About Epictetus

Epictetus (AD 55 – 135) was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia (present day Pamukkale, Turkey) and lived in Rome until his banishment, when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece for the rest of his life. His teachings were written down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses and Enchiridion.   Wikipedia

References:   Encyclopaedia Britannica   |   Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Epictetus (quotes)

Advice for living


Find happiness within

  • The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.   

Your happiness depends on how you interpret life’s events

  • Men are disturbed not by things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.
  • Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.
  • We are disturbed, not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens.
  • It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.

Accept life as it unfolds …

  • Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace.
  • Learn to wish that everything should come to pass exactly as it does.
  • Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.   
  • Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.

… and stop worry about things beyond your control

  • There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
  • Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.   

Be content with what you have

  • Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
  • Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, though he be master of the world.

Respond consciously to life’s events

  • It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
  • We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.

Keep company with those who lift you up

  • The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.

Don’t worry about what others think of you

  • Don’t regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours.

If someone speaks ill of of you, learn from it or laugh

  • If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone. “
  • If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.

Diversify your hopes

  • A ship ought not to be held by one anchor, nor life by a single hope.   
  • Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.
  • We should not moor a ship with one anchor, or our life with one hope.

Gain self mastery and self control

  • Control thy passions lest they take vengeance on thee.
  • Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.
  • No man is free who is not master of himself.

Forgive others

  • Forgiveness is better than revenge, for forgiveness is the sign of a gentle nature, but revenge is the sign of a savage nature.
  • If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.

Know who you are and who you want to be

  • Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.
  • First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.

Know where you are going

  • The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.

Laugh often

  • Laugh, Often, Much

Stop living for others

  • If it should ever happen to you to be turned to externals in order to please some person, you must know that you have lost your purpose in life.
  • In order to please others, we lose our hold on our life’s purpose.   

Have a role model

  • Imagine for yourself a character, a model personality, whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public.

Enjoy pleasure but not to excess

  • It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them.
  • Of pleasures, those which occur most rarely give the most delight.   
  • Pain or pleasure? I say pleasure.   
  • Pleasure, like a kind of bait, is thrown before everything which is really bad, and easily allures greedy souls to the hook of perdition.   


  • Practice yourself in little things, and thence proceed to greater.  


  • We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Keep your word

  • It’s so simple really:  If you say you’re going to do something, do it.  If you start something, finish it.  

Values to embrace


Embrace life

  • Do you know that disease and death must needs overtake us, no matter what we are doing? What do you wish to be doing when it overtakes you? If you have anything better to be doing when you are so overtaken, get to work at it.

Embrace patience

  • No great thing 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.   

Embrace moderation

  • Fortify yourself with moderation; for this is an impregnable fortress.   
  • He is a drunkard who takes more than three glasses though he be not drunk.
  • If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.

Embrace education and learning

  • We are not to give credit to the many, who say that none ought to be educated but the free; but rather to the philosophers, who say that the well-educated alone are free.
  • Only the educated are free.
  • It is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he think he knows.   
  • Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.

Embrace personal freedom

  • Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else.
  • Freedom is the right to live as we wish.

Embrace virtue

  • If virtue promises good fortune and tranquillity and happiness, certainly also the progress towards virtue is progress towards each of these things.   
  • If virtue promises happiness, prosperity and peace, then progress in virtue is progress in each of these for to whatever point the perfection of anything brings us, progress is always an approach toward it.
  • The soul that companies with Virtue is like an ever-flowing source. It is a pure, clear, and wholesome draught; sweet, rich, and generous of its store; that injures not, neither destroys.   

Embrace truth

  • If you seek truth you will not seek victory by dishonourable means, and if you find truth you will become invincible.
  • It is better by assenting to truth to conquer opinion, than by assenting to opinion to be conquered by truth.  

Embrace silence

  • Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly.

Embrace life’s challenges

  • The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skilful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.
  • Difficulties are things that show a person what they are.

Things that can limit us



  • We tell lies, yet it is easy to show that lying is immoral.


  • If you do not wish to be prone to anger, do not feed the habit; give it nothing which may tend to its increase.   
  • 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.   
  • Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.
  • Whenever you are angry, be assured that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit.

Fault finding

  • When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.


  • 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.   

Excessive desire

  • It is not poverty which produces sorrow, but desire.  


  • It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death.


  • To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.


  • Opportunity beckons more surely when misfortune comes upon a person than it ever does when that person is riding the crest of a wave of success.  It sharpens a person’s wits, if that person will let it, enabling him or her to see more clearly and evaluate situations with a more knowledgeable judgment.   

Thoughts on …



  • All religions must be tolerated for every man must get to heaven in his own way.
  • There is no one true religion, each religion has its truths and there are many paths we can choose to take that will lead us to to God. All religions must be tolerated for every man must get to heaven in his own way.
  • Unless we place our religion and our treasure in the same thing, religion will always be sacrificed.


  • Renew every day your conversation with God: Do this even in preference to eating.  Think more often of God than you breathe.
  • 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?   

More thoughts

  • All philosophy in two words – sustain and abstain.   
  • Anything worth putting off is worth abandoning altogether.
  • First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.
  • If a person had delivered up your body to some passer-by, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in delivering up your own mind to any reviler, to be disconcerted and confounded?  
  • If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.
  • It takes more than just a good-looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.
  • Not every difficult and dangerous thing is suitable for training, but only that which is conducive to success in achieving the object of our effort.
  • One that desires to excel should endeavour in those things that are in themselves most excellent.
  • Reason is not measured by size or height, but by principle.    
  • The origin of sorrow is this: to wish for something that does not come to pass.
  • The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing.
  • There is nothing good or evil save in the will.
  • You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.
  • You may be always victorious if you will never enter into any contest where the issue does not wholly depend upon yourself.
  • You may fetter my leg, but Zeus himself cannot get the better of my free will.   
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