Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Encheiridion, or “manual,” is a collection of short essays representing the principal teachings of the Greek philosopher Epictetus. Born as a slave in Phrygia (now Turkey), Epictetus was brought to Rome by his master, who was an influential freedman of the Roman emperor Nero. Epictetus was permitted to study under the famous philosopher Musonius Rufus. After he obtained his freedom, he began to lecture informally on philosophy at Rome, where, however, he found few followers. Later, when Greek philosophers were exiled from Rome by Emperor Domitian, Epictetus traveled to Nicopolis in Greece and established a school that attracted large numbers of students. Like Socrates, Epictetus wrote nothing himself, but a devoted student, Flavius Arrian, transcribed his brilliant lectures and gave them the title Discourses; a considerable portion of this work survives. Arrian made a short selection of these lectures and published them separately as the Encheiridion. These two works, the only surviving examples of academic teaching by a Stoic philosopher, had enormous influence on the later development of this school of philosophy. Moreover, the Encheiridion, with its convenient distillation of the philosopher’s powerful ethical message, left its mark on the thought of a wide range of later readers who include Marcus Aurelius, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Matthew Arnold, and Adam Smith.
Epictetus propounded the philosophy of...
(The entire section is 1782 words.)
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