Your Occasional Stoic Avoiding the Taste for Rhetoric

From Rusticus: to grasp the idea of wanting correction and treatment for my character; not to be diverted into a taste for rhetoric, so not writing up my own speculations, delivering my own little moral sermons, or presenting a glorified picture of the ascetic or the philanthropist; to keep clear of speechifying, versifying, and pretentious language; not to walk around at home in ceremonial dress, or do anything else like that; to write letters in an unaffected style, like his own letter written to my mother from Sinuessa; to be readily recalled to conciliation with those who have taken or given offence, just as soon as they themselves are willing to turn back; to read carefully, not satisfied with my own superficial thoughts or quick to accept the facile views of others; to have encountered the Discourses of Epitetus, to which he introduced me with his own copy.

– Mediations 1:7

For a lawyer like me there is so much to learn from this one.  I have more than a taste for rhetoric, rhetoric is how I earn my supper; speechifying is how I do it.  Avoiding it in my personal life is often difficult, though avoiding wearing ceremonial dress at home isn’t so hard.  I prefer denim.

Quintus Junius Rusticus was stoic philosopher, prefect of Rome, and a teacher of Marcus.  Marcus idealized him.  Outside the meditations he is probably best known as the prefect who sat in judgment at the trial of the Christian theologian Justin Martyr.  Rusticus may have instructed Marcus to be open to conciliation but the trial of Justin Martyr ended in Justin’s execution by decapitation.

I’ll have much more to say about Epitetus at some later date, but suffice it to say that his Discourses are an inspiration and will get the occasional stoic treatment at some later date.

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