Epictetus was a Greek speaking Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia and until banished, he lived in Rome. After his banishment, Epictetus lived out his life in northwestern Greece. In his teachings, Epictetus taught philosophy is a way of life, not just theoretical discipline. He believed all external events are out of our control and we should accept whatever happens dispassionately and calmly. On the other hand, he believed, individuals are responsible for their actions. These actions can be examined and controlled through self-discipline.
What is Stoicism?
Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics. It is formed by its system of logic and views on the natural world. It taught, as human beings, the path we took to find happiness is found in accepting what we have been given in life. We are not to allow ourselves to be controlled by our desires for pleasure, or our fear of pain. We are to use our minds to understand the world and do our part by working together and treating others in a fair and just manner.
Teachings Of Epictetus Still Hold True In Our World
Epictetus believed that philosophy could not be taught, but was rather a way we lived. He left us with many timeless teachings that hold as true for our world as they did for his. These are some of his words of wisdom:
How Long Before You Demand The Best For Yourself?
Epictetus believed we were given the principles that we should endorse. Believing we did, in fact, endorse them, then asked why we were still waiting for a teacher to ask about our self-improvement? When you are no longer a little boy but a full-grown man, then it is laziness and carelessness to keep putting things until another day to take care of yourself. A person will not know they are not making progress; it will go unnoticed as they live and die an ordinary person.
A person should live as a grown-up and achieve progress by making whatever you think is a law that is never set aside. This progress will mean whatever is encountered, whether challenging or pleasurable, will be attended to in a single day or event. Epictetus’s message was summed up by his words, “Although you are not yet a Socrates you should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.”
These are a collection of other quotes from Epictetus:
- “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”
- “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
- “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
- “Nothing 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 is first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
- “If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.”
- “All religions must be tolerated…for every man must get to heaven in his own way.”
- “Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly.”
- “It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them.”
- “If evil be spoken of you, and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.”
- “We should not moor a ship with one anchor, or our life with one hope.”
- “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”
- “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
- “There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
- “It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.”
- “You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.”
- “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”
- “It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.”
- “No man is free who is not master of himself.”
- “Only the educated are free.”
- “Silence is safer than speech.”
- “All philosophy lies in two words, sustain and abstain.”
- “If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.”
Epictetus’s Wisdom Comes To Us By Pure Luck
Epictetus never wrote down any of his philosophy. His student, Arrian wrote down all of his lessons, and this is why today we know about his significant influence. Throughout history, from Emperors to war heroes, people have found guidance, strength, and solace in Epictetus’s lessons. If all these great people can find something in these words, then we can too, if we choose.