Gaius Musonius Rufus Quotes
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“Being good is the same as being a philosopher. If you obey your father, you will follow the will of a man; if you choose the philosopher's life, the will of God. It is plain, therefore, that your duty lies in the pursuit of philosophy.”
“Choose to die well while you can; wait too long, and it might become impossible to do so.”
“Food from plants of the earth is natural for us, grains and those which though not cereals can nourish humans well – also food (other than meat) from domesticated animals.
The most useful foods are those which can be used immediately without fire – since they are also most easily available: fruits in season, some green vegetables, milk, cheese, and honey.”
“For mankind, evil is injustice and cruelty and indifference to a neighbor’s trouble, while virtue is brotherly love and goodness and justice and beneficence and concern for the welfare of your neighbor.”
“For what does the man who accepts insult do that is wrong? It is the doer of wrong who puts themselves to shame-the sensible man wouldn't go to the law, since he wouldn't even consider that he had been insulted!
Besides, to be annoyed or angered about such things would be petty-instead easily and silently bear what has happened, since this is appropriate for those whose purpose is to be noble-minded.”
“For what does the man who accepts insult do that is wrong? It is the doer of wrong who puts themselves to shame-the sensible man wouldn’t go to the law, since he wouldn’t even consider that he had been insulted! Besides, to be annoyed or angered about such things would be petty-instead easily and silently bear what has happened, since this is appropriate for those whose purpose is to be noble-minded.”
“From good people you’ll learn good, but if you mingle with the bad you’ll destroy such soul as you had.”
“Generally speaking, if you devote yourself to the life of philosophy, whilst tilling the land at the same time, I couldn’t compare it to any other way of life, nor would I prefer any other livelihood.”
“Humanity must seek what is not simple and obvious using the simple and obvious.”
“Husband and wife should come together to craft a shared life, procreating children, seeing all things as shared between them - with nothing withheld or private to one another - not even their bodies.
The birth of a human being which results from this union is, to be sure, something wonderful-but it isn't yet enough to account for the relationship of husband and wife-since even outside marriage it could result from any other sexual union (just as in the case of animals).
So, in marriage there must be, above all, perfect companionship and mutual love - both in sickness, health and under all conditions-it should be with desire for this (and children) that both entered upon marriage.”
“If we were to measure what is good by how much pleasure it brings, nothing would be better than self-control- if we were to measure what is to be avoided by its pain, nothing would be more painful than lack of self-control.”
“If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures.
If you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures.”
“If you choose death because it is the greater evil, what sense is there in that? Or if you choose it as the lesser-evil, remember who gave you the choice. Why not try coming to terms with what you have been given?”
“In general, of all creatures on earth man alone resembles God and has the same virtues that He has, since we can imagine nothing even in the gods better than prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. Therefore, as God, through the possession of these virtues, is unconquered by pleasure or greed, is superior to desire, envy, and jealousy; is high-minded, beneficent, and kindly (for such is our conception of God), so also man in the image of Him, when living in accord with nature, should be thought of as being like Him, and being like Him, being enviable, and being enviable, he would forthwith be happy, for we envy none but the happy. Indeed it is not impossible for man to be such, for certainly when we encounter men whom we call godly and godlike, we do not have to imagine that these virtues came from elsewhere than from man’s own nature.”
“In marriage there must be complete companionship and concern for each other on the part of both husband and wife, in health and in sickness and at all times, because they entered upon the marriage for this reason as well as to produce offspring.
When such caring for one another is perfect, and the married couple provide it for one another, and each strives to outdo the other, then this is marriage as it ought to be and deserving of emulation, since it is a noble union.
But when one partner looks to his own interests alone and neglects the other's, or (by Zeus) the other is so minded that he lives in the same house, but keeps his mind on what is outside it, and does not wish to pull together with his partner or to cooperate, then inevitably the union is destroyed, and although they live together their common interests fare badly, and either they finally get divorced from one another or they continue on in an existence that is worse than loneliness.”
“In our control is the most beautiful and important thing, the thing because of which even the god himself is happy— namely, the proper use of our impressions. We must concern ourselves absolutely with the things that are under our control and entrust the things not in our control to the universe.”
“Indeed, how could exile be an obstacle to person’s own cultivation, or to attaining virtue when no one has ever been cut off from learning or practicing what is needed by exile?”
“It is living more in accord with nature-drawing your sustenance directly from the earth-the nurse and mother of us all-rather than from another source.”
“It is not possible to live well today unless you treat it as your last day.”
“It is widely held that we'll be despised by others if we don't try hard to hurt the first enemies we meet – this is the mark of cold-hearted, ignorant individuals.
We say that the detestable person is recognized (among other things) by their inability to harm their enemies – actually, they are much more easily recognized by their inability to help them.”
“Just as plants receive nourishment for survival, not pleasure – for humans, food is the medicine of life.
Therefore it is appropriate for us to eat for living, not pleasure, especially if we want to follow the wise words of Socrates, who said "Most men live to eat; I eat to live.”
“Just as there is no use in medical study unless it leads to the health of the human body, so there is no use to a philosophical doctrine unless it leads to the virtue of the human soul.”
“Most of all, teachers shouldn't only be speakers of helpful words, but their actions should be consistent with them. The pupil's duty is to attend pro-actively to what is said, and to be on guard in case they accept something false without thinking.”
“Of the things that exist, God has put some in our control, others not in our control. In our control he has put the noblest and most excellent part by reason of which He is Himself happy, the power of using our impressions. For when this is correctly used, it means serenity, cheerfulness, constancy; it also means justice and law and self-control and virtue as a whole. But all other things He has not put in our control. Therefore we ought to become of like mind with God and, dividing things in like manner, we ought in every way to lay claim to the things that are in our control, but what is not in our control we ought to entrust to the universe and gladly yield to it whether it asks for our children, our country, our body, or anything whatsoever.”
“Only by exhibiting actions in harmony with the sound words which he has received will anyone be helped by philosophy.”
“Others have been in poor health from overindulgence and high living, before exile has provided strength, forcing them to live a more vigorous life.”
“Since every man dies, it is better to die with distinction than to live long.”
“Since it so happens that the human being is not soul alone, nor body alone, but a kind of synthesis of the two, the person in training must take care of both, the better part, the soul, more zealously; as is fitting, but also of the other, if he shall not be found lacking in any part that constitutes man.”
“That God who made man provided him food and drink for the sake of preserving his life and not for giving him pleasure, one can see very well from this: when food is performing its real function, it does not produce pleasure for man, that is in the process of digestion and assimilation.”
“The best livelihood (particularly for the strong) is earning a living from the soil, whether you own your land or not. Many can support their families by farming land owned by the state or private landowners. Some even get rich through hard work with their own hands.
The earth repays those who cultivate her, both justly and well, multiplying what she received – endowing in abundance all the necessities of life to anyone willing to work-and all this without violating your dignity or self-respect!”
“The cosmos is administered by mind and providence.”
“The home or the city doesn't depend on women or men alone, but on their union with each other. I find no other association more necessary nor more pleasant than that of men and women.
For what man is as devoted to his friend as much as a loving wife is to her husband?
What brother to a brother?
What son to his parents?
Who is as longed for as a husband by his wife, or a wife by her husband, when the other is away.
Who would do more to lighten grief or increase joy or correct misfortune?
Who judges everything to be shared-body, soul, and possessions-except man and wife?
For these reasons, we all consider the love of man and wife to be the highest form of love-no reasonable mother or father would expect to entertain a deeper love for their own child than for the one joined to him in marriage.”
“The human being is born with an inclination toward virtue.”
“Thus it appears that exile helps, rather than hinders body and spirit, by treating them better than they treat themselves.”
“To accept injury without a spirit of savage resentment-to show ourselves merciful toward those who wrong us-being a source of good hope to them-is characteristic of a benevolent and civilized way of life.”
“To help us to cheerfully endure those hardships which we may expect to suffer because of virtue and goodness, it is useful to recall what hardships people will endure for immoral reasons.
Consider what lustful lovers undergo for the sake of evil desires-and how much exertion others expend for the sake of profit – how much suffering pursuing fame - bear in mind that they all submit to all kinds of toil and hardship voluntarily.
It’s monstrous that they endure such things for no honourable reward, yet for the sake of the good (not only the avoidance of evil that wrecks our lives-also the gain of virtue) we're not ready to bear the slightest hardship.”
“To many people, even to most, despite living safely in their home city, fear of what seem to them the dire consequences of free speech is present.
The courageous, in exile or at home, is fearless in the face of all such threats; for that reason they've the courage to say what they think equally at home or in exile.”
“To relax the mind is to lose it.”
“Virtue is not simply theoretical knowledge, but it is practical application as well. So a man who wishes to become good not only must be thoroughly familiar with the precepts which are conducive to virtue but must also be earnest and zealous in applying these principles.”
“We begin to lose our hesitation to do immoral things when we lose our hesitation to speak of them.”
“Wealth is able to buy the pleasures of eating, drinking and other sensual pursuits-yet can never afford a cheerful spirit or freedom from sorrow.”
“What good are gilded rooms or precious stones-fitted on the floor, inlaid in the walls, carried from great distances at the greatest expense? These things are pointless and unnecessary-without them isn’t it possible to live healthy? Aren’t they the source of constant trouble? Don’t they cost vast sums of money that, through public and private charity, may have benefited many?”
“Whoever destroys human marriage destroys the home, the city – the whole human race.”
“Why do we criticize tyrants, when in fact we are much worse than they are? We have the same inclinations as they do; we just lack opportunities to act on them.”
“You will earn the respect of all if you begin by earning the respect of yourself. Don't expect to encourage good deeds in people conscious of your own misdeeds.”