On the Firmness of the Wise Person XV

Cease then to say, “Will not the wise man, then, receive an injury if he be beaten, if his eye be knocked out? will he not receive an insult if he be hooted through the forum by the foul voices of ruffians? if at a court banquet he be bidden to leave the table and eat with slaves appointed to degrading duties? if he be forced to endure anything else that can be thought of that would gall a high spirit?”

However many or however severe these crosses may be, they will all be of the same kind; and if small ones do not affect him, neither will greater ones; if a few do not affect him, neither will more.

It is from your own weakness that you form your idea of his colossal mind, and when you have thought how much you yourselves could endure to suffer, you place the limit of the wise man’s endurance a little way beyond that.

But his virtue has placed him in another region of the universe which has nothing in common with you.

Seek out sufferings and all things hard to be borne, repulsive to be heard or seen; he will not be overwhelmed by their combination, and will bear all just as he bears each one of them.

He who says that the wise man can bear this and cannot bear that, and restrains his magnanimity within certain limits, does wrong; for Fortune overcomes us unless she is entirely overcome.

Think not that this is mere Stoic austerity.

Epicurus, whom you adopt as the patron of your laziness, and who, you imagine, always taught what was soft and slothful and conducive to pleasure, said, “Fortune seldom stands in a wise man’s way.”

How near he came to a manly sentiment!

Do thou dare to speak more boldly, and clear her out of the way altogether!

This is the house of the wise man⁠—narrow, unadorned, without bustle and splendour, the threshold guarded by no porters who marshal the crowd of visitors with a haughtiness proportionate to their bribes⁠—but Fortune cannot cross this open and unguarded threshold.

She knows that there is no room for her where there is nothing of hers.