A short overview of personal impressions

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A short overview of personal impressions

Other Items on Hellenistic Philosophy Generally 1. Life It is possible to draw only a basic sketch of Epictetus' life. Resources at our disposal include just a handful of references in the ancient texts, to which we can add the few allusions that Epictetus makes to his own life in the Discourses.

Epictetus was born in about 55 C. As a boy he somehow came to Rome as a slave of Epaphroditus who was a rich and powerful freedman, having himself been a slave of the Emperor Nero he had been an administrative secretary.

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Whilst still a slave, Epictetus studied with the Stoic teacher Musonius Rufus. There is a story told by the author Celsus probably a younger contemporary of Epictetus — quoted by the early Christian Origen c. Enduring the pain with complete composure, Epictetus warned Epaphroditus that his leg would break, and when it did break, he said, 'There, did I not tell you that it would break?

The Suda tenth centuryhowever, although confirming that Epictetus was lame, attributes his affliction to rheumatism. At some point Epictetus was manumitted, and in about 89, along with other philosophers then in Rome, was banished by the Emperor Domitian. He went to Nicopolis in Epirus in north-western Greece where he opened his own school which acquired a good reputation, attracting many upper-class Romans.

One such student A short overview of personal impressions Flavius Arrian c. Origen Contra Celsum 6. Our sources report that Epictetus did not marry, had no children, and lived to an old age.

With respect to marriage and children we may note the story from Lucian Demonax 55 about the Cynic philosopher Demonax who had been a pupil of Epictetus.

A short overview of personal impressions

On hearing Epictetus exhort his students to marry and have children for it was a philosopher's duty to provide a substitute ready for the time when they would diehe sarcastically asked Epictetus whether he could marry one of his daughters.

Writings It appears that Epictetus wrote nothing himself. The works we have that present his philosophy were written by his student, Flavius Arrian. We may conjecture that the Discourses and the Handbook were written some time around the years —, at the time when Arrian born c.

Dobbinthough, holds the view that the Discourses and the Handbook were actually written by Epictetus himself; the Suda does say, after all, that Epictetus 'wrote a great deal'.

Dobbin is not entirely convinced by Arrian's claim in his dedicatory preface that he wrote down Epictetus' words verbatim; firstly, stenographic techniques at this time were primitive, and anyway were the preserve of civil servants; secondly, most of the discourses are too polished, and look too much like carefully crafted prose to be the product of impromptu discussions; and thirdly, some of the discourses notably 1.

There is no way to resolve this question with certainty. Whether the texts we have do indeed represent a serious attempt to record Epictetus at work verbatim, whether draft texts were later edited and rewritten as seems wholly likelypossibly by Epictetus, or whether Epictetus did in fact write the texts himself, drawing on his recollections as a lecturer with only occasional attempts at strictly verbatim accuracy, we shall never know.

But what we can be certain of, regardless of who actually wrote the words onto the papyrus to make the first draft of the text as we have it today, is that those words were intended to present Stoic moral philosophy in the terms and the style that Epictetus employed as a teacher intent on bringing his students to philosophic enlightenment as the Stoics had understood this enterprise.

Discourses Written in Koine Greek, the everyday contemporary form of the language, Epictetus' Discourses appear to record the exchanges between Epictetus and his students after formal teaching had concluded for the day. Internal textual evidence confirms that the works of the early Stoic philosophers Zeno, Cleanthes and Chrysippus were read and discussed in Epictetus' classes, but this aspect of Epictetus' teaching is not recorded by Arrian.

What we have, then, are intimate, though earnest, discussions in which Epictetus aims to make his students consider carefully what the philosophic life — for a Stoic — consists in, and how to live it oneself. He discusses a wide range of topics, from friendship to illness, from fear to poverty, on how to acquire and maintain tranquillity, and why we should not be angry with other people.

Not all of the Discourses appear to have survived, as the ancient Byzantine scholar Photius c. Because the text, chapter by chapter, jumps to different topics and shows no orderly development, it is not readily apparent that anything is missing, and indeed, the reference to eight books may be mistaken though another author, Aulus Gellius, at Attic Nights The range of topics is sufficiently broad for us to be reasonably confident that, even if some of the text has been lost, what we lack by and large repeats and revisits the material that we have in the book as it has come down to us.

To find translations of the Discourses on-line, please visit my 'Translations of Epictetus on the Internet' page at my BT site or my Geocities site. The Handbook This little book appears to be an abstract of the Discourses, focusing on key themes in Epictetus' teaching of Stoic ethics.

Some of the text is taken from the Discourses, and the fact that not all of it can be correlated with passages in the larger work supports the view that some of the Discourses has indeed been lost.

To find translations of the Handbook on-line, please visit my 'Translations of Epictetus on the Internet' page at my BT site or my Geocities site.

The question arises as to what extent Epictetus preserved the original doctrines of the Stoic school, and to what extent, if any, he branched out with new emphases and innovations of his own.Wonder is recommended for middle grade and young adult readers.

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