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WHAT ARE THE SMALL AND THE GREAT THINGS
CHARACTER OF A MAN PROMISES, WE ASSUME THE
WHO WERE NOT VALUED (ESTEEMED) BY HIM 188
MADE PROFICIENCY; AND THAT WE NEGLECT THE
BE EMPLOYED, AND IN WHAT WE OUGHT CHIEFLY TO
THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE NOT IN OUR POWER 270
I. ABOUT FREEDOM
THE ENCHEIRIDION OR MANUAL
VERY little is known of the life of Epictetus. It is said that he was a native of Hierapolis in Phrygia, a town between the Maeander and a branch of the Maeander named the Lycus. Hierapolis is mentioned in the epistle of Paul to the people of Colossae (Coloss. iv. 13); from which it has been concluded that there was a Christian church in Hierapolis in the time of the apostle. The date of the birth of Epictetus is unknown. The only recorded fact of his early life is that he was a slave in Rome, and his master was Epaphroditus, a profligate freedman of the emperor Nero. There is a story that the master broke his slave's leg by torturing him; but it is better to trust to the evidence of Simplicius, the commentator on the Encheiridion or Manual, who says that Epictetus was weak in body and lame from an early age. It is not said how he became a slave; but it has been asserted in modern times that the parents sold the child. I have not, however, found any authority for this statement.
It may be supposed that the young slave showed intelligence, for his master sent or permitted him to attend the lectures of C. Musonius Rufus, an eminent Stoic philosopher. It may seem strange that such a master should have wished to have his slave made into a philosopher; but Garnier, the author of a Mémoire sur les ouvrages d'Epictète, explains this matter very well in a communication to Schweighaeuser Garnier says: “Epictetus, borr
at Hierapolis of Phrygia of poor parents, was indebted apparently for the advantages of a good education to the whim, which was common at the end of the Republic and under the first emperors, among the great of Rome to reckon among their numerous slaves Grammarians, Poets, Rhetoricians, and Philosophers, in the same way as rich financiers in these later ages have been led to form at a great cost rich and numerous libraries. This supposition is the only one which can explain to us, how a wretched child, born as poor as Irus, had received a good education, and how a rigid Stoic was the slave of Epaphroditus, one of the officers of the Imperial guard. For we cannot suspect that it was through predilection for the Stoic doctrine and for his own use, that the confidant and the minister of the debaucheries of Nero would have desired to po:ssess such a slave.”
Some writers assume that Epictetus was manumitted by his master ; but I can find no evidence for this statement. Epaphroditus accompanied Nero when he fled from Rome before his enemies, and he aided the miserable tyrant in killing himself. Domitian (Sueton. Domit. 14) afterwards put Epaphroditus to death for this service to Nero. We may conclude that Epictetus in some way obtained his freedom, and that he began to teach at Rume; but after the expulsion of the philosophers from Rome by Domitian A.D. 89, he retired to Nicopolis in Epirus, a city built by Augustus to commemorate the victory at Actium. Epictetus opened a school or lecture room at Nicopolis, where he taught till he was an old man. The time of his death is unknown. Epictetus was never married, as we learn from Lucian (Demonax, c. 55, Tom. ii. ed. Hemsterh. p. 393). When Epictetus was finding fault with Demonax and advising him to take a wife and beget children, for this also, as Epictetus said, was a philosopher's duty, to
1 Lucian’s ‘Life of the Philosopher Demonax.'