A truly superb translation of Epictetus’ complete works, with helpful notes, is:
- Epictetus, Discourses, Fragments, Handbook, translated by Robin Hard. Oxford World’s Classics, 2014.
Start with the Handbook (which is at the end, pages 287–304), then just flip around in the Discourses to whatever topics or questions catch your eye. This is not at all the sort of book that you need to read from cover to cover.
If you only pursue one of the resources mentioned here, choose this one!
There are many translations available of Seneca’s letters. The two volumes linked below (covering the first two-thirds of the letters) have some slightly archaic language, but also the great virtue of being in the public domain, and therefore free. The Latin original and English translation appear on facing pages.
The letters are short and self-contained, so there’s no need to read them in order. You can simply flip around until you find a topic that’s of interest.
Also in the public domain is a collection of Seneca’s essays. This collection includes:
- The lengthy work On Anger (listed in the table of contents by its Latin title, De Ira). The first two books of On Anger analyze the phenomenon of anger; the third book gives Seneca’s practical advice for dealing with it.
- The essay On Providence (called by its Latin title, De Providentia). This essay is especially interesting for the way Seneca begins from more everyday Roman social values and gradually shifts to more radical Stoic views near the end.
For Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, there are many translations available. I don’t have a particularly strong preference, but one readable version is:
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, translated by Gregory Hays. Modern Library, 2002.
The Roman orator and essayist offers an extended treatment of Stoic arguments for the existence of the Gods, and the good ordering of the world, in book II of On the Nature of the Gods (often called by its Latin title, De Natura Deorum). Again, there are many translations; here is a good one in the public domain.
Simplicius was not a Stoic, but rather, a Platonist. He taught in Plato’s Academy in Athens until the school was forcibly closed, and the philosophers sent into exile, by the emperor Justinian in 529 CE. He wrote a commentary on Epictetus’s Handbook, which has been translated in two volumes. The commentary offers basic chapter-by-chapter reflections on each passage in Epictetus’ work, along with extended discussions of half a dozen key issues (including friendship, providence, and freedom) from a Platonic perspective that synthesizes key insights from over a millenium of Greek philosophy. These translations also include the full text of Epictetus’ Handbook (though not the Discourses, since that’s not what Simplicius is commenting on here).
- Simplicius, On Epictetus Handbook 1–26, translated by Tad Brennan and Charles Brittain. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014 [originally Duckworth, 2002].
- Simplicius, On Epictetus Handbook 27–53, translated by Tad Brennan and Charles Brittain. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014 [originally Duckworth, 2002].
Many modern students of Stoicism have been inspired by the life and writings of James Bond Stockdale, a U.S. Navy fighter pilot who spent most the the Vietnam War as a prisoner of war—and nearly half that time in solitary confinement. His last words before being taken prisoner were, “Five years down there, at least. I’m leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus.” Several of his shorter essays are available online:
The last two essays, taken together, cover much of the same ground as the first short book, but with some different emphasis.Note that Stockdale refers to Epictetus’ Handbook by its Greek title, the Enchiridion.
Peter Adamson’s podcast, “The History of Philosophy Without any Gaps,” gives a nice overview of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius in episodes 65 through 67, respectively: