Epictetus: Commitment

In every act observe the things which come first and those which follow…. If you do not, at first you will approach it with alacrity…. but afterward you will be ashamed. A man wishes to conquer the Olympic games…. But observe the things which come first and the things which follow…. You must do everything according to the rule: eat according to strict orders, abstain from delicacies, exercise yourself at appointed times, in heat and cold, you must not drink cold water, nor wine as you choose…. And sometimes you will strain the hand, put the ankle out of joint, swallow much dust, sometimes be flogged, and after all this be defeated. When you have considered all this, if you still choose, go to the contest. If you do not (consider) you will behave like children, who at one time play as wrestlers, another time as flute players…. but with your whole soul you will be nothing at all.

~ Epictetus: Enchiridion (A.D. 55 – A.D. 135)


Imaginary portrait of Epictetus. Engraved frontispiece of Edward Ivie’s Latin translation (or versification) of Epictetus’ Enchiridon, printed in Oxford in 1751. Original title of the book: “Epicteti Enchiridion Latinis versibus adumbratum. Per Eduardum Ivie A. M. Ædis Christi Alumn. […] Oxoniæ, Theatro Sheldoniano, MDCCXV. […]” The subscription is an epigramm from the Anthologia Palatina (VII 676) and reads: Δοῦλος Ἐπίκτητος γενόμην, καὶ σῶμ’ ἀνάπηρος, καὶ πενίην Ἶρος, καὶ φίλος ἀθανάτοις. “I was Epictetus the slave, and not sound in all my limbs, and poor as Irus, and beloved by the gods.” (Irus is the beggar in the Odyssey.) Source: Wikipedia

11 Replies to “Epictetus: Commitment”

  1. We don’t flog athletes, we know that cold water is not harmful, and a growing number of us realize that the Fascist Festival is for children, by children and is an expense that is most difficult.

  2. Rough times when rolling an ankle and being flogged are normal aspects of Olympic training. I guess the media does the flogging these days. I heard one twit announcer on SBS News refer to Australia’s swimming performance in the London games as “disastrous”. Good grief!

    A Texan rig toolpusher called Shelton Holloway once put things into perspective for me about the use of hyperbole. We had drill pipe stuck in the hole while the well was kicking gas. I called it a disaster. He said, “boy, it ain’t a disaster till the flames are licking at ole’ Shelton’s ass!”

    Now that’s perspective.

    1. I loved Lisel Stevens’ (later Jones) response to an interviewer: “If you’re nothing without a gold medal, then you are nothing with a gold medal.”

    1. There were links to war — one of the races was run with some pieces of armor — but the games started as a religious festival. From Wikipedia
      “The Olympic games were held to be one of the two central rituals in Ancient Greece, the other being the much older religious festival, the Eleusinian Mysteries. The games started in Olympia, Greece, in a sanctuary site for the Greek deities near the towns of Elis and Pisa (both in Elis on the peninsula of Peloponnesos). The first games began as an annual foot race of young women in competition for the position of the priestess for the goddess, Hera,[18] and a second race was instituted for a consort for the priestess who would participate in the religious traditions at the temple.”

      An Olympic Truce, lasting up to three months, was declared to allow athletes and spectators to travel safely to and from the Games.

      1. So if the ancient Greeks did not exercise with various forms of athletic activity how did they prepare themselves for war?

      2. The Modern Olympics were founded to promote peace. Unfortunately they have to contend with countries spending vast amounts to promote nationalist fervor. I’m not sure if Hitler’s Germany was the first but it certainly isn’t the last. Again the media are complicit in this because of the payoff in terms of viewership. Athletes like Usain Bolt help us to see past this and simply admire their achievement.

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