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Discourse 22

This webpage reproduces one of the
Discourses

by
Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


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Discourse 24

(Vol. II) Dio Chrysostom
Discourses

p301 The Twenty-third Discourse:
That the Wise Man is Fortunate and Happy1

This is one of the twelve discourses that are in the form of a dialogue between Dio, the teacher, and one of his pupils, reported directly. It would appear to reproduce an actual experience of Dio's in which he sets forth the Stoic doctrine that only the wise man is happy.

The line of thought is as follows: Homer and Euripides have said that man is unfortunate and unhappy; but just the opposite is true, or rather, partially true. For each man has a fortune or guiding spirit; and if this fortune or guiding spirit is good, then the man is good-fortuned (i.e., fortunate) and happy. But if the man has a bad fortune or guiding spirit, then the man is bad-fortuned (i.e. unfortunate) and unhappy. But if the guiding spirit is good in the sense that it gives good fortune, it is also good as meaning 'just and useful and sensible' — which is a non sequitur — and since it apparently gives its own qualities to the man who has it, this man is at the same time also just and useful and sensible, in other words, wise. The good δαίμων, to use the Greek word, being good in both senses, gives both happiness and wisdom. The two are inseparable.

Then the pupil raises the question as to whether any guiding spirit can be bad, since all are divine; and Dio admits that he has merely been accepting the popular belief, not following his own, in assuming that some guiding spirits are good and others bad. He really believes with the philosophers that all guiding spirits are good. If a man listens to his good and wise guiding spirit, he gets at one and the same time both happiness and wisdom; if he does not, he is both unhappy and a fool. Therefore, only the wise man is happy.

p303 The Twenty-third Discourse:
That the Wise Man is Fortunate and Happy

Dio. Do you believe man is happy, and if not, that he has been or will be; or do you hold that such a thing as this is impossible to predicate of man, just as if a person were to say that man is immortal? For it is, perhaps, possible that you hold the same view as Homer and a good many others of our poets.

Interlocutor. And where does Homer express this view on this question?

Dio. Where he has represented Zeus himself, and not some other one of the gods, as saying that none of all living creatures is more miserable than man,

Of all that breathe and move upon the earth.2

Do you not think that by misery he means expressly some great unhappiness?

Int. I do.

2 Dio. And another poet, not speaking of any particular man, but expressing a general sentiment to the audience in a contest of tragedies, proposes that we should

That man bewail who's born and all life's ills confronts,

But him who's dead and free from all his toils3

he thinks we should "with joy and gladness speed from out the house."

p305 Int. That is so.

Dio. Well, that was not sound advice he gave; for if we ought to weep once for mankind because of their misfortune, then it is fitting that we should both bewail their lot when they are born, because of all the evils that are in store for them, and when they die, because they have had experience of many terrible sufferings, and likewise while they live, because they are in the midst of evils. 3 Consequently there would never be a fitting time, according to the poet, for men to cease lamenting — much more truly than for the nightingales. For while those creatures are said to mourn for Itys4 in the springtime only — yet in the case of human beings it stands to reason that they should mourn both summer and winter. But how much better it would be to let them perish at once of their ills as soon as they are born, instead of wrapping them up in swaddling clothes and bathing them and nursing them and giving them so much care, simply in order that they may be wretched — for such solicitude would befit enemies, not friends or those who care for them — or, better still, to remove their own selves from life in the first place! 4 For it is very likely, according to this line of reasoning, that the only sensible people to be born were those born in Colchis from the dragon's teeth which Jason sowed.5 For these people, just as soon as they understood that they were born, forthwith proceeded to make away with one another until they left not one, helping one p307another, evidently, and doing this through friendship, not through hatred.

5 Int. Well, for my part, I think that what this poet6 says is nonsense. But Homer's statement disturbs me because, wise though he was, he expressed that view about mankind.

Dio. And what absurdity is there in it? He does not say that all men without exception are wretched, but that there is no creature more wretched than man when he is wretched, just as we too undoubtedly should say; for, mark you, man is perhaps the only unfortunate creature of them all, just as he is the only fortunate one; for, you see, man alone is said to be 'senseless,' just as man alone is said to be 'sensible.' It is clear that a horse cannot be either unjust or dissolute, nor can a pig or a lion, just as it cannot be uncultured or illiterate.

6 Int. Well, I think you have made an excellent correction of Homer's statement, and I reply that I believe man is fortunate.

Dio. Then when a man's fortune or guardian spirit is good, you maintain that the man is fortunate, but when it is bad, that he is unfortunate, do you?7

Int. I do.

Dio. And do you speak of a guardian spirit as good in a different sense?

p309 Int. What do you mean?

Dio. In the sense in which a man is good and, still more, a god; or if you do think that the gods are good, do you think that they are not just and sensible and self-controlled and in possession of all the other virtues, but unjust and senseless and intemperate?

Int. I certainly do not.

Dio. Then in the case of a guardian spirit also, if you really consider any to be good, is it not clear that you consider it just and useful and sensible?

Int. Why, of course.

Dio. Pray, when you think that any person is bad, do you believe that he is at the same time evil and unjust and senseless?

Int. Most assuredly so.

7 Dio. Well, then, do you not think that each man lives under the direction of his own guiding spirit, of whatever character it may be, and is not directed by a different one?

Int. Certainly not directed by that of a different one.

Dio. Then do you believe that the man to whom Fortune has given a good guardian spirit lives justly and prudently and temperately? For this is the character that you agree his spirit has.

Int. Certainly.

Dio. And that the man to whom Fortune has given the bad guardian spirit lives wickedly and senselessly and foolishly and intemperately?

Int. That appears to follow from what we have just said.

Dio. Then when a man is in possession of intelligence and is just and temper, is this man fortunate because he is attended by a good spirit; p311but when a man is dissolute and foolish and wicked, must we maintain that he is unfortunate because he is yoked to a bad spirit and serves it?

Int. True.

8 Dio. And do you describe as wise anyone except the man who is sensible and just and holy and brave, and as a fool him who is unjust and unholy and cowardly?

Int. I do.

Dio. Then you should no longer be surprised when people say that they hold the wise man alone and without exception to be fortunate or happy, whereas of fools there is none that is not unfortunate or unhappy; you should agree to this inasmuch as you also seem to hold that view.

9 Int. What you have said so far I think has been quite reasonable; but how are we to consider any spirit to be wicked and unjust and senseless, I am unable to say; and besides, it is not like you philosophers, if you really hold that the guiding spirit is divine, to assume any such thing.

Dio. Well, just now I have not been expressing my own view for the most part except in this one matter — that I believe every wise man is fortunate and happy and he alone; but in everything else I have accepted the views of the majority of men, that I may not seem to be forcing my own views on them. 10 For just consider: If you really believe that the guiding spirit is divine and good and the author of no evil to anyone, how do you explain a man's becoming unfortunate, that is, unhappy? Or does that happen when he does not heed or obey his guiding spirit, this being good? It is just as if we should think that all physicians are good in the matters of p313their profession and that none of them is a bad physician or harmful, but yet should see some of their patients doing poorly and suffering harm in their illnesses; evidently we should say that they refuse to obey orders and that such patients as do obey cannot but come through well; and nothing that should happen to them would surprise anyone.

Int. That is right.

11 Dio. Do you think, therefore, that the really self-controlled and sober and sensible patients are those who would disobey their physicians when these are skilled and prescribe the treatment that is good for them, or, on the contrary, the senseless and uncontrolled?

Int. Evidently the uncontrolled.

Dio. Then again, do you hold that to obey the guardian spirit when it is good, and to live in conformity with its direction, is a mark of those who are temperate and sensible or of those who are wicked and senseless?

Int. Of those who are temperate.

12 Dio. And that to refuse to obey and give heed and to act contrary to that which is divine and from the guardian spirit is a mark of the bad and foolish?

Int. How could we say anything else?

Dio. And that those who obey the guiding spirit, since it is of this character, are 'fortunate and happy,' and that those who disobey are 'unfortunate and unhappy?'

Int. Necessarily so.

p315 Dio. Therefore, here also it turns out that the wise and sensible man is 'fortunate and happy' in every case, but that the worthless man is 'unfortunate and unhappy,' not because his guardian spirit is bad, but because, although it is good, he does not heed it.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The word δαίμων means guiding or guardian spirit, genius, or the lot or fortune which that genius was believed to give a man. Therefore, εὐδαίμων means primarily 'blessed with a good guiding spirit or genius.' Then, since the good genius was believed to give good fortune, the word came to mean fortunate; and since the fortunate man should be happy, the word came also to mean happy. Often all three meanings are suggested by the word.

2 Homer, Iliad 17.477.

3 Euripides, Cresphontes, fragment 452 (Nauck). Herodotus (5.4) says that the Trausi, a Thracian tribe, did lament when a child was born and rejoice when a man died.

4 Itys, son of Tereus and Procnê, was killed by his mother and his flesh served to his father Tereus because the father had been unfaithful and married Procnê's sister Philomela. On learning what flesh he was eating, Tereus pursued the women with an axe. Then Procnê was turned into a nightingale, Philomela into a swallow, and Tereus into a hoopoe.

5 Jason went to Colchis, a country at the east end of the Euxine or Black Sea, to get the golden fleece. He was promised it if he would plow a field with two fire-breathing, brazen-footed oxen and sow in it the dragon teeth that had not been used by Cadmus at Thebes. From these teeth sprang armed men, who, when Jason threw a stone into their midst, fought until they had killed one another.

6 Euripides.

7 This view that a man's δαίμων may be good or bad is called the popular one in § 9. It is somewhat like the view which Dio takes for granted in Discourse I.42 and makes Diogenes explicitly state in Discourse IV.80, that each man's mind (νοῦς) is his δαίμων and may be good or bad. The philosophical view stated in § 9, which Dio says is his own, is that the δαίμων of every man. This was the Stoic belief. See Posidonius as quoted by Galen in De Placitis Hippocratis et Platonis 5.6, page 469 and Zeller 3.1.318 ff. In Discourse XXI Dio regards the δαίμοωες, not as spirits or minds ruling men from within, but as men such as popular leaders, kings, or tyrants, or generals who rule other people and direct their destinies.


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Page updated: 22 Mar 08