Enchiridion of Epictetus

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The Enchiridion, or Handbook of Epictetus, (Greek: Ἐγχειρίδιον Επικτήτου), often shortened to simply "The Handbook", is a short manual of Stoic ethical advice compiled by Arrian, who had been a pupil of Epictetus at the beginning of the 2nd century.

Although the content is derived from the Discourses of Epictetus, it is not a summary of the Discourses, but rather it is a compilation of practical precepts. The Handbook is a guide to daily life. Unlike some of his forefathers in Greek philosophy (i.e. Plato and the other metaphysicians), Epictetus focuses his attention on how to practically apply oneself on a philosophical level. The primary theme in this short work is that one should expect what will happen and wish it to happen so. The other motif that appears is Epictetus' opinion on the judgment of events:

Underlying all of this, however, is the idea that "Some things are up to us and some are not up to us"[1] and we must react and interact with those things accordingly.

Even in antiquity the Enchiridion was regarded as a suitable manual of practical philosophy, and maintained its authority for many centuries, both with Christians and Pagans. In the 6th century, Simplicius wrote a commentary upon it, and two Christian writers, Nilus and an anonymous author wrote paraphrases of it, adapted for Christians, in the first half of the 5th century. The Enchiridion was first published in a Latin translation by Poliziano, Rome, 1493, and in 1496, by Beroaldus, at Bologna. The Greek original, with the commentary of Simplicius, appeared first at Venice, 1528.

English translations

There have been many English translations of the Enchiridion. Every translation of the Discourses (Elizabeth Carter, George Long, etc.) has included the Enchiridion, and it has often been included with other moral writings from the ancient world, most notably 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.
  • Nicholas White, 1983, Handbook of Epictetus, Translated with Introduction and Annotations.
  • Keith Seddon, 2005, Epictetus' Handbook and the Tablet of Cebes: Guides to Stoic Living.

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