to Epictetus’ ethics. What is in our control includes our internal disposition, which ultimately forms the basis of our moral character and action. On the other hand, what is not in our control is external. [more]

1.1

τῶν ὄντων: “of existent things” or “of things which exist”; to Stoics, for something to exist it must be corporeal. The Stoics even considered the soul corporeal (albeit of very refined πνεῦμα), which earlier philosophers regarded as incorporeal. The only incorporeals which they admitted were place, void, time, and the λεκτόν (lekton, pl. lekta), a “sayable,” which includes everything from a subject or predicate to statements.

τὰ μέν ἐστιν: a neut. pl. subject, regarded as a collective or singular idea, takes a singular verb (G. 496; S. 958).

ἐφ᾽ἡμῖν: “in or under our control,” “up to us,” a phrase that recurs frequently in this work (LSJ ἐπί B.I.g)

ὅσα ... ἔργα: supply ἐστι for both clauses ending with ἔργα.

ὁρμή: “impulse” is directed toward τὰ καθήκοντα (“appropriate actions”). See Introduction, Positive and Negative Impulse.

ὄρεξις: “desire” is directed toward the good or a supposed good.

ἔκκλισις: “aversion” is the avoidance of an evil or a supposed evil.

ἑνί λόγῳ: “in a word,” “in short”

δόξαι: “reputation,” “the opinion which others have of you,” usually good, so the meaning shades into “honor,” “glory” (LSJ δόξα III).

ἀρχαί: “political offices,” “magistracies,” (LSJ ἀρχή II.3) things highly coveted by members of the Roman elite.

1.2

φύσει: “by nature.” The goal of the Stoics is to live in harmony with nature. For the Stoics, nature refers to the universe rationally ordered and guided by the Stoic god. Humans’ place in the universe is to play the part of a rational moral being. Thus, in most respects the natures of man and the universe coincide. When Epictetus here says that things which are in our control are free by nature, he implies that the divinity has ordained this for us.

ἐλεύθερα, ἀκώλυτα, ἀπαραπόδιστα: the last two adjectives show that the Stoic concept of freedom involves freedom from obstruction, but for the Stoics freedom also allows you to do things that are in your power. Thus, freedom for the Stoics encompasses both freedom to and freedom from, two important ways in which freedom is understood. Long (2018, xvi–xx) points out how innovative this philosophical position is. True freedom is internal, as opposed to the external political/societal freedom of free citizens and slaves. From the Stoic viewpoint, a free citizen can be enslaved to passions, while a slave can be free from them.

1.3

μέμνησο: > μιμνήσκω, 2 sg. perf. mid. imper. The form recurs frequently in this work.

οἰηθῇς: > οἴομαι, 2 sg. aor. dep. subj. in the protasis of a future more vivid condition (G. 650; S. 2291.3a).

ἐμποδισθήσῃ and ταραχθήσῃ: 2 sg. fut. pass. ind., beginning the apodosis of the condition.

μέμψῃ: 2 sg. fut. dep. ind.

καὶ θεοὺς καὶ ἀνθρώπους: “both … and …”

τό ... ἀλλότριον: supply οἰηθῇς and εἶναι.

οὐδείς …. οὐδέποτε: after οὐ, alone or in composition, a compound of οὐ repeats and strengthens the negation, rather than turning it into a positive. “no one will ever ...”; so also with οὐ μέμψῃ οὐδένα below (G. 487; S. 2761).

τινί: “anyone,” dat. object of ἐγκαλέσεις.

οὐδὲ ἕν: = “not (even) one thing.”

πείσῃ: > πάσχω, 2 sg. fut. mid. ind.

1.4:

τηλικούτωνἐφιέμενος: the participle is causal: “since you desire such great things,” “given that you have such lofty aims.” The reference is to “the things in your control” discussed in the previous section.

οὐ δεῖ: “it is necessary that ... not.” The negative goes with μετρίως κεκινημένον ἅπτεσθαι (S. 2693 and 2714b).

οὐ ... μετρίως κεκινημένον: “moved not in a moderate way,” i.e., “not half-heartedly” κεκινημένον is perf. mid. part., acc. masc. sing., with an implied σε as the antecedent.

αὐτῶν: “those things,” referring to τηλικούτων, which in turn refers to “things in your control.”

τὰ μὲν … τὰ δὲ: “some things … other things,” referring to worldly aims like wealth and political power.

ἀφιέναι παντελῶςὑπερτίθεσθαι πρὸς τὸ παρόν: ἀφιέναι and ὑπερτίθεσθαι are infinitives dependent on δεῖ.

καὶ ταῦτα … καὶ ἄρχειν καὶ πλουτεῖν: “both these things (things in your control) and political power and wealth”; the emphasis is on καὶ … καὶ.

θέλῃς: 2 sg. pres. act. subj. in a future more vivid condition (G. 650; S. 2291.3a). θέλω is a form of ἐθέλω that appears as early as Homer and is regularly employed in later Greek writers such as Epictetus, except when the verb is augmented, e.g. ἤθελον.

τυχόν: adverbial, “perhaps, by chance, probably”

αὐτῶν τούτων: “these very things,” i.e., wealth and political power

τεύξῃ: > τυγχάνω, 2 sg. fut. mid. ind. “obtain” + gen.

τῶν προτέρων: “the former things,” i.e., things in your control

τὸἐφίεσθαι: art. infin., best translated as a gerund: “aiming” (G. 574–575; S. 2025). τὸ ἐφίεσθαι is the object of διά: “through (because of) also (καί) aiming at the former (things).”

πάντως γε μὴν … ἀποτεύξῃ: “but you will certainly fail to obtain.” γε μὴν creates an emphatic contrast with preceding μέν clause. See Denniston (1954, 347–348). ἀποτεύξῃ: > ἀποτυγχάνω, 2 sg. fut. mid. ind.

ἐκείνων … δι' ὧν μόνων: “those things (things in your control) through which alone”

1.5: Epictetus ends this opening chapter by encouraging you to evaluate your impressions (φαντασίαι) to determine whether they are about things under your control or not. Epictetus tells us that we must practice this (μελετᾶν; the noun form is μελέτη; elsewhere he speaks of this practice as ἄσκησις). For more on these concepts, see the Introduction, Assent.

μελέτα: > μελετάω, 2 sg. pres. act. imper. Note the accent; for the imperative, the accent falls on the penult: μελέτα+ε = μελέτα; for 3 sg. ind., the circumflex would appear on the ultima with the iota subscript: μελετά- + ει = μελετᾷ (G. 313; S. 53 and 385).

φαντασία: “impression”: The term covers not only our perceptions (“Here is money”), but also judgments about the perceptions (“Money is a good thing” and “One should pursue money.”) If someone assents (συγκατατίθεσθαι) to the latter judgment (the expression of a desire), then it will generate an impulse, and the person will act on this desire. For more on impressions, see the Introduction, Assent.

οὐ πάντως τὸ φαινόμενον: “not at all what you appear to be” (LSJ φαίνομαι II).

τοῖς κανόσι τούτοις οἷς ἔχεις: “with these rules which you have.” Here, as often, the relative pronoun has been attracted into the case of its antecedent (κανόσι > κανών). If the relative had not been attracted into the case of the antecedent, the phrase would read: τοῖς κανόσι οὓς ἔχεις. It is especially common for the accusative case to be attracted into the genitive or dative (G. 613b; S. 2522).

κἄν: = καί + ἐάν (“and if” or “even if”), a very common contraction in this work

: > εἰμί, 3 sg. pres. act. subj. in a conditional + imperative construction.

ἔστω: > εἰμί, 3 sg. pres. act. imper.

τό διότι: “the reason/statement that”

πρόχειρον ... ἐμέ: (literally) “let the statement be at hand that it (the presentation) is nothing to me.” That is, “be ready to recognize that it has nothing to do with you” (Smith 2014).

ὑπόληψις, -εως, ἡ: opinion, assumption

ὁρμή, -ῆς, ἡ, impulse

ὄρεξις, -εως, ἡ, desire

ἔκκλισις, -εως, ἡ, aversion, avoidance

κτῆσις, -εως, ἡ, possession, property, property

δόξα,-ης, ἡ, opinion; reputation

1.2

ἀκώλυτος, -ον, unhindered

ἀπαραπόδιστος, -ον, unimpeded, unobstructed

ἀσθενής, -ές, weak, powerless

δοῦλος, -η, -ον, slavish, servile

κωλυτός, -ή, -όν, hindered

ἀλλότριος, -α, -ον, not one's own, under the control of others

1.3

ἐμποδίζω, -ποδιῶ, -επόδισε, to hinder, frustrate

πενθέω, -ήσω, ἐπένθησα, to mourn, to suffer pain

ταράσσω, ταράξω, ἐτάραξα, to trouble, disturb

μέμφομαι, μέμψομαι, ἐμέμφθην, to blame

ἀναγκάζω, -άσω, to force, constrain

οὐδέποτε, not ever, never

ἐγκαλέω, ἐγκαλῶ, ἐνεκάλεσα, to rebuke, reproach + dat.

ἄκων, -ουσα, -ον, involuntarily, against one’s will

βλάπτω, βλάψω, ἔβλαψα, to harm, hinder, disable

βλαβερός, -ά, -όν, harmful

1.4

τηλικοῦτος, -αύτη, -οῦτον, such great

ἐφίημι, ἐφήσω, ἐφῆκα, to aim at, to long for, desire + gen.

μετρίως, (adv.) moderately

ἅπτω, ἅψω, ἥψα, to grasp, obtain, engage in, undertake (+ gen)

παντελῶς, (adv.) absolutely, completely 

ὑπερτίθημι, ὑπερθήσω, ὑπερέθηκα, to defer, put off

πλουτέω, -ήσω, ἐπλούτησα, be rich or wealthy

ἀποτυγχάνω, ἀποτεύξομαι, ἀπέτυχον, to fail in attaining, miss

ἐλευθερία, -ας, ἡ freedom

εὐδαιμονία, -ας, ἡ, prosperity; true, full happiness

περιγίγνομαι, περιγενήσομαι, περεγενόμην, to be a result or consequence, to arise

1.5

φαντασία,-ας, ἡ, impression, appearance, perception

τραχύς, -εῖα, -ύ, rough, harsh

μελετάω, -ήσω, to practice, pursue, exercise

ἐπιλέγω, -λέξω, -ελεξα, to say in addition

ἐξετάζω, ἐξετάσω, ἐξήτασα, to examine closely

δοκιμάζω, -άσω, ἐδοκίμασα, to test, put to the test, make trial of, scrutinize

κανών, -όνος, ὁ, standard, criterion

πρόχειρος, -ον, at hand, readily accessible

διότι, since, because, that 

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Suggested Citation

Albert Watanabe, Epictetus: Encheiridion. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2020. ISBN: 978-1-947822-13-9.
http://dcc.dickinson.edu/epictetus-encheiridion/chapter-1