Chapter 3

3.1 Εφ' ἑκάστου τῶν ψυχαγωγούντων ἢ χρείαν παρεχόντων ἢ στεργομένων μέμνησο ἐπιλέγειν ὁποῖόν ἐστιν, ἀπὸ τῶν σμικροτάτων ἀρξάμενος. ἂν χύτραν στέργῃς, ὅτι «χύτραν στέργω.» καταγείσης γὰρ αὐτῆς οὐ ταραχθήσῃ· ἂν παιδίον σαυτοῦ καταφιλῇς ἢ γυναῖκα, ὅτι ἄνθρωπον καταφιλεῖς· ἀποθανόντος γὰρ οὐ ταραχθήσῃ.

Examples of Acting with Reservation

Epictetus advises us to practice on less significant things and move on to more important things. Cf. Diss. 3.24.84 ff. and Introduction, Assent. [more]

Ἐφ' ἑκάστου τῶν ψυχαγωγούντων: “in the case of each of the things that attract you”

μέμνησο: > μιμνήσκω, 2 sg. perf. mid. imper.

ἀπὸ τῶν σμικροτάτων ἀρξάμενος: “starting with the smallest things.” In Attic prose, the middle of ἄρχω is more frequent, especially where personal action is emphasized. In Diss. 3.24.84 Epictetus suggests that we practice from morning to night, evaluating all things that we love or find useful, starting from the smallest things (the first example being a pot). σμικροτάτων = μικροτάτων, the superlative of μικρός -ά -όν.

ἂν ... στέργῃς: “if you love.” ἂν = ἐάν. στέργῃς: 2 sg. pres. act. subj. in a generalized proposition followed by an imperative, one of the most characteristic types of sentences in Epictetus. While this construction might be termed a “present general” or “future more vivid” condition, for Epictetus the temporal aspect is less important than the atemporal moral situation or role. The sequence of thought is “if x (non-specific) happens or is the case, then do y.” I refer to this construction as “conditional + imperative.” Supply μέμνησο ἐπιλέγειν as the imperative of the apodosis. Frequently στέργω refers to the mutual love of parents and children, less often to that of husband and wife.

καταγείσης: > κατάγνυμι, aor. pass. part. in a genitive absolute (G. 589–590; S. 2070), functioning as a conditional: “if (or when) the pot breaks.”

ταραχθήσῃ: > ταράσσω, 2 sg. fut. pass. ind.

καταφιλῇς: > καταφιλέω, 2 sg. pres. act. subj. in a conditional + imperative construction.

ὅτι ἄνθρωπον καταφιλεῖς: supply μέμνησο ἐπιλέγειν before ὅτι.

ἀποθανόντος: > ἀποθνήσκω, aor. pass. part. in a genitive absolute (G. 589–590; S. 2070). The masculine participle is functioning generically and can refer to either the wife or child under consideration (S. 1015). The clause functions as the protasis of a future more vivid condition.

ψυχαγωγέω, ψυχαγωγήσω, ἐψυχαγώγησα, to allure, attract

χρεία, -ας, ἡ, use, need

στέργω, στέρξω, ἔστερξα, to love

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

ὁποῖος, -α, -ον,  what sort

σμῑκρός, -ά, -όν = μικρός, small, little

χύτρα, -ας, ἡ, an earthen pot

κατάγνυμι, κατάξω, κατέαξα, to shatter, to break

ταράσσω, ταράξω, ἐτάραξα, to trouble, disturb

παιδίον, -ου, τό, a young child

σαυτοῦ, -ῆς, -οῦ, your, of yourself

καταφιλέω, καταφιλήσω, κατεφίλησα, to kiss tenderly, to caress

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Suggested Citation

Albert Watanabe, Epictetus: Encheiridion. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2020. ISBN: 978-1-947822-13-9.