On Not Cutting Off Your Penis, or Beard

Epictetus, Discourses 1.2

“Similar too is the athlete who was at the risk of dying unless his penis was cut off. His brother—that one was a philosopher—came to him and said, “Come on, brother, what are you going to do? Are we going to cut that bit off and go to the gym still?” He wouldn’t allow it, so died, steadfast in his convictions.

When someone asked, “How did he do that? As an athlete or a philosopher.” Epictetus answered, “As a man. As a man who had been announced at the Olympic games and competed there and was well-suited to that place, not just rubbed down in oil at Batôn’s gym. A different man would have cut off his neck if he could live separate from it. This is what living in alignment with your persona means. It is so strong for those who are accustomed to introduce their own experiences into examinations.

“Come Epictetus, shave!” If I am a philosopher, I say, “I will not shave my beard.” And he answers, “Then I will cut off your neck.” So I say, if it seems better to you that way, cut it.”

Τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον καὶ ἀθλητής τις κινδυνεύων ἀπο-θανεῖν, εἰ μὴ ἀπεκόπη τὸ αἰδοῖον, ἐπελθόντος αὐτῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ (ἦν δ’ ἐκεῖνος φιλόσοφος) καὶ εἰπόντος ‘ἄγε, ἀδελφέ, τί μέλλεις ποιεῖν; ἀποκόπτομεν τοῦτο τὸ μέρος καὶ ἔτι εἰς γυμνάσιον προερχόμεθα;’ οὐχ ὑπέμεινεν, ἀλλ’ ἐγκαρτερήσας ἀπέθανεν. πυθομένου δέ τινος·

Πῶς τοῦτο ἐποίησεν; ὡς ἀθλητὴς ἢ ὡς φιλόσοφος; <῾Ως> ἀνήρ, ἔφη, ἀνὴρ δ’ ᾿Ολύμπια κεκηρυγμένος καὶ ἠγωνισμένος, ἐν τοιαύτῃ τινὶ χώρᾳ ἀνεστραμμένος, οὐχὶ παρὰ τῷ Βάτω<ν>ι ἀλειφόμενος. ἄλλος δὲ κἂν τὸν τράχηλον ἀπετμήθη, εἰ ζῆν ἠδύνατο δίχα τοῦ τραχήλου. τοιοῦτόν ἐστι τὸ κατὰ πρόσωπον· οὕτως ἰσχυρὸν παρὰ τοῖς εἰθισμένοις αὐτὸ συνεισφέρειν ἐξ αὐτῶν ἐν ταῖς σκέψεσιν. ‘ἄγε οὖν, ᾿Επίκτητε, διαξύρησαι.’ ἂν ὦ φιλόσοφος, λέγω ‘οὐ διαξυρῶμαι’. ‘ἀλλ’ ἀφελῶ σου τὸν τράχηλον.’ εἰ σοὶ ἄμεινον, ἄφελε.

MET Accession 62.4 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/255120

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