[St. Pachomius Library]

Epictetus the Stoic

I/II Centuries
Little is known about the Stoic philosopher whose Discourses and Encheridion share much with Christian thought. Epictetus (c. 50/60-c. 130/138) may have been born at Hieropolis in Phyrgia. He was a slave and attended the lectures of the Stoic, Musonius Rufus. Epictetus later became a freedman and was expelled from Rome with all philosophers by Domitian c. 90. Epictetus settled in Nicopolis in Epirus. He is said to have suffered from ill-health all his life. His disciple Flavius Arrianus wrote down his sayings and published them.

Epictetus taught that ethics is the primary concern of man. Man must learn to realize what he can control (his will) and what he cannot (everything else). Like the Desert Fathers, he said that one is not responsible for the thoughts that one has; one is responsible only for the way in which one uses one's thoughts. Ultimately, a person should conform his will to the will of God (the will of the universe or the will that directs all events).

Karen Rae Keck


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