A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

(Ἐπίκτητος), of Hierapolis in Phrygia, a freedman of Epaphroditus, who was himself a freedman and a servile favourite of Nero, lived and taught first at Rome, and, after the expulsion of the philosophers by Domitian, at Nicopolis, a town in Epeirus, founded by Augustus in commemoration of his victory at Actium. Although he was favoured by Hadrian (Spartian, Hadr. 16) --which gave occasion to a work which was undoubtedly written at a much later time, title Altercatio Hadriani cum Epicteto (see especially Heumann, Acta Philos. 1.734)--yet he does not appear to have returned to Rome; for the discourses which Arrian took down in writing were delivered by Epictetus when an old man at Nicopolis. (Dissert. 1.25, 19, with Schweighaüser's note.) The statement of Themistius (Orat. v. p. 63, ed. Harduin) that Epictetus was still alive in the reign of the two Antonines, which is repeated by Suidas (s. v.), seems to rest upon a confusion of names, since M. Aurelius Antoninus, who was an enthusiastic admirer of Epictetus, does not mention him, but Junius Rusticus, a disciple of Epictetus, among his teachers; in like manner, A. Gellius, who lived in the time of the Antonines, speaks of Epictetus as belonging to the period which had just passed away. (M. Antonin. 1.7, 7.29, with Gataker's note; Gellius, 7.19.) Besides what is here mentioned, only a few circumstances of the life of Epictetus are recorded, such as his lameness, which is spoken of in very different ways, his poverty, and his few wants. The detailed biography written by Arrian has not come down to us. (Simplic. Prooem. Comment. in Epictet. Enchirid. iv. p. 5, ed. Schweigh.)

It is probable that he was still a slave (Arrian, Dissert. 1.9, 29) when C. Musonius Rufus gained him for the philosophy of the Porch, of which he remained a faithful follower throughout life. In what manner he conceived and taught it, we see with satisfactory completeness from the notes which we owe to his faithful pupil, Arrian; although of Arrian's eight books of commentaries four are lost, with the exception of a few fragments.