THE LIFE OF EPICTETUS, AND HOW HE REGARDED IT.
In the court of Nero, Seneca must have been thrown into more or less communication with the powerful freedmen of that Emperor, and especially with his secretary or librarian, Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus was a constant companion of the Emperor; he was the earliest to draw Nero’s attention to the conspiracy in which Seneca himself perished. There can be no doubt that Seneca knew him, and had visited at his house. Among the slaves who thronged that house, the natural kindliness of the philosopher’s heart may have drawn his attentions to one little lame Phrygian boy, deformed and mean-looking, whose face—if it were any index of the mind within—must even from boyhood have worn a serene and patient look. The great courtier, the great tutor of the Emperor, the great Stoic and favourite writer of his age, would indeed have been astonished if he had been suddenly told that that wretched-looking little slave-lad was destined to attain purer and clearer heights of philosophy than he himself had ever done, and to become quite as illustrious as himself, and far more respected as an exponent of Stoic doctrines. For that lame boy was Epictetus—Epictetus for whom was written the memorable epitaph: “I was Epictetus, a slave, and maimed in body, and a beggar for poverty, and dear to the immortals.”
Although we have a clear sketch of his philosophical doctrines, we have no materials whatever for any but the most meagre description of his life. The picture of his mind—an effigy of that which he alone regarded as his true self—may be seen in his works, and to this we can add little except a few general facts and uncertain anecdotes.
Epictetus was probably born in about the fiftieth year of the Christian era; but we do not know the exact date of his birth, nor do we even know his real name. “Epictetus” means “bought” or “acquired,” and is simply a servile designation. He was born at Hierapolis, in Phrygia, a town between the rivers Lycus and Meander, and considered by some to be the capital of the province. The town possessed several natural wonders—sacred springs, stalactite grottoes, and a deep cavern remarkable