What makes a person beautiful? τί ποιεῖ ἄνθρωπον καλόν;

What makes a person beautiful?

Is it not the presence of a person’s excellence? Very well, then, young person, do you too, if you wish to be beautiful, labour to achieve this, the excellence that characterizes a human.

—And what is that?

—Observe who they are whom you yourself praise, when you praise people dispassionately; is it the just, or the unjust?

—The just;

—Is it the temperate, or the dissolute?

—The temperate;

—And is it the self-controlled, or the uncontrolled?

—The self-controlled.

—In making yourself that kind of person, therefore, rest assured that you will be making yourself self beautiful; but so long as you neglect all this, no matter if you employ every artifice to make yourself look beautiful, you will necessarily be ugly.

                                                                    Epictetus, Discourses, Book 3, Ch. 1, 7-10

τί οὖν ποιεῖ ἄνθρωπον (καλόν); μή ποθ᾿ ἡ ἀρετὴ ἡ ἀνθρώπου παροῦσα; καὶ σὺ οὖν εἰ θέλεις καλὸς εἶναι, νεανίσκε, τοῦτο ἐκπόνει, τὴν ἀρετὴν

τὴν ἀνθρωπικήν.

—Τίς δ᾿ ἐστὶν αὕτη;

—Ὅρα, τίνας αὐτὸς ἐπαινεῖς, ὅταν δίχα πάθους τινὰς ἐπαινῇς· πότερα τοὺς δικαίους ἢ τοὺς ἀδίκους;

—Τοὺς δικαίους.

—Πότερον τοὺς σώφρονας ἢ τοὺς ἀκολάστους;

—Τοὺς σώφρονας.

—Τοὺς ἐγκρατεῖς δ᾿ ἢ τοὺς ἀκρατεῖς;

—Τοὺς ἐγκρατεῖς.

—Οὐκοῦν τοιοῦτόν τινα ποιῶν σαυτὸν ἴσθι ὅτι καλὸν ποιήσεις· μέχρις δ᾿ ἂν τούτων ἀμελῇς, αἰσχρόν σ᾿ εἶναι ἀνάγκη, κἂν πάντα μηχανᾷ ὑπὲρ τοῦ φαίνεσθαί σε καλόν.


Remember the Sirens in the Odyssey? If not, they had beautiful voices and lured sailors to their deaths on the rocky shore. Beauty can be misleading and dangerous on the outside if misused. In this society today, isn’t advertising just like the Sirens? Aren’t the rocky shores the debt?

Use your inner beauty for good, and don’t buy into the advertising and commercial culture, unless you truly need something of value. But remember, that it is always with you, in your heart  (θυμός).


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