40 Golden Sayings By Epictetus, The Ancient Greek Philosopher Who Was Born A Slave

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Epictetus (A.D. c. 55 – 135) was a Greek speaking 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 north-western Greece for the rest of his life.

40 Golden Words By Epictetus, The Ancient Greek Philosopher Who Was Born A Slave

Epictetus (A.D. c. 55 – 135) was a Greek-speaking 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.


Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control; we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline.


Below you can find some of the most important life lessons hidden inside his words:


1) “Consider yourself as a slave or as a free being, it depends only on you.”


2) “Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. Why? So that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.” (The Discourses)


3) “Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.” (The Discourses)


4) “Most of what passes for legitimate entertainment is inferior or foolish and only caters to or exploits people's weaknesses. Avoid being one of the mob who indulges in such pastimes. Your life is too short and you have important things to do. Be discriminating about what images and ideas you permit into your mind. If you yourself don't choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will, and their motives may not be the highest. It is the easiest thing in the world to slide imperceptibly into vulgarity. But there's no need for that to happen if you determine not to waste your time and attention on mindless pap.” (The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness)


5) “Don't just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents." Translation by Sharon Lebell” (The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness)


6) “Asked, Who is the rich man? Epictetus replied, “He who is content.” (The Golden Sayings of Epictetus)


7) “Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.” (The Golden Sayings of Epictetus)


8) “You know yourself what you are worth in your own eyes; and at what price you will sell yourself. For men sell themselves at various prices. This is why, when Florus was deliberating whether he should appear at Nero's shows, taking part in the performance himself, Agrippinus replied, 'Appear by all means.' And when Florus inquired, 'But why do not you appear?' he answered, 'Because I do not even consider the question.' For the man who has once stooped to consider such questions, and to reckon up the value of external things, is not far from forgetting what manner of man he is.” (The Golden Sayings of Epictetus)


9) “A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope” (The Golden Sayings of Epictetus)


10) “Any person capable of angering you becomes your master;
he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”


11) “It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”


12) “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.”


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


14) “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”


15) “Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems”


16) “First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.”


17) “Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it.”


18) “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will.”


19) “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”


20) “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.”


21) “Other people's views and troubles can be contagious. Don't sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.”


22) “He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”


23) “All religions must be tolerated... for every man must get to heaven in his own way.”


24) “Only the educated are free.”


25) “To accuse others for one's own misfortune 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.”


26) “Circumstances don't make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”


27) “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.”


28) “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”


29) “You are a little soul carrying around a corpse”


30) “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”


31) “I laugh at those who think they can damage me. They do not know who I am, they do not know what I think, they cannot even touch the things which are really mine and with which I live.”


32) “Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.”


33) “No man is free who is not master of himself.”


34) “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. ”


35) “Seek not the good in external things; seek it in yourselves.”


36) “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”


37) “Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.”


38) “Do not try to seem wise to others. ”


39) “If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.”


40) “Don't seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and all will be well with you.”


Epictetus' Books:




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Thinking Humanity: 40 Golden Sayings By Epictetus, The Ancient Greek Philosopher Who Was Born A Slave
40 Golden Sayings By Epictetus, The Ancient Greek Philosopher Who Was Born A Slave
Epictetus (A.D. c. 55 – 135) was a Greek speaking 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 north-western Greece for the rest of his life.
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