Discourses

by Epictetus | 304 pages

Epictetus is known as one of the world’s leading Stoic philosophers. (Along with Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, the three make up a very interesting bunch.) Epictetus was a former slave turned philosopher who lived from 55-135 (a little later than Seneca and before Aurelius). This book is a transcription of the informal lectures Epictetus gave to his students. It’s awesome. Big Ideas we explore: why Hercules needed challenges (and so do you), what figs can teach us about greatness, the good + the bad + the indifferent and how to tell the difference, “impressions” and the tricks they play, and the fact NOW is the time to live this stuff.


“The true man is revealed in difficult times. So when trouble comes, think of yourself as a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck. For what purpose? To turn you into Olympic-class material. But this is going to take some sweat to accomplish. From my perspective, no one’s difficulties ever gave him a better test than yours, if you are prepared to make use of them the way a wrestler makes use of an opponent in peak condition.”

~ Epictetus from Discourses

Epictetus is known as one of the world’s leading Stoic philosophers. Along with Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, the three make up a very interesting bunch.

Seneca was essentially a billionaire advisor to Nero who was exiled and compelled to commit suicide while Aurelius was part Roman Emperor + part Stoic philosopher who wrote his Meditations while leading battles in the Danube.

Epictetus was a former slave turned philosopher who lived from 55-135 (a little later than Seneca and before Aurelius). After all the philosophers were kicked out of Rome, he settled in to a town called Nicopolis on the Adriatic coast of Greece where he ran a school of philosophy attended by Rome’s elite young men.

We covered another one of Epictetus’s books called the Enchiridion which literally means “ready at hand” or a “handbook.” That one is a short little distillation of some of his more pithy wisdom.

This book is a transcription of the informal lectures Epictetus gave to his students. While the Enchiridion is incredibly potent, with this one we get to see just how witty Epictetus is as he unpacks his ideas during lectures.(Get the book here.) (Both the Enchiridion and Discourses were transcribed and published by one of his students, Arrian. Thank you, Arrian.)

Epictetus’s work has influenced everyone from Marcus Aurelius to Albert Ellis—who leaned heavily on Stoic philosophy to create his Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy which led to the very popular (and effective!) cognitive behavioral therapy widely in use today. He also deeply influenced James Stockdale who called Epictetus his patron saint.

The book is packed with Big Ideas. I’m excited to share some of my favorites so let’s jump in!

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About the author

Authors

Epictetus

a Greek-speaking Stoic philosopher