Epictetus was born a Greek slave in the Roman
Empire and suffered from a permanent physical
disability. These circumstances might have influenced
him to turn to the philosophy of Stoicism,
which promoted stern acceptance of all the external
life facts without complaint or regret.At age 33,
Epictetus finally gained his freedom but was expelled
from Rome by Emperor Domitian. He settled
down as a teacher of his own school of
philosophy in Nicopolis, Greece.
Epictetus’s teachings exist in two works compiled
by Arrian, one of his students and a Greek historian
and philosopher. One, the Encheiridion (Handbook),
exists in its entirety; of the other, Discourses of
Epictetus, only four of eight books survive.
In Discourses, Epictetus explores the development
of self-discipline and moral stamina as a
means of accepting one’s fate. “The good or ill of a
man lies within his own will,” he states.He also believed
that in spite of hardships, people could live
happy lives by accepting everything that comes
their way as temporary and passing: “Make the
best use of what is in your power, and take the rest
as it happens.”
Epictetus’s teachings of morality, humanity, and
freedom greatly influenced Stoicism and affected
a great number of later writers, such as George
Chapman, John Dryden, and Matthew Arnold.
English Versions of Works by Epictetus
The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness,
and Effectiveness. Translated by Sharon
Lebell. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.
Discourses. Book I. Translated by Robert F. Dobbin.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Enchiridion. Translated by George Long. Buffalo,
N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1991.
Virtue and Happiness: The Manual of Epictetus. Calligraphy
by Claude Mediavilla. New York: Random
Works about Epictetus
Lillegard, Norman. On Epictetus. Florence, Ky.:
Wadsworth Publishers, 2001.
Long, A. A. Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to
Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.