Epictetus quotes page 1
Approx. A.D. 55 – 135; Epictetus (Epic-TEE-tus) was born into slavery at
Hierapolis, Phrygia (modern day Pamukkale, Turkey). He spent much of his younger years in Rome with his master,
Epaphroditos, a freedman who was a secretary to Nero. He became fascinated with philosophy and studied Stoic
philosophy with the permission of his master. At some point during his life, he became lame. (There is some debate
about how he became lame – some say he was made lame by his master, some say it was the result of illness.)
Epictetus received his freedom after Nero's death, and began teaching philosophy in Rome. When the emperor banished
all the philosophers in the city in 93, Epictetus ran off to Nicopolis, Greece, where he established a school. One
of his students, Arrian, kept written records of his teachings and compiled them into the famed Discourses and
Handbook writings. Some claim that the book was actually written by Arrian, while others assert that the book
is a transcript of Epictetus’ teachings. While there is no absolute answer regarding the author, we can be certain
that the writings are done in the same manner which Epictetus would have led his classes, and the material presents
the Stoic philosophy that Epictetus taught. Epictetus lived a solitary, simple life. He acquired little and never
married nor had children, even though he was an advocate for both marriage and family. To the Stoic, a happy life
is one that is based on virtue. To be an excellent person according to Epictetus, one must work on keeping
their moral virtue in good condition. Things are classified as being good (virtues) or bad (vices). If
something does not fit into either of these categories it is considered indifferent. Indifferent items must be
handled correctly to maintain the goodness of one's character. His philosophies have continued to find followers
even into modern times. Recent years have seen his writing influence modern-day psychology, philosophy, literature
Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things
are within our control, and some things are not.
What is a good person? The one who achieves tranquility by having formed the habit of
asking on every occasion, "What is the right thing to do now?"
The difference between the instructed and the ignorant is that the wise now that the virtous
are invincible. They aren't tricked and provoked by the way things appear to be.
Practice self-sufficiency. Don't remain a dependent, malleable patient: Become your own
Happiness is commonly mistaken for passively experienced pleasure or leisure... True
happiness is a verb. It's the ongoing dynamic performance of worthy deeds.
Every habit and faculty is preserved and increased by its corresponding actions: The habit of
walking makes us better walkers, regular running makes us better runners. It is the same
regarding matters of the soul. Whenever you are angry, you increase your anger; you have
increased a habit and added fuel to a fire.
Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor what they seem to be. They are
what they are.
Nothing truly stops you. Nothing truly holds you back. For your own will is always within your
A half-hearted spirit has no power. Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes.
Those who pursue the higher life of wisdom, who seek to live by spiritual principles, must be
prepared to be laughed at and condemned... Never live your life in reaction to these
Self-mastery depends on self-honesty.
Try to be as kind to yourself as possible. Do not measure yourself against others or even
against your ideal self. Human betterment is a gradual, two-steps-forward, one-step-back
Books are the training weights of the mind.
When the idea of any pleasure strikes your imagination, make a just computation between
the duration of the pleasure and that of the repentance that is likely to follow it.
One of the best ways to elevate your character immediately is to find worthy role models to
emulate... We all carry the seeds of greatness within us, but we need an image as a point of
focus in order that they may sprout.
The virtue that leads to enduring happiness is not a quid pro quo
goodness. (I'll be good "in
order to" get something.) Goodness in and of itself is the practice and the reward.
How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait
Seeking to please is a perilous trap.
If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what
is said of you but answer, "He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have
mentioned these alone."
When we remember that our aim is spiritual progress, we return to striving to be our best
selves. This is how happiness is won.
Content yourself with being a lover of wisdom, a seeker of the truth. Return and return again
to what is essential and worthy.
If you wish to be a writer, write.
Fortify thyself with contentment: that is an impregnable stronghold.
Difficulties are things that show a person what they are.
It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
Clearly define the person you want to be.
The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation
from storms and tempests.
I laugh at those who think they can damage me. They do not know who I am, they do not
know what I think, they cannot even touch the things which are really mine and with which I
It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.
As time goes by and you build on the habit of matching the appropriate inner resource to
each incident, you will not tend to get carried away by life's appearances.
If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.
Unless we fully give ourselves over to our endeavors, we are hollow, superficial people and
we never develop our natural gifts.
Unremarkable lives are marked by the fear of not looking capable when trying something new.
Except for extreme physical abuse, other people cannot hurt you unless you allow them to.