Enchiridion of Epictetus

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Epictetus Enchiridion 1683 page1.jpg
Chapter 1 of the Enchiridion of Epictetus from a 1683 edition in Greek and Latin
Author Epictetus / Arrian
Country Greece
Language Koine Greek
Subject Ethics
Genre Philosophy
Publication date
AD c. 125

The Enchiridion or Manual of Epictetus (Ancient Greek: Ἐγχειρίδιον Ἐπικτήτου, Enkheirídion Epiktḗtou) (enchiridion is Greek for "that which is held in the hand") is a short manual of Stoic ethical advice compiled by Arrian, a 2nd-century disciple of the Greek philosopher Epictetus.

Although the content is similar to the Discourses of Epictetus, it is not a summary of the Discourses but rather a compilation of practical precepts. Eschewing metaphysics, Arrian focused his attention on Epictetus's work applying philosophy in daily life. The primary theme is that one should accept what happens:

What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about the things. For example, "death is nothing dreadful (or else it would have appeared dreadful to Socrates)..."
— Chapter Five[1]

However, "some things are up to us and some are not up to us"[1] and we must act accordingly, taking responsibility for planning and enacting what we can with virtue without becoming upset or disheartened by obstacles and reverses beyond our control.

For many centuries, the Enchiridion maintained its authority both with Christians and Pagans. Two Christian writers—Nilus and an anonymous contemporary—wrote paraphrases of it in the early 5th century and Simplicius of Cilicia wrote a commentary upon it in the 6th. The work was first published in Latin translation by Poliziano in Rome in 1493; Beroaldus published another edition in Bologna in 1496. The original Greek was first published in Venice with the Simplicius's commentary in 1528 and an English translation appeared as early as 1567. The book was a common school text in Scotland during the Scottish Enlightenment. Adam Smith had a 1670 edition in his library, acquired as a schoolboy.[2]

English translations[edit]

There have been many English translations of the Enchiridion. Translations of the Discourses (e.g. Elizabeth Carter's and George Long's) have included the Enchiridion and it has often been included with other moral writings from the ancient world, such as the Tablet of Cebes. Some notable translations of the Enchiridion include:

  • James Sandford, 1567, The Manual of Epictetus, Translated out of Greek into French, and now into English.
  • John Healey, 1610, Epictetus his Manual and Cebes his Table.
  • John Davies, 1670, The Life and Philosophy of Epictetus, with the Emblem of Human Life by Cebes.
  • Ellis Walker, 1692, Epictetus, his Enchiridion made English in a poetical paraphrase.
  • George Stanhope, 1694, Epictetus his Morals, with Simplicius his Comment.
  • William Bond, 1736, The Manual of Epictetus the Philosopher.
  • Thomas William Rolleston, 1881, The Encheiridion of Epictetus.
  • Thomas Talbot, 1881, The Encheiridion of Epictetus and The Golden Verses of Pythagoras.
  • P. E. Matheson, 1916, The Discourses of Epictetus, The Manual Of Epictetus
  • W. A. Oldfather, 1928, The Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments vol. 2 (Harvard Univ. Press, London)
  • Nicholas P. White, 1983, Handbook of Epictetus (Hackett Publishing Co. Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Robin Hard, 1995, The Discourses of Epictetus, The Handbook, Fragments, edited by C. Gill (J. M. Dent, London)
  • Robert Dobbin, 2008, Discourses and Selected Writings (Penguin Classics, London)


  1. ^ a b Handbook of Epictetus, trans. Nicholas P. White, Hackett Publishing Company, 1983.
  2. ^ Phillipson, Nicholas (2010). Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life. Yale University Press. p. 19. 

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