Ecce Homo

How One Becomes What One Is
Written 1888; Published 1908.

Translation by Walter Kaufmann Random House 1968



Seeing that before long I must confront humanity with the most difficult demand ever made of it, it seems indispensable to me to say who I am. Really, one should know it, for I have not left myself "without testimony." But the disproportion between the greatness of my task and the smallness of my contemporaries has found expression in the fact that one has neither heard nor even seen me. I live on my own credit; it is perhaps a mere prejudice that I live.

I need only to speak with one of the "educated" who come to the Upper Engadine for the summer, and I am convinced that I do not live.

Under these circumstances I have a duty against which my habits, even more the pride of my instincts, revolt at bottom—namely, to say: Hear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.


I am, for example, by no means a bogey, or a moralistic monster—I am actually the very opposite of the type of man who so far has been revered as virtuous. Between ourselves, it seems to me that precisely this is part of my pride. I am a disciple of the philosopher Dionysus; I should prefer to be even a satyr to being a saint. But one should really read this essay. Perhaps I have succeeded; perhaps this essay had no other meaning than to give expression to this contrast in a cheerful and philanthropic manner.

The last thing I should promise would be to "improve" mankind. No new idols are erected by me; let the old ones learn what feet of clay mean. Overthrowing idols (my word for "ideals")—that comes closer to being part of my craft. One has deprived reality of its value, its meaning, its truthfulness, to precisely the extent to which one has mendaciously invented an ideal world.

The "true world" and the "apparent world"—that means: the mendaciously invented world and reality.

The lie of the ideal has so far been the curse on reality; on account of it, mankind itself has become mendacious and false down to its most fundamental instincts—to the point of worshipping the opposite values of those which alone would guarantee its health, its future, the lofty right to its future.


Those who can breath the air of my writings know that it is an air of the heights, a strong air. One must be made for it. Otherwise there is no small danger that one may catch cold in it. The ice is near, the solitude tremendous—but how calmly all things lie in the light! How freely one breathes! How much one feels beneath oneself!

Philosophy, as I have so far understood and lived it, means living voluntarily among ice and high mountains—seeking out everything strange and questionable in existence, everything so far placed under a ban by morality. Long experience, acquired in the course of such wanderings in what is forbidden, taught me to regard the causes that so far have prompted moralizing and idealizing in a very different light from what may seem desirable: the hidden history of the philosophers, the psychology of the great names, came to light for me.

How much truth does a spirit endure, how much truth does it dare? More and more that became for me the real measure of value. Error (faith in the ideal) is not blindness, error is cowardice.

Every attainment, every step forward in knowledge, follows from courage, from hardness against oneself, from cleanliness in relation to oneself.

I do not refute ideals, I merely put on gloves before them.

Nitimur in vetitum ["We strive for the forbidden": Ovid, Amores, III, 4, 17.]: in this sign my philosophy will triumph one day, for what one has forbidden so far as a matter of principle has always been—truth alone.


Among my writings my Zarathustra stands to my mind by itself. With that I have given mankind the greatest present that has ever been made to it so far. This book, with a voice bridging centuries, is not only the highest book there is, the book that is truly characterized by the air of the heights—the whole fact of man lies beneath it at a tremendous distance—it is also the deepest, born out of the innermost wealth of truth, an inexhaustible well to which no pail descends without coming up again filled with gold and goodness. Here no "prophet" is speaking, none of those gruesome hybrids of sickness and will to power whom people call founders of religions. Above all, one must hear aright the tone that comes from this mouth, the halcyon tone, lest one should do wretched injustice to the meaning of its wisdom.

"It is the stillest words that bring on the storm. Thoughts that come on doves' feet guide the world." [Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II, 44.]

The figs are falling from the trees; they are good and sweet; and, as they fall, their red skin bursts. I am a north wind to ripe figs.
Thus, like figs, these teachings fall to you, my friends: now consume their juice and their sweet meat. It is fall around us, and pure sky and afternoon.
[Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II, 24.]

It is no fanatic that speaks here; this is not "preaching"; no faith is demanded here: from an infinite abundance of light and depth of happiness falls drop upon drop, word upon word: the tempo of these speeches is a tender adagio. Such things reach only the most select. It is a privilege without equal to be a listener here. Nobody is free to have ears for Zarathustra.

Is not Zarathustra in view of all this a seducer?— But what does he himself say, as he returns again for the first time to his solitude? Precisely the opposite of everything that any "sage," "saint," "world-redeemer," or any other decadent would say in such a case.— Not only does he speak differently, he also is different.—

Now I go alone, my disciples. You, too, go now, alone.
Thus I want it.
Go away from me and resist Zarathustra! And even better: be ashamed of him! Perhaps he deceived you.
The man of knowledge must not only love his enemies, he must also be able to hate his friends.
One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil. And why do you not want to pluck at my wreath?
You revere me; but what if your reverence tumbles one day? Beware lest a statue slay you.
You say that you believe in Zarathustra? But what matters Zarathustra? You are my believers—but what matter all believers?
You had not yet sought yourselves; and you found me. Thus do all believers; therefore all faith amounts to so little.
Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when you have all denied me will I return to you.
[Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, 22.]

Friedrich Nietzsche

On this perfect day, when everything is ripening and not only the grape turns brown, the eye of the sun just fell upon my life: I looked back, I looked forward, and never saw so many and such good things at once. It was not for nothing that I buried my forty-fourth year today; I had the right to bury it; whatever was life in it has been saved, is immortal. The first book of the Revaluation of All Values, the Songs of Zarathustra, the Twilight of the Idols, my attempt to philosophize with a hammer—all presents of this year, indeed of its last quarter! How could I fail to be grateful to my whole life?—and so I tell my life to myself.
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