Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus giving a philosophy lecture

50 Stoic Quotes from Epictetus

Epictetus (circa 50 AD – 135 AD) was a Greek Stoic philosopher born into slavery in Hierapolis, Phrygia, present-day Turkey. Despite his early life in bondage, he studied Stoic philosophy, which shaped his later teachings — including these Stoic quotes.

His teachings emphasized philosophy as a way of life, personal responsibility, and self-discipline. Epictetus’s influence on Stoicism, promoting inner freedom and self-mastery, remains significant, and his wisdom continues to be respected and studied today.

Epictetus’s best Stoic quotes

  1. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
  2. “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”
  3. “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”
  4. “A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope.”
  5. “The flourishing life cannot be achieved until we moderate our desires and see how superficial and fleeting they are.”
  6. “Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”
  7. “Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.”
  8. “Small-minded people blame others. Average people blame themselves. The wise see all blame as foolishness.”
  9. “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.”
  10. “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.”
  11. “Although we can’t control which roles are assigned to us, it must be our business to act our given role as best we possibly can and to refrain from complaining about it. Where ever you find yourself and in whatever circumstances, give an impeccable performance.”
  12. “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. Which is why it is essential that we not respond impulsively to impressions; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control.”
  13. “Do not try to seem wise to others.”
  14. “If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.”
  15. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
  16. “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
  17. “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will.”
  18. “God has entrusted me with myself. No man is free who is not master of himself. A man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things. The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.”
  19. “Seek not the good in external things; seek it in yourselves.”
  20. “He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”
  21. “Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.”
  22. “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.”
  23. “Authentic happiness is always independent of external conditions.”
  24. “When we blather about trivial things, we ourselves become trivial, for our attention gets taken up with trivialities. You become what you give your attention to.”
  25. “We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens to us.”
  26. “It is not so much what happens to you as how you think about what happens.”
  27. “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.”
  28. “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? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.”
  29. “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”
  30. “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
  31. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
  32. “If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write.”
  33. “When your thoughts, words, and deeds form a seamless fabric, you streamline your efforts and thus eliminate worry and dread.”
  34. “It’s time to stop being vague. If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to be wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become.”
  35. “Getting distracted by trifles is the easiest thing in the world… Focus on your main duty.”
  36. “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”
  37. “A half-hearted spirit has no power. Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Average people enter into their endeavors headlong and without care.”
  38. “Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent.”
  39. “Only the educated are free.”
  40. “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.”
  41. “Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”
  42. “Be careful whom you associate with. It is human to imitate the habits of those with whom we interact. We inadvertently adopt their interests, their opinions, their values, and their habit of interpreting events.”
  43. “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.”
  44. “No man is free who is not master of himself.”
  45. “To accuse others for one’s own misfortune is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.”
  46. “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”
  47. “Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.”
  48. “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. 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.”
  49. “Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.”
  50. “To know that you do not know and to be willing to admit that you do not know without sheepishly apologizing is real strength and sets the stage for learning and progress in any endeavor.”

These Stoic quotes from Epictetus cover a wide range of topics from life, happiness, education, to self-improvement and thinking for oneself. May you find them insightful, and may you find yourself inspired by the notion that some wisdom is quite timeless.