Epictetus is a renowned Greek philosopher who was alive between 50AD and 135AD. He followed the Stoicism form of Helenic philosphy and was actually born into slavery at Hierapolis, which is in present day Turkey. He actually lived in Rome for a period of time, until he travelled to Nicopolis in Greece, due to being banished from Rome and spent the remainder of his time there, where his teachings were written down by Arrian, one of his pupils. These were published within his Discourses and Enchiridion.
Epictetus taught his pupils that philosophy is not just about theory and study but a way of life and to him, any external events are simply beyond a person’s control, meaning you should accept whatever happens in a calm manner. When it comes to a person’s actions, the individual is responsible for all actions they take and should reflect and asset control via self-discipline.
Stoicism is a form of philosophy about a person’s own ethics and them being informed by logic and how they view the natural world.
His quotes below will resonate with many people and we hope you value them, as many have done for almost two thousand years.
1. It is not death or pain that is to be feared, but the fear of pain or death.
2. I am not Eternity, but a human being—a part of the whole, as an hour is part of the day. I must come like the hour, and like the hour must pass!
3. Crows pick out the eyes of the dead, when the dead have no longer need of them; but flatterers mar the soul of the living, and her eyes they blind.
4. What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.
5. Be not swept off your feet by the vividness of the impression, but say, “Impression, wait for me a little. Let me see what you are and what you represent. Let me try you.”
6. In theory there is nothing to hinder our following what we are taught; but in life there are many things to draw us aside.
7. When you close your doors, and make darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not alone; nay, God is within, and your genius is within. And what need have they of light to see what you are doing?
8. 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.
9. When you do anything from a clear judgment that it ought to be done, never shun the being seen to do it, even though the world should make a wrong supposition about it; for, if you don’t act right, shun the action itself; but, if you do, why are you afraid of those who censure you wrongly?
10. Everything has two handles, the one by which it may be carried, the other by which it cannot. If your brother acts unjustly, don’t lay hold on the action by the handle of his injustice, for by that it cannot be carried; but by the opposite, that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it, as it is to be carried.
11. These reasonings are unconnected: “I am richer than you, therefore I am better”; “I am more eloquent than you, therefore I am better.” The connection is rather this: “I am richer than you, therefore my property is greater than yours;” “I am more eloquent than you, therefore my style is better than yours.” But you, after all, are neither property nor style.
12. Thou shalt not blame or flatter any.
13. Wherever a man is against his will, that to him is a prison.
14. Only the educated are free.
15. If you have assumed a character beyond your strength, you have both played a poor figure in that, and neglected one that is within your powers.
16. It is difficulties that show what men are.
17. To you, all you have seems small: to me, all I have seems great. Your desire is insatiable, mine is satisfied. See children thrusting their hands into a narrow-necked jar, and striving to pull out the nuts and figs it contains: if they fill the hand, they cannot pull it out again, and then they fall to tears.— ‘Let go a few of them, and then you can draw out the rest!’—You, too, let your desire go! covet not many things, and you will obtain.
18. 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.
19. First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
20. If you seek Truth, you will not seek to gain a victory by every possible means; and when you have found Truth, you need not fear being defeated.
21. Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.
22. It is the act of an ill-instructed man to blame others for his own bad condition; it is the act of one who has begun to be instructed, to lay the blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another, nor himself.
23. Let silence be your general rule; or say only what is necessary and in few words.
24. Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake, in little things; and thence proceed to greater.
25. Appearances to the mind are of four kinds. Things either are what they appear to be; or they neither are, nor appear to be; or they are, and do not appear to be; or they are not, and yet appear to be. Rightly to aim in all these cases is the wise man’s task.
26. A man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.
27. Give me by all means the shorter and nobler life, instead of one that is longer but of less account!
28. A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope.
29. Even as the Sun doth not wait for prayers and incantations to rise, but shines forth and is welcomed by all: so thou also wait not for clapping of hands and shouts and praise to do thy duty; nay, do good of thine own accord, and thou wilt be loved like the Sun.
30. I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment?
31. It is better to die of hunger having lived without grief and fear, than to live with a troubled spirit, amid abundance.
32. Don’t seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and all will be well with you.
33. There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will.
34. Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
35. Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.
36. If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.
37. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.
38. The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.
39. Control thy passions lest they take vengeance on thee.
40. Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.
41. Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.
42. Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.
43. He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.
44. Freedom is the name of virtue: Slavery, of vice…. None is a slave whose acts are free.
45. Of pleasures, those which occur most rarely give the most delight.
46. Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.
47. The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.
48. Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.
49. First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.
50. If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.
51. All religions must be tolerated… for every man must get to heaven in his own way.
52. God gave man two ears, but only one mouth, that he might hear twice as much as he speaks.
53. Events do not just happen, but arrive by appointment.
54. If you would cure anger, do not feed it. Say to yourself: ‘I used to be angry every day; then every other day; now only every third or fourth day.’ When you reach thirty days offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the gods.
55. He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
56. It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.
57. Do not try to seem wise to others.
58. Does anyone bathe in a mighty little time? Don’t say that he does it ill, but in a mighty little time. Does anyone drink a great quantity of wine? Don’t say that he does ill, but that he drinks a great quantity. For, unless you perfectly understand the principle from which anyone acts, how should you know if he acts ill? Thus you will not run the hazard of assenting to any appearances but such as you fully comprehend.
59. With every accident, ask yourself what abilities you have for making a proper use of it. If you see an attractive person, you will find that self-restraint is the ability you have against your desire. If you are in pain, you will find fortitude. If you hear unpleasant language, you will find patience. And thus habituated, the appearances of things will not hurry you away along with them.
60. Seek not the good in external things; seek it in yourselves.
– Epictetus Quotes