Epictetus (55 – 135 A.D.) was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was born at Hierapolis, Phrygia (present day Pamukkale, Turkey) and spent his youth in Rome as a slave and as a secretary to the emperor Nero. Epictetus acquired a passion for philosophy at an early age, and with the permission of his wealthy owner, he studied Stoic philosophy under Musonius Rufus. After obtaining his freedom he began to teach philosophy in Rome and then later Greece, where he founded a philosophical school. His teachings were written down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses and Enchiridion. Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline, and that the foundation of all philosophy is self-knowledge. He lived a life of great simplicity, with few possessions.
Quotes by Epictetus…
When I see an anxious man, I say, “What does this man want?” If he did not want something which is not in his power, how could he be anxious? For this reason, a lute player when he is singing by himself has no anxiety, but when he goes to the theatre, he is anxious, even if he has a good voice and plays well on the lute, for he not only wishes to sing well, but also to obtain applause, which is not in his power.
No man is damaged by an action which is not his own.
Who in the world, then, is the man who has any authority to make any declaration about you?
If you wish to maintain a will conformable to nature, you have every security, every facility, you have no troubles. If you wish to maintain what is in your own power and is naturally free, and if you are content with these, what else do you care for? For who is the master of such things? Who can take them away? If you choose to be modest and faithful, who shall not allow you to be so?
Many persons use greater care to avoid injuries to the body rather than to shun harm to the soul. Thou art not flesh and hair but a will. If thou keep this beautiful then will you be beautiful.
The characteristic of a philosopher is that he looks to himself for all help or harm. The marks of a proficient are that he censures no one, praises no one, blames no one, accuses no one, says nothing concerning himself as being anybody, or knowing anything. When he is in any instance hindered or restrained he accepts this as his own responsibility. If he is praised, he smiles to himself at the person who praises him. If he is censured, he makes no defense. But he goes about with the caution of a convalescent, wary of anything that may suggest he is well. He restrains desire; he transfers his aversion to those things only which thwart the proper use of his own will; he employs his energies moderately in all directions; if he appears stupid or ignorant, he does not care; in a word, he keeps watch over himself as over an enemy and one in ambush.
There is only one thing for which God sent me into this world and that is to perfect my nature in all sorts of virtue and strength, and there is no thing that I cannot use for that purpose.
When therefore we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us seek the cause rather in ourselves than elsewhere. It is the action of an uninstructed person to lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others; of a partly instructed person to lay the fault on himself; and of one perfectly instructed neither on others nor on himself.