Epictetus was a Greek philosopher who lived from 50 – 135 AD.
He was born as a slave to a wealthy household in Hierapolis (present-day Pamukkale in Turkey), later obtaining his freedom shortly after emperor Nero’s death and started teaching philosophy in Rome for nearly 25 years.
When emperor Domitian famously banished all philosophers in Rome, Epictetus fled to Nicopolis in Greece where he founded a philosophy school and taught there until his death.
Epictetus adhered to Stocism and while a great starting point is definitely these quotes by Epictetus, you can also check out his Enchiridion, which translates as a ‘small manual or a handbook’ and it is exactly that. It’s packed with short Stoic maxims and principles. A much more committed read would be Epictetus’ Discourses.
In addition to Epictetus, Stoicism’s most famous adherents were the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121 AD – 180 AD), who was greatly influenced by Epictetus and the Roman statesman Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD).
For now though I hope you enjoy this collection of Epictetus quotes that are packed with wisdom.
77 Epictetus Quotes
1. “The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.” – Epictetus
2. “People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.” – Epictetus
3. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus
4. “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” – Epictetus
5. “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
6. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” – Epictetus
7. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” – Epictetus
8. “Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly.” – Epictetus
9. “We should not moor a ship with one anchor, or our life with one hope.” – Epictetus
10. “Only the educated are free.” – Epictetus
11. “Difficulties are things that show a person what they are.” – Epictetus
12. “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” – Epictetus
13. “It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.” – Epictetus
14. “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.” – Epictetus
15. “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.” – Epictetus
16. “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus
17. “If you desire to be good, begin by believing that you are wicked.” – Epictetus
18. “If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.” – Epictetus
19. “It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them.” – Epictetus
20. “If you wish to be a writer, write.” – Epictetus
21. “The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” – Epictetus
22. “Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.” – Epictetus
23. “If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.” – Epictetus
24. “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus
25. “No man is free who is not master of himself.” – Epictetus
26. “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.” – Epictetus
27. “If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.” – Epictetus
28. “It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.” – Epictetus
29. “No great thing is created suddenly.” – Epictetus
30. “All philosophy lies in two words, sustain and abstain.” – Epictetus
31. “Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, though he be master of the world.” – Epictetus
32. “When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.” – Epictetus
33. “All religions must be tolerated… for every man must get to heaven in his own way.” – Epictetus
34. “To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.” – Epictetus
35. “Do not seek to bring things to pass in accordance with your wishes, but wish for them as they are, and you will find them.” – Epictetus
36. “You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.” – Epictetus
37. “Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake in little things, and then proceed to greater.” – Epictetus
38. “Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.” – Epictetus
39. “It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death.” – Epictetus
40. “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” – Epictetus
41. “Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.” – Epictetus
42. “We are not privy to the stories behind people’s actions, so we should be patient with others and suspend judgement of them, recognizing the limits of our understanding.” – Epictetus
43. “In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; but in adversity it is the most difficult of all things.” – Epictetus
44. “These reasoning’s are unconnected: “I am richer than you, therefore I am better”; “I am more eloquent than you, therefore I am better.” The connection is rather this: “I am richer than you, therefore my property is greater than yours;” “I am more eloquent than you, therefore my style is better than yours.” But you, after all, are neither property nor style.” – Epictetus
45. “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.” – Epictetus
46. “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
47. “Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.” – Epictetus
48. “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
49. “He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.” – Epictetus
50. “Of pleasures, those which occur most rarely give the most delight.” – Epictetus
51. “Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.” – Epictetus
52. “It is not so much what happens to you as how you think about what happens.” – Epictetus
53. “It is your own convictions which compels you; that is, choice compels choice.” – Epictetus
54. “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” – Epictetus
55. “Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power.” – Epictetus
56. “If you want any good, get it from within.” – Epictetus
57. “Authentic happiness is always independent of external conditions.” – Epictetus
58. “Be careful whom you associate with. It is human to imitate the habits of those with whom we interact. We inadvertently adopt their interests, their opinions, their values, and their habit of interpreting events.” – Epictetus
59. “It’s time to stop being vague. If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to be wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become.” – Epictetus
60. “A half-hearted spirit has no power. Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Average people enter into their endeavors headlong and without care.” – Epictetus
61. “Nothing truly stops you. Nothing truly holds you back. For your own will is always within your control. Sickness may challenge your body. But are you merely your body? Lameness may impede your legs. But your are not merely your legs. Your will is bigger than your legs. Your will needn’t be affected by an incident unless you let it.” – Epictetus
62. “Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths.” – Epictetus
63. “Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.” – Epictetus
64. “I laugh at those who think they can damage me. They do not know who I am, they do not know what I think, they cannot even touch the things which are really mine and with which I live.” – Epictetus
65. “Small-minded people blame others. Average people blame themselves. The wise see all blame as foolishness.” – Epictetus
66. “It is our attitude toward events, not events themselves, which we can control. Nothing is by its own nature calamitous – even death is terrible only if we fear it.” – Epictetus
67. “No one is ever unhappy because of someone else.” – Epictetus
68. “Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore…. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.” – Epictetus
69. “Concern should drive us into action and not into a depression. No man is free who cannot control himself.” – Epictetus
70. “We all carry the seeds of greatness within us, but we need an image as a point of focus in order that they may sprout.” – Epictetus
71. “Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.” – Epictetus
72. “Never say you are alone for you are not alone, your God and your genius is within.” – Epictetus
73. “Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily.” – Epictetus
74. “To make anything a habit, do it; to not make it a habit, do not do it; to unmake a habit, do something else in place of it.” – Epictetus
75. “Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control. Stop aspiring to be anyone other than your own best self: for that does fall within your control.” – Epictetus
76. “You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.” – Epictetus
77. “Who is your master? Anyone who has control over things upon which you’ve set your heart, or over things which you seek to avoid.” – Epictetus
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