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Who is Epictetus?


        Epictetus, born around 55 AD in Hierapolis, Phrygia (now part of modern-day Turkey), was initially born into slavery. He lived in Rome where he was a slave to Epaphroditos, a wealthy freedman and secretary to Nero. Epictetus was eventually freed and went on to teach philosophy in Rome until approximately 93 AD, when Emperor Domitian banished philosophers from the city.  

Portrait of Epictetus

         He then relocated to Nicopolis in Greece where he founded a philosophical school that attracted many students from across the Roman Empire. His life’s work significantly contributed to the Stoic philosophy, emphasizing ethics as the main field of knowledge​

His Works and Writings

        Epictetus is known primarily through the works of his student Arrian, who attended his lectures and compiled his teachings into two key texts: the Discourses and the Enchiridion (or “Manual”). The Discourses are presented in a conversational format and were originally eight books, though only four books survive today. These works are foundational texts of Stoic philosophy, providing insights into Epictetus’s methods and practical advice for living a good life. The Enchiridion is a condensed version of his teachings, offering aphoristic guidance on how to live in accordance with nature and reason

Epictetus Enchiridion
Discourses of Epictetus
Discourses of Epictetus

His Philosophy and Beliefs

      Epictetus’s philosophy centers on the idea of differentiating between what is in our control and what is not. He famously emphasized that external events are beyond our control, and we should accept these calmly. However, our own responses and decisions are within our control and should be guided by moral and rational principles. This dichotomy is fundamental to Stoic ethics and aims to cultivate personal virtue and tranquility. 

         His teachings advocate for a life of simplicity, focused on achieving internal freedom and peace through self-mastery, wisdom, and resilience in the face of adversity​

***  Explore other Stoics  – their biography, works, and beliefs.

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