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I have gorgeous hair

Emily Wilson: Epictetus says relax, 1 June 2023

The Complete Works: Handbook, Discourses and Fragments 
by Epictetus, translated by Robin Waterfield.
Chicago, 460 pp., £44, October 2022, 978 0 226 76933 2
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... The​ first-century Stoic philosopher and teacher Epictetus was an enslaved person who succeeded in getting an education and, eventually, his freedom. Images of freedom, slavery and self-belonging (oikoiesis) recur in his teaching. ‘A slave is always praying to be set free,’ he writes. He evokes the horrors of enslavement by describing the suffering of caged animals and birds that refuse to eat in captivity and starve to death, though he also occasionally repeats a conventional set of ideas about slavery, claiming, for example, that runaway slaves are ‘cowards’, and that none of them ever dies of hunger ...

Not to Worry

Stephen Mulhall: The Stoic life, 21 September 2006

Stoic Life: Emotions, Duties and Fate 
by Tad Brennan.
Oxford, 340 pp., £25, June 2005, 0 19 925626 8
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... ran roughly from 300 BC to the 200s AD), by sketching in its major figures – Chrysippus and Epictetus loom largest – and emphasising the scarcity of written texts from those figures, he provides a short overview of Stoic ethical thinking. The remainder of the book is designed to fill out this overview. The first part covers the general Stoic theory of ...

Hellenic Tours

Jonathan Barnes, 1 August 1985

The Cambridge History of Classical Literature. Vol. I: Greek Literature 
edited by P.E. Easterling and B.M.W. Knox.
Cambridge, 936 pp., £47.50, May 1985, 0 521 21042 9
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A History of Greek Literature 
by Peter Levi.
Viking, 511 pp., £14.95, February 1985, 0 670 80100 3
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... best-known prose-writers. But his survey is not complete. Philosophers will regret the absence of Epictetus (the most translated of ancient philosophers) and of Sextus Empiricus (who perfected philosophical prose). Others will properly lament the fact that Greek scientific prose – Hippocrates, Euclid, Archimedes, Ptolemy, Galen – is ignored. But Mr Levi ...

Tell me what you talked

James Wood: V.S. Naipaul, 11 November 1999

Letters between a Father and Son 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Little, Brown, 333 pp., £18.50, October 1999, 0 316 63988 5
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... mixed and drank some McLean’s Brand Stomach Powder, undressed, got into bed, and began to read Epictetus.’ This delicate sentence is characteristic of Naipaul’s early comic writing: there is the lovely syncromesh of registers, Stomach Powder ennobled by Epictetus (and how nicely the sentence docks at its ...

Stage Emperor

James Davidson, 28 April 1994

Reflections of Nero: Culture, History and Representation 
edited by Jás Elsner and Jamie Masters.
Duckworth, 239 pp., £35, January 1994, 0 7156 2479 2
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... features remained on coins already in circulation, of course, but, according to the philosopher Epictetus, they were avoided wherever possible; in fact, if someone noticed Nero’s head among coins offered in payment he would shout out: ‘Take it away! It’s decayed and rotten! It’s not acceptable!’ Considering the uses to which his memory would be ...

Making a start

Frank Kermode, 11 June 1992

Openings: Narrative Beginnings from the Epic to the Novel 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Oxford, 264 pp., £30, April 1992, 0 19 811741 8
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... Bleak House. On Sterne the author is himself brilliant from his opening on, quoting everybody from Epictetus to Derrida, of whom he somewhat disapproves. Finally there are David Copperfield and Great Expectations. The first words of Copperfield – the chapter-heading ‘I AM BORN’ – are examined with the help of Wittgenstein, Pinget and many others. Here ...

Running on Empty

Christopher Hitchens: The Wrong Stuff, 7 January 1999

A Man in Full 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 742 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 224 03036 1
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... Conrad Hensley a workout. But when, in a vile dungeon, the victim discovers the Stoic works of Epictetus, he suddenly rises to his full height as a man, or chap. Whereas, in The Jungle, the Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus works in a packing plant for horrible meat, is cheated out of livelihood and home, is subjected to the grossest humiliations, exists ...

Our Way of Proceeding

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Jesuit Methods, 22 February 2024

The Jesuits: A History 
by Markus Friedrich, translated by John Noël Dillon.
Princeton, 854 pp., £22, October 2023, 978 0 691 22620 0
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... and Hindus. In China, Matteo Ricci translated into Mandarin the Greek teachings of the Stoic Epictetus, because he saw that the Stoic advocacy of moderation in all things might appeal to Confucian bureaucrats; he omitted to translate passages in which Epictetus praised Stoics who kept their sexual exploits with teenage ...

Look on the Bright Side

Seamus Perry: Anna Letitia Barbauld, 25 February 2010

Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment 
by William McCarthy.
Johns Hopkins, 725 pp., £32, December 2008, 978 0 8018 9016 1
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... as a young woman, McCarthy tells us, was Elizabeth Carter’s translation of the slave-philosopher Epictetus, from which one lesson to be drawn was that superiority could come from smiling your way through bad trouble. When his cruel master tortured him, as Carter told the story in her introduction, Epictetus ‘with great ...

Harrison Rex

Carey Harrison, 7 November 1991

Conversations with Marlon Brando 
by Lawrence Grobel.
Bloomsbury, 177 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 9780747508168
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George Sanders: An Exhausted Life 
by Richard Vanderbeets.
Robson, 271 pp., £15.95, September 1991, 0 86051 749 7
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Rex Harrison: A Biography 
by Nicholas Wapshott.
Chatto, 331 pp., £16, October 1991, 0 7011 3764 9
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Me: Stories of my Life 
by Katharine Hepburn.
Viking, 418 pp., £16.99, September 1991, 0 670 83974 4
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... a few hours in this Brando’s company, his references to Kafka and Kierkegaard, Baudelaire and Epictetus, seem thoroughly, unostentatiously appropriate. The man is widely read and witty on an impressive variety of topics. He is wise, charming, at ease with himself and with the world. Why shouldn’t he be? Shoe-horned into Grobel’s slightly breathless ...

Fratricide, Matricide and the Philosopher

Shadi Bartsch: Seneca, 18 June 2015

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero 
by James Romm.
Knopf, 290 pp., £18.45, March 2014, 978 0 307 59687 1
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Seneca: A Life 
by Emily Wilson.
Allen Lane, 253 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 84614 637 4
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... Priscus and Thrasea Paetus protested against imperial abuses and paid the price; the ex-slave Epictetus never had enough worldly power to present a hypocritical contrast to his writings. As to his actual position at court, Seneca notoriously writes absolutely nothing about it; Nero himself only crops up in one essay, On Clemency. In the writings of his ...

Not Not To Be

Malcolm Schofield: Aristotle’s legacy, 17 February 2005

A New History of Western Philosophy. Vol. I: Ancient Philosophy 
by Anthony Kenny.
Oxford, 341 pp., £17.99, June 2005, 0 19 875273 3
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... its development within broader or more specific historical contexts. A.A. Long’s recent book on Epictetus, like the work of Martha Nussbaum and Richard Sorabji on ancient philosophical therapy, reminds us of something lost in the modern academy and not at all prominent in Kenny, but regarded by all major Greek and Roman thinkers from Socrates on as the ...

Dying to Make a Point

Shadi Bartsch: Death and the Ancients, 15 November 2007

Death in Ancient Rome 
by Catharine Edwards.
Yale, 287 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 0 300 11208 5
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The Death of Socrates: Hero, Villain, Chatterbox, Saint 
by Emily Wilson.
Profile, 247 pp., £15.99, August 2007, 978 1 86197 762 5
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... indeed his embrace of it. Seneca takes the view that ‘hemlock made Socrates great’, while Epictetus found the memory of Socrates in death more useful to the world than the things that he did and said when alive. Much of Wilson’s book treats the subsequent reception of Socrates from late antiquity to the present. The church father Tertullian claimed ...

A Favourite of the Laws

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 13 June 1991

Married Women’s Separate Property in England, 1660-1833 
by Susan Staves.
Harvard, 290 pp., £27.95, April 1990, 0 674 55088 9
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The Bluestocking Circle: Women, Friendship and the Life of the Mind in 18th-century England 
by Sylvia Harcstark Myers.
Oxford, 342 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 19 811767 1
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Portrait of a Friendship: Drawn from New Letters of James Russell Lowell to Sybella Lady Lyttleton 1881-1891 
by Alethea Hayter.
Michael Russell, 267 pp., £16.95, September 1990, 0 85955 167 9
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Fierce Communion: Family and Community in Early America 
by Helena Wall.
Harvard, 243 pp., £23.95, August 1990, 0 674 29958 2
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... for her Essay on Shakespear (1769). Elizabeth Carter produced a notably successful translation of Epictetus (1758) as well as several editions of her poems, and Hester Mulso Chapone pulled off something of a bestseller with her Letters on the Improvement of the Mind (1773). Yet for all their mental energy and ambition, the first generation of bluestockings ...


Blair Worden, 10 January 1983

Neostoicism and the Early Modern State 
by Gerhard Oestreich, edited by Brigitta Oestreich and H.G. Koenigsberger, translated by David McLintock.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, August 1982, 0 521 24202 9
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... to Greek or to early Roman Stoicism but to the later, more narrowly ethical version of Seneca and Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. This was less a system of ideas than an attitude of mind: an attitude which, when spiced with a dash of Platonism, could be made to look almost identical to the Platonist interpretation of Christianity. Stoics thought that if ...

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