About this topic

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus (c. 55 – c. 135 CE) came originally from Asia Minor and was a slave in Rome under Epaphroditus, one of Nero’s ministers. He attended the lectures of the Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus in Rome, at some point gained his freedom, and initially lectured in Rome but fled in the wake of Domitian’s ban against philosophers (c. 92-3 CE). He went on to found his own philosophical school in Nicopolis, Greece, which attracted many famous visitors, including the emperor Hadrian.

Epictetus is regularly referred to as the author of two works, the Dissertationes (Discourses) and the Enchiridion (Handbook, Manual) although they are in fact both are the work of his pupil Arrian, the noted historian. The Dissertationes contains lively records of discussions with students and visitors that supposedly took place in Epictetus’s classroom, sometime around 108 CE. The Enchridion is a short summary distilling the central ideas found in the Dissertationes. Four books of the Dissertationes survive out of an original eight or perhaps even twelve (cf. Photius, Bibliotheca cod. 58, who refers to eight books of discourses (Diatribai) and twelve books of conversations (Homiliai); these could be different titles for the same work), and there are a number of fragments from the lost books preserved by other authors.

Key works

Epictetus has been edited and translated numerous times. The best recent translation of all his works is Hard & Gill 2014


The best introduction to the thought of Epictetus is Long 2002. The essays in Scaltsas & Mason 2007 are all by leading scholars and examine topics in more detail. Graver 2009 offers a much shorter but well-informed overview. For a fuller annotated guide to work on Epictetus see Sellars 2016.

Related categories

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  1. Discourses, Fragments, Handbook.Epictetus . - 2014 - Oxford University Press UK.
    'About things that are within our power and those that are not.' Epictetus's Discourses have been the most widely read and influential of all writings of Stoic philosophy, from antiquity onwards. They set out the core ethical principles of Stoicism in a form designed to help people put them into practice and to use them as a basis for leading a good human life. Epictetus was a teacher, and a freed slave, whose discourses have a vivid informality, animated by anecdotes (...)
  2. Review: Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life. [REVIEW]Peter Adamson - 2003 - Mind 112 (446):363-366.
  3. Stoicism's Integration Problem and Epictetus' Metaphors.Scott F. Aikin - 2013 - Southwest Philosophy Review 29 (1):185-193.
  4. Epictetus. A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life. [REVIEW]F. Alesse - 2003 - Elenchos 24 (2).
  5. DALY & SUCHIER, Altercatio Hadriani Augusti Et Epicteti Philosophi. [REVIEW]Alexander Alexander - 1940 - Classical World: A Quarterly Journal on Antiquity 33 (23):266.
  6. Epictetus and Stoic Theology.Keimpe Algra - 2007 - In T. Scaltsas & Andrew S. Mason (eds.), The Philosophy of Epictetus. Oxford University Press.
  7. Epictetus on Moral Perspectives.Julia Annas - 2007 - In T. Scaltsas & Andrew S. Mason (eds.), The Philosophy of Epictetus. Oxford University Press.
  8. Roman Stoicism.Edward Vernon Arnold - 1911 - Freeport, N.Y., Books for Libraries Press.
    _Roman Stoicism_, first published in 1911, offers an authoritative introduction to this fascinating chapter in the history of Western philosophy, which throughout the 20 th century has been rediscovered and rehabilitated among philosophers, theologians and intellectual historians. Stoicism played a significant part in Roman history via the public figures who were its adherents ; and, as it became more widely accepted, it assumed the features of a religion. The Stoic approach to physics, the universe, divine providence, ethics, law and humanity (...)
  9. The Christianity of Stoicism: Or, Selections From Arrian's Discourses of Epictetus. [Tr. By E. Carter. Ed.] by the Bishop of St. David's. [REVIEW]Flavius Arrianus, Thomas Burgess & Elizabeth Carter - 1818
  10. Stoicism at War: From Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius to James Stockdale.Konrad Banicki - 2015 - In Tadeusz Marian Ostrowski, Iwona Sikorska & Krzysztof Gerc (eds.), Resilience and Health in a Fast-Changing World. Jagiellonian University Press. pp. 47-58.
    The chapter is devoted to the analysis of ancient Stoic philosophy as a source of resilience for soldiers. At first, some historical cases are investigated, from a Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius to more recent instances from Vietnam and Iraq. Secondly, in turn, the Epictetus' distinction between the controllable and the uncontrollable is introduced with the focus on the prescription to assign value only to the former as the Stoic source of resilience. Finally, some further questions are briefly addressed including the (...)
  11. Roman Philosophy and the Good Life.Raymond Angelo Belliotti - 2009 - Lexington Books.
    Raymond Angelo Belliotti's Roman Philosophy and the Good Life provides an accessible picture of these major philosophical influences in Rome and details the crucial role they played during times of major social upheaval. Belliotti demonstrates the contemporary relevance of some of the philosophical issues faced by the Romans, and offers ways in which today's society can learn from the Romans in our attempt to create meaningful lives.
  12. An Unexamined Life is Not Worth Experiencing by Man:" Socratic" Variations in Epictetus.Marcelo D. Boeri - 2012 - Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 53 (125):81-102.
  13. Una vida sin examen no merece ser vivida por el hombre: variaciones "socráticas" en Epicteto.Marcelo D. Boeri - 2012 - Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 53 (125):81-102.
  14. Necesidad, lo que depende de nosotros y posibilidades alternativas en los estoicos. Réplica a Ricardo Salles (Necessity, What Depends on Us, and Alternative Possibilities in the Stoics. Reply to Ricardo Salles).Marcelo D. Boeri - 2007 - Critica 39 (115):97 - 111.
    Ésta es la respuesta a la crítica hecha por Ricardo Salles a mi interpretación del compatibilismo estoico. Aunque en parte admito sus objeciones, intento mostrar que algunos textos nos permiten pensar que, aunque lo que depende de nosotros no implique necesariamente acciones alternativas, eso no significa que no pueda implicarlas. También trato de mostrar que un reexamen de la noción crisipea de posibilidad que tenga en cuenta el deseo y la creencia permite explicar por qué no es posible (en el (...)
  15. Epictetus: A Dialogue in Common Sense.John Bonforte - 1974 - New York: Philosophical Library.
  16. The Ethics of the Stoic Epictetus an English Translation.Adolf Friedrich Bonhöffer & William O. Stephens - 2001
  17. Epictetus 3. 23. 33 and the Three Modes of Philosophical Instruction.Gerard Boter - 2009 - Philologus: Zeitschrift für Antike Literatur Und Ihre Rezeption 153 (1).
  18. The Ethics of the Stoic Epictetus A. F. Bonhöffer: The Ethics of the Stoic Epictetus . (An English Translation by W. O. Stephens.) Pp. XIX + 335. New York, Etc.: Peter Lang, 1996. Cased, £37. Isbn: 0-8204-3027-7. R. Dobbin: Epictetus : Discourses Book 1 . Pp. XXIV + 256. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998. Cased, £37.50. Isbn: 0-19-823664-. [REVIEW]George Boys-Stones - 2000 - The Classical Review 50 (01):154-.
  19. Critical Assent, Intellectualism, and Repetition in Epictetus.Rodrigo Sebastián Braicovich - 2012 - Apeiron 45 (4):314-337.
  20. Eudaimonia y teología en Epicteto.Rodrigo Sebastián Braicovich - 2011 - Revista de filosofía (Chile) 43 (131):135-150.
  21. Freedom and Determinism in Epictetus' Discourses.Rodrigo Sebastián Braicovich - 2010 - Classical Quarterly 60 (01):202-.
  22. Logic and the Imperial Stoa.Tad Brennan - 1999 - Ancient Philosophy 19 (1):192-195.
  23. Review of Gretchen Reydams-Schils, The Roman Stoics: Self, Responsibility, and Affection[REVIEW]Charles Brittain - 2006 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2006 (7).
  24. Nietzsche’s Reading of Epictetus.Thomas H. Brobjer - 2003 - Nietzsche Studien Gesamtregister Bände 1-20 32:429-452.
  25. The Roman Stoics: Self, Responsibility, and Affection (Review).Eric Brown - 2007 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (3):490-491.
    Eric Brown - The Roman Stoics: Self, Responsibility, and Affection - Journal of the History of Philosophy 45:3 Journal of the History of Philosophy 45.3 490-491 Muse Search Journals This Journal Contents Reviewed by Eric Brown Washington University in St. Louis Gretchen Reydams-Schils, The Roman Stoics: Self, Responsibility, and Affection. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. Pp. xi + 210. Cloth, $35.00. In The Roman Stoics, Gretchen Reydams-Schils draws broadly from Cicero, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, Hierocles, Marcus Aurelius, and (...)
  26. The Ethics of the Stoic Epictetus: An English Translation, And: Discourses Book 1 (Review).Eric Brown - 1999 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 37 (4):671-673.
  27. Quaestiones Epicteteae. R. Asmus. Pp. 1–51. Berlin: Freiburg. 1888.Pythagoras In India. H. H. Howorth. Pp. 1–25. 1887.Commentationes Philologae in honorem Sodalitii philologorum Gryphiswaldensis secundum lustrum a. d. iv. Kal. Aug. a. 1887 condentis. Scripscrunt veteres Sodales. Berlin, Weidmann. Mk. 1. 60. [REVIEW]John B. Bury - 1888 - The Classical Review 2 (10):321-.
  28. The Question of the Freedom of Will in Epictetus.Marina Christodoulou - unknown
    Stoic philosophers had to face the accusation of incoherence, self-contradiction and Paradoxes since ancient times. Plutarch in his Moralia writes against them; Cicero devotes a separate work on stoic paradoxes (Paradoxa stoicorum). Even in contemporary Literature there are still discussions on the possibility of such an incoherence and existence of paradoxes in the stoic theory. At first glance, stoic Cosmology gives the impression to both (paradoxically) accept a kind of Determinism, and at the same time it undoubtedly argues for the (...)
  29. Étude Sur Épictète.Th Colardeau - 1903
  30. The Classics Now: Changing Discourses, Emerging Opportunities.W. Robert Connor - 2016 - Classical World: A Quarterly Journal on Antiquity 109 (3):413-418.
  31. The Relevance of Moral Theory to Moral Improvement in Epictetus.John M. Cooper - 2007 - In T. Scaltsas & Andrew S. Mason (eds.), The Philosophy of Epictetus. Oxford University Press.
  32. La Paideia Della Volontà: Una Lettura Della Dottrina di Epitteto.Cosimo Costa - 2008 - Anicia.
  33. Epictetus and Logic.Paolo Crivelli - 2007 - In T. Scaltsas & Andrew S. Mason (eds.), The Philosophy of Epictetus. Oxford University Press.
  34. Foucault on Askesis in Epictetus: Freedom Through Determination.Christopher Davidson - 2014 - In Dane R. Gordon & David B. Suits (eds.), Epictetus: His Continuing Relevance and Contemporary Relevance. pp. 41-53.
    Michel Foucault turned to Classical and Hellenistic philosophy late in his career, a change of focus that surprised and was misunderstood by many at the time. Often, it is supposed that his aim was to find the “freedom” that he had allegedly denied in his earlier works on power relations; he is thought to have proposed an autonomous self which would oppose and resist dominating political institutions. I instead contend that Foucault’s work on the Ancients is better understood as a (...)
  35. Necessity, Possibility and Determinism in Stoic Thought.Vanessa de Harven - 2016 - In Max Cresswel, Edwin Mares & Adriane Rini (eds.), Logical Modalities from Aristotle to Carnap: The Story of Necessity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 70-90.
    At the heart of the Stoic theory of modality is a strict commitment to bivalence, even for future contingents. A commitment to both future truth and contingency has often been thought paradoxical. This paper argues that the Stoic retreat from necessity is successful. it maintains that the Stoics recognized three distinct senses of necessity and possibility: logical, metaphysical and providential. Logical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a priori. Metaphysical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a posteriori, a (...)
  36. Stoic Realpolitik.Firmin DeBranander - 2006 - International Philosophical Quarterly 46 (3):277-292.
    Thanks to its doctrines of natural right and moral egalitarianism and to its prominent historical role in defying totalitarian government, Stoicism is often cited as a touchstone for liberal democracy. Less well known, however, is an alternate lineage, culminating in a Stoic Realpolitik that emerges in Justus Lipsius’s political writings. The foundation of this Realpolitik becomes increasingly clear in the progression of Stoic thought through Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Tracing this lineage reveals that the subject of politics isfundamentally problematic (...)
  37. The Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Stoicism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Existentialism.Kim Diaz & Edward Murguia - 2015 - Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies 15 (1):39-52.
    In this study, we examine the philosophical bases of one of the leading clinical psychological methods of therapy for anxiety, anger, and depression, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). We trace this method back to its philosophical roots in the Stoic, Buddhist, Taoist, and Existentialist philosophical traditions. We start by discussing the tenets of CBT, and then we expand on the philosophical traditions that ground this approach. Given that CBT has had a clinically measured positive effect on the psychological well-being of individuals, (...)
  38. Προαίρεσις in Epictetus.Robert Dobbin - 1991 - Ancient Philosophy 11 (1):111-135.
  39. Πϱoαιϱεσις in Epictetus.Robert Dobbin - 1991 - Ancient Philosophy 11 (1):111-35.
  40. Epictetus: Discourses, Book 1.Robert F. Dobbin (ed.) - 1998 - Oxford University Press.
    Robert Dobbin presents a new translation into clear modern English of the first book of Epictetus' Discourses, accompanied by the first ever commentary on the work in English. The Discourses, composed around AD 100, are a key source for ancient Stoicism, one of the most influential schools of thought in Western philosophy.
  41. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.11.21.Robert F. Dobbin & William O. Stephens - unknown
    This work is the latest contribution to the Clarendon Later Ancient Philosophers series edited by Jonathan Barnes and A. A. Long. As with the earlier volumes (John Dillon's Alcinous, The Handbook of Platonism , R. J. Hankinson's Galen, On the Therapeutic Method Books I and II, Richard Bett's Sextus Empiricus, Against the Ethicists, and D. L. Blank's Sextus Empiricus, Against the Grammarians), D(obbin) provides an introduction, an English translation, and a critical commentary predominantly focused on the philosophical content of the (...)
  42. The Sense of Self in Epictetus: Prohairesis and Prosopon.Robert Francis Dobbin - 1989 - Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
    The thesis concerns the sense of self in Epictetus, with special reference to two key terms in his philosophy: prohairesis and prosopon. ;The first chapter explores the range of meaning behind the word prohairesis as Epictetus employs it. I begin by reviewing the background of the word, particularly in Aristotle. A discussion of the problem of free will and determinism in Stoic ethics follows, with reference to prohairesis in Epictetus. The implications of equating prohairesis with "the will" are then explored, (...)
  43. Epictetus on Freedom : Parallels Between Epictetus and Wittgenstein.Myrto Dragona-Monachou - 2007 - In T. Scaltsas & Andrew S. Mason (eds.), The Philosophy of Epictetus. Oxford University Press.
  44. The God Within: The Normative Self in Epictetus.Henry Dyson - 2009 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 26 (3):235 - 253.
  45. The Philosophy of Epictetus. [REVIEW]T. E. - 1956 - Review of Metaphysics 9 (3):516-516.
  46. Golden Sayings. Epictetus - unknown
  47. The Golden Sayings of Epictetus. Epictetus - unknown
  48. A Selection From the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion. Epictetus - unknown
  49. Tutte le Opere: Diatribe, Manuale, Frammenti, Gnomologio. Epictetus - 2009 - Bompiani.
    Diatribe -- Manuale -- Frammenti -- Gnomologio.
  50. Virtue and Happiness: The Manual of Epictetus. Epictetus - 2003 - Shambhala Publications.
    Claude Mediavilla brings to the Greek text his training as both a painter and calligrapher, marrying modern variants of both medium and style with classical forms in a way that brings Epictetus’ words to life with beauty and startling immediacy. Calligraphy (from the Greek for "beautiful writing") is an art where word and image meet, where the artist strives to give visual expression to the meaning of words in a way that transcends the text while remaining completely faithful to it. (...)
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