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(ĕpĭktē`təs), c.A.D. 50–c.A.D. 138, Phrygian Stoic philosopher. He wrote nothing, but his teachings were set down by his disciple Arrian in the Discourses and the Encheiridion. Epictetus emphasized indifference to external goods and taught that the true good is within oneself. His Stoicism was outstanding in its insistence on the doctrine of the brotherhood of man.


See study by I. Xenakis (1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Born circa A.D. 50; died circa 138. Greek Stoic philosopher.

Epictetus was the slave of one of Nero’s favorites and later was given his freedom. He attended lectures by the Stoic Musonius Rufus. After Domitian expelled the philosophers from Rome in A.D. 89, Epictetus settled in Nicopolis (Epirus); there, following the example of Socrates, he taught Stoic morality in conversations and street arguments. Like Socrates, Epictetus wrote nothing. He lived in extreme poverty. His philosophical teachings were preserved in the notes of his student Flavius Arrianus.

Epictetus’ doctrine centered on the elaboration and preservation of a certain moral position—namely, that under any condition of wealth or poverty and whether in power or in slavery, men must preserve spiritual freedom and internal independence from such conditions. In order to achieve this, man must divide all things and affairs into those that depend on him and those that do not; with fortitude and despite everything, he must do his duty with respect to the former, and he must ignore the latter. Both Epictetus’ ascetic morality and the external form of his “diatribes” (the strained awkwardness of intonation and the arguments with an imaginary opponent) are in many ways similar to Christian sermons.


Epictète: Entretiens, vols. 1–4. Compiled and translated by J. Souihé and A. Jagu. Paris, 1949–65.
In Russian translation:
“Besedy Epikteta.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1975, nos. 2–4; 1976, no. 2.


Shtaerman, E. M. “Epiktet i ego mesto v rimskom stoitsizme.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1975, no. 2.
Bonhöffer, A. Epiktet und das Neue Testament. Giessen, 1911.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


?50--?120 ad, Greek Stoic philosopher, who stressed self-renunciation and the brotherhood of man
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005