Unfortunately, so much of the original Stoic quotes, essays, letters, and writings have been lost to time over the last few thousand years.

The good news is that what did survive contains enough wisdom and Stoic teaching to help us build a Stoic practice in our own day-to-day lives.

Here at Orion, I’ve been sharing the core principles of philosophy for years, and I firmly believe that the Stoic teachers of ancient Greece and Rome still have a place in our more modern world.

While it’s true that the life of an ancient Roman was very different from the life of a modern person, we still have common struggles about work, love, time, money, relationships, how to live a good life, how to manage our ego, and hundreds of other struggles that are as relevant now as they were back then.

Below are some of history’s most prominent Stoic thinkers, from the lectures of the great Epictetus to the letters of Seneca to the journal of Marcus Aurelius. We’ll also take a look at the wisdom of Zeno, the founder of Stoic philosophy, and Gaius Musonius Rufus, one of Rome’s most respected teachers.

Epictetus Quotes

Epictetus is my personal favorite Stoic philosopher, and he’ll be the first on our list of quoted Stoics.

His no-nonsense style combined with practical and simple wisdom makes him, to me, the greatest Stoic teacher of the time.

Epictetus was born into slavery around 55AD. The name, Epictetus, translates to acquired. So, while his parents likely gave him his own name, it’s been lost to history.

His early life was one of service. However, with the permission of his master, he was allowed to study Stoicism under Gaius Musonius Rufus (who we’ll cover later on).

This study started Epictetus on the path of the philosopher, and with the fall of Emperor Nero, Epictetus secured his freedom. This allowed him to teach his own brand of Stoicism.

His lectures were transcribed by his student Arian into the Discourses and the Enchiridion. These two books now form some of the best surviving Stoic teachings from the ancient world and are my personal favorites. Below is a collection of hand-picked quotes from Epictetus.

  1. It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

  2. He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.

  3. Only the educated are free.

  4. Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.

  5. The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.

  6. He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.

  7. Seek not the good in external things;seek it in yourselves.

  8. People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.

  9. If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.

  10. Any person capable of angering you becomes your master;
    he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.

  11. Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.

  12. Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.

  13. To accuse others for one’s own misfortune is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.

  14. There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will.

  15. If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.

  16. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.

  17. If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write.

  18. God has entrusted me with myself. No man is free who is not master of himself. A man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things. The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.

  19. Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. Which is why it is essential that we not respond impulsively to impressions; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control.

  20. A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single

  21. Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.

  22. Remember that you ought to behave in life as you would at a banquet. As something is being passed around it comes to you; stretch out your hand, take a portion of it politely. It passes on; do not detain it. Or it has not come to you yet; do not project your desire to meet it, but wait until it comes in front of you. So act toward children, so toward a wife, so toward office, so toward wealth.

  23. Events do not just happen, but arrive by appointment.

  24. Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to.

  25. It is unrealistc to expect people to see you as you see yourself.

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Marcus Aurelius Quotes

Marcus Aurelius is best known as one of the few great emperors of the Roman Empire. However, he is also one of the most renown Stoic philosophers of his time.

Towards the end of his reign, a time marked by war and the Antonine plague, Aurelius began the practice of journaling. These private journals are now known as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and are one of the greatest surviving works of Stoic philosophy from the ancient world.

Most modern Stoics read Aurelius’ work as an introduction to Stoic philosophy, and it’s filled to the brim with nuggets of wisdom and quotable principles. Below are some of my favourite quotes from the book.

  1. You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

  2. The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.

  3. Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.

  4. Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them. Think constantly on the changes of the elements into each other, for such thoughts wash away the dust of earthly life.

  5. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

  6. If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.

  7. If any man despises me, that is his problem. My only concern is not doing or saying anything deserving of contempt.

  8. The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.

  9. Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

  10. How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.

  11. Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.

  12. Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?

  13. If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

  14. The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.

  15. The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.

  16. Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

  17. If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.

  18. I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.

  19. Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

  20. Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence.

  21. A person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he values.

  22. Observe always that everything is the result of change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and make new ones like them.

  23. Or is it your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of those applauding hands. The people who praise us; how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region it takes place. The whole earth a point in space – and most of it uninhabited.

  24. Be like the cliff against which the waves continually break; but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.

  25. A man must stand erect, not be kept erect by others.


Seneca Quotes

Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger (I know, its a long name) was a Stoic philosopher of ancient Rome.

He was also one of the wealthiest men in the Empire, a statesman, writer, and, at one point, mentor to Emperor Nero.

In Stoic circles, Seneca is most known for the letters he wrote to his friend Lucilius Junior. There are 124 letters in total, covering a wide range of life advice and Stoic wisdom. These letters are among the greatest surviving Stoic works, alongside the Mediations of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus’ Discourses.

Seneca also wrote a number of essays, my favorite of which are:

  • On Providence

  • On Anger

  • On The Shortness of Life

Below are some of the best Stoic quotes from Seneca’s work.

  1. We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.

  2. If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.

  3. Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.

  4. Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.

  5. Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.

  6. They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.

  7. It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.

  8. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

  9. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

  10. If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.

  11. Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.

  12. True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.

  13. All cruelty springs from weakness.

  14. Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.

  15. Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for men learn while they teach.

  16. He who spares the wicked injures the good.

  17. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.

  18. He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.

  19. A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.

  20. People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

  21. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

  22. To win true freeedom you must be a slave to philosophy.

  23. It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.

  24. Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.

  25. No man is crushed by misfortune unless he has first been deceived by prosperity.

Zeno of Citium Quotes

Zeno, born 334 BC, isn’t generally as well known as Aurelius, Seneca, or Epictetus, but he is perhaps the most important Stoic of all time.

Zeno, after surviving a shipwreck and finding himself in Athens, began to study philosophy under the Cynic teacher, Crates of Thebes.

He also studied under the Megarian School, Platonist philosophy, and had a handful of varied teachers before ultimately founding the Stoic school of philosophy in Athens.

Zeno divided philosophy, as the Old Academy philosophers once did, into three parts:

  • Logic – a broad subject including rhetoric, grammar, perception, and thought

  • Physics – the nature of the universe

  • Ethics – which included right and wrong, morality, virtue, and how best to live in order to reach a content and happy life.

Unfortunately non of Zeno’s original works have survived other than a handful of quotes and fragments which have been preserved by later writers. Here are some of his greatest quotes:

  1. Man conquers the world by conquering himself.

  2. Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue.

  3. Well-being is realized by small steps, but is truly no small thing.

  4. Nothing is more hostile to a firm grasp on knowledge than self-deception.

  5. The goal of life is living in agreement with Nature.

  6. We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.

  7. If you lay violent hands on me, you’ll have my body, but my mind will remain with Stilpo.

  8. Happiness is a good flow of life.

  9. A bad feeling is a commotion of the mind repugnant to reason, and against nature.

  10. No loss should be more regrettable to us than losing our time, for it’s irretrievable.

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Gaius Musonius Rufus Quotes

Gaius Musonius Rufus, born 20 AD, was a Roman philosopher and Stoic lecturer. He taught philosophy during the notoriously turbulent and tyrannical reign of Emperor Nero.

Nero came to view philosophy as a threat to his reign and banished most of the philosophers from the city. This was partly due to what was called the ‘Stoic Opposition’, a name given to a group of Stoics who apposed the tyrannical reign of emperors, with which Rufus was associated.

Rufus was exiled in 65AD and only returned to Rome after rule had passed to Emperor Galba.

I consider Rufus to be one of the greats, and although not much of his work has survived, what we do have are small but powerful pieces of philosophy that contain a great deal of wisdom in few words. Here are some of his best quotes:

  1. Wealth is able to buy the pleasures of eating, drinking and other sensual pursuits-yet can never afford a cheerful spirit or freedom from sorrow.

  2. In our control is the most beautiful and important thing, the thing because of which even the god himself is happy— namely, the proper use of our impressions. We must concern ourselves absolutely  with the things that are under our control and entrust the things not in our control to the universe.

  3. If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures.

  4. Choose to die well while you can; wait too long, and it might become impossible to do so.

  5. If we were to measure what is good by how much pleasure it brings, nothing would be better than self-control- if we were to measure what is to be avoided by its pain, nothing would be more painful than lack of self-control.

  6. From good people you’ll learn good, but if you mingle with the bad you’ll destroy such soul as you had.

  7. You will earn the respect of all if you begin by earning the respect of yourself. Don’t expect to encourage good deeds in people conscious of your own misdeeds.

  8. Since every man dies, it is better to die with distinction than to live long.

  9. To accept injury without a spirit of savage resentment-to show ourselves merciful toward those who wrong us-being a source of good hope to them-is characteristic of a benevolent and civilized way of life.

  10. We will train both soul and body when we accustom ourselves to cold, heat, thirst, hunger, scarcity of food, hardness of bed, abstaining from pleasures, and enduring pains.

  11. What good are gilded rooms or precious stones-fitted on the floor, inlaid in the walls, carried from great distances at the greatest expense? These things are pointless and unnecessary-without them isn’t it possible to live healthy? Aren’t they the source of constant trouble? Don’t they cost vast sums of money that, through public and private charity, may have benefited many?

  12. Being good is the same as being a philosopher. If you obey your father, you will follow the will of a man; if you choose the philosopher’s life, the will of the universe. It is plain, therefore, that your duty lies in the pursuit of philosophy.

  13. For mankind, evil is injustice and cruelty and indifference to a neighbour’s trouble, while virtue is brotherly love and goodness and justice and beneficence and concern for the welfare of your neighbour—with.

  14. Husband and wife should come together to craft a shared life, procreating children, seeing all things as shared between them-with nothing withheld or private to one another-not even their bodies.

  15. To accept injury without a spirit of savage resentment-to show ourselves merciful toward those who wrong us-being a source of good hope to them-is characteristic of a benevolent and civilized way of life.

Further Stoic Reading:

1. “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius

Summary: Written by the Roman Emperor during his campaigns, this personal diary remains one of the most profound works of Stoic philosophy that exists today.

It offers insights into the unique brand of Stoic philosophy practiced by Aurelius. It emphasizes the changing nature of life, the importance of virtuous living, and the pursuit of good over pleasure and virtue over vice

2. “Letters from a Stoic” by Seneca

Summary: The letters are a collection of moral guidance and reflection from Seneca, a Roman statesman and philosopher.

He touches on a wide range of topics, from personal hardship and resilience to friendship and death. They provide invaluable advice on how to live in accordance with Stoic principles, highlighting the value of wisdom, serenity, and a just life.

3. “Discourses” by Epictetus

Summary: Epictetus, the slave turned Stoic philosopher, presents a series of discourses that delve into the core teachings of Stoicism. This is my personal favorite Stoic book.

He emphasizes the distinction between what is and isn’t within our control, urging readers to develop an inner freedom and peace by focusing on their own actions and attitudes.

4. “Enchiridion” by Epictetus

Summary: Often referred to as the “Handbook,” this relatively short text is a distilled version of Epictetus’s teachings.

It offers practical advice on how to lead a Stoic life, highlighting the importance of accepting fate, practicing self-discipline, and striving for inner tranquillity.

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  1. Life has always been a perspective as a child, man, woman, adult, fisherman, driver; being it gender point, professional point, age point, religious point, and many more point of views; but we should never forget that the beginning and ending is the same for all – “Birth and Death.” So quiet (die) if you want, or continue playing till you die.

    By Max (myself)

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