89 Epictetus Quotes to Help Master Our Own Lives

Epictetus (circa 50 to 135 AD) was born into slavery and was said to have suffered partial disability in his leg. He showed a passion and aptitude for philosophy, and his enslaver allowed Epictetus to study under the philosopher of Stoicism, Gaius Musonius Rufus. As a slave, Epictetus practiced Stoicism as a way of life instead of mere rhetoric and later taught this concept to his students after gaining his freedom sometime after the death of Emperor Nero in 68 AD. His teachings highlighted that outside circumstances and events are out of one’s control and should be accepted calmly and logically. Conversely, he taught that everyone is responsible for their actions and that self-discipline allows one to control and reflect on individual responses. His philosophical teachings were written down and later published by his students in the “Discourses” and “Enchiridion.” Later generations of European scholars would use Epictetus and his works as examples of secular ethics instead of religious-based ethical thought.

Considering the circumstances surrounding Epictetus’ life and what he overcame to become one of the most famous Stoic philosophers of Antiquity, his lifestyle and teachings are worth a closer examination. A quote attributed to Epictetus sums him up the best: “No man is free who is not master of himself.” Born a slave and suffering with limited mobility, Epictetus used his own life to understand Stoicism and apply its teachings to master the things he could control. Perhaps the following quotes from Epictetus can help to better your life.

Stoic Epictetus Quotes

  • Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself. Epictetus
  • Is it not the same distance to God everywhere? Epictetus
  • Events happen as they do. People behave as they are. Embrace what you actually get. Epictetus
  • Do not say of anything ‘I have lost it,’ but rather, ‘I have given it back.’ Epictetus
  • All philosophy lies in two words, sustain and abstain. Epictetus
  • Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now. Epictetus
  • A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope. Epictetus
  • Don’t put your purpose in one place and expect to see progress made somewhere else. Epictetus
  • Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. Epictetus

Stoic Epictetus Quote to note and share.

Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now. Epictetus


Stoic Epectetus quote to note and share.

Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. Epictetus


Epictetus quote about freedom to note and share.

No man is free who is not master of himself. Epictetus

  • If they are wise, do not quarrel with them; if they are fools, ignore them. Epictetus
  • A city is not adorned by external things, but by the virtue of those who dwell in it. Epictetus
  • If you wish to be good, first believe that you are bad. Epictetus
  • For I am not everlasting, but a human being, a part of the whole as an hour is a part of the day. Like an hour I must come, and like an hour pass away. Epictetus
  • Be the same person in public as in private. Epictetus
  • If you meet temptation, use self-control; if you meet pain, use fortitude; if you meet revulsion, use patience. Epictetus
  • If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother. Epictetus
  • Asked, ‘Who is the rich man?’ Epictetus replied, ‘He who is content.’ Epictetus
  • Follow your principles as though they were laws. Do not worry if others criticize or laugh at you, for their opinions are not your concern. Epictetus
  • Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well. Epictetus

Stoic Epictetus Quote to give you food for thought.

In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; but in adversity it is the most difficult of all things. Epictetus


Epictetus life quote to note and share.

Don’t live by your own rules, but in harmony with nature. Epictetus


Epictetus quotes about happiness to note and share.

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

  • Grammar will tell you how to write; but whether to write or not, grammar will not tell. Epictetus
  • If you make peace with all things that are beyond your power, refusing to fight them, you will be invincible. Epictetus
  • And be silent for the most part, or else make only the most necessary remarks, and express these in few words. Epictetus
  • Control thy passions lest they take vengeance on thee. Epictetus
  • He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at. Epictetus
  • Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. Epictetus
  • Continually remind yourself that you are a mortal being, and someday will die. Epictetus
  • Be confident in everything outside the will, and cautious in everything under the will’s control. Epictetus
  • A vine cannot behave olively, nor an olive tree vinely – it is impossible, inconceivable. Epictetus
  • If you have nothing better to do than praise me for it, then my speech was a failure. Epictetus
  • If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it. Epictetus
  • He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. Epictetus
  • I have a bad neighbour – bad, that is, for himself. For me, though, he is good: he exercises my powers of fairness and sociability. Epictetus
  • I have to die. If it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later. Epictetus
  • So when we are frustrated, angry or unhappy, never hold anyone except ourselves – that is, our judgements – accountable. Epictetus
  • In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; but in adversity it is the most difficult of all things. Epictetus
  • Care for your body as needed, but put your main energies and efforts into cultivating your mind. Epictetus
  • Friend, bethink you first what it is that you would do, and then what your own nature is able to bear. Epictetus
  • 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. Epictetus
  • But if with trembling and lamentation you seek not to fall into that which you avoid, tell me how you are improving. Epictetus
  • if anyone should tell you that a particular person has spoken critically of you, don’t bother with excuses or defenses. Just smile and reply, ‘I guess that person doesn’t know about all my other faults. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have mentioned only these.’ Epictetus


Epictetus Quotes About Freedom

  • I was born to fly wherever I like, to live in the open air, to sing whenever I want. You take all this away from me and then say, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Epictetus
  • No man is free who is not master of himself. Epictetus
  • Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control. Epictetus
  • Only the educated are free. Epictetus
  • What else is freedom but the power to live our life the way we want? ‘Nothing. Epictetus

  • Liberty is lost unless we despise those things which put the yoke upon our necks. Epictetus
  • Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of men’s desires, but by the removal of desire. Epictetus
  • We should not have either a blunt knife or a freedom of speech which is ill-managed. Epictetus
  • If you wish to be free, do not desire anything that depends on another, lest you make them your master. Epictetus
  • What are you going to get when you trade your freedom away? Check to see what your proud new possessions will be worth. Epictetus
  • You may fetter my leg, but Zeus himself cannot get the better of my free will. Epictetus
  • Freedom and slavery, the one is the name of virtue, and the other of vice, and both are acts of the will. Epictetus
  • Where are you going to find serenity and independence – in something free, or something enslaved? Epictetus
  • Working within our sphere of control, we are naturally free, independent, and strong. Beyond that sphere, we are weak, limited, and dependent. Epictetus
  • Whoever then would be free, let him wish for nothing, let him decline nothing, which depends on others; else he must necessarily be a slave. Epictetus
  • If someone tried to take control of your body and make you a slave, you would fight for freedom. Yet how easily you hand over your mind to anyone who insults you. When you dwell on their words and let them dominate your thoughts, you make them your master. Epictetus
  • If, however, I liberate myself from my master – which is to say, from the emotions that make my master frightening – what troubles can I have? No man is my master any longer. Epictetus
  • When you are alone, you should call this tranquility and freedom and when you are with many you shouldn’t call this a crowd, or trouble or uneasiness but festival and company and contentedly accept it. Epictetus
  • Consider how we apply the idea of freedom to animals. There are tame lions that people cage, raise, feed and take with them wherever they go. Yet who will call such a lion free? The easier its life, the more slavish it is. No lion endowed with reason and discretion would choose to be one of these pet specimens. Epictetus


Epictetus Quotes about Happiness

  • Sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy. Epictetus
  • No one is ever unhappy because of someone else. Epictetus
  • A man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things. Epictetus
  • There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. Epictetus
  • Your happiness depends on three things, all of which are within your power: your will, your ideas concerning the events in which you are involved, and the use you make of your ideas. Epictetus
  • Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. Epictetus
  • If any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone. For God hath made all men to enjoy felicity and constancy of good. Epictetus
  • Τhe same thing, really, that we all want: to live in peace, to be happy, to do as we like and never be foiled or forced to act against our wishes. Epictetus
  • Remember from now on whenever something tends to make you unhappy, draw on this principle: ‘This is no misfortune; but bearing with it bravely is a blessing. Epictetus
  • For where you find unrest, grief, fear, frustrated desire, failed aversion, jealousy and envy, happiness has no room for admittance. And where values are false, these passions inevitably follow. Epictetus
  • Happiness is commonly mistaken for passively experienced pleasure or leisure. That conception of happiness is good only as far as it goes. The only worthy object of all our efforts is a flourishing life. True happiness is a verb. It’s the ongoing dynamic performance of worthy deeds. The flourishing life, whose foundation is virtuous intention, is something we continually improvise, and in doing so our souls mature. Our life has usefulness to ourselves and to the people we touch. Epictetus
  • If you wish to be rich, you should know that it is neither a good thing nor at all in your power: but if you wish to be happy, you should know that it is both a good thing and in your power, for the one is a temporary loan of fortune, and happiness comes from the will. Epictetus


Epictetus Life Quotes

  • Life is a piece of music, and you’re supposed to be dancing. Epictetus
  • Approach life as your own Olympic Games. Epictetus
  • What, then, is your own? The way you live your life. Epictetus
  • Everyone’s life is a warfare, and that long and various. Epictetus
  • Isn’t reading a kind of preparation for life? Epictetus
  • Don’t live by your own rules, but in harmony with nature. Epictetus
  • Give me by all means the shorter and nobler life, instead of one that is longer but of less account! Epictetus
  • The whole point of learning is to live out the teachings. Epictetus
  • For as wood is the material of the carpenter, and marble that of the sculptor, so the subject matter of the art of life is the life of the self. Epictetus
  • The first task of the person who wishes to live wisely is to free himself or herself from the confines of self-absorption. Epictetus
  • If you ever happen to turn your attention to externals, for the pleasure of anyone, be assured that you have ruined your scheme of life. Epictetus
  • It is always our choice whether or not we wish to pay the price for life’s rewards. And often it is best for us not to pay the price, for the price might be our integrity. Epictetus
  • [Do not get too attached to life] for it is like a sailor’s leave on the shore and at any time, the captain may sound the horn, calling you back to eternal darkness. Epictetus
  • It is better to die of hunger having lived without grief and fear, than to live with a troubled spirit, amid abundance. Epictetus
  • 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. Epictetus
  • Content yourself with being a lover of wisdom, a seeker of the truth. Return and return again to what is essential and worthy. Do not try to seem wise to others. If you want to live a wise life, live it on your own terms and in your own eyes. Epictetus
  • Remember that the divine order is intelligent and fundamentally good. Life is not a series of random, meaningless episodes, but an ordered, elegant whole that follows ultimately comprehensible laws. Epictetus
  • When we are guests at a dinner party, we content ourselves with the food on offer; if anyone were to tell the host to put out fish or cake, he would seem rude. In real life, however, we ask the gods for what they do not give, and this though they have provided us with plenty. Epictetus


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