Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Epictetus (50 A.D.-138 A.D.) was a Stoic philosopher of the 1st century. He was born a Roman slave in Hieropolis, in Asia Minor (the peninsula comprising most of modern Turkey). While still a slave, he began studying with the Stoic Musonius Rufus. Shortly after his master freed him, Epictetus founded his own school in Nicopolis, Epirus. Like Socrates, Epictetus wrote nothing but his teachings were set down by his disciple Arrian (known also for writing the history of Alexander the Great) in the Discourses and the Encheiridion. Epictetus emphasized indifference to external goods and taught that the true good is within oneself. His Stoicism was outstanding in its insistence on the doctrine of the brotherhood of man.

Lame and physically weak from the time he had been a slave, Epictetus worked arduously in making his views known. He developed a large following, even among early Christians. In 90 A.D., the Emperor Domitian expelled him from Rome along with many other philosophers whose teachings he saw as dangerous to his reign.

“Control thy passions, lest they take vengeance on thee.”

“Difficulties show men what they are. In case of any difficulty remember that God has pitted you against a rough antagonist that you may be a conqueror, and this cannot be without toil.”

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

“Unless we place our religion and our treasure in the same thing, religion will always be sacrificed.”

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”

“Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.”

“God has entrusted me with myself.”

“It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.”

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

“If you do not wish to be prone to anger, do not feed the habit; give it nothing which may tend to its increase.”

“No man is free who is not master of himself.”

“Remember that you are an actor in a drama, of such a part as it may please the master to assign you, for a long time or for a little as he may choose. And if he will you to take the part of a poor man, or a cripple, or a ruler, or a private citizen, then may you act that part with grace! For to act well the part that is allotted to us, that indeed is ours to do, but to choose it is another’s.”

“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.”

“Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.”

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”

“The good or ill of a man lies within his own will.”

“When you close your doors, and make darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not alone; nay, God is within, and your genius is within.”

“Only the educated are free.”

“Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.”

Share