Who Was Epictetus?
Epictetus was a Greek philosopher, who spent most of his life in Rome and subsequently in Nicopolis, Greece, upon being expelled from the empire’s capital. He is known as one of the most thorough stoic philosophers, alongside with Marcus Aurelius.
The major work of Epictetus are the Discourses, which were posthumously published by his pupil Arrian. This is a collection of great aphorisms, much like Aurelius’s Meditations and several other major works of Ancient Greek philosophy. Two more books survived to our times: the Enchiridion and The Golden Sayings.
As several philosophers of his epoch, Epicurus made a living by teaching the children of well-off Roman families. An education in the Greek tradition was at the time the most sought after. This is why Epictetus moved to the core of the empire to seek fortune as a teacher and philosopher. The educational process was mostly oral, and also for this reason we did not inherit much of Epictetus’s philosophical lessons.
Here are some of the most famous quotes from Epictetus’s work.
"To a reasonable creature, that alone is insupportable which is unreasonable; but everything reasonable may be supported."
"Reason is not measured by size or height, but by principle."
"No thing great 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."
"If what the philosophers say be true,—that all men's actions proceed from one source; that as they assent from a persuasion that a thing is so, and dissent from a persuasion that it is not, and suspend their judgment from a persuasion that it is uncertain,—so likewise they seek a thing from a persuasion that it is for their advantage."
"It is difficulties that show what men are."
"Whatever you would make habitual, practice it; and if you would not make a thing habitual, do not practice it, but accustom yourself to something else."
"Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions."
"Remember that you ought to behave in life as you would at a banquet. As something is being passed around it comes to you; stretch out your hand, take a portion of it politely. It passes on; do not detain it. Or it has not come to you yet; do not project your desire to meet it, but wait until it comes in front of you. So act toward children, so toward a wife, so toward office, so toward wealth."
"Whatever moral rules you have deliberately proposed to yourself abide by them as they were laws, and as if you would be guilty of impiety by violating any of them. Don't regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours. How long, then, will you put off thinking yourself worthy of the highest improvements and follow the distinctions of reason? You have received the philosophical theorems, with which you ought to be familiar, and you have been familiar with them. What other master, then, do you wait for, to throw upon that the delay of reforming yourself?... Let whatever appears to be the best be to you an inviolable law."
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