Chapter 31

31.1 τῆς περὶ τοὺς θεοὺς εὐσεβείας ἴσθι ὅτι τὸ κυριώτατον ἐκεῖνό ἐστιν, ὀρθὰς ὑπολήψεις περὶ αὐτῶν ἔχειν ὡς ὄντων καὶ διοικούντων τὰ ὅλα καλῶς καὶ δικαίως, καὶ σαυτὸν εἰς τοῦτο κατατεταχέναι, τὸ πείθεσθαι αὐτοῖς καὶ εἴκειν πᾶσι τοῖς γινομένοις καὶ ἀκολουθεῖν ἑκόντα ὡς ὑπὸ τῆς ἀρίστης γνώμης ἐπιτελουμένοις. οὕτω γὰρ οὔτε μέμψῃ ποτὲ τοὺς θεοὺς οὔτε ἐγκαλέσεις ὡς ἀμελούμενος. 31.2 ἄλλως δὲ τοῦτο οὐχ οἷόν τε γίνεσθαι, ἐὰν μὴ ἄρῃς ἀπὸ τῶν οὐκ ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν μόνοις θῇς τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ τὸ κακόν. ὡς ἄν γέ τι ἐκείνων ὑπολάβῃς ἀγαθὸν ἢ κακόν, πᾶσα ἀνάγκη, ὅταν ἀποτυγχάνῃς ὧν θέλεις καὶ περιπίπτῃς οἷς μὴ θέλεις, μέμφεσθαί σε καὶ μισεῖν τοὺς αἰτίους. 31.3 πέφυκε γὰρ πρὸς τοῦτο πᾶν ζῷον, τὰ μὲν βλαβερὰ φαινόμενα καὶ τὰ αἴτια αὐτῶν φεύγειν καὶ ἐκτρέπεσθαι, τὰ δὲ ὠφέλιμα καὶ τὰ αἴτια αὐτῶν μετιέναι καὶ τεθαυμακέναι. ἀμήχανον οὖν βλάπτεσθαί τινα οἰόμενον χαίρειν τῷ δοκοῦντι βλάπτειν, ὥσπερ καὶ τὸ αὐτῇ τῇ βλάβῃ χαίρειν ἀδύνατον. 31.4 ἔνθεν καὶ πατὴρ ὑπὸ υἱοῦ λοιδορεῖται, ὅταν τῶν δοκούντων ἀγαθῶν εἶναι τῷ παιδὶ μὴ μεταδιδῷ· καὶ Ἐτεοκλέα καὶ Πολυνείκην τοῦτ᾽ ἐποίησε, τὸ ἀγαθὸν οἴεσθαι τὴν τυραννίδα. διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ὁ γεωργὸς λοιδορεῖ τοὺς θεούς, διὰ τοῦτο ὁ ναύτης, διὰ τοῦτο ὁ ἔμπορος, διὰ τοῦτο οἱ τὰς γυναῖκας καὶ τὰ τέκνα ἀπολλύντες. ὅπου γὰρ τὸ συμφέρον, ἐκεῖ καὶ τὸ εὐσεβές· ὥστε ὅστις ἐπιμελεῖται τοῦ ὀρέγεσθαι ὡς δεῖ καὶ ἐκκλίνειν, ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ καὶ εὐσεβείας ἐπιμελεῖται. 31.5 σπένδειν δὲ καὶ θύειν καὶ ἀπάρχεσθαι κατὰ τὰ πάτρια ἑκάστοις προσήκει, καθαρῶς καὶ μὴ ἐπισεσυρμένως μηδὲ ἀμελῶς μηδὲ γλίσχρως μηδὲ ὑπὲρ δύναμιν.

On Piety

Piety means holding the right conceptions about the gods. You can only do this if you regard only those things within your control as good or evil.

ἴσθι: > οἴδα, 2 sg. perf. act. imper.

κυριώτατον: superlative > κύριος, “most important (thing)”

διοικούντων: διοικέω is the standard Stoic term for the gods’ (nature’s) administration of the universe.

τὰ ὅλα: “the universe.”

εἰς τοῦτο: τοῦτο refers ahead to the art. infin. beginning with τὸ πείθεσθαι.

κατατεταχέναι: > κατατάσσω, perf. act. infin.

τὸ πείθεσθαι ... εἴκειν ... ἀκολούθειν: art. infin. (G. 574-575; S. 2025)

ἀκολουθεῖν ... ὡς ... ἐπιτελουμένοις: ἐπιτελουμένοις agrees with an implied τοῖς γινομένοις as object of ἀκολουθεῖν, “to accept (what has occurred) as having been brought about.”

μέμψῃ: 2 sg. fut. act. ind.

ὡς ἀμελούμενος: ὡς + part. gives the reason imagined to be true by the “you” of the passage, not the author (G. 593; S. 2086).

31.2

ἄλλως δὲ τοῦτο ... ἐὰν μὴ: “in any way ... except”

ἄρῃς ... θῇς: 2 sg. aor. act. subj. > αἴρω and τίθημι in a present general condition (G. 650; S. 2295.1)

ὡς: causal (G. 633d; S. 3000)

τι ἐκείνων: “any of those things,” i.e., things not in your control

ὑπολάβῃς: > ὑπολαμβάνω, 2 sg. aor.act. subj.

πᾶσα ἀνάγκη: “there (will be) every necessity,” “it will be completely necessary.” This is equivalent to the imperative of a conditional + imperative construction.

τοὺς αἰτίους: “those who are responsible,” i.e., the gods

31.3

πέφυκε: > φύω, 3 sg. perf. act. ind., “is naturally inclined.”

τεθαυμακέναι: > θαυμάζω, perf. act. infin.

βλάπτεσθαί τινα οἰόμενον: “someone who thinks he is harmed”

τῷ δοκοῦντι βλάπτειν: “in what seems to be harming (him),” “in what he thinks is harming him”

καί: “also”

31.4

τῶν δοκούντων ἀγαθῶν εἶναι: gen. object of μεταδιδῷ.  εἶναι is the complementary infin. dependent upon δοκούντων.

μεταδιδῷ: 3 sg. pres. act. subj.

Ἐτεοκλέα καὶ Πολυνείκην: Eteocles and Polyneices (or Polynices), the sons of Oedipus, fought and killed each other because neither had been given unambiguous control of Thebes by their father at his death. Because it was removed from reality, the myth was frequently used to criticize Roman imperial politics from a safe distance (Smith 2014).

τοῦτ᾽ ἐποίησε, τὸ ἀγαθὸν οἴεσθαι τὴν τυραννίδα: some manuscripts add πολεμίους ἀλλήλοις either after ἐποίησε or between τοῦτ᾽ and ἐποίησε. The passage would then translate: “this made Eteocles and Polyneices enemies of each other.” This addition is likely a later gloss (a marginal note that has crept into the text through subsequent copying), since we do not find it in the parallel passage, Diss. 4.5.29: Ἐτεοκλέα καὶ Πολυνείκη τὸ πεποιηκὸς οὐκ ἄλλο ἢ τοῦτο, τὸ δόγμα περὶ τυραννίδος, “What made Eteocles and Polyneices (what they were) was nothing other than this, their judgment about tyranny.” So here the passage has a similar meaning: “this made E. and P. (who they were).” Boter (1999) suggests that Eteocles and Polyneices “are meant to indicate their typical and well-known behavior: ‘This made an Eteocles and a Polynices.’” τοῦτ᾽ refers to the following art. infin., τὸ ἀγαθὸν οἴεσθαι τὴν τυραννίδα. Within the context, this mistaken idea of what is good led the sons of Oedipus to revile their father.

διὰ τοῦτο ὁ ναύτης: supply λοιδορεῖ τοὺς θεούς in this and the following clauses. Here the τοῦτο must refer not to thinking that tyranny was a good, but more generally to not having a share in apparent goods (τῶν δοκούντων ἀγαθῶν εἶναι ... μὴ μεταδιδῷ).

ἀπολλύντες: pres. act. part. nom. masc. pl.: “those losing”

ὅπου γὰρ τὸ συμφέρον, ἐκεῖ καὶ τὸ εὐσεβές: “devotion to the gods is found wherever it is in our interest.” That is, people are generally devoted to the gods only when they think the gods are acting in their interest; but the gods are always acting in our (long term) interests, argues Epictetus, so we should always be devoted to them (Smith 2014).

ἐκεῖ καὶ ... ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ καί: The καί in both these clauses means “also.”

ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ: “at the same time”

31.5

ἀπάρχεσθαι: “offer the first fruits,” the offering of a portion of a harvest to the god(s) in thanks for providing a successful crop

κατὰ τὰ πάτρια: “according to ancestral customs”

προσήκει: “it is fitting for” (LSJ προσήκω A.II.b)

εὐσέβεια, -ας, ἡ, piety, devotion

ὀρθός,-ή,-όν, right, correct

ὑπόληψις, -εως, ἡ, opinion, assumption, conception

διοικέω, διοικήσω, διῴκησα, to manage, order, administer

κατατάσσω, κατατάξω, κατέταξα, to set up, position

εἴκω, εἴξω, εἶξα, give way, yield

ἀκολουθέω, ἀκολουθήσω, ἠκολούθησα, to follow, accept + dat.

ἑκών, -οῦσα, -όν, willing(ly)

ἐπιτελέω, ἐπιτελέσω, ἐπιτέλεσα, to bring about, accomplish

μέμφομαι, μέμψομαι, ἐμέμφθην, to blame

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

ἀμελέω, ἀμελήσω, ἠμέλησα, to neglect, have no care for

31.2

ὑπολαμβάνω, ὑπολήψομαι, ὑπέλαβον, to conceive, assume

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

περιπίπτω, to fall into

μισέω, μισήσω, ἐμίσησα, to hate

31.3

βλαβερός , -ά, -όν, harmful

ἐκτρέπω, ἐκτρέψω, ἐξέτραπον, turn away from 

ὠφέλιμος, -ον, useful, beneficial

μέτειμι, to go after or behind, to pursue

ἀμήχανος, -ον, impossible

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

βλάβη,-ης, ἡ , harm, damage

31.4

ἔνθεν, for this reason

λοιδορέω, λοιδορήσω, ἐλοιδόρησα, to insult, verbally abuse; reproach, rebuke

μεταδίδωμι, give part of, give a share of something (gen.) to someone (dat.)

τυραννίς ,-ίδος, ἡ, tyranny

γεωργός, -ου, ὁ, farmer

ναύτης,-ου, ὁ, sailor

ἔμπορος,-ου, ὁ a merchant, trader

εὐσεβής,-ές, pious, devoted

συμφέρον, οντος, τό, use, profit, advantage

ἐπιμέλομαι, ἐπιμελήσομαι, το take care of, have charge of (+ gen.)

ὀρέγω, ὀρέξω, ὤρεξα, to desire

ἐκκλίνω, ἐκκλινῶ, ἔκκλινα, to avoid

31.5

σπένδω, σπείσω, ἔσπεισα, to make a drink offering

ἀπάρχομαι, to offer the first fruits, make the offering of a portion of a harvest to the god(s) in thanks for providing a successful crop

πάτριος,-α,-ον, ancestral

προσήκω, to belong to, to concern, to be fitting or appropriate for + dat.

καθαρῶς, adv., purely

ἐπισεσυρμένως, (adv.) neglectfully, perfunctorily

ἀμελῶς, (adv.) carelessly

γλίσχρως (adv.) shabbily, stingily

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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-31