“That One Should Disdain Hardships” Musonius reprinted.


Some time ago, I pre-ordered a reprinting of Musonius’ lectures and sayings, which is now available.  The Cora Lutz translation is one of my favorites, and the versions available online are bi-lingual in Koine and English.  I assumed that would be the case with this reprint, but I was quite disheartened to find it is English-language only.  Lutz was a monster of 19th century translation work, and all modern Stoics are indebted to her.

I am pleased to have this translation in print.  The hardcover format is nice, as I tend to be a bit rough on books.  They go many places, get tossed in bags, etc.  My Loeb copy of Meditations has been in four countries, had flowers and leaves pressed between its pages, and been banged around quite a bit.

I suspect that Musonius will get a similar treatment.

The price has already been reduced from its pre-order and new-sale price, coming in at just under $20 USD.  I would recommend this to you for no other reason than a physical version of Lutz’s work is nice to have, with the caveat that is English-only.

Working on the next project: Patreon goals


Some weeks ago, I set a goal for Patreon subscriptions.  Since that time, there have been calls and boycotts of the service in regards to de-platforming and free speech.  I thought the best thing to do would be to delay judgement until I could collect more information.

While I do not agree with the speech of the person who prompted this scandal (?), it does seems strange that Patreon would ban someone for actions taken elsewhere.  However, as a private entity, it seems to me that have the right to do just that, even though the rules governing this seem to me to be poorly written.

I believe that my choice to suspend judgment is the correct one for the time, and would solicit readers’ opinions on this issue of free speech, de-platforming, and the like.  If you’re not totally familiar with the issue, several high profile folks on Patreon have very publically left the platform after one person in particular said something distasteful on another platform.  This became a free speech issue in the minds of some, and thus the shakeup.  Thoughts?  Should MountainStoic continue to use such a platform, are the claims with or without merit?  Let me know where the readers are at either by commenting below, or by private message if you’d prefer.

In the mean time, I’m working on those goals.
Here’s a snippet of a draft version of the Musonius Course:

Philosophical eating: “The clear dry soul is wisest and best.”


In Musonius’ Lecture/s on food, we hear straight off that, “On the subject of food he used to speak frequently and very emphatically too…”. The reasoning given is that as food is something we are obliged to handle daily, it is a key tool for developing the virtue of self-control.

The main thrust is:

“As one should prefer inexpensive food to expensive and what is abundant to what is scarce, so one should prefer what is natural for men to what is not.”

Musonius seems to layout three sorts of foods.

  • Natural foods which do not require fire for preparation.
    • Seasonal, fresh fruit, some vegetables, cheese, honey, etc.
  • Natural foods which do require fire for preparation.
    • Most cereals, pulses, etc.
  • Barbaric or unsuitable foods.
    • Namely meat-flesh in the first category, but also dainty foods like sweet cakes, extravagant dishes, dishes which harm the health, etc.

Additionally, in this paper that I’m currently reading, ‘Food and Counter-cultural Identity in Ancient Cynicism‘ the author Notario makes the statement that food choices are a key practice and symbol for in-group/out-group identification.  We can see that in the religious prohibtions in Semetic religions, national cousines, and societal choices about acceptable foods (cow, chicken, horse, dog, muskrat?).

In the cases of the Stoics, Cynics, and Pythagoreans it is also a counter-cultural act.

Paleo diet fans:  trigger warning.

Notario states that up to 80% of the calories of the ancient Greek diet were provided by cereals.  He treats at times dietary choices like a text, noting that the Cynics and Stoics repudiated the fancier foods, and extolled the virtues of the simple foods of the Everyman.

One of those is madzae/maza, a sort of barley cake (in the sense of party not a sweet treat).  A recipe for the food can be found here.  I gave my hand a try at this, and found it to be surprisingly tasty.  The author notes that it tastes of Honey Smacks cereal (red box, Frog), and that is spot on.  The grainy texture seems a little unavoidable, however your diligence with a mortar and pestle, or in my case a repurposed coffee grinder, may vary the degree.

I made the simplest ones, but I can see how adding some cheese or a bit of honey would be a nice change of pace periodically.

Over in the Cynosarges group on Facebook we’re putting together a “Philosophical eating plan” based on the prescriptions of Musonius, and the examples of Diogenes and Crates.  If you’re interested in collaborating, or making use for the final product, head over there and check it out.

SLRP: LX. On Harmful Prayers



This is an issue which I’ve been concerned with for some time.  You give the excellent example here, and I think this also ties into Musonius some, as we’ll see.

The bull is filled when he feeds over a few acres; and one forest is large enough for a herd of elephants. Man, however, draws sustenance both from the earth and from the sea.  What, then? Did nature give us bellies so insatiable, when she gave us these puny bodies, that we should outdo the hugest and most voracious animals in greed? Not at all.  How small is the amount which will satisfy nature? A very little will send her away contented. It is not the natural hunger of our bellies that costs us dear, but our solicitous cravings.

Folks look at the diet prescription Musonius lays out.  It make sense to me that a passion which we encounter not rarely, but for most westerners, three times a day should draw our immediate attention.  Of course, Musonius notes (Lectures XVIIIA and XVIIIB that we handle it every day, sometimes twice!  Ooops.  Already starting from a disadvantaged position, it seems.

The passion of food, then, is a reasonably an opportune place for us to apply our attention.  Musonius asks the question (Lecture V, Lecture VI), how can we learn self-control unless we actually practice being self-controlled?  This is why practice must come with theory.

Of course, you’re reading the letter of an overweight would-be Stoic.  The point still stands, and coupled with lessons of the previous week are poignant.

Thank you for the letter, and the reminder that I need.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

International Women’s Day and Musonius Rufus



Today is International Women’s Day, and I thought I would take the time to discuss Musonius Rufus, the role of women in Stoic Philosophy, and the examples we have of them.  Many ancient and modern philosophers discount and discredit the role of women in intellectual pursuits.  For whatever reason, it was often assumed they were less suited to the task, or simply by nature interested in other things.

Musonius, however, takes a different tact.  In Lecture III, he notes that for all of the operative issues regarding philosophy and virtue, men and women have the same foundation on which to build.  For Musonius, both men and women are given by God the gifts of reason.  Their senses, bodies, and minds all work in a similar fashion for everything on which philosophy hinges.  More importantly, both men and women have predisposition for goodness, for virtue.

Keeping in mind, Musonius is speaking in the first century CE, and his arguments are couched in the language and thinking of that time.  He is trying to convince his mostly male audience that the women in their lives would benefit from studying philosophy, for growing in virtue.  He does this by playing to their own biases.

A virtuous person (in this case a female person), would be better suited to all roles and tasks a human being can do.  In the same way that it would make one a better husband, it would make one a better wife.  As it would make better sons, it makes better daughters.  In what conditions would justice, fortitude, wisdom, or courage be a hindrance to a woman?  None!  It’s surely just as valuable in her as anyone else.

Musonius takes this a step further in Lecture IV.  Not only are women capable of virtue, but they should be trained (read: educated) in it.  Not only should they receive education, but the very same education as males.  There is no good reason for Musonius that we should educate boys and girls differently.  This is a fairly radical proposition for the 1st century CE.  The equal access to education was not even a common western value 100 years ago; yet nearly 2000 years ago, Musonius argued for just that very point.  Quite forward thinking in this regard.

His opinions differ, however, when we get to a common crux of human relations:  sexuality.  In Lecture XII, Musonius argues for what seems a very socially conservative view of human sexuality.  Specifically, that it’s appropriate only within marriage, and only for the purposes of procreation.  The reason I mention this, is that he unequivocally states that the prescription is the same for men and women.  While the standard is very strict, it is at least fair.

One of the issues which bears pointing out, which many moderns may take umbrage with, is that Musonius argues from a position in which the souls of men and women are the same, but that does not mean that men and women are in all ways equal.  He does note a reasonable division of labor and social roles, however.  One of his interlocutors asks about “women’s work” and how that gets addressed in Lecture IV, lines 16-21.  Musonius argues that when such things are conformable to the general physical nature, it’s appropriate.  The general trend of men’s and women’s build might predispose them to one type of work over another.  For example, he says it’s reasonable that men would do more hard labor outside, and women might work indoors.  In this, the issue is specifically the spinning of yarn.  He does not, however, state this does means that one shouldn’t learn or be able to do the work of the other.

In fact, in specific circumstance, the opposite roles may be more reasonable.  A man might work inside due to his constitution or other mitigating circumstance, and the woman outside and more physically.  Either way, he would not compel one or the other in a specific way.  While general trends exist, the specific applications vary.  A quite liberal approach, I think (not in the political sense of Anglo-American politics, mind you).

Within Stoicism, we either look towards the latter part of the era to the daughter of Cato, or back to the Cynics for specific examples of female philosophers which have come down to us through history.  The first and earlier Hipparchia, the wife of Crates the Cynic and philosopher in her own right, and the second and latter Portia Catonis.

Hipparchia left a life of comfortable wealth, and rigid social mores to marry Crates, the homeless and shameless Cynic.  She discarded everything her society valued and instead sought virtue and freedom, albeit in very unconventional ways.

“I, Hipparchia chose not the tasks of the rich-robed woman, but the manly life of the Cynic. Brooch-clasped tunics, well-clad shoes, and perfumed headscarves pleased me not; But with wallet and fellow staff, together with coarse cloak and bed of hard ground, My name shall be greater than Atalanta: for wisdom is better than mountain running.”

— Hipparchia, Greek Anthology, 7.413

I could not find the original Greek version of the Anthology online to check this, however it is worth noting that the word which is often translated as ‘courage’ can also be translated as “manliness,’ ἀνδρεία (andreia).  This is pure speculation, but I would not be surprised to find that it is this word which is in the original text of the above quote.

Portia may have even been involved in the assassination plot of Caesar, and was at least aware of it.  The recordings of her show a women of firm character, strong beliefs, and the courage of her convictions, even unto her own death by suicide.

“You, my husband, though you trusted my spirit that it would not betray you, nevertheless were distrustful of my body, and your feeling was but human. But I found that my body also can keep silence… Therefore fear not, but tell me all you are concealing from me, for neither fire, nor lashes, nor goads will force me to divulge a word; I was not born to that extent a woman. Hence, if you still distrust me, it is better for me to die than to live; otherwise let no one think me longer the daughter of Cato or your wife.”

— Portia Catonis, Cassius Dio, 44.13.4

The universality of Stoic philosophy is one of its highest selling points, I think.  It calls to the egalitarian nature in the modern westerner, and shows that it has maintained that perspective for a very long time.  Whether it’s simply the vicissitudes of history, or some other reason such as explicit bias, we have few examples of female philosophers and particularly of female Stoics from the classical period.  Nevertheless, the message of Musonius is a hopeful one, offering the fruits of philosophical practice to all rational creatures who embrace her.