The Stoic philosopher Epictetus (c. 55 – c. 135 CE) came originally from Asia Minor and was a slave in Rome under Epaphroditus, one of Nero’s ministers. He attended the lectures of the Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus in Rome, at some point gained his freedom, and initially lectured in Rome but fled in the wake of Domitian’s ban against philosophers (c. 92-3 CE). He went on to found his own philosophical school in Nicopolis, Greece, which attracted many famous visitors, including the emperor Hadrian.
Epictetus is regularly referred to as the author of two works, the Dissertationes (Discourses) and the Enchiridion (Handbook, Manual) although they are in fact both are the work of his pupil Arrian, the noted historian. The Dissertationes contains lively records of discussions with students and visitors that supposedly took place in Epictetus’s classroom, sometime around 108 CE. The Enchridion is a short summary distilling the central ideas found in the Dissertationes. Four books of the Dissertationes survive out of an original eight or perhaps even twelve (cf. Photius, Bibliotheca cod. 58, who refers to eight books of discourses (Diatribai) and twelve books of conversations (Homiliai); these could be different titles for the same work), and there are a number of fragments from the lost books preserved by other authors.
Epictetus has been edited and translated numerous times. The best recent translation of all his works is Hard & Gill 2014.
The best introduction to the thought of Epictetus is Long 2002. The essays in Scaltsas & Mason 2007 are all by leading scholars and examine topics in more detail. Graver 2009 offers a much shorter but well-informed overview. For a fuller annotated guide to work on Epictetus see Sellars 2016.
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