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Who was Epictetus?
Epictetus was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia, 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.
Philosophy, Epictetus taught, 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.
Suffering occurs from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power. As part of the universal city that is the universe, it is our duty to care for all our fellow men. Those who follow these precepts will achieve happiness and peace of mind.
- Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.
- Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.
- There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
- If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.
- Let death be daily before your eyes, and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything.
- First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.
- So you wish to conquer in the Olympic games, my friend? And I too, by the Gods, and a fine thing it would be! But first mark the conditions and the consequences, and then set to work. You will have to put yourself under discipline; to eat by rule, to avoid cakes and sweetmeats; to take exercise at the appointed hour whether you like it or no, in cold and heat; to abstain from cold drinks and from wine at your will; in a word, to give yourself over to the trainer as to a physician. Then in the conflict itself you are likely enough to dislocate your wrist or twist your ankle, to swallow a great deal of dust, or to be severely thrashed, and, after all these things, to be defeated.
- He is a drunkard who takes more than three glasses though he be not drunk.
- Only the educated are free.
- Whenever you are angry, be assured that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit.
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