Get £5 off on orders over £50 - Use Coupon 'Nifty Fifty'

Who is Epictetus?

Who is Epictetus

Who is Epictetus?

Unlike other more famous Stoic philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius or Seneca, Epictetus was born a slave. His place of birth was Hierapolis in Anatolia in around 50 AD.

Whether Epictetus had other names is not know – his name in Greek means ‘gained’ or ‘acquired’. It seems likely that this was a name provided by his owners rather than his biological parents. He spent his early years in Rome as a slave to Epaphroditus who was in turn secretary to Emperor Nero. He was given permission to study philosophy and was a pupil of Musonius Rufus. 

It is clear that Epictetus was disabled and it seems that his leg was deliberately broken by his master, but the reason why is unknown. 

Epictetus was freed in 68 AD and he remained in Rome teaching philosophy until 93 AD when Emperor Domitian banished all philosophers from the city. After leaving Rome, he lived in Nicopolis in Greece where he set up a school. His pupil Arrian studied at the school in about 108 AD and the book ‘Discourses of Epictetus’ was based on the notes he took during the lectures. No writings of Epictetus survive but he was sought out by the famous and powerful including Emperor Hadrian.

Best selling author on the subject of stoic philosophy, Ryan Holiday, highlights three lessons from Epictetus to his readers:

1. Remember what is in your control. This relates to the importance of understanding the difference between things that are inside your control and things that are not. It reminds us to focus on ourselves and what we control and not other people, the actions of others or world events.

2. Set the standard. This is about your actions and not just your words. To show your standards through how you live, not just what you say. 

3. Prescribe yourself a character. In this he is encouraging his pupils to set a standard and not to deviate from seeking to achieve or become that standard or person.

I would highly recommend that anyone interested in Stoic philosophy should check out some of the books by Ryan Holiday. I read the daily entry in ‘Daily Stoic’ and find this very thought provoking – you can check out and purchase his books in The Daily Stoic Store online or at your local bookstore.

Quotes attributed to Epictetus:

‘We have no power over external things, and the good that ought to be the object of our earnest pursuit, is to be found only within ourselves’.

‘Every individual is connected with the rest of the world, and the universe is fashioned for universal harmony. Wise people, therefore, will pursue not merely their own will, but also will be subject to the rightful order of the world’.

‘That alone is in our power, which is our own work; and in this class are our opinions, desires and aversions. On the contrary, what is not in our power, our bodies, possessions, glory and power. Any delusion on this point leads to the greatest errors, misfortunates and troubles and to the slavery of the soul’.


    Holiday, Ryan: ‘Daily Stoic Blog‘ 

Amor Fati Shirt

Amor Fati Shirt @highspeedhistory

Stoicism since 301 BC Shirt @highspeedhistory


High Speed History

The History Store

Your cart is empty.