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Epictetus Speaks On Beauty by Ayo13945(m): 1:57pm On Apr 09, 2021
When a young student of rhetoric came into his lecture-room with his
hair elaborately arranged and paying great attention to his dress in
Tell me, said he, do you not think that some dogs and horses are
beautiful and some ugly, and is it not so with every creature?

'I think so', he said.

Is not the same true of men, some are beautiful, some ugly?

Now do we give the attribute 'beautiful' to each of them in their own kind
on the same grounds or on special grounds in each case? Listen and you
will see what I mean.
Since we see that a dog is born for one thing and a horse for another, and a nightingale, if you like to take that, for another,
speaking generally one would not be giving an absurd opinion in saying
that each of them was beautiful when it best fulfilled its nature; and since
the nature of each is different, I think that each of them would be
beautiful in a different way, would it not?

So that what makes a dog beautiful makes a horse ugly, and what makes
a horse beautiful makes a dog ugly, seeing that their natures are

'So it seems.'
Yes, for what makes a pancratiast
beautiful does not, I imagine, make a
good wrestler, and makes a very ridiculous runner; and one who is
beautiful for the pentathlon makes a very ugly appearance as a wrestler?
'True', he said.

What then makes a man beautiful if it is not that which in its kind makes
dog and horse beautiful?

Young man, who is it that you want to
make beautiful?
First get to know who you are, and then adorn yourself.

You are a man, that is, a mortal creature which has the power to deal
with impressions rationally.
What does 'rationally' mean? Perfectly, and
in accordance with nature.

What then is your distinctive possession?
Your animal nature? No. Your mortality? No. Your power to deal with
impressions? No.
Your reasoning faculty is the distinctive one: this you must adorn and make beautiful.

Leave your hair to Him that formed it in
accordance with His will.
Tell me, what other names have you? Are you
man or woman?


Adorn Man then, not Woman.

Woman is born smooth and tender, and if
she has much hair on her body
it is a prodigy, and exhibited in Rome as a

But in a man it is a prodigy not to be hairy:
if he is born smooth it is a prodigy, and
if he make himself smooth by shaving and plucking,
what are we to make of him?

Where are we to show him, and what notice
are we to put up? 'I will show you a man who prefers to be a woman.'

What a shocking exhibition! Every one will be astonished at the notice:
by Zeus,

I think that even the men who pluck out their hairs do so
without understanding that this is what they are doing!

Man, what
complaint have you to make of Nature? Is it that she made you a man?

Ought she to have made all to be women? Why, if all were women, there
would be no one to adorn yourself for.
Re: Epictetus Speaks On Beauty by Ayo13945(m): 2:07pm On Apr 09, 2021
If you are not satisfied with your condition as it is, do the thing

Remove—what shall I call it?—that which is the cause of your hairiness; make yourself a woman out and out, and not half-man, half-woman, and then we shall not be misled.

Whom do you wish to please?
Your darling womenkind?
Then please them as a man.

'Yes, but they like smooth men.'
Go and hang yourself! If they liked unnatural creatures, would you
become one? Is this your function, is this what you were born for, that
profligate women should take pleasure in you?

Is it with this character
that we are to make you a citizen of Corinth, and, if it so chance, City-warden, or
Governor of the Ephebi,or General,
or Steward of the games?

Nay, by the gods, young man! but when once you have heard these
words, go and say to yourself:

'These are not the words of Epictetus: how
could they be? but some kind god speaks through him; for it would never
have occurred to Epictetus to say this,
as he is not wont to speak to any
one. Come then, let us obey God, that we may not incur God's wrath.'

Well, and when you have married a wife, are you going to pluck
yourself smooth?

For whom and for what?
And when you have begotten
boys, are you going to bring them into our citizenship as plucked
creatures too?

Noble citizen and senator and orator! Is this the kind of young man we are to pray to have bred and reared for us?

Why, if a raven croaks and gives you a sign, it is not the raven that gives
the sign, but God through him:
and if He gives you a sign through a
human voice, will He not be making man
tell you this, that you may learn
the power of the divine, and see that it gives signs to some in this way,
and to others in that, and of the highest and most sovereign matters
gives signs through the noblest messenger?

What else is the meaning of
the poet, when he says

Since we warned him
By Hermes Argus-slayer, clear of sight,
To slay him not nor woo his wedded wife?
[Homer, Odyssey, I. 39]

And as Hermes was sent down to tell him this, so now the gods have sent
'Hermes the Argus-slayer, their messenger,' and tell you this—not to
pervert what is good and right, and not to interfere with it, but to leave
man man and woman woman, the beautiful person a beautiful person, and the ugly person an ugly person.

For you are not flesh, nor hair, but a
rational will: if you get this beautiful, then you will be beautiful.

So far I do not dare to tell you that you are ugly, for I think you would
hear anything rather than that.

But see what Socrates says to Alcibiades,
most beautiful and charming of men: 'Strive then to attain beauty.' What
does he say to him? Does he say, 'Arrange your hair and smooth your
legs'? God forbid! but 'Set your will in order, rid it of bad judgements.'

'How treat the poor body then?'
According to its nature: that is God's concern, trust it to Him. 'What
then? Is the body to be unclean?'

God forbid! but cleanse your true, natural self: let man be clean as man,
woman as woman, child as child.

Nay, let us pluck out the lion's mane, lest it be unclean, and the cock's
comb, for he too must be clean!

Clean? yes, but clean as a cock, and the lion as a lion, and the hound of
the chase as such a hound should be.

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