Lecture IX

◄Lecture VIII - Lecture X►

That exile is not an evil.[1]

1 Hearing an exile lament because he was living in banishment, Musonius consoled him in somewhat the following way. Why, he asked, should anyone who was not devoid of understanding be oppressed by exile?[2] It does not in any way deprive us of water, earth, air, or the sun and the other planets, or indeed, even of the society of men, for everywhere and in every way there is opportunity for association with them. What if we are kept from a certain part of the earth and from association with certain men, what is so dreadful about that? Why, when we were at home, we did not enjoy the whole earth, nor did we have contact with all men; but even now in exile we may associate with our friends, that is to say the true ones and those deserving of the name, for they would never betray or abandon us; but if some prove to be sham and not true friends, we are better off separated from them than being with them.

2 Tell me, is not the universe the common fatherland of all men, as Socrates held?[3] Well, then, you must not consider it really being banished from your fatherland if you go from where you were born and reared, but only being exiled from a certain city, that is if you claim to be a reasonable person. For such a man does not value or despise any place as the cause of his happiness or unhappiness, but he makes the whole matter depend upon himself and considers himself a citizen of the city of God which is made up of men and gods. Euripides speaks in harmony with this thought when he says,

"As all the heavens are open to the eagle's flight

So all the earth is for a noble man his fatherland."[4]

3 Therefore, just as a man who was living in his own country but in a different house from the one where he was born would be thought silly and an object of laughter if he should weep and wail because of this, so whoever considers it a misfortune because he is living in another city and not the one where he happens to have been born would rightly be considered foolish and stupid. Furthermore, how should exile be an obstacle to the cultivation of the things that are one's own and to the acquisition of virtue, when no one was ever hindered from the knowledge and practice of what is needful because of exile? May it not even be true that exile contributes to that end, since it furnishes men leisure and a greater opportunity for learning the good and practicing it than formerly, in that they are not forced by what only seems to be their fatherland into performing political duties, and they are not annoyed by their kinsmen nor by men who only seem to be their friends, who are skilful in fettering them and dragging them away from the pursuit of better things?

4 In fact, there have been cases where exile was an absolute blessing as it was to Diogenes, who by his exile was transformed from an ordinary citizen into a philosopher, and instead of sitting idly in Sinope, he busied himself in Greece, and in the pursuit of virtue came to surpass the philosophers. To others who were in poor health as the result of overindulgence and high living, exile has been a source of strength because they were forced to live a more manly life. We even know of some who were cured of chronic ailments in exile, as for instance, in our day Spartiacus,[5] the Lacedaemonian, who suffered long from a weak chest and for this reason was often ill from high living, but when he stopped living a life of luxury, he ceased to be ill. They say that others addicted to high living have got rid of gout, although they were previously completely bed-ridden by the disease—people whom exile compelled to become accustomed to living more simply and by this very thing were brought back to health. Thus it appears that by treating them better than they treat themselves, exile helps rather than hinders health both of body and of spirit.

5 It is not true, moreover, that exiles lack the very necessities of life. To be sure men who are idle and unresourceful and unable to play the part of a man are generally in want and without resources even when they are in their own country, but energetic and hard working and intelligent men, no matter where they go, fare well and live without want. We do not feel the lack of many things unless we wish to live luxuriously:

"For what do mortals need beside two things only,

The bread of Demeter and a drink of the Water-carrier,

Which are at hand and have been made to nourish us?"[6]

6 Let me add that men who are worth anything not only easily manage well so far as the necessities of life are concerned, when they are in exile, but of ten acquire great fortunes. At any rate Odysseus, in worse plight than any exile one may say, since he was alone and naked and shipwrecked, when he arrived among strangers, the Phaeacians, was nevertheless able to enrich himself abundantly. And when Themistocles was banished from home, going to people who were not only not friendly, but actual enemies and barbarians, the Persians, he received a gift of three cities, Myus, Magnesia, and Lampsacus, as a source of livelihood.[7] Dio of Syracuse too, deprived by Dionysius the tyrant of all his possessions, when he was banished from his country waxed so rich in exile that he raised a mercenary army, went with it to Sicily, and freed the island of the tyrant.[8] Who, then, if he were in his right mind, looking at these cases would still maintain that banishment is the cause of want for all exiles?

7 Furthermore, it is not at all necessary for exiles to suffer illrepute because of their banishment, since everyone knows that many trials are badly judged and many people are unjustly banished from their country, and that in the past there have been cases of good men who have been exiled by their countrymen, as for example from Athens Aristides the Just and from Ephesus Hermodorus, because of whose banishment Heraclitus bade the Ephesians, every grown man of them, go hang themselves. In fact some exiles even became very famous, as Diogenes of Sinope and Clearchus, the Lacedaemonian, who with Cyrus marched against Artaxerxes,[9] not to mention more. How, pray, could this condition in which some people have become more renowned than before be responsible for ill-repute?

8 But, you insist, Euripides says that exiles lose their personal liberty when they are deprived of their freedom of speech. For he represents Jocasta asking Polynices her son what misfortunes an exile has to bear. He answers,

"One greatest of all, that he has not freedom of speech."

She replies,

"You name the plight of a slave, not to be able to say what one thinks."[10]

But I should say in rejoinder: "You are right, Euripides, when you say that it is the condition of a slave not to say what one thinks when one ought to speak, for it is not always, nor everywhere, nor before everyone that we should say what we think. But that one point, it seems to me, is not well-taken, that exiles do not have freedom of speech, if to you freedom of speech means not suppressing whatever one chances to think. For it is not as exiles that men fear to say what they think, but as men afraid lest from speaking pain or death or punishment or some such other thing shall befall them. Fear is the cause of this, not exile. For to many people, nay to most, even though dwelling safely in their native city, fear of what seem to them dire consequences of free speech is present. However, the courageous man, in exile no less than at home, is dauntless in the face of all such fears; for that reason also he has the courage to say what he thinks equally at home or in exile." Such are the things one might reply to Euripides.

9 But tell me, my friend, when Diogenes was in exile at Athens, or when he was sold by pirates and came to Corinth, did anyone, Athenian or Corinthian, ever exhibit greater freedom of speech than he? [11]And again, were any of his contemporaries freer than Diogenes? Why, even Xeniades, who bought him, he ruled as a master rules a slave. But why should I employ examples of long ago? Are you not aware that I am an exile? [12]Well, then, have I been deprived of freedom of speech? Have I been bereft of the privilege of saying what I think? Have you or anyone else ever seen me cringing before anyone just because I am an exile, or thinking that my lot is worse now than formerly? No, I'll wager that you would say that you have never seen me complaining or disheartened because of my banishment, for if I have been deprived of my country, I have not been deprived of my ability to endure exile.[13]

10 The reflections which I employ for my own benefit so as not to be irked by exile, I should like to repeat to you. It seems to me that exile does not strip a man entirely, not even of the things which the average man calls goods, as I have just shown. But if he is deprived of some or all of them, he is still not deprived of the things which are truly goods. Certainly the exile is not prevented from possessing courage and justice simply because he is banished, nor self-control, nor understanding, nor any of the other virtues which when present serve to bring honor and benefit to a man and show him to be praiseworthy and of good repute, but when absent, serve to cause him harm and dishonor and show him to be wicked and of ill-repute. Since this is true, if you are that good man and have his virtues, exile will not harm or degrade you, because the virtues are present in you which are most able to help and to sustain you. But if you are bad, it is the evil that harms you and not exile; and the misery you feel in exile is the product of evil, not of exile. It is from this you must hasten to secure release rather than from exile.

11 These things I used to repeat to myself and I say them to you now. If you are wise, you will not consider that exile is a thing to be dreaded, since others bear it easily, but evil. It makes wretched every man in whom it is present. And neither of the two necessary alternatives is a just cause for repining. For either you were banished justly or unjustly. If justly, how can it be right or fitting to feel aggrieved at just punishment? If unjustly, the evil involved is not ours, but falls upon those who banished us,—if in fact you agree that doing a wrong (as they have done) is the most hateful thing in the world, while suffering a wrong (as has been our fate) in the eyes of the gods and of just men is held a ground not for hate but for help.

◄Lecture VIII - Lecture X►

1 This treatise seems to represent a letter. Cf. Introduction, note 8.

2 Cf. Epictetus, Disc. II, 16, 33.

3 Cf. Cicero, Tusc. Disp. V, 37, 108.

4 Frag. 1034 (ed. Nauck). Ovid has an interesting Latin version:

Omne solum forti patria est, ut piscibus aequor,

Ut volucri, vacuo quidquid in orbe patet. (Fasti I, 11. 493 f.)

5 Spartiacus, of whom Musonius speaks as a contemporary, was a conspicuous figure in the age of Nero. Hence the situation must refer to Musonius' first banishment. Cf. Introduction note 21.

6 Frag. 884 (ed. Nauck).

7 Cornelius Nepos testifies to this. Cf. Themistocles 10.3.

8 Cicero deplores this unfortunate fact in a letter of consolation to a friend in exile. Cf. Ep. ad Fam. V, 17, 3.

9 Cf. Xenophon, Anabasis I, 1, 9.

10 Phoenissae 391 f.

11 Cf. Diogenes Laertius Lives, VI, 30.

12 Musonius was exiled to the barren island of Gyara, one of the Cyclades. Several writers have testified to his stoutheartedness in this trying situation. Cf. Introduction note 49.

13 Milton expressed a similar attitude when he said, "It is not so wretched to be blind, as it is not to be capable of enduring blindness." (Second Defence of the People of England, Prose Works of John Milton ed. R. W. Griswold [Philadelphia, 1845] II, p. 489).