Did We Become Stoics or Assholes?

Giovanni Pico, Letter to Angelo Poliziano:

But what should I say about the humor of your Epictetus? A delightful thing, and worthy of Catonian laughter! He was hardly in the threshold, when he opened his cloak and said ‘Behold these obeloi, behold these arrows if you do not know Greek! Behold me ready to strike if any of you is feeling bold.’ Who could have held back their laughter to hear a Stoic joke so pleasantly? We abstained from our weapons, to be sure, both because he had threatened that he would repay the injury and because his skin had grown so hard that it would not be affected by such light blows. We thus received the old man with the veneration which was appropriate.

As soon as he sat down next to us, he began to philosophize about character, and did so in Latin not so much because he was among Latins (because there were in that conference those who knew Greek), but more because he could make his wisdom shine more clearly in Latin thanks to you. He did not waste his labor, because he no sooner ceased to speak than he converted us from Peripatetics to Stoics, and we all approved his apathy. Now it is possible to see people who were a little earlier of the most delicate constitutions and are now the most tolerant of suffering; we who used to be harmed by others are now only harmed by ourselves; now we never fight against fate, and we wish those things which are not ours to turn out as the gods would have them, and we never blame or accuse the gods for anything; we feel no pain, we complain about nothing, we know neither to be slaves nor to be conquered; we philosophize not in word but in deed.


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