Home  »  On Friendship  »  Introductory Note

Epictetus. (c.A.D. 50–c.A.D. 138). The Golden Sayings of Epictetus.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Introductory Note

EPICTETUS was a Greek, born at Hierapolis in Phrygia, probably about the middle of the first century A. D. His early history is unknown till we find him in Rome, the slave of Epaphroditus, a freedman of Nero’s. The lameness, which is the only physical characteristic of his recorded, was, according to one tradition, due to tortures inflicted by his master. He seems to have become acquainted with the principles of the Stoic philosophy through the lectures of C. Musonius Rufus; and after his emancipation he became a teacher of that system in Rome. When the Emperor Domitian banished all philosophers from Italy about 90 A. D., Epictetus went to Nicopolis in Epirus, where he continued his teaching. He left nothing in writing, and for a knowledge of his utterances we are indebted to his disciple, the Greek philosopher and historian Arrian, who compiled from his master’s lectures and conversations the “Discourses and Encheiridion,” from which the “Golden Sayings” are drawn. The date and circumstances of his death are unknown.

Epictetus is a main authority on Stoic morals. The points on which he laid chief stress were the importance of cultivating complete independence of external circumstances, the realization that man must find happiness within himself, and the duty of reverencing the voice of Reason in the soul. Few teachers of morals in any age are so bracing and invigorating; and the tonic quality of his utterances has been recognized ever since his own day by Pagan and Christian alike.