Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 E - Epictetus

Epictetus: c. 50 - c. 130: Stoic philosopher.

Epictetus was born the son of a slave-woman; was himself a slave until c. 68; was lame; was banished from Rome by Domitian around 90; and had a thriving school at Epirus, where the logic, physics, and ethics of Stoicism were taught.

Epictetus did not publish and what was handed down from him - the Manual (Enchiridon) and the Discourses, finely translated by Lady Elisabeth Carter in the 17th Century - are in fact the class notes of his pupil Flavius Arrianus.

Epictetus was lame for most of his life (which some say was caused by maltreatment while he was a slave) and insisted much on (the acquisition of) self-control to withstand the many ills and evils of life.

His motto was "Bear and forbear", but he insisted much on moral instuction and effort and he taught every man was fully responsible for his actions, since he always can choose or refuse, as Zeus had given man a free will.

His main aim was to help men to built their own prosopon i.e. proper character and personality, which he held that every man is both free to form, whatever his circumstances, and morally obliged to form, and to achieve autarkeia, that is the self-rule and independence from external circumstances that characterizes the truly free man in full self-control.

Modern men who read Epictetus will find that he demands considerably more in self-control, moral effort, and ability to bear pain and trouble than is taught in modern education and also than many modern men believe is possible.

He himself seems to have lived as he taught a man should live.


See also: Self-control, Stoicism


Edwards. Epictetus

 Original: Aug 2, 2008                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top