On the Firmness of the Wise Person XVI

Now if even Epicurus, who made more concessions to the body than anyone, takes a spirited tone with regard to injuries, what can appear beyond belief or beyond the scope of human nature amongst us Stoics?

He says that injuries may be endured by the wise man, we say that they do not exist for him.

Nor is there any reason why you should declare this to be repugnant to nature.

We do not deny that it is an unpleasant thing to be beaten or struck, or to lose one of our limbs, but we say that none of these things are injuries.

We do not take away from them the feeling of pain, but the name of “injury,” which cannot be received while our virtue is unimpaired.

We shall see which of the two is nearest the truth; each of them agree in despising injury.

You ask what difference there is between them? All that there is between two very brave gladiators, one of whom conceals his wound and holds his ground, while the other turns round to the shouting populace, gives them to understand that his wound is nothing, and does not permit them to interfere on his behalf.

You need not think that it is any great thing about which we differ; the whole gist of the matter, that which alone concerns you, is what both schools of philosophy urge you to do, namely, to despise injuries and insults, which I may call the shadows and outlines of injuries, to despise which does not need a wise man, but merely a sensible one, who can say to himself, “Do these things befall me deservedly or undeservedly?

If deservedly, it is not an insult, but a judicial sentence; if undeservedly, then he who does injustice ought to blush, not I.

And what is this which is called an insult? Someone has made a joke about the baldness of my head, the weakness of my eyes, the thinness of my legs, the shortness of my stature; what insult is there in telling me that which everyone sees?

We laugh when tête-à-tête at the same thing at which we are indignant when it is said before a crowd, and we do not allow others the privilege of saying what we ourselves are wont to say about ourselves; we are amused at decorous jests, but are angry if they are carried too far.”