100 Epictetus Quotes on Happiness, Death, and Control

It’s not too late to backtrack and get words of wisdom that will guide you through life with these Epictetus quotes.

With more than 100 of them in the bank, everyone has a chance to find which quote resonates best with them.

Epictetus was a living proof of how Stoicism can provide the world with timeless principles that can guide us in any situation—no matter what status we have in life.

He is recognized alongside Marcus Aurelius and Seneca as one of the three most important Stoic philosophers.

Dive deep into his philosophy through the quotes below.

And don’t forget to check out these Diogenes quotes and Aristotle quotes.

Best Epictetus Quotes

Epictetus Quote - There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond our power or our will.

1. “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond our power or our will.”

2. “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.”

3. “Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”

4. “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason?”

Epictetus Quote - The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.

5. “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”

6. “If you are careless and lazy now, and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.”

7. “He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”

8. “Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.”

9. “Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.”

Epictetus Quote - Do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, 'He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.'

10. “If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, ‘He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.’”

11. “First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

12. “Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.”

13. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

14. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

Epictetus Quote - If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.

15. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

16. “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”

17. “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

18. “Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them, you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person.”

19. “Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”

Epictetus Quotes on Self-Improvement, Character, and Personality

Epictetus Quote - Other people's views and troubles can be contagious.

20. “Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious.”

21. “Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.”

22. “Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.”

23. “I laugh at those who think they can damage me. They do not know who I am, they do not know what I think, they cannot even touch the things which are really mine and with which I live.”

24. “Seek not the good in external things; seek it in yourselves.”

Epictetus Quote - Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals.

25. “Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be?”

26. “Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.”

27. “Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do—now.”

28. “Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.”

29. “You know yourself what you are worth in your own eyes; and at what price you will sell yourself.”

Epictetus Quote - Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source.

30. “Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source.”

31. “Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.”

32. “Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore, when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man.”

33. “Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Therefore, give yourself fully to your endeavors.”

34. “Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal.”

Epictetus Quote - If you want to make progress, put up with being perceived as ignorant or naive in worldly matters, don't aspire to a reputation for sagacity.

35. “If you want to make progress, put up with being perceived as ignorant or naive in worldly matters, don’t aspire to a reputation for sagacity.”

36. “No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

37. “What would have become of Hercules, do you think, if there had been no lion, hydra, stag, or boar, and no savage criminals to rid the world of? What would he have done in the absence of such challenges?”

38. “It is better to do wrong seldom and to own it, and to act right for the most part, than seldom to admit that you have done wrong and to do wrong often.”

39. “If you wish to be good, first believe that you are bad.”

Epictetus Quote - Don't live by your own rules, but in harmony with nature.

40. “Don’t live by your own rules, but in harmony with nature.”

41. “Don’t put your purpose in one place and expect to see progress made somewhere else.”

42. “There is no shame in making an honest effort.”

43. “Whenever anyone criticizes or wrongs you, remember that they are only doing or saying what they think is right. They cannot be guided by your views, only their own; so if their views are wrong, they are the ones who suffer insofar as they are misguided.”

44. “Why not care for that side of you, where you and the gods are equals?”

Epictetus Quote - Dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy.

45. “Sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy.”

46. “Many people who have progressively lowered their personal standards in an attempt to win social acceptance and life’s comforts bitterly resent those of philosophical bent who refuse to compromise their spiritual ideals and who seek to better themselves.”

47. “Take care not to hurt the ruling faculty of your mind. If you were to guard against this in every action, you should enter upon those actions more safely.”

48. “There is a time and place for diversion and amusement, but you should never allow them to override your true purposes.”

49. “For where you find unrest, grief, fear, frustrated desire, failed aversion, jealousy, and envy, happiness has no room for admittance. And where values are false, these passions inevitably follow.”

Epictetus Quotes on Education and Knowledge

Epictetus Quote - Only the educated are free.

50. “Only the educated are free.”

51. “Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.”

52. “Be discriminating about what images and ideas you permit into your mind.”

53. “Do not try to seem wise to others.”

54. “Small-minded people blame others. Average people blame themselves. The wise see all blame as foolishness.”

Epictetus Quote - If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write.

55. “If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write.”

56. “It is difficult to both keep your faculty of choice in a state conformable to nature, and at the same time acquire external things.”

57. “It is a fact of life that other people, even people who love you, will not necessarily agree with your ideas, understand you, or share your enthusiasm.”

58. “You become what you give your attention to.”

59. “Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.”

Epictetus Quote - We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

60. “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

61. “An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.”

62. “It is unrealistic to expect people to see you as you see yourself.”

63. “The first and most important field of philosophy is the application of principles such as ‘Do not lie.’”

64. “Whoever is going to listen to the philosophers needs considerable practice in listening.”

Epictetus Quote - Imagine for yourself a character - a model personality - whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public.

65. “Imagine for yourself a character—a model personality—whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public.”

66. “We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated.”

67. “God save me from fools with a little philosophy—no one is more difficult to reach.”

68. “If you want to live a wise life, live it on your own terms and in your own eyes.”

69. “Very little is needed for everything to be upset and ruined—only a slight lapse in reason.”

Epictetus Quote - If they are wise, do not quarrel with them; if they are fools, ignore them.

70. “If they are wise, do not quarrel with them; if they are fools, ignore them.”

71. “Sickness is a problem for the body, not the mind—unless the mind decides that it is a problem.”

72. “Lameness, too, is the body’s problem, not the mind’s.”

73. “Why do you want to read anyway—for the sake of amusement or mere erudition? Those are poor, fatuous pretexts.”

74. “Reading should serve the goal of attaining peace; if it doesn’t make you peaceful, what good is it?”

Epictetus Quote - Never say that I have taken it, only that I have given it back.

75. “Never say that I have taken it, only that I have given it back.”

76. “Philosophy does not promise to secure anything external for man, otherwise it would be admitting something that lies beyond its proper subject matter.”

77. “This is your business—to act well in the given part, but to choose it belongs to another.”

78. “Be content, then, in everything, with being a philosopher; and if you wish to seem so likewise to any one, appear so to yourself, and it will suffice you.”

79. “Restrict yourself to choice and refusal; and exercise them carefully, with discipline and detachment.”

Epictetus Quotes on the Soul and Death

Epictetus Quote - You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.

80. “You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.”

81. “Most of what passes for legitimate entertainment is inferior or foolish and only caters to or exploits people’s weaknesses.”

82. “Our life is too short and you have important things to do.”

83. “Put your principles into practice—now.”

84. “If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.”

Epictetus Quote - No man is free who is not a master of himself.

85. “God has entrusted me with myself. No man is free who is not a master of himself.”

86. “Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as you become and be silent.”

87. “Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.”

88. “I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment?”

89. “We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens to us.”

Epictetus Quote - What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them.

90. “What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.”

91. “Events do not just happen, but arrive by appointment.”

92. “If you would cure anger, do not feed it. Say to yourself, ‘I used to be angry every day; then every other day; now only every third or fourth day.’ When you reach thirty days, offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the gods.”

93. “It is better to die of hunger having lived without grief and fear, than to live with a troubled spirit, amid abundance.”

94. “Nothing is by its own nature calamitous—even death is terrible only if we fear it.”

Epictetus Quote - The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast, and one day you will build something that endures - something worthy of your potential.

95. “The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast, and one day you will build something that endures—something worthy of your potential.”

96. “Death is nothing terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates.”

97. “On the occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use.”

98. “A guide, on finding a man who has lost his way, brings him back to the right path—he does not mock and jeer at him and then take himself off.”

99. “It is more necessary for the soul to be cured than the body; for it is better to die than to live badly.”

Epictetus Quote -Do not afflict others with anything that you yourself would not wish to suffer.

100. “Do not afflict others with anything that you yourself would not wish to suffer.”

101. “In banquets, remember that you entertain two guests—body and soul. And whatever you shall have given to the body you soon eject, but what you shall have given to the soul, you keep always.”

102. “As the sun does not wait for prayers and incantations to be induced to rise, but immediately shines and is saluted by all, so do you also not wait for clappings of hands and shouts of praise to be induced to do good, but be a doer of good voluntarily and you will be beloved as much as the sun.”

103. “Those who are well constituted in the body endure both heat and cold; and so those who are well constituted in the soul endure both anger and grief and excessive joy and the other affects.”

104. “Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.”

Epictetus Quote - You will do the greatest services to the state, if you shall raise not the roofs of the houses, but the souls of the citizens.

105. “You will do the greatest services to the state, if you shall raise not the roofs of the houses, but the souls of the citizens—for it is better that great souls should dwell in small houses than for mean slaves to lurk in great houses.”

106. “A city is not adorned by external things, but by the virtue of those who dwell in it.”

107. “Do not get too attached to life for it is like a sailor’s leave on the shore and at any time, the captain may sound the horn, calling you back to eternal darkness.”

108. “It is a universal law—have no illusion—that every creature alive is attached to nothing so much as to its own self-interest.”

109. “For it is not death or pain that is to be feared, but the fear of pain or death.”

Epictetus Quotes on Happiness, Freedom, and Wisdom

Epictetus Quote - First, learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.

110. “First, learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

111. “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

112. “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”

113. “The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be.”

114. “Don’t seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and all will be well with you.”

Epictetus Quote - A man should live so that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.

115. “A man should live so that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.”

116. “The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.”

117. “Never depend on the admiration of others. There is no strength in it.”

118. “Grow up! Who cares what other people think about you!”

119. “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to.”

Epictetus Quote - No great thing is created suddenly.

120. “No great thing is created suddenly.”

121. “Give me by all means the shorter and nobler life, instead of one that is longer but of less account!”

122. “Your happiness depends on three things, all of which are within your power—your will, your ideas concerning the events in which you are involved, and the use you make of your ideas.”

123. “Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of men’s desires, but by the removal of desire.”

124. “If any are unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone. For God hath made all men to enjoy felicity and constancy of good.”

Epictetus Quote - There is but one way to tranquility of mind and happiness, and that is to account no external things thine own, but to commit all to God.

125. “There is but one way to tranquility of mind and happiness, and that is to account no external things thine own, but to commit all to God.”

126. “Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen. This is the path to peace.”

127. “Is freedom anything other than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else.”

128. “If you seek truth, you will not seek to gain a victory by every possible means; and when you have found truth, you need not fear being defeated.”

129. “So what oppresses and scares us? It is our own thoughts, obviously. What overwhelms people when they are about to leave friends, family, old haunts, and their accustomed way of life? Thoughts.”

Epictetus Quote - Everyone's life is a warfare, long and various.

130. “Everyone’s life is a warfare, long and various.”

131. “Whoever then would be free, let him wish for nothing, let him decline nothing, which depends on others; else he must necessarily be a slave.”

132. “Freedom is not archived by satisfying desire, but by eliminating it.”

133. “You ought to realize, you take up very little space in the world as a whole—your body, that is; in reason, however, you yield to no one, not even to the gods, because reason is not measured in size but sense.”

134. “If someone tried to take control of your body and make you a slave, you would fight for freedom. Yet, how easily you hand over your mind to anyone who insults you. When you dwell on their words and let them dominate your thoughts, you make them your master.”

Epictetus Quote - No one is ever unhappy because of someone else.

135. “No one is ever unhappy because of someone else.”

136. “Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.”

137. “Fortify yourself with contentment for this is an impregnable fortress.”

138. “People behave as they are. Embrace what you actually get.”

139. “Who, then, is the invincible human being? One who can be disconcerted by nothing that lies outside the sphere of choice.”

Epictetus Quote - All things will be at once according to your mind and according to the mind of God.

140. “If you choose, you are free; if you choose, you need blame no man—accuse no man. All things will be at once according to your mind and according to the mind of God.”

Did These Epictetus Quotes Inspire You to Strive for Your Personal Freedom?

Thanks to Epictetus’ student, Flavius Arrian, we’re able to learn about his philosophy though there are no records of him actually writing down his lectures. Some of his most lectures and works like the Enchiridion and Discourses discuss topics like integrity, self-management, and freedom. And through these, he shares the most important lessons in Stoic philosophy that we can all learn from—first, there are things in our control and there are things that aren’t; second, actions speak louder than words, so we should focus more on how we are we are living and the choices we’re making; and lastly, we should cultivate character and moral goodness above all else.

Do you think these quotes can help you make better choices? Which philosopher do you want us to make a collection of next? List them down below!


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Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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