A Slave With A LimpSep 06, 2022
A Slave With A Limp
Before Marcus Aurelius there was Epictetus
Nearly 2,000 years ago in what was the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis—now Pamukkale in Turkey, famed for its natural hot springs—a slave named Epictetus served in the household of his wealthy owner Epaphroditus.
While we know Epaphroditus was a Roman nobleman at the time of emperor Nero, in truth, we know very little about this Greek slave. Even the exact circumstances and nature of Epictetus’ education are uncertain. What we know about him and his way of thinking we learn from the writings of his student, Arrian.
We do know Epictetus was allowed to pursue what became his passion, the philosophy of Musonius Rufus, a Roman senator and Stoic philosopher. Few could imagine the impact this lowly servant of the first century would have on some of the greatest thinkers and leaders of the future.
The Three Questions
For centuries, philosophers have discussed very basic questions: Who are we? Why am I here? At times, we, too, are faced with these very profound questions. One might argue that we don’t need to worry about these fundamental, philosophical questions, but you’ll soon realize that these are an integral part of finding happiness in our lives today.
After emperor Nero’s death, Epictetus was freed from his owner. He began to teach philosophy in Rome and continued for the next 25 years, until Emperor Domitian famously banished all philosophers. Fleeing to Nicopolis in Greece, Epictetus founded a philosophy school and taught there until his death.
Cultivate Your Personal Philosophy
Epictetus believed that all people should cultivate their personal philosophy—this, he said, was the only sure road to finding our happiness. Most have never heard of Epictetus, but perhaps you have heard of Marcus Aurelius, one his most ardent followers.
Marcus Aurelius was one of many eminent political figures who studied Epictetus and Aurelius quotes him repeatedly in his own very popular work, Meditations, written during his campaigns in central Europe.
Still today, Meditations is regarded as one of the most influential philosophical books.
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