Epictetus Quotes on Stoicism

Who was Epictetus?

Epictetus was a Stoic Greek. Born into slavery in Hierapolis, Phrygia, he lived in Rome until his exile, then in Nicopolis, northwestern Greece, for the rest of his life. His pupil Arrian recorded his teachings in his Discourses and Enchiridion.

Perhaps at Hierapolis, Phrygia, Epictetus was born around AD 50. The Greek word epíktētos (ἐπίκτητoς) means “gained” or “acquired” and was used by Plato in his Laws to refer to property “added to one’s hereditary property”. His parents’ name is unknown.

He was a slave to wealthy freedman and Nero assistant Epaphroditus in Rome as a child. His social status was confusing, mixing the low rank of a slave with the high status of a personal relationship to Imperial power.

Epictetus studied Stoic philosophy under Musonius Rufus with his wealthy master’s consent after becoming interested in philosophy early in life.

Increasing his education increased his social stature.  He became crippled. Origen described Celsus as saying his lord purposefully broke his leg. In contrast, Simplicius said that he was disabled from boyhood.

What made Epictetus famous?

Epicritus is credited with fully developing Heraclitus and Zeno of Citium’s Stoic beliefs. He completely clarified Stoicism and established it in Rome by focusing on the Logos, a logical power that governs the universe.

Epictetus principles?

Epictetus thought that we should do the right thing regardless of others’ opinions. Always stay indifferent to criticism and never let someone force you to react.

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The purpose of Stoicism?

Stoics believed life should be in harmony with nature. Humans, unlike other animals, are designed to reason as adults, which changes their self-perception and good.


  1. It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. – Epictetus
  2. Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control. – Epictetus
  3. No great thing is created suddenly. Epictetus
    We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. – Epictetus
  4. The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. – Epictetus
  5. It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. – Epictetus
  6. First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. – Epictetus
  7. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. – Epictetus
  8. If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid. – Epictetus
  9. It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. – Epictetus
  10. The wise man is he who knows the relative value of things. – Epictetus
  11. We are not given a good life or a bad life. We are given a life. It’s up to us to make it good or bad. – Epictetus
  12. Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will – then your life will flow well. – Epictetus
  13. It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. – Epictetus
  14. If you want to be a good saddler, saddle the worst horse; for if you can tame one, you can tame all. – Epictetus
  15. Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. – Epictetus
  16. Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire. – Epictetus
  17. If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now. – Epictetus
  18. Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems. – Epictetus
  19. First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak. – Epictetus
  20. The greater our knowledge increases, the more our ignorance unfolds. – Epictetus
  21. It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows. – Epictetus
  22. It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. – Epictetus
  23. No man is free who is not a master of himself. – Epictetus
  24. If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write. – Epictetus
  25. It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them. – Epictetus
  26. Difficulties are things that show a person what they are. – Epictetus
  27. If you wish to be a writer, write. – Epictetus
  28. What concerns me is not the way things are, but the way people think things are. – Epictetus
  29. 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. – Epictetus
  30. Do not waste what remains of your life in speculating about your neighbors, unless with a view to some mutual benefit. – Epictetus
  31. The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. – Epictetus
  32. Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hits you knock you off your feet; just say to it: hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test. – Epictetus
  33. You become what you give your attention to…If you yourself don’t choose what thoughts – Epictetus
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