Epictetus was born nearly 2,000 years ago in Hierapolis (present-day Pamukkale in Turkey) as a slave in a wealthy household. Later, Epictetus obtained his freedom shortly after emperor Nero’s death and started teaching philosophy in Rome for nearly 25 years. This lasted until emperor Domitian famously banished all philosophers in Rome. Epictetus fled to Nicopolis in Greece where he founded a philosophy school and taught there until his death.
A great starting point for Epictetus would be his Enchiridion, which translates as a ‘small manual or a handbook’ and it is exactly that. It is the perfect introduction to Epictetus as it is packed with short Stoic maxims and principles. The next step would be Epictetus’ Discourses, which are much longer and deserve a bigger commitment.
Below are 10 of our favorite quotes from the former slave. For more information on Epictetus, see our article “Who Is Epictetus? From Slave To World’s Most Sought After Philosopher“
“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” – Epictetus
“No man is free who is not master of himself.” – Epictetus
“Who is your master? Anyone who has control over things upon which you’ve set your heart, or over things which you seek to avoid.” – Epictetus
“You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.” – Epictetus
“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.” – Epictetus
“We are not privy to the stories behind people’s actions, so we should be patient with others and suspend judgement of them, recognizing the limits of our understanding.” – Epictetus
“In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; but in adversity it is the most difficult of all things.” – Epictetus
“Deliberate much before saying or doing anything, for you will not have the power of recalling what is said or done.” – Epictetus
“It isn’t the events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgements about them.” – Epictetus
“To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it occurs.” – Epictetus