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Enchiridion (Dover Thrift Editions: Philosophy) Paperback – January 15, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 1,275 ratings

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  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 0486433595
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dover Publications; unknown edition (January 15, 2004)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 64 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9780486433592
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0486433592
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.08 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5 x 0.25 x 8 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 1,275 ratings

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Taylor Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchiridion (Dover Thrift Editions)
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on June 23, 2016
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Taylor Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchiridion (Dover Thrift Editions)
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on June 23, 2016
About the Author
Epictetus was born around 50 A.D. at Hierapolis (Ancient Greek: Ἱεράπολις, lit. "Holy City"), Phrygia. It is not known when or why he moved to Rome, but he lived there as a slave to one of Nero’s distinguished freedmen who served as the Emperor’s secretary. Early in life, Epictetus acquired a passion for philosophy, and with the permission of his owner, he studied Stoic philosophy under Musonius Rufus, which allowed him to rise in respectability as he grew more educated. It is not known how he became crippled, but according to Origen his leg was deliberately broken by his master, and Simplicius stated that he had been lame from childhood (Picture 1 below, Wikipedia).
Epictetus became a free man and began teaching philosophy on street corners, in the market, but he was not successful. During the rule of Domitian, Epictetus with many other philosophers was exiled from Rome, probably between 89 and 92 A.D. Epictetus went to Nicopolis in Epirus, Greece, where he founded a school of philosophy.
His most famous pupil, Arrian, studied under him when a young man (c. 108 A.D.) and claimed to have written the famous Discourses from his lecture notes. Arrian describes Epictetus as being a powerful speaker who could "induce his listener to feel just what Epictetus wanted him to feel”.

The Origin of this Book
Enchiridion (Ancient Greek: Ἐγχειρίδιον) means “that which is held in the hand”. The Enchiridion of Epictetus is a short manual of Stoic ethical advice compiled by Arrian, a 2nd-century disciple of the Greek philosopher Epictetus. This is not unlike what Plato did for Socrates, when the former wrote down the latter’s famous speech of self-defence in the old philosopher’s trial for impiety and corruption (the Apology of Socrates (Greek: Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους))—a great piece of rhetoric and a true example of moral fortitude.

The Wisdom of Epictetus
Epictetus adopts a practical and rational approach to life, giving concise and clear advice on how one can enjoy a happy life: “Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.”
Therefore, the key to achieving tranquillity is in the ability to differentiate between things we can and cannot control and in not trying to control that which is not within our power: “if you attempt to avoid disease or death, or poverty, you will be unhappy. Take away then aversion from all things which are not in our power, and transfer it to the things […] which are in our power.”
He further argues that unhappiness, anguish and despair is not inherent in what happens to us (and which we have no control over), but are instead the creations of our own mind: “Men are disturbed not by the things which happen, but by the opinions about the things: for example, death is nothing terrible, for if it were, it would have seemed so to Socrates; for the opinion about death, that it is terrible, is the terrible thing. When then we are impeded or disturbed or grieved, let us never blame others, but ourselves, that is, our opinions. It is the act of an ill-instructed man to blame others for his own bad condition; it is the act of one who has begun to be instructed, to lay the blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another, nor himself.”
This is in fact a very positive and optimistic view of life, as it postulates that people have full control over how happy and content they feel as long as they are able to draw a clear line between the random character of events that happen to them and the internalised emotional reaction to those events.
Epictetus’ Stoicism has generally been found to be compatible with Christianity (Picture 2 below, Wikipedia): “Never say about anything, I have lost it, but say I have restored it. Is your child dead? It has been restored. Is your wife dead? She has been restored. Has your estate been taken from you? Has not then this also been restored? But he who has taken it from me is a bad man. But what is it to you, by whose hands the giver demanded it back? So long as he may allow you, take care of it as a thing which belongs to another, as travelers do with their inn.”
Christian undertones seem to be quite evident in the following paragraph: “As on a voyage when the vessel has reached a port, if you go out to get water, it is an amusement by the way to pick up a shell-fish or some bulb, but your thoughts ought to be directed to the ship, and you ought to be constantly watching if the captain should call, and then you must throw away all those things, that you may not be bound and pitched into the ship like sheep: so in life also, if there be given to you instead of a little bulb and a shell a wife and child, there will be nothing to prevent (you from taking them). But if the captain should call, run to the ship, and leave all those things without regard to them. But if you are old, do not even go far from the ship, lest when you are called you make default.”
Compare this to the New Testament verses, describing the Second Coming of Christ: “Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!” (Matthew 24:17-19)

About this edition of the Enchiridion
The translation of the Enchiridion (Dover Thrift Editions) was done by George Long, an English classical scholar (1800 – 1879). Most probably, this specific translation is offered here as it is not copyright protected.
Although I do not know Ancient Greek, I generally enjoyed the translation on the merits of English alone. It must be noted, however, that some passages sound obscure, this being the fault of either the original compiler Arrian, or (most probably) the translator. At places several synonyms are listed in brackets, as if Mr. Long was struggling to find the most appropriate rendition.
As the original text is so old, and many of the translations were completed decades ago (and have subsequently lost any claims to copyright) there are multiple versions of the Enchiridion in free Internet circulation, and some seem to be superior in terms of translation quality to the one being sold here.

Conclusion
Enchiridion by Epictetus is a great book of practical wisdom that uses everyday examples to transcend the mundane and venture into the higher spheres. Some of the advice given is reminiscent of the doctrines of Christianity and Buddhism, as we know them today: “Let death and exile and every other thing which appears dreadful be daily before your eyes; but most of all death: and you will never think of anything mean nor will you desire anything extravagantly.”
Most of the thoughts by the Greek philosopher (as presented in this edition) are readily comprehendible, and yet sound strikingly original. As such, they are worth writing down, quoting and re-reading. (However, be advised that Kindle has a limit on quoting and will not let you retain everything you might want to quote.)
The text of Enchiridion by Epictetus is available on the Internet free of charge (and in better translations in my opinion). There are also two Amazon editions that are offered for free: “[[ASIN:B008401Z3E A Selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion]]” and “[[ASIN:B0082ZJFCO The Golden Sayings of Epictetus]]”.

While content may not be identical, you will be wise to consider all your options, before buying this specific version of the text.
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Diego Novellón Latre
2.0 out of 5 stars Archaic language
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