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Epictetus was a Roman slave whose master, Epaphroditus, was an officer of Emperor Nero's personal guard. After his master was put to death by Nero's successor Domitian, Epictetus was given his freedom. Epictetus might have had an unremarkable life except that, while still a slave, he was allowed to attend philosophy lectures, and as an adult freed man, became a distinguished philosopher in the Stoic tradition. From slave to philosopher is an astonishing leap in one lifetime, and clearly gave Epictetus unusual insight into the human condition. Epictetus himself did not write any books. His pupil Arrian (later the biographer of Alexander the Great) took down his thoughts to create the 8-volume Discourses, of which only four volumes survived. The essence of the Discourses were distilled into a much shorter Enchiridion, Greek for handbook or manual, which with a good translation is very accessible to today's reader. What is Stoicism? As a body of thought it originated in Greece around 300BC, but became a major influence in ancient Rome. Its intellectual and spiritual features include submission to providence or universal law, independence of mind, restraint in living and emotion, and fearlessness of loss and death.

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Last Update: 2014-07-16
Subject: General
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