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Epictetus: Discourses, Books 1-2 (Loeb Classical Library) [Hardcover]

by Epictetus, W.A. Oldfather
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 31, 1925 0674991451 978-0674991453 0

Epictetus was a crippled Greek slave of Phrygia during Nero's reign (54–68 CE) who heard lectures by the Stoic Musonius before he was freed. Expelled with other philosophers by the emperor Domitian in 89 or 92 he settled permanently in Nicopolis in Epirus. There, in a school which he called 'healing place for sick souls', he taught a practical philosophy, details of which were recorded by Arrian, a student of his, and survive in four books of Discourses and a smaller Encheiridion, a handbook which gives briefly the chief doctrines of the Discourses. He apparently lived into the reign of Hadrian (117–138 CE).

Epictetus was a teacher of Stoic ethics, broad and firm in method, sublime in thought, and now humorous, now sad or severe in spirit. How should one live righteously? Our god-given will is our paramount possession, and we must not covet others'. We must not resist fortune. Man is part of a system; humans are reasoning beings (in feeble bodies) and must conform to god's mind and the will of nature. Epictetus presents us also with a pungent picture of the perfect (Stoic) man.

The Loeb Classical Library edition of Epictetus is in two volumes.

Frequently Bought Together

Epictetus: Discourses, Books 1-2 (Loeb Classical Library) + Epictetus: Discourses, Books 3-4. The Encheiridion. (Loeb Classical Library No. 218) + Marcus Aurelius (Loeb Classical Library)
Price for all three: $65.38

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Product Details

  • Series: Loeb Classical Library (Book 131)
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 31, 1925)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674991451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674991453
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 4.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
94 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just the Discourses February 22, 2001
This is volume one of a two volume set. The second volume is "Epictetus : Discourses, Books 3 and 4 (Loeb Classical Library, No 218)". The contents for both volumes are as follows:
Introduction (editors)
Discourses, Book I
Discourses, Book II
Discourses, Book III
Discourses, Book IV
The first thing worth noting is that although the titles of the volume refer to just the Discourses, the set is really a complete set of extant works, including fragments from other sources as well as a complete copy of the Encheiridion.
As is typical for the Loeb classical library books, the volumes are physically small, and the original text (Greek, for Epictetus) is given on the left hand page, with the English translation on the right.
The Introduction gives a brief biography of Epictetus and background information concerning Stoic philosophy. The Bibliography (which contains an update note from the original 1925 edition) gives the state of Epictetus scholarship. In the actual texts, footnotes are abundant and explain unfamiliar names, places, difficulties with translation, uncertainties about the source text, and Epictetus' quotes from earlier writers are more fully referenced. In summation, the background material supplied with these books is excellent.
As for the texts themselves, they were not actually written by Epictetus, but were notes taken by Arrian, one of his students (not unlike the Nicomachean Ethics, which were notes taken by a student of Aristotle). The Discourses are quite lively in style; Epictetus' personality and teaching style comes through vividly.
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80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking control of your life March 2, 1997
By A Customer
This volume and its companion, listed as Discourses Books 3 and 4, are actually what survives of one work written almost 1900 years ago: the historian Arrian's recording of what he learned from his study with the premier Stoic philosopher of antiquity, Epictetus. The Discourses are, quite simply, a collection of some of the most down-to-earth, practical, beneficial teachings ever spoken: understanding what Epictetus said is easy; he is a lucid and forthright instructor: putting his teachings into practice is the difficulty. But the struggle is worthwhile: practicing Stoicism is not "a denial of the self", but rather a freeing of the self from the dictatorship of things beyond our control. Epictetus teaches us how to see the world as it really is; how to see ourselves as we really are; and to understand how we can live at peace within chaos. [More information under my review of the Everyman's Library edition.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As others have noted..... January 30, 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
reading and understanding the Discourses is not difficult. The points are driven home time after time, with one excellent example after another. There is so much common sense wisdom in these pages that you will find yourself constantly stopping to examine a passage and easily applying it to a situation in your own life.
But as has been said many times, living the Discourses is really tough. As you apply the lessons, if you are anything like me, you will find yourself saying, "Well, there's another way I screw up in life."
But what the hell? You know yourself better as a person and you will also constantly find yourself saying, "That is something that is not in my control, now lets see if I can control the way I respond to what has happened."
I started reading Epictitus shortly after reading "A Man in Full" by Tom Wolfe. I love the notion that we find ourselves in these little prisons, (usually of our own making,) but the door is always open. If we choose to leave, nothing can stop us. But if we choose to stay, well then stop bitching and just get on with it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grassroots Philosophy January 10, 2006
Epictetus' "Discourses Books 1 and 2" are a solid exposition of his Stoic philosophy. The ideas are grassroots and grounded in the real world, though attempting to achieve some awareness of individual transcendance. Written by Arrian, one of Epistetus' students, it is an excellent resource.

Arrian's Epictetus basically starts by ripping common conceptions apart and undermining those things that we all take for granted or think little about. The fear of death, misfortune, opinions of others and much more come under fire from Epictetus. He also spends some time establishing the nature of philosophy and what it is all about. It is after this that Arrianus gets into the more developed teachings of Epictetus. It is in this section that he deals extensively with moral purpose, external impressions and other more detailed Stoic ideas.

Oldfather's translation can seem a bit strange at first, as he seems to have followed the original Greek forms as closely as possible. This makes for a style of English that can be a little perplexing at first, though you will soon get used to it.

While the footnotes are sparse, the book does not need any more. They are very useful for explaining the references to other ancient works, or explaining some points that one might find difficult.

The philosophy in this book presents itself as dealing with the real world, and is quite useful to anyone interested in ethics. It is also an easily understood work, thus it is well suited to people who are not experienced with broader philosophy and are looking for somewhere to start.

Bottom line, this is a great book and one that you will be able to read repeatedly and still gain something from each reading. I had a great time reading it, and was thoroughly challenged by it.
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