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Headword: Ἐπίκτητος
Adler number: epsilon,2424
Translated headword: Epiktetos, Epictetus
Vetting Status: high
Of Hierapolis in Phrygia;[1] a philosopher; a slave[2] of Epaphroditus, one of the bodyguards of the emperor Nero.[3] Disabled in a leg because of a flux,[4] he lived in Nicopolis,[5] [a city] of [the province of] New Epirus;[6] and his life extended until the reign of Marcus Antoninus.[7] He wrote many books.
[sc. Damascius says that][8] the philosopher Theosebius[9] drew much of his speeches' matter from Epictetus' Disputations,[10] but others of these he elaborated on his own, as inventions of a Muse adept in reproducing characters[11] and sufficient to convince and abash those souls which are not completely hard-hearted and tough: [12] [e.g. the necessity of] keeping away and eschewing the worst aspects of life as much as possible, and, on the other side, of cherishing and pursuing the best ones, as it is possible with all one's might. Thus, he left his admonitions also in treatises of the same kind - in some way - of those by which Epictetus had previously taught his doctrine. And on the other side, it seems to me that if we directly compare [these two philosophers] to each other, this man [= Theosebius] turns out to be the Epictetus of our age, yet without the [whole] Stoic doctrine[13]: for there was nothing that Theosebius followed and admired as much as the truth of Plato. He wrote indeed a small opuscule concerning The Ingenious Ideas in the great 'Republic', praising the divine wisdom coming down from the gods. This he especially honored and worshipped: for it was evident that he always dealt rather with moral speculations. He grew indeed more interested in [the topic of] a good life than in scientific knowledge, meaning by "good life" not a quiet one, nor a life only trained in speculative activities, but one involved enough in practical problems, if certainly he lived his life not according to the public way, but according to his own private way, the same pursued by the great Socrates, by Epictetus and by every wise man, administering his own set of rules, the one he had inside - and that was the first issue - then [a set of rules] also connecting others, each one privately for his part, for the best end.
Greek Original:
Ἐπίκτητος, Ἱεραπόλεως τῆς Φρυγίας, φιλόσοφος, δοῦλος Ἐπαφροδίτου, τῶν σωματοφυλάκων τοῦ βασιλέως Νέρωνος. πηρωθεὶς δὲ τὸ σκέλος ὑπὸ ῥεύματος ἐν Νικοπόλει τῆς νέας Ἠπείρου ᾤκησε, καὶ διατείνας μέχρι Μάρκου Ἀντωνίνου: ἔγραψε πολλά. ὅτι Θεοσέβιος ὁ φιλόσοφος ἔλεγε πολλὰ ἀπὸ τῶν Ἐπικτήτου σχολῶν, τὰ δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπετεχνᾶτο τῆς ἠθοποιοῦ διανοήματα μούσης, ἱκανὰ πείθειν καὶ δυσωπεῖν τῶν ψυχῶν τὰς μὴ παντάπασιν ἀτέγκτους καὶ ἀτεράμονας: ἀποστρέφεσθαι δὲ καὶ ἀποδιδράσκειν τὰ χείρω τῆς ζωῆς εἴδη κατὰ δύναμιν, ἀσπάζεσθαι δὲ τὰ ἀμείνω καὶ μεταδιώκειν, καθόσον οἷόν τε παντὶ σθένει: τοιγαροῦν καὶ ἐν συγγράμμασι καταλέλοιπε τοιούτοις τισὶ τὰς ἑαυτοῦ νουθετήσεις οἵοις Ἐπίκτητος πρότερον. καί μοι δοκεῖ ὁ ἀνὴρ γεγονέναι ἄντικρυς, ὡς ἕνα πρὸς ἕνα ἀντιβαλεῖν, ὁ τοῦ καθ' ἡμᾶς χρόνου Ἐπίκτητος, ἄνευ μέντοι τῶν Στωϊκῶν δοξασμάτων. ὁ γὰρ Θεοσέβιος οὐδενὸς τοσοῦτον ὅσον τὴν Πλάτωνος ἀλήθειαν ἠσπάζετο καὶ ἐθαύμαζε. καὶ δή τι καὶ συνεγράψατο μικρὸν βιβλίδιον περὶ τῶν ἐν Πολιτείᾳ τῇ μεγάλῃ κεκομψευμένων, τὴν ἀπὸ τῶν θεῶν ἥκουσαν θεοσοφίαν ἐξαίρων λόγῳ: ταύτην γὰρ διαφερόντως ἐτίμα καὶ ἔσεβεν. ἀεὶ γὰρ ἐν τοῖς ἠθικωτέροις φιλοσοφήμασι διατρίβων ἐφαίνετο. καὶ γὰρ εὖ ἐπεφύκει πρὸς εὐζωί̈αν μᾶλλον ἢ ἐπιστήμην, οὐδὲ ταύτην ἡσυχάζουσαν, οὐδὲ ἐν μόναις ταῖς φαντασίαις γυμναζομένην, ἀλλὰ ζῶσαν ἱκανῶς ἐπ' αὐτῶν τῶν πραγμάτων. εἰ μὴ γὰρ καὶ τὸν δημόσιον ἐπολιτεύσατο τρόπον, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἴδιον, ὃν καὶ Σωκράτης ἐκεῖνος καὶ ὁ Ἐπίκτητος καὶ πᾶς εὖ φρονῶν μεταχειρίζεται, τὴν ἑαυτοῦ καὶ ἐν ἑαυτῷ πολιτείαν διακοσμῶν: τοῦτο μὲν πρῶτον, ἔπειτα καὶ πρὸς ἄλλους ἐν μέρει καθέκαστον ἰδίᾳ συνισταμένην πρὸς τὸ βέλτιστον.
For Epictetus see already under alpha 3868, and generally Brad Inwood in OCD(4) s.v.
[1] The qualifier is necessary because there were at least five cities of this name in Asia Minor alone. This one is present-day Pamukkale; Barrington Atlas map 65 grid B2. Probably founded by Greeks, it was was situated about five miles north of Laodiceia, on the road from Apameia to Sardis. On this site and its warm springs see Strabo 13.4.14; Vitruvius, On architecture 8.3; Stephanus of Byzantium s.v.
[2] On this detail of Epictetus' life see John Chrysostom, Homily 13 on Acts, PG 60.111.30; Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.11.4 (who records an epigram attributed to Epictetus himself, commemorating his life as a slave, as opposed to the freedom of his soul); Simplicius, In Epicteti encheiridion 45.35, 55.30; and the epigram written by a certain Leontianus in praise of the philosopher, found in an inscription in Pisidia.
[3] For this man see OCD(4) s.v. Epaphroditus(1). The Greek text suggests that Epaphroditus would have been an a cubiculo. An imperial freedman, he was accepted into Rome's decuriae as apparitor Caesarum, viator tribunicius, then a libellis for Nero. He might have held the position of a cubiculo in an early stage of his career, but the mention of Epaphroditus as 'bodyguard' (σωματοφύλαξ ) may also refer to the last period of Nero's life: rewarded by the emperor for his contribution to the disclosure of Piso's conspiracy, Epaphroditus was very close to Nero and accompanied him in his flight in 68 AD, helping him to commit suicide. For this reason he was executed under Domitian. Some scholars think this is the Epaphroditus to whom Flavius Josephus dedicated his writings.
[4] The tradition provides many accounts of Epictetus' disabled leg. As χωλός or τὸ σῶμα ἀσθενὴς he is recorded by Simplicius (see preceding note); most say that he was hit and bound during his slavery by his master (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration I against Julian PG 35.592.14; Epistle 32 to Philagrius 10.2; Celsus in Origen, Against Celsus 3.368) or by a "tyrant of Macedonia" (thus Nonnus PG 36.933; Cosmas of Jerusalem PG 38.532). These accounts show a rather apophthegmatic character, intended to oppose the interior freedom of Epictetus' soul to his bound body. To the master (or the tyrant) asking, "Do you want me to let you loose, Epictetus?" the philosopher would have answered: "Why? Am I in any way bound?". For this reason, Schenkl gives more credit to the Suda's version.
[5] For this place see generally OCD(4) s.v. Nicopolis(3). Epictetus actually moved to Nicopolis after Domitian banished the philosophers from Rome in 89 AD. Cf. Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 15.11; Simplicius, op.cit. 65.37.
[6] The two provinces of Epirus Vetus and Epirus Nova, established under Domitian, were still known in the Byzantine age. Nicopolis, founded by Octavian after his victory at Actium (31 BC), was actually the capital of Epirus Vetus, while the capital of Epirus Nova was Dyrrachium.
[7] This remark (cf. also Themistius, Oration 5, 63d5 Harduin), according to which Epictetus would have been held in honor by "both Antonini", that is Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius) is still under discussion. If we admit that Epictetus was alive, though very old, under Marcus Aurelius, he must have been renowned as a philosopher at the age of twenty, or even earlier. A misunderstanding in the Suda's sources and Themistius could arise from the honor Marcus Aurelius paid to Epictetus as a great model of Stoic philosophy (cf. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 1.7) and from the frequent association of his name with that of Arrian, the disciple who wrote the notes known as Epictetus' Handbook (see further below, n. 10)).
[8] Damascius, Life of Isidore fr. 109 Zintzen (58 Asmus). The passage directly concerns not Epictetus but the Neoplatonic Theosebius, for whom see next note.
[9] Active in the second half of the fifth century AD, a disciple of Hierocles, Theosebius was a Neoplatonic philosopher, also renowned for his ability to perform exorcism. He is only known through Damascius' fragments quoted by Photius. According to Photius he wrote a commentary on Plato's Gorgias, which consisted of notes written down during Hierocles' lectures. See also iota 178.
[10] Different titles for the collection of notes by Arrian are attested, though the most common is Encheiridion, "Handbook". Here σχολαὶ amounts to "discussions", "disputations".
[11] Different interpretation of the word ἠθοποιὸς by R. Henry (Photius, Bibliotheque, Paris 1971): "Muse morale".
[12] For this word see alpha 4329.
[13] Damascius implies that Theosebius was only (and superficially) interested in Stoic ethics, concerning the individual dimension (see below).
Keywords: biography; Christianity; chronology; ethics; geography; medicine; philosophy; religion; rhetoric
Translated by: Antonella Ippolito on 4 May 2005@15:04:16.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (tweaks and cosmetics, status) on 4 May 2005@23:59:10.
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; cosmetics) on 5 May 2005@03:34:29.
Antonella Ippolito (typewriting correction; betacode correction) on 5 May 2005@11:40:45.
Catharine Roth (minor cosmetics) on 5 May 2005@12:22:33.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 18 November 2005@10:11:51.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics) on 15 October 2012@09:15:01.
David Whitehead (updated some refs) on 3 August 2014@08:12:42.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 2 November 2014@00:18:51.
Catharine Roth (tweak) on 2 November 2014@00:24:32.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 19 November 2014@23:46:24.
Catharine Roth (added alternative title) on 7 December 2014@23:13:48.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 29 January 2016@04:37:41.


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