These Fragments are entitled “Epicteti Fragmenta maxime ex Ioanne Stobaeo, Antonio, et Maximo collecta” (ed. Schweig.). There are some notes and emendations on the Fragments; and a short dissertation on them by Schweighaeuser.

Nothing is known of Stobaeus nor of his time, except the fact that he has preserved some extracts of an ethical kind from the New Platonist Hierocles, who lived about the middle of the fifth century AD; and it is therefore concluded that Stobaeus lived after Hierocles. The fragments attributed to Epictetus are preserved by Stobaeus in his work entitled Ἁνφολόγιον, or Florilegium or Sermones.

Antonius Monachus, a Greek monk, also made a Florilegium, entitled Melissa (the bee). His date is uncertain, but it was certainly much later than the time of Stobaeus.

Maximus, also named the monk, and reverenced as a saint, is said to have been a native of Constantinople, and born about AD 580.

Some of the Fragments contained in the edition of Schweighaeuser are certainly not from Epictetus. Many of the fragments are obscure; but they are translated as accurately as I can translate them, and the reader must give to them such meaning as he can.


The life which is implicated with fortune (depends on fortune) is like a winter torrent: for it is turbulent, and full of mud, and difficult to cross, and tyrannical, and noisy, and of short duration.


A soul which is conversant with virtue is like an ever flowing source, for it is pure and tranquil and potable and sweet43 and communicative (social), and rich and harmless and free from mischief.


If you wish to be good, first believe that you are bad.


It is better to do wrong seldom and to own it, and to act right for the most part, than seldom to admit that you have done wrong and to do wrong often.


Check (punish) your passions (πάφη), that you may not be punished by them.


Do not so much be ashamed of that (disgrace) which proceeds from men’s opinion as fly from that which comes from the truth.


If you wish to be well spoken of, learn to speak well (of others): and when you have learned to speak well of them, try to act well, and so you will reap the fruit of being well spoken of.


Freedom and slavery, the one is the name of virtue, and the other of vice: and both are acts of the will. But where there is no will, neither of them touches (affects) these things. But the soul is accustomed to be master of the body, and the things which belong to the body have no share in the will. For no man is a slave who is free in his will.44


It is an evil chain, fortune (a chain) of the body, and vice of the soul. For he who is loose (free) in the body, but bound in the soul is a slave: but on the contrary he who is bound in the body, but free (unbound) in the soul, is free.


The bond of the body is loosened by nature through death, and by vice through money:45 but the bond of the soul is loosened by learning, and by experience and by discipline.


If you wish to live without perturbation and with pleasure, try to have all who dwell with you good. And you will have them good, if you instruct the willing, and dismiss those who are unwilling (to be taught): for there will fly away together with those who have fled away both wickedness and slavery; and there will be left with those who remain with you goodness and liberty.


It is a shame for those who sweeten drink with the gifts of the bees, by badness to embitter reason which is the gift of the gods.


No man who loves money, and loves pleasure, and loves fame, also loves mankind, but only he who loves virtue.


As you would not choose to sail in a large and decorated and gold-laden ship (or ship ornamented with gold), and to be drowned; so do not choose to dwell in a large and costly house and to be disturbed (by cares).


When we have been invited to a banquet, we take what is set before us: but if a guest should ask the host to set before him fish or sweet cakes, he would be considered to be an unreasonable fellow. But in the world we ask the Gods for what they do not give; and we do this though the things are many which they have given.


They are amusing fellows, said he (Epictetus), who are proud of the things which are not in our power. A man says, I am better than you, for I possess much land, and you are wasting with hunger. Another says, I am of consular rank. Another says, I am a Procurator (ἐπίτροπος). Another, I have curly hair. But a horse does not say to a horse, I am superior to you, for I possess much fodder, and much barley, and my bits are of gold and my harness is embroidered: but he says, I am swifter than you. And every animal is better or worse from his own merit (virtue) or his own badness. Is there then no virtue in man only? and must we look to the hair, and our clothes and to our ancestors?


The sick are vexed with the physician who gives them no advice, and think that he has despaired of them. But why should they not have the same feeling towards the philosopher, and think that he has despaired of their coming to a sound state of mind, if he says nothing at all that is useful to a man?


Those who are well constituted in the body endure both heat and cold: and so those who are well constituted in the soul endure both anger and grief and excessive joy and the other affects.


Examine yourself whether you wish to be rich or to be happy. 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.


As when you see a viper or an asp or a scorpion in an ivory or golden box, you do not on account of the costliness of the material love it or think it happy, but because the nature of it is pernicious, you turn away from it and loathe it; so when you shall see vice dwelling in wealth and in the swollen fullness of fortune, be not struck by the splendour of the material, but despise the false character of the morals.


Wealth is not one of the good things; great expenditure is one of the bad; moderation (σωφροσύνη) is one of the good things. And moderation invites to frugality and the acquisition of good things: but wealth invites to great expenditure and draws us away from moderation. It is difficult then for a rich man to be moderate, or for a moderate man to be rich.46


As if you were begotten or born in a ship, you would not be eager to be the master of it (κυβερνήτης), so⁠—.47 For neither there (in the ship) will the ship naturally be connected with you, nor wealth in the other case; but reason is everywhere naturally connected with you. As then reason is a thing which naturally belongs to you and is born in you, consider this also as specially your own and take care of it.


If you had been born among the Persians, you would not have wished to live in Hellas (Greece), but to have lived in Persia happy: so if you are born in poverty, why do you seek to grow rich, and why do you not remain in poverty and be happy?48


As it is better to lie compressed in a narrow bed and be healthy than to be tossed with disease on a broad couch, so also it is better to contract yourself within a small competence and to be happy than to have a great fortune and to be wretched.


It is not poverty which produces sorrow, but desire; nor does wealth release from fear, but reason (the power of reasoning, λογισμός). If then you acquire this power of reasoning, you will neither desire wealth nor complain of poverty.


Neither is a horse elated nor proud of his manger and trappings and coverings, nor a bird of his little shreds of cloth and of his nest: but both of them are proud of their swiftness, one proud of the swiftness of the feet, and the other of the wings. Do you also then not be greatly proud of your food and dress and, in short, of any external things, but be proud of your integrity and good deeds (εὐποιία).


To live well differs from living extravagantly: for the first comes from moderation and a sufficiency (αὐταρκείας) and good order and propriety and frugality; but the other comes from intemperance and luxury and want of order and want of propriety. And the end (the consequence) of the one is true praise, but of the other blame. If then you wish to live well, do not seek to be commended for profuse expenditure.


Let the measure to you of all food and drink be the first satisfying of the desire; and let the food and the pleasure be the desire (appetite) itself: and you will neither take more than is necessary, nor will you want cooks, and you will be satisfied with the drink that comes in the way.


Make your manner of eating neither luxurious nor gloomy, but lively and frugal, that the soul may not be perturbed through being deceived by the pleasures of the body, and that it may despise them; and that the soul may not be injured by the enjoyment of present luxury, and the body may not afterwards suffer from disease.49


Take care that the food which you put into the stomach does not fatten (nourish) you, but the cheerfulness of the mind: for the food is changed into excrement, and ejected, and the urine also flows out at the same time; but the cheerfulness, even if the soul be separated, remains always uncorrupted.50


In banquets remember that you entertain two guests, body and soul: and whatever you shall have given to the body you soon eject: but what you shall have given to the soul, you keep always.


Do not mix anger with profuse expenditure and serve them up to your guests. Profusion which fills the body is quickly gone; but anger sinks into the soul and remains for a long time. Consider then that you be not transported with anger and insult your guests at a great expense; but rather please them with frugality and by gentle behaviour.51


In your banquets (meals) take care that those who serve (your slaves) are not more than those who are served; for it is foolish for many souls (persons) to wait on a few couches (seats).


It is best if even in the preparations for a feast you take a part of the labour, and at the enjoyment of the food, while you are feasting, you share with those who serve the things which are before you. But if such behaviour be unsuitable to the occasion, remember that you are served when you are not labouring by those who are labouring, when you are eating by those who are not eating, when you are drinking by those who are not drinking, while you are talking by those who are silent, while you are at ease by those who are under constraint; and if you remember this, you will neither being heated with anger be guilty of any absurdity yourself, nor by irritating another will you cause any mischief.52


Quarrelling and contention are everywhere foolish, and particularly in talk over wine they are unbecoming: for a man who is drunk could not teach a man who is sober, nor on the other hand could a drunken man be convinced by a sober man. But where there is not sobriety, it will appear that to no purpose have you laboured for the result of persuasion.53


Grasshoppers (cicadae) are musical: snails have no voice. Snails have pleasure in being moist, but grasshoppers in being dry. Next the dew invites forth the snails and for this they crawl out: but on the contrary the sun when he is hot, rouses the grasshoppers and they sing in the sun. Therefore if you wish to be a musical man and to harmonize well with others, when over the cups the soul is bedewed with wine, at that time do not permit the soul to go forth and to be polluted; but when in company (parties) it is fired by reason, then bid her to utter oracular words and to sing the oracles of justice.


Examine in three ways him who is talking with you, as superior, or as inferior, or as equal: and if he is superior, you should listen to him and be convinced by him: but if he is inferior, you should convince him; if he is equal, you should agree with him; and thus you will never be guilty of being quarrelsome.


It is better by assenting to truth to conquer opinion, than by assenting to opinion to be conquered by truth.


If you seek truth, you will not seek by every means to gain a victory; and if you have found truth, you will have the gain of not being defeated.


Truth conquers with itself; but opinion conquers among those who are external.54


It is better to live with one free man and to be without fear and free, than to be a slave with many.


What you avoid suffering, do not attempt to make others suffer. You avoid slavery: take care that others are not your slaves. For if you endure to have a slave, you appear to be a slave yourself first. For vice has no community with virtue, nor freedom with slavery.


As he who is in health would not choose to be served (ministered to) by the sick, nor for those who dwell with him to be sick, so neither would a free man endure to be served by slaves, or for those who live with him to be slaves.


Whoever you are who wish to be not among the number of slaves, release yourself from slavery: and you will be free, if you are released from desire. For neither Aristides nor Epaminondas nor Lycurgus through being rich and served by slaves were named the one just, the other a god, and the third a saviour, but because they were poor and delivered Hellas (Greece) from slavery.55


If you wish your house to be well managed, imitate the Spartan Lycurgus. For as he did not fence his city with walls, but fortified the inhabitants by virtue and preserved the city always free;56 so do you not cast around (your house) a large court and raise high towers, but strengthen the dwellers by good will and fidelity and friendship, and then nothing harmful will enter it, not even if the whole band of wickedness shall array itself against it.


Do not hang your house round with tablets and pictures, but decorate it with moderation (σωφροσύνη): for the one is of a foreign (unsuitable) kind, and a temporary deception of the eyes; but the other is a natural and indelible, and perpetual ornament of the house.


Instead of an herd of oxen, endeavour to assemble herds of friends in your house.


As a wolf resembles a dog, so both a flatterer, and an adulterer and a parasite, resemble a friend. Take care then that instead of watch dogs you do not without knowing it let in mischievous wolves.


To be eager that your house should be admired by being whitened with gypsum, is the mark of a man who has no taste: but to set off (decorate) our morals by the goodness of our communication (social habits) is the mark of a man who is a lover of beauty and a lover of man.


If you begin by admiring little things,57 you will not be thought worthy of great things: but if you despise the little, you will be greatly admired.


Nothing is smaller (meaner) than love of pleasure, and love of gain and pride. Nothing is superior to magnanimity, and gentleness, and love of mankind, and beneficence.


They bring forward (they name, they mention) the peevish philosophers (the Stoics), whose opinion it is that pleasure is not a thing conformable to nature, but is a thing which is consequent on the things which are conformable to nature, as justice, temperance, freedom. What then? is the soul pleased and made tranquil by the pleasures of the body which are smaller, as Epicurus says; and is it not pleased with its own good things, which are the greatest? And indeed nature has given to me modesty, and I blush much when I think of saying anything base (indecent). This motion (feeling) does not permit me to make (consider) pleasure the good and the end (purpose) of life.58


In Rome the women have in their hands Plato’s Polity (the Republic), because it allows (advises) the women to be common, for they attend only to the words of Plato, not to his meaning. Now he does not recommend marriage and one man to cohabit with one woman, and then that the women should be common: but he takes away such a marriage, and introduces another kind of marriage. And in fine, men are pleased with finding excuses for their faults. Yet philosophy says that we ought not to stretch out even a finger without a reason.59


Of pleasures those which occur most rarely give the greatest delight.


If a man should transgress moderation, the things which give the greatest delight would become the things which give the least.


It is just to commend Agrippinus for this reason, that though he was a man of the highest worth, he never praised himself; but even if another person praised him, he would blush. And he was such a man (Epictetus said) that he would write in praise of anything disagreeable that befell him; if it was a fever, he would write of a fever; if he was disgraced, he would write of disgrace; if he were banished, of banishment. And on one occasion (he mentioned) when he was going to dine, a messenger brought him news that Nero commanded him to go into banishment; on which Agrippinus said, Well then we will dine at Aricia.60


Diogenes said that no labour was good, unless the end (purpose) of it was courage and strength (τόνος) of the soul, but not of the body.


As a true balance is neither corrected by a true balance nor judged by a false balance, so also a just judge is neither corrected by just judges nor is he judged (condemned) by unjust judges.


As that which is straight does not need that which is straight, so neither does the just need that which is just.61


Do not give judgment in one court (of justice) before you have been tried yourself before justice.62


If you wish to make your judgments just, listen not to (regard not) any of those who are parties (to the suit), nor to those who plead in it, but listen to justice itself.


You will fail (stumble) least in your judgments, if you yourself fail (stumble) least in your life.


It is better when you judge justly to be blamed undeservedly by him who has been condemned than when you judge unjustly to be justly blamed by (before) nature.63


As the stone which tests the gold is not at all tested itself by the gold, so it is with him who has the faculty of judging.64


It is shameful for the judge to be judged by others.


As nothing is straighter than that which is straight, so nothing is juster than that which is just.


Who among us does not admire the act of Lycurgus the Lacedaemonian? For after he was maimed in one of his eyes by one of the citizens, and the young man was delivered up to him by the people that he might punish him as he chose, Lycurgus spared him: and after instructing him and making him a good man he brought him into the theatre. When the Lacedaemonians expressed their surprise, Lycurgus said, I received from you this youth when he was insolent and violent: I restore him to you gentle and a good citizen.65


Pittacus after being wronged by a certain person and having the power of punishing him let him go, saying, Forgiveness is better than revenge: for forgiveness is the sign of a gentle nature, but revenge the sign of a savage nature.66


But before everything this is the act of nature to bind together and to fit together the movement towards the appearance of that which is becoming (fit) and useful.


To suppose that we shall be easily despised by others, if we do not in every way do some damage to those who first show us their hostility, is the mark of very ignoble and foolish men: for (thus) we affirm that the man is considered to be contemptible because of his inability to do damage; but much rather is a man considered to be contemptible because of his inability to do what is good (useful).67


When you are attacking (or going to attack) any person violently and with threats, remember to say to yourself first, that you are (by nature) mild (gentle); and if you do nothing savage, you will continue to live without repentance and without blame.


A man ought to know that it is not easy for him to have an opinion (or fixed principle), if he does not daily say the same things, and hear the same things, and at the same time apply them to life.


[Nicias was so fond of labour (assiduous) that he often asked his slaves, if he had bathed and if he had dined.]68


[The slaves of Archimedes used to drag him by force from his table of diagrams and anoint him; and Archimedes would then draw his figures on his own body when it had been anointed.]


[Lampis the shipowner being asked how he acquired his wealth, answered, With no difficulty, my great wealth; but my small wealth (my first gains), with much labour.]


Solon having been asked by Periander over their cups (παρὰ πότον), since he happened to say nothing, Whether he was silent for want of words or because he was a fool, replied: No fool is able to be silent over his cups.69


Attempt on every occasion to provide for nothing so much as that which is safe: for silence is safer than speaking. And omit speaking whatever is without sense and reason.


As the fire-lights in harbours by a few pieces of dry-wood raise a great flame and give sufficient help to ships which are wandering on the sea; so also an illustrious man in a state which is tempest-tossed, while he is himself satisfied with a few things does great services to his citizens.


As if you attempted to manage a ship, you would certainly learn completely the steersman’s art, [so if you would administer a state, learn the art of managing a state]. For it will be in your power, as in the first case to manage the whole ship, so in the second case also to manage the whole state.70


If you propose to adorn your city by the dedication of offerings (monuments), first dedicate to yourself (decorate yourself with) the noblest offering of gentleness, and justice and beneficence.


You will do the greatest services to the state, if you shall raise not the roofs of the houses, but the souls of the citizens: for it is better that great souls should dwell in small houses than for mean slaves to lurk in great houses.


Do not decorate the walls of your house with the valuable stones from Euboea and Sparta; but adorn the minds (breasts) of the citizens and of those who administer the state with the instruction which comes from Hellas (Greece). For states are well governed by the wisdom (judgment) of men, but not by stone and wood.71


As, if you wished to breed lions, you would not care about the costliness of their dens, but about the habits of the animals; so, if you attempt to preside over your citizens, be not so anxious about the costliness of the buildings as careful about the manly character of those who dwell in them.


As a skilful horse-trainer does not feed (only) the good colts and allow to starve those who are disobedient to the rein, but he feeds both alike, and chastises the one more and forces him to be equal to the other:73 so also a careful man and one who is skilled in political power, attempts to treat well those citizens who have a good character, but does not will that those who are of a contrary character should be ruined at once; and he in no manner grudges both of them their food, but he teaches and urges on with more vehemence him who resists reason and law.


As a goose is not frightened by cackling nor a sheep by bleating, so let not the clamour of a senseless multitude alarm you.


As a multitude, when they without reason demand of you anything of your own, do not disconcert you, so do not be moved from your purpose even by a rabble when they unjustly attempt to move you.


What is due to the state pay as quickly as you can, and you will never be asked for that which is not due.


As the sun does not wait for prayers and incantations to be induced to rise, but immediately shines and is saluted by all: so do you also not wait for clappings of hands, and shouts and praise to be induced to do good, but be a doer of good voluntarily, and you will be beloved as much as the sun.


Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.


We ought to stretch our legs and stretch our hopes only to that which is possible.


When Thales was asked what is most universal, he answered, Hope, for hope stays with those who have nothing else.


It is more necessary to heal the soul than the body, for to die is better than to live a bad life.


Pyrrho used to say that there is no difference between dying and living: and a man said to him, Why then do you not die? Pyrrho replied, Because there is no difference.


Admirable is nature, and, as Xenophon says, a lover of animated beings. The body then, which is of all things the most unpleasant and the most foul (dirty), we love and take care of; for if we were obliged for five days only to take care of our neighbour’s body, we should not be able to endure it. Consider then what a thing it would be to rise in the morning and rub the teeth of another, and after doing some of the necessary offices to wash those parts. In truth it is wonderful that we love a thing to which we perform such services every day. I fill this bag, and then I empty it;76 what is more troublesome? But I must act as the servant of God. For this reason I remain (here), and I endure to wash this miserable body, to feed it and to clothe it. But when I was younger, God imposed on me also another thing, and I submitted to it. Why then do you not submit, when Nature who has given us this body takes it away? I love the body, you may say. Well, as I said just now, Nature gave you also this love of the body: but Nature says, Leave it now, and have no more trouble (with it).


When a man dies young, he blames the gods. When he is old and does not die, he blames the gods because he suffers when he ought to have already ceased from suffering. And nevertheless, when death approaches, he wishes to live, and sends to the physician and intreats him to omit no care or trouble. Wonderful, he said, are men, who are neither willing to live nor to die.77


To the longer life and the worse, the shorter life, if it is better, ought by all means to be preferred.


When we are children our parents deliver us to a paedagogue to take care on all occasions that we suffer no harm. But when we are become men, God delivers us to our innate conscience (συνειδήσει) to take care of us. This guardianship then we must in no way despise, for we shall both displease God and be enemies to our own conscience.78


[We ought to use wealth as the material for some act, not for every act alike.]


[Virtue then should be desired by all men more than wealth which is dangerous to the foolish; for the wickedness of men is increased by wealth. And the more a man is without sense, the more violent is he in excess, for he has the means of satisfying his mad desire for pleasures.]


What we ought not to do, we should not even think of doing.


Deliberate much before saying or doing anything, for you will not have the power of recalling what has been said or done.


Every place is safe to him who lives with justice.


Crows devour the eyes of the dead, when the dead have no longer need of them. But flatterers destroy the souls of the living and blind their eyes.


The anger of an ape and the threats of a flatterer should be considered as the same.


Listen to those who wish to advise what is useful, but not to those who are eager to flatter on all occasions; for the first really see what is useful, but the second look to that which agrees with the opinion of those who possess power, and imitating the shadows of bodies they assent to what is said by the powerful.


The man who gives advice ought first to have regard to the modesty and character (reputation) of those whom he advises; for those who have lost the capacity of blushing are incorrigible.


To admonish is better than to reproach: for admonition is mild and friendly, but reproach is harsh and insulting; and admonition corrects those who are doing wrong, but reproach only convicts them.


Give of what you have to strangers (ξένοις) and to those who have need: for he who gives not to him who wants, will not receive himself when he wants.


A pirate had been cast on the land and was perishing through the tempest. A man took clothing and gave it to him, and brought the pirate into his house, and supplied him with everything else that was necessary. When the man was reproached by a person for doing kindness to the bad, he replied, I have shown this regard not to the man, but to mankind.79


A man should choose (pursue) not every pleasure, but the pleasure which leads to the good.80


It is the part of a wise man to resist pleasures, but of a foolish man to be a slave to them.


Pleasure, like a kind of bait, is thrown before (in front of) everything which is really bad, and easily allures greedy souls to the hook of perdition.


Choose rather to punish your appetites than to be punished through them.


No man is free who is not master of himself.


The vine bears three bunches of grapes: the first is that of pleasure, the second of drunkenness, the third of violence.


Over your wine do not talk much to display your learning; for you will utter bilious stuff.81


He is intoxicated who drinks more than three cups: and if he is not intoxicated, he has exceeded moderation.


Let your talk of God be renewed every day, rather than your food.


Think of God more frequently than you breathe.


If you always remember that whatever you are doing in the soul or in the body, God stands by as an inspector, you will never err (do wrong) in all your prayers and in all your acts, but you will have God dwelling with you.82


As it is pleasant to see the sea from the land, so it is pleasant for him who has escaped from troubles to think of them.83


Law intends indeed to do service to human life, but it is not able when men do not choose to accept her services; for it is only in those who are obedient to her that she displays her special virtue.


As to the sick physicians are as saviours, so to those also who are wronged are the laws.


The justest laws are those which are the truest.


To yield to law and to a magistrate and to him who is wiser than yourself, is becoming.


The things which are done contrary to law are the same as things which are not done.


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


Time relieves the foolish from sorrow, but reason relieves the wise.


He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.


Epictetus being asked how a man should give pain to his enemy answered, By preparing himself to live the best life that he can.84


Let no wise man be averse to undertaking the office of a magistrate (τοῦ ἄρχειν): for it is both impious for a man to withdraw himself from being useful to those who have need of our services, and it is ignoble to give way to the worthless; for it is foolish to prefer being ill-governed to governing well.


Nothing is more becoming to him who governs than to despise no man and not show arrogance, but to preside over all with equal care.85


[In poverty any man lives (can live) happily, but very seldom in wealth and power (ἀρχαῖς). The value of poverty excels so much that no just man (νόμιμος) would exchange poverty for disreputable wealth, unless indeed the richest of the Athenians Themistocles, the son of Neocles, was better than Aristides and Socrates, though he was poor in virtue. But the wealth of Themistocles and Themistocles himself have perished and have left no name. For all things die with death in a bad man, but the good is eternal.]86


Remember that such was, and is, and will be the nature of the universe, and that it is not possible that the things which come into being can come into being otherwise than they do now; and that not only men have participated in this change and transmutation, and all other living things which are on the earth, but also the things which are divine. And indeed the very four elements are changed and transmuted up and down, and earth becomes water and water becomes air, and the air again is transmuted into other things, and the same manner of transmutation takes place from above to below. If a man attempts to turn his mind towards these thoughts, and to persuade himself to accept with willingness that which is necessary, he will pass through life with complete moderation and harmony.


He who is dissatisfied with things present and what is given by fortune is an ignorant man (ἰδιώτης) in life: but he who bears them nobly and rationally and the things which proceed from them is worthy of being considered a good man.


All things obey and serve the world (the universe), earth and sea and sun and the rest of the stars, and the plants of earth and animals. And our body obeys it also both in disease and in health when it (the universe) chooses, both in youth and in age, and when it is passing through the other changes. What is reasonable then and in our power is this, for our judgment not to be the only thing which resists it (the universe): for it is strong and superior, and it has determined better about us by administering (governing) us also together with the whole. And besides, this opposition also is unreasonable and does nothing more than cause us to be tormented uselessly and to fall into pain and sorrow.

Fragments of Disputed Authorship

The fragments which follow are in part assigned to Epictetus, in part to others.


Contentment, as it is a short road and pleasant, has great delight and little trouble.


Fortify yourself with contentment, for this is an impregnable fortress.


Let nothing be valued more than truth: not even selection of a friendship which lies without the influence of the affects, by which (affects) justice is both confounded (disturbed) and darkened.87


Truth is a thing immortal and perpetual, and it gives to us a beauty which fades not away in time nor does it take away88 the freedom of speech which proceeds from justice; but it gives to us the knowledge of what is just and lawful, separating from them the unjust and refuting them.


We should not have either a blunt knife or a freedom of speech which is ill managed.


Nature has given to men one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.


Nothing really pleasant or unpleasant subsists by nature, but all things become so through habit (custom).89


Choose the best life, for custom (habit) will make it pleasant.


Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.


A daughter is a possession to her father which is not his own.


The same person advised to leave modesty to children rather than gold.


The reproach of a father is agreeable medicine, for it contains more that is useful than it contains of that which gives pain.


He who has been lucky in a son in law has found a son: but he who has been unlucky, has lost also a daughter.


The value of education (knowledge) like that of gold is valued in every place.


He who exercises wisdom exercises the knowledge which is about God.


Nothing among animals is so beautiful as a man adorned by learning (knowledge).90


We ought to avoid the friendship of the bad and the enmity of the good.


The necessity of circumstances proves friends and detects enemies.


When our friends are present, we ought to treat them well; and when they are absent, to speak of them well.


Let no man think that he is loved by any man when he loves no man.


You ought to choose both physician and friend not the most agreeable, but the most useful.


If you wish to live a life free from sorrow, think of what is going to happen as if it had already happened.


Be free from grief not through insensibility like the irrational animals, nor through want of thought like the foolish, but like a man of virtue by having reason as the consolation of grief.


Whoever are least disturbed in mind by calamities, and in act struggle most against them, these are the best men in states and in private life.


Those who have been instructed, like those who have been trained in the palaestra, though they may have fallen, rise again from their misfortune quickly and skilfully.


We ought to call in reason like a good physician as a help in misfortune.


A fool having enjoyed good fortune like intoxication to a great amount becomes more foolish.


Envy is the antagonist of the fortunate.


He who bears in mind what man is will never be troubled at anything which happens.


For making a good voyage a pilot (master) and wind are necessary: and for happiness reason and art.


We should enjoy good fortune while we have it, like the fruits of autumn.


He is unreasonable who is grieved (troubled) at the things which happen from the necessity of nature.

Some Fragments of Epictetus Omitted by Upton and by Meibomius


Of the things which are, God has put some of them in our power, and some he has not. In our own power he has placed that which is the best and the most important, that indeed through which he himself is happy, the use of appearances (φαντασιῶν). For when this use is rightly employed, there is freedom, happiness, tranquillity, constancy: and this is also justice and law, and temperance, and every virtue. But all other things he has not placed in our power. Wherefore we also ought to be of one mind with God, and making this division of things, to look after those which are in our power; and of the things not in our power, to entrust them to the Universe (τῷ κόσμῳ), and whether it should require our children, or our country, or our body, or anything else, willingly to give them up.91


When a young man was boasting in the theatre and saying, I am wise, for I have conversed with many wise men; Epictetus said, I also have conversed with many rich men, but I am not rich.


The same person said, It is not good for him who has been well taught to talk among the untaught, as it is not right for him who is sober to talk among those who are drunk.


Epictetus being asked, What man is rich, answered, He who is content (who has enough).


Xanthippe was blaming Socrates, because he was making small preparation for receiving his friends: but Socrates said, If they are our friends, they will not care about it; and if they are not, we shall care nothing about them.


When Archelaus was sending for Socrates to make him rich, Socrates told the messengers to return this answer: At Athens four measures (choenices) of meal are sold for one obolus (the sixth of a drachme), and the fountains run with water: if what I have is not enough (sufficient) for me, yet I am sufficient for what I have, and so it becomes sufficient for me. Do you not see that it was with no nobler voice that Polus acted the part of Oedipus as king than of Oedipus as a wanderer and beggar at Colonus? Then shall the good man appear to be inferior to Polus, and unable to act well every character (personage) imposed on him by the Deity? and shall he not imitate Ulysses, who even in rags made no worse figure than in the soft purple robe?92


What do I care, he (Epictetus) says, whether all things are composed of atoms (ἀτόμων), or of similar parts (ὁμοιομερῶν) or of fire and earth? for is it not enough to know the nature of the good and the evil, and the measures (μέτρα) of the desires and the aversions (ἐκκλίσεων), and also the movements towards things and from them; and using these as rules to administer the affairs of life, but not to trouble ourselves about the things above us? For these things are perhaps incomprehensible to the human mind: and if any man should even suppose them to be in the highest degree comprehensible, what then is the profit of them, if they are comprehended? And must we not say that those men have needless trouble who assign these things as necessary to the philosopher’s discourse? Is then also the precept written at Delphi superfluous, which is Know thyself? It is not so, he says. What then is the meaning of it? If a man gave to a choreutes (member of chorus) the precept to know himself, would he not have observed in the precept that he must direct his attention to himself?93


You are a little soul carrying a dead body, as Epictetus said.94


He (Epictetus) said that he had discovered an art in giving assent; and in the topic (matter) of the movements he had discovered that we must observe attention, that the movements be subject to exception, (μεφ’ ὑπεξαιρέσεως), that they be social, that they be according to the worth of each thing; and that we ought to abstain entirely from desire, and to employ aversion (ἐκκλίσει) to none of the things which are not in our power.95


About no common thing, he said, the contest (dispute) is, but about being mad or not.96


Aul. Gellius, xvii 19.

Favorinum ego audivi dicere Epictetum philosophum dixisse, “plerosque istos qui philosophari videntur, philosophos esse hujuscemodi, ἄνευ τοῦ πράττειν, μέχρι τοῦ λέγειν.”97 Id significat, factis procul, verbis tenus. Jam illud est vehementius, quod Arrianus solitum eum dictitare in libris, quos de Dissertationibus ejus composuit, scriptum reliquit. Nam, “quum,” inquit, “animadverterat hominem pudore amisso, importuna industria, corruptis moribus, audacem, confidentem lingua, caeteraque omnia praeter animum procurantem; istiusmodi,” inquit, “hominemi quum viderat studia quoque et disciplinas philosophiae contrectare, et physica adire et meditari dialectica, multaque id genus theoremata suspicari sciscitarique, inclamabat deum atque hominum fidem, ac plerumque, inter clamandum his eum verbis increpabat: Ἄνθρωπε, ποῦ βάλλεις; σκέψαι εἰ κεκάθαρται τὸ ἀγγεῖον. ἂν γὰρ εἰς τὴν οἴησιν βάλλῃς, ἀπώλετο. ἢν σαπῇ, ἢ οὖρον ἢ ὂξος γένοιτ’ ἂν, ἢ τι τούτων χεῖρον.” Nihil profecto his verbis gravius, nihil verius, quibus declarabat maximus philosophorum, “literas atque doctrinas Philosophiae, quum in hominem falsum atque degenerem, tamquam in vas spurcum atque pollutum influxissent, verti, mutari, corrumpi, et (quod ipse κυνικώτερον ait) urinam fieri, aut si quid est urina spurcius.” Praeterea idem ille Epictetus, quod ex eodem Favorino audivimus, solitus dicere est: “duo esse vitia multo omnium gravissima et taeterrima, intolerantiam et incontinentiam, quum aut injurias quae sunt ferendae non toleramus neque ferimus, aut a quibus rebus voluptatibusque nos tenere debemus non tenemus. Itaque,” inquit, “si quis haec duo verba cordi habeat, eaque sibi imperando atque observando curet, is erit pleraque impeccabilis vitamque vivet tranquillissimam. Verba duo haec dicebat, Ἀνέχου καὶ Ἀπέχου.”


Aul. Gellius, xix 1.

Philosophus in disciplina Stoica celebratus⁠ ⁠… ex sarcinula sua librum protulit Epicteti philosophi quintum Διαλεξέαν: quas ab Arriano digestas congruere scriptis Zenonis et Chrysippi non dubium est. In eo libro Graeca scilicet oratione scriptum ad hanc sententiam legimus: “Visa animi,” quas φαντασίας philosophi appellant, “qui bus mens hominis prima statim specie accidentis ad ani mum rei pellitur, non voluntatis sunt, neque arbitraria, sed vi quadam sua inferunt sese hominibus noscitanda. Probationes autem quas συγκαταθέσεις vocant, quibus eadem visa noscuntur ac dijudicantur, voluntariae sunt fiuntque hominum arbitratu. Propterea quum sonus aliquis aut caelo aut ex ruina aut repentinus [nesciusj pericali nuntius vel quid aliud ejusmodi factum, sapientis quoque animum paulisper moveri et contrahi et pallescere necessum est, non opinione alicujus mali praecepta, sed quibusdam motibus rapidis et inconsultis officium mentis atque rationis praevertentibus. Mox tamen ille sapiens ibidem [idem?] τὰς τοιαύτας φαντασίας, id est, visa istaec animi sui terrifica non approbat: hoc est οὐσυγκατατίθεται οὐδὲ προσεπιδοξάζει, sed abjicit respuitque, nec ei metuendum esse in his quidquam videtur. Atque hoc inter insipientis sapientisque animum differre dicunt, quod insipiens, qualia esse primo animi sui pulsu visa sunt saeva et aspera, talia esse vero putat, et eadem incepta tamquam jure metuenda sint, sua quoque assensione approbat καὶ προσεπιδοξάζει (hoc enim verbo Stoici quum super ista re disserunt utuntur). Sapiens autem quum breviter et strictim colore atque vultu motus est, οὐ συγκατατίθεται, sed statum vigoremque sententiae suae retinet, quam de hujuscemodi visis semper habuit, ut de minime metuendis, sed fronte falsa et formidine inani territantibus.”


Arnobius Advers. Gentes, in fine libri secundi.

Quum de animarum agitur salute ac de respectu nostri; “aliquid et sine ratione faciendum est,”98 ut Epictetum dixisse approbat Arrianus.