display | more...
Epictetus was born a slave in approximately 55 A.D. in Hierapolis, Phygia (the eastern edge of the Roman Empire). His master was Epaphroditus, Nero's administrative secretary. At an early age, Epictetus showed great intellect and Epaphroditus was impressed to the point of sending Epictetus to Rome to study. In Rome, Epictetus studied under the Stoic teacher Gaius Musonius Rufus. Musonius Rufus's works have survived in Green and include such ideas as equal education for women and protesting the sexual double standard in marriage - much of Epictetus notion of equality may have been fostered from his teacher. Eventually, Epictetus became Musonius Rufus's most acclaimed student and was freed from slavery.

Epictetus taught in Rome until 94 A.D. when the emperor Flavius Domitian, feeling threatened by the growing influence of philosophers, banished him from Rome. Epictetus spent the rest of his life in exile in Nicopolis (northwest coast of Greece). There he established a school of philosophy and spent his time lecturing on how to live with dignity and find tranquility. One of his most well known and distinguished students was the young Marcus Aurelius Antonius.

Epictetus was a lecturer and left no philosophical writings. Fortunately, the essence of his philosophy was recoded by one of his pupils and historian, Flavius Arrian. Arrian transcribed a large amount of his teacher's works into Greek for a friend. Eventually, these lectures became known as the Discourses or Diatribes and were a set of eight books. Four of these books survive to this day.

The Manual (or Enchiridion) of Epictetus is a selection from the Discourses that is a summary of the core teachings. It was roughly modeled on the military manuals of the day and shares much of the bold simplicity of other classics.

Even though Epictetus was a master of logic and debate, he did not flaunt this. He was a lighthearted and humble teacher who urged students to take the business of living seriously. Epictetus lived his live as he thought, in the modesty of a small hut, making no claims on fame, fortune or power. He died in 135 A.D. in Nicopolis.