The Four Best Books on or by Epictetus

Lennox Johnson Books

From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Epictetus, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Epictetus. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Epictetus for yourself.

It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.

Here are the best books on or by Epictetus in no particular order.

Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life – A. A. Long

Category: General Introduction | Length: 328 pages | Published: 2002 Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life Book Cover

Publisher description: The philosophy of Epictetus, a freed slave in the Roman Empire, has been profoundly influential on Western thought: it offers not only stimulating ideas but practical guidance in living one’s life. A. A. Long, a leading scholar of later ancient philosophy, gives the definitive presentation of the thought of Epictetus for a broad readership. Long’s fresh and vivid translations of a selection of the best of Epictetus’ discourses show that his ideas are as valuable and striking today as they were amost two thousand years ago. The translations are organized thematically within the framework of an authoritative introduction and commentary, which offer a way into this world for those new to it, and illuminating interpretations for those who already know it….

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The Philosophy of Epictetus – Theodore Scaltsas

Category: Overview | Length: 190 pages | Published: 2010 The Philosophy of Epictetus Book Cover

Publisher description: The Stoic philosopher Epictetus has been one of the most influential of ancient thinkers, both in antiquity itself and in modern times. Theodore Scaltsas and Andrew S. Mason present ten specially written papers which discuss Epictetus’ thought on a wide range of subjects, including ethics, logic, theology, and psychology; explore his relations to his predecessors (including his two philosophical heroes, Socrates and Diogenes the Cynic, as well as the earlier Stoic tradition); and examine his influence on later thinkers. Written by some of the leading experts in the field, the essays in this volume will be a fascinating resource for students and scholars of ancient philosophy, and anyone with in an interest in the Stoic attitude to life.

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The Handbook – Epictetus

Category: Classic | Length: 64 pages The Handbook Book Cover

Publisher description: From the Introduction: “Stoic philosophy, of which Epictetus (c. a.d. 50–130) is a representative, began as a recognizable movement around 300 b.c. Its founder was Zeno of Cytium (not to be confused with Zeno of Elea, who discovered the famous paradoxes). He was born in Cyprus about 336 b.c., but all of his philosophical activity took place in Athens. For more than 500 years Stoicism was one of the most influential and fruitful philosophical movements in the Graeco-Roman world. The works of the earlier Stoics survive only in fragmentary quotations from other authors, but from the Renaissance until well into the nineteenth century, Stoic ethical thought was one of the most important ancient influences on European ethics, particularly because of the descriptions of it by Cicero, through surviving works by the Stoics Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and also Epictetus–and also because of the effect that it had had in antiquity, and continued to have into the nineteenth century, on Christian ethical views….

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Discourses – Epictetus

Category: Classic | Length: 400 pages Discourses Book Cover

Publisher description: Epictetus’ Discourses have been the most widely read and influential of all writings of Stoic philosophy, from antiquity onwards. They set out the core ethical principles of Stoicism in a form designed to help people put them into practice and to use them as a basis for leading a good human life. Epictetus was a teacher, and a freed slave, whose discourses have a vivid informality, animated by anecdotes and dialogue. Forceful, direct, and challenging, their central message is that the basis of happiness is up to us, and that we all have the capacity, through sustained reflection and hard work, of achieving this goal. They still speak eloquently to modern readers seeking meaning in their own lives.

This is the only complete modern translation of the Discourses, together with the Handbook or manual of key themes, and surviving fragments. Robin Hard’s accurate and accessible translation is accompanied by Christopher Gill’s full introduction and comprehensive notes.

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