Denny at The Ceaseless Reader Writes challenged me to post about an author or philosopher of the ancient world. I’ve chosen the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. I’ll be sharing three quotes and some additional interesting facts, and will be inviting a few additional bloggers to participate in the challenge.
Having attended Catholic school for fifteen years, I’ve always been intrigued by the origination of ancient leaders, teachings, and practices. Lately, I have been particularity interested in Stoicism, as the teachings seem to be a recurrent baseline for modern philosophies and guidelines for living.
Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher, born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia (present day Pamukkale, Turkey). His wealthy owner gave him permission to pursue liberal studies, which exposed him to Stoic philosophy. Epictetus obtained his freedom shortly after emperor Nero’s death and taught philosophy in Rome for nearly 25 years. Emperor Domitian famously banished all philosophy in Rome, at which time Epictetus fled to Nicopolis in Greece, where he founded a philosophy school and taught until his death.
“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”
Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life, rather than simply a theoretical discipline. He believed that all external events are beyond our control and that we should calmly and dispassionately accept whatever happens. However, he also taught that individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline.
“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.”
Epictetus also taught that each individual must recognize that humans have a tendency to act out of habit and suggests that we set personal principles and standards, to which we adhere both in company and in solitude. He calls this “prescribing yourself a character.” On a similar note, Epictetus recommends that each man focus on how he is actually living and the choices he is making, rather than considering how he wishes he might speak and behave.
“No thing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
Finally, Epictetus teaches us that we are responsible for bridging any gap between our present circumstances and the future we envision. Each step requires time and effort, which are fulfilled by developing the qualities of patience and persistence. We can not buy a successful career, good health, or a happy relationship. Epictetus teaches that all success is gradual and the is result of dedication over an extended period of time.
Finally, I’d like to invite some of my recent follows to share the wisdom of their favorite ancient author or philosopher.
- Sha’Tara at ~Burning Woman~
- The Used Life
- Stolzyblog at Skirmishes with Reality
- George Mason
- Mcmegsyy at Auden’s Adventures
- Tim at That Tiny Website
Check out their websites, and consider this an open invitation if you’re interested in participating but not explicitly listed above!